The incredibly solid bassist Buddy Catlett has been going strong since the late '50s, appearing on more than 100 jazz recordings. He is also a multi-instrumentalist stemming from his studies as a child on clarinet and saxophone, talents he kept up throughout his career. In 1996 he tricked discographer Tom Lord into thinking there were two different guys named Buddy Catlett, one a bassist and the other a horn blower. It is of course on the former axe that this artist, born George James Catlett, is best known. Highlights of his recording career on bass include an order of "Cocktails for Two" with the Louis Armstrong band in which most of the theme is sipped as a bass solo.
Catlett was associated with the music scenes in several different parts of the United States. Seattle figures prominently in his biography — this was where he began studying music as well as a place to which he returned again and again, taking part for example in an '80s collaborative ensemble with Clarence Acox called the Roadside Attraction Big Band. Flash forward another 20 years and he would still be playing with jazz big bands in Seattle. He also was as much a fixture on the Denver jazz scene in the late '50s as a decent day's view of the Rockies in the distance. In the mile-high city he worked in a house band for a venue whose playbill of top jazz stars worked with the local rhythm section. Catlett backed up greats such as tenor saxophonist Ben Webster and vocalist Anita O'Day, and even chased tempos with the maniacal Sonny Stitt. Yet one of Catlett's most challenging gigs had been his first professional job playing in the saxophone section in the orchestra of Bumps Blackwell.
Smooth vibraphonist Cal Tjader, doing well with a Latin groove, hired Catlett as a bassist
in 1959. That prominent showcase caught the attention of Quincy Jones and Catlett became bassist for a revue Jones was fronting on tour across the European continent, the Free and Easy Revue. The Jones connection also presented opportunities for Catlett to stretch his muscles as a modern jazz bassist; As implied by the aforementioned association with Satchmo, Catlett's stylistic ability is often misunderstood as limited to his original inspirations, classic jazz veterans of solidity along the bass lines of Oscar Pettiford or Jimmy Blanton. In the Jones big band, the bassist's rhythm section partner was drummer Stu Martin, later to gain prominence on the British avant-garde scene. The two play superbly on a 1960 small group session fronted by trombonist Curtis Fuller. A much more recent release involving Catlett is the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra's SRJO Live from 2002.
- by Eugene Chadbourne
All Music Group