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Julian Priester

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Biography

Julian Priester was a versatile and highly advanced trombonist capable of playing hard bop, post-bop, R&B, fusion, or full-on avant-garde jazz; however, he remains under-appreciated due to the paucity of sessions he recorded under his own name. Priester was born in Chicago on June 29, 1935, and started out on the city's thriving blues and R&B scene, playing with artists like Muddy Waters, Dinah Washington, and Bo Diddley; he also worked with Sun Ra's early progressive big band outfits during the mid-'50s. In 1958, Priester moved to New York and joined Max Roach's band, appearing on classics like Freedom Now Suite. In 1960, Priester also recorded two hard bop sessions as a leader, Keep Swingin' and Spiritsville. After leaving Roach in 1961, Priester appeared often as a sideman on Blue Note dates, recording with the likes of Freddie Hubbard, Stanley Turrentine, Blue Mitchell, Art Blakey, Joe Henderson, and McCoy Tyner; on a more adventurous note, he also worked with Sam Rivers and played in John Coltrane's Africa/Brass ensemble. Priester worked with Duke Ellington for six months during 1969-70, and shortly thereafter accepted his highest-profile gig with Herbie Hancock's Headhunters-era fusion band. Upon his departure in 1973, Priester moved to San Francisco and recorded two dates for ECM, 1974's Love, Love and 1977's Polarization. In the '80s, Priester joined both Dave Holland's group and the faculty of Cornish College in Seattle, and later returned to Sun Ra's big band. During the '90s, Priester continued to work with Holland, and toured with Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra. In 1997, he finally led another session of his own for Postcards, titled Hints on Light and Shadow, which featured Sam Rivers. In 2000, Priester received a liver transplant, but was back in action the following year at a benefit concert in his honor.

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