How did the Jazz world get from Gene Krupa to Philly Joe Jones?
The answer to that question is as central as asking how it got from Benny Goodman to Charlie Parker, or from Louis Armstrong to Dizzy Gillespie or from Earl “Fatha” Hines to Bud Powell or from Jimmy Blanton to Charlie Mingus.
Melodically and harmonically, Parker, Gillespie, Powell and Mingus created the basic musical structures of modern Jazz.
Kenny Clarke who acquired the nickname of “Klook-mop” which was later shortened to “Klook” created the rhythmic foundation over which the convoluted and fast moving Bebop lines - melodies- could ride unimpeded by the thump-thump-thump of the swing drum beat with its heavily accented 4-beats to the bar bass drum beat.
[Klook-mop was derived from the sound of the snare-to-bass-drum chatter that early Bebop drummers played behind the ride cymbal beat.]
Kenny’s modern style of drumming seemed to spring forth as a fully formed conception during the early jam sessions at Minton’s Playhouse from about 1941 onwards.
In fact, Kenny was piecing his approach together over a four year period from about 1937-1941.
In probing for the sources of modern jazz styles, one is not likely to come upon a more influential figure than drummer Kenny Clarke.
Without Clarke's creative drum developments, there is a good possibility that the bebop phase would not have attained its musical importance and gone on to contribute to contemporary jazz forms. Two European critics have succinctly evaluated Clarke's importance. England's Max Harrison: "He built the rhythmic foundation of the new music." France's Andre Hodeir: "His rhythmic imagination has stimulated the melodic genius of others."
More than a decade ago, Max Roach, considered by many the greatest of the modern drummers, pointed out that a drummer should be able to compose, and he mentioned Clarke as an example. Roach said, "Clarke knows his harmony, melody, and has a million ideas." In the 1959 Down Beat drum issue Roach again spoke of his friend as follows: "I've been partial to Clarke. He doesn't borrow; you don't hear the way he plays anywhere else. It's not African or Afro-Cuban; it's unique."
Kenneth Spearman Clarke's conceptual individuality came to the fore early in his career. He was born Jan. 9, 1914, in Pittsburgh, Pa. His father was a trombonist, and Kenny had a younger brother, Frank, who played bass. Kenny studied piano, trombone, drums, vibra-harp, and theory in high school. His knowledge of keyboard harmony, obtained in those early years, was to be an important aspect of his future development.
His first professional job was with Leroy Bradley's Pittsburgh band for about five years. This was followed by a time with the Eldridge brothers, whose home also was in Pittsburgh. Trumpeter Roy had come in from the road about 1933 and with his late brother, Joe, an alto saxophonist and arranger, had formed a home-town band. It worked out well because if Clarke missed a date, Roy could take over on the drums, which he loved to do.
Clarke made his first trip out of town to join the commercial dance band organized by James Jeter and Hayes Pillars during 1934 in St. Louis, Mo. It is interesting to note that both Christian and Blanton served with the Jeter-Pillars Band about that time too.
Early 1937 found Clarke in New York City with Edgar Hayes' big band. He made his first recording, with Hayes, in March, 1937, and was to record regularly with the band on Decca for more than a year.
One interesting 78-rpm that they made was Decca 1882, Star Dust and In the Mood. It was Hayes' version of Star Dust, performed at a slow to medium tempo, that revived the Hoagy Carmichael song, first recorded in 1927, and started it to the top of the hit list. The reverse side, written by saxophonist Joe Garland, then with the Hayes band, went along for the ride, no one paying it much notice. Two years later Glenn Miller's Bluebird record of In the Mood made it a best-seller.
While on tour in Europe (Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Belgium, and Holland) during early 1938 with Hayes, Clarke made some quintet sides in Stockholm under his own name.
This Hayes band was a forward-looking swing aggregation. Clarinetist Rudy Powell did some arrangements for the group, and several years later, young Dizzy Gillespie was to mention he was interested in Powell's work. The band recorded quite a few swinging originals such as Stomping at the Renny (Renaissance Ballroom in Harlem).
Tenor saxophonist Budd Johnson, while with Earl Hines in 1937, has recalled a battle of bands Hines had with Hayes in Dayton, Ohio. At that time, Johnson said, he noticed some unusual drumming by Clarke.
Clarke himself has said, "I was trying to make the drums more musical. Garland would write out trumpet parts for me to read, and I would use my discretion in playing things that I thought would be effective. These were rhythm patterns superimposed over the regular beat."
After returning from Europe, the drummer and Powell joined the long-established Claude Hopkins Band. Clarke stayed eight months with Hopkins and then went with the Teddy Hill Band, in which he first met Gillespie.
By this time Clarke was well along in evolving a style of his own. The Hayes, Hopkins, and Hill bands played frequently at the Savoy Ballroom. Clarke has said it wore him out trying to keep up the fast tempos required.
One of the numbers in the Hill repertoire that he gives as an example was The Harlem Twister (also known as Sensation Stomp).
To get relief, Clarke fell back on experiments he had been making with his top cymbal. He developed a technique whereby he transferred his timekeeping chore from the bass drum to the top cymbal, riding it with his right hand. His right foot was then free to play off-beat accents on the bass drum, a sort of punctuating function to become known as "bombs." He devoted his left stick to the snare drum, sometimes using it for accents and other times using it to help the cymbal carry the rhythm.
All this confused leader Hill, and Clarke was fired, but he was in the band long enough to make an impression on Gillespie. The trumpeter said he found it stimulating to improvise around Clarke's off-rhythms.
From the Hill band Clarke followed Panama Francis into Roy Eldridge's big band at the Arcadia Ballroom on Broadway. None of these bands — Hopkins, Hill, Eldridge — recorded while Clarke was with them.
In the summer of 1940 Clarke was working with Sidney Bechet's quartet at the Log Cabin in Fonda, N.Y. During the fall of that year Teddy Hill took over the management at Minton's and asked Clarke and trumpeter Joe Guy to bring in a small group. The astute Hill wanted to make the spot a hangout for musicians, and in this setting he was sympathetic to Clarke's experiments. Hill said the drummer's unique figures sounded to him like "kloop" or "klook," and he told Clarke they could play all the "klook-mop music" they wanted at Minton's. I guess it followed naturally that Clarke became known as Klook.
Several writers in discussing the Jerry Newman acetates made in May, 1941, at Minton's have pointed out that actually the only suggestion of the things to come emanated from Clarke's drums. Marshall Stearns, in mentioning the Newman sides in his Story of Jazz, said, ". . . drummer Clark is playing fully matured bop drums."
Clarke worked with Charlie Christian, Thelonious Monk, and Dizzy Gillespie in developing unusual chord changes. The drummer has a long list of original compositions registered with Broadcast Music, Inc., including Klook Returns; Blues Mood; Roll 'Em, Bags; I’ll Get You Yet.
Before he left for the service in 1943, Clarke was a regular at Minton's when in town. During that period he spent a short time in Louis Armstrong's big band, from which he was soon fired, and Armstrong begged Big Sid Catlett to return; five weeks with Gillespie in Ella Fitzgerald's orchestra, which the two joined together and from which they were fired together; Benny Carter's sextet on 52nd St.; and a comparatively long run with Red Allen's small band at the Downbeat Room in Chicago.
At the time Clarke went into service, the new music had not as yet acquired the name bebop. Like Charlie Parker, he was later to disapprove of the appellation and attendant jargon heartily.
For those with a taste for discography, you can hear Kenny evolving the modern style of Jazz drumming on the following recordings, assuming you can find them!
New York City, March 9, 1937
Edgar Hayes and His Orchestra—Bernie Flood, Henry Goodwin, Shelton Hemphill, trumpets; Bob Horton, Clyde Bernhardt, John Haughton, trombones; Stanley Palmar, Al Sherrett, Crawford Wetherington, Joe Garland, saxophones; Hayes, piano; Andy Jackson, guitar; Elmer James, bass; Kenny Clarke, drums. MANHATTAN JAM (201)
..........Variety 586, Vocalion 3773
Stockholm, Sweden, March 8, 1938
Kenny Clarke's Quintet — Goodwin, trumpet; Rudy Powell, clarinet; Hayes, piano; George Gibb, guitar; Coco Darling, bass; Clarke, drums, vibraharp; John Clay Anderson, vocals. ONCE IN A WHILE (6317)
..............Swedish Odeon 255509
I FOUND A NEW BABY (6318).........
..............Swedish Odeon 255509
YOU'RE A SWEETHEART (6319)
..............Swedish Odeon 255510
SWEET SUE (6320)
..............Swedish Odeon 255510
New York City, Feb. 5, 1940
Sidney Bechet and His New Orleans Feetwarmers—Bechet, soprano saxophone, clarinet, vocal; Sonny White, piano; Charlie Howard, guitar; Wilson Myers, bass, vocal; Clarke, drums. INDIAN SUMMER (46832). .Bluebird 10623 ONE O'CLOCK JUMP (46833)
.................RCA Victor 27204
PREACHIN' BLUES (46834)
SIDNEY'S BLUES (46835).. .Bluebird 8509
New York City, May 15, 1940
Mildred Bailey and Her Orchestra— Roy Eldridge, trumpet; Robert Burns, Jimmy Carroll, clarinets; Irving Horowitz, bass clarinet; Ed Powell, flute; Mitch Miller, oboe; Teddy Wilson, piano; John Collins, guitar; Pete Peterson, bass; Clarke, drums; Miss Bailey, vocals. How CAN I EVER BE ALONE?
TENNESSEE FISH FRY (27303)
I'LL PRAY FOR You (27304)
BLUE AND BROKEN HEARTED (27305)
New York City, Sept. 12, 1940
Billie Holiday and Her Orchestra—Eldridge, trumpet; Georgie Auld, Don Redman, alto saxophones; Don By as, Jimmy Hamilton, tenor saxophones; Wilson, piano; Collins, guitar; Al Hall, bass; Clarke, drums; Miss Holiday, vocals. I'M ALL FOR You (28617)
I HEAR Music (28618)
THE SAME OLD STORY (28619)
......Okeh-Vocalion 5806, V Disc 586
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT (28620)
New York City, March 11, 1941
Slim Gaillard and His Flat Foot Floogie Boys—Loumell Morgan, piano; Gaillard, guitar, vocals; Slam Stewart, bass; Clarke, drums.
AH Now (29913)...........Okeh 6295
A TIP ON THE NUMBERS (29914)
SLIM SLAM BOOGIE (29915).. .Okeh 6135
BASSOLOGY (29916)..........Okeh 6295
New York City, March 21, 1941
Eddie Heywood and His Orchestra— Shad Collins, trumpet; Leslie Johnakins, Eddie Barefield, alto saxophones; Lester Young, tenor saxophone; Heywood, piano; Collins, guitar; Ted Sturgis, bass; Clarke, drums; Miss Holiday, vocals.
LET'S Do IT (29987)........Okeh 6134,
Columbia 30235, CL 6129, Blue Ace 206 GEORGIA ON MY MIND (29988)
Okeh 6134, Columbia 30235, C3L-21, Blue Ace 206, Jolly Roger 5020 ROMANCE IN THE DARK (29989)
........Okeh 6214, Columbia C3L-21,
Blue Ace 205, Jolly Roger 5020
ALL OF ME (29990)
.......Okeh 6214, Columbia CL 6129,
C3L-21, Blue Ace 205
New York City, May 8, 1941
Minton House Band (with guests)— Joe Guy, Hot Lips Page, trumpets; Ker-mit Scott, Don Byas, tenor saxophones; Thelonious Monk, piano; Charlie Christian, guitar; Nick Fenton, bass; Clarke, drums. UP ON TEDDY'S HILL (HONEYSUCKLE
ROSE) ...............Esoteric ESJ-4,
Counterpoint 548 DOWN ON TEDDY'S HILL (STOMPING
AT THE SAVOY).........Esoteric ESJ-4
New York City, May 12, 1941
Same, except Scott, Byas, and Page are out. ^CHARLIE'S CHOICE (TOPSY)
.......Vox album 302, Esoteric ESJ-1,
Counterpoint 548 STOMPING AT THE SAVOY
......Vox album 302, Esoteric ESJ-1,
* SWING TO BOP is the title on the Esoteric and Counterpoint LPs.
New York City, June 2, 1941
Count Basie and His Orchestra—Ed Lewis, Buck Clayton, Al Killian, Harry Edison, trumpets; Dicky Wells, Dan Minor, Ed Cuffey, trombones; Earl Warren, Jack Washington, Tab Smith, alto saxophones; Don Byas, Buddy Tate, tenor saxophones; Basic, piano; Freddie Green, guitar; Walter Page, bass; Clarke, drums. You BETCHA MY LIFE (30520)
DOWN, DOWN, DOWN (30521)
New York City, Oct. 6, 1941
Ella Fitzgerald—Teddy McRae, tenor saxophone; Tommy Fulford, piano; Ulysses Livingston, guitar; Beverly Peer, bass; Clarke, drums; Miss Fitzgerald, vocals.
“Freddie Hubbard was one of the liveliest of the young hard-bop lions of the late 1950s and early '60s. As a Jazz Messenger, and with his own early albums for Blue Note, he set down so many great solos that trumpeters have made studies of him to this day, the burnished tone, bravura phrasing and rhythmical subtleties still enduringly modern. He never quite had the quickfire genius of Lee Morgan, but he had a greater all-round strength, and he is an essential player in the theatre of hard bop.
His several Blue Note dates seem to come and go in the catalogue, but we are listing Open Sesame, Goin' Up (though it is a 'Connoisseur' limited edition) and the new Rudy van Gelder edition of Hub-Tones, each a vintage example of Blue Note hard bop. Open Sesame and Goin’ Up were his first two records for the label and their youthful ebullience is still exhilarating, the trumpeter throwing off dazzling phrases almost for the sheer fun of it.
The brio of the debut is paired with the sense that this was the important coming-out of a major talent, and Hubbard's solo on the title-track is a remarkable piece of brinkmanship: in the bonus alternative take, he's a shade cooler, but that more tempered effort is less exciting, too. This was an early appearance for Tyner, and a valuable glimpse of Tina Brooks, who contributes two tunes and plays with his particular mix of elegance and fractious temper. A great Blue Note set.”
- Richard Cook and Brian Morton, The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, 6th Ed.
“Freddie Hubbard's style is a highly unusual mixture of elements, blended with extraordinary cohesion. He is a deeply lyrical player, somewhat in the manner of Miles Davis. Unlike many young trumpet players who have been influenced by Davis, however, Hubbard has sacrificed none of his formidable technique. He is easily at home in all ranges of his instrument, from the slashing, accurate high notes … to the ruminations in the lower register of the instrument. There is, above all, an exuberance in his horn that functions as a happy antidote to much of the overly introverted work that characterizes the present area. One need say nothing more about his skill and versatility than to report that he has recorded with Blakey, Coltrane, and Ornette Coleman.
Hubbard has come into his own as a powerful, individual jazz personality.”
- Joe Goldberg, insert notes to Hub-Tones
“The early sixties was a period of remarkable excitement and activity at the Blue Note label. The fiery, explorative jazz that was a hallmark of Blue Note in those years never reached that wide an audience, but the quality and consistency of the music, and of the young, adventurous players who were making it, was remarkable.
Freddie Hubbard, who recorded prolifically for Blue Note as both leader and sideman (with Blakey, Bobby Hutcherson, Herbie Hancock and others), was an integral part of what the label was all about.
Hubbard was in a way the ideal Blue Note musician. He fit right into the hot and heavy musical milieu that mixed elements of bop, down-home funk, the "free jazz" that Ornette Coleman and others were pioneering, and the modal approach of John Coltrane and his disciples to produce a body of music that served as a welcome relief from the increasingly effete and restrained sounds of what came to be known as "cool" jazz.
He attacked the trumpet in a way that emphasized the brassy nature of the instrument — its attention-getting volume, its upper-register power, the golden clarity of its sound. Trumpeters since Louis Armstrong (if not earlier) had been approaching the instrument this way, but at the time Hubbard came along, the influence of Miles Davis had led a lot of trumpeters to opt for an introspective, moody, almost wispy approach to the horn (in many cases a whole lot wispier than Miles, who always had considerable force
behind his introspective musings, ever intended). Hubbard's mixture of forward-looking musical ideas and old-fashioned brassiness might be called the essence of the early-sixties Blue Note sound.”
- Peter Keepnews, insert notes, Freddie Hubbard, Here To Stay
Sooner or later if you were a fan of the exciting Jazz LPs that Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff were putting out on Blue Note from 1955-1965, you were certain to [metaphorically] attend a “class” at Ira Gitler College, the Nat Hentoff Institute or at Leonard Feather University.
Of course, the “class” in question was to be found in the form of the liner notes by Messrs Gitler, Hentoff, Feather and other “instructors” that graced the back of these Blue Note albums and provided its reader with an “education” about the recordings musicians and content.
I always found the liner notes on these Blue Note albums to be invaluable because in those days there were few other avenues available that would take you to sources of information on Jazz and its makers.
There were no Jazz appreciation classes, only a handful of newly published book each year on the subject, mostly biographies or brief collections of essays, and a few television programs now and then that were more intent on presenting the music rather than explaining it.
Other than a subscription to monthly Jazz magazines like Down Beat, Jazz Monthly, Le Jazz Hot and a few other domestic and European journals, the main source of information and knowledge about Jazz came from the writers and critics who were retained to annotate the music on Jazz recordings.
As a way of thanking these “teachers,” we often share these pages with their writings and critiques.
There’s too much to absorb in presenting all of these recordings in one feature so I am going to focus on four of the seven LPs that Freddie made for Blue Note during the 5 years spanning 1960-65 while adding a YouTube track to give you a sampling of the music on each album represented in this piece.
If you are not familiar with the music on these early Freddie Hubbard Blue Notes, you should be as it is nothing short of brilliant from every perspective.
The clarity, crispness and clarion quality of Freddie’s tone on trumpet is unsurpassed by anything he recorded in later years. The fat, middle register is dominant with occasional forays into the rarely heard lower register on the instrument; none of the reaching for high note, lip-busting screaming that [sadly] characterized his playing in later years.
He’s not reaching for anything here; he’s totally in control of what he’s trying to bring through the horn. Everything just sparkles with the freshness and joy of accomplishment.
His improvisatory ideas flow uninterruptedly despite their complexity. They are memorably melodic and always swinging. In the parlance of the time, Freddie was really cooking and all the pots were on during this nascent period of his career.
These early Hubbard Blue Notes are also distinguished by their great front line mates, their superb mix of tunes and songs from the Great American Songbook, Jazz standards [Kenny Dorham, Tina Brooks, Hank Mobley] and originals by Freddie, and their always hard-driving rhythm sections, especially the ones led by Philly Joe Jones.
Let’s turn to our liner note writers for a further education on what’s contained in these early Freddie Hubbard Blue Notes and what makes them so special.
First up is a “class taught” by Ira Gitler in his notes to:
“TO THOSE of you familiar with the tales of The Arabian Nights, more specifically the story of All Baba and the Forty Thieves, the words "open sesame!" represent the magic password which opened the doors to the robbers' cave. As with many phrases from literature, the expression has found its way into our language and contemporary usage. It still has the same basic connotation — door-opener.
This album is an "open sesame" for two doors. One is being opened by Blue Note on an extremely talented young trumpet player named Freddie Hubbard by giving him his first date as a leader; the other by Hubbard himself through his playing in this set.
If you travel around the United States you will encounter many fine musicians who have never been heard outside of their particular area. There is much undiscovered talent that may never be brought to the light of public scrutiny. On the other hand, much important talent is being discovered and re-discovered by the necessities brought about by the current economic set-up of jazz with its emphasis on heavy recording schedules.
Certainly Blue Note has been an "Ali Baba" before mass production (Monk, Blakey, Silver, Clifford Brown, etc.) and is equally judicious in its choice of talent today. Although Hubbard is only 22 and his future lies glowingly ahead, with promise of greater things to come, there is no doubt that he is ready to be heard at length right now.
Freddie is from Indianapolis, the same city which gave Jay Jay Johnson and the Montgomery brothers to jazz. Born in the Indiana capital on April 7,1938 into a musical family, Frederick Dewayne Hubbard started playing mellophone in the band at John Hope Junior High School and migrated to trumpet after a year. At Arsenal Tech High, he continued on trumpet and also took up French horn. It was on the latter instrument that he received a scholarship to Indiana Central College. He declined this, however, and remained in Indianapolis to attend the Jordan Conservatory of Music for a year. Freddie also studied with Max Woodbury of the Indianapolis Symphony. During this period he worked around the area with a group called The Contemporaries and with the Montgomery brothers (Wes, Buddy and Monk).
In 1958, Freddie came to New York and played at Turbo Village, first with baritone saxophonist Jay Cameron and then with his own group. It was there I first heard him. At Cameron's urging, I journeyed to Brooklyn and was properly impressed. There were two sitters-in that Saturday night who were also taken with what they heard — Horace Silver and Philly Joe Jones. Philly thereupon hired Hubbard for a gig he was playing at Birdland. In April of 1959 he went to San Francisco with Sonny Rollins. All told he was with Sonny for two months. In 1960 he did Monday nights at Birdland and played with Charlie Persip's group and Slide Hampton's Octet before joining Jay Jay Johnson's sextet.
Freddie admires the playing of Miles Davis (his first influence), Clifford Brown and Kenny Dorham. He also likes the tenor playing of John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins and admits that they have had their effect on him too. "I was heavily influenced by Newk for two months after I stopped working with him", says Freddie.
Another tenor man that Hubbard digs is Tina Brooks. Tina is from the Bronx by way of Fayetteville, North Carolina. He gained playing experience with the R&B bands of Sonny Thompson, Charles Brown, Amos Milburn, Joe Morris and Lionel Hampton but a lot of important jazz knowledge was made available to him by trumpeter Benny Harris. Since the opening of [Jack Gelber’s play] The Connection, Tina has been Jackie McLean's understudy and has subbed for him on several occasions.
Hubbard and Brooks met at a session at Count Basie's club and immediately found that their styles were compatible. In addition to making this date with Freddie, as Tina has also recorded one at his own, using Freddie as his helpmate on Blue Note 4041. Actually, he is no stranger to this label, having done all his previous recording for Blue Note with Jimmy Smith and Kenny Burrell, respectively.
Tina's early influences were Lester Young, Dexter Gordon and Charlie Parker. He is very much in favor of Sonny Rollins and there is more than a hint of Hank Mobley in his playing. In this album, his composing is represented by the title number and Gypsy Blue; his arranging by But Beautiful.
The rhythm section consists of two youngsters and a veteran. McCoy Tyner, the young Philadelphian who made his debut in the big time with the Jazzlet and has recently been a member of John Coltrane's quartet, is one of the most facile new pianists to come on the scene in the past year. Facility is not his only attribute; he knows what he wants to say and his dexterity helps him to be articulate but not verbose.
Clifford Jarvis is a drummer from Boston who has been working with Randy Weston. Although not yet 20, Clifford handles himself very professionally, knows where the beat is and lays it down with the exuberance of his years.
The veteran is Sam Jones (a young 35), the Jacksonville, Florida product who has played with Tiny Bradshaw, Kenny Dorham, Thelonious Monk and is currently with Cannonball Adderley. His presence is a steadying factor at any record date. In July of 1960, he won a new star award in the Down Beat International Critics' Poll.
Open Sesame really opens things in a swinging minor groove right out of the old Messengers or the Horace Silver quintet. All the soloists are directly communicative. Freddie has some fun with a phrase from Illinois Jacquet's
solo on Flyin' Home.
The two ballads in the set are treated differently. But Beautiful is treated very sensitively with Freddie's tone and ability to sustain a slow performance outstanding. All Or Nothing At All is hit full tilt with Jarvis slashing away, straight ahead. Later, Cliff comes in for some exciting "fours".
Brooks' Gypsy Blue is a touching theme that almost takes you to a Jewish wedding. When the soloists play, they are working on a minor, 12-bar blues. Jones has his only solo of the set.
One Mint Julep, first done by The Clovers, is out of the R&B bag. Freddie used to do it at Turbo Village and revived it here. Both hornmen are "down" and powerful but never hokey.
Freddie's original, Hub's Nub, which serves as the closer, shows this thoughtful control of the horn in front of the solidly driving rhythm section. Tina again generates a great deal of genuine excitement in his solo without resorting to any contrived devices.
One night when Slide Hampton was appearing at the Jazz Gallery, I looked at Freddie, upon the stand, and suddenly a certain picture of a young Louis Armstrong that I had once seen, popped into my mind's eye and drew its resemblance to Hubbard. Whether Freddie is ever going to reach the stature of Louis Armstrong is not important. What is, is that here is a brilliant young jazzman on the threshold of a potentially great career. His trumpet is his "open sesame". The door is open.” - IRA GITLER
Freddie Hubbard - Open Sesame - YouTube
And Ira Gitler is instructing again in these original notes to:
“IN 1960, Freddie Hubbard was an up-and-coming trumpeter. Although he hasn't nearly approached his full potential, it can be said that he is no longer merely "up-and-coming". More accurately, Hubbard is "up-and-going" or, like the many new skyscrapers in New York, going up.
Hubbard is typical of many of the young musicians in jazz today in that he comes extremely well-equipped technically. Unlike many other youngsters, he does not believe that jazz began with his age group. This, no doubt, is one of the reasons he does not misuse his mechanical skills but instead uses them as a means of expression. Stylistically, he shows a debt to Clifford Brown but even at this early stage of his career, Freddie has forged a readily identifiable sound and attack.
Hubbard's first Blue Note recording, Open Sesame (BLP 4040), met with this reaction from John Tynan of Down Beat "The trumpeter is an emerging soloist of great promise. He plays with a big, strongly assertive tone, mature ideational conception and forthrightness of conviction."
Open Sesame was done with Tina Brooks, McCoy Tyner, Sam Jones, and Clifford Jarvis. Jones is the only member of that group older than 28. On this, Tynan commented, "There's a youthful virility and expressiveness in this initial album of young Hubbard (22) that speaks well for the future of small-group jazz."
In Goin' Up, Freddie is cast with musicians who, while not gray-beards, are modern jazz veterans of great experience. They are Hank Mobley and Philly Joe Jones. On the other hand, Paul Chambers is a youngster but only chronologically speaking. He has been in New York since 1954 and with Miles Davis from 1955. And McCoy Tyner, the "baby" of the supporting troupe, has divided his playing time between The Jazztet and John Coltrane's quartet since leaving Philadelphia in 1959. "They sure gave me strong support", says Freddie of his helpers.
Mobley has been familiar to Blue Note listeners since the days of his associations with Art Blakey and Horace Silver. He has come to his own personal maturity after many years at his art. We heard it in his work on Dizzy Reece's Star Bright (Blue Note 4023) and even more definitely in his own Soul Station (Blue Note 4031). In Goin' Up, Hank reaffirms his assurance and well integrated style. As Joe Goldberg said of Mobley's arrival, in the notes to Soul Station, "he worked slowly and carefully, in the manner of a craftsman, building the foundation of a style, taking what he needed to take from whom he needed to take it (everyone does that, the difference between genius and hack-work is the manner in which it is done)...."
Philly Joe Jones is one of jazz's great drummers. He combines swing and invention as few others can. Joe has studied drumming from the inside; his knowledge of drummers and their styles goes back to Sid Catlett and even Baby Dodds. Young drummers who idolize Philly should realize that he did not spring stylistically full-grown and learn a lesson therein. His solos always demand and hold attention. "Karioka" is a good example.
As indicated before, Paul Chambers is a young veteran. This may sound paradoxical, but Paul's playing never does. He not only provides a powerful pulse but his choice of notes is imaginative, thereby making his value to a soloist a two-pronged inspiration. His own solos, arco or pizzicato, are usually well above average. Listen to his effort on "Blues For Brenda."
McCoy Tyner is like Hubbard in that he possesses much technique but does not show off with it. Instead he utilizes it to meet the demands of some of the demonic tempos that occur in today's jazz. He receives many opportunities along these lines in Coltrane's group. When the tempo slows for a ballad, however, Tyner is not at a loss either as he demonstrates on "I Wished I Knew."
Kenny Dorham is one of the most underappreciated trumpet stylists. Also overlooked is his prowess as a writer. Hubbard requisitioned two arrangements from Dorham and Kenny responded with two typically fine examples of his work.
"Asiatic Raes" (recorded by Sonny Rollins on Newk's Time, Blue Note 4001) has also been recorded by composer Dorham as "Lotus Blossom." Its constantly fresh melody and interesting harmonic pattern lend themselves to inspired improvisation to all the principals. Chambers has a bowed solo before Hubbard and Jones exchange some highly charged "fours." Philly is especially effective in the closing portions of the arrangement.
"Karioka" again provides that Dorham is lyrical even when he is swinging hard. Hubbard's rhythmic construction of his solo is of a caliber beyond his years. Mobley soars with the ever-energizing Jones and Chambers digging in behind him. Then listen to the way Philly backs the lean, clear Tyner offering. This is quiet strength that prefaces his very masculine solo mentioned before.
The first of two Hank Mobley originals in this set, separates the two Dorham numbers on side A. "The Changing Scene" is in the minor and placed in a groovy, medium tempo. Mobley's combination of thought and power abounds in his lead-off solo. Hubbard's horn literally sings his solo. It is acknowledged that the saxophone is the closest instrument to the human voice but here Freddie makes his trumpet sound very vocal.
Mobley's "A Peck A Sec." is a "Rhythm" [based on the chords to I’ve Got Rhythm] swinger, dedicated to getting the soloists off and blowing, which is just what it does. Both horn-men are most convincing and Tyner's right hand facility was never more clearly demonstrated. Jones has a short solo before the close.
"I Wished I Knew" is a melancholy but beautiful ballad by Billy Smith, a tenor saxophonist friend of Freddie's. (This is not the same Billy Smith who recorded with Thelonious Monk on Blue Note 1511.) Everyone performs with sensitivity and depth, with Hubbard's sound and delivery again belying his years.
Freddie's only written contribution to the date is "Blues For Brenda," penned for his recent bride. It continues the minor-key trend that most of the material in this album follows. Freddie's fire is burning brightly and when he passes the torch to Mobley, Hank doesn't lay it down. Tyner shines and then Chambers spins out one of his gems.
After J.J. Johnson disbanded in 1960, Freddie Hubbard kept busy in a variety of ways. One was participation in the activities at the School of Jazz in Lenox, Massachusetts. Growing out of this were appearances with composer-conductor Ed Summerlin in a series of TV programs for Look Up And Live on CBS. Later he spent some time in the trumpet section of Quincy Jones'..
As well as writing obituaries for The Independent, Steve Voce has been a columnist for Jazz Journal for about 60 years, and presented the Jazz Panorama radio programme on BBC Radio Merseyside for 35 years.
Lengthy interviews [pianist] John Williams, Shorty Rogers and Lou Levy as well as his book on Woody Herman for the Apollo Press Jazz Masters series have previously appeared on these pages courtesy of Steve’s generosity.
The following interview will Bill Perkins took place during a 1980’s Nice Jazz Festival [these have been held annually since 1948].
I doubt that you’ll find a more expansive and expressive article about Bill Perkins anywhere in the Jazz literature and it is a privilege to represent it on JazzProfiles.
“Bill Perkins is one of the outstanding members of the legion of technically gifted and musically inspired tenor players who emerged at the beginning of the fifties. He made a hit here on Kenton's first tour and many people will still remember his playing of Yesterdays on that tour, for it was the first time since Coleman Hawkins' stay in the thirties that England had seen and heard a player of such high calibre. It is perhaps no coincidence that all of Kenton's recordings that feature Bill are good ones and they remain as fresh today as when they were recorded. This is unusual, for saxophone playing tends to date more than, for instance, brass playing. Similarly his work on some of Woody Herman's recordings from the time has classic status, notably Ill Wind where his solo is a masterpiece of delicacy and form.
Surprisingly he has recorded little under his own name, with two exceptions in On Stage - The Bill Perkins Octet (Vogue LAE 12078) which has him leading Bud Shank, Jack Nimitz, Carl Fontana, Stu Williamson, Russ Freeman, Red Mitchell and Mel Lewis, and Journey To The East recorded 28 years later in 1984 (Contemporary C-14011) where the Lester Young influence which has always affected his playing so strongly is diverted by a palpable injection of Sonny Rollins.
He has however recorded prolifically for other leaders, but is extremely modest about his success. A couple of years ago I sent him a tape with a couple of hours of his commercial recordings on it. `I was amazed,' he wrote, `because I never knew that most of them existed.'
Since his last visit to England he has shaved off his moustache with the result that he now looks 20 years younger!
‘When I persuaded my mother to buy me a second hand Buescher tenor, that was the end of the clarinet for me, and I didn't touch it for many years. But it came back to haunt me and later, when I had to play clarinet and all the other instruments required of a studio player, I wished I'd kept up with it as a kid. Clarinet technique is much more difficult than saxophone.
`I was an electrical engineer before I became a professional musician. Before that I was taken down to South America as a small child and we lived in Chile until my dad died in the early thirties. He was a mining engineer and he encouraged my fascination with electricity. So I have a degree in electrical engineering as well as in music.
`I was always fascinated by jazz, too. I first consciously remember hearing it when my brother told me about a programme called The Camel Caravan back in 1935. He was back East at school (by this time my mother had brought us back from Chile and we'd settled in Santa Barbara) and he told me to listen. Of course it was the Goodman band and Benny was the first musician I was hooked on. The first saxophone player I remember liking was Charlie Barnet. Then in the late thirties I discovered Count Basie and became a Prez fan. He's remained my biggest influence, although like everyone else I was also influenced by Charlie Parker.
`I've always been a fan of Ben Webster's because I think he was one of the greatest ballad players I've ever heard. His hot playing was good, too, but his ballad playing was like a cello. I had the privilege of working with him many years later.
`You associate me with the generation that came after Zoot and Stan Getz. I'm actually older than Zoot was, but I came to music later because I was studying for my degree in electrical engineering before I realised that my future was in music.
`Everything that I'd heard Lester play stuck in my mind, but Zoot, Al Cohn and Stan were totally separate influences on me when I was learning to play in the late forties. Al was a special favourite of mine because at that time I related to his sound more, but at the time of the Four Brothers band I was at university studying music and wasn't aware of all that till it was history. The first time I heard that band on record was I Told Ya I Love Ya, Now Get Out. It was a radical innovation and absolutely fascinating to hear those guys play and the record made a big impact on me.'
`I found out only the other day who really recommended me and gave me my break with Woody. I'd been working in Los Angeles, with the clarinet player Jerry Wald, who played like Artie Shaw. Woody got in a beef with one of his tenor players and fired him. His manager called me one Sunday night about 10 o'clock and told me to come down to work. I really didn't believe it, I thought somebody was kidding me, but I pulled my pants on and went down there, and that was my first break. Shorty told me the other day that it was Jerry who had recommended me.
`This was in the spring of 1951 when Doug Mettome and Donny Fagerquist were in the band. It was under contract to MGM at the time, and there was a conscious attempt to be popular, which is why the records for that label don't sound quite as profound as some of those from other eras, but they were my first with the band. Kenny Pinson and I had the jazz tenor roles and the lead tenor was Jack Dulong. The baritone player was Sam Staff, a marvellous man who died in his twenties. He became a good friend of mine and also a great help, because of course I was new to the business. I was very lucky because I went straight into the band as a soloist. That first night when I depped was a broadcast. I remember walking out on stage and Woody, who was wearing that expression of his that looked like a scowl, pointed at me and we went on the air playing Perdido. It was probably just as well, because I was too scared to get nervous, I just went ahead and played. That was a very big break for me and the start of it all. Dave McKenna was on piano until later on when they called him up into the army and sent him to Korea as a cook!
`While we played the MGM things on public appearances we also played the Four Brothers book and things like Leo The Lion, Sonny Speaks, By George and the more committed jazz things. You might say the band was at a low ebb at that time. He'd lost a lot of players and hadn't regenerated. I remember seeing the Second Herd as a very naive listener in Hollywood and it was crammed with giants - apart from the Brothers, Bill Harris was there. A number of them, not Bill of course, were strung out on the drug thing.
`Kenny Pinson was a marvellous player whose driving force was Bird. He was really more of an alto player than a tenor player in a lot of respects, and he was also a nice guy with a great sense of humour. He was in the band for the first six months that I was there and then he was replaced by Arno Marsh. Arno is still a fine player and lives in Vegas. He was rhythm and blues orientated with Hawk's sound rather than Lester's, and he was a big hit with the audiences. Urbie green was on trombone and then Carl Fontana and Urbie’s brother Jack came on the band.
`I left the band for a period and when I came back Woody had built it up into one of his best. That was the band that came to Europe in 1954 and it included my very dear friend Richie Kamuca. They called it the Third Herd and it included another great friend of mine, Dick Hafer, and the marvellous Jerry Coker. Jerry chose to be a music educator and he's one of the best. I have his book on chords and I've used it a great deal to help expand my playing.
`The reason I left the first time was because he broke the group up for a while, but also because I wanted to do some wood-shedding [musician speak for practicing] and thirdly because Arno had become the featured soloist. In retrospect this made me question my own playing and style and I was thinking I wasn't doing as well as I should have been. I left the band for about a year and did a lot of playing locally. I think I upgraded my playing and when I rejoined Arno had quit and I was a different person musically. Before that at the very end of 1953 I went with Stan Kenton. They had a bus accident in the Chicago area and some of the people got hurt or shook up pretty bad. I think Zoot left and I went on the band with Bill Holman.
The Kenton band went on a big tour with added stars. It had Dizzy and Bird, Erroll Garner, Stan Getz and Slim Gaillard. Lee Konitz had just quit the band, but he came back to be featured on the tour. For me it was going to school every night hearing these men play. Stan broke the band up at the beginning of the year.
`Dick Bock, who had a great responsibility in getting me launched as a musician then gave me an enormous break. He did the album “Two Degrees East, Three Degrees West” with John Lewis and Jim Hall, and they had me there as the only horn. Then I was part of an album with Bud Shank, his first, I think. One half was Shorty and Bud, the other half Bud and me. The records sold heavily over the world and I've no way of measuring how much they did to get my name known. I rejoined Woody, made some records with him and we went to Europe, where I made the session in Paris with Henri Renaud, Dick Collins, Dick Hafer, Cy Tough and Red Kelly. When we got back Richie Kamuca joined and we had Al Porcino and John Howell in the trumpets.
'Richie and I were very close. We hung out together and roomed together and he was a great player. He could just pop out those eighth notes, and I always wished that I could swing and play with the facility that he could. We both liked the other's sound and influenced each other. But I wish I could have made my fingers work as fast as his could. He could really move and had a very hard approach. He was a bebopper, but he wanted to have that gentler Stan Getz sound, so in a way he was arguing with himself. If he'd had a harsher sound he might have had more impact on the beboppers, although that's speculation on my part. Sound was the main thing for me, and I'm not known for my technique, which has caused me a great deal of pain through the years.'
'Richie had been in the 1951 Kenton band before I ever joined. I went back with Stan in 1955. That was what we call the Bill Holman band, because Stan gave Bill a free range and about 80% of the arrangements were Bill's.
Great wisdom on Stan's part, because you never hear a weak Holman chart. I'd left Woody because he broke up the band and also because I wanted some time off the road. I was married and we had a baby coming, and life on the road is rough on a marriage. There's conflict all the time. Neither Woody nor Stan liked to be at home because their whole lives were dedicated to travelling.
`Stan reformed in the spring of 1955 and started rehearsals in Los Angeles with Bill's new book for the band. That book still sounds wonderful today. After all these years people come up to me and say they listened recently to a record that I made with Stan and it'll be one of those, and the listener must have been about 10 years old when we made the record! But Bill Holman as you know is the definitive giant of big band writing.
`Stan's personal taste in music bordered on the bombastic. Maybe that's an unfair word. He just loved the sound of brass. He loved the heroic, Wagnerian sound, but was open enough to allow each person to express himself in his own way. He allowed Bill Holman his due, although Bill's writing might have been the antithesis of Stan's personal taste. Many arrangers, Bill Russo, Gerry Mulligan, Gene Roland, had complete freedom with the band. Gene was another erratic but brilliant genius. You could never tell what he would come up with - it might be a total flop or it might be brilliant. I knew Gene from our stays in Los Angeles together when we used to go to jam sessions and he was quite an influence on me. Especially when he could pick up my tenor and play it better than I could. It was kind of discouraging to me at that time when I was just beginning, because he was a trumpet player!
`Stan didn't edit arrangements like Woody did. You wouldn't call Woody an arranger, but he could take an arrangement and edit it with great instinct. Woody has a much bigger part in the music than people realise. You can have the greatest bunch of players in the world, but unless you've got that mature continuity they might not mean a thing. That's what Woody contributes. It's as true of his young band of 25 year olds that I had the pleasure of leading for a week last year as it was in our time. Woody's the last of a breed, I'm afraid, and I have a great affection for him.
`When Stan commissioned a piece it was complete as he received it and, unless he altered it before we got to see it, he didn't touch it. He had great respect for the writers.
`Most of us found that life on the road precluded any development in our own styles because travelling was so exigent. When I was with Stan in Europe I was a lot younger and had a lot more endurance, but I lost 15 pounds. I existed on cognac and watercress sandwiches!
`Jerry Coker was the exception. He's an extremely scholarly person and he was continually improving and experimenting. He wrote some things for Stan and he wrote Blame Boehm for Woody. That was for the band that did Bill Holman's Prez Conference, which was issued as Mulligatawny. It had Dick Hafer, Jerry and me all soloing and showing the Prez influence.
`The irony of it was that Jerry has always been deaf. He had to wear a hearing aid. Yet when it came to hearing a wrong note in an arrangement he couldn't miss it.'
`I'm a really big Kenton fan. I couldn't say anything derogatory about him, because to me he was an ideal leader. Recently we've had some biographies of him that expressed a different opinion, and over the years he's had quite a bit of negative press because he tended to speak first and think later. That isn't necessarily a bad trait. He spoke very emotionally and was an extremely kind, generous and democratic individual. He had a racially mixed band in the fifties and was harmed by it. Not just in the south, although the south was terrible, but other ballrooms and halls across America would cancel the band when they found out. Of course he refused to compromise and if he liked a man's playing he would stand by him at whatever cost. This is why I bridle when I read some of these accounts that it was not so. It may be that in his last years he changed from this, because that does happen to us sometimes. He should have been a politician. Literally he would remember your name if he met you once and then didn't see you again for 20 years. He had a genuine interest in people, it wasn't phoney.
`One of the reasons I left him was because you don't get enough solo space in a big band to develop your improvising. There was a security of having a job with someone like Stan or Woody that made you a bit fearful to branch off on your own. For my own musical development I should have been doing then what I'm attempting to now, which is to play as much jazz as I can as a matter of priority.
`Stan made an ill-fated return to the Balboa Ballroom in the fifties and that's where I met my wife. We got married and I decided to come off the road. I took a job working for Dick Bock at Pacific Jazz Records as an editor and a librarian, so he really made it possible for me to live at home.
`When I look back on it now I was making $60 a week in 1958 and getting by quite well. Dick did a tremendous amount of tape editing, and I say lovingly that he was a terrible editor! He turned it over to me and I was a good editor because I was a musician.'
Bill Putnam was the head of universal Studios in Chicago. He went out to Los Angeles in 1957 and opened up a studio there called United which revolutionised recording techniques. He was the father of modern recording. I got a job with him purely on the strength of his having recorded the Bill Holman band in Chicago (I can find no trace of this event. The discographies suggest Holman's recordings to have been confined to Los Angeles - SV) and when I wrote him a letter and said I'd been an engineer he hired me. It was like starting at square one, because his was a whole new recording technique. He trusted me and I ended up being a mastering engineer because I found my personality wasn't too well suited to working with the producers of the dawning rock and roll era. So I cut discs, I must have mastered 5,000 different LPs for him. Meantime I continued with my music until the two careers built up and I was working 17 hours a day. So in 1969 I gave up the engineering aspect and became a full time studio player. I studied flute legitimately as I was going along and I was fortunate in that people like Alan Ferguson, the great arranger, allowed me to have on the job training, which is something that you don't come by anymore these days. I haven't studied saxophone playing since 1949 mainly because a jazz saxophone player has a rough time trying to accommodate his concepts to a legit saxophone teacher. They want you to play with a very fast vibrato and a very light set up so you can move fast but the jazz sound is a more powerful sound, so I gave up on that when I first went on the road. In the sixties there was a lot more big band studio work, backing Sinatra, for example. I was on some of those albums and of course I was in on many Sinatra sessions because he recorded at United a lot.'
`Warner Brothers at that time had their offices in the United Studios and I worked for Reprise. I was involved with the Ellington sessions for that label and even played on one, the soundtrack for Assault On A Queen. Watching Duke score a picture, which he did practically ad lib, was an experience! I was supposed to be up cutting masters and I'd drift away down to where he was because it was so fascinating. They were always searching for me to come back to work! Duke had come out with a nucleus of players. I think he had Hodges and Carney with him, four or five of his men, and the rest were studio players. By the time he got through with us it was the Ellington band. I can still remember the influence, because the studio players were all used to doing everything by numbers, exactly as we were told. Ellington was so free. We asked him how he wanted things played and he said `Oh, don't worry. It'll come together.' And of course it did. I'll never forget it. I also played baritone for him once on a show called Happy Times, a television show where they had different big bands every week. I thought boy, I'm going to get to play those marvellous Harry Carney parts. Well, the fact is there were no Harry Carney parts - they were all kept in Harry's head. We were all terribly disappointed at first because we had It Don't Mean A Thing and there was no chart for it. We thought how can we possibly play that with a 17 piece band live on the air without charts? But by the time he was through with it it swung as hard as you could want, and I'll never forget it. He had an instinct for what mattered and a certain amount of sloppiness, if you want to call it that, was beneficial. Many a time I've been to hear the band and it wasn't running on all 16 cylinders until after half an hour or so, but it didn't matter because that spirit was there.'
'The first album under my own name was the octet for World Pacific (Vogue LAE 12088). It wasn't a regular band but the guys were people I had been very closely associated with. Stu Williamson, a marvellous player and a great jazz voice, was on trumpet. Sadly he doesn't play today. Bill Holman wrote about five of the charts and in one of my few attempts at arranging I transcribed some Prez solos which took me six months to do. That was one of the things that discouraged me from writing.
`Later I wrote some more arrangements for my own groups and I even did some big band ones, but it was very painful. You need to persevere. It's also a problem of allocation of time. One of my favourite writers, Bobby Brookmeyer, told me that even for him it was much more painful to write, and he'd much rather play. He's one of the great writers. He did some things for Stan which were just gorgeous. I don't think we ever recorded them, but they were so good I wish I'd been able to steal them. At that moment they might not have fitted what Stan wanted because they were more intimate in the way of the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis band. Stan wasn't attuned to that kind of freedom. He would have called it big band Dixieland, perhaps. I like a lot of freedom. Especially as I get older I realise that there are perhaps too many Stan Kenton clones today. He did it years ago and did it definitively for the big organised band, but I like to hear bands where you never know what's happening next - maybe not as much as Sun Ra, but Thad Jones is one of the greats.
`I just hate that terminology "West Coast"! The only thing I can say is that the guys on the East Coast were playing a harder form of music, a form of bebop, whereas there was a sort of palm tree gentleness about the music we played out there. It wasn't conscious or anything. I think there's something about Los Angeles that's not conducive towards intense high level playing. There's an intensity about New York City, perhaps the proximity of human bodies, everyone's struggling, whereas in Los Angeles there may be neuroses but you're so spread out that it's hard to have a jazz community out there. As you know the attraction to Los Angeles for the musicians was the chance to make money in the studios. It was a very enticing thing. But in recent years because of the sheer number of musicians there they've made their own thing musically. And still you can't possibly make a living as a jazz musician in Los Angeles.
'I think I took the studio work too seriously. I'd go to each job with the attitude that it was supposed to be a work of art and I'd wind up going home almost on the point of tears because I thought I'd played badly. But, as my dear friend Ernie Watts pointed out, it's not art, it's craft at best, and if you look at it that way it won't be so painful to..
"The Theme from The Godfather" as arranged by pianist Jan Laurens Hartong for the group Nueva Manteca featuring Ilja Reijngoud, trombone,Ben van den Dungen, sax, Ed Verhoeff, guitar, Jeroen Vierdag, bass, Nils Fischer, percussion, Lucas van Merwijk, drums.
“Erroll Garner was one of a kind. He was as outré as the great beboppers, yet bop was alien to him, even though he recorded with Charlie Parker. He swung mightily, yet he stood outside the swing tradition; he played orchestrally, and his style was swooningly romantic, yet he could be as merciless on a tune as Fats Waller. He never read music, but he could play a piece in any key, and delighted in deceiving his rhythm sections from night to night. His tumbling, percussive, humorous style was entirely his own.”
Richard Cook and Brian Morton , The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, 6th Ed.
“Sixty years! Hard to believe for this Garner fan, who grabbed the LP [Concerts by the Sea] when it was "hot off the press" - to coin a phrase. And what a treat it was to listen to that live performance by the master in top form. Though, come to think of it, he never was in less than that. No matter where - within the confines of a nightclub, in a concert hall, at an open-air festival, in a recording studio - you encountered "The Little Man" (as Art Tatum fondly dubbed him - he was 5'4") in action, he would hold you spellbound with the musical magic he could coax from a piano, an instrument he made sound like no player ever had before - or would again.
That sound, that conception, was strictly his own creation. Undeterred by teachers, he made his hands realize what he heard in his head, and that was the sounds and rhythm of a big jazz band. A child of the Swing Era, Garner conceived of the keyboard as a combination of a band's horn and rhythm sections, rolled into a single voice. And his uncanny sense of time, his marvelous touch, and wide-open ears made that conception come alive. Once Garner had taught his fingers to do his bidding, he found such joy in making music that it became contagious. His was, as an album title proclaimed, the most happy piano.” - Dan Morgenstern, Jazz author, critic and essayist, retired Director of the Jazz Institute at Rutgers University
“Artists look to find a connection; a way in, something that matters. This elusive feeling of belonging, of connecting or not, is the friction that helps us navigate the creative map. Acceptance or the lack thereof is a part of everyday life on and off stage.
“Erroll Garner found acceptance from people who loved great music, including his icons Duke Ellington, Art Tatum, Count Basie, George Shearing, and Ahmad Jamal. He was a sure creative and emotional bet for his audience as well. His audience understood this and showed up to hear him night after night the world over.
In a rare interview recorded directly after his Concert by the Sea performance, Erroll Garner said, "They made me feel like playing.'"
Perhaps he meant his magnificent trio with drummer Denzil DeCosta Best and bassist Eddie Calhoun, or perhaps he meant his audience who witnessed one of the greatest concerts of all time. Either way Garner seemed to be saying it was the collaborative exchange that made the moment possible - that blending between the audience and the musicians. Garner's music is a direct and uncensored experience, honest and immediate, free flowing, clearly delivered, focused with fearless projection. The newly mastered version of Concert by the Sea with 11 new performances (22 performances in all), gives us more than a glimpse into what it might have been like to witness this great artist night after night. "You could never tell what he might do next" were the kinds of responses you heard from his musical collaborators. - Geri Allen, Jazz pianist
“Erroll Garner was a true original in the history of Jazz piano. For reasons I do not understand, considering the high respect other contemporaries had for him, Garner seems to have been forgotten by younger Jazz critics and Jazz pianists alike. There was only one Erroll Garner and it would help every Jazz pianist if they paid a little more attention to his talent and creativity."
These sage words from the impresario and pianist George Wein beg the question: why has Erroll Garner, universally regarded as one of the most important pianists in jazz history, attracted so little attention? Teddy Wilson called Garner, "one of the greatest talents there was.... His harmonies were as modern as tomorrow and his conception of jazz exquisite." George Shearing, who admittedly copped his style, wrote in his autobiography, "Nobody else can play the way Erroll Garner did." Ahmad Jamal once said, "anyone that has not been influenced by Erroll has not been in our field.... Fd say he's from the impressionistic school and of the rank of Ravel and Debussy." One of the most venerated and commercially successful jazz musicians of his generation, Garner performed before sold-out concert halls, won nearly every major jazz magazine poll, appeared frequently on TV talk shows, and was featured in The Saturday Evening Post.
Garner's popularity was due in no small part to his intrepid manager and life-long friend, Martha Glaser. ….” - Robin Kelley, insert notes to The Complete Concert By The Sea
These days, it sometimes seems to me that “unique,” “peerless,” “one-and-only” and other, similar words and phrases are indiscriminately bandied about.
But they are appropriate in their use and meaning when applied to the music of Erroll Garner.
He was sui generis.
One of my earliest recollections of Jazz piano being played in an orchestral and percussive manner was on the 10” Columbia House Party EP entitled Here’s Here, He’s Gone, He’s Garner! It contains an 8+ minute version of Erroll playing The Man I Love that moves from a stately Brahmsian introduction, to a majestically slow representation of the melody before devolving into chorus after chorus of up-tempo, pulsating and original improvisations whose conclusion always leaves me exhausted from the excitement they generate in my emotions.
Erroll plays his usual four-beats-to-the-bar left hand self-accompaniment, but his right hand is all over the middle and upper register of the piano with block chord phrases, rhythmic riffs interchanged with drum fills and single lines that weave a powerful elucidation of bop phrases.
Pianist Dick Katz, in his splendidly instructive essay entitled “Pianists of the 1940s and 1950s” that appears in editor Bill Kirchner’s The Oxford Companion to Jazz [New York: Oxford University Press, 2000], provides this description of Erroll Garner:
“Unique is an inadequate word to describe Erroll Garner. He was a musical phenomenon unlike any other. One of the most appealing performers in Jazz history, he influenced almost every pianist who played in his era, and even beyond. Self-taught, he could not read music, yet he did things that trained pianists could not play or even imagine. Garner was a one-man swing band, and indeed often acknowledged that his main inspiration was the big bands of the thirties – Duke, Basie, Lunceford, et al. He developed a self-sufficient, extremely full style that was characterized by a rock-steady left-hand that also sounded like a strumming rhythm guitar. Juxtaposed against this was a river of chordal or single note ideas, frequently stated in a lagging, behind-the-beat way that generated terrific swing.” [P. 365]”
And in Jazz Portraits: The Lives and Music of the Jazz Masters, Len Lyons had this to say about Erroll:
“An idiosyncratic improviser with a fertile imagination, Garner could be an effervescent, whimsical, bombastic, and always emotional—sometimes within the same song. He made hundreds of recordings, most of them spontaneously, barely pausing between selections. Garner's style was unmistakable: lush tremolo chords in the right hand, "strummed" left-hand block chords that kept precise time, elaborately embellished melodies, and a beat so polyrhythmic that the music seemed to be played in two distinct time signatures.
Influenced by Earl "Fatha" Hines, Teddy Wilson, the beat of the big bands, and later by the harmonies and phrasing of bebop, Garner carved a niche for himself that was too unique and specialized to leave room for followers. At the piano bench, he perched his diminutive frame on a telephone book to improve his reach, and he sang to himself in audible grunts and growls as he played. His impish humor came through in his music and his demeanor. …
Johnny Burke added the lyrics to Erroll’s Misty in 1959 and Johnny Mathis recording of it that year really served to enhance Garner’s popularity with both Jazz fans and the general public. Erroll wrote the tune while on a flight from San Francisco to Denver when a rainbow that he watched through a misted window of the plane inspired the song and its title.” [pp. 213-214].
In 1956, Columbia released Concert By The Sea on which Erroll is accompanied b bassist Eddie Calhoun and drummer Denzil Best. It became one of the best selling Jazz albums of all time and has remained in print ever since.
A “behind-the-scenes” look at how this recording came about in provided in the following excerpt by Will Friedwald.
The pianist Erroll Garner was one of the great improvisers of all time -- and not exclusively in his music. As writer John Murphy notes, a New York Times profile of Garner in 1959 by John S. Wilson observed that the musician refused to make any kind of plan until the very last minute; he cooked elaborate dishes without the aid of a recipe book by simply throwing different ingredients together and tasting; he taught himself to play golf without instruction. He also played thousands of songs entirely by ear, without ever bothering to learn to read music, and composed many original tunes that way, including the standard "Misty." Therefore it shouldn't be surprising that Garner (1921-1977) made his best album -- the legendary "Concert by the Sea" -- practically by accident.
On Sept. 19, 1955, Garner (who is also represented on a wonderful new DVD of two concerts from Europe eight years later, "Live in '63 and '64," as part of the Jazz Icons series produced by Reelin' in the Years and available at www.reelinintheyears.com) performed at Fort Ord, an army base near Carmel, Calif., at the behest of disc jockey and impresario Jimmy Lyons. Martha Glaser, who served as Garner's personal manager for nearly his entire career, happened to be backstage when she noticed a tape recorder running. As she recalled for the Journal last week, it turned out that the show was being taped -- without Garner's knowledge -- by a jazz fan and scholar named Will Thornbury, strictly for the enjoyment of himself and his fellow servicemen. Ms. Glaser told him, "I'll give you copies of every record Erroll ever made, but I can't let you keep that tape." She took it back to New York (carrying it on her lap), where she assembled it into album form, titled it "Concert by the Sea," and then played it for George Avakian, who ran the jazz department at Columbia Records. Garner had actually left Columbia three years earlier, but, as Mr. Avakian recently told the Journal: "I totally flipped over it! I knew that we had to put it out right away."
When Columbia released "Concert by the Sea" a few months later, this early live 12-inch LP was a runaway sensation. It became the No. 1 record of Garner's 30-year career and one of the most popular jazz albums of all time. It's not hard to hear why: From the first notes onward, Garner plays like a man inspired -- on fire, even. He always played with a combination of wit, imagination, amazing technical skill and sheer joy far beyond nearly all of his fellow pianists, but on this particular night he reached a level exceeding his usual Olympian standard.
"Concert" begins with one of Garner's characteristic left-field introductions -- even his bassist and drummer, in this case Eddie Calhoun and Denzil Best, rarely had an idea where he was going to go. This intro is particularly dark, heavy and serious -- so much the better to heighten the impact of the "punchline," when Garner tears into "I'll Remember April." Originally written as a romantic love song, Garner swings it so relentlessly fast that you can practically feel the surf and breeze of the windswept beach image from the album's famous cover.
The sheer exhilaration of Garner's playing never lets up; even when he slows down the tempo on "How Could You Do a Thing Like That to Me" (a tune also known as Duke Ellington's "Sultry Serenade"), the pianist shows that he's just as adroit at playing spaces as he is at playing notes. The bulk of the album showcases his brilliant flair for dressing up classic standards such as "Where or When" (when Garner plays it, he leaves the question mark out -- you know exactly where and precisely when), but "Red Top" illustrates what he can do with a 12-bar blues and "Mambo Carmel" comes out of his fascination with Latin polyrhythms.
"Concert by the Sea" has never been off my iPod. Sadly, it's also one of the few classic jazz albums that has never been properly reissued. If any album's audio could use a little tender loving care, this is it; the original tape was barely a professional recording, and the bass, for instance, is barely audible. Sony issued a compact disc in 1991, but it's just a straight transfer of the 1955 master, and the digital medium makes it sound worse rather than better. …”
We also located this review of Telarc’s issuance of a multi-disc set of Erroll’s music by Mike Hennessey on the Garner Archives:
George Wein regarded him as "a great musical genius".
Hugues Panassié said of him, "He is not only the greatest pianist to emerge in jazz since World War II, but he is also the only one who has created a new style which is in the true jazz tradition, one which constitutes the essence of this music."
Mary Lou Williams revered him as "an asset and inspiration to the jazz world."
Steve Allen said he was "the greatest popular pianist of our century."
And Art Tatum called him, "My little boy."
They were talking about Erroll Louis Garner, the formidably accomplished and incredibly prolific self-taught pianist who first began exploring the piano keyboard at the age of three and went on to become a genuine jazz legend. His professional career spanned almost four decades and, in that time, he recorded for dozens of different labels, sometimes solo, mostly with his own trio. His recorded output occupies 33 pages in Tom Lord's The Jazz Discography. He made altogether more than 200 albums.
Garner was an amazingly energetic and resourceful musician with a phenomenal ear, remarkable memory and an astonishing independence of right and left hands. He was completely ambidextrous and could write and play tennis right or left handed with equal facility. He was also a sensitive, intelligent and rather shy man with a sunny disposition and an impish humour and he never took himself or his art too seriously.
A Telarc six-CD set of recordings made by Erroll Garner between December 1959 and October 1973 -- simply entitled Erroll Garner -- offers an abundant and representative sample of the prodigious and incomparable Garner legacy. The set comprises 12 original albums, now available for the first time in digital CD format -- altogether a selection of 118 numbers, the vast majority of which come from the great American popular song repertoire.”
- “Young Garner's father was a singer who played several instruments, as did his older brother, Linton. Erroll was an entirely self-taught musician who hit the keys when he was three years old and never did learn how to read music. But he played like no other pianist, and his flamboyant style was a delight to the ears. He would start a ballad with a long, discordant introduction that didn't even hint at the melody to come. At last when he swung into it, his left hand lay down chords like a guitar, keeping up a steady pulse, while his right hand never seemed to catch up, improvising chords or playing octaves that lagged way behind the beat for the rest of the number. Just a pinch of Fats Waller added spice.
I was fascinated by this fellow's joyously swinging piano, and I sought him out while Louis Prima was on. Erroll was anything but happy. He didn't know many people in New York and was downhearted. No one was interested in listening to him—Louis Prima was the showman attraction. And Erroll was only making forty dollars a week!
He told me he thought he'd go home soon, as it seemed nothing was going to happen for him in New York. Somehow, I had to stop him. I invited him home to 7 West 46th Street, showed him my rented Krakaur grand, and once he got started, it was impossible to pry him off the bench. Little did I know at the outset that he had a bad case of asthma and couldn't sleep lying down!” [p. 176]- Fradley Garner’s superb English adaptation of Timme Rosenkrantz’s Harlem Jazz Adventures: A European Baron’s Memoir, 1934-1969
“None of my prior experience with recording artists- Erroll Garner included- had prepared me for what happened when Erroll came in to record the session from which this album is produced.
In a business where the hoped-for standard is to complete four three-minute sides in three hours (with innumerable re-takes), and a recording director is ready to break out the champagne and caviar if he's finished half an hour ahead of schedule, Erroll smashed precedent with a performance that can be compared only to running a hundred yards in eight seconds- and with perfect form.
In other words: something that just can't happen. But this time it did. Erroll came into the studio a few minutes after his accompanists had arrived, took off his coat and had a cup of coffee, sat at the piano and noodled a bit, got up and removed his jacket, lit a cigarette, loosened his tie, and one minute past the hour announced he was ready. We hadn't discussed repertoire specifically; I had only told him that I wanted him to record some double-length numbers for long-play release. To give the engineers a chance to check balance, I asked Erroll to play something; anything. He played for a minute or so; the balance was fine, so when he stopped I asked Erroll through the control-room talk-back if he'd like to get started on the first number.
"Ready!" Erroll called.
"Fine," I said. "What's it going to be?"
"I don't know yet," said Erroll. "Just start that tape going."
The saucer-eyed engineers were no more startled than I, but I held back my surprise long enough to ask if Erroll would like me to signal him when he got around the six-minute mark.
"I might not remember to look," he said. "Let's just feel the time; OK?" Wondering what Dr. Einstein might have to say about that concept, I agreed; Erroll struck a couple of chords, nodded a tempo to bassist Wyatt Ruther and drummer Eugene “Fats” Heard, threw me a wink, and pointed to the recording light. I snapped it on, and he swung into an introduction which baffled all of us; what was it going to be? By what telepathy Ruther and Heard knew, I will never understand, but they followed Erroll unerringly into the chorus of Will You Still Be Mine?- a tune which, Erroll..
“Don Ellis gave the concept of big band jazz. a completely new meaning.”
- STEFAN FRANZEN
“‘I believe in making use of as wide a range of expressive techniques as possible,’ said Ellis, who never lost sight of his own artistic credo, and made some of the most challenging music of modern times.”
- Richard Cook and Brian Morton, The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, 6th Ed.
“Ellis helpfully pops up with a breakdown of the 19-beat figure at the start of his big band's legendary 1966 Monterey appearance: '33 222 1 222 ... of course, that's just the area code!' Everything about Ellis's band was distinctive.”
- Richard Cook and Brian Morton, The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, 6th Ed.
Thanks to a professional relationship and a friendship with Fred Selden, I had a front row seat from which to view the early development of the Don Ellis Orchestra.
Fred, who studied alto sax with Bud Shank and composing and arranging with Shorty Rogers, was the lead alto sax player with Don’s big band and also composed and arranged some charts for the band.
Because of his organizational and administrative skills, Fred also served as a quasi musical director for the band, especially during its formative years.
As Don explains in his annotation of Fred’s tune - The Magic Bus Ate My Doughnut - which appears on The Don Ellis Orchestra Live at The Fillmore: “Fred Selden has been an important member of the band for several years now. He first started playing in one of my student rehearsal bands and as our lead sax player he has been contributing some of our most intriguing and exciting scores.”
While the Ellis band was coming into existence, I played drums in a quintet that Fred formed which also included Bulgarian-born pianist Milcho Leviev. Milcho was featured on keyboards in the Ellis Big Band and would go on to perform in small groups headed up by Chet Baker and Art Pepper.
I often attended the rehearsals of the Ellis orchestra and they were - in the parlance of the time - “a real trip.”
Coming into existence when it did in the second half of the decade of the 1960’s, Don populated the band with young musicians who infused it with energy and a willingness to try new things.
These guys grew up with Rock ‘n Roll, unusual time signatures, electronic instruments and devices [remember ring modulators?] and technique to spare on their respectives instruments and they brought it all home in the Ellis band. Put another way, the Don Ellis Orchestra “was not your Father’s big band.”
Leading this headlong charge into the world of new and different big band Jazz was Don Ellis who played trumpet, electric trumpet, quarter-tone trumpet, four-valved flugelhorn and … wait for it … drums!
And speaking of drums, the band was blessed with the amazingly talented Ralph Humphrey who held the whole thing together from the drum chair. Ralph was the only drummer I ever heard who could play an “in-the-pocket” 17/8 drum beat!
The Ellis band’s amalgamation of styles, influences and unique combinations of instruments can be heard to full advantage on Soaring one of its later recordings  done for the MPS label and recently released on CD as Soaring - The Don Ellis Orchestra [0211977 MSW].
This version of the orchestra even incorporates a string quartet!
The following excerpts from the insert notes included with the CD provide succinct explanations about the music and the musicians on this recording after which you’ll find a video montage set to Whiplash, the opening track.
In retrospect, one of the amazing things about Don’s band was that despite the complexity of its music, it enjoyed tremendous crossover popularity.
Don suffered a heart attack in 1975 and died three years later at the age of 44.
Foreword to the New Edition
“Classical, Avant-garde, East Indian and Balkan metric concepts, big hand jazz - Don Ellis brought it all together with his own orchestra; as early as the 1966 Monterey Jazz Festival, Ellis and band were putting the public's expectations to the test.
Over the years Ellis expanded and refined the band's fantastic expressive abilities by, for instance, the integration of a string quartet into the group, or inviting the Bulgarian pianist Milcho Leviev as special guest.
In 1973, trumpeter Ellis and orchestra recorded two albums for MPS. This first album is titled "Soaring"; the scintillating music created by 22 musicians, including a 12-piece horn section, three percussionists, and a string quartet provides a shimmering, translucent texture captured in a Hollywood studio at the zenith of the band's abilities.
On the first composition, "Whiplash", Ellis demonstrates how his band could accommodate funk to 7-beat time signature. "Sladka Pitka" is a showcase for insanely complex time signatures, and when it comes to "The Devil Made Me Write This Piece" with its layering of samba, legato strings, and chromatic lines, the devil is indeed in the details.
With "Go Back Home", tenor saxophonist Sam Falzone gifted the band with an instrumental bit. and "Invincible" is characterized by dramatic, lyrical paintings in sound. Ellis allows for some tender moments on "Images Of Maria" and "Nicole", whereas Czech composer Aleksej Fried's "Sidonie" celebrates an exuberant festival of uneven rhythms. No question - on "Soaring", Don Ellis gave the concept of big band jazz. a completely new meaning.”
STEFAN FRANZEN Translation: Martin Cook
Original Liner Notes
“At last! The Don Ellis Band soars on in its own direction - free and invincible. The tunes on this album are the most popular and most requested numbers the band has played on recent tours of the United States.
In addition to Ellis' first feature number of himself on drums (THE DEVIL) of special interest are the contributions of two Eastern Europeans. Milcho Leviev, who was know in his native Bulgaria as the leading jazz composer, pianist and film scorer, has based SLADKA PITKA on Bulgarian folk rhythms and themes.
Alexej Fried, in SIDONIE, combines jazz, rock, ragtime, and Czechoslovakian music.
INVINCIBLE marks the soloing debut of the incredible Vince Denham, who from his very first night has astounded the band and audience. This album also includes the hit single GO BACK HOME by Sam Falzone. It is by far the most requested encore number, and when the band performs it in concerts, the audience is invariably on its feet - dancing, yelling and screaming for more as the band continues to soar.”