Saturday, February 28, 2015

Joe Morello - "It's About Time"

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

“One thing about Dave Tough: he always was Dave Tough, just as Buddy Rich always was what he was. Tough realized we are what we are. The important thing is to be put into a musical situation where what you are can ‘happen.’ Tough found his place with Woody Herman.” [And Joe Morello found a place where he could ‘happen’ in the classic Dave Brubeck Quartet from 1956-1968].
- Mel Lewis, drummer and bandleader

“Joe Morello: One of my favorite drummers was Davey Tough. 'Cause he could keep a nice rhythm with a band and he kept good time. He didn't hardly do anything with his left hand. He was just straight ahead on the big cymbal, but he got it cookin' real good.

Sidney Catlett I used to listen to.

Scott K Fish: Did you ever get to meet those guys?

JM: Sid Catlett I met once. One time in New York.

J.C. Heard was another fine drummer. I don't know if you've ever heard of him.
And then Jo Jones, who is still a good friend of mine. He's still here. Old man Jo Jones. ‘Jonathan Jones to you.’ [Morello mimics Jo Jones’ raspy voice.] Boy, that guy taught me a lot, because I played opposite him for about six or seven weeks at the Embers. He was working with Tyree Glenn and Hank Jones. He use to play his bass drum open, see. He had a little 2O-inch bass drum, and a snare drum, cymbal, and a hi-hat cymbal. That's all he had. Oh, and he had one little floor torn. And he'd get up on the drums with brushes and he'd get that bass drum going. [JM taps drum stick on leather sofa cushion, imitating the sound Jo Jones' would get from this bass drum at the Embers].

SKF: When you say "open," you mean he had no felt strips at all?

JM: Not at all. [Keeps tapping stick on couch] and he'd get a sound just like that. A good sound.

I'd get up there and I'd play something and it would go BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM. And I'd say to him, "Jo, how do you do...?" And he wouldn't talk to me for the first two or three days. He just sort of flugged me off, you see.

But I sat down and I watched that f***in' bass drum, and I said, "I'm doing something wrong." 'Cause he sounds tap, tap, tap, and when I hit it it goes BOOM, BOOM, BOOM. I couldn’t play it!

The only way you could play it, I found out, was by pressing the beater ball on the bass drum pedal into the head. He’d play up on his foot like that, but he’s been playing it like that for so long that he can control it, see. Jo was always playing toes down with his heals up!

I learned a lot about hi-hats from Jo, because Jo would always get a breathing sound from his hi-hats. We became good friends.”
- Scott K. Fish, Modern Drummer, 1979

In a previous posting entitled “Joe Morello In A Big Band Setting,” we highlighted Rick Mattingly’s insert notes to Joe Morello RCA Bluebird- 9784- 2 RB, a CD that essentially combined 7 previously unreleased big band sessions from 1961-62 with eight of the ten tracks that were issued featuring Joe Morello in a quintet setting on the RCA LP It’s About Time [RCA LPM-2486].

Since the original liner notes to It’s About Time were not included with the the CD reissue, the editorial staff thought it might be helpful and instructive to have these available online.

Joe’s quintet included his boyhood chum, Phil Woods, who also arranged some of the tunes along with Manny Albam [the arranger for all of the subsequently released big band charts], Gary Burton on vibes [these were some of Gary’s earliest recordings], John Bunch on piano and Gene Cherico on bass.

You will find two of the tracks from It’s About Time on the video tributes that conclude this portion of our ongoing feature on one of the most respected and revered Jazz drummers of all time.


“Every limit in jazz and popular music has been stretched and broken with the passing years. Technical skills have been sharpened; musicians have turned what was once dazzling virtuosity into the professional norm. The frontiers of harmony are extended constantly—yesterday's radical dissonances are today's conventions.
"Times" have changed, too. The simple time-rhythms of the past are no longer enough for today's musicians. Improvised subdividing of the standard four-beat measure by the earlier jazzmen was a hint of what was to come. Many musicians today use 6/4, 3/4, 5/4, and far more complicated rhythms with the same freedom and skill with which variations on the customary 4/4 are tossed off. Drummers—notably, at first, Art Blakey and Max Roach—were the natural leaders of this development.

But it was a pianist Dave Brubeck who took over leadership in the extension of rhythmic horizons. As Dave's drummer, Joe Morello played a key role in winning a large public to what have remained a private enjoyment for under for musicians only. In this, his first album under his own direction, Joe clearly displays a number of the rhythmic devices for which he, as a member of the Brubeck Quartet, has become known. But - make no mistake - Joe’s first love is swinging and driving a band, whether small or large. So this album is indeed, “about time” - but the preoccupation with time never gets in the way of making swinging music.

Joe’s fantastic technique - probably the most overwhelming, ever - is never just for showing off. Throughout the record, he is heard as an integral member of the group; even his longest solo is actually an extension of what the band has been playing. That he is the member who provides most of the spark and drive for each performance is plainly evident at all times.

A basic small combo is heard throughout the album, with a brass ensemble added for four numbers (I Didn't Know What Time It Was, Every Time We Say Goodbye, Time on My Hands, and It's About Time). Manny Albam, arranger and conductor for these numbers, has integrated the combo so that there is frequently a concerto grosso quality to the sound of the ensemble.

Phil Woods, alto saxophonist throughout this set, is the arranger of five of the six remaining selections. Completing the album is a trio improvisation (Fatha Time) by pianist John Bunch, bassist Gene Cherico, and Joe.

Joe's approach, in assembling the musicians and asking Manny and Phil to write for them, was that the music must, at all times, swing. There was no attempt to use complex rhythms for their own sakes. The musicians, of course, had to be chosen with care. The principal soloists — Woods, Bunch, and vibraphonist Gary Burton — are strong "blowers." They are soloists of the type who dig in and go.
Woods, the best-known soloist, is one of the finest saxophonists of the post-bop era. He is a musician whose blazing musical temperament is perceptible even on ballads. Gary Burton is a teenage virtuoso who has bowled over seasoned musicians for the last two years and is just beginning to become known. He impressed Chet Atkins, RCA Victor's recording manager in Nashville (and one of the great guitarists of all time), so deeply that Chet promptly signed him. His first RCA Victor album will appear shortly. John Bunch, whose vigorous piano is sprinkled liberally throughout this album, is a youthful veteran of the Benny Goodman, Woody Herman and Maynard Ferguson bands, and has also played in the small combos of two of the country's most popular drummers, Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich.

As for more on Joe Morello — well, few people would be better qualified to tell you about him than Marian McPartland, with whose trio Joe sprang to fame—first with his fellow musicians, and then the jazz public.”


“Joe Morello is a drummer's drummer. As long as I have known him, which is close to ten years (when he first came to New York and sat in with me at the Hickory House in 1952), he has always been surrounded by drummers who came from all over to listen to him play, to talk to him, to work out or to study his amazing technique at close range. Joe joined my trio in 1953, and it was always interesting to me to see how much time he devoted to the study of the drums, even to practicing every spare minute between sets. He was absolutely fanatical about this, and at times there seemed to be a kind of controlled fury in his playing — sort of a fierceness which belies the appearance of this quiet, soft-spoken guy. Only when he plays does he reveal some of the inner conflicts and frustrations that have shaped and directed him in his restless drive for perfection.

Joe was a child prodigy on the violin, and can play piano quite well. He is a sentimental person who thinks deeply, who loves to daydream and to philosophize while listening to music—every kind of music. His musical tastes run all the way from Casals to Sinatra to Red River Valley. He is a complex person: on one hand, gentle, quiet and imaginative; then, in the next instant, a complete extrovert, doing impressions of his friends and laughing like a schoolboy; then again he becomes remote, moody, shut off from everybody in his own self-contained little world.

In the past few years Joe has traveled all over the world with the Dave Brubeck Quartet. He is now a seasoned performer, and shows the results and benefits of working with Dave. He has made a great reputation, and this is revealed in a different approach to his solos.

His musical ideas run along new lines; he uses his fantastic technique to better effect than ever, and he seems to have broadened his scope, not only in his playing but in various little intangible ways — in his increased confidence, in a certain gregariousness he never used to have. Yet, he is humble and at times almost disbelieving of his success. He has unquestionably made a great contribution to the Brubeck group, and I am sure that Dave would be among the first to agree that the success of tunes like Take Five, the Paul Desmond composition which put the Quartet on the nation's best-selling charts, is in some measure due to Joe's unique conception of unusual time signatures and his ability to play them interestingly.

The time is right for Joe, now one of the most illustrious sidemen in jazz, to record for the first time as a leader (although, of course, in public he is still the drummer of the Brubeck Quartet). For Joe, this has a very special meaning. It is not just an opportunity to perform with a hand-picked group of musicians, including his great friend Phil Woods as saxophonist and arranger. This album represents the fulfillment of a long-expressed desire which grew out of his first tentative experiments, as a boy, with a pair of brushes on the kitchen table in his home in Springfield, Massachusetts.

I believe that Joe was born to be a brilliant musician. This album will justify and renew the faith he has in himself, as well as the high praise and respect he has received from musicians all over the world. In discussing Joe recently, Buddy Rich called him "the best of the newer drummers; he has tremendous technique, and he is the only one to get a musical sound out of the drums."

The tunes and arrangements by Manny Albam and Phil Woods give him ample scope to express himself — whether with sticks on a hard-swinging, white-hot, uptempo tune such as Just in Time; or the delicate mimosa-leaf shading with brushes in Time After Time or Every Time We Say Goodbye.

In Joe Morello's playing you can hear the fire, the relentless drive, the gentleness, and the humor that is in him, and he has surrounded himself with some of the best musicians there are, to help him make this — his first album on his own — great.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Clark Terry - Bob Brookmeyer Quintet and The Power of Positive Swinging

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

It is true that at the Half Note, the staff refers to Terry and Brookmeyer as "Mumbles and Grumbles." "Mumbles" is the title of a widely popular Terry recording, and "Grumbles" alludes to Brookmeyer's occasionally sardonic view of the world and the foibles of its inhabitants, including his own. Yet I wonder if at base, the two are actually that disparate.

Both are the antithesis of pretentiousness off as well as on the stand. Both have never regarded jazz as so "serious" that it cannot also be unabashed fun. And both are very much themselves. Beneath Terry's gentleness and open good will and beneath Brookmeyer's wry (and sometimes self-deprecating) wit are an insistence on going their own ways. Each has resisted being compressed into any one "bag" and accordingly, the two together are — to use a favorite Duke Ellington commendation — beyond category.
- Nat Hentoff, Distinguished and Esteemed Jazz author and critic

When I acquired my copy of Clark Terry-Bob Brookmeyer Quintet: The Power of Positive Swinging [Mainstream LP 56054] in 1965, I never gave the subtitle much thought.

From the vantage point of the 20 years preceding 1965, Modern Jazz, to use the term collectively and inclusively, had experienced a surge of both stylistic growth and popular approval and it seemed that this would continue to be the case going forward.

Unfortunately, the music and many of its musicians took themselves too seriously, not to mention, taking the music in directions that caused it to lose its future audiences to Rock ‘n Roll.

Looking back on the post 1965 Jazz World many years later, a re-reading of the following insert notes by Nat Hentoff, this time as they appeared in the CD version of Clark Terry-Bob Brookmeyer Quintet: The Power of Positive Swining [Mainstream JK 57117], helped the subtitle of the recording become more understandable.

Sadly so because in many ways, 1965 was a year when Jazz began its descendancy as music and its ascendancy as an art form, and an ever-increasingly obscure one at that.

“EVER since critics and other verbalizers began to involve themselves with jazz, categorizations have grown through the music like weeds. And also like weeds, these stylistic labels are often difficult to cut down so that you can experience the music directly. One index of the singular pleasures to be had from the music of the Clark Terry & Bob Brookmeyer Quintet is that it not so much defies categories but rather ignores them. Their invitation to simply make contact with the music itself is so immediate and infectious that only the most rigidified academic would try to sort this combo and the music it plays into some constrictingly neat niche.

"That," observes Mr. Brookmeyer, himself chronically reluctant to verbalize about music, "is what our music is for - pleasure, not historical diagnosis. We all enjoy each other personally, and perhaps it's that mutual enjoyment that comes out in the music." As of August, 1965, Brookmeyer and Terry will have been together four years. They are not together all the time, of course, because their multiple skills often occupy them in other assignments. But their nights as co-leaders of this unit usually add up to about three months a year, with New York's Half Note their basing point. And in addition, they play other locations and cities from time to time.

Heightening the evident pleasure which Brookmeyer and Terry absorb from this association is their pride in the group. "This," Brookmeyer notes, "is ours. Clark and I have always worked for other people and whatever renown -or notoriety, if you will - we've accumulated has been with other people. After all that time, it's a continuing enjoyment for us to shape our own band."

As you can hear on this set, the relaxed cohesion of the co-leaders is buttressed by a similar collective flow of skills in the rhythm section. Dave Bailey and Bill Crow have been with the group for two and a half years and are also colleagues of Brookmeyer in the Gerry Mulligan Quartet. Pianist Roger Kellaway, the most recent of a series of resourceful pianists with Brookmeyer and Terry, blends into the section with attentive resiliency.

"Roger," notes Brookmeyer in a rare surge of adjectives, "is one of the most impressive, versatile talents I've heard in recent years. He can play any way; and no matter what way it is, it's clear he's not jiving. He really is able to become part of a wide range of contexts."

The initial "Dancing On The Grave" by Brookmeyer has become the combo's theme song. It is a cheerful kind of "walpurgisnacht," and Brookmeyer considers it unnecessary to be specific about what the title implies. Each listener is left to his own connotations. The "Battle Hymn Of The Republic" is a particular favorite at the Half Note, especially for Frank Canterino, the chef-in-chief of the establishment. "We refer to the song," says Brookmeyer, "as getting Frank out of the kitchen." In this head arrangement, incidentally, the musicians sound as if the battle has already been won and all that's left to do is to celebrate.

"The King," a number written by Count Basic, is a distillation of the verb "to swing" - both in its original manifestation and in this version. "Ode To A Flugelhorn" points up Clark Terry's brisk mastery of this instrument which seems particularly attuned to his qualities of wit, lithe grace and concern for textural values.

Brookmeyer arranged the vintage "Gal In Calico" having been attracted to the song because it allowed the combo to explore yet another nuance of mood. "Green Stamps," by Brookmeyer, is an ebullient event, marked by a series of exchanges between the co-leaders which turns into a circle of wit. "Hawg Jawz" is Clark Terry's and it particularly reflects Clark's antic humor. It also is an illustration - by Terry and Brookmeyer - of the art of breakmanship. Their dialogue of breaks here is consistently fresh, pointed, and relevant.

"Simple Waltz" is by Clark and in this song too, there are quick-witted ripostes by the two leaders as well as solos by them that reveal their easy - and unerring - sense of swing. The final "Just An Old Manuscript," a Don Redman/Andy Razaf collaboration, is a model of how a combo can achieve a wholly relaxed, organic unity.

In recalling the nearly four years of his association with Terry, Brookmeyer observes that "It was a pleasure from the very beginning, from the first rehearsal-talk over in my apartment." "And yet," Brookmeyer adds, "we're very disparate personalities."

It is true that at the Half Note, the staff refers to Terry and Brookmeyer as "Mumbles and Grumbles." "Mumbles" is the title of a widely popular Terry recording, and "Grumbles" alludes to Brookmeyer's occasionally sardonic view of the world and the foibles of its inhabitants, including his own. Yet I wonder if at base, the two are actually that disparate.

Both are the antithesis of pretentiousness off as well as on the stand. Both have never regarded jazz as so "serious" that it cannot also be unabashed fun. And both are very much themselves. Beneath Terry's gentleness and open good will and beneath Brookmeyer's wry (and sometimes self-deprecating) wit are an insistence on going their own ways. Each has resisted being compressed into any one "bag" and accordingly, the two together are — to use a favorite Duke Ellington commendation — beyond category.

What does, then, link their personalities is independence. And it is an independence secure enough in itself to be flexible. They are flexible in terms of music and flexible with regard to their ability to respond fully to each other and to the rest of the musicians in the combo so that this unit is an egalitarian meeting of compatible spirits. It gives pleasure because it takes pleasure in itself.

Clark Terry distills the essence of the Terry/Brookmeyer fusion: "It seemed to me there's too much put-down music, put-on music, hurray-for-me music and the-hell-with-everybody-music. So we thought we'd have some compatible music."

Nat Hentoff Original sleeve notes from 1965

The following video tribute to The Clark Terry-BobBrookmeyer Quintet features Clark, Bob, Roger, Bill and Dave on Count Basie’s The King.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Joe Morello - In A Big Band Setting

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

“The music on this album represents Joe Morello at his peak, and shows off some sides of his playing that have been relatively undocumented. Here was a drummer who was equally at home with small combos and big bands; a drummer who could handle the most complex time signatures and who was equally adept at straight-ahead swing; a drummer who had as much technique as any drummer who has ever lived, but who always put the music first.”
- Rick Mattingly, insert notes to [Joe Morello RCA Bluebird- 9784- 2 RB]

By any standard of measurement and without the need for any hyperbole, Joe Morello was a phenomenal musician who happened to express his genius on drums. And despite the incomprehensible derision he endured from some members of the East Coast Jazz Establishment  - “He didn’t swing.” [?!] - he was an exceptionally brilliant drummer who swung his backside off.

Anyone who has ever had anything to due with the instrument in a Jazz environment, simply understand this - Joe was incomparable.

While we are fortunate to have many recorded examples of his playing in small groups, especially those he made during a three years association with pianist Marian McPartland’s Trio [1953-1956] and those made as a member of the “classic” Dave Brubeck Quartet [1956-1968], sadly, there are too few recordings of his extraordinary drumming in a big band setting.

The following insert notes by Rick Mattingly to Joe Morello [RCA Bluebird- 9784- 2 RB] provides some explanations for this void.

“It was the early '60s, and the hottest jazz group going was the Dave Brubeck Quartet, who had achieved the rare distinction of having a number-one hit on the pop charts. The tune was called "Take Five," and its two main points of interest were the 5/4 time signature and the drum solo, played by Joe Morello. The record epitomized the "cool jazz" of the period, and Morello was the ideal drummer for that era. His style was firmly rooted in the swing and bebop traditions, but Joe was also a schooled performer who had studied with George Lawrence Stone of Boston and Billy Gladstone, snare drummer at Radio City Music Hall. Morello's polished technique, combined with the odd-meter time signatures favored by the Brubeck group, gave his playing an intellectual quality that fit right in on the college campuses where the Brubeck Quartet enjoyed much of their success. With his glasses and generally studious expression, Joe even looked somewhat like a college professor.

Among drummers, Morello was highly respected. When he first arrived in New York in the mid-'50s, his first order of business was to check out all of the local drummers. Stories are still told about how he would approach a drummer and ask about some little technical trick he had seen that drummer pull off. The other drummer, often with a patronizing air, would demonstrate his lick for Joe, who would then say, "I think I see what you're doing. Is this it?' — thereupon playing the drummer's lick back at him faster and cleaner.

When Morello began a three-year stint with Marian McPartland at New York's famed Hickory House in 1952, it gave all the other drummers in town the chance to check out Joe. Many still recall sitting with him at a back table between sets, where he would demonstrate his techniques by playing on a cocktail napkin. But while Morello quickly proved that he had all the chops of a Buddy Rich, he became noted for his restraint, only pulling off his pyrotechnics when it was musically appropriate to do so.

Morello joined Dave Brubeck in 1955, for what was to become a 12-year association. About the same time, he had offers from both Benny Goodman and
Tommy Dorsey, but he turned them down to go with Brubeck. "At the time," Joe says, "it looked to me as if big bands were on the way out. So it seemed to make more sense to go with Dave." It was a wise decision, as history has borne out. The Brubeck Quartet was the perfect setting for Morello to develop and display his unique approach, and during those years he repeatedly won the "best drummer" award in down beat, Metronome, and Playboy jazz polls.

During his tenure with Brubeck, Morello also became involved with the Dick Schory Percussion Pops Orchestra, with whom he recorded a couple of albums on RCA. After one of those sessions, Schory remarked to Morello, "It's about time you made your own record." The RCA executives agreed, and sessions were set up in June 1961.

"We took the title of the album, It's About Time [LPM-2486] from Schory's comment," Morello recalls. "Then we decided that we would only do songs that had the word 'time' in the title." Interestingly enough, despite the title of the album and the reputation Joe had for his expertise with unusual time signatures, there was very little of that type of playing on the record. "I wanted to do straight-ahead things on my album," Joe explains, "because I was doing so much of that other stuff with the Quartet. I wanted this album to be a whole different concept."

Because Morello was on the road so much with Brubeck, composer/arranger Manny Albam was enlisted to prepare the music and book the musicians. One player that Morello specifically requested, though, was saxophonist Phil Woods. "Phil and I grew up together in Springfield, Massachusetts," Joe says. "We played together as kids. He would be listening to Charlie Parker, I would be listening to Max Roach, and we would get together and try to imitate them. Phil and I always dreamed of having a group together, and although that never happened, we did make a few records together over the years. He's such a great player."

Another notable player on that album was Gary Burton, who was still a teenager at the time. "I met Gary through Hank Garland," Joe recalls. "I had worked with Hank at the Grand Ole Opry when I was 17. Then, after I was with Brubeck, I did a record with Hank, and he had this kid playing vibes. It was Gary, and that was his first album [Hank Garland, Jazz Winds from a New Direction, [Columbia LP 533]. When Gary came to New York, he stayed with me for a while, and then he stayed with Manny Albam after that. We did my album about a year after we had done Hank's record, and Gary had really improved a lot." Morello had also gotten Burton involved in Schory's Percussion Pops Orchestra, where they recorded together, and when Burton did his first solo a I bum for RCA [LPM 2420], New Vibe Man In Town, Morello was the drummer.

It's About Time did well enough that RCA invited Morello back to do a second album a year later. A few of the tunes on the first album had featured a brass section along with Phil Woods on sax, so this time it was decided to do a full-out big band record. Again, Manny Albam was enlisted to write the charts and hire the musicians, and again Phil Woods and Gary Burton were involved. But the album was never released. "RCA wanted me and Gary to have a group together," Joe remembers. "We had played on each other's albums, and RCA said that if we started a group together, they would really get behind it and publicize us. But I was too comfortable with Dave, so I wouldn't do it. And RCA couldn't see putting all this promotion behind my solo albums if I was still going to be doing all of that recording with Dave on Columbia. So they just didn't release the second album."

Those tapes remained in the RCA vaults for 27 years. But Morello had a copy, and he would occasionally play it for people. One person he played it for was Danny Gottlieb, a student of Joe's who has had a distinguished career of his own, working with such notables as Gary Burton, the Pat Metheny Group, John Mclaughlin, and the Gil Evans Orchestra, and who now has his own group, Elements. Gottlieb subsequently brought a copy of the tape to producer John Snyder,along with It’s About Time, and the results are contained herein [Joe Morello RCA Bluebird- 9784- 2 RB]

This collection kicks off with "Shortnin" Bread," from the unreleased big band album. "This was a little drum feature that we used to do with the Quartet," Joe recalls. "It always went over well, so I wanted to do it on my album." Morello's melodic approach to the drums is well represented here, as is his ability to kick a big band. "I think I could have been a good big band drummer if I'd had the chance to play with one for any length of time," Joe says. Judging by this, he certainly could have.

Next up is "When Johnny Comes Marching Home," featuring Morello's brush playing. Playing precise military-style figures with brushes is no mean accomplishment, and it is a good example of how Morello utilized his considerable technique in a subtle way. On the surface, Morello's drum breaks and rhythmic figures are rather basic ("l just played simple little things tha tfit with the band," he says), but when one considers the technical difficulties involved in achieving crisp articulation with brushes, one begins to appreciate Morello's degree of control.

Morello's control of fast tempos is evident on "Brother Jack," also from the unreleased big band sessions. "That's a pretty good tempo for a big band," Joe says. "Manny didn't want it to be that fast, but I wanted to take it up." Joe shows off his blazing single-stroke roll technique during the drum breaks in the middle, and ends the tune with a more thematic solo. Phil Woods is also featured on this tune.

"Every Time We Say Goodbye" is from It's About Time, and utilizes a brass section to enhance the core quintet. Morello concentrates on supporting the soloists, Woods, Burton, and Bob Brookmeyer.

Also from the first album, "Just in Time" is a quintet tune with spirited solos by Woods, Burton, and bassist Gene Cherico. "I had pretty good hands back then," Joe says of his four-bar breaks, which display his sense of phrasing, as well as his sense of humor.

"It's Easy" comes from the big band sessions, and Joe remembers it as the last thing that was recorded. "I didn't have a drum chart for this, and we only had time to do a couple of takes," Morello recalls. "When the first drum break came up, I didn't know what was going on," he laughs. Nevertheless, by the second break, Morello sounds as if he had been playing the tune for years. Colorful hi-hat work
adds to the mood of this piece.

"Shimwa," is a piece that Morello wrote for the Brubeck Quartet. "We didn't play it that much, though," Joe says, "so I had Manny arrange it for the big band album. It's basically a showcase for the drums. I wanted an African-type motif, and I tried to get the effect of a couple of drummers playing." The effect is achieved by Morello's use of polyrhythms, and by his ability to set up an ostinato pattern with his left hand, leaving his right hand and bass drum free to play contrasting rhythms.

Another "time" tune, "Summertime" was arranged by Phil Woods, and features solos by Woods, Burton, and pianist John Bunch, who was no stranger to working with good drummers; he had recently been with Buddy Rich's band. Morello concentrates on straight-ahead, supportive playing here. "I didn't want to do too many drum solo things," Joe explains. "On a lot of albums by drummers, every tune has a drum solo, and let's face it, too many drum solos are boring. I wanted to be more musical."

"A Little Bit of Blues" is another big band chart by Manny Albam, and features distinctive solos by Hank Jones and Clark Terry. No technical fireworks from Morello here, just great feel.

"It's About Time" was the title tune from th first album, and is basically a setup for Morello's drum solo. All of the Morello trademarks are here: the speed, the polyrhythms, the left-hand ostinatos, the phrasing. Another feature of the tune is its changing time signature; it goes into 6/4 for Phil Woods' solo.

The quintet from the first album is featured on "Every Time "which displays the smoother side of Morello's brush playing. Joe has high praise for Burton's contribution to this piece. "Gary had really learned to phrase well," Joe comments. "When I first heard him, he was playing everything right on the beat, but by the time we recorded this, he was really adept at back-phrasing." Bunch and Cherico also have solo spots here, and Morello adds a melodic drum break.

Phil Woods wrote "MotherTime"for the first album,an uptempo 12-bartune
that features solos from Bunch, Cherico, Burton, and Woods, followed by fours between Morello and Woods. Joe's breaks include his use of space and his famous left-hand ostinato.

"Time After Time" is a ballad that features Phil Woods, backed by Morello's sensitive brush playing. Unlike a lot of drummers, Morello always disengaged his snares when playing brushes, which produced a drier, more defined sound, "Phil has such a nice feel in this tune," Morello comments, "especially during the double-time section."

Considering the tempo of "My Time Is Your Time," not to mention the large ensemble, most drummers probably would have used sticks. But Morello pulls out his brushes, driving the band with intensity rather than volume. Burton and Woods solo, and Morello takes several breaks in which he shows again that he can be as articulate with brushes as most drummers are with sticks.

This collection concludes with a Dave Brubeck composition, "Sounds of the Loop," from the unreleased big band album. During the ensemble section of the tune, Morello displays a more "open" style of big band drumming, only catching the major figures and concentrating more on keeping the time moving forward. The chart is primarily a vehicle for Morello's drum solo, and it is a definitive example of melodic, thematic drumming.

The music on this album represents Joe Morello at his peak, and shows off some sides of his playing that have been relatively undocumented. Here was a drummer who was equally at home with small combos and big bands; a drummer who could handle the most complex time signatures and who was equally adept at straight-ahead swing; a drummer who had as much technique as any drummer who has ever lived, but who always put the music first.


Monday, February 23, 2015

The Original Clark Terry Band Featuring Clark Terry on Garden Hose

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

Clark Terry died on February 21st. He was ninety-four [94] years old [born: December 14, 1920].

While the editorial staff at JazzProfiles prepares an extended feature on this revered Jazz master, we thought you’d enjoy this anecdote about Clark’s “earliest days” in music as told to Gene Lees and the video tribute to him that follows.

"We had this little band. We used to play on the corner. My first thing was a comb and tissue paper. The paper vibrates. Then I came across a kazoo, which is the same principle. Later on in my life, we had to have kazoos as standard equipment in the studio. Sometimes we would have do little things when you were record­ing for different commercial products.

"We had a guy named Charlie Jones — we called him Bones - who used to play an old discarded vacuum hose, wound around his neck like a tuba, into a beer mug." Clark sang a buzzy bass line in imitation, mostly roots and fifths. "It was a better sound than the jug." The jug of course was the old earthenware jug used in country music and jazz.

"We had a cat who played the jug, too. With the two of them, we had a good solid foundation. My brother Ed played — we called him Shorts, he was a little short cat — played the drums. He took the rungs out of some old chairs for sticks. In those days we didn't have refrigeration, we had ice boxes, and when the pan wore out, started leaking and got rusty, it would sound just like a snare. They had those tall bushel baskets in those days, I haven't seen one in a long time. He'd turn one of those upside down and hang the old discarded ice pan on the side and take the chair rungs and keep a rhythm like that. He got an old washtub and put a brick and fixed it so he could beat it." Clark laughed that delicious and slightly conspiratorial laugh of his as he pounded a beat.

I said, "He sounds like some kind of a genius."

"Yeah!" Clark said. "He was. Well, I got an old piece of a hose one day and coiled it up and got some wire and tied it so that it stuck up in three places so it would look like valves. I took a discarded kerosene funnel and that was my bell. I got a little piece of lead pipe — we didn't realize in those days that there was lead poisoning — and that was my mouthpiece."

It struck me that Clark had invented a primitive bugle, on which he could presumably play the overtones.

"Yeah!" he said. "By the time I got into the drum and bugle corps, I had already figured out the system like the Mexican mariachi players use. They were taught back in those days to play the mouthpiece first."

He did a rhythmic tonguing like a mariachi player, then pressed his lips together and buzzed. "After a while I figured out how to change the pitch." Pursing his lips, he did a glissando, up one octave and down, flawlessly. "And then they could do that with the mouthpiece. After you got the mouthpiece under control, and you got a bugle, you could play notes. You could make all the notes that went from one harmonic to the other."

Never having seen Clark teach, I realized what makes him such an incredible — and so he is reputed — pedagogue, and why young people who study with him worship him. And all of it is communicated with laughter and a sense of adventure.”

One of the earliest Jazz long-playing records I ever heard was a Emarcy sampler which included a track from Clark Terry’s first album as a leader. The tune is entitled Swahili which I found out many years later was co-composed by Clark and Quincy Jones.

I’ve used it as the audio track for the following video tribute to Clark.  On it, Clark is joined by trombonist Jimmy Cleveland, baritone saxophonist Cecil Payne, pianist Horace Silver, Oscar Pettiford on cello, bassist Wendell Marshall and drummer Art Blakey.