In Memoriam: Eugene Wright
Another giant of the bass has left us. Eugene Wright, whose playing anchored the great Dave Brubeck Quartet, passed away on December 30, 2020. He was 97 years old. The news was announced through the Brubeck estate’s social media pages.
“We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of bassist Eugene Wright yesterday at the age of 97,” they wrote. “Gene was the last surviving member of the ‘Classic’ Dave Brubeck Quartet, and remained a good friend and honorary Uncle to the Brubeck family to the end.”
Born in Chicago in 1923, Wright began on cornet before teaching himself how to play double bass. He had his own band, the Dukes of Swing, and played with Lonnie Simmons before Brubeck called on him to do a U.S. Department of State tour of Europe and Asia in 1958. The pianist made him a permanent member of the band the next year. As such, he first appeared on The Dave Brubeck Quartet in Europe, but was on board for the smash hit Time Out, featuring the songs “Blue Rondo A La Turk” and “Take Five”.
Wright, nicknamed the Senator, recorded 29 albums with the quartet before Brubeck disbanded it to focus on solo work in 1968. It was an amicable split, and the members would reunite on occasion throughout the years. In the ‘70s, he worked with pianist Monty Alexander and became a staple of the film and television soundtrack scene. He then became the head of the Jazz Department at the University of Cincinnati. Wright continued to be a mentor for bassists as the head of the advisory board in the jazz division of the International Society of Bassists.
Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Eugene Wright.