Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Robert Hurst: Loud and Clear

Bassist Robert Hurst employs old-school values and ancient rhythms to create thoroughly modern music.

Robert Hurst

Bassist Robert Hurst is onstage at Manhattan’s Jazz Standard in January, laying it down alongside drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts-a rhythm partner since the mid-1980s, when the pair began playing together in Wynton Marsalis’ working quartet. The tune is “Jonesin’,” Tain’s earthy ode to drummer Elvin Jones, and Hurst’s full-bodied walking basslines are strictly old-school-the kind you feel in your gut. In combination with Watts’ irrepressibly swinging presence on the kit, they forge an indelibly tight groove. Last year Hurst released two excellent recordings through his own Bebob label, and the hookup between the bassist and Watts brings to mind the title of one of them: Bob Ya Head.

The following afternoon, Hurst is holding court in his New York hotel room. On the dresser, an open laptop reveals a screensaver image of his bass hero Ray Brown, photographed playing his upright with a wide grin and big stogie jutting out from one side of his mouth. “I love that picture,” says Hurst enthusiastically. “Ray’s one of those people who covered the whole spectrum. He came up in the swing era, he was there at the very beginning of bebop, and he continued all the way through everything. I feel really blessed to have gotten a chance to hear him play live. I mean, that probably was the greatest bass sound ever. And I believe there’s a difference in the tone of bass players who heard Ray Brown play live, just like there’s a difference in the tone and attack of drummers who heard Art Blakey live. Hearing what a good sound is in person and actually seeing how somebody does it … that kind of information sticks with you forever.”

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published