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Gary Peacock, Master Jazz Bassist, Is Dead at 85

Gary Peacock, an upright bassist whose fastidious but open-minded style carried him through a diverse career in jazz, culminating in a three-decade run with the pianist Keith Jarrett’s Standards Trio, died on Friday at his home in Olivebridge, N.Y. He was 85.

The pianist Marilyn Crispell, a longtime collaborator, confirmed the death but did not give a cause.

Mr. Peacock earned a permanent place in the pantheon of free-jazz pioneers in the 1960s thanks largely to his partnerships with the pianist Paul Bley and the saxophonist Albert Ayler. As a member of Ayler’s various bands, he recorded, among other albums, the now-classics “Ghosts” (1964), “Spiritual Unity” (1965) and “New York Eye and Ear Control” (1965), blending the unbounded expressions of Black postmodernism — à la Ornette Coleman and Cecil Taylor — with the vocal melodicism of gospel.

Mr. Peacock spent a short but equally formative stint in the mid-1960s with Bill Evans’s trio. Alongside that eminent pianist, he picked up on the innovations of his predecessor, the bassist Scott LaFaro, who had died in a car crash in 1961 at age 25 after making a series of landmark recordings with Evans.

“The question is, How much are you willing to give up to play this music?” he told All About Jazz. “I don’t think it can work if you still have an agenda, if you feel you still need to prove something musically. That’s not the point — it’s just about the music. So you’re going to serve that, not yourself or somebody in the audience, not the critics or the reviewers. It’s just the music.”

Together the three helped cast the mold for the distinctive sound of the ECM record label: influenced by Romantic piano music and existentialist philosophy, with a stark focus on melody. The third album released by ECM was “Paul Bley With Gary Peacock” (1970), featuring compositions by Ms. Peacock, Mr. Bley and Mr. Peacock.

He and his second wife, Nancy (Brown) Peacock, had three sons, Eliott, Collin and Niles. They all survive him, as does a sister, Patty Robbins, and two grandchildren. His second marriage also ended in divorce.

During the 1960s Mr. Peacock also played with Tony Williams, the wunderkind drummer, appearing on his debut album, “Life Time” (1964). Based on Mr. Williams’s recommendation, he substituted for Ron Carter for two months in Miles Davis’s famed quintet of the mid-’60s.

Mr. Peacock spent two years in Japan in the late 1960s and early ’70s, studying Zen Buddhism and Eastern philosophy and playing with musicians there. He released his first two albums as a leader during this time, for the Japanese arm of the CBS/Sony label. The releases, “Eastward” (1970) and “Voices” (1971), featured the pianist Masabumi Kikuchi, who would become a lifelong collaborator, as well as the drummer Hiroshi Murakami.

Mr. Peacock returned to the United States in 1972 and enrolled as a biology student at the University of Washington, receiving his bachelor’s degree in 1976. The next year he released “Tales of Another,” a collection of six spare Peacock originals. The album, his first for ECM as a leader, was also the first recording to feature him alongside Mr. Jarrett and Mr. DeJohnette. The trio bonded immediately.

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