|Birth name||Robert Henry Timmons|
December 19, 1935|
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
|Died||March 1, 1974
New York City, New York, United States
|Associated acts||Art Blakey|
Robert Henry "Bobby" Timmons (December 19, 1935 – March 1, 1974) was an American jazz pianist and composer. He is best known for his role as sideman in Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers (1958–1961) and as the composer of "Moanin'", "Dat Dere", and "This Here", each of which is typical of his distinctive gospel soul-jazz style.
Timmons was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of a minister. Both of his parents, plus several aunts and uncles, played the piano. From an early age Timmons studied music with an uncle, Robert Habershaw, who also taught McCoy Tyner. After graduating from high school Timmons was awarded a scholarship to study at the Philadelphia Musical Academy. He played as a church organist when young; this influenced his later jazz playing. His first professional performances were in his local area.
Timmons moved to New York in 1954. He played with Kenny Dorham in 1956, making his recording debut with the trumpeter in a live set in May of that year. He went on to play with Chet Baker in 1956–57 (Scott LaFaro was part of this band for a time), Sonny Stitt in 1957, and Maynard Ferguson in 1957–58. Timmons became best-known as a member of Art Blakey's band the Jazz Messengers, which he was first part of from July 1958 to September 1959, including for a tour of Europe. By late 1958 Timmons was sharing bandmate Lee Morgan's East Sixth Street apartment and the pair had bought a piano, allowing Timmons to practice and Morgan to work on composing.:88 From around the time he joined Blakey, Timmons, along with fellow band members, was a heroin user.:90 After leaving Blakey, Timmons joined Cannonball Adderley's band, in October 1959.
Timmons was also known as a composer during this period: The Encyclopedia of Jazz states that his compositions "Moanin'", "This Here", and "Dat Dere" "helped generate the gospel-tinged 'soul jazz' style of [the] late '50s and early '60s.":646 The first was written when Timmons was first with Art Blakey; the others were composed when Timmons was with Adderley. "This Here" (sometimes "Dis Here") was a surprise commercial success for Adderley: recorded in concert in 1959, it was released as part of the The Cannonball Adderley Quintet in San Francisco album while the band was still on tour, and they discovered its popularity only when they arrived back in New York and found crowds outside the Village Gate, where they were due to play.
Timmons was reported to be dissatisfied with the money he had received from "This Here", and was enticed into leaving in February 1960 and returning to Blakey's band by the offer of more pay. He left again in June 1961. Timmons appeared on recordings under other leaders in the late 1950s and early 1960s. One was Nat Adderley's Work Song; Timmons did not appear on all of the tracks, because he had been drinking heavily.
After leaving Blakey for the second time, Timmons formed his own bands, initially with Ron Carter on bass and Tootie Heath on drums. In 1963 Timmons' playing, with Lewis Powers on bass and Ron McCurdy on drums, was described by a Washington Post reviewer as "flexible and adventuresome [...] Glossing over everything is an undeniable sheen of church music and spirituals." By 1965 the same reviewer commented that Timmons was employing musicians who were of much lower ability: "Timmons lacks a certain passion but I wonder if this is not the fault of his sidemen." Recordings as a leader continued, usually as part of a trio or quartet, but his 1967 album Got to Get It! featured him as part of a nonet, playing arrangements by Tom McIntosh. Timmons started playing vibes in the mid-1960s. He occasionally played organ, but recorded only one track on that instrument – a 1964 version of "Moanin'" on From the Bottom.
Timmons' career quickly declined in the 1960s, in part because of drug abuse and alcoholism and partly as a result of frustration at being typecast as a composer and player of seemingly simple pieces of music. Timmons joined Milestone Records around 1967. He played in a quartet led by Sonny Red in 1969, and in a trio backing vocalist Etta Jones the same year.
In March 1974, Timmons died from cirrhosis, at the age of 38, at St Vincent's Hospital in New York. He had been in hospital for a month. He was buried in Philadelphia, and was survived by his wife, Estelle, and son, also Bobby.
Playing style and influence
Timmons was known for using block chords, "a style in which the right hand creates the melody and the left hand moves with the rhythm of the right hand, but does not change voicing except to accommodate the chord changes." His use of them was more aggressive, and less melodic, than that of Red Garland. In the opinion of Scott Yanow, stylistically, "somehow Bobby Timmons never grew beyond where he was in 1960." Gary Giddins, however, highlighted other facets of Timmons' playing: the "lush [Bud] Powell-inspired ballads, his clear, sharp, unsentimental long lines.":50
Timmons wrote "a steady stream of infectious funky tunes", stated Gary Giddins.:50 Timmons dismissed the idea that he was deliberately a composer: "I'm a dilettante as a composer. I have never consciously sat down and tried to write a song." He stated that his method of composing a new song might involve "whistling, playing around with the notes, or at a club. I'll tell one musician to play this note, another that note, and we kick it around."
|1957||Jenkins, Jordan and Timmons||New Jazz||Quintet, with John Jenkins (alto sax), Clifford Jordan (tenor sax), Wilbur Ware (bass) Dannie Richmond (drums)|
|1960||This Here is Bobby Timmons||Riverside||Trio, with Sam Jones (bass), Jimmy Cobb (drums)|
|1960||Soul Time||Riverside||Quartet, with Blue Mitchell (trumpet), Sam Jones (bass), Art Blakey (drums)|
|1960||Easy Does It||Riverside||Trio, with Sam Jones (bass), Jimmy Cobb (drums)|
|1961||In Person||Riverside||Trio, with Ron Carter (bass), Albert Heath (drums); in concert|
|1962||Sweet and Soulful Sounds||Riverside||Trio, with Sam Jones (bass), Roy McCurdy (drums)|
|1963||Born to Be Blue!||Riverside||Trio, with Ron Carter and Sam Jones (bass; separately), Connie Kay (drums)|
|1964||From the Bottom||Riverside||Timmons plays vibes on two tracks, organ on one. Trio, with Sam Jones (bass), Jimmy Cobb (drums). Released 1970|
|1964||Little Barefoot Soul||Prestige||Trio, with Sam Jones (bass), Ray Lucas (drums)|
|1964||Holiday Soul||Prestige||Trio, with Butch Warren (bass), Walter Perkins (drums)|
|1964||Chun-King||Prestige||Trio, with Keter Betts (bass), Albert Heath (drums)|
|1964||Workin' Out!||Prestige||Quartet, with Johnny Lytle (vibes), Keter Betts (bass), William Hinnant (drums); one track is trio, with Sam Jones (bass), Ray Lucas (drums)|
|1965||Chicken & Dumplin's||Prestige||Timmons plays vibes on two tracks. Trio, with Mickey Bass (bass), Billy Saunders (drums)|
|1966||The Soul Man!||Prestige||Quartet, with Wayne Shorter (tenor sax), Ron Carter (bass), Jimmy Cobb (drums)|
|1966||Soul Food||Prestige||Trio, with Mickey Bass (bass), Billy Higgins (drums)|
|1967||Got to Get It!||Milestone||Nonet, with Joe Farrell and James Moody (flute, tenor sax), Hubert Laws (flute), George Barrow (baritone sax), Jimmy Owens (trumpet, flugelhorn), Eric Gale and Howard Collins (guitar; separately), Ron Carter (bass), Billy Higgins and Jimmy Cobb (drums; separately); four tracks are quartet, with Joe Beck (guitar), Carter, Cobb|
|1968||Do You Know the Way?||Milestone||Quartet, with Joe Beck (guitar), Bob Cranshaw (electric bass), Jack DeJohnette (drums); 3 tracks are trio, without Beck|
|1972||Live at the Connecticut Jazz Party||Chiaroscuro||Quartet, with Sonny Red (alto sax), Sam Jones (bass), Mickey Roker (drums); in concert|
- Moanin' (1975)**
- Moanin' Blues (1998)**
- Quartets and Orchestra (2001)** - compiles Got to Get It! and Do You Know the Way?
- Prestige Trio Sessions (2003)** - compiles Little Barefoot Soul and Chun-King
|1958||Adams, PepperPepper Adams||10 to 4 at the 5 Spot||Riverside|
|1959||Adderley, CannonballCannonball Adderley||The Cannonball Adderley Quintet in San Francisco||Riverside|
|1960||Adderley, CannonballCannonball Adderley||Them Dirty Blues||Riverside|
|1960||Adderley, NatNat Adderley||Work Song||Riverside|
|1960||Alexander, JoeJoe Alexander||Blue Jubilee||Jazzland|
|1956||Baker, ChetChet Baker||Chet Baker Quintette||Crown|
|1956||Baker, ChetChet Baker||Chet Baker & Crew||Pacific|
|1956||Baker, ChetChet Baker||Chet Baker Big Band||Pacific|
|1958||Blakey, ArtArt Blakey||Moanin'||Blue Note|
|1958||Blakey, ArtArt Blakey||Drums Around the Corner||Blue Note|
|1958||Blakey, ArtArt Blakey||1958 - Paris Olympia||Fontana|
|1958||Blakey, ArtArt Blakey||Des Femmes Disparaissent [soundtrack]||Fontana|
|1958||Blakey, ArtArt Blakey||Au Club St. Germain, Vol. 1||RCA|
|1958||Blakey, ArtArt Blakey||Au Club St. Germain, Vol. 2||RCA|
|1958||Blakey, ArtArt Blakey||Au Club St. Germain, Vol. 3||RCA|
|1959||Blakey, ArtArt Blakey||At the Jazz Corner of the World, Vol. 1||Blue Note|
|1959||Blakey, ArtArt Blakey||At the Jazz Corner of the World, Vol. 2||Blue Note|
|1959||Blakey, ArtArt Blakey||Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960 [soundtrack]||Fontana|
|1960||Blakey, ArtArt Blakey||The Big Beat||Blue Note|
|1960||Blakey, ArtArt Blakey||Like Someone in Love||Blue Note|
|1960||Blakey, ArtArt Blakey||A Night In Tunisia||Blue Note|
|1960||Blakey, ArtArt Blakey||Meet You at the Jazz Corner of the World, Vol. 1||Blue Note|
|1960||Blakey, ArtArt Blakey||Meet You at the Jazz Corner of the World, Vol. 2||Blue Note|
|1961||Blakey, ArtArt Blakey||Tokyo 1961||Somethin' Else|
|1961||Blakey, ArtArt Blakey||Pisces||Blue Note|
|1961||Blakey, ArtArt Blakey||The Witch Doctor||Blue Note|
|1961||Blakey, ArtArt Blakey||The Freedom Rider||Blue Note|
|1961||Blakey, ArtArt Blakey||Roots & Herbs||Blue Note|
|1961||Blakey, ArtArt Blakey||Art Blakey!!!!! Jazz Messengers!!!!!||Impulse!|
|1958||Burrell, KennyKenny Burrell||Blue Lights, Vol. 1||Blue Note|
|1958||Burrell, KennyKenny Burrell||Blue Lights, Vol. 2||Blue Note|
|1959||Burrell, KennyKenny Burrell||On View at the Five Spot Cafe||Blue Note|
|1960||Cobb, ArnettArnett Cobb||More Party Time||Prestige|
|1960||Cobb, ArnettArnett Cobb||Movin' Right Along||Prestige|
|1956||Dorham, KennyKenny Dorham||'Round About Midnight at the Cafe Bohemia||Blue Note|
|1956||Dorham, KennyKenny Dorham||'Round About Midnight at the Cafe Bohemia, Vol. 2||Blue Note|
|1956||Dorham, KennyKenny Dorham||'Round About Midnight at the Cafe Bohemia, Vol. 3||Blue Note|
|1962||Dorham, KennyKenny Dorham||'Matador||United Artists|
|1959||Farmer, ArtArt Farmer||Brass Shout||United Artists|
|1957||Ferguson, MaynardMaynard Ferguson||Boy with Lots of Brass||EmArcy|
|1957||Fuller, CurtisCurtis Fuller||The Opener||Blue Note|
|1969||Gordon, DexterDexter Gordon||Live at the Left Bank||Prestige|
|1969||Gordon, DexterDexter Gordon||XXL||Prestige|
|1960||Griffin, JohnnyJohnny Griffin||The Big Soul-Band||Riverside|
|1960||Jones, SamSam Jones||The Soul Society||Riverside|
|1962||Lytle, JohnnyJohnny Lytle||Nice and Easy||Jazzland|
|1957||Mobley, HankHank Mobley||Hank||Blue Note|
|1957||Morgan, LeeLee Morgan||The Cooker||Blue Note|
|1960||Morgan, LeeLee Morgan||Lee-Way||Blue Note|
|1956||Ortega, AnthonyAnthony Ortega||Jazz for Young Moderns||Bethlehem; reissued as Earth Dance (FreshSound) with two 1955 tracks|
|1960||Reece, DizzyDizzy Reece||Comin' On!||Blue Note|
|1961||Riverside Jazz Stars, TheThe Riverside Jazz Stars||A Jazz Version of Kean||Riverside|
|1957||Stitt, SonnySonny Stitt||Personal Appearance||Verve|
|1960||Young Lions, TheThe Young Lions||The Young Lions||Vee-Jay|
- Kernfeld, Barry "Timmons, Bobby" The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz (2nd ed.). Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press. Accessed July 29, 2013. (Subscription required.)
- Pagones, John (February 16, 1964) "Timmons Shuns Composer Role" The Washington Post, p. G4.
- Taylor, Leon (June 5, 2000) "Elsie Wright Loved Kids, Fussed at Their Noisy Play" philly.com Accessed July 30, 2013.
- Feather, Leonard and Gitler, Ira (1999) The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz, pp. 646–647. Oxford University Press.
- Williams, Martin (1992) Jazz Changes, p. 108. Oxford University Press.
- McMillan, Jeffery S. (2008) DelightfuLee: the Life and Music of Lee Morgan, University of Michigan Press.
- Bogdanov, Vladimir; Woodstra, Chris; Erlewine, Stephen Thomas (eds.) (2002) The All Music Guide to Jazz, p. 1245. Backbeat Books.
- Sheridan, Chris (2000) Dis Here: a Bio-Discography of Julian "Cannonball" Adderley, pp. 81–83. Greenwood Press.
- Mathieson, Kenny (2012) Cookin': Hard Bop and Soul Jazz 1954–65 Canongate Books.
- Walker, Jesse H. (September 30, 1961) "Theatricals" New York Amsterdam News, p. 19.
- Pagones, John (January 25, 1963) "Timmons Holds Sway at Jazz Mecca" The Washington Post, p. B13.
- Pagones, John (March 12, 1965) "Cocktail Lounges Come into Their Own" The Washington Post, p. B15.
- "Jazz Pianist, Composer of 'Moanin'" (March 3, 1974) The Washington Post, p. D4.
- Giddins, Gary (March 7, 1974) "Bobby Timmons, 1935–1974" The Village Voice, pp. 45, 50.
- West, Hollie I. (November 5, 1967) "A Disc Company Fights the Trend" The Washington Post, p. K4.
- West, Hollie I. (July 3, 1969) "Sparkling Jazz Group" The Washington Post, p. C6.
- West, Hollie I. (July 21, 1969) "Great Jazz of Etta Jones" 'The Washington Post, p. B6.
- "Bobby Timmons, 38, Jazz Pianist, Dead" (March 2, 1974) New York Times, p. 34.
- "Bobby Timmons Buried in Pa." New York Amsterdam News, p. B7.
- Fulton, Champian (September 2011) "The Transcendent Aesthetics of the Block Chord Language" Down Beat, p. 60.
- Yanow, Scott (2003) Jazz on Record: the First Sixty Years , p. 487. Backbeat Books.
- Yanow, Scott "Artist Biography" AllMusic. Accessed July 30, 2013.
- Bogle, Dick (July 11, 2001) "Dick's Picks" The Skanner, p. 11.