Wednesday, January 18, 2017

MJT+3 [1957-62]

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


If a generation is twenty years, then the recordings by the MJT+3 can be said to span three of them, yet they sound as fresh today as when they were first recorded over 60 years ago.

MJT+3 [1957-62] (Modern Jazz Two + 3) recorded several LPs for the Vee Jay label which, according to Jazz historian Noal Cohen, “... in hindsight, reveal the ensemble to be one of the most innovative of the many hard bop working bands of the late 1950s.”

Drummer Walter Perkins and bassist Bob Cranshaw are the founding members of the Modern Jazz Two +3. The group was formed in Chicago in 1957 and disbanded in 1962 after it moved to New York.

“Perkins’ drumming is notable for its drive and swing; he plays to support the soloist rather than to display his own technique.”  J. Kent Williams writing in The New Grove Encyclopedia of Jazz, Barry Kernfeld, ed.].

The other members of the group were pianist Harold Mabern, who as a composer is “noted for his melodic gifts” [Paul Rinzler], trumpeter Willie Thomas, who performed with many Jazz notables over the course of his long career including the Slide Hampton Octet, Woody Herman’s big band, the Al Belletto Sextet and vocalists Peggy Lee and Bill Henderson [he is also a distinguished Jazz educator, and alto saxophonist Frank Strozier.

On his Jazz History Website, Noal Cohen, who is also Frank Strozier’s discographer offers these observations about him:

“Influenced by both Charlie Parker and Lee Konitz, Strozier emerged in the late 1950s as the archetypal hard bop alto saxophonist. His playing was fluid, hard swinging and emotional and his solos beautifully constructed. Gifted with a recognizable sound and conception and an ability to constantly generate ideas without repeating himself, Strozier has always been held in high regard by musicians. Unfortunately, his contributions remain insufficiently known and appreciated by the wider jazz community.

The great multi-instrumentalist Howard Johnson, who recorded with Strozier, describes the latter’s position in the jazz continuum as more inspirational than directly influential: “No one was ever really up to the task of playing with that much technical proficiency, deep harmonic expression and all the while keeping a foot deeply in the blues. For me, Frank is joined by Harry Carney, Benny Golson, Sonny Red and Paul Gonsalves in the league of players who were never imitated because their way was too hard to figure out, much less execute. And at the same time they were as deeply inspirational as some of the widely acknowledged innovators. They gave us (me, at least) license to be unique.”

The albums that the MJT+3 made for Vee Jay Records in the late 1950’s have always been among my favorites and I thought it might be fun to profile them by reproducing on these pages the liner notes to three of them written by Ralph J. Gleason, Don Gold and Ira Gitler, respectively.

As is our custom, we will accompany these writings with video montages that offer audio samplings of the group’s music.

Walter Perkins’ MJT+3 [Vee Jay LP SR 1013] - Ralph J. Gleason

“It used to be, back in the days when jazz fans didn't exist in large enough numbers to make Miles Davis outsell Percy Faith, that you bought an occasional record and the rest of the time depended on in-person performances for your kicks.

There's still nothing to beat the thrill you get when you're there and the band is swinging. But records can come pretty close now and in one department they have actually supplanted the old way. That's in the special thrill you get when you hear somebody who is absolutely new to you, of whom you have never heard before and who just simply knocks you out.

This shock of recognition is one of the greatest kicks in jazz. Just as those rare moments when everything goes right, the whole thing falls into place and everybody is together, is what keeps the musicians going through the bad times, so the now and then discovery of a beautiful, exciting new voice in jazz is what keeps the listener plowing through all those LPs.

When I first played this LP, I recognized no one on it. After I looked at the personnel, I knew I had heard some of the men before and heard of some of the others. But what shattered me, racked me up and made me play it over and over was the work of a man I had never heard of, of whose existence I hadn't dreamt but whose music hit me with exceptional force.

His name is Frank Strozier and he plays the alto saxophone. Predictions are chance-y things at best, but I'll chance one right here. We've all been waiting for something past Bird to happen to the alto. Ornette Coleman is taking it in one direction and it is welcome news. Frank Strozier, it seems to me, is taking it in a parallel direction bowing, not to Bird directly, but to John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins and possibly to Ornette, as well. He rips into his solos with the agonized wail that Coltrane has made a specialty of; he packs each long line, breath-taking in its searing irregularity, with high-voltage emotion. To come through on record as he does, he must be something else in person. Hearing him, as I did, for the first time in the context of this LP, was an exciting and thrilling experience. I am sure we will all be hearing a lot more from this Memphis-born youngster.

There's another thing that strikes me about this album and that's the feeling for the blues. Jazz is spreading out these days, crossing the ordinary borders of continents and countries and seeping through the iron, bamboo and cultural curtains all over the world to become the common language of youth. There are some and who's to say they are merely mystics? - who firmly believe that jazz will provide the integument to make us all one world eventually.

Within that common language of jazz there is a basic accent - the blues - without which even the most talented (and the hit charts are ample proof of this) end up merely playing a sort of jazz-oriented cocktail lounge music. That accent comes in only two ways: you are born with it or you are seeped in it until it is a natural sound to you. You cannot play the blues any other way. As jazz continues to spread across the musical horizon and gradually take over as the popular music of the world, the difference between those who speak with this natural accent and those who just do not have it will become more and more marked.

The MJT Plus 3 speak the same language, have the same accent and sound like five brothers, disparate geographical and cultural backgrounds notwithstanding. This is one of the most hopeful aspects of jazz. It is really one of the most hopeful things in our entire Western culture. Jazz proves it can be done and here in an album by a group of young men in Chicago you find it clearly demonstrated.

It may be a long, lonesome road before jazz fulfills its promise but efforts like this show the way, show the possibility and the glimpse of that and its rewards is enough to make the whole thing worthwhile.

A WORD ABOUT THE MUSICIANS Harold Mabern: A 22-year-old, self-taught player, Mabern comes from Memphis and writes as well as plays. Two of his tunes, "Rochelle" (named for Perkins' daughter) and "Brother Spike" (named for the son of Bassist Bill Lee) are on this LP.

Bob Cranshaw, bass: 25 years old and from Evanston, III., has been associated with Perkins for some time. Willie Thomas, trumpet, is 28 and a veteran of several big bands (Anthony, Maclntyre, Herman) and the Al Beletto Sextet.

Frank Strozier, also, is only 22. From Memphis, he studied at Chicago's Conservatory of Music and has lived and worked in that city in recent years.”

MAKE EVERYBODY HAPPY [VEE JAY LP SR 3008] - Don Gold

“Several years ago, Dave Brubeck was asked to define jazz. The skilled pianist's response included this pertinent observation: "What is jazz? When there is not complete freedom of the soloist, it ceases to be jazz. Jazz is about the only form of art existing today in which there is this freedom of the individual without the loss of group contact.... The important thing about iazz right now is that it's keeping alive the feeling of the group getting together. Jazz, to make it, has got to be a group feeling and a group feeling for everyone concerned at the time." In an era in which jazzmen are herded into studios without adequate preparation or conscientious devotion to their music, it is rare to listen to a jazz LP without feeling that it should have been chalked up as a rehearsal for a date to come. The emphasis on group performance too often is neglected; like Mickey Spillane heroes, jazz soloists are in, out and off to the next scene.

Refreshingly, the MJT Plus 3 is not one of those haphazardly assembled groups of hungry jazzmen. Hungry, perhaps. But hungry to create the sort of music in which they believe. Hungry to contribute time and infinite effort to that creation.

The members of the MJT Plus 3 are not eligible for over-30 dances, which is one of the positive indications of the future of jazz. Two of them - alto man Frank Strozier and pianist Harold Mabern - came up the mainstream to Chicago from Memphis, a voyage that has brought other able young jazzmen in recent years (Phineas Newborn, Evans Bradshaw, Booker Little and George Coleman are among the prodigies who come to mind). Willie Thomas, the group's trumpeter, knows the ways of the road and the workings of jazz; he was a mainstay in the Al Beletto sextet and in several big bands. Walter Perkins, the drummer, and Bob Cranshaw, the bassist, have been partners in jazz for several years, working with pianist Ed Higgins' Chicago-based trio and with other midwestern jazz groups.

Perkins has fostered a dream for quite a few years - to sustain the fivesome on a working basis throughout the country, not simply as a local group existing on scale jobs and inspired rehearsals. For a long period of time, the stigma of "the local group" blocked advantageous bookings. The personnel of the group fluctuated. Perkins and Cranshaw never had difficulty in finding jobs, but the desire to see the MJT Plus 3 make it prodded Perkins. He spoke of it whenever and wherever he could, propagandizing writers, editors, record company executives, booking agents and club owners. Finally, this year his efforts paid off. The group could be held together by more than dedication. In a New York appearance, Perkins and men made it clear that they had something to say, that they were exceptionally talented musicians with a string of contributions - as individuals and, most important, as a group - to make in the constantly whirling world of jazz.

After several successful out-of-Chicago appearances, the group's reputation spread; it could return for a Chicago booking without worrying about ever leaving town again. A concern for the group was rewarded. In this, the second volume of the MJT Plus 3 on Vee-Jay, the group cooks as cohesively as ever. When jazz critic Ralph J. Gleason noted, in his comments on their previous LP, that they sound "like five brothers," he was being as accurate as he was flattering. The sounds on this disc merit such comment, too.

Harold Mabern's "Make Everybody Happy" does just that, in its down-home, gospelish, funky, soulful, sanctified, Bobby Timmons-ish (select your favourite term) manner. There are crackling solos from Strozier (Chicago's Conservatory of Music can be proud of this student) and Thomas and a piano passage from Mabern that would delight Ray Charles. In the hands of the group, "The Trolley Song" (remember the 1944 Hollywood epic, Meet Me in St. Louis) turns into a streetcar named Desire, thanks to inventive, offbeat use of the horns; during it, note how Mabern can be fleet when he has to be and economical when that is appropriate. Booker Little's tune, "Sweet Silver", is an obvious tribute to pianist Horace Silver - a hip-wiggling, bluesy salute to a sterling jazzman.

The familiar "Don't Get Around Much Any More" is a relaxed excursion, highlighted by Thomas-Perkins and Strozier-Cranshaw exchanges. Strozier and Thomas share the melody line of "My Buddy" and solo, along with Mabern, between statements of that line. Mabern's Richard's "Dilemma" is a rippling Latin opus, with biting comments from all but the pace-setting Perkins, who's content to provide the impetus. Thomas and Strozier have "Love Letters" their own way, but aren't neglected by the conscientious rhythm section.

To Perkins, who has observed virtuosity in working with Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, Sonny Rollins and others, this must have been a satisfying session. It marks a dream come true. And to me it's an encouraging sign that there's plenty of jazz to be played in our time and plenty of eager musicians to play it. Togetherness in jazz apparently didn't die with the first free-for-all blowing session. Groups like the MJT Plus 3 may well restore the benefits jazzmen can acquire simply by listening to each other and respecting each other.”

MJT+3 [Vee Jay LP SR 3014] - Ira Gitler

In today's intense open competition for the jazz ring of success, a new group must have some quality which will interest record companies and hookers. Most groups have a leader who is an established name; others are composed of several "names" who have banded together under one identifying phrase.

The Modern Jazz Quartet is an example of the latter. In the early Fifties, when they began playing as a unit, club owners were reluctant to book them under their cooperative title. Instead, they wanted to present them as the Milt Jackson Quartet. In time, as they became established, MJQ became a jazz byword. To think of calling them by any other name, would now not smell sweet to their representatives.

The MJT + 3 is another case entirely. Here is a group without a "name" leader and without "name" musicians. It is a group, however, that is going to establish its call letters as a familiar and welcome sound in the ears of jazz listeners. MJT stands for Modern Jazz Two: drummer Walter Perkins and bassist Bob Cranshaw. These are two Chicago musicians who, working together extensively in the past several years, have developed into a tightly-knit rhythm duo.

The "+ 3" is made up of Frank Strozier, Willie Thomas and Harold Mabern.

Alto man Strozier, out of Memphis, Tennessee, came to Chicago to study at the Chicago Conservatory of Music. After graduation in 1958, he worked around town with his own groups and bassist Bill Lee's orchestra. Out of the tradition created by Charlie Parker, Frank is nevertheless a distinctive player and not only because his sound is his own. His excellent academic training never gets in the way of his jazz feeling; it only helps him to communicate it.

Willie Thomas' trumpet was heard around the Midwest (and sometimes the East) with the Al Belletto Sextet and Woody Herman's band when the Belletto group joined Woody en masse. Originally, his influence seemed to be Red Rodney and he echoes this in places here. Some of Art Farmer's lyricism seems to have crept in too, but Willie, like Frank, has his own things to say and his own way of saying them.

Harold Mabern is another Memphis migrant to Chicago. He and Strozier, in their early twenties, are the youngest of the group. Harold is a two-fisted, blues-rooted pianist who also comps with great authority. He has heard Horace Silver, to be sure, but his keyboard approach is vastly different.

And so the "3" came to Chicago and eventually merged with the MJT who had previously headed a group with other horn men. A new group was born without a particular star to hang its hopes on. As I said before, a new outfit must have some aspect which will attract the attention of the powers that present such groups to the public.

The MJT + 3 adheres to the old adage: "In unity there is strength." The collective spirit of the quintet and their ability to play well together is an outstanding feature. Strozier, Thomas and Mabern all contribute to the book, which while not avant-garde or terribly different, is personal, varied and, in several places, extremely unique. The ample space allotted to the soloists soon enables you to realize that talent transcends, whether the musicians are well-known or not.

The above sounds like this is the first recording by the group. Those of you who have followed them on Vee-Jay know better. However, there are many of you who are picking up on the MJT + 3 for the first time. This album, made after a successful invasion of New York (the Five Spot and Smalls') in early 1960, is representative of a new kind of achievement. They have crossed over that intangible line that separates the promising young group from the one with that air of confidence that is the mark of a polished professional combo. They haven't reached their apex yet, but they are on their way.

THE TUNES: Mabern's "Branchin' Out" is a finger-snappin' blues that is 'funky' but not 'corn-fed'. Solos by the "3". "Lil'Abner", Thomas' 'rhythm' swinger, is not from the score of the Broadway-Hollywood musical but rather a tribute to Mr Vee-Jay. The composer's Rodney influence is evident here. Cranshaw has a walking solo and there are exchanges between Perkins and the two horns.

"Don't Ever Throw My Love Away" by Strozier is not a blues by bar-structure, but it has enough blue feeling to paint countless predawn skies. Its lazy, down home, reflective atmosphere is well carried out by soloists Strozier, Thomas and Mabern. Strozier's flute and Thomas' muted trumpet combine to give Willie's wistful "Raggity Man" the proper raggle toggle quality. The march tempo in the bridge and the flute conjured up a weird image for me of a "spirit of 76er" with the blues, limping away from a battle with some Redcoats. Thomas was in his time-machine when he wrote this. It is an odd melody that you can't get out of your head.

"Sheila", by Strozier, has a haunting theme of its own in another groove. The three soloists are exceedingly tender as they show another side of their musical personalities. It is not necessary to play in ballad tempo to communicate a soft mood. The closer, Cole Porter's "Love For Sale", is a swift, well-integrated showcase for Perkins. After the theme, he trades two-bar thoughts with Strozier and Thomas and makes a longer solo statement on his own. Throughout the album, he demonstrates that you needn't play loud in order to swing.”

All three MJT+3 Vee Jay LPs have been compiled and reissued on CD by JORDI PUJOL (FRESH SOUND RECORDS).

Here are three video montages set to the MJT+3’s versions of Ray Bryant’s Sleepy, Harold Mabern’s Brother Spike and Booker Little’s Sweet Silver.




Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich - The Willis Conover Interview

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


Impresario Norman Granz often got slammed for putting on his Jazz at the Philharmonic concerts by Jazz “purists” who accused him of everything from packaging Jazz and making it a commodity to pandering to the baser instincts and the hormones of teenage Jazz fans with tenor sax players dropping to their knees soloing on chorus after chorus of Flying Home or intermittently long drum “battles.”

On the other hand, where could you hear the likes of Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster playing on Body and Soul with a rhythm section of Barney Kessel on guitar, Oscar Peterson on piano, Ray Brown on bass and Buddy Rich on drums?

Of course, the purpose of these Jazz at the Philharmonic [JATP] Tours was to make money and why not?  What’s wrong with staying at nice hotels, eating good food and bringing enough money home to pay the rent and keep junior in clean diapers?

The idea of the starving Jazz musician forsaking all commercial success in support of his art is a very altruistic one unless you happen to be the musician who is starving.

And what’s wrong with entertaining people with Roy Eldridge and Dizzy Gillespie teaming up for a few choruses on I Can’t Get Started, or Charlie Parker blowing incredible choruses on Cherokee played at a finger-busting up-tempo, or Shorty Sherock, JJ Johnson and Illinois Jacquet jammin’ on a medium “jump” tempo version of “I’ve Found A New Baby?”

Did I mention that Norman paid his musicians well?

Sure, Norman made a fortune and bought a flat in Zurich, hung out with Picasso and flew to Los Angeles to have lunch at his other home in Beverly Hills!

Good for him.

But he treated his musicians with dignity, refused to subject them to any form of racism and left a never-to-be-equalled legacy of recorded Jazz.

The following interview was conducted by Willis Conover, whose contributions to Jazz as the disc jockey on the Voice of America “Jazz America” radio broadcasts are inestimable. These programs began in 1955 and the Gene Krupa - Buddy Rich interview was one of its earliest.

Respectful of one another and happy to be on tour together, if it hadn’t been for Norman, none of what follows would have gone down.

I mean, c’mon, Krupa and Rich jammin’ together. That’s surely worth the price of admission, es verdad?

APRIL, 1956 Metronome Magazine

“It was about 9:00 a.m., the morning after the Washington D. C. concert in Jazz at the Philharmonic's 1955 tour. Both Buddy and Gene were, I think, impressed by the size of their audience and by the interest that audience of primarily European listeners would have in what they were to say: Buddy brought his speech tempo down and brought Gene's up, so the balance was good. I was concerned not only with keeping the program moving, not only with getting them both to offer fresh information as well as to restate basic information for listeners new to jazz, but with letting each of them understand that I could appreciate his leadership in different aspects of drumming — not an easy job, with Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich both present!

As all my interviews are, this one was roughly outlined before they arrived at the studio and completely ad libbed from notes.

Since this is a verbatim transcript, complete to record — titles and station-breaks, I should add that the frequency-announcements quoted relate only to the meter-bands in which the program "Music U.S.A." was being broadcast at that time.

For the interest of potential listeners, the two-hour program (first hour: musical dance-bands, tasteful singers, standards, and a few better "pops"; second hour: jazz — traditional, middle-era, and modern) may now be heard world-wide, seven days per week.

(Ed. Note: Willis Conover prominent jazz disc jockey in Washington, and one of our first Jumping Jockeys, painstakingly edited the copy which follows to maintain the In Person illusion which it contains.)

We're going to ask Gene to remain with us for a while, while listening to his partner in the Jazz at the Philharmonic tour, Buddy Rich —who, as we mentioned, is famous not only as the tastiest of drummers, but also as an all-around entertainer, including dancer, singer, and occasionally, when his arm is in a sling, one-armed drummer. Here is Buddy Rich demonstrating how drumming can be tasty, quiet, and swinging, as he works out with Harry James and his Orchestra on Palladium Party.

Conover: Buddy, I take it that you don't feel that it's necessary always to blast in order to impress.

Rich: Not necessarily, Willis. On certain tunes it's always nice to be a little more subtle than other tunes. There are some tunes where it necessitates you banging out and letting 'em know that you're there; and other tunes — particularly things like Palladium Party  - to be a little more subtle behind the drums is always more effective, I think.

Conover: Well, you have been described by many critics as the world's greatest drum technician. Do you get a boot out of having a chance to demonstrate your technique in some of the up-tempo loud things?

Rich: Well, it gives you a chance to more or less stretch out and see what can be done; but, necessarily so. I don't like to sit up there all night long and do things like that, I'd much rather sit behind a swingin' band and play with 'em rather than against 'em.

Conover: What orchestras aside from your own would you most enjoy working with?

Rich: Well, that's a very easy question to answer, Willis. The most fun I've ever had playing in a band was with Count Basie, when I had the very good fortune of sitting in with him. I never worked for him, but I've sat in with the band several times, and each time is a bigger thrill.

Conover: I knew you were going to say that, because I recall when you had your own orchestra—uh, six or seven years ago—speaking of hoping to make your orchestra into a sort of modern Basie band; since at that particular time Basie was not as active as he had been, or is today.

Rich: That's true. And talking about Basie, just had the extreme pleasure of sitting in with the band just a couple of nights ago in New York; they're down at Birdland. And we had a night off and —a real busman's holiday—I went right down to Birdland and worked with the band all night. And it was really great. Really a great band.

Conover: Well, maybe you'll be on that band yet!

Rich: (Laughs) Well, if I keep pluggin' maybe I'll make it. (Laughs)

Conover: Well, you've certainly been with some of the great orchestras from the beginning of the Swing Era: Artie Shaw and Tommy Dorsey and Harry James and—would you name any others that you've worked with steadily, or have I lost track of somebody?

Rich: Well, Willis, you left out one very important band leader that I worked for. That was the late and very great Bunny Berigan. And I started way way back in 1938, with Joe Marsala and his little Dixieland band. At the Hickory House. That was the first band I ever worked with.

Conover: How old were you when you worked with Artie Shaw's—

Rich: Oh I was a young fellow. (Laughs)

Conover: Well then, let's bring it forward a little bit, and perhaps you can recall some of the happier memories with the Dorsey band—some of the great stars who were in the band with you . . .

Rich: Well, Willis, he really had a bunch of great stars in that band. We had people like Frank Sinatra— (Pause) He's the singer . . . Conover: Yes, I know. Rich: (Laughs) . . . and Jo Stafford, Connie Haines, Ziggy Elman, the Pied Pipers, Dick Haymes-at-one-time—we had, uh—just about everybody that means anything in the music business was at one time connected with the Dorsey band.

Conover: At that time you weren't doing any singing or dancing or emceeing, of course?

Rich: At times,, with the Dorsey band, I was dancing. Every time we played a theatre and we would have a dance act on the bill with us, like the Nicholas Brothers or Tip Tap and Toe—uh, Tommy would call me down from the drums, as sort of a finale thing, and I'd get down and dance with the various acts. And it was kind of fun, every now and then, to get down and be able to dance and get away from the drums and be able to do something other than play drums.

Conover:   Well,  Buddy,  if you don't mind   my   asking   you   this,   since   it   is written  out in history—uh,  what was it you were billed as, as a child?

Krupa: (Laughs)

All: (Laugh)

Conover: I hate to make you say it.

Rich: This is something I have to live with, I suppose. Uh, it's been kind of a big joke with Jazz at the Philharmonic. There's one issue of  Down Beat out, and there's a picture  showing me as  a very young boy — about 3 years old—with a  Buster   Brown haircut, and  a  set of drums, and the caption on  the picture says:  "Traps — the Drum Wonder."

Conover: (Laughs)

Rich:   And so it's, uh—it's pretty difficult  to  live with a  thing like  that y' know.   Especially with Gene—

Krupa:    (Laughs)

Rich: —and Roy Eldridge and Dizzy Gillespie and guys like that. When you come in on the job at night 'n' everybody says: "Hey, here comes Traps now. How're ya, Traps." You know . . .

All: (Laugh)

Rich: It's uh-h — kinda sickening. (Laughs)

Conover: Do I, uh—do I get a correct impression that you're—not moving away from drums, but—moving out to include singing, more extensively?

Rich:    Well, if  that's  the  impression you get, it's right. Because eventually I want to concentrate a little more on the singing and probably get away from drums  altogether,  maybe in  the distant future.   We just recorded a new album for the   Norgran   label.  It's  all  vocals, with strings.   And, uh — we brought you a complimentary album, Willis,  because you're such a Grand Boy.

Conover:   Thanks,  Traps.

Rich:    (Laughs) Oh-ho-ho, no!

Krupa:    (Laughs)

Rich: And this is the thing we are going to be working on, uh—More or less we want the people like yourself, to, uh, let the record get around and let people hear it. It's all vocal.

Conover: There'll be no problem— in fact we'd like to hear it now, and would you care to identify any conscious or subconscious influences on your singing—or would you care not to-

Rich: Well-

Conover: —since everyone looks up to someone in one field or another.

Rich: Well, my boy has always been Frank Sinatra. And I think anything that he does is always right. And, uh, after working in the band — in Dorsey's band — for so long, and listening to him, and being with him, you kind of realize that this is the only singer. Even today. The guy has matured so greatly, and —If you can just even become a little bit, — sing a little bit on that particular style, you can't go wrong. And I think after working with him for so many years, I think maybe a little bit—if I'm lucky— has rubbed off; and uh—we'll let you be the judge.   You listen to the thing and tell me what you think of the record.

Conover: Buddy Rich sings Glad to be Unhappy.

Conover: That was the voice of versatile drummer, entertainer, musician, Buddy Rich. And this is MUSIC USA, coming to you on 7235, 9500, and 15210 kilocycles in the 41, 31, and 19 meter bands. This program is coming to you from the United States of America. It's the Voice of America Jazz Hour. And our in-person guests today are the two most famous drummers in the world, and two of the very finest — Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich.

Conover: Gene, what was the first time that you heard Buddy play?

Krupa:  I heard Buddy play when he joined Tommy Dorsey's orchestra in—I don't know exactly when he joined, but this was in, I'd say, 1939. At the Palmer House in Chicago. And the only reason I didn't hear him before then was I was scared to death. Because the guys in Goodman's band—like Harry James and all the chaps—used to come by and say "Man, this kid over at the Hickory House is going to scare you to death. Wait 'til you hear him."

I'm often asked the question, particularly since I've gone into the drum school business, along with Cozy Cole, we have a studio in New York—I'm very often asked "How about natural talent against studied technique and so forth?" Well— I've watched everybody rather closely, and there are three giants in the drum world; and of these three Buddy stands out head-and-shoulders. They are Buddy Rich, Ray Bauduc, and Ray McKinley. When I speak of natural drummers I'm talking about guys that are playing with the talent God gave 'em. No studying— no nothin'. But here's an amazing thing. While this isn't true of either Ray — McKinley or Bauduc — it's true of Buddy. You can watch Buddy play and actually if you watch him, you'd think he's the most studied person in the world. And even Buddy himself will make something — like, we'll be in the dressing room, he'll pick up a pair of sticks and say: "Well, what is this?"; and he'll rattle a little bit; and actually, if I break it down, get him to do it slow enough, I can name it [classify it by its name as a drum rudiment]. I can break it down into whatever it is. And inherently, naturally, he fingers all these things correctly. Now, I know why that is. I have to get back to the "Traps" Rich episode again now.

Rich: (Laughs)

Krupa: But let me tell you something. No doubt when he was a young child-he doesn't even remember this, he told me himself — when he was a young child and standing around for his daddy to rehearse his act and things — in the old vaudeville days? — well, those old pit drummers were just wonderful—every one of 'em. Well, now y' know here's this little kid standing around? He's got to absorb all these things. That's how come the wonderful left hand; that's how come the great ambidexterity which is absolutely necessary for a good drummer. To me he's the greatest.

Conover: Buddy, what's your rebuttal to that? Or is there—is "rebuttal" the word?

Rich: Well . . . now .... You put me in a very embarrassing position. I don't know how to answer a thing like that, that's probably the greatest compliment that has ever been paid me by anyone— especially when it comes from such a giant as Gene. Because, as anyone knows, anybody that knows anything about drums—and this is not going to sound like an Alphonse and Gaston type reply — Gene is absolutely the first man when it comes to drums. The inspiration for every big-name drummer in the band business today, I think. I think at one time every drummer—in the business today, at one time—wanted to play like Krupa or wanted to win a Gene Krupa drum contest. This is the big inspiration for drummers and naturally it has to be the same way with me. After hearing Gene with Benny for so many years and listening to the recordings and everything, uh, this is the guy the kids want to play like more than anybody else. And just like anybody else the same goes for me. This is my man; you can't say any more. This is the President. And, that's it.

Conover: Well, how do you agree with Gene's definition of intuitive or natural drummers as against trained or studied drummers?

Rich:  Well . . .  (Laughs)

Conover: He has put you in the "natural" drum class.

Rich: I'm a lucky one, see? I think that — and I think Gene will agree — I think to be an expert at anything, I think the best thing to do is to study. I've tried, but I'm too stupid. I can't sit down long enough to absorb any kind of learning. At one time I wanted to be a vibraphone player. I wanted to play like Lionel Hampton. I went out and bought myself a set of vibraphones and hired a great teacher, and after about three weeks I never saw the vibraphones again because I just couldn't absorb the things I was being taught. But I think any young drummer starting out today definitely should get himself a great teacher and learn all there is to know about the instrument that he wants to play.

Conover: Well, do you agree with Gene's selections—excluding yourself, out of modesty, of course—of the greatest drummers today or the greatest drummers of the past?
Rich: Definitely; I think Bauduc is one of the truly great drummers and of course McKinley rates right along with him; but Gene left out two—

Krupa:   Mm.

All:    (Laugh)

Rich: He left out two of my boys and I'm sure they're his boys too.

Conover: Can I see if I can name them, 'cause you've never mentioned this before-

Rich: (Laughs) Go ahead.

Conover: I would say Jo Jones and Sid Catlett. Now maybe I'm wrong.

Rich: Well, Sid Catlett of course deserves to be in that company. But he left out the daddy of 'em all—

Rich: Chick Webb! But of course Jo Jones—My all star poll for drummers would be Gene, Jo Jones, Chick Webb, McKinley, Bauduc, and Catlett. Those . . . everybody had a distinctive style, and certainly great technique, and they could sure swing a band.

Conover: Well, since both of you were, uh, already in the prime before many of the young drummers of some of the new movements in jazz came along, uh, you've been in a good position to ... to get an opinion of how the drummers such—well I won't mention names because I don't know what your answers are going to be, but how those drummers compare both with the drummers before—or who were established before—and also in relationship to the music that they're playing today.

Krupa: (Pause) Mm-hm. Well, Willis, I'd say that the "new music" actually hasn't found itself enough yet to ... to ... to ... to showcase a drummer. D'y' agree-with-that, Bud?

Rich: Well ... I don't even think, uh—I don't want to get into this discussion because—

Krupa:    (Laughs)

Rich: —I have definite and very set opinions about the so-called modern school of music and drummers. Whereas in the days when it was necessary to swing a band, where a drummer had to be a powerhouse, today more or less the "cool school" has taken over, and I don't believe there's such a thing as a "cool drummer." You either swing a band or you don't swing a band; and that's what's lacking today, there aren't any guys around who get back there and play with any kind of guts. And I like a heavyweight. I'm not a flyweight. I like — in my fighting I like heavyweights and in my music I like emotionally good, strong heavyweight type of jazz. And it's just lacking today.

Conover: Well, how do you feel about the idea of drums used almost as a melody instrument rather just as a rhythmic instrument?

Rich: Well, it would be very nice if you could play a melody on it. But primarily the drummer's supposed to sit back there and swing the band. Am I right?

Krupa: Yeah. If you're going to start with melody you'll need some tympani, I think.

Rich: (Laughs) And some tunable tomtoms.

Krupa: That's right.

Rich: I think the drummer should sit back there and play some drums, and never mind about the tunes. Just get up there and wail behind whoever is sitting up there playing the solo. And this is what is lacking — definitely lacking in music today.

Conover: Well, now that you're both present, Gene and Buddy ... Of course there are always rumors, when there are two great people in the same field, about rivalry - which - goes - a - little - beyond -friendly-rivalry between those two. Uh, do you care to scotch the rumors, or give them some substance so far as any portion of the past is concerned, or what?

Krupa: Well, I'll tell you one thing, I always look forward to, uh—to working with Buddy for this one reason. That, uh, competition is the greatest thing in the world. I mean it spurs you on. And I've been around so very, very long that at times I get a little . . . disinterested, shall we say? And all I have to do is listen to Buddy a few nights and . . . and . . . (chuckling) when we get into that drum battle he makes me look so bad, why, I, I, I, I-

Rich:    (Laughs) Oh, come on!

Krupa: —I extend myself, you see? (Laughs)

Rich: Now—Can I tell you something?

Conover:   Please, Buddy.

Rich: That's so ridiculous, that last statement of Gene's because uh—like he says, competition is such a great stimulant to two musicians sitting up and playing alongside of each other, whether it be drums or trumpet or saxophone or, uh, pingpong, it doesn't make any difference. When you're sitting alongside of a guy like Krupa, you've got to be on your toes at all times. Because this guy throws things at you that you don't expect, and it'd be like [Rocky] Marciano turning his back on [Archie] Moore. You know, I wouldn't take a chance and just being cool and relaxing up there for a minute. Because this is definitely competition and it's always a thrill for me to be able to get up on the same band stand and sit down and play with this guy because he makes you think, all the time.

Conover: Well, since each of you is an individualist, with ways of his own of playing drums, by definition each of you —and I'm going to put you on the spot now, and you're both present so we can do it honorably— by definition each of you, must hear things that the other plays that you yourself would not want to play. Now I'm asking you to criticize each other in front of each other. For fun. And possibly as a sort of opening up of your psyches to each other.

Krupa:  Go, Bud.   (Laughs)

Rich: Well—I don't know, I've never heard—this is quite honestly now—I've never heard anything that Gene has ever played—and I think I'm a great student of everything he's ever done, I think I've got every record he's ever made—and I don't think he's ever played anything in bad taste—and I'm not trying to be a nice guy now, because if you know my reputation—

Conover:    (Laughs)

Rich: —I say anything that's on my mind. Uh, I've never heard anything that Gene played that wasn't in the best of taste, and that goes back before the Goodman days and up until tomorrow night's show. This guy has always been the epitome of good taste, at the drums and as a person, and he's just perfect all around.


Conover: Well, Buddy, you realize this leaves Gene in the position of being unable to say anything about your drumming—in case he had anything in mind.

Rich: Well, no, I want him to say exactly what he thinks!

Krupa: I do! I do have something! I do have something in mind, right now. And I'll tell you what it is. I'll tell you, about the hardest thing that a guy could attempt to do in drumming is to play as loudly as Buddy plays, with the extreme power and drive, and yet, not make noise. Make a sound. You see, that's something too, because — it's amazing: I think one of my favorite guys in the music business, an all-time champ, is a pianist called Art Tatum.

Krupa: And I've heard, I've seen this —Art walk over to a piano after—same piano that the other cat's been playing all night—and strike one chord and get a completely different sound out of the thing.

Rich: That's right.

Krupa: Well, that's Buddy's big . . . big tip. I mean, uh, he can play so hard, and yet make a sound, rather than a, a, a noise.

Conover: Well how do you set up these drum battles? Because we'd like to hear one of your performances together at a Jazz at the Philharmonic—

Krupa: Well, you know the nice thing about it? They're not set up!

Conover: There's no agreement in advance?

Rich:   No.    (Laughs)

Krupa: No. We get up there and we wail. I don't think two nights have been alike yet.

Rich:   No.

Krupa:    (Laughs)

Rich: And they never will be because then it would get to be kind of a stiff, boring kind of thing. I think we get up on the stand every night and we look at each other and you listen to all the comments that come at you from the audience, naturally they're partisan groups and they're all shouting for their favorites, and we sit down at the drums and we laugh, and some nights Gene'll start a tempo or other nights I'll start the tempo. And we just start to play. And some nights it's great, and other nights it's laughs, and other nights it's boring, because that's what makes — anything that's spontaneous is a — it's a free feeling. We get up there and play just exactly what we feel that particular night. When we play places like Carnegie Hall where the places are sold out we know that people are listening and we play good. We play other places where we don't think there's too much interest — rather than listening, I think the people would just rather be heard themselves — so we let them scream and we play under them.

Conover:    (Laughs)

Rich: But, we have ... we have a ball doing it. I'm sure that Gene will say just about the same thing.

Krupa:  I'll bear you out, Bud.  Sure.

Conover: Well, let's listen to one . . . one of a number of drum battles, or let's say, happy challenges, between Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich at the drums. Gene and Buddy, it's been a pleasure having you with us for the full hour today.

Rich: Well, it's been a great pleasure to be here with you, Willis. And we hope everybody listening enjoyed it half as much as we've enjoyed being able to sit down here and talk with you, and talk with Gene, and really get to feel free to express exactly what we feel about each other. It's been a kick.

Krupa: For me, too. And I may say, Willis, that we've been out on Jazz at the Phil for two weeks now, and this is the first show we've made; and of course we'll be over across the ocean in a little bit too, and hope to see all you guys then.