Thursday, November 20, 2008

Jazz in Italy: Dado Moroni

- Steven A. Cerra, [C] Copyright protected; all rights reserved.

Every Jazz fan knows the experience. You're listening to some artist for the first time. All at once, you hear something in the choice of notes, the phrasing or the attack which catches your attention. You begin to listen more closely and a new passion is born. The artist has spoken to you through the music. You've become a fan.

Such was the case for me with the music of Dado Moroni. My first contact with Dado's wonderful approach to Jazz piano came in 1995 while listening to Ray Brown’s Some of My Best Friends Are … The Piano Players [Telarc CD-83373] that features a number of prominent Jazz pianists, all of whom I was familiar with except Dado. The cut from the disc which really got my attention was Dado's rendition of Coltrane's Giant Steps. I was hooked; I wanted to hear more of Dado's recordings with their intriguing concepts and hard-driving style.

But where to find them? [remember this was in the mid-1990’s before Amazon.com really set sail] Having a friend who owned a CD store in San Francisco immediately got me access to a computer database with the quick result that there were no discs catalogued for a "Dado Moroni." While continuing my search, an edition of the Jazz Times magazine arrived which contained, of all things, a very favorable review of a new disc by none other than the Dado Moroni Trio, entitled Insights. Mercifully, the review listed the disc as JFCDO07 on the Jazz Focus as well as the contact information for the label which was located in Calgary, Alberta.

Jazz Focus president, Philip Barker kindly sent along instructions for ordering a copy of Insights and also informed me that Dado was featured on Tribute, another Jazz Focus disc under the leadership of George Robert (JFCD004) [and which contains a terrific version of Kenny Barron’s splendid tune – Voyage]. After receiving and listening to both recordings, I was even more convinced that Dado was a very special talent and one deserving of more exposure in this country. I wanted to know more about this creative Jazz pianist who opens his Jazz Focus Insights disc with a beautiful and haunting rendition of Blossom Dearie's rarely heard Inside a Silent Tear instead of the usual burner, plays Stompin' at the Savoy as a solo piano slow ballad, and gives Old Saint Nick the image of a swinging hipster with his version of Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.
Through an initial telephone introduction formed by Philip Barker and as a result of a series of follow-up conversations, Dado was a very willing participant in a running dialogue aimed at affording me some background about his Jazz growth and development. Fortunately, we did not have to rely on my spotty Italian as Dado speaks excellent English.

When asked the usual question about when his interest in Jazz began, Dado shared that his earliest memories of Jazz are while bouncing to its rhythms suspended in a baby jumper hanging from a door jamb. Dado's father developed a liking for Jazz from the Allied servicemen stationed in Italy after World War II and would bring home copies of V-discs and play them on the family phonograph. Dado was captivated by the sounds of Jazz he heard as a child and at the age of three he would ask his father to put on records by Earl "Fatha" Hines, Erroll Garner and Thomas "Fats" Waller.

There was a piano in the house which his parents had brought in for Dado's sister, Monica. Dado would climb up on the piano bench and, curling the last two fingers under each hand, pick out the melodies and phrases he had heard on these recordings.
Dado recalls: "The Fats Waller record was called Smashing Thirds. I had no idea how to play thirds. I just heard happy sounds which I mimicked with major triads in my left hand and sad sounds which I represented with minor triads in my left hand. I just tried to copy by ear the sounds I heard on the records. Of course," laughs Dado, "by copying Garner's style with its four beats to the bar in the left hand, I had no need for a rhythm section!"

As he grew older and became more serious about Jazz, Dado commented that his parents "didn't want to force me but at the same time continued to encourage me." His father would take him out to hear the music being played in local Jazz clubs in Genoa and Milan. It was during one of these excursions when Dado was about eleven that he met a Jazz pianist in a local Genoa club who agreed to give him lessons.

"He recognized that I had evolved a very unorthodox technique by being largely self-taught and decided not to try and change it." Instead, he worked ideas and information into Dado's intuitive understanding of the music and like every good teacher answered his student's questions, realizing that this was where the real learning was taking place.
Dado recalls that "at this time I was having trouble learning the bass clef. My teacher suggested that I buy a bass. By learning Ray Brown bass lines from records and playing them on the bass, I was able to teach myself bass clef." He further extended his bass clef technique by listening to piano masters like Teddy Wilson and Art Tatum. Another instrumental influence is evident in Dado's style of playing which is very hard-driving and full of rhythmic accents in the bass line. When I asked him about this he noted that "I've always had an interest in jazz drumming; maybe that's where this feeling comes from."

During high school, his father continued his Jazz lessons with frequent trips to clubs in Milan where he was able to sit in. "My father gave me a lot of freedom to explore my interest in the music. He said, "do whatever you want - as long as you finish high school."

High school was followed by two years of law school where one day Dado realized that "I was either going to be a terrible, frustrated lawyer or a happy Jazz musician." When I asked Dado what he thought was the most important element in creating Jazz he said: "you've always got to be honest." His decision to leave law school and to pursue a career in jazz is certainly a reflection of that ethos.

Since that fateful day, Dado has over the years been found in the company of Ron Carter, Clark Terry, Ray Brown, George Robert, Tom Harrell, Al Grey, Bill Goodwin, Jon Faddis and Lee Konitz. When I asked him about Jazz pianists he admired on the current scene, he shared that he had "great respect for the work of McCoy Tyner because of his integrity over the years. I also enjoy listening to Kenny Barron, Steve Kuhn and Herbie Hancock."

Compositionally, "we have so much to choose from - such a rich heritage," commented Dado. His selections on the Jazz Focus Insights disc are certainly reflective of this treasure chest, ranging as they do from standards like If I Should Lose You, through some Ellington/Strayhorn compositions, and Jamal an original piece Dado wrote as a tribute to one of the giants of Jazz piano.

Dado Moroni is an example of learning the Jazz tradition by intuition and by training the ear to benefit from the contributions of those who have gone before. It is the way most of the early Jazz masters learned their craft. Judging by the manner in which he has matured as a Jazz pianist since I first heard him almost 15 years ago, it would seem that Dado has matriculated rather well though his courses in jazz education.”

Before moving on to specific reviews of Dado’s recordings, Philip Barker, owner of Jazz Focus and with whom I would co-produce Dado’s next CD – Out of the Night [Jazz Focus JFCD032] - had a similar epiphany upon first hearing Moroni as he recounts in his insert notes to Insights.
“It is June 25th, 1994 and the 15 Calgary International Jazz Festival is in full swing. The George Robert Quintet arrives to play a concert. I knew of their Italian pianist, Dado Moroni, but I wasn't prepared for what I heard when he played. The performance of the quintet was outstanding but Moroni stood out even among the wonderfully talented musicians with whom he was teamed.

Fast forward to Montreal and Sunday, July 3rd, 1994. The Robert Quintet is in the studio recording material for a JAZZ FOCUS CD. Once again the playing of the pianist is amazing. Here, clearly, is a major talent, yet one who is not yet widely known in North America. So I ask him if he is willing to record his own CD for JAZZ FOCUS. He says he is, and you have the result right here.

Dado is no newcomer to the recording studio. Over the last 15 years he has appeared on at least 24 albums/CDs in company with such musicians as Jon Faddis, Clark Terry, Lee Konitz, Al Grey, Ron Carter, Ray Brown, Lewis Nash, Peter Washington and, of course Tom Harrell and George Robert with whom he has both toured and recorded widely. The list of jazz musicians he has played and recorded with is much longer than this and includes many of the foremost American and European jazz artists.
Unfortunately for us in North America, most of the recordings on which he has appeared have been on European labels that have not had wide distribution in North America. The time was ripe for him to lead his own group on an internationally distributed North Ameri­can label.

It has been said that you can tell a musician by the company he keeps. By that standard, Dado Moroni would seem to be one of the best. Jimmy Cobb is surely one of the greatest of all jazz drummers; he underpinned such classic recordings as Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue" and John Coltrane's "Coltrane Jazz". JAZZ FOCUS is honored, and also rather humbled, to have him on one of its releases.


Compared to Jimmy, Peter Washington is a relative newcomer to the jazz scene but he has established himself as one of the best bass players around, much in demand and widely recorded. Indeed his many recording credits include one with Dado - a 1994 date on which both were members of the Jessie Davis Sextet.

On one track of the present CD, the trio is joined by singer Adrienne West, who recorded a duo album with Dado in 1987. Among many other accomplishments, she has toured Africa for the U.S. State Department and starred in the "Fats" Waller musical "Ain't Misbehavin"'.
The program on this CD consists mainly of standards, though Moroni contributes one original composition. It starts gently with a little heard but attractive Blossom Dearie piece Inside A Silent Tear. The tempo picks up with a sprightly version of Billy Strayhorn's All Day Long. This leads, logically enough, to the Duke's Come Sunday. On Stompin' At The Savoy Dado plays solo; Stompin' is usually performed as an up-tempo swinger, but Moroni gives it a slow, thoughtful treatment which explores every aspect of the venerable piece. The next track is a piano-and-bass duet, Moroni's tribute to another great pianist, Ahmad Jamal. Jimmy Cobb returns for another nod to the Duke. and there follows a gorgeous version of If I Should Lose You. The trio is then joined by Adrienne West who provides a flawless reading of the lovely but too seldom heard Kenny Dorham tune Fair Weather.

The Milt Jackson standard Bluesology is a real swinger, illustrating well Moroni's complete command of the piano keyboard, with able support and solos from Washington and Cobb. Next up is Santa Claus. This was recorded with a view to its inclusion in the Christmas CD JAZZ FOCUS plans to release in 1996 but Dado was so pleased with it that he asked that it be included on this CD also. Santa has seldom swung like this! (But don't worry, another "take" is safely stored in the JAZZ FOCUS vaults ready for the Christmas CD when it is put together!) The program ends with two more trio pieces, the reflective Demoiselle and Ray Noble's classic Cherokee, which - despite the myriad times it has been performed - Dado and his colleagues have no difficulty making into something new, even while playing at breakneck speed. A rousing finish to a varied program!

Listening to the master tape, I am delighted with the outcome of this session. I hope and believe you will be too.

Philip Barker.”

In an effort to make more of Dado’s music more readily available in North America, Philip Barker and I joined forces and co-produced the aforementioned Out of the Night which was recorded for Jazz Focus in March, 1998.
As I wrote in my insert notes to the recording:

“The context for this second Dado Moroni disc on Jazz Focus Records was a day-long, Monday recording session in Seattle, WA that followed a weekend Jazz Party held in the Pacific Northwest. The New York-based trumpet and flugelhorn player, Joe Magnarelli, joined Dado, bassist Ira Coleman and drummer Bill Goodwin for the prior weekend’s festivities, and it was with much anticipation that we welcome this group into the recording studio fresh from the exhilaration and energy of recently playing together.”

Before moving on to a description of other recordings by Dado, in order to address what I find so appealing in Dado’s approach to Jazz pianist, here is a descriptive excerpt from these same insert notes:

“Dado has brought together a style which is both personal and unique and, at the same time, indebted to the piano giants who have gone before him. It is an approach that is very much reflective of his nature and his personality: passionate, intense, hard-driving and, above all, always swinging in the sense that it is marked by a pronounced feeling of rhythmic forward motion.”

Here’s Ken Dryden’s review of Out of the Night from
http://www.allaboutjazz.com/:
“Italian pianist Dado Moroni is better known to European jazz fans because most of his work has been recorded and distributed on the continent, but this second disc for the Canadian label Jazz Focus should help to expose him to American audiences. This wide-ranging 1998 session, with trumpeter and flügelhornist Joe Magnarelli, bassist Ira Coleman, and drummer Bill Goodwin, finds Moroni exploring music from several decades, including standards (two takes of "Embraceable You"), classic jazz works from the 1930s and 1940s (Fats Waller's "Ain't Misbehavin'" and Duke Ellington's "Black Beauty"), and more recent fare like the high-energy "Seven Steps to Heaven" and Joe Henderson's strutting "Out of the Night." Moroni's compositions are also a delight. His funky "Ne-Ne" is easily the most intense selection of the date. His blues tribute to Count Basie, affectionately called "Basie-Cally," is a swinger that features a choice muted trumpet solo by Magnarelli. The horn player's bossa nova "Bella Carolina" showcases his rich flügelhorn. Highly recommended.”

And to tack back for a moment about what was initially so appealing and engaging about Dado’s two cuts from the Ray Brown tribute album to pianists he admires, here’s Donald Elfman description of Dado’s performance:
“Italian pianist Dado Moroni, who is in the process of settling in New York [Dado lives in Genoa, Italy and maintains an apartment in New York], provides one of the album’s truly unusual delights. For his first recording with Ray Brown, the pianist does an all-out impersonation/tribute to Erroll Garner, complete with grunt. Compounding the wackiness is the fact that it’s a Garner take on John Coltrane’s Giant Steps! Ray starts with a slow statement of the theme on bowed bass with Moroni commenting quietly behind. Then, from out of a delirious nowhere, comes the Garner stuff which, after several loopy minutes, shifts gears into an up-tempo excursion more in keeping with the original tone of the piece. But with another shift, we’re back to Garner and Ray’s Arco bass. Moroni is clearly not awed by tradition new or old, and he and Ray just smile all the way through. The trio is up and cooking for My Romance, which demonstrates that the romance still has sparks.”

While Benny Green would be the pianist in Ray Brown’s trio during most of the decade of the 1990’s, shortly after this recording was made, Ray would use Dado on piano whenever his trio played in Europe.

Although the point has been made that much of Dado’s discography, especially his earlier recordings, were produced on European labels that have limited or no distribution in North America, he does have a rather substantial body of work from the past 15 years or so that is readily obtainable.

These CDs breakdown into three categories: [1] his recordings made as a sideman with Jesse Davis, George Robert, Tom Harrell, Mark Nightingale and Clark Terry, much of this from the late 1980s and early 1990s, [2] his piano trio works, then and now, and [3] his more recent performances as a “ranking elder statesman” as a member of Jazz groups based in Europe, particularly Italy.

I have selected a few examples from each of these categorizes to describe in an effort to reveal more about the developing technical and expanding creative qualities in Dado’s playing.
Beginning with Dado’s early sideman dates, and concentrating on the ones he made as a member of the quintet co-led by George Robert – Tom Harrell, these are among some of the best Jazz recordings made in the 1980s. This point is re-emphasized by Dan Morgenstern, the well-respected Director of the Institute of Jazz Studies, Rutgers University, and the writer of the insert notes to all of the groups recordings beginning in 1987 with Sun Dance [Contemporary CCD-14037-2]:

"At this moment in time, nothing is more important to jazz than the presence of gifted young players who know and love the true language of the music and ire committed to its continuation. The list of such musicians, happily, has been growing of late, and on the evidence of this splendid record, we can safely add to it the name of George Robert.

What this young man has put together here is a band - not just a bunch of guys who met in a studio and went through the motions, but a musical collective made up of players who think and feel together, listen to each other and make their own music.

A finely matched blend of seasoned veterans and young comers is what we have here, and there may be something symbolic in the fact that the former are Americans and the latter Europeans - though the time when you could tell most European jazzmen by their accent is long since past, they still take their inspiration from this side of the pond.
Yet, for Swiss-born George Robert, jazz is something that came quite naturally, from his home environment.. His American-born mother's love for jazz was shared by his father, five brothers and two sisters; the boys all played instruments, and formed a family band. George started piano at 8, took up clarinet at 10, and studied with Luc Hoffmann at a distinguished conservatory in his native Geneva.

'I would always hear jazz records at home," he said, "and I feel that my ears got a solid foundation from that, at a very early stage. Later on, I met a lot of American musicians passing through Geneva and played sessions with them at my home. Among them, Jimmy Woode, Sam Woodyard, and Billy Hart really encouraged me when I was just 13 or 14. And studying classical clarinet gave me discipline, control and technique that were most helpful when I picked up the saxophone.”


Among the alto players who influenced young George were Johnny Hodges, Benny Carter, Charlie Parker, and Cannonball Adderley. 'They all had an influence,' he recalled, "but when I was about 14, a Phil Woods album, Alive & Well in Paris, really caught my ear - his gorgeous sound was the first thing that attracted me.”…

The group heard here was formed in the Spring of 1987 and toured in Switzerland and France; the album was recorded in Lausanne during the tour.
[Of the musicians in the band, George commented]: 'I've always admired Tom, both as a player and a composer, to have him next to me is a great inspiration', the leader said. The two horns get a beautiful blend, and have a very special way of interacting, notably in the interludes of collective improvisation that are a feature of the band. "Jimmy Woode introduced me to Dado in 1985, and since then, I've always worked with him. He's a wonderful pianist. His touch is just superb, and the way he comps is a rare gift." This young man moved to Amsterdam in 1986, and I've not the slightest doubt that we'll hear much from and about him. Bassist Reggie Johnson, with whom George had worked before, was the perfect choice. 'Reggie is an exceptional musician and the ideal bassist for us - we love him. And Bill has been a friend for a long time. I think he's one of the most musical drummers around." Goodwin's outstanding solo on the title cut proves that statement, and his experience as a record producer came in handy as well.
In a varied program of uniformly excellent originals by Robert and Harrell, the band strikes a happy balance between ensemble and solo strength. The leader gets a fine, full sound from both his alto and soprano (he handles the latter with a fluency that reflects his clarinet training) and tells a story when he plays. So does Harrell, surely one of the most underrated and under-publicized trumpeters of our time (and quite a flugelhorn player, too). The rhythm section is a delight, with a real feeling for not only time but also dynamics, and works hand-in-glove with the multihued horns. …

When you sound as good as these five guys, there's no need for artifice. This music speaks for itself, it swings and sings and it's always alive. We look forward to hearing more from George Robert and company - a new branch on the tree of jazz with exceptionally solid roots.”
Two years later in 1989, the Robert-Harrell group was back with Lonely Eyes this time on GRP [1002]. Dan Morgenstern offered these insights about the band on this recording:

“This is the second album by what is unquestionably one of the best groups on the contemporary jazz scene. This is music that radiates togetherness and reflects George Robert's statement that the quintet, together since the spring of 1987, "is like a family; everybody loves working with one another.. the chemistry is there".

Indeed it is, and the music here surpasses the excellence of the quintet's impressive debut on records (Sun Dance: Contemporary C- 14037), which received critical acclaim from all comers of the jazz spectrum.

As on that first record, the quintet here presents its own music. All the compositions are originals from within the group-five by Robert, three by Harrell, and one by the band's youngest member, pianist Dado Moroni-and they are not just sketches on blues or "Rhythm" changes, but genuine pieces of music with an impressive variety of moods and textures. The quintet achieves its own identity and freshness, but it does so without artifice or self-conscious striving for novelty or effect. Clearly, there is a shared language among all its members, a language solidly rooted but never mired in the jazz tradition. The music flows with a natural ease that is a pleasure to hear.

The horns of the co-leaders are splendidly matched, both in ensemble and solo roles. Doubling and skillfully varied writing allow for a textural variety quite amazing for a small group. Harrell, who finally seems to be getting some of the credit long due him as one of the most original and consistently excellent creative improvisers of our time, plays trumpet and flugelhorn and gets his own sound, at once warm and brilliant, from both. Robert's main born is the alto sax, from which he gets a strong, personal sound, but he also has mastered the soprano and the clarinet (the latter his first horn after starting music on the piano, and heard here with the quintet for the first time on record). These two have marvelous rapport; truly together in ensemble unison, harmony or interplay, and feeding off each other in solo excursions.
The rhythm section is always finely attuned to its supporting tasks, which are far from routine this group deals with subtle rhythmic as well as harmonic demands-but it seems inaccurate to describe this dynamic triumvirate as a mere "rhythm section". The greatly gifted Moroni is not only a wonderfully sensitive and alert accompanist, but adds solo strength (his modal ballad Adrienne reveals talent as a composer as well). Reggie Johnson's impeccable intonation and rhythmic strength would be enough, but he also steps out as a soloist, and when he does, it's not in the obligatory manner of giving the bassist some, but with lucidly musical (and never over-long) statements. Master percussionist Bill Goodwin is always there, adding colors and textures to the quintet's overall sonic meld and providing the kind of absolute rhythmic security that allows everyone to relax and play without fear of falling off the wire.”

And just so the impression isn’t formed that the Robert-Harrell quintet was the only group that featured Dado as a sideman during these relatively “early years” in his career, in 1994, he teamed up with Ray Brown on bass and Jeff Hamilton on drums to form a rhythm section for the young English trombonist Mark Nightingale on his recording entitled What I Wanted to Say [Mons 874 763].
And with the album’s title in mind, here’s what Johnny Dankworth wanted to say about Dado as contained in the CD’s insert notes:

“Dado Moroni contributes both brilliant support playing and solo moments; he has an incredibly facile technique which he utilizes with admirable restraint.” [paraphrase]

Dado’s solo on Alone Together will swing you into next week and he provides the album with so much forceful energy and excitement with his excellent comping, throughout.

As we approach the second [2] category of Dado’s recordings – his trio work – it is interesting to observe that while he made his recording debut in 1979, he did not make his first trio Jazz recording until 1992. The occasion was the release of What’s New? on Splasc(h) records [CDH 378.2], and Italian based label. Interestingly, as of this writing, the recording was still available through Amazon.
Carl Baugher finished his insert notes to the CD with the following, telling conclusions:

“Dado Moroni is clearly a musician with a wealth of talent. His improvising prowess is convincingly displayed on What’s New? and there is no reason not to expect further development from this still youthful artist. Stylistically, he offers a blend of new and old that’s irresistible. His polished technique, taste and solid musicality serve him well. The disc you hold in your hand provides an irrefutable answer to the question, ‘What’s New?’ The answer is an emphatic: Dado Moroni!”
And Thom Jurek offered the following review in
http://www.allaboutjazz.com/:

“As a pianist and composer, Dado Moroni is an elegant stylist whose post-Ahmad Jamal voicings and Gil Evans-styled arrangements — even for small ensembles — are singular in their subtle, suave grace and their quiet musical expertise. This trio date with a young rhythm section (Rosario Bonaccorso on bass and Gianni Cazzola on drums) is an amalgam of the familiar and ambitious for Moroni. His own compositions, which make up half the album, tend toward the inherently melodic side of his nature: There's the charming ostinato aplomb in "The Duck and the Duchess" and the multi-faceted chromatic gracefulness of "African Suite," which loops three different strains of rhythms around a complex harmonic structure that examines all the tones between B and D. And then there's the adventurous improviser who tackles the outrageously difficult melodic line in Ornette Coleman's "When Will the Blues Leave," which extrapolates a 12-bar blues and pours it into a fugue-like structure of flatted ninths. To temper the two poles, there are readings of Hoagy Carmichael's "Skylark" — done as an exercise in intervallic interplay and mode-shifting melodic exchange — and a solid post-bop reading of Robin & Rainger’s "Easy Living." This is piano trio jazz at its lyrical, exciting best.”

In 1995 with Heart of the Swing [Music Corner MPJ 1000 CD], Dado initiated what was to become a series of trio recordings with Massimo Moriconi on bass and Stefano Bagnoli on drums. On their respective instruments, Moriconi and Bagnoli are two of the most technically gifted musicians in Italy, and in combination with Dado, these three ultimately formed what has become known as the Super Star Triok, an album that was released in 2003 on [abeat AB JZ 015].
Heart of the Swing is swing personified as it abounds with delightful arrangements of standards such as Just in Time, There is No Greater Love and Charlie Parker originals such as Anthropology and Barbados which provide the listener with ample opportunity to hear Dado’s finger-popping inventions, Moriconi’s huge, booming bass sound and Bagnoli crisp and lighting fast technique. Moroni-Moriconi-Bagnoli play a repertoire that is exciting and engaging while producing an album of swinging piano trio Jazz.
There’s more of the same by this exquisitely matched, powerhouse trio on Super Star Triok with a burning up-tempo version of What is This Thing Called Love, as well as, interesting treatments of standards including You’ve Changed and Love for Sale along with well-crafted versions of Jazz classics such as So What, Oleo and Ray Brown’s FSR [“For Sonny Rollins”]. There is even the tasteful introduction of Fender Rhodes electric piano and electric bass on a couple of tracks, a reflection of the interest in bringing different sounds into the music by the current generation of Jazz musicians.
Let’s begin the third category of this piece with its focus on Dado’s more recent recordings as both leader and sideman, most of these occurring in his native Italy, by focusing on Ken Dryden’s review of three of them in
http://www.allaboutjazz.com/ :

“Pianist Dado Moroni is essentially a self-taught player who learned by listening to a variety of artists and styles. His discography as a leader is still fairly small, though he has recorded extensively as a sideman on European CDs in addition to appearances with Americans like trumpeters Tom Harrelll and Clark Terry and alto saxophonists Lee Konitz and Jesse Davis. Below are three examples of his work, including a live duo piano concert and two sessions as a sideman with up-and-coming European players.
Saxophonist Rosario Giuliani is a fast-rising star in European jazz. For his fourth Dreyfus CD
Anything Else [Dreyfus Jazz FDM 46050 366982], he composed 9 of the 12 songs and is accompanied by Moroni, trumpeter/flugelhornist Flavio Boltro, bassist Remi Vignolo and drummer Benjamin Henocq. "Blow Out" is a percolating uptempo blues line showcasing the leader's fiery alto and Moroni's intense McCoy Tyner-like solo, followed by the relaxing samba "Danae." "Backfire" is reminiscent of the Phil Woods Quintet with Tom Harrelll because of its energy, though this propulsive bop vehicle has a soulful edge in spots. Giuliani's constantly shifting solo is driven by Moroni and the rhythm section's high-octane accompaniment. The ballad "A Winter Day" opens with Moroni's dreamy piano solo, then Giuliani and Boltro (on flugelhorn) trade choruses in this engaging, nostalgic theme. Giuliani switches to soprano sax for his lively AfroCuban-flavored "Conversation" and the sentimental ballad "My Angel." The two horn players breeze through Ornette's challenging "Invisible," though Moroni's fiendish "Three Angels" is almost as demanding. The pianist also contributed the lyrical "Hagi Mystery," another piece with a Caribbean flavor, featuring Boltro's rich flugelhorn and Giuliani's impassioned alto sax.
Moroni and Enrico Pieranunzi are two of Italy's top keyboardists, so a duo concert like
Live Conversations [abeat AB JZ 039] makes sense. Both men have tremendous technique, yet also have big ears, able to complement each other's improvised lines while avoiding the train wrecks that often occur when there's a personality mismatch. Their interpretation of Miles' "Solar" is unusual, incorporating a bit of stride and a long closing vamp to spice up this bop favorite. There's a brief bit of confusion as Sonny Rollins' "St. Thomas" is introduced with a bit of the standard "Someday My Prince Will Come" and their wild romp through this calypso favorite has a decidedly humorous air. The aforementioned Disney tune is up next, transformed from a quiet waltz into a turbulent blend of dissonant harmonies and Stravinsky-like chords topped by a surprise ending.
A dazzling duo improvisation gradually leads into a stunning, somewhat ominous setting of "All the Things You Are," which segues into a more conventional version of "What is This Thing Called Love." The final track is a bit misleading: "Autumn Leaves" (the only tune listed), gradually unfolds from a dark improvisation into a bright performance with hints of Bill Evans. But this selection is actually a medley that detours into a dramatic workout of "Caravan" (yet also adding a brief, light-hearted lick from "Sweet Georgia Brown"), returning to the first theme and then engaging in an extended fast blues before gliding to a finish with a sly chorus of "Blue Monk."
Magone [Dreyfus Jazz FDM 46050 369112] marks the debut recording as a leader for Belgian trumpeter/flugelhornist Bert Joris, a veteran member of the Brussels Jazz Orchestra. His potent rhythm section includes Moroni (who provides intuitive support for the leader in addition to his top drawer solos), bassist Philippe Aerts and drummer Dre Pallemaerts. Joris primarily focuses on his originals, delving into many moods. The brooding title track (an abbreviation of "Mother is Gone") is an emotional work; the trumpeter's solo is backed by dark, sparse piano and a rock-steady rhythm like someone pacing the floor, though Moroni's free- flowing bluesy solo steals the spotlight. Joris adds his mute for "Triple," a snappy, playful vehicle dedicated to his cat. The soft, lush ballad "Anna" (named for a young girl Joris once met) showcases his rich-toned flugelhorn. The perky bop line "King Kombo" evolved from two separate commissioned works. Moroni is heard on electric piano on two numbers, including his mellow "The Mighty Bobcat" and Joris' perky "Mr. Dodo." Joris is back on flugelhorn for the gut-wrenching interpretation of "I Fall in Love Too Easily." The last selection, "Benoit," comes from a 2005 concert, a Latin number showcasing the leader's muted trumpet.”
Dado has also been a long standing member of drummer Roberto Gatto’s quintet as is reflected by his appearance on two albums: Deep [CamJazz7760-2] and Roberto Gatto jazzitaliano 2006 [Palaexpo 03].
In addition to more of Dado’s sparkling improvisations, these albums under Gatto’s leadership find him in the company of some of Italy’s best musicians both old and new for as Ira Gitler, the notable and senior Jazz critic has commented: “Italian jazz musicians are the best in Europe and are world-class players.”

On Deep, the younger generation is represented by the brilliant soprano and baritone sax of Javier Girotto, who just made a solo performance with the famed Metropole Orchestra in Amsterdam while the seasoned veterans are well represented by Gianluca Petrella on trombone and the rhythm section of Dado, Rosario Bonaccorso on bass and the irrepressible Gatto on drums, all of whom are engaged in nine original compositions penned by Roberto.

And listening to Roberto Gatto Quintet’s Jazzitaliano live 2006: Tribute to Miles Davis ’64-’68 [Paraexpo 03] with Flavio Boltro [trumpet], Daniele Scannapieco [tenor sax and the “newcomer” on this CD], Dado Moroni [piano], Rosario Bonaccorso [bass] and Roberto Gatto play a repertoire of tunes from the pre-electric Miles period of the 1960’s will leave little doubt in your mind about the quality of Jazz on exhibit in Italy, nor about the validity of Mr. Gitler’s view of it.

As I wrote in an earlier review of this album:

“The tunes on this recording are from Miles’ Seven Steps to Heaven Columbia album and from the period referred to by Jack Chambers in his wonderful book, Milestones: The Music and Times of Miles Davis as the “Circle, 1964-8.” Included in this period are such recordings as E.S.P, Miles Davis Quintet in Berlin, and Miles Davis Quintet at the Plugged Nickel multiple disc set.

The track selections on the Gatto quintet’s tribute CD are: [1] Joshua [2] There is No Greater Love [3] Footprints [4] Stella by Starlight [5] All Blues [6] Basin Street Blues [7] All of You and [8] Seven Steps to Heaven.

It’s obvious that these Italian Jazz musicians have been influenced by the Miles-Shorter-Hancock-Carter-Williams group from the Circle period. Boltro acknowledges Miles’ phrasing, Scannapieco Shorter’s tone, Moroni is indebted to Feldman’s percussive approach to the piano, Bonaccorso’s big sound comes from Carter-by-way-of-Chambers, and Gatto’s approach to keeping time on drums is done in the interrupted and inflected style as first played by Tony Williams [by way of Elvin Jones].

Daniele Scannpieco is another surprising treat on this recording. His tone may be reminiscent of Shorter, but his phrasing is like no other tenor player that I’ve ever heard before. He takes so many chances and while he escapes from some of his improvisational adventures, he also crashes by placing himself in situations from which there is no extraction other than by taking a deep breath and going on to build the next sequence. What fun!

But these Italian Jazz musicians all put their own “footprint” on this music [apologies to Wayne] by making their own contributions to this portion of the Miles canon.”

Reluctantly it is time to end this review of Dado Moroni, one of the premier Jazz pianists in the world, and his recordings both old and new, heading his own trio or as a sideman, but not before we pay a visit to a duo masterpiece that he recorded in Milan on April 6, 2007 with his long-time friend, trumpet and flugelhorn player, Tom Harrell.

The album is entitled Humanity [#2 abeat Signature Series AB JZ 051].
Comprised entirely of six, exquisitely interpreted standards – The Nearness of You, Lover, I Hear a Rhapsody, Darn That Dream, Poinciana – and the title track original by Dado, Humanity is a "formidable disc which gives the listener an hour of music that is rich in intensity, lyricism and pathos.” [paraphrase of Maurizio Zerbo’s review of the disc in
http://www.italia.allaboutjazz.com/].

The pure music that Dado and Tom create on this recording is beautiful articulated in the following statement by pianist Enrico Pieranunzi who requested “the privilege” of being able to write the insert notes for this recording:

“I like the title of this CD very much.

It is a declaration, a good omen, a hope.

And it is wonderful that the title refers to a Jazz CD There is really no music that is more ‘human’ than jazz, of this expression of the body and imagination that speaks to life as it is happening by improvising with sounds.

Tom Harrell and Dodo Moroni tell their stories simply, authentically.

They sing their innermost being using so-called ‘mainstream’ language … but in the end this is not important.

What counts is the profound rapport there is between the two musicians, a silent and deeply felt understanding that spans the entire CD.

What counts are the thrills provided by tunes such as ‘Humanity’ or ‘The Nearness of You,’ as well as the other tracks, revealing a touching chance of beauty.

It is in cases like this that jazz reaches the point of being the most human of all expressions of art.”

If you have been a stranger to the music of Dado Moroni, I hope this review about him will convince you to remedy that unfamiliarity with a visit to his music. I promise you that you will come away from the experience justly rewarded
.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Herb Geller

In January 1958, my family re-settled in Southern California arriving from Providence, RI via a four engine TWA “Constellation” after 10 hours flying time only still, slightly frost-bitten.

I became a mid-year enrollee in a local high school where I was soon fortunate enough to join its dance band [although the band director thought it might be a good idea if I’d learn to read music so that I could stop and start with the rest of the band!].

The enterprising first trumpet player and first alto sax player in the dance band put together a quintet in which they asked me to play drums. They booked it for gigs at dances and weddings in and around the greater Hollywood area.

The first gig I ever played was with this combo in the Hollywood Hills, outside on a terrace belonging to a Japanese restaurant that is located just down the driveway from The Magic Castle [a world-renown, magicians-only nightclub].

I got $8.00 bucks for that gig and with most of these earnings I purchased my first Contemporary Jazz LP: More Swinging Sounds: Shelly Manne & His Men, Vol. 5 [S-7519; OJCCD 320-2].

It was love-at-first-listening. I was fascinated by the cool, crisp sound of the original compositions on this recording such as pianist Russ Freeman’s The Wind, Johnny Mandel’s Tommy hawk and Bill Holman’s four part-suite Quartet, the wonderfully involved and complicated arrangements and the distinctive blend that the group achieved from Stu Williamson’s brilliant and brassy trumpet tone and Charlie Mariano’s plaintive wail on alto sax.
For a fledgling Jazz drummer, what the rhythm section of Russ Freeman on piano, Leroy Vinnegar on bass and Shelly Manne was laying down was something to aspire to; they just swung so hard!

Later in 1958, I began studying drums with Victor Feldman, who was working with Howard Rumsey’s Lighthouse All-Stars at the time and I was also religiously watching the Blake Edwards production of Peter Gunn on Monday nights [NBC at 9:00 PM; not too many gigs on Monday night, besides which it was a school night].

Imagine how delighted I was when a year later Victor informed me that he had recorded an LP with Shelly’s group based on Hank Mancini’s tunes from Peter Gunn: all of my heroes in one place!

Shelly Manne with Victor on vibes playing Hank’s hip, slick and cool music from Peter Gunn became my next Contemporary LP purchase when the album was offered for distribution in 1959 [S-7569; OJCCD 946-2].

But what Victor had failed to mention was that Stu and Charlie had since left the group and been replaced on trumpet and alto sax by Conte Candoli [whom I had heard on occasion at The Lighthouse Café in Hermosa Beach] and Herb Geller, respectively

And while I missed Charlie Mariano [whom I gather wanted to return to Boston, his hometown], my first introduction to Herb Geller’s alto sax playing was immensely satisfying and I have sought out a number of his recordings from this period.

At the age of 80, Herb is still with us, living in Germany and playing in both big band and small group settings.

In May 2002, the Los Angeles Jazz Institute sponsored a 3-day festival celebrating West Coast Jazz which was held in North Hollywood, CA and I had the immense pleasure of visiting at length with both Herb and Charlie and boring them to death with these tales of a teenager’s admiration for their music.

However, I assure you will not be bored as you read the following highly informed and cogent interview with Herb that is reprinted from Gordon Jack’s highly recommended Fifties Jazz Talk: An Oral Retrospective [Oxford: The Scarecrow Press, 2004, pp. 88-98].

[c] Copyright protected; all rights reserved.

Herb Geller, who was born on November 2, 1928, is a regular visitor to the United Kingdom, and this interview took place in March 1994 prior to an evening's engagement at the Bull's Head in Barnes. Geller wittily reminisced about a career that has spanned more than forty years, and he had fresh and original observations on people as diverse as Clifford Brown, Art Pepper Ornette Coleman, Billie Holiday, Benny Goodman, and Stan Getz.

"The first well-known bandleader I worked for was Joe Venuti in 1946, when I was seventeen years old and on vacation from Dorsey High School in L.A. We did two weeks at a theater in San Diego, and of course I found him to be a marvelous musician and a real character. Eric Dolphy and I were fellow students at Dorsey High, and we were very good friends, but the best saxophone player at the school was Vi Redd, who played better than either of us. She sounded very soulful and could play Benny Carter and Johnny Hodges solos, note for note, with a nice sound.
I also played with a band run by trumpeter Jimmy Zito off and on for about a year. He was a fine player and a good friend of mine whose claim to fame was that he had been married to June Haver, a big movie star at the time. I remember when the band was playing at a dance hall in San Francisco and every night, after work, we would go to the Filmore district to jam in after-hours clubs. One night we were packing up to go home and a little boy, no more than twelve years old, asked me if I wanted to buy a saxophone and a clarinet. I looked at them and they were both better than mine, and although I was a little wary, I took a chance and paid him the $75 he was asking. The next day I met Bob Kesterton, who was a friend of Charlie Parker's and had played on the 1947 "Lover Man" session with Howard McGhee. I told him that I had bought a sax and clarinet early that morning and he said, "I'm working with a guy who lost his last night!" We both realized what had happened and he said, "If you like, I won't say anything," but I couldn't do that, so Bob gave me the guy's telephone number and it turned out to be Paul Desmond, who confirmed they were his instruments. He came to my hotel to collect them, and this was the first time we had ever met. I mentioned the $75 I had paid, which I would like to get back, and he promised to talk to his insurance company. When he phoned me he said, "They say I shouldn't pay you, but instead I should lodge a police complaint against you!" Luckily he didn't, but a few years later I saw him in New York when he was with Dave Brubeck and I didn't have too much money. He said, "I never did give you that $75," and he paid me, which was nice. I really needed it because I was working out my union card and had very little work.
[In this 1950 photo of the Fina band taken at the Waldorf Astoria in New York Herb Geller is second from the right and Paul Desmond is fourth from the right]

After meeting him about this stolen saxophone business, I returned to L.A., where Jack Fina was organizing a band to go to New York. I was hired after auditioning, and on the drive to the first engagement in Salt Lake City, I asked who else was joining the band, and someone said, "An alto player from San Francisco called Paul Desmond." I said, "Oh no. I've just had a big experience with him!" Anyway Paul and I were roommates on the tour and became very good friends, and over the years I often saw him. He was a wonderful player - very original, with excellent melodic phrases and a very good harmonic sense. He was also a fine piano player. In the late forties, Joe Maini and Jimmy Knepper lived in an apartment in New York which became famous for all-night jam sessions. We were all friends from L.A., and Jimmy and I had grown up together, as we were both born there. Joe was born in Rhode Island but moved out with his family when he was about fourteen years old. About a year or two after the Jack Fina trip, I had returned to New York and they had an apartment on the corner of 136th Street and Broadway. It was like a twenty-four-hour jam session, where you could visit at any time and there was always music being played, together with all kinds of nefarious activities going on. The music was wild, and as I could play a little piano, at least 1 knew the right chords, I would very often end up as the pianist. Once, though, I remember playing "Out of Nowhere" on the saxophone when Charlie Parker walked in, and of course I froze. I turned to the guys and said, "I can't think of anything interesting to play!" Everybody used to go there - Dizzy, Joe Albany, Max Roach, Miles, Warne Marsh, Gerry Mulligan. In fact, if you went to Joe's, you would meet the entire "who's who" of jazz. They had two beds in the middle of the room, and sometimes you would be blowing, and Joe or Jimmy would say, "I've been up for about four days now. I'm going to bed." They would go to sleep and snore and everybody else would still be playing.

I was with Claude Thornhill for about nine months in 1950. I recorded with him in Chicago, and we also made a "Band Short" in L.A. for Universal. These were filters between movies and usually lasted about fifteen minutes. Med Flory was in the band, and a legendary character by the name of Red Kelly was on bass. What I really wanted to do at that time was to get my union card in New York, but during the six months it took to get it, I was not allowed to work. I did some playing illegally in clubs in Nyack, New York, with people like Tony Fruscella, Red Mitchell, Phil Urso, Bill Triglia, Bill Crow, and Ed Shaughnessy, and we once did a rehearsal which was taped. Years later it was issued on Xanadu Records under Tony's name, but I never did get paid for it.'
Anyway, six months to the day after applying, I got my union card and was offered three jobs. I took the one with Jerry Wald because he had a good library of At Cohn arrangements and At was to rehearse the band. Jerry played clarinet like Artie Shaw, though not nearly as well, and he wanted me to replace Gene Quill on lead alto, because they didn't get along and Gene didn't have a union card. The band was playing at the Arcadia Ballroom, where there was a strict Local 802 policy for tax reasons. Of course at first there was some resentment, because Gene was very popular with the guys and he was an excellent player, but quite soon I was accepted and everything was fine. Gene, though, was angry at me for taking his job. A couple of years later I had another unfortunate incident with him concerning a studio date with Nat Pierce. I was having dinner with Nat at his apartment, and he had to leave early for the recording. I had my alto with me, as I was going to a jam session, and about a half hour after he left, Nat telephoned to say Quill hadn't shown up and could I get down to the studio straight away. I took a cab, and as I arrived, another cab pulled up and Gene came running in. Nat was waiting and said, "Listen, Gene. Herb is going to do the date because whenever I use you, you're either late or you don't show up at all." Gene of course flipped out and said, "You can't do this" and told me that I was always taking his jobs. I felt bad and told Nat to use Gene, but he wouldn't change his mind, and naturally Gene was very bitter towards me and I can understand why. Many years later, after I moved to Germany, I heard that he was very ill. He had been badly beaten up, could never play again, and desperately needed money for his family. I sent him $100 and received a well-typed letter, signed in barely legible handwriting, "Thank you, Gene Quill." He was a wonderful player.
Another fine altoist from that period was Dave Schildkraut, who was quite superb and was one of the greatest. I don't know what happened, but he just seemed to stop playing and started working for his father, who had a grocery store and didn't like jazz musicians. It was a sad situation because there was no drug or alcohol problem; he was just a nice Jewish boy from Brooklyn who played great alto and fantastic clarinet. He was very creative and original with his own sound, and he had made a recording with Miles. I never heard of him again, but he was one of the best saxophone players I knew, just sensational.'
Early in 1952 I married Lorraine Walsh, who was an excellent jazz pianist. She could play every tune in any key, tempo, or style, and she had a very rhythmic feel, so of course she was much in demand as an accompanist. I was with Jerry Wald at the time, but quite soon I had an offer to join Billy May, who was coming to the New York Paramount Theatre, which was very well paid. Willie Smith was the other alto, and to sit next to him was a great thrill for me. I was with Billy May for about five months, and when the band went back to L.A., I took Lorraine with me to meet my parents. We decided to stay, because suddenly L.A. was very promising. There was a lot of jazz going on and general recording activity, as this was the beginning of what the critics were calling West Coast Jazz.
When I first arrived there, I sometimes worked in striptease clubs, because I knew "Night Train" and "Harlem Nocturne," which I suppose qualified me! Lenny Bruce was the comic at several clubs, and we got to know each other real well. He loved jazz music and jazz musicians, so we would hang out together, and sometimes Joe Maini and I would split a job. If I had a jazz gig, he would cover for me at the strip club, and vice versa. It was a wild scene, and all three of us were very close. Later on I worked with Lenny at an infamous burlesque club called Duffy's Gaiety near Santa Monica Boulevard. He was the M.C., his wife Honey Harlow was stripping, and I was the bandleader, with Lorraine on piano. We also had different drummers at various times, like Philly Joe Jones and Lawrence Marable. Philly Joe became very tight with Lenny, who taught him his Dracula routine, which Philly Joe recorded as "Blues for Dracula." During the drum solo, he did a monologue imitating Lenny imitating Bela Lugosi. Jack Sheldon was there every night, because Lenny was really infamous then, not quite a star yet, but "in" to the real hip people. Bob Hope, Hedy Lamarr, Ernie Kovacs, and a lot of movie people came, and I remember Bing Crosby's son Gary used to date the girls. Someone should write the story of Duffy's Gaiety, because every night was an adventure .
I played a lot with Chet Baker, and we got along real well. We made an album together in 1953 with Bob Gordon and Jack Montrose, and despite what you hear, Chet could read music, although he was not a sight-reader. After playing the part through slowly a few times, he could play it perfectly. In fact, nobody could play it better. Early in 1953, when he and Gerry Mulligan were at the Haig, Gerry eloped with a waitress from the club and Chet asked for me, because he needed another horn in the quartet to keep working. We played for about three weeks, until Gerry got back from his honeymoon, by which time he was probably divorced already!
Bob Gordon was a wonderful baritone player who was just establishing himself when he was killed in an automobile accident. In 1988, when I was in New York for a recording session with Benny Carter, I met a young man who said, "You knew my stepfather, Bob Gordon." The youngster played alto, and he played very well. I saw Jack Montrose as recently as 1992 in Las Vegas, where he and his wife, who is a violinist, work in the shows. He is a dear friend and I like him very much personally, but jazz-wise, I don't know what happened. He is semi-retired now, but for a long time he was writing classical music. He studied the twelve-tone system and has written lots of twelve-tone music that will never be played, and he knows it will never be played. But he owns his own house, has a lovely wife, and they are O.K. in Vegas.

In the mid fifties, Lorraine and I would often play Tuesday nights at Zardi's. Tuesday was the off-night for the main visiting attraction who would play the rest of the week there. Of course the management left the star's name outside all week, and people would come up to me thinking I was Dave Brubeck. One time, I swear to God someone said, "You are Miles Davis, aren't you?" He was there for the other six nights, and they mistook a white saxophone player for Miles Davis. That's how much they knew about jazz.
In 1954, I recorded with Clifford Brown and Dinah Washington . We were all under contract to Mercury, who wanted to use several of their artists in a jam-session setting with a live audience, rather like "Jazz at the Philharmonic." The highlight for me was playing with Clifford, who was a marvelous, extraordinary human being and musician. He was one of the nicest people you could meet, and a complete "natural" who could play anything. Rather like Chet, he could pick up any instrument and fool around for a while, and then play it real well. I remember once when Max Roach, who had been playing at the Lighthouse with Lorraine, decided to have a party. A lot of jazz people were there, and everyone was smoking and drinking except Brownie, who didn't smoke or drink at all. He never swore and was just a lovely person: clean-cut, unassuming, and modest. Anyway, Max had been carrying a set of vibes with him everywhere he went, but he never touched them, just set them in a comer. Clifford started fooling around with them, and in about an hour or so he was playing with four mallets. Max was furious. He'd had them for years and couldn't even play a scale, but Clifford learned to play them while everyone was getting drunk. He was such a loss, because there is nobody today to match him. I mean Freddie Hubbard is wonderful, Wynton Marsalis can play, but I don't hear in anyone what I heard in Brownie. His sound was so beautiful and soulful, with such a sparkling way of playing.
One of the records Lorraine and I made together was with Ziggy Vines, who is probably almost forgotten today. He was even obscure at the time, and Leonard Feather, who did the sleeve-note for the album, thought he was actually a pseudonym for Georgie Auld, but he really did exist. He came from a very rich family in Philadelphia and had a natural, unbelievable talent. He was a legend in New York when I first met him, although he never seemed to have a horn, but he sure could play. One day in 1955, out of a clear blue sky he telephoned, saying, "It's me, Ziggy Vines. I'm in L.A., and I need some money. Have you got any work for me?" Lorraine and I were just about to do a quintet album with Conte Candoli, and I thought it would be a good idea to rewrite it for a sextet using Ziggy. Two days before the date, he phoned again and said, "I need a horn, a mouthpiece, some reeds, and a place to stay." I lent him my tenor, bought him some reeds and a mouthpiece, and arranged for him to move in with Lorraine and me. Anyway, he came to the date, and although he hadn't touched a saxophone for quite a time, he played just great because he was a natural, swinging musician. I don't know what happened to him after that, but there is a rumor that he was taped playing with Clifford Brown the night before Brownie was killed in Philadelphia.
In the late fifties Don Cherry stayed at my house for a while, when he and his wife were evicted from their apartment, but I never really cared for his music. He was playing in a "free" way even then, because he couldn't play normally. People said that he and Ornette Coleman could play changes, but I don't believe it, man. I heard Ornette's recording of "Embraceable You," and it's a laugh. I'm sorry, but that's not "Embraceable You." I mean, put him to the test - the Emperor has no clothes. They both played some nice, folksy, rather primitive, naive-sounding things that had a certain charm, but I couldn't take their approach seriously, even to this day. Ornette came to my house once because he wanted to have his music corrected. He showed me his tunes, and they were a catastrophe, because the bar lines were in the wrong place and there were no chord symbols. He took his saxophone out, and I notated what he played. I asked him what chord he was using, and he blew the arpeggio of a G chord thinking it was a B minor. He just didn't know anything about chords. Years later he was talking about George Russell's Lydian Concept, so I asked him if he had found out the difference between B minor and G yet! I liked Omette as a person, and he did a sweet thing after my wife died. He wrote a piece which I think he called "Lorraine," and I was very touched by that.' Some of his tunes have haunting melodies, but I don't really care for that type of playing. I can play "free," but it's just a lot of meandering about, and anyone can meander; you buy an instrument and make a record in two weeks! Charlie Mariano and Art Pepper were very active in California during the fifties. Charlie and I were always friends, and I took his place with Shelly Manne's group when he wanted to go home to Boston. I have always liked the way he plays, and among my contemporaries, I would say that he is my favorite. He is very original and plays with a lot of soul in a completely different style to me, which is great. I don't bother him, and he doesn't bother me! Regarding Art Pepper, I have to say that there was never any love lost between us, or between Art and Joe Maini, or Art and anyone else for that matter, because nobody liked him personally. Musically it's a matter of taste, but I was never much of a fan, to tell you the truth. He played well, but I don't think there was any great content, and Joe was of the same opinion.

I'll tell you a funny story concerning the three of us. Both Art and Joe had been to jail, and there had been rumors that Art had named names. You get arrested and the police say, "Just give us some names and we'll let you off." The word for that is a "fink" and that's what people were calling Art. Anyway, there was an after-hours club in the fifties on Hollywood Boulevard where Bill Holman had the group, along with Lorraine, Mel Lewis, and a bass player whose name I have forgotten, and musicians would go there after their gigs to jam. Joe Maini and I would usually go together, and one night we met Art in the parking lot, getting ready to go in, and it's, "Hi, Art," "Hi, Herb, Hi. Joe," bla, bla, bla. Art's wife, Diane, who was a pretty out-front woman, said. "How can you be so friendly, when you know that you all hate each other?" Art said to Joe, "Yeah, you've been going around telling everyone that I'm a fink and that's not true." Joe said, "Listen, I was in the joint too, and I would never call anyone a fink, unless I really knew for sure. I didn't call you a fink: all I said was that you couldn't blow shit, man. I've been telling everyone that!" They were going to start fighting, and Joe whispered quietly to me. "Hold me back." I grabbed him real tight while he shouted out loudly, for Art's benefit, "Let me go, let me at him!" Diane did the same thing with Art. saying, "Don't do it, don't do it." Luckily they were being held by two strong people so nothing happened, but it was a wild incident.

I joined Benny Goodman's band thanks to Andre Previn, who was a good friend of mine. Benny, who idolized Andre, had asked him for a lead alto player and he recommended me. I did three tours with the band, but the first one in November 1958 was a big event in my life because, after I was rehearsing all day, my mother called to say that Lorraine had died. I left the band in New York for the funeral and to make arrangements for my one-year old daughter to be adopted by my sister. Later I telephoned Benny and asked if I could come back, and he said, "Great. We miss you." He was so nice, and I know you hear many bad stories about him, but he was just wonderful to me at a very trying time, really taking care of me. He paid very well, and whenever he was interviewed, he would mention me and praise me a lot. I also recorded with him when he wanted to re-record some of his original classics in stereo, which was a great thrill.
Of course I was emotionally distraught with the death of my wife and the adoption of my daughter because I couldn't provide a proper home for her, but I kept busy. One night I had a call from a lady who said that a friend of mine was in town and wanted to surprise me at the club where I was playing, and would I give her the address? I was working in a burlesque club on Santa Monica Boulevard called the Pink Pussycat. Later that night, I was playing "Night Train" or some boogie-woogie thing with my eyes closed, and I felt a hand on my shoulder. It was Stan Getz, a very old and dear friend who I loved very much. Just like Benny Goodman, I've heard a lot of terrible stories of what he did to other people, but to me, he was just a great human being. During the intermission we talked, and he suggested that I go to Europe for a while. I had already given some thought to that, because L.A. had too many memories, and Stan said he would contact the owner of the Montmarte club in Copenhagen to get me some work while I decided what to do, and that's how I came to leave the U.S.A.
One of the first people I met in Europe was Brew Moore, who I was very fond of. I remember during the Berlin Jazz Festival they had a theme called -'The History of the Tenor Sax," and Brew represented the Lester Young school. All the guys got completely drunk after the concert, and the next morning he called me over to his hotel in a panic. Apparently he had been so drunk that he had left his horn, coat, and wallet in a taxicab and had thrown up all over his clothes. He had sent his suit out to be cleaned, and when I arrived, he was sitting in his underwear. He said, "Herb, I can't speak German and nobody here speaks any English. I've lost my horn; I don't have my passport, and I can't get out of Berlin without it. What am I going to do?" Luckily the story had a happy ending because he sobered up, recovered everything, and got out of Berlin alive! Do you know the sad story of how he died? He inherited a lot of money from his grandfather I think, gave a huge party to celebrate and, in the middle of everything, fell down some stairs and died of a broken neck. It could only happen to a jazz musician. He was a wonderful, natural player, like Zoot. It was strictly talent and intuition with both of them.
Getting back to Stan Getz, we first met in L.A. in 1946 or '47. He had left Benny Goodman in New York, and he was waiting to get his union card, so he didn't have too much work or money, and of course he had his first wife, Beverly, and a child to support. We were both playing tenor in a band led by Dick Pierce. Stan played lead and I was on second, although I never really was a tenor player, but I was so fascinated by the way he played, I asked him for a lesson to show me some of the things he was doing. I had never heard a style like that because at that time, when I played tenor, I had Ben Webster and Don Byas in mind, but Stan had a different approach. I spent several hours at his house, and he showed me many things to practice, and at the end of the lesson, he gave me a mouthpiece, saying, "That will help you get the sound you want." Now Stan didn't have any money, and I wanted to pay him for the lesson, because I had learned a lot, but he wouldn't take anything; he was just great.

There's very little in jazz today that I enjoy. When I get depressed or nee a mood change, I put on some old Billie Holiday and she does it every time for me, because immediately I'm touched. Of course I listen to Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington, Bill Evans, Art Tatum, and Clifford Brown. I have exotic tastes; I also listen to Mildred Bailey and Stephen Sondheim musicals as you know, but I don't listen to my own records because it makes me nervous and I never like what I play. I like Don Byas, who is almost ignored no

but nobody plays that good. He had such a beautiful, musical sound, which tenor players don't have today. Everybody thinks that "baagh!" is the sound and that's not for me. [Here, Herb imitated a high-pitched whine, so popular with many post-Coltrane tenor players.] Two more of my favorites are Zoot Sims and George Coleman. One of the greatest jazz musicians of all time was Artie Shaw; his records still sound great. The two biggest disappointments it my life were that I never played with Artie Shaw or the Duke Ellington Orchestra. Once in Las Vegas, when I was with Louis Bellson and Pearl Bailey I played with Basie's band because Frank Wess was sick. That was exciting but nothing like playing with Shaw or Duke.

At this stage of the interview, I showed Herb a copy of Leonard Feather' 1956 Encyclopedia of Jazz, where one hundred and twenty leading player. were asked to name their favorite instrumentalists. He was one of those canvassed, and I asked him who his choices would be now.

As I made clear earlier, it would be Clifford Brown and Chet Baker on trumpet, along with Roy Eldridge, Dizzy, and Fats Navarro. On trombone, I like Teagarden, J.J., Jimmy Knepper, Bob Brookmeyer, and Slide Hampton. On alto, my favorites haven't really changed; they're still Parker, Sonny Stitt. Johnny Hodges, Benny Carter, Willie Smith, and Charlie Mariano. Tenors are Al Cohn, Zoot Sims, Don Byas, George Coleman, and Stan Getz. On baritone, I like Gerry Mulligan very, very much. Pepper Adams was a wonderful player, as is Nick Brignola, but the most musical of all has to be Gerry, because he doesn't just play a lot of bebop hot licks. He is composing when he plays, and that's what I like.' On clarinet, it's Goodman, Artie Shaw, Ken Peplowski, and Eddie Daniels. And on flute, I think Hubert Laws is marvelous. Milt Jackson is terrific, but my all-time favorite on vibes is Victor Feldman. Pianists are Tatum, Bud Powell, Horace Silver, Bill Evans, and Joe Albany. And bass has to be Jimmy Blanton, Ray Brown, Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen, and Red Mitchell. Red was a one-man rhythm section. I could play all night in a duo with him, and it would be terrific. Drummers I like are Kenny
Clarke, Philly Joe Jones, and Sid Catlett. And Mel Torme and Tony Bennett are my favorite male vocalists. I saw Tony Bennett recently and he is singing better than ever, and he has such taste. I'm not really a fan of Frank Sinatra, although in the old days he sang well, and "Only the Lonely" was nice. But for me, Bennett is far superior. Girl singers I like are Carmen McRae, Helen Merrill, Ella, and Peggy Lee, but Billie is my all-time champion. She is the only one who can make me cry or laugh within eight bars; she reaches that much of a spectrum of emotion. The best arrangers are people like Gil Evans, John Lewis, Billy May, George Russell, A] Cohn, Bob Brookmeyer, and Gerry Mulligan. Kenny Napper is also a fine writer.

Charlie Parker's music is very important to Herb, so I asked him what he thought of Med Flory and Supersax.

Med is an excellent musician, and we are old friends. He is a man of many talents, because he plays the saxophone, sings, arranges, acts, and he does everything well. All I can say is that I heard Charlie Parker's recording of "Parker's Mood" on the radio recently, and immediately after, they played the Supersax version. Bird's record moves me to tears, and Supersax left me cold. It's a tribute and a work of love, showing great dexterity and hard work transcribing, but I would much rather hear the genuine article. Also, I don't like the way they voice the saxes, with the baritone doubling the lead. As a result, :he inner voices are very dull, because they don't move well.

I liked Clint Eastwood's film Bird, and I have it on video. Lennie Niehaus and I have been friends for years, and I think the way he recreated the string parts on "April in Paris" was masterful. The whole film was a work of love, and my hat is off to Lennie. I still remember his first arrangement on "Seems Like Old Times" for a non-union Latin band that we worked for in the early fifties in L.A.
I have just retired after twenty-eight years playing for the North German Radio Orchestra, but I like to keep busy, because I'm a workaholic. I teach a lot and I'm a professor at two universities, and I have also been involved in two musicals. The first one concerns all these stories I have been telling you. About five years ago, a friend told me that I should write my memoirs, and I said that if I ever did, it would be in the form of a musical. Soon afterwards I heard that Joe Albany had died, and he was a very important figure in my life. He was the first avant-garde jazz pianist, if you like, playing across bar lines ignoring strict tempo, and playing wild chords. He was very emotional and sometimes played poorly, but when he was "on," it was just fantastic. The Herald Tribune, however, gave him about three lines. Soon afterwards Chet Baker and Al Cohn died, and I was very touched. I wrote songs with lyrics for all three, and I thought, "What am I going to do with these songs?" That was when I decided to turn my memoirs into a musical, and I put words to an older original of mine called "Playing Jazz," which has become the title of the show. I came up with a story, writing twenty songs in all, and recorded it for the N.D.R., but I am not too happy with the results, as it needs more work.

I was also asked to write the music for a show based on Josephine Baker, called Josephine for a Day, which opened in Frankfurt in February, and I have just heard that it is a hit. One of the reviews called it "A show that nobody should miss." I hope that with the success of Josephine I will be able to have my own show, “Playing Jazz,” staged.