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Robin Kenyatta

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Saxophonist and educator Robin Kenyatta, whose bright career included service with Sonny Stitt, Dizzy Gillespie and B.B. King, died in his sleep on Tuesday, October 26, 2004, in Lausanne, Switzerland, where he was preparing for a sold-out concert in Lucerne. He was sixty-two years old.

Born Robert Prince Haynes on March 6, 1942, in Monk’s Corner, South Carolina, Bobby, as he was affectionately called by his family, was the third child of Thomas and Rebecca Haynes. He moved to New York with his family at the age of four. While in high school, at fourteen, he began playing the alto saxophone. After graduation he spent two years playing as a sideman in local clubs and had his first gig at 19 at a hotel in the mountains of the Jewish Borscht belt. In 1962 he enlisted in the Army where he played in the jazz band. During that time, he met the composer Russell Garcia and learned to write music while perfecting his sound on the tenor, alto, and soprano saxophones and flute. After two years, he went back to the clubs of New York and formed his first band, which played the music of his heroes, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane and Ben Webster. Likening his music style to that of his political idol, Jomo Kenyatta, Robert Prince Haynes forevermore became known as Robin Kenyatta.

At 23, he got his first chance to record when he supported pianist Valerie Capers on her 1965 album ‘’Portrait in Soul.’’ The next year, he performed on Sonny Stitt’s album Deuces Wild: Introducing Robin Kenyatta, which announced his arrival to the jazz world.

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