York's versatility and schooling allowed him to survive in a difficult profession. He worked in the studios and in orchestras that accompanied popular singers. He backed visitors such as Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, and Rosemary Clooney but also worked with Motown groups, eventually becoming the music director for Martha Reeves & the Vandellas. And throughout this time he also led various jazz groups, often referred to as his New York Force. Perhaps the best document of his powerful modern jazz conception is his album Blending Forces, recorded with some of Detroit's finest musicians. The record demonstrated the power of his alto saxophone playing, characterized by a marvelously rich sound that references Charlie Parker without attempting imitation. The record also revealed York's talent as a composer. For many of us, the greatest moments on the record come during the highly emotional, gospel inspired, bluesy "Hymn 427." Ask him to play it when he performs at the Gandy Dancer Courtyard Series on August 1.
[Originally published in August, 2012.]