Part of the enormous Philadelphia family tree of jazz players, Bobby Durham has amassed a long list of impressive jazz credits while alternating residencies between Italy and his hometown.
He is perhaps best known as a member of several of the virtuoso pianist Oscar Peterson's classic trios from the '50s and as one of the great jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald's most sensitive accompanists, although jazz fans that are into the smoking organ trio sound will know Durham from his associations with the likes of turbaned Charles Earland or the innovative organist Shirley Scott.
Durham is a personal favorite of jazz producer Norman Granz, who has turned to Durham again and again for help with his projects involving the likes of Fitzgerald and Basie as well as using Durham as the rhythm section drummer for jam session encounters with the likes of pianist Tommy Flanagan, guitarist Joe Pass, and trumpeter Harry Sweets Edison, among many. Durham got into music young, starting out dancing and singing before beginning drums well before his teen years. He was a professional musician by the time he was 16 with the group the Orioles.
From 1956 to 1959 he served in a United States military band, then began working with the band of King James and the Stan Hunter trio upon getting out of the services. In 1960 his career really took off when he moved to New York and began working with a who's who of mainstream jazz greats that includes Lloyd Price, Wild Bill Davis, Lionel Hampton, Count Basie, Slide Hampton, Grant Green, Hary Edison, Tommy Flanagan, and Jimmy Rowles. He met the fine trombonist Al Grey in the Basie band and was later a part of Grey's own combos.