Rob was a bassist of deep dedication and truly exceptional gifts. He had a sound on the bass that was his own; a sound at once clear, warm, vibrant and alive. Over the years he developed the perfect skill set for a jazz musician - he could accompany anyone with support and attention, thrill audiences in solos of ingenuity, fluidity, and a strong architectural sense. He could hold the time together in a band of errant players and liberate great players from having to police the time themselves. He could (and would) gently and clearly remind the singer of his or her entrance.
He knew all the changes, all the history, and all the back story. He loved jazz. He loved jazz musicians, believed in the music, loved the scene, and knew exactly what to do with a bass. Rob played with an intense commitment to quality whether he was playing Carnegie Hall or some anonymous casual date. For my money, Rob was the perfect bassist. He was also a great friend, a teacher, road partner, and ally "in the trenches."
Rob's gradual - and now, permanent - disappearance from the scene leaves a very deep hole for any of us lucky enough to have known Rob at his best.
The bio below gives you some indication of Rob's particular brand of self-deprecating humor.
He wrote it himself. Enjoy.
Born to an unmusical family in midwestern America, Rob Amster has been able to fashion a career in the jazz field for over twenty years. And, in doing so, he has been able to conquer his avowed life-long enemies: commercial television and lazyness.
Blessed with supportive (though musically untalented) parents, Rob began studying electric bass at around the time he started high school. Interestingly, this was also the era that spawned some of the worst t.v. that civilized society has known.
"As I began to practice music and listen to jazz, I also started to coming to grips with the idea that the pinnacle of creativity in American history was probably not the third season of 'Knight Rider,' or even 'St.Elsewhere.' But, to me, jazz seemed quite a bit closer to that high point of creative freedom. And, from there I was hooked."
Following studies at Berklee College and The University of Miami, Rob began his professional career at age twenty by joining the big band of Buddy Rich. He continued with the master drummer until Buddy's untimely passing, making one record with the band during his tenure.
Rob also freelanced with a number of jazz luminaries around that time including Dizzy Gillespie and Milt Jackson.
Following a suggestion from his parents, Rob agreed that he should try to "pull his life out of the toilet" by moving out of their basement, and into the urban splendor that is Chicago , Il.
As if by magic, the fifty dollar gigs began to roll in like a fog, blanketing the bassist with a cloak of comforts including food, heat, and bass strings.
By the time he reached his mid-twenties, Rob had amassed recording and performing credits with artists including: Paquito D'Rivera, Fareed Haque, Joe Lovano, Howard Levy, and many others. In addition, he freelanced, played sessions, and practiced and practiced playing the electric bass. He also shook Sting's hand on two separate occasions.
As he entered his later twenties, Rob began to practice the double bass in earnest. While he started playing more and more gigs on upright, Rob met and began performing with a young Chicago-based singer named Kurt Elling. This association led to Rob's playing on the sessions that became the basis for Kurt's first recording (on Blue Note), "Close Your Eyes."
During this period, Rob toured with Maynard Ferguson, played with Larry Coryell, and started a five year association with Von Freeman. He also got the chance to play with a number of other jazz heavyweights, including John Scofield, Jack DeJohnette, Steve Coleman, Chico Freeman and others.
Since 1995, Rob Amster has been the first call bassist for Kurt Elling's groups, from duo to symphony orchestra. It is through this association that Rob has been able to continue his lifelong fight against lazyness. "Sometimes I do computer stuff on the flights. It usually keeps me awake a little bit more than just coffee. And, I feel like I am really productive when I type fast on the keys, or hear the hard drive whirring. I mean, it's better than staring out the window."
Rob has played with hundreds of noted artists, and on over fifty recordings, as well as numerous good television shows. He is a member of the faculty of Roosevelt University's College of Performing Arts, and is part of Ravinia Festival's "Jazz Mentor" program, which includes some of Chicago's finest jazz musicians.