Paul Laurence Dunbar Chambers, Jr. (April 22, 1935 – January 4, 1969) was a jazz double bassist. A fixture of rhythm sections during the 1950s and 1960s, his importance in the development of jazz bass can be measured not only by the length and breadth of his work in this short period, but also by his impeccable time and intonation, and virtuosic improvisations. He was also known for his bowed solos. Chambers recorded some dozen albums as a leader or co-leader, and prolifically as a sideman notably as the anchor of trumpeter Miles Davis‘s “first great quintet” (1955–63) and with pianist Wynton Kelly (1963–68).
Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on April 22, 1935, to Paul Lawrence Chambers and Margaret Echos. He was raised in Detroit, Michigan following the death of his mother. He began playing music with several of his schoolmates; the baritone horn was his first instrument. Later he took up the tuba. “I got along pretty well, but it’s quite a job to carry it around in those long parades, and I didn’t like the instrument that much”. Chambers became a string bassist around 1949. His formal bass training got going in earnest in 1952, when he began taking lessons with a bassist in the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Chambers did some classical work himself, with a group called the Detroit String Band that was, in effect, a rehearsal symphony orchestra. Studying at Cass Technical High School off and on from 1952 to 1955, he played in Cass’ own symphony, and in various other student groups, one of which had him playing baritone saxophone. By the time he left for New York City at the invitation of tenor saxophonist Paul Quinichette, he had absorbed a working knowledge of many instruments.