Arthur Bernstein

Biography by

Credited on some dates as just plain Artie Bernstein, this performer came from a formal classical background where "Arthur" would have been the preference. He had a brother who was a double bassist with…
Read Full Biography

Artist Biography by

Credited on some dates as just plain Artie Bernstein, this performer came from a formal classical background where "Arthur" would have been the preference. He had a brother who was a double bassist with the New York Philharmonic and began his own musical hobbying on the cello, an instrument that is most associated with orchestra and chamber group music. Professionally, Bernstein also began as a cellist in an orchestra abroad a cruise ship headed for South America. Based on personal career decisions in the late '20s, Bernstein could never be accused of being totally motivated by money. He studied law at New York University and became qualified to practice, but that all changed once he started fooling around on a bass. By the end of 1929 his legal life was over and his career as a bassist had begun. Obviously, he was more interested in bass lines than credit lines.

Bernstein began freelancing around New York City. He made his record debut with Ben Pollack in the early '30s and also began a regular gig with trumpeter Red Nichols around the same time. Further studio work developed with artists such as the Dorsey Brothers, Lenny Haylton, and Victor Young. In the second half of the '30s, Bernstein concentrated on more anonymous studio work, much of it away from jazz, but joined Benny Goodman in 1939 and stayed on swinging for two years, enjoying one of this artist's better bands. There was finally a falling out with the moody Goodman, who predictably fiddled with the bassist's music-stand light so that he would have problems reading and appear incompetent, providing a reason for firing him. Unfazed, the bassist headed for California and tucked himself into the film industry, becoming a staff musician at several busy studios such as Universal and Warner Brothers. He stayed with the latter firm until the year before his death, a studio career of several decades interrupted only by the blasts of the second World War, during which time Bernstein joined the U.S.A.A.F. band.