Join University of Northern Iowa Jazz Faculty Alexander Pershounin on string bass, Chris Merz on tenor sax, Anthony Williams on trombone, Mike Conrad on piano, and Josh Hakanson on drums Wednesday, March 31 at 12 p.m. CT at iowapublicradio.org for a concert showcasing the work of Black jazz titans of the string bass.

The set list includes masterpieces by James, “Jimmie” Blanton, Oscar Pettiford, Ray Brown, Paul Chambers, Sam Jones, Charles Mingus, Ron Carter, Percy Heath, and Christian McBride.

The show begins with a work by one of the 20th century’s most influential and innovative string bass players, James Blanton, and ends with a work by Christian McBride.

About the jazz greats featured during the set

James “Jimmie” Blanton (1918-1942):

While string bass has always been considered part of the jazz band rhythm section, jazz critic Kevin Whitehead says Blanton transformed the approach and role of the bass.

Growing up in Chattanooga, Tenn. Blanton played violin until he switched to bass while performing with the Collegians at Tennessee State University and during college breaks with Fate Marable’s riverboat tours, featuring the Cotton Pickers. When Duke Ellington had the chance to hear Blanton’s unbelievable talent, he immediately hired Blanton for his own band.

On NPR’s “Fresh Air” with host David Bianculli, Whitehead claimed that Blanton “revolutionized the instrument.”

“Blanton’s left hand might roam the neck of the bass, grabbing a few odd notes. He broke up his phrasing and got a plump singing tone from plucked strings. Having him in the orchestra gave Ellington fresh ideas.
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