Saturday, December 31, 2011
“[Although a Canadian who spent most of his professional career in
following a posting there during WW II,] Robert Farnon’s influence as an arranger
has been strongly felt in the England .
Quincy Jones, Johnny Mandel, Henry Mancini, Marian Evans, Marty Paich and Neal
Hefti are some of the top writers who aren’t ashamed to admit occasionally
having ‘borrowed’ some of his ideas.” USA
- David Aides, English writer and music critic
“… I had never heard anything like this. The harmony was exquisite, fresh and adventurous; and if I could not analyze the voice leading I could certainly hear it. It was startling stuff, and I got my hands on as much of it as I could. Forty and more years later, I still have the
LPs I acquired at that time.” London
Gene Lees, Jazz author and critic
“I wanted to enhance the popular song. When I do an arrangement of a popular song, I like to put some thought into it, not just dish it up in two choruses. Make it into a piece of music, a composition, tell a story.”
- Robert Farnon
"I look at Bob as a composer who is an arranger, His mastery of music is almost total. The lines that he writes! His music is extraordinarily linear. Gil Evans wrote that way. The individual parts are wonderful to play. They make incredible sense.
What really attracted me initially were the arrangements. All the arrangers love his harmony. But his harmony is derived from linear writing. The way he would realize these things for orchestra was just extraordinary. And of course we all know about the string writing. Everybody has commented on it.”
- Jeffrey Sultanof, Jazz composer-arranger, educator
As a young boy, I was a big fan of pirate movies.
My Dad was always taking me to see them at The Strand, The Majestic, The RKO Albee, The Loew’s State and other less, palatial theaters in Providence RI, where I grew up.
My all-time favorite buccaneer flick was The Crimson Pirate which starred the incredibly acrobatic, Burt Lancaster.
On more than one occasion, I almost killed myself trying to duplicate some of the Crimson Pirate’s stunts using the roof tops of three-storied, tenement buildings in place of the rigging on the three masts of a barkentine.
Another seafaring adventure film that made a indelible impression on me was Captain Horatio Hornblower, R.N. which starred Gregory Peck. The movie was set during the Napoleonic Wars of the early 19th century and Peck’s character was loosely based on Lord Nelson, who commanded the British fleet during a number of its epic battles against the navies of Napoleon and his allies.
But, what struck me most about this film was not the gymnastic gyrations of its hero [Peck was no
], but rather, the beauty and grandeur of
the film’s music. Lancaster
The film’s score contained music that was the aural counterpart of the many breathtakingly beautiful Technicolor images that made up the film.
The Technicolor Company’s movie film was so densely rich and bright in color that I always wished that I could put a spoon into it to see what would come out. It was the first time I ever felt that way about a film score, too.
I had no idea who composed the music to Captain Horatio Hornblower, R.N. until many years later.
Once I learned the film’s score was written by Robert Farnon, it seemed that whenever I encountered his name after that, it was always followed by expressions of deep and abiding admiration.
“The reverence in which Farnon is held by arrangers and other musicians, not to mention singers, is unlimited. They have long referred to him as the Governor, or just the Guv, and I heard one arranger say in a radio interview, "He is God."
When someone unfamiliar with Farnon's music asked Rob McConnell who he was, Rob said, ‘He is the greatest arranger in the world.’
Andre Previn long ago called Bob ‘the world's greatest string writer.’ Andre told me once that when John (then Johnny) Williams was a young studio pianist in
, he asked a question about string writing.
Andre gave him a Farnon album, telling him to take it home and listen to it.
Late that night, Johnny called him back to ask what the hell Farnon was doing
at such-and-such point in one of the tunes. Andre said, ‘I don't know, but if you
figure it out, call me back.’” Los Angeles
Johnny Mandel, one of the most brilliant composers and arrangers jazz has produced, said:
"Most of what I know is based on having stolen everything I could from Farnon. I'll say that right off. I've listened to him and tried to approximate what I thought he was doing. He made strings sound like they always should have and never did. Everybody wrote them skinny. He knew how to write them so that it could wrench at you. I'd never heard anybody like him before and I've never heard anybody like him since. We're all pale imitations of him, those of us who are influenced by him."
Another great admirer of Robert Farnon’s work was Marion Evans, a highly regarded studio arranger who was particularly admired for his use of strings in albums by vocalists Steve Lawrence, Edie Gorme and Tony Bennett.
Marion was unapologetic in his admiration [and replication] of Farnon’s approach whose influence he further disseminated as explained in the following excerpt from by
Gene Lees in his chapter on Farnon from his book
entitled Arranging the Score: Portraits of the Great Arrangers:
“Further disseminating the Farnon influence,
founded an informal school for arrangers
in his cluttered apartment on Marion West 49th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues.
the only arranger to use the Farnon albums
as teaching material. "We all used them for that purpose," [noted
composer-arranger] Ralph Burns said.” Marion
‘He's a rare combination. Every once in a while, by some biological meeting, some cross-fertilization, we produce an Albert Einstein. We produce somebody who has the talent, the dedication, the training. Farnon had it all. And it was all in one place.
‘Plus, through no fault of his own, he found himself in an incredible position in
, where he was standing in front of a large
orchestra every day and writing. You do that for a while and you learn. And
that's doing it the hard way. London
‘He had that rare combination of everything. He is exceptional by every standard.
I think it's not really kosher to analyze Bob in a highly technical manner. It doesn't begin to touch the depth of his talent. Bob has enormous technique, but his talent far exceeds his technique, and so did Mozart's. And that is precisely what you want. Anyone can learn as much technique as Bob Farnon has by going to music school. But they don't have that extra edge.
‘Mozart didn't write masterpieces all the time. He sat down and kept writing and let it flow. Bob has a lot of that in him. He's fast. He is one of the fastest writers I've ever known. He just does it, and that's it. He doesn't labor over it. When it's good, it's fantastic.’” [excerpts from pp. 63-64]
I guess there was a reason why I was so impressed with Robert Farnon’s music the first time I ever heard it.
And it looks like I was in good company.
To give you a sampling of what’s on offer with Robert Farnon, here is an audio track of his beautifully orchestra theme from the movie Laura followed by an audio track of the music that first introduced me to his music: Lady Barbara’s Theme from Horatio Hornblower, R.N.
Thursday, December 29, 2011
© - Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.
Manny Albam has been “flying under the radar screen” for far too long.
Lack of public awareness is not an unusual situation for a talented Jazz artist, but it does seem a shame that Manny's work isn't more fully appreciated.
Fortunately for those yet to discover the sterling quality of Manny's music, an Internet search did turn up the fact that much of it is available in a digital format.
A few years ago, Gambit Records, a European-based reissuer of many classic Jazz recordings, put out one of his classic compositions on a CD entitled Manny Albam: The Blues is Everybody’s Business.”
The title refers to Manny’s four-part suite which was issued as a Coral LP in 1957.
We came across the CD recently and it contained the following overview of the early years of Manny’s career and some background on the suite.
You may want to plan on spending a bit of time on the JazzProfiles blog today as we have a treat in store for you in the form of audio tracks of all four movements from Manny Albam: The Blues is Everybody’s Business” which you locate at the end of this piece.
“During a career that spanned seven decades, composer and arranger Manny Albam collaborated with a who's who of jazz greats including Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, and Stan Getz. He also developed successive generations of new talent as co-founder and musical director of the
BMI Jazz Composers Workshop.
Albam was born
24, 1922. His
parents were en route from their native to their new home in Russia , and his mother went into labor while
their ship was outside of the New York City Dominican Republic . port of Samana
At the age of seven Albam discovered jazz after hearing a Bix Beiderbecke record, and soon after began playing the alto saxophone; at 16 he dropped out of school following an invitation to join Muggsy Spanier's Dixieland combo, and later played with Georgie Auld, an experience that also afforded Albam his first shot at arranging under the tutelage of band mate Budd Johnson. Albam next gigged behind Charlie Barnet, from there signing on with Charlie Spivak. During his two years with Spivak, his arranging skills flourished, and he generated an average of two arrangements per week.
After serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, Albam returned to the Barnet stable, and as his interest in writing and arranging grew, he effectively retired from performing in 1950, a decision that coincided with the last gasps of the big band era.
Albam quickly emerged as a sought-after freelancer, composing and arranging material for many of the bop era's brightest talents. His tight, brisk arrangements favored subtlety over flash, while his writing exhibited a wry sense of humor. Albam eventually signed to headline his own LPs for labels including Mercury, RCA Victor, and Dot, bringing together musicians including Phil Woods, Al Cohn, and Bob Brookmeyer for acclaimed easy listening efforts including The Blues Is Everybody's Business and The Drum Suite.
His 1957 jazz arrangement of Leonard Bernstein's score to West Side Story so impressed Bernstein that the maestro invited Albam to write for the New York Philharmonic. The offer prompted Albam to study classical composition under Tibor Serly, later yielding such works as the luminous "Concerto for Trombone and Strings." Albam also wrote for feature films, television, and even advertising jingles, and in 1964 signed on as musical director for Sonny Lester's fledgling
label, which two years later issued his jazz
suite The Soul of the City. Solid State
By that time Albam was increasingly channeling his energies into teaching, however. After stints with the Eastman School of Music, Glassboro State College, and the Manhattan School of Music, in 1988 he co-founded the
BMI Jazz Composers Workshop, assuming the
title of musical director from Brookmeyer three years later. Albam died of
cancer on October 2, 2001.
Written during the summer of 1957, Manny Albam's ambitious jazz suite The Blues Is Everybody's Business attempts to tell a story in instrumental form. It represents a visit to the fictional Bluestown, with first trumpeter Nick Travis and later Ernie Royal serving as the musical guides. Art Farmer's Harmon-muted trumpet serves as the alter ego to Travis (heard with a cup mute), while Phil Woods' exuberant alto sax and Bob Brookmeyer's sassy valve trombone stand out as the most impressive soloists on the album. The list of all-stars assembled for this project is considerable, also including Al Cohn, Gene Quill, Milt Hinton, and Eddie Costa, to name just a few. In the two middle movements strings are added to augment the orchestra, though Albam's intelligent score keep them from bogging down the music. Nat Hentoff s detailed liner notes are an added bonus. Though this type of composition may have fallen out of fashion, fans of progressive big bands should look for this long out of print Coral LP, as the music is still worth hearing.”
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
There's more about Manny coming your way in about a day or two. In the meantime, I thought you might enjoy listening to some of his work on the following video which features an excerpt from his Jazz Greats of Our Time, Vol. 2.
Composer-arranger Manny Albam's "Interwoven" as performed by Conte Candoli, Harry "Sweets" Edison [tp], Stu Williamson [vtb], Herb Geller and Charlie Mariano [as], Bill Holman and Richie Kamuca [ts], Lou Levy [p], Red Mitchell [b], Shelly Manne [d].
Saturday, December 24, 2011
© - Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.
“I could just sit and listen to Bernie Senensky play all day.”
Like the late Bill Evans, so could I.
Bernie was also a favorite of the late alto saxophonist, Art Pepper.
According to Hal Hill, a Canadian broadcaster who booked Art into Bourbon Street in
and paired him when Bernie on piano for a
week-long gig: Toronto, CA
“I have many happy memories of being asked to pick a rhythm section for Art Pepper for an engagement at the now defunct night club '
You can imagine Art's delight at having such an accomplished pianist to work
with, someone who molded his ideas so well with Art's music. That was a week of
sheer enjoyment, night after night, set after set. Toronto
When Art went on to
at the end of the gig he phoned me to see
if I could get Bernie to join him. Bernie, unfortunately, was not available
due in part to his loyalty to a group he had started to work with on a regular
basis in New
Those sessions on Contemporary Records, Live
At The Village Vanguard (1972) could have been with Bernie as pianist instead
of George Cables.” Toronto
Bernie’s style just sparkles with a lightness and playfulness that makes his solos so easy and fun to listen to. You don’t have to reach for anything; it’s there.
He composes many of the tunes he records, but here again, as is the case with Lolito’s Theme which forms the audio track for the video feature to Bernie which you can locate at the end of this piece, his music is easily accessible.
Nothing tortuously introverted, but rather, music that becomes the basis for straightforward and melodious solo interpretation and a certain gentleness of expression in the tunes he writes as ballads. To paraphrase Hal Hill, each tune he writes “… has a richness of detail that allows for the fact that we hear things differently.”
Many of Bernie’s recordings are available in digital formats as CO’s and Mp3 downloads.
Here are some background notes about Bernie’s considerable career in the World of Jazz.
© - Canadian Jazz Archives, copyright protected; all rights reserved.
“BERNARD (BERNIE) SENENSKY (pianist, composer) was born
December 31, 1944 in . Recognized as one of Canada’s premier
jazz artists and one of the foremost jazz accompanists in the world, Senensky’s
playing and his music have been featured in jazz festivals internationally.
Since 1975, he has released eight albums, two of which were nominated for Juno
Awards. Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Senensky began playing piano at the age of eight, settling into his interest in jazz when he was 14, studying with
jazz eminence Bob Erlendson. He began sitting in with local
Winnipeg groups which included guitarist Lenny
Breau and bassist Winnipeg Dave Young, eventually taking his considerable talent to . Edmonton
His work leading a house band with the Holiday Inn Hotel chain eventually took him to Toronto where he took up residence in 1968, quickly establishing himself as an accompanist playing for and with a wide variety of visiting musicians including Pepper Adams, Chet Baker, Ed Bickert, Terence Blanchard, Ruby Braff, Randy Brecker, Al Cohn, George Coleman, Buddy DeFranco, Herb Ellis, Art Farmer, Sonny Greenwich, Slide Hampton, Herbie Mann, Frank Morgan, Joe Pass, Art Pepper, Bucky Pizzarelli, Dizzy Reese, Red Rodney, Jack Sheldon, Zoot Sims, Sonny Stitt, Lew Tabackin, Clark Terry, Kenny Wheeler, Joe Williams, and Phil Woods.
He has recorded with dozens of the biggest names in the business, played in piano duets with Oscar Peterson and Marian McPartland, and performed with major name bands and ensembles including Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers, Rob McConnell’s Boss Brass, the Maynard Ferguson Orchestra, the Elvin Jones Quartet, and the Herbie Mann/Al Grey All-Star Septet.
He formed his own trio in the early ‘70s, and began occupying the piano chair in The Moe Koffman Quintet in 1979 when the band was the number one small jazz combo in
. He had played with Moe on occasion prior
to that and “was always impressed with his utter musicality and his complete
mastery of the flute, alto, and soprano saxophones”. As part of The Moe Koffman
Quintet, Senensky ultimately had the opportunity to contribute many of his own
compositions to the band’s repertoire for more than 20 years, and continues to
keep the memory and the music of Moe Koffman alive today as leader of his
Tribute to Moe Koffman Band." Canada
Thursday, December 22, 2011
© - Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.
“There's always a tigerish feel to her best vocals - no woman has ever sung in the Jazz idiom with quite such beguiling surliness as McRae.”
- Richard Cook & Brian Morton, The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, 6th Ed.
“Carmen McRae is the true grande dame of jazz. Like so many of the best women Jazz singers, including her friends Shirley Horn and the late Sarah Vaughan, Carmen is an accomplished pianist. This means she not only has a feeling for harmony, she has true knowledge of it. Carmen always knows exactly what she is doing.
The term ‘Jazz singer’ is a dubious one, and Sarah Vaughan objected to it. It means many things to many people, including merely a style that entails a certain indefinable jazz feeling. If it means anything specific, it surely denotes someone who can improvise with the voice. In a well-made song, the intervals of the music bear a significant relationship to the natural inflections of the words, and to alter the melody compromises the meaning and diminishes the dramatic effect of the song as a whole. Unfortunately, that is exactly what all too many ‘Jazz singers’ do. Carmen is a spectacular exception. When she changes the melodic intervals, she somehow, mysteriously, deepens the song, increasing the impact of the words.”
Gene Lees, Jazz writer and critic
“No singer since [Billie]
had been more adept at singing behind the beat than McRae, or more skilled at
shifting from an intimate conversational delivery to hard-edged
reconfigurations of melody and lyric.”
Ted Gioia, A History of Jazz
“No singer was more stubbornly verbal than Carmen McRae, who inflected words as though she were giving them a tongue-lashing. McRae was famously outspoken and her songs had a similarly tart appeal. You didn't necessarily turn to her for profane insight into the songwriter's art, but you occasionally got it anyway. This is especially true of the numerous [Billie]
tunes she covered.
made the word ‘love’ shimmer with unrequited longing, McRae cast it in caustic
languor. Consider her 1965 live recording of "No More": Holiday
sang the line, ‘you ain't gonna bother me no more no how,’ as if trying to key
up her resolve; McRae phrased those words as if she had a gun in her purse.
- Gary Giddins, Visions of Jazz [paragraphing modified]
There was noting quite like hearing Carmen McRae sing, especially in-person.
To my ears, she was the epitome of a song stylist, but watching her style a song was a captivating and beguiling experience. I told her once that she was my “witchy woman,” to which she laughingly replied: “Be careful, or I’ll put a spell on you.”
Of course, she knew. She already had.
And it wasn’t only me. Carmen had a way of enchanting anyone who ever caught her in performance.
The reason was simple. She loved singing Jazz and she was good at it. She knew it, the musicians who backed her knew it and we knew it. And if you were in her presence while she doing her thing, you knew that you were in for the thrill of your life.
What Carmen served up during her performances was akin to a musical feast: phrasing lyrics with meaning and understanding; picking tempos that were always just right; scatting – just enough – while employing the cleverest of harmonies; and just when you thought that you didn’t have room for dessert, she’d offered up a stomping version of “I Cried for You” or “Three Little Words” and leave you screaming for more.
I always sensed a great sadness in Carmen, too. The weightiness and gravity with which she handled certain ballads bespoke of a life with its share of disappointments.
She was nobody’s fool, but few of us go through life without some emotional bumps and bruises and it appeared to me that Carmen had had her share of these, including some personal relationships that didn’t work out.
It was easy to catch the sense of this if you listened closely to her banter between tunes or observed her knowing facial or lyrical expressions when she sang romantic ballads.
Carmen brought the Jazz musician’s life to her music, a life which was never an easy one, even during the best of times.
I loved seeing her work at a club whether it was at Sugar Hill in
, or P.J.’s
on the Sunset Strip in San Francisco or at Donte’s Jazz Club in Hollywood . North Hollywood, CA
Can you imagine a rhythm section made up of
on guitar, Jimmy Rowles on piano, Chuck
Domanico on bass and Chuck Flores on drums backing Carmen at an intimate Jazz
club located only a 10-minute drive from my home? Joe Pass
Welcome to my world in 1972 when Carmen worked a week at Donte’s.
The room was loaded with musicians during her appearance and Carmen was always gracious about visiting with as many of them as possible during the breaks between sets.
With her signature – “Hey baby, what’s happening?” – she come up to your table and there would be hugs and giggles all around.
She was a queen who deserved to be an empress. Those of us who understood this treated her royally and gave her the respect that she merited.
In return, she bestowed upon us a treasure chest filled with rendition after rendition of great vocal Jazz.
Thankfully, much of her gift has been saved on recordings.
While I’m grateful for the recorded legacy of her music, there was nothing quite like watching her weave her special charms into a song while sitting three feet away from her in a Jazz club.
When you were around Carmen, "baby," it was always “happening.”
We put together the following video tribute to her with the help of the ace graphics team at CerraJazz
features Carmen singing Let There Be Love
accompanied by Norman Simmons on piano, Victor Sproles on bass and Stu
Martin on drums.
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
The editorial staff at JazzProfiles is moving as quickly as it can to bring you more about the future features described in the sidebar and asks you to bear with us in this regard as the holidays are upon us.
Thank you for your patience.
Thank you for your patience.
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Monday, December 19, 2011
© - Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.
“Almost the first sounds to be heard on the classic Jazz on a Summer's Day soundtrack are the mellow tones of Bob Brookmeyer's valve trombone interweaving with Jimmy Giuffre's clarinet on The Train And The River. It's a curiously formal sound, almost academic, and initially difficult to place. Valve trombone has a more clipped, drier sound than the slide variety, and Brookmeyer is probably its leading exponent, though Maynard Ferguson, Stu Williamson and Bob Enevoldsen have all made effective use of it.”
- Richard Cook & Brian Morton, The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, 6th Ed.
“Getting to the core could well be the Brookmeyer credo. As a jazz soloist and writer, Bob wastes little energy on unnecessary curlicues and affected sounds for the sake of an artificial eloquence... This is a signpost of basic musical honesty. At the same time, Bob is dedicated to emotion and the investigation of every nuance beneath the surface of a selection. The result of this approach is a forceful personalized transmission of the emotional content of the musical material to the listening audience...”
- Burt Korall, Jazz writer and critic
“I've loved Bob's compositions and arrangements and his playing since the moment I first heard his music in the '70s. It turned my life around. Bob became a wonderful teacher, mentor and dear friend. And he was enormously generous to those lucky enough to be his friend.”
- Maria Schneider, Jazz composer-arranger
“Bob has added an amazing amount to Jazz. He was in the thick of the
scene in the 50s and 60s and even hung out
at "The Loft." To the average listener he probably is not that we'll
known. But to me he'll remain one of those fundamental sounds [of Jazz].” New
Ken Koenig, Jazz musician
“Wherever he goes Bob's bound to make further contributions and stir up emotions with his "thinking differently.’”
- Brian Hope, Jazz Fan
“Bob studied at the Kansas City Conservatory and originally played piano; he took up the valve trombone when he was twenty-three, and almost immediately became a major figure in jazz.
Most of Bob's career has been in
working with almost every major jazzman there, but most significantly Clark
Terry, with whom he co-led a quintet. His association with Mulligan continued,
and when Mulligan formed his concert band, Brookmeyer played in it along with
Zoot Sims, New York Bill Crow,
Mel Lewis, and Clark Terry, and did a great deal of its writing. The band's
haunting arrangement of Django Reinhardt's "Manoir de mes reves" is
Bob is a classic illustration of the dictum that jazzmen tend to play pretty much as they speak, which is perhaps inevitable in music that is so extensively improvisatory. He is low-key and quietly ironic in speech, and he plays that way.”
Bob Brookmeyer was born on
December 19, 1929. He died on December 16,
2011, three days
before what would have been his 82nd birthday.
I will miss his magnificent musicianship, both as an instrumentalist, he played both valve trombone and piano, and as a composer-arranger.
It seems that Bob has been a part of my Jazz scene ever since I can remember. Although he replaced trumpeter Chet Baker with Gerry Mulligan’s quartet in 1953, I first heard him a few years later on the Emarcy recordings made by Gerry’s sextet.
What a group: Gerry on baritone sax, Bob on valve trombone, joined on the “front line” by trumpeter Jon Eardley and tenor saxophonist Zoot Sims, with bassist
Bill Crow and drummer Dave Bailey cooking along in the rhythm
What struck me most about Bob’s playing was its humor. Lighthearted and unexpected phrases just flowed in and out of his solos and he always seemed to swing, effortlessly.
Bob had fun with the music while not taking himself too seriously. I mean, anyone who names an original composition “Jive Hoot” must certainly smile a lot.
Bob knew what he was doing musically, but he never put on any airs about it.
He had great reverence and respect for those who came before him in the Jazz tradition and he even made it a point to “revisit” some of what he referred to as Jazz “traditionalism” in a few of the earliest recordings that he made as a leader.
Another of Bob’s virtues was his honesty and his directness. You never had to guess what he was thinking on subjects that were near-and-dear to his heart. In interview after interview, reading Bob’s stated opinions was akin to being “hit” by both barrels of a shotgun loaded with the truth-according-to-Brookmeyer.
If as Louis Armstrong once said, “Jazz is Who You Are,” then you always knew where Bob stood. Musically, his playing and his compositions radiated with candor and clarity; his big band arrangements, in particular, just sparkled with lucidity and precision. I would imagine that no one performing Bob’s music was ever in doubt as to what he wanted you to play.
Nothing was implied or suggested in his writing; he told you what he wanted you to play. For better or for worse, Bob just put it out there. No wonder he remained such close friends with Gerry Mulligan throughout his life.
As described above in the introductory quotation by
Gene Lees, Bob was to work with many of the Jazz greats on the West
Coast Jazz scene of the 1950’s and both the New York Jazz and studio worlds of
the 1960’s. He returned to in the 1970’s primarily to work in movie
and television composing and did some small group gigging at Jazz festivals and
concerts in the California and abroad throughout the 1980’s. USA
Upon his return to
in the 1980’s, Bob would also become “the
de facto musical director for the orchestra that Mel Lewis led following the
death of Thad Jones.” New York
In an interview he gave to Scott Yanow, Bob said: “Before my stay in
[1968-1978], I considered myself a player
first and a writer second. … In addition to Gerry Mulligan’s writing, my big
band arranging was inspired by Bill Finegan, Ralph Burns, Al Cohn, Eddie
Sauter, Gil Evans, Bill Holman and George Russell.” California
From 1991 up until his death, Bob spent much of his time in
Northern Europe exploring new approaches to composing,
arranging and orchestrating for some of the resident, larger orchestras in and Holland , including his own New Art Orchestra which
was based primarily in Germany . Cologne, Germany
You can hear some of Bob’s exquisite arranging skills on the audio track to the following video tribute to him which was developed with the assistance of the crackerjack graphics team at CerraJazz
The audio track is entitled Jig. It is the first movement from Bob’s 3-part Celebration Suite which was premiered by the New Art Orchestra in 1994 in
. Baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan was
the featured soloist then; Scott Robinson does the honors on baritone sax on this
version. Lubeck, Germany
We hope this all-too-brief remembrance will serve in some small measure as our Celebration of the musical life of Bob Brookmeyer.
Saturday, December 17, 2011
© - Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.
“It is extremely difficult to attempt a description of Jeremy's abilities. Just a bit of listening to him play will show you, I think, his virtuosity as well as the remarkable innovations he has made in the expressive capabilities of the flute.
These breakthroughs come about as a result of a player's compulsion to express something which was heretofore not considered part of the technical and emotional spectrum of his instrument. Thus, especially through the medium of jazz, instrumental expressive potential has been continually expanded.
Jeremy's playing also has a side of intensity that occasionally might defy belief. I played flute and piccolo for fourteen years and therefore feel a justification for my high estimation of Jeremy's exceptional scope as a flutist.
Certainly one can be sure that he plays his true instrument and perhaps his example exemplifies the difference between playing one's primary instrument as opposed to doubling from one's primary instrument.”
- Bill Evans, Jazz pianist
A friend of these pages who lives in New Zealand recently commented on the number of excellent Jazz recordings from the halcyon days of the music that have never made it to CD.
The context for this observation was the repair of some equipment which allowed him to once again play LP’s … aka … “vinyl.”
I knew exactly what he meant as at the time of his message, I was working on this review of one such album – Jeremy Steig’s Flute Fever featuring Denny Zeitlin on Piano” [Columbia CS 8936].
Actually, I got to Jeremy through the pianist Denny Zeitlin who, under the auspices of the legendary producer John Hammond, had recorded both his Carnival and Cathexis trio albums for Columbia Records around the same time as his date with Jeremy in the mid-1960s. [As an aside, neither of these early Columbia LPs by Denny had made it to the digital world until they were recently reissued by
Michael Cuscuna’s team at Mosaic Records as part of its 3-CD Mosaic Select series.]
I doubt that there was any coincidence involved as producer Hammond always had a knack for pairing-up musicians who performed well together dating back to his introduction of vibraphonist Lionel Hampton to clarinetist Benny Goodman in the mid-1930’s which created the classic Benny Goodman Quartet with pianist Teddy Wilson and drummer Gene Krupa.
Another factor that brought Jeremy and Denny’s Flute Fever to mind was my desire to develop a video tribute to Jazz flute players.
I’ve made previous videos for my dadocerra YouTube channel celebrating “the art of …” playing other instruments in a Jazz format, but I hadn’t gotten around to developing one celebrating Jazz Flute players, as yet.
While searching for an audio track to accompany my usual slideshow approach to such videos, I remembered how much I had enjoyed Flute Fever when it was first issued and went searching for it in a digital format.
Sadly, none existed.
In addition to the great music on the album, upon rediscovering my LP version of it, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the liner notes for the album were written by Willis Conover.
I think that Willis did more for the advancement and understanding of Jazz than any, other individual through his worldwide Voice of America radio broadcast. Willis was also the Master of Ceremonies for the Newport Jazz Festival during the early years of its existence. He died in 1996.
I thought it would be great to remember Willis on the JazzProfiles blog with a reprinting of his writings about Flute Fever featuring Denny Zeitlin on Piano” [Columbia CS 8936].
Following Willis’ annotations, you’ll find a video tribute to Jazz flutists with Jeremy Steig’s rendition of What Is This Thing Called Love, on which he and pianist Denny Zeitlin are joined by Ben Tucker on bass and Ben Riley on drums.
“Kookiness is in the eye of the beholder.
You can fit your own flaws into a kind of harmony, so they don't bug you anymore but seem proper parts of the pattern. Toward your own kookiness you can direct a kindly blind spot, as the arsenic-taker gradually doses himself to immunity.
Charity, then, toward kookiness in others. It's a side-effect of the fierce determination to be one's self; and. while flute players often seem to have a corner on it. all artists are kooks, seen against the norm. The norm you can see in any television situation-"comedy" series, also in the commercials, out there by the lake in the woods with the girl smoking menthol. God forbid you should look
Mediterranean. The kooks wind up in jails and rest homes
and history books, on soap boxes and gallery walls and guillotines and
Ladies and gentlemen: Jeremy Steig. Little young man with no tie, no job. a broken head, a subtone voice and a furious flute. He's been playing flute 8 or 9 years, since he was 12. and playing jazz since 15. Nothing steady; one-nighters from time to time. He had a Sunday group for a while with Paul Bley and Gary Peacock, has been invited to sit in by Jim Hall, Teddy Kotick. Tal Farlow and Joe Roland, and dis-invited by Herbie Mann. As Jeremy says. "Usually in liner notes they write all about a guy's history. I don't have a history."
A year ago, Jeremy cracked up a motor bike and paralyzed his face. Unable to play, he started to draw, even planned to become a muralist. (All the Steigs are artists of one sort or another. The picture on the front cover is by Jeremy.) An operation left one side of his face still partly paralyzed. He wasn't supposed to play again.
"I took a week to decide whether to be a musician again or not. It was a tortured week. After all, I could make a living and a satisfaction at art."
He decided for flute. To permit the paralyzed side of his mouth to blow air into the flute, he cut himself a special blinder-like mouthpiece to insert in his cheek when he plays. He can't play without it.
Not playing, he is wary, almost lost. Playing (or drawing), he is bold, wildly humorous, frantic as a bird and apparently awful mad at someone. Musicians playing "angry" often suggest they're playing this way because anger is "in" and Malcolm may be watching; they'll be nice folks when they stop. With Jeremy, I don't know.
His anger sounds real, here. Maybe he was mad at John Hammond. That's possible; I know the feeling. Actually, Jeremy has what always interests John: emotion! His fluting matches Lionel Hampton's vibesing in its mix of near hysteria and high musicianship. He knows it, too.
"I have a different way of blowing. The way I attack the notes, the way I join one note to another, is much more clean than anyone I've ever heard. Not choppy." All right, he's bragging you think, so you're prepared to dislike him. Wait a minute. He's simply speaking as honestly as he plays. Besides, he's answering blunt questions.
"I'm not Dizzy Gillespie and I know it. But I have a contribution. If you want to hear that kind of music you've got to come to me."
"I play Jazz on the flute. The easy thing to do is put vibes and guitar with it and play pretty. This is wrong. The flute is a strong instrument. It has more guts than almost any other instrument. It shouldn't be played with a thin sound, and it almost always is, because it's always the second horn for some sax-player."
All this, almost inaudibly. Then:
"There are lots of guys I respect so much I can't even talk to them. Thelonious Monk. Miles Davis, once, I couldn't even come up to talk to."
In most of his performances here. Jeremy sings a haranguing vocal unison with his flute-playing, a kind of glossolalia, not real words. The trick isn't original - Roland Kirk and Sam Most do it. Slam Stewart used to hum with his bass-bowings, and Jeremy picked it up from hearing Yusef Lateef singing with a flute on a record.
Jeremy's "speaking in tongues" is neither blarney, however, nor bluster.
"One of the reasons I sing with flute is to show people I know what I'm playing—those are the notes I meant, not just accidents from fooling around experimentally."
Why is there so much door-slamming strength in Jeremy's playing, when he's so quiet the rest of the time?
"I save it up. Since I was a kid I've had a kind of impotent anger. I've never been able to get angry— except in music. Actually, it's an expression of frustration, but not of hate."
His record debut is pretty rich fare, a lot of calories for one setting. The material seems cannily chosen for its appeal to contemporary jazz cliques: Monk (Well, You Needn't), Miles (So What) and Sonny Rollins (0leo and Blue Seven). One suspects it wasn't Steig's decision to odd the two tasty ballads; but a record is to be sold as well as to be heard, and pacing is important.
"Monk's tunes," he says, "are like children's songs. I play Monk for my little sister. They're very free tunes. I never think about the changes, with Monk; I relate to the melody." He praises Horace Silver and Sonny Rollins, too, as writers. Rollins's Blue Seven, he says, "is so far above the usual B-flat blues. Playing it was like being in
the clouds; I was so carried away, I almost hated to come back to the tune." The piece begins with the rhythmic flavor of George Russell's "Stratosphunk." Ben Tucker's bass walking as if avoiding cracks in the sidewalk. All (our musicians solo in this number, sometimes simultaneously (it could only happen in
). Finally, at the terminal, Jeremy pulls
the train whistle. America
So What is taken at the faster tempo Miles Davis likes now instead of the original medium-slow pace. Jeremy used to be put down for playing it this way because it was "not the way Miles plays it."
0leo, a last-minute insert in one take, is Jeremy's choice for best track. "Everything I did was original with myself. I wasn't leaning back on anything I'd ever done with Oleo before."
As this is Jeremy's record, and as pianist Denny Zeitlin will star soon in his own album, copy is properly short on Zeitlin, here. And for a first entrance Stage Left may be better than Center Stage: while the star has the spotlight, people whisper "Yeah, but who's that over there?" That's Dennis Zeitlin, a half year from a medical degree at
in John Hopkins Medical School , then internship toward professional
Medical school." Zeitlin says, "is the most rigid pledge-ship I've ever undergone. I've been on a tougher schedule the past 3 ½ years than I'll ever be on, and still played piano. I love medicine as much as music." He'll stay active in both—a neat trick, with dividends; like Somerset Maugham, he won't have to scuffle at his art. "I can play more of what I feel is in myself instead of playing what I have to for hamburgers."
In a field blooming with piano-players, the path to Denny Zeitlin leads past Bill Evans ("I've probably admired Evans more than any other pianist") by way of Oscar Peterson's articulation and George Russell's searching-with-fire. After that you're on your own, as Zeitlin's playing is. There's remarkable music from the side of the stage. Bassist Ben Tucker, too. was a new face before at a party in
's home. As I said, Jeremy Steig doesn't
have a regular group, or a regular job. And "I can do a thousand things I
didn't show on this record, but I didn't feel them at the time. And you've got
to feel it." Hammond
A real kook. An artist, trying to create something, to do his things his way, and then, if possible, to make a living. You may find him sitting in at Page Three or some other joint in
Greenwich Village. You'll recognize Jeremy easily. He looks
16, he's beardless even though he carries a sketchbook, and when he plays
flute he sounds like this.
(At this point, play record.)