Harold Land was an original voice in the crowded field of bop-inspired tenor saxophonists. He chose to spend most of his career in Los Angeles, where his sharp, hard-edged sound went against the perceived norm of the so-called cool sound associated with the west coast. He will be remembered particularly for his two year spell with the great band co-led by Clifford Brown and Max Roach, one of the seminal jazz groups of the mid-1950s, and his own classic albums, In The Land of Jazz and The Fox.
Trumpeter Clifford Brown heard Mr. Land in a jam session at the home music studio of the saxophonist Eric Dolphy, and Mr. Land was abruptly hired into the Brown-Roach band, which already had a wide reputation, replacing the saxophonist Teddy Edwards. For almost two years, based in Philadelphia, far from his wife and young son, he contributed to some of the finest records of the hard-bop era, including ”Study in Brown.”
A soft-spoken man whose personality rarely suggests the incandescence of his instrumental sound, was influenced at an early age by the warm tones of Coleman Hawkins and Lucky Thompson; later Charlie Parker’s new concepts helped determine his direction.
Harold Land is an underrated tenor saxophonist whose tone hardened with time and whose improvising style after the 1960s became influenced by the innovations of John Coltrane, and his sound and approach changed quite radically for a time, adding further depth to his armoury. His tone was strong and emotional, yet displayed a certain fragility that made him easy to recognize.
Like many of the west coast players, he supplemented his income by playing studio sessions for film soundtracks in Hollywood, but continue to lead his own groups and make occasional recordings as a leader. Many commentators have felt that he would have been an even bigger name had he remained on the east coast, but he went on to make significant contributions to jazz in any case.