In Memoriam: Gary Peacock
Another master of our instrument has passed away. Jazz bassist Gary Peacock died peacefully at his home on September 4th, according to a statement from his family. He was 85 years old.
Born in Idaho and raised in Yakima, Washington, Peacock began his seventy-year musical career on piano, drums, and vibraphone. He was drafted into the Army after college and played piano in a jazz trio while stationed in Germany. After his bassist quit the band, he switched to the instrument and quickly fell into the position. He was discharged from the Army in 1956 and stayed in Germany, where he played with artists like Atilla Zoller, Hans Koller, Bud Shank, and more.
He moved back to the United States and settled in Los Angeles, where he attended the Westlake College of Music until it closed. Here he worked with Don Ellis, Barney Kessel, and Art Pepper before moving to New York City in 1962. Again, he became ingrained in the music scene and played with Paul Bley, Jimmy Giuffre, Bill Evans, and many more. He even subbed for Ron Carter in Miles Davis’s band for two months in 1964.
All of his nose-to-the-grindstone playing left Peacock tapped, leading him to take two and a half years off from playing. He studied macrobiotics and moved to Japan, where he learned about the language and culture. In an interview with NPR, the bassists explained how the Japanese language changed his views. “There is a great lack of personal pronouns,” he said. “And the effect that has … is after a time, there is a sense of spaciousness that opens up internally and externally.”
He returned to the States in the 1970s and joined Keith Jarrett and Jack DeJohnette in a trio that would put out work for the rest of his life. They created 22 albums over the years and helped to define the modern sound of a piano trio. Peacock also released twelve albums as a leader, though taking the spotlight was never his interest.
“I’m not after my statement or my identity as a bass player or improviser. It’s not about me,” he told Arts Fuse in 2017. “It’s about the music. It’s about my responsibility to be in a particular place that other people can share, enjoy and feel something.”
Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Gary Peacock.