Hal Singer was a bandleader who was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma's African-American district, Greenwood. He was a survivor of the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot. Singer grew up in Greenwood, where he studied violin as a child but, as a teenager, switched to clarinet and ultimately tenor saxophone.
1948-1964: Hal Singer Sextette & Solo Career
For the Savoy label of Newark, New Jersey, he recorded the instrumental "Corn Bread", which made No. 1 on the R&B charts in September 1948, and gave Singer a new popularity and nickname. His follow-up the following year, "Beef Stew", was a much smaller hit.
1965-1989: Europe & Africa
In 1965, after touring Europe with Earl "Fatha" Hines' band, Singer stayed in France to settle near Paris. He continued to record and also toured extensively around Europe and Africa, performing with various bands including Charlie Watts' and the Duke Ellington Orchestra.
His 1969 album, Paris Soul Food, featured Singer on saxophone and singing with Robin Hemingway on vocals, arrangements, and album production, Manu Dibango on saxophone, organ, and arrangements. The album won a French Record Academy award for best international LP that year.
In 1974, he went on a State Department tour of Africa with Horace Parlan.
Singer appears on the 1981 live recording Rocket 88 with the UK-based boogie-woogie band Rocket 88. Also in the summer of 1981, Singer visited London, where he recorded two albums for John Stedman's record label, JSP. The first album, Swing on It, was recorded with British musicians, including Jim Mullen, Peter King, Mike Carr and Harold Smith, while the second, recorded a day later with the same group, also featured Jimmy Witherspoon.
1990-Present: Film & Retirement
A documentary film, Hal Singer, Keep the Music Going, was made by Haitian-American director Guetty Felin in 1999. It was made in collaboration with the CNC in France and the French cable music network Muzzik. The documentary wove into the narrative Singer's personal super-8 movies, archival images of the jazz era, footage of Singer's home in Paris, in concert, and teaching jazz to the younger generation of musicians in France. Spoken word poet Jessica Care Moore is featured in a duet with Singer. This documentary is the only film on Singer's career to date.
Due to age, Singer retired from playing in 2014, however he is still inspired by music and invited artists into his home to perform. Singer turned 100 in October 2019. He passed away on August 18, 2020 in Chatou, France. He was the last male survivor of the Tulsa race massacre.
- Fine as Wine / Rock Around the Clock (1948)
- Corn Bread / Plug for Cliff (1948) as Hal Singer Sextette
- Beef Stew / One for Willie (1949) as Hal Singer Sextette
- Happy Days / Swanee River (1949) as Hal Singer Sextette
- Blue Velvet / Buttermilk and Beans (1951)
- Miss Me / A Weaver of Dreams (1952)
- Blue Stompin' as Hal Singer and the Charlie Shavers Quintet (1959)
- Blues in the Night (1963) as Hal Singer & His All Stars
- Milt and Hal (1968) with Milt Buckner
- Paris Soul Food (1969)
- Blues and News (1971)
- Soul of Africa (1975)
- Le Grand Voyage / The Long Trip (1977)
- Swing on It (1981)
- Royal Blue (1990) with Al Copley
- Senior Blues (1991)
- No Rush (1992)
- We're Still Buddies (2005) with Massimo Faraò Trio
- Challenge (2010) with David Murray
- Taxi Blues (1990)
- Hal Singer, Keep the Music Going (1999)