Aaron Bell was born Samuel Aaron Bell on April 24, 1921 in Muskogee, Oklahoma. As a child, he played piano and went on to learn brass instruments in high school. He attended Xavier University where he began playing bass, graduating in 1942 and joining the Navy until 1946.
After his discharge he became a member of Andy Kirk’s band and the next year enrolled at New York University to complete his Master’s degree. Aaron then joined Lucky Millinder’s band followed by gigging with Teddy Wilson.
During the 1950s, Bell appeared on Billie Holiday’s album Lady Sings The Blues and recorded with Lester Young, Stan Kenton, Johnny Hodges, Cab Calloway, Carmen McRae and Dick Hyman. Leaving Haymes in 1960 he took a chair opposite drummer Sam Woodyard in the Duke Ellington Orchestra.
He left Ellington in 1962 to spend time with Dizzy Gillespie before taking pit musician jobs on Broadway. He also recorded with Johnny Griffin, Sonny Stitt and Randy Weson as well as recording as a leader. Bell and Ellington collaborated once more in 1967, on a tribute to Billy Strayhorn. He held a residence at the La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club in New York City from 1969 to 1972.
Aaron was also an educator and began teaching at Essex College in Newark, New Jersey in 1970, remaining there until 1990. During this period he also toured with Norris Tumey, Harold Ashby and Cat Anderson. In the 1980s he returned to piano playing, and retired from active performance in 1989. Double bassist Aaron Bell passed away on July 28, 2003.
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Rocco Scott LaFaro was born on April 3, 1936 in Irvington, New Jersey and grew up in Geneva, New York when his family moved there when he was five. His father played in many big bands and started him on the piano in elementary school. He switched to the bass clarinet in junior high school and the tenor saxophone in high school. It wasn’t until he was eighteen the summer before entering Ithaca College that he finally landed on the double bass.
During the early weeks of his sophomore year Scott joined Buddy Morrow and his big band, then left them in Los Angeles, California after a cross-country tour. Luck prevailed and he quickly found work and became known as one of the best of the young bassists. He studied under Red Mitchell who taught him how to pluck the strings with both the index and middle fingers independently. By 1958 he was spending much of the year in pianist/percussionist Victor Feldman’s band.
In 1959, after many gigs with Chet Baker, Stan Kenton, Cal Tjader, and Benny Goodman he moved back east and joined Bill Evans after his recent departure from Miles Davis. Along with Paul Motian and Evans that he developed and expanded the counter-melodic style that would come to characterize his playing. The trio committed to the idea of three equal voices in the trio, collectively working together organically towards a singular musical idea, often without the time being explicitly stated. LaFaro’s prodigious technique on bass made this concept possible.
By late 1960, LaFaro replaced Charlie Haden as Ornette Coleman’s bassist. In between gigs with Evans he played with Stan Getz and got a recruitment card of interest from Miles Davis. By summer they settled into the Village Vanguard in New York City for a two-week gig. The last day of the run, June 25, was recorded live in its entirely for eventual release as two albums, Sunday at the Village Vanguard and Waltz For Debby, both considered among the finest live jazz recordings of all time.
Double bassist Scott LaFaro passed away from an automobile accident on July 6, 1961 in Flint, New York four days after accompanying Stan Getz at the Newport Jazz Festival and ten days after the Village Vanguard recordings with the Bill Evans Trio.
Posthumously, in 2009, the University of North Texas Press published Jade Visions, a biography of Scott LaFaro by his sister Helene LaFaro-Fernandez. It includes an extensive discography of his recorded work. The same year Resonance Records released Pieces of Jade, the first album released featuring Scott as a bandleader. The album includes five selections recorded in New York City during 1961 that showcase LaFaro with pianist Don Friedman and drummer Pete LaRoca, as well as 22 minutes of LaFaro and Bill Evans practicing My Foolish Heart in late 1960 during a rehearsal.
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Pierre Michelot was born on March 3, 1928 in Saint-Denis, Seine-Saint-Denis, Paris, France. He studied piano from 1936 until 1938 when he switched to bass at the age of sixteen.
Throughout his career he performed and recorded with Rex Stewart, Coleman Hawkins, Django Reinhardt, Stephane Grappelli, Don Byas, Thelonious Monk, Lester Young, Dexter Gordon, Stan Getz, Bud Powell, Kenny Clarke, Zoot Sims, Dizzy Gillespie, Chet Baker and numerous others.
Michelot was a member of the Jacques Loussier Trio, known for the Play Bach album series. In 1957 he recorded the landmark album Afternoon In Paris with John Lewis and Sacha Distel Septet. As a leader he recorded Round About A Bass with an orchestra on the Uni Jazz France label.
Together with Miles Davis, he was responsible for the critically acclaimed soundtrack of Louis Malle’s film Ascenseur pour l’echafaud and also appeared as an unnamed bass player in the movie Round Midnight.
In later life, bebop and hard bop double bassist Pierre Michelot suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and passed away on July 3, 2005.
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Gene Perla was born on March 1, 1940 in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey. He studied piano at Berklee School of Music and Boston Conservatory before switching to bass.
In 1969 Perla played with Woody Herman, as well as Thad Jones/Mel Lewis, Sarah Vaughan, Miles Davis, Nina Simone, Jeremy Steig, Elvin Jones and Sonny Rollins in the early Seventies.
During the decade Gene founded PM Records and later headed Plug Records and under his leadership the labels recorded Dave Liebman, Elvin Jones, Steve Grossman, Pat La Barbera and Jerry Bergonzi. Forming the Stone Alliance with Grossman and Don Alias in 1975, he continues to perform.
As a sideman he has recorded several albums with Frank Foster, Elvin Jones and Mickey Tucker. Bassist Gene Perla currently teaches at Lehigh University and the New School of Jazz & Contemporary Music.
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Ron Mathewson was born 19 February 1944 Lerwick, Shetland Isles, Scotland into an unusually musical household. At eight years old he was studying classical piano, continuing his studies and performing classical piano until he reached sixteen. A year earlier he started playing bass guitar and his talent was noted and encouraged by Shetland musician, Peerie Willie Johnson.
In 1962, Mathewson was in Germany playing professionally with a Scottish Dixieland band, then in London he also performed with various jazz and R&B bands through to the middle of the decade. Around this time he was also a member of the Kenny Clarke-Francy Boland Big Band.
By1966 Ron became a member of the Tubby Hayes band, with which he performed until 1973. From 1975 on in to the 1990s, he was frequently a participant in various Ronnie Scott recordings and concerts.
In 1983, he appeared on Dick Morrissey’s solo album After Dark with Jim Mullen, John Critchenson, Martin Drew and Barry Whitworth. In 2007 a benefit concert was held for him after he had an accident that left him recovering from two broken hips, a broken wrist and a burst artery.
Best known for his years spent with Scott, the double bassist and bass guitarist has recorded with Stan Getz, Joe Henderson, Ben Webster, John Taylor, Gordon Beck, Philly Joe Jones, Roy Eldridge, Tony Oxley, Kenny Wheeler, Oscar Peterson, John Stevens, Terry Smith, Bill Evans, Phil Woods and His European Rhythm Machine, Acoustic Alchemy, Ian Carr, Spontaneous Music Ensemble, Ray Nance and Charles Tolliver, among numerous others.