Julian Priester grew up in Chicago, where his skills were apparent early and saw him playing with the likes of Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley, and Sonny Stitt. He joined the renowned Sun Ra Arkestra while still in his teens, and then from 1956 toured with Lionel Hampton and Dinah Washington. In New York, he worked in Max Roach’s band, and became a first-call trombone player for session work with many jazz greats, among them John Coltrane (including on the Africa/Brasssessions), Stanley Turrentine, Blue Mitchell, Freddie Hubbard, McCoy Tyner, Art Blakey, and Abbey Lincoln. Starting in the late 1960s, he toured with Duke Ellington and Herbie Hancock, and later played with Sun Ra again, as well as Dave Holland, Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra, and Lester Bowie’s New York Organ Ensemble.
In 1979 he settled in Seattle and joined the faculty of Cornish College of the Arts. He enjoyed teaching, skillfully shaping & enriching the jazz community in Seattle through his employment there until 2011. After 32 years on the faculty at Cornish he retired and received no pension.
If you'd like to read more about Julian's experience working for & retiring from Cornish, please visit this link for a deeper look.
In his own words Julian states that since retiring it has been a 'daily struggle to exist.' He is 82 now and living with his wife Nashira; a writer, poet and jazz historian. They both have health issues and their social security is not enough to pay their basic living & medical expenses. Nashira works tirelessly driving for Amazon prime, Uber and Lyft but the bills are piling up as her ability to work has been haulted by their need for car maintenance. She is willing and able to keep working hard to support them both, but they need help paying overdue bills and fixing up their car so she can get back to work.
Their house was repossessed in 2012 and they have been struggling to pay rent as it becomes more and more expensive to live in Seattle. They are also struggling to hold onto their storage lockers that hold possessions that speak not only to their own family history, but to the history of jazz as well. They've already lost the contents of one storage locker when they couldn't keep up with the expense. Nashira hopes to hold onto what is left of their music & jazz history collection so it can eventually find a safer home in a museum or university's archives.
Seattle is lucky to have both Julian and Nashira here as resident artists. They are an important part of our community inside & outside of the music scene and they need our help. Their long term goal is to find a signatory to help them secure housing in a community near Tacoma where they would have enough room to live comfortably with access to services that would help them both as they continue to age. For now, all they ask is for some financial help to clear their debts & repair their car so Nashira can start working again & they can reclaim a small sense of financial security.
I thank you in advance for whatever amount you can contribute to helping these dear friends of mine. Let's all come together & show them how much love & respect & support the Seattle community has to offer. When we need help, we must reach out & ask for it with the confidence & understanding that we are all in this together & must support one another.
Julian is willing to contribute his time, energy & presence to a benefit concert in Seattle to raise additional funds & provide the opportunity for him to express his gratitude & give back to those who support him. If you'd like to be involved in helping me organize a benefit concert featuring a live performance by Julian Priester, please contact me directly at [email protected]. We are in need of a large venue & musicians willing to come play a song or two in tribute to & in honor of Julian & everything he has contributed to our local scene & to the greater history of jazz. He is an artist still working towards perfecting his craft & deserves our respect & support.
I would love to bring together the community of musicians & artists who know & love Julian & his family so we can all enjoy each other's presence & celebrate Julian's life. Time is precious, life is short & music connects & uplifts us. Let's all give what we can & honor that we are all from the same light.
With gratitude, love & light,
Photo credit: Denney Goodhew