Paul Chambers Biography

Paul Laurence Dunbar Chambers Jnr., 22 April 1935, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, d. 4 January 1969, New York City, New York, USA. Chambers’ early death deprived jazz of one of its most extraordinary, influential, creative and lyrical bass players who had been present on several of the most important and enduring recordings of the 50s and early 60s. He grew up in Detroit, where he studied tuba before taking up the string bass. He worked with Paul Quinichette (1954), Bennie Green (1955), Jay and Kai (J.J. Johnson and Kai Winding) (1955), George Wallington (1955), Les Jazz Modes (1956-58), and was with Miles Davis from 1955-63. He then joined Wynton Kelly, another Davis alumnus, until 1966. The Miles Davis Quintet of which Chambers was a member was then nicknamed ‘The D & D Band’ (drink and drugs), but despite his heroin habit Chambers was a fine, dependable bass player. While with Davis he popularised the use of arco (bowed) solos. His light, agile phrasing was coupled with a firm tone, which provided strong, telling accompaniment, a sturdy foundation for the explorations of soloists such as Davis and John Coltrane, who wrote the tune ‘Mr P.C.’ in his honour. During his short but prolific and brilliant career he also worked with, among many others, Art Pepper, Sonny Rollins, Bill Evans, Sonny Clark and Johnny Griffin.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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