Charles Fambrough (1950–2011)

VETERAN BASSIST, COMPOSER, ARRANGER, AND BANDLEADER CHARLES Fambrough passed away on January 1, 2011, after suffering a heart attack.
By Chris Jisi ,

VETERAN BASSIST, COMPOSER, ARRANGER, AND BANDLEADER CHARLES Fambrough passed away on January 1, 2011, after suffering a heart attack. Fambrough, who was 60, had long battled liver and kidney diseases. A mainstay in his native Philadelphia, Fambrough switched from piano to bass at age 13, working his way into the house band of the MikeDouglas Show in 1968, and then Grover Washington Jr.’s band in 1970. Stints with Airto and Flora Purim, McCoy Tyner, and Art Blakey followed. When Blakey bandmate Wynton Marsalis made his album and touring debut, it was with Fambrough on bass. Charles racked additional sideman credits with Roy Hargrove, Pharoah Sanders, Kenny Kirkland, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Stanley Clarke, and the groups Pieces Of A Dream and Beatlejazz (he also recorded the Rolling Stones nod, Stone Jazz). Adept at Latin jazz, Fambrough played with Jerry Gonzalez & the Fort Apache Band, and he applied Afro-Cuban and Brazilian concepts to his own music.

Charles was known to those close to him as “Broski,” which was also a tune on his 1991 solo debut, The Proper Angle. He issued six more solo sides filled with compositions that were harmonically and rhythmically complex, yet melodic above all. Renowned for his big tone and boundless energy as a performer—and for his strong opinions and wondrous tales of the senior jazz greats he worked with—Fambrough made one of his final album appearances on Lenny White’s 2010 disc, Anomaly. He is survived by his wife, five childen, and one grandchild.

Victor Bailey, whose painting served as the cover of Fambrough’s 1997 disc Upright Citizen, recalls, “I met Charles in an era when everyone was hung up on technique and soloing, yet here was a great musician who knew he was the bass player. His every note was strong and clear, and epitomized the word swing. He never showed off or tried to be flashy or cute. He was also very enterprising, always trying to make something happen. This is the hallmark of every successful musician.” Gerald Veasley adds, “Charles was one of my mentors. He took me under his wing when I was young and struggling. I needed to see a model of a musician who was selfassured and proactive; Charles had those qualities in abundance. I’m grateful for his guidance and saddened by our loss.”