The Pace Report: "UnBobed and UnreHurst" The Robert Hurst Interview

I can honestly say that bassist, composer, and now educator Robert Hurst has taken “the road less traveled” as quoted by poet Robert Frost in his long and illustrious career. At a time when most jazz musicians focus intently on their career as a leader, many work hard and endlessly on their craft. On the other hand, Robert is wearing many shoes and those shoes include roles that are pretty much in sync with his calling, both on the bandstand as a leader as well as an educator.

In 2008, Robert took on the the position of Associate Professor of Music at The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan. This Detroit, Michigan native felt it was the right time to come back home, while guiding and teaching up-and-coming musicians and students their role in jazz music.

As a child, his parents played and exposed the young Hurst to jazz and the popular music of the day. It was a Modern Jazz Quartet show that his parents took him too as a teenager that opened his eyes to playing the bass. “I remember meeting bassist Percy Heath after the show and he showed me and explained what the upright bass was” Robert explains. It wasn’t long after that when he decided to play and study the bass. Trumpeter Marcus Belgrave became a mentor to the young Hurst and began playing professionally when he was 15 years old.

During the early 1980’s jazz music began to see a resurgence in mainstream popular culture and a new group musicians hailed as “The Young Lions” came onto the scene and helped give the music new life. Robert was playing the Detroit Jazz Festival when he met a young Jeff “Tain” Watts who happened to be playing with trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. A year later Watts recommended him to Wynton and was eventually hired by him. Robert would go on to record on those classic Marsalis recordings “J Mood,” “Black Codes From The Underground,” and “Hot House Flower.” In 1989, he left Wynton’s group and joined his older brother Branford’s group and enjoy a five year run with his quartet. Hurst even moved to Los Angeles, California when Branford became the Tonight Show Band music director, here he stayed for another 6 years.

It was in 1993 when he recorded his debut recording “Robert Hurst Presents: Robert Hurst on the Columbia Records imprint featuring the late Kenny Kirkland, Jeff “Tain” Watts, Marcus Belgrave, Ralph Jones, and Elvin Jones. He’s now back with two recordings, his first he’s recorded and released as a leader in 10 years. “UnreHurst Volume 2” is the second installment of his trio featuring pianist Robert Glasper and drummer Chris Dave. Recorded live at Smoke in New York City, the recording gives listeners a more personal and intimate listen into the classic trio style of piano, bass, and drums like the legendary Ahmad Jamal and Oscar Peterson units of the glory days of jazz music. “Bob Ya Head” is a experimental and electronic recording that includes some spoken word and funk elements in the tradition of hip-hop meets soul.

In addition to becoming an educator and movie composer over the last 15 years, Robert continues to back jazz artists Diana Krall and Chris Botti.

He’s in the process of releasing his upcoming project “Bob: A Palindrome” on his BeBob Record label. Its a sextet with Robert Glasper, Marcus Belgrave, Jeff “Tain” Watts, Branford Marsalis, and Bennie Maupin.
To order Robert’s latest releases or to find out his upcoming show dates, please visit him on the web at

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Jaijai Jackson 

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