Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

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Amy, Curtis

Amy, Curtis, tenor sax, soprano sax (b. Houston, Texas, October 11, 1929, d. June 5, 2002, Los Angeles). A soulful player in the "Texas tenor" tradition, Curtis Amy was a fixture on the early 1960s LA jazz scene before turning his attention to pop music. While he recorded two sides in Houston with his own group in 1948, and recorded a 1955 session with Dizzy Gillespie, Amy's true breakthrough came in a series of 6 albums for Pacific Jazz (all collected on a Mosaic Select set bearing Amy's name). The albums display Amy's range from funky tenor with organ on Meetin' Here to the burning hard bop of Katanga (the latter co-led with the brilliant, but forgotten trumpeter Dupree Bolton). Amy was also a star soloist for the Onzy Mathews big band, appearing with that group on albums under Lou Rawls' and Mathews' name. Amy played in the Gerald Wilson orchestra for a short period and went to New York to record a single album for Verve, Mustang, which featured vocals by his wife, Merry Clayton (billed as Eva Harris) . After a stint with Ray Charles, Amy moved into the LA studios, where he performed on recordings with The Doors, Carole King, Marvin Gaye and Smokey Robinson. Amy returned to jazz with the 1994 album Peace For Love, recorded in Hollywood, but released on the Spanish Fresh Sounds label. It was to be his last album. Amy died of pancreatic cancer in 2002.

Contributor: Thomas Cunniffe