Harold de Vance Land (tenor saxophonist) was born on December 18, 1928 in Houston, Texas and passed away on July 27, 2001 in California.
Land was born in Houston and grew up in San Diego. He started playing the saxophone at the age of 16, and by age 21, had made his first recording as the leader of the Harold Land All-Stars for Savoy Records in 1949. In 1954 he moved to Los Angeles where trumpeter Clifford Brown spotted him, and invited him to join the Brown-Roach band.
Land toured with the Brown-Roach Band extensively, and moved to Philadelphia to live with the groups pianist Richie Powell and his brother Bud Powell, but he got homesick, and moved back to Los Angeles a year before the car crash that killed both Brown and Richie Powell. He then became a regular member of another gracefully swinging west coast band, led by bassist Curtis Counce between 1956 and 1958, and with trumpeter Shorty Rogers Giants in 1961.
In 1961-62, he regularly worked with Red Mitchell, the bassist who did much to advance the early career of Ornette Coleman, and was a successful studio musician through the 1960s. Beyond that, he also co-led a band with the vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson from 1969-71.
Lands finest album as a leader is widely accepted to be The Fox (1958), displaying his compositional originality and sensitivity toward the blues, as well as the sound of his drily expressive horn. He also made a thoughtful study of the innovations of John Coltrane during the 1970′s, which gave his playing more bite and intensity, particularly higher in the register; the Mapanzi album from 1977 catches that transformation well.
In the early 1980′s through to the early 1990′s he worked regularly with the Timeless All Stars, a group sponsored by the Timeless jazz record label. The group consisted of Land on tenor, Cedar Walton on piano, Buster Williams on bass, Billy Higgins on drums, Curtis Fuller on trombone and Bobby Hutcherson on vibes. Land also toured with his own band during this time, often including his son on piano and usually featuring Bobby Hutcherson and Billy Higgins as well. During these years he played regularly at Hop Singh’s in Marina Del Rey in the L.A area and the Keystone Korner in San Francisco.
Land was a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. He joined the UCLA Jazz Studies Program as a lecturer in 1996 to teach instrumental jazz combo. “Harold Land was one of the major contributors in the history of the jazz saxophone,” said jazz guitarist Kenny Burrell, founder and director of the UCLA Jazz Studies Program. “He was a vital and well-loved member of the jazz faculty here at UCLA.”
Land died on July 18, 2001 from a stroke, at the age of 73. He is survived by his wife Lydia, and his son, pianist Harold Land Jr.