AS ANOTHER GIANT PASSES
Posted on 8/6/2005at 0:13 AM
The death of the great bassist Al McKibbon marks what seems to be the last of the bass titans from the be-bop revolution. With the passing of Ray Brown and Percy Heath, Al McKibbon looked to be the last man standing from the 52nd street revolution. He, too, has now passed on.
Al McKibbon not only was a part of the be-bop revolution of the 1940's, but not even many jazz musicians realize that Al McKibbon was one of the pioneers of latin jazz. When McKibbon replaced Ray Brown in Dizzy Gillespie's Big Band in 1947, he became very close friends and roommates with the great cuban conguero, Chano Pozo. A lot of what was innovated between Dizzy and Chano, Al McKibbon was right in the middle of it. McKibbon was also a part of the famous George Shearing quintet from 1952-58. In the interim, he played on the "Birth of the Cool" sessions with Miles, and also recorded with Monk, Coleman Hawkins, etc, etc. In the 60's, he moved to Los Angeles and like his friend, Ray Brown, became heavily involved with session work and TV pit orchestras.
My fondest memory of "Big Al" is riding around Los Angeles with him in his Rolls-Royce listening to his stories. He was a no-nonsense kind of guy. Gruff on the outside, but was very quick to laughter. I actually have many, many great personal anecdotes about Al McKibbon, but I can't share them with you on this website! :-) He was a funny, wise man. May his spirit also live forever.