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Bassist Al McKibbon Dies

Bassist Al McKibbon, best known for his work combining jazz and Latin music, died July 29 of kidney failure at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles. He was 86.

Born Alfred Benjamin McKibbon in Chicago on Jan. 1, 1919, McKibbon grew up in Detroit in a musical household. After taking up bass at his brother’s urging, he played local night clubs while in high school and, in 1943, moved to New York to play under bandleader Lucky Millinder. In New York, McKibbon played with musicians including Coleman Hawkins and Dizzy Gillespie. It was Gillespie who inspired McKibbon’s interest in combining jazz and Afro-Cuban rhythms.

In 1949, McKibbon recorded with Miles Davis and was featured in Davis’ The Complete Birth of Cool sessions. In the 1950s, McKibbon played and recorded with Thelonious Monk, Earl Hines, Count Basie and Johnny Hodges. His passion for jazz and Latin music was also prominent during this decade, as he spent most of the decade playing with George Shearing and also played with Cal Tjader’s group for two years.

In 1958, McKibbon moved to Los Angeles and did session work up and down the West Coast in the 1960s. He played in the staff orchestras of CBS and NBC and recorded movie soundtracks and albums with Frank Sinatra, Randy Newman, Sammy Davis Jr. and others.

McKibbon was a member of the Giants of Jazz, along with Gillespie and Monk, in 1971 and 1972 and recorded with Benny Carter in 1976. He remained active in the West Coast jazz scene until his death.

McKibbon is survived by his sister, Geraldine, and his daughter, Allison.

Originally Published