Jazz bassist and Washington, DC native Edward "Butch" Warren (August 9, 1939–October 5, 2013) moved to New York in 1959 and quickly made a name for himself, recording with Kenny Dorham, Herbie Hancock, Dexter Gordon, Jackie McLean, and Donald Byrd for Blue Note records. He joined Thelonious Monk’s quartet in 1963, but returned to DC in 1964 and was on and off the jazz scene for many years. Butch made a comeback in his last years, recording two albums and mentoring young musicians. He performed at SAAM with pianist Freddie Redd on July 19, 2012. On Thursday, August 15, 2019, bassist Tyrone Allen will celebrate what would have been Butch’s 80th birthday with a tribute concert as part of SAAM’s jazz series Take 5!.
How were you first exposed to music?
There was always music playing the house when I was young. There’s a video my parents have from when I’m still a baby and Lauryn Hill was playing in the background. Lucky me! My father also taught recorder in DC public schools, and he would teach me at home.
How did you decide to choose the bass as your instrument?
I came to the bass after trying a few different instruments…I was playing guitar in a band while in middle school and I thought to myself: “Man, that bass player sure does seem like he has the better job. In the back, holding it down on 4 strings instead of 6. Incredible.” Sure enough I began little by little playing bass. I solely played electric for a few years until I began playing upright bass.
Was Butch Warren one of the bass players you listened to in your formative years? Did you have the opportunity to interact with him during his 'comeback' in his later years?
Absolutely! Dexter Gordon’s album Go (Blue Note, 1962) that featured Butch Warren was one of my early favorites. I unfortunately didn’t get to interact with Butch as I got on the DC scene just a little too late. But I do have friends my age who knew and played with him, which was always inspiring to hear about.
Who are some of the musicians and composers who influenced you?
The list is long and ever growing. Right now, Thad Jones is having a major impact on me. He is a generally underrated player, his bands always feel so buoyant, and his compositions have a reputation of their own. I’m arranging one of Butch’s songs, "Little Chippie" for the concert and I’ve been studying Thad’s music to gain some insight there.
How has your experience on the New York City jazz scene been so far?
The New York jazz scene has been very good to me thus far. There I’ve had a chance to reconnect with lots of musicians from DC and other places, as well as meet tons of new people, and cultivate relationships that I’m sure will last for years to come.
On Thursday, August 15, from 5 to 7 p.m., join us in SAAM's McEvoy Auditorium for Tyrone Allen's Take 5! performance.
Interviewer Bertrand Überall has been a Take 5! volunteer since 2012. In addition to his work at SAAM, he also helps plan the Jazz in the Basement series at the DC Public Library (in conjunction with the Goethe-Institut), as well as the Jazz at UUCSS series in Silver Spring.