Jimmy Earl

Jimmy Earl (born 1957) is an American jazz musician and composer. He has released three studio albums and recorded extensively. He has toured the world with major artists. Since 2003, he has performed nightly on Jimmy Kimmel Live

Early life and education

In 1957, James Christopher Earl was born in Boston, MA, to James and Sylvia Earl. He is the second of their four children. Shortly after his birth, the family moved to St. Paul, MN, and in 1965, to Hyattsville, MD, where he attended elementary school and Northwestern High School.

Music career

Earl began classical guitar lessons at age 10. In 1972, he picked up an electric bass guitar for $15 at the Rose Bowl flea market in Pasadena, CA, where his family was living temporarily. In 1973, along with his high school classmates Dan Hovey and Rex Wilson, he formed his first band named Cosmic Rainbow. Mark Opsasnick has described its activities in suburban Maryland.


In 1975–76, he attended Berklee College of Music in Boston. In 1981, he studied briefly at the New England Conservatory of Music, where he sits on the board of visitors. He also studied with Charlie Banacos] In 1983, he joined the group Tiger’s Baku,[which performed in the 1984 Newport Jazz Festival In 1985, he joined a band led by jazz drummer Bob Moses, with whom he appeared in Boston and Cambridge.[ Earl began his recording career in Boston, where in 1986, he backed up David Gilden on Ancestral Voices.[ This album featured the Kora, which is a West African 21 string harp.

New York

In 1986, Earl moved to New York City, where on the recommendation of his friend Steve Hunt, he joined the Jazz Explosion.[Within this organization, he backed up: Gato Barbieri, Angela Bofill, Tom Browne, Stanley Clarke, George Duke, Freddie Hubbard, Phyllis Hyman, Ramsey Lewis, Lonnie Liston Smith, and Stanley Turrentine. Here, he met his friend and mentor Stanley Clarke. Soon, he joined Clarke’s “three bassists” tour of Brazil with Larry Graham.[ Shortly thereafter, Earl went to New York’s Blue Note, where he met Joe Sample,[14] who invited him to tour with the Crusaders. During 1986 and 1987, he performed on their tours of the United States, Japan, and Europe.

Los Angeles

In 1988, Earl relocated to Los Angeles, CA. During this year, he recorded on Clarke’s album If This Bass Could Only Talk. It was followed, in 1993, by East River Drive, on which Earl is credited with helping to compose the song “I’m Home Africa”.[

In 1990, he recorded on two albums of the Mark Varney Project. The first, Truth in Shredding,[17] featured Allan Holdsworth and Frank Gambale. On the second, Centrifugal Funk, Earl played a key role as arranger and producer.

In 1993, Earl replaced John Patitucci in Chick Corea’s Elektric Band, which immediately went on tour.[On returning, he worked with his Elektric bandmate Eric Marienthal on the album One Touch, where he helped to compose the song “Backtalk”.[ That year, he also recorded on Elektric Band II:Paint the World. Here, he composed, with Corea, the tunes “Ished”,”Spanish Sketch”,[and “Reprise”.[] This album was nominated for the 1994 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Jazz Album.[25] In 1996, he joined the band’s collaboration with Steve Vai’s monsters on “Rumble”, which was included in the RCA Victor tribute album The Songs of West Side Story. On July 12, 1996, this album became a RIAA certified gold record. In 2002, he participated in the Elektric Band’s reunion tour of the United States,[ which included two performances at the Blue Note. In another reunion, Earl performed on Manhattan Transfer’s album The Chick Corea Songbook (2009).

In 1993, while touring with Corea, Earl performed in Rome with the Italian superstar Pino Daniele, who invited him, and Corea, to record on the album Che Dio ti benedica. This was the first of five albums he recorded with Daniele from 1993 to 1999. In 1995, while touring with Daniele to promote Non calpestare i fiori nel deserto, he played in Milan with Pat Metheny.

Caricature of Jimmy Earl by Dicky Barrett
drawn on the set of Jimmy Kimmel Live!

In that year, he recorded Jimmy Earl, which featured David Batteau, Mitchel Forman, Gambale, Deron Johnson, Gary Novak, Rique Pantoja, Randy Roos, Steve Tavaglione, and Dave Weckl.[31] This album presents Earl’s solo bass rendition of Maurice Ravel’s “Pavane for a Dead Princess” (1899).[32] It was followed, in 1997, by his second album Stratosphere, which features John Beasley, Daniele, Johnson, Forman, and Simon Phillips.] It is an exploration into combining performances by live musicians with electronic music. On March 20, 2012, Severn Records reissued updated versions of these albums, which have been reviewed in Bass Player Magazine.[Subsequently, on January 21, 2014, Severn released another album by Earl, Renewing Disguises. Cover art for this CD is based on a caricature of Earl drawn by Dicky Barrett.

In 1996, Tom Brechtlein recommended Earl as a replacement for Roscoe Beck in Robben Ford’s band, The Blue Line, which was about to go on a bus tour of Europe. On returning, Ford started a new band, which began with a series of West Coast performances. These included appearances at Catalina Bar and Grill in Hollywood, and at Yoshi’s in Oakland, CA, where Vinnie Colaiuta was featured on drums. Soon, Ford’s album Supernatural was recorded and released in 1999.] In 2001, Ford’s band recorded New Morning: The Paris Concert. This DVD captured a live performance at the New Morning club in Paris.[] It was followed, in 2002, by Ford’s first album with Concord Jazz, Blue Moon,[41] on which Earl is credited with producing “Good to Love”.[Later, Earl recorded on two more Ford albums: Keep on Running (2003),[ and Truth (2007),[ which was nominated for the 2008 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album.[Moreover, in August 2007, Truth became the number one blues album on Billboard’s charts.[47]

In 2003, he recorded on the album Man @ Work with Colin Hay. Earl’s work with Man @ Work is only one of dozens of collaborations and compilations in which he performed as a guest artist.] In the discography, there is a listing of some of these appearances, but it is more representative than exhaustive.

Jimmy Kimmel Live!

In late 2002, Jimmy Earl was invited to join a new band, Cleto and the Cletones, which had just been tapped to be the house band on the ABC late-night television program Jimmy Kimmel Live!. Since the show began in January 2003, the band, led by Cleto Escobedo III, has performed at the El Capitan Theatre, in more than 2060 episodes.

After the show, and on weekends, Earl performs once or twice per month at the Baked Potato club in Studio City.[51] Here, he has appeared with: Dean Brown, Deron Johnson, Scott Kinsey, Simon Phillips, Jeff Richman, Steve Tavaglione, and Steve Weingart. From time to time, he appears with “king of the funky drums”, Zigaboo Modeliste, and with salsa queen Cecilia Noël and the Wild Clams. Earl’s association with the Wild Clams goes back to 1995, when he performed with them at the National Theater of Cuba in Havana. This concert ended “a 16-year cultural cold war”, during which American musical groups were banned from Cuba.


In 1990, Earl began a relationship with the German company Warwick. In 1993, Warwick issued the Jimmy Earl Signature Streamer Stage II five string bass guitar.[55] Other Warwick basses that he has used are a Thumb and a fretless Dolphin. During the 2012 NAMM show at the Anaheim Convention Center,Warwick introduced another Jimmy Earl Signature Bass.On Jimmy Kimmel Live!, he uses Fender basses: a white ’66 Jazz, a red ’66 Jazz, and occasionally, a sunburst ’73 Precision. All these instruments are fitted with Dean Markley SR2000 medium-light strings. For amplification, he uses a Gallien-Krueger 800RB head and 410SBX 4×10 cabinet.

Selected discography

Solo albums

  • 1995 – Jimmy Earl (EFA; reissued in 2012 by Severn Records)
  • 1999 – Stratosphere (Pacific Time Entertainment; reissued in 2012 by Severn Records)
  • 2014 – Renewing Disguises (Severn Records)

With The Mark Varney Project

  • 1990 – Truth in Shredding (Legato)
  • 1991 – Centrifugal Funk (Legato)

With Stanley Clarke

  • 1988 – If This Bass Could Only Talk (Portrait)
  • 1993 – East River Drive (Epic)
  • 2003 – 1, 2, to the Bass (Sony)

With Chick Corea

  • 1993 – Paint the World (GRP)
  • 1996 – The Songs of West Side Story (RCA Victor)
  • 2004 – The Very Best of Chick Corea (Universal)

With Pino Daniele

  • 1993 – Che Dio ti benedica (Musicrama)
  • 1995 – Non calpestare i fiori nel deserto (GCD)
  • 1997 – Dimmi cosa succede sulla terra (Musicrama)
  • 1998 – Yes I Know My Way (GCD)
  • 1999 – Come un gelato all’equatore (GCD)

With Robben Ford

  • 1999 – Supernatural (Blue Thumb)
  • 2001 – New Morning: The Paris Concert, DVD, (In-Akustik)
  • 2002 – Blue Moon (Concord Jazz)
  • 2003 – Keep on Running (Concord Jazz)
  • 2007 – Truth (Concord)

As a guest artist

  • 1986 – Ancestral Voices, David Gilden (Kora Productions)
  • 1992 – Heads Up, Dave Weckl (GRP)
  • 1994 – Mo’ Jamaca Funk, Tom Browne (Hip Bop Essence)
  • 1996 – Dream Walk, Keiko Matsui (Countdown)
  • 1997 – Hazardous Material, Bob Boykin (Legato)
  • 1997 – Mangio Troppa Cioccolata, Giorgia Todrani (BMG)
  • 1998 – Madrid, Marc Antoine (GRP)
  • 2001 – Live at the Baked Potato, Vol. 2, Various artists (Tone Center)
  • 2002 – Groove Suite, Sunnie Paxson (Liquid 8)
  • 2002 – Bullet Proof, Bruce Conte (Severn)
  • 2003 – Man @ Work, Colin Hay (Compass)
  • 2004 – Live in LA, Rique Pantoja (Tratore/Net)
  • 2006 – Kinesthetics, Scott Kinsey (Abstract Logic)
  • 2006 – Jesus is Magic, Sarah Silverman, film, (Interscope)
  • 2007 – A Bass Bolero, Harald Weinkum (EFA)
  • 2008 – Just Between Us, Clarence Spady (Severn)
  • 2009 – A Gozar!, Cecilla Noël (Compass)
  • 2009 – The Chick Corea Songbook, Manhattan Transfer (Four-Quarters Entertainment)
  • 2011 – Gathering Mercury, Colin Hay (Lazy Eye Records)
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