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Hal « Cornbread » Singer

Saxophoniste, Compositeur, Chef d’orchestre


Harold Joseph « Hal » Singer (né le 08 Octobre 1919), aussi connu sous le nom de Hal « Cornbread » Singer, est un Américain, saxophoniste, chef d’orchestre de R&B et de jazz.

L’Haïtienne-Américain Guetty Felin lui a consacré un film documentaire portrait multiprimé en 1999 (où apparaît la poétesse Jessica Care Moore). Le musicien Hal « Cornbread » Singer est une légende du jazz quasi tombée dans l’oubli.


Harold Joseph « Hal » Singer (born 8 October 1919), also known as Hal « Cornbread » Singer, is an American R&B and jazz bandleader and saxophonist.

As a young man, Singer took part in the seething excitement of Kansas City as well as New York’s 52nd Street adventure which saw the birth of BeBop…

He starts his career in the territory bands of the Southwestern United States, under T. Holder and then Ernie Fields, Lloyd Hunter, Tommy Douglas. Later he joins Jay McShann’s big band, travelling extensively. Arriving in New York in 1943, the young saxophonist is engaged by Chris Columbus, Earl Bostic, Roy Eldridge, Big Sid Catlett, Don Byas, Henry « Red » Allen, « Hot Lips » Page, Willie « The Lion » Smith and Lucky Millinder.

At 29 years of age, Singer joins the Duke Ellington Orchestra.

The next year, Hal touches fame with the hit « Cornbread » (Savoy Records). From that moment, his name shines above Carnegie Hall, the Apollo Theater in Harlem, the Metropole and countless theaters and clubs around the country with singers like Billie Holiday, Little Esther, Big Joe Turner, Ray Charles, entertainers like Jackie Wilson or the boxing champ’ Joe Louis and, of course, thousands of famous musicians (Coleman Hawkins, Bud Powell, Jo Jones, Charlie Shavers, Dexter Gordon, Kenny Clarke… among so many others).

Considered to be the roots of Rock’nRoll, Singer’s hits from the 1950s are included in numerous anthologies. Dennon has reissued « Rent Party », a selection of his Savoy recordings distributed by BMG, Classics has reissued his American chronological recordings from 48 till 51.

Hal Singer’s music, a blend of the many stages of a career rich in evolutions and experiences (he was a student at the Juilliard School of New York and took courses at the Berklee School in Boston), combines the feeling of Blues and Swing, the rhythmic power of Rhythm and Blues with the sophistication of Modern Jazz.

His sound is characterized by a certain musical respiration, which is at once unique and immediately recognizable. Timeless, this saxophonist creates intensely emotional compositions through the magic of his instrument and with his very special voice.
French Culture Minister Jack Lang, recognized Hal Singer’s lifetime contributions to Jazz bestowing on him the prestigious title of « Chevalier des Arts », then « Commandeur ».

Edition°1 published the story of his wanderings as a musician, entitled « Jazz Roads ».

His lattest CDs « Still Buddies » and « Now & then » (Azzura), were cut in Italy.

« No Rush » (Fnac Music Label) was cut in New York and features trombonist Steve Turre. Some other ones, like « Senior Blues » or « Prints in the Sand » were recently recorded in Paris with his own musicians.
As a band leader, Hal Singer has recorded in Europe for Pathe Marconi, Polydor, Black and Blue, Futura, Le Chant du Monde, CBS, JSP Record, Carrère, Fnac music and Azzura. He also recorded in South Africa and Ethiopia, while on his many tours in Africa.

His American recordings are countless. As a leader he cut dozens of records for each of Savoy, Coral, King, Deluxe, Fidelio, Prestige… The album « Blue Stompin' », recorded for Prestige with Charlie Shavers in 1958, is one of them. This LP, now reissued by Fantasy Records with Warner distribution, was nominated Best Jazz Album of the year in France in 1964. Invited to Europe for some engagements the next year, Hal Singer could not resist falling in love, perhaps with the City of Paris, too, and decided to settle there a while…

Since then he has toured intensively through Europe, Africa, le Mid and the Far-East as well as he has returned many times for concerts, festivals or club dates in his native country.

The American movie maker Guetty Felin has issued a very personnal video portrait, entitled « Hal Singer, Keep the music going » very frequently broadcasted due to his historical and sociological interest.

« The years have been good to Hal. He brings to us the sweeping, blue rhythmic thrust of the Southwest with the sophistication of New York and a soupçon of Gallic flair. Singer’s songs please the ear as they lighten the heart, soothe the soul and help you keep your head together… »
Ira Gitler, N.Y. writer, journalist and jazz critic.

You can red the complete Hal Singer discography on the page discograhy.

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