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Paul Chambers

paul chambersPaul Laurence Dunbar Chambers, Jr. (April 22, 1935 – January 4, 1969) was one of the most influential jazz bassists of the 20th century. A prominent figure in many rhythm sections during the 1950s and 1960s, his importance in the development of jazz bass can be measured not only by the length and breadth of his work in this short period but also his nearly perfect time, intonation, and virtuosic improvisations.


Born in Pittsburgh on April 22, 1935, Chambers was raised in Detroit where he studied music. He entered music through a windy side entrance when he and several schoolmates were fingered to take up music and the baritone horn became his assignement. Later he took up the tuba. "I got along pretty well, but it's quite a job to carry it around in those long parades, and I didn't like the instrument that much." (Besides, you can't bow a tuba.) So Paul became a string bassist, around 1949 in Detroit, where he had been living for a while since the death of his mother.paul chambers

Playing his first gig at one of the little bars in the Hastings Street area, he was soon doing club jobs with Thad Jones, Barry Harris and others who have since effected the Detroit-New York junction. His formal bass training got going in earnest in 1952, when he began taking lessons with a bassist in the Detroit Symphony. Paul did some "classical" work himself, with a group called the Detroit String Band that was, in effect, a rehearsal symphony orchestra. Studying at Cass Tech. off and on from 1952 to '55 he played in Cass' own symphony, and in various other student groups, one of which had him blowing baritone sax. By the time he left for New York at the invitation of Paul Quinichette, he had absorbed a working knowledge of several armfuls of instruments.

From 1954 on through 1955, he gained significance touring with such musicians as Bennie Green, Paul Quinichette, George Wallington, J. J. Johnson and Kai Winding. In 1955 he joined the Miles Davis quintet, staying on with the group until 1963 and appearing on the 1959 classic Miles Davis album Kind of Blue. In fact, one of Paul's most noted performances was on that album's first cut, "So What," which opens with a brief but sublime duet with pianist Bill Evans. Possessing one of the most immediately recognizable bass playing sounds and styles, Paul Chambers was the bulwark of the Miles Davis quintets and sextets from the mid-'50s through the early '60s. From 1963 until 1966 Chambers played often with the Wynton Kelly trio, also freelancing as a sidemen for other important names in jazz all throughout his career. Over his lifetime Paul Chambers developed addictions to both alcohol and heroin. On January 4, 1969 he died of tuberculosis at the premature age of 33.paul chambers


The role of the jazz bass player was largely a metronomic assignment until, in 1939, Jimmy Blanton's flight through time and space, when he alighted in the Duke Ellington airport, transformed the entire scene. Since that time scores of talented men have put hundreds of fingers to work proving that Blanton was right; that the bass is capable of melodic invention and rhythmic variety unknown before his day.

Oscar Pettiford is the man generally assumed to have inherited the Blanton mantle, though Ray Brown , Red Mitchell, Percy Heath and a few more have exhibited formidable prowess and extraordinary heights of inspiration. And now, to join the handful of giants of whom one can speak in the same breath as these few, the inner jazz circle has welcomed Paul Chambers.

Paul was about 15 when he started to listen to Bird and Bud, his first jazz influences. Oscar Pettiford and Ray Brown, the first bassists he admired, were followed in his book by Percy Heath, Milt Hinton and Wendell Marshall for their rhythm section work, Charles Mingus and George Duvivier for their technical powers and for their efforts in broadening the scope of jazz bass. Blanton, of course, is his all-time favorite, the perennial poll winner in his ballot.

His accompaniment and solos with Davis and other leaders remain distinctive and influential. He and Slam Stewart were the first jazz bassists to perform arco or bowed solos.

Paul Chambers played on a great many albums, during the brief period (1955-68) he was active. He performed on the several landmark albums, including John Coltrane 's Giant Steps and Miles Davis' Kind of Blue. Many musicians wrote songs dedicated to Paul. Coltrane's song "Mr. P.C." is named after Chambers. Tommy Flanagan wrote "Big Paul", performed on the Coltrane and Kenny Burrell Prestige 1958 lp for him. Max Roach wrote a drum solo called "Five For Paul" on his 1977 impossible to find drum solo lp recorded in Japan, Sonny Rollins wrote a song called "Paul's Pal" for him as well and finally long time cohort and fellow bandmate with Miles Davis pianist Red Garland wrote the tune: "The P.C. Blues", which is probably the most notable of the 5 tunes named for him. He recorded with many other important musicians, including Cannonball Adderley , Donald Byrd, Sonny Rollins, Freddie Hubbard, Jackie McLean, Hank Mobley, and Bud Powell, Bill Evans, Walter Benton, Herbie Hancock, Blue Mitchell, Curtis Fuller, Benny Golson, Kenny Dorham, Yusef Lateef, Lee Morgan, Art Blakey, Roy Haynes, Hampton Hawes, Wayne Shorter, Paul Quinichette, Philly Joe Jones, Wes Montgomery, Ike Quebec, Stanley Turrentine, Grant Green, Zoot Sims, Johnny Griffin, Nat Adderley, Horace Silver, Hank Jones, Abbey Lincoln, Lorez Alexandria as well as recording as a leader.


As leader

* Chambers' Music (Aladdin/Jazz West, 1956)
* Whims Of Chambers (Blue Note, 1956)
* Paul Chambers Quintet (Blue Note, 1957)
* Bass on Top (Blue Note, 1957)
* Go (Vee-Jay, 1959)
* 1st Bassman (Vee-Jay, 1960)    

As co-leader

* (w/John Coltrane) High Step (Blue Note, 1956)
* (w/Hampton Hawes) The East/West Controversy (Xanadu, 1957)
* (w/Roy Haynes & Phineas Newborn) We Three (Prestige/New Jazz, 1958)
* (w/Julian "Cannonball" Adderley) Ease It (Charly/Affinity, 1959)
* (w/Julian "Cannonball" Adderley) Just Friends (Charly/Le Jazz, 1959)

As sideman

Julian "Cannonball" Adderley
* Julian "Cannonball" Adderley (EmArcy, 1955)
* Cannonball Adderley Quintet In Chicago (Mercury, 1959)
* (w/John Coltrane) Cannonball and Coltrane (Phillips, 1965)
Nat Adderley
* Introducing Nat Adderley (Mercury/Wing, 1955)
* Naturally! (Jazzland, 1961)
Toshiko Akiyoshi
* The Toshiko Trio (Storyville, 1956)
* Toshiko Mariano and her Big Band (Vee-Jay, 1964)
Lorez Alexandria
* Alexandria The Great (Impulse!, 1964)
Chet Baker
* Chet (Riverside, 1959)
Kenny Burrell
* Kenny Burrell (Blue Note, 1956)
* (w/John Jenkins) John Jenkins With Kenny Burrell (Blue Note, 1957)
Sonny Clark
* Sonny Clark Trio (Blue Note, 1957)
* Sonny's Crib (Blue Note, 1957)
* Cool Struttin' (Blue Note, 1958)
Jimmy Cleveland
* Introducing Jimmy Cleveland And His All Stars (EmArcy, 1955)
John Coltrane
* Blue Train (Blue Note, 1957)
* Coltrane (Prestige, 1957)
* Bahia (Prestige, 1958)
* Black Pearls (Prestige, 1958)
* Lush Life (Prestige, 1958)
* Settin' The Pace (Prestige, 1958)
* Traneing In (Prestige, 1958)
* Settin' The Pace (Prestige, 1958)
* Soultrane (Prestige, 1958)
* Stardust (Prestige, 1958)
* The Believer (Prestige, 1958)
* The Last Trane (Prestige, 1958)
* (w/Milt Jackson) Bags and Trane (Atlantic, 1960)
* Giant Steps (Atlantic, 1960)
* (w/Julian "Cannonball" Adderley) Cannonball and Coltrane (Phillips, 1965)
Miles Davis
* Miles (Prestige, 1955)
* 'Round About Midnight (Columbia, 1955)
* Cookin' (Prestige, 1956)
* Relaxin' (Prestige, 1956)
* Steamin' (Prestige, 1956)
* Workin' (Prestige, 1956)
* Miles Ahead (Columbia, 1957)
* Milestones (Columbia, 1958)
* Porgy and Bess (Columbia, 1958)
* Kind of Blue (Columbia, 1959)
* Sketches of Spain (Columbia, 1960)
* Someday My Prince Will Come (Columbia, 1961)
* Quiet Nights (Columbia, 1962)
Kenny Dorham
* 1959 (Prestige, 1959)
Kenny Drew
* Kenny Drew Trio (Prestige, 1956)
Curtis Fuller
* Curtis Fuller with Red Garland (Prestige, 1957)
* Curtis Fuller Jazztette with Benny Golson (Savoy, 1959)
Red Garland
* A Garland of Red (Prestige, 1956)
* Dig It! (Prestige, 1957)
* Groovy (Prestige, 1957)
* Red Garland Revisited! (Prestige, 1957)
* Red Garland's Piano (Prestige, 1957)
* P.C. Blues (Prestige, 1957)
* Can't See For Lookin' (Prestige, 1958)
* It's A Blue World (Prestige, 1958)
* Manteca (Prestige, 1958)
* All Kinds of Weather (Prestige, 1959)
Herbie Hancock
* Inventions and Dimensions (Blue Note, 1963)
Barry Harris
* Bull's Eye (Fantasy, 1968)
Dexter Gordon
* Dexter Calling (Blue Note, 1961)
Benny Golson
* Benny Golson's New York Scene (Contemporary, 1957)
* The Modern Touch (Riverside, 1958)
* Groovin' With Golson (Prestige, 1959)
* Turning Point (Mercury, 1962)
Joe Henderson
* Four (Verve, 1968)
* Straight, No Chaser (Verve, 1968)
Freddie Hubbard
* Here to Stay (Blue Note, 1962)
Milt "Bags" Jackson
* (w/John Coltrane) Bags and Trane (Atlantic, 1960)
* Statements (Impulse!, 1961)
John Jenkins
* (w/Kenny Burrell) John Jenkins With Kenny Burrell (Blue Note, 1957)
J. J. Johnson
* The Eminent J.J. Johnson, Vol. 2 (Blue Note, 1955)
* (w/Kai Winding) Trombone For 2 (Columbia, 1955)
* (w/Kai Winding) The Great Kai & J. J. (Impulse!, 1960)
Wynton Kelly
* Kelly at Midnite (Vee-Jay, 1960)
* Kelly Great (Vee-Jay, 1960)
* Wynton Kelly! (Vee-Jay, 1961)
* Comin' in the Back Door (Verve, 1963)
Abbey Lincoln
* That's Him (Riverside, 1957)
Jackie McLean
* McLean's Scene (Prestige/New Jazz, 1957)
* Capuchin Swing (Blue Note, 1960)
* Jackie's Bag (Blue Note, 1961)
Hank Mobley
* Tenor Conclave (Prestige, 1956)
* Roll Call (Blue Note, 1960)
* Soul Station (Blue Note, 1960)
* Workout (Blue Note, 1961)
* Another Workout (Blue Note, 1961)
* The Turnaround! (Blue Note, 1965)
Thelonius Monk
* Brilliant Corners (Riverside, 1956)
Lee Morgan
* Leeway (Blue Note, 1960)
* The Rajah (Blue Note, 1966)
Wes Montgomery
* Smokin' At The Half Note (Verve, 1965)
* Willow Weep For Me (Verve, 1969)
Oliver Nelson
* The Blues and the Abstract Truth (Impulse!, 1961)
Art Pepper
* Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section (Contemporary, 1957)
* Gettin' Together (Contemporary, 1960)
Sonny Red
* Out Of The Blue (Blue Note, 1960)
Freddie Redd
* Shades of Redd (Blue Note, 1960)
* Redd's Blues (Blue Note, 1961)
Sonny Rollins
* Tenor Madness (Prestige, 1956)
* Sound of Sonny (Riverside, 1957)
Frank Strozier
* Fantastic (Frank Strozier album) (Koch Jazz, 1960)
Kai Winding
* The Trombone Sound (Columbia, 1955)
* (w/J. J. Johnson) Trombone For 2 (Columbia, 1955)
* (w/J. J. Johnson) The Great Kai & J. J. (Impulse!, 1960)

Paul Chambers

born: 22. April 1935, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania/USA
died: 4. January 1969, New York, New York/USA

Paul Chambers learned baritone horn and tuba, and took up the bass at age 14, after his family had moved to Detroit. In the motor city he soon played with local musicians such as Thad Jones, Barry Harris, Kenny Burrell or Yusefr Lateef. Paul Quinichette brought him to New York in 1955. He soon played in all the important modern clubs, appeared with Sonny Stitt, J.J. Johnson, George Wallington and in the same year became bassist in the celebrated quintet of trumpeter Miles Davis. He stayed with Miles until early 1963, at the same time participating in recording sessions with other jazz greats such as John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Sonny Rollins, Lee Morgan, Bud Powell, Kenny Dorham oder Jay (Jay Johnson) & Kai (Winding). In 1964/65 together with Wynton Kelly and Jimmy Cobb, his former Davis colleagues, Chambers formed a trio which accompanied Wes Montgomery. His heroin addiction was cause for health problems and in the end for his death a the young age of not even 34. Chambers was an excellent bass player, an accompanist in the style of bebop who provided clear walking bass lines under the solos of his colleagues and thus gave them the safety for their improvisations. [Wolfram Knauer]