John “Yung Palowan” Palowitch is among the most sought-after saxophonists on the Bay Area music scene. As a solely-alto saxophonist who can usually be found feeding his sound through guitar pedals, John brings a unique force to every stage with searing melodies and gripping rhythmic patterns.
John was raised in Pleasanton, California where he practiced classical piano from a young age, eventually learning and performing Gerschwin’s Rhapsody in Blue solo piano adaptation from memory at age 12. At age 10, John saw a big-band format jazz ensemble and wanted to learn how to play “the one in front”. With a beginner’s horn and CDs of Charlie Parker and Cannonball Adderly he was able to find at the public library, John started learning saxophone technique and jazz language, and took years of lessons from local legend Daniel Zinn. Motivated by the local and touring music performances that can be experienced year-round in the greater SF Bay Area, John steadily pursued art as a saxophonist and composer in his teen years, appearing at cafes, bars, and even showcase venues such as California Jazz Conservatory (then the Berkeley Jazz School).
Due to these pursuits, John was awarded placement in local and national all-star high school jazz ensembles, including the SF Jazz High School All-Stars, the California All-State Jazz Band, the GRAMMY High School Jazz All Stars, the Monterey Jazz Festival Next Generation All-Stars, and the Jazz Band of America. With these bands, John had life-changing opportunities to share the stage with Wynton Marsalis, James Moody, Miguel Zenon, Phil Woods, McCoy Tyner, Dianne Reeves, and other living masters who passed down their sonic and spiritual wisdom to the students. John also won prestigious DOWNBEAT Magazine high school student music awards for both his compositions and for recorded performances by the California Jazz Conservatory smaller jazz group he played in.
John’s senior-year Jazz Band of America ensemble was led by the illustrious Shelly Berg, who afterward offered him a full-tuition scholarship to the University of Miami Frost School of Music, a prestigious conservatory with a long history of excellence in modern music. There, John quickly rose to play in the top ensembles that essentially functioned as professional area bands. With UM’s world-famous Concert Jazz Band, John and his peers learned entirely new sets of music every week for events ranging from yacht parties to downtown Miami showcases. With the CJB, John recorded a full-length album called “An Evening With Dave Grusin” live at the Arsht Center (Miami’s Broadway stage), composed and directed by legendary pianist Dave Grusin. The album also featured guest performances by Patti Austin and Arturo Sandoval, and was nominated for a GRAMMY Award in 2011.
At UM, John pursued a tandem passion in mathematics, and after college moved to North Carolina to work on doctoral research in statistics and computer science, eventually earning a PhD. During those years, John appeared on the Durham/Raleigh music scene playing with Al Strong and Ernest Turner, with the Revive Big Band, and with members of ZooCru, the Christian Scott band, and the Kenneth Whalum band.
In 2017 John moved back to the SF Bay Area, where he now lives and is among the top-performing saxophone players on the scene. As a solely-alto saxophonist who often feeds his sound through guitar pedals, John brings a unique force to every stage with searing melodies and gripping rhythmic patterns. John’s main project is BIG TRIPPIN, a progressive hip-hop and fusion group led by Thomas Pridgen (Residente, formerly The Mars Volta and Thundercat) and Giulio Cetto, featuring Javier Santiago on keyboards as well as various MCs from the area including Won Way Posibul and Kool A.D. John is also a regular member of the Bay Area funk groups Speakease, Collectivity, and Oakadelic, and has been called to play locally with many touring acts including Dwele, Fred Yonnet, Jonathan Hoard, Kassa Overall, and Phil Lassiter. John is also a composer, and has brought his own project to Bay Area music venues such as Continental Club, Mr. Tipple’s, Boom Boom Room, and Cafe Stritch (now Mama Kin).