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Bob Cranshaw, jazz bassist who spent five decades with Sonny Rollins, dies at 83

Bob Cranshaw, a versatile jazz bassist best known for his association with saxophonist Sonny Rollins, whom he accompanied on virtually every concert and album since 1962, died Wednesday at his home in Manhattan. He was 83.

The cause was cancer, said his wife, Bobbi Cranshaw.

Cranshaw was on dozens of well-known jazz recordings, including trumpeter Lee Morgan’s “The Sidewinder” in 1964. He toured with singer Ella Fitzgerald and appeared on more recordings on the prestigious Blue Note jazz label in the 1960s than any other bass player.

“I didn’t ask to be a star,” he said in a 2014 interview with jazz pianist Ethan Iverson on the Do the Math website. “I wanted to be a sideman. I wanted to be a super-sideman.”

Cranshaw first performed with Rollins in 1959 at the Playboy Jazz Festival in Chicago. Rollins later asked Cranshaw to join his band, and he appeared on the classic 1962 album “The Bridge.”

For the next 50 years, Cranshaw was the rhythmic and harmonic anchor for the powerful saxophonist often considered the most influential jazz musician of his time, appearing on nearly 25 of his albums.

In addition, Cranshaw spent more than 25 years with “Sesame Street,” recording the TV show’s theme and other tunes, including “(It’s Not Easy) Bein’ Green” and “Sing.”

From 1975 to 1980, Cranshaw was the bass player with the original studio band of “Saturday Night Live.”

He performed in Broadway pit orchestras and for singers including Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. He appeared on Paul Simon’s 1973 album “There Goes Rhymin’ Simon.”

Melbourne Robert Cranshaw was born Dec. 10, 1932, in Chicago.

His two earlier marriages ended in divorce. Survivors include his wife of 39 years, Bobbi Curtis Cranshaw of Manhattan; three children from his first marriage; two stepchildren; and several grandchildren.


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