Wendell Marshall was born into a musical family on October 24, 1920 in St. Louis, Missouri. He took up the bass in emulation of and receiving his first lessons from his cousin Jimmy Blanton. He began playing professionally around his hometown in the late ‘30s and played with Lionel Hampton in ’42. Graduating from Lincoln University, he then served in the Army during World War II.
After his discharge, Marshall played and recorded with Stuff Smith, relocated to New York City and played with Mercer Ellington prior to his tenure with Duke Ellington from 1948 to 1955, appearing in several films with the orchestra.
Departing from Duke, Wendell played in pit orchestras on Broadway, freelanced with Mary Lou Williams, Art Blakey, Donald Byrd, Milt Jackson and Hank Jones among others. He was the house bassist for Prestige Records known for his rich tone, reliable sense of time and fine technique making him a popular collaborator.
It is estimated that he recorded with a prodigious list of musician with albums numbering over 150 including his own in 1955 as a leader, Wendell Marshall with the Billy Byers Orchestra. He was also a part of the Jazz Lab quintet led by Donald Byrd and Gigi Gryce.
However, by 1968 he retired from music and returned to St. Louis where he set up his own insurance business. Double bassist Wendell Marshall passed away of colon cancer on February 6, 2002 in his hometown of St. Louis.
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Palle Danielsson was born October 15, 1946 in Stockholm, Sweden and his childhood was an especially musical one. His first instrument he started playing at two was the harmonica and by age eight he was playing violin, which he continued to play and study for roughly five years. Around 13 he became interested in jazz music and started to play the double bass. By the time he was fifteen Palle was playing professionally.
Danielsson studied at the Stockholm Royal Academy of Music from 1962 to1966 and then began playing with Scandinavian musicians such as Eje Thelin, Bobo Stenson and Jan Garbarek and with Americans Lee Konitz and Steve Kuhn.
Perhaps most notable work was done with Keith Jarrett from 1974 to 1979 when he was a member of his European quartet. Over the years he has worked with Bill Evans, Kenny Wheeler, Geri Allen, Michel Petrucciani, Charles Lloyd, Peter Erskine, Ben Webster, George Russell and others.
Palle Danielsson has led and co-led several bands in Sweden, has recorded and released several albums and continues to perform and tour.
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Raymond Matthews Brown was born on October 13, 1926 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and started piano lessons at age eight. By high school he noticed a proliferation of pianists, unable to afford his first choice of trombone, took the upright bass vacancy in the high school jazz orchestra.
Influenced early by bassist Jimmy Blanton, the young Brown started making a name for himself around Pittsburgh playing with Jimmy Hinlsey and Snookum Russell. After graduating from high school he bought a one-way ticket to New York, met up with hank Jones, met Dizzy Gillespie who hired him on the spot and started working alongside Art Tatum and Charlie Parker.
During his five-year tenure with Gillespie he met and married Ella Fitzgerald, then worked with Jazz At The Philharmonic, recorded with Blossom Dearie on her first five albums between ‘57 and ‘59, joined Oscar Peterson in 1951 becoming a mainstay for the next 15 years.
In 1966 Ray moved to Los Angeles where he was in high demand by several television show orchestras, worked with Frank Sinatra, Billy Eckstine, Tony Bennett, Sarah Vaughan and Nancy Wilson. Becoming a manager and promoter as well as a performer, Brown managed the Modern Jazz Quartet and a young Quincy Jones, produced shows at the Hollywood Bowl, wrote jazz bass instruction books and developed a jazz cello.
Over the course of his career he has recorded prolifically with a luminary list of musicians, was award a Grammy for his composition Gravy Waltz, reunited with the legendary Oscar Peterson Trio and subsequent albums earned no less than four Grammys. He continued to tour and perform up until the time of his death. Double bassist Ray Brown passed away in his sleep on July 2, 2002 after having played a round of golf in Indianapolis, Indiana. The following year he was inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame.
Jimmy Blanton was born on October 5, 1918 in Chattanooga, Tennessee and originally learned to play the violin but took up the bass while at Tennessee State University. During his matriculation in the mid-thirties he performed with the Tennessee State Collegians, and during the vacations with Fate Marable. Blanton left school to play full time in St. Louis with the Jeters-Pillars Orchestra. Making his first recordings with the orchestra, he then went on to join Duke Ellington’s band in 1939.
Though he stayed with Ellington for only two years, Blanton made an incalculable contribution in changing the way the double bass was used in jazz. Moving from quarter notes in ensemble or solos to soloing more in a ‘horn like’ fashion, Blanton began sliding into eighth and sixteenth-note runs, introducing melodic and harmonic ideas that were totally new to jazz bass playing.
His virtuosity put him in a different class from his predecessors, making him the first true master of the jazz bass and demonstrating the instrument’s unsuspected potential as a solo instrument. Such was his importance to Ellington’s band at the time, together with the tenor saxophonist Ben Webster, that it became known as the Blanton-Webster band.
In 1941, Blanton was diagnosed with tuberculosis, cutting short his tenure with Ellington. However, he recorded a series of bass and piano duets with Ellington. Double bassist Jimmy Blanton, credited as the originator of pizzicato and bowed bass solos, died the following year on July 30, 1942 after retiring to a sanatorium in California at the age of 23.
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Oscar Pettiford was born September 30, 1922 in Okmulgee, Oklahoma to a Choctaw mother and Cherokee/African American father. Growing up playing in the family band in which he sang and danced, he switched to piano at the age of 12 then to double bass when he was at the age of 14. Despite being admired by the likes of Milt Hinton, he stopped playing in 1941, feeling he couldn’t make a living. Five months later, he once again met Milt, who persuaded him to return to music.
In 1942 he joined the Charlie Barnet band and 1943 saw him gaining wider public attention after recording with Coleman Hawkins on his “The Man I Love.” He also recorded with Earl Hines, Ben Webster, led a group with Dizzy Gillespie and went to California with Hawkins to play in the film The Crimson Canary and on the soundtrack.
Following this he joined Duke Ellington, then Woody Herman but by the 50s mainly became a leader. It was in this role he inadvertently discovered Cannonball Adderley after one of his musicians tricked him into letting Adderley, an unknown music teacher, onto the stand, he had Adderley solo on a demanding piece, on which Adderley performed impressively.
Pettiford is considered the pioneer of the cello as a solo instrument in jazz music, first played the cello as a practical joke on Woody Herman. However, in 1949, after breaking his arm and finding it impossible to play his bass, he started playing the cello allowing him to perform during his rehabilitation. He made his first recordings with the instrument in 1950. The cello thus became his secondary instrument, and he continued to perform and record with it throughout the remainder of his career.
He recorded extensively during the 1950s for the Debut, Bethlehem and ABC Paramount labels among others, and for European companies after his move to Copenhagen, Denmark in 1958. Oscar Pettiford passed away from a virus associated with polio on September 8, 1960 in Copenhagen and along with his contemporary, Charles Mingus, he stands out as one of the most-recorded bassist and bandleader/composers in jazz