Garvin Bushell's career went back to the beginning of recorded jazz yet in the 1960's he appeared on records with John Coltrane (at the Village Vanguard in 1961) and Miles Davis (as part of Gil Evans' Orchestra). He started playing piano when he was six, switching to clarinet at age 13. Bushell, who was always a technically skilled player and in a more enlightened era would probably have become a classical musician, studied at Wilberforce University and played for shows and in vaudeville. He moved to New York in 1919, toured and recorded with Mamie Smith's Jazz Hounds and worked with Ethel Waters. He was with Sam Wooding's Orchestra, visiting Europe during 1925-27 and also worked with the Keep Shufflin' revue and Johnny Dunn. As part of the Louisiana Sugar Babies (a quartet with Jabbo Smith, Fats Waller and James P. Johnson), Bushell took some of the first recorded jazz solos on bassoon in 1928; he was also a fine oboeist and flutist. Later on he was with Otto Hardwick (1931), Fess Williams (1933), Fletcher Henderson (1935-36), Cab Calloway (1936-37) and Chick Webb. In the 1940's Bushell worked with Eddie Mallory and Edgar Hayes, led his own bands and recorded with Bunk Johnson in 1947. He became a music teacher (one of his students was King Curtis), played bassoon with the Chicago Civic Orchestra, was part of the Fletcher Henderson Reunion Band in 1958 and worked with Wilbur DeParis' New New Orleans Jazz Band (as the replacement for the late Omer Simeon) during 1959-64. In the 1960's he spent time living in Puerto Rico before permanently settling in Las Vegas, staying active as a teacher into the 1980's. Although he recorded in a wide variety of settings, Garvin Bushell only led one record date in his career which resulted in four titles in 1944.
- by Scott Yanow
All Music Group