Shihab, Sahib [Gregory, Edmund] (Savannah, GA, 23 June 1925 - Tennessee, 24 Oct 1989)


Alto and baritone saxophonist, and flutist



He studied with Elmer Snowden, and first worked professionally in a band led by the pianist Luther Henderson (1938). After attending Boston Conservatory (1941-2) he was the lead alto saxophonist in Fletcher Henderson's band (1944-6); he then became a Muslim and adopted the name Shihab. From 1947 he worked with some of the most prominent modern jazz bandleaders, including Tadd Dameron, Thelonious Monk, Art Blakey, Dizzy Gillespie, and Illinois Jacquet, and in 1959 he traveled to Europe with Quincy Jones in Harold Arlen's show Free and Easy. Apart from an extended stay in Los Angeles (1973-6) Shihab remained in Europe into the mid 1980s. In 1963 he settled in Copenhagen, where he worked with the Clarke-Boland Big Band (1963-72), the Danish Radiojazzgruppen, Ernie Wilkins's Almost Big Band, and other ensembles; he has also been active as a soloist. In 1965 he composed the score for a jazz ballet based on the folk tale The Red Shoes by Hans Christian Andersen. He returned to the USA in 1986.


Shihab was one of the first bop musicians to make use of the flute, but his playing on baritone saxophone, which combines a delicate tone with an inventive flow of ideas, is held by many to be his best work.


 Roland Baggenaes


The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, Macmillan Reference Ltd 1988