Chris White (Photo courtesy of (124018)

The intuitive bassist and educator whose style was a perfect fit for such varied musicians from Duke Ellington to Dizzy Gillespie, Nina Simone, Cecil Taylor and Carmen McRae died Dec. 2 in his home in Montclair, N.J. He was 78.

“He was always open to different sounds and band configurations,” stated saxophonist Bill Saxton. “Early on, he was using the guitar with saxophone, bass and drums.”

White was a co-founder of the MUSE Jazz workshop in Brooklyn and chaperoned the organization’s first cultural exchange program to Europe, which included Bill Saxon, Danny Mixon and Al Hicks, among others. “He was my major influence in music,” said Saxton. “He watched me blossom from a young musician into what I am today.”

In Montclair, N.J., White, an active member of the community, started a summer workshop that turned out many fine musicians. One of the musician instructors was John Blake.

White was the first executive director for Jazzmobile, co-founded by Billy Taylor, in 1964. He was the first director of the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University (1972), where he also taught in the music department. He also was a faculty member at Bloomfield College in New Jersey.

White was the designer and director of the MUSE Jazz Workshop of the Brooklyn Children’s Neighborhood Museum and served on the board of directors of the Brooklyn Museum and Jazzmobile.

In 1966, he founded Rhythm Associates, which, at the time, was the only music school in New York staffed entirely by professional jazz musicians. “Chris hired saxophonist Bill Barron and myself to teach horn players,” noted trumpeter Jimmy Owens. “That was my first teaching gig. We later formed Bennington Summers in Bennington, Vermont, where we ran a six-week music program with 50 students and 17 master musicians.”

Owens and White also played and recorded together from 1975 to 1979. During this period, he played a lot of electric bass. He appeared on Owens’ album “You Better Listen” with Kenny Barron.

White’s bass was the driving force on the bottom of Gillespie’s small band recording of “No More Blues” on the album “Dizzy on the French Rivera,” which featured Rudy Collins on drums, Lalo Schifrin on piano, Leo Wright on reeds/flute, as well as Quincy Jones’ recording of “Big Band Bossa Nova” on “Soul Bossa Nova” (Mercury Records, 1964) and the “Austin Powers” theme music.

White played the Istanbul Jazz Festival the summer of 2008 with Dee Dee Bridgewater with Sing the Truth, a band dedicated to the memory of Nina Simone.

Christopher Wesley White was born in Harlem July 6, 1936, and raised in Brooklyn. He attended Boys High School with Rudy Collins, where Max Roach, Randy Weston, and Cecil Payne were alumni. He later graduated from the Manhattan School of Music and earned a Masters of Education degree from the University of Massachusetts.

His memorial service was held Feb. 23 at Saint Peter’s Church, “the jazz church,” in Manhattan.

Last week, friends and the Black theater community gathered to celebrate the life, genius and commitment of Garland Lee Thompson Sr. at Harlem’s St. James Presbyterian Church.

Thompson, who passed away Nov. 18, was the founding member and executive director of the Frank Silvera Writers Workshop. Thompson’s memorial consisted of two great acts. Act I was hosted at the church by noted actor Count Stovall.

Thompson was an diligent innovator and activist. On any day, one could see him scurrying through Harlem with his shoulder bag full of scripts, flyers and the like. He was a walking wealth of information on Black theater and the goings-on of the Harlem community from an activist perspective, what needed to be done and what we should be doing about it.

For me, Thompson was an inspiration, a source of information regarding Black theater. As actor Jerome Preston Bates stated in the eulogy, “Garland was the bridge that got you over troubled water.”

As Karen Allen Baxter, producer and managing director of the department of Africana studies at Brown University’s Rites and Reason Theatre, noted, without Garland’s care and vision, there would not have been a workshop.”

Many plays have been read at the workshop, which is based in the heart of Harlem, for the past 42 years for upcoming and established playwrights, directors and actors, including Ruby Dee, Angela Bassett, Laurence Holder, Samuel L. Jackson, Adolph Caesar, Phylicia Rashad and Phyllis Yvonne Stickney.

Baxter also read a statement from actor Morgan Freeman, co-founder of the Frank Silvera Writers Workshop. He wrote, “He was creative, dynamic, energetic and more. I was a part of that great relationship.”

A moving musical selection consisting of “Poor Man’s Blues” was given by vocalist Ebony Jo-Ann from “Bessie Smith: Empress of the Blues” by Ed Shockley. Noted actress Barbara Montgomery offered a spirited except from “My Sister, My Sister” by Ray Aranha. Standing ovations were given for both performances. Yes, this was a true theatrical memorial for a genius who has moved on to a higher theater calling.

Remarks were given by friends and fellow producers Woodie King Jr., founder and artistic director of New Federal Theatre, and Voza Rivers, executive producer of the New Heritage Theatre Group.

Garland Lee Thompson Jr. offered remarks from his sister Alexandria Dionne and spoke of the time he shared with his dad, and his commitment to keep his father’s dream alive as the new executive director of the Frank Silvera Writers Workshop.

“I may not have the answers, but I have a dedicated Black theater family who will help me along the way,” stated Thompson Jr.

Act II of Thompson’s memorial continued downtown at the Theater for the New City with poems, readings and musical selections hosted by Thompson Jr. and Sean C. Turner.

Thompson was recently honored at the “Harlem is … Theater” exhibition at the Interchurch Center in New York that was on view during January.

“If it’s not on the page, it’s not on the stage. Remember, it’s all about the work,” was a favorite quote of Thompson’s.