Powell, Jesse (1924–1982)

By: Dave Oliphant

Type: Biography

Published: December 5, 2006

Updated: April 30, 2019

Jesse Powell, tenor saxophonist, was born in Smithville, Bastrop County, Texas, on February 27, 1924. Powell was trained formally in music before he began his professional career at age eighteen, when he toured with fellow Texan Oran "Hot Lips" Page during 1942–43. He played with Louis Armstrong in 1943–44, with the Luis Russell Orchestra in 1944–45, and replaced fellow Texas tenorist Illinois Jacquet in the Count Basie band for a tour of California in September 1946. At this time Powell also worked with blues singers Champion Jack Dupree and Brownie McGhee. In 1947 he was with the Curly Russell band, and then in 1948 he formed his own band in New York City. Also in 1948 Powell performed with trumpeter Howard McGhee at the first international jazz festival in Paris. In 1949–50, Powell was a member of the Dizzy Gillespie big band, with which he recorded a solo on "Tally Ho." In 1953 he formed his own jump-rhythm band, and in 1964 a Powell quintet played at Birdland in New York City, where the tenorist died on October 19, 1982. Powell was survived by his wife, Maxine, and two children.

Barry Kernfeld, ed. The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, 2d ed., (New York: Grove's Dictionaries, 2002). Dave Oliphant, Texan Jazz (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1996).


  • Music
  • Genres (Jazz)
  • Peoples
  • African Americans

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Dave Oliphant, “Powell, Jesse,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 24, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/powell-jesse.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 5, 2006
April 30, 2019

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