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date: 17 April 2024

Peacock, Gary (George) (jazz)free

Peacock, Gary (George) (jazz)free

  • M. Ullman
  • , revised by Barry Kernfeld
  •  and Gary Kennedy

Updated in this version

updated and revised

(b Burley, ID, May 12, 1935; d Olivebridge, NY, Sept 4, 2020). American double bass player. His full name appears in the New York Times obituary and a family tree. He grew up in Idaho, Washington, and Oregon, and played piano in elementary school and drums from around the age of 14 in junior-high and high-school jazz bands. When he was 17 he went to Los Angeles and studied drums and vibraphone at the Westlake School of Music. In 1954 he entered the army; while stationed in Germany he played for two years in military bands and as a pianist in his own jazz band. In 1956, when his bass player was demobilized, Peacock took up double bass and played with Albert Mangelsdorff, Hans Koller, and Attila Zoller. After moving to Los Angeles later that year he toured with Terry Gibbs and then played locally with Harold Land, Art Pepper, Dexter Gordon, Bud Shank, Bob Cooper, and Paul Bley, and performed and recorded with Barney Kessel, Clare Fischer (including his first album, 1962), and Don Ellis.

In December 1962 Peacock settled in New York. He deputized for Steve Swallow in Jimmy Giuffre’s group, performed with George Russell and Archie Shepp, and was a member of Bley’s quartet, alongside Don Cherry and Pete La Roca. From mid-1963 to around March 1964 he belonged to the trio led by Bill Evans (ii), and during this same period he recorded with Evans’s drummer Paul Motian in a trio under Bley’s leadership. He deputized for Ron Carter in Miles Davis’s quintet (April–May 1964), but his preference was for playing the most radical free jazz with Albert Ayler, with whom he made several adventurous recordings and toured Europe in 1964 in a quartet with Cherry and Sunny Murray.

These performances established Peacock as one of the most accomplished double bass players in jazz. But he suffered a perforated ulcer before that European tour and soon afterwards largely withdrew from music, apart from a period with Bley in 1967–8. He studied Eastern philosophy and medicine and in 1969 moved to Japan, where he recorded with Sadao Watanabe, Masabumi Kikuchi, and several visiting Americans. After two and a half years he returned to the USA (1972) and studied biology at the University of Washington (1972–6). In the summer of 1976 he returned to Japan for a tour with Bley and Barry Altschul and from 1977 he made several recordings (and wrote a number of compositions) for the ECM label as a leader, notably an album by a trio consisting of Keith Jarrett and Jack DeJohnette. From 1983 they worked under Jarrett's name, performing stylistically updated versions of jazz standards; over the next dozen years Jarrett’s trio was one of the most popular groups in jazz, touring internationally and recording frequently. In 1989 Peacock recorded in a duo with Bley and in the trio of Niels Lan Doky, and in 1992 he played with Bley in trios at the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal and recorded with him in Germany (this last for the album Annette, named after the ex-wife of Peacock, and later, of Bley). He also worked in a trio, Tethered Moon, with Kikuchi and Motian in the 1990s, and from 1994 he led a group including Vic Juris. From 1979 he taught at the Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, and in the mid-1990s he gave master classes at the Royal Academy of Music in London.

Jarrett’s trio disbanded in 2014. Concurrently Peacock performed and recorded with Marc Copland from the late 1980s, toured and recorded in a cooperative trio with Bley and Motian in 1998–9, and formed a cooperative trio with Marilyn Crispell and Motian that recorded in 1996 and 2000. In the mid-2010s he made additional recordings with Crispell and toured in his own trio with Copland and Joey Baron; with this trio he recorded his last albums as a leader.

Oral history material at CtY

Selected recordings

(recorded for ECM unless otherwise indicated)

As unaccompanied soloist

December Poems (1977, 1119) [incl. duos with J. Garbarek]


with P. Bley: Partners (1989, Owl 058)

with P. Bley: Mindset (1992, SN 121213-2)

with B. Frisell: Just So Happens (1994, Postcards 1005)

with R. Towner: A Closer View (1995, 1602)

As leader

with M. Waldron: First Encounter (1971, Cat. 7906)

Tales of Another (1977, 1101)

Shift in the Wind (1980, 1165)

Voice from the Past–Paradigm (1981, 1210)

with M. Kikuchi and P. Motian: Tethered Moon (Play Kurt Weill) (1991, PW K1CJ93)

with P. Bley and F. Koglmann: Annette (1992, HA 6118)

with M. Crispell and P. Motian: Nothing Ever Was, Anyway: the Music of Annette Peacock (1996, 1626–1627)

with P. Bley and P. Motian: When Will the Blues Leave (1999, 2642)

with M. Crispell and P. Motian: Amaryllis (2000, 1742)

Now This (2014, 2428)

Tangents (2016, 2533)

As sideman with K. Jarrett

Standards, i (1983, 1255)

Changes (1983, 1276)

Standards, ii (1983, 1289)

Still Live (1986, 1360–61)

At the Blue Note: the Complete Recordings (1994, 1575–1580)

The Cure (1990, 1440)

Tokyo ’96 (1996, 1666)

The Out-of-Towners (2001, 1900)

As sideman with others

B. Evans: Trio ’64 (1963, Verve 68578)

P. Bley: Paul Bley with Gary Peacock (1963, 1968, 1003)

A. Ayler: Spiritual Unity (1964, ESP 1002)

A. Ayler: New York Eye and Ear Control (1964, ESP 1016)

T. Williams: Spring (1965, BN 84216)

P. Bley: Ballads (1967–8, 1010)

D. Pullen: New Beginnings (1988, BN B1-91785)

J. Surman: Adventure Playground (1991, 1463)

M. Copland: The New York Trio Recordings, ii: [Voices] (2006, Pirouet 3023)

Selected films and videos

Bud Shank–Clare Fischer Bossa-Nova Show (1962)

Frankly Jazz: Guitars from Flamenco to Jazz (1962)

Jazz Scene USA: Shorty Rogers and his Giants (1962)

Keith Jarrett: Trio Standards (1985)

Keith Jarrett: Trio Standards, ii (c1987)

The Keith Jarrett Trio Concert (1993)

Trio Live at Open Theater East, 1993 (c1995)


  • M. Williams: “Gary Peacock: the Beauties of Intuition,” DB, 30/13 (1963), 16
  • B. Quersin: “Les Horizons de Peacock,” Jm, no.114 (1965), 24
  • M. Lequime: “Gary Peacock,” Jh, no.290 (1973), 14
  • L. Goddet: “Gary le Magnifique,” Jh, no.338 (1977), 8
  • M. Solomon: “Bassist Peacock into Zen, Est and ECM,” DB, 46/10 (1979), 9
  • G. Endress: Jazz Podium: Musiker über sich selbst (Stuttgart, Germany, 1980), 196
  • I. Carr: Keith Jarrett: the Man and his Music (New York, 1991) [incl. discography]
  • J. Rosenbaum: “Gary Peacock: the Experience of Music,” Bass Player, 4/4 (1993), 54
  • K. Micallef: “Hearsay: Gary Peacock,” JT, 25/3 (1995), 14
  • J. Ephland: “Why Play Standards?” DB, 63/2 (1996), 16 [incl. discography]
  • P. Pettinger: Bill Evans: How my Heart Sings (New Haven, CT, and London, 1998)
  • G. Buium: “Gary Peacock Interview,” Cadence, 27 (2001), no.9, p.9; no.10, p.5
  • R. W. Sabin: Gary Peacock: Analysis of Progressive Double Bass Improvisation, 1963–1965 (diss., New York University, 2014)
  • Obituary, New York Times (Sept 9, 2020)
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Jazz Times (Washington, 1980-)
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J. Gray: Fire Music: a Bibliography of the New Jazz, 1959-1990 (New York, 1991)