Friday, April 30, 2010
PART 1 – Introduction
“There is a gesture he has, a motion, that always reminds me of a great batter leaning into a hit. He has a way of throwing one foot forward, putting his head down a bit as he silently runs the valves, and then the cheeks bloom out in a way that has mystified his dentist for years, and he hits into the solo. When that foot goes forward like that, you know that John Birks Gillespie is no longer clowning. Stand back.”
Gene Lees, Waiting for Dizzy
Steven Cerra. Copyright protected; all rights reserved.
Scroll down a bit on the columnar side of the JazzProfiles site, and this colorized version of William Gottlieb’s famous photograph of Dizzy Gillespie appears with the following quotation from Diz inscribed below it:
“You can’t steal a gift. If you can hear it, you can have it."
And in an act of continuing generosity,
Dave Usher gave JazzProfiles - and its readers - a gift by granting the editorial staff permission to transcribe and post the interviews with Dizzy and members of the band that made the 1956 South American tour and which are included on the two CDs that comprise Volume Three of the set.
And the gifts continued to abound when the noted Jazz writer,
Ira Gitler allowed, JazzProfiles copyright permission to reproduce his insert notes to Volume One of the Dizzy in South America series in order to provide a context for Dave Usher's interviews with Dizzy and the band members that make up Part 2 of this feature.
Although the CDs themselves have been discontinued by
Dave’s Consolidated Artists Productions, all three volumes are available as Mp3 downloads at Amazon.com.
© -The following insert notes to Volume 1 are reprinted with the permission of
Ira Gitler; copyright protected; all rights reserved.
© -The subsequent interviews which comprised Part 2 of this feature are transcribed and reprinted with the permission of
Dave Usher; copyright protected; all rights reserved.
"From the September 5, 1956, issue of Down Beat: “The John (Dizzy) Gillespie band, making its second trip this year under the auspices of the U.S. State Department, began its Latin American swing July 25 in Quito, Ecuador. The band played
(July 26-27); Guayaquil, Ecuador (July 28-August 4); Buenos Aires, Argentina (August 5); Montevideo, Uruguay (August 6-12) and Rio de Janeiro (August 13-17), Sao Paulo ." Brazil
"At press time, it appeared possible that Dizzy and the band might play
, Chile , Peru , and Colombia on the way back." Venezuela
While this projected back-end of the trip did not happen, what did take place was momentous. At this point in his career, Gillespie, at 46, was a young elder statesman of jazz and a musical ambassador for his country. As co-founder of the modern jazz movement and a prime mover in bringing Afro-Cuban rhythms and themes to jazz, he was one of the most respected and recognizable musicians in the world. Earlier in 1956, he had successfully toured the Middle and
Near East for the U.S. State Department, leading a big band for the first time since 1950 (other than in isolated engagements).
No one would ever accuse Gillespie of being a slouch as a small-group leader, but he was truly in his element when fronting a big band. That is the background from which he came, including the orchestras of Teddy Hill, Cab Calloway, Edgar Hayes, Lucky Millinder, Charlie Barnet, Les Hite, Earl Hines, Boyd Raeburn, and Billy Eckstine, to name a few. The first big band of his own was the one that made the ill-fated southern
tour with Hepsations of 1945. The second attempt at a big band was made in the spring of 1946, after Diz had returned (without Charlie Parker) from a month in U.S. , and once again put down roots on California 52nd Street.
After opening with a sextet at the Spotlite in late February, expanding to an orchestra was discussed. By April it became a reality - one of the most exciting, explosive big bands of all time, caught up in the realization that it was taking part in something that was "happening," a musical benchmark. You didn't have to consciously think, 'This is historic." You felt it.
By the summer of 1947, the band, now at the Downbeat club, a few doors away from the Spotlite, had lost some of its rough edges but none of its fire, and had the luxury of an ever-expanding book. A signing by RCA Victor toward the end of August proved to be a beneficial relationship for both the band and the recording company, until it ended in 1949. Dizzy Gillespie and his orchestra became a major force in jazz. The next contract, with Capitol Records, proved to be not as sanguine. The material recorded was not up to Gillespian standards. (The last recording they made with Capitol — under pressure - was a novelty tune titled "You Stole My Wife, You Horse Thief.") By 1950, the hand business was in serious decline. It was a year in which the Count Basie band broke up, as did Gillespie’s. Basie went to a small group before reorganizing his orchestra in 1951. Dizzy wasn't to get a big band underneath him again until 1956.
Like Basie, Diz went to a sextet format.
Dave Usher, a young jazz fan from working in his fathers reclaimed-oil business. Usher first met Gillespie in Detroit , at the Paradise Theater. During Usher’s undergraduate days in the east, he met Gillespie again, on Detroit 52nd Street, in 1946. When, later that year, the trumpeter played in , they renewed their acquaintance, which strengthened into a lifelong friendship. With money he had saved from driving a truck for his father, Detroit Dave formed Dee Gee Records with Dizzy in 1951. There were artistic successes and commercial hit singles, such as "Oo-Shoo-Be-Doo-Be" and "School Days," but distribution and other woes forced them to lease the masters to . Usher explains: "We didn't want to lose the company, but it was Savoy , and I didn't want to declare bankruptcy. Dizzy signed with Norman Granz, and I got married and went back to work for my dad." Tap City
Gillespie led combos and also toured as a member of Granz's Jazz at the Philharmonic, recording for
’s labels in a variety of contexts. In 1956, Dizzy was asked by the U.S. State Department to organize a big band for a tour of the Near and Middle East. Quincy Jones, who had assembled several orchestras for recording dates, etc. for Diz in 1954 and 1955, was given the assignment to put together another one. As a result of the successful Norman Middle East trip, Gillespie was asked by the State Department to tour under its auspices once more, this time in South America, with Jones again as musical director. Gillespie asked Usher to join the traveling troupe. Dave explains: "Dizzy informed me that he was going to buy a portable tape machine. It was an Ampex 600 fitted into Samsonite luggage. He said, 'Why don't you come along and record?’ From being a producer, I became an engineer. We felt it was a very exciting opportunity, but for some reason Norman Granz wasn't interested."
Regarding his task at hand, Usher said, 'The good thing was that because we were on a State Department tour, we were always met by a representative from either the consulate or the embassy, and they would help us with the technical aspects. We had to convert from 60 cycles to 50, and we could always rely on the people from the State Department to call ahead for a transformer, which made my job much easier. Whenever we had a problem, they were there to help us and did."
'The tape ran at 7-1/2 ips. Professional taping at that time was always done at 15 ips (symphonies at 30). Only the 'public' used 7-1/2. Well, we disproved that theory, because this stuff is still unbelievably good today, more than 42 years later. We used 3M 111 magnetic tape. It was great equipment for its time. The pre-amp was a Fisher. The Ampex was a monaural tape machine, and a guy in
had shown me how to adapt it so that I could have two Electrovoice mics — a solo mic plus an overall mic — that I put on a stand which went up eight feet max. Most times we didn't bother trying to get the piano because we never had a decent one. New York
"It was a very exciting tour. The band, after the
Middle East tour, was very well-seasoned, and the thing that really got me is that generally, when you're on the road, you're going to have arguments; some guys aren't happy with the other guys. We had nothing like that. There were no animosities, no gripes; nobody was bitching. It was a happy tour. We had times when things were bad, like on the boat from to Buenos Aires , when there was no heat. I mean it was winter! Everyone was bundled up, but there was never any complaining. Montevideo
'This was in 1956, only two years after the Supreme Court had rejected the principle of separate but equal to end segregation in schools. In a sense we were an experiment, this integrated orchestra. There were four white musicians — Phil Woods, Frank Rehak, Rod Levitt, and Marty Flax. Melba Liston, the only woman, and the rest of the band were black. The State Department had sponsored this tour to show that the
was promoting integration, but an incident involving a hotel in U.S. almost backfired in the State Department's face. Buenos Aires
"We were coming from
after playing in Chile , and we had lost the use of two of our four engines coming over the Ecuador Andes. We made it, but we were really late. People were waiting for us at the Teatro Casino. Whenever we arrived somewhere, we had to first check into a hotel in order to get ID cards in exchange for our passports. So we just dumped our gear at the hotel and immediately went to the theater. People kept saying to me 'What about the hotel? What about the hotel?' I didn't understand what they were talking about. I didn't even think about the fact that we weren't staying at the , where we had made reservations. It turned out that the Savoy Hotel had refused our admittance because there were blacks in the band. This was particularly ironic because the Savoy was owned by Americans. It was a huge story in Savoy South America, in all the headlines.
"Peter Hahn, a stringer for CBS news, took me to La Prensa, the leading newspaper in
. This was right after Peron had fallen, and there were shell holes in the building. Hahn showed me that he was filing the Buenos Aires story to the press services in the States. It was supposed to come back down in Spanish. He said, 'Watch. It'll never come back.' And it never did. The story never appeared in the Savoy It was squelched. The incident wasn't the State Department's fault, but the Communists had a field day. U.S.
“The next morning, while Dizzy was still sleeping, Peter came and dragged me out of bed. He said we had to get to the 'Pink House,' where the president of
wanted to make an official apology. I accepted the apology on behalf of the band (the hotel was fined $2,500)." Argentina
None of this deterred the band from its appointed sounds. Gillespie was a great ambassador. Usher notes, "I admired Dizzy for many reasons, but one that really hit home to me was when we were in
. We went to be interviewed at a school, Casa Roosevelt [the Sao Paulo ], which was sponsored by the Franklin Roosevelt School to teach English. It was an open-air, backyard kind of thing. There were a great many young kids, junior high and high school students, who were asking Dizzy questions. They wanted to come to the evening performance, but they didn't have the money. (We found out that our secondary sponsor, the U.S. , was charging admission.) We told the kids to present their IDs and they'd get in. Dizzy refused to play until the kids were allowed in. He said, 'We're doing this for the people.'" American National Theater Academy
"For me, one of the most interesting and poignant facts of this documentary on Dizzy is not only about his music. I often looked on Dizzy as a Chaplin-esque character. He would do these cute, funny things. In addition to being known as a supreme musician, people knew him as a clown. He had comedic tendencies, and he would utilize them with an audience and be able to get an audience friendly. This can be heard here, particularly during "
," when you can hear the audience's laughter. He did these little dances and all that kind of stuff, and of course the band would follow him. However, having known him for the number of years that I did, I also knew a serious side to him. That serious side was shown very rarely - sometimes during an interview, but never within the structure of a performance. But he does one number [track seven], and there's a pause. Then he comes to the mic, and he comes on very straight. He says, 'And now, ladies and gentlemen.' Then he turns from the mic and says [to himself), 'Oh my goodness, I'm out of character.' He didn't intend for the mic to pick it up, which it did, just barely. It's so brief that it escapes attention, but the memory of that moment looms in my mind. Manteca
also gained as a result of the tour. In every hotel, in every country we U.S.
visited, people were always waiting in the lobby, day and night, to meet Dizzy, or even just get a glimpse of him. Somehow, a few of them would always get upstairs. They would be waiting in the hall outside Dizzy's room. We tried to be nice, but it would often get intense. It was hard to move around or visit from room to room, as we often did. Someone would always want to accompany you, or take you out somewhere for a drink, or give you a present for Dizzy. Some of these guys must have figured out I was P.R. because they started approaching me. One day, a young man introduced himself to me. He was very bright, with a really quick wit. I gave in and took the young Lalo Shifrin (with his arrangements) to meet Dizzy. Lalo was the leader of the only bebop big band in
. Dizzy listened to him play and immediately wanted to hire him. He asked Lalo to go to the Argentina and work with him. After that, Lalo spent nearly four years and countless sit-ins with Dizzy. Of course, Lalo went on to write some of U.S. 's greatest scores; Bullet, Coolhand Luke, Dirty Harry, Hollywood Mission Impossible, and, recently, Tango and Rush Hour."
Reminiscing about the orchestra put a smile on Usher's face. “They flowed and drove so well. Precision and warmth. These two words don't normally go together, but they do in the case of this group of musicians. The band was able to achieve this partly because they had been working together on the road with only one day a week off, and partly because they were doing these particular compositions steady every night. But steady doesn't mean a thing if you don't have the enthusiasm of an audience. These audiences picked up on the feel. They understood what the band was doing."
Now we can all hear what the band was doing in
South America, beginning on Volume 1 with Tadd Dameron's "Cool Breeze," taken at a faster pace than in the old days. This is one of the arrangements that Billy Eckstine let Gil Fuller have for the second Gillespie band, five days before it was to open at the Spotlite in 1946. Trombonist Frank Rehak, who stylistically was coming behind Earl Swope, opens the soloing with a combination of fluidity and rich tone. Gillespie is up next. Here a quote from Bama Warwick is in order. In Dizzy's book, to BE or not to BOP, says, "Diz was really at his peak. He was really fired up playing in front of that big band..." Warwick
Bama was referring to the
Middle East tour, but he could just as well have been talking about Latin America. Dizzy's chops are phenomenal, with imagination to match. Sprinkled into his leaping solo are quotes from "Hawaiian War Chant" (altissimo), “The Hut-Sut Song," and Illinois Jacquet's "Bottoms Up." You can hear the crowd in a stirred-up state before the saxes begin to riff behind Diz. Then Billy Mitchell's tenor sax keeps the temperature at its elevated state. Dizzy comes back for a second helping, melding with the band to a close.
Ernie Wilkins' "Groovin' for Nat" (Hentoff, as you might rightly assume) is an airy, sophisticated swinger with Charlie Persip kicking away. Gillespie's two solo spots sandwich Mitchell's, and there's a short bit from a distant Walter Davis.
In a studio version of "Can't Get Started," Quincy Jones gets credit for the arrangement. Perhaps he did the orchestration, but the introduction/ending, which Dizzy created for his small-band version in 1945 and also utilized on "Round Midnight," is present here, as are the figures under his opening interpretation of the melody, also from 1945.
In Gillespie's big-band format for his "A Night in
," the trombone always transmits the exotic theme. Rehak helps establish the mood before the table is set for the dazzling Diz catapulting seamlessly into his solo with one of his classic suspended beginnings. Tenorist Benny Golson, with his Byas-ed stylings, catches the air of mystery well, and bassist Nelson Boyd (the man for whom "Half Nelson" was named) plucks a sonorous solo. Dizzy's coda caps the trip with a climactic exclamation point. Then, in a variety of languages, he thanks the audience for its applause before stating some multilingual toasts. Tunisia
Then it's Austin Cromer's turn in the spotlight. Judging by his efforts here, it is hard to figure out why he never made it. His voice is effective in all registers. He can shout, as on "Seems Like You Just Don't Care," where Gillespie solos; and croon, amply demonstrated by "Flamingo," where lead alto saxist Jimmy Powell is heard in solo. Cromer's dramatic ballad style is Eckstine-tinged (in a way he reminds me more of Al Hibbler) but he has his own sound within the genre.
"Stella by Starlight" is the first of two Melba Liston arrangements. Gillespie interprets the melody, interweaving and alternating with the chart in which Liston uses the song's arresting harmonic structure to her advantage. Diz solos more broadly toward the end, topping it off with his heavenly chops.
The band shuffles off to "School Days," with
plinking away before expanding his single line, which includes a reference to 'The Peanut Vendor." Vocalist Gillespie updates the old nursery rhyme, having a lot of fun, and Mitchell comes on like a bar-walker with some rock-house tenor that, even in its semi-parody, cooks like crazy. Davis
Volume 1 of this tour closes with "
,” one of Dizzy’s hits. It’s all here: the ‘I’ll never go back to Manteca ,’ chant; the maestro’s flights over the Latin vamp; the theme; a short solo from Mitchell; and an even shorter one from Dizzy. The rhythm section takes over at this point with bass bone and cowbell in the mix. Soon the ensemble is into the ‘Is-tan-bul, Con-stan-ti-nople’ groove, and you know Diz is dancing. Persip, an inspiring helmsman throughout, brings it back into the ‘ Georgia ’ vamp and out with the main theme never restated. Manteca
There you have Volume I of Dizzy in
South America. Volumes 2 and 3 will be issued in the near future. They will not only contain more exciting big-band sides, but also some very special recordings Dizzy made with a samba band in Brazil and a tango ensemble in Argentina!”
[Gitler’s first published piece on Jazz, which appeared in his high school (Columbia Grammar prep) newspaper (March 1946), covered Dizzy Gillespie’s small group at the Spotlite. Gitler’s friendship with
Dave Usher began when they met at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1958.]
Dizzy Gillespie - Leader & Trumpet
E. V. Perry - Trumpet
Phil Woods and Jimmy Powell - Alto
Benny Golson and Billy Mitchell -Tenor
Marty Flax - Baritone
Melba Liston, Frank Rehak, and Rod Levitt -
Walter Davis, Jr. - Piano, Nelson Boyd - Bass
Charlie Persip - Drums
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Philip Wells [Phil] Woods
, Springfield, Massachusetts November 2, 1931
© -Reprinted with the permission of
Gene Lees; copyright protected; all rights reserved.
“Phil Woods sometimes refers to himself as Dubois. He is more than half French by ancestry. His father changed the name from Dubois. The rest of Phil is Irish.
When I played one of Phil's records for a friend whose main experience of music was country and western, she said, "Oh yes—he cares." And so he does. Phil's wife Jill (whose brother, Bill Goodwin, is the drummer in Phil's group) once said to me, "Phil's angry about all the right things."
And so he is. He gets angry about indifferent musicianship, politicians, racism, injustice in all its forms, and any failure to render to jazz and its past masters the respect he thinks they deserve. Phil manages to combine in his brilliant alto playing an improbable combination of ferocity and lyricism. Phil once said pointedly that his influences were "Benny Carter, Johnny Hodges, and Charlie Parker, in that order." He has assimilated all his influences to become utterly distinctive, one of those people you can identify in two or three bars, sometimes in one assertive phrase.
Phil graduated from Juilliard as a clarinet major. He still plays the instrument occasionally, and always beautifully. But he has specialized since early days in alto saxophone, on which he achieves a huge tone. He has played with absolutely everybody of consequence in jazz, in every imaginable context, and has recorded with Benny Carter and Dizzy Gillespie, two of his major heroes. He is an intriguing composer and, as a soloist, inexhaustibly inventive.
One of Phil's early idols was Artie Shaw, on whose work he modeled his own clarinet playing. It was my pleasure to introduce Phil to Artie, who began his professional career on saxophone, at a party after one of Phil's concerts. Also at that party was the fine tenor saxophone player Eddie Miller. When Phil had gone off in the crowd of his admirers, Shaw said to me, "I've heard them all. All. Phil Woods is the best saxophone player I ever heard." And Eddie Miller warmly agrees.
Phil is completely uncompromising. He dislikes amplification, and will not allow microphones on the bandstand. Though he was a successful studio musician in
in the 1960s, he has since then declined to play anything but jazz, and only on his terms. He tours with a quintet that usually contains a second horn, whether trumpet or trombone. Tom Harrell is one of the alumni of his group. New York
I don't wish to make Phil sound forbidding. He isn't. Indeed, he's terribly funny and a delight to be with. But Jill got it right; I know no one on this earth with more integrity than Philip Wells Woods.”
Saturday, April 3, 2010
Friday, April 2, 2010
As previously mentioned in the August 6, 2009 JazzProfiles feature on Joe Dodge, the drummer in
Dave Brubeck’s quartet from roughly 1954-56, I lived and worked in San Francisco for most of the decade of the 1990s.
While there, I was employed in the reinsurance division of a large insurance brokerage and, given the scale of revenues involved in such risk transfer activities, I was often in the company of some of the city’s fairly influential business leaders, one of whom was my boss.
On a particularly lovely, early Spring day, as he was on his way out of the office, said “chief” mentioned that he wanted to see me following a luncheon he was attending at the San Francisco Business Arts Council.
When I joined him later as requested, the program for the luncheon was sitting on the chair in front of his desk. I glanced at it and it said that, on that day, the San Francisco Business Arts Council had presented
Dave Brubeck with the Cyril Magnin Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts.
Dave was always in demand for performances, especially in the Bay Area where he took the first big steps in establishing his career in Jazz, I figured that he had probably linked the award luncheon to a gig somewhere; but where?
I also guessed that I was holding the answer to this question in my own hands, so when the meeting was over, I asked the Big Guy if I could borrow the luncheon program to which he of course said “Yes.”
When I got back to my own office and read through the awards luncheon agenda, sure enough, there it was:
Dave was performing that evening, April 11, 1997 in and the following night in Berkeley, CA at the Calvary Presbyterian Church on Fillmore [about a dozen or so blocks from my flat]. San Francisco
Fortunately, even at this late date, I was able to secure a seat to the April 12th concert the program for which you see posted below.
The following evening, I ate an early dinner at a family-owned restaurant [too few of these are now left in the city] in the upper Fillmore District where I was able to park my car and walk to the church.
I had taken along my copy of John Reeves’ excellent photographic essay – Jazz Lives: 100 Portraits in Jazz – in hopes of getting the portrait of
Dave which you see at the beginning of Part 3 autographed.
Instead, I had the good fortune to meet Iola Brubeck, who not only was kind enough to give me her autograph, which you can see just below John Reeves’ photograph of
Dave, but also do me the honor of sitting next to me and chatting amiably until the performance began.
Iola asked me how I came to know
Dave’s music and I shared with her a shortened version of the explanation contained in the March 10, 2008 JazzProfiles feature – Dave Brubeck: Seeing Out A Bit.
That night, my head was so full of the sounds of the wonderful music
Dave and others played that evening, as well as, thoughts about my fortuitous meeting with Iola, that I didn’t think to ask Dave for his autograph after the performance. Instead I walked all the way home in such a state of euphoria that I forgot my car in the neighborhood restaurant’s parking lot!
Somewhat ironically, because of its sale and my resultant relocation to
, the same San Francisco brokerage that inadvertently brought about my attendance at the April 1997 Brubeck concert and my chance meeting with Iola was also responsible for my first meeting with Doug Ramsey, which took place at Seattle’s Jazz Alley in August 1999. Seattle, WA.
We’ve stayed in touch since then and among his many kindnesses is permission to post on JazzProfiles his magnificent essay on
DAVE BRUBECK: A LIFE IN AMERICAN MUSIC, which now concludes with Part 3.
More of Doug’s Jazz writings can be found daily on his blog – Riffitides.
His essay in its original form, can be found as part of the accompanying booklet to the Columbia/Sony Records boxed set Dave Brubeck: Time Signatures A Career Retrospective.
Doug is also the author of Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond.
© -Doug Ramsey. Reprinted with the permission of the author; copyright protected; all rights reserved.
THE ADVENT OF
"When [Joe] Dodge returned to
, Morello left Marian McPartland to join Brubeck. Even though he was hired at Desmond's recommendation, the truce seemed likely to be supplanted by some other condition. Open warfare comes to mind. San Francisco
"Joe Dodge told me he had to leave the group and go back home," Brubeck recalls. "Paul said we should hire Joe Morello. He said Morello was a fantastic drummer who always played softly, with brushes. I went over to hear him with Marian and was knocked out."
Morello says he remembers Brubeck and Desmond coming into the Hickory House in
several times to listen to the McPartland trio. New York City
"I had been planning on leaving Marian's group anyway," Morello recalls. "There was an audition and an offer from Tommy Dorsey, but his manager got cute with money and while that was on hold,
Dave called and asked if I would be interested in joining his group."
Morello did not jump at the opportunity.
"I met him at the Park Sheraton in
, where he was staying. I told him the times I'd heard his band at Birdland, the spotlight was on him and Paul, and the bass player and drummer were out to lunch in the background somewhere. I told him I wanted to play, wanted to improve myself. He said, 'Well, I'll feature you.'" New York
The Brubeck group left on a tour, with Joe Dodge still on drums. When the quartet returned near the end of 1955. Morello says he told
Dave, "Let's try it. Maybe you won't like my playing and I won't like the group. There's no use signing anything until we're really sure." In lieu of a contract, they exchanged telegrams confirming their intentions.
"Two days later," Morello says, "I got a call from Tommy Dorsey's manager. He said, 'You got the job. Tommy's gonna give you the money.' I told him it was too late, I'd just signed with Brubeck. 'Oh, you don't want to play in Birdland all your life,' he said. 'Look what we did for Buddy Rich and Louis Bellson.' I told him, 'You didn't do anything for Buddy Rich and Louis Bellson. Look what they did for your band.'"
Brubeck sent Morello some of the quartet's records so he could hear the pieces they would play on his first appearance with the band, a television show in
. They included "I’M IN A DANCING MOOD," "THE TROLLEY SONG" and "TWO-PART CONTENTION," "very basic things with basic tempo changes," Morello says. He flew to Chicago and went to the studio for a rehearsal. But Brubeck's plane was delayed and Chicago Dave got there barely in time to do the TV program. Those were the days before videotape. The performance was live and, in the quartet's case, unrehearsed. Morello's debut with the band was flawless.
"When it was over,
Dave said to the guys, 'Joe played these things like he wrote 'em.' But, really, they were very simple. So it went fine, and then we went into the Blue Note for a week."
The first night at the club, Brubeck had Morello use sticks as well as brushes and gave him a short solo. Joe says the solo got "a little standing ovation" and that Desmond left the stand for the dressing room, where he turned to face Brubeck and deliver an ultimatum: "Morello goes or I go."
"Joe could do things I'd never heard anybody else do," Brubeck says. "I wanted to feature him. Paul objected. He wanted a guy who played 'time' and was unobtrusive. I discovered that Joe's time concept was like mine, and I wanted to move in that direction."
Brubeck had begun his time experimentation in 1946 with the octet. Cal Tjader was a drummer with a natural aptitude for time flexibility, as he demonstrated on the octet's "CURTAIN MUSIC" and with the trio in "SINGIN’ IN THE
RAIN," another venture into the mysteries of six-beat bars. " was the most natural musician I've ever heard, one of the very best drummers," Cal Dave says, "and the first night he brought vibes to the job, it was as if he'd been playing them all his life." Brubeck's swimming accident ended his and Tjader's extension of jazz time signatures, and now Morello represented a chance to revive it.
Morello was not a famous drummer when he joined the Brubeck Quartet. He was a respected one, particularly among other drummers, for his speed, control, flexibility, and technique. It was frequently said that only the formidable Buddy Rich had more technique ('"chops," in the argot of the trade) than Morello. There were serious disagreements among musicians over whether Morello's feet may not have been just a trifle faster than Rich's. Morello wasn't about to let all those chops go to waste, which was okay with Brubeck. But it was clear to Desmond from the outset that in his musical life, Lester Young's ideal of a little tinky-boom was a rapidly receding golden memory.
"In that first week, Paul said I had to get another drummer," Brubeck says. "I told him I wouldn't. I didn't know whether Paul and Norman would show up that night. They came to a record session for
in Columbia during the day, but they wouldn't play. So Joe and I recorded as a duo for three hours. And they told me they were going to leave the group. And I said, 'Well, there'll be a void on the stand tonight because Joe's not leaving. Chicago
"So, I went to the job and, boy, was I relieved to see Paul and Norman. But I wasn't going to be bluffed out of Joe. It was not discussed again. That was the end of it.
''Paul knew that Morello was one of the greatest drummers who ever lived, but what he wanted was a steady beat. Some nights Joe would do more than that and Paul would say, ‘Please don't do adventures behind me.' Later, of course, Joe and Paul became very close."
In the months following the failed bluff, what Brubeck has called an "armistice" was set up, but the situation more closely resembled an edgy cease-fire. It was described by Robert Rice in a New Yorker profile of the quartet: "...bloody war was likely to rage whenever the quartet played, with Brubeck doing his best to mediate between Morello on the one hand and Bates and Desmond on the other."
Brubeck was able to make the center hold through all the internecine battles over tempos, volume, and drum fills during solos. Despite their powerful disagreements about how Morello's skills should be deployed,
Dave was able to take advantage of the respect Morello and Desmond had for one another's abilities. The respect was ultimately to grow into genuine affection, but that was at the end of a rough road.
“For a while it was uncomfortable with Paul," Morello told me in 1992. "But as time went on, it worked out. We became very close and used to hang out together. The last four or five years we hung out quite a lot, actually." Morello's phrasing and inflection were uncannily like Desmond's when he said that.
"I think the world of Paul," Joe said.
"No, it was more than that. I loved the guy."
“I've always tried to hire great musicians," Brubeck says. "But they've got to be great people too. There has always been real closeness, going back to the days with Cal, even after he left, and Ron Crotty, Joe Dodge, and the Bates Brothers, all those guys. Bill Smith started with me in the fall of *46, and he begins and ends this collection." And, echoing Gene Wright, Brubeck adds, "You can't imagine how much love there was in this band."
Since I began hearing the quartet in person as often as I could in the mid-1950s, I've been convinced that one of the reasons for its huge success, though obviously bound up in the music, is non-musical. It was the musicians' huge, open, unselfconscious enjoyment of one another. Call it the "yeah" factor.
A lot of the hype surrounding the Brubeck Quartet portrayed them as representative of cool jazz. Their stage manner, like much of their music, was anything but cool. Listening with intensity and appreciation to one another, Desmond, Brubeck and the others expressed approval. "Yeah" is an expression of high praise among jazz musicians. This band had a high "yeah" index, and it was infectious. If they liked each other that much, it was difficult for an audience to be aloof from four tall men having a very good time creating serious music.
THE IMPORTANCE OF EUGENE WRIGHT
The quartet was entering its period of greatest success. With the departure in 1958 of
, the second of the three bass-playing Bates brothers to have worked with Brubeck, Eugene Wright joined the band and the roster was set until the Norman Dave Brubeck Quartet disbanded on December 26,1967.
Wright had led his own band when he was in his early twenties in his native Chicago, then worked with Gene Ammons, Count Basic, Arnett Cobb, Buddy DeFranco, and Red Norvo. When he joined Brubeck, he had been the bassist for three years in the remarkable edition of the Cal Tjader Quartet that also included pianist Vince Guaraldi. A powerful bassist known for his steadiness and swing, he satisfied Desmond's basic requirements.
But Wright was also interested in Brubeck's time explorations and during his first months with the quartet grew significantly in that dimension. An educator by temperament, and later in fact a conservatory teacher, Wright's roots were always firmly attached to the basics and his mind was always open to new musical ideas. In late 1959 or early 1960 I listened to an intermission conversation, recounted in my book, Jazz Matters, in which the rapidly developing young bassist Freddie Schreiber was telling Gene that his goal was to be as funky as possible.
"Come on, man," Wright told him, "get past that funk thing. Once you get that out of your system, you'll find music opening up to you. There's a lot more beauty in store. That's what's exciting about working with this band. We're into 5/4 time, for instance. Here's how you count it... 1,2,3 — 1,2... 1,2,3 — 1,2. This band is where it's all happening."
In a recent conversation, Gene recalled his doubts when Brubeck asked him to join the band. They resembled Morello's. He told
Dave he wasn't sure they were compatible. "I went over to his place so we could try each other out," Wright said, "and we had a ball playing, hit it off right away. We both love to swing. But I told him, 'I don't know if I can make it with your friends.'"
When he got together with all three, Wright discovered a high level of musicianship, naturally, and he found a bond with Morello that resembled the instant rapport Brubeck and Desmond had discovered a decade earlier.
"Right away, Joe and I were as one. It was like Jo Jones and Walter Page with Count Basic. It was right from the beginning. When musicians used to ask me how I could play with that band, I told them they weren't listening. I told them I was the bottom, the foundation; Joe was the master of time;
Dave handled the polytonality and polyrhythms; we all freed Paul to be lyrical. Everybody was listening to everybody. It was beautiful. Those people who couldn't accept it were looking, not listening."
Wright was not the first black musician in the Brubeck quartet. Wyatt "Bull" Ruther was the bassist in 1951. Drummer Frank Butler also worked briefly with Brubeck in the early days. Joe Benjamin replaced Wright for a period in 1958, during which he recorded the
Eurasia album and '58 with the quartet. But Gene returned to the group in '59. His arrival coincided with the upswing in popularity that increased the demand for the band and put it in high visibility. As a result, there were problems that disturbed Brubeck's sense of fairness and his passionate belief in racial justice and equality. Newport
He canceled an extensive and lucrative tour of the South when promoters insisted that he replace Wright with a white bassist. He refused an appearance on the "Bell Telephone Hour," a Friday evening television program of immense prestige and huge audience, when the producers insisted on shooting the quartet so that Wright could be heard but not seen. The networks were convinced that the public was incapable of accepting the sight of black and white performers together. Brubeck found the hypocrisy insupportable.
Among Brubeck's champions was Charles Mingus, the bassist whose high standards and volcanic temper persuaded many people that he was rigid in his views about music. In fact, he admired styles he was unlikely to play and encouraged quality in any area of music. Mingus and Brubeck had known one another since the late 1940s in
, when the young bassist was up from his native San Francisco , working in the Bay Area. A group of musicians invited Mingus to a jam session. Los Angeles
"All the musicians were bebop players," Brubeck says. "They asked me if I knew the bop changes, and I asked them what they were talking about.
"'Like, you know, man, the bop changes,' they said.
'No,' I said, 'I don't think so.'
'Look, man, do you know "
ALL THE THINGS YOU ARE?"?'
'Yeah, I know that.'
"'HOW HIGH THE MOON?'
'Sure, I know that.'
"'Okay,' they said. 'Play those chords, but just don't play any solos.' So, the session went along, and I played the chords. During the first intermission, I walked outside, and Mingus came out and stood next to me.
“'Man,' he said, 'how come you're not playing?' I told him the others had warned me not to take any solos.
"'What?' he said, 'You're the only cat in there who can play.' That was the beginning of a long friendship. We did not hang out alot together, but there were many serious conversations over the years. His importance to me is the faith he always had in my approach to music, when others were skeptical."
In 1962, Mingus and Brubeck again played together. The occasion was the making of a British film, All Night Long, an attempt to place Shakespeare's Othello in a modern setting. Despite the presence of Richard Attenborough in the cast, the movie was a misfire, except for some of the music, notably the Brubeck/Mingus duet.
"My contract for the film specified that I would not play with Charlie Mingus," Brubeck says, "because I knew how demanding Charlie could be and I just wanted to avoid it. It was out of respect." Brubeck pauses a long two beats. "And fear."
"In certain situations, Charlie could be difficult, and I wanted to keep our friendship. He did not want to do his feature with the English musicians on the set. 'These guys can't play my music,' he said. And these were top guys. 'I want some musicians I heard in a club last night.' He brought them out the next day, and none of them could read a note. He fired them.
"The director called me over and said that Charlie had told him, The only guy I want to play with is
Dave.' The director knew what my contract said, but he really wanted Charlie in the movie.
"I told him that there were ways I would play with Charlie. 'We don't rehearse,' I said, 'we don't have to synch, and we shoot it live on the set.'"
Standard practice in movie-making is to record sound separate from the film, then later synchronize sound and picture. But the director agreed to Brubeck's stipulations and the duet, called "NON-SECTARIAN BLUES" is a
in this collection. high point
"When it was over," Brubeck says, "Charlie picked me up off the floor and gave me a big bear hug. It was wonderful."
Because of his frequent appearances on college campuses, Brubeck was often accused of diluting the black heritage of jazz in an arena of primarily white intellectualism. He responded by pointing out that he was integrating audiences in Southern universities, doing box office business at places like the Apollo Theater in
Harlem and winning polls in The Pittsburgh Courier and other black publications.
"I assume," Brubeck says with a certain wryness, "that the readers who voted in those polls were black." So were many of the giants of the music who went against the grain of the critical establishment to publicly express admiration for what the quartet was doing. They included Bud Powell, Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington, Cecil Taylor, Jimmy Rushing, Louis Armstrong, Benny Carter, and the protean stride pianist Willie "The Lion" Smith. Listening to several unidentified pianists in a Down Beat blindfold test, The Lion picked Brubeck as the best blues player of the bunch.
"I like the piano [player]," Smith told Leonard Feather, "because he plays like the guys I told you about at the brickyards in
, Haverstraw, New York
where the blues was BORN …. He has heavy hands, but hits some beautiful
chords... You could put this on at anybody's house, and they'd dance all night."
Through the 1950s and '60s, the track led straight ahead through the slings and arrows of outrageous critics, the good fortune of a gold single ("TAKE
BLUE RONDO A LA TURK”) and much of Earth's geography. In 1958, following a series of concerts in the United Kingdom, the band played in many of Europe's major cities and toured for the Department of State in Turkey, Iran, Iraq, India, East and West Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Afghanistan. Later, there were tours of , Australia , New Zealand , Japan , and Mexico South America. Behind the Iron Curtain, there were a dozen memorable concerts in followed by concerts in Poland , Yugoslavia , and Hungary . It was not until 1987 that the Romania Dave Brubeck Quartet finally had the opportunity of performing in the then Soviet Union. Included here is the version of "TRITONIS," recorded on that memorable trip to , and never released until now. Moscow
Some of the quartet's best performances took place during these trips, among them the 1958
concert recording of "tangerine" included here. The sights, cultures, people, and music the quartet encountered in their travels inspired Brubeck's compositional muse. Out of them came "KOTO SONG," "THE GOLDEN HORN," "MARBLE Copenhagen ARCH," "LA PALOMA AZUL," "RECUERDO," and " BLUE RONDO A LA TURK" — all represented in this collection.
Travel also led to the title of the book Desmond talked about for years but never quite got around to writing. The title was to be a question he claimed was asked by airline stewardesses around the world: "How many of you are there in the quartet?"
The book, in fact, was one of the reasons the quartet broke up after 17 years. Desmond wanted time to write, an activity George Bernard Shaw and Charles Dickens, but very few others, have found compatible with constant travel.
Dave had been stockpiling ideas for long-form classical compositions and had worked on some of them off and on for years. He needed extended periods to bring them to fulfillment. Concentrating on these big works, Brubeck produced his first oratorio The Light In The Wilderness (1968), followed by The Gates Of Justice (1969) and Truth Is Fallen (1972), all recorded.
He has composed six other works for orchestra and chorus, including the Easter oratorio "BELOVED
SON" and the Christmas cantata La Fiesta De La Posada (Sony Masterworks IM 36662), which has received hundreds of performances in the Christmas seasons since its publication. For Pope John Paul II’s visit to in 1987, he wrote a chorale and fugue, "UPON THIS San Francisco ROCK," which was heard in by 70,000 people. He has also written a mass, two ballets, including the widely performed Points On Jazz and "ELEMENTALS" (from Time Changes CS 8927) for orchestra. As the titles of his large works suggest, Brubeck feels deep ecumenical religious conviction. He carries it with no trace of pretension or preachiness. Candlestick Park
After 1967, although often immersed in composition, Brubeck continued to perform with a quartet. There were many concert tours and a number of recordings with his old friend Gerry Mulligan in a group with
Alan Dawson and Jack Six on drums and bass ("SAPITO,""RECUERDO," "ST.LOUIS BLUES"). He and Desmond performed in separate groups at the 1969 White House celebration of Duke Ellington's 70th birthday.
BRUBECK, BRUBECK, BRUBECK, BRUBECK
As the 1970s unfolded, so did the careers of three of
Dave's sons. He had done financial planning to provide for the educations of all six of his children, with no thought that they would choose his career. But, perhaps inevitably, some of them did. Just as inevitably, they wanted to work with the old man. A new quartet evolved. At first it was called Two Generations of Brubeck, a name Dave resisted, then The New Brubeck Quartet. Whatever it was called, it had Darius on a variety of electronic keyboards, Chris on electric bass and bass trombone, and Danny on drums. On a few occasions when Desmond rejoined the family for special concerts, Danny quickly became one of his favorite drummers.
In 1974 when I visited the Wilton Hilton, the Brubecks were preparing material for a world tour. In an interview that appeared in the magazine Different Drummer, long-since defunct,
Dave told me, "I'm just a side-man. I do what the kids tell me." The progress of the rehearsal suggested otherwise; leadership dies hard. The tour was a success. Dave has performed ever since with various combinations of his progeny, and now among them the youngest, Matthew, a cellist (Quiet As The Moon Music-Masters 65067).
As for Paul, he did publish one chapter of what might have become the book. It was an account in the British humor magazine Punch of the quartet's misadventures among the livestock and volunteer firemen’s' demonstrations at a county fair. "Dawn," it began. "A station wagon pulls up to the office of an obscure motel in
. Three men enter — pasty-faced, grim-eyed, silent (for those are their names)." S.J. Perelman would have been proud to claim authorship. New Jersey
Desmond accepted a few club dates, mostly in
, because he found there a gloriously compatible Canadian rhythm section composed of guitarist Ed Bickert, bassist Don Thompson, and drummer Terry Clarke. He did a week at the Half Note because it was so easy to fall into from his apartment and, although to have said so would have been to acknowledge that he was a star, because he wanted to help the Canterino family launch the new club. He was featured at the 1969 New Orleans JazzFest in Gerry Mulligan's piano-less quartet. He recorded now and then. He spent a good deal of time at Elaine's, a congenial Toronto East Side restaurant, bar, and hangout for writers.
As 1976 approached, an irresistible idea suggested itself to a promoter, who suggested it to Brubeck, who with trepidation suggested it to Desmond, Wright, and Morello; a tour to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the
Dave Brubeck Quartet. To Dave's surprise, the other three liked the idea. So, there they were, on the road again eight years after everyone had agreed to put the road behind them; 25 cities in 25 days, traveling in a customized bus on an expedition that brought the four even closer, particularly Desmond and Morello.
During the tour, there was a worsening of the eye problems that had plagued Morello all of his life. Already without vision in one eye because a detached retina could not be repaired, he began losing what little sight remained in the other. At first, Morello recalls, Brubeck wanted him to hold out to the end of the tour but when he realized the seriousness of the threat to Joe's retina, insisted that he leave the tour and return to Boston, where his doctor was eventually able to operate and restore slight vision. Danny Brubeck took over the drum chair for the remaining three days of the tour.
Before they parted, Morello extracted a promise from Brubeck that they would all play together again. But before a projected tour of
Europe could be planned, a medical checkup for a minor complaint uncovered the devastating fact that Desmond had lung cancer. Chemotherapy showed no effect against the disease and caused side effects Paul was unwilling to endure. He led as normal a life as possible under the circumstances. He went on tour with the Brubeck family group, even joining them in . His last concert was with the Brubecks at Avery Fisher Hall in Mexico , New York City February 4,1977. He even recorded on a Chet Baker date a few days before his death. Brubeck says Morello was devastated.
"Toward the end of Paul's life, Joe was so torn up by his being ill,"
Dave says. "He insisted that one of his drum students stay with Paul and look after him." The student, Steve Forster, had also helped Morello through his crisis.
Charles Mingus, Desmond, and Brubeck remained friends. Mingus sat at Paul's bedside in May of 1977 when Desmond was dying. Once, as he awakened, he saw Mingus, a massive figure in his black hat and cape, looking down at him. Nat Hentoff told the story in the Village Voice:
"Paul, his eyes opening, struggled to focus on the apparition and then, sorting through memory, found the hooded harvester in The Seventh Seal. 'Okay,' Paul said to Bradley Cunningham, who was standing near his bed, 'set up the chess board.'
Paul died on Memorial Day. He was 52.
Whenever we talk,
Dave says, "Boy, I sure miss Paul Desmond." At the annual Memorial Day family gatherings at the Wilton Hilton, much of the conversation, and the laughter, concerns Paul, his wit, his kindnesses, his enigmatic comings and goings, how the Brubeck kids thought of him as Uncle Paul.
Boy, I sure miss Paul Desmond.
Mingus asked Brubeck, "Will you come see me when I am dying?"
Dave assured him he would. Less than two years after Paul's death, Dave learned that Mingus was in the final stages of Lou Gehrig's disease and being treated in . Before he could get there, Mingus died in Mexico of a heart attack in January of 1979. Cuernavaca
Brubeck's own heart problems have been addressed by the miracles of modern cardiac surgery in the form of a triple bypass operation. One of his newest compositions, Joy In The Morning, celebrates the gift of life. It is based in part on the 30th Psalm, which among other stanzas of joy and gratitude, reads: "Oh, Lord my God, I cried to thee for help, and thou hast healed me." Joy In The Morning was given its premiere in the summer of 1991 by the Hartford Symphony and Hartford Chorale.
Darius is at the
in University of Natal , teaching jazz to Africans of all races. Danny, Chris, and Matthew have their own bands but still play with their Dad on occasion. Michael and Catherine live nearby; Catherine, of "KATHY’S WALTZ," married and raising two children, Michael writing verses that inspire his father (Once When I Was Very Young MusicMasters 65083). Durban, South Africa Dave's other children, the legion of musicians who learned about jazz from the quartet and were inspired by its example, are everywhere. Brubeck and Bill Smith, the incredible clarinetist, continue to give concerts and record together with the present quartet, consisting of Randy Jones on drums and Jack Six on bass.
71 at this writing, Brubeck is composing and improvising with the same zeal and energy he has shown for more than 50 years. There's a good deal of traveling, because demand for
Dave Brubeck never seems to stop. When he goes, lola is with him, in Moscow playing for Gorbachev and Reagan, in London on his 70th birthday performing with the London Symphony, in Monaco conducting clinics for young musicians, in a plush room high in a hotel in Santa Monica looking at the beach where, not so many years earlier, a cramped little cottage was their latest refuge from the road and they dreamed of a home of their own.
And back in Wilton when it's quiet and plans have been made for the compositions, concerts and tours to come, they think about the struggle they shared, as a young cowhand unable to read music transformed himself into one of the most celebrated musicians in the world.”
— Doug Ramsey