Eugene Wright, a distinguished bass player who toured the world and recorded some 30 albums, including the landmark “Time Out,” in his decade with the Dave Brubeck Quartet, died Dec. 30 in the Valley Glen neighborhood of Los Angeles. He was 97.
Caroline Howard, the executor of Wright’s estate, confirmed his death, at an assisted living facility.
In 1958 Wright, a solidly swinging timekeeper best known for his work with the Count Basie Orchestra in the late 1940s, might not have seemed the ideal choice for the complex modern jazz compositions that formed the bulk of Brubeck’s repertoire.
Eugene Joseph Wright was born on May 29, 1923, in Chicago to Mayme (Brisco) Wright and Ezra Wright. His mother played piano, and, after studying the cornet in high school, he taught himself the string bass. He formed his own group, the Dukes of Swing, in his early 20s, and went on to play bass with, among others, Basie, saxophonist Gene Ammons and vibraphonists Red Norvo and Cal Tjader. Wright’s idol was Walter Page, best known for his long stint as Basie’s bassist.
When Norman Bates quit as the Brubeck quartet’s bassist in 1958, Morello suggested that Wright try for the slot. Wright auditioned at Brubeck’s house in Oakland, California.
Wright stayed with the quartet until the end of 1967, when Brubeck disbanded it to focus on composing. The group reunited occasionally over the years. Wright was the last surviving member.
He is survived by his daughters, Adrianne Wright and Rosita Dozier, and a son, Stewart Ayers. His marriage to Jacqueline Winters ended in divorce. His second wife, Phyllis (Lycett) Wright, died in 2006.
In the decades after the Brubeck quartet broke up, Wright played with pianist Monty Alexander’s trio and worked on soundtracks for film and television studios. He also performed at private parties until 2016 and gave private lessons until three years ago.