McVea, Jack, jazz tenor and alto saxophonist, clarinetist, leader; b. Los Angeles, Nov. 5, 1914. His father, Isaac “Satchel” McVea (d. 1960), was a banjoist who led his own band for many years. Jack began on banjo and by the age of 11 was playing regularly in his father’s band; he began doubling on sax in 1927. After leaving high school in 1932 he played professionally with Walter “Dootsie” Williams’s Harlem Dukes. From 1933 to 1935, he was in trumpeter Charlie Echols’s band (except for a brief period in 1934 when he worked for Lorenzo Flennoy). He then worked with several other bands, before joining Eddie Barefield’s Big Band in 1936. During the late 1930s, he played for many West Coast leaders and occasionally led his own band. Playing baritone sax, McVea worked with Lionel Hampton in N.Y. from 1940 until January 1943. He then returned to Calif., forming his own band in 1944. Over the next few years, he appeared on several of Norman Granz’s “Jazz at the Philharmonic” concerts and broadcast with Count Basie. In 1946 his band scored with a commercial hit single “Open the Door Richard.” McVea continued to lead through the 1950s, worked briefly on the MGM studio staff band, and played on many freelance recording dates. In 1955, he led a group in Las Vegas, then worked briefly with Benny Carter until reforming his own band. In 1959, he joined organist Perry Lee Black-well’s Trio. During the 1960s he has continued to lead his own small groups in Calif. and Ore., combining this with various recording commitments. From 1976–91, he led his own trio (on clarinet) at Disneyland. He subsequently retired in 1992, due to poor health.
Nothin’ But Jazz (1962); Open the Door, Richard (rec. in the 1940s; rel. 1985); Come Blow Your Horn (1985); Two Timin’ Baby (1986); New Deal (1989). ray charles:Blues+Jazz (1950); Going Down Slow (1984); Early Years [Zeta] (1988).
—John Chilton, Who’s Who of Jazz/Lewis Porter