Bassist Butch Warren Dies at 74
Edward “Butch” Warren, a bassist who performed on many classic jazz albums, passed away from lung cancer on Oct. 5 in Silver Spring, Md. He was 74.
Throughout the late ’50s and early ’60s, Warren played with Dexter Gordon, Donald Byrd, Sonny Clark and numerous other iconic hard-bop artists. As the house bassist for Blue Note, he is credited on Gordon’s Go (1962), Clark’s Leapin’ And Lopin’ (1961) and Joe Henderson’s Page One (1963).
Warren was also the bassist on Herbie Hancock’s 1962 debut album Takin’ Off, which included the now-standard “Watermelon Man.” He toured with Thelonious Monk in 1963–’64.
Born Aug. 9, 1939, Warren performed with his father’s group in Washington, D.C., as early as age 14. When he was 19, he was discovered at a Kenny Dorham show at Bohemian Caverns. Warren moved to New York in 1958 to play and record with Dorham.
While much of Warren’s career was defined by musical accomplishments and a rise to prominence with the pioneers of modern jazz, his life was marked by personal struggles.
In 1964, Warren left New York two weeks shy of a major performance at Carnegie Hall with Monk and seemed to disappear from the jazz scene altogether. Suffering from drug addiction and mental illness, he became an elusive figure back in his home city of Washington, D.C., where he occasionally played at local jazz clubs and was known to attend the weekly jam sessions at Westminster Presbyterian Church. In 2006, Warren was discovered living in a state hospital’s psychiatric ward.
In his final years, Warren returned to performing and recorded his first two albums as a leader, 2011’s French 5tet and 2012’s Butch’s Blues.
Warren was remembered at several memorial jam sessions in Washington, D.C., this fall.