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HT Jazz History: Vol. 1 - Bobby Bradford


Bobby Lee Bradford's life began in Mississippi; he and his family then moved to Dallas, Texas, in 1946. He moved to Los Angeles, California, in 1953 where he reunited with Ornette Coleman, whom he had previously known in Texas. Bradford subsequently joined Coleman's ensemble, but was drafted into the U.S. Air Force and replaced by Don Cherry.


After playing in military bands from late 1954 to late 1958, he rejoined Coleman's quartet from 1961 to 1963, which infrequently performed in public, but was indeed recorded under Coleman's Atlantic contract. These tapes were among those many destroyed in the Great Atlantic Vault Fire. Freddie Hubbard acted as Bradford's replacement upon his departure to return to the West Coast and pursue further studies. Bradford soon began a long-running and relatively well-documented association with the clarinetist John Carter, a pairing that brought both increased exposure at international festivals (though the records remain scantily available, when one excludes web rips and bootlegs). Following Carter's death in 1991, Bradford fronted his own ensemble known as The Mo'tet, with which he has continued to perform since. He is the father of drummer Dennis Bradford and jazz vocalist Carmen Bradford.


He holds a B.M. degree from Huston–Tillotson College (now Huston–Tillotson University) in Austin, Texas.

In addition to Coleman, Bradford has performed with Eric Dolphy, Leon "Ndugu" Chancler, Ingebrigt Håker-Flaten, Bob Stewart, Charlie Haden, George Lewis (trombone), James Newton, Frode Gjerstad, Vinny Golia, Paal Nilssen-Love, and David Murray, who was previously a student of his in the 1970s.


He was a lecturer at Pomona College in Claremont, California, where he taught the history of jazz and led the school's jazz ensemble. After 44 years at the college, he retired in June 2021.

Check out one of Mr. Bradford’s most recent compositions that pays homage to Jackie Robinson!


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