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Jimmy Woode
Article added on April 30, 2005 and updated on May 31, 2005
  
Biography of the bass player Jimmy Woode

After Ray Brown on July 2, 2002 (check the article Superbass), Niels-Henning Ørsted-Pedersen on April 20, 2005 and in addition to the co-founder of the Modern Jazz Quartet, Percy Heath, who died on April 28, 2005, the jazz world has lost another bass icon: Jimmy Woode died unexpectedly of postoperative complications after surgery for a stomach aneurysm in his New Jersey home on April 23, 2005.

James Bryan Woode was born in Philadelphia, PA on September 23, 1929 (some sources indicate 1926 or 1928). He was the nephew of Teddy Hill's trombonist Henry Woode and the son of a well-known music teacher.

Jimmy played the piano in local churches. He studied both piano and bass in Philadelphia and later in Boston. After his time in the army, Jimmy Woode was the singing pianist of the vocal ensemble The Velvetaires until he set up his own trio. An encounter with Mose Allen, the bassist of the Jimmy Lunceford Orchestra, in 1948 made Jimmy Woode adopt the bass as his primary instrument, to which he dedicated the rest of his career.

In 1949, he toured with Flip Phillips and, the following year, recorded with Zoot Sims and Toots Thielemans. Also in 1950 he got the chance to play with jazz greats such as Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan. The list of his collaborations with legendary musicians is almost endless and includes names such as Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis.

For two years, Jimmy Woode was the bass player (Bassist) at George Wein's jazz venue in Boston, the Storyville Club. During this period, he recorded albums with Charlie Parker at the Boston Hi Hat Club. In addition, he collaborated with Billie Holiday and Sydney Bechet.

Jimmy Woode is particularly proud of the more than five years he spent as the bassist of the Duke Ellington Big Band from 1955 to 1959. He was part the band's legendary Newport Festival performance of 1956, which started Ellington's comeback to the front of the jazz scene. 

Jimmy Woode left the United States for Europe in 1960. He first lived in Stockholm, then in Cologne, Amsterdam and Munich before he settled in Zurich (and later in Berne). He lived in Switzerland from the mid-1980s until 2001, when he moved back to the United States.

In 1961 Jimmy Woode joined the Big Band of Francy Boland and Kenny Clarke. He remained the big band's bassist until its dissolution in 1973. In addition, he played with many other American expatriates in Europe, including Bud Powell, Don Byas and Johnny Griffin.

Among the unusual collaborations of recent years, Germans may remember the one in 2002 with the crazy German comedian and entertainer Helge Schneider, an accomplished pianist and saxophone player.

As the former bassist of the Duke Ellington Big Band, Jimmy Woode was a team player who always encouraged fellow musicians. He never tried to overshadow people playing with him.

Jimmy Woody was married and widowed twice. He is survived by four children, including the daughter and singer Shawnn Monteiro of Providence, Rhode Island and by two sisters, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.





Albums and CDs by and with Jimmy Woode

Jimmy Woode was the bassist of the Ellington Big Band at the legendary Newport Festival performance of 1956, which started the band leader's comeback to the front of the jazz scene. Get the CD with the live recording Ellington at Newport 1956 from Amazon.com.


A recording with Jimmy Woode accompanying his daughter, singer Shawnn Monteiro, as well as jazz musicians such as Clark Terry and Jimmy Cobb. Get the live CD One Special Night from Amazon.com.


Updated on May 31, 2005: Jimmy Woode's last recording was released on May 2, 2005: the CD features a trio with Pierre-Alain Goualch on piano and Oliver Strauch on drums. Recorded in Belgium in November 2004, the CD Anatomy of a Trio was produced by Oliver Strauch (Laika Records - Rough Trade). Get the CD from Amazon.de. - The young German drummer and bandleader Oliver Strauch and the French  pianist Pierre-Alain Goualch approached veteran bass player Jimmy Woode with the idea of a CD based on the soundtrack of Otto Preminger's court-room classic Anatomy of a Murder for a reason: The composer of the 1959 movie soundtrack was Duke Ellington and Jimmy Woode was not only part his band, but he can also be seen in the film. Jimmy Woode was thrilled to be part of the project and can even be heard singing on one of the fifteen tracks. The CDs highlight is the film theme composed by Duke Ellington, "Anatomy of a Murder". It is first presented in a medley with "Flirtibird", another composition from the same movie soundtrack, and it returns at the end of the CD as an epilogue. In between, Oliver Strauch contributed four original compositions, Pierre-Alain Goualch and Jimmy Woode ("My Kind of World") one each. This CD is not the highlight of Jimmy Woode's career, but it shows his open mind, ready to embrace interesting projects by aspiring musicians who were not even born when the film Anatomy of a Murder was released. Get the CD from Amazon.de. Check also the biography of Duke Ellington in German and get sheet music by Duke Ellington.

A rare (the only?) recording under his own name: The Colorful Strings of Jimmy Woode, Argo, 1957. Recorded by Jimmy Woode on September 2, 1957 together with famous jazz musicians such as Clark Terry, Paul Gonsalves and Sam Woodyard.



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