Saturday, January 4, 2014

Clare, Gary and Warne

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

Gary Foster, the distinguished alto saxophonist, flutist and all-round good guy, sent along this photo of he and tenor saxophonist, Warne Marsh.

As usual, the point of his generosity was not to emphasize himself, but rather, to add to my collection of photographs of drummer Larry Bunker, whom you can see behind Gary and Warne, along with bassist, Chuck Domanico.

The photograph was taken in November, 1968 at the Pilgrimage Theater, located in the Hollywood Hills, during a performance by the all too short-lived big band led by pianist-keyboardist and composer-arranger, Clare Fischer.

Clare, Gary and Warne are all adept interpreters of a style of Jazz closely associated with the late pianist, Lennie Tristano [1919-1978]. Lennie favored an approach to Jazz that emphasized long, flowing and linear improvisations with a very harmonic orientation.

Lennie was always looking for ways to improvise Jazz that expressed emotion more directly and were not hung up in skill.

In his hands, tunes such as All of Me, Out of Nowhere and What is This Things Called Love were just points-of-departure; vehicles for developing and expressing what the late, esteemed Jazz author Barry Ulanov once termed “ harmonic-motivic propulsion.”

There’s much, much more to be said about Lennie’s approach to Jazz and one has to be careful about oversimplifications regarding such a complex subject.

For the purposes of this blog feature, what can be said with some degree of certainty is that Warne Marsh had a long association with Lennie and made recordings with Tristano in the 1950s on which his tenor sax playing is featured along with Lee Konitz, the legendary alto saxophonist.

Lennie’s approach to Jazz was often dismissed in some critical circles for being too cerebral, too cool [read “cold”] and lacking in emotional intensity.

To my ears, I have always thought that Warne found kindred Tristano-school spirits in Gary Foster and Clare Fischer when he moved to Hollywood from New York.

Not surprisingly, then, given their mutual orientation, Clare, Gary and Warne became friends, made a number of recordings together, and performed as a group in local Jazz clubs such as Donte's in North Hollywood and the Ice House in Pasadena, CA.

Other Los Angeles based musicians including pianist Alan Broadbent and tenor saxophonist Pete Christlieb also joined in on the fun of creating Jazz that in many ways served as a tribute to Lennie’s legacy.

For about three years at the close of the 1960’s, Clare translated Lennie’s approach into a roaring big band that featured some of the monster musicians who frequented the West Coast Jazz scene and Los Angeles recordings studios at that time.

The following video tribute to Fischer, Foster and Marsh [not a law firm] features Clare’s big band arrangement of Tristano’s Lennie’s Pennies . The tune is based on “Pennies From Heaven” but altered to be in minor. Be sure and checkout what a formidable big band rhythm section Bunker and Domanico form on this track.


  1. Thanks for sharing this great historic document. What marvelous, flowing and polymetric lines Lennie plays. Lee and Warne both in fine shape, what a duo those two made.

  2. I believe this is Gary Foster


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