The honorific title “statesman of jazz” is one that I don’t use often, but Tampa Bay area bassist John Lamb certainly fits that description.
He began playing the bass in 1951 and joined the legendary Duke Ellington Orchestra in 1964, touring the world with them for three years. Soon after, he moved to St. Petersburg and taught music in the public schools (and at St. Petersburg Junior College), while performing with the best jazz musicians in (and touring through) Florida. Alphonso Johnson, formerly with Weather Report, was one of his bass students. Anyone who gigs with him also receives a real-world education in jazz.
I remember first hearing John Lamb many years ago, performing with the Al Downing Jazz All-Stars. As a 17-year-old kid sneaking into a bar to hear jazz, I was struck with John’s rich sound, perfect time and relaxed confidence. I still feel that way. The electric bass is light, easier to play and haul around, but the double bass has the sound and the drama. The strength and finesse required to play the double bass well makes a strong impression on the listener.
John was recently awarded the Jazz Club of Sarasota’s prestigious “Satchmo Award” for service to jazz. The award was designed by Frank Eliscu, who created the Heisman trophy. Other recipients of the “Satchmo Award” include Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Gerry Mulligan, Lionel Hampton and Branford Marsalis.
Every Wednesday John Lamb performs at the Bilmar Beach Resort in Treasure Island. He gigs often with guitarist Nate Najar and others throughout the Tampa Bay area and Sarasota.
His CD, "Conversations – North of the Border", is available at CD Baby. And check out this unusual video with John Lamb, Duke Ellington and artist Joan Miró in the south of France!
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