Warren Oree's Unlikely Road to a Life in Jazz

Feb 9, 2015

Jazz bassist and composer Warren Oree has become a stalwart of Philadelphia’s jazz scene. As WRTI’s Jim Cotter reports, his story is one of overcoming great personal adversity helped by, and in the service of, music.

Warren Oree

If you’ve spent any time listening to live jazz in Philly in the past several decades, chances are you’ve heard Oree play. Yet, his road to musical success was a bumpy one. He says he wasn’t even sure that such a road existed in his early life.

He was exposed to jazz by his aunt. And it was the sound of this music, and the sight of what produced it, that initially engaged his curiosity.

But before Oree could dedicate himself to music, he had to make big mistakes. After he spent time in Graterford prison, he vowed to commit his life to music instead of crime, though it was difficult for him to convince his gang mates that their way was no longer his.

That was more than 40 years ago. Today, Oree is a respected composer, musician, educator, and concert promoter. His group Arpeggio Jazz Ensemble is one of the region’s most in-demand jazz groups. And over the course of his career, Oree has toured Europe, South America, and the Caribbean, throughout the United States with Arpeggio, and as a sideman for some of the biggest names in jazz.

Warren Oree hosts WRTI's Philadelphia Music Makers on Sunday, Feb. 15 at 6 pm.