Kent was a seasoned veteran of the stage and studio. He performed or recorded with a variety of country, rock, jazz and Christian music acts, including Lorrie Morgan, Toni Braxton, Larry Carlton, Billy Preston, Steve Winwood and Stevie Wonder, to name just a few. He was known for his enormous smile and upbeat personality.
In the "About Chris" section of his Facebook page, he offered one simple idea — "The money is between the first and fifth fret" — which helps explain his great success, and is a good maxim for aspiring bassists to keep in mind. You've got to hold down that bottom end, something Kent knew well.
He is survived by his wife Lisa and two children.
In addition to playing bass, Kent was an avid cook. His friend Bobbi Faye Miller published a cookbook featuring some of the bass player's favorite recipes. All proceeds will benefit the Kent family.
In February 2009, Michael McCall wrote a Scene story previewing a star-studded benefit to raise money for Kent, who was battling cancer:
Those who know Chris Kent best will confirm two things: He plays fat, funky grooves on his electric bass, and his constant smile conveys what an upbeat guy he is. His special talent and personality will get repeated mention during a star-driven benefit concert Thursday at The Cannery Ballroom designed to help offset the financial strain brought on by Kent's ongoing struggle with cancer.
Country singer Lorrie Morgan organized the fundraiser for the well-regarded and well-traveled Kent, who plays bass in her road band as well as that of contemporary Christian star Twila Paris. Billed as the Life Through Music Benefit Concert, the show's headliner will be Vince Gill, and there will be performances by Morgan, Tracy Lawrence and Joe Diffie. The concert will also feature the first high-profile Nashville appearance by Jesse Whitley, son of Morgan and the late country star Keith Whitley. Morgan also hints that there may be some surprise special guests.
Kent, 41, initially was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 1998. He underwent chemotherapy—even performing live and doing recording sessions while wearing a chemo pump—and a bone marrow transplant; eventually, doctors declared him cancer-free. The cancer recently returned—and, after chemo, has once again gone into remission. But Kent, a married father of two school-age girls, still needs a bone marrow transplant and help with other medical and living expenses. In addition to the concert, contributions can be made to the Chris Kent Benefit Trust at SunTrust Bank.
He's already receiving an outpouring of love from across the musical spectrum. A versatile player, Kent is perhaps best known for his work in R&B and jazz fusion. Among those he's performed or recorded with are Toni Braxton, Larry Carlton, George Duke, Dizzy Gillespie, Bob James, Wynonna Judd, Shelby Lynne, Michael McDonald, Billy Preston, Joe Sample, Take 6, Steve Winwood and Stevie Wonder, to name a small sample.
A Portland native, Kent moved to Nashville with his wife Lisa in 1993. By then, Kent had begun performing regularly with gospel and contemporary Christian performers, something he sought because of his own religious convictions. But Kent doesn't see lines between musical genres, as illustrated by his list of collaborators and the artists he's supported.