Charles Anthony Williams was born April 17, 1942 in Camden, New Jersey. His father was a bassist and his teacher, preparing lessons for him each day, stringing his bass and demanding practice everyday after school.
Nicknamed Buster, he started his professional career in Philadelphia in 1959 working with Jimmy Heath, then went on to play and record with the Gene Ammons – Sonny Stitt quintet from 1960-61. Leaving the quintet he moved to Los Angeles and played behind Betty Carter, Sarah Vaughan and Nancy Wilson through the decade. He also worked with The Jazz Crusaders, Bobby Hutcherson/Harold Land Quintet and Miles Davis.
In 1969, Williams moved to NYC, joined the Herbie Hancock Mwandishi Sextet and for the next three years doubled on acoustic and electric bass. In the ‘70s he worked with Mary Lou Williams and the Ron Carter Quartet and in 1975 released his debut album “Pinnacle”. Since the ’80s, Williams has appeared as a sideman on a significant number of sessions with notable jazz instrumentalists and vocalists, Chet Baker, Kenny Barron, Dexter Gordon, Carmen McRae, Illinois Jacquet, Frank Morgan, McCoy Tyner, Shirley Horn, Woody Shaw, Stanley Cowell and the list continues.
With opportunities to lead his own sessions being rare, in 2008 Buster began releasing a series of live albums exclusively for download through his company, Buster Williams Productions. A solid supportive player, he has made subtle swing, a precise rhythm and superb technique the landmark of his playing.
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Richard Davis was born in Chicago, Illinois on April 15, 1930 who began his musical career as a singer with his brothers. Davis sang bass in his family vocal trio in addition he began studying the double bass in high school with his music theory and band director, Captain Walter Dyett. After graduation, he went on to study the double bass with Rudolf Fahsbender of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra while attending Vandercook College.
After college, Davis performed in dance bands making a name for himself around Chicago, making connections that led him to pianist Don Shirley. In 1954 he and Shirley moved to New York City, performed together until 1956, when he began playing with the Sauter-Finegan Orchestra.
Richard then toured and recorded as part of Sarah Vaighan’s band, worked with Dorothy Ashby, Jaki Byard, Booker Ervin, Charles Lloyd, Candido Camero, Jimmy Forrest and Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra among others. Some of his most famous contributions were Eric Dolphy’s 1964 “Out To Lunch”, Andrew Hill’s “Point Of Departure” and Van Morrison’s “Astral Weeks”, Laura Nyro’s “Smile” and Bruce Springsteen’s “Born To Run”.
He has recorded fifteen albums as a leader and over a hundred as a sideman. A long-time educator, he has been a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison since 1977 where he teaches bass, jazz history, and improvisation. Bassist Richard Davis received the 2014 NEA Jazz Masters award.
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Jimmy Garrison was born on March 3, 1933 in Miami, Florida but grew up in Philadelphia where he learned to play the bass, coming of age during that city’s thriving jazz scene that including McCoy Tyner, Reggie Workman, Henry Grimes and Lee Morgan. He played around Philadelphia with local groups until 1958 when Philly Joe Jones brought him to New York City.
During the time he would freelance with Lennie Tristano, Benny Golson, Bill Evans and Kenny Dorham but got seriously noticed when he joined Ornette Coleman at the Five Spot. Garrison’s long association with Ornette Coleman produced his first recording with him on “Ornette on Tenor” and “Art of the Improvisers”.
Jimmy would go on to play and record with Archie Shepp and Pharoah Sanders but his greatest collaboration was his six-year collaboration with the John Coltrane Quartet when he replaced Reggie Workman. In concert with Trane he would play unaccompanied solos, sometimes as a prelude to a song before the other musicians joined in.
He and drummer Elvin Jones have been credited with eliciting more forceful playing than usual from Coleman on the albums “New York Is Now” and “Love Call”. Before his passing he would play with Kenny Dorham, Curtis Fuller, Jackie McLean, Lee Konitz, Hampton Hawes, Benny Golson and Tony Scott. Bassist Jimmy Garrison passed away on April 7, 1976.
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Douglas Watkins was born on March 2, 1934 in Detroit Michigan. After gaining experience and a reputation as one of many very talented jazzmen on the local Detroit scene, Watkins began touring with James Moody in 1953 followed by a stint with the Barry Harris Trio. In 1954 he settled in New York City and was an original member of the Jazz Messengers from 1955 – 56.
Doug went on to spend a year with Horace Silver and then freelanced with a who’s who list of the hard boppers such as Art Farmer, Kenny Burrell, Phil Woods and Hank Mobley. In 1956 at just 21 years old he was a sideman on Sonny Rollins’ “Saxophone Colossus” alongside Max Roach and Tommy Flanagan, showcasing examples of his fine work on Blue 7 and St. Thomas.
In 1958 Watkins joined Donald Byrd for a European tour, taking up extended residence at Le Chat Qui Peche, a jazz club on Paris’ Left Bank. Along with Byrd, tenor saxophonist Bobby Jaspar, pianist Walter Davis, Jr. and drummer Art Taylor, Watkins made two albums with Byrd during this period, one recorded in the club and another at a formal concert featuring Byrd’s quintet. In 1961 he joined Charles Mingus’ group when Mingus temporarily ventured onto the piano stool, producing such gems as “Oh Yeah!!!” and “Tonight At Noon”.
Doug was known for his superb walking tone and distinct phrasing that was right on the beat, forming an organic, indivisible relationship with his instrument as he swayed with it in perfect time. Throughout his short but prolific career Watkins produced only two sessions as a leader but became the bassist of choice when his cousin by marriage, Paul Chambers was unavailable. He appeared on over 350 recordings working with Red Garland, Yusef Lateef, Philly Joe Jones, Bill Hardman, Gene Ammons and Lee Morgan just to name a few giants.
The hard bop jazz bassist Doug Watkins died in a head-on automobile crash on February 5, 1962 when he fell asleep behind the wheel while driving from Arizona to San Francisco to play a gig with Philly Joe Jones. He was just 27 years old but his legacy as a superb musician, unselfish and enabling ensemble player and a bassist-walker with few peers remains today.
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Curtis Counce was born in Kansas City, Missouri on January 23, 1926. Studying violin and tuba early on before settling on the string bass, he went on the road when he was 16, playing with the Nat Towles Band in Omaha.
After some freelancing, Counce moved to Los Angeles in 1945, working with Johnny Otis and making his recording debut the following year with Lester Young. During the ‘50’s he was a key member of the West Coast jazz scene, recording as a sideman with Shelly Manne, Lyle Murphy, Teddy Charles, Clifford Brown, and many others.
In 1956, Counce organized a quintet comprised of trumpeter Jack Sheldon, tenor saxophonist Harold Land, pianist Carl Perkins, and drummer Frank Butler. During a 15-month period, they recorded enough material to document their endeavor, all of which were originally released by Contemporary and fall stylistically between West Coast cool jazz and hard bop.
Changing personnel, the Curtis Counce Quintet recorded a final album for the Dooto label before breaking up in 1958. The bassist continued working in the Los Angeles area until his death on July 31,1963 from a heart attack.
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