Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Buddy DeFranco Interview with Steve Voce

© -  Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“Woody [Herman] has no encouraging words about the status or future of the clarinet in jazz. He says there are no new players who have impressed him.

‘I had the good fortune last summer of doing a Canadian tour with Buddy DeFranco and his quartet. He's still the only guy who's coming up with anything new as far as that instrument is concerned. It's a very difficult instrument to play well. It's not the sort of thing you can just pick up and start making your own thoughts on, and I think that's one reason there aren't too many kids interested. And then, too, it lost its place as a voice in jazz because it's connected in most younger people's minds with Dixieland.’”
- Doug Ramsey, Jazz Matters: Reflections on the Music and Some of Its Makers

“Admired for his mastery of the clarinet in his early career as a swing band musician, DeFranco came to full prominence in the late 1940s and early '50s. Although the clarinet had been a stellar swing-era instrument in the hands of bandleaders such as Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw and Woody Herman, it did not initially find a visible role when bebop arrived in the '40s.

"I was the first clarinetist to play bebop on the instrument," DeFranco told the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch in 1993. "It turns out that was the beginning of a dry spell for the clarinet in jazz. It was a very difficult instrument on which to play bop."

The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz described the task in even broader strokes, noting that the clarinet is "incompatible with bebop."

But DeFranco disagreed. ‘I wouldn't say incompatible,’ he told the Dispatch. ‘It's simply harder to play bop on clarinet than any other instrument.’

DeFranco nonetheless took on the challenge. By the late '40s he had thoroughly established himself as the principal bebop clarinetist. And he would remain so for decades, exploring and mastering other new jazz ideas as they arrived. His influence persisted on generations of clarinetists, reaching across a diverse array of players, from Jimmy Giuffre to Eddie Daniels, Ken Peplowski, Anat Cohen and dozens of others.”
- Don Heckman, writing in The Los Angeles Times

“DeFranco was the first to apply the vocabulary of bebop to the clarinet, which nevertheless remains a neglected instrument in modern jazz. He developed a smooth, flawless technique on a horn far less forgiving of embouchure and fingering errors than the saxophone. DeFranco can play quite lyrically, but many critics contend that his virtuosity comes at the expense of emotional intensity and expressiveness.”
- Len Lyons and Don Perlo, Jazz Portraits: The Lives and Music of the Jazz Masters

“Nobody has seriously challenged DeFranco's status as the greatest post-swing clarinettist, although the instrument's desertion by reed players has tended to disenfranchise its few exponents (and Tony Scott might have a say in the argument too). DeFranco's incredibly smooth phrasing and seemingly effortless command are unfailingly impressive on all his records. But the challenge of translating this virtuosity into a relevant post-bop environment hasn't been easy, and he has relatively few records to account for literally decades of fine work. He's also had to contend with the usual dismissals of coldness, lack of feeling etc.”
- Richard Cook and Brian Morton, The Penguin Guide to Jazz, 6th Ed.

Buddy DeFranco passed away on Christmas Eve [December 24, 2014] in Panama City, Florida. He was 91 years old.

Steve Voce, one of the premier writers on the subject of Jazz and its makers conducted the following interview with Buddy DeFranco in Nice in July 1981. It subsequently appeared in JazzJournal in 1982. You can locate more information about JazzJournal by going here.

The editorial staff at JazzProfiles wanted to remember Buddy DeFranco on these pages by reprinting the text of Steve’s visit with him. Steve Voce has very kindly granted our request to do so.

Among its many sterling qualities, Steve’s interview contains Buddy’s detailed explanation of why it is so difficult to play bebop on the clarinet; a subject that I’ve long wondered about.

© -  Steven Voce/JazzJournal; used with the author’s permission; copyright protected; all rights reserved.

Buddy De Franco has the melancholy distinction of sharing the title of most overlooked jazz great with such as Lucky Thompson and Oscar Pettiford. Persistently neglected by jazz writers, it is fortunate indeed that jazz listeners turn the same kind of deaf ear to the critics that the critics have pointed at De Franco.

Boniface Ferdinand Leonardo De Franco was born in Camden, New Jersey on
February 17, 1923. His father was a piano tuner.

"No one taught me to play jazz clarinet, but I was taught `legitimate'  (I hate that term, but we're stuck with it). I began studying with a teacher in Philadelphia when I was about nine. I went to a music school that had a free programme for poor kids. We were very poor in those days, and my teacher taught me for three years and never took any money. Then, when I began to make some money, three dollars, whatever, he charged me a dollar a lesson.

When I was 14, I heard my dad playing records by the Hot Club Of France Quintet and by Art Tatum, and I was completely overwhelmed by the music, and from that time jazz became the most important thing to me. Then I began to listen to Jimmy Lunceford, Chick Webb, Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw. The first jazz clarinettist I ever worked with was Johnny Mince in theDorsey band, and he really caught my ear.

I was enthralled with Benny, and he really made me take the decision to be a jazz player. Then I heard Artie Shaw and over a period of years began to develop more of an appreciation for Artie. I thought he was more modern, more harmonically developed than Benny, although Benny had more swing.

My teacher worked in the pit orchestra at the Earl Theatre in Philadelphia. When I was 14 there was a nation-wide Tommy Dorsey contest to find the best young amateur swing player. It was sponsored by a cigarette company and broadcast nationally and each week they would pick one player from each city. I entered and made the finals, where there were four kids left. My teacher, who was a very clever guy, told me `you're gonna win, because you're gonna wear short pants' (which I
hated) `and you're gonna play Honeysuckle Rose, and at the end you'll hold up the clarinet with one hand and you'll hold out the other hand so that the people will see you're playing the clarinet with only one hand, and hang on one note, see. That'll get 'em. Nobody'll follow that.' And I did. That's how I won.

I heard a disc of that performance and it was lousy, really horrible. But I won by default. This little kid, wearing shorts and playing clarinet with one hand, the other kids never had a chance.

After my performance Tommy Dorsey said `Stick around, you'll play in my
band some day.' Years later when I joined his band he said `I told you you would.'

He was a frightening guy to work for, very strict and allowing no room at all for error. If you displeased him too many times you just got fired. He wanted set solos on certain songs that were hit records. For instance, Opus One was the first solo I recorded with the band in California and he said `You'll keep that solo.' Well, I didn't like it, so I changed it a couple of times. He came to me and, preceding it with a favourite phrase of his which I won't repeat, he said `'I told you not to change that solo.' I said `But it's not creative to play the same solo every night.' He snarled `Well, you want to be Count Basie or Art Tatum or someone, go and be creative in someone else's time. You're finished!' I was, he fired me. But I went back later, joined again.

He had fines for everything. If you weren't there half an hour before the show it was a 10 dollar fine. If you missed the show it was a 25 dollar tine. At one time he didn't like too much giggling on the stand or smiling, so he had a no laughing or smiling on the stage law for about two months. If you smiled on the stage you got fined five dollars. Boomie Richmond and I would get giddy - it's hard to hide laughing, and the rule made you want to do it, but we didn't get caught.

When Dodo Marmarosa was pianist with the band we roomed together. There
was a time when we were in Louisville and the train that the band was supposed to be catching left at 8 am. We had left a wake-up call and set an alarm for 6.30. I heard the alarm and shut it off and went back to sleep. We either got the wake-up call and I didn't hear it or we didn't get one, I'm not sure. We woke up about 10 or 11 and missed the train from Louisville to St Louis, a trip of about 800 miles. So we had to try to find a way to get to St Louis in time for the job, where we had two concerts to do. We called the Greyhound and all the different bus companies, we called all the train stations, but we couldn't get anything. We couldn't even get there by commercial airlines, and they weren't great in the forties anyhow. The only thing we could do was to call the Civil Air Patrol. They got us a pilot, so we decided to rent this plane, which was about 350 dollars in those days. We had about a hundred dollars between us, so we talked the pilot into taking that on the basis of getting the other 250 when we got to St Louis. We loaded the bags into the little plane, and he started at about one in the afternoon. We felt we could make it on time, so off we went, flying all afternoon. As it got to be evening he turned to us in the cab and said `I don't know how to tell you guys this, but we're lost.' We couldn't understand that, because you just had to follow the Mississippi River right up, and there's St Louis, but he managed it. Then he said `And I hate to tell you this, but we're running out of fuel', adding `I'm gonna dip down and lower the altitude and see if you can see a sign of something, anything we might recognise, a landmark or something.' Dodo said `Why don't you stop and I'll ask a cop?'.

We finally wound up in Springfield, Illinois, which is 110 miles from St Louis, at seven in the evening. When we discovered where we were, the pilot got tough and wouldn't let us have our bags until he got his 250 dollars, and they had two security guards at the airport who backed him up. We had to go into this small airport at Springfield and call the band manager, Louis Zito, in St Louis. This was at about 8.30 or 9.00 pm. They already did their first concert without us and were getting ready for the second. We finally got hold of Louis and we wanted to talk him into wiring us money. I said `Louis, we gotta have 300 dollars to bail ourselves out.' Louis said, and I remember his words exactly, `Get on the train going the other way, because if you come in this direction, it's death. Tommy's furious. He's so angry that he left the stage and went to his dressing room and nobody can talk to him, and Ziggy is leading the band. So don't come.' We pleaded and pleaded and finally talked him into wiring the money. We had to wait there an hour and a half or so, to get the wire, change it into cash and pay this guy his 250 dollars to get our bags and find a train to St Louis.

We got into St Louis at about one o'clock in the morning. They had some sort of transportation strike, so there was nothing available to get us to the hotel where the band was staying, so we hitched a ride with a truck driver. He took us to the hotel, and when we got there there were no rooms. There was a train the band had to catch at nine o'clock the next morning. We hadn't seen anyone in the band, so the hotel guy let us sleep in the mezzanine on a couch. We took turns sleeping because we were frightened of missing the train again. We'd wake each other up and take turns to go to the restroom and splash cold water on our faces to stay awake another hour. Finally we headed to the station at eight o'clock and we saw Louis Zito.

He said `I don't know what's gonna happen with the Old Man, because he was beside himself. You'll probably get fired, four days in the electric chair, or whatever. But, since you're here, you might as well come along.'

We passed a little bar on the way to the station and went in and had maybe five beers in the space of five minutes. Ridiculous! And neither of us was really a drinker at all. We got on the train which, needless to say, was very crowded with soldiers and people, so we had to sit in the aisle on our luggage and try to sleep against the side of the seat. We both got sick from the beer, but then later in the afternoon we felt that we had to eat, so we made our way to the dining car where we managed to grab two seats. We ordered some food and I looked across the aisle and there was Tommy sitting there, hadn't seen us yet. Finally he got up from his seat and suddenly he saw us. It seemed like a full two minutes we watched him, and he went through all the phases of emotion in that time. I grabbed a ketchup bottle, because `Step outside' was one of his frequent ideas. The veins stood out on his forehead, his face got red, he was flexing his muscles, grunting and groaning, and he came over and glared at us for a long while. Then he suddenly started to laugh. `You guys are ridiculous,' he said. `You remind me of me when I was a kid. I can't get mad at you. You tried to get there, you hired a plane. Stick around, I'll give you both a raise.'

We never expected that in a million years, but that was Dorsey, you never knew from one hour to the next what his attitude was going to be.Charlie Shavers was in the band. He was a great musician, but he was also a sleeper. So much so that people thought he was a junkie, but he wasn't. He had a legitimate sleeping sickness, and once in a while Tommy would have to squirt him with a water pistol on stage to wake him. He could go to sleep sitting next to Louis Bellson's drum solo. In fact Louis used to hit him with a stick to wake him up occasionally. Eight bars before he was due to solo Louis would give him a whack. I heard that Tommy wired his chair to the mains once. Another time they were in a recording studio when Charlie fell asleep and started snoring. Tommy had all the mikes turned on and the recording machines started. Then he asked Charlie some terrible, rotten, ridiculous raunchy questions, and Charlie answered with a snore. It was one of the funniest tapes I ever heard. I'd love a copy of that.

Once in a theatre, when Tommy squirted Charlie with the water pistol to wake him up, Charlie came back with his own water pistol and squirted Tommy. Then Tommy got giddy, once in a while he'd get giddy instead of angry, and started squirting the whole band. This was on stage, don't forget. So then the whole band went out and bought water pistols and we had a water fight on stage, which is absurd when you think about it. The audience had no idea what was going on or why. Then it got to be a contest in a way. Tommy went out to look for the best water pistol, and finally came back with a huge thing that looked like a tommy gun.

In those days you had to give eight weeks' notice if you wanted to leave. I gave him notice in California because I had promises of lots of jobs. Andre Previn had movie work and he wanted me to teach Keenan Wynn to play the clarinet for a film, and I ran into a contractor out there who had lots of work for me if I left. I felt I could make a good living out there.

Imagine my chagrin when the weeks went by and I didn't get any work. Andre didn't know why, but the film work fell through and with the contractor it was `Buddy who ...?'. I think I worked one Sunday afternoon job with Corky Corcoran in a nine-month period. Then Tommy called. And his favourite line was a variation on `You got enough wrinkles in your belly? You want to come back?' I did come back and I later learned from Ziggy Elman that Tommy had engineered the whole thing. He blackballed me in California so I'd have to rejoin him.

I was with Tommy three times in a period of five or six years, and between one of those times I worked with Boyd Raeburn's band. It was a marvellous band with great players in it. In fact I met Pete Candoli the other day and we were reminiscing about our time with the band.

My first records under my own name weren't released at the time. I had a band for Capitol with Lee Konitz and Bernie Glow in the line-up. We did George Russell's A Bird in Igor's Yard, but Capitol refused to release it. I got a letter from one of their top executives saying get in the studio immediately with a small group like George Shearing's and let's make money. Well, four or five years ago they did release that record and it just happens to be a milestone in the jazz picture. I've often thought I'd like to record that piece again, too.

We also recorded my arrangement of This Time The Dream's On Me, which was by accident. It was part of what I regarded as the band's dance library, and not suitable for recording. But we needed the number. Gerry Mulligan was scheduled to write one chart for the session. He wasn't feeling too well and he came to the date and handed me the score, it was too late. So I dug out The Dream's On Me.

The first big band I had travelling on the road recorded for MGM. That was before the quartets and Buddy's Blues and those things. We had Charlie Walp, Bernie Glow, Gene Quill and Buddy Arnold.

I don't remember being intimidated musically by many musicians but certainly Art Tatum, Charlie Parker and Oscar Peterson where three. In fact Oscar sat in with Terry Gibbs and me at Fat Tuesday's in New York recently, and Terry mentioned the fast tempos that Oscar and I had used in earlier years, and of course Terry's no slouch! But in those days we played with Ray Brown, Louis Bellson or Buddy Rich with Oscar, and if you were going to jump in there, you'd better have some technique or you'd be totally lost in the shuffle. So I'd make darned sure I was on my toes.

It was the same in that session for Norman Granz with Art Tatum. It was frightening in a way. I felt that I didn't do as good a job as I wanted to, because there were so many pressures during the session. We were both very ill, for instance. Art wasn't feeling at all well, and it wasn't long after that he died. I had a terrible virus, Which is why I am seen sitting down on the cover picture, because I couldn't stand up to play. I did it because I figured it would be my only chance to play with Art, and now I'm very glad I did. We enjoyed it anyway. That's the funny thing about music, it helps you feel better. I know that many times when I'm not well and I begin playing I forget that I'm ill.

I played many sessions in New York with Charlie Parker, and again up in Connecticut and along the East Coast. One summer I had an engagement on 52nd Street at the Spotlight or the Three Deuces, I forget which. We always worked those two clubs and Charlie was at the other club. He liked my rhythm section. At that time I had Bud Powell, Tommy Potter or Curly Russell and Max Roach. So he brought his alto in and played with my group. He was the most fascinating player of all time. I don't think there's anyone playing modern jazz that hasn't been influenced by him. We're all offshoots of Bird and 75 per cent of the young players today aren't aware of it.

Playing bebop on the clarinet seemed to come easily to me. Playing with Bird as many times as I did and also gravitating towards pianists - I always listened to what pianists were doing harmonically - let me know what to do. The only deliberate changes I made were with the mouthpiece and reed. The clarinet is of course much harder to play than the saxophone. The instrument is built to overblow in twelfths, whereas a sax is an octave instrument. If you push the octave key on the sax you get one octave higher, so therefore the fingerings are identical for both registers.

With the clarinet you have three separate fingerings, three separate registers and three separate timbres. The overtones are totally different as a result of that, plus the fact that you have a smaller mouthpiece and smaller reed, so you have to make a considerable adjustment to get the strength and force that you need. The clarinet is not as flexible as an alto, so you must make it flexible in order to play jazz. Then you have the problem of covering the holes on the clarinet. You must cover those holes with your fingers, and a fraction of an inch off will mean that the note won't come out or that it'll squeak. On the sax the pads do the covering. You can hit your finger on any part of the pad top and it'll cover the note for you. So the clarinet is absolutely more difficult, like playing jazz on a bassoon or something.

The quartet I had with Art Blakey came about at Birdland. I was hired to play there with a house rhythm section. It left for some reason or other and they got the new house section of Art, Kenny Drew and either Curly Russell or Tommy Potter - I get those two confused, but we did work with both. After the first night it jelled so well that Art and I decided to make it a career and go out together. We got hold of Eugene Wright and he came along with us on bass and Kenny on piano and we went out on the road. Stayed out for three years, and it was tremendous. It was a really
hot group. The funny thing is it was billed as the Buddy de Franco Quartet, but during the last few years people have come up to me and said they remember me when I was with Art Blakey's group.

I was never in Art's group. Years later in the sixties I played bass clarinet on just one recording session in California and since Art was in town we called him in. It was one of the few times I ever got five stars for an album. It was Leonard Feather's idea for me to play bass clarinet. He suggested that it might draw more attention to me as a creative jazz player. I don't have to tell you that the criticism for years has been that I was not creative or that I was cold or that I played too many notes. Even the brochure from the last North Sea Festival said `Buddy de Franco has faded into obscurity for many years.' That's typical of critics. Somehow I was never the critics' choice, except for Leonard.

The record made some musicians and critics listen, but commercially it died, it was terrible. I used the bass clarinet in clubs. I'd carry this confounded instrument from place to place and worry about the reeds and things. I'd get up and have people staring at me - like it was the Nuremburg trials or something. So I finally gave it up in despair, although I'm proud of that album.

Art had a big influence on me when I toured with him and the quartet, as indeed did Basie a few years later. I had been working around New York at the end of the forties and I was being booked by Willard Alexander. He discovered Basie and was largely responsible for Basie's big band through the years. I'd known him for many years, and when he was putting together a small group for Basie in 1950 he thought of me. Willard had the idea to put us together for two reasons. Firstly he knew we would be compatible, and secondly Count and I were friends, and he happened to like my playing. Willard thought it would be a good springboard for me, because my career was just floundering at the time. I was well known but not doing a lot, because with all the adverse criticism of my playing some promoters would read it and decide, well who needs him?

Anyway it was a fine octet with Clark Terry, Charlie Rouse who was later replaced by Wardell Gray, Serge Chaloff and Count's rhythm section. I learned a hell of a lot about dynamics from Basie. He can assemble any group of competent musicians, and within one hour they will sound like the Count Basie Band. It's all from him and Freddie Green. Until I worked for him I hadn't realised how dynamic he is. He doesn't say very much, doesn't play much, but it's all at the heart of everything. Amazing.

Willard was the guy who got me the job of leading the Glenn Miller Orchestra. There again it was a wise move. He also told me another time not to get a big band because he could book me with a small group. That's one time I didn't listen to him when I really should have.

Oddly enough Basie and I were never in the Metronome All Stars together,
although we both made several appearances. My first was when I substituted for Benny Goodman. Goodman had won and I was second. He couldn't make it so I came in. Tommy Dorsey, Bill Harris, Johnny Hodges, Duke, Billy Strayhorn, Harry Carney, Cootie and Rex, Sonny Berman, Pete Candoli, Flip, Chubby, Billy Bauer, Red Norvo - that was a heavy band.

Duke was supposed to write an arrangement, but instead he composed Metronome All Out on the spot. He just told the saxes and brass what to play and the rhythm what the chord changes were and it made a really great arrangement. For Look Out, which was the other title, Tommy [Dorsey] had got a llttle sketch from Sy Oliver, and when it came to the place where it said `jazz trombone' he insisted on Bill taking it. `With a player like Bill Harris around I'm not going to embarrass myself,' he said. That was something for Tommy, because he was not considered the most humble person. But he was still the finest trombone player that I can remember hearing, technically speaking. He had a way with a melody, a marvellous approach to playing melody. The second time, I worked with Bill Harris, Nat Cole, Dizzy and the Stan Kenton band a year later in 1947. We did those in California. Pete Rugolo wrote Metronome Riff and Flip Phillips did Leap Here (the record sleeve gives Nat Cole as composer of Leap Here - SV).

Billie Holiday came to Europe in 1954 and I came with her. She was fighting her problems and had a considerate husband who was trying his best to keep her in line. He did a good job, but every once in a while Billie's friends would find her and she'd go off. She got a very bad review on our opening night in Stockholm, and then the following night she'd straightened up and was marvellous. It was very hard for her. She was tantamount to Bird, having a terrible emotional struggle with dope and other problems. Once again I was glad I made that tour, because it was once in a lifetime. I can say that I worked with Billie Holiday who to me was one of the most creative of all singers and she, like Bird, came through remarkably well in spite of all her problems. For instance, Bird played great in spite of the fact that he was hung up, and unfortunately he never really played at his best on a record. I've heard him unbelievably dazzling, but of course circumstances on record dates were against him. Either he didn't have his own horn because he'd sold it, or some unscrupulous record exec would give him a fix to do a session and he'd be half stoned.

Talking of recordings, I'm always very proud of `The Cross Country Suite' that Nelson Riddle wrote for me. It was never issued in England. Nelson and I had been in Tommy Dorsey's band together, where Nelson was a trombonist. But eventually he began writing virtually full time for the band. He followed Bill Finegan, whom he idolised. Bill and Eddie Sauter were the daddies of modern band orchestration.

Nelson and I roomed together and became great friends. He had a great deal to contribute and of course still does. He's one of the most prolific writers. I've always loved the way he could write behind vocalists and instrumentalists. He always knew exactly what to do.I had begun doing these music clinics for LeBlanc in the fifties - now I do them for Yamaha - and I wanted some music to play there. I felt it should be a combination of big band, of jazz and orchestral, so I got hold of Nelson in California in 1958 and asked him to write for me. He was working for Nat Cole at the time and was really very busy, but he accepted the assignment, and I'm glad he did, because `The Cross Country Suite' turned out to be one of the best things he ever wrote and it won him a Grammy award. There were 11 compositions in it, and each was composed for a certain area in the United States. It was my plan to play the appropriate composition wherever I happened to be doing a clinic. It turned out so well that it was one of the most rewarding albums for me, too, and I hope sometime we'll be able to play it again. It didn't sell well, unfortunately, but that's a typical story, as you know.It was premiered with a Nat Cole show that he did at the Hollywood Bowl. Nelson had written all the charts for the show and Nat had us in for the suite and it was a tremendous success with the audience. The reaction was so good that we were sure the reviews would be good too, but I should have known. They were so bad they were less than negative. One reviewer said it was Nelson Riddle's pathetic attempt at a Ferde Grofe composition played by a clarinettist. An obvious put-away.

Another controversial thing was the albums I made with accordionists. I'm not so much fond of the accordion as of the player. The instrument is like a clarinet or a violin to me, perhaps not my favourite instruments, but dependent on the player. For example take the harmonica. You hear Toots Thielemans play it and you change your mind about harmonica. When I first heard Art Van Damme and Ernie Felice and guys like that, Joe Mooney and so on, I was impressed. Then I heard Tommy Gumina in California more or less by accident and I began working with him. It was just amazing how he played. He also developed his own accordion. He totally changed the left system of the instrument.

Tommy was one of the most proficient in terms of polytonal jazz and when I go through schools in the US we find that many band directors are using the recordings I did with Tommy as an example of modern polytonal harmonic development in jazz. I was very pleased with those albums and also the later one with the Canadian accordionist Gordy Fleming. There's always something new to develop with such a combination of instruments.

My own playing is developing all the time. It's endless. It's the strangest thing about playing extemporaneous music that it seems like the more you accomplish the more you realise there's so much you haven't done. That's not false modesty, it's just a fact of life. The old adage is you get old too fast and smart too late, and it's very true! When you're young and you play pretty good you think it's great, and if somebody compliments you your ego's apt to get way out of bounds. That's as far as you go until you begin to realise there's a big world out there in terms of music and development. Then you also realise that if you do progress the way you should, then you leave something for the next guy.

I took over from Benny in a sense. I brain-picked Benny, Artie Shaw and Charlie Parker, and then did something on the clarinet that happened to be me. Nowadays, when you hear me playing my style is different from the others and recognisably me: That's how it should be.The next clarinet players will do the same thing, maybe incorporate some of my playing. So you never stop trying to develop. Never."'

The following video features Buddy performing his original composition Ferdinando with Kenny Drew [p], Milt Hinton [b] and Art Blakey [d].

Monday, December 29, 2014

Richard Twardzik - The Jack Chambers Biography [From the Archives]

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“The Eisenhower years, so Miltown-ized on much of the home front, were turbulent times for jazz. The revolutionaries of the early 1950s were themselves ushered aside by a new avant-garde before the close of the decade. Jazz was like one of those newspaper chess problems: move from bop to free in ten moves. Change was the byword, and it proved to be a cruel taskmaster. Even jazz stars who had perfected wondrous styles—Miles and Coltrane serving as the preeminent examples here—soon felt compelled to throw them overboard in pursuit of the next (and in itself transitory) new thing.

Yet the personal lives of the jazz elite were often even more tumultuous than the music itself. Critics and historians have danced around the issue of jazz and substance abuse, whitewashing and demonizing by turns, but a simple perusal of the names and dates on the tombstones tells you that something was seriously wrong with the masters of the art form during this era. Not everyone was a casualty, but even those who survived, often paid a price in other ways: time in prison, broken families, potential unrealized, financial security traded for a string of fixes.

In the midst of this, it is easy to lose track of Richard Twardzik. This pianist, dead at age 24, never lived to see the release of his first leader date on the Pacific label. It was almost a miracle that this material was issued at all. Pacific only had 22 minutes of Twardzik's music on hand, and needed to package it with trio sides by pianist Russ Freeman in order to fill up an LP album. Over the years, other recordings of Twardzik's music have become available, usually featuring him in a sideman role; but none of these projects is well known outside an inner circle of jazz devotees.

It would thus be all too easy to forget Richard Twardzik. . . except that his music is anything but forgettable….

Now Jack Chambers, a jazz critic best known for his two-volume biography of Miles Davis, has written the first full-length biography of the pianist, Bouncin' With Bartok: The Incomplete Works of Richard Twardzik, published by The Mercury Press. Chambers, who first heard Twardzik on record back as a high school student in 1956, has taken this mysterious figure from a bygone jazz era and brought him fully to life in the pages of this remarkable book.”

- Ted Gioia writing on www.Jazz.com

I’ve now studied with Jack Chambers on two, different occasions, which is no mean feat considering the fact that he is a Linguistics Professor at the University of Toronto and I live in Southern California.

Of course, in this era of online education, one could assume that the geographical gap between us could easily be bridged by the Internet.

But that would be an incorrect assumption as both of my tutorials with Professor Chambers involved reading books he has authored, one of which was written over thirty years ago.

Please let me explain.

After a long absence from Jazz due, in part, to the usual personal and professional reasons that find all of us otherwise preoccupied and away from the passions of our youth during “the middle years,” I reconnected with the music in a big way when the compact disc era that began in the 1980s provided easy access to much of the recorded history of Jazz.

At some point in this reawakening, I realized how little I knew about Miles Davis’ music before his now classic records on Columbia [Sony] such as Miles Ahead, Kind of Blue and Porgy and Bess.

During one of my Saturday pilgrimages to the Borders Bookstore at the corner of Post and Powell Streets in San Francisco [just north of the St. Francis Hotel], I came across a copy of Milestones: The Music and Times of Miles Davis [New York: William Morrow, 1989].

Its author was Jack Chambers.

I had never heard of Jack, but after thumbing through the book, I gathered that the work had originally been published as two, separate books with 1960 as the dividing line, a year that would have roughly coincided to when I began to listen to Miles in earnest.

I bought a copy, found it so fascinatingly full of information on Miles that I couldn’t put it down.

I carried it with me everywhere including on my business travels of which there were many in those days. I’d make notes about Jack observations of Miles’ early recordings on labels such as Savoy, Prestige and Blue Note.

And then, upon returning home, I’d seek out the CD reissues of these Miles recordings at the Tower Records Store on Columbus in the Russian Hill section of San Francisco which had a room set-off from the rest of the store that was totally devoted to Jazz [Can you imagine?].

Armed with my newly acquired digital Miles treasures and Jack’s book on Miles, I would relate one to the other while listening to the music on my portable CD player during subsequent business flights and the accompanying [and seemingly interminable] hotel stays.

Jack became my mentor on everything-Miles before 1960 [and after 1960, too, when I read Part II of his definitive work].

Milestones: The Music and Times of Miles Davis has assumed an honored place on my Jazz books shelf.

Aside from the odd reference search every now and again, there the matter rested until I began to “study with” Jack almost 20 years later on a completely different Jazz topic.

Please let me further explain.

While doing some research for a blog feature on the music of Richard Twardzik, a rather obscure Jazz pianist who had an all-too-brief career in the early 1950s before succumbing to a heroin overdose in 1955, I came across an essay that Ted Gioia wrote for jazz.com.

At the time of its writing, Ted’s Twardzik essay was essentially based on a review of a new biography about the pianist entitled - Bouncin’ with Bud: The Incomplete Works of Richard Twardzik [Toronto: The Mercury Press, 2008].

The author of the Twardzik biography was - you guessed it - Jack Chambers!

I wrote to Ted concerning his Twardzik essay and he sent me Jack’s e-mail address and suggested that I get in touch with him.

In the meantime, I had written to a friend who is probably THE leading authority on all aspects of Pacific Jazz Records - the label that thankfully recorded Twardzik performing some of his music before his sudden death - and asked him if I could borrow his copy of Jack’s biography [I just assumed he’d have a copy because he has just about everything and anything ever written about Dick Bock’s Pacific Jazz label].

I was right, he did have the book and he offered to bring it along with him when we next met for one of our Jazz-and-coffee-get-togethers.

Since Jack’s book was forthcoming as a loan from my Jazz buddy, I never did get around to writing to Jack, per Ted’s suggestion.

I didn’t have to because he wrote to me!

It seems that my friend who is expert in all-things-Pacific-Jazz and Jack Chambers had been corresponding for quite some time.

As a result of their friendship, Jack sent along my very own copy of Bouncin’ with Bud: The Incomplete Works of Richard Twardzik and inscribed it with a personal greeting!

After reading Jack’s book, it soon became apparent to me that any blog posting that I might prepare on Richard Twardzik had to incorporate Jack’s knowledge and perspective on the subject.

So I wrote to him, thanked him for his generosity and asked:


As a starting point for my planned feature on Richard Twardzik and his music, I don't think I can do much better than the introductory chapter to Bouncin' with Bartok - A Crutch for the Crab.

May I have your permission to use it in its entirety? ...

Although the album in question would no doubt be different, I'm sure that many Jazz fans can relate to your anecdote about happening upon Twardzik's music, being intrigued by it and then going on a quest to find out more about it.
Thanks for considering this request.

Kind regards,


Jack sent back the following reply:

“Steve— I am pleased to give permission for you to reprint Chap. 1 with the acknowledgments and links you list below. Yes, I am sure most music lovers have an experience like mine on first hearing a magnificent piece of music. After I put a note about it on my website, I discovered that many others had their experience with "A Crutch for the Crab."

One person wrote and said, ‘Until I read your article, I thought Richard Twardzik was a figment of my imagination.’

Best wishes,


© Jack Chambers and The Mercury Press. Used with the author’s permission;, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

1. A Crutch for the Crab

“I first heard a recording of Richard Twardzik playing piano in 1956, when I was a high-school student. The tune was called A Crutch for the Crab, and it was one of the tracks on a promotional LP put out by Pacific Jazz, a sampler called Assorted Flavors of Pacific Jazz (LIFS-1). It cost $1.98 brand-new; and that was the kind of bargain you couldn't pass up if you were a jazz-struck, underachieving, underage smoker with a pompadour and black horn-rims who made five dollars on Saturdays squeegeeing the windows of Welsh's Butcher Shop and three other stores on King Street in a town called Stoney Creek on the Canadian side of the Niagara border.

Side One of Assorted Flavors strung together a lot of excerpts from the Pacific Jazz catalogue while a man with a radio voice told a kind of company history of West Coast jazz, starting with Gerry Mulligan's piano-less quartet at the Haig in 1952.The radio man sounded like he gargled with Coppertone. His voice-over commentary obscured the beginning of A Crutch for the Crab, and the ending disintegrated in a fade-out. The excerpt, counting the commentary, was less than two minutes long. It was, you would have thought, the worst way to hear any kind of music.

In fact it was sensational. Twardzik's piano playing was fluent and eccentric and painfully beautiful. His tune—a composition, really, when we finally got to hear all of it—was full of jagged turns and crisp releases. Somehow it came out sounding exactly right for its wild title, crabbily fluid with sudden lurches. It was like nothing else in the world. It was a revelation.

What the narrator said, oozing cool, was also a revelation. He said:

'When Chet Baker went to Europe in September of 1955, he took with him a startling new pianist from Boston named Richard Twardzik. Twardzik died in Paris a few months later, depriving us all of the great ability that was his. Here's the late Richard Twardzik as he sounded in 1954 playing his own composition, A Crutch for the Crab.'

It was the only time I ever heard a news item on an LP.

I tracked down the source LP, partly fearing that I had been bamboozled—that Richard Twardzik would turn out to be an ordinary piano player who had been cleverly edited to make a few brilliant minutes on a promotional record. I had to wait a long time to find out. Twrardzik's LP was a new release, copyright 1956, the same as the sampler. I had to order it at the record store, as an import."It's gonna cost you, son," said the man at the record shop,"and it's gonna take six weeks at least."

The LP was called Trio (Pacific Jazz 1212). Just looking at it, holding it in my hand still swathed in its protective plastic sheath, took my breath away. The cover was the print of an oil painting in shades of brown, with three solid figures, guys built like cairns, tossing boulders around as if they were helium balloons. The credit line said "west coast artists series/Edmund Kohn" and the back cover carried a profile and a small picture of old Edmund, a round man with a handlebar mustache and a kerchief knotted around his neck, looking like the street musician with the dancing monkey you see in cartoons. It also told about Edmund's success as an illustrator and about the awards he had won at the Sacramento State Fair and other lesser places. Since then I have read testimonials by very serious people about how their lives were changed forever when they saw Picasso's Guernica or Botticelli's Primavera. For me, it will always be Edmund Kohn's unnamed cover painting for Trio.

The billing on the cover indicated that Twardzik shared the LP with another piano player, Russ Freeman. In fact, it gave Twardzik second billing on the cover, but on the actual disk the six tracks by Twardzik's trio filled the first side. The second side was given over to Freeman, and I already knew7 something about him. He was the dean of West Coast piano players by dint of appearing on nearly every jazz record that came from California.

The back cover was packed with information: besides the box about Edmund Kohn, there were six column inches about Russ Freeman, another six column inches by Freeman about Richard Twardzik, and two black & white 3.5" x 4" portraits. One of the portraits was of Freeman by the famous California photographer William Claxton showing Freeman with a pencil mustache and dark suit, looking more like a used car salesman than was surely intended. The other portrait was of "The Late Richard Twardzik" (as the caption portentously put it),and it showedTwardzik against a dark background, hollow-cheeked, staring into the distant gloom. It was (and is) brilliantly evocative, and for many years it was the only known portrait of Twardzik.

The liner credited the portrait to "Nick Dean, Boston," not a name that registered any recognition. Years later, I spoke to numerous Boston contemporaries of Richard Twardzik, and none could place Nick Dean, the photographer. But some 45 years later, I discovered more photographs by Nick Dean, as we shall see, some of them the equal of the back-cover portrait. His old business address is stamped on the back of one of the portraits: "Photograph by/ Nick Dean/41 Charles Street/Boston 14, Mass./CA 7-8440." And finally, with the help of Richard Twardzik's second cousin who was born long after Richard had died but came to maturity in the internet era, I would find Dean himself.

Freeman was credited as producer of Twarcizik's recording session. In his liner notes about Twardzik's music. Freeman praises Twardzik's "really original concept," and tells how he came across him in Boston and was struck by his music, "fresh and very uninhibited, especially harmonically" Freeman said that the recordings by Twardzik came about because he phoned Richard Bock, the owner and producer of Pacific Jazz Records in Los Angeles, to tell him about this hot young player, and Bock gave him permission to record Twardzik for the label.

Freeman says the recording took place "late in 1954," but the exact date— 27 October 1954 —was only fixed 35 years later with the kind of sleuthing (as we will see later) that jazz discographers revel in. The recording was made in Rudy Van Gelder's parlor in Hackensack, New Jersey, the now-legendary recording studio that was just beginning to earn its reputation when Freeman took Twardzik and the other musicians there. Accompanying Twardzik were Carson Smith, Chet Baker's regular bassist, a Californian who was young, only 23, but already well known for playing in Mulligan's Quartet as well as Baker's, and a young, unknown Boston drummer, Peter Littman. (Complete details for these and all other recordings by Twardzik are listed in the discography at the end.)

Freeman's endorsement sounds like an understatement on the evidence of Twardzik's music. The original Pacific Jazz release included three standards, Bess You Is My Woman Now, 'Round About Midnight and I’ll Remember April, and three originals, Albuquerque Social Swim, Yellow Tango and, of course, A Crutch for the Crab.

The standards were fresher then than we can imagine today. Twardzik's recording of Bess You Is My Woman Now pre-dates by four full years the Porgy and Bess boom that came with its movie version in 1959 and brought with it jazz versions of its score by Miles Davis and Gil Evans, Mundell Lowe, Bill Potts, Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald, and others. Gershwin's opera had been revived in 1952 for an international tour starring soprano Leontyne Price, but that was a more operatic version than the film would be, and it hardly caught the attention of jazz musicians, except for Twardzik. Although several George Gershwin songs ranked high in the standard jazz repertoire, the ones from Porgy and Bess were not common among them except for Summertime, and that by virtue not of the opera but of a seminal 1939 jazz recording by Sidney Bechet.When Twardzik recorded Bess You Is My Woman Now in 1954, it was completely unknown as a jazz vehicle.

More surprisingly, so was 'Round About Midnight. Thelonious Monk had made his original studio recording of his song in 1947 and, apart from an obscure solo recording he made of it in Paris in 1954, he did not record it again for a decade, until 1957. By then, it had been widely discovered as a jazz vehicle and Monk's interpretation of his own ballad was one of dozens, albeit primus inter pares. It was destined to become one of the two or three most recorded jazz compositions of all time. But Twardzik's pensive, almost introverted, take on it in 1954 caught it on its rise into the standard repertoire, and surely it was one that caught the ear of many other piano players.

Refreshing as the ballads were, Twardzik's original compositions were positively brilliant. Yellow Tango is a confection based on a mannerly Latin beat sustained by bass and drums while Twardzik teases the genre with high-note filigrees in the manner of then little-known Ahmad Jamal. Albuquerque Social Swim is tougher, its oblique melodies played staccato with sudden, unexpected stops.The improvised choruses burst into rock-steady 4/4 time, and after the stutters of the theme they come as a blessed relief. The device of inexplicable stops released into flowing melodies dominates Albuquerque Social Swim and animates it by creating knots of tension and unraveling them in flowing melody. In A Crutch for the Crab the stop-and-release is just one of several devices.

If Twardzik's side of the original LP had a flaw, it was in programming. A Crutch for the Crab and Albuquerque Social Swim were set together at the beginning, as tracks one and two, where their similarities somehow tempered their stunning differences.

A Crutch for the Crab, heard in its entirety, is a 3-minute symphony. Its structure is ambiguous: the opening exposition takes 24 bars but the final reprise takes only 20, having lost the first four bars. Those first four bars open the piece as a kind of cadence; they might be a prelude. The second four bars are syncopated, with the piano playing on one and three while the drums accent two and four. The effect is unforgettable, and sets up a repeated figure in the 17th and 23rd bars where the piano fills the second and fourth accents with its own out-of-tempo syncopations. The same figure comes back at points in the improvisation, and so do references to other melodic figures, always modulated in some way. The performance is rich with nuance. It ends too soon from one vantage point, but from another it entices you to go back to it time and again, as real art always does.

In my mind's eye, the syncopation caught the crab's motion of the title with unimaginable perfection, seemingly lurching, almost awkward, but at the same time fluid and swift.Try to catch it and it darts through your hands. It is edgy and slightly frightening, and just when you think you have it cornered, it is gone.

Twardzik offered an alternate explanation for the title in the liner notes. It came, he said, "from watching the hands of the Polish pianist, Jan Smeterlin, as they scurried crab-like into the keys." But that came too late for me. By then, I had my own objective correlative for the title embedded in the music, and it could not be shaken. Besides, there was good reason for not taking Twardzik literally. Another explanation that he put forward was obviously intended to give the finger to the unwary. Yellow Tango, he said, "wras written as incidental music for a Shake-dance." Oh sure.

The recordings by Richard Twardzik on the Trio LP last 21 minutes and 44 seconds. (A mistake on the timings printed on the cover made it seem even less by more than a minute, but Yellow Tango is over five minutes, not 4:18.) Of the six tracks, the three ballads arid three originals, all but Yellow Tango are around the three-minute mark, the industry standard length in the era of brittle old 78 rpm shellac records and one that was imprinted so forcibly onto the psyches of musicians and producers that it was still the industry standard length in 1954, two years after jazz recordings invariably came out on unbreakable vinyl at 33 rpm.

Twardzik's Trio recording was easy to miss, even for vigilant jazz fans. It was, after all, just half a record by an unknown piano player with too many consonants in his name. His music held up to repeated listenings, in fact endlessly, but there was still too little of it. You never got tired of it.You never got enough of it.

From the start I knew there was more recorded music by Richard Twardzik, because Russ Freeman, in his liner note, wrote, "He recorded with Serge [Chaloff] and Charlie Mariano," who I knew about as two Boston jazz musicians with national reputations. Freeman added, "He also had an original, The Fable of Mabel, recorded by Serge for Storyville Records."

Those were tantalizing clues, and they cost me many frustrating hours. The man at the record shop could find no listings for either Chaloff or Mariano as leaders, and nobody I knew with a jazz collection had ever heard of these particular records. Even Joe Rico, the jazz jockey on Buffalo radio who seemed, in my teenage pantheon, to know everything worth knowing not only about jazz but about life, when I finally got a friend of a friend's friend to make an inquiry, just shrugged.

In 1956, channels of communication were sluggish. It was years before I realized that those other records Twardzik had played on had had mainly local distribution around Boston, and that the Mariano record was out of print even before I had started making inquiries about it. Probably the Chaloff record was too. In 1963, when I found a discography of Richard Twardzik's recordings in an English jazz magazine called Jazz Monthly (Morgan 1963), I finally learned more of the details—labels, titles, recording dates, personnel, instruments, compositions. It turned out there were two Mariano records with Twardzik on them, and not only did Chaloff record Twardzik's composition The Fable of Mabel, but Twardzik played on it too. I wrote the titles of all three records on the list of collectibles I carry in my wallet. Over the years, dozens of items on that list came and went, but those Boston LPs took on a frustrating permanence. As jazz buffs do, I watched for the records to come up in delete bins and record auctions. As my travels broadened, first in my college days when I found myself across the river from Detroit and then as my professional pursuits took me to conferences all over North America and eventually Europe, I spent hours pawing through dusty stacks of vinyl in far-flung cities on two continents.

To this day, I have never found those records, any of them, in the LP format. I finally got to hear them when the commercial boom brought on by the new CD technology at the tail-end of the 1980s led record companies to sweep out their vaults.

Freeman's liner note also offered the news that Twardzik's "professional career began at the age of fourteen," and that "he worked with Tommy Reynolds, Charlie Barnet, Lionel Hampton, Charlie Parker, Serge Chaloff, Charlie Mariano, Sonny Stitt and Chet Baker." With that background, somewhere there had to be live performances on acetate or tape reels, and, sure enough, a few years later a single track surfaced of Charlie Parker with a pick-up band in a Boston nightclub. Twardzik's piano was largely inaudible, but he was there, and the very existence of the performance held the promise of more, and over the decades more performances have slowrly accumulated, never out of regard for Twardzik himself but usually triggered by lingering sentiments for the leaders of the bands he happened to be playing in—Parker, Chaloff, or Chet Baker.There is quite a bit more to come, I now know; and come it will if the growing sentiments for Twardzik, or at least curiosity about him, gather a little momentum.

With only the twenty-odd minutes of the trio recordings, it might have been impossible for me and for other jazz fans to sustain interest in the ill-fated piano player for the next half-century or so. But there was more. Pacific Jazz Records released a new recording with Twardzik on it the same year as the trio record, and the second recording was a small treasure of beguiling, open-minded, cool music that provided a whole new view of Twardzik's brilliance, and solidified his singular ability in case there were any doubts.

The records were made in a Paris studio by the Chet Baker Quartet in two sessions. The date of the second session was exactly one week before Twardzik died. The LP that was issued in North America was called Chet Baker in Europe (Pacific Jazz 1218), and it carried the grandiose subtitle A Jazz Tour of the NATO Countries. The tracks with Twardzik consisted of six pieces of extraordinary delicacy, almost like chamber music. Once again, they amounted to only half a record. They filled the second side, all 25 minutes of it. There were also five tracks on the first side, fillers in my mind, by Baker with European musicians recorded after Twardzik's death.

My copy of the Pacific Jazz LP has disappeared, as things tend to do in four decades or more. It was a rare one. It has never been reissued in the original format and I now realize that its rarity has nothing to do with the tastes of the company executives, about whom I harbored resentment for years, assuming they did not know they were hiding a masterpiece in their vaults. I now realize that the music never belonged to the American distributor, Pacific Jazz, but had to be leased by them from Barclay Records in Paris, the original producer and owner.

That explained why the LP came with strangely impersonal packaging, with a cover photo focusing on the tail of a Pan American airliner instead of the customary romantic pose of Chet Baker, who was not only the best-selling jazz musician of the moment but also a highly photogenic boyish hipster. I now know that Baker was still in Europe when Pacific Jazz leased this music and packaged it in an effort to keep alive the American fin interest in their hottest musician. The cover photo shows a young couple embracing in the shadow of the airliner, but it isn't even Baker, although the male figure obscured by the woman shows a Chet-like pompadour.

Baker's cover poses, except for this one, had a certain cachet. In fact, they have proven to have something close to the lasting power of art. Years later they were collected in coffee-table format in Young Chet (Claxton 1993). So at the time of its release, the cover of Chet Baker in Europe seemed a bit weird, with make-believe Chet hidden behind the young woman hugging him on his supposed return to American soil. Equally weird were all those strange foreign names of the musicians on the filler tracks. But come to think of it, they were no stranger than the names of what had been, until Twardzik's sudden death, Baker's working quartet.

Baker's young sidemen were so unknown beyond their own hometowns that advertising them by name would have stirred no expectations abroad and almost none at home.

What set Chet Baker in Europe apart was the music. The brilliance of the recordings Baker made in the Paris studio with Twardzik would turn out to be due in part to an invisible fifth member of the new quartet. Baker's group recorded nothing but original compositions in the Paris studio, a very unusual situation for Baker, whose reputation rested on ballads and jazz standards before this and, it would turn out, forever after. Of those original compositions, one was written by Twardzik, and the other five were written, according to the composer credit on the label, by "Bob Zieff." There were actually three more Zieff compositions recorded at these sessions but it would be several years before we knew that, except for the few fans who had access to the original French issue on Barclay Records.

Bob Zieff was another mystery man, arid the mystery was hardly solved by Baker's identification of him in the liner note (1956) as "the young Boston writer that Dick Twardzik, my pianist, brought to my attention." His music was mysterious too.There were no funny valentines, no lilting Mulliganesque ditties, no harmon-muted bleeding sentiments—in other words, none of the hallmarks on which Baker's popularity was based.

Baker was well aware of the differences. His liner note added, "The originality and freshness of Zieff’s line and chordal structure is going to please a lot of people, I think—at least musicians and other serious listeners." That statement seemed like an attempt at preparing Baker's regular fans for the kind of departure that Zieff's music represented. It was, above all, cerebral music. (You can dance to it, in the bop mockery of the hopelessly passe Swing Era, but only if you work out your steps very very carefully.) Each composition is an intricate little gem. Each note seems deliberately laid into its position in the composition. Each composition sounds more difficult to play than the last one, no matter what order you listen to them in, but the rewards of mastering their difficulties are obvious in the subtle swing and the melodic surprises.

Playing Zieff's compositions obviously requires discipline and control, the aspect that gives the pieces the chamber-like feel, but that should not imply that the quartet's performances of these pieces are subdued or in any way timid. Baker and Twardzik, the principal soloists, range freely through key changes and tempo shifts with what seems uncanny ease.

Baker was praised from the beginning of his career for his spontaneity He had a knack for inventing attractive phrases on the spot. In jazz, spontaneous invention is essential, and most jazz musicians rely on rote devices to relieve them of the burden of constant invention. Baker needed fewer of them than many others. When it came to spinning lines of disarmingly simple and lyrically attractive variations, he had few peers. All that was widely recognized, but in his career he received scant notice for the beauty of his tone or the fullness of his range on the trumpet, perhaps because he displayed them so infrequently, sticking almost exclusively to the middle register. There was no way he could do that in Zieff's music. It required him to move briskly over the scale, especially on the tunes called Rondette and Re-Search, and to play rapid exercise-like sequences in Mid-Forte and Piece Caprice, sometimes requiring octave leaps. Baker carried it off with total control. He made it sound easy. His technical skills were seldom so evident, before or after. And through it all his lyrical bent, the heart of his talent, never flagged for a second.

Zieff's music sets Baker into brooding moods on Sad Walk, Just Duo and Brash, and winsome melodies with minor drags on Rondette, Sad Walk and Pomp. The ingenious harmonies draw out Baker's sensitivity, seeming to extract it without pretense or posing as he traces fresh melodic lines over the layered harmonies.These recordings may represent the apogee of Baker's talents as a pure musician.

The only other composition recorded by the young quartet in Paris was composed by Twardzik himself, called The Girl from Greenland. If I had never heard A Crutch for the Crab and Albuquerque Social Swim (and, eventually, The Fable of Mabel, Twardzik's other remarkable composition) it would be tempting to credit Zieff with it rather than Twardzik. The kindred feelings in the music of Twardzik and Zieff were no coincidence, I would discover 20 years later, when I accidentally sat down beside Robert L. Zieff at a conference in Oldham, Lancashire, on the music of Duke Ellington.

Twardzik's Girl from Greenland is a ballad (A A'B A') built on a lilting rhythm. Baker's statement of the ascending scale of the melody is countered by Twardzik's trills at the top of the piano. When Baker and Twardzik break free of the melody in their solo choruses, they sustain the contrasting moods of their melodic motifs. Baker emphasizes the minor mood, brooding over it quietly. Twardzik mocks the mood, teasing it by spreading four bars of melody over eight and inverting phrases. Baker is involved and Twardzik is aloof. Baker is romantic and Twardzik is cynical. It is an ingenious arrangement, perfectly executed. Both musicians play their parts brilliantly, but it is the interaction of the parts that raises the music to a higher level.

And when the last note of The Girl from Greenland faded, there would be no more music from Richard Twardzik. Or so it seemed. As the man with the Coppertone voice on the Pacific Jazz sampler said, "Twardzik died m Paris a few months later, depriving us all of the great ability that was his." Now, to add to that, we had the eyewitness testimony of Chet Baker. In his liner notes for Chet Baker in Europe (1956),Baker included this diary entry in his account of his tour of the NATO countries (with the elisions in the original):

‘OCT. 21 —Today here in Paris, alone in his room, Dick Twardzik died suddenly at 24, cheating all of us of his very real genius.... His conception was so completely original; the way he played with meter was uncanny, turning it around and around, never goofing, always there. He leaves behind far too fewr examples of the genius he possessed. My association with him has enriched my life greatly and I'm thankful for that.We are all deeply saddened.... a wonderful person and a brilliant musician.’

There did indeed seem to be too few examples of his genius. The Baker quartet tracks from Paris, on the Pacific Jazz release, amounted to 24 minutes and 29 seconds. Add to that the 21:44 of the piano trio recordings and you get the grand total: 46 minutes and 13 seconds. Enough to establish a reputation, but hardly enough to sustain it, by any reasonable standards.There would be, miraculously, another 15 minutes of Bob Zieff's music by Baker and Twardzik in Paris, and when it is added on it brings the grand total to 61:12, one hour and one minute and a few seconds. Eventually more music by Twardzik would be found, a fair amount really, considering the brevity of his life, some of it excellent, but the very best of it is here, in the hour from these two studio recordings.

Over the years, I have returned to this music often, and always with the fear that I would find its pleasures gone flat. As I left behind the horn-rimmed teenager I had been when I first heard Richard Twardzik playing A Crutch for the Crab, I feared that I might find out that my feelings for it were based on nothing more than adolescent brooding for a doomed young artist. I was afraid something inside me would say, Snap out of it, for god's sake.

It hasn't happened.”

For order information on Jack's book please go here.

For the following video tribute to Richard Twardzik, I selected his interpretation of Bess, You Is My Woman Now because as Ted Gioia explains:

His interpretation of "Bess, You Is My Woman" is a case study in the jazz-ballad-as-art-song. This latter performance is worth hearing for the pedaling alone—and how often can you say that about a jazz track? But even more striking is his splashes of sound color—the term "voicings" hardly does justice to what Twardzik