Wayne Escoffery is a 2014 & 2021 Downbeat Critics Poll Winner for both the Tenor and Soprano Saxophones, and a Grammy Award winning musician. He is considered one of the Jazz world’s most talented saxophonists and in-demand sidemen. Originally from London, England Wayne grew up in New Haven, Connecticut which is where his love for Jazz and formal study of music began. As a high-school student and an undergraduate at The Hartt School, Escoffery studied under the mentorship of Saxophone legend Jackie McLean, and was among the second class of students at the prestigious Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz at The New England Conservatory which is where he received a Master’s degree in Music.
In 2006 he secured one of the most coveted gigs in jazz: a frontline position in Tom Harrell’s working quintet. For over a decade, Escoffery was mostly associated with trumpet master having toured the globe with him, recording seven CDs with The Tom Harrell Quintet and co-producing four of those releases. Escoffery has also been a member of The Mingus Dynasty, Big Band and Orchestra since 2000 and has made several recordings with the group.
Over the years he has recorded and performed internationally with a who’s who in Jazz including Ron Carter, Ben Riley, Abdulah Ibrahim, Eric Reed, Carl Allen, Al Foster, Billy Hart, Eddie Henderson, Rufus Reid, Wallace Roney, Randy Brecker and Herbie Hancock just to name a few. Escoffery leads his own groups which tour internationally and has made several highly acclaimed studio recordings with said groups. His current working quartet features pianist David Kikoski, bassist Ugonna Okegwo and drummer Mark Whitfield Jr. who has taken over for the late great Ralph Peterson Jr. The band’s latest album The Humble Warrior on the Smoke Sessions Records label has gotten rave reviews and received 4 stars in the June, 2020 issue of Downbeat Magazine.
After the passing of drummer Ralph Peterson Jr., Escoffery chose Peterson’s best student and young drum master Mark Whitfield Jr. for the drum chair of his quartet. Escoffery is also a founding member of a collaborative group called Black Art Jazz Collective which is comprised of fellow rising star musicians of his generation and is dedicated to celebrating the origins of Jazz and African American Icons through originally composed music. In addition to performing, Escoffery is dedicated to music education and presents lectures and masterclasses on Jazz music.
He is currently the saxophone instructor for The New Jersey Performing Arts Wells fargo Jazz for Teens program, and teaches private online and in person lessons for all instruments. In the fall of 2016 Wayne Escoffery was appointed Lecturer of Jazz Improvisation and ensemble coach at the Yale School of Music as a part of Yale University’s Jazz Initiative, the first of its kind for the University. The vast array of contributions Wayne Escoffery 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.