Gigi Gryce (born George General Grice, Jr. November 28, 1925 in Pensacola, Florida â€” March 14, 1983 in Pensacola, Florida) was an American saxophonist, flutist, clarinetist, composer, arranger, educator, and big band bandleader. His performing career was relatively short and, in comparison to other musicians of his generation, Gryce's work is little known; however, several of his compositions have been covered extensively ("Minority","Social Call"," Nica's Tempo") and are frequently heard in jazz venues featuring mainstream jazz musicians. Gryce's compositional bent includes harmonic choices similar to those of Benny Golson, Tadd Dameron and Horace Silver in the contemporaneous period. Gryce's playing, arranging, composing is consonant with the hard bop classic period, generally considered to be 1953-1965.
Although primarily a jazz musician, Gryce studied classical composition with Alan Hovhaness and Daniel Pinkham at the Boston Conservatory following World War II (he entered September 15, 1947 and obtained a Bachelor of Music degree on June 6, 1952). While there he may have composed a number of symphonic compositions and chamber works. Gryce won a Fulbright scholarship and continued his studies in Paris with Nadia Boulanger and Arthur Honegger. He also studied composition with the Boston music teacher Madame Margaret Chaloff, the mother of the baritone saxophonist Serge Chaloff.
During the 1950s he achieved some renown for his innovative bebop playing, his primary instrument being the alto saxophone. Among the musicians with whom Gryce performed were Thelonious Monk, Tadd Dameron, Lionel Hampton, Donald Byrd, Clifford Brown, Art Farmer, Howard McGhee, Lee Morgan, Max Roach, Oscar Pettiford, Teddy Charles, and Benny Golson. In 1955, Gryce formed the Jazz Lab Quintet, which included trumpeter Donald Byrd.
In the mid-1950s he converted to Islam and adopted the name Basheer Qusim. By the early 1960s he stopped using the name Gigi Gryce and, partly due to personal problems that took their toll on his financial and emotional state, withdrew from performing. During this last period of his life he taught at a series of public schools in Long Island and New York City, and the CES (Community Elementary School) 53 on 168th Street in Bronx, New York, the last school at which Qusim taught, was renamed the Basheer Qusim School in his honor.