Fambrough, Turrentine At Keswick

Posted: May 01, 1992

It's not unusual in jazz to find vocalists influenced by instrumentalists and instrumentalists inspired by vocalists. The latter is the case with bassist Charles Edward Fambrough.

Fambrough - a Philadelphia native who will be on the bill with Stanley Turrentine at the Keswick Theater in Glenside on Saturday - studied classical

piano throughout his elementary and high school years, but his awareness of the bass register began even earlier.

"My father was a bass singer in the church choir," he noted. "I grew up with that sound, which is why I gravitated to the bass at the age of 13. The first person I tried imitating on the instrument was the bass singer with the Golden Gate Quartet, a gospel group. The second would be Paul Chambers, who was the first jazz bassist I ever heard."

Fambrough, 41, began studying classical bass while in the seventh grade. It was around that time that he met another young Philadelphia bassist, Stanley Clarke - who, of course, went on to fame with Chick Corea's Return to Forever.

Recalling those days, Fambrough said, "I was the one who turned Stanley on to jazz."

During that period, Philadelphia was a fertile area for jazz.

"Around were Lee Morgan, John Coltrane, the Heath Brothers, Shirley Scott, McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Smith and many other great players," Fambrough said. "I was listening to all of them, along with Charlie Parker and Miles. I met Jimmy Garrison during this period, hung out with him and got interested in a lot of stuff through him and also Jimmy Merrit."

Fambrough began working professionally in 1968. He performed with theater pit bands at night and played with the house band for the Mike Douglas Show, which was produced in Philadelphia at the time. During the summer of that year, he took a job at the Concord Hotel in the Catskills, backing such headliners as Frank Sinatra, Nipsey Russell and Xavier Cugat.

Fambrough then went to New York, where he broke into the club scene. "At first it was strictly electric bass gigs, playing funk and R & B," he said, ''but as soon as word got around that I could read and play upright, I started working with the jazz cats."

In 1969, Fambrough returned to Philadelphia and began playing with a local cover group called Andy Aaron's Mean Machine. Also in that band was a young sax player named Grover Washington Jr. When Washington subsequently left to form his own group, Fambrough went along, working with Washington for more than three years.

It was a period of growth and learning, and there was more of the same when, in the mid-70s, Fambrough delved heavily into Brazilian music as a member of Airto Moreira's band. Then, in 1978, Fambrough joined up with McCoy Tyner, with whom the bassist remained for four years before joining Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers for a five-year hitch.

"McCoy showed me how to play with endurance," Fambrough said. "Art gave me refinement."

While toiling with the Jazz Messengers, Fambrough met a gifted young trumpeter named Wynton Marsalis, who eventually hired Fambrough as the bassist for the first Wynton Marsalis Quintet. Fambrough was featured on three Marsalis albums.

When it came time for Fambrough to record his first album as a leader, The Proper Angle (CTI Records), he was ready.

"It really synthesizes the varied playing and touring I have enjoyed in the world of music with people like Grover, Airto, McCoy Tyner and Art Blakey," he said.

Charles Fambrough and Stanley Turrentine at the Keswick Theater, Easton Road and Keswick Avenue, Glenside, at 8 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $17.50. Phone: 215-572-7650.

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