“I have to be on the stage. That’s when it comes to me… period.”
He started out on clarinet, then took up the doghouse at age seventeen, honed his craft in military bands in the 1950s, paid his dues as Dinah Washington’s musical director for a few years, migrated to Detroit’s burgeoning jazz scene in the early 60s, then relocated to New York City a few years later to emerge as one of the most versatile and prolific bassists in modern jazz.
An educator, composer, and recording artist, Cecil McBee’s canon spans seminal works by Charles Lloyd, Wayne Shorter, Yusef Lateef, Pharoah Sanders, Alice Coltrane, Joe Farrell, Leon Thomas, Lonnie Liston Smith, and Norman Connors to cite an extremely select few.
McBee’s work in the late 1960s “soul jazz” movement was watershed, as he rendered melodic passages and deep grooves that inspired both upright and electric players.