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Frank Foster

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Frank Foster (September 23, 1928 – July 26, 2011) was an American tenor and soprano saxophonist, flautist, arranger, and composer. Foster collaborated frequently with Count Basie and worked as a bandleader from the early 1950s.

Foster was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and educated at Wilberforce University. In 1949, he moved to Detroit, Michigan, where he joined the local jazz scene, playing with musicians such as Wardell Gray. Drafted into the US Army in 1951, Foster served in Korea with the 7th Infantry Division. Upon finishing his military service in 1953 he joined Count Basie’s big band. Foster contributed both arrangements and original compositions to Count Basie’s band including the standard “Shiny Stockings”, and other popular songs such as “Down for the Count”, “Blues Backstage”, “Back to the Apple”, “Discommotion”, and “Blues in Hoss Flat”, as well as arrangements for the entire Easin’ It album.

From 1970 to 1972 (and on occasional later dates) he played with Elvin Jones, and in 1972 and 1975 with the Thad Jones–Mel Lewis big band. Foster was an Artist in Residence at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston in 1971. That same year, he also started teaching for the New York City Public School System in District 5, Harlem, as part of a team of six professional musicians assigned to the Federal Government’s Title I Program: Cultural Enrichment Through Music, Dance, and Song. From 1972 to 1976, Foster was full-time Assistant Professor in the Black Studies Program at the State University of New York at Buffalo (SUNY).

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