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Oteil Burbridge (born August 24, 1964) is an American Grammy Award-winning multi-instrumentalist, specializing on the bass guitar, trained in playing jazz and classical music from an early age. He has achieved fame primarily on bass guitar during the current resurgence of the Allman Brothers Band from 1997 through 2014. He was also a founding member of the band the Aquarium Rescue Unit, and has worked with other musicians who include Bruce Hampton, Trey Anastasio, Page McConnell, Bill Kreutzmann and The Derek Trucks Band, with whom his brother Kofi Burbridge is the keyboardist and flautist.
Burbridge is most notably recognized for his ability to incorporate scat-singing into his improvised bass solos. His bass style is influenced by Jaco Pastorius, especially his use of bass chords which are used in his bass improvisation. Oteil endorses Fodera, Modulus, Sukop and Dunlop.
Burbridge was born and raised in Washington, D.C., to an African American family with some Egyptian heritage. His name, Oteil, means "explorer" or "wanderer". When he and elder sibling Kofi showed talent for music, their mother encouraged them with classical and jazz courses hoping to nurture their musical inclinations and keep them out of trouble. Kofi remembers Oteil's first drum set; a Quaker Oatmeal box, when he was only three or four years old. Both brothers were introduced to a wide variety of instruments, and became multi-instrumentalists, with both being taught to play the piano. While Oteil gained proficiency on the bass clarinet, violin, and trumpet. However, Oteil's chosen main instruments became the bass guitar and the drums, while Kofi developed a love for the flute, and keyboard instruments. Oteil Burbridge developed an interest in the theater and was the co-host of a local children's television show called "Stuff". Oteil was enrolled in the Sidwell Friends School, a well-known elite private school (Presidents Clinton and Obama chose Sidwell for their children) offering a higher quality of education than Washington D.C.'s troubled public school system and exposing Burbridge to the tastes and styles of a diverse student body. He graduated from Sidwell Friends in 1982.
Oteil performed regularly in a variety of D.C. bands as a teenager, gathering experience playing R&B, rock, Brazilian music, and jazz, among other styles. He moved to Virginia Beach and worked mostly in cover bands there, and subsequently drifted through the Atlanta musical scene, which introduced him not only to other musicians there but also other genres of music.
The Aquarium Rescue Unit:
As one of the original members of Bruce Hampton's avant-garde band, the Aquarium Rescue Unit, Burbridge was introduced to members of the jam band scene in the southeast of the United States. This included members of Phish, Phil Lesh and Friends, and Blues Traveler, who freely sat in with one another in each other's bands. When Hampton left the Aquarium Rescue Unit, it slowly disbanded, however Burbridge had developed a reputation on the four- and six-string bass guitar, enjoying the less commercial nature of Atlanta-area musicians. During the initial years, the band was composed of Bruce Hampton, Oteil Burbridge, Jimmy Herring, Jeff Sipe, Matt Mundy, and Count M'Butu. Although the band was never commercially successful, their combination of bluegrass, rock, Latin, blues, jazz, funk, and impeccable chops became a template for future bands.
Current Musical Collaborations:
Dead & Company:
Bob Weir, John Mayer, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Oteil Burbridge and Jeff Chimenti. First three performances were on October 29, 2015 at Times Union Center in Albany NY and October 31 and November 1, 2015 at Madison Square Garden Arena in NYC.
Previous musical collaborations:
The Allman Brothers Band:
Burbridge was a full-time member of the Allman Brothers Band from 1997 until their retirement in 2014, touring and recording with the band for 17 years. In February 2012, he received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award for his years with the band. Burbridge played on the albums Peakin' at the Beacon (2000), Hittin' the Note (2003), One Way Out (2004) as well as the DVD Live at the Beacon Theatre (2003, certified Platinum 2004).
The Tedeschi Trucks Band:
In 2010, Oteil joined his brother Kofi, and his Allman Brothers bandmate Derek Trucks, as the bassist in the new group, Tedeschi Trucks Band; an eleven piece ensemble which merged some former members of The Derek Trucks Band and Susan Tedeschi's former backing band. Tedeschi Trucks Band performed at Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival 2010 and one of Oteil's compositions "Love Has Something Else to Say" appears on the DVD release. The Tedeschi Trucks Band released their debut album, Revelator in 2011, which won the Grammy for Best Blues Album at the 54th Grammy Awards. In 2012, the band released their sophomore album, Everybody's Talkin', a double live album compiled from their 2011 world tour.
On October 5, 2012, Oteil posted a statement on the band's website that he "will not be able to continue to tour with TTB", so he can start a family. He did "hope that we have music left to make together in the future."
Oteil Burbridge joined the Bill Kreutzmann Trio alongside Bill Kreutzmann of the Grateful Dead and Scott Murawski of Max Creek, as the BK3. They toured throughout 2008 and early 2009 before Oteil left due to touring commitments with the Allman Brothers Band. The group played several Grateful Dead classics, Max Creek originals and covers as well as many new songs written by Robert Hunter.4
Oteil and the Peacemakers:
In 2000, Burbridge formed a solo band called Oteil and the Peacemakers based out of Birmingham, Alabama and featuring musicians Matt Slocum on keyboards, Mark Kimbrell on guitar, Chris Fryar on drums, and vocalist Paul Henson, a carry over from the post-Colonel Aquarium Rescue Unit releases. They released their first album, Love of a Lifetime, that same year. That was followed up in 2003 by the CD/DVD set entitled Family Secret. In 2005, Burbridge took his music in a greater spiritual direction for their third album titled Believer.
Burbridge also was approached by Page McConnell of Phish, who invited him and Russell Batiste, Jr. (then of the Funky Meters) to participate in another venture as an electronic trio, with vocals. Their name wasn't chosen until Major League Baseball pitcher Vida Blue hopped up on stage with them, and their name was chosen as Vida Blue, after the athletic star. The trio joined together in 2001 and continued performing until 2004, putting out a DVD and two albums, joining forces with a Latin-rock sextet sampling a variety of genres of music, including the jazz and electronic music flavored alternative rock music from Vida Blue.
The Adventures of the Green Thumb and Purple Haze:
The Green Thumb is a serial comic book that Burbridge created with artist LeVar Carter following the adventures of twin cannabis superheroes. The comic explores themes involving the power of nature and spirituality, the role corporations and governments play in stifling scientific and cultural advancements for the purpose of preserving profits and power, and also what it means to be deemed illegal just by one's lot in life (as it pertains to one's biology, nationality, gender, sexuality). The series is currently in production.
Burbridge also had a bit part, as a teenager, as a street thug named Lolo in the 1979 Peter Sellers movie Being There. The movie is a black comedy about politics and many of the woes of celebrity and fame. Although Burbridge plays a part in a short scene, it is one of the film's many famous moments.
Oteil Burbridge married conservation photojournalist Jessica Shouse on April 10, 2010 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. They reside in Atlanta, Georgia with their son, Nigel.