Acclaimed by peers and critics among the finest baritone saxophonists of the bebop era, Cecil Payne remains best remembered for his three-year stint with Dizzy Gillespie's seminal postwar big band. Born in Brooklyn, NY, on December 14, 1922, Payne began playing saxophone at age 13, gravitating to the instrument after hearing Lester Young's work on Count Basie's "Honeysuckle Rose." Young's supple, lilting tone remained a profound influence throughout Payne's career. After learning to play under the tutelage of local altoist Pete Brown, Payne gigged in a series of local groups before receiving his draft papers in 1942. He spent the four years playing with a U.S. Army band, and upon returning to civilian life made his recorded debut for Savoy in support of J.J. Johnson. During a brief stint with Roy Eldridge, Payne put down his alto and first adopted the baritone. Later that year he joined the Gillespie orchestra, earning renown for his unusually graceful approach to a historically unwieldy instrument. Payne appears on most of Gillespie's key recordings from this period, including "Cubano-Be/Cubano-Bop," and solos on cuts like "Ow!" and "Stay on It," but despite near-universal respect among the jazz cognoscenti, he remained a little-known and even neglected figure throughout his career.