Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

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Counce, Curtis

Counce, Curtis, bass (b. Kansas City, Missouri, January 23, 1926, d. July 31, 1963, Los Angeles). One of the first African-Americans to embrace West Coast jazz, Curtis Counce recorded prolifically from 1945-1960. His first recordings were with Johnny Otis, but his first important jazz recording was with Lester Young. He played on Shorty Rogers' big band LPCool and Crazy and on classic California recordings by Shelly Manne, Herb Geller, Red Norvo, Jimmy Giuffre, Clifford Brown and Teddy Charles. He played in the Stan Kenton orchestra for a 1956 European tour, and later that year, started his own band, the Curtis Counce Group. On its first recordings, the group comprised Jack Sheldon on trumpet, Harold Land (recently departed from the Clifford Brown-Max Roach quintet) on tenor, Carl Perkins on piano, Counce on bass and Frank Butler on drums. When Perkins died of a drug overdose, he was replaced by Elmo Hope. Later, Rolf Ericson and Gerald Wilson took over the trumpet chair from Sheldon. The group's style represented the closest thing to hard bop on the west coast after the Brown-Roach quintet relocated to the east. All of the members wrote original compositions for the band book, which also included songs by Gerald Wiggins, Clifford Brown and Charlie Parker. While their albums on Contemporary and Dootone were well-received, the band never played New York and was thus ignored by the majority of jazz critics. Counce died of a heart attack in 1963.

Contributor: Thomas Cunniffe