May 18, 2024

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A mainstay of the Seattle music scene Chuck Deardorf dead at age 68: Video, Photos

Seattle’s “first-call” bassist for nearly four decades, Chuck Deardorf also served as the jazz program director at Cornish College of the Arts. He died Sunday due to complications from COVID-19.

A mainstay of the Seattle music scene, Deardorf also worked with nationally-touring artists. He was almost as well-known for his wry sense of humor as he was for his exemplary performances and recordings.

Deardorf mentored countless young musicians through his tenure at Cornish College for the Arts, at Centrum Port Townsend and in jazz clubs and jam sessions.

Starting out as a trombone player in fifth grade, Deardorf first picked up the bass at age 15. After graduating from Evergreen State, he worked at local jazz clubs – specifically Parnell’s and Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley – backing up famous artists like saxophonist Zoot Sims, and pianists Monty Alexander and Kenny Barron. In a 2019 interview with Seattle Jazz Scene, Deardorf called that experience his “graduate school.”

Origin Records Artist Chuck Deardorf - Bass

Deardorf had a hereditary kidney disease. In an attempt to avoid dialysis, his brother donated a kidney to him in 2011. A decade later, Deardorf was doing well until he contracted COVID-19 and his reduced ability to fight off the virus led to fatal complications.

Deardorf’s wife, singer and author Kelly Harland, confirmed his death. He was 68.

Longtime Seattle music writer Paul De Barros called Deardorf’s death a “horrible loss.”

“Chuck was an anchor of the jazz community; a humble, funny man who had a one-liner for any occasion,” De Barros told KNKX.

“Chuck was a great player, his time was as solid as a rock, his tone was beautiful. He was a huge part of the ‘golden age’ of live jazz in the region, and he left a plethora of talented students to carry on the Seattle tradition.”

A man wearing glasses and dark clothing plays the bass in front of a black backdrop.

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