Wednesday, January 8, 2014


Jazz saxophonist Gene Walker has played with some of the most important musical figures over the past half century, Hall of Fame names like Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Brook Benton, Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, Neil Diamond, Brenda Lee, Elvin Jones, The Isley Brothers and dozens of others. The 74-year-old Columbus native has been a critical element of the state capital’s vibrant Jazz scene as a solo artist, a bandleader (he fronts both the Cotton Club Orchestra and the Generations Band) and an educator (he taught Jazz saxophone and combo classes at Ohio State University, the Jamey Aebersold Jazz Camps and does outreach to area schools through the American Jazz Experience Program, among other educational programs).

Walker was born in 1938 in one of Columbus’ most musically and culturally fertile black neighborhoods, an area that actively supported nearly 40 Jazz and R&B clubs and, as such, was a frequent tour stop for artists traveling between Chicago and New York City.

Immersed in music at home and school, Walker learned the saxophone as a teenager and got good enough to sit in with local groups (so did Walker’s best friend Ronnie Kirk, who would become Jazz legend Rahsaan Roland Kirk), eventually hitting the touring circuit in the late 1950s. 

Walker was later a part of King Curtis’ band when they opened for The Beatles’ first American tour. After two decades of playing with the highest profile artists in the business, Walker returned home to care for his ailing parents. In 1983, a friend asked him to substitute in his classroom at Ohio State, and within weeks Walker enrolled as a student, graduating in 1988 and taking a teaching position in OSU’s Jazz program the following year while continuing to pursue his performing career.

Gene Walker has said his job is entertaining people, but that job is a close second to mentoring his students over the past three decades. Filmmaker John Fraim is working on a documentary detailing Walker’s life and the Columbus Jazz scene that nurtured him, but it’ll be difficult to get it all in a single film. Gene Walker might have been in backing bands during his career, but he’s been bigger than life to everyone he’s taught.

Since his retirement from teaching Jazz Saxophone for eleven years at the Ohio State University School of Music, Gene Walker tours extensively and often takes the featured soloist/ artist role with bands and orchestras all over the United States and Europe.

Solo performances have included many notable musicians and entertainers such as:
Brook Benton, Wilson Picket, Aretha Franklin, Etta Jones, Benny Green, Wild Bill Davis, Bobby Shew, Jimmy Scott, Charles Earland, Lloyd Price, Jimmy Reed, The Isley Brothers, Neil Diamond, Melba Moore, Billy Daniels, Charli Persip, Elvin Jones and Irene Reid. Jazz saxophonist, composer, bandleader, studio recording and educator Gene Walker lives in Columbus, Ohio where he currently performs with his own groups, Gene Walker's Generations and The Cotton Club Orchestra. He began performing and touring in 1958 with such groups as Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, and The Chris Columbo Quintet. In 1965 he toured with the Beatles, playing in Shea Stadium along with King Curtis.

Mr. Gene "King Saxe" Walker

From 1989-2001 Gene was a member of the faculty of The Ohio State University where he taught jazz saxophone and small group ensembles. He has also held three Ohio Arts Council residencies. Gene has taught saxophone yearly in Jamey Aebersolds' Summer Jazz Clinics since 1998.
In 1990 and 1991 Gene toured Italy, England, the Netherlands with the Jimmy McGriff Quartet, playing at the prestigious London Club, Ronnie Scott's, and in 1997 Gene performed with the Hank Marr Quartet at the North Sea Jazz Festival in Holland.

Mr. Gene Walker

Discography:"Rediscovering Old Favorites", Chris Columbo Quintet:Strand RecordsSlam Stewart & Tiny Grimes Herb Abramson RecordsLOVE POTION NO 9 with Johnny "Hammond" Smith; PrestigeRecordsTHE GOLDEN THRUSH; with Byrdie Green; Prestige RecordsLISTEN HERE; with Freddie McCoy; Prestige RecordsIT'S ABOUT TIME; with Hank Marr; Double Time RecordsRocket '88's with Arnette Howard 1996SMOOTH JAZZ COLUMBUS COLLECTION various artists 1997A GREAT BIG HELPING OF JAZZ AND EGGS; with GeneWalker's Generations Band and Friends.
Listen For the Jazz RecordsMORE JAZZ AND EGGS; with Gene Walker's GenerationsBand. Listen For The Jazz Records.

COLUMBUS JAZZ is COMMUNITY MUSIC; with Gene Walker'sGenerations Band, Listen For the Jazz RecordsPROVISIONS; with Sean Carney, Main Street RecordsTHE HAPPY ORGAN; with Dave Baby CortezTHE BROOM SWITCH; with Lloyd PricePRO-MARK DEMONSTRATION CD with Elvin Jones & Hank MarrTOMMY'S GIRL with Teeny TuckerGENE WALKER PLAYS DUKE ELLINGTON The Phil DeGreg TrioLAST NIGHT IN MANHATTAN; X-tra Large Records, 2002LEAVING THIS OLD TOWN WITH Bill Caffie 2002KING SAXE PLAYS THE BLUES Xtra Large Records, 2004LIVE AT 501 CLUB Tom Carroll, Hank Marr, Jim Rupp, Jeanette Williams Brewer,and Mary McLendonBLUSIN' AND CRUISIN'; With Hank Marr Jamey Aebersold, Wilbert Longmire and Jim Rupp.
THE FIERY BLUES;with Tony Monaco Trio & Willie Pooch,Summit Records. 2005FRIENDS; with many artists, Xtra Large Records 2005.

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