Since moving to New York City in 2000, tenor saxophonist Wayne Escoffery has become one of the Jazz world’s most talented rising stars and in-demand sidemen. At only 36 he has recorded seven CDs as a leader and been on numerous recordings as a sideman. Wayne began his professional New York career touring and recording with The Eric Reed Septet. In 2001 he joined The Lonnie Plaxico Group and Abdulah Ibrahim’s Akaya. At that time he also became a steady member of the Mingus Dynasty, Orchestra, and the 2011 Grammy Award winning Mingus Big Band. In 2004 award winning producer, arranger and trumpeter Don Sickler asked Wayne to be a part of Ben Riley’s Monk legacy Septet, an innovative piano-less group dedicated to carrying on the legacy of jazz great Thelonious Monk. At this time Wayne was also touring with Jazz At Lincoln Center’s Music of the Masters, two groups of musicians hand picked by Wynton Marsalis to perform the music of Dexter Gordon and Miles Davis. The Music of Dexter Gordon featured Wayne with Saxophonists Jimmy Greene and Gerry Welden; backed by Dexter Gordon alumni George Cables, Rufus Reid and Leroy Williams. The Music of Miles Davis featured Wayne with trumpet great Eddie Henderson and alto saxophonist Steve Wilson in the front line; backed by David Kikoski, Ed Howard and Miles Davis veteran Jimmy Cobb on drums. In 2006 Wayne secured one of the most coveted gigs in jazz: a frontline position in Tom Harrell’s working quintet. He is currently a member of the quintet and to date has recorded four CDs with the group and co-produced Harrell’s last three releases Prana Dance, Roman Nights and The Time of the Sun. In addition to receiving accolades as a part of some of the last true “apprenticeship” opportunities of our era, Wayne receives regular praise for his recordings as a leader. In a review of his 2004 recording If Dreams Come True (a collaborative project with his wife vocalist Carolyn Leonhart) AllAboutJazz.com's Senior Editor John Kelman wrote “Escoffery's command of the instrument is impressive, able to navigate broad intervallic leaps with a sound that is robust in all registers,” Ben Ratliff (noted Jazz critic of The New York Times) writes “[A] young, self-assured, hard-swinging tenor saxophonist.” Jazziz Magazine calls him “One of Modern jazz’s foremost Saxophonists” and Charles Mingus’ widow and Mingus Band director calls Wayne “One of the most talented, poetic artists”
Despite his musical talent Wayne (born on February 23rd 1975 in London, England) grew up in a relatively non-musical household. In 1983, he and his mother moved to the United States eventually settling in New Haven, Connecticut in 1986. Wayne always enjoyed singing whatever music he heard but it wasn’t until his relocation to New Haven that his formal music education began. At eleven Wayne joined The New Haven Trinity Boys Choir, an internationally known Boys Choir that toured and recorded annually. At that time he also began taking private saxophone lessons and playing the tenor saxophone in school bands. By the time he was sixteen he left the Choir and began a more intensive study of the saxophone, attending The Neighborhood Music School and The Educational Center for the Arts in New Haven, and The Jazz Mobile in New York City. During his senior year in high School he attended the Artist’s Collective in Hartford, Ct. It was there that he met jazz legend Jackie McLean, world-renowned alto saxophonist and founder of both The Artist’s Collective and the jazz program at The Hartt School. McLean gave Wayne a full scholarship to attend The Hartt School, where he graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor’s degree in Jazz Performance, and became known as one of McLean’s prize pupils. Wayne went on to attend The Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance at The New England Conservatory in Boston. TMI is a full scholarship two-year college program, accepting a small select group of the world’s most talented young jazz artists every two years. At the Institute, Wayne toured with Herbie Hancock and studied with George Coleman, Jimmy Heath, Don Braden, Clark Terry, Ron Carter, Barry Harris, Charlie Persip and other Jazz masters. In May 1999, Wayne graduated with a Masters degree from The New England Conservatory moving to NYC in 2000. Since then, he has performed, toured and recorded with countless internationally respected musicians and has become known for his muscular tone, impressive technique and versatility.
In October of 2006 Wayne signed with Savant Records, founded and run by noted record industry legends Joe and Barney Fields. His two CDs for Savant, Veneration (released in March of 2007) and Hopes and Dreams [released in April of 2008] feature a working band of Joe Locke on vibes, Hans Glawischnig on bass, and Lewis Nash and Johnathan Blake on drums. His most recent recording Tides of Yesterday [released in April of 2010] is another collaboration with his wife Carolyn Leonhart and has received rave reviews. The vast array of contributions Wayne has made to the Jazz world in such a short time leads seasoned industry professionals like Niel Tesser to write "Pay special attention to tenor man Wayne Escoffery, whose rapid development - from album to album (and seemingly solo to solo) - has given us a jazz hero for the coming decade.”