Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians
San Antonio-based acoustic jazz bassist Don Mopsick is well known to fans of Public Radio International's weekly showcase of traditional jazz, Riverwalk Jazz. Fans of the show, however, may not know that Mopsick is equally at home in modern idioms and has a background as a brass player.
Born on November 7, 1950, Mopsick grew up in Linden, New Jersey. His father was an attorney who put himself through law school during the Depression by playing jobs in the New York area on alto sax and violin.
At age 12, Mopsick began private trumpet studies with New Jersey jazz teacher and Louis Prima veteran Charlie Leeds, As a teenager, he worked in a polka band that played regularly at the Polish National Home and other Slavic venues in Linden.
Mopsick attended Rutgers College from 1968 to 1970, majoring in biology, then enrolled at Berklee College of Music in Boston in 1971. In Boston, he studied trumpet with Lennie Johnson. One of Mopsick’s first notable gigs was a 1971 tour around Boston with Rosemary Clooney and pianist/conductor Ralph Sharon.
Relocating to the New York area, Mopsick continued college at Rutgers from 1973-4. In 1975, he enrolled at The Manhattan School of Music, where he studied tuba with Toby Hanks.
In New York, he worked regularly on tuba with The Paul Jeffery Octet, tuba and bass with Lee Castle, a veteran of the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra, Benny Ventura, and others.
After graduating from The Manhattan School in 1977, he moved to Ft. Myers, Florida to work with the Levee Ragtime Band on tuba. In 1980, he decided to concentrate his efforts on the double bass and began private study with Lucas Drew at the University of Miami. He moved to Orlando in 1983, where he worked at Walt Disney World, Rosie O'Grady's, and as a free-lance bassist.
While in Central Florida, he played concert dates for The Jazz Club of Sarasota, The Treasure Coast Jazz Society in Vero Beach, The Gainesville Friends of Jazz, the Central Florida Jazz Society, and Valdosta State University in Georgia..
At this time, he appeared with Howard Alden, Mousey Alexander, Dan Barrett, John Bunch, Pete Christlieb, Al Cohn, Richie Cole, Ike and Fred Cole, Kenny Davern, Spanky Davis, Buddy DeFranco, Allen Eager, Terry Gibbs, Don Goldie, Scott Hamilton, Eddie Higgins, Jerry Jerome, Lynn Roberts, Bubba Kolb, Don Lamond, Buddy Morrow (with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra), Ken Peplowski, Flip Phillips, Red Rodney, Bob Rosengarden, Ira Sullivan, Clark Terry, Warren Vaché Jr. and Joe Wilder.
In October of 1990, Jim Cullum invited Don to audition for the Jim Cullum Jazz Band at his Landing jazz club in San Antonio, Texas. Mopsick joined the band in January, 1991, and performs six nights a week at the Landing with Cullum’s band, as well as on the Riverwalk Jazz broadcasts each week.
Don has recorded Riverwalk shows with Benny Carter, Clark Terry, Milt Hinton, Linda Hopkins, Joe Williams, Dick Hyman, Bob Barnard, Bob Wilber, Harry Allen, Vernel Bagneris, William Warfield, Sweets Edison, Dan Barrett, Kenny Davern, Johnny Frigo, Savion Glover, Rebecca Kilgore, Stephanie Nakasian, Nicholas Payton, Bucky and John Pizzarelli, Ralph Sutton, Banu Gibson, Vince Giordano, and many others.
He also played concert dates with storyteller and Riverwalk Jazz host David Holt and pianist Ralph Sutton.
For Riverwalk Jazz, Don develops content for individual shows, the website, and the newsletter Jazz Me News. He also is the Curriculum Developer for a Riverwalk Jazz educational DVD for grades 3-5.
Chasin’ The Blues (Riverwalk Records)
New Year’s Jam - Live From New York (Riverwalk Records)
Honky Tonk Train (Riverwalk Records)
Bessie and the Blues (Riverwalk Records)
Battle of the Bands (Riverwalk Records)
Hot Jazz for a Cool Yule (Riverwalk Records)
Fireworks (Riverwalk Records)
American Love Songs (Riverwalk Records)
Deep River (Riverwalk Records)
A Long Way From St. Louis with Ralph Sutton (Gaslight Records)
Shootin’ The Agate (Stomp Off)
Still Breathing (1998, October Films), starring Brendan Fraser and Joanna Going. Appeared with The Jim Cullum Jazz Band in a party scene.
Contributor: Tim Wilkins, based on information supplied by the artist