Services to be held Saturday, February 19, 2022 at 11AM at the
Metropolitan African American Episcopal Church
58 West 135th Street, Harlem
Dr. Jeff mourns the passing of Mickey Bass on February 3, 2022 at his home in Harlem. Mickey, 78, was one of jazz’s “last generation” of musicians associated with it’s iconic innovators.
In addition to being the subject of The BeBop Channel’s original pilot and series Giant Steps, Mickey, born Lee Odiss Bass III in 1943 in Pittsburgh, was a legendary bassist who is most noted for working in jazz’s hard bop era of the 1960s and early 70s. As a member of Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers, Mickey’s career blossomed from the sheer plethora of musicians–too lengthy to list here–that being with the Messengers entailed.
His song A Chant For Bu, from the Jazz Messengers 1973 album A Chant for Bu, would in later years become a sample for A Tribe Called Quest’s platinum album Low End Theory with the song Excursions — representing a pivot by New York hip hop artists to incorporate authentic jazz sounds in their music.
Mickey, as a mentor and teacher, would also be a pivotal figure in the lives of future musicians at the Duke Ellington School of The Arts in Washington DC from 1974 and beyond. These musicians included those from the school’s renowned jazz ensemble: famed trumpeter Wallace Roney; BeBop Channel co-founder and Ellington Orchestra alum, trombonist Gregory Charles Royal; saxophonist Antoine Roney; bassist Clarence Seay; and drummer Eric Allen. He also taught and mentored many other notable artists including pianist Marc Carey and Lauren Hill saxophonist Brent Birkhead.
Interestingly, Mickey grew up in Pittsburgh with his cousin, famed choreographer Alvin “Mike” Malone, who actually co-founded the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in 1974 and also mentored many students including top names in dance and television such as Debbie Allen, Lynne Whitfield and Anthony Anderson.
Always thinking big on ways to expand jazz to America’s youth, and always incorporating his special brand of humor to all who came in contact with him, Mickey was a walking encyclopedia of anecdotes and stories about the hundreds of musicians and entertainers with whom he came in contact throughout his years. The BeBop Channel will release his last interview later this year as he reflects on his family and childhood in Pittsburgh and coming to New York in the 1960s.
The series Giant Steps, for which Mickey was the starring subject, took hold in 2016 when he and Gregory Charles Royal were figuring out a way to get jazz to a wider audience via television. It was decided that Mickey – with his humor and personality – along with other New York musicians playing themselves would be a fresh, authentic way to accomplish this. First experimented as a sitcom, and later as a dramatic comedy, the series also features his friend and on-screen shrink, America’s Psychologist Dr. Jeff Gardere, and truly blurs the lines between Mickey’s reality and make believe – and that is exactly how Mickey wanted it! Giant Steps is another living legacy of a great musician, story teller, friend, teacher, mentor and person. RIP Mickey!
For further reading on Mickey’s life please visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mickey_Bass and https://amsterdamnews.com/news/2022/02/10/mickey-bass-renaissance-bassist-composer-dies-at-78/