Born: January 9, 1931 | Died: January 12, 2012 Primary Instrument: Bass
Bassist-composer Chuck Metcalf's music-teacher parents started him on violin and piano in elementary school. To his mother's dismay, by age 12 he was playing boogie-woogie instead of Mozart, so by age 15 was encouraged to take up the bass. That year the first bebop records--and Charlie Parker particularly--captured his soul. Moving from Pasadena to Seattle to live with his father that year, he played bass in high-school until going away to college at the University of Washington where he found a thriving, informal jazz scene. That led to his doing gigs in the many clubs of the time as detailed in Paul deBarros' Jackson Street After Hours. There he met and/or played with future jazz stars such as Quincy Jones, Ernestine Anderson, Buddy Catlett, and Ray Charles.
During the 50's Metcalf started a family and worked as an architect, but continued working as a bassist on weekends. Then in the 60's he decided that his love of jazz trumped all other considerations and devoted himself to playing jazz bass full time, which he has done ever since. He toured with Anita O'Day, Joe Venuti, and others. Moving to San Francisco in 1972 he was active in the jazz scene there, and recorded on Mark Murphy's Stolen Moments album before leaving for New York in 1979. While in New York he toured half of 1980 with Dexter Gordon. Returning to Seattle, he toured with Ernestine Anderson and Bert Wilson before going to Holland to immerse himself in the Dutch jazz scene. Returning to Seattle in 1985, he toured and recorded with Bert Wilson, toured with Jim Pepper, Frank Morgan, and his own quartet.
In 1989 Metcalf released his first CD on Dan Greenblatt's Bopware label. Entitled Elsie Street, it features George Cables on piano and Metcalf's compositions. It was followed in 1991 by a piano-less octet recording, Help Is Coming. Both CDs won the Earshot Jazz Best NW Recording award. Bert Wilson has produced several CDs on his FMO label that feature Metcalf's playing.
Returning to the Bay Area in the mid-90s, Metcalf once again found a receptive environment for his talents among the many world-class resident artists constituting the Bay Area jazz scene. In 2004, seeking to document a few more of his many compositions, he released a new CD, Thinking of You, on Lyrichromatic Records.
In 2010 Metcalf moved to Santa Fe where he performed with pianist Jon Rangel, guitarist Pat Malone, drummer Peter Amahl, and saxophonists Doug Lawrence and Richie Cole. In 2011 he retired from public performance, but continues to teach and compose.