In Memoriam: Paul Jeffrey, 1933-2015

Jeffrey_Paul_smallPaul Jeffrey, a former professor of the practice of music and director of the jazz studies program at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, died on March 20 after a long illness. He was 81 years old.

A graduate of Ithaca College in New York, Jeffery collaborated musically with Sonny Rollins and Thelonious Monk. During the early 1960s he toured with B.B. King.

An exclaimed tenor saxophonist, Jeffrey came to Duke in 1983 and directed the jazz studies program for 20 years until his retirement in 2003.

John Brown, the current director of jazz studies at Duke, said that Jeffrey “worked tirelessly to ensure that jazz remained alive and well and was very passionate about the music he loved so much. He leaves a legacy of great traditions of presenting jazz at Duke, and for the presence of jazz everywhere.”

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  1. I am saddened to hear about Professor Paul Jeffrey’s passing. I’d like to send my condolences to his family along with a brief remembrance.

    I was an African-American upperclassman majoring in Music at Duke in the early 1980’s, and I was fortunate enough to take an independent study music course from him.

    I had written a gospel song that was going to be performed one weekend with the Duke Modern Black Mass Choir. Professor Jeffrey had not yet moved to Durham and was commuting from the Northeast. I knew that the song would sound phenomenal if he were to play a tenor saxophone solo during the song, but I also knew that he commuted.

    During one of our sessions, I recall mentioning that the song would be performed during that weekend and wondered aloud how it would sound with him doing a solo. Without hesitation, he offered to stay in Durham an extra night with me and my roommate in our cramped dorm room on East Campus. He changed his flight to go back to the Northeast a day later so that he could perform on the song.

    It was a surprising, random act of kindness from a music legend who wanted to do something cool for one of his students. I will never forget it. RIP Paul Jeffrey.

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