Max Bennett was born May 24, 1928 in Des Moines, Iowa and grew up in Kansas City, Missouri and Oskaloosa, Iowa. Attending college in Iowa and studying guitar, his first professional gig was with Herbie Fields in 1949, then played with Georgie Auld, Terry Gibbs and Charlie Ventura.
After serving in the Army during the Korean War from 1951 to 1953, Max played with Stan Kenton before moving to Los Angeles, California where he played regularly at the Lighthouse Cafe with his own ensemble. During this period played behind Peggy Lee, Ella Fitzgerald, Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez through the Seventies and recorded with Charlie Mariano, Conte Candoli, Bob cooper, Bill Holman, Stan Levey, Lou Levy, Coleman Hawkins and Jack Montrose.
Bennett recorded under his own name from the late 1950s, and did extensive work as a composer and studio musician in addition to playing jazz. His session works is a who’s who list playing bass on sessions with The Monkees,The Partridge Family, Frank Zappa, With Lalo Schifrin on the soundtrack of Bullitt, Marvin Gaye, Barbra Streisand, Anthony Newley, Paul Anka, Elvis Presley, Four Tops, Nelson Riddle, Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Cleo Laine, Joe Williams, Quincy Jones, Kenny Rogers, The Beach Boys, Carol King, The Temptations, The Crusaders, Henry Mancini, Johnny Mandel and the list goes on.
Bennett continued with his own band, L.A. Express, which included the late Joe Sample, Larry Carlton and John Guerin under the leadership of Tom Scott. After this band, Bennett formed his own group Freeway, and currently heads his most recent band, Private Reserve.
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Bonnie Wetzel was born Bonnie Jean Addleman on May 15, 1926 in Vancouver, Washington. She learned violin as a child and was an autodidact on bass.
She played with Ada Leonard in an all-female ensemble and soon after worked in a trio with Marian Grange. Bonnie married trumpeter Ray Wetzel in 1949 and the pair worked in the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra in 1951.
Wetzel played in the Beryl Booker Trio with Elaine Leighton in 1953. They toured Europe in 1953-54 and recorded for Discovery Records. She also played with Herb Ellis, Charlie Shavers, Roy Eldridge and Don Byas. During the 1950s she freelanced in New York City. Double-bassist Bonnie Wetzel, who never led a recording session in her short career, passed away on February 12, 1965, at the age of 38.
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Gary Peacock was born May 12, 1935, in Burley, Idaho and studied the bass as a youth. After military service in Germany, during the early Sixties he worked on the West Coast with Barney Kessel, Bud Shank, Paul Bley and Art Pepper. Moving to New York he continued working with Bley as well as with Paul Motian in the Bill Evans Trio, and with Sunny Murray in the Albert Ayler trio. He also played some live dates with Miles Davis as a temporary substitute for Ron Carter.
In the late 1960s Peacock spent time in Japan, abandoning music temporarily to study Zen philosophy. After returning to the U. S. in 1972, he studied biology at the University of Washington, Seattle and taught music theory at Cornish College of the Arts from 1976 to 1983.
In 1983 Gary joined Keith Jarrett’s Standard Trio with Jack DeJohnette and the trio releaseded Standards Vol. 1 & 2 and Standards Live. Under Peacock’s leadership the trio recorded earlier in 1977 Tales of Another on the ECM label.
Peacock has recorded a dozen albums under his leadership, six releases as part of the group Tethered Moon and another sixty-two albums as a sideman with Bill Connors, Don Elis, Clare Fischer, Marc Copland, Marilyn Crispell, Barney Kessel, Prince Lasha, Sonny Simmons, Don Pullen, Bud Shank, Ravi Shankar, Ralph Towner, Mal Waldron, Tony Williams and Jimmy Woods to name a few.
Double bassist Gary Peacock has composed for two film shorts, performed on three documentaries, performed as the Keith Jarrett Trio on the Most Martha soundtrack, and has appeared on television. He continues to perform, tour and record.
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Isla Eckinger was born on May 6, 1939 in Dornach, Switzerland and played cello as a child, moving to the trombone during his teenage years. After studying trombone at the Conservatory in Basel, he taught himself to play the bass.
As a professional musician Isla made his debut playing with Oscar and Miriam Klein. In the 1960s, he accompanied on tour with Ben Webster, Buck Clayton, Don Byas and Johnny Griffin.
After a move to Munich, Eckinger began working with Mal Waldron, Joe Haider and Philly Joe Jones. From 1970 to 1976 he became an educator, teaching at the Swiss Jazz School while working with Haider, Peter Giger and Heinz Bigler in Group Four for Jazz.
With a new quartet with Waldron, Steve Lacy and Manfred Schoof, Eckinger toured Japan in 1975, and Italy with Chet Baker the following year. By the end of the 1970s he belonged to Wolfgang Engstfeld’s quartet, then worked with Klaus Weiss, Fritz Pauer and also with Dizzy Gillespie.
Mid-1980 saw Isla in Los Angeles, California recording with Chuck Manning. Currently bassist Isla Eckinger plays with Roman Schwaller and Jimmy Cobb as well as with Charly Antolini, Andy Scherrer and Paul Haag.
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Jymie Merritt was born James Raleigh Merritt on May 3, 1926 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His mother was a choral director, voice and piano teacher and his father a businessman and author. After serving in the U.S. Army during WWII from 1944 to 1946 he returned home to work for a short time in his father’s real estate business. After a brief flirtation with the clarinet he was inspired by a Duke Ellington recording featuring bassist Jimmy Blanton. Encouraged by his mother he studied with Philadelphia Orchestra double bassist Carl Torello and at the Ornstein School of Music
Over the course of his career Merritt has worked in jazz, R&B and blues. In the early 1950s he toured with rock and roll pioneers Bullmoose Jackson and Chris Powell moving on to work with legendary bluesman B.B. King from 1955 to 1957. In 1957 he moved to Manhattan to work with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers featuring his friend Benny Golson, as well as Bobby Timmons and Lee Morgan. He touring and recording with Blakey extended until 1962, when an unknown ailment forced him to stop touring.
By 1964 Merritt was back, working with the trumpeter and vocalist Chet Baker and is featured prominently in Baker’s unfinished autobiography published under the title As Though I Had Wings: The Lost Memoir. From 1965 to 1968 he worked with drummer, composer and activist Max Roach, not only in the rhythm section but as a composer, recording his Downbeat Magazine Critic Poll for Best Jazz Composer “Nommo” on Roach’s critically acclaimed 1966 Atlantic album The Drum Also Waltzes. He left in the late 1960s to work with Dizzy Gillespie and appear with him on the Dick Cavett Show.
One of Jymie most productive showcases as a composer was his reuniting recording of trumpeter Lee Morgan’s 1970 Blue Note release Live at the Lighthouse featuring his composition Absolutions that has become a jazz classic. In 1962 he formed and fronted the Forerunners with Odean Pope, Kenny Lowe, Donald Bailey and September Wrice and they evolved into a music cooperative exploring his system of chord inversions, harmonics, and unique approaches to composition and rehearsals, producing a lexicon of its own known as the Forerunner system or concept.
This group performed regularly in and around Philadelphia for five years, until he joined Roach’s band. Pope would also join Roach’s band, playing with him into the 1970s. Forerunner was on and off periodically from the 1960s through the 1980s, depending on what band Merritt was playing with at the time as well as how his health was. Of the second incarnation in 1982 saxophonist Bobby Zankel, Alan Nelson, Odean Pope, Julian Pressley, Colmore Duncan and Warren McLendon. Approaching his 90th birthday Merritt continues to rehearse and perform with the current incarnation of The Forerunners, many of whom have been with the ensemble from its inception.
In 2013, along with bassist Reggie Workman, he received the Clef Club of Philadelphia’s Living Legend Jazz Award as well as the Jazz Heritage Award and the Don Redman Heritage Award. Double-bassist electric-bass pioneer, bandleader and composer Jymie Merritt, who mainly performed as a sideman with Art Blakey, Sonny Clark, Curtis Fuller, Benny Golson, Lee Morgan and Jimmy Witherspoon, occasionally performs.
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