Jazz bassist Gary Peacock, who has played with Keith Jarrett and Miles Davis, has deep Northwest roots — and he’s coming back to play with his trio at the Seattle Art Museum.
Bassist Gary Peacock — who appears with his trio at Seattle Art Museum on Saturday (Feb. 20) — has played here many times with Keith Jarrett. But fans of Peacock’s beautiful, warm tone and supple ideas may not know he also has deep local roots.
Peacock moved to Seattle in 1972 to study molecular biology at the University of Washington during a period when he was re-evaluating a career that had already included groundbreaking recordings with avant-gardists Albert Ayler and Paul Bley.
Needless to say, music drew him back. After releasing “Tales of Another” on ECM in 1977, Peacock was recruited to teach at Cornish College of the Arts, where he was an instructor until 1983.
Gary Peacock Trio
8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 20, at Seattle Art Museum, 1300 First Ave., Seattle; $16-$32 (206-547-6763 or earshot.org).
But his Northwest roots run even deeper, to Yakima Senior High School (now called A.C. Davis), from which he graduated in 1953.
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“My father was a troubleshooter for grocery stores,” he explained in a phone interview from his home in upstate New York. “He would get a store moving, then we’d move again.”
Eastern Washington was not exactly a jazz hotbed back then, but Peacock learned piano and trumpet and also played drums in the school dance band. The first time he actually heard a jazz band play live was in Seattle, when he was 15.
“My sister and I came over from Yakima and went to hear Jazz at the Philharmonic,” he recalled. “Ray Brown and Oscar Peterson played.”
Not a bad start.
Like Paul McCartney, drafted to play bass in the Beatles because no one else wanted to, Peacock found his instrument by default, when the bass player quit the combo Peacock started while serving in the U.S. Army.
In the late ’50s, Peacock spent time talking to Scott LaFaro, who would expand the role of the bass.
“We agreed that there were two directions that appeared to be diametrically opposed,” Peacock said. “One was the music of Ornette (Coleman) and the other was mainstream jazz. The role of the bass player (in the mainstream) was to play time and hover over harmonic roots. But there’s another realm that’s possible, which came to be termed broken time. (The idea was) to loosen up a little bit and listen for what the music might want.”
Peacock went the latter route. On the new trio album “Now This,” with Marc Copland (piano) and Joey Baron (drums), the music is moody, atmospheric, free-flowing and cool, like looking through a rain-splashed window at dusk. Rhythms swell and subside organically.
The album features chestnuts such as LaFaro’s “Gloria’s Step” and Peacock’s icicle-bright “Gaia,” as well as new material, such as “Shadows” — 100 percent free improvisation.
But whatever the trio plays Saturday, it will be of the “present moment,” Peacock said. “The intent is to be the music, as opposed to making a splash, or showing how well you can play. All that’s happening is this.”