Warren Oree's Lifelong Arpeggio

Feb 10, 2015

Growing up, Warren "Butch" Oree never had dreamed of becoming a musician. Though jazz was a constant presence in both his home life and social activities, the thought of actually getting on stage didn't cross his mind until he wandered into a music shop in his mid-twenties.

Upon learning that Oree had a long-standing interest in the upright bass that he had never pursued, the shop keeper, James Mitchell, accused him of cowardice - one thing that Oree, who was then a respected gang member, deeply resented.

The comment bothered him so much that Oree sought out to purchase an instrument of his own, soon encountering the blonde bass he now lovingly refers to as his "baby." Mitchell ended up tutoring Oree in music theory, laying some foundation for his music making.

For the most part, though, Oree learned through experimentation rather than instruction. Never studying the official rules  ultimately allowed him to find a sound uniquely his own, but it also put some curves in his path to success.

Oree was mostly unaware of his shortcomings until being kicked out of a performance group in the mid 1970s. Once again, his wounded pride didn't break his spirit, but instead propelled him to action. It was then that he created the iconic Arpeggio Jazz Ensemble - a fusion group he still leads today.

Oree's music had propelled his life forward, but also brought some things from his past full circle. Early in his career, Oree performed at a prison where he had served some time, and was saddened to find that most of the friends he made during that stint were there.

From that point on, prison gigs took on a special significance, reminding him that music was truly a lifesaving gift, and this his story set a powerful example that could give hope to others.

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