Fred Lipsius: A Musical Genius

  • Fred Lipsus was the original saxophonist, arranger and conductor with Blood, Sweat & Tears from 1967 to 1971.
  • After having taught full-time at Berklee College of Music in Boston since 1984, Fred will be retiring this December.
  • Rock and Roll history books credit him as the first saxophonist to mix jazz and rock styles in his solos.

When people talk about great saxophonist the first thought that comes to mind are the giants: Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Stan Getz, Art Pepper and many more who contributed and left there mark on this great music called jazz. Born in the Bronx, there’s one saxophonist many of you may or may not heard of. His name is Fred Lipsius.

I am sure everyone has heard of the jazz/rock group Blood Sweet & Tears back in the day. If you still have a collection of old LP’s or in this modern day of the internet you will find Lipsus, the original saxophonist, arranger and conductor with Blood, Sweat & Tears from 1967 to 1971. He also doubled on keyboards. While with the band, he won nine Gold Records plus a Grammy Award for his arrangement of Spinning Wheel. Fred also arranged and co-arranged, respectively, the hit singles Hi-De-Ho and You’ve Made Me So Very Happy. He brought the “jazz” element to the band and the public in his sax and piano solos and his arrangements. In both the Downbeat and Playboy jazz polls he placed in the top ten of the alto sax category. Rock and Roll history books credit him as the first saxophonist to mix jazz and rock styles in his solos.

Fred has composed, arranged and produced radio and TV commercials, including 2 CBS TV logos- themes introducing the season‘s upcoming shows. Fred has authored five books /CDs on jazz improvisation and jazz reading, published throughout the world. Other published works of his include small combo and big band jazz / fusion charts.

He has performed with jazz greats Cannonball Adderley, Thelonious Monk, Zoot Sims, Eddie Gomez, Al Foster, George Mraz, Larry Willis, Randy Brecker, Rodney Jones and many others. He has played with many prominent Berklee faculty, such as Herb Pomeroy, Alan Dawson, Ray Santisi and Donald Brown. He has written music for and performed on over 30 CDs as both a leader and sideman. After having taught full-time at Berklee College of Music in Boston since 1984, Fred will be retiring this December.

In the spring of 1982, Fred toured in Japan and Europe with Simon and Garfunkle and was a featured soloist. After the tour, with the encouragement of his friend, guitarist Rodney Jones, Lipsius decided to record his first jazz album. This was released on vinyl in 1984 with the title “Distant Lover(s),” and then on a CD in 1995 with the title “Dreaming Of Your Love” (on mja Records). It’s an excellent album and is well worth seeking out. With a stellar rhythm section of Larry Willis, George Mraz and Al Foster, Lipsius displays his fluent Stitt/Cannonball style, with hints of Phil Woods in there as well, always with a romantic edge that lifts the music. The album’s program includes ballads, loping blues, and subtle, alternating time signatures. “Somethin’ For R.J.” is arguably the standout track. Taken at a breakneck tempo with a slippery theme, it affords Lipsius the opportunity in his solo to give a master class in swinging, mainstream-modern alto playing. Larry Willis follows with immaculate piano playing and a quote from “Billy Boy”, leading into a cymbal-shimmering drum solo from Al Foster. At 4’40”, it’s a short and totally satisfying performance.

In 1996, Fred Lipsius’ “Better Believe It” CD was released on mja Records. Jazz/blues guitarist and mja Records owner Mike Armando said when he first heard Fred’s sax playing he was shocked at what he heard. He had listened to many sax players but Fred’s playing and musicianship was not like anyone he has ever heard before. Fred had it all… form, soul, lyrical lines and original style. A very creative player who needs to be heard.

Fred began playing the clarinet at age 9, alto and tenor saxophones in Junior High School, and the piano at Music and Art High School in Manhattan. He continued his studies at Berklee School of Music (1961-62). After Berklee, he toured throughout the USA, Canada and Europe with impressionist/singer Billy Fellows. He also played alto and wrote big band dance arrangements in the Canadian-based Ron Metcalfe Orchestra.

In New York City, Fred gigged around town, studied arranging with Larry Wilcox and others, and led his own rehearsal Big Band. After his four and a half years with BS&T, he played in big bands at the Copa Cabana and The Red Parrot (disco club), subbed in the hit Broadway show “Grease” and did jingles. In 1988 and 1989 he wrote a series of 11 articles on Creative Improvisation for the Saxophone Journal. In 1993, Fred wrote the horn charts and played in the horn section for popular Japanese singer, Masaki Ueda’s CD. In 1999, he wrote arrangements for and played sax and piano on drummer friend, Jack Scarangella’s CD, “The Hero In Us All“.

Fred has also been a featured soloist on various CDs for guitarist Gerry Beaudoin and trumpeter Peter Welker. In the winters of 1993 and 1994, he joined forces with Al Kooper for weekend reunion gigs at the Bottom Line in New York City with former “Blood, Sweat & Tears” members plus other notable musicians. In 1998, Fred played solo sax as a special guest performer at the first EAT’M (Emerging Artists & Talent in Music) convention in Las Vegas. Over the years, he has led bands as well as played gigs around Boston with a number of jazz notables. Since 2004, he has given over 100 solo performances at nursing homes, mental hospitals, and senior citizens homes around Boston, playing solo saxophone and piano and sharing stories with the residents.

Fred Lispus original computer (digital) art site: fredlipsiusart.com

Fred Lipsius song Shells (which includes his art work and first time recording his voice):

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Mike Armando

Jazz/Blues guitarist Mike Armando was the guitarist for Screamin' Jay Hawkins in the 1970's.


https://mjajazz.wixsite.com/mike-armando

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