Bill Easley

Bill Easley has enjoyed a diverse musical career, representing the fourth generation of a family dedicated to music. Over the years he has played in bands led by such notables as Ruth Brown, Isaac Hayes, Jimmy Smith, Jimmy McGriff, Bobby Short, Louie Bellson, Nicholas Payton, Charles McPhearson, James Williams, Sir Roland Hanna, Earl May, Illinois Jaquett, Ron Carter, Frank Foster, Mercer Ellington, Warren Vaché, David “Panama” Francis, and Grady Tate, among others.

In addition to his extensive discography as a sideman, he also has five recordings as a leader: Wind Inventions, First Call, Easley Said, Business Man's Bounce, and the soon-to-be-released Hearing Voices. His arsenal of woodwind instruments includes tenor, alto, and soprano saxophones; clarinet and bass clarinet; and flute, alto flute, and piccolo.

Easley moved to New York City in September 1964. He was a part-time student at The Julliard School while getting his feet wet in the uptown jazz scene. The US draft board had other plans, however; he completed his military service with the Ninth Army Band in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Easley joined the George Benson Quartet in January 1968 and traveled with the great guitarist for the remainder of the decade. This band worked in such legendary jazz spots as Minton's Playhouse in New York, the Plugged Nickel in Chicago, the Jazz Workshop in Boston, and the Hurricane in Pittsburgh.

After a brief residence in Pittsburgh, Easley followed his instincts to Memphis. It was there that he performed and recorded with Isaac Hayes. He also continued his formal education at Memphis State University. It was in the mid 1970s that Easley first toured with the Duke Ellington Orchestra under the direction of Mercer Ellington. In January of 1980 Bill moved back to New York City with the promise of a job on Broadway. His Broadway credits include Sophisticated Ladies, The Wiz, Black and Blue, Jelly’s Last Jam, Swingin' on a Star, Play On, Fosse, and most recently, The Wild Party.

Easley has been a part of the jazz repertory movement, playing in the American Jazz Orchestra (John Lewis), Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra (David Baker); and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (Wynton Marsalis).

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Jessye Norman