Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

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Garrett, Donald (Rafael)


Garrett, Donald (Rafael), saxophone, bass clarinet; b. February 28, 1932 in Eldorado, Arkansas; died 14 August 1989. His mother, Luella Hicks Self, was born August 17, 1912 in Jackson, Mississippi. His father, Fletcher Self, was born December 13, 1904 in Mississippi and died in February, 2002. His brother, Wilbert Ellis Garrett, was born December 7, 1934 in Eldorado, Arkansas and died in 1991.

While still a child, he moved to Chicago, where he attended DuSable High School.  There he studied music under the fabled Captain Walter Dyett, the teacher who mentored so many great Chicago musicians. Rafael began his musical studies with the clarinet, and then added the bass.  He collaborated closely with Muhal Richard Abrams in the late 1950's and early 1960's during the founding of Chicago's famous Association for the Advancement of Creative Music (A.A.C.M.).  Rafael's early appearances on record include Introducing Roland Kirk, Rahsaan's debut album, and Look to the Red Star with Dewey Redman. 

In 1965, Rafael moved to San Francisco, where he established a group called The Sound Circus, with drummer Oliver Johnson, the late multi-reedist Gerald Oshita, and others.  While on the West Coast, he recorded four albums with the great John Coltrane: Om, Kulu Se Mama, Selflessness and Live in Seattle.  (Rafael is probably the only musician who recorded with Coltrane who is not widely known through this work because the producers in New York didn't get a photo of Rafael, who lived in California, to put on the album.)  Rafael also performed and recorded with most of the great jazz artists of his time, including Archie Shepp, Sonny Rollins, Gene Ammons, Johnny Griffin, Pharoah Sanders, Sonny Simmons, Bobby Hutcherson, Shirley Scott, Sonny Stitt, John Handy, Eddie Harris, Beaver Harris, Clifford Jordan, Letta Mbulu,  Frank Wright,  Eddie Moore, Fred Anderson, Billy Bang, Frank Lowe, Joseph Jarman, Douglas Ewart, Jean-Luc Ponty, Craig Harris, Butch Morris, and too many more to mention.  In 1971, he began his collaboration with Zusaan Kali Fasteau called The Sea Ensemble.  In 1972 they set off on their world travels, performing in Senegal, Congo, Morocco, Haiti, France, Holland, Turkey, Italy, Greece, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, and Yugoslavia, as well as America.   At times, they also toured with Archie Shepp, and for about a year, Glenn Spearman and Jay Oliver augmented The Sea Ensemble.

His wife, Zusaan Kali Fasteua, was a multi-instrumentalist and composer. She was his musical partner, performing, recording and touring worldwide with him from 1971-1977.

Bill Douglass writes, "One thing that he was able to instill in me was the discipline of 'long tones,' bowing the bass or making a pure non-vibrato flute tone... Rafael just had this ability to bring out the best in folks, and turn this musician towards a simple way of loving sound for its own sake. ...One night at the old Both/And club I heard him with Andrew Hill, Sam Rivers, and Oliver Johnson...He was a great musical spirit and I give thanks that I ever knew him!:

Joseph Jarman: Black Paladins; Memoirs Of A Dream (never before released music of a 1976 date in Leiden, Holland in a studio, and in 1977 live-in-concert at the Turkish-American Association in Ankara, Turkey); unreleased tapes from Sutherland Lounge, Chicago (1961)

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