Born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, on November 18, 1946, Bennie Lee Wallace took up the tenor sax at age 12. He worked after hours clubs around Tennessee during his high school and college years and graduated from University of Tennessee in 1968 (subject: clarinet). Three years later he moved to New York where he played concerts and club gigs with such as Barry Harris, Cecil McBee, Buddy Rich, Monty Alexander, Glen Moore, a.o.
In 1979, Bennie Wallace burst onto the international jazz scene with his award-winning first release, "The Fourteen Bar Blues". The critical acclaim was overwhelming, hailing Bennie Wallace as the "New Saxophone Giant", the youngest of a lineage including Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins, Albert Ayler and Sonny Rollins.
New York Arts Journal called Bennie Wallace "the most important reed player since Dolphy's and Coleman's startling work in the early sixties", and continued: "Everything lacking in Sonny Rollins' present work is abundantly manifest in the brilliant debut album of the 32-year-old tenor saxist Bennie Wallace. Wallace's voice strikes one immediately as so individual and secure because he has assimilated the salient traits of every conceivable past and present jazz style, transmuting them according to his own strong, unmistakable personality rather than becoming overwhelmed by the weight of tradition (as other explorers of the past have often suffered)."
Following that auspicious debut, Bennie Wallace took over the role of the forward-looking, exploratory traditionalist. He made recordings as a leader with such diverse jazz greats as Tommy Flanagan, Chick Corea, Eddie Gomez, Dave Holland, John Scofield, Elvin Jones, Harold Ashby, Oliver Lake, Ray Anderson, Yosuke Yamashita, Jimmy Knepper, and many others. Several years ago, he began to accentuate his Southern roots which led to collaborations with Stevie Ray Vaughan, Dr. John and other blues and gospel artists.
After several successful years as film music composer in Hollywood Bennie Wallace recently returned to the East Coast to prepare his comeback to the stage. We will hear a lot from him during the 1998 festival season.