Wilbur Ware?

Discussion in 'Recordings [DB]' started by AlexFeldman, Apr 10, 2001.

  1. AlexFeldman


    Jun 18, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    I've been hearing/reading about a bassist named Wilbur Ware. Does anyone know of a good recording that he plays on?
  2. acousticdave


    Dec 29, 2000
    He is on a Sonny Rollins recording 'Live at the Vanguard' and did alot of stuff with Thelonious Monk. Check him out for sure.
  3. He played with Monk. I believe he replaced Oscar Pettiford. It's ashame, IMO, Ware was a terrible soloist. I think his solo on Well You Needn't (Monk's Music version) might be the solo that started all the jokes about bad bass solos. His basslines are OK, but I think Pettiford was more interesting.
  4. I have to disagree that Wilbur Ware was a bad soloist.
    The guy had such an amazing groove, and his solo on Monk's "Epistrophy", and Sonny's version of "Softly as in a Morning Sunrise" (I favor the one on Vol.1) are studys in hip, swinging lines.
  5. I just listened to "Epistrophy," it's not as bad as "Well You Needn't," but it's pretty poor; very unmelodic and directionless. To me it sounds like he just didn't know what to play, there's parts that sound like basslines, and then some crap that doesn't make much sense is thrown in. Is basslines are as you say, "studies in hip, swinging lines," but his solos just sound like he was to high to think clearly. Compare his solos (the two I'm familiar with are on Well You Needn't and Epistrophy from _Monk's Mood_) with some of his contemporaries; Paul Chambers, Oscar Pettiford, Mingus. These cats played some stuff.

    Maybe you could share with us what about Wilbur Ware's solos is so hip and swinging. The part where he plays a short figure outlining the chord and repeats it up a half-step, then plays it again down a half-step, then up, then down, etc.? The part where he walks a few bars then plays a few descending double-stops that sound totally out of context and meaningless? The part where he plays a descent little ascending figure (read: scale) but then fluffs a note in what sounds like is probably low thum position so he jumps back down to some note that if it sounded any more random one might think he was playing free? Or is it the part where he plays a little syncopated dotted rythm thing but destroys the nice little groove he had just set up with more walking bass in the previous measure or two?
  6. I have the name of a good therapist, if you're ever looking to work on your large amount of unresolved and very thoughtfully articulated hostility towards a bass player who lived and died quite a while ago.

    Your opinion makes a lot of sense, the points you raise are valid, of coarse. Given the virtuosi nature of his contemporaries, W.W.'s solos seem a bit simple. However, Ware was a virtuoso, in that he had as strong and identifiable sense of time as anyone who has played jazz. He was beyond solid. This is evidenced by the company he kept, and the legends who hired him and gave him space to solo.
  7. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Hmmm.. interesting disagreements! I had a look at the Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD and there are a very large number of records that he played on and even one solo album mentioned. "The Chicago Sound".

    The Guide mentions what might cause disagreements - it say that he was "self-taught" and a highly individual performer with an umistakable low-register sound- but that this was what people like Monk liked about him! So here is a quote :

    "Ware's technique has been questioned but seems to have been a conscious development, a way of hearing the chord rather than a way of skirting his own shortcomings. He could solo at speed, shifting the time-signature from bar to bar while retaining an absolutely reliable pulse. Significantly, one of his most important employers was Thelonious Monk, who valued displacements of that sort within an essentially four-square rhythm and traditional tonality; the bassist also contributed substantially to one of Sonny Rollins' finest recordings."
  8. Dig Wilbur Ware

    Dig Wilbur Ware

    Mar 7, 2003
    Here's an almost complete Wilbur Ware sessionography from the Lord discography, available at www.cadencebuilding.com

    Jimmy Chapin Profile of a Jazz Drummer Classic Jazz Ed CJ78 1/1/55

    >Music Minus One Music Minus One 3 1/1/55

    >Music Minus One Music Minus One MM0125 1/1/55

    >Sun Ra Deep Purple Saturn 485 1/1/55

    >Johnny Griffin J.G. Argo LP624 1/1/56

    >Art Blakey Originally Columbia FC38036 6/25/56

    >Rita Reys Philips (Du) 422259PE 6/25/56

    >Matthew Gee Jazz by Gee Riverside RLP12-221 8/22/56

    >Ernie Henry Presenting Ernie Henry Riverside RLP12-222 8/23/56

    >Ernie Henry Last Chorus Riverside RLP12-266 8/30/56

    >J. R. Monterose Blue Note BLP1536 10/21/56

    >J. R. Monterose Blue Note CDP8-29102-2 [CD] 10/21/56

    >Lee Morgan Indeed! Blue Note BLP1538 11/4/56

    >Lee Morgan The Complete Blue Note Lee Morgan Fifties Sessions Blue Note MQ6-162 11/4/56

    >Zoot Sims Zoot! Riverside RLP12-228 12/13/56

    >Kenny Drew A Harold Harland Showcase Judson L3005 1/1/57

    >Kenny Drew I Love Jerome Kern Riverside RLP12-811 1/1/57

    >Kenny Drew A Harry Warren Showcase Judson L3004 2/1/57

    >Kenny Drew This is New Riverside RLP12-236 3/28/57

    >Thelonius Monk with John Coltrane Riverside RLP12-235 4/16/57

    >Thelonius Monk with John Coltrane Riverside (J) VIJ-5102-23 4/16/57

    >Hank Mobley Hank Blue Note BLP1560 4/21/57

    >Herbie Mann The Jazz We Heard Last Summer Savoy MG12112 5/2/57

    >Thelonius Monk Monk's Music Riverside RLP12-242 6/26/57

    >Thelonius Monk with John Coltrane Riverside RLP490 6/26/57

    >Thelonius Monk Monk's Music OJC CD084-2 6/26/57

    >Thelonius Monk with John Coltrane Jazzland JLP46 7/1/57

    >Various Artists Blues for Tomorrow Riverside RLP243 7/3/57

    >Sonny Clark Dial S for Sonny Blue Note BLP1570 7/21/57

    >John Jenkins Jenkins, Jordan & Timmons New Jazz LP8232 7/26/57

    >Thelonius Monk and Gerry Mulligan Mulligan Meets Monk Riverside RLP12- 247 8/12/57

    >Thelonius Monk and Gerry Mulligan Mulligan Meets Monk Riverside (I) 4004/7 8/12/57

    >Ernie Henry Seven Standards and a Blues Riverside RLP12-248 9/30/57

    >Kenny Drew Jazz Impressions of Pal Joey Riverside RLP12-249 10/15/57

    >Dick Johnson Most Likely... Riverside RLP12-253 10/30/57

    >Sonny Rollins A Night at the Village Vanguard Blue Note BLP1581 11/3/57

    >Sonny Rollins A Night at the Village Vanguard, Vol. 2 Blue Note CDP7-46518- 2

    >Kenny Dorham Two Horns, Two Rhythm Riverside RLP12-255 12/2/57

    >Toots Thielemans Man Bites Harmonica Riverside RLP12-257 12/30/57

    >Johnny Griffin Sextet Riverside RLP12-264 2/25/58

    >Thelonius Monk Blues Five Spot Milestone M9124 2/25/58

    >Johnny Griffin Way Out! Riverside RLP12-274 2/26/58

    >Blue Mitchell Big Six Riverside RLP12-273 7/2/58

    >Music Minus One Music Minus One 4001 1/1/60

    >Tina Brooks The Complete Blue Note Recordings of the Tina Brooks Quintets
    Mosaic MR4-106 3/2/61

    >Clifford Jordan Starting Time Jazzland JLP52 6/14/61

    >Grant Green Remembering Blue Note (J) GXF-3071 8/29/61

    >Charles Moffett The Gift Savoy MG12194 1/1/69

    >Clifford Jordan In the World Strata-East SES19721 5/1/69

    >Archie Shepp For Losers Impulse AS-9188 8/26/69

    >Archie Shepp Kwanza Impulse AS-9262 8/26/69

    >Cecil Payne Zodiac Strata-Ease SES19734 1/1/70

    >Savina Savina and All That Gentle Jazz Rave LPS502 1/1/70

    >Paul Jeffrey Family Mainstream MRL376 1/1/72

    >Walt Dickerson Tell Us Only the Beautiful Things Whynot (J) PA7118 7/21/75

    >Clifford Jordan Remembering Miou-Miou Muse MR5105 5/18/76
  9. Dig Wilbur Ware

    Dig Wilbur Ware

    Mar 7, 2003
    Rhythm, swing, time, intervals. A Genius Feel.
    Natural (Tap dancer and drummer prior to bassist)
    Unschooled, i.e. did not read music. (Which he regretted as the obstacle that kept him out of the Ellington bass chair).
    Modern/Avant, innate harmonic concept.
    Soulful and spritual.

    Look elsewhere for hornlines, arco solos, and the usual melodic orthodoxies!
    One Drop likes this.
  10. Dig Wilbur Ware

    Dig Wilbur Ware

    Mar 7, 2003
    From bassist John Goldsby's site:

    Column: "The Tradition"

    "Wilbur Ware"
    by John Goldsby

    July, August 1994, used by permission ©Bass Player Magazine

    Wilbur Ware approached bass playing with a style that was unique among bebop jazz players. Jimmy Blanton influenced most bop-era bassists, including Ware. However, he developed the rhythmic aspects of Blanton's style when most other bassists were focusing on exploring Blanton's melodic and harmonic innovations. Besides Blanton, Ware also cites Chicagoan Israel Crosby as a major influence.

    Wilbur Ware was born September 8, 1923 in Chicago Illinois and learned to play amid the fertile Chicago jazz scene. His foster-father was a preacher who played a few instruments and started Wilbur on banjo, drums, and violin. He took up the bass as a teenager, and worked with local bands around Chicago. When he left the military in 1946, Wilbur hit the jazz scene again. He worked with violinist Stuff Smith, trumpeter Roy Eldrige, and saxophonist Sonny Stitt. His frequent musical associates were saxophonist Johnny Griffin, pianist Junior Mance, and drummer Wilbur Campbell.

    Wilbur Ware joined the Art Blakey band in the summer of 1956 and moved to New York. Ware, like many musicians of that period, was doing drugs and living impulsively. He started recording often for Riverside records, but would constantly have his bass in hock at the pawn shop. "Now as long as I'm working, the fiddle was around, but . . . if I'm not working I'd pawn it and get it out Monday morning."

    Art Blakey had offered to buy a new bass for Wilbur but he declined, not wanting to take advantage of Art. Wilbur eventually ended up with Oscar Pettiford's bass when Oscar moved to Europe in the late 1950's. Ware began working regularly at the Cafe Bohemia, a famous Greenwich Village jazz spot, with players like drummer Max Roach, clarinetist Buddy DeFranco, trumpeter Donald Byrd, and drummer Art Taylor. He was leading the Wilbur Ware trio, usually on Mondays nights, at the Cafe Bohemia and sometimes at Birdland.

    After Wilbur made many records as a sideman for the Riverside label, producer Orrin Keepnews suggested that he lead his own date. By coincidence, some of Wilbur's associates from Chicago happened to be in New York then: Junior Mance, Johnny Griffin, Wilbur Campbell, and John Jenkins. This classic recording from November 18, 1957 is called "The Chicago Sound" (Riverside) and it is available on CD.

    On "The Chicago Sound," Wilbur Ware steps out of his ensemble role occasionally to turn in some great solo spots. On "Body and Soul," the Jimmy Blanton influence is obvious. "Lullaby of the Leaves" is almost entirely a solo bass feature and displays Ware's command of the bebop language.

    The year 1957 was the highpoint of Ware's career and he recorded several classic jazz albums, all for the Riverside record label (now reissued as OJC). His association with pianist Thelonious Monk is well-documented on several recordings. "Thelonious Himself" features just a trio with Monk on piano, John Coltrane on tenor, and Ware on bass. "Thelonious Monk With John Coltrane" is a fiercely energetic recording featuring swing tenor giant Coleman Hawkins alongside the modernist John Coltrane. The same basic aggregation recorded "Monk's Music" (OJC) shortly after the Monk and Coltrane recording. The rhythm section propelled by Ware and drummer Art Blakey, feels great.

    Wilbur Ware's strong point was not his soloing, but his ability to swing the rhythm section. He had a highly developed rhythmic sense and was even called the "Thelonious Monk of the bass." Most bassists after Blanton concentrated on connecting all the notes of a walking bass line. Ware utilized both long and short notes in his bass lines. He let the space between the notes influence the swing of the rhythm, adding variety to the rhythmic flow.

    My favorite recording that features Wilbur Ware is "A Night at the Village Vanguard, Vol. 1 & 2" (Blue Note). This is a live date from November 3, 1957 featuring saxophonist Sonny Rollins, drummer Elvin Jones, and Wilbur Ware.

    This record is a remarkable performance of a trio with only bass, drums, and tenor . . . no chordal instruments! Check out Ware's playing on "Softly As
    In A Morning Sunrise." This is one of the best live jazz albums ever recorded.

    During the sixties and seventies Ware kept working, but he made fewer record dates. He moved to Philadelphia where he died on September 9, 1979. Wilbur Ware was a key player in the lineage of great jazz bassists. He once recalled the players that inspired him: "I came out of the mold of Blanton and Israel Crosby and a few others -- Truck Parham, John Kirby, even Milt Hinton. They all gave me something with which to grow."

    Do you have questions or comments for me? Send me e-mail:

  11. Dig Wilbur Ware

    Dig Wilbur Ware

    Mar 7, 2003
    Great post Jason. I knew I could count on the choir!
    Agreed on Charlie Haden: straight from Wilbur. The Free/Roots/Folk background fit perfectly with Ornette and Blackwell -- very soulful. Non-intellectual, deep, and open. Shame he suffers from tinnitus.

    Have you come upon any younger bassists who cite the Wilbur influence? Someone once mentioned Dennis Irwin... perhaps, but not overt. Good for Dennis! There must be others...

  12. Like they called Ray Brown, "Slam Pettiford." Some people would say that sounding like your heroes is part of the process of eventually finding your own voice but being able to communicate coherently, ie. learning the language.
  13. oliebrice


    Apr 7, 2003
    London, UK
    William Parker (probably my favourite bassist in the world today) claims to have been heavily influenced by Wilbur Ware. He describes his main influences in a number of interviews as being Ware and Jimmy Garrison.
    One Drop likes this.
  14. Bill Morrison

    Bill Morrison

    Jul 31, 2004
  15. abaguer


    Nov 27, 2001
    Milford, NJ
    Pal Joey with Kenny Drew is probably my favorite Wilbur Ware recording. I always dug his feel and groove. There are a lot of guys who don't take great solos but who groove like hell and get hired because they play BASS. Depends who you're working for.
  16. Josh McNutt

    Josh McNutt Guest

    Mar 10, 2003
    Denton, Texas (UNT)
    I'm a huge Sonny Rollins fan, and when I first got the Village Vanguard album, I hated it for about a year. I thought Sonny was awesome on it, but I thought that Wilbur Ware and Elvin Jones both sounded like they didn't know what they were doing--especially the Wilbur Ware solos. In fact, I even loaned it to one of my teachers for a while (intending to give it to him), but I changed my mind eventually. It took me a long time to appreciate those two, but now I think Elvin Jones is cool, and I think Wilbur Ware definitely knew what he was doing. His solos were okay, and I love his bass lines.
  17. abaguer


    Nov 27, 2001
    Milford, NJ
    I just finished listening again to Live at the Village Vanguard. I always liked the solo on Softly and it still sounds really good to me.
    One Drop likes this.
  18. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I was at Jazz Summerschool with Martin Speake (British Alto Sax player/bandleader, who plays with Paul Motian amongst others) last week and funnily enough he recommended this album, as one of his big inspirations and we did a bit of trio playing in his classes - alto, bass and drums - it was an interesting experience - very demanding! ;)
  19. Again, Wilbur Ware played _Bass_ and got maximum sound & feel on whatever fiddle was available.
    He was a genius. At once traditional and avant-garde. He gave his life to his art, but never realized any financial stability.

    To those of you who want to address the Bass and play with soulful feeling, I recommend Wilbur first and foremost.

    Those who dig the generations who've moved into horn lines and long, connected notes can look elsewhere. Your criticisms are merely opinions, but welcome all the same.
    One Drop likes this.
  20. Our criticisms ARE only our opinions....But remember that so are yours and to make the statement that Wilbure was a genius is a little much.
    I think most people over use the word genius to begin with and in my opinion Wilbur was not a genius. Obviously, you really love his playing....I don't know why I said that, except the fact that your opinion is also your post name.....but, more power to you because it's wonderful to be madly in love with a particular artist!
    One thing more. You mention in one of your posts that he had a "genius feel" I think you need to spend some time with your dictionary. I also think that we just have to agree to disagree as they say. When I choose a player (on any instrument) to listen to and somebody would ask me to describe in one word what i'm looking for, that word would have to be BEAUTY in one form or the other. I don't hear alot of what I would call beauty in W.W.s playing.