Jymie Merritt

30 Nov 2016


Jymie Merritt, 2016 Pew Fellow. Photo by Ryan Collerd.


Jymie Merritt, 2016 Pew Fellow. Photo by Ryan Collerd.


Jymie Merritt and the Forerunners in rehearsal at Philly Sound Studios, 2015. Photo by Lori Mager-Barstow.

"My own compositions, with their emphasis on collective improvisation, are not intended to dispense with the individual solo, but to promote substance rather than obligation as a trigger for soloing."

Jymie Merritt (1926–2020) was a pioneering bassist and composer who played with some of the most acclaimed American jazz and blues artists in history, including Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers, B. B. King, Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, and Chet Baker. An early adopter of the electric bass, Merritt established the ensemble The Forerunners in the 1960s, and began developing work that brings forth collective improvisation within a complex rhythmic and harmonic language. In his later career, Merritt said the possibilities of digital composition tools have influenced his musical investigations. "The shift from analog to digital united the traditional instrument with the computer," he said. "My interest is to provide composition prototypes that honor the past while envisioning an increasingly digital future." A selection of Merritt's recent work was performed at World Café Live and broadcast on NPR's "Jazz Night in America" in early 2016. The recipient of a Philadelphia Jazz Heritage Award, Merritt has been honored with a Living Legend Award from the Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and the Performing Arts and the Philadelphia City Council (2013).