Saturday, June 19, 2021

Roy and Mulgrew - Hargrove and Miller, that is.

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

For many years in the Jazz world, the standard form of duo was usually some combination of piano or guitar or even violin playing with an acoustic bass.

Guitar and violin combinations occasionally surfaced but the focal point of most duos was usually a piano or a guitar due to their ability to work as both a solo and accompanying instrument with the bass providing a quiet, rhythmic propulsion and the occasional solo.

Since guitar and piano can play both chords and rhythm there is a tendency for these instruments to clash unless there’s a fine line that acknowledges that one instrument plays rhythm when the other is soloing and vice versa, but such “rules” are often broken when the music gets heated. The acoustic bass is safer. It only has four strings with which to produce sound and even with amplification, it’s quieter and less likely to clash with a piano or guitar.

But in recent years, the standard instrumentation for duos has changed - dramatically - and we now find just about any combination of instruments pairing up.

Whatever the instrumentation duos are tricky. There’s always the temptation to fill in the additional space left by the use of only two instruments through overplaying or overblowing. 

Duos are also challenging as everyone approaches making Jazz differently and some styles are more compatible than others.

The key lies in not just listening to what you are playing but in paying close attention to what the other instrument - whatever it may be -  is playing and leaving room for it to express itself.

This approach goes well beyond “call and response” and collective improvisation [both instruments playing at the same time essentially disregarding or playing through the other instrument]. 

Leaving space may involve complimenting or complementing what the other instrument is playing; finishing a phrase that the other instrument is playing; rhythmically comping [short for accompaniment] while the other instrument is improvising on the melody and taking over blowing on the bridge; playing “under” the other solo by using bass lines in the left hand; the combinations are endless as long as the prime requirement of leaving space is met. 

Which brings me to Roy Hargrove and Mulgrew Miller, or, if you will, trumpet and flugelhorn and piano; two instruments not usually found in a duo.

Unusual though the pairing may be, it works because Roy and Mulgrew observe the caveats noted above and go out of their way to be inclusive of one another in every facet of their playing together.

It also works because they play well together; their styles fit. You can tell that they are having a great time and that joy helps create some interesting and intriguing Jazz for the listener.

These recordings underscore the adaptability of the piano as both a solo and an orchestral instrument and Mulgrew is a master at shifting from one role to the other.

Roy’s sparkling tone on trumpet and mellow sound on flugelhorn resonate with the listener as only brilliant brass instruments can, but they are enhanced by Mulgrew’s sensitive pianist shading and nuances. At times, you can hear Miller suggesting substitutions in chord sequences to Roy while Roy sometimes returns the favor with key modulations and alterations in the way the melodies are phrased.

The listener is treated to thirteen selections, each averaging anywhere from 6:00 to 9:00 minutes, and all are based on songs and tunes from the Great American Songbook or the Jazz Standards with the exception of only original by Roy.

This melodic familiarity makes it easier for the listener to sit back and enjoy the creative efforts of both artists without having to contend with recognizing too many new or unusual themes.

It’s common to describe the lineage of musicians, but the usual “comes from” is less important ultimately than meeting the musician of his or her own terms. Of course, you can hear elements of the Jazz tradition in both of their styles, but what’s more important is to listen to Roy and Mulgrew “tell their own stories.” And tell them they do, beautifully.

And when it comes to music made in a concert setting, there’s the extra added benefit of the shifting of energy between the players and the audience and this quality is certainly present on these recordings.

Ann Braithwaite, who is handling the media release Resonance Records, did her usual fine job in providing the following background for how this music came to be recorded, as well as, developing an excellent overview of the background of each musician in the following excerpts from the press kit.


“Previously unreleased live recordings from 2006 and 2007, available July 17th as a limited-edition 180-gram 2-LP Record Store Day exclusive and July 23rd as a deluxe 2-CD and digital edition issued in coordination with the Hargrove and Miller Estates

Elaborate booklet with rare photos, informative essay by Ted Panken, interviews and statements from Sonny Rollins, Christian McBride, Common, Ron Carter, Jon Batiste, Karriem Riggins, Keyon Harrold, Ambrose Akinmusire, Chris Botti, Robert Glasper and others


Los Angeles — Resonance Records, the award-winning label home of acclaimed archival releases by Nat King Cole, Bob James, Charles Lloyd, Sonny Rollins, Bill Evans, Wes Montgomery and more, is thrilled to announce the release In Harmony, a stunning set of live performances by Roy Hargrove on trumpet and Mulgrew Miller on piano, available on July 17, 2021 for Record Store Day. In Harmony provides a rare glimpse of these two now departed and dearly missed greats, united in song and improvisational mastery in front of audiences at Merkin Hall in New York City (January 15, 2006) and Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania (November 9, 2007).

Co-produced by Zev Feldman and Larry Clothier with executive producer, George Klabin, In Harmony is the first posthumous Hargrove release since the trumpeter’s untimely passing on November 2, 2018 at age 49. Aida Brandes-Hargrove, President of Roy Hargrove Legacy, said: “Roy’s daughter Kamala and I are excited to collaborate with Resonance and to get this great new album out to Roy’s many fans.”

Miller passed away on May 29, 2013 at age 57. With In Harmony, we are back in the musical company of these two greats for a short but precious time. And though the settings heard here were ticketed concerts, the vibe unfolds exactly as it might have back in the day at Bradley’s, when Hargrove was first coming up in the late ’80s and Miller loomed large from his associations with Art Blakey, Tony Williams and others. Acclaimed jazz journalist Ted Panken, in his extensive booklet essay for In Harmony, evokes that scene, and its central importance to Hargrove’s development, in vivid detail.

Hargrove told Panken, “Bradley’s was like going to school. It was like your masters. You go in there, and you’re playing, and there’s Freddie Hubbard at the bar! What do you do? Everything I’m playing right now I owe to that whole scene.”

Hargrove hailed from Texas, Miller from Mississippi. Each of them drank deep from the Black music traditions of their respective regions, absorbing lessons from family, the church, and blues and soul artists long before they became immersed in the language of their jazz forebears. In Harmony finds the two alluding to those great jazz legacies in many ways, from song choices to improvisational flourishes to off-the-cuff yet impeccably placed arranging details.

We hear Hargrove calling out to Clifford Brown, Dizzy Gillespie, Blue Mitchell, and more. Yet he plays from the perspective of a prescient bandleader who burst through genre boundaries collaborating with leading lights of hip-hop, neo-soul and Afro-Cuban music, laying the groundwork for such next-generation trumpeters as Keyon Harrold and Theo Croker (both of whom are quoted in the booklet as well).

Miller, as Panken observes, had his own “fluid personal argot,” even as he drew on influences from Bill Evans, McCoy Tyner, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea and Keith Jarrett to Woody Shaw. “His concept drew on piano-as-orchestra signposts like 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 gurus like Hank Jones, Tommy Flanagan and Cedar Walton,” Panken adds.

It’s all there, in the bright tempos of “What Is This Thing Called Love” and “Invitation,” the majestic balladry of “I Remember Clifford” and “Never Let Me Go,” or the funk of “Fungi Mama,” where one can practically hear Al Foster’s signature drum groove from the Blue Mitchell original. Which brings us to another key Panken observation: In Harmony is the only recording in Hargrove’s entire discography not to feature a drummer. Miller, for his part, has one solo album and a scant few duos in his catalog, making In Harmony an even more significant addition to the historical record.

“From the very first time I heard these recordings, I was immediately taken by the sheer virtuosity of these two masters’ ability to mesh with each other,” says Resonance Records Co-President and Co-Producer of In Harmony Zev Feldman. “They’re playing their hearts out. I personally find these to be some of the most daring and beautiful interpretations of classic jazz repertoire I’ve heard. It’s an honor for Resonance to be able to collaborate with the families of Roy Hargrove and Mulgrew Miller to bring this music to their many fans, and we thank them for the opportunity.””

Friday, June 18, 2021

Dizzy, Duke, The Count and Me: The Story of the Monterey Jazz Festival by Jimmy Lyons and Ira Kamin

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

Covering the festival from its inception in 1958 to 1977 the date of its publication, Dizzy, Duke, The Count and Me: The Story of the Monterey Jazz Festival by Jimmy Lyons and Ira Kamin is a wonderful collection of articles, vignettes and remembrances about one of of the great cultural events in the USA - the annual celebration of American Contemporary Music in one of the country’s most beautiful settings.

Accompanying the writings are a collection of drawings by the renown illustrator David Stone Martin who designed many of the iconic album covers for the Clef Norgan and Verve LPs in the 1950s, as we as, many photographs by Tom Copi, Jim Marshall, Veryl Oakland and a host of others.

The editorial staff at JazzProfiles will represent both text and images from this fascinating book in a series of posts beginning with the following, Foreword by Dizzy Gillespie, Preface by co-author Ira Kamin and lead-in articles by Ralph J. Gleason, the San Francisco based columnist and critic


“One of the great shining examples of the kind of association I have with Jimmy Lyons is the fact that contract-wise, our contracts never seem to catch up. I just assume that I'm playing the Monterey Jazz Festival. It's assumed that I'm going to be at Monterey every year.

Now sometimes that gets a little out of hand, such as last year, when I had the chance to play a theatre with Sarah Vaughan.

Now, I love Jimmy Lyons, but oh my God, Sarah Vaughan!

Monterey has a special meaning for me, because I understand that the people expect to see me there. My face is a part of the Monterey Jazz Festival just like that chair that they have. And at the end of the concert every year I start wondering what they are going to do next year? Because you can't top yourself all the time.

But over the years, the Monterey Jazz Festival has overextended itself—musically, I mean. Each year seems to be getting a little better. Sometimes it drops. Well, it can't be the same thing all the time. But it is the one festival where the musicians really feel a part of the festival itself.

At other festivals, you have a spot, you play the spot, you go wherever your spot is. But the Monterey Jazz Festival is unique in that the musicians feel they're part of what's happening, and that lends itself to a very high degree of creativity.

And the coup de grace was the hiring of John Lewis as musical director.”

John Birks (Dizzy) Gillespie - October, 1977


“There have been twenty Monterey Jazz Festivals, held every late September, in Monterey, California, since 1958.

It's Jimmy Lyons' Festival. He founded it and every year, with the help of his musical director, John Lewis, he puts the shows together.

I spent a few dozen hours with Jimmy Lyons over a couple of warm summer months, putting together this book about Lyons and the Festival.

He lives on Telegraph Hill in San Francisco in a small apartment with his wife, Laurel. He sits at a table by a window, smokes Camel cigarettes, bites the backs of both thumbnails and talks in the most listenable voice — he used to be a deejay, the first GI voice in Berlin — about the people who've passed his way the sixty years he's been on this earth.

The first part of this book is Jimmy Lyons' account of the Festival and parts of his life that led to the Festival. The second part is a more specific, chronological overview of the Festival's first twenty years.

I would like to express my special thanks to Dizzy Gillespie for doing the Foreword. When I talked to him about the book he was in the middle of a long road trip. He had an abscessed tooth and the insides of his face were hurting from that crazy way he has of playing the trumpet. He was incredibly gracious to all of us who wanted some of his time.

I would also like to thank Hal Silverman, Laurel Lyons, Tim Ware, Elaine Ratner, Ernie Beyl, Jean (Mrs. Ralph) Gleason, The Monterey Jazz Festival staff and Board of Directors, and of course Jimmy Lyons, for their great help and patience in putting this book together.”

Ira Kamin - Mill Valley, May 1978

Why a Jazz Festival?

by Ralph Gleason

“The Monterey Jazz Festival — or any real festival, jazz or otherwise — can't be just a collection of concerts. It must be a thing unto itself, an entity beyond the individual performances, beyond the individual programs and greater than the sum of these.

The point of a festival is to be festive. To give and to receive joy and to present — in a jazz festival, at any rate — a wide diversification of styles and types of this music in as festive and benign a surrounding as possible.

To be successful as a festival, the grounds, the concerts, the musicians, the patrons and the atmosphere all have to jell together to be something more than one can find elsewhere. And this, of course, is what has happened these years at Monterey.

To be a true festival, there must be something for those who are not hard core jazz fans and who make this their sole jazz experience for the year. This, too, Monterey has provided.

The unusual combinations of music, the special events, the virtuoso performances, but above all, the opportunity to see and to hear great artists in a great setting — that is the festival.

Seeing musicians as people has always been an attraction. "People out front don't know of the battle you wage backstage," Jon Hendricks wrote in his lyrics to Count Basie's "Blues Back Stage." At Monterey and at any true festival of music, the concert hall setting is avoided and the musicians make up part of the audience, walking through the grounds, rehearsing in the mornings and early evenings, themselves digging the festival. Charles Mingus was rehearsing well into the evening concert the night before his historic appearance in 1964 and latecomers lingered by the doors to hear him.

Nor all the great music has always been on stage. There have been those delicious moments observed only by the people who came early or who stayed late and wandered around, such as the afternoon pianist Ralph Sutton rehearsed with Jimmy Rushing, the year that Ben Webster sat in on piano until Earl Hines arrived or the time Ben Webster was shooting pictures of the festival orchestra's saxophone section playing an arrangement of Ben's own solo on "Cottontail." These are the bonuses that make the festival worth more than anyone could dream of.

Of course, there's the opportunity to learn by listening to great artists from great eras in their own styles and settings. But that is only part of it. There are the once-in-a-lifetime performances.

Who could ever forget—who saw and heard ir—the "Evolution of the Blues" with Jon Hendricks preaching and Jimmy Witherspoon and Big Miller singing and Miriam Makeba and Odetta and Pony Poindexter and the children gathered onstage in a semi-circle around Jon?

Who could ever forget — who saw and heard it— Lambert-Hendricks-Bavan, dressed in monk's hoods and robes, singing in the cold night air behind Carmen McRae and Louis Armstrong in Dave and Iola Brubeck's "The Real Ambassadors." Or Lawrence Brown stepping forward ro play "Poor Butterfly" or Duke Ellington's "Rockin in Rhythm" or Bunny Briggs dancing "David Danced Before the Lord with All His Might" or Dizzy and Big Mama Willie Mae Thornton or Annie Ross, Jon Hendricks, Dave Lambert and Joe Williams ending the show singing with Count Basie?

Right from the very first night, when the unknown trumpet player sat in with Dizzy, Monterey has been this way and that's what makes a festival and that's why a festival is almost a necessity in this era of restraint and inhibition. For one weekend, anything goes and the results have been some of the greatest moments in jazz history.

The festival is for the musicians and the festival is for the patrons — both. Each one digs the other and they both dig the digging. A festival is to have fun, to be festive, to give and receive love. And love, like jazz, is a four letter word and surrounded these days with Inhibitions and taboos. But at Monterey, for this one weekend, we are all free to love and jazz is free to be our music.

A festival is to have fun. You aren't supposed to like or dislike anything. You don't have to listen and you can come and go as you please. It's nor a posh concert hall where silence must be preserved and it is only a tribute to the quality of the music and the musicians that silence has been granted (not preserved or enforced) during some of the great performances.

Nowhere in this country is there such a homogeneous gathering of people as at these festivals. Pass through those gates and leave behind all the traumas and the psychodramas that inhibit the rest of the year. Glory in the music, in the people, in the place. Jazz is what you call it, everyone's his own expert (as is really true in every art form when you get down to it) and you pick your own likes and dislikes.

A jazz festival should be the best possible combination of enjoyments one can devise. Organization and improvisation, lyricism, strength, euphoria and the blues, individuals and groups, the scream, the cry and the whisper. It should all be there for you.

A festival, like music, is to be experienced. It is interesting, but not essential, to know things about the music and about the musicians. The music is enough by itself; so is the setting; so, too, are the people there. All together they make up one of the best things about living around here, even if it only happens once a year.”

Reprinted from Monterey Jazz Festival Program, 1966

Thursday, June 17, 2021


First Child

The Creative World of Stan Kenton - Part 5

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

In developing a broader understanding and appreciation of Kenton 70's music to share with you in these continuing features on the subject we are fortunate that so many of the band members from that era were available [many continue to be] to participate in interviews in which they shared their experiences about Stan and what it was like to be on the band.

The following interview appears in excerpts from Lillian Arganian’s Stan Kenton: The Man and His Music [1989], Lillian was for many years associated with Michigan State University. A violinist herself and a lifelong fan of Kenton’s music, her book contains 24 interviews with musicians and arranger’s associated with the Kenton Band in the 1970s.

Since the trombone section has always been a major part of the Kenton Sound, I thought it might be fun to continue our look at the Creative World of Stan Kenton in the decade of the 1970s with the following interview from Lillian’s book with trombonists Dick Shearer and Mike Suter.

If you ever wanted to know what the true costs were - from many points of view, financial and otherwise - of being on the Kenton Band in the 1970s, you’ll get a close look by reading this interview.

Mike SUTER: Southern Illinois, remember we did that? 

Dick SHEARER: And I had to go up and. . . 

SUTER: Stan's ultimate band!

L.A.: Why was that? 

SUTER: Thirty-seven hundred people.

Lillian Arganian.: (Laughs.) What was this?

SUTER: They brought us to Southern Illinois  University to play at the


L.A.: Oh, the Stan Kenton band? At half-time?

SUTER: It was their band day.

L.A.: You're kidding!

SUTER: So there were like 25 high school bands...

L.A.: Oh, wow.

SUTER: And the Stan Kenton band ... 

L.A.: (Laughs.)

SUTER: We played "MacArthur Park." Well fine. Pop-da-da-daa-dot-dot-dot-daa. You can't do that with thirty-seven hundred people. It went pop-dot-dot-daa-dudugududum-dot-dot. It was ponderous, it was terrible, the people loved it, and it was the perfect-sized band for Stan.

L.A.: (Laughs.) Thirty-seven hundred? 

SUTER: He finally had enough people in his band!

SHEARER: And I'm the only one that went Duh-duh-duh-da-duh-duh-

duh-'duh. (Laughs.) I thought about that old joke.

L.A.: What's the old joke? 

SHEARER: This piccolo player dies and goes to Heaven, and the Lord grants him one wish. Says he wants to play with great musicians. So poof there he's in the Grand Canyon and he looks up, and there's five thousand trumpets. Four thousand trombones. A thousand sousa-phones. God only knows how many drummers, and clarinet players and all this. Goes up to the podium and plays that little solo march in "The Stars and Stripes Forever."

SUTER: You can imagine what it was like when they all came in after that. L.A.: It would have knocked him over! 

SHEARER: Would you like five thousand people playing two quarter notes in your ear?

SUTER: That's what was happening with Dick. It was him against literally the world.

SHEARER: I had a two-bar solo every time it happened. I'm the only one who played it. Duh-duh-duh-da-dee-duh- duh-duh. I'd walk up to the microphone and do that, just me and a couple of soft woodwinds, then I'd step back and all of a sudden WHAAACHHH! Duh-duh-

duh-da-dee-da-da-da.  Da-da-daa-da- dee-da-da-da. WHOH WHOH-WHOH WHOH-WHOH!

SUTER: It was really; it was weird.

L.A.: Stan must have loved it. That's his idea of a band, all right.

SUTER: We kidded him about it. We said he finally got enough people in his band to make him happy.

L.A.: A new high in tone color! Why do you suppose Stan favored trombones so much?

SHEARER: What he said to me was, when he was a young kid, and used to go down and hear the shows 'n' stuff, and he'd hear those trombones in the pit orchestra with that sound they used to get, he'd say "Someday I'm gonna have a band with a bunch of trombones." He loved the sound of it. He just loved that rich sound — that's why the band had a lot of low horns in it. Stanley always said, you need  that  bottom.  You  get  a good bottom and the top comes out straight. That's why he had the trumpets up there.

L.A.: More people wrote for trombone, then, among Kenton's arrangers. SUTER: We had more music in every chart than any other horn. 

SHEARER: The trumpet book was two inches thick, the saxophone book was two inches thick, the trombone books were three-and-a-half inches thick. SUTER: There were things you'd look forward to playing, like "Tonight." We played that maybe twice a month. There were three hundred tunes in the book. Once a month you played at least everything once. But some of 'em were killers, where you'd be playing nothing but whole notes. And it hurts to play whole notes.

SHEARER: Ken Hanna lives. 

SUTER: Ya. Ken Hanna's stuff. Terrible for trombone players. All you're doing is playing long tones. And pretty soon the band's in Poughkeepsie and you're in Hawaii someplace, blowing your lungs out. 

L.A.: (Laughs.) My gosh. 

SUTER: That's where "How's Hawaii?" comes from. That's what that means. Because you hyperventilate and you're sitting there in your chair and you're playing your pitch but you don't really know where you are sometimes. 

L.A.: My gosh. 

SUTER: Playing is physical. 

L.A.: It takes a lot out of you. 

SUTER: That's the thing Stan would do — he'd come up, there'd be a bass player sitting in his chair playing an upright bass, and Stan would walk along and hit him in the shoulder. "Stand up, so I can't knock you down." You'd hear that sort of stuff. And he'd talk about it at the one-day clinics. It's a physical thing. You've got to get involved with it. And he'd show 'em. He'd always use bass, because that was his little thing. He'd show how you have to embrace a bass, how you have to hold it, interact with it. And you have to do that with any horn. It's hard work. He used to talk about that — you can't swing with your brain, you gotta swing somehow with your body. You've gotta have some kind of physical motion in there. 

L.A.: It's miraculous that the music never left him, even after his last illness. SHEARER: First couple of times he sat down at the piano, everybody was nervous, wondering whether the operation had affected that. He sat down and started playing. "What's the name of that?" And it just came right out. At other times he'd get up there with the band, and couldn't remember the bridge to what he was playing. 

SUTER: Ya, the chops were a trained reflex action with him. He never lost them. He never had a lot. But there were nights when he was the best emotional piano player in the world. I can't remember where it was in New York, but one night he played "Body and Soul" and the whole band missed the cue. Stan played his chorus and he looked up and gave his downbeat and there are nineteen guys in the band sitting there looking at him. Nobody made a move to pick up their horn. Nobody even knew that we were playing a concert. And that doesn't happen to me. I mean I'm not sayin' that for shock value. We all just blew it. We all just missed it. He would do that, once every three or four months. He'd get out alone and he'd play something really great.

L.A.: Some of the best piano music I've heard him do is on his Chicago album. 

SHEARER: There's another album called Stan Kenton Solo. It's all just him and there's times in there where you can hear his whole life. It's very emotional stuff. 

SUTER: It's the hardest one to listen to.

SHEARER: Ya. Hard to listen____

L.A.: What did Stan like about you? He must have singled you out for some reason to be such a close friend. 

SHEARER: I don't know. Just one of those things that happen. We'd get along very well. We had dinner together almost every night for years, and ... you know, many a night we'd sit there and not say a word! At dinner. But he was perfectly content. All he had to do was look up, there was somebody there . . . 

SUTER: I think that had a lot to do with it. I can speak about that relationship as an outsider. Dick did things for Stan that Stan didn't want to do. Dick took care of the hiring on the band. Stan did the firing. That was their agreement. But also, Dick made no other demands. I mean, one of the tests of a friendship is, you know, you can spend a couple of days together and not have to entertain one another. 

SHEARER: Um-hm. 

SUTER: I think long before they were friends, Stan trusted Dick. That allowed their friendship to blossom. 

L.A.: Why were you so dedicated to Kenton?

SHEARER: I enjoyed it. It's what I wanted to do. I never thought about that when I joined the band, that I'd be doin' all that stuff someday. 'Cause he was a pain in the ass to me at times. He and I used to go around and around. I'd have to fight with him to go out, on our nights off. "Let's go to a movie, let's do something, come on!" Well I'd get 'im going. We'd go out and eat and we'd go see some band somewhere, or catch a film, or some concert, and he comes back and he says, "God damn that was great! We gotta do this more often!" Next time we had a night off, I hadda kick him in the butt again. "I gotta go see 'Hello Dolly.' " Pearl Bailey was doin' it. We were in Toronto. We had a night off from the clinic. And I had a hassle with him. We finally got him so he'd go down there, and I sent a note backstage to Pearl that Stan was there. And I'm lookin' over at 'him and he's just smilin', oh he's havin' a good time. Pearl got Stan up on stage, and everybody in the place stood up. And he gives me that look as he walks by me, and he gets up there, and afterwards we're in the dressing room. He just had a ball. But to get him to do stuff like that, he'd just as soon go to his room and get juiced. 

L.A.: As band manager, you had quite a lot of responsibility toward the running of the band, didn't you? 

SHEARER: I used to have to call and make reservations and all that, plus do the payroll.

L. A.: That's quite a load on you, isn't it? Plus playing the book. 

SHEARER: Well it got to be a load. It got to be a little scary now and then. You lose $3,000, you wonder where it went. (Laughs.) 

L.A.: (Laughs.)

SUTER: Did he think he was paying us a lot of money?

SHEARER: Well, you know . . . 

SUTER:  No I mean really, I'm not making a joke.

SHEARER: Oh, Christ yes, Mike! 

SUTER: He thought he was? 

SHEARER: That's one thing Stanley could never get straight in his mind. He was back twenty years ago. I fought with him for I don't know how long. I finally got the base pay up to $250. 

SUTER: You know what happened last summer.

SHEARER: I know, it went right back down.

SUTER: It was the lowest paying band ... in the world.

SHEARER: He thought it was a lot of money!

L.A.: The lowest paying band in the world?

SUTER: The lowest paying band in the world.

L.A.: How would he get away with that? 

SUTER: People worked for him, didn't they?

L.A.: (Laughs.) That's what I'm wondering.

SUTER: There's no union on the road. Who're you gonna call? 

L.A.: Would he pay more if you were stationary somewhere? 

SUTER: No. You always got paid the same, no matter what. But I mean, if you went out with him, you knew beforehand what you were gonna get. So it was my fault that I got paid that little. I'm not saying it was bad. It just was. 

L.A.: Maybe the prestige of it made it worth it. 

SUTER: Whatever.

SHEARER: (Laughs.) That and a hotdog won't get you a cup of coffee. Here's

a payroll sheet from 1968. That was the base pay then. A hundred and fifty


SUTER:   'Course now,  motel rooms were — people will use this argument...

SHEARER: It was still the same ten years later.

SUTER: Um-hm.

SHEARER: The prices went up and everything.

L.A.: You mean out of that base salary you had to pay for your own motel




SHEARER: Except we had a thing later on where anything over eight dollars the band picked up. So you knew it cost you fifty-six dollars a week for your room, and the band picked up everything else. That's why we started staying at Holiday Inns, Ramadas, nice places, where it would cost us — the band itself — up to sixteen dollars a night. The guys would pay eight of that and we'd pick up the rest of it.

L.A.: Was that fairly recently? 

SHEARER: It got started around 70, 71. We used to give the guys their money back. They would pay their bill . . .

SUTER: Ya, we paid our own bills. 

SHEARER: And I'd reimburse 'em. 

SUTER:  Every two weeks  we'd get reimbursed.

SHEARER: With the exception of when we went to Europe, then we paid all the bills and got the money back from the guys later.

SUTER: At the same time I was on Stan's band — I joined for $250, plus overages — at that very same time Maynard was paying $400 and Maynard paid for the rooms. Woody paid $400 and paid for the rooms. We worked more and got paid less than any band. I joined the band, played the first night at the St. Nicholas Hotel. Had a night off. Then worked 135 straight nights. I joined the band two days before Stan set his record. 

L.A.: What record?

SUTER: A hundred and thirty-five nights without a break. We broke for Christmas.

SHEARER: You've got to have at least twenty to twenty-five grand a week, now. And you couldn't possibly earn that much. You're talking about five, six thousand dollars every night. To make that, you've got to have a hell of a good name.

SUTER: The worst part is, the recording company never made money. So guess who made up that money? The band did. The publishing company never made money. Guess who made up that money? The band did. So if the band made — the band was working for $2500 a night — what we made on the road went to support the entire Creative World. Not just the band. They made as much for the Kenton band as they would for Maynard Ferguson, yet their guys were getting a hundred and fifty dollars a week plus motel rooms more than we were.

SHEARER: And Stan was always broke! (Laughs.)

L.A.: Kenton's life story is peppered with the times that he could have gone more commercial and made the money. 

SUTER: That's okay. That's what he wanted to do. And we chose to stay with him. The people who went on the band chose it — nobody held a gun to our heads. So we don't have any right to complain about it. And I'm not. I enjoyed what I did.

SHEARER: But the band was not one of the highest-grossing bands. That was part of the problem. They would book us for $2500 a night, $2,000 a night. We used to have a hell of a party every time the band broke $20,000. We didn't have too many of those.

L.A.: But he would do it because he wanted to play that kind of music, right? SHEARER: Well, he'd try to keep working. It got a little bit better in the later years.

L.A.: That's what I think is heroic about him, to want to stick with his music even though it wasn't really commercially rewarding. How many people do you know who will do that? 

SHEARER: (Looking in accounts book.) Okay, let's see. This week was $9970. We had a $6900 week. We had an $8,000 week. This was all 1968. Thirty-four hundred. At $3400, we were still on the road all week.

L.A.: How much did you have to pay the members of the band? About twenty people—that's $4,000 right there, isn't it?

SHEARER:  The net payroll was $3,000. Not gross. Net. Which still had to be met on the Coast. 

SUTER: But we never missed a payroll. 


SUTER: We were— 

SHEARER: There were times when we were late. Gross, $8,000. $10,000. We must have had a hell of a time then. $9,000. $9,000. $7,000. This is still 1968. In 1978 it was better. We were probably around 19-20. When we'd go to Europe it would be another story. 

L.A.: Why was that? 

SHEARER:  We'd  make a lot more money over there. But then again we had a lot more expenses. When we were in Rome, it cost the guys eight bucks a night, and the hotel room was $40. So we picked up the other $32 ourselves. Stan did.

SUTER: When the band had the occasional five- or six-thousand-dollar job, the band didn't get paid any more. 

SHEARER: No. See that's the way . .. 

L.A.: Would it go to Creative World, then?

SUTER: Yeah, exactly! 

SHEARER: It would go there, sure. 

SUTER: It would go to Stan Kenton Incorporated. Or whatever you want to call it.

SHEARER: 'Course, some weeks we only worked three days. Well the band was paid for the whole week. 

SUTER: Um-hm.

SHEARER: Bus expense. Every time the band would fly somewhere . . . 

L. A.: As long as you're leveling with me, tell me this: would a guy join the Stan Kenton band because it was the only offer he got? 


L.A.: Or because he wanted to be in the Stan Kenton band? 

SUTER: Ya. Um-hm. 

SHEARER: You joined because you wanted to be in Stan's band. 

L.A.: If you had three offers, and two of them were from Maynard Ferguson and Woody Herman . . . 

SUTER: Yeah, if you were in your right mind you wouldn't join Stan's band. Businesswise it was the worst mistake I ever made. But like I said, I decided when I was twelve.

L.A.:  You  said  it  was  because you wanted to play bass trombone. Is that the only reason you wanted to join? 

SUTER: That's the only reason I wanted to join.

SHEARER: How many bass trombone . . .

LA.: They don't have bass trombones in the other orchestras?

SUTER: They do, but they're nothin'.

SHEARER: Nothin’. They're nothin'.

SUTER: I mean, there's some substance to what was happening there.

L.A.: Would you say that Kenton created his own idiom, or wouldn't you jo that far? Classical jazz, is there such a thing?

SUTER: Whatever it was, he made it himself. Ya. I would go that far. 

L.A.: He's got his own definition of what he did, right?

SUTER: Oh ya. He had his own definition of what swing was. 

L.A.: Isn't that why he doesn't fit neatly into anybody's category? 

SUTER: That's true. 

L.A.: Why they're always shaking their fists at him? 

SUTER: Sure.

L.A.: Because he made his own kind of music.

SUTER: Yep. 

L.A.: Would you call that classical jazz? 


L.A.: Concert jazz.

SUTER: I'd call it Stan Kenton. I don't even call it jazz. I don't think Stan Kenton ever played jazz, or his band ever played jazz, after 1954. 

L.A.: What would you call that kind of music?

SUTER: Stan Kenton. I'm not being evasive.

L.A.: Come on. You can't label a kind of music "Stan Kenton." 

SUTER: I sure as hell can. 

SHEARER: He used to call it "concert jazz."

L.A.: Nobody's ever put the whole picture together.

SHEARER: Nothing will happen about Stanley 'til about two years from now. L.A.: And then what? 

SHEARER: Then they'll get some kind of movement goin' and all of a sudden everybody's gonna realize what great things he's done.

L.A.: Stan's a cultivated taste. Not that many people in the United States even care about him, or know who he is. But the people who are involved in music do. Disc jockeys do. Musicians do. 

SUTER: He used to say some little dumb things that just killed me. We played a concert in Jackson, Michigan, once, at Central High School. Somebody had let off a stink bomb. We smelled it, it was no big deal. It wasn't in the auditorium, it was in some other part of the school. And he was straight. We're playing the gig, played the first half, came back for the second half, and he said, "I understand somebody let off a stink bomb in the school here. I understand some of you people thought it was the band. Well, I'm sorry somebody let off a stink bomb." He turned to walk back, took about four steps, and turned around. Walked back to the mike, said, "We thought it was you." (Laughs.) I couldn't play the next two tunes.

SHEARER: He'd always say things like that. Sometimes he'd forget about how great some of the acoustics were. And he'd be straight as an arrow and he'd say something to me that would just floor me, and people in the front two seats are just dying laughing'. And he catches them out of the corner of his eye, he says (whispers) "Can they hear me?" And I says "Oh yes. Because you said it right into my microphone." 

L.A.: (Laughs.)

SHEARER: He would do things to try to break us up. We were working at some country club. The bandstand was up about this high, and there were bushes. We're playing some ballad, Stanley disappears. All of a sudden he peeks through the bushes, goes "VERY INTERESTING." That stopped the trombones. And when he'd tell us some corny joke just before the curtain would go up, he'd time it perfectly. Curtain would go up and he'd give the downbeat right at the punch line. Jamieson was on the band. That poor guy. I'd have to send him away, he'd start laughin' so hard. Took us twenty minutes to get through the first eight bars of "Rainy Day." He'd always do stuff like this. 

SUTER: I got him once, though. It was in Michigan. We played up at Mott Community College. Their band leader had this multi-colored patchwork vest on. He came around. Bus pulled up to the clinic. He came out the door, waving at the bus, and he came running around to the side of the bus. And just as he reached for the bus door I said "Stan whatever you do, don't laugh at his vest."

L.A.: (Laughs.)

SUTER: Well that did it. Door opens— "Mr. Kenton, how are ya!" and Stan's just draped over the thing, tears running down his face. Poor guy never knew what hit him.

SHEARER: Oh I'd get him good. Any time someone would go weird he'd look over at me. "Dick! Are you behind this?" We'd always do strange things when he'd have his back to us.

SUTER: He stopped the band one time in Springfield, Ohio. We were at the St. Nicholas Hotel. You had stolen Keim's mouthpiece. We were playing "Peanut Vendor." And Keim's sittin’ there, with no mouthpiece. Stan got mad and stopped the band. "Who's got his mouthpiece?" Dick reached in his vest. Put the mouthpiece back. We started it again.

SHEARER: I was probably the only one to get away with it. 

SUTER: I got Dick one night and almost got fired for it. Dick would drop a dime in your mouthpiece -then you'd blow, and nothing would happen. Dick told me that I would never get him. Well that was an immediate challenge. SHEARER: Wrong choice of words. 

SUTER: So this is like a year and a half later. We were in Jeff City, Missouri. We had some game that used golf tees in our rooms. I took a golf tee with me. We were playing "Intermission Riff." Two other tenor trombones go out front to play their solos. Dick stays in the middle. The two bass trombones move in to the inside of the section, so when the jazz players come back they can just sit down on the outside, 'cause it's the last thing before intermission, and it made the logistics of playing the chart a lot easier. So we moved on in. Dick turned around and was saying somethin’ to the trumpets. I took the golf tee and put it in his mouthpiece. No big deal, he discovered that. 'Cause he always, always looked. So I took a dime, and it went: "CLANG!" And Dick's turned to the trumpets, he could see it went clang. He knew the dime was in there. I knew I had 'im. He picked up his horn and dropped the dime out. Stan was so mad at me. It was obvious who did it. None of us were playing. Sodersack and I were giggling, and I was on the floor. 

SHEARER: And I was laughin'. 

SUTER: Oh, he was mad. "I want to see you at the break." He bawled me out. I didn't pay any attention to any of it. (Laughs.)

L.A.: I suppose if it went on all the time, he really couldn't single you out.

SUTER: That  band  was like the Waltons.

LA.: (Laughs.)

SUTER: We'd get to the hotel after the job: "Goodnight Stan." "Goodnight Mike." "Goodnight Stan." "Goodnight Dick." "Goodnight Dick." "Goodnight Mike." "Goodnight Tom." "Goodnight George." (Laughs.)

SHEARER: (Laughing.) It was awful. You couldn't get off the bus for five

minutes! I forgot all about that.