Eric Wheeler is an adjunct professor of double and electric bass at VCU. Acclaimed for “chasing dazzling melodies far up the fingerboard” (CapitalBop) and solos that “combine walking bass with a muscular swagger” (Washington Post), Wheeler is a jazz bassist with over two decades of professional experience. Performance credits include Benny Golson, Carmen Lundy, Curtis Fuller, Delfeayo Marsalis group (featuring former VCU Coordinator of Jazz Studies Ellis Marsalis), E.J. Strickland, Eddie Henderson, Eric Harland, Eric Lewis (“ELEW”), Harry Connick Jr., Jazzmeia Horn, Jennifer Holliday, Kenny Garrett, Marcus Printup, Marcus Strickland, Mark Whitfield, Marquis Hill, Mickey Roker, Pharoah Sanders, Roberta Flack, Rory Stuart, Russell Malone, Stefon Harris, Sullivan Fortner, Terell Stafford, Tia Fuller, Tim Warfield, Ulysses Owens Jr., Wallace Roney, Warren Wolf, Willie Jones III, and Wycliffe Gordon, plus over 100 tours across the globe with the Cyrus Chestnut Trio.
Wheeler tours with acclaimed pianist Christian Sands and his Trio, which toured Europe for a month in 2017. He recently became a member of Seal’s band, performing across the U.S., and is the electric and upright bassist for Dee Dee Bridgewater’s touring band and for Theo Croker’s band, including on Theo Croker’s album “Escape Velocity,” which was nominated for an ECHO Jazz Award (the German music prize awarded annually by the Deutsche Phono-Akademie). In 2018, Eric recorded on four critically acclaimed albums: Theo Croker’s “Star People Nation” (which received a Grammy nomination for best contemporary jazz album); Cyrus Chestnut’s “Kaleidoscope” (which received more than nine million plays on Spotify and 4 out of 5 stars on AllMusic); Greg Murphy’s “Bright Idea” featuring Jeff “Tain” Watts (which reached number one on the JazzWeek chart for three consecutive weeks); and saxophonist Jay Rodriguez’s “Your Sound” (an album that was WBGO’s “Take 5 Pick of the Week” and which features jazz greats Billy Harper and Larry Willis).
Residing at times in New York and in D.C., Eric has performed at notable venues in both locales such as Birdland, Blue Note, Blues Alley, Bohemian Caverns, Carnegie Hall, Dizzy’s, Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Appel Room, Jazz Standard, Kennedy Center, Smoke, and Zinc Bar, at Ronnie Scott’s in London, at Blue Note clubs in several countries, as well as at such festivals as the Atlanta, Basel, Bologna, Casa Del Jazz, Chicago, Copenhagen, Cork, Detroit, Havana, Istanbul, Kaec, London, Madrid, Marciac, Monte Carlo, Montreal, Montreux, Newport, North Sea, Panama, Pori, Roma, San Sebastian, Stockholm, Umbria, Umbria, and Victoria festivals.
As in demand as he is by others, Wheeler has also led many performances featuring his original music around the New York area, from shows at Smalls and Fat Cat to performances at St. Alban’s Church and on Roosevelt Island. His debut album is set to be released in the Spring of 2021.
Wheeler’s educational outreach as a mentor includes numerous workshops at universities and colleges in Australia, Canada, Ukraine, Venezuela, and across the United States. In 2019 in Mexico City he presented pre-concert discussions and clinics with the E.J. Strickland Quartet on behalf of Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Education Abroad Program. Since 2012 Wheeler has been a part of the Jazz for Young People Program founded by Wynton Marsalis that showcases professional ensembles through interactive performances and lessons for New York area students. Wheeler led a three-part concert series, “Let Freedom Swing,” helping students understand how jazz music has played a pivotal role in the social norms of America.
A native of Washington, D.C., Eric’s own music education began at a young age with encouragement from his mother. He began studying classical music at the age of nine at the DC Youth Orchestra Program and, at age thirteen, was accepted into the Duke Ellington School for the Arts. While at Ellington, Wheeler was under the tutelage of master educator Carolyn Kellock, who also taught such other renowned bassists as Ameen Saleem, Corcoran Holt, and Ben Williams. It was during these four formative years at the Ellington School that he initially had the opportunity to travel to Canada, England, France, and Germany and play professionally on world-famous stages. In 1998 Wheeler was accepted into the prestigious National Symphony Youth Fellowship Program, giving him the opportunity to study with Jeff Weisner, a section bassist of the National Symphony Orchestra. Crediting Weisner with providing him his uniquely strong technical facility, Wheeler began earning a solid reputation as a bassist in his own right and was accepted into the jazz studies program at Howard University, where he studied jazz bass with Keter Betts and classical bass with Jeff Koczela, completing both his Bachelor’s and Master’s in Jazz Bass Performance at Howard.
Want to know more about Prof. Wheeler? Read a question-and-answer session here.