was one of the
By Doug Lawrence
The first time I heard Percy France was at The West End Jazz Club in NYC. I was immediately blown away by his huge beautiful tenor tone. His playing represented everything I wanted to be as a young "green" tenor player in NYC. Percy played with raw emotion and every solo he played told a story, from first note to last. That's how I wanted to play.
After hearing Percy France for an evening, everyone in the audience went home with a smile on their face. He had that kind of effect on people who were fortunate enough to hear him play. Percy was always very encouraging about my own playing. He told me it was up to younger cats like me to "carry the torch" of the "tough" tenor playing style.
Hearing Percy again after all these years really brings back so many great memories of how much I loved his playing and other great tenor players I got to know and play with like Buddy Tate, Budd Johnson, ‘Lockjaw’ Davis, Arnett Cobb etc. These guys were my heroes. They played the tenor with raw abandon and emotion. Not many tenor players left like that anymore. My kind of tenors. Tough tenors. Percy was one of the best tough tenors ever.
Percy France was a giant on the tenor saxophone. He deserved much more recognition than he ever got. No one deserves to be heard more than Percy France. Especially in today's world of playing notes just to play notes. Percy never played a note he didn't mean. He never played a solo he didn't mean. He was always for real.
Tenor saxophonist Doug Lawrence spent over 25 years making a name for himself in New York City. For the last 20+ years he has been the featured tenor saxophone soloist with the Legendary Multi Grammy® winning Count Basie Orchestra.
Photo of Percy France by Otto Flückiger.