Reggie Workman

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Headshot of a man.

Photo by Richard Kholer

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Bassist and 2020 NEA Jazz Master

Bassist and 2020 NEA Jazz Master Reggie Workman is aptly named. The man might not have played with everyone in jazz, but he has come close. I don’t want this to turn into a list of Workman’s gigs, so I’ll just touch on some of the major ones: He was a member of both the John Coltrane Quartet playing in such legendary recordings as Live at the Village Vanguard, and Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers during one of the band’s great line-ups. According to Reggie, Coltrane and Blakey were very different leaders: Coltrane gave his band a lot of freedom while Blakey knew exactly what he wanted. Because he could play any style of jazz from the American songbook to avant-garde, he became the go-to bassist for Blue Note Records backing folks from Abbey Lincoln to David Murray. He’s also led his own groups like the Reggie Workman Ensemble and performed in collaborative trios. In this wide-ranging conversation, Workman talks about what makes a good supporting artist and what he was looking for when he began his group. As professor at the New School for more than 30 years, Workman also talked about teaching and helping young musicians to understand “there are mistakes (in jazz),…but you have to be able to justify each note.” This music-filled podcast is a look at a fascinating artist.