The Jazz Session #125: Harry Babasin


You’d think that helping to invent a new genre of music and being the first person to play your instrument in a jazz setting would be enough to get you some headlines in the jazz history books. You’d be wrong. Meet Harry Babasin, the bassist who played on the very first recordings of what became bossa nova, and then became the first person to play pizzicato cello in a jazz group. He’s now largely forgotten. In this interview, his son Von Babasin talks about Harry’s life and accomplishments, and Von’s mission to film a documentary that will restore his dad to his rightful place in jazz history. Learn more at

Harry Babasin’s band The Jazz Pickers features Harry’s cello work. If you’d like to buy this album, you can support The Jazz Session by purchasing it via the link below.

Author: Jason Crane

11 thoughts on “The Jazz Session #125: Harry Babasin

  1. Harry Babasin is truly one of the unsung greats of jazz bass playing. He was an innovator and forward thinking player who set the stage for the work of Oscar Pettiford and many others. I’m looking forward to checking out the film!

  2. Hi Michael and John: Thanks to both of you for your comments. I’m glad this show spoke to you both — I know it was rewarding to me to produce this episode.

  3. Thanks again, Jason!

    Thanks to you, Michael – there are a very small number of bassists that have received the recognition they deserve and Harry was so much more than a just a sideman – he influenced jazz in ways that continue today.

    John Goldsby! So good to see you here. Nice interview with Jason you did also! After my father passed, you were the first to write about his exploits in your column, The Tradition, in Bass Player Magazine back in 1994. I also picked up your book, The Jazz Bass Book: Technique and Tradition, in which you graciously included a chapter for Harry. I am deeply grateful to you and I am honored to know you…

    Thanks to you all and happy holidays!!!

  4. Jason, thanks so much for airing this interview about one of the most important bassists in jazz history. I’ve been fortunate enough to know Von through a common commercial enterprise. As a jazz singer (among other genres), I know how vital a good bassist is (honestly, can we survive without one?) and Von’s dad’s contribution cannot be emphasized enough. Watching Von struggle to literally bring his father’s work to public life has been educational for me, both heartbreaking and thrilling. I only hope more will hear about this project and investigage Harry’s work. One day Harry will be known in the annals with his contemporaries, as it should be. And Von is a son any musician would gladly call his own, for his unstinting loyalty and love.

    Thank you, Jason. Merry Christmas! Von, if you see this, huge hugs and gratitude from me. :)

  5. Thanks so much, Nita. Von is doing great work on behalf of his dad’s legacy.

    All the best,


  6. @Jason – another great show. Thanks again for the great work that you are doing to support artists and the music, man!

    @Von – CONGRATULATIONS to you for the work you have been doing ever since I have known you (circa 1999) to preserve and promote your great father. If there is ever anything that I can do, let me know and please stay do in touch.

    Peace, Cb

  7. Nita and Chris!!!! Thanks for your kind words towards my father. What a journey it’s been! Nearly two decades for the jazz museum and the documentary is closing in on four years now, but it’s the most rewarding journey I’ve ever been on. The pieces of my father’s story that I’ve put together in that time is incredible – the people I’ve talked to – those who have shown support – from every corner of the globe – it shows how truly international his impact still is… it’s truly humbling…

    And Jason, thanks for what you’re doing for jazz… thanks for including my dad’s legacy in your archives.

  8. Hi again, Von!
    My name is Kenny Hillman. I corresponded with you a few years ago, mentioning I played trumpet, along with Bud Brisboy on your Dad’s band, the Jazzpickers.
    You might recall I asked if you had any of the recordings we made of the several Marty Paich arrangments which we recorded at Valley college, way back when? Your response was negative. I hope that might have changed?
    I was the front line trumpet player on the tapes herein mentioned, and it sure would be nice if I could get my hands on them for my memoirs. Your response would be appreciated.
    And I sure wouldn’t worry about the Bear being forgottern. Even though he was soft-spoken and didn’t brag about his accomplishments, he was a giant in what he did. I’ve always held s deep respect for him. And always will! Playing with the Jazzpickers was a highlight in my musical career.
    Thanks Von, and continued success in your venture.
    As ever, Kenny Hillman

  9. Hi Kenny!

    Thanks for all the kind words. Sorry to say, we still haven’t found those recordings but that doesn’t mean they’re not here, somewhere. I’ll continue to search once we have the financial ability to remaster these tapes.

    When I started this journey 20 years ago, I would say that maybe one out of ten Jazz books even had a reference to Harry. Now, it’s about five out of ten, so I’m getting the history books rewritten…

    I want him where he belongs, though, in ten out of ten!

    Thanks again – keeping the dream alive!


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