John Park Tribute

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John Park, was a brilliant genius of improvisation on the saxophone. A natural talent, he served as a master of music and life, and his sense of humor made him a fun person to be around. With such a keen mind and wit, he gave me a holistic sense that life and music were inseparable in profoundly expressing all the emotions and heartfelt feelings we have in living life to its fullest. John ultimately served as lead alto with the Stan Kenton Orchestra.




"Kim's father, the late John Park, was considered by many to be one of the greatest alto saxophonists to have played with the band. His solo on "Street of Dreams" on the Birthday in Britain album will always be remembered."  

William H. Alburty in JAM Magazine

Fan Reviews:  

Reviewer: "brick121" (Orlando, FL USA) -
This was a band that I had the pleasure of hearing shortly before the Britain tour that year (1973). This is the Kenton band at one of its finest moments. Though all the tracks are really good, the "Street of Dreams" track, featuring John Park on alto is worth the price of the whole CD.
Reviewer: (Orlando, Fl) -
John Park's solo on "Street of Dreams" is an absolute classic! I've had the pleasure of hearing him with the band on a couple of performances and he is one the the best that no one knows about. If you enjoy listening to the saxophone, this solo will make you grin ear to ear! The rest of the CD isn't too bad either!

The John Park Memorial Jazz Saxophone Scholarship at the University of North Texas

Artist Profile, John Park's daughter: Suzy Park

John Park performs on the

Ed Sulivan show.

Kim Park is the son of the late, great lead alto saxophonist with the Stan Kenton Orchestra, JOHN PARK, and continues to play his dad's horn.

John Park Tribute Page

My Father's Spirit

The Heart of John Park

A Tribute to John Park -- Dad & Me

The John Park Collection

The saxophone section of the Stan Kenton Orchestra. l - r, Roy Reynolds, Mary Fettig, (Kim's future wife), John Park, Richard Torres and Kim Park.


John Park's recordings can be heard at the Marr Sound Archives in the Miller Nichols Library at the University of Missouri - Kansas City.

John Park/Alto Saxophone
1934 - 1979

Liner notes written by Jerry Atkins for a John Park LP entitled:
'If Winter Comes . . .' :

I caught the Kenton Orchestra once after they returned to the United States and as expected, John was superb. Stan talked about an album showcasing John on alto which Willie Maiden had already begun scoring. Continuing heart difficulties, however, forced John from the road and to his Houston residence. Needless to say he became a major figure in the Houston jazz scene starting a lab band program at the University of Houston, organizing a Monday night rehearsal band and playing dates as often as possible.

More than once he told me: 'I'm a jazz tenor player who makes a living as a lead altoist.' Most who knew him thought his real individuality was on alto, but I think he could equal it on tenor any time. His work with the Houston Pops Orchestra, the Houston Music Theater and his ability as a contractor for dozens of notable performers was not exactly an inborn talent. It came from all his dedicated work at being a complete musician.

I circulated some of John's early tapes to my Danish friend, Arne Astrup, who is a highly respected saxophonist in Copenhagen. His enthusiasm for John's playing equaled by own and he never stopped playing those tapes. First it was for his fellow musicians and later for Tony Williams, owner of Spotlite Records in London. When Stan Getz visited Arne, he first heard John on Tape. It was not until 1979 that John and Stan met in person and a recording date was later discussed.

After becoming a representative for Yamaha Corporation, John moved to Dallas in June of that same year. It was my pleasure to go with him to the Sixth Annual 'Bird Lives Festival' held at the Recovery Room on September 1. Words can't describe his fiery and inspired playing that night with new found friends and Dallas musicians; Bill Tillman, Tony Klatka, Marchal Ivery, Pete Vollmers and a very late arrival -- Red Garland. Somebody went to South Dallas to get him shortly before midnight. Red was a bit provoked about being awakened but that changed when he came into the Club and heard what was happening. I was told later that the insistent remark 'there's an altoist there you just gotta hear' was the challenge that got him there. It was all too brief but he left with a huge smile.

Then came the invitation from Leon Breedan for John to appear as guest artist at North Texas University's 'One O'clock Jazz Lab Band' Fall Concert which was a tribute to Stan Kenton who had died just a few months earlier.

The date was November 20 and somehow I knew that even though this was taking me from my business, I wanted to be there. I've heard 'Street of Dreams' a hundred times with several alternate performances, but each time it's always brought back the realization of how much emotion was within John. I never knew that chart was often played by Art Pepper until John explained to the massive audience that there were interesting little "x's" and "o's" at the bottom of his part. He said he believed that Art must have put them there as sort of a personal rating system every time he played his solo. The other three Kenton charts featuring John that night were all by Bill Holman and came from Stan's 'Contemporary Concepts' album.

I quote from a review of the concert. 'The high point was the choice of the Holman chart, 'Cherokee,' which survives from the Charlie Parker tour with the Kenton Orchestra decades ago. John Park was Bird, Cannonball Adderley, along with a touch of Sonny Stitt. But mostly he was John Park at his best!'

John's wife, Shirley, his mother and two daughters were there that night. Don Jacoby said: 'You're unbelievable.' Leon Breedan remarked 'that guy has found some more notes on the saxophone that don't exist.' Everybody was beaming and happy. I didn't dream it was the last time I would see John.

It was sometime early the morning of December 7, 1979 when John's heart stopped. I was crushed. Two studio recording sessions were planned for early 1980. For a long time I could only think of how sad it was that so few had known and heard this beautiful person as I did.

As often happens, when these two sessions were casually recorded, nobody ever thought of a record. I was not present at the 1975 Kansas City Jazz Festival, John was living in Houston and was invited to that historic city twice that year. His first performance was so praised that he was invited back in November. Both times he played with the steady rhythm section of Salisbury, Abel and Brady and both were sponsored by the 'Friends of Jazz'. The second concert was actually called the 'John Park Jazz Concert.' We continue to search for a tape of that event.

The second session included here was almost completely spontaneous. It was a complete surprise to see John late in the afternoon on that Valentine's Day. He was going to New Orleans but agreed to stay over and play for an informal gathering of musicians. I made a few phone calls and it just happened.

Constant encouragement from friends and especially Bill Craig and Gary Foster has convinced me that this is valid material that should be shared with the jazz world. There are a few problems but the beauty is there above everything else. We know you'll hear it and discard the unimportant imperfections. That's the way jazz should be heard.

These 'If Winter Comes' sessions are a recorded memory of love, joy and retrospect for those who were not fortunate to have known John.

---- Jerry Atkins

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