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The number of fantastic improvising musicians not living in the Big Apple has got to be enormous. There must be tens of thousands of unknown creative musicians from Minneapolis to Albany and from Dresden to Osaka living a passionate jazz life struggling to get gigs in their local clubs and recording CD's to sell to their friends and neighbors. Whether hating the idea of living in NYC, fearing the competition or just not having enough bread to survive there, they stay in their hometowns and study the art of improvising, write music and play with as much heart and soul as the big fish in the big pond. One of my favorite people and musicians in the whole world not living anywhere near Brooklyn is the astounding upright and electric bassist Dwayne Dolphin.
I first met Dwayne back over ten years ago on my first European tour with trombonist Fred Wesley. I'll never forget that first moment meeting Dwayne at our first rehearsal. Here was this huge guy with arms that make Arnold Schwarzenegger's look like spaghetti noodles along with a smile that could disarm a charging bull. We talked about our mutual friend Anthony Cox who had introduced us both to Fred Wesley and about our love for all kinds of music. It felt as if we had known each other for years. I knew from that first moment that we would become good friends. Then Dwayne pulled out his double bass and began to play. Talk about a swinging bassist. Lord have mercy! And that was just the beginning. Next he took out his electric bass and showed me that swinging wasn't his only talent. Dwayne could funk and slap with the best of them. Why hadn't I met this guy before? As it turns out Dwayne has always lived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and only makes his way to New York for an occasional gig or recording.
Living in Pittsburgh hasn't hurt Dwayne very much though in terms of getting gigs. By the time he was fifteen he was already on the local Pittsburgh jazz scene working with the legendary drummer Rodger Humphries (on Song For My Father and other Horace Silver classics) and many of the local heroes. Dwayne got his first big break right out of high school when he was recruited by trumpeter Wynton Marsalis to join his band that also included his brother Branford. He toured all over the U.S. with Wynton's quintet and even played with them on the Tonight Show (long before Branford became musical director). After his work with Marsalis Dwayne joined the band of funky blues master Hank Crawford and as his name spread around he went on to work with some of the greatest names in jazz including Hank Jones, Abbey Lincoln, Kenny Burrell, Clark Terry, Pharaoh Sander and too many more to mention.
One of Dwayne's great attributes is his ability to play fantastic in any style. He worked for a long time with modern pianist Geri Allen as well as other contemporary improvisers like Graham Haynes, Don Byron, Oliver Lake and Arthur Blythe. If that isn't enough he's also toured with the funky bands of Maceo Parker, Pee Wee Ellis and of course Fred Wesley. Back in 1994 Dwayne and I along with Bruce Cox on drums formed a cooperative trio called Three of a Kind. We recorded three swinging straight-ahead CD's together, all for Minor Music out of Germany. The first called Three of a Kind featured just the trio. The second we recorded with special guest Stanley Turrentine and was titled Three of a Kind Meets Mr. T for which we received a lot of great reviews. On the third we invited special guest Benny Golson to join us and we called this one Drip Some Grease. Unfortunately this one didn't make it to the states but has done very well in Europe. After recording with Turrentine, Dwayne started working a lot with him until his death a year and half ago. Recently Dwayne can be found playing piccolo bass in his own band called Dwayne Dolphin and Under Cover Project as well as playing and recording quite often with pianist John Hicks.
Recommended CD's to hear Dwayne Dolphin are Maroons by Geri Allen, Something to Live For and Impressions of Mary Lou by John Hicks, Fred Wesley's Amalgamation, any of the Three of a Kind recordings or Dwayne's own Portrait of Adrian (check out some of Dwayne's great compositions on this one). You might even want to hear him on the recently recorded Christmas album with Nancy Wilson. Dwayne Dolphin is a bassist you should know and pay attention to as he definitely has a lot more to say from his home base far from the shores of Manhattan. I myself look forward to seeing that big smiling face on stage again as he walks or funks me to the moon!
See you next time and don't forget to keep in touch!
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.