Friday, January 30, 2009

Bud Shank - Part 2

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

“The Jazz improviser … is in a very pure sense, a creator of melodies. In common with any composer, he is constantly making decisions which will determine not only the outcome of a given line but its overall effect on the sensibilities of his listeners.
… the improviser’s decisions are extempore, made on the spot. There is little opportunity to try out a given pattern in a given situation, giving it a dry run, then rejecting it and moving on to another if it fails to please ear and sensibilities.

The possibilities are all but limitless, as are the chances of a misstep, a choice which, though harmonically and technically sound, will break the spell, snap the thread, brings things irremediably to earth.”
Every time I read these words by Richard Sudhalter, I think of two musicians: Bobby Hackett and Bud Shank – both master creators of melodies.

As Doug Ramsey pointed out at the beginning of his interview with Bud which was contained in Part 1 of this piece, while Bud graciously consented to look back and discuss the music he made for Pacific Jazz in the 1950s, “looking back” is not in the nature of things for a Jazz musician.

They are usually absorbed with how they are making their music now. Perhaps, they may reflect somewhat on a recently played gig or concert from some technical or aesthetic standpoint, but usually, most Jazz players are content to let what they’ve played in the recent past – let alone the distant past – go up into the Ether World and make a fresh start at the next opportunity to play.

As Keith Jarrett once remarked: “The music is always there,” in the sense that some encounters with it are better than others.
What is remarkable about Bud is the courage it took to set sail in quest of more and better musical encounters at the ripe, young age of 50 [give or take a few years]. And if that change wasn’t enough, how about leaving the studios, leaving the state, abandoning the flute to concentrate exclusively on alto saxophone and transforming one’s style from a cool player to a roaring hot, take-no-prisoners, be-bopper.

At an age when many Jazz musicians may have said what they had to say and would have welcomed a chance to cloister in the studios, Bud was leaving its comforts and metaphorically “going out in the rain” in search of artistic satisfaction.

Not all of these efforts worked; some may have worked better than others; while others, judging by the results of his first big band album under his own name in a 60+ year career, worked so well that they may have been too long in coming.

But, Helen Keller once said that “Life is a daring adventure or it is nothing.” Over the past three decades or so, it would appear that from the standpoint of making Jazz music, Bud is in complete agreement with her.

The variety of musical environments that Bud has engaged in over this period of time is amazing. One gets the impression that he was making up for lost time as he savors the chance to make music in settings ranging from a trio comprised of himself and two keyboardists to heading up a full-blown big band with charts by Bob Florence, Mike Barone, Bob Cooper and Manny Albam [he must have run out of money for charts by the time he got to Bill Holman!].

During this period, Bud was the living embodiment of the artist-at-work; experimenting with various mediums; experiencing different compositional contexts; collaborating with other master artists [Phil Woods, for example]; constructing various group configurations in which to make his music.
He went from a life of sameness and marginality [with no disrespect meant to the requirements of studio work], to one that involved constantly changing musical adventures and challenges.

Although I can’t remember the source for it, I recall Bud once stated that one of the keys to making Jazz is concentration. I would also add that other important ingredients are dedication, honesty and integrity.

If Bill Evans is correct and making Jazz is 2% talent and 98% hard work, then how else does one get through the hard work part of it without concentration, dedication, honesty and integrity?

At the ripe old age of 50 [give or take a few years], by applying these qualities of mind and character, Bud Shank, already a fine musician, made himself into a great one.

Something else comes through to me when listening to Bud’s music over the past thirty years and that is his humility. Bud’s humbleness in the face of the art form may be rooted in Ted Gioia’s description of it as: “Jazz – The Imperfect Art” [title and paragraphing of the following excerpt, modified].

“If improvisation is the essential element in Jazz, it may also be the most problematic.

Perhaps the only way of appreciating its peculiarity is by imagining what twentieth-century art would be like if other art forms placed an equal emphasis on improvisation.

Imagine T.S. Eliot giving nightly poetry readings at which, rather than reciting set pieces, he is expected to create impromptu poems – different ones each night, sometimes recited at a fast clip; imagine giving Hitchcock or Fellini a handheld camera and asking them to film something – anything – at that very moment, without the benefit of script, crew, editing, or scoring; imagine Matisse or Dali giving nightly exhibitions of their skills – exhibitions at which paying audiences would watch them fill up canvas after canvas with paint, often with only two or three minutes devoted to each ‘masterpiece.’

These examples strike us as odd, perhaps even ridiculous, yet conditions such as these are precisely those under which the Jazz musician operates night after night, year after year.”

As Professor Gioia emphasizes, the elements under which a Jazz musician has to operate are indeed formidable. Is it any wonder then that Bud demonstrates a sense of humility in the face of them? He understands better than most that in the making of Jazz, it is really easy to fail. In his case, the wonder is how often he succeeds, and this is what sets his work apart and distinguishes it.
At this juncture, we will introduce Bud’s interview with Gordon Jack as contained in his work, Fifties Jazz Talk: An Oral Perspective. There are three reasons for doing so: [1] it is another excellent opportunity to hear Bud talking about himself and his approach to Jazz; [2] it contains some information not covered in that portion of Doug Ramsey’s interview with Bud contained in Part 1 of this piece and [3] the interview closes with a discussion of Bud 1993 CD, New Gold, which will provide a convenient transition to discuss Bud’s recordings from the more recent past, as well as, his current work.

As always, the writings of others represented on Jazz Profiles are
[c] copyright protected; all rights reserved.
“Clifford "Bud" Shank was born in Dayton, Ohio, on May 27, 1926, and his primary instrument is the alto saxophone, although for many years he doubled very successfully on the flute. During the fifties he made several fine recordings on the baritone, and none better than a 1954 Chet Baker L.P, where he fashioned a lyrical solo of quite exquisite beauty on "I'm Glad There Is You. " We met in July 1995, when he was appearing at London's Pizza Express, and I began by asking him why he no longer played the baritone.
That was such a short period in my life because it was never an instrument that fascinated me. I was always attracted to the alto saxophone, and any explorations on the tenor, baritone, or even the flute were just sidetracks. The alto was always my main thing. The reason why my recordings on the baritone came off so well was because I really didn't care; I just picked up the horn and played it without getting too involved. It was the same thing about ten years ago when I stopped playing the flute. I woke up one day and asked myself what I wanted, and I realized that all I ever wanted to be was an alto saxophone player, so I put the flute in the case and it hasn't been out since, which doesn't please Linda, my wife. All my flutes are in a safe deposit box, and I will probably start selling them soon. There's a lot of money invested in them, so why not? Bill Perkins has my Conn tenor and Conn baritone, which he borrowed for a recording date.
To start more or less at the beginning, I auditioned for Stan Kenton at the Capitol Records studio in L.A. in 1949, thanks to a recommendation from Buddy Childers. Stan had a whole sax section set up, with parts that included woodwinds, and it was actually my flute playing that got me the job. He had already hired Bob Cooper, Art Pepper, and Bob Gioga, so the only open spots were lead alto doubling flute and second tenor doubling bassoon. He kept alternating both chairs with several players until he settled on Bart Caldarell and myself, and that was the only time I auditioned for anything in my life.

On the road, Art played all the alto solos because that was his job and mine was to lead the section. As you know, it was a very loud band, not just because of the ten brass but also because of the way it was written, and when I first joined during the "Innovations in Modem Music" period, there were two French horns and a tuba in addition to all that other lovely noise. It was thrilling, though, to hear that mass of sound behind you, although I don't know if anybody actually heard the saxes when the brass were playing. I was on the second recorded version of Bob Graettinger's "City of Glass," which I thought was marvelous, and still do -and even today, people don't realize how great that piece really was.
Bob's girlfriend was Gail Madden, and she was also Gerry Mulligan's girlfriend too. There were some others that used to hang out with them, and they were all a bunch of free-thinkers, especially Graettinger, Gail, and Gerry. They didn't think or act like anybody else. But Gerry, being Gerry, was able to survive in the everyday world, whereas a lot of that group just kept right on going! Graettinger died in 1957, and those of us who knew him felt that it was from a broken heart, although he had physical problems as well. He never found anyone to really understand him, and although Gail used to minister to him, she was just as out of it as he was. They weren't married, but she took her name from a tenor player called Dave Madden, who was also pretty strange.

She and Graettinger lived together, and Gerry and Dave were involved: just one, big, happy, funny family! I don't know all the inside details. and I probably wouldn't relate them if I did, because they must have been pretty odd. As far as Gerry was concerned, he cleaned up his act and ven soon got a handle on reality, and even after all these years, he is still playing marvelously. Getting back to Kenton, I think the best album he ever did was Contemporary Concepts, with the Bill Holman and Gerry Mulligan arrangements. The peak was reached with that band and that writing.

After I left Kenton in 1952, 1 worked in a group fronted by a drummer called George Redman. We played rhythm 'n' blues six nights a week for about a year around a circuit of L.A. clubs, and it was just me on alto and tenor with a rhythm section. Occasionally, Maynard Ferguson and Bob Gordon would play with us, and if I couldn't make it, Bill Perkins used to sub for me. Bob Gordon was my closest personal friend. He was a great person and a superb player, and it was a terrible loss to the music when he was killed in 1955. I also used to dep for Herb Geller and Joe Maini at a burlesque club called Duffy's Gaiety, where Lenny Bruce was the M.C. I was a fan of Lenny's because he was hilarious, but I didn't hang out with him like Herb and Joe, who had a free seat every night.
While I was with George Redman, I also made some rhythm 'n' blues records with "Boots Brown" and his Buddies. Not everyone knows this but "Boots Brown" was actually Shorty Rogers, who was recording that material for a laugh. It was just a put-on, and I'm probably letting some tales out of the closet here, but there were some very good players on those dates, like Zoot, Gerry, Marty Paich, Milt Bernhart, and Jimmy Giuffre-good musicians playing pretty raunchy music, but doing it well. It all started with a piece that Jimmy wrote for the Lighthouse All Stars called "Big Boy," which was a takeoff of the sort of thing the Lionel Hampton band used to do. Jack Lewis, the record producer, asked Shorty to write some more material in that style, and we got to make quite a few records with "Boots Brown."'
During 1953 when Gerry and Chet were at the Haig, I played there on Mondays, which were the off-nights, with Laurindo Almeida, Harry Babasin, and Roy Harte. The Haig was where that group with Laurindo was born, and it was Harry's idea for us to get together. We used to rehearse in Roy's drum shop, and after about six Monday nights, we made that first record for Pacific Jazz.' I also played on Mulligan's tentet album in '53, which is when I recorded my first alto solo, on "Flash."' Chet was on the date, and he could certainly read music, though not as fast as everyone else. During the fifties I worked a lot with Claude Williamson at the Lighthouse, and when I left there, Claude came with me. We toured Europe and South Africa and stayed together until about 1958. Later on in the sixties, he did a lot of television work as a rehearsal pianist on shows like Sonny and Cher. Both Claude and his brother Stu, who was a marvelous trumpeter, had personal problems, but Claude is beginning to resurface as a jazz player and is recording again. Unfortunately, Stu gave up playing, and before he died a few years ago, I believe he was driving a truck. I knew them both very well and was very close to them in the fifties.
In 1958, along with Art Farmer, Gerry Mulligan, Frank Rosolino, Pete Jolly, Red Mitchell, and Shelly Manne, I played on Johnny Mandel's first film score for the Susan Hayward movie I Want to Live. I recently taped it off the T.V., but I couldn't watch it all because it's so depressing. The group played in some nightclub scenes, and our set was next to the gas chamber set where the Susan Hayward character was executed at the end of the film. It was right there while we were playing, just made out of plywood, but it looked awful! I also did the writing for a couple of films myself: Slippery When Wet in 1959, which was a surfing film, and Robert Redford's first movie, War Hunt, in 1961.

In the fifties there was a long stretch when I was very close to Frank Rosolino -and what a player he was, just fabulous. When he was doing all that fast playing, the slide didn't seem to be moving; somehow it was all done with his lip and tongue. I remember, at the Lighthouse, he always sang at least one number every night where he would be yodeling and doing all those crazy things, and the crowd loved it, as did the band, because he was a very funny guy. I didn't see him very much towards the end, before his suicide in 1978, because he never made it much as a studio player like the other jazz musicians. It's horrible, dumb music, and he would have found that kind of work very difficult, especially as you spend a lot of time just sitting there, doing nothing.
None of that would have impressed Frank, who was so active and always bubbling around. He was probably not playing that much jazz in the seventies, which might have been part of the problem. He'd also been through a couple of wives, but shooting his kids and then killing himself was a dreadful shock. The whole thing was scary, because he was torn up inside, despite the front he presented of all humor and fun. He was a proverbial clown, like Pagliacci; a very sad clown, but nobody knew it. One of his children survived in a terrible state and is supported by an organization called "Musicians' Wives Inc.," which my former wife was instrumental in starting.

From about 1960 to 1963, I often played at the Drift Inn in Malibu, usually, with Carmell Jones, Dennis Budimir, and Gary Peacock. Dennis and Gary were very adventurous, especially in their conception of time, and being the early sixties it was a little early for that, so I used to hire some very straight ahead drummers to keep it all together. I didn't want to tell them to cool it. because I wanted them to have their freedom. So the drummers tended to vary, but more often than not, we had Frank Butler with us. Lee Marvin used to come to the club all the time, as did a lot of movie people, because many of them lived in Malibu. We recorded for Richard Bock in 1961, and although I only played alto with the group at the club, Dick wanted me to play baritone on a couple of numbers, because I had just come second in the baritone section of the Playboy Readers' Poll. We used Mel Lewis on the album because. on the morning of the date, Dick Bock telephoned to say that our drummer had just been busted, so I said, "Get Mel, real quick!" That was the last jazz record I made for a long time, because right after that our music seemed to disappear; it was the end of that era.
In January 1966 Duke Ellington came out to Hollywood to record the music he'd written for a Sinatra film called Assault on a Queen. I was playing in L.A. with Stan Kenton's Neophonic Orchestra at the time, and we were doing monthly concerts of new material which actually featured me quite a lot. Duke came to one of the concerts and asked me to join his orchestra on lead alto. Of course I was very flattered, but I wasn't in a position to leave L.A. at he time, and with the difficulties jazz was having, it wasn't a good time to be on the road with any band, even Duke's. I also had some family problems that would have made it difficult for me to be away, and I was just getting established in the studios, doing the better work. For the film score he had a nucleus of his own sidemen, like Cat Anderson, Cootie Williams, Jimmy Hamilton, Johnny Hodges, Paul Gonsalves, and Harry Carney, supplemented local studio players, Conte Candoli, Al Porcino, Milt Bernhart, Buddy Collette, and myself."
During the sixties a lot of young people, who were the potential new audience for jazz, were attracted to groups like the Rolling Stones and the Beatles, and the older listeners had become put off by some of the experimentation that was going on then. Eventually John Coltrane reached a level that wasn't accessible to the public, or even to other musicians, because the world wasn't ready for it, which is why we haven't had a Messiah since. Everything now has gone backwards with all this "return to the fifties" stuff, because with Coltrane we had gone as far as we could. The jazz-buying public wanted to go back and pick up the pieces, so guys like myself have been given a second chance. Historically we had gone from Louis Armstrong to Lester Young and Charlie Parker to John Coltrane in fairly quick jumps, but we've been in this retrospective phase now for about thirty years, which has never happened before. In the mid seventies, when we put the L.A. Four together, it was like putting your toe in the water, since Shelly Manne, Ray Brown, and I hadn't worked as jazz players for about ten years. We were a chamber jazz group rather than a straight-ahead jazz group, but it turned out that there was still an audience out there. That was when I phased myself out of the studio scene, because the more I was out of town, the less the phone rang. Soon they didn't bother to call at all, which was fine with me, since I didn't want to do it anymore.
One of my CDs that has recently been released, although we recorded it back in 1993, is New Gold, and it has Conte Candoli, Bill Perkins, and Jack Nimitz in the front line, who are old friends. We had a piano-less rhythm section, with John Clayton on bass and Sherman Ferguson on drums, and playing without the piano gives you a lot of freedom. It's easier to get into the altered notes of a chord, because you don't conflict with the pianist, but you must pay attention. Before we made the CD, we worked a few jobs at the Catalina Bar and Grill, and the guys were really concerned at not having a piano, but by the second night they all loved it. Bill's playing has changed over the years, and on this new recording, he's really out there, but a lot of his friends are forever giving him sermons about going back to playing the way he used to. Dick Bank in L.A. arranged for him to make a CD featuring some Lester Young transcriptions and doing them in a Prez style." Dick called me recently and played some of it over the phone, and it's marvelous. Lester used to play a Conn, and Bill asked if he could borrow mine, but in the event he used one of his old Selmer’s. He sounds just gorgeous, because he can change mouthpieces and go right back to the old Perkins, and I love him-he's wild! He plays a lot of baritone these days, and he is also amazing on soprano, because he finds it easy to play anything, but the real Bill Perkins is a tenor player.

Somewhere along the way there's going to be something new in jazz, but it won't come from the avant-garde guys, who seem to be saying: "I'm it, man. I'm the new Messiah. Follow me!" They make a lot of noise and forget about playing their instruments, and that really bothers me, because these people are leading us into another blind alley. It's going to take someone who masters his horn, because ego alone isn't going to make it.

The three people right now who are doing the most important writing are Manny Albam, Bob Brookmeyer, and Bill Holman." They've been around a long time, but there is more adventure and advanced thought with those three as writers than with any horn player I know, and maybe that's going to be the next phase-the writing only.”
As I mentioned at the outset of the second part of this piece on Bud, when he resumed his Jazz career circa 1980, he performed and recorded in a number of musical settings. There simply isn’t time to go into all of them here so we will highlight a few favorites just to give the reader a feel for the range of this diversification. However, whatever the surrounding, as Richard Cook and Brian Morton have commented in their Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD – 6th Ed.:

“[Although] he has appeared on numberless sessions, his playing has remained sharp, piercingly thoughtful and swinging in a lean, persuasive way.” [p. 1324].

Let’s conclude this retrospective by focusing on 21st century Bud to get a better understanding of where the artist is now in his work.

First up is Bouncing with Bud and Phil which was recorded in performance at Yoshio’s Jazz Club in November, 2004 with Mike Wofford [p], Bob Magnusson [b] and Bill Goodwin [d] and released in 2005 on Capri Records [74071].
Here’s Richard Ginell’s review of it from

“It must have been a life's ambition for bebop disciple Bud Shank to make an album with the title "Bouncing With Bud." But when he finally got the chance, Shank gladly shared the title with his co-star, Phil Woods, in their first official recording together. Both still sound pretty spry and inventive — Woods was 73 and Shank was 78 when this was made — and it's not too difficult to tell the two alto players apart even without knowing which stereo channel they are playing on. Shank is usually blunter, more in-your-face, while the slightly mellower-toned Woods is more attuned upon the soul side of bop, with dashes of wailing Johnny Hodges and Benny Carter on Carter’s "Summer Serenade." Pianist Mike Wofford gets ample solo room on every tune, while Bob Magnusson on bass and Bill Goodwin on drums fulfill their roles squarely in line with the tradition. Undoubtedly the catchiest number here is George Cables' "Helen's Song," equipped with an instantly memorable opening riff. Recorded live at Yoshi's in Oakland after some initial cruise and festival dates, this is an old-fashioned, friendly mainstream date with hardly a whiff of the cutting session about it; both players are comfortable within their shared heritage and don't have to prove anything to each other. The album was released in compatible SACD form but in stereo only and without much audibly significant improvement over CD.”In 2006, Graham Carter’s wonderful label, Jazzed Media, issued Taking the Long Way Home [JM 1015] with the following press release:

“Alto sax legend Bud Shank’s first big band release features exciting arrangements from Bob Cooper, Manny Albam, Mike Alto sax legend Bud Shank’s first big band release features exciting arrangements from Bob Cooper, Manny Albam, Mike Barone, and Bob Florence. This is the first Bud Shank Big Band album in Bud’s 60+ year career. Bud is joined by many jazz greats including Carl Saunders, Roger Ingram, Ron Stout, Andy Martin, Lanny Morgan, Jack Nimitz, Christian Jacob, and special guest Bob Florence.”
Scott Yanow offered this view of the recording in

“Recorded live at one of the Los Angeles Jazz Institute's legendary four-day jazz convention/festivals, Taking the Long Way Home features altoist Bud Shank joined by a specially assembled big band. The arrangements are mostly by Mike Barone, Bob Cooper, Manny Albam, and Bob Florence with Shank being the main soloist throughout. Tenor saxophonist Doug Webb is prominent interacting with Shank on "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes," trumpeter Carl Saunders has a heated spot on "Limes Away," and Florence plays piano on his lengthy "Taking the Long Way Home." Shank's warm alto solos, his verbal introductions of each selection, and the tightness and spirit of the band (despite only having one or two rehearsals) make this a real keeper.”
Jack Bowers, a lover of big bands, wrote a detailed review of Taking the Long Way Home [Jazzed Media JM 1015] that first appeared on and is reproduced here for Jazz Profiles readers.

"Just in time for his eightieth birthday, Jazzed Media has released renowned alto saxophonist Bud Shank’s first-ever album as leader of his own big band, the aptly named Taking the Long Way Home. From the opening bars of Mike Barone’s rhapsodic “Rosebud,” it’s clear that Bud is having a marvelous time, and one can’t help wondering why he hadn’t done this before.

Simply a matter of happenstance, he explains: “Despite growing up in the big swing band era, it just never happened to me. After playing in the [Charlie] Barnet and [Stan] Kenton bands, I went straight to the Lighthouse All-Stars and from there on it was small groups.” Well, better late than never, as the saying goes.

On this concert date, taped in May ‘05 for an appreciative audience at the Sheraton Four Points Hotel in Los Angeles, Shank plays like he’s driven to make up for lost time, unearthing an immense wellspring of drive and dexterity that would be the envy of musicians half his age. His tart and instantly recognizable sound is a decided asset, as is his remarkable ability to swing in any framework. If the maestro has lost any ground to Father Time, it’s certainly not evident here. As one who was in the audience that day, I can bear witness that the concert was uninterrupted, with no overdubs, false starts or second takes.

Even though this is unequivocally Shank’s album from downbeat to coda, Barone almost steals the show with his superlative compositions “Rosebud” and “Limes Away,” and his seductive arrangement of Bud’s warmhearted tribute to clarinetist Artie Shaw, “The Starduster.” The concert’s picturesque finale, “Taking the Long Way Home,” is an extended tour de force for Shank’s expressive alto, commissioned by his wife, Linda, and written by the great Bob Florence (who conducts and plays piano) to help celebrate Bud’s 75th birthday. Bob Cooper arranged Bill Evans’ charming “Waltz for Debby” and wrote “Greasiness Is Happening,” Manny Albam arranged Cole Porter’s “Night and Day,” and Shank reupholstered an arrangement of the standard “The Night Has a Thousand Eyes” that he borrowed from trombonist Jiggs Whigham.

Shank’s alto is the focal point on the enchanting curtain-raiser, “Rosebud,” whose melody is vaguely reminiscent of Charlie Parker’s “Yardbird Suite”—and as it turns out, that’s the rule rather than the exception. Even though his ensemble is loaded with persuasive improvisers, Bud takes most of the solos himself. And so one never hears from such aces as Ron Stout, Lanny Morgan, Jack Nimitz, Andy Martin or Christian Jacob, among others. It’s not until track 5 that tenor saxophonist Doug Webb (sitting in for Pete Christlieb, who couldn’t make the gig) is given room to blow, and he and Shank are volcanic on “The Night Has a Thousand Eyes.” Trumpeter Carl Saunders adds three riveting choruses on the mercurial “Limes Away,” based on the standard “Limehouse Blues,” before he and Bud share another. The rest is all Shank, and if it were almost anyone other than Bud I’d have a problem with that.
There’s certainly no reason to cavil about anything else, least of all the band itself, which is thoroughly awesome, from its impeccably bonded brass and reeds to the assertive yet tasteful rhythm section (Jacob, bassist Joel Hamilton, drummer Kevin Kanner). Shank, whose clipped phrases have something of a Buddy Rich quality, says a few words about each number, and at the end of the concert, Ken Poston, founder/director of the Los Angeles Jazz Institute, which sponsored the event, introduces the members of the band.
The album’s 68-minute playing time is splendid, and as for the sound, I’ve heard many a studio date that couldn‘t measure up to this live recording. Kudos to recording engineer Tim Pinch and to Rod Nicas who handled the mixing and mastering. The icing on this birthday cake, of course, is the inimitable Bud Shank himself, as sharp, enthusiastic and resourceful as ever as he turns eighty years young. A closing thought just sprang to mind — wouldn’t it be great if Bud were to take home a Grammy Award for his first big-band album?
Tracks: Rosebud; Waltz for Debby; Greasiness Is Happening; Night and Day; The Night Has a Thousand Eyes; The Starduster; Limes Away; Taking the Long Way Home (68:14).

Personnel: Bud Shank: leader, alto sax; Roger Ingram, Dennis Farias, Pete DiSiena, Ron Stout, Carl Saunders: trumpet; Lanny Morgan, Keith Bishop, Doug Webb, Brian Williams, Jack Nimitz: reeds; Andy Martin, Mike Barone, Charlie Morillas, Craig Gosnell: trombone; Christian Jacob: piano; Joel Hamilton: bass; Kevin Kanner: drums. Special guest Bob Florence: composer, arranger, conductor, piano (8)."

In 2007, Graham Carter at Jazzed Media featured Bud again on the disc - Beyond the Red Door [JM 1027].

Ken Dryden wrote the following review of it for

"Bud Shank and Bill Mays first joined forces back in the '70s, but the alto saxophonist's opportunities to use one of his favorite pianists diminished when Mays moved to the East Coast. This reunion is a fun-filled duo date with many playful moments, starting with the jubilant take of "The Red Door." Mays' idea to combine two haunting ballads in medley form, Russ Freeman's overlooked gem "The Wind" and "The Peacocks" (one of Jimmy Rowles' best known works and a favorite of the late Bill Evans, among many others), works beautifully, as the two deliver a heartfelt performance. The pianist also contributed his bittersweet waltz "Quietly." Their spacey introduction to the standard "The Touch of Your Lips" is hardly a typical bop arrangement, while the jaunty setting of "Everything I Love" has a choppy flavor and some of Shank's best playing of the session. Shank co-wrote two pieces with his wife Linda: the nostalgic "Carousels" (first conceived as a bossa nova years ago) and the unusual "Why Not Now?," an intriguing work that defies musical labels. Highly recommended!"
Lastly, I debated whether to include a reference to Against the Tide: Portrait of a Jazz Legend, a DVD released by Jazz Media in 2008, as a conclusion for this feature. But in the interest of making this piece on Bud as comprehensive as possible, and given the fact that too few of the Jazz greats of our time have left us with such visual reminiscences, I thought it would be appropriate to include it.
After finding this extremely well-done review of Against the Tide: Portrait of a Jazz Legend which Jack Bowers did, once again for, I decided that I couldn’t find a more fitting way to bring to a close this tribute to Bud other than by using Jack’s description of Bud talking about his career and his approach to music on this DVD.

“Not long ago, several record labels began issuing DVDs to complement their new CD releases, a move that was welcomed by listeners and reviewers alike, as it enabled them not only to hear a particular musician and group but to see them adapt and intertwine to reach their musical goals together. Saxophonist/flautist Bud Shank's new CD, Against the Tide: Portrait of a Jazz Legend, is packaged that way, but in this case it is the nearly two-hour-long DVD, not the CD, that is of greater import, as it chronicles Shank's long and successful career as a jazz musician within the framework of a recording session in which Shank's quartet lays down some of the tunes to be heard on the CD.

Between musical interludes, Shank covers all the bases from his childhood in Ohio and North Carolina, his earliest gigs on tenor, his move to the West Coast, his big band days with Charlie Barnet, Stan Kenton and others, his association with the Lighthouse All-Stars and early involvement with guitarist Laurindo Almeida and pianist Clare Fischer in the bossa nova craze of the 1950s, to his years as a studio musician and author of film scores, his ten-year association with the L.A. Four, his quarter-century as director of the Centrum Jazz Workshop in Port Townsend, WA, and his present status as an elder statesman who travels the world as a soloist with various groups large and small including symphony orchestras. on which he recorded commercially successful albums with Almeida, Fischer and others including his lifelong friend from the Kenton orchestra, Bob Cooper, who, besides being one of the country's leading tenor saxophonists, doubled on oboe. The oboe/flute combination is seen and heard on the DVD in a clip from Bobby Troup's "Stars of Jazz" program from 1962, on which Coop and Shank play "The Nearness of You."

Shank notes that he actually started on tenor saxophone (on his first pro gig, with Ike Carpenter's orchestra, he was billed as "The Coleman Hawkins of the South"), and lists among his enduring influences tenors Zoot Sims, Al Cohn and Stan Getz. Shank's move from tenor to alto was serendipitous, almost accidental. After he joined Barnet's band in the late 1940s (with trumpeter Doc Severinsen and pianist Claude Williamson) as a tenor saxophonist, Shank recalls, the lead alto player "decided he wanted to go back to California. . . . So I said, 'Mr. Barnet, can I play lead alto with the band?' And he said, 'Sure, kid.'" Shank went out and bought a horn, he says, "and I've been an alto player ever since."

In December 1949, when Stan Kenton formed his Innovations in Modern Music Orchestra, Shank was hired to play lead alto and forged lasting bonds with Cooper, trumpeter Shorty Rogers, drummer Shelly Manne, trombonist Frank Rosolino and other members of the band. Bud says he was the first to play lead alto without the wide vibrato to which Kenton was accustomed. "One day," he says, "Stan said to me, 'Bud, do you think you could play a bit more like [George] Weidler and those other guys [who'd preceded him]?' I said, 'Sure, Stan,' and went right back to playing the way I always had. He never mentioned it again."

In 1953, Shank joined bassist Howard Rumsey's Lighthouse All-Stars in Hermosa Beach, having been recommended for the gig by Cooper and Rosolino, and it was there that he and Coop started playing flute / oboe duets during warm-ups before the concerts. At the urging of others, they soon began playing onstage, which led to a series of albums showcasing Bud's flute and Coop's oboe. It was at this time that Shank, who'd always played mostly by ear, decided it was time to learn more about music theory, chord changes, improvisation and the like, and turned to Shorty Rogers for help. "That made a great difference in my playing," he says, "and was one reason why I got so many studio calls later on."

Shank's first album with Almeida "was [bassist] Harry Babasin's idea," he says. The album was a precursor of the bossa nova explosion of the late '50s, led by Getz and guitarist Charlie Byrd. After forming his own quartet in '56 with Williamson, bassist Don Prell and drummer Chuck Flores, and recording albums for Pacific Jazz, Shank got a phone call from producer Bruce Brown who wanted him to write the score for a low- budget surfing film, Slippery When Wet.

Even though he'd never scored a film before, Shank agreed, and this led to a second film, Barefoot Adventure, on which he used the services of Cooper and trumpeter Carmell Jones while playing baritone sax himself. In 1962 he was asked to write the score for War Hunt, which introduced a young actor named Robert Redford. "That took a lot of time to write," he says. "I was in the big leagues now." Afterward, he says, he started re-thinking his career. "What do I do?" he asked himself. "I'm not a writer. I do sax, I do flute." He put his pen and paper away and wrote nothing more until 1971.

Instead, he went into the studios as a versatile reedman, working with a number of entertainers including Frank Sinatra, Clint Eastwood and Paul Newman. In the '70s he began a ten-year association with the popular L.A. Four, which he insists lowered no musical standards to earn its popularity. Other members of the group were Almeida, bassist Ray Brown and a number of drummers starting with Flores and including Manne and Jeff Hamilton. The name of the group, he says, was chosen so that no one would stand out as its "leader." Almeida, however, "had an ego," says Shank, "and to his dying day I believe he thought 'L.A. Four' meant 'Laurindo Almeida Quartet.'"

Shank goes on to discuss his move to Port Townsend, his leadership of its long-running Jazz Workshop and eventual "parting of the ways," East Coast vs. West Coast Jazz (being called a "West Coast" musician "irritates the hell out of me," he says), and the way writers and others have bought into such as simplistic comparison. Education, not geography, he says, is what defines one's approach to Jazz, noting that such "West Coast" players as Rogers and Getz were from New York, and reed player Jimmy Giuffre from Texas. "I don't play like I did in 1950," he says. "If I did, I should have quit a long time ago. I can still play that way, but I don't want to."

"I knew at age twelve I wanted to be a musician," Shank says. "I didn't know what kind of a musician... I've had an eclectic career...[and] I've enjoyed everything I've done, especially with the quartets...If I were stuck on a desert island, as long as I had a good piano player, bassist and drummer, I'd be a happy fellow."

Shank's comments, and those of others including Rumsey and writer / educator Herb Wong, are interspersed with music by his current quartet (Mike Wofford, piano; Bob Magnusson, bass; Joe LaBarbera, drums) as they work out such tunes as "El Wacko," "The Starduster," "Big Mo" and "Wildflower's Lullaby," all of which can be heard on the CD along with others featuring pianist Bill Mays ("Warm Valley"), the Bill Holman Band ("The Gift"), the Duke Ellington Orchestra with Shank on flute ("The Big Heist") and a pair by the Lighthouse All-Stars ("Lover Man," "The Nearness of You"). Production values are splendid, which helps make this a most attractive package, one that no fan of Bud Shank should be without. Easily recommended.

Tracks (CD): Wildflower's Lullaby; El Wacko; The Starduster; Big Mo; Warm Valley; The Gift; The Big Heist; Lover Man; The Nearness of You.

Personnel: Tracks 1-4: Bud Shank: alto saxophone; Mike Wofford: piano; Bob Magnusson: bass; Joe LaBarbera: drums. Track 5: Bud Shank: alto saxophone; Bill Mays: piano. Track 6: The Bill Holman Band with special guest Bud Shank: alto saxophone. Bill Holman: leader, composer, arranger; Roger Ingram, Carl Saunders, Pete DeSiena, Ron Stout, Bob Summers: trumpet; Lanny Morgan, Bruce Babad: alto saxophone; Ray Herrmann, Pete Christlieb: tenor saxophone; Bob Efford: baritone saxophone; John Grab, Bob Enevoldsen, Andy Martin: trombone; Craig Gosnell: bass trombone; Christian Jacob: piano; Joel Hamilton: bass; Kevin Kanner: drums. Track 7: The Duke Ellington Orchestra with special guest Bud Shank: flute. Tracks 8,9: The Lighthouse All-Stars: Bud Shank: alto saxophone, flute; Bob Cooper: tenor saxophone, oboe; Sonny Clark: piano; Howard Rumsey: bass; Stan Levey;drums.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Bud Shank - Part 1

“Bud Shank is too much. I told him I had his contract ready but I can’t get him to leave California. He was the greatest part of the Kenton Neophonic concert the other night, and he was even greater with us the last two days [recording the film score for Assault on a Queen]. He even shook up Johnny Hodges. Bud Shank is something else.” 
Duke Ellington, 1966

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

From the perspective of “my world and welcome to it” [with apologies to James Thurber], the guys I grew up with in Southern California in the late 1950s were all wannabe Jazz musicians. Our idols were the musicians who made up the Jazz scene on the West Coast at that time.

I was the runt of the bunch, as much because I was the youngest, relatively small in physical stature [I’ve since filled out a bit, unfortunately, in all the wrong directions] and because I was the drummer. In other words, barely tolerated as a fellow musician. Who cared: I got to play!

To the older guys that I hung out with, Bud Shank was the epitome of West Coast “Cool.” He was a tall, broad shouldered, good looking guy with a brush cut, who drove a sport car and who always seemed to have a good-looking babe on his arm. And, he also played the heck out of the alto saxophone.

Bud, however, was not just another pretty-face or wastrel artist-type. Rather, he was the living embodiment of the motto of my tax and financial advisor: “Work hard, put some of your earnings away and remember that it’s not all yours.”

Government, in its many manifestations, makes sure that none of us forgets the last part of this caveat. Uncharacteristically for a musician, Bud excelled at getting the “put some of your earnings away” part right, too. For although he appeared to be a young man who enjoyed a good time, it would seem that he also put some of his money to work in real estate investments, et al.; a not-too-common experience for a Jazz musician.
Of course, I didn’t really know any of this at the time, and if I had, it probably wouldn’t have made much of an impression on me. All I cared about was playing Jazz in any format, morning, noon or night.

Interestingly, as some of us grew older and a few of us grew up, Bud’s business acumen and practices became a standard of responsibility that many of us attempted to emulate. I’ll bet he never thought of himself as a role model in quite this manner.

But for me, during these early years, Bud Shank was more like the geometric head start – I never caught up to him. At least not in actual space and time.

He was long gone from The Lighthouse Café in Hermosa Beach by the time I started frequenting the club [1957-1959]. And although trumpeter Conte Candoli or tenor saxophonist Richie Kamuca and even bassist Scott LaFaro might drop by the club and sit in while I was there, I never caught Bud playing at that [even then] revered venue.

Yet, ironically, the first album by The Lighthouse All-Stars that I acquired had Bud playing with the group. He’s even prominently displayed on its cover.
In 1959, a quintet I was with played The Athenaeum Club, a members-only club on the campus of Cal Tech University in Pasadena, CA. Bud, too, gave a concert at Cal Tech. Unfortunately for me, it was three years earlier!.
The following year found me hanging out quite a bit at Jazz City, a club in Hollywood. Bud Shank’s Quartet appeared at the club that year, but the only alto player I heard perform there was Buddy Collette; a wonderful alto saxophonist in his own right, but not Bud Shank. Gerald Wilson was on trumpet with Buddy’s group which also featured Earl Palmer on drums before Earl (along with Hal Blaine and Jim Keltner) ensconced himself in the studios and made a gazillion dollars recording as a rock drummer.
For reasons of location and chronology [I was living in Providence, RI and was around 9 years of age], I had missed Bud’s work as the lead alto player in the Stan Kenton’s Innovations Band of the early 1950s. Thanks to a government paid excursion overseas for most of 1965-66, I also missed that orchestra’s “Second Coming” in the form of Kenton’s Neophonic Orchestra in which Bud once again played a leading role – this time as a featured soloist.
Upon my return, I worked a series of casuals with alto saxophonist Fred Selden in a group that would later include pianist Milcho Leviev, after those two met while on the Don Ellis Band. The first time Fred had a chance to open up a bit on one of these gigs, I was startled at how closely his tone and his phrasing resembled those of Bud Shank’s.

While being sensitive not to offend him, when I gently mentioned to Fred during one of the breaks how much his playing reminded me of Bud’s, he got this shocked expression on his face and was at a loss for words for a moment.

I thought, “Oh, Boy. Here it comes. I’ve really screwed up and upset the guy.” But instead, Fred was overwhelmed by the comparison with Bud and took it as a great compliment! As I later found out, from this young man who would play first alto in Don Ellis’ challenging aggregation and go on to become a first call alto and flute studio player – Bud Shank was and always has been his hero.

[At this point, I am tempted to say that if memory serves me right, Fred may have actually studied with Bud, but these days, memory doesn’t always serve me right – you get the idea.]

But I still had yet to hear Bud Shank perform in person!

Thanks to my friendship with Fred, I was able to borrow some of Bud’s LP’s that were new to me and it was great fun going back over a decade’s worth of Shank’s recorded music.

Much of the music from Bud’s early career has been collected and released as CDs in the Mosaic Records set entitled: The Pacific Jazz Bud Shank Studio Sessions [MD5-180]. What comes to mind when I listen to Bud play is his honesty. Anyone who has ever attempted to play Jazz knows that you ultimately express who you are through your horn. With Bud, I always have the feeling of an unending search as he tries to arrive at an honest expression of his feelings through the music.

Another result of Bud’s constant quest is that his style is constantly changing, sometimes, dramatically. Ted Gioia also notes this tendency:

“Shank’s musical evolution … [in] the decade of the 1950s found … [him] undergoing a gradual shift from a cool player to a hot one, a change that reached it’s culmination in the 1980s. … Unlike the stylistic continuity that marked the work of Chet Baker, Shorty Rogers, or Paul Desmond, Shank’s playing has continued to evolve….” [West Coast Jazz: Modern Jazz in California, 1945-1960, p. 216].

Listening to Bud play also reminds me of the anecdote that Chuck Israels tells about alto saxophonist Phil Woods while attending a rehearsal of the Quincy Jones band.

“I listened to a number of pieces in which there were solos played by various members of the band. It would be unfair to say that those solos were perfunctory, but later, when Phil Woods stood up from the lead alto chair to play his solo feature, the atmosphere changed. Phil played as if there were no tomorrow. [emphasis mine]

The contrast was striking and I have always remembered the impression it left. If you practice rehearsing, then when it comes time to perform, you are ready to rehearse. Phil practiced performing.”
I can’t think of a more apt way to describe a Bud Shank solo than to say that he, too, brings it all every time. He doesn’t short-change anyone, least of all himself.

Not surprisingly, these qualities of honesty and integrity carry over from music into Bud’s verbal expressions as well. If you ask him for an opinion, you’d better be prepared for an answer – his!

For example, as the Jazz scene began to wane in Los Angeles in the mid-1960s, Shank was asked by a critic in a 1987 interview if, upon reflection, he thought his move into the studios was a copout. Bud responded:

“You have to eat. You have to survive. When I became a full-time studio musician, I had been unemployed for a long time since jazz music left us in 1962-63 or whenever. At that time, I don’t think a lot of us realized what was going on, but some American jazz musicians ended up here in Europe, some gave up playing all together, some went off into never-never land by whatever chemical they could find, and there were some who went into another business. That’s what I did. I went into another business using the tools that I had, which was playing the flute and the saxophone. Consider that a copout? I don’t.” [Roger Cotterrell, “Bud Shank: A New Image,” Jazz Forum, March, 1987, p. 25 as quoted in Ted Gioia’s West Coast Jazz: Modern Jazz in California, 1945-1960, p. 218].

Fortunately for the Jazz world and especially for me, Bud made the decision to leave the studios and return to playing Jazz. As part of his re-involvement with the music, he also began making a number of appearances beginning in the 1990s and continuing up to the current year at the 4-day weekend events put on each year in May and October under the auspices of the Los Angeles Jazz Institute [LAJI].

In keeping with the mission of the LAJI, many of the themes for these events have to do specifically with Stan Kenton and more generally with Jazz on the West Coast from about 1945 – 1965.

It was at one of these LAJI events almost forty years later that I finally had the opportunity to see and hear Bud Shank perform. It’s been a cornucopia of riches ever since as I have been back to these events a number of times to hear him in small group, big band and even in panel discussion settings and he is still speaking his mind [and his heart] very directly in all of them.

Frequent visitors to the Jazz Profiles site are by now familiar with the custom of its editorial staff to try, whenever possible, to represent not only Jazz music and its makers, but also to bring forward great writing on the subject of Jazz.

In keeping with these efforts, Michael Cuscuna of Mosaic Records and Doug Ramsey, writer par excellence on all things Jazz, have graciously consented to allow Jazz Profiles to reprint the 1998 interview that Doug conducted with Bud for the insert notes to the Mosaic Bud Shank anthology [the album covers and photographs are our choices].

It doesn’t get any better than Doug Ramsey and Bud Shank talking about Jazz, except, of course, listening to Bud play it.

What follows is
© copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“When I spent a couple of days with Shank and his wife Linda at their house in the woods near Port Townsend, Washington, he hadn't listened to this music since the original LP, THE BUD SHANK QUARTET, was released 42 years earlier. If the child is father of the man, then the thin, crew cut, diffident, inward-looking Bud Shank begat his opposite number. His substantial figure comfortable on a couch in a music room above a spacious lawn surrounded by tall pines, Shank agreed to do something he detests, look backward in music. With a mane of grey hair and a beard that squares off a solid jaw, he has the look of a Victorian sea captain. His appearance is appropriate to the history of the seafaring town he lives in, but one floor below is a garage containing his collection of Porsches and an Infiniti Q45. Shank's laugh comes often and usually accompanies strong opinions. It has resonance and a certain wryness. I persuaded him to listen to BAG OF BLUES, Bob Cooper's unusual composition.
(A) January 25, 1956

When it was over, he said, laughing, "I was very young at the time. Formative period. Still learning. Still searching.
I could see evidence of some of those influences we talked about. Spots of Zoot Sims, spots of Lee Konitz, spots of Charlie Parker."

I told him, "When you were listening to yourself play a double-time passage, you said, 'Show-off."'

"Well, yeah, but I really wasn't into showing off in those days. It came from some musical reason, but it didn't fit the flow of what I was doing before or after. I guess that's why it disturbed me. Again, that's the mish-mosh of different influences that were in me in those days. I didn't have it together yet."

I asked him about the rhythm section.
"Claude was all Bud Powell, and Chuck was all Philly Joe Jones. Don Prell was still back in the '30s somewhere - four on the floor, boom-boom - with all due respect to Don, who's a very close friend of mine. It was just a matter of the concept. Don's playing that way held us all together, in fact. He was one of the first people I met when I got to L.A. in 1946. We just sort of started a friendship off and on. I had a tremendous respect for his musicianship. He later ended up with the San Francisco Symphony for years. He retired from the orchestra two or three years ago. Every time I go to San Francisco, we see each other."

Flores, five days into his 22nd year, had just left the edition of Woody Herman's herd known as the Road Band. With Herman, he attracted widespread admiration for his ability to kick a big band into a state of sustained, heated swing.
"Actually," Shank said, "when he started with us, he was still playing the same way. In The Haig, that didn't work too well. Little bit too much, but that fixed itself after a while. I was really surprised the way he was playing here. Sounded great. I loved those bombs he was dropping."

NATURE Boy and NOCTURNE FOR FLUTE are in the mood of LOTUS BUD, a Shorty Rogers ballad that Shank recorded in 1954 on a Nocturne session later issued on Pacific Jazz. Audiences seemed to demand the flute. Shank complied, not happily.

"At The Haig, I would be playing things with the saxophone and I would notice that I was losing the audience. Quickly, I'd pick up the flute, using it as a crutch. I did this for years, saying, 'well, there must be something wrong with my saxophone playing.' This is analysis, looking back; I didn't know what the hell was going on when I was doing it."

How little was wrong with his saxophone playing is made clear in WALKIN', ALL THIS AND HEAVEN TOO, DO NOTHING TILL YOU HEAR FROM ME, JUBILATION and CARIOCA. His treatment of Vincent Youmans's classic Latin knock-off begins with the sensibility of his collaborations with Laurindo Almeida and quickly transmutes into pure hop. With the exception of those caught in the war between beboppers and moldy figs that was manufactured by know-nothing critics in the 1940s, no musicians have been more unfairly typecast than the young jazz players of Los Angeles in the 1950s.
"Neither Claude nor Chuck nor I was playing what was known as 'west coast jazz' music at that time," Shank said. "That happened a few years before then, and we were all breaking away from that."

"Meaning what?" I asked. "What were you breaking away from?"

"The very delicate way that we all played in earlier years...," he stopped in mid-sentence. "I don't even know what the hell west coast Jazz is," he said, with exasperation and no wry laugh. "It was something different from what they were doing in New York, so the critics called it west coast jazz. That Miles Davis BIRTH OF THE COOL album, out of New York, probably started west coast jazz. It was also very organized, predetermined, written. It was a little bit more intellectual, shall I say, than had happened before. Jimmy Giuffre, Buddy Childers, Shorty, Shelly Manne, Marty Paich, Coop, almost everybody involved; we all came from somewhere else, New York, Texas, Chicago, Ohio. The fact that we were in L.A. around the orange trees had nothing to do with it. I really think that everybody played the way they would have played no matter where they were. New York writers, they're the ones who invented west coast jazz.,,

"Those bastards," I said.

"Those bastards," he said, laughing uproariously.
Between 1951 and 1956, The Haig was a jazz delivery room. In the little house on Wilshire Boulevard across from the Ambassador Hotel, a block from The Brown Derby, were born the quartets of Gerry Mulligan, Chet Baker, Laurindo Almeida, Shorty Rogers and Bud Shank. The club was tiny. The owner, John Bennett, ran it on a shoestring so short that although by law the club had to serve food, there was no kitchen. When a customer ordered a sandwich, the waiter stalled him while someone ran down the street to The Brown Derby for takeout. If someone ordered a brand of liquor not in stock, he had to wait until the band took a break and one of the musicians was dispatched to the nearest jar shop. In Shank's quartet, that was usually Chuck Flores's job; he was the youngest.

"It was a marvelous place to work in," Shank said. "It was so intimate, no sound system was necessary. It held maybe 50 people. Business was always good. We did very well while we were in there, from January until July. It was a great period. The place lasted until a year or so after that. Then somebody bought the property and bulldozed the whole thing."

I asked Shank how much he was paid at The Haig. A meticulous keeper of records, he went to an anteroom and retrieved a ledger listing 50 years of gigs.

"One-hundred forty-two bucks a week," he said. "Cleared $112. Everyone was paid individually."

In the summer of 1956, Shank and his band hit the road. From the ledger, here's the itinerary: The Newport Jazz Festival; a week at the Blue Note in Philadelphia; a concert in Shanks hometown, Dayton; the Rouge Lounge in Detroit; the Cotton Club in Cleveland; The Continental in Hartford; Olivia's Patio Lounge in Washington, D.C.; the New York jazz Festival; Olivia's again; The Modern Jazz Room in Chicago; Basin Street in New York; the Colonial Tavern in Toronto; a concert in Buffalo; the Storyville club in Boston; Chicago and the Blue Note again; a return to Detroit and the Rouge Lounge; back to L.A. in November for a series of dates at Jazz City in Hollywood; and into The Haig in December.

(B) NOVEMBER 7 & 8,1956 It was a tight, seasoned quartet Shank took into the studio after nearly half a year on the road. The confidence and increased mastery in his playing are obvious throughout; in the Lester Young drive and relaxation of his solo on JIVE AT FIVE; in the appropriateness and naturalness of the Charlie Parker quote in SOFTLY AS IN A MORNING SUNRISE; in his energy and effortless changes of pace in Williamson's suite, TERTIA. Even his flute work, particularly in A NIGHT IN TUNISIA, has a harder edge, a toughness.

Gazing into the trees, Shank says, "I can hear myself become more and more a stronger player through this period."

Always in demand by fellow musicians for recording dates, Shank's jazz studio activity intensified in 1957. He recorded as a sideman with Pete Rugolo, Mel Torme, June Christy, Russ Freeman, Bill Perkins, Peggy Lee, The Modernaires, Georgie Auld, his close friend Bob Cooper and dozens of others. As motion picture and television studios began slowly to accept the idea that jazz players might be real musicians, Shank's versatility and dependable musicianship put him onto a new path. That path would lead to financial comfort and artistic frustration. Years later, Shank would jump off it, with dramatic results. For now, he was doing well in both worlds. His next recording was an anomaly, a surprise, a re-emphasis of his jazz roots.

(C) NOVEMBER 29, 1957
Shank had played tenor as a sideman on a few record dates, but for the most part his old 10M Conn stayed in the closet after his rhythm and blues days with George Redmond. Having learned that Chuck Flores was about to be drafted, he told Dick Bock of Pacific Jazz that he wanted to make a record before Flores left. Bock asked him what kind of record. Shank - he doesn't remember why - said he would record some standards on tenor.

"After that heavy discussion," he told me, "we went in and did the record. There was no preparation. There were no arrangements. We just did it. HAVE BLUES, WILL TRAVEL was done for one of Dick's anthologies, not the original tenor album."

Like the tenor players he admires most - Stan Getz, Zoot Sims and Al Cohn - Shank was clearly under the spell of Lester Young, but only the most superficial listener would mistake him for any of those tenor men. What did he think, hearing himself on tenor after all these years?

"I'm pleasantly surprised. I like it. I wouldn't have known who the hell it was," he said with a laugh. "I think I would have recognized myself on some of the tracks here. The one we were listening to, ALL THE THINGS YOU ARE, I would probably not have been able to guess that it was me. I started as a tenor player. It's still in me. But I never developed any particular 'style' of playing, an identifiable style. It takes time to do that, but I was very pleased with what I heard."

(D) APRIL 23, 1958

Shank and Cooper had made a quick tour of Europe in 1957. In early 1958, they returned for a package tour with their quintet and Cooper’s wife, the singer June Christy. Drummer Jimmy Pratt substituted for Flores, who didn't want to go back on the road. The six-month expedition included a side trip for a series of concerts in South Africa, sponsored by Natal University. While they were there, Shank was urged by fans to record. He called Bock in Los Angeles to see whether Pacific Jazz wanted to pay for an album. Pacific Jazz did not. The South African enthusiasts raised the money, and one day Shank, Williamson, Prell and Pratt found themselves in what was described as a studio.
"It was just a room," Shank told me, "not much bigger than this one, and it had a solid wood floor and cement sides. It was full of people. We got rid of them. Then we played a tune. It just boomed. Every note would reverberate, 'buduhdoot.' I can't imagine what they ever recorded in there. I said, 'bring blankets, blankets, blankets.' So, they went out and got blankets from somewhere and started putting them around the room to deaden the sound a little bit. Well, it didn't do enough, but we decided to go ahead."

Then came the pennywhistle challenge. The record company people learned that admirers had given Shank one of the ubiquitous instruments beloved of children and amateurs and heard on street corners everywhere in South Africa. He had experimented with it in his hotel room. He had no thought of recording on it. The producers (to conjure up a job title for them) insisted that the quartet do something to honor African music. They produced a thumb piano for Williamson, gave Pratt a native drum and Prell a Nigerian bamboo harp. The result was A TRIBUTE TO THE AFRICAN PENNYWHISTLERS.

"I just made up something," Shank said. "It was a blues. The stupid pennywhistle ended up, as I remember, in the key of A-flat, by accident, because nobody down there ever played a pennywhistle with anything other than just a rhythm section, not another keyed instrument. I learned how to play the damn thing while I was making this record. When I first start playing it, I'm squeaking and very tentative and as it goes along, after about 20 choruses, I begin to figure it out."

Goofy as the assignment may have been, the performance has a good deal of charm and Shank seems to take modified pride in having subdued and adapted an instrument not remotely suitable for jazz improvisation. The band returned to their customary instruments for the other six tunes, which include three impressive Shank compositions, CHARITY RAG, MISTY EYES and WALTZIN' THE BLUES AWAY. After a shadowy life on obscure European labels, some of them pirates, this is the AFRICA album's first release in the United States.

(E) JUNE 30, 1958

The second version of MISTY EYES is not an alternate take from the South Africa album but a studio recording made later in Los Angeles and issued on a Playboy anthology. If any more material was recorded with this group, it no longer exists.

(F) APRIL 18, 1959

Bruce Brown was a Southern California surfer who wanted to make a documentary film about his sport. Shank thinks that they first met when he was playing at the Drift Inn in Malibu. Brown's plan was to do live in-person narration when he showed the movie. He approached Shank about providing music to accompany the picture, and Bud wrote themes that fit assigned sequences of the film SLIPPERY WHEN WET. Later he expanded them for a quartet recording. By this time, early 1959, his band had changed. Flores was back, but Williamson and Prell were replaced by guitarist Billy Bean and bassist Gary Peacock.
Bean was an experienced Philadelphia guitarist who worked with Charlie Ventura for a year and a half before he moved to Los Angeles in 1958. He played with Buddy De Franco, Calvin Jackson and Paul Horn, among others, before joining Shank at the Drift Inn. "A facile and impressively inventive guitarist," Leonard Feather called him in the 1960 edition of The Encyclopedia of Jazz.

"Good player," Shank says. "Very, very quiet. Liked to get up about 6 pm, have something to eat, go to work, stay up all night and go to bed at 7 am. Never saw the daylight. Around 1960, he just up one day and says 'I'm going home.' He went back to Philadelphia, and I've never heard of him since. I don't know what happened to him."

He knows what happened to Peacock. Anyone who follows jazz does. He began playing bass when he was in the Army in Germany in late 1955. By 1957, he was good enough to play with Shank and Cooper on their first European tour. Peacock was advanced technically and harmonically far beyond the norm for the period. He worked with pianist Bill Evans for a time in the 1960s, and later with Paul Bley, Miles Davis, Jimmy Giuffre, George Russell, Keith Jarrett and avant-gardes like Albert Ayler and Don Cherry. He is one of the giants of the instrument.

"His development," Shank says, "was phenomenal. He turned into one of the most creative bass players that ever happened."
I asked Peacock about his experience with Shank.

"Because of his own presence and his own interest, it created a space for me to be very, very flexible. That was a strong component of our connection during that time. There was a much greater sensitivity to sound quality than there is now, and when we recorded, we were all in the same room. We didn't get stuck in little cells or boxes. We played like we were playing a gig. I think that made an enormous difference in terms of the quality of the music. And Bud was – well everyone knows – the guy’s a master with the instrument. It takes someone like him to work in a framework like that. It was wonderful working with him.”

(G) May 1961

Peacock stayed with Shank well into 1961. With Bean back in Philadelphia, Shank hired Dennis Budimir, as adventurous on guitar as Peacock was on bass. The three of them generated sparks of creativity. Shank’s music moved onto a new plateau.
"Dennis was another intellectual, like Gary. He was his own man. He was very young when we made this record, 22 or 23. He never wanted to travel. He was by nature an improvising jazz player, a very good one. Very creative. But, he chose to forego that so he could stay home, stay in L.A. He became an extremely successful studio guitarist, still is to this day, probably the first-call guy even now. Very successful, and deserved to be. Of the jazz recordings he has made, this is one of the few. He did a solo or duo thing, in somebody's living room for Bill Hardy's little label called Revelation. This is the band, with the exception of Mel Lewis, that was working at the Drift Inn in Malibu at the time we recorded this."
For this session, issued as NEW GROOVE, Shank called Lewis in after drummer Frank Butler, on the morning of the record date, found himself in a bit of legal unpleasantness. One of the great big-band drummers, Lewis was also one of the great small-band drummers, and he proves it here.

When he moved from Kansas City to Los Angeles in 1960, trumpeter Carmell Jones called his friend John William Hardy (the Revelation man) to ask if he knew of work possibilities. Hardy recommended Jones to Shank, who said, "Sure," and hired him for the Drift Inn gig. A superb player in the Clifford Brown mold, Jones made a significant splash in jazz during his California years. He made several Pacific Jazz albums of his own, before joining Horace Silver in 1964 in time to appear on the SONG FOR MY FATHER album. His star, but not his ability, faded when he spent 15 years doing staff orchestra work in Germany before he returned to Kansas City in 1980. He died there in 1996.

Shank is on baritone as well as alto for this date, at the direction of Dick Bock. Bock had noticed that Shank ranked on baritone in a music magazine poll and thought there might be record sales impetus in the big horn.

"Funny how those things happen," Shank told me. "I was becoming more confident and more aggressive, but when somebody like Dick Bock said do something, I did it. Shortly after, if that would have happened, I'd have said, 'Later.' If I'd had to play another saxophone, I would much rather have played tenor."

The robustness of his baritone work is welcome on Duke Ellington and Tyree Glenn's SULTRY SERENADE and the others, but it is the intensity, even ferocity, of his alto on WHITE LIGHTNIN' and WELL, YOU NEEDN'T that signals a change in Bud Shank.

After we listened to NEW GROOVE, I asked him, "You said, ,same horn, same mouthpiece, but different.' How is it different?"

"I hear different things in my playing. It's aggressive, different harmonically, by all means. Different notes, different parts of the chord changes that I'm playing in. And I think that working with Gary Peacock and Dennis Budimir probably got me thinking along those lines. I was becoming more adventurous. I was becoming a better musician, a better saxophone player. More confident. Getting away from the way I was playing eight years before. There's a hell of an advancement between 27 and 35. I really broke through musically. I'm starting to get it together."


Bruce Brown, the surfing filmmaker, did well with SLIPPERY WHEN WET. His career in motion pictures was well under way and although he would soon join the '60s trend for rock and roll on sound tracks, he wanted Shank to provide the music for his next moist epic BAREFOOT ADVENTURE. The band was Shank, Peacock, Budimir, Shank's frequent alter ego Bob Cooper on tenor sax, and the busiest (for good reason) drummer in Los Angeles, Shelly Manne. As he did for SLIPPERY WHEN WET, Shank wrote the entire score. The music, tied to the lighthearted subject matter, has less specific gravity than NEW GROOVE, but the players get in plenty of heavy licks.

The film turned out to be extremely popular, and when Brown toured with it, he sold the sound track albums, lots of them. BAREFOOT ADVENTURE became the closest thing Shank had ever had to a hit. That created for Pacific Jazz a fiscal crisis.

"This record sold a whole bunch," Shank said, "like about 10,000 copies, which for that time was a lot of records. Dick Bock had to get the accountants, and they figured out, all of a sudden, that he owed me money. And he had never owed anybody money before. He didn't have any money to pay royalties. So he went down to Hollywood Electronics and bought me a very, very, very good sound system. I've still got the speakers, AR3s. My nephew has the Dynakit tube amp. This was my first hit, my first royalties. A big deal. I never got any royalties after it, either, for anything."
With BAREFOOT ADVENTURE under his belt, Shank had evolved into a mature artist, secure in his abilities, enjoying his work more than ever, on the threshold of great possibilities, and about to be absolutely stymied. By now, he was increasingly dependent on his income from studio work because jazz was beginning to dry up. With the success of Henry Mancini's music for the "Peter Gunn" television series, the traditional Hollywood studio music system finally collapsed in both TV and motion pictures. The executives discovered that jazzmen could fill their needs. Freelancers were in. Big staff orchestras on permanent payrolls were out. As that happened, popular music changed, and so did jazz. Shank thinks the serious damage started in 1962 or 1963.

"The real thing was The Rolling Stones and The Beatles. Then John came along, Coltrane. Things started to get so complex that it was difficult for the audience. And we were starting to get complex. I was. Nowhere near where John was, but in a club Gary Peacock was all over the place, way ahead of where Scott LaFaro was. And Dennis was also. We kept things under control on the record, but we were all getting more adventurous. I think we'd got to the point where as Coltrane became more well-known and going the direction he wanted to go, it became so complex that we not only lost the audience, but we lost the musicians because even they weren't able to understand where it was going. That's what drove the consumer, the audience, to the simpler music of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones and those things. They didn't have to think."

By 1965, Shank, Manne, Cooper and dozens of other stars of the Southern California music scene were rolling in studio work. They hated it, but the money was great. Jazz gigs were a low-paying luxury. Between 1965 and 1975, Shank says, he worked two or three times at Shelly's Manne Hole and two or three times at Donte's.
"The whole jazz business went in the toilet, and I didn't have a chance to make any more records, really, except the commercial albums with Michel LeGrand and all that junk that I did in the mid-60s. I didn't have a chance to make any more records until the mid-70s, and I had to start all over again. The bizarre thing is that I started all over again with The L.A. Four, with Laurindo Almeida. NEW GROOVE and BAREFOOT ADVENTURE are where it lay dormant for 15 or more years. It all just laid there and started to re-emerge when I re-emerged, 14 years later."

Shank fell in love with Port Townsend on a festival tour in 1979. He bought a house there in 1981. In 1985, he finally cut his connection to the studios, got rid of the flute, moved to Port Townsend, founded the Bud Shank Workshop, became the artistic director of the Centrum Jazz Festival and declared himself, then and forever, a bebop alto player.

Doug Ramsey, April 1998 @Doug Ramsey 1998 Doug Ramsey is the author of Jazz Matters: Reflections on the Music and Some of Its Makers (University of Arkansas Press). A regular contributor to Jazz Times, he is the winner of an ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for writing about music. [Of course, Doug is also the author of Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond, Parkside Publications and you can visit him directly at his website - ].

We are developing a Part 2 to this feature which is intended to bring Bud’s career forward to the present time by encompassing his recorded work since his return to Jazz over the past 25 or so years.

You can visit Bud directly at

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Bill Crow - Jazz Talk

After posting its initial piece on Bill, the editorial staff of Jazz Profiles begged and pleaded with Bill [oh, okay; I just asked him] to put together his recollections of what it was like to play with various musicians. Bill graciously responded to our request with the following memories to which we’ve added a series of photographs. Needless to say, we feel very privileged to be able to share Bill’s reminiscences with you on Jazz Profiles. You can visit Bill directly at his website:
“I was self-taught, having picked up the bass on a summer job in 1950. I joined Stan Getz in 1952, after several months of playing with Teddy Charles’s trio. (With Teddy, I learned some modern harmony and developed chops for playing fast tempos.) Jimmy Raney got me that first job with Stan, with Jimmy on guitar, Jerry Kaminsky on piano and Roy Haynes on drums. Jimmy showed me the chords on a couple of his originals, and what to use in certain places on standards like “Stella by Starlight” and “Round Midnight,” but I was otherwise left on my own. I could hear the notes I wanted to play, but couldn’t always find them quickly on the bass. It was a great learning experience.

Stan had a gorgeous tone and fabulous technique. He and Jimmy achieved a blend that sometimes sounded like one instrument. Stan once told me, “I never have any trouble playing anything I can think of. The trouble is in thinking of what to play.” He admired Al Cohn’s melodic ideas, and often used Al’s inventions in his improvisations.
Stan knew that I was mainly a rhythm player at that time, but he sometimes gave me solos on medium tempos, which I could handle. He seemed to like the way I fit into the rhythm section, and he kept me on through several changes in the group. Duke Jordan replaced Kaminsky, Frank Isola replaced Haynes, and then was replaced by Kenny Clarke. Then Raney left, and a little later Jordan and Clarke left, so Stan built a new group, keeping me on. Johnny Williams and Al Levitt came in on piano and drums. Bob Brookmeyer was to join us, but wasn’t available for the first two jobs, so Johnny Mandel substituted for him on slide trombone.

That rhythm section never connected with each other as well as the previous two had. Stan and Bob decided they needed a more experienced bass player, so Stan fired me and rehired his earlier bassist, Teddy Kotick. They went on to the west coast, and then the group broke up. During those six months with Stan, I learned a lot of new music, improved my solo playing a little, met and played with many good musicians, and had my first opportunity to record with a major artist.
Teddy Kotick had been working with Claude Thornhill’s band, so when he left to go back with Stan, I was hired by Claude’s manager, and I started a summer of one-nighters. My reading was good enough to play big-band charts, but I ran into trouble with Claude’s theme song “Snowfall,” which had a repeating bass line in D-flat that was very difficult for me to finger using my self-taught technique. I spent one morning figuring out an alternate fingering, and that started me on the way to learning a better use of the fingerboard. Claude’s music was lovely to play, and there were some excellent jazz players on the band, especially Gene Quill on alto, Dave Figg on tenor and Dick Sherman on trumpet. I got along well with the drummer, Winston Welch, and the band sounded very good almost every night.
When Claude cut back on his schedule, I left his band to take a job with the Terry Gibbs Quartet, with Frank DiVito on drums and Terry Pollard on piano and vibes. Then Gibbs moved to California, and I found a little work here and there in New York. One of those jobs was with Don Elliot, at a club in the basement of the Plaza Hotel called Cy Coleman’s Room. Cy and his trio were the main event, and Don’s group played in between their performances. We started out with Dick Katz on piano and Denzil Best on drums. Don played both vibes and mellophone. With Dick Katz encouraging us to try a lot of John Lewis material, we had a nice subtle swing going with that group, though Don seemed to need the occasional bravura ending, grabbing the mellophone and sounding a tantara, or whooping like a crazed ambulance.
Denzil was still recovering from a bad auto accident. Don loved the way he had played brushes with George Shearing’s group, and told him to take it easy and just play brushes. But Denzil’s hands would swell a little by the end of the job each night, and his left leg was too weak to keep a steady hi-hat beat. Despite Don’s reassurances, Denzil felt he wasn’t playing up to par, and quit after the second week. To replace him, Don hired a drummer that Dick Katz didn’t agree with musically, and so Dick also left the job. Don said he thought he would hire a piano player he knew from a kid band in New Jersey, and that was how I met Bill Evans. At that time, Bill’s playing had some Tristano influence, but he was well on his way to developing his own thing.
Don had me over to his apartment a couple of times to help him work on a multitracking project he was working on. He wanted to be a vocal group and play all the instruments he could play. This was before multi-layered recording heads and wide recording tape had been invented. Don was recording from one single-track tape recorder to the other, adding parts as he went. He finally interested Phil Moore in the project, and in a studio with multi-track capability, we did an album called “The Voices of Don Elliot” for ABC Paramount.
When Don’s gigs ended, I did a short stint with Jerry Wald’s sextet at the Embers, and then Marian McPartland called me to join her trio, with Joe Morello on drums, at the Hickory House on West 52nd Street. Marian made me very welcome, and gave me a lot of solo space. Joe was easy to play with, and the three of us developed a good rapport. The hardest part of that trio for me was that Marian loved to modulate into different keys, and some of them were finger-busters for me, with my homemade fingering system. I was forced to learn to play in all the hard keys, and I improved my technique a lot on that job.

Marian had a great harmonic palette, and I learned a lot from her. And I loved her melodic inventions. At that time, she wasn’t a strong swinger, though she aspired to strong rhythmic playing and worked hard at it. She did eventually develop an easy swing in her jazz.

Joe was adept at poly-rhythms and cross rhythms, and would do his best to lose us during his solos. We learned to count carefully while he played alone, and he always came out right on the money, no matter how complicated his improvisations.
Morello had developed what he called his finger technique, in which he could keep his left stick tapping the drumhead with just the pressure of his left forefinger, and then he could add accents by rotating his wrist at the same time. Sitting with him at a back booth in the Hickory House, where he always had a pair of drumsticks and practiced on a folded napkin on the table, I borrowed a stick and figured out his finger trick, and I could keep it going pretty well. Joe loved to tell admiring students who visited us at the club, “There’s nothing to the finger technique. Anybody can do it. Here, look, even my bass player can do it!” And he would hand me a stick and have me demonstrate.

Joe and I were in a good place to be heard at the Hickory House, and as a result of our exposure there, we were hired as a team by a number of recording artists, including Jackie and Roy, Jimmy Raney, and Victor Feldman. We were also hired on off days by Marian’s husband, Jimmy McPartland, through whom we met and played with musicians of his era like Vic Dickenson, Herb Hall, Tyree Glenn, Marty Napoleon, Pee Wee Russell and Bud Freeman.
I was happy with Marian’s trio, but I couldn’t pass up an offer from Gerry Mulligan to join his sextet, with Bob Brookmeyer, Zoot Sims, Jon Eardley and Dave Bailey. Gerry’s music was beautiful, Zoot was the most swinging jazz musician I had ever heard, and Brookmeyer’s playing had been a delight to hear every night when we were together with Stan Getz. I met Bailey and Eardley at our first rehearsal, and when we began to play, I was knocked out by the quality of the music and the good spirit among us. Gerry had a way of organizing the music without limiting anyone’s expression, and the result was very exhilarating both to the sextet and to our audiences.
Dave Bailey had the touch Gerry was looking for, light and swinging. We locked in together right away, and had a working relationship for a number of years, with Gerry’s groups and with the quintet co-led by Bob Brookmeyer and Clark Terry. Dave was a good section-mate and a good road pal. We enjoyed traveling together, and had many laughs. Dave had been a pilot during the war, and continued to add to his flight knowledge in his spare time. Whenever we were working near a place where he could study something new about flying, that would be how he would spend his daytime hours.

When Gerry’s work dwindled, and not much else was going on in the jazz business, Dave made a living giving flying lessons at Westchester County airport. I went up with him a few times, when he had the use of planes that belonged to his clients. Later, he was co-pilot of attorney F. Lee Bailey’s Lear jet, until it had to be sold. Dave went on to be supervisor of New York’s Jazzmobile program for many years. He refused to play in public any more, but we did get him to come down to St. Peter’s Church and play for the memorial tribute to Gerry Mulligan after he passed away.
After I joined Mulligan’s sextet, I soon realized that my lack of a good fingering system on the bass was giving me problems I didn’t need. With Marian, I played lines that fit my technique, since I was free to play whatever I chose. But Gerry had written certain things that I found difficult to play perfectly in tune every time, and it bothered me. Through a colleague, Trigger Alpert, I found my teacher, Fred Zimmerman, who at that time was the principal bassist with the New York Philharmonic. He straightened out my left hand, taught me how to use the bow, and set me on a path of discovery about the bass that I’m still on.
After a tour of Europe, Gerry’s sextet became a quartet, with Brookmeyer and Bailey, and a month or two later, after I had a disagreement with Gerry over something stupid, I resigned and went back with Marian for a couple of years, now with Dick Scott on drums, since Morello had gone with Dave Brubeck. That trio broke up on the road, and after a bit, Gerry called me to rejoin the quartet, this time with Art Farmer as the other horn.

I was delighted. Art was playing beautifully, and fit into Gerry’s quartet format easily, without losing any of his own musical personality. He was studying George Russel’s Lydian system of tonal organization, and really found it useful in his improvisations. I also went to George and bought his Lydian treatise, but he said, “I’ll sell this to you, but I’m not sure what you can do with it. My whole concept works off the bass line staying around the root of the chord. The horns can go as far out as they like, but it’s the roots that they are going far out from, and we kind of expect the bass player to be there for them.” I studied his scales and decided he was right… I’d do better to stay at the lower end of the chords.

Gerry’s quartet went off to California without me. I decided to stay in New York. When Art and Dave left to help form the Jazztet with Benny Golson, that version of the Mulligan quartet came to an end. A bit later, Gerry returned to the east coast with his Concert Jazz Band, and when Buddy Clark went back home to California, I was happy to join the band. I’ve described in my book “From Birdland to Broadway” what it was like to play with that band. It was one of the high points of my career.
Clark Terry joined the band at the same time I did, and I discovered what a spark plug he was in a band. He knew how to get a good section blend, and all his solos were exactly right for the arrangements. He had a very large bag of tricks, full of surprise and good humor. His technique was amazing, with very flexible lip control and a mastery of circular breathing that let him play amazingly long phrases.
Whenever Gerry’s work schedule had a hole in it, Clark and Bob Brookmeyer would put together their quintet for a week or two at the Half Note. Dave Bailey and I were regulars, and the piano chair, which belonged to Hank Jones, rotated among the subs Hank sent in: Herbie Hancock, Barry Harris, Tommy Flanagan, etc. We finally stayed with Roger Kellaway, who was with the group until it ended when Brookmeyer moved to California. Roger amazed us all. Blessed with great technique, he could play any style, from ragtime to space music. Whatever style he chose to play at the moment would be filled with wonderful surprises that kept the rest of us continually delighted.
Nick Travis was the lead trumpeter on Gerry’s band. He had a gorgeous sound, and with his experience with small groups as well as with the Sauter-Finegan band, he understood Gerry’s band, and was the perfect lead man for it.

Sitting next to Clark Terry in the trumpet section was Don Ferrara, who had an entirely different style. He had studied with Lennie Tristano, and had developed the kind of fluid lines I associated with Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh. Though Clark had most of the trumpet solos, Don also had a few, and when it was his turn, he always came up with something wonderful. I admired the way those three trumpet players, each with a strong individual style and sound in their solo playing, got such a good blend when playing together as a section.
Gene Quill was Gerry’s lead alto player. I knew Gene from the Thornhill band, and was glad to see him again. He had learned his big tone and strong phrasing from Charlie Parker’s playing, and was just the right man to lead Gerry’s sax section. He was also a fiery soloist. Gene was a drinker, and when in his cups could be belligerent. Not being a large man, this belligerence often cost him. He was beaten up several times by larger drunks. Toward the end of his life, one such beating caused some brain damage, and he lived his last years with severe physical problems. But his days on Gerry’s Concert Jazz Band were golden. He had the time of his life, and we all enjoyed his fine playing.

During the last years of the Concert Jazz Band, when Clark Terry had to take a night off, he would send in Thad Jones to replace him. I had gotten to know Thad when he was on the Basie Band, and I was playing opposite them at Birdland. He brought good nature and good musicianship to Gerry’s band, and we were always glad to see him. He also brought in some of his arrangements for us to play, which we enjoyed very much.
At that time, Thad was a little spotty as a soloist. Sometimes his solos just flowed out of him, melodic, inventive, and right on the money. Other times, he sounded like his ideas were a moment ahead of his technique, and his solos would sound muddy, his tone would suffer, and he would seem to be struggling. By the time, the CJB had come to an end, Thad and our drummer Mel Lewis had put together their Monday night band at the Village Vanguard. Every time I heard that band, Thad sounded wonderful. Evidently whatever it was that he had been going through as a soloist had been resolved.
Many years later, Nick Brignola called me to participate in a concert he was preparing at a theater in Cohoes, New York, up near Albany. Nick was to play with three groups, a traditional jazz group, a bebop group, and a free jazz group. I found myself in the bebop group, along with Thad Jones. During one of the numbers, while I was playing behind Nick’s solo, I noticed Thad standing behind me with a quizzical look on his face. When we finished our set and left the stage, Thad pulled on my sleeve and said, “Come with me.” We went down to the bar while the concert continued. Thad bought me a beer and then stood back and appraised me for a moment. Then he said, “You’re a big band bass player, and I know it! Now, don’t think about money for a minute. Just let me tell you where we’re going! First, we have three weeks in England. Then we have a month touring the major cities of Europe. Then it looks like we can do a couple of weeks in Africa!” I looked at him for a minute, and then said, “’Bye!” He laughed, and I explained that though I loved his band, I couldn’t possibly leave my family for that amount of time. “Call me for some subs at the Vanguard!” I told him. He did, but Richard Davis, his regular bassist, didn’t take off very much. The band was too good. Mel Lewis had joined Gerry’s Concert Jazz Band when it was formed in California, and that was what brought him back to New York. When I joined the band, we connected through the music right away. Mel liked the middle of the beat, and preferred the band to settle into the center of a groove, rather than press forward on the time. He had a wonderful beat, and the sounds of his cymbals were perfect for Gerry’s band. I liked the way he decorated the beat with patterns around his drums. He once told me, “I don’t like to play the accents with the brass section. I like to let them swing by themselves. If you play everything they’re playing, they get lazy. I leave them alone, and instead, I play what the saxophones are playing behind them.”

Mel also played great on the Benny Goodman band when we went with him to the Seattle World’s Fair and then on a six-week tour of the Soviet Union. When we went out to jam with the local Russian musicians, the rhythm section was usually Mel, me, and Victor Feldman, who was Benny’s vibraphone player. Victor was a fine pianist, and was up on all the latest jazz tunes, which many of the Russian musicians had learned from Voice of America broadcasts.

Once, when neither Mel nor Dave Bailey was available for some upcoming Mulligan work, I recommended Gus Johnson, who I had met at Birdland when he was with Basie. We had become backstage friends, and began hanging out together now and then. I had played with him once, when he sat in for Frank DiVito with Terry Gibbs’s quartet, and I loved his time feeling. At the time Gerry needed a drummer, I knew Gus wasn’t doing much. He was working as a bank guard in the Bronx to make a living. He came with Gerry’s quartet, and stayed for about a year.
Manny Albam liked the way Gus and I sounded together, and recommended us as a team on record dates. We made several records and quite a few commercial jingles together. In those days, record and jingle producers were always looking for rhythm section teams, the most in demand one being Milt Hinton, Osie Johnson and Hank Jones.

I recorded with Hank a number of times, usually on dates where Milt was unavailable, and I thought he was the perfect pianist. He had a beautiful touch, knew all the best ways around the chord changes, and swung mightily. And he brought an air of cheerful competence to every date, making us all feel that it would be possible to make some very good music that day.

While I was working with Gerry Mulligan, Jimmy Giuffre came to New York with his trio, with Jim Atlas on bass and Jim Hall on guitar. I became friends with Jim Hall right away, and he, Giuffre, Bob Brookmeyer, and I spent a lot of time together in Greenwich Village, where we were all living. Giuffre got a yen to have Brookmeyer in his group, and decided he could still do the trio gigs he had booked by doing without the bass player. So Brookmeyer joined him, and Jim Hall filled the role of both guitar and bass. In those days he kept a second guitar handy, tuned a fourth lower, so he could have that additional range available for certain numbers. And as soon as his financial situation would allow it, he went over to Kenmare Street and ordered a new guitar from the master luthier DeAngelico.
Since Jim Hall and I often went to jam sessions together, I got to play with him a lot. And now and then Mulligan would put together some work for a sextet, which included Jim. We made some nice records with that group, with Gerry, Brookmeyer, Art Farmer, Dave Bailey and Jim. I also played a couple of weeks in Hartford with Dave Mackay, one week with Jim Hall and the other with Jim Raney. When Jim Hall and Brookmeyer were with Giuffre and I was with Mulligan’s quartet with Art Farmer, we made a tour of Europe together, along with the Gene Krupa quartet. By the time we got to Italy, Krupa was no longer with us, due to previous bookings. In Milan, Italy, Jim Hall introduced me to a local guitarist, Franco Cerri, and to Lars Gullin, who was staying in Milan at the time. Our tour finished there, and I stayed for a week with Franco. Dave Bailey and I played a jam session with Lars, who sounded wonderful. A local businessman thought he could sell a record made with Lars and Mulligan’s rhythm team, so he asked Dave and me into a local recording studio. We had just played a jam session with George Grunz when we were in Switzerland, and so we asked them to fly him down for the session. Lars played well, and we all enjoyed the date, but for some reason the record never was released. The first time I met Phil Woods was on a rehearsal for a record date with Jimmy Raney. I was amazed at the strength and bravery of Phil’s playing. He really announced himself! Quite often after that, we found ourselves playing together on the same groups. And he was Gene Quill’s sub on Gerry Mulligan’s Concert Jazz Band. Since Phil moved out to Pennsylvania, I’ve had fewer chances to play with him, but occasionally the opportunity arises. He has lung problems now, but you would never know it to hear him play.

I met Al Cohn and Zoot Sims at Village jam sessions, and first worked with Zoot on Gerry Mulligan’s sextet. We got to know each other better when the sextet went to Europe. We sailed to Italy on the Andrea Doria, a year before it sank, and Zoot and I played a lot of ping-pong on deck during that trip. Zoot sparked that sextet in an extraordinary way, soloing with joyous abandon and infusing the ensemble parts with his special brand of swing.
Not long after that tour, Zoot left to start a quintet co-led with Al Cohn. Often, when their regular bassist, Major Holley, was busy, I would take his place, and it was always a thrilling experience. We were just swinging as hard as we could, all night long. The tunes Al wrote were both interesting and easy to play, and the sound that he and Zoot made together was almost too good to be true. Mousie Alexander was usually the drummer, and Mose Alison the pianist. What a band!

Zoot and Al would occasionally get jobs for just one tenor and a rhythm section, and I often worked those jobs with them. Al called me to play at the Three Sisters and at Gullivers, both in Paterson, New Jersey. His tone was huge, and inventive ideas just poured out of his horn. Stan Getz once said, when asked about his ideal tenor player, “My technique, Zoot’s swing, and Al Cohn’s ideas.”

One extended gig with Zoot was a whole summer I played with his quartet at the Atlantic House in Provincetown, Mass, at the tip of Cape Cod. We played every night, and always looked forward to doing it again. Paul Motian was the drummer, and Nico Bunink was the pianist. We spent every day at the beach and then swung all night long.

Though I worked many gigs with Zoot, I probably played more often with him at jam sessions. He never said no to an opportunity to play. We spent many nights together at loft sessions in the Village and in the flower district in the West 20s. On the road, we usually found some place to play after the gig. We jammed with the local musicians in Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Seattle, Naples, Rome, Milan, Bologna, Paris, Geneva, Moscow, Sochi, Tbilisi, Leningrad, and Kiev. And after he bought a house in West Nyack, NY, about ten minutes from where I live, we often played in the rec room in his basement. And the last time, just a few days before his death, we played at Benny Aronov’s house in Dobbs Ferry, NY. Zoot tried to play, but couldn’t get more than a couple of squeaks out of his horn. But he was where he wanted to be, among friends at another jam session.”

Bill Crow Jan 15 2009: [C] Copyright protected, all rights reserved.