Yale Jazz Ensembles Director 2021-22: Wayne Escoffery - Saxophonist/Composer/Educator

“A powerful, passionate player.”
Ben Ratliff The New York Times

“His sound is arguably a contemporary mix of Coltrane, Shorter and Henderson influences, but is already personal…His technique is superb…”
Tony Hall – Jazzwise Magazine

“Escoffery’s playing is impassioned and intense”
Chris Robinson – Downbeat Magazine

“a skillful, musical player”
Chris Kelsey – JazzTimes

“A thoughtful and ambitious composer” 
Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr. – All Music Guide

“Escoffery has a large, vibrant sound; a technical facility evident to even the untutored; and a lyrical streak that can get a complicated solo to sing and dance.” 
Niel Tesser  Chicago Reader


Wayne Escoffery is a 2014 and 2021 Downbeat Critics Poll winner for both the Tenor and Soprano Saxophones and a Grammy Award-winning musician. He is considered one of the Jazz world’s most talented saxophonists and in-demand sidemen. Originally from London, Wayne grew up in New Haven, Connecticut, which is where his love for Jazz and formal study of music began. As a high school student and an undergraduate at The Hartt School, Escoffery studied under the mentorship of saxophone legend Jackie McLean and was among the second class of students at the prestigious Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz at The New England Conservatory, from which he received a Master’s degree in Music. In 2006 he secured one of the most coveted gigs in jazz: a frontline position in Tom Harrell’s working quintet. For over a decade, Escoffery was mostly associated with the trumpet master, having toured the globe with the trumpeter, recorded seven CDs with The Tom Harrell Quintet, and co-produced four of those releases. He has also been a member of The Mingus Dynasty Big Band and Orchestra since 2000, with which he has made several recordings. Over the years, he has recorded and performed internationally with the Who’s Who In Jazz, including Ron Carter, Ben Riley, Abdulah Ibrahim, Eric Reed, Carl Allen, Al Foster, Billy Hart, Eddie Henderson, Rufus Reid, Wallace Roney, Randy Brecker, and Herbie Hancock, to name just a few. Escoffery leads his own groups which tour internationally and has made several highly acclaimed studio recordings with said groups. His current working quartet features pianist David Kikoski, bassist Ugonna Okegwo, and drummer Ralph Peterson, and has released three albums, the latest of which is The Humble Warrior on the Smoke Sessions Records label. Escoffery is also a founding member of a collaborative group called Black Art Jazz Collective, which is comprised of fellow rising star musicians of his generation and is dedicated to celebrating the origins of Jazz and African American Icons through originally composed music.

In addition to performing, Escoffery is dedicated to music education and presents lectures and masterclasses on Jazz music. He is currently the saxophone instructor for The New Jersey Performing Arts Wells Fargo Jazz for Teens program, and currently teaches private online and in-person lessons or all instruments. In the fall of 2016, Escoffery was appointed Lecturer of Jazz Improvisation and ensemble coach at the Yale School of Music as a part of Yale University’s Jazz Initiative, the first of its kind for the university. The vast array of contributions Escoffery has made to the Jazz world in such a short time leads seasoned industry professionals like Niel Tesser to write “Pay special attention to tenor man Wayne Escoffery whose rapid development – from album to album (and seemingly solo to solo) – has given us a jazz hero for the coming decade.”


Further information about Mr. Escoffery may be found here.