Eddie Safranski

The World's No 1 Bass Player 1946 to 1953
The Music of Eddie Safranski
Stan Kenton and Eddie Safranski
Sanfranski Wowing the Crowds
Metronone Allstars 1949  Charlie Parker & Eddie




Eddie Safranksi was one of the most influential and famous bass players in jazz history. He was voted the world’s number 1 bass player in the reader’s polls of Downbeat and Metronome magazine for eight years running from 1946 to 1953. Safranski was a featured soloist with the bands of Stan Kenton, Charlie Barnett and Benny Goodman An innovator he introduced the world to electrified bass as the first to use a stand up bass pickup and bass amplifier.  He was fluent in swing, progressive jazz, and bebop. 

His music is heard on 250 releases. As a sideman he performed and recorded with Stan Getz, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Coleman Hawkins, Dizzy Gillespie, Roy Eldridge, Billy Eckstine, George Shearing, Marian McPartland, the Andre Previn All-stars, the Metronome All-stars, Art Pepper, Ben Webster, and Buddy Rich.  He also backed singers Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Mel Torme, Nat King Cole, Perry Como, and Tony Bennett.

"Safranski possessed great technique: fast walking lines, strong arco skills, spot on intonation, and an advanced command of the swing and bebop languages.” - John Goldsby's Jazz Concepts

Pittsburgh Dance Band Beginnings

Edward 'Eddie' Safranski was born on December 25, 1918 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The son of a Pittsburgh artist, he began studying violin at age 8. In high school he switched to the upright double bass and performed at many event with the shcool's string quartet. Sanfranski graduated from South Hills High School in 1932 and went on to Carnegie Tech to study music.  He began playing bass professionally in 1937 at age 19 in Pittsburgh with Marty Gregor's Orchestra. Later in 1937 he became a member of Herman Middleman's Orchestra appearing with them into 1939. In 1937 Safranski wrote arrangements for Artie Shaw's band.  Safranski performed and toured with Wanda’s Escorts in 1939 and 1940. With these Pittsburgh based dance bands he performed at the William Penn Hotel and the Terrace Room. He was heard nationally on the NBC radio network broadcasting live from KQV with the Marty Gregor Orchestra and on Mutual radio network and KDKA working with Herman Middleman. During the late 1930s he may have also studied music at Duquense University.  Two newspaper articles report the he was an alumnus of Duquense. 

Follower of Jimmy Blanton

In 1940 Safranski's bass playing was greatly influenced by the innovations of Duke Ellington's bassist James Blanton.    Prior to Blanton the double bass was used to play primarily straight on the beat quarter notes.  Blanton plucked pizzicato eighth and sixteenth-note runs and  introduced completely new melodic and harmonic themes. Allmusic Guide reports "Blanton's bass could dance freely around the band and phrase like a horn".  He was the first true master of jazz bass who turned it into a solo instrument.  In 1941,  Unfortunately Blanton was force to quite playing when he diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1941.  He died in 1942 at the age of 23.   Eddie Safranski is credited with carrying on an expanding upon Blanton's innovations as a featured solo bassist.

Touring and Recording with Hal McIntrye

On a visit to Pittsburgh band leader Hal McIntyre heard Safranski jamming at the Pittsburgh musicians union hall and hired him for his new band in 1941  Orchestra leader, alto saxophonist and clarinetist Hal McIntre had been a founding member of the Glenn Miller Orchestra. Miller encouraged McIntrye to form his own band and backed him financially. McIntyre's swing orchestra was billed as "The Band That America Loves. They made their debut appearance at the Glen Island Casino in New Rochelle, New York, in 1941. The orchestra performed at New York's Commodore Hotel, Hollywood's Palladium Ballroom, and Chicago's Sherman Hotel. During the war years the group tour overseas performing for U.S. troops The McIntryre Orchestra also featured singer Al Nobel, A Pittsburgher who hosted the Wilkens amateur hour on KQV from 1944 to 1954. 

Safranski wrote arrangements for the Hal McIntryre Orchestra. He made is first recordings with McIntyre.  McIntyre found commercial success with his cover of "Sentimental Journey" and  covers of Duke Ellingoton tunes.  The recording of "Jack the Bear" featured Eddie Safranski playing Jimmy Blatton style "plucking pizzacato bass".  

Sanfranski left the McIntrye Orchestra in 1945 to play with trombonist Miff Mole's band.  Miff had been a member of the Paul Whitman and Benny Goodman bands.  The Swing band era reached it peak in 1944 and 1945.  Progressive jazz came into prominence moving jazz from the dance ballrooms into the concert hall.  Sanfranksi left the Miff Mole's band in 1945 to join the red hot progressive Stan Kenton Orchestra.

Becoming a Star with Stan Kenton

Bandleader Stan Kenton saw Safranski play with McIntyre in 1945 and recruited him. Safranski welcomed the opportunity to play the the more technically challenging complex instrumental music of Kenton orchestra. He became an international star with the Kenton band. Sanfranski was the featured soloist who stood in front of the band performing beside bandleader/pianist Kenton.

Sanfranki was featured in in several of Stan Kenton's classic recordings including "Artistry in Bolero," "Painted Rhythm," "Concerto to End All Concertos," and the showcase piece written for him by Pete Rugolo, "Safranski (Artistry in Bass)."

Safranski returned to Pittsburgh in October 1948 appearing with Stan Kenton at the Syria Mosque.

The Worst First Electric Bassist

In 1946 Sanfranksi discovered the a newly invented electric pickup that could be mounted in the end pin peg of a stand up bass. Invented by Everett Hall, a former Lawrence Welk bassist, the amplified peg was connected to an amplifier  designed for heavy bass tones. The "amplified peg" became the first product of the brand Ampeg.  Safranski was Ampeg's first major endorser.  

Playing with Kenton Safranski used two amplifiers. One was placed behind him and a second placed on the far side of the band served as a bass monitor for the horn section. Sanfanki's bass could be clearly heard through the loud brassy Kenton band both live and on recordings. Using the amplified bass Sanfranski was able to play in a faster and lighter style than many of his un-amplified contemporaries. As his popularized the pickup and amplier Sanfranski received a royalty on every unit sold.
Safranski introduced the world to electric bass six years before Leo Fender introduced the solid body electric bass guitar in 1951.

Solo Recordings

Safranski stardom with Stan Kenton lead to recordings as a leader on the Savoy, Atlantic Records and other labels..  He recorded his first solo effort at age 28 in February of 1946 working with tenor saxophonist Vido Musso, pianist Sanford Gold and drummer Denzel Best.  The album titled "Eddie Safranski's All Stars" was released on the Savoy label in 1946.  His second album "Eddie Safranski and the Poll Cats" with Art Pepper on alto sax was released on Atlantic in 1947.  The "Eddie Safranski Trio" recording with organist Dick Hyman and Don Lamond on drums was released on the Allegro Royale label in 1952.  He had three releases in  the Sesac label "Rhythm and Romance" (1955), "Just A Minute" (1957), "Safranski Swings" (1957).  "Rhythm and.  Romance was re-released in 2012.  The compilation albums "Safranski Rocks" Volume 3 and Volume 4 were also released in 2012. 

Cbarlie Barnett, Goodman, and NBC

Sanfranki left the Kenton Orchestra to play and record with  Charlie Barnet's bop big band from 1948 to 1949.  On July 30, 1949 the Charlie Barnet band and the Woody Herman played in a battle of the band at the Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa, CA.  It was broadcast live and recorded as the album "Battle Royale".  He also recorded the album "Super & Swell" with the Charlie Barnet Orchestra.

Safranski moved to New York City in 1950 where he worked as a staff musician in radio and television studios. He became a member of Benny Goodman's band from 1951 to 1952.  NBC hired him as a staff musician in 1953.  Safranski' appeared on the 1958 NBC series "The Subject Is Jazz". It was the first ever tjazz television series and ran for 13 episodes on Saturday afternoon. On the show he performed in an ensemble with pianist Billy Taylor, trumpeter Carl "Doc" Serverinsn, drummer Ed Thigpen, and clarinetist/sax player Tony Scott.  "The Future of Jazz" episode from that series can be seen on Youtube.

Hollywood and Sideman Days

Sanfranski moved to California in the 1960s where he worked as a sideman in Hollywood recording studios.  He also ran workshops and master classes for a double bass manufacturer.  Performing live he appear with swing and be-bop groups in the Los Angeles area. 

Returning to Pittsburgh on May 20 1965 Safranski performed at the Carnegie Lecture Hall in concert with Eric Kloss, guitarist Ron Anthony, Jimmy Se Julio and William McLinley in a ensemble called the Contemparary Players.  Safranki appeared at the 1972 Pittsburgh Jazz Festival.  on Sunday June 18 at the Civic Arena in a show with B.B. King, Oscar Peterson, Herbie Mann, Walt Harper, Dizzie Gillespie and legendary trumpeter Roy Eldridge.

Eddie Sanfranski died on January 10, 1974, at age 55 in . Los Angeles, California.




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