The Jazz Workshop: Absinthe Jazz Trio

The Jazz Workshop: Absinthe Jazz Trio

Robert "Be-bob"Grabowski has had a chaemeleon-like musical career, starting as a pre-adolescent folk singer in and about the coffee houses and folk clubs in Miami. He soon switched to classical music, trading his Nehru jacket and 12 - string Epiphone for a tux and a double bass. While balancing music with a job as a SCUBA instructor in the Florida keys, he started absorbing the sounds of jazz, becoming an ardent fan, and haunting anywhere jazz was played. While still in the University of Miami Greater Youth Symphony, he was called on to play acoustic bass in the Youth Jazz band program. Gerry Mulligan was in residence and insisted on a "real" bass player. Though the bass lines were all written out for him, he was thrilled by the experience. "I knew then I was hooked." says Be-bob; "The problem was that there were so many great jazz bass players in Miami at the time, I never thought I would ever be able to play it for real!" "I mean, Jaco was playing with Ira Sullivan at the Unitarian church all the time and Mark Egan was with the UM Jazz band under Jerry Coker and though I took some lessons from him briefly, I was just overwhelmed." So, going into what he later termed: "safer", he started composing in the then contemporary aleatoric style and attended U. of M. as a composition major - always hanging with the jazzers, but flexing his chops playing with the orchestra, and eventually taking up conducting as well.

After most of a Master's degree at Florida State University, studying composition and conducting with the much lauded Jon Boda, fate moved him back to Miami, and, after a number of expedient temp jobs proved futile, he went back to gigging at a local Coconut Grove bar, playing everything from Bob Marley to Little Feat. Soon thereafter, local legend Jet Nero offered him a six night a week job for even less money playing jazz. "I told him I wasn't real sure about it, but he had heard I actually owned an upright and I knew the piano player on the gig, so I went for it." (That pianist, Bob Boguslaw is now in the Marines as a Staff pianist for the White House, playing classical music as well as jazz) From there, Be-bob worked clubs in Overtown and Brownsville, as well as upscale venues such as Stefano's of Key Biscayne, quickly becoming a band leader as well as sideman.

Since the early days of his career as a jazz player, he has backed up an amazing variety of jazz's elite - such as trumpeter Pete Minger, who guested on Bob's first album, (The Bob Grabowski Group, Be-Bob records, 1987). Also on that session were vocalist Sandy Patton, and the now well-known New York pianist, Darrell Grant. Other musicians who have employed his talents have included organist/pianist Dr. Lonnie Smith, drummer Duffy Jackson, and trumpeter/ big band leader Melton Mustafa. Thats Be-bob on bass on Melton's second release on Fantasy Records, (St. Louis Blues, 1997).

In 1990, Bob joined the faculty at Florida International University, getting the call to teach Jazz History there, right after completing his Master's degree in Music Education. His long association with one of the giants of jazz education, Dick Dunscomb, led him to play and tour with the likes of Arturo Sandoval and Gary Campbell. He also started as the producer of the FIU Jazz Festival in 1991, a post he still holds today. His jazz classes have achieved nearly cult status, with over three hundred students a semester taking his Evolution of Jazz course. "If I'm lucky," says Be-bob, "that's X amount of students that at some point, not always right away, will be hip to the music and then there will be an audience in the future - we have to look out for that now!"

While teaching, gigging, and holding down the jam session gig at the world famous Tobacco Road, (now the home of Gecko), Bob found time to hone his production skills with Rod Glaubman, and producing concerts for such diverse artists as I Soloisti L'Aquila, Julliard's Continuum, Clark Terry, and Dr. Billy Talor; the latter two on National Endowment for the Arts grants, co-written with the Institute for Studies on Aging. He also worked in the Deco district of Miami Beach as the first music director for the Van Dyke Cafe and again as music director for the Sun Bank Twilight Jazz Series on Lincoln Road.

He has continued his love of radio from his early all-night listening sessions, with stints at WFSU (NPR for Tallahassee, Florida), WDNA Miami, and six years as overnight host on Jazz after Midnight on WTMI. He also continued his intrest in sound enginering, eventually doing shows for likes of Giovanni Hildago and Will Lee, and Peabo Bryson. This new knowledge came in handy when he built Be-bob Studios, where he recorded Gecko's first release: gecko island. Other projects that are on the calendar are keyboardist Ken Gustafson's solo album, and a collaboration with pianist, John McMinn.


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