“Bud Shank is too much. I told him I had his contract ready but I can’t get him to leave California. He was the greatest part of the Kenton Neophonic concert the other night, and he was even greater with us the last two days [recording the film score for Assault on a Queen]. He even shook up Johnny Hodges. Bud Shank is something else.”
– Duke Ellington, 1966
- Steven A. Cerra, introduction © Copyright protected; all rights reserved.
From the perspective of “my world and welcome to it” [with apologies to James Thurber], the guys I grew up with in Southern California in the late 1950s were all wannabe Jazz musicians. Our idols were the musicians who made up the Jazz scene on the West Coast at that time.
I was the runt of the bunch, as much because I was the youngest, relatively small in physical stature [I’ve since filled out a bit, unfortunately, in all the wrong directions] and because I was the drummer. In other words, barely tolerated as a fellow musician. Who cared: I got to play!
To the older guys that I hung out with, Bud Shank was the epitome of West Coast “Cool.” He was a tall, broad shouldered, good looking guy with a brush cut, who drove a sport car and who always seemed to have a good-looking babe on his arm. And, he also played the heck out of the alto saxophone.
Bud, however, was not just another pretty-face or wastrel artist-type. Rather, he was the living embodiment of the motto of my tax and financial advisor: “Work hard, put some of your earnings away and remember that it’s not all yours.”
Government, in its many manifestations, makes sure that none of us forgets the last part of this caveat. Uncharacteristically for a musician, Bud excelled at getting the “put some of your earnings away” part right, too. For although he appeared to be a young man who enjoyed a good time, it would seem that he also put some of his money to work in real estate investments, et al.; a not-too-common experience for a Jazz musician.
Of course, I didn’t really know any of this at the time, and if I had, it probably wouldn’t have made much of an impression on me. All I cared about was playing Jazz in any format, morning, noon or night.
Interestingly, as some of us grew older and a few of us grew up, Bud’s business acumen and practices became a standard of responsibility that many of us attempted to emulate. I’ll bet he never thought of himself as a role model in quite this manner.
But for me, during these early years, Bud Shank was more like the geometric head start – I never caught up to him. At least not in actual space and time.
He was long gone from The Lighthouse Café in Hermosa Beach by the time I started frequenting the club [1957-1959]. And although trumpeter Conte Candoli or tenor saxophonist Richie Kamuca and even bassist Scott LaFaro might drop by the club and sit in while I was there, I never caught Bud playing at that [even then] revered venue.
Yet, ironically, the first album by The Lighthouse All-Stars that I acquired had Bud playing with the group. He’s even prominently displayed on its cover.
In 1959, a quintet I was with played The Athenaeum Club, a members-only club on the campus of Cal Tech University in Pasadena, CA. Bud, too, gave a concert at Cal Tech. Unfortunately for me, it was three years earlier!.
The following year found me hanging out quite a bit at Jazz City, a club in Hollywood. Bud Shank’s Quartet appeared at the club that year, but the only alto player I heard perform there was Buddy Collette; a wonderful alto saxophonist in his own right, but not Bud Shank. Gerald Wilson was on trumpet with Buddy’s group which also featured Earl Palmer on drums before Earl (along with Hal Blaine and Jim Keltner) ensconced himself in the studios and made a gazillion dollars recording as a rock drummer.
For reasons of location and chronology [I was living in Providence, RI and was around 9 years of age], I had missed Bud’s work as the lead alto player in the Stan Kenton’s Innovations Band of the early 1950s. Thanks to a government paid excursion overseas for most of 1965-66, I also missed that orchestra’s “Second Coming” in the form of Kenton’s Neophonic Orchestra in which Bud once again played a leading role – this time as a featured soloist.
Upon my return, I worked a series of casuals with alto saxophonist Fred Selden in a group that would later include pianist Milcho Leviev, after those two met while on the Don Ellis Band. The first time Fred had a chance to open up a bit on one of these gigs, I was startled at how closely his tone and his phrasing resembled those of Bud Shank’s.
While being sensitive not to offend him, when I gently mentioned to Fred during one of the breaks how much his playing reminded me of Bud’s, he got this shocked expression on his face and was at a loss for words for a moment.
I thought, “Oh, Boy. Here it comes. I’ve really screwed up and upset the guy.” But instead, Fred was overwhelmed by the comparison with Bud and took it as a great compliment! As I later found out, from this young man who would play first alto in Don Ellis’ challenging aggregation and go on to become a first call alto and flute studio player – Bud Shank was and always has been his hero.
[At this point, I am tempted to say that if memory serves me right, Fred may have actually studied with Bud, but these days, memory doesn’t always serve me right – you get the idea.]
But I still had yet to hear Bud Shank perform in person!
Thanks to my friendship with Fred, I was able to borrow some of Bud’s LP’s that were new to me and it was great fun going back over a decade’s worth of Shank’s recorded music.
Much of the music from Bud’s early career has been collected and released as CDs in the Mosaic Records set entitled: The Pacific Jazz Bud Shank Studio Sessions [MD5-180]. What comes to mind when I listen to Bud play is his honesty. Anyone who has ever attempted to play Jazz knows that you ultimately express who you are through your horn. With Bud, I always have the feeling of an unending search as he tries to arrive at an honest expression of his feelings through the music.
Another result of Bud’s constant quest is that his style is constantly changing, sometimes, dramatically. Ted Gioia also notes this tendency:
“Shank’s musical evolution … [in] the decade of the 1950s found … [him] undergoing a gradual shift from a cool player to a hot one, a change that reached it’s culmination in the 1980s. … Unlike the stylistic continuity that marked the work of Chet Baker, Shorty Rogers, or Paul Desmond, Shank’s playing has continued to evolve….” [West Coast Jazz: Modern Jazz in California, 1945-1960, p. 216].
Listening to Bud play also reminds me of the anecdote that Chuck Israels tells about alto saxophonist Phil Woods while attending a rehearsal of the Quincy Jones band.
“I listened to a number of pieces in which there were solos played by various members of the band. It would be unfair to say that those solos were perfunctory, but later, when Phil Woods stood up from the lead alto chair to play his solo feature, the atmosphere changed. Phil played as if there were no tomorrow. [emphasis mine]
The contrast was striking and I have always remembered the impression it left. If you practice rehearsing, then when it comes time to perform, you are ready to rehearse. Phil practiced performing.”
I can’t think of a more apt way to describe a Bud Shank solo than to say that he, too, brings it all every time. He doesn’t short-change anyone, least of all himself.
Not surprisingly, these qualities of honesty and integrity carry over from music into Bud’s verbal expressions as well. If you ask him for an opinion, you’d better be prepared for an answer – his!
For example, as the Jazz scene began to wane in Los Angeles in the mid-1960s, Shank was asked by a critic in a 1987 interview if, upon reflection, he thought his move into the studios was a copout. Bud responded:
“You have to eat. You have to survive. When I became a full-time studio musician, I had been unemployed for a long time since jazz music left us in 1962-63 or whenever. At that time, I don’t think a lot of us realized what was going on, but some American jazz musicians ended up here in Europe, some gave up playing all together, some went off into never-never land by whatever chemical they could find, and there were some who went into another business. That’s what I did. I went into another business using the tools that I had, which was playing the flute and the saxophone. Consider that a copout? I don’t.” [Roger Cotterrell, “Bud Shank: A New Image,” Jazz Forum, March, 1987, p. 25 as quoted in Ted Gioia’s West Coast Jazz: Modern Jazz in California, 1945-1960, p. 218].
Fortunately for the Jazz world and especially for me, Bud made the decision to leave the studios and return to playing Jazz. As part of his re-involvement with the music, he also began making a number of appearances beginning in the 1990s and continuing up to the current year at the 4-day weekend events put on each year in May and October under the auspices of the Los Angeles Jazz Institute [LAJI].
In keeping with the mission of the LAJI, many of the themes for these events have to do specifically with Stan Kenton and more generally with Jazz on the West Coast from about 1945 – 1965.
It was at one of these LAJI events almost forty years later that I finally had the opportunity to see and hear Bud Shank perform. It’s been a cornucopia of riches ever since as I have been back to these events a number of times to hear him in small group, big band and even in panel discussion settings and he is still speaking his mind [and his heart] very directly in all of them.
Frequent visitors to the Jazz Profiles site are by now familiar with the custom of its editorial staff to try, whenever possible, to represent not only Jazz music and its makers, but also to bring forward great writing on the subject of Jazz.
In keeping with these efforts, Michael Cuscuna of Mosaic Records and Doug Ramsey, writer par excellence on all things Jazz, have graciously consented to allow Jazz Profiles to reprint the 1998 interview that Doug conducted with Bud for the insert notes to the Mosaic Bud Shank anthology [the album covers and photographs are our choices].
It doesn’t get any better than Doug Ramsey and Bud Shank talking about Jazz, except, of course, listening to Bud play it.
What follows is © copyright protected; all rights reserved.
“When I spent a couple of days with Shank and his wife Linda at their house in the woods near Port Townsend, Washington, he hadn't listened to this music since the original LP, THE BUD SHANK QUARTET, was released 42 years earlier. If the child is father of the man, then the thin, crew cut, diffident, inward-looking Bud Shank begat his opposite number. His substantial figure comfortable on a couch in a music room above a spacious lawn surrounded by tall pines, Shank agreed to do something he detests, look backward in music. With a mane of grey hair and a beard that squares off a solid jaw, he has the look of a Victorian sea captain. His appearance is appropriate to the history of the seafaring town he lives in, but one floor below is a garage containing his collection of Porsches and an Infiniti Q45. Shank's laugh comes often and usually accompanies strong opinions. It has resonance and a certain wryness. I persuaded him to listen to BAG OF BLUES, Bob Cooper's unusual composition.
(A) January 25, 1956
When it was over, he said, laughing, "I was very young at the time. Formative period. Still learning. Still searching.
I could see evidence of some of those influences we talked about. Spots of Zoot Sims, spots of Lee Konitz, spots of Charlie Parker."
I told him, "When you were listening to yourself play a double-time passage, you said, 'Show-off."'
"Well, yeah, but I really wasn't into showing off in those days. It came from some musical reason, but it didn't fit the flow of what I was doing before or after. I guess that's why it disturbed me. Again, that's the mish-mosh of different influences that were in me in those days. I didn't have it together yet."
I asked him about the rhythm section.
"Claude was all Bud Powell, and Chuck was all Philly Joe Jones. Don Prell was still back in the '30s somewhere - four on the floor, boom-boom - with all due respect to Don, who's a very close friend of mine. It was just a matter of the concept. Don's playing that way held us all together, in fact. He was one of the first people I met when I got to L.A. in 1946. We just sort of started a friendship off and on. I had a tremendous respect for his musicianship. He later ended up with the San Francisco Symphony for years. He retired from the orchestra two or three years ago. Every time I go to San Francisco, we see each other."
Flores, five days into his 22nd year, had just left the edition of Woody Herman's herd known as the Road Band. With Herman, he attracted widespread admiration for his ability to kick a big band into a state of sustained, heated swing.
"Actually," Shank said, "when he started with us, he was still playing the same way. In The Haig, that didn't work too well. Little bit too much, but that fixed itself after a while. I was really surprised the way he was playing here. Sounded great. I loved those bombs he was dropping."
NATURE Boy and NOCTURNE FOR FLUTE are in the mood of LOTUS BUD, a Shorty Rogers ballad that Shank recorded in 1954 on a Nocturne session later issued on Pacific Jazz. Audiences seemed to demand the flute. Shank complied, not happily.
"At The Haig, I would be playing things with the saxophone and I would notice that I was losing the audience. Quickly, I'd pick up the flute, using it as a crutch. I did this for years, saying, 'well, there must be something wrong with my saxophone playing.' This is analysis, looking back; I didn't know what the hell was going on when I was doing it."
How little was wrong with his saxophone playing is made clear in WALKIN', ALL THIS AND HEAVEN TOO, DO NOTHING TILL YOU HEAR FROM ME, JUBILATION and CARIOCA. His treatment of Vincent Youmans's classic Latin knock-off begins with the sensibility of his collaborations with Laurindo Almeida and quickly transmutes into pure hop. With the exception of those caught in the war between beboppers and moldy figs that was manufactured by know-nothing critics in the 1940s, no musicians have been more unfairly typecast than the young jazz players of Los Angeles in the 1950s.
"Neither Claude nor Chuck nor I was playing what was known as 'west coast jazz' music at that time," Shank said. "That happened a few years before then, and we were all breaking away from that."
"Meaning what?" I asked. "What were you breaking away from?"
"The very delicate way that we all played in earlier years...," he stopped in mid-sentence. "I don't even know what the hell west coast Jazz is," he said, with exasperation and no wry laugh. "It was something different from what they were doing in New York, so the critics called it west coast jazz. That Miles Davis BIRTH OF THE COOL album, out of New York, probably started west coast jazz. It was also very organized, predetermined, written. It was a little bit more intellectual, shall I say, than had happened before. Jimmy Giuffre, Buddy Childers, Shorty, Shelly Manne, Marty Paich, Coop, almost everybody involved; we all came from somewhere else, New York, Texas, Chicago, Ohio. The fact that we were in L.A. around the orange trees had nothing to do with it. I really think that everybody played the way they would have played no matter where they were. New York writers, they're the ones who invented west coast jazz.,,
"Those bastards," I said.
"Those bastards," he said, laughing uproariously.
Between 1951 and 1956, The Haig was a jazz delivery room. In the little house on Wilshire Boulevard across from the Ambassador Hotel, a block from The Brown Derby, were born the quartets of Gerry Mulligan, Chet Baker, Laurindo Almeida, Shorty Rogers and Bud Shank. The club was tiny. The owner, John Bennett, ran it on a shoestring so short that although by law the club had to serve food, there was no kitchen. When a customer ordered a sandwich, the waiter stalled him while someone ran down the street to The Brown Derby for takeout. If someone ordered a brand of liquor not in stock, he had to wait until the band took a break and one of the musicians was dispatched to the nearest jar shop. In Shank's quartet, that was usually Chuck Flores's job; he was the youngest.
"It was a marvelous place to work in," Shank said. "It was so intimate, no sound system was necessary. It held maybe 50 people. Business was always good. We did very well while we were in there, from January until July. It was a great period. The place lasted until a year or so after that. Then somebody bought the property and bulldozed the whole thing."
I asked Shank how much he was paid at The Haig. A meticulous keeper of records, he went to an anteroom and retrieved a ledger listing 50 years of gigs.
"One-hundred forty-two bucks a week," he said. "Cleared $112. Everyone was paid individually."
In the summer of 1956, Shank and his band hit the road. From the ledger, here's the itinerary: The Newport Jazz Festival; a week at the Blue Note in Philadelphia; a concert in Shanks hometown, Dayton; the Rouge Lounge in Detroit; the Cotton Club in Cleveland; The Continental in Hartford; Olivia's Patio Lounge in Washington, D.C.; the New York jazz Festival; Olivia's again; The Modern Jazz Room in Chicago; Basin Street in New York; the Colonial Tavern in Toronto; a concert in Buffalo; the Storyville club in Boston; Chicago and the Blue Note again; a return to Detroit and the Rouge Lounge; back to L.A. in November for a series of dates at Jazz City in Hollywood; and into The Haig in December.
(B) NOVEMBER 7 & 8,1956 It was a tight, seasoned quartet Shank took into the studio after nearly half a year on the road. The confidence and increased mastery in his playing are obvious throughout; in the Lester Young drive and relaxation of his solo on JIVE AT FIVE; in the appropriateness and naturalness of the Charlie Parker quote in SOFTLY AS IN A MORNING SUNRISE; in his energy and effortless changes of pace in Williamson's suite, TERTIA. Even his flute work, particularly in A NIGHT IN TUNISIA, has a harder edge, a toughness.
Gazing into the trees, Shank says, "I can hear myself become more and more a stronger player through this period."
Always in demand by fellow musicians for recording dates, Shank's jazz studio activity intensified in 1957. He recorded as a sideman with Pete Rugolo, Mel Torme, June Christy, Russ Freeman, Bill Perkins, Peggy Lee, The Modernaires, Georgie Auld, his close friend Bob Cooper and dozens of others. As motion picture and television studios began slowly to accept the idea that jazz players might be real musicians, Shank's versatility and dependable musicianship put him onto a new path. That path would lead to financial comfort and artistic frustration. Years later, Shank would jump off it, with dramatic results. For now, he was doing well in both worlds. His next recording was an anomaly, a surprise, a re-emphasis of his jazz roots.
(C) NOVEMBER 29, 1957
Shank had played tenor as a sideman on a few record dates, but for the most part his old 10M Conn stayed in the closet after his rhythm and blues days with George Redmond. Having learned that Chuck Flores was about to be drafted, he told Dick Bock of Pacific Jazz that he wanted to make a record before Flores left. Bock asked him what kind of record. Shank - he doesn't remember why - said he would record some standards on tenor.
"After that heavy discussion," he told me, "we went in and did the record. There was no preparation. There were no arrangements. We just did it. HAVE BLUES, WILL TRAVEL was done for one of Dick's anthologies, not the original tenor album."
Like the tenor players he admires most - Stan Getz, Zoot Sims and Al Cohn - Shank was clearly under the spell of Lester Young, but only the most superficial listener would mistake him for any of those tenor men. What did he think, hearing himself on tenor after all these years?
"I'm pleasantly surprised. I like it. I wouldn't have known who the hell it was," he said with a laugh. "I think I would have recognized myself on some of the tracks here. The one we were listening to, ALL THE THINGS YOU ARE, I would probably not have been able to guess that it was me. I started as a tenor player. It's still in me. But I never developed any particular 'style' of playing, an identifiable style. It takes time to do that, but I was very pleased with what I heard."
(D) APRIL 23, 1958
Shank and Cooper had made a quick tour of Europe in 1957. In early 1958, they returned for a package tour with their quintet and Cooper’s wife, the singer June Christy. Drummer Jimmy Pratt substituted for Flores, who didn't want to go back on the road. The six-month expedition included a side trip for a series of concerts in South Africa, sponsored by Natal University. While they were there, Shank was urged by fans to record. He called Bock in Los Angeles to see whether Pacific Jazz wanted to pay for an album. Pacific Jazz did not. The South African enthusiasts raised the money, and one day Shank, Williamson, Prell and Pratt found themselves in what was described as a studio.
"It was just a room," Shank told me, "not much bigger than this one, and it had a solid wood floor and cement sides. It was full of people. We got rid of them. Then we played a tune. It just boomed. Every note would reverberate, 'buduhdoot.' I can't imagine what they ever recorded in there. I said, 'bring blankets, blankets, blankets.' So, they went out and got blankets from somewhere and started putting them around the room to deaden the sound a little bit. Well, it didn't do enough, but we decided to go ahead."
Then came the pennywhistle challenge. The record company people learned that admirers had given Shank one of the ubiquitous instruments beloved of children and amateurs and heard on street corners everywhere in South Africa. He had experimented with it in his hotel room. He had no thought of recording on it. The producers (to conjure up a job title for them) insisted that the quartet do something to honor African music. They produced a thumb piano for Williamson, gave Pratt a native drum and Prell a Nigerian bamboo harp. The result was A TRIBUTE TO THE AFRICAN PENNYWHISTLERS.
"I just made up something," Shank said. "It was a blues. The stupid pennywhistle ended up, as I remember, in the key of A-flat, by accident, because nobody down there ever played a pennywhistle with anything other than just a rhythm section, not another keyed instrument. I learned how to play the damn thing while I was making this record. When I first start playing it, I'm squeaking and very tentative and as it goes along, after about 20 choruses, I begin to figure it out."
Goofy as the assignment may have been, the performance has a good deal of charm and Shank seems to take modified pride in having subdued and adapted an instrument not remotely suitable for jazz improvisation. The band returned to their customary instruments for the other six tunes, which include three impressive Shank compositions, CHARITY RAG, MISTY EYES and WALTZIN' THE BLUES AWAY. After a shadowy life on obscure European labels, some of them pirates, this is the AFRICA album's first release in the United States.
(E) JUNE 30, 1958
The second version of MISTY EYES is not an alternate take from the South Africa album but a studio recording made later in Los Angeles and issued on a Playboy anthology. If any more material was recorded with this group, it no longer exists.
(F) APRIL 18, 1959
Bruce Brown was a Southern California surfer who wanted to make a documentary film about his sport. Shank thinks that they first met when he was playing at the Drift Inn in Malibu. Brown's plan was to do live in-person narration when he showed the movie. He approached Shank about providing music to accompany the picture, and Bud wrote themes that fit assigned sequences of the film SLIPPERY WHEN WET. Later he expanded them for a quartet recording. By this time, early 1959, his band had changed. Flores was back, but Williamson and Prell were replaced by guitarist Billy Bean and bassist Gary Peacock.
Bean was an experienced Philadelphia guitarist who worked with Charlie Ventura for a year and a half before he moved to Los Angeles in 1958. He played with Buddy De Franco, Calvin Jackson and Paul Horn, among others, before joining Shank at the Drift Inn. "A facile and impressively inventive guitarist," Leonard Feather called him in the 1960 edition of The Encyclopedia of Jazz.
"Good player," Shank says. "Very, very quiet. Liked to get up about 6 pm, have something to eat, go to work, stay up all night and go to bed at 7 am. Never saw the daylight. Around 1960, he just up one day and says 'I'm going home.' He went back to Philadelphia, and I've never heard of him since. I don't know what happened to him."
He knows what happened to Peacock. Anyone who follows jazz does. He began playing bass when he was in the Army in Germany in late 1955. By 1957, he was good enough to play with Shank and Cooper on their first European tour. Peacock was advanced technically and harmonically far beyond the norm for the period. He worked with pianist Bill Evans for a time in the 1960s, and later with Paul Bley, Miles Davis, Jimmy Giuffre, George Russell, Keith Jarrett and avant-gardes like Albert Ayler and Don Cherry. He is one of the giants of the instrument.
"His development," Shank says, "was phenomenal. He turned into one of the most creative bass players that ever happened."
I asked Peacock about his experience with Shank.
"Because of his own presence and his own interest, it created a space for me to be very, very flexible. That was a strong component of our connection during that time. There was a much greater sensitivity to sound quality than there is now, and when we recorded, we were all in the same room. We didn't get stuck in little cells or boxes. We played like we were playing a gig. I think that made an enormous difference in terms of the quality of the music. And Bud was – well everyone knows – the guy’s a master with the instrument. It takes someone like him to work in a framework like that. It was wonderful working with him.”
(G) May 1961
Peacock stayed with Shank well into 1961. With Bean back in Philadelphia, Shank hired Dennis Budimir, as adventurous on guitar as Peacock was on bass. The three of them generated sparks of creativity. Shank’s music moved onto a new plateau.
"Dennis was another intellectual, like Gary. He was his own man. He was very young when we made this record, 22 or 23. He never wanted to travel. He was by nature an improvising jazz player, a very good one. Very creative. But, he chose to forego that so he could stay home, stay in L.A. He became an extremely successful studio guitarist, still is to this day, probably the first-call guy even now. Very successful, and deserved to be. Of the jazz recordings he has made, this is one of the few. He did a solo or duo thing, in somebody's living room for Bill Hardy's little label called Revelation. This is the band, with the exception of Mel Lewis, that was working at the Drift Inn in Malibu at the time we recorded this."
For this session, issued as NEW GROOVE, Shank called Lewis in after drummer Frank Butler, on the morning of the record date, found himself in a bit of legal unpleasantness. One of the great big-band drummers, Lewis was also one of the great small-band drummers, and he proves it here.
When he moved from Kansas City to Los Angeles in 1960, trumpeter Carmell Jones called his friend John William Hardy (the Revelation man) to ask if he knew of work possibilities. Hardy recommended Jones to Shank, who said, "Sure," and hired him for the Drift Inn gig. A superb player in the Clifford Brown mold, Jones made a significant splash in jazz during his California years. He made several Pacific Jazz albums of his own, before joining Horace Silver in 1964 in time to appear on the SONG FOR MY FATHER album. His star, but not his ability, faded when he spent 15 years doing staff orchestra work in Germany before he returned to Kansas City in 1980. He died there in 1996.
Shank is on baritone as well as alto for this date, at the direction of Dick Bock. Bock had noticed that Shank ranked on baritone in a music magazine poll and thought there might be record sales impetus in the big horn.
"Funny how those things happen," Shank told me. "I was becoming more confident and more aggressive, but when somebody like Dick Bock said do something, I did it. Shortly after, if that would have happened, I'd have said, 'Later.' If I'd had to play another saxophone, I would much rather have played tenor."
The robustness of his baritone work is welcome on Duke Ellington and Tyree Glenn's SULTRY SERENADE and the others, but it is the intensity, even ferocity, of his alto on WHITE LIGHTNIN' and WELL, YOU NEEDN'T that signals a change in Bud Shank.
After we listened to NEW GROOVE, I asked him, "You said, ,same horn, same mouthpiece, but different.' How is it different?"
"I hear different things in my playing. It's aggressive, different harmonically, by all means. Different notes, different parts of the chord changes that I'm playing in. And I think that working with Gary Peacock and Dennis Budimir probably got me thinking along those lines. I was becoming more adventurous. I was becoming a better musician, a better saxophone player. More confident. Getting away from the way I was playing eight years before. There's a hell of an advancement between 27 and 35. I really broke through musically. I'm starting to get it together."
(H) NOVEMBER 1961
Bruce Brown, the surfing filmmaker, did well with SLIPPERY WHEN WET. His career in motion pictures was well under way and although he would soon join the '60s trend for rock and roll on sound tracks, he wanted Shank to provide the music for his next moist epic BAREFOOT ADVENTURE. The band was Shank, Peacock, Budimir, Shank's frequent alter ego Bob Cooper on tenor sax, and the busiest (for good reason) drummer in Los Angeles, Shelly Manne. As he did for SLIPPERY WHEN WET, Shank wrote the entire score. The music, tied to the lighthearted subject matter, has less specific gravity than NEW GROOVE, but the players get in plenty of heavy licks.
The film turned out to be extremely popular, and when Brown toured with it, he sold the sound track albums, lots of them. BAREFOOT ADVENTURE became the closest thing Shank had ever had to a hit. That created for Pacific Jazz a fiscal crisis.
"This record sold a whole bunch," Shank said, "like about 10,000 copies, which for that time was a lot of records. Dick Bock had to get the accountants, and they figured out, all of a sudden, that he owed me money. And he had never owed anybody money before. He didn't have any money to pay royalties. So he went down to Hollywood Electronics and bought me a very, very, very good sound system. I've still got the speakers, AR3s. My nephew has the Dynakit tube amp. This was my first hit, my first royalties. A big deal. I never got any royalties after it, either, for anything."
With BAREFOOT ADVENTURE under his belt, Shank had evolved into a mature artist, secure in his abilities, enjoying his work more than ever, on the threshold of great possibilities, and about to be absolutely stymied. By now, he was increasingly dependent on his income from studio work because jazz was beginning to dry up. With the success of Henry Mancini's music for the "Peter Gunn" television series, the traditional Hollywood studio music system finally collapsed in both TV and motion pictures. The executives discovered that jazzmen could fill their needs. Freelancers were in. Big staff orchestras on permanent payrolls were out. As that happened, popular music changed, and so did jazz. Shank thinks the serious damage started in 1962 or 1963.
"The real thing was The Rolling Stones and The Beatles. Then John came along, Coltrane. Things started to get so complex that it was difficult for the audience. And we were starting to get complex. I was. Nowhere near where John was, but in a club Gary Peacock was all over the place, way ahead of where Scott LaFaro was. And Dennis was also. We kept things under control on the record, but we were all getting more adventurous. I think we'd got to the point where as Coltrane became more well-known and going the direction he wanted to go, it became so complex that we not only lost the audience, but we lost the musicians because even they weren't able to understand where it was going. That's what drove the consumer, the audience, to the simpler music of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones and those things. They didn't have to think."
By 1965, Shank, Manne, Cooper and dozens of other stars of the Southern California music scene were rolling in studio work. They hated it, but the money was great. Jazz gigs were a low-paying luxury. Between 1965 and 1975, Shank says, he worked two or three times at Shelly's Manne Hole and two or three times at Donte's.
"The whole jazz business went in the toilet, and I didn't have a chance to make any more records, really, except the commercial albums with Michel LeGrand and all that junk that I did in the mid-60s. I didn't have a chance to make any more records until the mid-70s, and I had to start all over again. The bizarre thing is that I started all over again with The L.A. Four, with Laurindo Almeida. NEW GROOVE and BAREFOOT ADVENTURE are where it lay dormant for 15 or more years. It all just laid there and started to re-emerge when I re-emerged, 14 years later."
Shank fell in love with Port Townsend on a festival tour in 1979. He bought a house there in 1981. In 1985, he finally cut his connection to the studios, got rid of the flute, moved to Port Townsend, founded the Bud Shank Workshop, became the artistic director of the Centrum Jazz Festival and declared himself, then and forever, a bebop alto player.
Doug Ramsey, April 1998 @Doug Ramsey 1998 Doug Ramsey is the author of Jazz Matters: Reflections on the Music and Some of Its Makers (University of Arkansas Press). A regular contributor to Jazz Times, he is the winner of an ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for writing about music. [Of course, Doug is also the author of Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond, Parkside Publications and you can visit him directly at his website - http://www.artsjournal.com/rifftides/ ].
We are developing a Part 2 to this feature which is intended to bring Bud’s career forward to the present time by encompassing his recorded work since his return to Jazz over the past 25 or so years.
You can visit Bud directly at http://www.budshankalto.com/