Friday, September 25, 2020

Dave Brubeck Quartet - Time Outakes

 © Copyright ® Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

Many visitors to these pages are great fans of the Dave Brubeck Quartet and I thought you might want to know about this new recording which will be available on December 4, 2020.

''Time OutTakes'' is Previously Unreleased Takes from the Original 1959 Sessions master tapes. Never before released.

These newly discovered recordings feature wonderful performances that are every bit as compelling as those on the original Time Out. We discovered that during the original 1959 sessions the Quartet also recorded ''I'm In a Dancing Mood'' and an unlisted trio jam with a major drum solo that included snatches of the melody from ''Watusi Drums.'' Two tracks from Time Out, ''Pick Up Sticks'' and ''Everybody's Jumpin,'' were achieved in one take so no alternates exist to include here. These 7 new performances (and bonus track) are fascinating finds.
-Chris Brubeck

We've all heard Dave Brubeck's Time Out - but never quite like this. You'll hear Dave Brubeck's signature pieces afresh and anew. Listening to this album will make you rediscover why you fell in love with The Dave Brubeck Quartet featuring Paul Desmond, Joe Morello and Eugene Wright. This is mesmerizing music.
- Kabir Sehgal, Grammy Award Winning Producer
Once the Dave Brubeck Quartet released Time Out in 1959, the world of jazz was never the same. Every note of the seven original compositions soared with wild originality and trained musical genius. ''Take Five'' became the best-selling jazz single of the twentieth century. I've often wondered how this work of genius came to fruition in the studio? How did Brubeck develop such chemistry with alto-saxophonist Paul Desmond? Now the mysteries are solved with the historic release of Time OutTakes T(alternative takes to the masterpiece that blew the hinges off the doors of jazz). What a high privilege it is to be able to be in the studio with the quartet as they innovate using 9/8, 5/4 and 2 bars of 3/4 alternating with 2 bars of 4/4 on such classics as ''Blue Rondo a la Turk'' and ''Three to Get Ready.'' All listeners of Time OutTakes will experience the Cold War era jazz revolution as it unfolded. What joyous music for the ages!
- Douglas Brinkley, CNN historian and Grammy-winning jazz producer.

Track List:
1 Blue Rondo a la Turk
2 Strange Meadowlark
3 Take Five
4 Three To Get Ready
5 Cathy's Waltz
6 I'm In A Dancing Mood
7 Watusi Jam
8 Band Banter from the 1959 Recording Sessions


“''Take Five,'' a 1959 track by the Dave Brubeck Quartet, was always a musical oddity: a swinging, instantly catchy jazz piece written in the uncommon time signature of 5/4. But it was also a huge hit and the first platinum-selling single in jazz history.

Roughly 61 years after the release of ''Take Five'' on Brubeck's Time Out album, the late pianist s estate will release TimeOutTakes, a new album of previously unreleased alternate versions of pieces from the iconic LP...

On the alternate version, you can hear how the band is still acclimating to the feel of the piece's 5/4 rhythm. They play the tune faster than on the familiar take and drummer Joe Morello hadn't yet settled into the famously relaxed beat that made the five-beat structure feel so natural. You can also hear alto saxophonist Paul Desmond, who composed ''Take Five,'' getting used to improvising on the tune. In his drum solo, Morello sticks close to the rhythm of Brubeck's ''1, 2, 3; 1, 2'' piano vamp, slowly building up density and excitement as he goes. Whereas on the final, Brubeck and bassist Eugene Wright play behind Morello's feature, here the drummer takes the spotlight alone.

''It's fascinating to hear on this track that the iconic drum beat wasn't set yet and Joe Morello was playing a very syncopated Latin beat,'' said multi-instrumentalist Chris Brubeck, one of the pianist's sons and musical collaborators, in a release of the early ''Take Five.'' ''Even alto saxophonist Paul Desmond had not yet settled on a consistent melody,'' he added.

The tapes that make up Time OutTakes originally came to light while author Philip Clark was researching A Life in Time, a biography of Brubeck released this past February in honor of the pianist's centennial year. The record will be released on December 4th, two days before the 100th anniversary of Brubeck's birth.

Along with the alternate ''Take Five,'' Time OutTakes will feature previously unreleased versions of several other pieces from the original Time Out LP, including ''Blue Rondo à la Turk,'' a piece inspired by a rhythm that Brubeck heard a street musician playing in Turkey while on a State Department tour. It also includes two tunes not heard on the original album: ''I m in a Dancing Mood,'' a piece from the Thirties musical This'll Make You Whistle, and ''Watusi Jam,'' a trio performance sans Desmond based on the piece ''Watusi Drums,'' heard on the 1958 live album The Dave Brubeck Quartet in Europe.”

By Hank Shteamer --Rolling Stone, September 23, 2020

Take Five – Time OutTakes (Previously Unreleased Takes from the Original Time Out LP)

Thursday, September 24, 2020

JLCO Big Band B 3 Joey DeFrancesco Peter and the wolf 2019


Mulgrew Miller: “Living in the Shadows of Giants”

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

“Don’t cross a bridge to get home or to work:” I guess the expression contains more than a hint of caution and admonition, especially if you’ve lived some time in the San Francisco Bay area and seen the nightmarish traffic back-ups a closed bridge can cause on the local, television news.

Thankfully, I never experienced such a delay in all the years I lived and worked in San Francisco,

But I sure caught a taste of what such an experience would be like as I was headed north back to the Oakland, CA airport to catch a return flight to my relocated home in southern California following some business appointments in the Silicon Valley.

A major accident on the Bay Bridge between San Francisco and Oakland had caused a traffic back-up so serious that it extended south on US 880 to about 10 miles below the airport.

The was no alternative and plenty of later flights so I just relaxed and turned on the FM-Jazz station while I waited things out in the rental car that was crawling along at death-defying speed of 3 MPH.

The radio broadcast that I tuned into was an interview with pianist Mulgrew Miller who was appearing through the upcoming weekend with his trio at Yoshi’s Jazz Club located on a portion of the waterfront which the City of Oakland had reclaimed from surplus shipping docks and refurbished into a lovely commercial-cum-residential area.

I knew of Mulgrew’s work through recordings he had made during his long association with drummer Tony Williams’ quintet in the 1980s and 1990s, but I had never heard him play in person.

He sounded very warm and cordial during the radio interview and I thought, “Well, at the rate things are going with the crawling traffic, maybe I’ll just book into a local hotel and catch one of Mulgrew’s sets at Yoshi’s.”

Of all the remarks Mulgrew made during the exchange with the interviewer, one stayed with me: “It’s tough to get any recognition as a Jazz musician today because we are living in the shadow of Giants.”

This is not verbatim, but earlier in his talk, Mulgrew had said that many of the pianists  during the bebop era, for example Al Haig, Joe Albany, Dodo Marmarosa, John Lewis, and even some pianists during the later hard bop era like Sonny Clark, Horace Silver and Walter Bishop, Jr., were not original stylists.

They basically played in the manner of Bud Powell and gained a certain measure of recognition and approval for being able to do so.

But musicians like himself, who continue in this bebop piano tradition and perhaps add some of the newer influences like Ahmad Jamal, McCoy Tyner or Keith Jarrett to their approach get little respect because we are not “… the next Bud Powell or Art Tatum or Bill Evans.”

“Why? Not all of us can be giants like Bud and Art or Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. We are doing our part to keep the Jazz tradition alive and even move it forward a little, but we get little respect for what we do accomplish and put down for what we don’t.”

None of this was conveyed with animosity by Mulgrew, but you could certainly sense his disappointment and his displeasure.

The interview then trailed off and was replaced by the playing of one of Mulgrew’s recordings in its entirety.

By some miracle I was just pulling into the hired car parking lot when the interviewer returned so I did not get to hear the rest of Mulgrew’s talk.

The following year The Mulgrew Miller Trio Live at Yoshi’s was issued as a double CD on MaxJazz [[MXJ 212/208] and I picked up a copy along with the March 1, 2005 edition of Downbeat in which the following article about Mulgrew by Ted Panken appeared.

Mulgrew passed away on May 28, 2013 and the editorial staff at JazzProfiles thought it might be nice to remember him on these pages with a reprint of his Downbeat interview and the Nat Chinen obituary that was published in The New York Times.  

Copyright © Downbeat/Ted Panken/2005 Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company. All rights reserved.

Mulgrew Miller: No Apologies 

“Ironies abound in the world of Mulgrew Miller. On the one hand, the 49-year-old pianist is, as Eric Reed pointed out, "the most imitated pianist of the last 25 years." On the other, he finds it difficult to translate his exalted status into full-blown acceptance from the jazz business.

"It's a funny thing about my career," Miller said. "Promoters won't hire my band, but they'll book me as a sideman and make that the selling point of the gig. That boggles my mind."

Miller would seem to possess unsurpassed qualifications for leadership. As the 2004 trio release Live At Yoshi's (MaxJazz) makes evident, no pianist of Miller's generation brings such a wide stylistic palette to the table. A resolute modernist with an old-school attitude, he's assimilated the pentagonal contemporary canon of Bill Evans, McCoy Tyner, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea and Keith Jarrett, as well as Woody Shaw's harmonic innovations, and created a fluid personal argot.

His concept draws on such piano-as-orchestra signposts as Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson, Ahmad Jamal and Erroll Garner, the "blowing piano" of Bud Powell, the disjunctive syncopations and voicings of Thelonious Monk, and the melodic ingenuity of gums like Hank Jones, Tommy Flanagan and Cedar Walton. With technique to burn, he finds ways to conjure beauty from pentatonics and odd intervals, infusing his lines with church and blues strains and propelling them with a joyous, incessant beat.

"I played with some of the greatest swinging people who ever played jazz, and I want to get the quality of feeling I heard with them," Miller said. "It's a sublime way to play music, and the most creative way to express myself. You can be both as intellectual and as soulful as you want, and the swing beat is powerful but subtle. I think you have to devote yourself to it exclusively to do it at that level."

Consequential apprenticeships with the Mercer Ellington Orchestra, Betty Carter, Johnny Griffin and Shaw launched Miller's career. A 1983-'86 stint with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers put his name on the map, and he cemented his reputation during a long association with Tony Williams' great cuspof-the-'90s band, a sink-or-swim environment in which Miller thrived, playing, as pianist Anthony Wonsey recalls, "with fire but also the maturity of not rushing."

By the mid '80s, Miller was a fixture on
New York's saloon scene. Later, he sidemanned extensively with Bobby Hutcherson, Benny Golson, James Moody and Joe Lovano, and from 1987 to 1996 he recorded nine trio and ensemble albums for Landmark and RCANovus.

Not long after his 40th birthday, Miller resolved to eschew club dates and one-offs, and to focus on his own original music. There followed a six-year recording hiatus, as companies snapped up young artists with tenuous ties to the legacy of hardcore jazz.

"I won't call any names," Miller says, "but a lot of people do what a friend of mine calls 'interview music.' You do something that's obviously different, and you get the interviews and a certain amount of attention. Jazz is part progressive art and part folk art, and I've observed it to be heavily critiqued by people who attribute progressivity to music that lacks a folk element. When Charlie Parker developed his great conception, the folk element was the same as Lester Young and the blues shouters before him. Even when Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane played their conceptions, the folk element was intact. But now, people almost get applauded if they don't include that in their expression. If I reflected a heavy involvement in Arnold Schoenberg or some other ultra-modern composers, then I would be viewed differently than I am. Guys who do what I am doing are viewed as passé.

"A lot of today's musicians learn the rudiments of playing straight-ahead, think they've got it covered, become bored, and say, 'Let me try something else,'" Miller continued. "They develop a vision of expanding through different areas - reggae here, hip-hop there, blues here, soul there, classical music over here and being able to function at a certain level within all those styles. Rather than try to do a lot of things pretty good, I have a vision more of spiraling down to a core understanding of the essence of what music is."

This being said, Miller-who once wrote a lovely tune called "Farewell To Dogma" -continues to adhere to the principle that "there is no one way to play jazz piano and no one way that jazz is supposed to sound." He is not to be confused with the jazz police. His drummer, Karriem Riggins, has a second career as a hip-hop producer, and has at his fingertips a lexicon of up-to-the-second beats. When the urge strikes, bassist Derrick Hodge might deviate from a walking bass line to slap the bass Larry Graham style. It's an approach familiar to Miller, who grew up in
Greenwood, Miss., playing the music of James Brown, Aretha Franklin and Al Green in various Upper Delta cover bands.

"It still hits me where I live," he says. "It's Black music. That's my roots. When I go home, they all know me as the church organist from years ago, so it's nothing for me to walk up to the organ and fit right in. I once discussed my early involvement in music with Abdullah Ibrahim, and he described what I went through as a community-based experience. Before I became or wanted to become a jazz player, I played in church, in school plays, for dances and for cocktail parties. I was already improvising, and always on some level it was emotional or soul or whatever you want to call it. I was finding out how to connect with people through music.

"By now, I have played jazz twice as long as I played popular music, and although that style of playing is part of my basic musical being, I don't particularly feel that I need to express myself through it," he continued. "It's all blues. The folk element of the music doesn't change. The blues in 1995 and in 1925 is the same thing. The technology is different. But the chords are the same, the phrasing is the same, the language is the same-exact same. I grew up on that. It's a folk music. Folk music is not concerned with evolving."

For all his devotion to roots, Miller is adamant that expansion and evolution are key imperatives that drive his tonal personality. "I left my hometown to grow, and early on I intended to embrace as many styles and conceptions as I could," he said. "When I came to
New York I had my favorites, but there was a less celebrated, also brilliant tier of pianists who played the duo rooms, and I tried to hear all of those guys and learn from them. The sound of my bands changes as the musicians expand in their own right. I'm open, and all things are open to interpretation. I trust my musicians-their musicianship, insights, judgments and taste-and they tend to bring things off in whatever direction they want to go. In the best groups I played with, spontaneity certainly was a strong element."

Quiet and laid-back, determined to follow his muse, Miller may never attain mass consumption. But he remains sanguine.

"I have moments, but I don't allow myself to stay discouraged for long," he said. "I worked hard to maintain a certain mental and emotional equilibrium. It's mostly due to my faith. I don't put all my eggs in that basket of being a rich and famous jazz guy. That allows me a certain amount of freedom, because I don't have to play music for money. I play music because I love it. I play the music I love with people I want to play with. I have a long career behind me. I don't have to apologize to anybody for any decisions I make." -Ted Panken” 

Mulgrew Miller, Dynamic Jazz Pianist, Dies at 57

Copyright © The New York Times/Nate Chinen/May 29, 2013.

“Mulgrew Miller, a jazz pianist whose soulful erudition, clarity of touch and rhythmic aplomb made him a fixture in the postbop mainstream for more than 30 years, died on Wednesday in Allentown, Pa. He was 57.

The cause was a stroke, said his longtime manager, Mark Gurley. Mr. Miller had been hospitalized since Friday.

Mr. Miller developed his voice in the 1970s, combining the bright precision of bebop, as exemplified by Bud Powell and Oscar Peterson, with the clattering intrigue of modal jazz, especially as defined by McCoy Tyner. His balanced but assertive style was a model of fluency, lucidity and bounce, and it influenced more than a generation of younger pianists.

He was a widely respected bandleader, working either with a trio or with the group he called Wingspan, after the title of his second album. The blend of alto saxophone and vibraphone on that album, released on Landmark Records in 1987, appealed enough to Mr. Miller that he revived it in 2002 on “The Sequel” (MaxJazz), working in both cases with the vibraphonist Steve Nelson. Among Mr. Miller’s releases in the last decade were an impeccable solo piano album and four live albums featuring his dynamic trio.

Mr. Miller could seem physically imposing on the bandstand — he stood taller than six feet, with a sturdy build — but his temperament was warm and gentlemanly. He was a dedicated mentor: his bands over the last decade included musicians in their 20s, and since 2005 he had been the director of jazz studies at William Paterson University in New Jersey.

If his sideman credentials overshadowed his solo career, it wasn’t hard to see why: he played on hundreds of albums and worked in a series of celebrated bands. His most visible recent work had been with the bassist Ron Carter, whose chamberlike Golden Striker Trio featured Mr. Miller and the guitarist Russell Malone on equal footing; the group released a live album, “San Sebastian” (In+Out), this year.

Born in Greenwood, Miss., on Aug. 13, 1955, Mr. Miller grew up immersed in Delta blues and gospel music. After picking out hymns by ear at the family piano, he began taking lessons at age 8. He played the organ in church and worked in soul cover bands, but devoted himself to jazz after seeing Mr. Peterson on television, a moment he later described as pivotal.

At Memphis State University, he befriended two pianists, James Williams and Donald Brown, both of whom later preceded him in Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. Mr. Miller spent several years with that band, just as he did with the trumpeter Woody Shaw, the singer Betty Carter and the Duke Ellington Orchestra, led by Ellington’s son, Mercer. Mr. Miller worked in an acclaimed quintet led by the drummer Tony Williams from the mid-1980s until shortly before Williams died in 1997.

Mr. Miller’s survivors include his wife, Tanya; his son, Darnell; his daughter, Leilani; and a grandson. He lived in Easton, Pa.

Though he harbored few resentments, Mr. Miller was clear about the limitations imposed on his career. “Jazz is part progressive art and part folk art,” he said in a 2005 interview with DownBeat magazine, differentiating his own unassuming style from the concept-laden, critically acclaimed fare that he described as “interview music.” He added, “Guys who do what I am doing are viewed as passé.”

But Mr. Miller worked with so many celebrated peers, like the alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett and the tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano, that his reputation among musicians was ironclad. And his legacy includes a formative imprint on some leading players of the next wave, including the drummer Karriem Riggins and the bassist Derrick Hodge, who were in one of his trios. The pianist Robert Glasper once recorded an original ballad called “One for ’Grew,” paying homage to a primary influence. On Monday, another prominent pianist, Geoffrey Keezer, attested on Twitter that seeing Mr. Miller one evening in 1986 was “what made me want to be a piano player professionally.”

In the performance from the At Yoshi’s 2004 double CD that forms the sound track for this video tribute to him, Mulgrew has cleverly adopted Comes Love to the arrangement Ahmad Jamal used on Poinciana from his At The Pershing Room Argo LP, one of the most successful Jazz recordings ever issued.

The insistent rhythm is formed by Karriem Riggins use of mallets on the drum set’s tom toms and the insistent accent played by the high hat on the 2nd and 4th beat of each measure.

On the original version, instead of the usual “clicking” sound made by stepping on the high hat’s cymbals to close them, Ahmad’s drummer, Vernel Fournier, played the high hat cymbals open [barely touching them together] creating more of a “chinging” sound to simulate finger cymbals.

You can hear this effect in a more pronounced manner as played by Karriem at 4:21 minutes of Mulgrew’s version.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Jay and Kai – When Two Trombones Are Better Than One

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

“'You can't play all night in a club with just two trombones and rhythm!’ a friend told Kai Winding when he announced that he and J. J. Johnson were going to do just that.
He was wrong, but awfully right at the same time. The answer is that you can do it, but not with ‘just two trombones.’ You have to have the best—Kai Winding and J.J. Johnson.

Their ability as trombonists is only part of the story. The entire "book" for the group has also been written by them, and it is their imagination as arrangers which has carried off this tour de force even more than their extraordinary talent as soloists.

Jay and Kai have done it the musicianly way, with no gimmicks—just solid musicianship. Working without a guitar, which would have given them variety in the col­oring of the solos as well as another voice in the ensem­bles, makes their job that much harder. But in order to get engagements in clubs, they had to confine the group to five men, and the added challenge has only spurred them to greater creative height.

Each has had a wealth of big band and small combo experience. During the hop era, Jay was in the rare posi­tion of establishing a school of trombone playing which consisted of himself alone; no one else was remotely in his class. Kai came up through the big band field, achiev­ing prominence as a soloist with Stan Kenton in 1946. In recent years, both men have gigged extensively with small groups, and Kai still keeps his hand in as a studio sideman between the quintet's bookings.

The arranging of the book has been divided equally between them, and each man has contributed several fine originals. Their choice of repertoire is discriminating; they seem to have a knack of choosing half-forgotten but exceptional show tunes and songs which are fine vehicles for "class" singers. (Perhaps the lyric quality of their trom­bone playing is responsible for this taste.) Both play with a technical ease which is the envy of lesser slide men. Although they play quite unlike each other most of the time, there are many occasions on which it is impossible for even their closest followers to tell them apart.”
- George Avakian, insert notes to CD re-issue of Trombones for Two

The idea for this piece came from revisiting the J.J. Johnson and Kai Winding Columbia recording made at the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival [the LP is shared with the Dave Brubeck Quartet]. Along with bassist Bill Crow and drummer Rudy Collins, the two trombonists’ quintet featured Dick Katz on piano. Dick was to be the pianist with Jay and Kai’s group throughout its existence from 1954-56.

Listening to this recording reminded me of what an excellent pianist Dick Katz was, he died in 2009 at the age of 86, but it also brought back thoughts about Dick Katz the record producer [he founded Milestone Records with Orrin Keepnews], Dick Katz the Jazz educator [he taught at the New School and the Manhattan School of Music], but most especially about Dick Katz, the gifted Jazz author [Bill Kirchner tapped him to write The History of Jazz Piano essay in his The Oxford Companion to Jazz].

I never got to attend any of Dick’s Jazz courses, but I always learned so much about the music from his writings.

Sure enough, when I went digging around my collection of Jazz recordings, there was Dick writing his usual, clever and insightful insert notes to the 1960 reunion album by Jay and Kai’s quintet on Impulse! Records [The Great Kai and J.J.! IMPD-225].

A sample Dick’s expository skills, flowing style of writing and considerable knowledge on the subject of Jazz and its makers can be found in the following excerpts from the J.J. Johnson and Kai Winding Impulse! notes:

“‘I don't know anything about music, but I know what I like.’

This bon mot is usually attributed to the celebrated Common Man, and while the sophisticate might wince upon hearing such a bromide, an element of truth is pre­sent. The sentence often indicates that knowing how music is made does not necessarily assure one's enjoyment, or even enlightenment. The intellectual, armed with the tools of musical analysis, will not experience music any more intensely than someone not blessed with musical scholar­ship — if the conditions for being "moved," or emotionally stimulated, do not occur in the music. Indeed, knowing too much can actually interfere with hearing the music.

You see, music has to do with feelings, and the knowledge of what makes it tick should be a bonus that adds to or enhances the listener's understanding. It should never be a substitute for emotional involvement.

Now, the "conditions" referred to above are what concern us here. Good jazz does not come out of the air like magic. True, a genius sometimes creates this illusion, but in the main, it is the result of an artistic balance between the planned and the unplanned. Even the great improviser is very selective, and constantly edits himself.

Throughout the relatively short history of jazz, many of the great performances have been ensemble performances where the improvised solo was just a part of the whole. This tradition of group playing, as exemplified by Hender­son, Basie, Ellington, Lunceford, John Kirby, Benny Good­man's small groups, the great mid western and southwest­ern bands, big and small (Kansas City, et. al.)» almost came to a rather abrupt halt with The Revolution. And that is exactly the effect Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and their colleagues (J. J. Johnson among them) had on jazz music. Their extreme improvising virtuosity seemed to take the focus off the need to play as a group. But herein lies the irony — the precision with which they played their com­plex tours de force was due in large measure to the exten­sive ensemble experience they gleaned as members of dis­ciplined bands like Hines, Eckstine, etc.

It was their tal­ented, and not-so-talented, followers who often missed the point. Musically stranded without the opportunity to get the type of experience their idols had (due to many factors, economic and otherwise), they resorted to all they knew how to do — wait their turn to play their solos. This type of waiting-in-line-to-play kind of jazz has nearly domi­nated the scene for many years. Although it has produced an abundance of first-rate jazzmen, many excellent performances, and has advanced some aspects of jazz, the lack of organization has often strained the poor listener to the point where he doesn't "know what he likes."

So, in 1954, when J.J. Johnson and Kai Winding formed their now celebrated partnership, one of their prime con­siderations was to help remedy this chaotic state of affairs. Both men, in addition to being the best modern jazz trom­bone stylists around, were fortunate enough to have had considerable big and small band experience. They astutely realized that a return to time-tested principles was in order. Variety, contrast, dynamics, structure (integrating the improvised solos with the written parts) — these ele­ments and others which give a musical performance com­pleteness — were accepted by Kai and J.J. as both a chal­lenge and an obligation to the listener.

This awareness, combined with their individual composing and arranging talents, plus an uncanny affinity for each other's playing, made their success almost a certainty. That success is now a happy fact. From their Birdland debut in 1954 to their climactic performance at the 1956 Jazz Festival at New­port, they built up an enviable following. Also, they have created an impressive collection of impeccable perfor­mances on records. That they overcame the skeptical reaction to the idea of two trombones is now a near-legend. One only need listen to any of these performances to demonstrate once again the old adage — ‘It ain't what you do, but the way that...’

The respective accomplishments of J. J. and Kai have been lauded in print many times before. Their poll victories, fes­tival and jazz-club successes are well known. Not so obvi­ous, however, is the beneficial effect they have had on jazz presentation. Their approach to their audience, the variety of their library (a good balance between original composi­tions and imaginative arrangements of jazz standards and show tunes), together with their marvelous teamwork, helped to wake up both musicians and public alike to the fruits of organized presentation. With the jazz of the future, organization will be an artistic necessity; the future of jazz will be partially dependent on it, as is every mature art form.

Hearing this album, one could easily be led to believe that J. J. and Kai have been working together all along. The precision with which they perform is usually found only in groups that have worked together for a long time. Actu­ally, they have played together very little in the last few years, both having been occupied with their respective groups — J.J. with his quintet, and Kai with his four-trom­bone and rhythm combination. However, it is quite evident from these performances that both have continued to grow musically and bring an even greater finesse and seasoning to their work. This is a welcome reunion.

What can't be verbalized are the feelings expressed in the music. That's where you, the listener, are on your own.”

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

CAL TJADER - S. S. Groove

Cal Tjader, Paul Horn and the 1959 Monterey Jazz Festival

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

For many years, newspaper columnist Ralph J. Gleason [San Francisco Chronicle], radio disc jockey and impresario Jimmy Lyons, newspaper columnist Philip Elwood [San Francisco Examiner] and Jazz educator and writer Grover Sales, provided a running commentary on the San Francisco Jazz scene.

All were particularly devoted to those musicians who based themselves in that lovely city with special emphasis on Dave Brubeck [even after he left to take up residence in Wilton, CT], Cal Tjader and Vince Guaraldi.

And all were very proud of their association with the Monterey Jazz Festival, which Jimmy Lyons and Ralph co-founded in 1958 and which has been held at the Monterey County Fairgrounds on the third weekend in September for much of its storied existence.

Today, Jazz Festivals are so universal that it is difficult to remember how novel they were when first established at Newport, RI and Monterey, CA in the 1950s.

The standard Jazz environment of the time, aside from occasional forays into philharmonic halls and auditoriums, was usually a nightclub in the seedier part of town. Booze and blues went hand-in-hand.

I was fortunate to be able attend both the Newport and the Monterey Jazz Festivals quite early in their existence.

As you would imagine, Cal Tjader the San Francisco-based vibraphonist and percussionist made numerous appearances at the Monterey Jazz Festival where he received a kind of “local-boy-makes-good” welcome from the fans.

I particularly enjoyed Cal’s appearance at the 1959 MJF because he added flutist and reedman Paul Horn to his standard quartet and also brought along conguero Mongo Santamaria. Like Cal and pianist Lonnie Hewitt, Paul was a great straight-ahead player and his flute lent an added “voice” [dimension] to the Latin Jazz numbers.

Here’s a more detailed look at Cal Tjader’s Monterey Concert [Prestige PR 24026], one of the earliest recordings associated with the Monterey Jazz Festival which as Phil Elwood explains was not actually recorded at the MJF, but which had a lot to do with ensuring the success of later festivals.

By way of background, “Phil Elwood blazed a trail with his jazz shows on FM radio, primarily KPFA in Berkeley, from 1952 to 1996 and was a respected critic for the San Francisco Examiner from 1965 to 2002. He died of heart failure on January 10, 2006, just two months shy of his 80th birthday.” [S. Duncan Reid, Cal Tjader: The Life and Recordings of The Man Who Revolutionized Latin Jazz, p.43].

© -  Concord Music Group; used with permission; copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“The Monterey Festivals have been a basic annual part of the jazz scene for so many years that it isn't easy to recall that way back in 1958 they got off to a rocky, money-losing start. Then came this [April 20, 1959] "preview" concert by Tjader prior to the '59 Festival; it was hugely successful, and another permanent jazz institution was launched! This package presents the concert in its entirety.

Standing still as an artist in a readily defined field is a lot easier than to shift, drift, and change one's image. Look around pop music and jazz—there are plenty of petrified performers still going through the same old thing for their same stagnant audience.

In popular music of all kinds categorization and definition have long been tools of dedicated enthusiasts as well as casual fans and the musicians themselves. Terms like the "swing era", "traditional jazz", and "cool", and the artists identified with such classifications, are assumed in jazz studies.

But when a boat-rocking jazzman like Cal Tjader comes along, all kinds of established attitudes are jumbled. Cal's music has never remained stationary long enough to be permanently defined—or to have petrified.

It's best termed just Tjader jazz.

Back in the 1948-1951 period when Callen Tjader, Jr., was teamed with pianist David Brubeck he might have been identifiable as a jazz drummer. But even then, Cal was doubling on vibraharp and coming up with some highly individualistic rhythmic material, both in the Brubeck trio and in the experimental Octet in which Brubeck, Tjader, Bill Smith, Paul Desmond and others participated.

Tjader recorded in 1949 with a full drum set, plus bongos, and conga. Yet in 1953 he was quoted as saying, "I am not an innovator, I am not a pathfinder—I am a participator."

That, of course, was a ridiculously (though typically) modest comment. What
Tjader really should have admitted was that he has remarkably good ears, and instrumental talent to make use of what he hears. When he is a "participator" it means that he is playing, and Tjader's playing for 25 years has been opening up his listeners' ears to all kinds of new musical worlds.

When Tjader made that remark, in '53, he was exactly at the point in his career that Latin music was becoming his dominant expression. He had joined George Shearing's quintet, where he stayed for 18 months, and was discovering all kinds of Latin music cul de sacs around the nation (which Shearing toured regularly), especially in the East Coast cities.

Interestingly enough it was during the same period that Shearing, too, made a noticeable shift into Latin material, and, like Tjader, explored the possibilities for harmonic and melodic adventure that Latin music could provide.

The prime source for both Shearing's and Tjader's Latin-kicks was the giant string bassist, Al McKibbon, who was playing with Shearing at the time and is with Tjader on the two 1959 concert LPs in this set.

There was little in the stiff and self-conscious rhythms of most 1950 "bop" that had the swing and freedom that Latin rhythms offered. And whereas the jazz of the '50s moved increasingly away from the dance scene (and thus, that "participation" that Tjader finds so important), the Latin music world assumes dance-participation.
Tjader and McKibbon toured the Spanish Harlem music scene whenever the Shearing band got near New York, and the more he heard, the more Tjader liked.
The work of Machito and Tito Puente especially intrigued him. And, typically, he plunged into this "new" musical world with energy, persistence . . . and participation.

Tjader, McKibbon and guitarist Toots Thielemans (who doubled on harmonica) developed some fantastic rhythmic patterns within the Shearing group and contributed immeasurably toward Shearing's own emergence as an "Afro-Cuban" jazz interpreter.

While around New York in 1954 Tjader recorded his first Latin-jazz sides, for Fantasy, including conga performer Armando Peraza in the personnel;  in that same March week, in '54, Tjader also recorded a number of jazz and pop standards, using Peraza and/or Roy Haynes or Kenny Clarke as percussionist. He was already making his musical category rather difficult to identify.

When Tjader left Shearing and returned to his San Francisco Bay Area home (a house boat at that point), Tjader's future musical direction was discernible. Before the end of 1954 he had hired pianist Manuel Durand and his brother Carlos, on string bass, as well as conga performer Benny Velarde and bongoist Edgar Resales (all from the S.F. Latin music community) and was appearing as "Cal Tjader and his Modern Mambo Quintet."

Within a year or two Tjader's name was well known in California and his earliest Fantasy "Mambo-jazz" records were spreading the word, and sounds, nationally.
Some people were even beginning to pronounce his name correctly.

An eastern tour in 1956 was something less than spectacular but it did get Tjader into Manhattan, where his mambo jazz was booked opposite Dizzy Gillespie's big band for a couple of weeks at Birdland. And Tjader also laid the groundwork for future New York engagements for his combo in various Spanish Harlem dance halls.

"None of the country was ready for Latin-jazz", Tjader commented, recalling that tour, "except parts of California and the big eastern cities."

Returning to the San Francisco area late in 1956, Tjader established some kind of a record by producing nearly two dozen Fantasy LPs in a four year period, and identifying himself nationally as the leader in Latin-jazz expression.

In the midst of that awesome four year output the Monterey Jazz Festival's managing director, Jimmy Lyons, brought Tjader's group to Carmel's Sunset school auditorium on April 20, 1959, to give what was called a "Jazz Festival Preview." Actually the performance was designed to get some local interest going for the big September event (the first Monterey Jazz Festival, the fall before, had suffered financially) and also to work out some concert-production difficulties with the same crew that would handle the Festival.

The complete concert from that April night in '59 comprises the music of this pair of Prestige discs.

That period at the end of the 1950s was a particularly important one for the larger jazz scene—from which Cal Tjader can also not be separated. Jazz festivals were burgeoning jazz clubs were in greater abundance than at any other time (before or since) and, although none of us was quite sure of it, the end of the most significant of all jazz eras was not far off. Basic blues-rock rhythms in pop music were arriving fast, ready to capture the public's fancy and swamp the free-blown sounds of the 1960's avant garde "jazz".

Cal Tjader has always been frank in his observations and thoroughly professional in his attitudes toward music and in structuring his presentations. Looking over the selections from the 1959 Monterey peninsula performance one is struck by their variety.

A handful of ballads—mellow, standard, material. Tjader loves pretty music—over the years I cannot think of a musician friend who gets more turned-on by the beauty of some popular ballads.

On the concert he also included three bop-oriented themes ("Doxie", "Midnight", "Tunisia"), a couple of swinging originals and some Latin-inspired specialties.
This is the Tjader approach and it is the reason for his continuing popularity, regardless of the current rages in pop or jazz or "free music". Tjader plays his mallets off, and tries to provide some kind of musical stimulation for everyone in any audience.

At the Monterey Jazz Festival, for instance, no artist has played more often nor been so successful. And there are plenty of San Francisco area nightclub owners who are quick to acknowledge that Tjader draws larger and more enthusiastic audiences year in and year out than do most of the "big name guys that we import from the east", as one put it to me recently.

Tjader's life has always been in musical performance, a fact that no doubt accounts for his consuming interest in all aspects of his art— and in his awareness of the broad variety of taste likely to be represented in any audience.

When you start in as a four year old vaudeville tap dancer (as Cal did) and four decades later you're still out there performing before a crowd, a certain dedication is obvious.

And this absorption in his musical craft has meant, naturally, that all manner of instrumentalists have been Tjader colleagues over the years.

Mongo Santamaria and Willie Bobo, with Cal on these LPs from Monterey, had underground Latin-popularity prior to their associations with Tjader. But their widespread fame came with Tjader, who was usually cast in the role of a dual catalyst.

He introduced Santamaria and Bobo (and many other Latin musicians) to a jazz-oriented audience and the Latin musicians, in turn, brought many of their followers into jazz surroundings and introduced that phase of American music to their ears.

What has been happening in "Latin-rock" with such groups as Santana or Malo (not surprisingly, both San Francisco bands )is a continuation of what Cal Tjader has been doing since the early 1950s.

And note that on these concert recordings the flute and alto sax of Paul Horn are featured —an extra, added attraction for the performance. Horn's flute brings some of the melodic beauty that Tjader so loves into the presentation, and his alto helps to shift the sound, occasionally, closer to the Brubeck-style combo jazz that Tjader also presents with integrity.

There are few instrumentalists whose careers have been broader in scope than Horn —the last time I saw him he was soloing behind Donovan, and he is abundantly evident on rock, pop and soul recordings.
Horn is, of course, only a single example of the astonishing breadth and depth typified by the Tjader colleagues over the years.

By never being static, even in the size of the groups, Tjader has given himself as well as his audiences the opportunity to absorb the whole spectrum of musical sound. I guess that's what he means when he says he's just a "participant".

I'm glad I've been a participant in his participation all these years. When Cal's playing there is always something worth hearing.”
—Philip E wood, S.F. Examiner

The following video features Cal and Paul Horn along with Lonnie Hewitt on piano, Al McKibbon on bass, Willie Bobo on timbales and Mongo Santa Maria on conga drums performing A Night In Tunisia.