Other Places: Detroit & Philly Basses

The Detroit Jazz Festival is playing this Labor Day Weekend. One reason the four-day event is subtitled “A Love Supreme: The Detroit-Philly Connection” is the powerful legacy of bassists from those cities. In a sidebar piece leading up to the festival, Mark Stryker of The Detroit Free Press writes about their importance.

If it weren’t for Detroit and Philadelphia, the history of modern jazz would be a lot shorter and a lot less hip. These two meccas are so similar in substance, style and the sheer number of musicians that rose from their streets to prominence that they could be twins separated at birth.

But when you narrow the focus specifically to bass players, the connections become even more striking. The roll call includes more gods per capita than from any other city.

“It’s not an accident that almost all of my favorite bass players are from Detroit or Philadelphia,” says Christian McBride, the Philadelphia-born bassist who serves as artist-in-residence at the 29th annual Detroit International Jazz Festival, which begins Friday and runs through Labor Day. “You take away Paul Chambers, Ron Carter, Percy Heath, Jimmy Garrison, James Jamerson, Alphonso Johnson and the others and you’re left with a very short list.”

Stryker’s piece includes brief profiles of several of those bassists and others, with comments from McBride and video of two bassists in action. To read the whole thing, go here.

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