Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...


Charles Fambrough: A Friend Unlike Any Other, R.I.P.

Mark Kramer By

Sign in to view read count
For my dear friend Charles, my second Brother:

Bassist Charles Fambrough, born in Philadelphia on August 25th, 1950 and known as "Broski," died on January 1st, 2011 at 5:00 p.m. with his daughter and wife at his side. Reportedly, he ever-so-gently squeezed their hands as he held them, and smiled. Then he was gone.

When All About Jazz Publisher Michael Ricci asked me whether anybody was writing a tribute piece for Charles, a robust, world-acclaimed bassist, family man and my closest friend, it became clear that I should do so, even if it were redundant. Please abide with me, as I'm not a professional writer, I am writing as a friend. We were very close; I am in grief, and have not attempted to take myself out of the picture.

He had been suffering for several years with diabetes. With the endless devotion of his wife Delores, and the support of his four children, a grandchild, his mother and friends, a committed medical team and his unstoppable optimism, he likely survived his advanced diabetic condition a year or two longer than anyone thought possible. As with many suffering from diabetes, Charles endured end-stage kidney failure, a failing heart, and outpatient and inpatient dialysis. Above all, he neither brought this on, nor dismissed his responsibility towards this malady. He was noble throughout.

Our friendship began about 45 years ago, 1965: I was 19, he was 15. He had been playing for a little over two years, and would receive a scholarship to study classical music a little later. Charles, drummer Eric Gravatt and I (a jazz pianist) were nearly inseparable, hanging out and playing gigs for nearly three years. In those times we took public transportation, come rain or snow. As the pianist with free hands, I often helped shoulder his bass up onto and off the bus. In that circle was also Stanley Clarke, Daryl Brown, Larry DiTomasso, Bob and Harriet Cohen (the latter deceased), pianist Alfie Pollitt, and many others. As bassists, Stanley Clarke and Charles were very close: sharing their latest discoveries, listening to the latest album, comparing notes. Charles' first wife was Stanley's sister, and their son Mark was, according to Charles, named after me!

John Coltrane and his music were our main muse. Miles Davis (especially with Tony Williams and Herbie Hancock) and Thelonious Monk were there, too. The seriousness with which Charles embraced each new release was memorable. Even from that age, Charles recognized and articulated "the key" to the music. To paraphrase what he said then, and also just a month ago, "It is not in the notes, but in the attitude. It is in our history." Charles' and Eric's dream was to play with John Coltrane. But that could not be, as John died in 1967. Fortunately, in about 1966, Charles, Eric, and I stood at the side door of Pep's at South and Broad in Philly, and through the garish light of that narrow kitchen saw and heard John with McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones. In time Elvin bounded out of the side door on the break, and Charles asked if he could get us in. That's when Elvin, eyes ablaze, asked Charles to get their group to the high school!

While still in Philly just a couple of years later, Charles joined Grover Washington, Jr. as the latter was making his mark in the world of "crossover jazz." Yet, Charles' deepest wish was to play with McCoy. This did indeed come to pass just before the 1970s. Thus a young Charles can be heard playing on McCoy's Focal Point (Original Jazz Classics (1976), The Greeting (Original Jazz Classics (1978), and Horizon (Milestone, 1980) as I recall In that band, Charles met Joe Ford, who remained a lifetime friend of his, and mine as well.

McCoy was everything in life that he wished at the time. In fact, Eric and Charles both joined the band. Charles would come to say more than once in just the past decade, "What else is there, when one has already had one's wish granted?"

To the very end he held Herbie and McCoy in highest regard. He also was a huge Ray Brown fan. And whenever we would play together, for the so many times we did over the next 45 years, he would at times ask me to play like Oscar Peterson, mainly the blues. He loved laying down those monstrously huge grooves, loved to play like Herbie ("Maiden Voyage," "Bedtime Story," "One Finger Snap") so he could display and enjoy his sophistication in harmonic inversion points and "up and down" swing; like McCoy, for the sheer power of the Broski pedal point; and finally, like Bill Evans. The latter might be surprising to some, as Charles would not seem to be a fan of that impressionistic, classically oriented style of jazz. But, he was trapped in a social closet of sorts. He often asked me to play "Emily," "Someday My Prince Will Come," or "My Romance" for example.


comments powered by Disqus

Shop Music & Tickets

Click any of the store links below and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

Related Articles

Read Polish Jazz: Under The Surface From Far and Wide
Polish Jazz: Under The Surface
by Ian Patterson
Published: July 7, 2018
Read Ryles Jazz Club Closes From Far and Wide
Ryles Jazz Club Closes
by Paul Combs
Published: June 24, 2018
Read Improvising Where No Man Has Gone Before: Encountering William Shatner, Star Trek, And “The Wrath Of Khan” From Far and Wide
Improvising Where No Man Has Gone Before: Encountering...
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: May 22, 2018
Read The World's First International Online Contest by 7 Virtual Jazz Club From Far and Wide
The World's First International Online Contest by 7...
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: January 3, 2017
Read Jazz In Buenos Aires: Fresh Breezes From The South From Far and Wide
Jazz In Buenos Aires: Fresh Breezes From The South
by Mark Holston
Published: September 25, 2015
Read Colombian Festivals: Exotic Jazz Cocktails From Far and Wide
Colombian Festivals: Exotic Jazz Cocktails
by Mark Holston
Published: August 20, 2015
Read "Ryles Jazz Club Closes" From Far and Wide Ryles Jazz Club Closes
by Paul Combs
Published: June 24, 2018
Read "Polish Jazz: Under The Surface" From Far and Wide Polish Jazz: Under The Surface
by Ian Patterson
Published: July 7, 2018
Read "A Conversation With Adi Meyerson" Radio A Conversation With Adi Meyerson
by Lorens Chuno
Published: October 7, 2018
Read "Leni Stern: Finally The Fame Has Come" SoCal Jazz Leni Stern: Finally The Fame Has Come
by Jim Worsley
Published: February 9, 2018
Read "Live From New York: Sō Percussion, Jack Quartet, Mette Rasmussen, Tashi Dorji & Godspeed You! Black Emperor" Live From New York Live From New York: Sō Percussion, Jack Quartet, Mette...
by Martin Longley
Published: March 25, 2018
Read "Meet Maurice Edwards" Out and About: The Super Fans Meet Maurice Edwards
by Tessa Souter and Andrea Wolper
Published: March 5, 2018
Read "All Over the Map with Losen Records" Multiple Reviews All Over the Map with Losen Records
by Geno Thackara
Published: November 2, 2018
Read "Mark F. Turner's Best Releases Of 2017" Best of / Year End Mark F. Turner's Best Releases Of 2017
by Mark F. Turner
Published: January 3, 2018