March 22, 1944 – June 23, 2018
Reynold Scott Jr., a jazz saxophonist and faculty member at the University at Buffalo, died June 23 after a brief illness in Winter Park, Colo., during a trip to Colorado to visit his sons. He was 74.
Born in Charleston, S.C., he came to Buffalo with his family as a child and attended East High School with jazz saxophone great Grover Washington Jr.
“I was playing the flute in school. My father was a music teacher and he taught me,” he told an interviewer in 2012. “Our school finally got one baritone sax. Grover got it. He opened the case, it was one of those moments where the sun was shining all over it. So then I said, ‘I’ve gotta play sax.’ The teacher got another one at the pawn shop and gave it to me.”
Before he was old enough to go into jazz clubs, he and his friends stood on boxes outside the Revilot and the Little Harlem Hotel to look through the windows and listen to greats like John Coltrane and Miles Davis.
Known to many as Rey, he began performing while earning a music degree at Morgan College, now Morgan State University, in Baltimore, where he also was a member of the marching band.
He served briefly in the Army, then returned to Buffalo. He taught music in the Buffalo schools until 1972, when he moved to New York City to play jazz full time. On his first night in Manhattan, he performed at the legendary Apollo Theater.
He went on to play with Lionel Hampton, Tito Puente, Hamiet Bluiett and Sun Ra’s Arkestra, touring the world. With the Arkestra, he performed in 2004 in Siberia in the remote Republic of Tuva, home of the renowned double throat singers, and stayed for a month in a yurt.
He also earned a master’s degree in music education at City University of New York’s Lehman College in the Bronx and studied composition there with John Corigliano.
Mr. Scott wrote works for jazz orchestra that were performed at Carnegie Recital Hall, Avery Fischer Hall and Alice Tully Hall. He also recorded three albums of his own work, which included his best-known numbers, “Peanut Butter Turf,” “Grandma and Pa Scott” and “Chili-Willi and Ms. Bing-Bong.”
He also composed “Ode to the Niagara Movement” for the civil rights group’s 90th annual conference and “Ode to the Buffalo River” for the Erie Canal Initiative of Western New York.
In Buffalo, he played with several jazz ensembles, most frequently with percussionist John Bacon Jr., trombonist John Hasselbeck Jr. and guitarist Greg Millar. With Bacon and Don Metz, he founded the New Jazz Symphonia, which was a resident ensemble at Hallwalls. His last performance was at the Burchfield Penney Art Center with Millar’s band.
He was a lecturer in UB's Department of African American Studies, teaching “Introduction to African American Music” and the “Evolution of Spiritual and Gospel Music.”
He also taught young musicians and led youth bands through Young Audiences and introduced jazz to youngsters through the program Jazz It Up. He also coordinated programs for STEP at SUNY Buffalo State.
For many years, he and his family spent their summers in Boothbay, Maine.
This year’s Pine Grill Reunion in Buffalo was dedicated to him.
Survivors include his wife of 29 years, the former Lucinda Clendenin, a retired counselor with UB’s Educational Opportunity Program; two sons, Reynold III and John; and a sister, Suell.
There will be no services.