Biography

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Reginald “Reggie” Workman (born June 26, 1937 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) is recognized as one of the most technically gifted American avant-garde jazz and hard bop double bassists in history. He is a teacher, composer, and jazz advocate whose style ranges from Bop, Post Bop and beyond. Workman is most recognized for his work with both John Coltrane and Art Blakey.

In 1961, Workman joined the John Coltrane Quartet, replacing Steve Davis. He was present for the saxophonist's Live at the Village Vanguard sessions, and also recorded with a second bassist (Art Davis) on the 1961 albums, Olé Coltrane and Africa/Brass. Workman recorded frequently through the 1960s and performed with such icons as Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, Thelonious Monk, Max Roach, Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan, Eric Dolphy, Gigi Gryce, Booker Little, Roy Haynes, Wayne Shorter, Red Garland, James Moody, Abbey Lincoln, Alice Coltrane, Booker Ervin, Horace Silver, Benny Golson, Cedar Walton, Elvin Jones, McCoy Tyner, Curtis Fuller, Yusef Lateef, Pharoah Sanders, Herbie Mann, Archie Shepp, Clifford Jordan, Bobby Hutcherson, Sonny Fortune, Billy Harper, and David Murray. Workman, with pianist Tommy Flanagan and drummer Joe Chambers, formed The Super Jazz Trio in 1978. In the 1980s, he was the founding member of “Great Friends and began leading his own group, The Reggie Workman Ensemble. 

Workman co-founded the historic Collective Black Artists and was Musical Director of the New Muse Community Museum (Brooklyn, NY). In the 1970’s, he created the “Top Shelf” quartet. In 1978 he formed a Super Trio, with pianist Tommy Flanagan and drummer Joe Chambers. In 1983 he co-created the “On Time Jazz Series” and produced at the Village Gate. In 1985 he created Trio Transitions with Freddie Waits and Mulgrew Miller. In 1998 he created Trio Three with Oliver Lake and Andrew Cyrille. In 1990 he created the Reggie Workman Ensemble with: John Purcell, Jeanne Lee, Marilyn Crispell, Gerry Hemingway, and Don Byron and Jason Hwang. He created Ashanti’s Message (septet), and ”Brew” as well as “Groove Ship.” In 1998, Reggie Workman inaugurated The Montclair Academy of Dance & Laboratory of Music (for students from ages three to eighteen).

In recent years Reggie has been working with new music luminaries such as Geri Allen, Jason Moran, Vijay Iyer and his longstanding collaboration, TRIO 3 (Oliver Lake, Reggie Workman, Andrew Cyrille). In recognition of Reggie Workman's international performances and recordings spanning over 40 years, he was named a Living Legend by the African-American Historical and Cultural Museum in his hometown of Philadelphia; he is also a recipient of the Eubie Blake Award. Workman's additional awards include Meet the Composer, MidAtlantic, NYFA Opportunity Grant and Doris Duke Impact Award 2015. His community work includes The East, New Muse, LAI, Co-Founder of MADLOM, African American Legacy Project, AALP Community and Youth Workshops.

Alongside his wife Maya Milenovic Workman, Reggie has internationally Co-Produced/Fundraised events combining music, art and dance, such as The Groove Ship, The Reggie Workman Ensemble, The John Coltrane and The Charlie Parker celebrations at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, The African American Legacy Project in Washington DC, Philadelphia, and University of Amherst, Lincoln Center Outdoor Summer Series, Montclair Jazz Festival, WARM (Workman, Ak Laff, Rivers, Mitchel), Reggie Workman and Alice Coltrane with Strings (NYC) Cathedral St John’s Divine, Carnegie Recital Hall, Artists Alliance, and the Grass Roots Music, Dance, and Theater at the Village Gate, NYC. In 2006, Workman co-founded and produced (with Francina Connors) the critically acclaimed Sculptured Sounds Music Festival, an artist-driven festival of futuristic concepts in music.                   

Reggie is currently a tenured professor at The New School College of Performing Arts (COPA) and has been teaching there since 1987. As an Associate Professor of The New School of Jazz and Contemporary Music, Workman teaches classes such as Futuristic Concepts in Music, and the John Coltrane Ensemble. Workman is a strong advocate for the history of jazz music and treats his students with respect and professionalism. Reggie mentors through the classroom and opens the door of opportunities to his students. He continues to hire current and past students on his gigs, and is quick to recommend them to any leads. Reggie has educated new artists such as Robert Glasper, Jose James, Marcus and E.J. Strickland, Brad Mehldau, Avishai Cohen, Peter Bernstein, Roy Hargrove, Becca Stevens, and James Francies. In a recent article with UPROXX by Alia Stearns, James Francies stated, “Reggie Workman was one of my biggest mentors at The New School… [he] provided valuable knowledge about the history of the music, but allowed me to be who I was. Most great teachers not only teach, but they also help you to find and articulate your individual voice.”

Workman is an incredibly spiritual human with an important message. He is rooted in tradition, and encourages futuristic approaches. Reggie’s heart is his bass, and he lives to continue the education and preservation of jazz music. Reggie Workman’s music, education, spirituality, and approach will forever inspire generations of musicians to stretch the boundaries of their comfort zone.