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Dave Shapiro, jazz bassist and educator, dies at 58

TOWNSHEND—Dave Shapiro, a versatile and beloved jazz musician and educator, was found dead in his West Townshend home on Feb. 17. He was 58.Shapiro was born April 22, 1952, in Brooklyn, N.Y., and graduated from Brooklyn College in 1973 with a B.A. in music. A gifted be-bop bassist, Shapiro was a busy freelancer in the New York City jazz scene in the 1970s and 1980s.He played regularly with such jazz legends as Woody Herman, Chet Baker, Lee Konitz, Howard McGee, and Mel Lewis, as well as singers Ray Charles, Anita O’Day, and Chris Connor. 

He performed with Jackie Kane and Roy Kral in the Newport Jazz Festival in Carnegie Hall, under the auspices of Mel Torme.In the 1980s, Shapiro established himself as a bassist versatile enough to play as a member of the house band at Eddie Condon’s famous New York jazz club — where Dixieland reigned — and to play with drummer Danny D’Imperio with the hard-bop revivalist group, the Metropolitan Bopera House. Shapiro went on to play on four of D’Imperio’s solo CDs in the 1990s.Shapiro moved to West Townshend in 1987, and stayed just as busy in Vermont and western Massachusetts, playing jazz just about anywhere with just about anybody. His strong, rhythmic style made him one of the most sought-after bassists in the area.He played and recorded with area jazz notables Attila Zoller, Howard Brofsky, Paul Arslanian, Bob Weiner, Mike Mussilami, Jay Messer, Eugene Uman, Draa Hobbs, Claire Arenius and Tom McClung, and was most often seen at events at the Vermont Jazz Center in Brattleboro, and frequently played with trumpeter Steve Sonntag and guitarist Hobbs.“He was a bassist’s bassist who dug in and swung hard,” wrote George Kaye of Brattleboro, who also sat in often with Shapiro. “His impeccable time and buoyant beat gave unmatched support to any musical event he played. His choice of notes was sublime. He had great respect for the tradition of jazz and was demanding of his band mates. He made everyone a better player.”As an educator, Shapiro taught jazz studies at Westfield State College since 1996, and also taught for a time at Holyoke Community College. He led jazz ensembles at both institutions.Jazz wasn’t his only speciality. He was also a mathematics instructor at the Community College of Vermont from 1991 until 2009, and also taught math courses for Vermont Adult Learning in Brattleboro.Shapiro’s wife, Jocelyn L. Brodie, died in December 2009.He is survived by his sister, Susan Barth, and his brother-in-law, Perry Barth, of Staten Island, N.Y.; his aunt and uncle, Dr. and Mrs. Morton Connor of Aventura, Fla.; his cousins, Caroline Connor and her husband, Alan Fischel, and their sons, Brendon and Ethan, of Eureka, Calif.; and Shane and Charlotte Brodie of Burlington.A memorial and celebratory jam session will be held at the Vermont Jazz Center on Sunday, March 20, from 2-6 p.m.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #90 (Wednesday, March 2, 2011).

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