- State: California
- School Website
Jeff Denson, bass faculty
- accredited as a conservatory in 2014
- CJC is the only American school with a year-round jazz music program
About The Bass Faculty
Born in Arlington, Virginia – just outside of Washington, D.C. – in 1976, Jeff grew up in a fertile musical environment and began playing the alto sax at 8 years old, switching to electric bass in high school. His mother’s love of the Beatles became his own, and he also discovered R&B, especially Stevie Wonder, James Brown & the J.B.’s and Marvin Gaye– particularly affected by the legendary Motown Records bassist James Jameson. By the time he was completing his high school education, Jeff was playing and singing with his own funk and rock bands. His interest in jazz started with fusion – Jaco Pastorius and Stanley Clarke – but shifted direction one fateful day. Like countless musicians over the past 50+ years it was a chance encounter with Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue – specifically Paul Chambers playing lead on So What – that provided an epiphany. Soon after, Charles Mingus’ Haitian Fight Song locked the young bassist into this new direction, both as a player and an artist.
In 1999, Jeff began his studies at the renowned Berklee College of Music, and after graduating cum laude in 2002, his career hit full stride. Jeff began performing extensively with Minsarah, the internationally acclaimed cooperative trio he had formed in 2001 with fellow Berklee students, pianist Florian Weber and drummer Ziv Ravitz. Touring extensively in the U.S. and Europe, they recorded their first album for the now-defunct hubermusik Records label in 2003 and were signed by Enja Records in 2006, recording two albums. Growing rapidly in stature, they performed at top concert halls and festivals, including the Berlin Jazz Festival, JVC Jazz Festival in Paris and the Montreal Jazz Festival among many others. In 2007 they joined forces with Lee Konitz, becoming the legendary figure’s first regular ensemble. They recorded three albums together for Enja and toured regularly, especially in Europe with dozens of tours since 2007. In 2010 Jeff moved to New York City and became a highly in-demand member of the local scene. Amidst all this activity Jeff continued his studies, while continuing to play, perform and teach.
He received his Master of Music in Jazz Studies from Florida State University; and his Doctorate of Musical Arts in Contemporary Music Performance with an Emphasis on Composition from the University of California, San Diego in 2010. Jeff’s intensely focused experience at UCSD, where he also studied privately with Anthony Davis and Mark Dresser (who Jeff cites as a most powerfully influential teacher and a very close friend), added another important dimension to his musical vision – a deep love of the Western Classical traditions, especially Bach, Debussy, Ravel and the 12-tone masters, Berg and Schoenberg, along with Eliot Carter. Weaving this influence into his own composing and theoretical imperative, particularly in the context of his Secret World ensemble, Jeff has embarked on a truly unique path as a composer and performer.
In 2011, with extensive experience in providing workshops, master classes, lectures and clinics all over Europe and the U.S., and seven years of institutional teaching while pursuing his advanced degrees, Dr. Denson accepted an offer from the Jazzschool Institute (now the California Jazz Conservatory) to become a full professor in order to focus upon his goals as an educator. Despite Jeff’s educational commitments he remains a fully committed active musician and remains powerfully focused on his own sweeping musical journey.
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