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Leroy Vinnegar

Discussion in 'Bassists [DB]' started by STRONGBOW, Feb 8, 2006.



    Aug 26, 2005
    Any Leroy Vinnegar fans or afficianados out there? Great walker, wonderful timekeeper, superior human being, he never forgot the fundamental purpose of the bass.....
  2. I'm not an afficianado, but he was great on a couple Les McCann records, I think Swiss Movment and the earlier Montreux album. I'm glad you brought up his name cause I should listen (with a bassists ear) to him now.
  3. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    I only know him from recordings, but I have some friends who used to be very close with him, and they speak very fondly of him. Superior human being, indeed.
  4. Doesn't Essiet Okon Essiet own one of his old basses. He came through town last summer and I think he said that his bass used to belong to Leroy.
  5. Futurebass


    Jun 22, 2005
    I saw him play when he was doing a residency at the Heathman Hotel in Portland. I was thrilled and surprised when I checked into the hotel and saw he was playing there. What a swinging night. His playing was impeccable.
  6. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    Are there some essential referrence recordings of him that someone could recommend?
  7. oliebrice


    Apr 7, 2003
    Hastings, UK
    Dave Holland often mentions him as a huge influence in interviews.
  8. Tbeers


    Mar 27, 2005
    I was actually going to mention that. Reading through a brief Dave Holland online bio was the first time I saw Leroy Vinnegar's name mentioned.

    He made two albums as a leader that I know of, "Leroy Walks" and "Leroy Walks Again." I might be wrong on that. Don't quote me!
  9. Brent Nussey

    Brent Nussey

    Jun 27, 2001
    Tokyo, Japan
    I could be described as a fan of Leroy's. I got pretty heavy into him in my last year of college. For those who aren't familiar, Leroy's style was to walk for his solos as well as for accompaniment. I just loved his sound and feel. There's a bunch of west coast records that would have sounded a lot lamer if he hadn't come in and lifted them up.

    One thing that I noticed when I started learning his parts off records was that he would play basically almost the same bass line over and over, chorus after chorus. Then his solo would come, the band would drop out and Leroy would walk, expanding on his original line with rakes and drops and all that. At first I thought, "What's this? Is he saving his best stuff for his own solos?" I was actually a little put off. But I talked to an older bassist who I respected about it. I said "Man he plays the same line over and over again.." His reply: "Yeah but it's a GREAT line, right?" It was true.

    It kind of reminds me of a great story my wife told me. She went to the Mt Fuji jazz festival some years ago where she saw Art Blakey's band with a young Peter Washington. At the end, there was a sort of all-star jam session, with Herbie Hancock on piano and maybe Tony Williams on drums, I can't remember just now. Anyway, they played Just One of Those things, and Herbie and the drummer and horn players started playing all kinds of crazy stuff. All through the storm, Peter just played the tune. He didn't try to follow all the crazy s*** going on around him, he just closed his eyes and laid it down. My wife said because of the shaved head, and because he didn't let anything affect him, and just made himself the center in a certain way, he looked like a Buddhist monk up there playing bass, the sound of one hand clapping itself. In some ways, I think Leroy was like that too. He wasn't all trying to be clever and "interactive," just getting deep, deep into the groove.

    If one of the things I've learned from Ron Carter is that you can find endless new ideas to play basslines on even the simplest chord progressions, then one of the things I've learned from Leroy Vinnegar is that even a single line repeated many times can be just as great, if it's played with depth and conviction.

    As to records, his leader records "Leroy Walks" and "Leroy Walks Again" are great, real favourites of mine. The other famous ones make good starting points: Shelley Manne's "My Fair Lady," where Leroy achieves the near impossible task of making Andre Previn almost sound like he's swinging :) and Les McCann's "Swiss Movement"

    Leroy. Yeah.
    kmkellner likes this.
  10. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    I used to play a steady at this club here in Chicago. Every gig this older guy would come in and announce his presence with "Hell yeah, Walk it Leroy". At the time I had no idea what he was talking about. Later I talked to him and he said my playing reminded him of Leroy Vinnegar. I went out a bought a Jazz Crusaders recording. Needless to say I was flattered.

    This is an especially fond memory because the guy stopped coming. We asked the owner what happened. Apparently he was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor and died a short while later. A great jazz fan.
  11. hell yes! leroy is the man! what a terribly underrated, and overlooked master. if you don't have Sonny Rollins And The Contemporary Leaders, you've gotta get that one! that is how bass should be played! to expand on what was said before, the way leroy walked his solos is just awesome. the truth is, that while bass solos are very cool, in the old days, everybody had to drop out in order for the bass solo to be heard. and alot of times, a tune would just feel like it almost lost all it's momentum when the bass player soloed. leroy's walking solos kept things pumping. he just drove the band. and they were always great lines with just the right content. he was supportive, and melodic at the same time. hats off to leroy!
  12. One of my favorite recordings involving Leroy is Gerry Mulligan's recording with Ben Webster. Apparently at the time, Leroy was playing on a regular basis with Gerry, Jimmy Rowles and Mel Lewis. Great small group arrangements, especially on Duke's In A Mellow Tone.
  13. fish slapper

    fish slapper

    Nov 17, 2005
    Newberg, OR
    We are lucky here in Portland, as this is where Leroy lived out the end of his life. He had a steady weekly gig here in the 90s. He left Portland State University some money in his will and they have named their Jazz program after him in appreciation.

    My teacher has me working on tunes from the "Leroy Walks" album. If there's ever a Bass dictionary, next to the word "walk" would be Leroy's picture.

  14. Andy Allen

    Andy Allen "Working Bassist"

    Aug 31, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA
    Absolutely...and it's very cleanly recorded and mixed, so that you can hear Leroy's playing clearly. He's actually panned towards the right stereo speaker, so if you listen on headphones and remove the left earpiece (as I am doing right now) you can hear him even better - and what a great tone he has.

    Ooops, I just did...actually there's three...one extra that he did much later in his carreer "Walkin' the Basses" ( http://www.emusic.com/artist/10568/10568573.html )

    It always annoys me when bass players play flashy stuff that shows them off but doesn't add (perhaps even detracts from) the music. Especially when it's me doing it :rollno: I try very hard to adhere to the Leroy Vinnegar school of bass playing.."less is more." He was truly a master of that.
  15. RD


    Jun 17, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    It sounds like this gentleman was exactly what I aspire to. I'm sad that I was unaware of him while he lived.
    Time to head to the record shop!
    kmkellner likes this.


    Aug 26, 2005
    In addition to "Leroy Walks" and "Leroy Walks Again" and his other recorded work as a sideman, you may be able to lay your hands on a super recording called, "BOSS OF THE WALKING BASS." It is a live trio set from 1996 recorded at "Atwaters" in Portland. (Super) Pianist Jessica Williams is actually the leader on this date, with Mel Brown on drums, but instead of making it a Jessica Williams album, she graciously turned the set into a tribute to Leroy. It is one of those superb recordings you just want to put on your close at hand shelf and play over and over again. The album was produced by a Canadian label called JAZZ FOCUS RECORDS, Calgary Alberta, and it was released in 2000. The catalog number is: JFCD036. The songs are: COLD DUCK TIME; SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET; CARAVAN; WESTERN CIVILIZATION BLUES; I'M IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE; MAKIN' WHOOPEE; CANADIAN SUNSET; BIRK'S WORKS; YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT LOVE IS." If You love Leroy, get this!
  17. bassgeek

    bassgeek Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Asheville, NC
    I'll third Blindeddie and Airbass' recommendation of "Sonny Rollins and the Contemporary Leaders". Leroy kills on that album. On the two blindingly fast versions of "The Song is You" he walks in "two" through the whole tune and it really holds the band together.
  18. Andy Allen

    Andy Allen "Working Bassist"

    Aug 31, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA
    I heard "Who's Got Rhythm?" from the Gerry Mulligan meets Ben Webster album on KJAZZ this morining in the car on my way to work. Leroy was coming across loud 'n' clear - I could tell it was he straight away. And a quick look at allmusic.com once I got to work confirmed this.

    I'll be looking out for that CD at Amoeba records now.

  19. Stan Haskins

    Stan Haskins

    Nov 17, 2005
    NY and Miami
    I'm kind of surprised nobody has mentioned the Serge Chaloff album, "Blue Serge". Leroy played great, focused timekeeping on that (as always) and also played a fairly well-known solo introduction on "I've Got the World on a String"
  20. Ben Rolston

    Ben Rolston Supporting Member

    Aug 30, 2006
    Brooklyn, NY
    My piano playing friend has a teacher who played with Mr. Vinnegar a while back somewhere westernly (Las Vegas maybe?) for a while. The teacher's name is Tad Weed, if anyone wants to know. Anyway the deal is that:

    Leroy, Tad and a drummer got a engagement at this club which was in danger of closing. After playing there for a while, they are informed that the bar will be closing/changing ownership, and that it will become a country-western bar. Of course they don't want to lose their gig, so Leroy goes a talks to the manager. He convinces them to keep the club open for another couple months (presumably to finish the contract). He not only is able to keep the club open but he convinces the manager to give the group a raise in pay, up to around $200 a person for a couple nights a week.:eek:

    I just find this story to be hilarious, especially considering that $200 a night is a ridiculous amount of money for a steady gig at a club.
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