Cecil McBee

May 19, 1935 --

Cecil McBee, world-acclaimed Bassist, was born and raised in Tulsa,Oklahoma. His musical career began at high school, where he played the clarinet. By the age of 17 and after receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in music education, Cecil had begun to experiment with the string bass and played steadily at local night clubs with top groups.

At the conclusion of his high school career he was offered a full scholarship at Central state University in Wilberforce, Ohio, because his talents on the clarinet had begun to show great promise. And, upon arrival at college he was immediately embraced as both, a fine clarinetist and potentially a promising, young string bassist. To his fortune the academic atmosphere was extremely inspiring, both towards his educational needs as potential instructor as well as string bass performer.

However, his musical education at Central State University was interrupted by the induction into the US army. Here he spent two years as the conductor of the "158th Band" at Fort Knox Kentucky. There he developed a personal study of the possibilities of bass composition and improvisation.

After his discharge from the army, Cecil returned to college to resume his studies and eventually received Bachelor of Science degree in music education. By the time he graduated from college, Cecil realized that although he had prepared for a career in education, he was more inspired by performances of jazz improvisation on the world stage. Because of this, Cecil decided to live in Detroit, then, one of the most powerful jazz communities in the world. Within a year he joined Paul Winter Sextet which turned out to be an open passage for his eventual arrival in New York City.

Since his arrival in New York Cecil McBee has worked, recorded and traveled worldwide with the absolute best, an enormous variety of artists, such as Charles Lloyd, Pharoah Sanders, Elvin Jones, McCoy Tyner, Miles Davis, Bobby Hutcherson, Keith Jarrett, Wayne Shorter, Freddie Hubbard, Sonny Rollins, Joe Henderson, Andrew Hill, Sam Rivers, Michael White, Jackie McLean, Yusef Lateef, Alice Coltrane, Ravi Coltrane, Abdullah Ibrahim, Lonnie Liston Smith, Buddy Tate, Joanne Brackeen, Dinah Washington, Benny Goodman, George Benson, Nancy Wilson, Betty Carter, Art Pepper, Charles Lloyd, Pharoah Sanders, Dave Liebman, Joe Lovano, Billy Hart, Eddie Henderson, Yosuke Yamashita, Billy Harper and Geri Allen.
He established his own group in 1975.


The recipient of two NEA composition grants, McBee has written works that are performed worldwide and have been recorded by Evin Jones, McCoy Tyner, Pharoah Sanders and many others. In 1989 he won a Grammy for his performance of "Blues for John Coltrane" , featuring Roy Haynes, David Murray, McCoy Tyner and Pharoah Sanders,and in 1991 he was inducted into the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame. His music that covers all territories of creative improvisation is unique to his own individuality and features his incredible abilities on the instrument. The title of his latest album "Unspoken" clearly mirorrs a broad creative efford yet to be heard by his fans and the world at large. As one of post bop's most advanced and versatile bassist Cecil McBee creates rich, singing phrases in a wide range of contemporary jazz contexts.

Cecil McBee's Website: www.cecilmcbeejazz.com

Discography (as leader)

  • Mutima (Strata-East Records, 1975)
  • Music from the Source (Enja Records, 1975)
  • Compassion (Enja, 1977)
  • Alternate Spaces (India Navigation, 1979)
  • Flying Out (India Navigation, 1982)
  • Unspoken (Palmetto Records, 1997)