Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

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Zankel, Bobby (Robert Alan)

Zankel, Bobby (Robert Alan), alto saxophonist, composer; b. Brooklyn, NY, 21 December 1949. He grew up in Rockville Centre, NY. His parents are Harry Zankel (1913-1998) (NY, NY) and Hazel Zankel (b. 1917, Brooklyn NY). His brother is Lewis Zankel b. 1945, Brooklyn NY). Bobby studied with Jerome Schwartz (1960-65), Sid Cooper (1968), Booker Ervin, Fred Kelly (1968-9), Joe Viola (Berklee) (1969), U of Wisc (1967-71), Fred Hemke (1970-71) Jimmy Lyons (73-74) Cecil Taylor (1970-2002) and Dennis Sandole (1979-2000).

He first began attracting attention in the early 70's for his work with Cecil Taylor's "Unit Core Ensembl.e" His underground reputation grew on the New York "Loft Scene," where he performed with the likes of Ray Anderson, William Parker, and Sunny Murray and where he continued his apprenticeship with Taylor.

Zankel became a Philadelphian in 1975 to raise his family and to expand his artistic vision without heed to commercialism or the trends of the times. Since 1975 his performances as a sideman have ranged from the Hank Mobley/Sonny Gillete Quintet, to Jymmie Merritt's Forerunners, to the Dells, NRBQ, Odean Pope's Saxophone Choir, Ruth Naomi Floyd, and European work with Taylor. Zankel's tenure in Philadelphia has been marked by a series of collaborations with choreographers, writers, and visual artists (funded by a variety of grants, and commissions) that have resulted in three ballets and one opera. In 1995 he was honored to receive the Pew Fellowship (the largest monetary grant that one can apply for in the US) for his writing.

 Zankel's compositions have been performed by such diverse musicians as Johnny Coles, Odean Pope, Jamaaladeen Tacuma, Lester Bowie, Marilyn Crispell, Ralph Peterson Jr. and others. The introspection of the composer's life, is balanced by more than a decade of  "artist in residence" programs in the Pennsylvania prisons.

His wife is Sekai Afua Zankel. His daughters are Astara Fane (b. 1972) and Miriam Fane (b. 1976).


Recordings (selected):
Seeking Spirit; Emerging From The Earth; Human Flowers; Prayer and Action; Transcend and Triumph (Trio)

Contact information:
Bobby Zankel
4723 Cedar Ave
Philadelphia, PA. 19143
(215) 727-0650
e-mail: Bobbyzank@aol.com

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