05/31/12 By Ed Hamilton
Jimmy Bond: Music & Architecture - A Bonded Design
Ed Hamilton remembers the late jazz bassist (and designer) Jimmy Bond
To borrow a description from Chico Hamilton’s album title, Jimmy Bond was always “A Man of Two Worlds” and both worlds encompassed his artistic inner passions for music and architectural design. He spoke eloquently, dressed GQ, and gave much thought to decisions he made in either arenas before giving his word. His word was his “Bond.” Jimmy recently passed after enduring years with heart problems.
James “Jimmy” Bond played bass and was also an architect whose specialty was designing kitchens and those whose kitchens he designed never knew about his professional jazz bass playing prowess. He was also a crusader—a Jazz Crusader.
The Jazz Crusaders recently reunited in Los Angeles for the first time in 30 years. Joe Sample and I talked about Jimmy Bond, their first bassist on Looking Ahead their first album. Sample remembered, “Jimmy wasn’t our permanent bassist ‘cause no bassist could hear our sound and emotions but he was our first in L.A.”
I never met him but knew his artistry as a musician and architect. He played with the Crusaders on a couple of albums and designed a personal friends’ kitchen. As his bass playing was meticulous, so was his architectural design. Most people hiring him didn’t now know his musical background. He designed my friends’ kitchen. The Browns—Rufus and Eunice (Chris)—called me and asked if I had heard of him. I said I had seen him with the Jazz Crusaders at the Zebra Lounge and the Lighthouse and the Deauville Beach Club in Santa Monica.
I knew him also as Nina Simone’s bassist on her first album Nina Sings the Blues where he collaborated with Albert “Tootie” Heath on drums. This seminal album launched Nina’s career with “I Loves You Porgy.”
Jimmy was born in 1933 in Philadelphia and after high school graduation in ‘55, attended Juilliard while working at the Blue Note, and in also in 1955 joined Chet Baker. He went on to play with Buddy Defranco, Sonny Rollins, Carmen McRae, Art Pepper, Jim Hall, Ben Webster, Jimmy Guiffre, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Gene Ammons, Jimmy Witherspoon, Lightning Hopkins, and the Jazz Crusaders. He later toured with Lou Rawls, Nancy Wilson, Paul Horn, Charles Brown and played on the Quincy Jones soundtrack of Color Purple.
He came to Los Angeles in the early ‘50’s. In the 60’s and ‘70’s he diversified his playing, ignoring the electric bass and, staying with acoustic bass, did studio recording with Frank Zappa, Randy Newman, and Phil Spector.
Acquiring a taste for architectural kitchen designing, Jimmy abandoned his bass and began a new career—acquiring real estate. Jimmy told Rufus he had been designing since he began playing bass in Junior High. He redesigned his parents’ home and said it was the top seller of all houses for sale on their street in Philly.
Rufus can attest to Jimmy’s kitchen design magnificence. “I met him on a job sight of a neighbor. He was doing a house on Longwood up the street from us. When I ran up on him, he drove a convertible Benz and was always clean. He always had a sweater draped around his shoulder—giving orders to the workmen. I introduced myself and asked who he was. I had plans to redo our kitchen and he was a brother. I walked up to him, he told me his name—Jimmy Bond. I said (knowing who he was) I heard of a musician named Jimmy Bond. He started laughing and he said, ‘That’s me. Come over to Tremaine and see this house I’m doing. I’m finishing up and you and your wife can come and look.’” Rufus went on, “After seeing samples of Jimmy’s work in Brentwood, West L.A. and Wilshire, I said I sure like this brother’s work. This brother is bad. I like his work and idealism. I said you got the job—just do it. My wife Eunice still loves it to this day.”
Albert “Tootie” Heath spoke of their friendship and collaboration w/Nina on Nina Sings the Blues. Tutti reminisced: “I met Jimmy Bond at 17 or 18 years old in Philly. I did become friends with Jimmy not remembering exactly where we met. He would contract piano players to play at the different fraternity houses: Rayfield Bryant, Sam Dockery who was available around Philly in those days (Art Blakey alumnus) and is still around in Camden, N.J.. And Red Garland was around also. So when Nina and Jimmy graduated from Juilliard it was Nina's time I think to do this album. She had Jimmy as contractor playing bass with me on drums and Nina Singing—a trio. We did that “Porgy and Bess” album which was her first professional recording. And from then on, I didn’t see much of Jimmy. I left Philly and went on to New York and Jimmy went on to California. I kept in touch with him every 3 or 4 years. I’d call and say hello and he would call. Our wives knew each other. We’d get together like that.”
Tootie reflected back on seeing Jimmy in California. “The last time i saw him walking around and well was at a club in Pasadena about 5 years ago. I was playing with Monty Alexander. He came in with his wife and we talked briefly. And then, about a year ago I went to his apartment to visit with him ‘cause I heard he wasn’t really doing well. Jimmy had a little oxygen tank he was walking around with. He showed me his bass and said he was gonna get back out and start playing again. He was thinking about it. I hadn’t seen him in about a year and his health went down. Next thing I know, he had passed on. Last time I visited him was out in Westwood.”
Just before we finished talking, Tootie insisted on telling this tidbit about Jimmy’s nuttiness. “I got a thing to tell you about Nina. We were playing in this place on Melrose—The Nucleus Nuance. Billy D, Herbie (Hancock) and his wife use to come in. A lot of celebrities would come in. Nina came in one night and was sitting at a table in the back and the club owner came up to me, he said ‘man do you know who is in the back?’ I said no. He said Nina Simone and he had no idea about the recording with Nina and Jimmy. I hadn’t seen Nina in years, so I went back to say hello to her and I went up to the table and I said hi Nina. And I knew Nina was on some serious medication (because) she was acting very strange—kinda flat. I walked up to her and said I’m Tootie Heath do you remember me? Nina said, ‘Of course I do. How you been and blah blah blah.’ So the next day I called Jimmy Bond and said, ‘Man, guess who I saw in the club last night?’ He said ‘Who?’ I said Nina Simone and I spoke to her and I told her that we would have lunch together, the three of us, and Jimmy said, ‘Man, I don't wanna have no lunch with that crazy bitch.’ Those were the words from his mouth. He was nuts. And that was the last conversation we had about her.”
A bond is a man’s word. Jimmy Bond’s word was his bond. He gave lots of thought to his endeavors—whether having his particular way of doing music or designing kitchens—he gave you his word that he was going to give his best. His word was his bond.
In Jimmy Bonds’ own words, “I always had my particular way of looking at something to get the best out of it. I think on it; I want to do it right.”
He not only gave has best in his architectural design, but also in his chosen vanguard—jazz. With his bass, he was the bottom line on all the gigs and sessions. Standing his ground, Jimmy Bond was terra-firma bass-sonified.
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