Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Pat Martino: First Impressions - A Second Look [From the Archives]

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


“The guitar has its own mystique. The most ancient of instruments, it is the most pervasive in contemporary music. Those who mastered its mysteries have discovered unlimited application for the guitar’s acoustic and electric personalities.”
- Gary Giddins

“[Pat Martino]… is a guitarist who can rework simple material into sustained improvisations of elegant and accessible fire; even when he plays licks, they sound plausibly exciting.

Although seldom recognized as an influence, he has been a distinctive and resourceful figure in Jazz guitar for many years, and his fine technique and determination have inspired many players.”
- Richard Cook and Brian Morton, The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, 6th Ed.

“Pat Martino plays more than just notes. He plays his personality, his insights. Of Pat it can be honestly stated that his style is immediately recognizable.”
- Kent Hazen



There’s a modern adage which states: “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

When it came to the impression he made on Les Paul, a superb technical player and one of creators of the modern electric guitar sound, if would seem that Pat Martino didn’t need a second chance:

“Some years ago I was playing an engagement in Atlantic City and a young lad, accompanied by his parents, came backstage to meet me and request my autograph. When the lad said he was learn­ing guitar I handed him mine and asked that he play something. Well, what came out of that guitar was unbelievable. "Learning," he said!!! The thought that entered my mind at the time was that perhaps I should take lessons from him ... his dexterity and cleanliness were amazing and his picking style was absolutely unique. He held his pick as one would hold a demitasse. Pinky extended, very polite.

The politeness disappeared when pick met string as what hap­pened then was not timid but very definite. As is obvious, I was very impressed and the memory of this lad stuck with me. Although I lost track of him I figured that sooner or later I was bound to hear of him again. All that talent was not to be buried in obscurity.

Several years later I began hearing reports of a young guitarist playing in the New York area who was really scaring other musicians with his ability and musicianship. I tracked him down to a club in Harlem, and aside from the fact that the reports of his being a great guitarist were not exaggerated, I found that this was the same lad who had visited me in Atlantic City.

Now grown up, and with the extra years of practice and experience, he had grown into a musical giant. His name was Pat Martino. (As a side-note, a prominent guitarist told me recently that on his first visit to New York he had gone to the Harlem club where Pat was appearing. His thought at the time was that if Pat represented the type of competition he faced — and Pat not even well known — how was he to surpass or even equal that as well as enduring the other obstacles facing a proposed career in music.) …

Listen to … [his] music and be your own judge but it you happen to a guitarist don't be discouraged. Don't slash your wrists and pray for a decent burial; just practice a lot and perhaps someday someone (possibly Pat) will be writing liner notes for you.” [Les Paul, June, 1970, liner notes to Desperado, Prestige PR 7795; OJCCD 397]




Pat made a similar, first impression on Dan Morgenstern, a Jazz literary luminary who just recently retired as the Director of the Institute for Jazz Studies at Rutgers University:

“Pat Martino is a bad cat. ...

He is an orig­inal, his own man, and his abilities are extraordinary from both a strictly playing and general musical stand­point: great speed; marvelous articulation no matter how fast the fingers fly; an ear for harmony that feeds ideas to those fingers at a speed to match; a sense of form that imposes order on all that facility; a singing tone, and tremendous swing …. [Insert notes to Pat Martino Live, Muse 5026]

Or how about the impression Pat made on the distinguished Jazz author and critic, Gary Giddins.

“[The late Jazz trumpeter and bandleader] Red Rodney once described artistic progress like this: ‘You go along and then all of a sudden, bump, you rise to another plateau, and you work real hard and then, bump, you rise to another one.’

Pat Martino’s talent rises to a new plateau regularly and thanks to his prolific recording career, those bumps have been captured on an imposing series of discs. His records are not only consistent; they evolve one to the next. …

Perhaps the first thing one responds to in Pat’s music is commitment. He plays like he means it.

One aspect of his style consists of multi-noted patterns, plucked with tremendous facility (and time) over the harmonic contour. The notes are never throwaways; the patterns take on their own mesmerizing force, serving to advance the pieces as judiciously as the melodic variations of which Pat is a master. ….

Pat has very clearly honed his immense technique closely to what he most personally wants to express. His music is private, but richly communicative; it commands attention with its integrity – it does not call attention to itself with excessive volume or gimmicks.

Pat Martino doesn’t have time to jive, he’s a musician.” [Liner notes to Pat Martino/Consciousness Muse LP 5039; paragraphing modified]


And Mark Gardner, the accomplished Jazz author and journalist, was also duly impressed by his first experience with Pat when he wrote these comments and observations about he and his music in the liner notes to Pat Martino: Strings! [Prestige 7547]:

“Since Charlie Christian first plugged in his amplifier and revo­lutionized jazz guitar in the late 1930s each subsequent decade has witnessed the emergence of a handful of new string stylists. Barney Kessel, Jimmy Raney, Billy Bauer, Chuck Wayne and Oscar Moore were the dominant voices of the 'forties.

And in the 'fifties Tal Farlow really came into his own to be followed by Jim Hall, Kenny Burrell, Johnny Smith and Wes Montgomery. The 'sixties in turn have produced Grant Green, Bola Sete, Gabor Szabo, George Ben­son and now Pat Martino.

To bracket Martino with the foregoing list of great jazz plectrists warrants some weighty evidence in his favor. After all he is only twenty-three years old and the enclosed sides are the first real jazz sides to be released under his leader­ship. Which is precisely where the proof of my assertion lies— within this album.

It is quite plainly demonstrated on all five tracks that Pat Martino has already conceived a style of his own. To ar­rive at a personal mode of expression so young requires more than heavy chops and good taste, it calls for imagination, the sifting of one's emotional and intellectual resources into an abstract form with discipline. The guitarist has passed through this inner process of self-realization which is essential for every artist before he can begin to create works of lasting importance. Pat is not a 'natural talent' because no such thing exists. He has had to work and work hard to get where he is.

As alto saxophonist Sonny Criss remarked recently, 'A lot of people say that Bird was a born genius. That's wrong. He wasn't born with anything except the ability to breathe. Unless you really apply yourself nothing's ever going to happen.'

What has happened to Martino, a young man with an exciting future ahead, is the result of the sort of application Sonny spoke of.”

Here’s a video tribute to Pat on which he plays Benny Golson’s Jazz standard, Along Came Betty, accompanied by Eddie Green on electric piano, Tyrone brown on bass and Sherman Ferguson on drums. If you haven’t heard Pat play guitar before, perhaps your first impression will match that of Les Paul, Gary Giddins, Dan Morgenstern,  and Mark Gardner. If so, you’d be in very good company, indeed.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Remembering Eddie Costa [1930-1962]

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


In 1962, the promising career of pianist Eddie Costa was cut short by a fatal car crash on the West Side Highway in New York City.


Jazz fans who knew his playing from the halcyon days of modern Jazz from 1945 to 1965 still talk about him, perhaps because of his singular style of playing piano which the noted Jazz critic and author Leonard Feather once described as “ … hard-driving, percussive and marked by an unusual octave-unison approach.”


Today’s Jazz fans who have discovered him in retrospect often express a keen interest in his work, perhaps because of the very uncommon way his piano improvisations are voiced and phrased. It is almost sounds as though Eddie attacks the piano while playing it.


Chris Sheridan, in his insert notes to the CD reissue of Eddie’s first LP, The Eddie Costa Vinnie Burke Trio [Jubilee LP-1025; Fresh Sound FS-129], further elaborates on Eddie’s distinctive manner: “Get Happy is a sharply-edged example of Costa’s predilection for driving inventions played almost below middle C; elsewhere the phrasing is stubbier, like necklaces of recast thematic fragments.”


Chris goes on to say that “Eddie’s style was in fact intriguing for its happy combination of swing-based rhythmic figures with a more ‘modern’ harmonic sense.”


Leonard Feather described Eddie style this way: “a modern approach to ‘barrelhouse piano in which Eddie Costa once more demonstrates the evocative power of the piano’s rumbling lower register.” [paraphrase, sleeve notes to Jazz Mission to Moscow Colpix CP-433]


Jazz author and columnist Burt Korall offered this impression of Eddie’s style in his insert notes to The Eddie Costa Quartet/Guys and Dolls Like Vibes [Coral CRL 57230; Universal Victor Japan MVCJ-19004]:


“An unassuming, quiet, even diffident person, it comes as somewhat of a surprise that there is an aggressive, apparently inexhaustible spilling forth of ideas whenever he plays. Rhythmic thrust nourishes melodic content as he creates long, striking lines that speak well for the organization of his resources, and his ability to remain integrated and flow inventively when soloing at length.”


The editorial staff at JazzProfiles thought it might be fun to revisit Eddie and his music by examining what has been written about him in the Jazz press, magazines and sleeves notes from his all-too-few recordings in order to post a profile of him on these pages.


Jazz critic and writer Bill Simon observed that “Eddie Costa is the first Jazz musician to win an important poll on two different instruments. The young, still relatively unknown Jazzman was voted New Star on both piano and vibes in the 1957 World’s Critics Poll, conducted by Down Beat. Eddie was born in 1930, joined violinist Joe Venuti at 18, spent two years in Service, and came to the critics’ attention when he clubbed with Tal Farlow in New York. He’s an unusually articulate Jazz voice, eminently resourceful, and he swings hard. Eddie is one of the new Jazz giants.” [insert notes to The Eddie Costa Trio With Rolf Kuhn and Dick Johnson, Mat Mathers and Don Elliot at Newport [Verve MGV-8237].


Also in 1957, and following on the heels of Bill Simon’s words of praise, was this introductory paragraph by Joe Quinn in the liner notes to The Eddie Costa/5 [Mode LP-118], one of the few recordings that Eddie made as a leader:


“The word ‘phenomenon’ as outlined in the dictionary, pertains to an exceptional person, thing or occurrence, and is frequently used in a banal attempt to give class and distinction to an otherwise colorless performer. Generally, the music trade is apathetic to such in accurate semantics, but once in a while they solemnly nod in agreement that some newcomer is fully deserving of such accolades. Eddie Costa, who recently captured the Down Beat International Jazz Critics poll on both vibes and piano, fits this select category.”


In his 1972 JazzJournal essay commemorating the10th anniversary of Eddie’s death, Don Nelson offers a perspective on Eddie significance with this quotation from the Jazz author, Stanley Dance:


“Stanley Dance has compared Eddie Costa to Bix Beiderbecke, Bunny Berigan, Dave Tough and Django Reinhardt in being one of the most talented of white musicians., viz: —
'They each had a genius, a flame, an in-born talent, and that kind of dedication which made them impatient of the ordinary way of living , .. Eddie Costa ought to be remembered as an original jazz musician who died before he was 32, much too soon'.”


In the 1992 insert notes to the V.S.O.P. CD version of the Mode LP, The Eddie Costa/5 [VSOP#7] James Rossi wrote:


EDDIE COSTA/5

“The preparation of these liner notes for one of Eddie Costa's few sessions as a leader consisted of research into old magazine articles and various reference books. As expected, not an abundance of printed material was to be found.Eddie Costa was just beginning to embark on a fruitful career as a multi-instrumentalist when his car careened off New York's West Side Highway on July 26, 1962, killing him at the age of 31. It was a loss felt by many, evidenced by the fact that the greatest wealth of information today concerning Costa comes from a steadfast group of individuals who continue to vehemently support him.


It seem that everyone with a cognizance of jazz dating from the mid-1950s through the early 1960s has attached him or herself to Eddie Costa's music. His truly individual approach to melody filled a void in his listeners which allowed them the luxury of experiencing certain emotions, whether poetic or rambunctious, that no other artist was capable of eliciting.


"Individual" is an oft misused, consistently overused word, however, 100% justifiable when describing Costa's relationship with jazz. Born in the rural coal mining town of Atlas, Pennsylvania, Costa's early musical background developed from his brother Bill's tutelage on piano, followed by lessons from a talented local woman of German extraction. First exposure to jazz came in the form of recordings by Jimmy Lunceford, Benny Goodman. Teddy Wilson, and Art Tatum.
Bill Costa was responsible for Eddie's first professional job in the band of guitarist Frank Victor, with whom Eddie stayed two years playing organ and vibes. When Victor received a call to join violinist Joe Venuti in Chicago, the eighteen year-old Costa was included on the engagement.


Two months later, Eddie rejoined his brother Bill in New York for a steady gig at the Hickory House, playing pop and standards, with a little ja// thrown in for good measure. In the October 31, 1957 issue of DOWNBEAT. Eddie Costa confided to Leonard Feather his feelings about jazz during this early period: "I enjoyed it without fully understanding it and never thought about being a jazz musician. Whether St. Louis won the pennant was more important to me than anything that happened in music." Again Bill Costa proved invaluable to Eddie's musical growth with on-the-job training in the use of harmonic variations to color standard chord changes.


It wasn't until Eddie was drafted in January of 1951 and sent to Japan (and later Korea), with the 40th Division band that he heard his first Bud Powell record. Taken at face value, this may not seem strange. But considering that Powell was already one of the most revered and well-known pianists, idolized by every musician who was fascinated by the bop idiom, it bring! into perspective the manner in which Costa was going about the business of learning jazz at his own pace and in his own manner.


In early 1953, Costa was back in New York, settling into an important job with guitarist Sal Salvador, that produced his first recorded sides on the KENTON PRESENTS series. The fact that he was equally proficient on piano and vibraphone led to an abundance of studio work (it often annoyed Costa that his fellow studio players were shocked that a jazz musician could read so well) and freelancing with Tal Farlow, Kai Winding, Woody Herman, Johnny Smith, the Bob Brookmeyer-Clark Terry Quintet, and with his own trio of bassist Vinnie Burke and drummer Nick Stabulas. At this time Jubilee recorded Costa’s trio and released two records, one with the addition of tenor Mike Cuozzo. Eddie Costa also recorded as a sideman on several important sessions of the day, playing vibes with Bill Evans on "Guys and Dolls Like Vibes" for Coral, and on "Jazz Mission To Moscow" for Colpix, and piano on "The House of Blue Lights" for Dot.


Eddie Costa has never mentioned in interviews who influenced his style. Many musicians were undoubtedly involved, but it is probable that Costa himself never consciously realized who was responsible for the many facets that are in evidence in his unusual approach. By the time of the Leonard Feather DOWNBEAT article and the recording date of the session on this album, Eddie Costa did not even have a record player in his New York apartment.


Mode's recording of the Eddie Costa Quintet, while exhibiting a true group effort, (if this all-star quintet had only had the opportunity to develop into a stable working group!) is indicative of the ceaseless imagination of Eddie Costa. Twisting lines of original melodic beauty, harmonically expansive, with meticulously placed accents that epitomize the evolving bop style were pan of Eddie Costa\s vocabulary. Dramatic use of the middle and lower range of the piano was the Costa trademark. His near refusal to cover the keyboard's upper two octaves shows his eccentricity, possibly a result of his extensive work on the narrower ranged vibraphone.


Writer Barry Ulanov summarized in the August 22, 1957 issue of DOWNBEAT: "[Eddie Costa] is a musician all by himself, a thorough individual, a meditative pianist with a splendidly deliberate style of his own.' One of Costa's unwavering fans relates some thirty-five years later, "You're destined to spend lots of time in used record stores or pouring over record auction lists. Good luck, Costa is worth it."


V.S.O.P’s release of Eddie Costa Quintet will surely prompt the reissue of the remainder of Costa's glorious recorded legacy, inspiring a new generation of listeners who will be touched by his endearing style.”
- JAMES ROZZI, 1992                       V.S.O.P#7CD


In the August 27, 1957 edition of Down Beat, the highly regarded Jazz writer and critic Barry Ulanov wrote of Eddie:

“This is a remarkable time for pianists, no doubt about it. Not since the dear, not so dead days of swing, have there been so many of quality around at once, alive and kicking. And never, in my memory or historical records at least, have there been so many fresh keyboard thinkers around at once, creating new patterns in jazz and developing them.


Particularly remarkable then among a remarkable lot of musicians is the pianist Eddie Costa. He has to be to stand out in such company.


But stand out he does—for me, anyway. And not just because he has the vitality or the intensity, the bravura technique or ready supply of ideas which, singly or as a whole, typify the best of the pianists of this jazz era. No, it's something more he has, on top of these skills, besides these attributes, which I find so absorbing to the ear, so provocative to the mind, and not at all easy to spell out. …


Jazzmen always have been distinguished for their unselfish desire to play with the best, rarely concerned about how much less than the best he might sound playing alongside best.


The "best" are stimulating musicians to blow with, dedicated to the advancement of themselves and their music; ….


It s in his unassuming manner—almost a diffident one—at the piano, in the lack of fuss which attends his playing, solo or in the background: no extravagant gesture, no rolling, writhing, or other means of calling attention to himself. And his music never depends on the obvious crowd-pleasing crowd-teasing devices: no brave, bold display of dynamics, no conspicuous conservatory consumption, although, clearly, he knows his instrument very well.


Costa is a quiet musician, a restrained one, though not a notably icy one of the cool school.


He put his lines together with a deliberateness which demands the listener's attention. One must follow step by step along his thinking way if one wants to hear what goes on in the mind and feelings of this remarkably resourceful musician. That deliberateness, that quiet attention of Eddie's to the music at hand, is what makes him such a pleasant colleague for other musicians ….

His two hands work out striking different patterns now, delicately contrasting textures and accents and volumes. The next step, the logical the inevitable one, will be different measures of time against each other 7/8 or 5/8 against 4/4, or whatever combination makes sense to Edi after sufficient meditation on the meter.
It's not easy to spell out this technique of Costa's, but two of the words I used do add up to something like a summation of his special achievements -  "meditative" and "deliberate." …


Eddie Costa is a musician who is thoroughly individual, a meditative pianist with a splendidly deliberate style of his own.”


A couple of months later in the October 31, 1957 edition of Down Beat, Leonard Feather wrote in article entitled Two Poll Winners: They’re Both Eddie Costa, Who’s Much Surprised By It:”


“It came as something of a shock to Edwin James Costa to learn, three months ago, that the voters in the Down Beat Jazz Critics' poll had elected him this year's new star both on piano and vibes. It was the first time anybody had won simultaneously in two categories.


What made it seem all the more remarkable to Costa himself was that the critics had not had much of a chance to hear him.


"I didn't think anybody had listened to me to that extent," he says, "I haven't made as many records as a lot of other guys. I have no agent, I'm not signed with any booking office, and I don't have a publicity man. I was very surprised, in fact, when I was invited to play at the Newport Jazz festival [1957]."


Sadly, only five years later, Don Nelsen filed this Elergy for Eddie in the September 13, 1962 issue of Down Beat.


“On July 28, a Saturday morning, at  2:45,   pianist-vibist   Eddie Costa was killed when his car overturned on New York’s West Side Highway. He was 31 years old.


Born in Adas, Pa., Costa studied piano but taught himself the vibraharp. His first professional job was with violinist Joe Venuti when he was 18. There followed many jobs with such as Sal Salvador, Tal Farlow, Kaii Winding. Don IElliott, and Woody Herman. His talents extended to nearly every kind of musical expression.


His listeners, however, could have no doubt that he was first and most a jazz musician.


Seldom was one man so well loved. The tears on musicians' faces during the buriall attested to that. The tears also were for the loss of an immense talent.
Following is a touching reminiscence of Costa hy his friend, writer Don Nelsen. If was written shortly after Costa's funeraL


I first realized there was something different about Eddie Costa one night about six years ago. He was playing with Tal Farlow and Vinnie Burke at the Composer, a fine trio room now extinct. I had reviewed the group very favorably a couple of times before, but now I was walking in after putting them down. It seemed to me that, on this particular gig, inspiration was licking. Their music had sounded diffident, as though they really didn't feel like playing.


I entered ill at case, expecting a blast, Prior to that time—and since—my re-
ird tor such critical insolence had been a contemptuous sneer, a sarcastic thank-you, or a threatened punch in the nose. So when I greeted Ed,  I mumbled some self-conscious foolishness about how I had lo call them as I heard them, etc., etc. He laughed and said:


‘Man, you have to write what you have to write, and I have to play what I have to play.’


Immediately, we sat down over a couple of drinks and proceeded to tear apart my review and his playing. There was no animosity. He just wanted to find out what my judgment had been based on, what qualifications I had to make it. His questions were sharp and to the point. I did not resent them. How could I when a man faced me honestly and simply asked why I had said what I had say?


After that, we began seeing each other outside of the clubs because we had things to talk about. We met from time to time and then more frequently to discuss music, sports, his family and mine, his doubts and fears and mine.


Eddie was a fierce sportsmen. He held a season ticket to the New York Giants football game and followed the sports pages constantly. When he could not be at a game, he saw it on television. He was not only a spectator. Softball, football, golf, stickball, bowling saloon shuffleboard - he was always ready to play. And he’d be out to skin you alive every time. He was an eager ball tosser and exchanger of sports notes with the 10-year-old boy next door. When he had some time off, which wasn’t often in the last year or two, he was out in his back yard in Queens throwing the ball around with his 2-year-old son, Robbie.  Once, when my 14-year-old son, Bob, and I dropped over on a Saturday morning with a football, the three of us dashed into the street in front of Eddie’s home.


‘Let’s tire your old man out,’ he yelled to Bob.


‘It won’t be hard,’ Bob yelled back.


And it wasn’t. I pooped out long before they did, but I tried to keep up appearances lest they both find me out. I was the first to quit.


There were wrangles, too, about baseball. Baseball, I once told him, is a bore. All you ever have is two guys playing and the other 16 just standing around or in the dugout.


‘What’re you talkin’ about?’ he asked. He pronounced ‘talkin’’ not ‘tawkin,’ like a native New Yorker, but ‘tockin,’ probably like the rest of his hometown in Atlas, PA.


‘Look,’ he said, ‘when I guy knows the game, the batting averages and the players, and what they can and cannot do, every game is interesting. You can judge what a player is doing against what he should be doing and shouldn’t. And what about the unexpected? There’s a thousand possibilities in each game.’


A couple of days after his death, Ed’s wife, Jeanne, suggested that a fund be established to sponsor a Little League team in his honor, or to buy season passes to football or baseball games for youngsters. It’s a great idea. Ed’s love for sports and children were inextricably combined.


Music, of course, was the force that made him live. I think at time he felt it even more important than his wife and children and, because he had a great love for both, felt very guilty about not spending more time with them or showing his love more.


These were tough times. After an initial flush of success, culminated by the only double new-star victory in Down Beat history (piano and vibes: 1957), he worked only now and then in clubs. He became somewhat embittered.


‘It looks,’ he said, ‘like a new-star award is a kiss of death.’


For the next couple of years, Eddie gigged on with his own trio, a fine but unappreciated group featuring drummer Paul Motian and  bassist Henry Grimes, and as a sideman with groups, Woody Herman's and Gigi Gryce’s among them. During this period he began to gel calls for studio and transcription work, More and more they came as his reputation as a vibraharpist got around.


Eddie's ability to read vibes parts became legend in the studios, where in the last two years his talents were in tremendous demand He used to laugh over this and say, ‘I’ve been reading piano scores since I was 5, To read just one line like this is nothing.’
It might have meant nothing to Ed, but not many musicians could make the changes he could with little or no preparation. One studio musician observed at the funeral parlor that Eddie could come into a date cold and read off the toughest things with ease.


‘Some of the other guys can make it pretty good on reading." he said. "but when it comes to something modern, they drop their sticks. Not Eddie.’


All during the last year. Ed worked extremely hard. He wasn’t at home much. Sometimes he'd work in the studios most of the day and night, getting but a few hours sleep. The price was an ulcer, but he kept on. Occasionally, alter a night date of his. we'd meet at the Hall Note club. Many of those times he was pretty whipped, and I'd tell him to stop pushing so much. '’Besides, you don't even dig the commercial work that much.’


‘Look,’ he'd say, "I've got Jeanne and four kids to support and a house to pay off. I can't quit now."


What he said was true, but it tore at him nonetheless. Ed passionately believed an artist should develop his talent to the full, and he certainly wasn't doing it in the studios.


Yet there uere signs in recent months that he was beginning to realize his great potential. His playing was getting better and better, more than fulfilling the promise of early years. He joined the Bob Brookmeyer-Clark Terry Quintet, and during his first gigs with them at the Half Note and Village Vanguard he really regained confidence in himself as a Jazz musician. Playing in clubs again with guys he respected, and who respected him, brought him out of the artistic doldrums and his critical reception at the First International Jazz Festival in Washington in June was perhaps more enthusiastic than that accorded any other artists.


One thing that has always bugged Ed was to have people think of him primarily as a vibes player rather than as a pianist. He knew he was good on vibes but considered it extremely limited in relation to the piano. The latter was his instrument. It had been ever since his older brother, Bill, another fine musician who Ed idolized, taught him to play when he was barely out of rompers. He believed that he could create infinitely more on piano, and his recent work bears that out.


His playing on the recent released Jazz Mission to Moscow, with some of the Benny Goodman Russian-tour band, is an outstanding example. It so impressed Jack Lewis and his superiors at Colpix Records that a week before the fatal July 28, Lewis asked Ed to do a date with a big band, the tunes to be chosen by Ed, the arrangements to be written by Al Cohn and Manny Albam.


Ed was reluctant at first. He had made too many sessions where the guys in charge told him was they wanted. Lewis offered him a free hand, and Ed, at the urging of Lewis and three of his fellow musicians - Moe Wechsler, Sol Grubin and Bernie Leighton - agreed.


He and Lewis were to get together to pick out the tunes right after Ed and Jeanne returned from a week in Bermuda. It was to be the honeymoon that they never had. What a damned ending.


In the last three months, we discussed a magazine article on the music business itself, on those agents, managers, club owners, artists and repertoire men, and other warm-hearted functionaries whose love for musicians and good music somehow never got in the way of the money. Ed had a lot to say. Because he made it at the studios, he could afford to step on some big toes. He didn’t have to depend on clubs or Jazz records for a living, and he could speak freely.


All that’s gone, along with the slight shrug of the right shoulder as he walked to the bandstand; the carelessly crossed legs as he played; the snort that traveled down through his nose whenever he took off his glasses. All gone, with a talent that could have ripened into greatness, gone with such sudden finality that one wonders whether justice does not consist of one huge universal laugh .


I suppose I will reread these lines in a month or two and tell myself what a sentimental slosh they are.


I don’t care.”


The following video contains the Get Happy track from Eddie first LP on Jubilee with bassist Vinnie Burke and drummer Nick Stabulas on which you can sample Eddie’s “… hard-driving, percussive and unusual octave-unison approach; a modern approach to ‘barrelhouse piano’ in which Costa demonstrates the evocative power of the piano’s rumbling lower register [Leonard Feather].”



Sunday, July 27, 2014

Phil Woods and The European Rhythm Machine

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


“Phil Woods: a majestic instrumental voice, a fertile and very lucid imagination, a forceful swing. I do not see an altoist today who could equal him, at least from the point of view of instrumental command. To his triumph were associated the three Europeans who now constitute probably the strongest rhythm section on the Old Continent.”
- Arrigo Polillo, Musica Jazz, Milan


“In Phil Woods’ music, everything bears the same signature, his own. The cleanliness dazzles, the rhythmic and melodic happiness blooms in all simplicity.”
- Jean-Pierre Binchet, Jazz Magazine, Paris


“Phil Woods possesses eveything, the sound, the ideas, the swing, the power, the ease. Phil Woods: a monster.”
- Michel Delorme, Jazz Hot, Paris


“In Barcelona, The Phil Woods Quartet triumphed and one will remember for a long time this homogeneous group, creators of an original Jazz with an extraordinary contexture.. Phil Woods lavished an inventivesness, a sensitivity and an admirable instrumental mastership. All works presented constituted an homage to the cult of musical beauty.”
- Alberto Mallofre’, La Vanguadria, Barcelona


My apologies for the “quality” of the translations that form the lead-in to this piece, as well as for the translation to following insert notes by Jean-Louis Ginibre from Phil Woods And His European Rhythm Machine: Alive and Well in Paris [Toshiba-EMI Limited TOCJ-5960].


I wanted to stay as close to the writing in the original languages of Italian, Spanish and French in which they were published and this is the best I could do. The press excerpts and recording notes tend to be a bit overstated and perhaps over-enthusiastic, but this was typical of the excitement that alto saxophonist Phil Woods generated amongst European Jazz audiences and press when he moved to France in 1968 and caused quite a stir by using European players to form the rhythm section in his quartet - The European Rhythm Machine.


I’ve been listening to Phil Woods play alto saxophone for almost 60 years, and in my opinion he has never played like this before or since.


All Jazz musicians have resting places, or licks that they fall back on while they wait for more original ideas to form in their minds so that they can move forward in their improvisations.


Phil has his share of tricks and licks, but you’d never know it by the way he plays on The European Rhythm Machine recordings that were issued from about 1968 to 1972.


Unleashed from the restrictions of working primarily in a studio environment by his move to Europe and the reception that he received there, his playing is rich with a fresh inventiveness that is characterized by improvised phrases that seem to leap out of his horn.


In the forty years or so since the European Rhythm Machine disbanded, I have become so accustomed to Phil leading his own quartet or quintet, that I didn’t realize that the ERM is the place where it all began in terms of fronting his own group on a regular basis.


Up to this time, Phil’s bands were largely formed for recording purposes or for the odd gig in and around New York, but he made his living working in the studios.


When he couldn’t take it anymore, he accepted an invitation to come live in Paris and form his own group.


The invitation involved Jean-Louis Ginibre, who was the editor of the Paris-based Jazz Magazine, and his wife, Simone, who was forming an entertainment management business.


Here are Jean-Louis insert notes for the Japanese CD reissue of the European Rhythm Machine’s first recorded appearance which took place at 1968 Montreux Jazz Festival.


“Bologna, Barcelona, Paris, wherever they appear, Phil Woods, George Gruntz, Henri Texier and Daniel Humair provoke enthusiasm. The space devoted to these notes would not be sufficient to reprint the eulogistic comments that they have aroused in Europe since that day of April 27, 1968 when they formed as a regular unit.


For the fans of the European Continent, Phil Woods was, until now, a sideman of quality capable of “taking care of business” in every circumstance be it with Thelonious Monk, Benny Goodman, Dizzy Gillespie or Quincy Jones.


Now, everyday, he proves that he is a leader of exception and the best altoist of today.


For Phil Woods, the fact that he has left the United States is sort of a liberation.


Indeed, it was not a lack of work that made him leave the country. A remarkable reader and lead-alto, he could have lived at ease in the studios where the hits and jingles are recorded.


But for him, this comfort was nothing but servitude and left him feeling very unsatisfied. So he left the United States in 1968 with his family, in part to get away from the studios, to forget the atmosphere of violence that reigns today in the United States, but mostly to achieve his vocation which is to play Jazz.


Europe has welcomed him with open arms and Phil has wanted to show his gratitude in honoring his reputation as a Jazzman and the art that he defends.


When, for some American musicians, our Continent is nothing more but a parade ground where one can afford to lose many a battle, Phil has wanted to win them all and he has understood for this he needed to have by his side trained me in perfect communion of feelings and ideas.


So soon after he arrived in Paris he formed a quartet with Gruntz, Texier and Humair, a rhythm section of the highest quality.


Immediately, the four musicians found a basis of understanding and since then have not ceased to provoke the admiration of the fans by their perfect mutual understanding, their inventiveness, their musicality, their swing, their “joie de vivre”  and their rage to play. …


There are albums, there are albums more conservative, but there are few albums that are so simply beautiful.” - Jean-Louis Ginibre, Redecteur en chef, Jazz Magazine, Paris


The background as to how and why the European Rhythm machine was formed are contained in these insert notes by Leonard Feather, the esteemed Jazz author and critic, from the first European Rhythm Machine LP which was issued on MGM Records as Phil Woods and His European Rhythm Machine at The Montreux Jazz Festival [SE-4695]



“When Philip Wells Woods left the U.S. of A. in the spring of 1968 to become a Paris-based expatriate, there were those who said: ‘Why is he giving it all up? He's got it made!’


At a superficial glance it would have seemed that way. Phil Woods had established himself so firmly in jazz, earning his credentials with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Goodman, Quincy Jones and Oliver Nelson, that he had been able financial stability that goes along with the willingness to move into new and lucrative areas.


He was accepted in studio circles, gaining the relative become an anonymous sideman. He had a lovely home in New Hope, Pa., an acre of land, a wife, four children. Unlike so many who become expatriates, he wasn't bugged by any scarcity of work. Still, he was sitting at home one day when the moment of truth hit him. ‘Chan, let's go,’ he said!


Very soon it began to happen after he had planted roots in Paris. Jean-Louis Ginibre, editor of Jazz Magazine, became a good friend; Simone Ginibre, his wife, became Phil's manager. The European Rhythm Machine, a permanently organized entity, soon was in such demand that in a climactic irony, the group was invited to play the 1969 Newport Jazz Festival. He stayed in town long enough to record the superb Round Trip album with Johnny Pate's help (Verve V6-8791), then headed back for his adopted home. He stays busy writing compositions and arrangements for European TV and radio stations (yes, they still have live radio on the Continent), and gigging at clubs and festivals with his still very much together quartet.


An engagement at the Montreux Jazz Festival proved particularly felicitous in terms of the general ambiance and the peak level of performance achieved by the group. The Swiss gala has proven lucky to several American jazzmen. In 1969 an album recorded there by the Bill Evans Trio (Verve V6-8762) was awarded a Grammy by NARAS as the best jazz combo record of the year. Recently a Montreux performance by Les McCann and Eddie Harris has become the top-selling jazz LP in this country. Perhaps now it is Phil Woods' turn to triumph.


It was in Paris, between cross-Continent hops in the fall of 1968, that I heard this luminous quartet for the first time, at the Club Cameleon. There was no time to hear any other music in town, but the brief encounter with the Rhythm Machine made the visit worthwhile. The Cameleon is a small cave, with room for perhaps 75 amateurs du jazz, but their number was well counterbalanced by their enthusiasm. The group feeling among the men that night is captured even more overwhelmingly in the Montreux recording.


Pianist George Gruntz, who is just a few months younger than Phil, was born in Basel, Switzerland and has worked with numerous other Americans—Donald Byrd, Lee Konitz, Roland Kirk, Dexter Gordon. As a composer (his works include several jazz symphonies and chamber pieces) he is represented here by the opening track, Capricci Cavaleschi, which after a brief thematic exposition gives extended solo opportunities to all hands. Henri Texier, the only Frenchman in this France-based combo, offers astonishing evidence of his flexibility, wealth of ideas and technical finesse. Daniel Humair is the man who set to rest for all time the false alarms
could swing with the best of the Americans. Born in 1938 in Geneva, Humair has visited the U.S. several times, most notably with the Swingle Singers.


In an interview with Lars Lysted for Down Beat, Phil once remarked: ‘I’m  an old bebopper, and Bird didn't play total reality. He just played music as it was to him then. That's enough.’ The unregenerate second-generation bopper is completely at ease in this new concert version of I Remember Bird. (Originally, on a big band date which Oliver Nelson and I put together, it was converted into a memorable concerto for Phil, on the first volume of Encyclopedia of Jazz in the '60s (Verve V6-8677). Phil plays it a hair faster here and provides more room for everyone to stretch out.


The Oakland-born Carla Bley is a composer and pianist who has become to the avant garde what Mary Lou Williams was to the swing era. Her Ad Infinitum gives the Rhythm Machine a chance to operate at a high level of abstraction, soon after the hauntingly melodic main theme has been established. Despite Phil’s sworn allegiance to the memory of Bird, it is evident here and elsewhere that the impact and influence of Coltrane and other seminal figures of the 1960s could not have been lost on him. Similarly Gruntz reflects some of the new pianistic forces of the past decade, Herbie Hancock among them.


Finally, speaking of Hancock, the set ends with Herbie's own composition Riot. This version, paradoxically, is far more suggestive of the title than Hancock's own treatment, though there is an element of turmoil in both. Humair, though he
acknowledges that his primary influences were Elvin Jones, Philly Joe Jones and Roy Haynes, is a figure of total authority here both as soloist and rhythm section component. As for Phil, one can only gasp at the range of emotions and
variegated and eminently satisfying performances. "A majestic instrumental voice, a fertile and very lucid imagination and forceful swing. I do not see which altoist could,
today, equal him, at least from the point of view of instrumental command." Those words, part of a review by Arrigo Polillo in the Milan magazine Musica Jazz and are an exact reflection of my own feelings about Phil Woods.


If you are not yet among the converted, this document of a memorable  Montreux rendezvous should bring you around to Pollilo's way of thinking and mine.”   - Leonard Feather




Phil offered his own thoughts about gigging with The European Rhythm Machine in these notes from their Phil Woods and his European Rhythm Machine at The Frankfurt Jazz Festival Embryo LP: [Stereo/SD 530] [in this 1971 performance, Gordon Beck had replaced George Gruntz on keyboard]:


“The Machine and I will always remember Frankfurt. The evening concert was very long and consisted of mostly free-jazz German groups. Originally we had planned on recording but, after the mid-day rehearsal, I felt it was not the place. The hall did not sound right and the ambiance in general was not conducive to a live album. So I thought! After the first five minutes or so of Freedom Jazz Dance, I suddenly realized that it was going to be one of those evenings when everything works. And, after the first free connecting link to Ode A Jean-Louis, I knew that everybody else felt the same way. We now employ the non-stop technique and try to join all of the material into a suite. It's more demanding on an audience (though certainly not as demanding as a totally free group) but we believe that people who are familiar with the group and know its ingredients will enjoy following each step in the collective improvised recipe.


Three basic ingredients:


1— The Audience


We've discussed this and agree that, after the first few bars, we knew and felt the communication with the audience was well established. Perhaps it was the relief at not being the recipients of hostility but, once the rapport was there, all concentration and energy went into the making of the music.


2—The Acoustics
We could hear each other fantastically well. This is the biggest problem about playing the way we do; we must be able to hear each other and react or the result is forced. In Frankfurt the conditions were as near perfect as it is possible.


3—The Piano


Gordon said that as soon as he touched the keyboard he knew that the concert was going to be a bitch. Show me a happy piano player and I'll show you a happy band.


Many thanks to the fine people who present the Frankfurt Festival. Horst Lippmann and Fritz Rau (Horst Lippmann supervised this recording) and the engineers. But above all I must mention Simone and Jean-Louis Ginibre, without whose encouragement and help all this would not have been possible.” - PHIL WOODS


There is also more from Jean-Louis Ginibre about Phil and the ERM in these notes from  Phil Woods and his European Rhythm Machine at The Frankfurt Jazz Festival.


All those who have followed attentively the evolution of jazz and its men have known for some time that within Phil Woods lies part of the future of jazz. Phil and His European Rhythm Machine triumph in clubs, concert halls, the most famous festivals. Praised in Montreux, Newport, Bologna, Carthage, Frankfurt, Berlin, Barcelona, Scandinavia, France, they conquer each day new audiences and make friends wherever they play. Phil and his men create between the audience and themselves affectionate rapport and establish passionate bonds. They communicate. They diffuse their "joie de vivre", their rage to play, their enthusiasm and their faith in modern art.


Phil Woods was born twice. The first time in Springfield (Mass.), in 1931, the second time in Paris (France) in 1968. The man who was the companion of Gene Quill, the sideman of Dizzy Gillespie and Benny Goodman, the lead-alto of Quincy Jones and Oliver Nelson, died to be reborn better. When he set foot on the earth of France, Phil Woods opened his eyes and discovered that many people were ready to have faith in him.


Musicians looked at him with admiration, an agent gave him a helping hand with enthusiasm, jazzfans listened to him with fervor. And, thanks to this audience, this agent, these musicians and, of course, his talent, Phil Woods managed to avoid the trap befalling many American jazzmen who come to settle in Europe: becoming a local musician, an American expatriate playing here and there with whichever rhythm section is available in each city. Phil Woods' new life began in Paris on April 28th, 1968. On that day, Phil was due to open in a small club, the "Cameleon". His manager had booked around him what she thought would be the ideal rhythm section for him: pianist George Gruntz, bassist Henri Texier and drummer Daniel Humair. Two Swiss and one Frenchman.


From the first moment the contact was established. A mutual understanding, an identical faith, a similar sensitivity united them. They decided to remain together and to form a steady group. Quickly, the whole of Europe was informed of the existence of this new group to which, in order to give it its own personality, a name was given: PHIL WOODS AND HIS EUROPEAN RHYTHM MACHINE. The communion was such between the four men that the style of the group continually evolved. New outlooks were discovered and new trails cleared. George Wein, passing thru Paris, heard the group and asked them to participate in the Newport Jazz Festival.


After playing there, in July 1969, George Gruntz had to leave the group because of other commitments. Phil saw only one man in Europe capable of filling the chair: an Englishman, Gordon Beck. Phil contacted him and Gordon accepted eagerly. With this new element, the Machine started off again better than ever. It accelerated and the evolution went on. Success, too. London, Rome, Belgrade, Warsaw, Palermo, Molde. New victories, new successes. The U.S.A. began to be moved. And it was from America that came the most unexpected, the most tremendous, the most unbelievable of encouragements. In 1970, Down Beat published the results of its polls. In the Critics Poll, Phil was voted No. 1 alto (Established Talent Category) and his group was voted first of the combos (Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition). A few months later, in the Readers Poll, Phil came second behind Cannonball Adderley. In 1969, he was fifth! They say that no one is a prophet in his own land and Phil had to move to Europe to be admired by the Americans. When he lived there, he was a musician among many others, a little better considered than most but that was all.


The music speaks for itself. No need to describe it, to comment on it, to be more explicit. Allow me, however, to make a personal remark: Phil Woods is, for me, the greatest alto-player alive. His group is the best in Europe and, in the United States, I only know of two others capable of competing with it. Phil Woods and His European Rhythm Machine will live very long. A long road opens in front of them, a road spread with traps at times but with many triumphant moments.” -  JEAN-LOUIS GINIBRE Editor of "Jazz-Magazine" PARIS


When I started this piece on Phil and The European Rhythm Machine I could barely find any mention of it in any of the major Jazz research tomes, although I must admit that my canvassing of The Literature was by no means exhaustive.


I am not a Jazz authority or scholar; if anything, I am a compiler [sometimes, a not too discerning one, although I try to be accurate about what I post]. I collect information on Jazz topics that interest me and then “cut and paste it” to form many of the features that appeared on JazzProfiles.


It is my effort at developing an anthology of information all in one place for those readers who wish to have a more in-depth look at the musician being profiled on the blog.


With this in mind, there follows a lengthy interview that Phil gave to the English Jazz writer and critic, Les Tomkins, in 1969 about how the European Rhythm Machine came into existence, an excerpt from Phil's 2010 interview with Marty Nau for the Smithsonian Jazz Oral History Project on the same subject, as well as two, additional reviews of recordings made by Phil and the ERM.


We close with our usual video that provides you with an example of the music of the group, in this case, the version of Freedom Jazz Dance that was recorded at the 1969 Montreux Jazz Festival.



Breaking Out of The Studio: Phil Woods as told to Les Tomkins


Pennsylvanian alto saxophonist, clarinettist, bandleader and composer Phil Woods talks to Les Tomkins in 1969 about his quartet The European Rhythm Machine, running a music camp and playing across Europe.


Interview : 1969


Source: Jazz Professional/National Jazz Archive
“It feels good to be playing, I must say; I enjoy this rhythm section very much. Having worked with them almost a year makes a difference. It's becoming a little more instinctive, some of the things we do. The level of creation and rapport is a lot higher. A good feeling, one that I've sorely missed.


When I was in London a year ago, I got some correspondence from a lady, the wife of the editor of a French magazine, who was just beginning to get into personal management. She flew over to London during the Ronnie Scott engagement, asked me what my plans were, and said that she knew a very good rhythm section.
Would I be interested in going into the Chameleon in Paris and seeing how it developed from there? The individuals were more or less hand-picked for me. I'd known Daniel Humair ten years ago; George Grunz I knew a little bit as a pianist, but not personally, and I didn't know Henri Texier, the bass player, at all. So I had a ready-made group. I don't think I could have done it by myself. I wouldn't have known where to go, in the first place, to find this calibre of player. Daniel and Henri are from Paris, but George is from Basle, Switzerland-I would never think of looking there.


We've been to the Barcelona Festival; we did a Norwegian tour, Stockholm, a few gigs in Brussels, a tour of the South of France, radio and television in Italy. The only place we haven't hit yet is Germany, and I think that's forthcoming. We've kept quite busy; mostly festivals and concerts, which is essentially where all the work is anyway. Not so much clubs.


Clubs are difficult in the cities because they can't afford the transportation. That's why there's that perpetual thing of doing a single and working with the house rhythm section. Sometimes, in the face of economic tribulation, I have to go out and work with the local musicians. Gradually the quartet is catching on, though. I think we'll be working more and more. I hope so. We're playing at the Montreux Festival. And we go to Newport this year; that should be a good boost for us.
Our conception? Well, we're not teenagers, by any means; we've all been playing for quite a few years. The youngest member is Henri Texier, who's 23. We cover all of our own individual musical backgrounds within the group context. Free collective, but very tight; we're quite aware of form. We use freedom when the tune or the emotion of the moment calls for it. We're not free jazz players, but I don't think I'm a pure bebopper either. I've taken all the elements that have made up my musical experience.


We play some new and some older pieces. If I do a ballad, I play it a different way. We try to get as much variety as possible within the jazz quartet form. Because the instrumentation is such that there's not too much you can do; so you have to rely upon the texture of the tune itself.


I remember there was some criticism last year when I was here with the British rhythm section, asking how come I couldn't find a new format other than solo, solo, bass, fours and out. But there's no other possible way you can do it with a quartet. I mean, you could start with a bass solo but in the interests of musical sense, you can either vary the solo format by having the piano go first, or maybe a little group improvisation. You don't have too much colour to work with; it's the variety of your material that kind of offsets that.


On a ballad, I may be the only soloist. We have several fairly extended pieces, where everybody has the chance to get deep. It's a varied book; it covers just about every situation, I think. Everybody in the group has contributed, which makes it a good thing.


Why the name European Rhythm Machine? We had to call it something and I didn't want to just call it the Phil Woods Quartet. And I'm quite proud of the rhythm section; I just like people to know that there are some European swingers. The gap is narrowing. That's a bunch of nonsense about: "Oh well, they don't swing." Maybe that was true thirty or forty years ago.


The rhythmic thing has always been the criticism that you've heard. There were no drummers in Europe, and so forth. I think that's fast dating; the musical level is fantastic, as you know, with people like Dave Holland, Gordon Beck.


And they sound marvellous, by the way. I must put a plug in for the Gordon Beck Trio, which was my rhythm section last year. They've made fantastic development; I can hear it, especially in Cordon. Tony Oxley has certainly mellowed. And Jeff Clyne is, as always, solid as a rock; he's broadened even more. It's a delight for me to hear them again, and they're all very nice cats.


I like Europe very much. Naturally it's given me the chance to do what I've always wanted to do, and I'll be forever grateful for that. European audiences are very astute. I'm quite content. The family is well- adjusted; the children are all very fluent in French, attending French schools. My French is creeping along; my wife is doing very well. And we like the living, although France right now is a little shaky politically; but we still love the country very much. That's part of the whole world picture; France is going through the throes of economic troubles. I'm not really qualified to speak of politics of my own country, let along the one where I'm a guest. But sometimes it gets a bit unsettled there. I arrived right in the middle of the May riots; the week I opened in the Chameleon was when it began. Fantastic. But it's worked out well. I'm quite pleased.


My reason for leaving the States was that I wanted to play, essentially. I felt the only way I could do this would be to just sever all ties with my image. Which had been cultivated for me; I tried not to contribute to it, but it was unavoidable that I be labelled a studio musician. It was just inevitable for it to happen.


And I never considered myself a studio man at all. Most of the work I did then, even in the studios, was in a jazz- orientated vein, if you check the records. I did my share of the commercial things, television jingles and whatever, but it was usually for the jazz- based writers who would ask for me. I mean the schlocky contractors didn't want to hire a jazz alto player. I was used as a jazzman within the studio scene, but as far as getting any gigs outside of that scene, I was considered more studio than jazz.


A lot of times people would say: "Well, he's so busy in the studios he wouldn't take a gig in a jazz club." You know, and they wouldn't even call, just figured they'd get a "No". Actually, I'd have been only too glad to do it.


I was very dissatisfied and bored with what I was doing. I felt: "This is not what I set out to do." And I never feel that I tossed the towel in. It was just circumstances. Also it says something for the state of jazz in my country; perhaps the state of jazz all over. I know the same trap occurs in Europe. You have your session musicians that are labelled the same way, and some of them are fine jazz players. It's right back to trying to make a dollar or a pound playing music; it's very difficult.


That's why I consider myself quite fortunate to be able to keep the quartet going. I'm also getting opportunities to do some writing, which I've always been very interested in. The one thing I want to do is more teaching; I haven't started any yet. I'll be doing some clinics in Europe; I did one here with the London Youth Jazz Orchestra. Eventually I intend to get into that.


My school back home went on for five summers. Before I left it had been sold as a remedial reading camp for backward children. It just became financially unfeasible to maintain. We had an administrative staff, the people that owned the school. I was Music Director, generally responsible for the co-relating of the different departments. Like, I'd work with the ballet department if we were doing a jazz piece with some dancers. It wasn't exclusively my camp, although it became more of a jazz camp, because we got a little publicity out of the fact that a jazz musician was teaching. But not enough to keep it going, which was truly a shame.
It was absolutely marvellous while it lasted, a fantastic experience for me and my whole family. Because we only lived a mile from the school out in Pennsylvania, amid an estate of lovely scenic woods. You'd visit the school and over here you'd see some kid with a tenor under the apple tree, practising some Pres licks or something, while some other kids over there would be dancing. We had all of the performing arts represented. Very exciting.


Towards the end we developed quite a few good players. In fact, I'm quite proud of one young man; his name is Richie Cole. He's now playing lead alto with the Buddy Rich band. I get a bigger kick out of seeing his name in print than I do my own. It's a good feeling to see an ex-student of mine, still only around 18 making it like that. He’s very talented and I'm sure you're going to hear more from him. Without the school, it's possible that this kid might not be there today.
So if only one had come out of it, it's worth it.


Section and lead playing is something you can teach to a certain extent but it's a deep experience which must be shared by the kid within working circumstances. This is what the school supplied- we worked on ensemble and big band sound- I mean, we played free pieces. I gave the kids free rein to play the music they wanted to. I wasn't about to tell them: "Well, you'd better learn all your Bird licks or you won't get a gold star." Play what you want, but let's play correctly, as musicians, with a professional level of performing. …”

Marty Nau 2010 Interview with Phil for the Smithsonian Jazz Oral History Archive

[Phil Woods]“[Late 1960s] The record business had changed completely, you know, it was now you know the three cretins with an ewee [electronic wind instrument], a lot of guitars. It changed and the gigs were falling apart. And so I remember I said to Chan [Phil’s wife], “Let‟s go to Europe, let‟s go back,” because we spent that year, ‘59 and ‘60, in Europe and we loved it being based in Paris.

So I said, “I can‟t make the studio scene anymore. I want to play jazz,” you know. So, we packed up our matching luggage, our 24 cardboard cartons [MN chuckles] and uh I, I had a gig I had two weeks at Ronnie Scott‟s club in London and then I had a couple of German workshops. In those days, they each the radio orchestras would have would bring in a not a big bands but famous players from all the different countries and they put together a special project. I had a couple of those. So, we uh we flew to England and did Ronnie Scott‟s and then we were actually heading for Amsterdam because we didn‟t think we could afford Paris.

And, in fact, I bought a Fiat 1500 for delivery in Amsterdam, and um when I  was working in Ronnie Scott‟s, a guy by the name of uh Jean Louis Ginibre, who was the editor of Jazz magazine in Paris, came to London, heard I was in London, knew who I was, and said, “You know, you‟ve got to come to Paris.” And I said, “Well, we‟re thinking of …” He said, “Come to Paris.” He says, “My wife‟s going to start booking. Simone Ginibre, who became George Wein‟s right-hand lady, girl Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, started booking. But I was her first client. So we went to Paris and drove around the Arch of Triumph with Jean Louis and Simone Ginibre and we went to Paris and he put a band together for me which was Daniel Humair on drums, Henri Texier on bass and George Gruntz on piano, became the European Rhythm Machine.
[Marty Nau]: Later, uh replaced by Gordon Beck,
[PW]: Replaced by Gordon Beck and Ron Mathewson replaced Tex. But we always had Daniel on drums.

Man, you know, from playing jingles and all that stuff all of a sudden I‟m playing every major festival in Europe, you know, because of Jean Louis‟ influence and Simone booking us. I man, right off the bat we started recording for Pathé the French label, did a thing called “Alive and Well,” it was received very well and man I was off and running man five years of you know headlining and stuff, ….”

The full, 66-page text of Phil's interview with Marty about all aspects of his career can be located via this link: 

BBC Review. Peter Marsh. 2003. Phil Woods And His European Rhythm Machine: Alive and Well in Paris [Toshiba-EMI Limited TOCJ-5960]


“In 1968 alto player Phil Woods gave up a promising career as a sideman and studio musician to move to Paris, in the belief that Europe was a much healthier place (both politically and culturally) to be a jazz musician.


Strangely, he was right. Within a month or two he'd hooked up with a band who'd all go on to be important European jazz artists in their own right; pianist George Gruntz, bassist Henri Texier and drummer Daniel Humair. A storming set at the 1968 Newport Festival suggested this was a band to be reckoned with; though visiting American jazzmen usually worked with local pickup bands while in Europe, this was a different kettle of fish. The ERM stayed together for five years (with only two personnel changes) and arguably produced the altoist's finest and most exploratory work.


Woods, a self confessed 'old bebopper', was deeply in thrall to the work of Charlie Parker, but the ERM's remit included nods to the emergent avant garde. On this date (recorded in 1969) they cover tunes by Carla Bley and Herbie Hancock; though Woods was publicly distrustful of free jazz (he famously dismissed Anthony Braxton's music in a Downbeat blindfold test) he was obviously attracted to the possibilities of improvising over more expansive structures. Hancock's "Riot" provokes an electrifying solo from the altoist that recalls Eric Dolphy's elastication of bebop language.


Pretty much everything here is taken at an alarmingly high tempo. Woods' bebop sensibilities are intact, but he rarely resorts to merely recycling old licks; or if he does, he stitches them together in new ways. More crucially, his tone never suffers at speed; where other altoists get screechy, Woods' tone remains satisfyingly fruity, each note deftly articulated.


Humair is equally dazzling; there's some of Elvin Jones' polyrhythmic approach at work, coupled with the effortless complexity of Roy Haynes. And (aided by Texier's flowing, inventive lines) he swings too; Woods noted ruefully that Humair's abilities were accepted with some surprise by American audiences (obviously unused to the notion that any European musicians could be worth their time).


Later editions of the band with Gordon Beck at the keyboard would take Woods into more exploratory pastures, flirting with electric instruments and rock rhythms, but this Montreux set is second generation bebop of the highest order. Recommended.”



Review of Phil Woods and His European Rhythm Machine [Inner City IC 1002]by Michael G. Nastos for www.allmusic.com


“In 1970, when Inner City Records was just getting off the ground, Phil Woods was in Europe enjoying himself, and collaborating with musicians who were definitely feeling the spell of the Miles Davs  groundbreaking jazz fusion epic Bitches Brew. While always a staunch straight-ahead bebop player,Woods decided to mix it up a bit and incorporate elements of funk, rock, and free improvisation, much to the likely chagrin of his listeners.


In fact, a vitriolic letter printed on the back cover from an unidentified fan residing in Chicopee Falls, MA, rips Woods for abandoning melody, criticizes his titles, and actually threatens him with physical violence should he ever show up in his town. Woods gives his terse reply, but as cynical as this discourse is, it could all have been whipped up by Woods to deflect any detractors to his "new thing." Truth be told, the music here is inspired and focused, even if it is not what devotees might expect. British electric pianist Gordon Beck (who took over for original keyboardist George Gruntz), French acoustic bassist Henri Texier, and Swiss drummer Daniel Humair are all extremely talented musicians, who alongside the excitable Woods forge strong bonds in amalgamating this modern jazz into a personalized sound.


Bookended by really long jam-type pieces, the album also retains a certain amount of arranged and complex melody lines. The opener, "Chromatic Banana," is the piece that caused the letter-writing fan's consternation, and in the hilarious liner notes, Woods offers listeners a chance to win one in simulated plastic. Musically, it moves fast from 6/8 to free to 5/4, 4/4, and 7/8 meters in pre-fusion rock-funk modes, with the alto and Varitone-modified sax of Woods wheezing, wailing, improvising, and eventually vocally scatting.


Beck's "The Day When the World..." has a folkish intro on the Hohner electric piano, moves from a steady rock beat to a poppish tune, and concludes with introductions of the band members by one of the leader's children in English and French. A combo track of Beck and Woods, "The Last Page/Sans Melodie" starts as a pleasant ballad, then quickens to a bop and rock pace with Woods on a Varitone clarinet. The most straight jazz-oriented cut is also contributed by Beck: "Ultimate Choice" is a fleet bebop discourse between the pianist and alto saxophonist, with hard attacks and Woods digging in and establishing his territory. The short "A Look Back" is actually forward-thinking and progressive in a spontaneous manner via the spare recorder playing of Woods underpinning clacky percussion, rattles, and bowed bass.


This recording, the second overall release in the Inner City catalog (with artwork containing a Rube Goldberg-type Honeywell computer schematic and the label's original skyscraper type logo), has been issued on CD, and it is a testament to the tenacity of Phil Woods to think outside the box occasionally, while losing none of his identity. The project deserves a revisit, despite some of the fans' misgivings.”