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Billy Robinson: 1939-2005
Billy Robinson
tenor saxophone

Born: May 31, 1939 in Fort Worth, Texas
Died: August 11, 2005 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Classic Texas tenor voice

by Ron Sweetman
Copyright © 2005 Ron Sweetman

Saxophonist, composer, bandleader and educator Billy Robinson died in Ottawa on August 11, 2005, of a heart attack. Billy was born in Fort Worth, Texas on May 31, 1939. A big-toned tenor in the great Texas tradition, his early musical associates included John Carter, Ornette Coleman and Dewey Redman. Billy lived during the mid-'60s in San Francisco, and then moved to New York, where he worked with Charles Mingus 1969-70, but unfortunately never recorded with him.

Billy converted to Islam in the late '60s, and was a practising Muslim for the rest of his life. He moved to Montreal when he married his first wife in 1970, but he was always ready to return to the United States for interesting gigs with his many musical friends. Their son Zurvan was born in 1970. In 1974, he married Suzanne Cyr and in 1978 they moved to Ottawa. Again, apart from the occasional, highly anticipated, local gig most of his work took him back to the U.S. Billy's recording debut was in January 1972, on Archie Shepp's Attica Blues (Impulse!), and in September of that year he recorded Evolution's Blend for Radio Canada International. In 1973 he appeared on pianist Sadik Hakim's Grey Cup Caper. In 1991 he recorded Doubt Dropping (Tocma), followed by A Short Turn to the Future (Tocma) in 1998.

In April 2005, Billy recorded a new CD to be issued later in the year.

Everybody who met Billy was struck by his warmth, his openness, his honesty and, of course, his great musical skills and creativity.


Ron Sweetman
Ron Sweetman is a jazz writer and radio producer in Ottawa, Canada.

E-mail: sweetman@ideaguy.com

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With 1 reader comment, posted October 6, 2005