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Mon, 04.22.1935

Paul Chambers, Jazz Bassist born.

Paul Chambers

*Paul Chambers was born on this date in 1935. He was a Black jazz double bassist.

Paul Laurence Dunbar Chambers Jr. was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Paul Lawrence Chambers and Margaret Echos. He was raised in Detroit, Michigan, following the death of his mother. He began playing music with several of his schoolmates on the baritone horn. Later, he took up the tuba. Chambers switched to the double bass around 1949.

His formal bass training began in earnest in 1952, when he started taking private lessons with Gaston Brohan, principal bassist of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Chambers played classical music with a rehearsal group called the Detroit String Band. He intermittently studied at Cass Technical High School from 1952 to 1955 and played in Cass' symphony and various other student groups.  From 1954 through 1955, he gained significance touring with such musicians as Bennie Green, Quinichette, George Wallington, J. J. Johnson, and Kai Winding.

In 1955, he joined the Miles Davis quintet and won the Downbeat "New Star Award" the following year. Chambers stayed with the group until 1963 and appeared on many classic albums, including Kind of Blue. One of his most noted performances was on that album's first track, "So What," which opens with a brief duet featuring Chambers and pianist Bill Evans. From 1963 until 1968, Chambers played with Wynton Kelly's trio. He freelanced frequently as a sideman for many others throughout his career.  

During his lifetime, Paul Chambers developed addictions to both alcohol and heroin. He was hospitalized at the end of 1968 with what was thought to be a severe case of influenza, but tests revealed that he had tuberculosis. Chambers lapsed into a coma for 18 days as his organ functions deteriorated. His addictions to heroin and alcohol contributed to his health problems. On January 4, 1969, he died of tuberculosis, aged 33.

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