Chaloff, Serge

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Chaloff, Serge

Chaloff, Serge, bebop baritone saxophonist; b. Boston, Mass., Nov. 24, 1923; d. there, July 16, 1957. His mother, Madame Margaret Chaloff, was a highly respected music teacher, and his father, Julius, was a concert pianist who recorded piano rolls, taught at New England Cons., and played piano in the Boston Symphony Orch. His brother Richard is an audio expert who recorded Serge at home on piano and tenor saxophone in the early 1940s. Serge studied piano and clarinet but was self-taught on baritone saxophone. He played with Boyd Raeburn, Geòrgie Auld, and Jimmy Dorsey; after joining Woody Herman’s Second Herd (1947), he became a star. He was the anchor in the famous ’Tour Brothers” reed section and featured on the up-tempo “Man, Don’t Be Ridiculous.” Chaloff spent two years with Herman and another with Basie before returning to Boston. He did some teaching and made a few releases as a leader before his death. He was a heroin addict and later cleaned up; he died due to complications from spinal paralysis. He was the first major bop player on the baritone saxophone and displaced Harry Carney in Down Beat polls three years in a row. One of the most admired players on his instrument, he had a light sound and great fluency.


Boston (1950); Boston Blow-Up (1955); Blue Serge (1956); Serge Chaloff and Boots Mussull: New StarsNew Sounds, Vol. 2 (1949); Fable of Mable (1954).

—Lewis Porter