As the giants pass
Posted on 7/7/2005at 8:03 AM
To list all of the great jazz musicians who've passed on this year would be too somber and devestating, so I'd like to make a special tip of my cap to the great bassists who've passed on.

PERCY HEATH - I first met Mr. Heath in 1991. He was the funniest man. If you don't know, the Heath Brothers are the Marx Brothers of jazz. The bond between big brother Percy, little brother Jimmy and baby brother Tootie was something to see. Percy loved to have impromptu backstage jam sessions with his cello. I had the opportunity to play with him and listen to him many, many times. I remember Percy came to see the CMB at the Iridium, and when he walked in we were bashing out "Sci-Fi". I remember, it was during Keezer's solo when he kicks in the sound effects and the distortion. When I saw him on the break, he said, "Mack-Bride, (all the older cats say my name like that - it's so funny!) I was sure glad when y'all cats landed that spaceship!!" While Ray Brown had the clearest sound, Percy had the smoothest sound. All you have to do is listen to the first MJQ album, "Django" and "Miles Davis and the Modern Jazz Giants." That bass sound is impeccable. I'll miss you, Percy.

NIELS-HENNING ORSTED PEDERSEN - This Danish kid prodigy hit the scene as a teenager. There are many, many great albums featuring his awesome playing. My introduction to his playing was Dexter Gordon's "One Flight Up" Blue Note record. I noticed that his playing was clear and precise. This is why Oscar Peterson loved him so. Any bassist coming after Ray Brown in Oscar's trio had to be at LEAST that - clear and precise! I never got to know him very well, but we did finally get to play a duet set together in a tribute to Ray Brown at the Jazz Baltica festival in Salzau, Germany in the summer of 2003.

PIERRE MICHELOT - The great Parisian bassist played with many greats. Most notably Bud Powell and the Kenny Clarke-France Boland Big Band. Many may also remember his performance in the movie "Round Midnight." A true legend. Sadly, I never got to meet him.

JIMMY WOODE - From Philadelphia. Played with Duke Ellington. 'Nuff said. My very first trip abroad as a professional jazz musician was with James Williams in the summer of 1990. Back in those days, I didn't own a travel case for my instrument, so I had to use different basses wherever I went. Our first gig was at the old Drum Tobacco Festival in Amsterdam. Jimmy Woode lent me his bass. I never forgot that. I'm getting a bit misty-eyed as I remembered how nice he was to me everytime I saw him. He used to say to me all the time, "Christian, I gotta hook you up wth my granddaugter! Christian, I gotta hook you up with my granddaughter! You guys will love each other!" He also left a great legacy.

May we celebrate the spirits of these men as we fellow bassists carry their torch. We should all thank them.

By the way, in case you're wondering if Jimmy Woode ever hooked me up with his granddaughter....

That's none of your business!!

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