John Stubblefield

Composer, musician (1945-2005)


Saxophonist John Stubblefield was born in Little Rock, Arkansas and was a graduate of Horace Mann High School. His first instrument was the piano followed by study of the saxophone in his teens. He first recorded with York Wilburn and The Thrillers in 1962.


After a year on the road with singer Solomon Burke, Stubblefield received a scholarship to attend Pine Bluff A&M College in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. While attending school, he toured with various bands, gospel artists and his own jazz quintet.


Stubblefield moved to Chicago after graduation. He joined the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM). In 1971 he moved to New York and played with the Collective Black Artists big band. This association led to work with pianist Mary Lou Williams, who recorded several of his compositions.


In 1972 he played a free jazz concert at Town Hall with Anthony Braxton and was featured on a Braxton record of the concert. Stubblefield's adaptability and ease in any setting brought him calls from the World Saxophone Quartet (86-88), Reggie Workman (89-93), McCoy Tyner (84 Clark), Freddie Hubbard (85), and George Russell (85) Tito Puente, Charles Mingus, Miles Davis, Abdullah Ibrahim, Gil Evans, the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, and others.


As a leader of his own quartet since the early 1980s, Stubblefield recorded for Enja and Soul Note. His most recent CD was “Morning Sun” in 1995.


John Stubblefield cited two musical influences in his life when he was a young man. One was meeting Don Byas, tenor saxophonist with the Count Basie Band and the other was classical composer William Grant Still.


During the last years of his life he was associated with the Mingus Big Band. In October 2004, John conducted the band during a recording session. The album “I Am Three” has four of his arrangements: “Song With Orange,” “Blue Silk,” “Pedal Point Blues,” and “Prayer for a Passive Resistance.”

John Stubblefield was also an educator. He led seminars at colleges and universities and worked with Jazzmobile.



As leader


Prelude (Storyville Records, 1976) with Onaje Allan Gumbs, Cecil McBee, Joe Chambers, James Mtume, Cecil Bridgewater

Confessin' (Soul Note, 1984) with Cecil Bridgewater, Mulgrew Miller, Rufus Reid, Eddie Gladden

Bushman Song (Enja Records, 1986) with Geri Allen, Charnett Moffett, Mino Cinelu, Victor Lewis

Countin’ the Blues (Enja, 1987) with Hamiet Bluiett, Mulgrew Miller, Charnett Moffett, Victor Lewis

Sophisticatedfunk (Cheetah, 1990)

Morning Song (Enja, 1993) with George Cables, Victor Lewis, Clint Houston



As sideman

Kenny Barron


Golden Lotus (1982)

What If? (1986)

Live at Fat Tuesday's (1988)

Quickstep (1991)

Things Unseen (1997)


Lester Bowie


Fast Last! (Muse, 1974)


Anthony Braxton


Town Hall 1972 (Trio, 1972)



Miles Davis


Get Up with It (1974)


Craig Harris


F-Stops (Soul Note, 1993)


Julius Hemphill


Julius Hemphill Big Band (Elektra/Musician, 1988)


Abdullah Ibrahim


African River (Enja, 1989)


Victor Lewis


Family Portrait (AudioQuest Music, 1992)


Sam Rivers


Crystals (Impulse!, 1974)


McCoy Tyner


Sama Layuca (Milestone, 1974)

The Turning Point (Birdology, 1991)

Journey (Birdology, 1993)