Rodney Whitaker

Rodney Whitaker

Acoustic Bass icon Acoustic Bass

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56 age

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Detroit, Michigan, U.S. Birthplace

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Rodney Whitaker is an accomplished jazz bassist who began his professional journey in 1989 as a member of the Terence Blanchard-Donald Harrison Quintet. Subsequently, he joined trumpeter Roy Hargrove's ensemble and stayed with him for 3.5 years. Throughout his career, Whitaker has lent his musical talents as a sideman to numerous recordings by notable artists like Pat Metheny, Kenny Garrett, and Wynton Marsalis. He was a part of Marsalis' septet and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra for over seven years. In 1996, Whitaker debuted his first album as a bandleader and has since consistently released satisfying records. Additionally, Whitaker is a devoted educator, serving as a professor of jazz double bass and Director of Jazz Studies at Michigan State University. He is also the director of the Detroit Civic Jazz Orchestra and the Musical Director for Jazz Education at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. He regularly conducts jazz clinics and master classes across the United States.


During the late 1990s Rodney Whitaker led the house band at Detroit's legendary Bluebird Inn. Rodney Whitaker performs both the arco (bowed) and finger-style techniques. Rodney Whitaker has scored two films, "China" (2002) and "Malaria and Malawi" (2010), both released on PBS.

Early Life

Rodney Whitaker was born in Detroit in 1968. He started playing the violin at age 8 and switched over to the double bass five years later after hearing Paul Chambers play on John Coltrane's album "Soultrane." Whitaker participated in jazz bands and workshops during high school and went on to study at Wayne State University. While still a teenager he began playing in a group with Donald Washington (leader and founder of the ensemble Bird/Trane/Sco/Now!) and by the time he was 20, had built a strong reputation in the Detroit jazz community. In 1988, saxophonist Donald Harrison heard Whitaker play at a jam session in Detroit and reached out to him a year later when a spot for a bassist opened up in the Terence Blanchard-Donald Harrison Quintet.