Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Ferrari & Guaraldi

While visiting the blog, we thought you might like to look at and listen to something beautiful.  The music is pianist Vince Guaraldi's Theme to Grace which he performs with Tom Beeson on bass and Lee Charlton on drums along with the St. Paul's Church of San Rafael Choir directed by Barret Mineah. The music was recorded in performance on May 21, 1965 at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, CA.

A few months before his work at Grace Cathedral, Vince recorded the soundtrack tunes for the Peanuts television show for which he was to become internationally famous.

Vince died of a heart attack in 1976; he was only 47.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Benny Green, Ray Brown & Jeff Hamilton with the WDR Big Band - Cottontail

Pianist Benny Green is coming to JazzProfiles.

While it prepares this feature, the editorial staff thought you might enjoy this video as a "preview of coming attractions."

Saturday, September 25, 2010

William “Buddy” Collette, 1921- 2010

The editorial staff at JazzProfiles thought it might be fun to revisit this feature on Buddy Collette which first posted to the blog in September, 2010 so that we could add the video which is located below this lead-in photo and also to reflect once again about a musician whose music gave us so much personal enjoyment over the years.

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

One of my most enduringly favorite albums is Little Band – Big Jazz: Conte Candoli All Stars.

It was recorded on February 3, 1960 and in addition to a rhythm section of Vince Guaraldi [p], Leroy Vinnegar [b] and Stan Levey [d], Conte’s trumpet is joined by Buddy Collette on tenor saxophone.

I bought the album for $1.98 [+tax] off a rack that was located near a checkout stand at a super market.

Produced by Crown Records [CLP 5162], it is made up of six compositions penned and arranged by Conte [Guaraldi co-authored two tunes].

I gather from talking about the recording with Conte, that this was a hastily put-together session. Yet, as you can hear from the audio track that accompanies the following video, the music is warm sounding and wonderfully appealing.

Aside from the Pacific Jazz recordings that he made with The Original Chico Hamilton Quintet in the mid-1950s, on which he plays alto saxophone, flute and clarinet, this LP was really my first exposure to Buddy Collette’s playing in a more conventional small group setting [Hamilton group included a cello and a guitar in addition to Collette woodwinds and reeds].

It was also the first time that I heard Buddy play tenor saxophone.  I was quite taken with his tenor style which was somewhat different than the Lester Young- influenced sound of tenor saxophonists Bob Cooper, Bill Perkins, Bill Holman and Richie Kamuca or what came to be known as the “hard bop” tenor tone of Sonny Rollins, Dexter Gordon and Hank Mobley. Buddy played with a more “legit” tone [fuller, richer, sonorous] that was less hollow sounding than the former group and less harsher sounding than the latter.

Ironically, I was to soon hear quite a bit more of Buddy on tenor, as well as, on alto sax, flute and clarinet, because shortly after I purchased the Crown LP, he began appearing regularly at Jazz City with his own quintet with Gerald Wilson [tp], Al Viola [g], Wilfred Meadowbrooks [b] and Earl Palmer [d].

As is recounted in the excerpt below which is taken from Central Avenue Sounds: Jazz in Los Angeles an oral history project which has also been published by the University of California Press, Buddy was very instrumental in the integration of Local 767 [black] into Local 47 [white] of the AFL-CIO American Federation of Musicians.

Over the years, Buddy became a fixture at the Vine Street Hollywood office of Local 47. He would drop into rehearsals at one of the halls available there for this purpose, lead and perform with his own group to raise money for the union’s Trust Fund [whose mission is to provide live instrumental programs of high quality as a free, public service] and serve the organization in various administrative capacities.

Buddy was especially generous with his time in encouraging young musicians by conducting clinics at local highs schools and teaching on the faculties of a number of prominent, Los Angeles area colleges and universities.

Not surprisingly, Buddy’s music always reflected his warm personality and dignified bearing.

And as a studio musician, Buddy led by example: he showed up on time, was courteous to all around him and just “nailed’ whatever he was playing on whatever instrument.

The first time I met him, I had just passed the test and audition to gain my musicians’ union card and was exiting the building along with two friends who had done the same.

Buddy saw us coming, held the door open and, guessing at the reason for our high spirits said to us as we passed him, “Be good to the music, now.”

When these same friends and I went to see him perform with his quintet later that year at Jazz City, he recognized us, came back to our table, and honored our request to write out the “changes” for us to his tune Soft Touch.

My life would subsequently move in different directions that took me away from performing music, but some 25-years later I would be back at the union, this time to talk with its leadership about health and welfare benefits.

Buddy was there and when the meeting was over he came up to me and asked if I was still playing!
After visiting for a while with Buddy, I went home and dug out my copy of Little Band – Big Jazz: Conte Candoli All Stars.

While it played on the turntable [no CDs yet], I remember thinking how timeless the music was in terms of its gentle swing, the easy flow of its melodies and its well-constructed solos. The whole album just comes together almost effortlessly.

I’ll bet that Buddy presence had a lot to do with this: he was always “…good to the music.”

What follows are some of Peter Jacobson’s insert notes to Buddy’s Studio West album with vocalist Irene Krall [reissued on CD as V.S.O.P. #104], the aforementioned selections from Central Avenue Sounds: Jazz in Los Angeles[pp. 154-159] describing Buddy's involvement with the amalgamation of Locals 767 & 47, and a video tribute to Conte Candoli which features another cut from Little Band – Big Jazz: Conte Candoli All Stars as its soundtrack [Mambo Diane].

© -Peter Jacobson, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“William Marcell Collette, better known as Buddy Collette, has been one of the most active reed men on the West Coast since World War II. Born in Los Angeles, August 6, 1921, he studied piano before turning to clarinet and saxophone in high school. Since then he has been one of the most accomplished multi-instrumentalists both in jazz and the Hollywood studios, displaying equal facility and remarkable technique on tenor and alto saxophone, flute and clarinet. This versatility was the result of an insatiable curiosity and constant drive to expand his musical horizons and abilities. He has studied at the Los Angeles Conservatory, the California Academy of Music, the American Operatic Laboratory and under many leading teachers including Merle Johnston, Martin Ruderman, Sorcorso Pirolo and Franklyn Marks. In addition to this impressive background, he has paid his dues in the many clubs and after hours joints on Central Avenue, on the road and in the Hollywood and Western Ave. jazz clubs of the fifties and sixties.

Beginning in the late 30's, Buddy Collette worked with various bands in and around Central Ave. He played with the Woodman Brothers, Cee Pee Johnson, Les Hite, among others, before joining the Naval Reserve in 1942. After the war, he helped organize a group with Charles Mingus and Lucky Thompson which never recorded. For the next few years, Buddy Collette undertook the rigorous and thorough musical training mentioned above, while backing up the Treniers and Louis Jordan, and performing with Gerald Wilson and Benny Carter, to name a few.

In 1950, he began working with the studio orchestra of Jerry Fielding which performed on the Grouch Marx show, remaining there until 1960. In 1956 he had joined Chico Hamilton in the first incarnation of the Chico Hamilton Quintet. Shortly thereafter, he formed his own band which, with personnel changes, he has kept together over many years, well into the late 1960's. Since the late 1950's Buddy Collette has been in great demand in the recording studios for sound track work and television shows. He has appeared on numerous recordings under his own name, with Chico Hamilton, Jimmy Giuffre, Barney Kessel, Red Norvo, Quincy Jones, Red Callender, and many others.”

© -Central Avenue Sounds Editorial Committee, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

The Amalgamation of Local 767 and Local 47

“With gigs in Hollywood, jams on Central Avenue, and classes at schools such as the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music, Buddy started meeting more musi­cians from Local 47, the white union, who were also unhappy with segregated locals.
We thought about it, especially a bunch of the guys who had been in the service, and Mingus, who hadn't been in the military. We kept thinking, "Man, we'll never make it with two unions, because we're getting the leftovers." All the calls came to 47. Maybe now and then they might want a black band for a sideline call, where the music had been recorded and they wanted to show the black group. You'd wind up making a hundred dollars, maybe. That was a lot of money, but that may not happen for another year or two, while at Local 47 that was happening all the time. I knew it was because I was around those guys. I'd go to The Jack Smith Show with Barney Kessel and some other guys at other shows. A bunch of those guys would be doing this all the time, working those radio shows and things. They'd be pulling down maybe two or three hundred dollars a week. But it wasn't going to get better, I felt, with the two unions. That was a real shaft.

The actual beginning of the amalgamation, I'll give Mingus credit for that. He was always fighting the battle of the racial thing. He got a job with Billy Eckstine at the Million Dollar Theatre on Broadway. Mingus was the only nonwhite or black in the band. Since Billy Eckstine was a black leader, he figured, "Why couldn't there be a few blacks in there?" Mingus was the only one, and he let them know that he didn't like it. And he could be tough on you. Everybody in the band had to hear it every day: "You guys are prejudiced! You should have some more blacks. You could hire Buddy Collette there." So my name was being tossed around every day until the guys even hated me without knowing me!

I was finally invited down and I was curious about the band. We wanted to meet people that understood what we were talking about: the unions getting together, people getting together, stopping all this. I met their flutist, Julie Kinsler, who supported the idea and drummer Milt Holland. Milt said, "Man, we've been wanting to do this, too. I know about six or eight people that think just the way you guys do. We can get together and start meetings or something." Mingus and I lit up, because that was the first time we heard anybody who was really excited about it. The next day Mingus and I met with a few of the guys who felt the same way. They wanted to call a big meeting. I said, "Well, I don't think we should call a meeting, because the guys that I know, they don't like meet­ings too much." Instead, most of us had been studying for a few years and I said that we need a thing where we can learn the music, possibly like a symphony rehearsal orchestra together. Milt said, "If that's what you want, that's easy. I know all the people from that world." That was the beginning of the Community Symphony Orchestra.

We also wanted to make sure more blacks were placed in different circuits, because at that time we had only worked clubs. If we did play the Orpheum Theatre or the Million Dollar, it was in a black band or when an all-black show would be there. But the other shows, if they'd need twenty musicians, then blacks wouldn't get the call at all, no matter how good you were. It just didn't happen. So that was the idea: can we show that it can work? So Milt said, "Okay, get as many people as you can, then we'll fill in." Milt was beautiful, is still beautiful. So I got Bill Green, me, Britt Woodman, Jimmy Cheatham, John Ewing, Red Callen-der, and another little kid named James McCullough. That wasn't a big number, but those were the only people that we could say were in the right direction, who had probably enough behind them to take advantage of this thing and who were also interested in playing this kind of music. Mingus wasn't there. Didn't want to do symphony music. He always wanted to do his own stuff. He was with us in a way, but it wasn't his world.

So we scheduled a rehearsal and the excitement started mounting. People were on the phones trying to get people who just wanted to be there. "Interracial symphony? Let's do that." We got the top clarinetists and flutists. Later on we got Arthur Cleghorn, who was one of the finest flutists at that time. Joe Eger was a great French horn player. John Graas was classical, and into jazz with the French horn. A lot of enthusiasm. Some would approach our rehearsal like it was one they were getting paid for downtown. We had something like five flutists, when you only needed three. They just wanted to be there. The orchestra had about sixty-five pieces. The orchestra was at Humanist Hall, Twenty-third and Union, and then we moved every now and then to Hollywood, Le Conte Junior High School, near Sunset and Gower. This was just rehearsals, but people could come.

The first night we had a conductor who was world renowned, Eisler Solomon. And he was excited, he really was. That got us in the papers. The press was there snapping pictures like crazy. People were really buzz­ing. That first night we also had a black bass player named Henry Lewis. He was playing so good he sounded like three basses. Later on he got to be a conductor. He even conducted here for a while. A very fine talent. He was only about nineteen years old then. Later he married an opera singer, Marilyn Home. We had other great conductors, too. Peter Cohen, Dr. Al Sendry, Dr. Walker.

The orchestra kept getting better, and we began to publicize what we were doing. We had a board to set policy. We had meetings, and we wanted to let people know what the orchestra was about. The main aims were to bring about one union in L.A., black and white under the same roof.

Then somebody said, "We're doing okay on the classical. Why don't we concentrate on a jam session for the jazz, and we can also get more of the people who aren't in tune with jazz to also understand that part." So we had Monday night for classical, and then we got Sunday afternoon for jazz, and we'd invite the classical people. The Sunday built up really great. We had great jam sessions.

We then got a hold of "Sweets" Edison, who was working with Jose­phine Baker. We wanted to get her and some other names to appear on one of the Sunday afternoon things. She didn't have to perform, but come out publicly. So she was playing the RKO or one of the theaters down­town, and she agreed to come between shows. And that place, Humanist Hall, you could not believe it; we really exceeded the limit. The place could hold about two hundred people; we had about five hundred in there. When she got on stage, she said, "I wonder why you have two unions," something to that effect. "Well, I think it should be one, and I don't know why you people are wasting time. You've got all these beau­tiful people here." She just kept talking about how there was coming a time when people could work together. Bang! Zing! So finally she looks down in the audience, and there were two little girls, one black and one white, and they're about five years old. She knew when you've got some­thing to work, right? So she said, "You and you, come up here." And they both dance up on the stage, and she whispers. And they grabbed each other and they hugged like that and they wouldn't let go. And she winked. "These kids will show you how to do it" and walked out. And the crowd was [freezes in astonishment] great!

Later on we got to Nat King Cole. He was great and did the same thing for us. We got the Club Alabam and just had all the people in the world. Sinatra didn't do a thing for us, but he sent a statement saying, "Well, there should be one union."

We were building an organization of sorts. We'd get money for mail­ings and notified people. We got Marl Young and Benny Carter into it. But we had a few years of hard work before a lot of the guys came in. Part of it was rehearsals and the jam sessions, and there were meetings.

Then I ran for president of Local 767. You see, we had all the publicity and people were doing fine, but we didn't know how to pull it off. So the next thing would be, "Maybe we'll have to be officers so we can move it from that standpoint." Because our officers at the black local didn't want it. Our place was not a great union. The building was kind of tearing down and the pianos were terrible. We really didn't have that much. But, the way they thought, at least it was still ours. So we set up a whole slate and we ran. The incumbent guy beat me by about twenty votes out of about four hundred. We did win a couple of seats on the board of direc­tors. Marl Young, Bill Douglass, and John Anderson were running also, I think. But we still didn't have enough power.

Elections were every year in our local. So the next year we tried again. We ran Benny Carter for president and he lost to the same guy by the same number of votes I did. But this time I ran for the board and got in. Marl got in. Bill Douglass won the vice-president's spot. Now we got a little power underneath the president, who was Leo Davis, who was a nice man.

So we were able to move through resolutions and proposals toward a meeting with Local 47. And finally we got negotiations going. We pretty much had to drag 47 into it, because it finally got to the point where if we wanted it and they didn't, why didn't they want it? They were getting more members into the thing; we could work better together. But they stalled. James Petrillo, president of the American Federation of Musi­cians, stalled. A lot of people at 47 stalled. But the more it kept coming out that "Is it a racial thing or what is it?" they had to say, "Well, no, it's not that. We just don't know what to call it or how to do it or we can't because it's never been done before and . . ." So the big stall goes. In the meantime we're checking out information, too—how it could be done. Finally, they had no excuse.

It took about three years, but we brought the unions together in 1953. Looking back, the amalgamation helped a lot of musicians, gave them a better focus or a better picture of what they had to do to be on a more broad scope of understanding, not just the Central Avenue—type jobs. The ones who really benefited were the ones who wanted to have a suc­cessful career in music rather than just being a leader or somebody who has a record out. It began to make better players out of the good players, and the ones who weren't doing it had to decide to either back away or get serious. If somebody was just doing nightclubs, they were probably doing basically the same. But anybody who wanted to meet with people and experiment with different kinds of music and do studios and records and be like a top craftsperson, then I think they benefited a lot.

Plus there's better health and welfare, and pension benefits. It wasn't that we weren't doing it well with 767; it's just that it wasn't a big business thing over there. It was just kind of an afterthought. And it did allow some periods to be very lucrative for a lot of black musicians who were doing recording and shows through the years, shows like The Carol Burnett Show, The Danny Kaye Show, The Flip Wilson Show. Those shows began to hire people because they were all in the same union, and the word got around who could play, who couldn't. The other way we were isolated.

It was a step in the right direction. It wasn't designed to solve every­thing. It was trying to get people together. And maybe that's the hard thing, because thirty-five years later, people still have trouble getting to­gether. It was a great historical step, the first time there was an amalgamation in musicians unions. Since then, there were thirty or forty of the locals that followed our method of amalgamating. I think what we found in playing music and being in an artistic thing is that color is not very important; it s what the people can share with each other. And I can look back and say that if there were still black and white at these times, we'd have a lot of problems.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Paquito D'Rivera

“Le roi du saxophone sexy.”
-Montreal Star

 “There isn’t a weak link in Mr. D’Rivera’s band. And he has already honed it to a sharp edge – the ensemble playing is fastidiously tight, the breaks and endings are executed flawlessly. It’s a band that should be heard … by anybody who likes Jazz that’s inventive, hot and heartfelt.”
- Robert Palmer, “The New York Times”

“D’Rivera has developed into a startling innovator who moves from mordant, birdlike bop to manic split tones and squeaks.”
- Leonard Feather, “The Los Angeles Times”

“Jazz is speed reading of speedwriting and Paquito can make comfortable listeners of us all while playing at the breakneck speed of more than 300 beats a minute. The big tone in the attack, the fast phrasing, the rapid changes of keys, and the alternation of rhythms combine in Paquito’s music with great technical proficiency. He is the master of the sax – and the clarinet, too.”
- G. Cabrera Infante

“A fluent, virtuoso musician, whose playing … [leaps] with an exuberance quite unlike any other alto saxophone player in Jazz ….”
- Stuart Nicholson, “Jazz: The 1980’s Resurgence”

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

After viewing the recent PBS special on the life of [Israel Lopez] Cachao -  CACHAO  UNO MAS – that is so lovingly and admiringly crafted by his friend, actor-director Andy Garcia, we were reminded of more Cuban-influenced music in the form of a Paquito D’Rivera CD given to us as a gift by a friend a few years ago.

The album is entitled The Paquito Rivera Quintet Live at The Blue Note [Half Note Records 4911].

Llistened to in its entirety, it is the perfectly paced Jazz set.

Many of the reasons why this is so are explained below in Fred Jung’s insert notes to the recording.

The following video will introduce you to “El Cura” one of the tunes from this recording which Paquito explains means “The Preacher” [it also means “The Priest” in Spanish].

Like the late tenor saxophonist, Dexter Gordon, Paquito likes to inflect his solos with references from other tunes, in this case, the opera Carmen, Tequilla, Summertime, and It Ain’t Necessarily So, among others. See if you can pick these out and listen also for the "period" that pianist Diego Urcola and drummer Mark Walker, together put on D'Rivera's solo at the 4:58 mark.

Also noteworthy is the crackling drumming of Mark Walker who, at the time of this recording, had been working with Paquito for over a decade – and it shows in how well he anticipates things in the music.

“I have been a fan of Paquito D’Rivera since the moment he first blew me out of my seat one humid night in Havanna during an outdoor concert by the outstanding band Irakere. That was in April, 1978, when a group of recording executives and musicians of which I was a part made a musical sojourn to Cuba. Paquito’s blazing solo on Irakere’s very first number of the night left us completely speechless.”
- Bruce Lundvall

I first heard Paquito around 1980 on Irakere’s initial Columbia album about which we have written extensively in this profile of the band.

It’s hard to believe that 30 years later, he generates the same excitement in me every time I listen to him play.

Paquito’s enthusiasm and energy are exemplified in his music - the man just knows how to light it up.

“Paquito,” so we are told, is a variant of the of the Latin name for Francis meaning “from France:” one connotation being that France is the “land of the free man.”

And so it was for Paquito when he left Cuba and eventually took up residence in New York in 1982, thus becoming a “free” man.

One benefit of this freedom has been the amount of superb music that is has enabled Paquito to generate over the past three decades.

As promised, here are Fred’s insert notes:

“A good leader allows his players ample space to perform. A great leader trusts in his players and empowers them to creatively interpret his music. Paquito D'Rivera has learned to be a great leader, no doubt from one of the most eminent bandleaders of our time, Dizzy Gillespie (D'Rivera directed Gillespie's United Nation Orchestra for a number of years). "Dizzy, still today, is a great influence in my career and in my life, not only his playing and his music, but the way he approached life, the way he helped others to make their careers. The music and the spirit of Dizzy Gillespie is always in someplace around my heart," acknowledges D'Rivera.

Long before he defected from Cuba in 1980, D'Rivera was a true child prodigy, taught by his father Tito D'Rivera, a renown classical saxophonist and educator himself. At 12, Paquito enrolled in the celebrated Alejandro Garcia Caturia Conservatory of Music, where he studied theory, harmony, composition and clarinet.

After working at the Havana Musical Theatre, and a three year stint in the army, teenager Paquito D'Rivera along with Chucho Valdes, Armondo Romeu and other distinguished Cuban musicians, found the Orquesta Cubana de Musica Modema, from where Irakere originated. Of which Mr. D'Rivera admits "It was a very important part of my career, especially from the point of view of international exposure. I had been playing with Chucho for many years, so Irakere was shat I call, old wine, new bottles."

For his live performance at New York's distinguished Blue Note Jazz Club, D'Rivera chooses the commendable route of recording with his working band of five years rather than the more commercially savvy, all-star grouping. "I realized that I had never recorded with this quintet. This quintet is the engine for all my other projects," admits D'Rivera. D'Rivera's quintet - trumpeter Diego Urcola, pianist Dane Eskenazi, bassist Oscar Stagnaro, and drummer Mark Walker - perform a colorful Latin program.

Live at the Blue Note is certainly a departure for D'Rivera in more ways than one from his more recent orchestral projects. D'Rivera primarily sticks to playing the alto saxophone throughout most of the performance, beginning with "Curumim," a composition from Brazilian composer Cesar Camargo-Mariano. "I am a fan of the composer, Cesar Camargo-Mariano. I heard the song over twenty years ago and I fell in love with the song. Many years later, I met Cesar Camargo and I asked him for the song and he sent me the piano part for that. It means the son of the Indian. It's a great song," explains D'Rivera. The scintillating trumpet charts of Buenos Aires native Urcola, who occasionally performs in George Chuller’s Orange Then Blue, simply outpace everyone else, except for fellow Argentinean, pianist Eskenazi, whose poised narration sets the tone for the remainder of the session.

An up-tempo D'Rivera original, "El Cura," follows with the saxophonist uncorking a burning solo, blowing hard to the ideal backdrop laid out by Eskenazi, Stagnaro, and Walker. The saxophonist expresses, "That is a dedication to a very dear friend of mine, the great guitar player and one of my main influences in jazz music, Carlos Morales. He was the guitar player in Irakere for more than twenty years. We called him 'El Cura' because he looked like a priest."

D'Rivera's rhapsodic clarinet playing for Urcola's homage to his native Argentinean homeland, "Buenos Aires," is a main point of interest. D'Rivera professes, "What he (Urcola) wrote reflects very well the atmosphere of Buenos Aires, especially at night. I have been there many times. It's a beautiful city." "To me ‘Tobago' sounds like a theme inspired by Horace Silver," says D'Rivera. Eskenazi's "Tobago," features inventive solos from Stagnaro on electric bass and Walker. "Como Un Bolero" is a bolero that the leader wrote while he was with the Caribbean Jazz Project with Andy Narell and Dave Samuels, "ft is a romantic bolero. The bolero is the national Cuban ballad. I call it a ballad with some black beans and rice," explains D'Rivera.

"Centro Havana," an original penned by guest flutist Oriente Lopez, is a rich melody that is destined to become a standard. "I heard that piece first recorded by Regina Carter. I liked it very much and I called Oriente and asked him for the piece and he gave me the whole arrangement. That piece is killing," confirms the Cuban-American bandleader.

The Grammy Award winning D'Rivera's credentials speak for themselves and as evident by this performance, the Cuban-American has become a great leader. Join D'Rivera for an extraordinary journey into the music of Latin America by genuine Latin Americans.”

Fred Jung, Editor, Jazz Weekly

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Cachao: Uno Mas - Watch the Full Film | American Masters

Cachao: Uno Mas - Watch the Full Film | American Masters
Click on the above link to watch the film on

[C] Culturekiosque Staff; copyright protected, all rights reserved.

NEW YORK, 20 SEPTEMBER 2010 — A little over a decade ago when a Culturekiosque editor in Madrid asked the Spanish baroque music specialist Eduardo Lopez Banzo if he had any advice for classical musicians on the performance practice of the complex and constant rhythmic changes in Iberian baroque music, he replied, "They need to spend some time in Cuba!" Thanks to the on-going PBS series, American Masters and the Cuban-American film actor Andy Garcia, North American audiences will grasp the significance of this remark.Scheduled to air across the U.S. as of 20 September 2010 (check local PBS listings),American Masters takes an in-depth look at the Grammy winning bassist Israel "Cachao" López, who died in March 2008.

Entitled Cachao: Uno Más, the documentary is produced and narrated by Andy Garcia, a close friend and ardent fan, who helped reinvigorate Cachao’s career in the 1990s. The spine of his film is a sold-out 2005 concert at Bimbo’s 365 Club, a famous San Francisco nightclub. In addition to Mr. Garcia playing the bongos with Cachao, reminiscing over lunch and smoking cigars, the bilingual production features informative commentary by Gloria and Emilio Estefan, Arturo Sandoval, saxophonist Ray Santos, Cachao’s daughter Elena, his driver, and fellow musicians such as percussionist and historian John Santos.

A maestro of legendary status on the world stage, Cachao is considered one of the greatest Afro-Cuban musicians of all time. The film takes viewers from his start as a child prodigy born in Cuba in 1918 into a family of  classical musicians through his formal conservatory training and seat in the Havana Philharmonic Orchestra for 30 years, performing under the direction of all of the legendary international conductors of the time — beginning at age 10. And although a classical musician by day, the young Cachao always had a double life at night, playing the Havana clubs and dance halls with his brother Orestes. Together they revolutionized the heart of Cuban music — first in the late 1930s, literally inventing the mambo through the infusion of complex, multi-layered African rhythms into the earlier, stylized and class-coded Hispano-Cuban dance genre, the danzón. Later in the 1950s, at highly electric descargas cubanas – Cuban jam sessions – their spontaneous improvisations and innovations laid the groundwork for contemporary Latin jazz and salsa, rock ‘n roll and rhythm and blues. Around this time, Cachao wrote "Chanchullo" which contained the signature hook appropriated in Tito Puente’s classic hit "Oye Como Va," later made popular in Carlos Santana’s hit crossover cover.

Cachao became an exile shortly after Fidel Castro came into power in 1962. He relocated to New York and played with leading Latin bands. As the 1970s wore on, his life hit a sour note in Las Vegas, where he headlined casinos and battled his growing gambling habit. Eventually, he settled in Miami as a forgotten artist, playing for tips at local venues. He slowly slipped into obscurity in the 1980s until Andy Garcia helped revive an appreciation of Cachao and his music and reinvigorated his career in the 1990s. Their musical collaboration culminated in a series of Grammy-winning albums, cementing Cachao’s well-deserved recognition in the industry as a world-class musician and composer.

Israel "Cachao" Lopez and Andy Garcia
American Masters: 
Cachao: Uno MasPhoto: Jakub Mosur
Photo courtesy of PBS
Mr. Garcia's insightful narrative and well-edited performance clips thus enable the viewer to better understand the origins, evolution and sophistication of Afro-Cuban music and dance genres well beyond the often prosaic pop culture notions held by many North Americans as a result of the Miami salsa era and U.S. television dramas of the 1980s. As Mr. Garcia says, "You can put [Cachao] right next to Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Mingus, and Charlie Parker. That’s the lexicon of the names that he’s up there with."

In his final years, Cachao received numerous honors including a Hispanic Heritage Award, a National Endowment for the Arts Award, a star on Hollywood Walk of Fame and an induction into the Smithsonian Institute.  In the words of John Santos, "Underlying his consummate professional demeanor, he [was] a sage and poker-faced philosopher…warmth, humor and humility [were] his trademarks."

For those without access to PBS television stations, or who reside outside the United States, American Masters Cachao: Uno Más is currently screening in an online stream

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Dwike Mitchel & Willie Ruff: A Tribute

This complicated two-handed piano arrangement of Johnny Burke and Jimmy van Heusen's But Beautiful is actually made more so by the fact that bassist Willie Ruff is playing in unison with pianist Dwike Mitchell's left-hand. See if you can pick this up while the melody is playing, before Dwike begins his solo at 0.33, or when the theme is re-stated beginning at 2:08 minutes.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Little Heat from “Little” Jimmy Heath

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

We have departed a bit from our usual practice of embedding a video further into a posting so that you would have a chance to hear Jimmy Heath and his music before reading about it.

The audio track is Jimmy’s tune The Quota and is taken from the Original Jazz Classic-Riverside CD by the same name [OJCCD-1871-2;RLP 9392].

The cut features Jimmy unique tenor saxophone sound as well as his very distinctive approach to Jazz composition and arranging.

Julius Watkins provides the French Horn solo [not something you hear everyday on a Jazz record].  He is followed by finger-poppin’ solos from trumpeter Freddie Hubbard [2:19 minutes] and pianist Cedar Walton [3:00],who is joined in the rhythm section by Jimmy’s older brother Percy Heath on bass and his younger brother Albert [nicked-named “Tootie”] on drums.

The late guitarist and saloon-keeper Eddie Condon is quoted as having said that the sound coming from the legendary Bix Beiderbecke’s trumpet “Was like a woman saying, “Yes.’”  I wonder what the same woman would have said if she ever heard Freddie Hubbard play trumpet?

Over a five year period from 1959-1963, Jimmy Heath recorded six albums for Riverside, all of which have been issued on CD as Original Jazz Classics.  Since Jimmy wasn’t very known by the general public during this period, thanks are once again due to Orrin Keepnews, co-owner of Riverside, who early on in his career, appreciated Heath’s talent and found the resources to make these albums possible.

Orrin’s view of Jimmy’s work is nicely summed up this excerpt from his insert notes to The Thumper [OJCCD-1828, RLP-1160]:

“It should be immediately evident from this LP that Jimmy possesses a large handful of attributes of major jazz value: he has a full, deep, compelling sound and a fertile imagination; his playing really swings; and he is a jazz composer of considerable vigor and freshness. And, although his will undoubtedly be a new name to many, Heath is also a thoroughly experienced musician, who has been associated with Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie and many other headliners.”

And here are some additional reflections by Orin from the liner notes to Jimmy’s
The Jimmy Heath Orchestra: Really Big! [OJCCD-1799, RLP-1188]on which the Heath brothers are joined by the Adderley brothers, Cannonball and Nat:

“The modern jazz artist who both 'wails' and writes is often an unavoidably split personality: enjoying his playing in the small-group context that is the normal setting for wailing these days, but often longing for the more satisfying complexity of arranged musical colorings and backgrounds that are possible only with more large-scaled bands. On the other hand, he is apt to be aware that big-band efforts can all too easily have a stiffness and formality too far removed from the easy-flowing looseness and free-blowing spirit of the best of small-group jazz.

Facing this basic dilemma, JIMMY HEATH, a man to be reckoned with both as improviser and as writer, has evolved the unique solution that is at the heart of this album. It is a combination that Jimmy describes as "a big band sound with a small-band feeling"—a richly textured musical pattern that manages to retain all the earthy ferment of a swinging quintet or sextet date.

It should be obvious that the fresh, clear-cut style of Heath's arrangements has much to do with the success of this idea. It should also be apparent that Jimmy's earthy, vigorous and emotionally compelling solo sound is ideally suited to the handling of the material he has written.”

Dan Morgenstern, the Director of the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University, observed in his notes to On The Trail [OJCCD-1854, RLP-9486]

“Small of frame but large of sound and soul, Jimmy Heath is a musician whose contributions to jazz have been con­sistently impressive since the halcyon days of Bebop, when he was known as "Little Bird" and specialized in the alto sax.
Jimmy made the switch to tenor many years ago, and he has long been his own man, both as an instrumentalist and as an arranger. On this album, his primary role is that of a soloist of uncommon warmth and fluency, but his arranger's sense of balance and proportion also makes itself felt.

Here, there is none of the self-indulgent loquaciousness that mars so many "blowing dates"; each track is made up of meaningful musical statements that hold and sustain the listener's interest.

That interest is heightened, too, by Heath's well-chosen and well-paced material, which adds up to an attractive program, offering a variety of moods and tempos. And no matter what the groove - a pretty ballad or an up-tempo swinger — the music flows and tells a story.”

The following listing and capsulated reviews can be located on page 694 of  The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, 6th Edition:

© -Richard Cook & Brian Morton/Penguin Books, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

**** The Thumper Original Jazz Classics OJC 1828
Heath; Nat Adderley (cl); Curtis Fuller (tb); Wynton Kelly (p); Paul Chambers (b); Albert 'Tootle' Heath (d). 9/59.

***(*) Really Big!
Original Jazz Classics OJC 1799 Heath; Clark Terry, Nat Adderley (t); Tom Mclntosh, Dick Berg (tb); Cannonball Adderley, Pat Patrick (sax); Tommy Flanagan, Cedar Walton (p); Percy Heath (b); Albert 'Tootie' Heath (d). 1960.

The middle of the three Heath brothers is perhaps and quite undeservedly now the least known. Jimmy Heath's reputation as a player has been partly overshadowed by his gifts as a composer ('C.T.A.',  'Gemini',  'Gingerbread   Boy')   and  arranger.   The Thumper was his debut recording. Unlike most of his peers, Heath had not hurried into the studio. He was already in his thir­ties and writing with great maturity; the session kicks off with 'For Minors Only', the first of his tunes to achieve near-classic standing. He also includes 'Nice People'. The Riverside compila­tion which bears that name was until recently the ideal introduc­tion to the man who was once known as 'Little Bird' but who later largely abandoned alto saxophone and its associated Parkerisms in favor of a bold, confident tenor style that is immediately dis­tinctive. Now that The Thumper is around again, the compilation album is a little less appealing.

Also well worth looking out for is the big-band set from 1960. Built around the three Heath and the two Adderley brothers, it's a unit with a great deal of personality and presence. Sun Ra's favorite baritonist, Pat Patrick, is in the line-up and contributes fulsomely to the ensembles. Bobby Timmons's 'Dat Dere', 'On Green Dolphin Street' and 'Picture Of Heath' are the outstanding tracks, and Orrin Keepnews's original sound is faithfully pre­served in Phil De Lancie's conservative remastering.
Heath's arrangements often favor deep brass pedestals for the higher horns, which explains his emphasis on trombone and French horn parts. The earliest of these sessions, though, is a rel­atively stripped-down blowing session ('Nice People' and 'Who Needs It') for Nat Adderley, Curtis Fuller and a rhythm section anchored on youngest brother, Albert, who reappears with Percy Heath, the eldest of the three, on the ambitious 1960 'Picture Of Heath'. Like Connie Kay, who was to join Percy in the Modern Jazz Quartet, Albert is an unassuming player, combining Kay's subtlety with the drive of Kenny Clarke (original drummer for the MJQ). More than once in these sessions it's Albert who fuels his brother's better solos.

***(*) The Quota
Original Jazz Classics OJCCD 1871 Heath; Freddie Hubbard (t); Julius Watkins (frhn); Cedar Walton (p); Percy Heath (b); Albert 'Tootie' Heath (d). 4/61. *** On The Trail
Original Jazz Classics OJCCD 1854 Heath; Wynton Kelly (p); Kenny Burrell (g); Paul Chambers (b); Albert 'Tootie' Heath (d). 64.
The Quota perfectly underlines Jimmy's ability to make three contrasting horns sound like a big band, or very nearly. This is a cleverly arranged session, and an agreeably fraternal one, with Percy and Tootie on hand as well. Hubbard was a killer at 23, solo­ing with fire and conviction, but it is Jimmy's own work, on his own title-track and on 'When Sonny Gets Blue', that stands out, arguably some of his best tenor-playing on record.

***On The Trail is less arresting; more of a straight blowing ses­sion, it doesn't play to Jimmy's real strengths and the production seems oddly underpowered, as if everything has been taken down a notch to accommodate Burrell's soft and understated guitar lines. 'All The Things You Are' has some moments of spectacular beauty, as when Jimmy floats across Wynton Kelly's line with a soft restatement of the melody and a tiny fragment of the 'Bird Of Paradise' contra fact patented by Charlie Parker. Good, straightforward jazz, but not a great Jimmy Heath album.

***(*) Triple Threat
Original Jazz Classics OJCCD 1909-2 Heath; Freddie Hubbard (t); Julius Watkins (frhn); Cedar Walton (p); Percy Heath (b); Albert 'Tootie' Heath (d). 1/62.
A dry run for the Heath Brothers project and another object les­son in how to give a relatively small unit an expansive sound. Jimmy takes a couple of numbers with just rhythm and even there manages to suggest a massive structure behind his elegantly linear melody lines. Watkins has an enhanced role and demon­strates once again what an exciting player he can be on an instrument usually consigned to a supportive role.
Jimmy's blues waltz, 'Gemini', is probably better known in the version recorded by Cannonball Adderley, but the little man's own solo statement confirms ownership rights. Hubbard is in quiet form, but already gives notice of what he was capable of.

***(*) Swamp Seed
Original Jazz Classics OJCCD 1904-2 Heath; Donald Byrd (t); Jimmy Buffington, Julius Watkins (frhn); Don Butterfield (tba); Herbie Hancock, Harold Mabern (p); Percy Heath (b); Albert 'Tootie' Heath, Connie Kay (d). 63.
Jimmy's genius as an arranger is evident here, where he manages to make three brass sound like a whole orchestra. With no sup­plemental reeds to support his own muscular lines, Jimmy is the most prominent voice. On 'Six Steps', 'Nutty' and 'D Waltz', he creates solo statements of genuine originality, relying on the sub­tle voicings given to Butterfield, Buffington and Watkins to sup­port his more adventurous harmonic shifts. As 'D Waltz' demonstrates, Jimmy learned a lot from listening to Charlie Parker, but also to the older bandleaders like Lunceford and
Eckstine, who understood how to give relatively simple ideas maxi­mum mileage.”

Lastly, here’s a retrospective of the highlights of Jimmy’s career including the formation of The Heath Brothers band in the 1970’s. It would intermittently continue to function as a working and recording band until the death of bassist Percy Heath in 2005.

It can be found in Kenny Mathieson’s Cookin’:Hard Bop and Soul Jazz 1954-65 [Edinburgh: Canongate, 2002, pp. 250-254].

© -Kenny Mathieson/Canongate, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“Jimmy Heath started out playing alto saxophone in the style of Charlie Parker, a model he adopted so conscientiously that he was nicknamed 'Little Bird' by his fellow musicians. Partly in an attempt to get away from that rather too close identification, and partly because it offered better job prospects, he turned to tenor saxophone, and found that he genuinely preferred the bigger horn. His name crops up at various points throughout this book, as do those of his two brothers, bassist Percy Heath and drummer Albert Tootie' Heath. Music is very often a family affair, but not too many families can boast three top class jazz professionals in their ranks (others which do come to mind are the Jones brothers of Detroit, and the more contemporary musical dynasty fathered in New Orleans by pianist Ellis Marsalis, led by Wynton and Branford).

Jimmy Heath was born on 25 October, 1926, in Philadelphia, and is the middle brother of the three (Percy, the eldest, was born on 30 April 1932, in Wilmington, North Carolina, while Albert first saw the light of day on 31 May, 1935, also in Philadelphia). The saxophonist led his own big band in Philly in late 1946, modeled on the bebop big bands of Billy Eckstine and Dizzy Gillespie. The personnel included several players who went on to bigger things, including Benny Golson, trombonist Willie Dennis, trumpeter Johnny Coles, and, most famously, John Coltrane. Heath and Coltrane formed a close relationship at this time, often practicing together (Lewis Porter describes some of their routines in John Coltrane: His Life and Music) as well as socializing.

Jimmy and Percy both played with trumpeter Howard McGhee in 1947-48, their first important musical association outside of Phila­delphia. The saxophonist then joined the Dizzy Gillespie Orchestra in 1949-50, in which he took the opportunity to further develop his writing and arranging skills. His talent as both player and writer, and his natural affinity for the blues and funk, should have made him a significant contributor to the formative period of hard bop. Instead, his progress throughout the 1950s was impeded by his addiction, acquired in Philadelphia in the summer of 1949, and he spent four years in prison following a conviction in mid-decade, re-emerging on a much-changed jazz scene after being paroled in 1959.

His parole restrictions cost him the chance to tour with Miles Davis, but he set about resurrecting his own career. Heath had cut discs as a sideman, including sides with Gillespie, Miles, J. J. Johnson and Kenny Dorham, but had not recorded an album under his own name until The Thumper, his debut for Riverside on 27 November, 1959. He assembled a sextet for the date, with Nat Adderley on cornet, Curtis Fuller on trombone, Wynton Kelly on piano, Paul Chambers on bass, and Albert Heath on drums. The date provided a showcase not only for his strong, inventive tenor playing, which seemed entirely undiminished by his time away, but also for the high quality of his writing and arranging. The session featured five of his own compositions, including the title track and the justly celebrated 'For Minors Only', and also included a pair of emotive but unsentimental ballad readings.

It began a sequence of fine albums for Riverside. Really Big took the obvious next step and provided Heath with a larger ensemble on which to exercise his talents as an arranger. Although not a full big band, the ten-piece group on the album - which included Cannonball Adderley on alto and Pat Patrick on baritone saxophone — provided Heath with a fine platform, underpinned by the baritone and the darker brass shadings of Tom Mclntosh's trombone and Dick Berg's French horn (both Percy and Albert were in the rhythm section, with either Tommy Flanagan or Cedar Walton). The session, recorded in June, 1960, is a strong outing, with more powerful original compositions by the saxophonist, including the impressive 'Picture of Heath', alongside a selection of standards and established jazz tunes.

It was the biggest group he used in his Riverside tenure, but in the session for Swamp Seed on 11 March, 1963, he had an eight-piece band at his disposal, this time with his solitary tenor set against a brass section of Donald Byrd on trumpet, both Jim Buffington and Julius Watkins on French horns, and Don Butterfield on tuba, and another varying rhythm section, with either Harold Mabern or Herbie Hancock on piano, Percy Heath on bass, and either Albert Heath or Percy's MJQ band mate Connie Kay on drums. Like Horace Silver, Heath had the knack of making a small group sound like a fuller band, and his immaculately contrived brass voicings here give the feel of a much bigger ensemble than he actually had, and provide a springboard for his richly conceived, exploratory solos on cuts like 'D Waltz' and Thelonious Monk's 'Nutty'.

The dates which produced The Quota, recorded on 14 April, 1961, and Triple Threat, from 4 January, 1962, both featured a sextet, with Heath's tenor accompanied by hotshot young trumpet star Freddie Hubbard and the inevitable French horn, expertly played as ever by Julius Watkins, surely the best-known exponent of the horn in jazz (and one of the few to record as a leader on the instrument, for Blue Note in 1954), and a rhythm section of Cedar Walton and the other two Heath brothers. As with The Thumper, Heath achieves a beautifully balanced blend of subtle ensemble arrangements and a hard swinging, spontaneous blowing feel. Triple Threat contains his own version of 'Gemini', a jazz waltz made famous by Cannonball Adderley, which stands alongside 'For Minors Only', 'C. T. A.' and 'Gingerbread Boy' as his best known tunes.

The smallest group session in his Riverside roster was On The Trail, a quintet date from Spring, 1964, which featured Heath as the only horn in a band with Kenny Burrell on guitar, Wynton Kelly on piano, Paul Chambers on bass, and Albert Heath on drums. The date has a more open blowing feel than his other Riverside sessions, but their combined weight confirmed his stature as a major - if slightly belated - contributor to hard bop in this comeback period. The session included 'Gingerbread Boy' and a fine reading of 'All The Things You Are*, while the title track was a jazz arrangement of a section from Ferde Grofe's Grand Canyon Suite, which adopted a 'semi-modal' approach.

Ashley Khan reports in Kind of Blue that the arrangement was originally prepared by Donald Byrd, but a disagreement with Blue Note saw it dropped - Heath picked up on it, and Khan quotes the saxophonist: 'We wanted to experiment with modal pieces, not to the same degree as Miles, completely, like "So What." Not everyone else wanted to take those chances with something new. We weren't Miles Davis, so we said "OK, we'll do a little of that." A lot of the modal pieces we wrote were modal for a while and then they ended on a sequence of chords to get back to a certain point to be more communicative to an audience.'

Perhaps surprisingly in the light of his prominence with the MJQ, Percy Heath showed no inclination to follow his example and make records as a leader, although Albert did get around to leading a session of his own, Kawaida, for Trip Records in 1969, with a band which included Don Cherry, and followed it with Kwanza for Muse in 1973. Jimmy continued to make records throughout the ensuing decades, including sessions for Muse, Verve, Steeple Chase, and a reunion with Orrin Keepnews for his Landmark label, and also became a greatly respected educator.

The three brothers finally officially got together as The Heath Brothers in 1975, recording a number of albums for Strata East, Columbia and Antilles in the late 1970s and early 1980s (sometimes with Jimmy's son, Mtume, on percussion, although Albert was replaced by drummer Akira Tana on some of these records). They flirted a little with a more commercial approach at times, but for the
most part, remained firmly in classic hard bop territory, as refracted  through the prism of Jimmy's individual arrangements. …

Having gone their own way again in the mid-1980s, The Heath Brothers reconvened without any great fanfare in 1997, both as an occasional touring unit and in the studio, where they recorded a couple of fine albums for Concord Jazz, As We Were Saying (1997) and Jazz Family (1998), with Jimmy's stamp firmly on the music. As with his own sessions of the late 1980s and 1990s, the music has plenty to say, and does so with consummate skill, real authority and inventiveness, and a refreshing lack of bluster.”

Jimmy Heath is still a vibrant part of today’s Jazz scene, and in addition to the triple threat of performing as a saxophonist, composing and arranging he has added a fourth quality - Jazz educator.

Jimmy has a website which you can by going here.