Skip Beckwith

Skip (b Charles Frederick Pearson) Beckwith. Bassist, arranger, composer, producer, b Sydney, NS, 1 Oct 1939. In his teens he studied piano at the Martime Conservatory of Music and played string bass at a musician-run, Halifax jazz club, 777 Barrington Street.

Beckwith, Skip

Skip (b Charles Frederick Pearson) Beckwith. Bassist, arranger, composer, producer, b Sydney, NS, 1 Oct 1939. In his teens he studied piano at the Martime Conservatory of Music and played string bass at a musician-run, Halifax jazz club, 777 Barrington Street. Studies in string bass, arranging, and composition followed 1959-61 at the Berklee School of Music, Boston, where his teachers included Ray Santisi, Arif Mardin, and Herb Pomeroy. In 1962 he attended the Advanced School of Contemporary Music, Toronto, as a pupil of Ray Brown (bass), Oscar Peterson (piano), and Phil Nimmons (arranging and composition). Brown would remain a primary influence on Beckwith's steady, fundamental approach to jazz bass.

Beckwith worked 1962-5 in Ottawa nightclubs with the pianists Brian Browne and Charles Coleman, and others. The Browne trio (initially completed by the drummer Doug Johnston) relocated in 1965 to Toronto, where it took an extended residency at Castle George. Beckwith also worked in CBC and CTV studio bands for shows starring Bobby Curtola, Catherine McKinnon, and others, before serving 1969-75 as music director for Anne Murray.

Returning in 1975 to Halifax, he was music director for Pepe's Upstairs Jazz Café, accompanying Ed Bickert, Buddy DeFranco, Milt Jackson, Oliver Jones, Barney Kessel, Sonny Stitt, and many others during their appearances there. Concurrently he was music director and/or a studio musician for CBC TV pop music shows 1975-87 starring John Allan Cameron, Denny Doherty, the Irish Rovers, Marg Osburne, and Ryan's Fancy. He produced or co-produced LPs by Dutch Mason, Bruce Murray, Reg Schwager, Joe Sealy, and others at this time.

Beckwith appeared with Oliver Jones intermittently 1985-9 (eg, at the Newport Jazz Festival, Saratoga Springs, NY, and across Canada in 1986, in Havana in 1988, and with Symphony Nova Scotia in 1989). In 1987 he began teaching at St Francis Xavier University and joined JazFX, a faculty sextet established the previous year by Gene Smith (trombone), Terry O'Mahoney (drums), and others. JazFX made the LP JazFX (Mark MJS-57627) in 1987 and toured Canada in the summer of 1989. With the saxophonist Don Palmer and the drummer Jerry Granelli, he established the trio Alive and Well in 1989, performing in the Maritimes on a club, concert hall and university circuit that Beckwith himself was instrumental in organizing.

His discography also includes LPs by Browne (eg, The Toronto Scene, 1965, RCA Victor PCS-1002; Listen People, 1966, RCA Victor PCS-1110; The Letter, 1970, Cap SKA-06305), Jones, and Sealy.