Sahib Shihab

Sahib Shihab

Baritone Sax icon Baritone Sax

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October 24, 1989 (Age 64) died

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June 23, 1925 Birthday

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Savannah, Georgia, U.S. Birthplace

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Sahib Shihab, a jazz saxophonist and flautist, is best known for his work on the baritone sax, although he started his career on alto saxophone. He was among the first jazz artists to embrace Islam and change his name. Additionally, he was among the first bop musicians to incorporate the flute into his recordings. Shihab performed with Thelonious Monk in the late 1940s and went on to collaborate with artists such as Art Blakey, Kenny Dorham, Benny Golson, Dizzy Gillespie, and John Coltrane. He toured Europe with Quincy Jones in 1959 and chose to make Europe his permanent residence, settling in Denmark, where he wrote music for film and TV. In 1961, he joined the Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland Big Band and remained with the Europe based group for the next 12 years. In the early 1970s, Shihab returned to the United States to work as a session musician and music copywriter. He then divided his time between New York and Europe until his death in 1989 at the age of 64 due to liver cancer.


Sahib Shihab appears in the famous 1953 photograph of jazz musicians titled "A Great Day in Harlem." Sahib Shihab composed a jazz ballet based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, "The Red Shoes." Sahib Shihab performed in the 1966 Eurovision Song Contest as part of Sweden's entry, "Nygammal Vals."

Early Life

Sahib Shihab was born Edmund Gregory in Savannah, Georgia in 1923. He learned to play several reed instruments as a child and by age 13 was playing the alto saxophone professionally for Luther Henderson. He went on to study at the Boston Conservatory and then played with trumpeter Roy Eldridge and played lead alto with Fletcher Henderson's band from 1944 to 1945. In 1947 he converted to Islam and changed his name to Sahib Shihab. Soon after he became part of the early bop movement working with musicians such as Thelonious Monk and Art Blakey.