Al-Hajj Sayyd Abdul Al-Khabyyr | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Al-Hajj Sayyd Abdul Al-Khabyyr

Al-Hajj Sayyd Abdul Al-Khabyyr (né Russell Linwood Thomas), soprano, alto and tenor saxophonist, clarinetist, flutist, composer (born 22 March 1935 in New York, New York; died 15 February 2017 in Montréal, QC).

Al-Hajj Sayyd Abdul Al-Khabyyr studied clarinet and saxophone in New York with Cecil Scott and others. After travelling in 1954 with the trombonist Snub Mosley to Montreal, he worked there 1954-5 with Al Cowans and then led his own band in local nightclubs. In Ottawa 1957-70 he was a member, variously, of the Canadian Jazz Quartet (with Richard Wyands, piano, Wyatt Ruther, bass, and Doug Johnston, drums), the Ottawa Saxophone Quartet and studio or dance bands led by Champ Champagne, Buster Monroe, and others. He led his own orchestra 1959-63 and 1963-5 at the Gatineau Country Club.

In 1970, he returned to Montreal, where he taught 1970-80 at the University of Montreal. His pupils included the flutist Jennifer Waring, the trumpeter Chris Place and the saxophonist Mary-Jo Rudolf. Abdul Al-Khabyyr performed on occasion during this period in contemporary music settings (e.g., the SMCQ ensemble, Walter Boudreau's Infonie, Dionne-Brégent, TRIO 3), worked in studio and theatre orchestras, and was heard regularly 1971-8 playing jazz at his own Café Mo-Jo, first with the percussionist Dido, then with his own sons Ameen (flute, percussion), ​Nasyr (percussion), ​Muhammad (trombone) and Zayd (piano).

Dividing his time between Montreal and New York during the 1980s, Abdul Al-Khabyyr had returned to the USA by decade's end. He was a member 1980-2 and again, beginning in 1987, of the Mercer Ellington Orchestra, and toured internationally 1983-7 with Dizzy Gillespie. He also recorded and/or performed in New York with the Savoy Sultans, Illinois Jacquet, the Afro-Asian Jazz Ensemble, and the Charli Persip Superband. Abdul Al-Khabyyr made several appearances with his sons and other musicians at the Festival international de jazz de Montréal during the 1980s, displaying both his instrumental versatility and his stylistic breadth. His own music is bebop in style but often devotional in nature.

Abdul Al-Khabyyr's sons Nasyr Abdul Al-Khabyyr and Muhammad Abdul Al-Khabyyr have followed in his musical footsteps.

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