Redefining the concept of practice, Dr. Stanley Sagov does double duty as a family physician and a jazz pianist. Born in Cape Town, South Africa, in 1944 of Jewish immigrants who fled their country to dodge the antisemitism of the Russian Revolution, Sagov's family encountered another form of bigotry via apartheid. As a youngster he suffered from the genetic disorder Gordon's syndrome, which causes physical deformities. After multiple surgeries and school discriminations, Sagov discovered his soul through violin lessons, connected with the Bantu black Africans, and became a fan of the music of Lonnie Donegan. Ukulele player Leo Lovell was a personal influence, and as Sagov grew up, he learned guitar and heard vintage American acoustic blues musicians like Leadbelly, Big Bill Broonzy, and John Henry. His first band -- the High Five Plus Two -- played classic early rock, while Sagov's sister was a jazz fan who introduced him to Duke Ellington, Glenn Miller, Lionel Hampton, and Django Reinhardt.
As the racially integrated South African jazz scene was emerging in the '60s and stars from the U.S. were influencing this new township jazz, Sagov heard African jazz heroes in Cape Town and Johannesburg like Abdullah Ibrahim, Chris McGregor, Hugh Masekela, and many others. In 1962 he enrolled at the University of South Africa to study medicine, played piano in nightclubs, and upon graduating moved to London in 1967, then New York City, where he worked alongside Booker Ervin, Jimmy Garrison, Howard McGhee, Billy Hart, Elvin Jones, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Sheila Jordan, and Ted Curson. By 1970 Sagov had moved to Boston to live, attend the Harvard Medical School, and work while studying at the New England Conservatory, earning a degree in jazz piano and oboe. Some of his collaborators in Boston included Gary Burton, George Russell, Jaki Byard, Gunther Schuller, Bob Moses, John Lockwood, Stan Strickland, Anton Fig, and Stanton Davis.
With a disdain for touring, Sagov settled in as a practicing physician, producing music at home for recordings, teaching privately, and leading his own band on occasion. In 2002 Sagov was awarded Doctor of the Year by the Massachusetts Academy of Family Physicians, and since 2008 has been the Chief of Family Medicine at Mt. Auburn Hospital in Cambridge. As a performer, he has produced five independently issued CDs with his ensemble Remembering the Future, including one live at Boston's Regattabar. They represent the merging of South African traditional music with modern jazz, and also feature adaptations of well-known jazz standards.