Monday, July 6, 2015

Sonny Stitt - A JazzProfiles Snapshot

© -  Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

"I'm no new Bird, man!...Nobody's Bird. Bird died."

So Sonny Stitt, without a doubt one of the finest jazz saxophonists, told writer Dave Bittan in a 1959 Down Beat feature, responding to a remark about how his music was so much like Charlie Parker's.
- Zan Stewart, insert notes to The Complete Roost Sonny Stitt Studios Sessions [Mosaic Records MD9-208]

One of the most recorded musicians of all time—as a leader, not a sideman—Sonny Stitt sometimes seemed indifferent to the music he was playing. Not that he was likely to disappoint his audience, who, he knew, couldn't detect for the most part when he was on and when he was coasting; after all, he could coast with head-spinning virtuosity. But there was a touch of cynicism. A record session, finally, was just another gig — a fast taste, no royalties. The blues, "I Got Rhythm," a couple of standards. Still, he countered that cynicism with the conviction, shared by numberless jazz musicians about their own work, that the knowing audience, however small, would recognize the diamonds, would distinguish what was great from what was merely professional. …
His best work, those diamonds, will live as long as anything in Jazz.”
- Gary Giddins, Rhythm-a-ning: Jazz Tradition and Innovation

“Today it takes something out of the ordinary to inspire Stitt to his full powers.”
- Ira Gitler, Jazz author and critic [writing in 1966]

Writing in Sonny Stitt: Endgame Brilliance - Tune-Up! - Constellation [32jazz 32009] producer Joel Dorn commented:

Tune-Up! and Constellation are among the best records Sonny Stitt ever made and, without question, are the two finest examples of his late period work. Aside from their inherent musical brilliance, they go a long way to show just why Stitt was so respected by his peers and revered as one of the giants of modern jazz. Both records were originally released on the now defunct Muse label. Even though Constellation was nominated for a Grammy, and Tune-Up! was as critically acclaimed, both records have been relatively hard to find. Now they're both on one disk.

This is the first "two-far" on 32 Jazz. Our goal is to give you as much attractively-packaged, great music for the dollar as is humanly possible. I hope you enjoy our initial offering 'cause we got nothing but great music coming your way.”

Gary Giddins, another close and astute observer of the Jazz scene heartily agreed with Joel when he wrote:

“... 10 years ago [1972], in the midst of a relentless and largely undistinguished recording regimen including tenor-organ dates and a brief flirtation with electronic sax, Stitt made a superb album called Tune Up! for Cobblestone. There isn't a rote note on it. One reason for its success was producer Don Schlitten, who has a magical touch with bop saxophonists, and another was pianist Barry Harris, a catalyst for some of Stitt's best playing since 1957 (their 1961 "Koko" for Cadet is one of Stitt's masterpieces). Heady with success, the three returned to the studio four months later to cut Constellation, which is measure for measure probably the best LP Stitt ever made. When it tied McCoy Tyner's Sahara for first place in the Down Beat critics' poll, some colleagues were dismayed that what appeared on the surface to be an ordinary six-hour quartet date, leader plus pick-up rhythm, should win the prize from more fashionable doings. But I continue to think it was one of Down Beat's more privileged moments, recognizing a veteran player's reclaimed inspiration.” [Rhythm-a-ning: Jazz Tradition and Innovation, p. 109].

In closing his insert notes to the original 1972 Muse recording of Tune Up! [MR 5334, the Jazz author and critic said:

“Here endeth Tune-Up! a watershed in Stittology. This is the conclusive proof, if anybody still needs it, that when the spirit moves him, and the company is right, Sonny Stitt is one of the greatest soloists in jazz.”

And Howard Mandel began his insert notes to the 1972 Muse recording of Constellation [MR 5323]by observing:

“When a distant sun dies in our sky, it takes light-years — a measure of space by time — for us to perceive it, and until we do we still see the bright pin point as alive. Thanks to the perspective afforded by recordings, which can telescope jazz history so that eons of music fit on a few feet of shelves, the light of Edward "Sonny" Stitt still burns. Some of his brightest moments are caught and held for all time on the albums he recorded for Muse during the last decade of his life. The reissue of Constellation, originally released on Cobblestone, reminds us of the brilliance Stitt gave off during the final era of his fiery career.”

Experienced and skilled Jazz musicians like Edward “Sonny” Stitt could and did “mail it in” on any number of occasions, after all, it’s difficult to play this music night-after-night at a high level of creative ability.

But when Sonny decided to “deliver the mail” himself, it was always worth opening as it was sure to be a special delivery.

Sonny performs Tadd Dameron’s Casbah from the Constellation LP on the following video with Barry Harris, piano, Sam Jones, bass and Roy Brooks, drums.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Joe Pass: “Passalaqua - The Poet of the Guitar” [From The Archives]

© -  Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“His approach was characterized by great melodic facility, harmonic sophistication and a natural, easy command of swing, and the music he made was both invigoratingly inventive and thoroughly accessible. Like Charlie Parker and other great melodists in Jazz, Joe Pass had the singular gift of improvising lines of natural, singing clarity and firm inner logic.”

- Pete Welding

Back when the World was young, I worked for a residential treatment center that specialized in offering care to adult,  psychiatric schizophrenic patients.

At the time, residential treatment centers and day treatment centers were fairly new for patients with this diagnosis.

They were designed as an alternative to hospitalization as there was a developing clinical view in those days that such admissions, besides being very costly, did little to help in providing the long term care patients with this diagnosis required.

To a certain extent, the new clinical perspective embraced the notion that stabilizing schizophrenic patients in order to protect them for doing injury to themselves or to others might involve hospitalizations, but helping them to function is less restrictive settings after such inpatient stays might ultimately prove more helpful and healthy for all concerned.

The “do’s” and “don’ts” of residential treatment centers were just becoming highly regulated by the states that licensed them.

Sadly, in addition to the many other challenges they face, along the way, many adult, psychiatric schizophrenic patients develop alcohol and drug abuse as a secondary diagnosis.

Interestingly, many of the “clients” in our residential treatment center responded well to art and music sessions offered in a milieu environment [broadly speaking, one which allows the clients to mingle with each other rather than to be in isolation].

Since I had a “background as a musician,” in addition to my administrative work, I was honored with the role of leading the weekly music therapy session which largely consisted of having guest musicians perform at the center or in playing recordings.

For whatever reasons, perhaps appropriately subconscious, I was really smitten with guitarist Joe Pass during the period of my involvement with the residential treatment center and frequently played his records [CDs were still fairly new at the time].

One day, one of the clients picked up the LP jacket sleeve and read aloud Joe’s given name: “Joseph Anthony Jacobi Passalaqua.”

He turned to me and in a moment of extreme clarity that such clients sometimes have, said: “Passalaqua – The Poet of the Guitar.”

Obviously, I’ve never forgotten that remark. And I’ve also never forgotten that residential treatment center and its many clients. My years there were in many ways and for many reasons, one of the high points in my life.

Residential treatment centers, alcohol and drug rehabilitation and music had all had an earlier involvement in my life, but not in any formal sense.

By way of background, although we barely understood any of its inner workings, let alone how it connected to the “outside world,” I was part of a group of young musicians who were among the earliest supporters of a place called Synanon.

Founded in Santa Monica, CA in 1958 by Chuck Dederich.  Synanon was a residential treatment center that existed for the expressed purpose of helping drug and alcohol addicted musicians and other artists.

Synanon was located in an old brick building situated a few yards from the beach and the ocean on the Pacific Coast Highway [California Route 1]

We would drive to it along Santa Monica Blvd. [no freeways, yet] bringing bags of used clothes, groceries and a few schimolies to donate to the musicians and artists in residence at Synanon. Sometimes we’d participate in jam sessions while we were visiting.

Chuck never had an easy time of it and was hounded by the city fathers for “bringing that elements into the city.”

Unlike my later tenure with them,  the rules and regulations for residential treatment centers were not codified and those opposed to its work often had Synanon in court. Somewhat amazingly given the power of his opponents, Chuck and Synanon often prevailed.

One of Synanon’s most famous “graduates” was none other than Jazz guitarist Joe Pass who was just concluding his residence there during my initial visits.

Like so many of his contemporaries from the Jazz world of the 1940s and 50s, Joe had gotten lost in the “world” of heroin addiction.

Fortunately, for all Jazz fans, Joe found his was again, and a big “Thank You” is  owed to Chuck Dederich and the folks at Synanon for “saving my life” and to Richard Bock of Pacific Jazz records for help in re-launching Joe’s career.

Dick recorded Joe in a number of different contexts and had a role in Joe’s introduction to Gerald Wilson’s big band. Kudos to Gerald as well for featuring Joe as not too many big bands have a guitarist as one of its primary soloists.

Dick Bock’s first association with Joe dated back to the Pacific Jazz recording – The Sounds of Synanon [PJ-48. He recruited John Tynan to write the following liner notes for the album.  At the time, John was the west coast editor of Down Beat magazine.

Following John notes you will find a video tribute to Joe made with the assistance of the crackerjack graphics team at CerraJazz LTD.  The audio track is Django Reinhardt’s Fleur D’Ennui which is from Joe’s For Django Pacific Jazz album [PJ-85] on which he is joined by John Pisano on rhythm guitar, Jim Hughart on bass and Colin Bailey on drums.

© -  John Tynan, copyright protected; all rights reserved.


“There are times in the ironic drama of Life when happiness and fulfillment bloom out of misery and despair. The modern jazz Sounds Of Synanon were born in the deepest misery and degradation and in the most hopeless despair, for the seeds of the music were planted in seven individuals whose lives had been blighted by drug addiction. Arnold Ross ... Joe Pass ... Greg Dykes ... Dave Allan ...Ronnie Clark . . . Bill Crawford ... Candy Latson ... These are the seven who had forgotten how to hope; who existed from fix to fix; whose pursuit of heroin may be traced through jails and penitentiaries, sanitariums and hospitals and suicide attempts, to a final day in each of their lives when, like drifting flotsam, they were cast against the sanctuary of Synanon House.

Synanon exists to save lives by keeping the drug addicts who live there away from the narcotics that enslaved them. And what is Synanon? It is people getting well. Inside the forbidding red brick old armory at 1351 Ocean Front, Santa Monica, Calif., the miracle of rehabilitation is a 24-hour phenomenon. Between midnight and dawn or at bustling noon a sick addict may appear at the reception desk, seeking help.

"No dope fiend wants to get well; he wants to want to get well," is a hard-boiled saying at- Synanon House: But-the residents there share an aggregate knowledge of dope addiction so practical in its intimacy that no new member's fantasies are ever swallowed as facts. The foundation's residents are humanists; they are not sentimentalists. And if they live to save lives and battle the monster of addiction, they are determined to fight with utmost efficiency, unencumbered by the baggage of a do-gooder attitude that puts more value on intentions than on results achieved. Synanon is for work, not dreams.

Fulcrum and inspirer of the work at Synanon House since September 1958 when the foundation was established, Charles E. "Chuck" Dederich is still at the helm of the organization. (The opening track in this album, “C.E.D.” is dedicated to him,) In the first article on Synanon to appear in a national publication, this reporter wrote in Down Beat magazine in January 1961, "An educated and eloquent man, Dederich, at 47, bears t he physical scars o f his own long sickness - alcoholism. He hasn't had a drink in five years and now runs the foundation with an understanding, strength, and a determination that is contagious."

A professional statistician, Dederich for many years held top positions in advertising, merchandising and public relations. For the last 10 years, before I quit drinking,' he said dryly, I was a promoter-in the negative sense of the word."

Walker Winslow, author of The Meninnger Story and If A Man Be Bad and an authority on mental health problems, has had ample opportunity to study Dederich and his techniques. "'Dederich,’ Winslow said, 'is an intuitive psychologist. He's one of the best I've encountered, and I think any good psychiatrist would agree with that. He has taken the rationalizing mechanisms of the addict and the alcoholic and has neutralized them. Then, too, he has a remarkably positive personality. By expressing himself firmly to these people, by holding them in line firmly, he's expressing a real concern for them. His approach is probably the only way of reaching them and holding them, and his firmness really discourages the phonies who wander in.’

"Winslow considers Dederich's refusal to compromise as crucial. I've seen opportunities here', he said, 'where a compromise would have gained a few dollars for the foundation in the case of a member earning money and bringing it in regularly. But if this person were damaging the organization, even slightly, Dederich wouldn't hesitate to throw him out.’

Since the appearance of this writer's report in Down Beat, Synanon has benefited by the attention thus drawn to it. John Tranchitella, president of Los Angeles Local 47, American Federation of Musicians, organized and staged a benefit concert in
cooperation with Down Beat in April 1961, from which funds were raised to keep the foundation going. Through sympathetic and influential political contacts, a bill was passed into law in the California state legislature that placed Synanon under the jurisdiction of the state Board of Medical Examiners, thus gaining recognition of Synanon by the state as a legal place for the rehabilitation of narcotic addicts. Television cameras have probed the corridors of Synanon House; TIME and LIFE magazines, respectively, have printed a favorable article and photo essay on the organization, thus bringing the Synanon message into the homes of America.

Donations have poured into the tax exempt foundation from businessmen and a wide variety of sympathizers, and there are now several Synanon houses established in the Santa Monica area. On the other side of the coin, however, there remains the implacable opposition of the city of Santa Monica, whose civic fathers have long sought to evict the Synanon residents. The foundation was convicted in a Santa Monica court of a technical violation of a housing ordinance and Chuck Dederich served a brief term in the city jail as a result of this.

Still, Synanon carries on, A new house-presumably outside the Santa Monica city limits-is being sought. This is no easy task, for although addicts come and go through its doors-some with a slim chance for life, others to return to the needle of death-the number of permanent residents is steadily increasing.

But the work goes on. An important manifestation of Synanon's work may be heard in these Sounds Of Synanon. There are but a small number of addicted musicians in residence there but the jazz group they have created is a constant morale builder. Consistent with the group consciousness of the residents, there is no leader as such. As a matter of policy and mutual agreement the musicians work together, This is not to say that talent and experience do not prevail in matters musical. And pianist Arnold Ross is the recognized dean in this respect.

"Like all addicts who come to Synanon for help. Arnold Ross was desperate." this reporter wrote in Down Beat. "His first visit ... was in May, 1959. He described the events leading to his arrival.

"I'd tried to kill myself,’ he said matter of factly, ‘and landed in County General hospital. They found needle marks on me, and I was booked for 'misdemeanor-marks. When my case came up, my lawyer told me the only way I could avoid the county jail was to commit myself to Camarillo for treatment. So I did. Then, when I got out, I went with (a) club group. I was back on dope fast. I quit the group and tried to kick again by myself, but I couldn't make it. So I came to Synanon.' "Heeding a variety of rationalizations, he didn't remain this first time. But last July 7 (1960), Ross returned and stayed.

"Pianist Ross enjoyed a rising reputation in the late 1930s and '40s with a variety of bands, including the late Glenn Miller's army orchestra and Harry James (1944-47). In 1950, Ross says, while on a tour of Europe as accompanist to a name singer, he started his first serious heroin habit.

"When we got back,' he continued, I kicked.  But soon I'd started another. After that, there was no turning back. Today, at 40, Ross has turned back. Or, to state it more accurately, he has taken a new turning. He has taken and accepted the Synanon way.

Joe Pass (Passalaqua), one of the most exciting talents on jazz guitar to emerge in recent years, is a native of New Brunswick, N. J., born January 13, 1929. He began formal study of guitar at age 9, sticking with these lessons, he says, about a year. By then, he was gigging around his hometown. He had several small groups in Johnstown, Pa., before leaving on a tour with the Tony Pastor band. This was of short duration; he had to leave the band and return to school. He chronicles the balance of his life as follows: Left school and got a Local 802 card. I gigged around Long Island, Brooklyn, and started goofin'-pot, pills, junk. Traveled around the country with different tours. Then I was drafted into the Marine Corps. I was in a year. Meantime I'd been in and out of hospitals and seeing doctors and so on. In the Corps,

I played cymbals in the band, worked in a small group at N.C.O. and officers' clubs. Then I got busted. I moved to Las Vegas and worked the hotels there. Busted again. After that i spent three years and eight months at the U.S. Public Health Service Hospital at Fort Worth, Texas. Then I went back to Vegas. I recorded with Dick Contino on Capitol and with several other commercial groups. Meanwhile, I was in and out of jails for narcotics violations. I came to Synanon from San Diego after a final 'marks beef.'" At the time this album was recorded, Joe Pass had been at Synanon 15 months.

Trumpeter David Allan was reared, and attended high school, in Chicago where he was born April 1, 1928 into a musical family. His father, he says, was a songwriter and song-and-dance man in vaudeville. At age 12 he was playing in a jazz band with his two cousins. He spent 1946 and '47 with army bands in the U.S. and in the Philippines. Following an honorable discharge from the army, Allan settled in Southern California where he formed a jazz group with pianist Don Friedman, tenorist Lin Halliday, bassist Don Payne and drummer Gary Frommer. During this period he played regularly with Chet Baker, Ornette Coleman, Joe Maini and Russ Freeman. Allan attended Whittier College, Whittier, Calif., and, he says, was one semester short of securing his bachelor's degree in economics "when addiction caused me to leave college." Before coming to Synanon, he was committed to the U. S. Public Health Service Hospital at Lexington, Ky.

Greg Dykes, trombonist and trumpeter, who plays baritone horn in this album, was born in Los Angeles, January 20, 1931. This is his story: "My father was a music teacher and I started playing trumpet at around 10. Through school I played music as a hobby. After high school, I played two years in army bands. While in hospital in Fort Worth. I changed to baritone horn and valve trombone. I worked in local (Los Angeles) big bands, but have done very little work in jazz. In 1958,1 became associated with Art Pepper who helped me a great deal. Now I feel that I am just scratching the surface; I'm starting to write music, too. As is the case with my life in Synanon, my life in music is just beginning." Ronald Clifford (Ronnie) Clark is another native Angeleno, born September 19, 1935. He attended high school with trumpeter Don Cherry and drummer Billy Higgins and began playing alto sax. Then he stopped playing, he says, until 1959, when, while living with schoolmates Cherry and Higgins, he started on string bass. At the time of this recording, Clark had been at Synanon 11 months.

Bill Crawford, a member of Synanon's board of directors and the band's drummer, was born in Seattle, Wash., February 3, 1929. He began musical studies at five years and pursued the study of harmony and clarinet for two years at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. While at the conservatory, Crawford says, he smoked marijuana for the first time. "I never returned to school after that, he recalls. "I spent the next 10 years smoking weed, shooting dope, going to jam sessions in Los Angeles and San Francisco, in and out of jail and working at various jobs-including four years repairing cash registers with the National Cash Register Co." Crawford arrived at Synanon in October, 1959. At the time of the recording he had been studying drums for one year under volunteer teachers Eddie Atwood and Bill Douglass, well known Hollywood musicians who donated their professional services to Synanon.

Conga drummer, Candy Latson, born in Houston, Texas, April 21, 1936, relates: 1ve had no musical experience. But I'm a great admirer of Candido and I'd like to become a good conga drummer. I started playing just one year ago at Synanon when I just happened to see an old conga sitting in the corner. I started tapping and have been tapping what I feel ever since. I would like to learn to play the conga drum very much. All I do know is to play what I feel. But I have a lot more to say, because I feel a lot more. Latson, at the time of the recording, had been at Synanon 21 months. …

In the last analysis, this album would not have been made possible without a combination of generosity and unselfishness on the part of individuals and business concerns that helped the musicians of Synanon in ways tangible and otherwise: Hollywood's Professional Drum Shop and Drum City; the aforementioned drum teachers and bass teacher Ted Hammond; Don Randall of the Fender Sales Co.: who donated a guitar and accessories; Gaines and Stein Music Co.; Pedrini Music Co.; Remo, Inc.; Reggie Olds, of the F. E. Olds Co., who donated a horn to the band; and Los Angeles disc jockey Frank Evans, of KRHM-FM, “one of our biggest supporters,” in the words of board member, Bill Crawford.

After so many words, it remains evident that mere words cannot begin to tell the story of the men who make these Sounds of Synanon. Let their music tell it instead.

- John Tynan”

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Woody Herman Big New Herd at The 1959 Monterey Jazz Festival - Revised [From the Archives]

© -  Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“Woody Herman must be one of the least disliked persons on earth. It isn't just sentimentality. Herman's name is a quality brand, representing craftsmanship, integrity, and receptiveness to new ideas. So when it was announced that Herman—who has been a traveling performer since the age of eight and a bandleader since 1936—was coming off the road to settle in a room of his own (opening night: December 27, 1981), there was considerable hoopla. It was widely assumed that Herman would be delighted to plant his feet on one patch of earth. But Herman is of another school, almost another world.

In the '30s and '40s, musicians roamed the land in herds. Crisscrossing a grid of interstate highways and backroads, corralled in buses, billeted according to celebrity status and race, and developing a collective, arcane wit to complement the music and to fight fatigue, they moved from town to town, ballroom to ballroom, glad for the occasional two-week stay but always ready to pack up after the gig for another long trip. Swing bands, fifteen to twenty strong on the average, were one of the Depression's more unlikely phenomena. Although many were sickly sweet or bland and derivative, more than a few were hot, impetuous, energetic, inventive, and inspired. These were the bands that combined strong leaders, brilliant soloists, adventurous writers, and the best songs of a golden age of song writing. Individual in their style of presentation as well as in their music, they coexisted in an atmosphere of friendly, if sometimes tension-ridden, competition. The stubbornest road musicians probably got to know America better than any of its other citizens, certainly than any of its other artists. But few were either stubborn or strong enough to survive the social and economic changes that followed World War II. And only two—Count Basie and Woody Herman—were also both gifted and lucky enough to survive into the '80s. They are as obsolete as buffalo, and just as grand.

Woody Herman's, as his new club is called, is located in the Hyatt Regency complex in New Orleans; thirty-six weeks a year, six nights a week, two shows a night, Woody can walk to work. Yet when I visited with him half a year after he was ensconced, he was grazing restlessly. He loves New Orleans and is grateful for the security, but . . . "if I told you I wasn't looking forward to doing dates again on the other weeks, I'd be lying." At sixty-nine, he's not entirely ready for the reservation. Maybe it's something in the blood.

[Sadly, almost a year later in November, 1982, Gary Giddings would observe that]... These are troubled times for Herman. Within one week in November, he lost both the New Orleans nightclub that was meant to be a lifetime respite from roadwork, and, more tragically, his wife of 46 years. “
- Gary Giddins, Rhythm-a-ning: Jazz Tradition and Innovation

I thought adding the above excerpt from Gary Giddins’ Rhythm-a-ning: Jazz Tradition and Innovation - a work that Francis Davis has labeled “an indispensable guidebook” - as an introduction would make for an interesting revision to this earlier piece on Woody Herman and a great reason to repost it.

Can’t think of a better way to spend July 4th than by listening to and talking about Woody Herman’s music.

Writing in The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, Barry Kernfeld, ed., Sarah Velez and Paul M. Laird offered this overview of The Monterey Jazz Festival.

“The Monterey Jazz Festival. Festival is held annually from 1958 near Monterey, California. It was founded by Ralph J. Gleason and the disc jockey Jimmy Lyons, partly at the suggestion of George Wein and Louis Lorillard (the founders of the Newport Jazz Festival). Gleason was an adviser to the festival's organizers during its early years and Lyons was its general manager into the 1980s; its music directors have been John Lewis (to 1983) and Mundell Lowe. The festival takes place over three days in September (including the third weekend of the month) at three venues on the Monterey County Fairgrounds (seating 7000) and usually offers performances by well-known swing and bop musicians; Louis Armstrong and Thelonious Monk appeared regularly, as have Dizzy Gillespie, Gerry Mulligan, and Dave Brubeck. A blues concert has also been included in most years.

Proceeds from the festival have been used for educational purposes, including the awarding of grants and scholarships (from 1961) and the administration of the Annual California High School Jazz Competition (from 1971), the winners of which perform on the last day of the festival with its featured performers. The Monterey Jazz Festival was acclaimed during its early years for its innovative programming; in 1959, for example, it included the premieres of works by Jimmy Giuffre, John Lewis, and Gunther Schuller (all performed by an ensemble directed by Schuller) and performances by an all-star band assembled for the occasion by Woody Herman. Later, however, it drew criticism for its indifference towards free jazz and other modern styles.

The tape archive of the festival is held by the Stanford Archive of Recorded Sound at Stanford University.”

The MJF just completed its 57th anniversary and the editorial staff at JazzProfiles thought it might be fun to look back at one of the event’s earliest concerts with these insert notes by Ralph Gleason from Woody Herman’s Big New Herd at the 1959 Monterey Jazz Festival [Atlantic LP 1328/Koch CD KOCCD-8508].

“One of the most impressive things about the 1959 Monterey Jazz Festival (which was in itself a pretty impressive affair, as witness the reviews) was the Festival orchestra put together especially to function as a workshop orchestra during the week preceding the Festival and, during the actual three days of the Festival, to double as the Woody Herman Festival Herd and the workshop band (augmented by various soloists and members of the San Francisco Symphony).

It was a long, hard week of work for the musicians. Rehearsals morning, noon and  night; literally. And when the first evening concert -Friday -began with the Chris Barber band and Ottilie Patterson singng the blues, the latecomers walking down to the Festival arena passed by the rehearsal hall and heard the Woody Herman Festival Herd wailing away through the numbers heard on this album. They had volunteered an extra rehearsal “for Woody.”

On Saturday afternoon the Herman band played under the blazing Monterey sun, interrupted occasionally by the roar of a low-flying civilian plane (the Air Force and the Navy gallantly re-routed their fliers but nobody could control the casual civilian). "I'm beginning to hate him," Woody Herman remarked as the particularly annoying small plane flew over for the umpteenth time during fits set.                                                           
Part of the program on Saturday afternoon and again on Saturday evening consisted of a set by the Herman Herd ("I wish I could take this band on the road!"

Part of the program on Saturday afternoon and again on Saturday evening consisted of a set by the Herman Herd (“I wish I could take this band on the road,” Woody said, and everyone agreed it was one of the greatest bands Woody had ever stood before). It was recorded by Atlantic, both afternoon and evening, when the Monterey sun was replaced by the cold, foggy breeze from the Pacific and the spectators, who that afternoon were wearing Bavarian shorts and sunglasses, were wrapped in blankets, ski boots and wool caps.

Saturday night the Lambert-Hendricks-Ross Trio sang out an introduction for the Herman band. Woody turned around to the 19 men and yelled, "BOW! BOW! BOW! BOW!" and they roared into Four Brothers.  It was the classic Herman chart written by Jimmy Giuffre for the legendary Second Herd (the one with Stan and Zoot and Serge and Herbie Steward). It’s been in the books over ten years, played practically every night “The sheets are all dog-eared,” [drummer] Mel Lewis noted. But oddly enough this is only the second time Herman has recorded it.  The solos this time (first time around) are by Zoot Sims, Med Flory (baritone), Bill Perkins and Richie Kamuca, Then at the end, it's Perkins, Zoot Richie and Med . They follow the short Woody Herman bit (“After all he is our dad our dad,” Jon Hendricks wrote).

Like Some Blues Man is from the afternoon session. You'll hear Woody’s high-flying friend roaring around upstairs. "He'll be gone in a minute," Woody hopefully remarked. He wasn't Vic Feldman starts this one with a vibes solo, you hear some delightful Conte Candoli trumpet, a Bill Perkins tenor solo, Urbie Green on trombone and Charlie Byrd on guitar (he was one of the hits of the Festival) and at the end the airplane buzzes the band again! The tune was written and arranged by Ted Richards whose work shows unmistakable evidence of his close collaboration in the past with Gene Roland.

Skoobeedoobee (“from the picture 'Sal Mineo in Purgatory.’” Woody introduced it) is also from the afternoon session and has Vic Feldman on piano. Vic almost didn't get to play at all at Monterey, At the opening rehearsal he stepped forward to speak to Woody and slipped and fell off the bandstand and hurt his knee. Not too seriously, luckily. Zoot Sims and Urbie Green - and Woody too - have solo spots and I am particularly fond of the explosions by Mel Lewis at the end. Mel, incidentally, never worked with Woody before “although I always wanted to,” he says. Most of the others had, and Conte Candoli, Urbie, Richie, Zoot, Perk and Med Flory especially were veterans of other Herman bands. Don Lanphere and Bill Chase were from Woody's most recent band. This is another Ted Richards opus.

Monterey Apple Tree got a beautifully "in" introduction by Woody. "If s a very old tune of ours," he said, "and this year we're changing the title because I feel it's only fair to the fellas that are going to play it and also the listeners  - this year we're gonna call it Monterey Apple Tree." Almost everybody gets into the act on this one and towards the end there's a fine exchange of statements between tenor Don Lanphere and baritone Med Rory.

Skylark, an arrangement by Ralph Burns, is a vehicle fertile lyric trombone of Urbie Green and Urbie is also featured on Magpie which closes the LP. This was written by Joseph Mark a cousin of [tenor saxophonist] Al Cohn who contributed so many compositions to tie Herman book over the years.

These were exciting sessions and we're lucky they came out so wall on tape and could be preserved for our enjoyment. Recording outdoors is hazardous, but this LP is one of the more successful of this sort of thing, in my opinion. It's hard to separate the memories and listen objectively to the music in a situation like this,
Monterey 1959 was one of the greatest musical experiences of my life and, it would seem, that of a lot of other people.  Musicians to J.J, Johnson, Mel Lewis and Woody Herman apparently feel the same way (“I’ll be back even if I'm not working on it,” Mel says.)

The reviews were almost unanimous in praise. "This one's for jazz,”' Down Beat's Gene Lees said and added, "Monterey.. .made previous jazz festivals look like grab bags, musical potpourris that do not compare with the smoothly purposeful and thought-provoking Monterey Festival." Annie Ross commented, "It's actually inspiring to get out here and find people working like this.”' After reading off list of things to be corrected next year musical consultant John Lewis said, "It's only the best Festival ever!" Gunther Schuller wrote, “The musicians are both pleased and surprised. They are treated with respect warmth and even reverence.”  All of this colors my listening to this LP, I frankly admit.'

Monterey was a gas for musicians and fans alike. That it was, is a tribute to the planning of Jimmy Lyons, the founder and moving force behind the Festival, and John Lewis who served (without fee, incidentally) as musical consultant.

As for me, I was grateful to them then for the exhilarating program, I'm grateful now that Atlantic has preserved this portion of it for our future pleasure. If it gives you one tenth the pleasure it has already given me, it will be a success.”

The band personnel on Woody Herman’s Big New Herd at the Monterey Jazz festival are -

Woody Herman, clarinet and alto sax
Trumpets: Al Porcino, Conte Candoli, Ray Linn, Frank Huggins and Bill Chase
Trombones: Urbie Green, Sy Zentner and Bill Smiley
Alto Sax: Don Lamphere [who also plays tenor on Monterey Apple Honey]
Tenor saxes: Zoot Sims, Bill Perkins and Richie Kamuca
Guitar: Charlie Byrd
Piano and Vibraphone: Victor Feldman
Bass: Monty Budwig
Drums: Mel Lewis

The following video montage of Monterey Jazz festival posters is set to Monterey Apple Honey and the solo order is Zoot Sims, Richie Kamuca, Bill Perkins, Don Lamphere on tenor dueling with Med Flory on baritone sax, Urbie Green, Conte Candoli, Victor Feldman [vibes and Herman. The last bridge is by Don Lamphere and the concluding high notes are by Al Porcino.

I think it would be safe to say that Woody Herman had one of the earliest big bands to play Bebop.

It would also be safe to say that no one ever had a better one.