Bassist Bob Cranshaw first played with Sonny Rollins at the Playboy Jazz Festival in Chicago in 1959.
Some of his best-known performances include Lee Morgan’s The Sidewinder and Grant Green’s Idle Moments. Cranshaw also served as the sole session bassist to Sesame Street and The Electric Company songwriter and composer Joe Raposo, and played bass guitar on all songs, tracks, buttons and cues recorded by The Children’s Television Workshop during Raposo’s tenure.
Although he lacks the name recognition of other bassists, Cranshaw has performed and recorded with a wide range of leading jazz artists, including Ella Fitzgerald, Dexter Gordon, Grant Green, Coleman Hawkins, Jimmy Heath, Joe Henderson, Johnny Hodges, Freddie Hubbard, Bobby Hutcherson, J. J. Johnson, Jackie McLean, Hank Mobley, Thelonious Monk, James Moody, Lee Morgan, Wes Montgomery, Oscar Peterson, Buddy Rich, George Shearing, Wayne Shorter, Horace Silver, Shirley Scott, Stanley Turrentine, McCoy Tyner, Sonny Rollins, George Benson, and Joe Williams.
Along with Wes Montgomery’s brother Monk, Cranshaw was among the early jazz bassists to trade his upright bass for an electric bass. Cranshaw was criticized for this by jazz purists, although he was forced to switch by a back injury incurred in a serious auto accident.
Throughout his long and distinguished career he has also performed on hundreds of television shows and film and television scores. He appears on The Blue Note Story, a 90-minute documentary of the famed jazz label.
Cranshaw was also a founding member of the short-lived MJT +3 (Modern Jazz Two) that included Frank Strozier on alto saxophone, Harold Mabern on piano, Willie Thomas on trumpet, and Walter Perkins on drums. The Chicago-based group produced several albums, a number for Vee Jay Records. Another vintage Cranshaw jam, 1964’s Blue Flames, featuring Shirley Scott, Stanley Turrentine and Otis Finch, was recorded for Prestige Records. Cranshaw also played live shows for tap dancer Maurice Hines, along with friend and drummer Paul Goldberg.
His career spans the heyday of Blue Note Records to his recent involvement with the Musicians Union. He is perhaps best known for his long association with Sonny Rollins. Cranshaw has been in Rollins’s working band on and off for almost five decades, starting with the 1962 album The Bridge.