Robert “Bootsie” Barnes
Saxophonist Robert “Bootsie” Barnes has been proclaimed
a Philadelphia treasure. His celebrity should rank along with TastyKakes and
Philly Cheese Steaks.
“Bootsie” began his musical career at age 6 on piano
and switched to drums at 10. His grandmother gave him a saxophone at age 16 and
he never looked back. In school, classmates included drummers Lex Humphries,
Bill Cosby, Al “Tootie” Heath; bassist “Spanky” DeBreast;
tumpeter Lee Morgan, and a host of Philadelphia giants who went on to
help shape the maturing face of Jazz music.
He was among Philadelphia’s most called upon saxophonists. During the ‘60’s and 70’s he was playing with such legends as Don Patterson, Philly Joe Jones, and the late Al Grey. He has led touring ensembles for his childhood buddy, Bill Cosby, and made a guest appearance on television’s The Cosby Show (playing himself).
Bootsie has also worked the entire “Organ Circuit” with
Shirley Scott, Jimmy McGriff, Charles Earland, Jack McDuff, Poppa John &
Joey DeFrancesco, and the undisputed champion of the organ, Jimmy Smith.
Although Mister Barnes toured the U.S., Europe and Canada,
he makes his home in Philadelphia. At home, the new “Young Lions” of jazz
regard him as their “Mentor Emeritus”. He is also held in high esteem by his
“elder statesmen of Jazz” in Philly and around the world.
Now in his early sixties, Mr. Barnes plays an average of 4
nights a week in the city where he was born, and where his fans are fiercely
loyal. He also spends a great deal of time in the neighborhood school systems
spreading the of hard practice and teamwork to youngsters via Jazz
workshops. In conjunction with the John Coltrane Cultural Society and the
Clef Club, he has brought summer workshops to Philadelphia Housing
Projects community centers (such as Raymond Rosen, Blumberg and Martin Luther
King), as well as to disadvantaged neighborhoods in Philadelphia and neighboring
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