Max Bennett, the internationally known jazz bassist, session musician, composer, and producer, has died. He passed away at his home in San Clemente, CA with his beloved wife Teri by his side. He was 90.
Max Bennett’s versatile music career spanned seven decades in which he toured, performed in concert or recorded with such iconic artists as Joni Mitchell, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Aretha Franklin, Elvis, Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra, Frank Zappa, The Beach Boys, Quincy Jones, Motown greats including Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye and The Temptations, and literally dozens of other artists, as well as numerous jazz luminaries including Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Stan Getz, and Dizzy Gillespie.
Max was considered a member of the Wrecking Crew, credited with being one of the most successful and prolific groups of session musicians in music history. In the Wrecking Crew, Max recorded with hundreds of artists on dozens of Top 40 hits during the ‘60s & ‘70s.
Max recorded for countless television shows and movies, and he made numerous live television appearances.
Together with saxophonist Tom Scott, Max created the jazz fusion ensemble LA Express. Joni Mitchell came to see them at a jazz club and invited them record the album that would become Court and Spark. They then went on to tour and record with Joni from 1974 to 1977. LA Express also released 4 albums in their own right.
In the decades following LA Express, Max formed three of his own bands, Freeway,The Maxx Band and Private Reserve. Max was also a talented composer and arranger who wrote songs in many styles, including the popular Rock Island Rocket, which has received air play all over the world.
Throughout his career, Max played on at least 11 Gold & Platinum albums, 3 albums that went multi-Platinum, 7 Gold albums, 1 Grammy Award winning album, and 3 Grammy nominated albums.
Max is survived by his beloved wife, Teri McDermith-Bennett and his son, Adam.
Plans are in the works for a memorial & tribute concert for his family, friends, band mates, and fellow musicians at a date to be announced. A burial will be held privately with his family.
· Max was born in Kansas City and grew up in Oskaloosa, Iowa. His first instrument at age 9 was the guitar. But he discovered the string bass in high school and never looked back.
· Max played his first professional gig in Chicago with jazz musician and bandleader, Herbie Fields, in 1949.
· Max served in the Army during the Korean War from 1951 to 1953.
· Max began playing for Ella Fitzgerald at Club Crescendo on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood in 1957. After a successful stint there, Max was invited to join Ella’s extended tour of the US, Europe and Scandinavia (Lou Levy on piano and Gus Johnson on drums). One highlight of the tour was recording the album, Ella in Rome: The Birthday Concert.
· Following Ella’s tour, the band went on its own tour of Europe and Scandinavia with Jazz at the Philharmonic, a star-studded program that included Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz, Coleman Hawkins, Herb Ellis, and Big Joe Turner.
· For Peggy Lee, Max was the bassist and bandleader. Max also found the song, Fever, for Peggy. They toured for several years and recorded 8 albums. One of their live performances was May 19, 1962 at Madison Square Garden for the “birthday salute” to President John F. Kennedy – where later that evening, Marilyn Monroe sang her famous Happy Birthday Mr. President, to JFK.
· Max was in demand as a professional bassist and studio musician for 30 years and was considered a part of the group of session players known as the Wrecking Crew, based in Los Angeles. Max did countless recordings with hundreds of artists for the studios, movies, and television.
· Movies that Max recorded included, The Trouble with Girls (Elvis), Grease, The Exorcist, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, and Lady Sings the Blues. Five-time Grammy award winning composer & arranger, Lalo Schifrin, tapped Max to record a number of his movie scores, including Dirty Harry and Bullitt. Max’s numerous television shows included, The Partridge Family and The Monkees. Max’s live television appearances included The Judy Garland Show, The Ed Sullivan Show, The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson, The Oscars, and The Grammy Awards.