Pettiford, Oscar

views updated

Pettiford, Oscar

Pettiford, Oscar, noted jazz bassist, cellist; b. on an Indian reservation, Okmulgee, Okla., Sept. 30, 1922; d. Copenhagen, Denmark, Sept. 8,1960. He was a mixture of black and native American and grew up in Minn. At 11, he took up the piano, then turned to the bass at 14; his 10 brothers and sisters were all musicians and they all played together in the family band. He left Minn, with the Charlie Barnet Band in 1942, then went to N.Y. and joined Roy Eldridge in 1943. He did several sessions with Coleman Hawkins, Earl Hines, and Ben Webster. Pettiford co-led a group with Dizzy Gillespie in 1944, then led his own combos and big band in 1945. He relocated on the West Coast to work with Hawkins in 1945, then spent three years with Duke Ellington (1945–48), followed by Woody Herman (1949), and Charlie Shavers and Louie Bellson’s band in 1950. After that, he usually led his own bands; he also composed “Bohemia After Dark” and “Laverne Walk.” He settled in Copenhagen in 1958. He had been out playing and, afterwards, didn’t feel well; taken to the hospital, Pettiford died there the next day from a viral infection. He was the most influential bassist between Jimmy Blanton and Charles Mingus and the first to take up the cello as a second instrument. He tuned his cello like a bass.


Oscar Pettiford Memorial Album (1949); Discoveries (1952); Sextet (1953); New Oscar Pettiford Trio (1953); Oscar Pettiford Modern Quintet (1954); Bass by Oscar Pettiford (1954); Basically Duke (1954); Jazz Mainstream (1955); Another One (1955); Oscar Pettiford Orchestra (1956); Orchestra in Hi Fi (1956); Deep Passion (1956); Oscar Pettiford and His Birdland Orch. (1957); O.P.’s Jazz Men (1957); Jazz Legacy: Baden Baden (1958); Montmartre Blues (1959); Vienna Blues: The Complete Sessions (1959); Essen Jazz Festival (1959); Last Recordings by the Late, Great O.P. (1960).


C. Gazdar, First Bass: The Oscar Pettiford Discography (Bangladore, India, 1991).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Music Master Jazz and Blues Catalogue