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

Ted Dunbar: Teacher Man to Nile Rodgers, Kevin Eubanks, and Many Others

Illustrious students remember their guitar mentor

Ted Dunbar (far right) with (left to right) Victor Gaskin, Joe Newman, and David Lee, Jr. at Boomers, New York, 1974 (photo: Raymond Ross Archives/CTSIMAGES)
Ted Dunbar (far right) with (left to right) Victor Gaskin, Joe Newman, and David Lee, Jr. at Boomers, New York, 1974 (photo: Raymond Ross Archives/CTSIMAGES)

The full legacy of some musicians can be gauged as much by tracing their impact on those they trained as by their own performances. Guitarist Ted Dunbar (1937-1998) is the perfect example, remembered today with reverence by the numerous guitarists who studied with him. Their collective résumé is an impressive swath of experiences and success: Nile Rodgers (Chic), Vernon Reid (Living Colour), Kevin Eubanks (The Tonight Show with Jay Leno), Rodney Jones (The Rosie O’Donnell Show), Trey Anastasio (Phish), Peter Bernstein, and many others.

Dunbar landed in New York City in the mid-’60s by way of his native Texas, where he’d trained to be a pharmacist while playing with the likes of Arnett Cobb and Joe Turner, and then Indianapolis, where he studied with David Baker at Indiana University and played with Wes Montgomery and his brothers. Within 10 years, he was an in-demand sideman for Gil Evans, Frank Foster, Sonny Rollins, Ron Carter, and—notably—Tony Williams’ Lifetime, valued for his clear-toned playing and an ability to handle a wide range of modern flavors, from postbop and soul-jazz to freer forms and feels. Dunbar simultaneously pursued an instructor role, first with Jazzmobile, then at Rutgers University and other jazz programs in the Northeast.

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.

Ashley Kahn

Ashley Kahn is a Grammy-winning American music historian, journalist, producer, and professor. He teaches at New York University’s Clive Davis Institute for Recorded Music, and has written books on two legendary recordings—Kind of Blue by Miles Davis and A Love Supreme by John Coltrane—as well as one book on a legendary record label: The House That Trane Built: The Story of Impulse Records. He also co-authored the Carlos Santana autobiography The Universal Tone, and edited Rolling Stone: The Seventies, a 70-essay overview of that pivotal decade.