Fred Hopkins

Last updated

Fred Hopkins (October 11, 1947 – January 7, 1999) [1] was an American double bassist who played a major role in the development of the avant-garde jazz movement. [2] He was best known for his association with the trio Air with Henry Threadgill and Steve McCall, and for his numerous performances and extensive recordings with major jazz musicians such as Muhal Richard Abrams, Arthur Blythe, Oliver Lake, and David Murray. [3] He was a member of the AACM, [4] and a frequent participant in the loft jazz scene of the 1970s. [5] He also co-led a number of albums with the composer and cellist Diedre Murray. Gary Giddins wrote that Hopkins' playing "fused audacious power with mercuric reflexes." [6] Howard Reich, writing in the Chicago Tribune, stated that "many connoisseurs considered [Hopkins] the most accomplished jazz bassist of his generation" and praised him for "the extraordinarily fluid technique, sumptuous tone and innovative methods he brought to his instrument." [7]


Biography and career

Hopkins was born in Chicago, Illinois, United States, [1] and grew up in a musical family, listening to a wide variety of music from an early age. [8] He attended DuSable High School, where he studied music under "Captain" Walter Dyett, who became well-known for mentoring and training musicians. [9] He was originally inspired to learn the cello after seeing a performance by Pablo Casals on television, but was told by Dyett that because the school didn't have a cello, he would have to play bass. [8] After graduating from high school, he worked at a grocery store, but was encouraged by Dyett and other friends to pursue music more seriously. [8] He soon began playing with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, where he was the first recipient of the Charles Clark Memorial Scholarship, [10] and studying with Joseph Gustafeste, principal bassist for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the time, [1] [3] as well as picking up piano duo gigs. [8] In the mid-1960s, Hopkins attended a concert by AACM members at Hyde Park and was intrigued. [8] He also began playing with Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre, with whom he would make his first recording in 1970 ( Forces and Feelings ), and started becoming more serious about improvisation, [8] playing with Muhal Richard Abrams's Experimental Band and other related groups. [11] Hopkins stated that a major inspiration at that time was hearing John Coltrane's Coltrane's Sound : "it really changed my whole outlook on music. I knew then that I could do anything I wanted to do... And from that point on, I just got more involved, and started meeting more people over the years." [8]

In the early 1970s, he formed a trio called Reflection with saxophonist Henry Threadgill and drummer Steve McCall. In 1975, he, like many other Chicago free-jazz musicians, [12] left and moved to New York, [1] where he soon regrouped with Threadgill and McCall, who also moved there at around the same time. They renamed their trio Air, and went on to tour and record extensively. [13] He also joined the AACM, immersed himself in New York's loft scene, [3] and, over the following decades, increasingly gained recognition, gigging with Roy Haynes [12] and performing and recording with artists such as Muhal Richard Abrams, Hamiet Bluiett, Anthony Braxton, Marion Brown, Arthur Blythe, Oliver Lake, David Murray, Diedre Murray, and Don Pullen, as well as with various groups led by Threadgill. [12]

In 1997, he moved back to Chicago, [1] stating that he "got tired of the stress" of living in New York, and reuniting with "ten brothers and sisters and 35 nieces and nephews". [12] He continued to perform, tour, and record with a wide variety of musicians. He died in 1999 at age 51 of heart disease at the University of Chicago Hospital. [3]


As co-leader with Diedre Murray

With Air

As sideman

With Ahmed Abdullah

With Muhal Richard Abrams

With Hamiet Bluiett

With Arthur Blythe

With Charles Brackeen

With Peter Brötzmann and Rashied Ali

With Peter Brötzmann and Hamid Drake

With Marion Brown

With John Carter

With Andrew Cyrille

With Marc Edwards

With Kahil El'Zabar

With The Group (Ahmed Abdullah, Marion Brown, Billy Bang, Sirone, Hopkins, Andrew Cyrille)

With Craig Harris

With Tyrone Henderson

With Michael Gregory Jackson

With Frank Lacy

With Oliver Lake

Performing music of Anne LeBaron

With Michael Marcus

With Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre

With Marcello Melis

With Jemeel Moondoc

With Butch Morris

With David Murray

With Sunny Murray's Untouchable Factor

With Bern Nix

With Ivo Perelman

With Don Pullen

With Horace Tapscott

With Malachi Thompson

With Henry Threadgill

With Tom Varner

With the World Bass Violin Ensemble

With the World Saxophone Quartet

With Various artists

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Henry Threadgill</span> American composer, saxophonist and flautist

Henry Threadgill is an American composer, saxophonist and flautist. He came to prominence in the 1970s leading ensembles rooted in jazz but with unusual instrumentation and often incorporating other genres of music. He has performed and recorded with several ensembles: Air, Aggregation Orb, Make a Move, the seven-piece Henry Threadgill Sextett, the twenty-piece Society Situation Dance Band, Very Very Circus, X-75, and Zooid.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Muhal Richard Abrams</span> American jazz musician and educator

Muhal Richard Abrams was an American educator, administrator, composer, arranger, clarinetist, cellist, and jazz pianist in the free jazz medium. He recorded and toured the United States, Canada and Europe with his orchestra, sextet, quartet, duo and as a solo pianist. His musical affiliations constitute a "who's who" of the jazz world, including Max Roach, Dexter Gordon, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, Art Farmer, Sonny Stitt, Anthony Braxton, and The Art Ensemble of Chicago.

The Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) is a nonprofit organization, founded in 1965 in Chicago by pianist Muhal Richard Abrams, pianist Jodie Christian, drummer Steve McCall, and composer Phil Cohran. The AACM is devoted "to nurturing, performing, and recording serious, original music," according to its charter. It supports and encourages jazz performers, composers and educators. Although founded in the jazz tradition, the group's outreach and influence has, according to Larry Blumenfeld, "touched nearly all corners of modern music."

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Roscoe Mitchell</span> American composer, jazz musician, and educator

Roscoe Mitchell is an American composer, jazz instrumentalist, and educator, known for being "a technically superb – if idiosyncratic – saxophonist". The Penguin Guide to Jazz described him as "one of the key figures" in avant-garde jazz; All About Jazz stated in 2004 that he had been "at the forefront of modern music" for more than 35 years. Critic Jon Pareles in The New York Times has mentioned that Mitchell "qualifies as an iconoclast". In addition to his own work as a bandleader, Mitchell is known for cofounding the Art Ensemble of Chicago and the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM).

Olu Dara Jones is an American cornetist, guitarist, and singer. He is the father of rapper Nas.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Leroy Jenkins (musician)</span> American composer and violinist (1932–2007)

Leroy Jenkins was an American composer and violinist/violist.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Oliver Lake</span> American jazz musician, composer, poet, and artist

Oliver Lake is an American jazz saxophonist, flutist, composer, poet, and visual artist. He is known mainly for alto saxophone, but he also performs on soprano and flute. During the 1960s, Lake worked with the Black Artists Group in St. Louis. In 1977, he founded the World Saxophone Quartet with David Murray, Julius Hemphill, and Hamiet Bluiett. He worked in the group Trio 3 with Reggie Workman and Andrew Cyrille. He has appeared on more than 80 albums as a bandleader, co-leader, and side musician. He is the father of drummer Gene Lake. Lake has been a resident of Montclair, New Jersey.

Joseph Jarman was an American jazz musician, composer, poet, and Shinshu Buddhist priest. He was one of the first members of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians and a member of the Art Ensemble of Chicago.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Craig Harris</span> American jazz trombonist

Craig S. Harris is an American jazz trombonist, who started working with Sun Ra in 1976. He also has worked with Abdullah Ibrahim, David Murray, Lester Bowie, Cecil Taylor, Sam Rivers, Muhal Richard Abrams, and Charlie Haden. He has recorded since 1983 as leader for India Navigation, Soul Note and JMT. For the latter he recorded with two groups. The Tailgater's Tales was a quintet with clarinetist Don Byron, trumpeter Eddie Allen, Anthony Cox on double bass, and Pheeroan akLaff on drums. His large ensemble Cold Sweat was a tribute to the music of James Brown.

Douglas R. Ewart is a Jamaican multi-instrumentalist and instrument builder. He plays sopranino and alto saxophones, clarinets, bassoon, flute, bamboo flutes, and didgeridoo; as well as Rastafarian hand drums.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Malachi Favors</span> American jazz bassist

Malachi Favors was an American jazz bassist who played with the Art Ensemble of Chicago.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Amina Claudine Myers</span> American jazz musician

Amina Claudine Myers is an American jazz pianist, organist, vocalist, composer, and arranger.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kahil El'Zabar</span> American drummer

Kahil El'Zabar is an American jazz multi-instrumentalist and composer. He regularly records for Delmark Records.

Loft jazz was a cultural phenomenon that occurred in New York City during the mid-1970s. Gary Giddins described it as follows: "[A] new coterie of avant-garde musicians took much of the jazz world by surprise... [T]hey interpreted the idea of freedom as the capacity to choose between all the realms of jazz, mixing and matching them not only with each other, but with old and new pop, R&B and rock, classical music and world music... [S]eemingly overnight new venues - in many instances, apartments or lofts - opened shop to present their wares." According to Michael Heller, "lofts were not an organization, nor a movement, nor an ideology, nor a genre, nor a neighborhood, nor a lineage of individuals. They were, instead, a meeting point, a locus for interaction." Heller stated that "loft practices came to be defined by a number of key characteristics, including (1) low admission charges or suggested donations, (2) casual atmospheres that blurred the distinction between performer and audience, (3) ownership / administration by musicians, and (4) mixed-use spaces that combined both private living areas and public presentation space." Regarding the music played in these venues, Michael J. Agovino wrote: "This was community music. Part of the point was that, free of the strictures of clubs, the music could be anything, go anywhere, go on for as long as it wanted." David Such stated that "the cutting contests, personality cults, and vices that characterized the jazz scene of the 1940s and 1950s were mostly missing." The scene was reviewed and documented by Giddins, Peter Occhiogrosso of the SoHo Weekly News, Leroi Jones, Robert Palmer, and Stanley Crouch.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Thurman Barker</span> American jazz drummer

Thurman Barker is an American jazz drummer.

Steve McCall was an American jazz drummer.

Novus Records was an American jazz record label run by Steve Backer. Backer worked at Impulse! Records until 1974, when Clive Davis, founder of Arista Records, asked him to oversee the jazz division at Arista.

Baikida Carroll is an American jazz trumpeter.

Reginald "Reggie" Nicholson is an American jazz drummer.

<i>Wildflowers: The New York Loft Jazz Sessions</i> 1977 live album by Various

Wildflowers: The New York Loft Jazz Sessions is a series of five albums recorded May 14–23, 1976 at Studio Rivbea, a loft jazz space in New York City, run by Sam Rivers and his wife Bea. The albums include performances by groups led by musicians such as Hamiet Bluiett, Anthony Braxton, Marion Brown, Dave Burrell, Andrew Cyrille, Oliver Lake, Jimmy Lyons, Ken McIntyre, Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre, Roscoe Mitchell, David Murray, Sunny Murray, Sam Rivers, Leo Smith, Henry Threadgill, and Randy Weston. The recordings were originally released in 1977 on the Douglas and Casablanca labels as five separate LPs, and were reissued in 1999 by Knit Classics as a 3-CD set.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Feather, Leonard; Gitler, Ira (1999). "Hopkins, Fred (Frederick)". The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 329.
  2. Yanow, Scott. "Fred Hopkins: Artist Biography". Retrieved June 29, 2020.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Ratliff, Ben (January 18, 1999). "Fred Hopkins, Experimental Jazz Bassist, 51". The New York Times . Retrieved June 29, 2020.
  4. May, Chris (April 24, 2020). "AACM: Together We Are Stronger". Retrieved June 29, 2020.
  5. "Fred Hopkins: Biography". June 7, 2015. Retrieved June 29, 2020.
  6. Giddins, Gary (2004). Weather Bird: Jazz at the Dawn of its Second Century. Oxford University Press. p. 481.
  7. Reich, Howard (January 10, 1999). "Fred Hopkins, 51, Jazz Bassist with Unique, 'Creative' Style". Retrieved June 29, 2020.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Panken, Ted (August 2, 1987). "Interview: Fred Hopkins August 2, 1987, WCKR-FM New York". Retrieved June 29, 2020.
  9. Lewis, George E. (2008). A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music. University of Chicago Press. pp. 12–13.
  10. Lewis, George E. (2008). A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music. University of Chicago Press. p. 482.
  11. Yanow, Scott (2013). "Hopkins, Fred". African American Studies Center. doi:10.1093/acref/9780195301731.013.39501. ISBN   978-0-19-530173-1 . Retrieved June 29, 2020.
  12. 1 2 3 4 Margasak, Peter (January 9, 1997). "Home Bass: Fred Hopkins / New York Got Old". Retrieved June 29, 2020.
  13. "Air Discography". Retrieved June 29, 2020.