Veteran jazz bassist Bob Cranshaw, known for his hundreds of sessions with everyone from Tony Bennett to Milt Jackson and Oscar Peterson, died Wednesday at age 83 after a battle with stage 4 cancer. Cranshaw’s family announced the news on the GoFundMe page where they previously raised money for his treatment.
“It is with great sadness that I share with you all the news that my step-father Bob passed away yesterday at 12;48PM EST. He died peacefully and without pain, in his home in Manhattan surrounded by loved ones,” read the note from the family. “The entire family is filled with gratitude to all of you who have contributed to this campaign, and have sent love and healing vibes our way! We are overwhelmed by the outreach received over the last 24 hours and apologize that we are not able to connect with everyone directly. We need some time to process.”
In a more than five-decade career that began in the late 1950s — when he started a 50-plus-year stint performing and recording more than 2 dozen albums with saxophone player/bandleader Sonny Rollins — Cranshaw’s signature light touch on the upright and electric bass could be heard on a galaxy of recordings from some of the jazz and pop world’s brightest stars, including: George Benson, Coleman Hawkins, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Wayne Shorter, McCoy Tyner, Frank Sinatra, Paul Simon, Rod Stewart, Judy Collins and Buddy Rich.
Cranshaw (born Melbourne R. Cranshaw in Evanston, Illinois, on Dec. 10, 1932) also served as the session bassist for the iconic PBS children’s programs Sesame Street and The Electric Company and played bass in the Saturday Night Live house band from 1975-80. According to the Jazz Foundation, Cranshaw played on 3,000 recordings (including holding a record for logging the most appearances by any jazz bassist on Blue Note Records recordings) and also served as the musical director for The Dick Cavett Show, The Merv Griffin Show and The David Frost Show.
For the past three decades, he was also heavily involved in advocating for proper pay for working jazz musicians as a representative and member of the executive board for New York musician’s union Local 802.
Cranshaw’s family said details on a memorial — likely after the holidays — will be forthcoming.