Alto saxophonist Med Flory was best known to the general public as an actor, but jazz listeners are most likely to remember him as the co-founder and leader of Supersax. Flory died this week at the age of 87. He made hundreds of appearances in television shows and a few in motion pictures, usually as characters in westerns and action flicks. He’s the big man in the foreground in a scene from the 1966 film Night Of The Grizzly. He was a familiar presence in Mannix, Bonanza, Wagon Train, Magnum P.I. and other TV series. Flory once told the Associated Press that the acting made it possible for him to keep Supersax together. In 1972 he co-founded the group with bassist Buddy Clark and built it around transcribed and harmonized solos from the recordings of Charlie Parker. Supersax had two alto saxes, two tenors and a baritone accompanied by piano, bass and drums. It often featured trumpet solos by Conte Candoli or trombone solos by Frank Rosolino or Carl Fontana. The band won the 1974 Grammy Award for best jazz performance. From their album with the L.A. Voices, here’s Supersax with “Embraceable You,” instrumental and vocal arrangement by Med Flory in a stunning treatment of the Parker solo.
Through the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s, Supersax recorded a dozen albums. Apart from Supersax, Flory maintained active playing until a few years ago. Operating his acting and music careers in parallel, he often took part in big band concerts, jazz parties and the festivals of the Los Angeles Jazz Institute. For a summary of Med Flory’s career, see the obituary by Don Heckman in The Los Angeles Times.