Al McKibbon was a premier Bassist of the early swing and BePop era. He's played with Dizzy, Coleman Hawkins, Lucky Millinder, Count Basie, Miles Davis, T.S.Monk and the list go on. In 1999 Al but out his first CD as a leader called "Tumbao Para lus Congueros de mi Vida" Al McKibbon Passed in 2005 at the age of 86.
His first musical influence was his father, who played tuba and guitar, and his mother, who sang. He was also strongly influenced by records and player piano rolls. Vaudeville was still alive back then and he became a dancer, self taught of course. At one point his older brother, who was a guitarist and played with the local Mid-West Territorial Orchestras, told him to pay attention to the string bass. Replacing the tuba, the string bass was coming into it's own as a jazz rhythm instrument. Consequently, upon entering high school he took a music course with bass as his major. There
is a very reputable high school in Detroit that he attended, called Cass Tech. This school spawned many known jazz players such as Gerald Wilson, J.C. Heard, Wardell Grey and many others.
Locally, He first played in an old style club called B & C, which featured old time singers and dancers. Later he worked with Kelly Martin's band at the Congo Club, and with Ted Bruckners's band as a player and singer. Ted was the famed alto player with Jimmy Lunceford's band.
During the WWII, Lucky Millinders Band came to Detroit's Paradise Theater. George Duvivier was eventually drafted and at the recommendation of Billy Bowen, a Detroit saxophonist who was in the band, he finished the engagement at the Paradise Theater. Subsequently, he rejoined the band in Washington, D.C. at the Howard Theater. From there, they went to New York City.
After about a year with Lucky, he joined Tab Smith's group. This enabled him to stay in New York. It was there that he was introduced to 52nd Street where he worked with Coleman Hawkins in 1944. This led to his working with J.A.T.P., J.C. Heard's Cafe Society group, Dizzy Gillespie in late '47, Birdland House Group, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis and Gil Evans "Birth of the Cool", George Shearing for six years, and Cal Tjader for one year.
Wishing to do studio work and live in California, he made the big move in 1958. In California he studied with Herman Rheinshagen, formerly with the New York Philharmonic.
He played a Jacob Steiner Bass that was made in 1650.***(Recollections have been adapted from Al Mckibbon)
Al was such a pleasure to talk too.
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