Art Themen's tenor saxophone style originally owed much to the influence of Dexter Gordon and Sonny Rollins, but later influences included such disparate saxophonists as Coleman Hawkins, Evan Parker, and the "sheets of sound" John Coltrane. Interviewed by Julian Joseph on BBC Radio 3's Jazz Line-Up on 22 November 2014 as a celebration of the saxophonist's 75th birthday he revealed that he had originally played clarinet, but since page three of the tutor book had been missing he had played for some time with the mouthpiece upside-down. He was inspired to play saxophone after attended a gig by the Dankworth Seven, at the local Palais, at the age of 16, with a female cousin. The immaculately-dressed and manicured saxophonist Danny Moss winked at Themen's cousin and the instant effect this had convinced Themen that his future lay in the saxophone. Themen was born in Manchester, England, where he was involved with the traditional jazz scene in the late 1950s as a self-taught musician. In 1958 he began his medical studies at the University of Cambridge, going on in 1961 to complete his studies at St Mary's Hospital Medical School in London, qualifying in 1964. He specialised in orthopaedic medicine, eventually becoming a consultant. Themen started playing jazz with the Cambridge University Jazz Group with bandmates including Lionel Grigson, Dave Gelly and Dick Heckstall-Smith and then in London playing with blues musicians Jack Bruce and Alexis Korner. In 1965 he played with the Peter Stuyvesant Jazz Orchestra in Zurich, going on to play with such English luminaries as Michael Garrick, Ian Carr, and Graham Collier's Music. In 1974 Themen entered on what was to be one of his central musical relationships when he started playing with Stan Tracey, and he has played with all of Tracey's groups, touring with him all over the world as well as around the UK. Themen has also played and toured with visiting US musicians, including Nat Adderley, Red Rodney, George Coleman, and Al Haig. In 1995 he formed a quartet with pianist John Critchinson. Following his retirement as a consultant orthopaedic surgeon, Themen has been concentrating on his jazz career.
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