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A Tribute to Ian Fairweather - The Jazztet - "Fair Weather"
A Tribute to Art Farmer - Brian Lynch - "The Outlaw" [Horace Silver]
Blossom Dearie - "Inside a Silent Tear"
Much like the Universe, the miracle of Jazz lies in its variety. Hearing Jazz played by one musician or by one group is just that; hearing Jazz played once. Jazz is infinite and only falls into two, broad categories: good Jazz and bad Jazz. We only feature the former on JazzProfiles.
What little of value or interest it may contain, this blog is my gift to my friends.
Allen Eager with Gordon Jack [Jazz Journal November 2003]
It is always a pleasure and a privilege to have Gordon Jack as a guest writer on these pages.
His latest profile is about tenor saxophonist Allen Eager, one of the legendary musicians associated with the post World War II “cool” style of playing inspired and influenced by Lester Young.
For order information on Jazz Journal please go here.
You can find new and used copies of Gordon’s Fifties Jazz Talk: An Oral Retrospective on the web through the major online book sellers.
[C] Gordon Jack/Jazz Journal, copyright protected, all rights reserved.
“Allen Eager’s interests ranged far beyond the narrow confines of jazz, which explains his frequent disappearances from the scene over the years. Lester Young described him as “the best of the grey boys” and Buddy Rich once said, “he could have been one of the giants if he just paid attention to his ‘thing’, instead of his other ‘things’”. In September 2001 over a long, leisurely lunch near his home in Oak Hill, Florida, he looked back on a colourful life which included playing with most of the major figures of the bebop era as
well as excursions into the world of racing cars, skiing, horse riding and the ice cream business. Sadly, he died earlier this year and this is possibly his last ever interview.
“I was about fifteen when I went to see Duke’s band at the Royal Roost and I was knocked out by Ben Webster who was a magnificent and gorgeous player. I wanted to ask him for some lessons so I went to the rooming house above Minton’s in Harlem where he was staying, and his room was so tiny that he opened the door without getting out of bed. I could imitate him a little and had learnt his solo on Cottontail, which really impressed him because he called Ray Nance and some of the other guys and said, ‘Hey listen to this little white kid.’ He showed me some embouchure things and it was just great being around him and hearing him play.
“A little later in 1943 I auditioned for Woody Herman and traveled to LA with the band. It was wartime and a lot of musicians had been drafted otherwise he would never have hired me, because I couldn’t read very well and I didn’t know anything. Woody was fine to work for although he didn’t really mix with the band but none of the leaders did, they usually kept apart from the sidemen. It was when we were in California that I first heard
Lester Young on record and I changed my conception completely. I altered my mouthpiece and started to play like Pres which all the white kids at the time did. The coloured guys apart from people like Paul Quinichette and Wardell Gray didn’t and I don’t know why. I stayed in California for a couple of years and took over from Zoot Sims at a club called The Hangover when he got drafted. Big Sid Catlett was the drummer and I stayed there for about four months sharpening my skills.
“When I went back to New York I started working in the clubs on 52nd. Street with people like Stan Levey, George Wallington, Al Haig, Max Roach and Curley Russell. My playing got honed nicely because I was working all the time but you have to keep doing it, you can’t drop out for long periods like did later. I remember when I was working at the Three Deuces, Billie Holiday used to come in with her dog Mister every night after her last set. She sat down right in front of the band and she was crazy about me, probably because I sounded like Lester. It was thanks to Leonard Feather that I got called for a date with Coleman Hawkins and I did the solo on Allen’s Alley because Hawk didn’t want to play on it (RCA (F) PM 42046). A month later in March 1946 I made my first record as a leader (SJL 2210). It was a quartet date and Bud Powell was supposed to be there, but when he didn’t show I used Ed Finckel. Another one of my early records was with Red Rodney and Serge Chaloff (C&B CD 102). We were all living together and I loved Serge’s playing, he was a great bebop player.
“One of the pianists I really liked working with was Monk and I used to hire him all the time. Everyone thought he was weird but I didn’t because he played the right changes with his own little rhythmical embellishments and he was always ‘there’. Years later he became successful when he had that group with Charlie Rouse who was a sweet guy and an excellent player. I liked him very much personally but his playing was a little one-dimensional, not very exciting but he certainly knew music.
“Like a lot of the young musicians then, I used to play at Don Jose’s studio on West 49th. Street with Zoot, Mulligan, Don Joseph and Jerry Lloyd. Everyone who could play in New York used to come at one time or another and the guys chipped in to hire the studio but the public wasn’t allowed in. That was around the time that Gerry and I became good friends. He had a small room in a brownstone on the West Side off Central Park West, and it was amazing to see him writing arrangements there without a piano. He had his own great sound on the baritone and I always loved the way he played. He could do no wrong as far as I was concerned and the funny thing is when I play baritone, my tone is like his and on alto I sound like Bird without really trying.
“Gerry was always organizing and getting things together. Once when nobody had any money to hire a studio he took us all out to Central Park for a rehearsal and we just sat on the grass and played. By then, he and his girl-friend Gail Madden had moved into my parent’s place in the Bronx and Gail was pretty bossy and opinionated, always wanting to affirm women’s position in society. She was a strong, ‘women’s-libber’ type which was the kind of woman Gerry seemed to like. She played maracas and wanted to be on a record date with us but she didn’t kick the beat off into something better than it was, in fact she was a bit of a drag (Prestige OJCCD-003-2). Jerry Lloyd was there and he was a fine trumpeter but very introverted and like Curley Russell he ended up driving a cab.
“I started living with Fats Navarro in Benny Harris’ flat in the Bronx towards the end of the forties. You know, someone recently sent me a CD with Fats and me but I haven’t listened to it at all. I’m afraid it will be embarrassing because I don’t feel that I was a good player. I don’t like listening to myself whereas Al Cohn, Zoot, Lester or Ben Webster just knock me out. When Fats and I were at the Roost with Tadd Dameron he used to bring new music in all the time but we never rehearsed, we sight-read on the job.
Tadd was so talented and I never knew how I got the gig. I think they needed a token white guy and that was me although he must have liked my playing or he wouldn’t have hired me. I was there for a year or more and the club did fabulous business. The sad thing about Fats though is that just before he died, he was hardly working at all.
“Bird and I used to play at the Open Door in Greenwich Village and I also used to hang out there with Tony Fruscella because we were living together for a while. In 1955 we did a record for Atlantic (JFCD 22808) and just like me, he was a free spirit but we were hardly playing at all at the time. I hadn’t worked in months and we both had to take our horns out of hock the day before the session which was a nice date, not great or anything but Tony always sounded good. He was a sweet player but a little strange and difficult to be with. I also worked quite a bit with Buddy Rich who was one of the great natural talents. He wasn’t a real swinger like Philly Joe but he had fantastic co-ordination, playing things that nobody else could even if they practiced for a hundred years. I was also very friendly with Miles who really liked the way I dressed. I introduced him to cars and clothes although I never found out what he thought about my playing. He was sure lucky with all those great players like Coltrane, Bill Evans, Red Garland, Cannonball, the list just goes on. Nothing since has come close to those albums like In A Silent Way,
Kind Of Blue and Sketches Of Spain.
“It was around this time that I lost my cabaret card which meant I couldn’t work in Manhattan which stopped me playing for a while. I managed the occasional gig in New Jersey where they didn’t seem to check if you had one. The cards were issued at the discretion of the police department who were a corrupt bunch at the time and a few years later when I was going with a very rich lady, I hired a lawyer. We had the whole thing thrown out by the supreme court on the basis that it was unconstitutional and that was probably my biggest contribution to music! It was too late for people like myself and Billie Holiday who had been kept from working in New York for years.
“In 1956 I persuaded my mother to give me the money to buy a couple of soft ice cream machines which were pretty new then. I took them with me to the French Riviera. figuring I would make a fortune, but the French laws are very difficult for foreigners and I gave the whole thing up. I was into this non-musical thing and I was completely broke so of course I went back to playing. I recorded with Jimmy Deuchar (Vogue LAE 12029) which wasn’t a very good date but he was real fine and I stayed in Paris for about eighteen months, often working with Kenny Clarke. I got to know Roger Vadim and
Louis Malle and I had a little fling with a lady who had been married to Henry Fonda. I also became very friendly with Rex Harrison’s son Noel, although his father didn’t like me because I called him ‘Rex’ when we were introduced, instead of ‘Mr. Harrison’.
While he was making The Young Lions, Marlon Brando came to see me in one of those basement clubs on the Left Bank. He wasn’t really a jazz fan but we knew each other from New York and I asked him if he ever made a Western, would he use me as an extra because I loved horses? In 1961 he made One Eyed Jacks which I loved but he never called me! When I got back to the States I took a band to Aspen, Colorado and when the job finished I stayed on teaching skiing and horse riding. My parents always had stables at the hotels they ran in the Catskills and I had become a pretty accomplished rider.
“Ornette Coleman came to New York in 1959 and just turned the scene upside down. I couldn’t really get with it but I used to hang out with Don Cherry who was one of the great players and we got along really well. He could play free and on the changes too. This was when I started going with Peggy Hitchcock who was related to the famous Mellon family who were real ‘old money’. She was a millionairess several times over and we lived at her apartment on Park Avenue in New York. Thanks to her, I had unlimited funds but I didn’t give up music completely although I was interested in many other things, especially automobiles. She bought me a 12 cylinder GT Ferrari and I took it to Germany to race at the Nurburgring and when I came back to the States, I won at Sebring in 1961, beating guys like Stirling Moss and Phil Hill. I also became friendly with the composer John Cage and around that time I went to live in Millbrook which is in upstate New York. One of Peggy’s brothers had a mansion there in 300 acres which is where I met Timothy Leary who was a psychologist from Harvard. He introduced acid to the world and that’s when the psychedelic movement really started. I had been getting
high for years but acid was something else. Occasionally guys like Mingus and Tony Williams came up to play but for most of the sixties and into the seventies, I was pretty inactive musically.
“ By 1977 I wanted to get back into jazz but I couldn’t find any place to play, so I enrolled in the music course at the University Of Miami. They were all kids of course and nobody knew me but the standard was pretty good. I played in the third rehearsal band because I didn’t play flute or clarinet and I wasn’t a great reader. I remember once though playing a solo which the whole band applauded and that had never happened before. I stayed on in Florida because my mother had a condo on Miami Beach but I started to get
a complex about my playing, because nobody was hiring me. I did come to Europe a few times and I played with Chet Baker in 1984 in Amsterdam at the Concertgebouw. (T. Sjogren in his Baker discography lists a private recording of this performance). He had these complicated charts which came out during the concert and I had to sight-read them.
The changes were difficult and I was expected to be at home with all this tough material but it was terrible. I don’t think I coped very well because I didn’t know what was going on and we didn’t communicate at all. Chet sounded great and he knew all the stuff and anyway, he had a great ear. Al, Zoot, Gerry and Stan Getz were all like that too because they could hear anything and play it. I have to really know a tune, which is why I am not
in their league I suppose. I’m probably up near the top of the second division.
“Looking back on my career, it all came so easily in the beginning because I was an exotic-looking guy. People were attracted to me and that was my trouble. Everything came without trying and I never had to promote myself, but then heroin came into the picture and the gigs seemed to stop. Right now, I’m broke and I’m sick of living here and not working. I have no credit cards and I’m on Social Security - what the government call ‘Assisted Living’. I really want to move to the West Coast where Dick Bank says he can get some work for me and Freddie Gruber, who is a great guy and a drum teacher there, says I can stay with him. I played in LA recently with Sir Charles Thompson and Barry Harris and everyone was surprised to see me. They treated me real well although I had trouble on the first couple of tunes but finally it all came back and I started to play. I know I could work at least once a week there which is more than I’m doing in Florida.
I’m not as inspired as I was when I was younger but maybe I can turn my life around at least at the end of it, because I just want to play.”
Achnowledgements: I would like to thank Dick Bank, Brian Davis, Jack Simpson* and Bob Weir for their help while researching Allen Eager’s career.
* For those living in Orlando, Florida, Jack’s radio show, ‘Jazz On The Beach’ can be heard on WUCF-FM.”
The following video features Allen on tenor along with Serge Chaloff on baritone sax, Jimmy Johnson on bass and Buddy Rich on drums. The tune is The Goof and I by Al Cohn and it was recorded in 1947. It appears on the Uptown Records compilation Allen Eager: In The Land of OO-Bla-Dee [UPCD 27-49].
Writing About Jazz
Why is there so much written about Jazz? Why do writers - even blog writers, like me - feel compelled to weigh in on the subject? As with love, the topic is inexhaustible because it feels like personal property to everyone who holds the music dear. As with love, there is always something new - something original, something crucial - to add to the conversation. [With apologies and gratitude to Susan Perabo]
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Jazz Writers and Critics
Over the years, the "editorial staff" at JazzProfiles has benefited from the knowledge and opinions of a whole host of learned and informed Jazz writers and critics. Whenever possible, "we" attempt to repay this debt of gratitude by featuring their work on the blog. It’s our small way of thanking those whose writings have enriched our appreciation of the music and its makers.
A Note of Appreciation
"I am always amazed by the fact that intelligent people with better things to do offer me their time and expertise." Martin Cruz Smith, Three Stations, p. 243.
The "editorial staff" at JazzProfiles echoes this sentiment and wishes to express its gratitude to all those who assist with and contribute to its efforts in hosting this blog.
The Drums in Jazz
"The basis of Jazz has always been rhythmic. The development of jazz and its innovation from the early days of ragtime at the turn of the century to the many highly sophisticated, exciting and challenging styles of jazz that can be heard today, has always derived from that basis. In the European concert tradition, the drums serve as a noise-making device, aiming to create additional intensity or dramatic fortissimo effects. They do not effect the continuity of the music and could even be left out without creating the breakdown of a Beethoven or a Tchaikovsky symphony. In Jazz the drumbeat is the ordering principal which creates the space within which the music happens. The beat of a swinging drummer forms the basis of the musical continuity of a jazz performance." - Introduction to the Properbox set - THE ENGINE ROOM: A History of Jazz Drumming from Storyville to 52nd Street."
“Jazz musicians are their music … the music can’t be subtracted; it’s the defining essence which sets musicians apart and makes them special and ultimately mysterious.” – Richard Sudhalter
Scott DeVeaux - Some Thoughts on the Transitory Nature of Jazz
“… many individual lives in jazz—in American culture—are unsatisfying and incomplete, even tragic. For every Dizzy Gillespie, basking in later years in the autumnal glow of a life well led, there is a Charlie Parker, leaving behind a tangle of unfulfilled ambition. Coleman Hawkins's story reminds us that jazz itself is unfinished business, undergoing the painful process of outliving its own time and watching its social and aesthetic meanings drift into new, unfamiliar formations as the original context for its creation disappears. As Gary Taylor has recently argued [Cultural Selection, 1996], cultural memory begins with death: the death of the creator. The search for meaning is left to the survivors. It is up to us to decide how to tell the story, how best to represent the struggle and achievement of artists whose lives belong to the past but whose music continues to live in the present. In the process, we will decide what "jazz" will mean in the century ahead.” [p. 450]
"The thing you need most to play this music is concentration." - Bud Shank
"The hardest thing about this music is getting it from the head into the hands."
"Jazz is only what you are." - Pops
Here at JazzProfiles, we make every effort to memorialize or honor those who have given us pleasure in the music and those whose writings have taught us more about it
Gary Giddins - "Rhythm-a-ning"
"My intuition tells me that innovation isn't this generation's fate...the neoclassicists have a task no less valuable than innovation: sustenance. [M]usicians such as Marsalis are needed to restore order, replenish melody, revitalize the beat, loot the tradition for whatever works, and expand the audience. That way we'll be all the hungrier for the next incursion of genuine avant-gardists..." (161)
Alain Gerber - "Portraits En Jazz"
"En Jazz comme alleurs, le plus difficile ne se distingue pas du plus simple: c'est de jouer comme on respite." "With Jazz as with anything else, the most difficult and the easiest are one and the same; the whole thing is to play as your breath." [translation by F. Le Guilloux]
Remembering Gene Lees: 1928-2010
"In the past few years, I have been only too aware that primary sources of jazz history, and popular-music history, are being lost to us. The great masters, the men who were there, are slowly leaving us. I do not know who said, "Whenever anyone dies, a library burns." But it is true: almost anyone's experience is worth recording, even that of the most "ordinary" person. For the great unknown terrain of human history is not what the kings and famous men did — for much, though by no means all, of this was recorded, no matter how imperfectly — but how the "common" people lived. When Leonard Feather first came to the United States from England in the late 1930s, he was able to know most of his musical heroes, including Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton. By the end of the 1940s, Leonard knew everybody of significance in jazz from the founding figures to the young iconoclasts. And when I became actively involved in the jazz world in 1959, as editor of Down Beat, most of them were still there. I met most of them, and became friends with many, especially the young Turks more or less of my own age. I have lived to see them grow old (and sometimes not grow old), and die, their voices stilled forever. And so, in recent years, I have felt impelled to do what I can to get their memories down before they are lost, leading me to write what I think of as mini-biographies of these people. This has been the central task of the Jazzletter."
What Heaven Looks Like to a Drummer
Something To Think About
"Writers about jazz are often notable for an ill-concealed jealousy and a sullen conviction that they alone know anything about the subject, that it is or should be their exclusive domain." - Gene Lees
The Piano in Jazz
"At the turn of the century-before the age of radio, television, high-fidelity recording, and computerized video games-the piano was one of the focal points of American family life in the home. The image of Mother seated at the keyboard with the children gathered around her and Father in his pinstriped shirt and suspenders looking on proudly epitomized the American dream. White American families purchased moderately priced "uprights" at the rate of nearly 250,000 per year. In black family life the piano was one of the first major purchases made by those who could afford it. Although they were less likely than white families to own instruments, blacks frequently heard piano music in churches, which were the center of community life, or in the urban "tonks" and "juke" houses (the ancestors of the jukebox). Indeed, black pianists were largely responsible for the instrument's acceptance as "part of the family." The music they played and composed during the late 1890's, eventually known as ragtime, was a major source of the piano's popularity in the two decades that followed."
Noal Cohen - Jazz Historian and Discographer
Noal is the owner-operator of one of the best Jazz discographies out there and he's recently made some changes and additions to his website which you can checkout directly by clicking on the photo of him.
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“In a way, the entire act of music is mind put into sound. It has to go through some sort of physical medium in order to be heard. I chose the saxophone, but the whole issue is to have such control over the instrument and over what you hear that the instrument physically doesn't get in the way of visualizing sound. Technique to me means dealing with an instrument in the most efficient manner possible so that it's no more than peripheral to expression." – Ralph Bowen
I could claim that like the age-old Chinese newspaper trick, I include typos intentionally so that you will read more closely to find them.
The fact is that I edit the entire site myself and the years are rolling by.
Please excuse any mistakes that you find on the blog and just let me know about them so that they can be corrected.
I'd appreciate it.
The "Editorial Staff" at JazzProfiles
Victor Feldman with Louis Hayes and Sam Jones
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I started playing drums when I was 14 years old and was largely self-taught until I began taking lessons from Victor Feldman and Larry Bunker during my last year in high school. Through their connections, I ultimately found work in movie and TV soundtrack recording, doing jingles and commercials and subbing for both of them at jazz gigs in the greater L.A. area. I was a member of a quintet that won the 1962 Intercollegiate Jazz Festival held at The Lighthouse Cafe. Everyone in the group was also voted "best" on their instrument. Performed with the Ray and Leroy Anthony Big Bands and the Les and Larry Elgart Orchestras. I also worked with Anita O'Day at Ye Little Club in Beverly Hills, CA, with Juliet Prowse on a number of occasions in Las Vegas and with Frank Zappa on his 1963 film score for "The World's Greatest Sinner" which starred cult actor and director Timothy Carey.