Gary Peacock, A Jazz Bassist Always Ahead Of His Time, Dies At 85

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Jazz bassist Gary Peacock.

Eliott Peacock/Courtesy of the Peacock Family

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Eliott Peacock/Courtesy of the Peacock Family


Peacock’s personal philosophy enabled him to work with a wide variety of musicians and facilitate great depth in those sessions. In a 2017 interview, he told Ken Bader of the Arts Fuse,»I’m not after my statement or my identity as a bass player or improviser. It’s not about me. It’s about the music. It’s about my responsibility to be in a particular place that other people can share, enjoy and feel something.»

Music Interviews
Bassist Gary Peacock Is At The Soloist’s Service

Gary Peacock was born in Burley, Idaho on May 12, 1935, and he grew up in Yakima, Wash. In high school he played trumpet, piano and drums, and he began to attend the Westlake College of Music in Los Angeles before he was drafted into the Army. He served in Germany, where he played piano in a trio but he switched to bass when the bassist quit. After his discharge he stayed abroad, playing with several notable musicians. Upon his return to Los Angeles, his style, which exuded the influence of jazz greats like Paul Chambers and Ray Brown, won him a steady stream of gigs. His friendship with the great bassist Scott LaFaro led him to the music of Ornette Coleman, which inspired him to envision the bass in a broader musical function beyond timekeeping. A move to New York and collaborations with giants like Davis, Bley, Ayler and Willams established him as a formidable player and his style helped set the template for bassists for the decades to follow.

In the late ’60s, he took a hiatus from music, studying macrobiotic cooking and meditation and even moving to Japan for several years. He told NPR in 2015 that his studies of the Japanese language, with its lack of emphasis of personal pronouns, opened his mind to a sense of selflessness. He resumed playing in the early ’70s and began releasing stellar music under his own name,recordings that conveyed his philosophy of striving to «get out of the way of myself,» and creating collaborative scenarios in service of whichever bandmate was taking a solo — facilitating his bandmates to play the best they’ve ever played.



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