Bob Graf was a classic example of a jazzman who enjoyed local-hero status in in his hometown but never became well known nationally. Born and raised in St. Louis, the tenor saxophonist was a friend of Clark Terry and played alongside the celebrated trumpeter in a small group Count Basie led in 1948. Graf (who was influenced by Lester Young, but had a harder tone) never recorded with the group, although he remained in Basie's employ until 1950 (when he was replaced by Wardell Gray). After recording with Woody Herman's big band in 1950-51, Graf was featured on some of Chet Baker's big band recordings for Pacific Jazz in 1956. In 1959 and the early 1960s, Graf played around St. Louis with a group that included guitarist Grant Green, and later in the 1960s, he played with Gerry Mulligan's big band. In the 1970s, Graf continued to play the St. Louis club scene when he wasn't repairing instruments in a local music store. Graf was in his 50s when he died in 1981. Unfortunately, the saxman did very little recording as a leader. Recorded live at St. Louis' Wesminster College in 1958 and reissued on CD in 1992, the Delmark release Bob Graf at Wesminster gives listeners a rare chance to hear the saxman leading a group of his own.
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