Med Flory, a West Coast jazz saxophonist and actor who in 1972 founded the reed-centric band Supersax that played transcriptions of Charlie Parker solos in tight formation and won a Grammy in 1973, died on March 12. He was 87. [Photo above of Med Flory in 2008 by Mark Sheldon. To reach Mark Sheldon by e-mail regarding rights: firstname.lastname@example.org. For the story behind the photo above, go here.]
Like many West Coast reed players, Med was relentlessly upbeat and easy-going—until he raised the mouthpiece to his lips. At that point, a transformation took place as aggression, competitiveness and a burning desire to excite the listener filled his face. A bop-influenced saxophonist who idolized Parker and Al Cohn, Med was born Meredith in Logansport, Ind. The nickname came courtesy of a school coach. Like many musicians of the era, Med started on clarinet and, in 1944, after discharge from the Army Air Corps, he attended Indiana University on the G.I. Bill. But instead of studying music, he majored in philosophy and minored in sociology and French. As Med told me in a JazzWax interview, his studies were an effort to ensure a lifetime of intelligence and curiosity.
Med joined Claude Thornhill's band in 1950 and left the orchestra in 1952, remaining in New York, where he formed a band. Med met his wife Joan in New York, joined Ray Anthony's band and moved his family to Hollywood in 1956. Med worked steadily in the 1950s, leading several important sessions. In the 1960s, as jazz work slowed, Med shifted to acting and appeared on several dozen TV shows, including The Rifleman, Wagon Train and Gunsmoke. [Photo above by Mark Sheldon]
I loved calling Med on his birthday just to chat. He had a nifty way of integrating hip words into everyday dialogue that sounded perfectly natural. He loved to laugh, and it was a joy hearing him roar. I'll miss Med.
JazzWax tracks: Among my favorite albums by Med are Go West Young Med, which features his '50s leadership sessions, Manny Albam's Jazz Greats of Our Time (1957), Ella Swings Lightly (1958), on baritone on Art Pepper Plus 11 (1959) the Dave Pell Octet Plays Again (1984) and the Supersax recordings, many of which are still sadly out of print. Fortunately, Salt Peanuts is available as a download.
JazzWax clip: Here's Med and Supersax playing Yardbird Suite...
Here's Med in a Henry Mancini sax section doubling on flute with Plas Johnson on solo tenor and Pete Candoli in the trumpet section...