Dunbar, Ted (actually, Earl Theodore Dunbar Jr.)

views updated

Dunbar, Ted (actually, Earl Theodore Dunbar Jr.)

Dunbar, Ted (actually,Earl Theodore Dunbar Jr.), jazz guitarist, educator; b. Port Arthur, Tex., Jan. 17, 1937; d. New Brunswick, N.J., May 29, 1998. In 1946 he started studying trumpet and teaching himself guitar. He attended local Lincoln H.S. playing trumpet in the Concert Band, Marching Band, and Jazz Band. He also sang in the boys quartet, choir, and Glee Club. He graduated with honors from Lincoln High in 1955, and, honoring his parent’s wishes, enrolled that fall in Tex. Southern Univ/s School of Pharmacy in Houston. He graduated with honors in 1959. He passed the Tex. Pharmacy Board and received a license to practice pharmacy in Tex. (he was also eventually licensed in N.Y., Ind., and N.J.). While in college, he played jazz in Houston with Arnett Cobb (1956–58), Don Wilkerson (1957–59), singer Joe Turner (1958), Perry Deal, Jual Curtis, and others. He then moved back to Port Arthur to practice pharmacy with his mother and father at their family drugstore. In 1957, he met Wes Montgomery in Indianapolis, Ind., on a pharmacy field trip. Around 1961 he traveled to Indianapolis to look into a job with a drugstore chain called Hook’s; he decided to move to Indianapolis and take the position. He found it was across the street from where Montgomery was playing at the Ebony Missile Room. During his two-year stay, Dunbar played with Montgomery and substituted for him at Primo’s Club when Montgomery was on tour. He also played with David Baker and studied George Russell’s Lydian Concept of Tonal Organization with Baker as well. In 1965, he moved to Dallas and worked for Skillern’s drug chain and also played with “Fathead” Newman, James Clay, Red Gar-land, Billy Harper, Roger Boykins, and others.

He moved to N.Y. in 1966 and performed and recorded with Gil Evans from 1970–73 (including a film soundtrack), Tony Williams’s group Lifetime (1971–72), and Frank Foster (1973–79); he also played with Sonny Rollins, Ron Carter, Billy Harper, Roy Haynes, Seldon Powell, pianist Billy Taylor (on the Jazzmobile), McCoy Tyner, the New Jazz Repertory Co., and the National Jazz Ensemble. He began teaching in the late 1960s at Jazz-in-the-School concerts on Long Island, N.Y., with Seldon Powell, Billy Mitchell, and opera singer Andrew Frierson, and in schools in St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. John in the Caribbean. He was the advanced guitar teacher at Jazzmobile Workshop for over 20 years and taught at the Jazz Interactions Workshop. He joined the faculty of music at Livingston Coll., Rutgers, in 1972 and remained there as it became incorporated into the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers, where he taught until late 1997 as a full professor. He was closely associated with his Rutgers colleague Kenny Barron, with whom he recorded several albums. Though he performed less often he became well-respected as an educator. He also conducted workshops and clinics all over the world. Among his students were Kevin Eubanks, Rodney Jones, Ed Cherry, Nile Rodgers, singer Regina Belle, and saxophonist Thomas Chapin. His four guitar method books, which build in his own way on Russell’s approach, have been influential with many guitarists. At the time of his death, he was at work on several other books. He recorded movie soundtracks, including Fortune and Men’s Eyes making several with Gait McDermott. He appeared on-camera in the 1996 movie The Preacher’s Wife playing behind Whitney Houston. In the 1990s he occasionally led a quartet with Earl May on bass, Brandon McCune at piano, and David Jones on drums in N.Y. at the Rainbow Room, Smalls, and the Blue Note. He was also a numerologist and remained a practicing pharmacist. He had a history of heart and kidney problems. In 1997, he suffered a heart attack. He subsequently died of a massive stroke.


In Tandem (1975); Opening Remarks (1978); Secundum Artem (1980); Jazz Guitarist (1982); Gentle Time Alone (1992). M. Tyner: Asante (1970). K. Barron: Peruvian Blue (1974). D. Newman: House of David (1967).

—Lewis Porter

About this article

Dunbar, Ted (actually, Earl Theodore Dunbar Jr.)

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article