Lenny Pickett was born in Las Cruces, NM, and grew up in Berkeley, CA. A soulful, virtuosic Tenor Saxophonist, his sound is one of the most recognizable in all of music. He was a member of the Tower of Power Horns from 1972 until 1981, and since 1985 has been the tenor saxophone soloist with the Saturday Night Live band. He has served as the SNL band’s musical director since 1995. His playing is particularly renowned for his skill in the altissimo (high/upper) register, which can be heard during the opening credits of each episode of Saturday Night Live.
Lenny is truly an autodidact, a self-taught person. He has no formal musical training, except for a brief period of study with the jazz saxophonist Bert Wilson (another player known for his facility with the altissimo register). While with the Tower of Power Horns, which he joined when he was 18 years old, he performed with Elton John and many R&B and soul groups, including Little Feat, Billy Preston, Rufus, Joe Cocker and Hall & Oates. He has also worked as a saxophonist and an arranger for artists David Bowie, Talking Heads, Laurie Anderson, Mariah Carey, Katy Perry, Rod Stewart, Lenny Kravitz and many more. As a composer, he has written for his own groups like the Borneo Horns, the Kronos Quartet, the New Century Saxophone Quartet and the New York Composers Orchestra. Lenny has received a number of commissions to write works mixing classical and popular idioms for a variety of musical ensembles. He has composed music for theater and dance companies, collaborating with choreographers like Steven Petronio, Yoshiko Chuma and Bebe Miller, filmmakers such as Fred Wiseman and poets including Alan Ginsberg and William Burroughs.
He is a professor in the Jazz Studies program at New York University. When his schedule allows, he performs concerts and clinics worldwide. During a sojourn in Helsinki, Lenny recorded with Finland’s premier Jazz Orchestra, UMO. The results are beautifully captured on the new album (only his second as a leader, and the first in almost thirty years), THE PRESCRIPTION.