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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Al McKibbon was born January 1, 1919 in Chicago, Illinois but grew up in Detroit, Michigan from the age of two. Attending Cass Tech, the high school that gave the world jazz greats Gerald Wilson, J.C. Heard, Wardell Grey and other, Al focused his training on the bass, which at the time, the bass was coming into its own as a jazz instrument and replacing the tuba.
In 1947, after working with Lucky Millinder, Tab Smith, J.C. Heard, Coleman Hawkins, and as a singer with the Ted Bruckners band, replaced Ray Brown in Dizzy Gillespie’s band. He joined Miles Davis’ nonet in the Fifties recording with him as well as Earl Hines, Count Basie, Johnny Hodges, Thelonious Monk, George Shearing, and Cal Tjader, with whom McKibbon is credited with interesting Cal in Latin music while a member of Tjader’s group.
McKibbon, always highly regarded among his peers, was the chosen bassist for the “Giants of Jazz”, and continued to perform until 2004. In 1999, at age 80, he recorded his first album as a leader “Tumbao Para Los Congueros Di Mi Vida” and garnered a Grammy nomination for Best Latin Jazz Performance.
Al McKibbon, double bassist, singer and self taught dancer, who played a Jacob Steiner bass made in 1650, best known for his work in bop, hard bop, and Latin jazz, passed away on July 29, 2005.
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John Patitucci was born December 22, 1959 in Brooklyn, New York and began playing electric bass at ten, composing and performing at 12, playing the acoustic bass at 15 and a year later the piano. A family move to the West Coast allowed him to study classical music at San Francisco State and Long Beach State universities.
By 1980 John’s career moved him to Los Angeles where he began a successful career as a studio musician and jazz artist. His long list of credits include twelve albums as a leader and a sideman for the likes of B.B. King, Chick Corea, Joanne Brackeen, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Dizzy Gillespie, George Benson, Natalie Cole, Queen Latifah, Sting, Stan Getz, Astrud and Joao Gilberto, Henry Mancini, Danilo Perez, Wynton Marsalis, McCoy Tyner and the list goes on and on.
In 1986 he was voted by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences as the Most Valuable Player on acoustic bass, he has won two Grammy Awards, he has reached number one on the Billboard Jazz charts and has won the reader’s polls: Best Jazz Bassist in Guitar Player Magazine’s and Best Jazz Bassist in Bass Player Magazine’s.
Patitucci has taught at music schools in several countries, was the Artistic Director of the Bass Collective, a school for bassists in New York City, is involved with the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, the Betty Carter Jazz Ahead program and was appointed Associate Professor of Jazz Studies at City College of New York.
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