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SNL’s Pickett to give rare Bay Area performance benefiting CSUEB Music Department


Lenny Pickett

  • January 15, 2013

Lenny Pickett, musical director for NBC’s Saturday Night Live and a former member of the legendary R&B group Tower of Power, will make a rare Bay Area appearance when he performs Monday, March 11, at the 14th Annual Night of Jazz at Yoshi’s jazz club in Oakland’s Jack London Square.

This exclusive Bay Area appearance by Pickett, performing with Cal State East Bay’s Jazz Ensembles, will benefit the university Music Department’s Scholarship and Special Events Fund.

Pickett, who grew up in Berkeley, was a member of Bay Area-based Tower of Power from 1972 through 1981. He has been part of Saturday Night Live’s band as the show’s tenor saxophone soloist since 1985 and its musical director since 1995.

Tickets for the Yoshi’s benefit, which starts at 8 p.m., are $25 per person in advance, and can be purchased online at Tickets are $30 at the door. Information is available online at and by calling (510) 885-3167. Yoshi’s is located at 510 Embarcadero West.

Dann Zinn, interim director of the university’s jazz studies program, is excited about Pickett’s upcoming performance with the CSUEB Jazz Ensembles.

“Lenny Pickett never performs here in the Bay Area,” said Zinn, himself an accomplished and highly regarded saxophone and jazz combo performer. “Lenny has never played with a big band here before. He has always done his own thing. He also revolutionized R&B music.”

Pickett, who joined Tower of Power at 18 with no formal musical training, was leader of the group’s horn section. During the 1970s, the group recorded its own R&B and pop hits, while backing a host of singers, including Elton John. Pickett also has worked as a saxophonist and arranger for David Bowie, The Talking Heads and Laurie Anderson.

“His recording, ‘Lenny Pickett and the Borneo Horns,’ was described by Downbeat magazine as ‘a brilliantly creative use of acoustic instruments,’” Zinn said.

Pickett is the recipient of a Bessie Award, which honors exceptional choreography, performance, music composition, visual design and other areas of dance and performance in New York City. Pickett also teaches in the music department at New York University.

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