(born May 19
) is an American post bop jazz bassist
, described by the Guinness Who's Who of Jazz
(Second Edition, ed. Colin Larkin, 1995) as "a full-toned bassist who creates rich, singing phrases in a wide range of contemporary jazz contexts." Allmusic
called him "One of post-bop's most advanced and versatile bassists".
McBee was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on 19 May 1935. He studied clarinet at school, but switched to bass at the age of 17, and began playing in local nightclubs. After gaining a music degree from Ohio Central State University, he spent two years in the army, during which time he conducted the band at Fort Knox. In 1959 he played with Dinah Washington, and in 1962 he moved to Detroit, where he worked with Paul Winter's folk-rock ensemble from 1963-1964. His jazz career began in earnest in the mid-1960s, after he moved to New York, when he began playing and recording with a number of significant musicians including Miles Davis, Andrew Hill, Sam Rivers, Jackie McLean (1964), Wayne Shorter (1965-66), Charles Lloyd (1966), Yusef Lateef (1967-69), Keith Jarrett, Freddie Hubbard and Woody Shaw (1986), and Alice Coltrane (1969-1972).
He established his own group in 1975, and has made a number of recordings under his own name, but is best known for his work as a sideman; he continues to be in high demand, and has gone on to work with Chico Freeman, Freddie Hubbard, Grachan Moncur III, Bobby Hutcherson, Charles Tolliver, Pharoah Sanders, Lonnie Liston Smith, Sonny Rollins, Michael White, Joanne Brackeen, Horace Tapscott, Anthony Braxton, Abdullah Ibrahim, Buddy Tate and Harry Sweets Edison. In addition, he teaches at the New England Conservatory in Boston, Massachusetts.
McBee is often ranked with bassists of the calibre of Jimmy Blanton, Charles Mingus, and Oscar Pettiford, and has played on some of the most highly regarded jazz recordings of the 1960s, 70s, 80s, and 90s.
Pharoah Sanders/David Murray/McCoy Tyner/Cecil McBee/Roy Haynes, Blues for Coltrane: A Tribute to John Coltrane (MCA, 1987) Winner, Best instrumental performance, individual or group, Grammy Awards, 1988.
- Paul Winter, Jazz Meets the Folk-Song (1963)
- Jackie McLean, Action (Blue Note Records, 1964)
- Andrew Hill, Compulsion! (Blue Note Records, 1965)
- Wayne Shorter, Et Cetera (Blue Note Records, 1965)
- Charles Lloyd, Forest Flower: Live in Monterey (Atlantic Records, 1966)
- Mike Nock, Almanac (Improvising Artists, 1967)
- Yusef Lateef, The Blue Yusef Lateef (1968)
- Leon Thomas, Spirits Known and Unknown (1969)
- Wayne Shorter, Odyssey of Iska (Blue Note Records, 1970)
- Pharoah Sanders, Thembi (Impulse Records, 1970) Includes a five-minute McBee bass solo, 'Love'.
- Alice Coltrane, Journey in Satchidanda (Impulse Records, 1970)
- Sam Rivers, Hues (1970)
- Pharoah Sanders, Black Unity (Impulse Records, 1971)
- Pharoah Sanders, Live at the East (1972) McBee performs on these two records a part of a two-bass team with Stanley Clarke and Calvin Hall respectively.
- Dollar Brand (Abdullah Ibrahim), African Space Program (Enja, 1973)
- Lonnie Liston Smith, Expansions (1974)
- Joanne Brackeen, Snooze (Choice, 1975)
- Chico Freeman, Chico (1977)
- Archie Shepp, Lady Bird (Denon, 1978)
- McCoy Tyner, 4 x 4 (Milestone, 1980)
- Art Pepper (with strings), Winter Moon (Original Jazz Classics, 1980)
- Freddie Hubbard and Woody Shaw, Double Take (Blue Note, 1986).
- Muhal Richard Abrams, Roots of Blue (RPR, 1986). Duet album with McBee.
- The Leaders Trio, Heaven Dance (Sunnyside, 1988).With pianist Kirk Lightsey and drummer Don Moye.
- Horace Tapscott, The Dark Tree, Vol. 1 & 2 (hatOLOGY, 1989)
- John Hicks with Cecil McBee and Elvin Jones, Power Trio (Novus, 1990)
- Dave Liebman, The Seasons (Soul Note, 1992)
- Elvin Jones, Jazz Machine (Trio, 1997)
- Dave Liebman Ensemble Jazz, John Coltrane's 'Meditations' (Arkadia Jazz, 1998)
- Raphe Malik/Cecil McBee/Cody Moffett, Storyline (Boxholder, 1999)
- Saxophone Summit (Michael Brecker/Joe Lovano/Dave Liebman), Gathering of Spirits (Telarc, 2004)