The bassist Paul Warburton, a fixture on the Denver jazz scene who worked with countless jazz legends who toured Colorado, died on Wednesday, January 5 at age 79, he was born on February 18, 1942, in Denver.

Dale Bruning, who performed as a duo with Warburton for ten years, says the bassist had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and contracted COVID earlier this week. Born in Denver in 1942, Warburton taught himself to play bass by copying Red Mitchell and Ray Brown’s solos from their albums. Bruning says Warburton and Mitchell eventually became friends.“ And if I heard a bassline that I wanted to play, I’d hold one end of the fringe between my teeth, and then I’d tighten and loosen it and strum it until I really learned to walk a bit of bassline along with the radio.”

The thing about Paul that I was always impressed with was that he played very solid bass lines, that’s for sure,” says long-time collaborator Dale Bruning-guitarist. . “He was an excellent soloist on bass and therefore his main man was Red Mitchell because he could play beautiful solos on the bass.

“[Paul] had great technique,” he continues. “It was amazing how many bassists could do those technical things with two fingers like a classical guitarist. But Paul would do more – almost everything was his index finger. It was amazing how fast he could move his index finger and play things the way he wanted.”

That technique just came naturally to him – Warburton said that he took one bass lesson, but it really slowed him down.

“When I was a kid, we were very poor, so I learned to play bass by sneaking out my half-brother’s bass when he left it at our house,” Warburton said. “And I learned my proper hand positions by spending hours flipping through records in the store bins, looking for pictures of bassists so I could see the different ways they held their hands.

“Years later I realized that I had this innate talent for this particular instrument, and music in general. Technical things that other bassists have to teach themselves to do just came naturally to me. I didn’t really know that using many accepted classical techniques,” he continued. “It was just comfortable for me, so I did it.”

While attending East High School, Warburton began playing professionally at 17, working with house bands in Denver, and later supporting legendary players such as Milt Jackson when they came to town. He and Bruning released their duo album, Our delight!, on local jazz label Capri Records in 1987. In the liner notes of Our delight!, Warburton calls a month-long stay in California with pianist Bill Evans and Philly Joe Jones as “totally changing my harmonic conception and musical approach.”

Source: Jon Solomon/Westword
Picture credit/this page: Tom Burns

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