In March of 2008, the jazz world lost the irreplaceable Dennis Irwin, a bassist who was a remarkable musician; a beautiful person generous with his time and his heart; and a scholar and facilitator of musical experiences without equal. Since his passing there have been tributes to this world-class sideman, which enumerate the details of his career. Not too many people know that Irwin began playing bass at 19, after years of classical clarinet and playing drums in marching bands and alto sax in R&B settings. He was first attracted to, and able to play bass in, a lot of free jazz settings.
Irwin has enlightening things to say about the psychoacoustic aspects of playing. His remarkable attention to aesthetics--and extensive experience playing chamber music--yield valuable musical lessons for players and listeners alike. He also discusses using gut strings, playing with Junior Cook, what was at the time the current generation of players, and his own philosophy of playing as a privilege and a spiritual duty.
AAJ Contributor Lora Rosner interviewed Irwin in 1994 and, while plenty went on between then and the tragic time of his passing, in this piece Irwin provides background information on how he came to be one of the busiest bassists in modern jazz, while largely operating under the radar.
Check out Dennis Irwin: Respect the Tradition at AAJ today!
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