Andrew Love obituary

Saxophonist with the Memphis Horns, who made an important contribution to the sound of 60s soul

The precise, rich brass riffs on such records as Wilson Pickett's In the Midnight Hour, Sam & Dave's Soul Man and Otis Redding's Try a Little Tenderness were an integral part of the soul music of the 1960s. Among the horn players on those and dozens of other hits was the tenor saxophonist Andrew Love, who has died aged 70.

In 1965, he joined the Mar-Keys brass section at Stax Records in Memphis, Tennessee, which already included the white trumpeter Wayne Jackson, who would form an enduring partnership with Love. Theirs was a symbolically important integrated unit at a time when racial segregation was still widespread in the American south. Among the first records on which the duo worked together was Redding's album Otis Blue (1965).

Love credited Redding as a major influence on the Stax horn sound. The singer asked for what he called "ensambos" at key moments on his records – prearranged sections where one saxophone and the trumpet played in unison, while another sax played in harmony. What the musicians themselves called the "fat" sound also owed much to the use by Love and Jackson of mouthpieces made of hard rubber rather than the metal mouthpieces preferred by other musicians.

The brass sound achieved on the Redding records soon became a trademark feature of the company's releases. It can be heard on numerous hits by Sam & Dave, Carla Thomas and Isaac Hayes. Love also worked with Stax singers on stage, notably on a 1967 tour of Europe and later that year at the Monterey Pop festival, where the young white audience was stunned by Redding's show.

Love was born in Memphis, the son of Roy Love, pastor of the Mount Nebo Baptist church, and his wife Dolly. After learning the trumpet at the age of 11, Andrew played with the band at his father's church. At Booker T Washington high school in south Memphis, the alma mater of many soul musicians including Booker T Jones of Booker T and the MG's and Maurice White of Earth, Wind and Fire, he took up the saxophone and played in school bands. Love attended Langston University in Oklahoma on a band scholarship before returning to Memphis in 1961.

He found work in various night clubs and his abilities were soon recognised by the bandleader and and studio musician Willie Mitchell. Mitchell hired Love to play on recording sessions and he moved house to live opposite the studio used by Mitchell, so as to be available to play at short notice. Mitchell's recordings were issued by the relatively successful Hi label but the city's biggest record industry player was Stax and when one of its regular session saxophonists left, Love was brought into the Stax fold.

Despite their essential contribution to the commercial success of Stax, Love and Jackson were paid only freelance session fees until they returned from the tour of Europe, when they were given retainers of $250 a week. They were also in demand to work in other Memphis studios, but when the Stax chief Jim Stewart demanded they record only for him, the duo decided to leave the company. This was in 1969, a time of great uncertainty at Stax, as it was about to be acquired by the Gulf and Western conglomerate.

Now rechristened the Memphis Horns, the duo were immediately offered their own recording contract by Atlantic Records. Bookings for recording session work also came flooding in and for the next three decades, Love and Jackson were in constant demand to work with rock and pop singers as well as soul stars. They can be heard on Elvis Presley's Suspicious Minds, Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond, almost all of Al Green's hits, and albums by Rod Stewart, Sting and U2. They also contributed to a series of albums by the younger blues singer Robert Cray.

Love retired in 2004, two years after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's. With his blessing, Jackson continued to work as the Memphis Horns with other musicians. Earlier this year, the Memphis Horns were awarded a Grammy for lifetime achievement, but Love was too ill to attend the ceremony.

He is survived by his second wife, Willie Davis, two sons, two daughters, eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

• Andrew Maurice Love, saxophonist, born 21 November 1941; died 12 April 2012


Dave Laing

The GuardianTramp

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