Jack Scott, 1925-2002 Print
News/Features - In Memorium
Tuesday, 19 February 2002 18:00
Alto saxophonist Jack Scott and his singer wife Gwen gave up chances for worldwide fame in the jazz world to raise their family – three boys and one girl. Scott, who was born in the Quad Cities and spent much of his life playing here, died in Gilbert, Arizona, on January 22.

Jack Scott was born in Moline Public Hospital on September 25, 1925, and grew up in Silvis. He started on clarinet at nine and began playing alto saxophone in the 10th grade, and by age 14, he was playing gigs with Les Swanson’s band. After graduation from United Township High School, Jack performed with the Fifth Army Band in Naples, Italy, from 1944 to 1946.

Following his discharge, Jack spent a year at Augustana College. It was during this time that he met his future wife Gwen McKeever, who was singing with local bands while still in high school.

In late 1947, Jack and four musical friends, including the fine Moline-bred jazz pianist Keith Greco, moved to Hollywood, hoping to expand their musical careers. They ran into some hard times financially, but Jack did manage to find gigs with trumpeter Charlie Teagarden and drummer Ray Bavduc and sat in at jazz sessions, including one set with the legendary Errol Garner. But Jack, who missed Gwen, finally got tired of tough times and returned to the Quad Cities. In December 1948, Jack and Gwen exchanged wedding vows.

Not long after their wedding, Jack formed a quartet called The New Moods, featuring Gwen on vocals. The band performed regularly for two years, most of the time touring Michigan.

One of the highlights of their careers came in 1951, when vibraphonist Terry Gibbs led a band for a month at Rock Island’s Horseshoe Club with jazz stars Ike Quebec, Charlie Shavers, Buddy DeFranco, Hank Jones, John Simmons, and Louis Bellson. Both Jack and Gwen sat in with the band every night. Gibbs was so impressed with Gwen that he hired her – against Jack’s wishes – and she spent three weeks in St. Paul, Minnesota, with Gibbs’ band and three months in New York, where she performed with the band at the world-famous Birdland club. It was at Birdland that Louis Bellson drew Gwen aside and told her that it was wrong for her to be around all those bad boys. He gave her $30 for her bus fare home to Jack.

In 1952, Jack began working odd jobs at places including Sears and the Band Box music store, but he continued his musical career, performing with bands mostly on weekends. He was hired on as a machinist at Deere & Company in Moline in 1965, a job he kept until his retirement in 1987.

Also in 1965, Jack helped form one of the Quad Cities’ best jazz groups, The Executive Committee, with Paul Banard on piano, Bill Maxwell on bass, and Tom Tallman on drums. Banard and Maxwell were later replaced by Anthony Catalfano and Chuck Penn.

In 1991 Jack and Gwen starting spending their winters in Clearwater, Florida, where they lived in a trailer. Jack had no trouble finding gigs. Several years later they sold their East Moline home to live full-time in Clearwater. In the mid-’90s, Gwen developed cancer and Jack quit performing to spend more time taking care of her. She died in 1997. In 2001, Jack gave up his Florida trailer and moved in with his eldest son, Ross, in Arizona.

To understand what a talented musician Jack was, one must listen to the LP Loose Walk, recorded in Chicago in June 1983. Jack was the only horn player, with a rhythm section of Warren Parrish on piano, the legendary George Duvivier on bass, and Louis Bellson on drums. When Bellson was asked in a magazine interview to name his favorite recording, he named Loose Walk. Anybody interested in getting a copy of this out-of-print record can call Joe Conto at (212)749-2194.