Noted for his rich, resonant tone and metronomic precision, Al McKibbon was one of the premier bassists of the early bebop era, supporting giants like Dizzy Gillespie, Coleman Hawkins, and Thelonious Monk in addition to collaborating with percussionist Chano Pozo to forge the sound of Afro-Cuban jazz. Born January 1, 1919, in Chicago, McKibbon was the son of a minister who played tuba and guitar, often with Al's mother on piano accompaniment. The family relocated to Detroit in 1921, where McKibbon's older brother later played with the Midwest Territorial Orchestra and recommended that his younger sibling adopt the bass. While a student at Detroit's Cass Tech, McKibbon studied bass and piano, and by 17 was gigging steadily at the local nightclub the B&C. Later, he backed Kelly Martin at the Conga Club, followed by a stint with Jimmie Lunceford's former saxophonist Ted Bruckner. In 1943, Lucky Millinder headlined Detroit's Paradise Theater, and when Millinder and band left town for a date in New York City, they took McKibbon with them. The bassist eventually settled in the Big Apple, making his first studio recordings with Millinder before signing on with Tab Smith.