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Bobby Timmons

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(1935 – 1974)

Robert Henry “Bobby” Timmons (Philadelphia, December 19, 1935 - New York City, March 1, 1974) was an American and composer. He is best known for his role as sideman in Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers (1958 - 1959) and as the composer of a.o. “Moanin’”, “Dat Dere”, and “This Here”, typical of his distinctive gospel soul-jazz style.

Timmons was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of a minister. Both of his parents, plus several aunts and uncles, played the piano. From an early age Timmons studied music with an uncle, Robert Habershaw, who also taught McCoy Tyner. After graduating from high school Timmons was awarded a scholarship to study at the Philadelphia Musical Academy. He played as a church organist when young; this influenced his later jazz playing. His first professional performances were in his local area.
Timmons moved to New York in 1954. He played with Kenny Dorham in 1956, making his recording debut with the trumpeter in a live set in May of that year. He went on to play with Chet Baker in 1956–57 (Scott LaFaro was part of this band for a time), Sonny Stitt in 1957, and Maynard Ferguson in 1957–58. Timmons became best-known as a member of Art Blakey’s band the Jazz Messengers, which he was first part of from July 1958 to September 1959, including for a tour of Europe. By late 1958 Timmons was sharing bandmate Lee Morgan’s East Sixth Street apartment and the pair had bought a piano, allowing Timmons to practice and Morgan to work on composing. From around the time he joined Blakey, Timmons, along with fellow band members, was a heroin user. After leaving Blakey, Timmons joined Cannonball Adderley’s band, in October 1959.

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