Parran plays all the saxophones (from soprano to bass), as well as multiple clarinets and flutes. His virtuosity, and his mastery over a number of extended techniques for these instruments, has made him a valued collaborator with Leroy Jenkins, Julius Hemphill, Anthony Braxton and others.

“JD represents the ideal performer of my music,” writes composer and pianist Anthony Davis. “He combines a profound understanding of the composer’s intention with an expressive individual voice that is both nuanced and dramatic.”

While a student at Webster College and later at Washington University, (where he earned a master of arts in music education), Parran participated in St. Louis’ rich African-American music scene. During the 1970s, Parran performed with members of the famed, Black Artists’ Group, and ensembles such as the Human Arts Ensemble.

Since the early 70s, when he transitioned to life in New York, Parran has appeared as a sideman on over 45 recordings, playing alongside leading contemporary improvisers and composers such as Douglas Ewart, Derek Bailey and James Jabbo Ware, as well as with musicians including Stevie Wonder and John Lennon. Parran’s reputation as an elite woodwind performer, has led him to work with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Earle Howard, Howard Johnson and the late Levon Helm. In the late 80s and 90s, he was a member of New Winds Trio, with Ned Rothenberg and Robert Dick, and has worked with visual artist Jeff Schlanger, incorporating live painting into his performances.

His recordings as a leader include, J.D. Parran & Spirit Stage, (2005), Omegathorp: Living City (2005)and Window Spirits: Solo (2010).

Parran has served as chairman of the Music Department and director of Jazz and African American Music Studies at the Harlem School of the Arts, and he has taught at the City University of New York and Greenwich House Music School.


JD Parran


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