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Jimmy Garrison

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Jimmy Garrison
Garrison playing, c. 1960s
Garrison playing, c. 1960s
Background information
Birth nameJames Emory Garrison
Born(1934-03-03)March 3, 1934
Miami, Florida, U.S.
DiedApril 7, 1976(1976-04-07) (aged 42)
New York City[1]
GenresJazz, modal jazz, free jazz, hard bop, post-bop
Instrument(s)Double bass
Years active1957-1976
LabelsImpulse! Records

James Emory Garrison (March 3, 1934 – April 7, 1976)[2] was an American jazz double bassist. He is best remembered for his association with John Coltrane from 1961 to 1967.[3]


Garrison was born in Miami, Florida and moved to Philadelphia when he was 10, where he learned to play bass during his senior year of high school.[4] Garrison came of age in the 1950s Philadelphia jazz scene, which included fellow bassists Reggie Workman and Henry Grimes, pianist McCoy Tyner and trumpeter Lee Morgan. Between 1957 and 1962, Garrison played and recorded with trumpeter Kenny Dorham; clarinetist Tony Scott; drummer Philly Joe Jones; and saxophonists Bill Barron (musician), Lee Konitz, and Jackie McLean, as well as Curtis Fuller, Benny Golson, Lennie Tristano, and Pharoah Sanders, among others.[1] In 1961, he recorded with Ornette Coleman, appearing on Coleman's albums Ornette on Tenor and The Art of the Improvisers. He also worked with Walter Bishop, Jr. and Cal Massey during the early years of his career.

He formally joined Coltrane's quartet in 1962, replacing Workman.[4] The long trio blues "Chasin' the Trane" is one of his first recorded performances with Coltrane and Elvin Jones. Garrison performed on many Coltrane recordings, including A Love Supreme.[4] After John Coltrane's death, Garrison worked and recorded with Alice Coltrane, Hampton Hawes, Archie Shepp, Clifford Thornton and groups led by Elvin Jones.[3]

Garrison also worked with Ornette Coleman during the 1960s, first recording with him in 1961 on Ornette on Tenor.[4] He and Elvin Jones recorded with Coleman in 1968, and have been credited with eliciting more forceful playing than usual from Coleman on the albums New York Is Now! and Love Call.

In 1971 and 1972, Garrison taught as a Visiting Artist at Wesleyan University[5] and Bennington College.[6]

Personal life[edit]

Garrison had four daughters and a son. With his first wife Robbie he had three daughters, Robin, Lori and Italy based jazz vocalist Joy Garrison. With his second wife, dancer and choreographer Roberta Escamilla Garrison, he had Maia Claire,[7] and jazz bassist Matt Garrison.

Jimmy Garrison died of lung cancer on April 7, 1976.[4]

Music and playing style[edit]

Garrison was known for his inventive and melodic basslines, often using broken time and avoiding straight quarter notes as in a traditional walking bassline, to suggest the time and pulse rather than to outright play it. He was also known for his frequent use of double stops, and for strumming the strings of the bass with his thumb. Garrison would often play unaccompanied improvised solos, sometimes as song introductions prior to the other musicians joining in, and occasionally used a bow. Garrison had a uniquely heavy and powerful gut string tone.


As leader[edit]

As sideman[edit]

With Lorez Alexandria

With Bill Barron

With Walter Bishop Jr.

With Benny Carter

With Ornette Coleman

With Alice Coltrane

With John Coltrane

With Ted Curson

With Nathan Davis

  • Rules of Freedom (Polydor, 1969)

With Bill Dixon

With Kenny Dorham

With Curtis Fuller

With Beaver Harris

  • From Ragtime to No Time (360 Records, 1975)

With Elvin Jones

With Philly Joe Jones

With Lee Konitz

With Rolf Kühn and Joachim Kühn

With Cal Massey

With Jackie McLean

With J. R. Monterose

  • Straight Ahead (Jaro, 1959, also issued as The Message)

With Robert Pozar

  • Good Golly Miss Nancy (Savoy, 1967)

With Sonny Rollins

With Tony Scott

  • Golden Moments (Muse, 1959 [1982])
  • I'll Remember (Muse, 1959 [1984])

With Archie Shepp

With Clifford Thornton

With McCoy Tyner


  1. ^ a b "Jimmy Garrison Biography, Songs, & Albums". AllMusic. Retrieved September 3, 2021.
  2. ^ Kernfeld, Barry (2002). "Garrison, Jimmy". In Barry Kernfeld (ed.). The new Grove dictionary of jazz, vol. 2 (2nd ed.). New York: Grove's Dictionaries Inc. p. 18. ISBN 1561592846.
  3. ^ a b Kelsey, Chris. "Allmusic Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2012-06-25.
  4. ^ a b c d e Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. pp. 946/7. ISBN 0-85112-939-0.
  5. ^ "Garrison, Jimmy (James Emory) – Jazz.com | Jazz Music – Jazz Artists – Jazz News". Archived from the original on 2015-08-22. Retrieved 2015-11-24.
  6. ^ The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz, Feather & Gitlin, 2007, Oxford, p. 92
  7. ^ "About: Maia Claire Garrison". Reel.Dance.Music. Archived from the original on January 13, 2022. Retrieved September 3, 2021.