Happy Birthday to Oteil Burbridge – born August 24, 1964!
Oteil Burbridge is an American multi-instrumentalist, specializing on the bass guitar, trained in playing jazz and classical music from an early age. He has achieved fame primarily on bass guitar during the resurgence of the Allman Brothers Band from 1997 through 2014. He was also a founding member of the bands Dead & Company and The Aquarium Rescue Unit, and has worked with other musicians who include Bruce Hampton, Trey Anastasio, Page McConnell, Bill Kreutzmann and The Derek Trucks Band, with whom his brother Kofi Burbridge is the keyboardist and flautist.
Burbridge has been recognized for his ability to incorporate scat-singing into his improvised bass solos. Burbridge endorses Fodera, Modulus, Sukop and Dunlop guitars and effects.
Burbridge was born and raised in Washington, D.C., to an African American family with some Egyptian heritage. His name, Oteil, means “explorer” or “wanderer”. When he and elder sibling Kofi showed talent for music, their mother encouraged them with classical and jazz courses hoping to nurture their musical inclinations and keep them out of trouble. Kofi remembers Oteil’s first drum set: a Quaker Oatmeal box, when he was only three or four years old. Both brothers were introduced to a wide variety of instruments, and became multi-instrumentalists, with both being taught to play the piano. Oteil gained proficiency on the bass clarinet, violin,and trumpet; however, bass guitar and drums became his instruments of choice (while Kofi developed a love for both flute and keyboards). Burbridge was also interested in the theater and became the co-host of a local children’s television show called “Stuff”. He was enrolled in the Sidwell Friends School, a well-known elite private school offering a higher quality of education than Washington D.C.’s troubled public school system and exposing Burbridge to the tastes and styles of a diverse student body. He graduated from Sidwell Friends in 1982.
Oteil performed regularly in a variety of D.C. bands as a teenager, gathering experience playing R&B, rock, Brazilian music and jazz among other styles. He moved to Virginia Beach and worked mostly in cover bands there, and subsequently became part of the Atlanta musical scene, where he played with different musicians and also became fluent in other genres of music.
The Aquarium Rescue Unit
As one of the original members of Bruce Hampton’s avant-garde band, the Aquarium Rescue Unit, Burbridge was introduced to members of the jam band scene in the southeast of the United States. This included members of Phish, Phil Lesh and Friends, and Blues Traveler, who freely sat in with one another in each other’s bands. When Hampton left the Aquarium Rescue Unit, it slowly disbanded;however Burbridge had developed a reputation on the four- and six-string bass guitar, enjoying the less commercial aspects of playing with Atlanta-area musicians. During its’ initial years, the band was composed of Bruce Hampton, Oteil Burbridge, Jimmy Herring, Jeff Sipe, Matt Mundy, and Count M’Butu. Although the band was never commercially successful, their unique combination of bluegrass, rock, Latin, blues, jazz, funk (along with the impeccable chops of the members) led to their becoming a influence on other bands and served as a kind of template for their own future musical endeavors.