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.