Joe Comfort

About Joe Comfort

The name Joe Comfort represents an important example of a musician's surname summarizing what is expected of them as an instrumentalist. It would be grand to say this man's name is thus synonymous with great jazz bass players, but unfortunately this artist has much less name recognition with jazz fans than some of the players that inspired him, a list that starts with Jimmy Blanton of the Duke Ellington Orchestra and continues with reliable mainstream jazz veterans such as Paul Chambers and Ray Brown. Comfort's discography rivals any of these players in size, nonetheless, the most extensively heard sides most likely being recordings with stars such as Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra.
Comfort's Los Angeles family were entirely musically talented, although the general alignment was the classics rather than swinging. The soon-to-be bassist's father taught him trombone initially; Comfort never lost his ease with brass, keeping up chops on an arsenal of at least four such instruments throughout his career. Comfort taught himself bass and by his late '20s was gigging with enthusiastic bandleader Lionel Hampton. Cole called a couple of years later and their relationship continued into the early '50s, including an extensive European tour. Comfort also worked independently with Oscar Moore, a guitarist whose style was considered an important element of Cole's original trio groove.
In the second half of the '50s the bassist began picking up a larger proportion of studio credits, soundtrack music for bosses such as Nelson Riddle as well as pop and vocal music. The aforementioned blue-eyed wonder was comfortable enough with Comfort to include him on anABC television series in 1957. A crime series entitled M Squad was even more of a jazz highlight for the boob tube set around the same time, featuring the bassist in the context of a studio band helmed by the brilliant Benny Carter. This amount of popular exposure and the bassist's rafter of commercial recording sessions apparently backfired in terms of maintaining interest amongst the jazz snobbery, however. ~ Eugene Chadbourne