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Gunther Schuller

bass player, was born James Blanton in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Little is known about his parents except that his mother was a pianist and bandleader. Blanton is widely regarded as the most outstanding bass player of the late 1930s and early 1940s, almost single‐handedly revolutionizing jazz bass playing both technically and conceptually. As a child Blanton studied violin, making his first public appearance at age eight. Showing exceptional talent and a serious interest in music, he learned music theory from an uncle and later switched to string bass while studying at Tennessee State College (1934–1937). Precociously gifted on this instrument, Blanton was soon playing with local bands. In 1937 he moved to St. Louis to play with the Jeter‐Pillars Orchestra and Fate Marable's Mississippi riverboat bands.

In late 1939 Blanton was heard by Duke Ellington who immediately asked him to join the famous Ellington orchestra Along with ...

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Jack Sohmer

jazz bassist, was born Wellman Breaux in Saint James Parish, Louisiana. Nothing is known of his parents except that they were of Creole heritage, and it is not known when he anglicized his name. Braud began playing violin at age seven and later took up guitar. His earliest work was with string trios playing on the streets of New Orleans. During the 1910s he worked regularly at Tom Anderson's cabaret, probably playing guitar in a group with the violinist Armand J. Piron while also playing drums and trombone in various ad hoc brass bands.

In 1917 Braud moved to Chicago, where he began playing bass and toured with John Wickliffe's band, later joining the Original Creole Band (or Orchestra) at the Pekin Café as a replacement for Ed Garland. When Braud joined the band the other members included the cornetist “Sugar” Johnny Smith, the clarinetist Lawrence Duhé the trombonist ...

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Scott Yanow

jazz bassist, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His father loved music, and through him, Brown first heard jazz pianists such as Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Fats Waller, and Art Tatum. Brown began taking piano lessons at the age of eight, switching to double bass while in high school. He first played bass professionally as a teenager in Pittsburgh with the Jimmy Hinsley Sextet and Snookum Russell’s group.

In 1945 Brown moved to New York City. On his very first day he participated in a jam session with alto-saxophonist Charlie Parker, trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, and pianist Bud Powell proving that he belonged with top bop musicians Gillespie was particularly impressed and the following year he hired Brown to work with his big band Brown was featured in One Bass Hit and Two Bass Hit with Gillespie and began recording regularly with the who s ...

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Scott Yanow

jazz bassist and tuba player, was born George Sylvester Callender in Haynesville, Virginia. He grew up in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where he studied alto horn and tuba before switching to double bass. While his first musical jobs (from 1932) were in New York and the Midwest, a tour with Blanche Thompson's Brownskin Models took him to Los Angeles in 1936. Callender spent most of the remainder of his life and career on the West Coast.

Red Callender worked with the Buck Clayton Orchestra in 1936 and made his recording debut the following year with Louis Armstrong's big band, where he subbed for Pops Foster. Also in 1937, his songs “Lost Love” and “Bogo Jo” were recorded by Lionel Hampton. Callender taught bass to the young Charles Mingus, worked and recorded with the early Nat King Cole Trio during 1938 and 1939 ...

Article

jazz bassist, was born in Ferndale, Michigan. He was one of seven siblings, all of whom studied music. Carter started playing cello in school when he was ten years old. While attending Cass Technical High School in Detroit, he switched to bass although he occasionally played cello through the years. He played his first musical jobs in 1955 and led his own groups while attending the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, from 1956 to 1959 (earning a degree in music).

Carter's first important association was in 1959 when he was a member of the Chico Hamilton Quintet. He earned a master of music from the Manhattan School of Music in 1961 but by then was already a busy jazz musician. From 1959 to 1963 Carter gained recognition for his recordings with Eric Dolphy (particularly Out There) and also worked with the altoist Cannonball Adderley ...

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Ronald P. Dufour

bassist known as “Mr. P. C.,” was born Paul Laurence Dunbar Chambers Jr. in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Little is known of his parents and early life. After his mother died when he was thirteen, Chambers moved to Detroit, Michigan, with his family. In high school he played the baritone saxophone and then the tuba, but sometime in 1949 he began to play the string bass. He was soon working professionally with the guitarist Kenny Burrell, the trumpeter Thad Jones, the pianist Hank Jones, and other musicians in the Detroit area. In 1952 he began taking lessons with a bassist in the Detroit Symphony and played with a classical group called the Detroit String Band. Between 1952 and 1955 he also studied, off and on, at Cass Tech and played in the school's symphony orchestra and other student groups.

By this time Chambers had fully absorbed the bop lessons ...

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Scott Yanow

electric- and acoustic-bassist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He played accordion early on, switched to violin and cello, and started playing acoustic double bass in school. Clarke worked in rhythm-and-blues and rock bands while still attending high school. After graduating from the Philadelphia Academy of Music, in 1971, he moved to New York.

Upon his arrival, Clarke immediately started working as both an acoustic- and electric-bassist and was seen as the brightest young voice on his instruments. He was a versatile virtuoso open not only to several forms of jazz but also to rock and pop music. Among his early associations were pianist Horace Silver; drummers Art Blakey and Mel Lewis; tenor-saxophonists Dexter Gordon, Gato Barbieri, Joe Henderson, and Pharoah Sanders; and arranger Gil Evans.

A turning point in Clarke s career occurred when he met and befriended keyboardist Chick Corea They played together in ...

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Scott Yanow

jazz bassist, arranger, composer, and bandleader, was born in Venice, California. The oldest of seven children (including the altoist Jeff Clayton), he was introduced to music by his mother, who played the organ for their Baptist church in addition to conducting the choirs. John Clayton took piano lessons starting when he was eight years old, switching to bass when he was thirteen. As a teenager he performed at jam sessions and with pickup groups, sometimes playing electric bass with soul and rhythm and blues groups. He also worked with the pianist Eddie Mitchell.

Strongly inspired by the bassist Ray Brown with whom he took an extension course at the University of California at Los Angeles and private lessons Clayton gained some of his earliest musical jobs through Brown who sometimes sent him in as a substitute He worked with the trombonist Murray McEachern for six ...

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Scott Yanow

jazz bassist, was born in Kansas City, Missouri. Counce began studying music as a teenager, having lessons on bass, tuba, and violin before concentrating exclusively on the string bass. His first important musical job was playing with Nat Towles's orchestra, a popular band based in the Midwest that he joined in Omaha in 1941. He left the group in 1944 and the next year moved to Los Angeles, where he spent most of the rest of his life.

Counce worked with Johnny Otis in 1945, made his recording debut that year with the tenor saxophonist Lester Young, and was part of the pianist Edgar Hayes's band during 1945–1948. The bassist was a regular at Los Angeles's Central Avenue clubs in the late 1940s and early 1950s. He worked with many of the top jazz musicians of the time, most notably the altoist Benny Carter ...

Article

Scott Yanow

jazz bassist, was born in Chicago. He first played trumpet when he was 5. Crosby also played trombone and tuba before switching permanently to bass in 1934, when he was 15.

Already a skilled musician, within a year Crosby was working with boogie-woogie pianist Albert Ammons's group in Chicago. He made history on his first two record dates. On 16 November 1935, teaming up with pianist Jess Stacy and drummer Gene Krupa on “Barrelhouse” and “The World Is Waiting for the Sunrise,” Crosby was part of the first piano-bass-drums trio to ever record. Up until that time the bass was not considered essential enough to be included in a trio, which frequently included piano, drums, and either a horn or a rhythm guitar.

On 19 November 1935 Crosby was part of a session led by drummer Gene Krupa and consisting of Benny Goodman and sidemen from ...

Article

Scott Yanow

jazz bassist, was born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. His parents’ names and occupations are not recorded. An only child, Davis began studying the piano when he was five but soon dropped it because his family did not own a piano. When he was in sixth grade, he wanted to play trumpet or trombone but began on the tuba since it was the only instrument available.

In 1951, when he decided to seriously start his music career, Davis switched to string bass. Very technically skilled from the start, Davis was one of the first musicians who had no difficulty switching between jazz and classical music. He studied with the principal bassist of the Philadelphia Orchestra (Anselme Fortier) and attended Juilliard and the Manhattan School of Music from 1953 to 1956. In addition, he led his own quartet and played on radio, on television, at clubs, and at colleges.

After ...

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Scott Yanow

jazz bassist and educator, was born in Chicago, Illinois. Information about his parents is not known, but Davis had extensive classical training on the bass starting in high school, and proved to be a consistently brilliant bassist no matter what the setting. He earned a degree in music education from the Vandercook College of Music, which he attended from 1948 to 1952. Davis gained early experience playing with the Youth Orchestra of Chicago from 1946 to 1948, the Chicago Civic Orchestra, and local dance bands led by Eddie King and Walter Dyett (1952–1953).

By 1953, Davis was a major part of the Chicago jazz scene, working with the Ahmad Jamal Trio and Don Shirley. He also had stints with Benny Goodman, the Sauter-Finegan Orchestra, and Charlie Ventura in addition to spending time managing his family's restaurant.

After moving to New York Davis gained attention ...

Article

Scott Yanow

jazz bassist, was born in Chicago, Illinois. Favors was brought up as part of a religious family. He began playing the bass when he was 15 and started playing professionally right after graduating high school.

Favors was originally the protégé of Wilbur Ware and was also influenced by Oscar Pettiford. He performed in conventional “straight-ahead” bop settings during his early years, making his recording debut with tenor saxophonist Paul Bascomb in 1953. Favors worked with pianist Andrew Hill in Chicago from 1957 to 1960, recording an album with Hill. He also gigged with Dizzy Gillespie and Freddie Hubbard, in piano trios and in organ combos.

The turning point in Malachi Favors's career occurred in 1961 when he met saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell and pianist Muhal Richard Abrams He became a member of Abrams s Experimental Band growing and evolving along with Abrams and the other ...

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Burton W. Peretti

musician, was born George Murphy Foster on a plantation near McCall, Louisiana, the son of Charles Foster, a butler, and Annie (maiden name unknown), a seamstress of mixed African American and Cherokee ancestry. As a boy he attended a Catholic elementary school and played the cello in plantation bands led by his father and uncle. His brother Willie excelled at the banjo and also became a professional musician. When Foster was ten his family moved to New Orleans, where he soon switched from the cello to the double bass. He enrolled at New Orleans University, a secondary school for blacks.Foster did not complete his secondary education however because he was heavily involved in the exciting working class black musical scene in New Orleans that was giving birth to jazz He played in pickup groups at lawn parties and fish fries and he soon gained paid work with ...

Article

Burton W. Peretti

Foster, Pops (18 May 1892–30 October 1969), musician, was born George Murphy Foster on a plantation near McCall, Louisiana, the son of Charles Foster, a butler, and Annie (maiden name unknown), a seamstress. Foster was African American, with considerable Cherokee Indian ancestry from his mother’s family. As a boy he attended a Catholic elementary school and played the cello in plantation bands led by his father and uncle. His brother Willie excelled at the banjo and also became a professional musician. When Foster was ten his family moved to New Orleans, where he soon switched from the cello to the double bass. He enrolled at New Orleans University, a secondary school for blacks.

Foster did not complete his secondary education however because he was heavily involved in the exciting working class black musical scene in New Orleans that was giving birth to jazz He played in pickup ...

Article

Scott Yanow

jazz bassist, was born in Miami, Florida, and moved with his family to Philadelphia when he was ten. His parents’ names and occupations are not recorded. He played clarinet when he was in high school, switching to bass when he was a senior.

After graduating from high school, Garrison worked locally with pianist Bobby Timmons, drummer Al “Tootie” Heath, and other young up-and-coming musicians. In 1957 he moved to New York, where during the next three years he worked with a variety of top straight-ahead jazz players, including trumpeter Kenny Dorham; saxophonists Lee Konitz, Jackie McLean, Benny Golson, and Bill Barron; trombonist Curtis Fuller; clarinetist Tony Scott; pianists Bill Evans and Lennie Tristano; and drummer Philly Joe Jones. It was a strong start to his career, but just a prelude.

While perfectly comfortable in bop settings Garrison was one of the ...

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Kurt Newman

bassist and composer, was born Henry Alonzo Grimes in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His parents, Leon and Georgia Grimes, were restaurant workers who worked at a Horn & Hardart's automat. Grimes had two siblings: a sister Yvonne and a brother Leon, who was also active in music for a time.

Grimes's musical career began at Barrett Junior High School in south Philadelphia, where he began playing violin and met fellow musicians Ted Curson, Albert “Tootie” Heath, and Bobby Timmons. Grimes attended north Philadelphia's Mastbaum Technical High School, famous for its rigorous music curriculum; Grimes's classmates there included future jazz trumpet greats Curson and Lee Morgan. Between 1948 and 1952, Grimes began playing bass and performing for Philadelphia's all-city orchestra.

Grimes moved to New York in the early 1950s to study at the Juilliard School of Music under the tutelage of bassist Fred Zimmerman Grimes ...

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Barry Kernfeld

jazz string bass player, was born Alfred Wesley Hall in Jacksonville, Florida, the son of Henry Hall, a cement finisher, and Alene K. (maiden name unknown), a dietician. (His birth date is often given as 18 March, but 8 March appeared on his driver's license, in his New York Times obituary, and in one interview.) Hall was raised in Wilmington, Delaware, from age two and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, from about age five. His aunt Marie Gilchrist gave him his first lessons on piano, which he studied until he was fourteen. When he was eight he also took up the violin, which he went on to play in school orchestras before switching to string bass in 1932 He hoped to work in a symphonic orchestra but found that path closed to African Americans After graduating from high school and while performing in jazz and dance bands in Philadelphia ...

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Barry Kernfeld

Hall, Al (08 March 1915–18 January 1988), jazz string bass player, was born Alfred Wesley Hall in Jacksonville, Florida, the son of Henry Hall, a cement finisher, and Alene K. (maiden name unknown), a dietician. (His birth date is often given as 18 Mar., but 8 Mar. appeared on his driver’s license, in the New York Times obituary and in one interview Hall was raised in Wilmington Delaware from age two and Philadelphia from about age five His aunt Marie Gilchrist gave him his first lessons on piano which he studied until he was fourteen At age eight he concurrently took up violin which he subsequently played in school orchestras before switching to string bass in 1932 He hoped to work in a symphonic orchestra but found that path closed to African Americans After graduating from high school and while performing in jazz and dance bands ...

Article

Scott Yanow

jazz bassist, was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi. His mother played piano and organ and directed the church choir. Hinton moved with his family to Chicago when he was eleven years old. Two years later he began studying violin, sticking with it for four years. While attending Chicago's Wendell Phillips High Schools, he learned to play bass horn, cello, tuba, and string bass. He went to Crane Junior College (now Malcolm X College) from 1929 to 1930.

By then Hinton was already working in Chicago-area clubs, doubling on bass and tuba; he would give up the latter within a couple of years. He gained important early experience working with Freddie Keppard, Jabbo Smith, Art Tatum, Fate Marable, Erskine Tate's orchestra, and the pianist Tiny Parham, making his recording debut with Parham in 1930. His main job between 1931 and 1936 was with the ...