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Bass Hits: Richard Davis, Eddie Gomez, Buster Williams

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Bass Is The Place At Merkin Hall

Three elite bassists whose combined credits represent a Whos Who in Jazz will share the stage on Monday, May 24 in New York City in a special Bass Hits program at Merkin Concert Hall at the Kaufman Cultural Center Goodman House (129 West 67th Street). Jazz masters Richard Davis, Eddie Gomez and Buster Williams will appear as the featured performers, accompanied by the dynamic drummer Lenny White and renowned pianist James Williams. Tickets for this 8 p.m. event, produced by Charles Carlini of the Carlini Group, are $35 and are available at the box office 212-501-3330) or online at www.ekcc.org.

Richard Davis is a renowned educator and performing artist whose virtuoso bass playing was a major asset on recordings by Eric Dolphy, Booker Ervin, Dexter Gordon, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Andrew Hill, Ben Webster, Elvin Jones, Stan Getz, Earl Hines, Hank Jones and Billy Cobham. Born in Chicago on April 15, 1930, his early jazz jobs included stints with pianist Ahmad Jamal (1953-1954) and singer Sarah Vaughan (1957-1960). He was a regular member of the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra from 1966-1972 and in 1977 became an educator at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he still teaches. Davis has made over a dozen albums as a leader, including dates for the MPS, Muse, Flying Dutchman, Galaxy, Hep and Sweet Basil labels. His latest recording is 2001s The Bassist: Homage to Diversity on the Palmetto label. One of the most technically skilled of all acoustic bassists, Davis is equally at home in the jazz and classical worlds, having played in symphony orchestras during the 1960s under the batons of Leopold Stokowski, Igor Stravinsky, Pierre Boulez, Gunther Schuller, and Leonard Bernstein. His great versatility as a bassist keeps him in constant demand for worldwide concert appearances. For over forty years he has drawn enthusiastic audiences throughout Europe, in Japan, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Cuba, The West Indies, Hong Kong and Israel.

Buster Williams is a prodigious artist whose command of the instrument is stellar and whose creativity knows no limits. A composer and bandleader in his own right, Williams has played, recorded and collaborated with jazz giants such as Miles Davis, Art Blakey, Herbie Hancock, Sonny Rollins, Lee Morgan, Chet Baker, Chick Corea, Dexter Gordon, Lee Konitz, McCoy Tyner, Joe Henderson, Tony Williams, Elvin Jones, Woody Shaw, Benny Golson, Mary Lou Williams, Hank Jones, Kenny Dorham and Freddie Hubbard, to name just a few. Born in Camden, New Jersey on April 17, 1942, Williams studied at Philadelphias Combs College of Music in 1959 and joined Jimmy Heaths band at age 18 in 1960. There followed stints with tenor titans Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt as well as a string of gigs through the 1960s backing jazz singers such as Dakota Staton, Betty Carter, Sarah Vaughan and Nancy Wilson. In 1969, Williams joined Herbie Hancocks exploratory Mwandishi Sextet, doubling on acoustic and electric bass while dealing in abstract funkified impressionism and electronic free jazz on a triumvirate of groundbreaking albums in Mwandishi, Crossings and Sextent. From 1976 to 1981, Williams led numerous sessions for the Muse, Denon and Buddah labels. In 1982, he formed the Thelonious Monk tribute band Sphere with Monks longtime tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse, Monks former drummer Ben Riley and pianist Kenney Barron. The quartet recorded for Elektra Musician, Red Records and Verve before disbanding after Rouses death in 1988. Williams continues to lead his own quintet while also performing and recording as a sideman for frequent collaborator guitarist Larry Coryell, Hammond B-3 master Dr. Lonnie Smith, trumpeter Wallace Roney, trombonist Steve Turre and pianist Kenny Barron. Williams most recent recordings as a leader are 2001s Houdini for the Sirocco Jazz label and 2002s Joined at the Hip for the Swiss TCB label.

Eddie Gomez has been on the cutting edge of the jazz scene since his debut in the mid-sixties. Born on October 4, 1944 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, he grew up in New York and was with the Newport Festival Youth Band from 1959-1961 before attending the Juilliard School of Music. His early work in jazz included stints with Marian McPartland, Paul Bley, Giuseppe Logan, Gerry Mulligan and Gary McFarland. But it was his long association with the Bill Evans Trio (1966-1977) that brought him international prominence. A player of remarkable facility, Gomezs agile flights into the bass high register is an extension of the Scott LaFaro approach to the instrument while his bowing work reflects his classical training. Gomez' unique sound and style has graced hundreds of recordings spanning the worlds of jazz, classical, Latin jazz, folk and popular music. Some of his significant sideman work in the 70s, 80s and 90s include tours and recordings with such artists as jazz legends Dizzy Gillespie and Charles Mingus, guitarists Ralph Towner, Emily Remler and George Benson, pianists McCoy Tyner, Chick Corea, Joanne Brackeen, Michel Petrucciani and Eliane Elias, saxophonist Bennie Wallace, trumpeter Freddie Hubbard and Latin jazz bandleader Ray Barretto. During the 70s he was a member of Jack DeJohnettes New Directions band and from 1980 to 1984 he was a member of the group Steps Ahead featuring vibist Mike Mainieri, saxophonist Michael Brecker, drummer Steve Gadd and pianist Don Grolnick. In 1991 he became a member of The Gadd Gang formed by drummer Steve Gadd. Eddies most recent Stateside release, as a leader is 1988s Dedication on the Columbia label.

Lenny White broke into the scene in the late 1960s as a versatile drummer who appeared on recording dates for the likes of Jackie McLean, Miles Davis and Andrew Hill. Born on December 19, 1949 in New York City, White is primarily known for his work on Davis seminal fusion album from 1969, Bitches Brew, as well as his triumphant three-year stint with Return To Forever (1973-1976). A prolific session player, producer and leader in his own right, White has appeared on recordings by Brian Auger, Freddie Hubbard, Woody Shaw, Gato Barbieri, Gil Evans, former RTF bandmates Stanley Clarke and Al Di Meola, Eliane Elias, Geri Allen, Charles Fambrough, Joe Henderson, Michal Urbaniak, Rachel Z, Dave Stryker, Wallace Roney and Marcus Miller. In 1989 he formed the urban soul group Jamaica Boys with bassist Miller, his homeboy from Jamaica (Queens), and singer Mark Stevens (Chaka Khans brother). In 1999, he formed the fusion supergroup Vertu with former RTF bandmate Clarke, releasing one self-titled cd on the Epic label. Whites most recent recording as a leader was 1999s Edge on the Hip Bop label.

James Williams is one of most reliably swinging pianists on the modern mainstream jazz scene. Born on March 8, 1951 in Memphis, he incorporates a deep gospel and soul feeling into his urgently swinging vocabulary. After a stint of teaching at the Berklee College of Music in Boston during the early 70s, he joined Art Blakeys Jazz Messengers in 1977 and remained on that prestigious gig for four years, touring and recording frequently with the band (which included a young Wynton Marsalis toward the end of his tenure). Williams has since performed and recorded with a variety of players including Sonny Stitt, Bobby Hutcherson, Tal Farlow, Emily Remler, Tom Harrell, Ray Brown, Billy Higgins, George Coleman, Joe Henderson, Elvin Jones, Jeff Tain Watts, Clark Terry, Ron Carter, Mark Whitfield, Greg Osby, Jon Faddis and Kevin Eubanks. His most recent Stateside recording as a leader is 1998s Weve Got What You Need with his band ICU for the Evidence label.


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