Bassist, thinker, architect, and inaugural Seattle Jazz Hall of Fame inductee Chuck Metcalf succumbed to cancer in January. He was 81. The Legacy Quartet with Clarence Acox celebrates the bassist in a tribute performance, on the stage that Metcalf designed and put in place, at the New Orleans Creole Restaurant on Wednesday evening, March 14.
The young, gigging Metcalf mingled and played with many on the growing Seattle scene, as chronicled in Jackson Street After Hours – The Roots of Jazz in Washington by Paul de Barros. By the 1960s, Metcalf was an active jazz bassist and scene builder, holding memorable sessions at his home, mentoring young players on the scene, and organizing events with the Seattle Jazz Society. Living for stretches in San Fransisco, Seattle and New York, his outstanding musicianship and enthusiasm were welcome in jazz communities across the nation. Tours in the 1980s with Dexter Gordon and Ernestine Anderson are late-career highlights. His two 1990’s recordings Elsie Street and Help Is Coming are landmarks in Seattle jazz history. Metcalf moved to Santa Fe in 2010, and, in 2011, retired from public performance.
- Earshot JazzPosted 13 January, 2012 in Chuck Metcalf - Comments Off comments
Chuck, along with Jerome Gray and Overton, was a primary mentor for me back in 1964-65. Because of his encouragement, I was able to have a career that has surpassed all expectations. After I’d been in New York for about, oh, 7-8 months, Chuck sent me an unsigned letter–it was long, and interesting. But I didn’t realize it was he who wrote it until much later (I was stretching my mind out quite a bit then–a little delayed reaction).
It was a great letter.
Then we saw each other years later, when we both did the Village Gate; Chuck with Dexter and I doing solo.
Chuck Metcalf was THE catalyst on the jazz scene when I arrived here in the early 60s. Chuck was playing lots of gigs with various groups, organizing sessions, and Chuck and Joni’s home in Madrona hosted the Sunday morning jams when the clubs had to close at Midnight Saturday nights because of Washington Blue Laws at the time. Great, wild sessions. Later, Chuck was one of the founders of the Seattle Jazz Society and actually leased the “castle” at Eastlake and Fuhrman to hold it for the Seattle Jazz Society. That became The Jazz Gallery in the 70s.
We had lots of talks and schemes to help keep jazz alive and vital at a time when jazz gigs were drying up. Without Chuck’s energy and ideas we would have had far fewer opportunities to hear and play jazz in that time… and by extension the Seattle jazz scene today. And what a pleasure to see him touring with Dexter Gordon…. man, that was exciting!
Chuck was a most generous spirit, certainly to me in a thousand ways, but I saw it all the time with others as well. He always went to everybody’s gigs, kept up with all the new cats in town, played sessions in his free time (not a lot of bass players, especially great ones, do this–think of how many times your sessions have died for lack of a bass player!), and in general was the kind of guy who maintained and created connections. A real community builder. And he supported all kinds of improvised music, including stuff that was controversial, cutting-edge, out of the box. He never sent out a dismissive or exclusionary vibe, except perhaps in the direction of the electric bass (“I don’t play guitar,” I heard him say once to somebody who asked him to “bring his electric” to a gig). He heard what musicians could do rather than what they couldn’t do.
Also a magnificent tune-writer. We did those two CD’s in the early 90′s (Elsie Street and Help is Coming), and between them there were about 20 originals, almost all gems. It’s unfortunate that his stuff never made it to fake books. I think his best work, especially Elsie Street, Forget Me Not, and Old Fashioned Love, among others, belongs in the same company with classics by Monk, Wayne, Joe, you name it. I still play these tunes, and they stand up next to anything and everything. If anyone wants charts, I’m happy to share them. His very last tune, with the foreboding title “Endgame,” needs to be played and heard.
… For me and a number of other musicians of my generation, Chuck was a beacon. That’s what I want to be like when I get to that age: lively, outgoing, fearless, open-hearted, creative. I saw him go through some very rough times but he never lost his spirit and his focus and his productivity. He was amazingly resiliant.
I am very thankful to have gotten a chance to know him, work with him, share musical space with him, help him in his times of need, and learn from him. Here in New York, at least in a very small circle, he will be mourned, celebrated, and missed.Posted 12 January, 2012 in Chuck Metcalf - (7) comments
Former Seattle bassist, and inaugural Seattle Jazz Hall of Fame inductee, Chuck Metcalf, has passed away after a long battle with cancer.
Word came via email yesterday and the tributes have started pouring in.
He was a very important guy on the scene going back to the late 40s and 50′s… and during the 60′s he was Mr. Jazz in Seattle along with Bob Winn, Floyd Standifer, Jerry Gray and Dave Coleman. And of course Dave Tuttle and Bill Richardson.
Chuck knew a lot and he loved Monk and learned a lot of Monks music.
I remember going to sessions at Chuck and Joni’s house in Madronna right next to Walt Tianin’s. they would have party/sessions and invite the musicians that were at the Penthouse.
… The first time I heard Dexter [Gordan] was way back in the early 60′s and Chuck backed him at the Penthouse. Dexter played with a huge sound and when he played the End of a Love Affair on the bottom of his horn Chuck complained to me he had a hard time hearing his bass! Later in Chucks career Chuck was a member of Dex’s band … Chuck was soooo hip…what a loss.
Chuck provided some valuable and painful lessons to me in my early days at Earshot Jazz. He mentored a lot of us, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. I remain grateful to him.
I play my copy of “Help is Coming” pretty regularly on KBCS. I love the deep, woody tone, and the driving presence of his work. I’ll hit it hard tomorrow.
I remember getting a call from Chuck for a Sunday night gig at The New Orleans. I was 20 years old and home for the Summer after my first year of school in New York and it was a big deal for me. It was my first gig with Chuck and my first gig at The New Orleans. It is one of those gigs I’ll always remember.
Feel free to leave your memories here.