Maurice Spears has played an integral role in the music business for more than four decades. Among his many accolades, his peers recognize him as “a first call” bass trombonist on the West Coast, where in the 70’s and 80’s he honed his skills as a studio musician and an accomplished sideman in big bands. Spears’ career spans a wide spectrum of entertainment including motion pictures and/or sound tracks; Broadway shows; television series, movies and specials; commercials; recordings and videos; and live performances.
Born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Spears says he was always surrounded by jazz. “My parents owned a café in Oklahoma City and they were host to many jazz bands and artists that came to the city to perform. As children, my brother (bassist Louie Spears) and I saw internationally acclaimed musicians eating in our café. Too young, at the time, to understand and have any idea that some of those same artists/musicians would influence our lives enormously.”
At the age of 27, Spears was leading his own big band and various sized combos. They performed in nightclubs, played social engagements in the surrounding areas and provided pick-up for stars that came through Oklahoma City such as Lou Rawls, Jackie Wilson, and Jesse Belvin.
Maurice began establishing his musical career when he was 12 years old. His first instrument was the trombone, even though he experimented with guitar and piano as well. “I played other instruments, but there was a special love affair with the trombone,” explained Spears.
Spears graduated from Douglas High School and received a scholarship to attend Langston University in Langston, Oklahoma. In college, Spears seriously contemplated his future and began to analyze his challenges, which enabled him to excel and graduate cum laude in Music Education. He did his graduate studies at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, Oklahoma.
After college, Spears received musical training while he served in the U.S. Army at the Army Element of the Navy School of Music in Washington, DC. He later served in the 62nd Army Band.
In 1966, Spears relocated to Los Angeles. His trip was initially planned as a visit to see his parents but instead turned out to be his new home. He immediately began networking and affiliating with local musicians. By 1967, Spears was a member of the Ray Charles Orchestra, traveling world wide.
Spears has a deep appreciation for education. He has taught in the Los Angeles Unified School District as well as the public school system in Oklahoma City and is a mentor to several young trombonists including candidates and recipients of the Thurman Green Memorial Scholarship Foundation. (An organization that awards scholarships to college level trombone students.)
In conjunction with being a musician and educator, Spears is known internationally as a music copyist par excellence. His client roster reads like “Who’s Who” including Benny Golson, American Jazz Philharmonic, Festival Productions, The Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, Oliver Nelson, Gerald Wilson, Benny Carter, Dr. John, Diana Krall, WDR Big Band, James Morrison, Lena Horne, and Peggy Lee, to name a few. Mention Maurice Spears to any one of them and their comments are always the same: “He makes me look good on paper.”
In 1995, Spears collaborated with fellow trombonists George Bohanon, Garnett Brown and the late Thurman Green to form “BoneSoir,” (five trombones with piano, bass, and drums). Their focus is to introduce audiences to the versatility of the trombone and to spotlight the varied styles of the featured players. The group has performed in numerous music programs and/or venues including the Museum of Contemporary Arts, Playboy Jazz Festival, Torrance Cultural Arts Center, Central Avenue Jazz Festival, The Jazz Bakery, The Armand Hammer Museum and The 2004 Charlie Christian Jazz Festival.
Spears is currently a charter member of the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra where he serves in the capacities of librarian, music copyist and bass trombonist. The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra was voted #1 Big Band by Downbeat Magazine Reader’s Poll in 2003 and #2 in 2004. Their tours have included performances at the Kennedy Center, New York, Manchester Craftsman Guild, and festivals in Holland, France, Spain, Portugal, Norway, Italy, the UK, and Japan. They celebrated their 20th Anniversary in 2005.
Maurice has recorded and performed with an array of internationally acclaimed musicians/artists in several genres including Rock ‘N Roll, Pop, Rhythm & Blues, Jazz, Latin, Blues, and Fusion.
In 2004, Maurice was inducted into the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame. For selected discography/credits, please visit www.allmusic.com.