|Born||May 12, 1935|
Burley, Idaho, U.S.
|Died||September 4, 2020 (aged 85)|
Olivebridge, New York, U.S.
|Genres||Jazz, avant-garde jazz, free jazz|
|Occupation(s)||Musician, composer, educator|
|Associated acts||Paul Bley, Albert Ayler, Masabumi Kikuchi, Keith Jarrett, Jack DeJohnette, Paul Motian, Marc Copland|
Gary Peacock (May 12, 1935 – September 4, 2020) was an American jazz double bassist. He recorded a dozen albums under his own name, and also performed and recorded with major jazz figures such as avant garde saxophonist Albert Ayler, pianists Bill Evans, Paul Bley and Marilyn Crispell, and as a part of Keith Jarrett’s “Standards Trio” with drummer Jack DeJohnette. The trio existed for over thirty years, and recorded over twenty albums together. DeJohnette once stated that he admired Peacock's "sound, choice of notes, and, above all, the buoyancy of his playing." Marilyn Crispell called Peacock a "sensitive musician with a great harmonic sense."
Peacock was born in Burley, Idaho, on May 12, 1935; his father worked as a business consultant for grocery stores, and his mother was a homemaker. He grew up in Yakima, Washington, where he attended Yakima Senior High School, now called A.C. Davis High School. His earliest musical experiences involved playing piano, trumpet, and drums. When he was 15, he heard live jazz for the first time, attending a Jazz at the Philharmonic concert featuring Oscar Peterson and Ray Brown. Peacock graduated in 1953; while playing for his class, he had a profound experience, stating: "I was playing the drums, and had the experience of being played rather than playing... I realized that something transformative had happened... and there was this certainty. From the bottom of my feet to the top of my head, it was totally clear: 'Oh, this is the direction to go.'"
After graduating, Peacock attended the Westlake School of Music in Los Angeles but was then drafted into the Army. While stationed in Germany, he played piano in a jazz trio, but switched to bass when the group's bassist quit. Peacock recalled: "The bass player got married, and his wife didn’t want him out any more. The band’s drummer... said, 'You play bass.' I said, 'I don't want to play bass...' As it turned out, he found a pianist, and I started playing the bass." According to Peacock, he "just sort of figured it out": "I seemed to progress pretty rapidly in a very short time. And since I was stationed in Germany and there weren't any bass players anywhere, it allowed me to be available to play sessions with different people in Frankfurt and the surrounding areas." He also recalled: "The instrument felt natural. It just turned out to be a recognition, like, 'Oh, this is it. This is good.'"
After being discharged from the Army in 1956, Peacock remained in Germany, playing with Hans Koller, Tony Scott, Bud Shank, Atilla Zoller, and others, before returning to Los Angeles. He recalled: "I had a standing invitation for a scholarship at Westlake College of Music. So I went to the school. They said, 'Great. Unfortunately, the school is closing.' So I had to start looking for gigs right away. That ended my scholarly education." His bass playing at the time was influenced by Paul Chambers, Ray Brown, and Scott LaFaro, whom he befriended. He soon established himself as a bass player, participating in sessions with Barney Kessel and Art Pepper, and, in 1962, recording with Don Ellis (Essence), Clare Fischer (First Time Out and Surging Ahead), and Prince Lasha (The Cry!). He also married fellow musician Annette Peacock (they later divorced) and began a musical association with pianist Paul Bley, with whom he would go on to record nine albums.
While in California, Peacock heard the music of Ornette Coleman. Initially dismissive, he soon changed his mind: "It challenged that fixed position I had about what jazz improvisation should be and what the rules are. It created a pivot for me to embrace a much larger musical universe." Peacock reflected on how his thinking began to change:
I can remember when I was in Los Angeles about 1959 and I noticed that I was playing less time... In fact, playing the time became very irritating, it just felt like a straightjacket and I wanted to kind of break through that. I simply started listening in myself to what a bass could do and I just began to intentionally play out of time, with some notions, some glimmers of what could be done. I noticed that the time could literally be there and I could be playing something that was basically ametric and yet it worked in some way as far as my ears were concerned... An interesting question [came up]: What would happen if we didn't play the time but just allowed it to be there. Instead of going, 'dingdingding,' just allow it to be there and play something... It opened up something for the pianist, it opened up something for the drums.
In 1962, Peacock moved to New York, where he played with Bley and musicians such as Jimmy Giuffre, Roland Kirk, George Russell, and Archie Shepp. He also joined Bill Evans' trio, which included drummer Paul Motian, who would become a long-time associate, recording the album Trio 64 with the group in December 1963. Peacock recalled that Evans' "sense of harmony was exquisite... The harmonies, and the way that he would voice the harmonies, made a melody not only believable but [so] you wanted to fall in love with it. And because he played low, whatever the bass played, it could be heard; be an integral part of the music." In 1964, Peacock briefly joined Miles Davis' quintet, substituting for Ron Carter in April and May of that year. Reflecting on his time with Davis, he stated:
Miles probably said one of the most brilliant, useful, and necessary comments I've ever heard. Somebody was recording with him, and Miles looked at him and said, "What I want to hear is what you don't know." That is really the key: not playing what you know, playing what you don't know. To do that, you have to get very quiet inside, listen, and surrender to whatever that particular musical setting is. So it doesn't make any difference whether I'm playing standards or free stuff, because you're giving up any kind of fixed positions or attitudes you may have about what it should or shouldn't be. And to do that, you have to be vulnerable, to be in a place where you realize that what you're after, you cannot know. It's not conceivable. But it's there. It's the muse. So it's kind of a switch from the self playing the muse to the muse playing the self.
He also said that Davis "didn't miss one thing. He heard everything that was happening all the time. I could hear that he was hearing it. There was that kind of focus, that kind of attention, that kind of commitment to what's happening. It was a great experience, really a great lesson. Miles was a great teacher, without teaching."
That year, he also appeared on Tony Williams' debut album, Life Time.
In 1964, Peacock joined Albert Ayler's trio, which also featured drummer Sunny Murray, and went on to tour and record with him, appearing on the groundbreaking Spiritual Unity album among others. Regarding Ayler, Peacock stated:
I think he brought something that was so genuine and so natural and so authentic that it was unavoidable. If someone could get past their ideas about what something should be and just listen. It is incredible... He was definitely a major influence for me... He was about music, really, really about music and about continual development with the instrument, with technique, with all of that. So when he played it wasn't just squawks and beeps and honks and that kind of thing. He was really, he was coming from a real place. It was authentic. It was really him.
Peacock continued to record with Bley, Williams (Spring, which also featured Herbie Hancock, Sam Rivers, and Wayne Shorter), and others until the late 1960s, when he began experiencing health problems. He reflected:
I was not in good shape. I was doing a lot of drugs and alcohol, and I was discontented with myself... I happened to meet with Timothy Leary and... took acid. The result of that was realizing, number one, that I didn’t know who the hell I was, whereas before, I’d always identified myself as a musician, a bass player. Then, of course, came "Who am I?" I also noticed that this desire to play music wasn't there anymore. So the question was, what to do. So what I did was nothing. I stopped playing.
At this point, he decided to take a complete break from music. He recalled: "I got involved with macrobiotics and felt drawn to Eastern philosophies and medicine. I became a regular practitioner of macrobiotics and eventually moved to Japan for two and a half years, studying the language, history, and Oriental philosophy." Reflecting on studying the Japanese language, he stated: "There is a great lack of personal pronouns... And the effect that has... is after a time, there is a sense of spaciousness that opens up internally and externally."
By 1970, while still in Japan, Peacock began to play again, recording Eastward in Tokyo with pianist Masabumi Kikuchi and drummer Hiroshi Murakami, followed by Voices the next year. During this time he also recorded with Mal Waldron (First Encounter). In 1972, he returned to the United States and enrolled as a student at the University of Washington, where he studied biology, graduating in 1976. He resumed his musical relationship with Bley, touring Japan and recording Japan Suite. In 1977, he recorded Tales of Another with Keith Jarrett and Jack DeJohnette; together, they would later become known as the Standards Trio due to their focus on jazz standards. This was followed by December Poems, which features four solo bass pieces and two duets with saxophonist Jan Garbarek. From 1979 to 1983, Peacock also taught at the Cornish School of the Arts.
Through the 1980s and '90s, Peacock released a number of albums under his own name, and also played and toured extensively with Jarrett and DeJohnette. He also performed and recorded with a trio known as Tethered Moon, with Masabumi Kikuchi and Motian, as well as recording with Bley, Garbarek, Ralph Towner, and Marc Copland. Regarding the trio format, Peacock stated:
If three people share a common history in a particular area of music and they all found something in that music that freed them, when they get together to play a piece everyone is 100% in that composition... The question is, how much are you willing to give up to play this music? I don't think it can work if you still have an agenda, if you feel you still need to prove something musically. That's not the point – it's just about the music. So you're going to serve that, not yourself or somebody in the audience, not the critics or the reviewers. It's just the music. What does the music want?
The following decades saw Peacock continuing to play and record in the existing trio contexts, as well as with Marilyn Crispell, Lee Konitz, and Bill Frisell, and with a new trio featuring Marc Copland and Joey Baron.
Peacock died on September 4, 2020, at his home in Upstate New York. He was 85; the cause of death was undisclosed.
In a 2007 interview, Peacock stated:
I follow a practice that I've done for about ten years. I go through an actual daily practice of greeting the instrument, positioning myself with the instrument, paying attention to my posture, my breathing, the texture, the feeling of the instrument... Sometimes that takes seconds, sometimes it takes five minutes. Just getting a physical-sensory connection. The next thing is when I actually start playing, I don't lose that physical connection. To be completely aware of the sound that I'm playing and also what my feelings are about the sound of the instrument. Just paying attention. I don't try to do anything about it necessarily, but I just play, letting it be there. I might be playing an arpeggio or a melody, but basically the attention is on the sensory-emotional aspect of my playing. And then I let it go.
He also stated: "If you always wake up in the morning and realize, 'Oh my God, I'm just a beginner!,' then you're in a really good place. If you wake up in the morning and say, 'Oh, I've got that handled, I can do anything I want.' - hmm, I don't know." In another interview from 2010, Peacock said "If you've come close to death a few times or what you thought was death, you've realized there's no guarantee that you're going to be alive in the next instant. So my approach to playing is the realization that there are no guarantees anywhere. So where do I want to be, what kind of state to do I want to be in when I'm playing? It helped me to be really focused in a profound way and be really present."
Peacock also discussed the relationship between music and his daily practice of zazen (sitting meditation):
I think music actually prepared me in some ways in coming to zazen, because it was the only window in my life where I felt kind of a spiritual or religious sense. I looked at that, the essence of that and it was just bare awareness. Zazen is the same thing; it's a heightened sense of awareness. My daily mantra is a quote from my Zen teacher, John Daido Loori, Roshi. I asked him one time, "What is Zen?" He said, "Just do what you're doing while you're doing it." It's so simple, but it's so hard!
Trio with Masabumi Kikuchi and Paul Motian
With Albert Ayler
With Paul Bley
With Marc Copland
With Marilyn Crispell
With Clare Fischer
With Toninho Horta
With Keith Jarrett
With Robert Kaddouch
With Bud Shank
With Tony Williams
|1961||Toys on a Field of Blue||composer||short film|
|1964||New York Eye and Ear Control||composer||short film|
|1960||Barefoot Adventure||musician||surfing documentary|
|1985||Keith Jarrett: Standards||himself (bass guitar)||direct-to-video documentary|
|1993||The Keith Jarrett Trio: Live at Open Theatre East||himself (bass guitar)||direct-to-video documentary|
|2020||ECM50 – 2015 Gary Peacock||himself||episode in 50-part documentary series on ECM Records|
|2001||Mostly Martha||"Never Let Me Go" & "U Dance" performed by: (credited w/Keith Jarrett & Jack DeJohnette)||soundtrack|
|1962||Frankly Jazz||himself (musician: bass)||(TV series) original air date: November 10, 1962|