Jazz Messengers Bassist Jymie Merritt Dies At 93


Jymie Merritt (1926–2020)

(Photo: mikemerritt.com)

Jymie Merritt passed away on April 10, according to social media posts by his son, Mike Merritt. The Philadelphia-born bassist, an enduring member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, was 93. A cause of death was not immediately made clear; the younger Merritt, also a bassist, wrote that it was unrelated to COVID–19.

Merritt took part in the 1958 sessions that yielded a recording of Bobby Timmons’ “Moanin’,” released on the self-titled Jazz Messengers album that same year. When saxophonist Wayne Shorter first recorded with the ensemble a few years later, Merritt was there. The bassist became enmeshed with players who moved through the ensemble over the years, recording on leader dates by Benny Golson, Lee Morgan and others. Merritt also worked with John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Chet Baker, Dizzy Gillespie and B.B. King. Uniquely skilled and in-demand, the bassist was able to pivot from jazz to blues and back again with ease, retaining a voice that helped define hard-bop.

“Merritt‘s playing was always so beautifully melodic and in many ways original,” Chicago bassist Junius Paul wrote Saturday in a Facebook post. “Nobody sounded like him. He was, along with Monk Montgomery, a pioneer of electric bass in jazz, and that’s fact. Also an iconic double bassist and composer, you can hear his works recorded by Lee Morgan and Max Roach among many others. Whenever I saw the great Reggie Workman, I asked about Mr. Merritt, as they were great friends and are both trailblazers of the Philadelphia jazz sound that bassists such as Christian McBride gain great influence from ... . This one really hurts.” DB

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