Butch Warren in action. Uploaded by YouTube user radiokingz.
Local bass player Butch Warren is not just a tenured townie and a pickup musician, he’s one of the most celebrated bass players in the history of jazz.
Born in the District, Warren starting gigging around town in his teens, playing local establishments like the Howard Theater and Bohemian Caverns. When he moved to New York at 19, his career took off. In a lengthy 2006 feature, the Post‘s Marc Fisher wrote:
“His steady, unobtrusive rhythm and classy, unshowy solos made him the perfect studio musician. His playing had just enough of the blues and just enough bop adventure to make him enticing to leading musicians.”
Warren became the Blue Note Records house bassist, recording and performing with some of jazz’s biggest names: Thelonious Monk, Herbie Hancock, Sonny Clark, to name a few.
Not long ago, Warren was living at Springfield Hospital in Sykesville, Md., where he was treated for drug addition and mental illness. Today, at 69, Warren is back on the club circuit. He’s been playing under the Butch Warren Experience at Columbia Station in Adams Morgan for over a year, and he frequents other 18th Street clubs, including Tryst. The next time you see Butch Warren play, he’ll be driving his bass lines on a new bass, thanks to a handful of really nice people, Marc Fisher reports.
“In gratitude for Warren’s transformative art, his fans and friends have raised the money to deliver him a performance-quality bass, and they deserve to start off my annual list of thank-yous … “
Giving back to a D.C. jazz musician who became a signature part of some of the most breakthrough recordings in jazz music is both a celebration of Warren’s incredible prowess and the city that raised him.