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This Week in Texas Music History: Harry Babasin

by Stephen Becker 3 Dec 2010 3:00 PM

This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll meet a bear who blended jazz with classical music.


Art&Seek presents This Week in Texas Music History. Every week, we’ll spotlight a different moment and the musician who made it. This week, Texas music scholar Gary Hartman meets a bear who blended jazz with classical music.

You can also hear This Week in Texas Music History on Friday on KXT and Saturday on KERA radio. But subscribe to the podcast so you won’t miss an episode. And our thanks to KUT public radio in Austin for helping us bring this segment to you. And if you’re a music lover, be sure to check out Track by Track, the bi-weekly podcast from Paul Slavens, host of KXT’s The Paul Slavens Show, heard Sunday night’s at 8.

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On Dec. 3, 1947, Harry Babasin made the first known jazz recordings on the cello. Babasin, born in Dallas on March 19, 1921, was a child prodigy who played clarinet, bassoon and cello. He attended the University of North Texas, where he befriended future jazz guitar legend Herb Ellis. In 1942, Babasin started playing professionally and went on to perform with such jazz greats as Benny Goodman, Charlie Parker and Louis Armstrong. Nicknamed “The Bear,” Babasin began blending jazz with classical music, leading to his now-famous pizzicato jazz solos on the cello. By the 1950s, Babasin had become a pioneer in the fusion of jazz and Brazilian music, and he also helped establish archives in which musicians could preserve their legacies for future generations.