John Bunch, 1921-2010

Jazz this week lost John Bunch, a pianist whose imagination and adaptability kept him in demand for more than 60 years. Establishing his career in New York following his WorldJohn Bunch.jpg War Two military service, Bunch slid smoothly from swing into bop and remained a reliable sideman and soloist who incorporated aspects of both eras in a personal approach of great flexibility. He was as comfortable and effective with Benny Goodman as he was with Wes Montgomery, or alone. This celebrated album is a superb Bunch solo recital. To read Nate Chinen’s obituary of Bunch in The New York Times, go here.
Bunch leads off a round of solos on “Sweet Georgia Brown” in this video of Scott Hamilton’s quartet. Chris Flory is on guitar, Phil Flanigan, bass and Chuck Riggs, drums.

That’s quite enough passings for a while, don’t you agree?

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  1. Rich Juliano says

    Oh no. As one who has tried to listen to and collect the recordings of the full spectrum of jazz pianists, there have inevitably been a few to whom I’ve paid inadequate attention over the years. I knew about John Bunch (especially his heroism in WW II), heard him as a favorite guest on Marian McPartland’s show, and had some of his CDs. Yet it was not until last fall, when a business trip took me to NYC, that I developed a full appreciation for his artistry. He was playing at Smalls Jazz Club, which I learned had been his regular venue for the last few years. Not only was I able to sit just a few feet from the piano, but I also had a few nice words with him at the bar after his last set. Subsequently I discovered that, as is their custom, Smalls’ website had posted archived audio for all of John Bunch’s appearances at the club since 2007, including, a month or so later, the night I was there. Consequently, John and his music have been regular companions of mine at my desk throughout many a work day over the past five months. Listening to his unparalleled taste and vast repertoire, which transcended several eras, has been a revelation. I had hoped to see and hear him at Smalls again. Thank you to the club for presenting this piano giant, and continuing to do so in cyberspace. Above all, thank you to John Bunch, and RIP. I am privileged to have been in his presence, if only for one night.

  2. Bruce Armstrong says

    Thank you Rich Juliano for posting your wonderful personal memory of John Bunch. I never had the privilege of hearing him in person, but I would like to quote from a review I wrote of a John Bunch CD on Amazon as my tribute to him: “John has been in every jazz and commercial music venue–from roaring big bands (Maynard Ferguson) to the top stars (Tony Bennett’s pianist/conductor for many years). He has recorded as a sideman with countless jazz luminaries and always produced at an “all-star” level. He is well in his 80s now and yet his touch, technique and inventiveness remain timeless. For those who may not be aware, John was a POW in WWII, his bomber having been shot down over Germany. In typical fashion, John has always been modest about that period of his life in every interview I have ever read over the years, but I personally think it tells us something about the man that he was able to put that experience behind him and eventually dedicate his life to producing musical beauty. Thank you Mr. Bunch, and may you play on forever!”

  3. says

    John once told me, “On a record date, never play as good as you can.” He hated the pressure of trying to play perfectly, and had the good sense to lay back a little and just make everyone comfortable. Like that of Hank Jones, John’s playing fit all kinds of jazz. I never heard him sound trite or disinterested. He was a true jewel.
    If you want to hear some nice music that includes John, along with some of his comments, go to this site:
    Scroll down to “Listen to Paquito” and click for the streamed program that we recorded.