Faruq Z. Bey Passes On
One of the leading figures in Detroit’s avant-garde/improvised music scene, saxophonist Faruq Z. Bey, passed on June 1 at 70 years of age. His contributions were many, as an instrumentalist, composer, and poet. By all accounts his talents were impressive, and he became a charismatic leader of the subculture of more experimental musicians in Detroit from the seventies onward.
Born Jesse Davis in Detroit in 1942, he grew up in Conant Gardens, wrote his first poems at 13 and picked up the bass in school. After seeing a live performance by John Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders at the Drome in 1966, he was inspired to play the tenor saxophone. Very much influenced by the black consciousness movement of the period, he changed his name and performed with other Bey Brothers. In 1972 he was one of the founders of the Griot Galaxy and its main writer. The group went through numerous personnel changes and recorded for the first time in 1981 (Kins, Black and White Records) as a quintet with three saxophones. Those who were fortunate enough to catch the group live, will always remember the combination of drive, drama, and free expression the group exuded.
Bey’s personal fortunes took a nosedive after a very serious motorcycle accident which left his left side paralysed. He was eventually able to come back to performing with the Northwood Improvisers in 2000. Together they recorded several CDs (on Entropy records) and performed at festivals, including the Detroit Jazz Festival and Edgefest.