Bobby Timmons

Bobby Timmons (1935-1974) became famous for his funky piano solos and for his ability to write catchy songs. He was actually a well-rounded pianist who was more versatile than many thought.

Timmons was part of the Philadelphia jazz scene before moving to New York in the mid-1950s. He worked with Kenny Dorham, Chet Baker, Sonny Stitt, and the Maynard Ferguson Orchestra. Timmons’s abilities helped two important bands to catch on. While with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers (1958-1960) he contributed “Moanin’,” and when he was a member of the Cannonball Adderley Quintet (1959-1960), Timmons’s songs “This Here” and “Dat Dere” became quite popular.

Timmons, who began leading his own trios in 1961 but never quite achieved the commercial success of his former bosses, recorded for Riverside, Prestige, and Milestone during 1960-1968. This Here Is Bobby Timmons is a brilliant set in which he takes “Lush Life” unaccompanied and interprets trio versions of his three hits, a newer song in “Joy Ride,” and four standards with bassist Sam Jones and drummer Jimmy Cobb. Soul Time teams the pianist with Jones and drummer Art Blakey; best of his new songs are “So Tired.” Easy Does It is a trio outing with Jones and drummer Cobb that includes fine versions of “Old Devil Moon” and “Groovin’ High.” Other trio sessions include In Person, Sweet and Soulful Sounds, Born to Be Blue, From the Bottom, and, quite logically, The Prestige Trio Sessions.

1966’s Workin’ Out shows that Timmons had continued to advance beyond his original image as jazz’s funkiest pianist. In a pair of quartets with either vibraphonist Johnny Lytle or tenor saxophonist Wayne Shorter, he plays more adventurous material than expected (including Shorter’s “Tom Thumb”) and shows that he could be creative in post-bop. During Quartets and Orchestra, which often teams him with guitarist Joe Beck in a quartet in addition to a larger group with voices arranged by Tom McIntosh, Timmons was clearly looking ahead.

Unfortunately Bobby Timmons lived to be only 38, but his musical legacy is quite rich.