Sunday, September 29, 2013

Ronnie Cuber - Boffo Baritone Saxophonist

After our recent postings on baritone saxophonists Rik van den Bergh and the late, Bob Gordon, an internet friend wrote me and suggested that I continue in this vein with a feature on Ronnie Cuber.

I had published a piece about Ronnie in September, 2010, but it languished in the blog archives due to a series of technical problems that have now been corrected; hence its re-posting.

As both my Jazz buddy and Scott Yanow have noted [see below], Ronnie made a number of recordings for Xanadu in the 1970's. Unfortunately, it does not appear as though these have been reissued on CD.

I've used a track from one of Ronnie's Xanadu LP's on our video tribute to the art of Jazz baritone saxophone which I have embedded in this profile.

Each time I hear Ronnie’s baritone playing, I am impressed with his easy facility in getting around such a cumbersome instrument and how fluid he is in being able to express his ideas on such a gigantic "axe" [musician speak for instrument].

I have always found him to be a joy to listen to.

After reviewing this profile about him, I hope you’ll get to know his music so that you can feel that way, too.

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

“A powerful baritonist in the tradition of Pepper Adams, Ronnie Cuber has been making excellent records for over 20 years. He was in Marshall Brown's Newport Youth Band at the 1959 Newport Jazz Festival and was featured with the groups of Slide Hampton (1962), Maynard Ferguson (1963-65) and George Benson (1966-67). 
After stints with Lionel Hampton (1968), Woody Herman's Orchestra (1969) and as a freelancer, he recorded a series of fine albums (both as a leader and as a sideman) for Xanadu and performed with Lee Konitz's nonet (1977-79). 

In the mid-'80s Cuber recorded for Projazz (in both straight-ahead and R and B-ish settings), in the early '90s he headed dates for Fresh Sound and SteepleChase and Cuber performed regularly with the Mingus Big Band.”
 - Scott Yanow, All-Music Guide

I have been intrigued by the sound of the baritone saxophone ever since I first discovered it while listening to Harry Carney growl out a few notes on it during a Duke Ellington arrangement of Indian Summer.

However, Harry didn’t solo much and if he did, these were not on my meager holdings of Ellington records.

The first time I heard the instrument extensively soloed was on the original Gerry Mulligan Quartet Pacific Jazz recordings of the early 1950s that featured Chet Baker on trumpet. Because of them, I became accustomed to hearing the lighter, more airy or reedy sound that Mulligan produced on the baritone saxophone.

As a result, it was quite a shock when I first encountered the deeper and more dense tone that Pepper and other baritone saxophonists whom he influenced such as Gary Smulyan, Nick Brignola and Ronnie Cuber, to name only a few.

In a way, the sound they achieve on the baritone saxophone is a throwback to Harry Carney’s gravely tone wherein the notes seem to be barked and blurted out of the instrument as compared to being airily nudged out in the Mulligan sound.

Given the vast amount of air that has to be pushed through this huge horn to make a sound, listening to the rapid flow of improvised ideas that they produce on the baritone sax, one cannot help but come to the conclusion that these guys are an amazingly talented bunch of musicians.

To give you a taste of Ronnie's playing during his formative years, I’ve used his version of Dizzy Gillespie's Tin Tin Deo from his Xanadu Cuber Libre LP [#135] as the audio track to the following video dedicated to The Art of the Baritone Saxophone. Ronnie's playing on this track is an excellent example of his take-no-prisoners approach to Jazz improvising. He is joined by Barry Harris on piano, Sam Jones on bass and Albert "Tootie" Heath on drums.

And here’s another video that will afford you with the opportunity to hear more of Ronnie’s terrific baritone saxophone work.  This time the context is The Netherlands Metropole Orchestra’s tribute to the music of the late Charles Mingus. The tune is Mingus’ O.P.which is dedicated to the famous bassist, Oscar Pettiford.  Randy Brecker on trumpet and Conrad Herwig on trombone join with Ronnie as key soloists. The arrangement is by Ilja Reijngoud and John Clayton conducts the orchestra. The concert, which took place in Amsterdam on April 25, 2009, unfortunately has not been released as a commercial CD.

We thought that you might also be interested in this more detailed overview of Ronnie's career as excerpted from the Concord Music Group’s website.

© -Concord Records, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

"Ronnie Cuber’s name has drifted in and out of prominence over the past three decades, but the distinctive sound of his baritone sax has never been out of earshot. From his early, high-profile role in guitarist George Benson’s quartet in the mid-1960s, through gigs with King Curtis, Aretha Franklin, and Eddie Palmieri at the dawn of the ‘70s, Cuber first fashioned a solo recording career with a pair of sterling straightahead albums for Xanadu in 1976 and ‘77. Since then, his own recordings—for such labels as Dire, King, Electric Bird, SteepleChase, and ProJazz—have been less readily accessible than the work he has done with other musicians, including Steve Gadd, Mike Mainieri, Frank Sinatra, Lee Konitz, the J. Geils Band, Paul Simon, Donald Fagen, Dr. John, Eric Clapton, Billy Joel, Curtis Mayfeld, and the Saturday Night Live Band.

All of that adds up to the proverbial Talent Deserving Wider Recognition, a Down Beat award that the reed virtuoso won early in his career; the release of his Milestone debut, The Scene Is Clean, should refocus that recognition on this hard-working, relentlessly creative musician.

Cuber’s musical odyssey began in 
Brooklyn, where he was born on Christmas Day, 1941, into a large family in which virtually everyone was a musician. His uncle played drums and violin, his mother played piano, and his father played accordion at Polish weddings. At the age of seven, Ronnie was learning clarinet, leading to training at the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music. He switched to tenor saxophone in high school and took up baritone almost by accident in 1959, when he auditioned for the Newport Youth Band. The orchestra needed a baritone player and director Marshall Brown felt Cuber could handle the job, so he bought the young musician his first bari and settled him into a band that also featured Eddie Gomez, Nat Pavone, and Larry Rosen (later the “R” in GRP).

“I didn’t begin with a strong identification with the instrument,” Cuber recalls, “but it wasn’t like I had a powerful association with the tenor at that time, either. When I did get the offer to play baritone, I had been hanging out with kids who were all into the hard-bop, Blue Note kind of sound—Hank Mobley, Sonny Rollins, early John Coltrane, Pepper Adams with Donald Byrd—so I kind of modeled myself after Pepper. It was a couple of years later on down the line that I realized that I had my own thing going, that I was developing my own voice.”

Cuber’s baritone gifts were immediately in demand. In the early ‘60s, he hit the road with the big bands of Lionel Hampton and Maynard Ferguson. He was jamming frequently with such players as Dannie Richmond, Henry Grimes, Chick Corea, and Walter Davis, Jr., when the invitation came to play with George Benson, who had just brought his organ trio from 
Pennsylvania to New York. “There were a lot of organ groups with tenor, guitar, and drums,” Cuber remembers, “but it was different to have a baritone in the front line. I was getting more solo space and much more freedom than I’d had playing in the big bands and I kind of stood out.”

After two years with Benson, Cuber forged a pair of affiliations with lasting impacts on his career. His association with soul tenor giant King Curtis not only put him on stage with the contemporary giants of R and B, but led to consistent studio recording work, a bread-and-butter facet of Cuber’s career ever since. And his close relationship with Latin music legend Eddie Palmieri imparted an indelible influence on Cuber’s music, an influence that can be heard throughout The Scene Is Clean—in the crackling Latin percussion of Manolo Badrena and Milton Cardona, and on the authoritative version of Palmieri’s famous composition “Adoración.”

Throughout this eclectic history, Cuber was always honing a style that has given him a unique, identifiable sound on his main horn, including an unusual facility in the upper “altissimo” register. “A lot of my blowing actually comes less out of Pepper Adams and other bari players and more out of a mixture of Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane,” be explains. “Some of it even goes back to Eddie ‘Lockjaw’ 
Davis.” Because of Cuber’s virtually nonstop work with other people (add Bobby Paunetto, Mickey Tucker, Sam Noto, Rein de Graaff, and innumerable commercial sessions to the credits mentioned above), his sound has only occasionally exploded onto his own recordings. “Back in the ‘70s and early ‘80s,” he says, “disco was at its height and I was in the studio six or seven hours a day, and a minimum of three times a week. Disco drying up kind of forced me into doing more of my own thing, including getting a group together to play the Newport Kool Festival in 1980, and touring Europe, Japan, and Hong Kong.”

Although he still answers the calls for his highly sought-after studio skills, Cuber relishes the idea of making his presence felt again as a recording and performing artist in his own right. He conceived of The Scene Is Clean as “a combination of everything that I like to do,” from the return to the organ combo sound (with Joey DeFrancesco appearing on “Flamingo” and the Richard Tee tribute “Tee’s Bag”) through the updated hard-bop jazz bossa of “The Scene Is Clean” (“I did a lot of research to find a tune that had not been overdone from that era and I happened to hear it on an old Max Roach–Clifford Brown album”), to the impassioned “Song for Pharoah” and the bountiful servings of Afro-Cuban rhythms and colors, as on Eddie Palmieri’s “Adoración”: “It has a very beautiful melody that I always thought would be great to play on my horn as an instrumental,” Cuber says. “It turned out to be a great tune for the album.”

And The Scene Is Clean will undoubtedly turn out to be another big boost for Cuber’s identification as a major figure in modern jazz. “If I had gone straight ahead and done my own thing and turned down all the studio work that came my way,” he acknowledges, “I probably would have been much further along the way as a leader. So I’ve kind of picked up where I left off, and it feels great.”

Here's Ronnie's interpretation of Eddie Palmieri's Adoración. I dare you not to shake your booty on this one.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

High Slide Low Blow – The Rik van den Bergh/Bart van Lier 5tet

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

Although we have only met via the Internet, I feel as though I have always “known” Eric Ineke.

Eric is a Jazz drummer who lives in Holland and works there primarily, although given the relatively close proximity of things on the Continent, he has performed in other European venues as well.

You can find our earlier features on Eric’s drumming by going here and our review of his autobiography as told to saxophonist Dave Liebman by clicking on Eric Ineke: The Ultimate Sideman.

The reason why I feel a strong affinity to Eric is basically because we share similar values about Jazz drumming.

These values are based around the primary notion of playing impeccable time that is alive with a sense of urgency and which pushes and prods the soloist to his fullest possible expression.

Another way of putting it is that whatever the context, Jazz has to swing.

Everything that the drummer is laying down back there has to drive the music forward, create a sense of urgency in the other musicians and encapsulate the performance in an atmosphere of energy and excitement.

The most recent example of Eric’s drumming at work can be found on a recently issued CD that was recorded in April of this year in Holland and released on Maxanter as High Slide Low Blow – The Rik van den Bergh/Bart van Lier 5tet [MAX 75990].

Rik on baritone sax and Bart on trombone are joined by Edgar van Asselt on piano, Marius Beets on bass and Eric on drums.

In recent years, Marius has become quite an impresario on behalf of Jazz in Holland serving as a producer, player and recording engineers on many Dutch Jazz recordings in addition to working with his pianist brother Peter in a fine Jazz trio and both Peter and his tenor saxophonist brother Alexander in the Beets Brothers Band.

I first heard Rik on his CD Reserge [Maxanter MAX 75373], a tribute to the late Serge Chaloff who inspired so many of today’s baritone saxophonists and later as a member of the Rotterdam Jazz Orchestra.

Bart van Lier has been a mainstay of The Netherlands’ famous Metropole Orkest for many years and he is the co-leader along with Ilya Reijngoud of one of my favorite two trombone CD’s - Memories of the Future [VSOP 991072].

From every perspective, Rik and Bart’s new CD is a sheer delight from beginning to end: eleven [11] beautifully played and perfectly paced tracks; outstanding musicianship; clearly recorded and mastered music; engaging tunes comprised of five Jazz standards intermixed with six originals [three each by van Asselt and Beets, who also recorded and mastered the disc]; interesting solos all blended around a cookin’ rhythm section.

Bart gets the solo spotlight on Polka Dots and Moonbeams on which he plays muted trombone accompanied only by Marius on bass guitar while Rik brings back memories of the man who started it all on Jazz baritone sax – Harry Carney – with his eloquent ballad feature on Billy Strayhorn’s Chelsea Bridge.

Straight-ahead Jazz your thing? The opening track by Edgar van Asselt, a unison line entitled Early Bird, will have you boppin’ and burnin’ with charging solos by Rik, Edgar, Marius and Eric booting everyone along from the drum chair. As should be the case, the lead track sets the tone for the entire recording.

The next cut – Exotic Vibes – is an original by Marius with shades of Benny Golson’s Killer Joe and Blues March reflected in this vamp-based, medium tempo tune on which everyone gets loose. It’s the kind of tune that’s great to open a set with so that all the players can get into a relaxed groove.

Body Works – Marius’ homage to Body and Soul – follows in a looping, bossa nova beat with a beautifully harmonized melody by Rik and Bart that is set against a countermelody laid down by Edgar and Marius.

Joe Henderson’s Jazz standard Step Lightly is up next and that’s what everyone does as a result of the tune’s mellow groove which is beautifully underscored by the fact that Marius takes the first solo on bass, followed by Edgar on piano, Rik on bari and Bart on ‘bone.  If you think about it, the solo sequence is exactly the reverse of the ordering that usually takes place.

Also on tap are refreshingly different version of Thad Jones’ Three and One, two more originals by Edgar - Vox Populi and Profectus – another of Marius’ marvelous melodic modifications – It Could Happen to All of Us [based on Jimmy van Heusen’s It Could Happen to You] with the late baritone saxophonist Ronnie Ross and Chris Pyne's Sue’s Blues closing things out [I would imagine that Rik may have had something to do with bringing this rarely heard tune to the recording date].

Here’s what Hans Mantel, bassist, musicologist, producer/host of Jazz programs on radio and television, had to say about the music in his Introduction.  

“The jazz quintet format with baritone sax and trombone has not been a very common one in jazz. There were a few successful groups in the late forties and throughout the fifties with the baritone - trombone combina­tion, such as the Curtis Fuller and Tate Houston Quintet, the Gerry Mulligan/ Bob Brookmeyer group and the "Pepper-Knepper Quintet" with Pepper Adams on baritone sax and trombonist Jimmy Knepper.

To the casual listener it could be tempting to think that these bottom feed­ers among the horns can only produce the most rudimentary of solos by musicians lumbering away on these big, clumsy instruments while the real virtuosity and technical fireworks are left to alto saxophones and trumpets. Nothing could be further from the truth, as is abundantly clear to anyone who has devoted some serious listening to the great jazz mu­sicians that play these instruments. Besides, it's not about technique for technique's sake. It's only about the music and with that comes a sound that the musicians want to project.

This is where the baritone/trombone combination comes into its own. There is a sonority in that sound that is unique. Unique in itself and in combination with the rhythm section. This CD demonstrates that once again and in an admirable way.

Rik van den Bergh has become a prominent voice on the baritone in recent years. He hails from The Hague, the city that has always produced the very best straight ahead, hard-driving jazz musicians in The Netherlands. While forward looking, he has thoroughly absorbed the tradition of the baritone saxophone in jazz and the influence of the great Pepper Adams in clear in his playing.

Trombonist Bart van Lier is one of a handful of best jazz trombonists in the world and among colleagues everywhere his name is mentioned with reverence and for good reason. He has worked with the greatest names in the music and as far as his command of the instrument goes, Bart has set a new standard. He's one of a kind.

The seasoned rhythm section also has The Hague written all over it. Pianist Edgar van Asselt is a very versatile musician with a deep love for all things groovy and he was the perfect choice for this band. Over the last twenty years Marius Beets has become one of the most sought after Dutch bassists. His musical empathy, command of the instrument and his ability to always get down to the nitty-gritty explain why he is one of the busiest bassists in the country.

The list of jazz greats that veteran drummer Eric Ineke has worked with is too long to mention. He is one of the most accomplished European side-men and his playing reflects that. His huge experience of five decades and musical scope are an invaluable addition to the sound of this band.

The tastefully selected repertoire for this CD consists of craftily reworked standards, a few beautiful ballads and some originals. What more do you need? The music swings and it sounds organic and natural in the hands of these accomplished musicians. It's beauty and intensity combined. But make no mistake; this band packs a punch.”

Not to quibble with Professor Mantel’s assessment of the number of ‘bone-bari combinations as the ones he notes are certainly principal among them, but thanks to the knowledge of a chat group to which I am a member, the following combinations of this unusual front-line instrumentation should also be noted [although in many case, these are one-off pairings]. ‘Bone player first and then bari:

- Miff Mole and Jack Washington
- Bob Brookmeyer and Jimmy Giuffre
- Bob Brookmeyer and Gerry Mulligan
- Bill Harris and Jack Nimitz
- Eddie Bert and Gil Melle
- Urbie Green and Gil Melle
- Bill Watrous and Nick Brignola
- Herbie Harper/Bob Enevoldsen and Bob Gordon
- Wycliffe Gordon and Joe Temperley
- Julian Priester and Charles Davis
- Frank Rosolino and Tony Scott
- Jimmy Knepper and Tony Scott
- Ake Persson and Lars Gullin
- Eje Thelin and Lars Gullin
- Roy Williams and John Barnes
- Mark Nightingale and Andy Panayi
- J.J. Johnston and Leo Parker
- Curtis Fuller and Pepper Adams
- Curtis Fuller and Cecil Payne
- Jimmy Knepper and Gary Smulyan
- Maynard Ferguson [vtb] and Bruce Johnstone

 Order information for the CD is available at

Friday, September 20, 2013

Andy Martin: Professional Musicianship At Its Best [From the Archives]

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

How do you make a Jazz trombonist smile?

Have him sit in a big band trombone section when Andy Martin stands up to take a solo.

I’ve seen this happen time and time again.

Whatever the context – Tom Talbert’s Band, the Les Brown Band, Louie Bellson’s Big Band Explosion, the Bill Holman Orchestra, the Phil Norman Tentet, the Carl Saunders Bebop Big Band, the Tom Kubis Orchestra, The Metropole Orchestra of Holland, Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band – Andy’s solos put a knowing smile on the faces of all of his mates in the trombone sections of these bands.

They are all first-rate trombone players, many of whom are excellent soloists themselves and they all know what’s on offer when Andy plays.

A gorgeous tone, flawless technique and musical ideas that just flow seamlessly one after the other; one into the other.

Smooth, pure, powerful: listening to Andy Martin take a solo is the epitome of professional musicianship at its best.

Based on the West Coast, Andy invariably draws comparisons with Frank Rosolino and Carl Fontana, two other monster Jazz trombonists who spent the majority of their careers in and around Southern California.

Andy has done an album with Carl and one that is dedicated to the memory of Frank. You can find more information about these and all of his recordings by visiting his website. It is also a great source for details concerning all aspects of Andy's career.

Distributed in 1998 on Chartmaker Records, I have always been partial to Walkin’ The Walk,  a recording that Andy made with Bill Liston on tenor and a truly superb rhythm section comprised of Tom Ranier on piano [and too rarely heard outside of Southern California], John Clayton on bass and Jeff Hamilton on drums.

Andy’s original composition Line for Lewis is from this CD and forms the audio track on the following video tribute. The tune is based on the melody of the old standard,  Limehouse Blues. Checkout the four bar drum solos that Jeff Hamilton lays down beginning at 3:34 minutes.

You don’t have to be a professional Jazz trombonist to smile when Andy Martin plays. All you have to do is listen; the smile will take care of itself.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The DePaul University Jazz Ensemble with Jeff Hamilton Salutes Woody Herman

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

“Celebrating the 100th birthday of big band jazz leader Woody Herman the DePaul University Jazz Ensemble with drummer and Herman alumnus Jeff Hamilton plays eleven newly crafted arrangements of Woody's greatest hits from the 1940s and 1950s capturing the swing and excitement of the great Woody Herman Herds.”
- Graham Carter, President, JazzedMedia

“There are many reasons why Woody Herman's band was held in such high esteem. For some, the attraction was the saxophone section; for others, the many exceptional soloists; and for all fans, the incredible swinging nature of the band. Yet the canon of literature presented by Woody's band was, and continues to be, a constant source of appeal and integrity.”
- Bob Lark, Director, The DePaul University Jazz Ensemble

Earlier this year, Graham Carter, the owner and proprietor of JazzMedia, commemorated this, the 100th anniversary of the birth of clarinetist and bandleader Woody Herman, with an entertaining an informative DVDWoody Herman: Blue Flame – Portrait of a Jazz Legend.

To locate my earlier review of this documentary, just scroll down a bit on the sidebar [left-hand side of the facing page] or you can check it out at Graham’s website:

As though that wasn’t enough, now comes the news that Graham has commissioned a new interpretive CD of the music associated with Woody’s band.

The DePaul University Jazz Ensemble with Jeff Hamilton Salutes Woody Herman [JM 1064] is set for release on October 8, 2013 and, according to Graham, it contains “… dynamic, swinging … big band performances featuring newly crafted arrangements of eleven tunes from the cannon of Herman's library of the 1940s and 1950s.” Order information will be available on Graham's website and via other retailers.

Graham’s media release goes on to say:

“Woody Herman alumnus Jeff Hamilton is the drummer and guest artist on all selections with the critically acclaimed DePaul University Jazz Ensemble. Jeff’s playing brings unparalleled life and swing to the music.

Especially notable soloists are DePaul Jazz Studies faculty members Bob Lark, Mark Colby and Thomas Matta, and Jazz Ensemble student pianist Pete Benson, alto saxophonist Corbin Andrick, trombonist Bryan Tipps, baritone saxophonist Mark Hiebert, and bassist Matt Ulery.

Fresh, beautifully crafted arrangements by DePaul students, faculty and alumni capture the spirit, swagger and brilliance of the great Woody Herman Herds.”

Bob Lark, the Director of The DePaul University Jazz Ensemble, provided this background information in his insert notes to the recording:

“For this album, Jazzed Media president Graham Carter, Jeff Hamilton and myself spent several months hand-picking the tunes from the canon of literature associated with the Herman bands of the 1940s and 1950s. The DePaul Jazz Ensemble's preparation for this project included listening to recordings of Woody's bands,
with painstaking attention paid to ensemble blend, phrasing and dynamics.

The DePaul University Jazz Ensemble with Jeff Hamilton Salutes Woody Herman is the product of a week-long series of rehearsals and recording sessions that took place in February of 2013. Each of our arrangements was orchestrated to accommodate the Jazz Ensemble's instrumentation of five saxophones (2 alto, 2 tenor and 1 baritone), four trombones, four trumpets, piano, guitar, bass and drums. The intention of our ensemble was not to imitate the great Herman bands, but to create interesting performances via appealing and fresh arrangements.

A well-written big band arrangement can be a catalyst for a good solo improvisation. The eleven arrangements created for this recording provide ample space for the many soloists to display their talents. These charts are rich in harmonic sophistication and rhythmic challenges, yet, they swing! The band and I find these re-settings of classic tunes from the Woody Herman library to sound fresh, interesting and exciting.

Drummer Jeff Hamilton was a key member of The Woody Herman Orchestra starting in 1977. Jeff was elated at the concept of a Woody Herman tribute CD to commemorate Woody's 100th birthday in 2013. Jeff's performance brings to this recording an excitement and muscular precision, all the while reminding us of his considerable musicianship. His drumming provides a spark to the ensemble figures performed by the brass, saxophone and rhythm sections. He sets the tone - and tempo - for this recording.”

For those of you already familiar with Woody’s music, these new interpretations will reaffirm why you became a fan of it in the first place. For those of you who are new to it, The DePaul University Jazz Ensemble with Jeff Hamilton Salutes Woody Herman is a nice place to start and just think; you get to work back through all of the original recordings of Woody’s band from the 1940’s and 50’s [not to mention those from the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s, as well].

Here’s a taste of what’s on hand with Thomas Matta arrangement of Sidewalks of Cuba. Thomas also takes the  bass trombone solo. The trumpet solo is by Dave Kaiser and piano solo is by Pete Benson.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Joe Henderson – Revelatory

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

For nearly thirty years, Henderson has possessed his own sound and has developed his own angles on swing, melody, timbre and harmony, while constantly expanding his own skill at playing in uncommon meters and rhythms. In his playing you hear an imposing variety of harmonic, rhythmic and melodic choices; you also hear his personal appropriation of the technical victories for his instrument achieved by men such as Sonny Stitt, Stan Getz, Sonny Rollins, Warne Marsh, Paul Gonsalves, Johnny Griffin and John Coltrane.

His, then, is a style informed by enormous sophistication, not limited by insufficient study or dependence on eccentric clichés brought into action for the purpose of masking the lack of detailed authority. In this tenor playing there's a relaxation in face of options that stretch from Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young and Charlie Parker to all of the substantial innovations since. So the music of Joe Henderson contains all of the components that make jazz so unique and so influential woven together with the sort of feeling, imagination, soul and technical authority that do the art proud.
- Stanley Crouch, Jazz author and critic

In connection with Joe Henderson’s music, “revelatory” has as it’s meaning so much that is eloquent, expressive and significant that it is difficult to understand how often it is often overlooked, let alone, taken for granted by Jazz fans in general.

Names such as Coleman Hawkins, Chu Berry, Lester Young, Stan Getz, Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane are often mentioned as great tenor saxophonists, but Joe Henderson’s name is rarely among them.

It should be.

Joe’s sound and approach to improvisation are as distinctive and unique as any of the great tenor masters and his influence on generations of Jazz musicians has been huge.

Take for example this assessment of Joe’s significance by guitarist John Scofield:

"Joe Henderson is the essence of jazz ….He embodies musically all the different elements that came together in his generation: hard-bop masterfulness plus the avant-garde. He's a great bopper like Hank Mobley or Sonny Stitt, but he also plays out. He can take it far harmonically, but still with roots. He's a great blues player, a great ballads player. He has one of the most beautiful tones and can set as pretty as Pres or Stan Getz. He's got unbeliev­able time. He can float, but he can also dig in. He can put the music wherever he wants it. He's got his own vocabu­lary, his own phrases he plays all dif­ferent ways, like all the great jazz players. He plays songs in his improv­isations. He'll play a blues shout like something that would come from Joe Turner, next to some of the fastest, outest, most angular, atonal music you've ever heard. Who's playing bet­ter on any instrument, more interest­ingly, more cutting edge yet complete­ly with roots than Joe Henderson? He's my role model in jazz."

And Joe is also no secret to the tenor saxophonists who evolved under his influence in the generation following his such as Joe Lovano and Branford Marsalis.

"Joe Henderson and Wayne Shorter emerged at the same time with their own sounds and rhythms and tunes. They inspired me as a young player …. He's always had his own voice. He's developed his own concepts with the inspirations of the people he dug but without copying them. I hear Joe in other tenor players. I hear not only phrases copped from Joe, but lately I hear younger cats trying to cop his sound. That's who you are as a player: your sound. It's one thing to learn from someone, but to copy his sound is strange. Joe's solo development live is a real journey — and you can't cop that! He's on an adventure whenever he plays."  - Joe Lovano

"Joe Henderson is one of the most influential saxophone players of the 20th century …. I learned all the solos on Mode for Joe and the records he did with McCoy Tyner, a lot of the stuff he's on, like The Prison­er. He was one of the few saxophone players who could really play what I call the modern music, that really came from the bebop tradition but extended the harmonic tradition fur­ther. There's a small group of guys in that pantheon: Coltrane, Wayne Shorter, Warne Marsh, Lucky Thompson, Sonny and Ornette, and Joe Hen. He's an amazing musician. I'm really jaded. I don't really go to the clubs anymore. There's not really anything I want to hear — except when Joe's in town. And when Joe's in town, I'm there every night!"
 – Branford Marsalis

I got to know Joe a bit after the time of his interview with Michael Bourne for Downbeat [March, 1992; see below]. He had just finished the Lush Life [Verve/Polygram 314 511 779-2] tribute to Bill Strayhorn and was working on the charts that would appear a few years later on the Joe Henderson Big Band CD [Verve/Polygram 314 533 451-2].

He and I lived on either side of Divisadero Street in central San Francisco. Divisadero is a north-south traffic throughway  that cuts through several neighborhoods, including Lower HaightAlamo Square, Pacific Heights, and the Marina and offers a kaleidoscopic mix of dining, grocery, and merchant fronts that serve each neighborhood.

The first time we met, Joe was sitting in a barbecue ribs place on Divisadero called The Brothers and while I waited for my take-out order I spotted him sitting quietly in a window seat reading some music scoring sheets.

For years, Joe wore a straw-hat version of Lester Young’s pork-pie hat and big suspenders that adorned shirts with thick, colorful stripes. This garb along with his salt and pepper beard was a dead give-away so I sauntered up to him and said: “You’re Kenny Dorham aren’t you?"  [Joe was close friends with trumpeter and composer Dorham and made his recording debut on Kenny’s Una Mas Blue Note LP.]

He looked up from his scores with a momentary, puzzled look that quickly turned into a smile once he saw that I was wearing one too.

Motioning me to sit down at the table next to him he asked: “And what would you know about Kenny Dorham?”

That conversation in various forms took on a life of its own for a number of years in a variety of Divisadero locations ranging from coffee shops to pizzerias.

During this period, Joe often talked about his big band disc which was issued on Verve in 1996 [314 533 451-2].

I didn’t see him very much after the Joe Henderson Big Band CD was released as by then I had moved to the West Portal area of the city.

Joe died in 2001 at the much-too-young-age of sixty-four [64].

The editorial staff at JazzProfiles wanted to remember Joe on these pages with this interview which is followed by a video playlist of Joe’s original compositions and/or solos by Joe in other settings.

© -Michael Bourne/Downbeat, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

He's not Pres-like or Bird-like, not 'Trane-ish or Newk-ish. None of the stylistic adjec­tives so convenient for critics work for tenor saxist Joe Henderson. It's evident he's listened to the greats: to Lester Young, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins — to them and all the others he's enjoyed. But he doesn't play like them, doesn't sound like them. Joe Henderson is a master, and, like the greats, unique.

When he came along in the '60s, jazz was happening every which way, from mainstream and avant-garde to blues, rock and then some, and everything that was happening he played. Henderson's saxo­phone became a Triton's horn and trans­formed the music, whatever the style, whatever the groove, into himself. And he's no different (or, really, always different) today. There's no "typical" Joe Henderson album, and every solo is, like the soloist, original and unusual, thoughtful and always from the heart.

"I think playing the saxophone is what I'm supposed to be doing on this planet," says Joe Henderson. "We all have to do some­thing. I play the saxo­phone. It's the best way I know that I can     make    the largest number of people happy and get for myself the largest amount of happiness."

Joe was born April 24, 1937, in Lima, Ohio. When he was nine he was tested for musical aptitude. "I wanted to play drums. I'd be making drums out of my mother's pie pans. But they said I'd gotten a high enough score that I could play anything, and they gave me a saxophone. It was a C melody. I played that about six months and went to the tenor. I was kind of born on the tenor." Even before he played, Joe was fasci­nated by his brother's jazz records. "I lis­tened to Lester Young, Flip Phillips, Stan Getz, Charlie Parker, all the people associ­ated with Jazz at the Philharmonic.
This stuff went into my ears early on, so when I started to play the saxophone I had in my mind an idea of how that instrument was supposed to sound. I also heard the rhythm-and-blues saxophone players when they came through my hometown."

Soon he was playing dances and learn­ing melodies with his friends. "I think of playing music on the bandstand like an actor relates to a role. I've always wanted to be the best inter­preter the world has ever seen. Where a preco­cious youngster gets an idea like that is beyond me, but somehow improv­isation set in on me pretty early,

probably before I knew what improvisation was, really. I've always tried to re-create melodies even better than the composers who wrote them. I've always tried to come up with something that never even occurred to them. This is the challenge: not to rearrange the intentions of the composers but to stay within the parameters of what the composers have in mind and be creative and imaginative and meaningful."
One melody that's become almost as much Henderson's as the composer's is Ask Me Now by Thelonious Monk. He's recorded it often, each performance an odyssey of sounds and feelings.

"I play it 75 percent of the time because I like it and the other 25 percent because it's demanded that I play it. I sometimes have to play it twice a night, even three times. That tune just laid around for a while. Monk did an incredible job on it, but other than Monk I don't think I heard anyone play it before I recorded it. It's a great tune, very simple. There are some melodies that just stand by themselves. Gershwin was that kind of writer. You don't even have to improvise. You don't have to do anything but play the melody and people will be pleased. One of the songs like that is Lush Life. That's for me the most beautiful tune ever written. It's even more profound knowing that Hilly Strayhorn wrote it, words and music, when he was 17 or 18. How does an 18-year-old arrive at that point of feeling, that depth'"

Lush Life is the title song of Hender­son's new album of Strayhorn's music. "Musicians have to plant some trees—and replant some trees to extend the life of these good things. Billy Strayhorn was one of the people whose talent should be known. Duke Ellington knew about him, so that says something. There are still a lot of peo­ple who haven't heard Strayhorn's music,  but if I can do something to enable them to become aware of Strayhorn's genius. I'd feel great about that."

Lush Life is the first of several projects he'll record for Verve. Don Sickler worked with Henderson selecting and arranging some of Strayhorn's classics and, with Polygram Jazz VP Richard Seidel, pro­duced the album. Henderson plays Lush Life alone, and, on the other songs he's joined for duets to quintets by four of the brightest young players around, pianist Stephen Scott, bassist Christian McBride, drummer Gregory Hutchinson, and trum­peter Wynton Marsalis. That the interplay of generations is respectful, inspirational and affectionate is obvious.

"I think this was part of it, to present some of the youngsters with one of the more established voices. This is the natural way that it happens. This is the way it hap­pened for me. I wouldn't have met the peo­ple I met if it hadn't been for Kenny Dorham, Horace Silver, Miles Davis, peo­ple I've been on the bandstand with. They introduced me to their audience. We have to do things like this. When older musicians like me find people who can continue the tradition, we have to create ways to bring these people to the fore."

Henderson came to the fore in the '60s. He'd studied for a year at Kentucky State, then four years at Wayne State in Detroit, where he often gigged alongside Yusef Lateef, Barry Harris, Hugh Lawson and Donald Byrd. He was drafted in 1960 and played bass in a military show that traveled the world. While touring in 1961, he met and played with Bud Powell and Kenny Clarke in Paris. Once he was dis­charged in 1962, he settled in New York, where so many of his friends from Detroit were already regulars, and where trum­peter Kenny Dorham became a brother.

"Kenny Dorham was one of the most important creators in New York, and he's damn near a name you don't hear any­more. That's a shame. How can you over­look a diamond in the rough like him? There haven't been that many people who have that much on the ball creatively as Kenny Dorham."

Henderson's first professional record­ing was Dorham's album Una Mas, the first of many albums he recorded through the '60s as a sideman or a leader for Blue Note. This was the classic time of Blue Note, and what's most remarkable is the variety of music Henderson played, from the grooves of Lee Morgan's The Sidewinder to the avant-garde sounds of Andrew Hill's Point of Departure. Whatever was happening musically, Joe Henderson was a natural.

"That's part of what I wanted to do early on — be the best interpreter I could pos­sibly be. I wanted to interpret Andrew Hill's music better than he could write it, the same with Duke Pearson and Horace Silver. I'd study and try to find ways of being imagina­tive and interesting for this music without changing the music around. I didn't want to make Horace Silver's music different from what he had in mind. I wanted to make it even more of what he had in mind."

He joined the Horace Silver band for several years and fronted a big band with
Kenny Dorham — music he'll re-create and record this year at Lincoln Center. He worked with Blood, Sweat and Tears for a minute in 1969, but quit to work with Miles Davis.

"Miles, Wayne Shorter and I were the only constants in the band. I never knew who was going to show up. There'd be a different drummer every night—Tony Williams, Jack De Johnette, Billy Cobham. Ron Carter would play one night, next night Miroslav Vitous or Eddie Gomez. Chick Corea would play one night, next night Herbie Hancock. It never settled. We played all around but never recorded. This was previous to everyone having Walkman recorders. Miles had a great sense of humor. I couldn't stop laughing. I'd be on the bandstand and I'd remember some­thing he said in the car to the gig, and right in the middle of a phrase I'd crack up!"

Henderson's worked more and more as a leader ever since, and recorded many albums, like Lush Life, with particular ideals. He recorded "concept" albums like The Elements with Alice Coltrane and was among the first to experiment with the new sounds of synthesizers. He composed tunes like Power to the People with a more social point of view. "I got politically involved in a musical way. Especially in the '60s, when people were trying to effect a cure for the ills that have beset this country for such a long time, I thought I'd use the music to convey some of my thoughts. I'd think of a title like Black Narcissus, and then put the music together. I'd try to create a nice melody, but at the same time, when people heard it on the radio, a title like Afro-Centric or Power to the People made a statement."

Words have always inspired Joe Hen­derson. "I try to create ideas in a musical way the same as writers try to create images with words. I use the mechanics of writing in playing solos. I use quotations. I use com­mas, semicolons. Pepper Adams turned me on to a writer, Henry Robinson. He wrote a sentence that spanned three or four pages before the period came. And it wasn't a stream of consciousness that went on and on and on. He was stopping, pausing in places with hyphens, brackets around things. He kept moving from left to right with this thought. I can remember in Detroit trying to do that, trying to play the longest meaningful phrase that I could pos­sibly play before I took the obvious breath."

Henderson names Truman Capote, Norman Mailer, Herman Hesse and the Bible among his favorites. "I think the creative faculties are the same whether you're a musician, a writer, a painter. I can appre­ciate a painter as if he were a musician playing a phrase with a stroke, the way he'll match two colors together the same as I'll match two tones together."

He tells a story uniquely as a soloist and composer, and he's inspired many musicians through the years. But what sometimes bothers Henderson is when oth­ers imitate his strokes and his colors, but don't name the source. He heard a popular tenor saxist a while ago and was staggered. "I heard eight bars at a time that I know I worked out. I can tell you when I worked the music out. I can show you the music when I was putting it together. But when guys like this do an interview they don't acknowledge me. I'm not about to be bitter about this, but I've always felt good about acknowledging people who've had some­thing to do with what I'm about. I've played the ideas of other people—Lester Young, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Lee Konitz, Stan Getz — and I mention these guys whenever I do an interview. But there are players who are putting stuff out as if it's their music and they didn't create it. I did."

He's nonetheless happy these days and amused about some of the excitement about Lush Life, that the new album, like every new album from Joe Henderson, feels like a comeback. "I have by no means vanished from the scene. I've never stopped playing. I'm very much at home in the trenches. I'm right out there on the front line. That's where I exist. I've been inspired joining the family at Polygram in a way I haven't been inspired in a long time. I'm gonna get busy and do what I'm supposed to do."

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Brew Moore – More Brew

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

Gordon Jack, author of one of our favorite books – Fifties Jazz Talk: An Oral Retrospective [Lanham, MD.: Scarecrow Press, 2004] - recently “stopped by” and granted the editorial staff at JazzProfiles copyright permission to use his essay on Brew Moore which appeared in the May/2013 edition of The Jazz Journal.

We thought we’d combine it with our earlier feature on the late, tenor saxophonist, hence the title of this piece.

Order information regarding The Jazz Journal is at

© -Gordon Jack/Jazz Journal, May/2013, copyright protected; all rights reserved. Used with the author’s permission.

“BREW MOORE by Gordon Jack
On the 8th. April 1949 five of the best young Prez-influenced tenors assembled in a New York studio to record original material by Al Cohn and Gerry Mulligan. Allen Eager, Al Cohn, Stan Getz and Zoot Sims were already well known but the fifth man, Brew Moore was destined to remain under the jazz radar throughout a fairly brief career. As if acknowledging his low profile he is the only one to have one of the titles recorded that day dedicated to him - Four And One Moore by Mulligan.

Milton Aubrey Moore Jnr. was born in Indianola, Mississippi on the 26th. March 1924. After briefly attending Ole Miss (the University of Mississippi) he started playing in Memphis and New Orleans burlesque clubs like the Puppy House and the Kitten Club. He was making $23.00 a week which was good money for the time playing behind exotic dancers like Kalema And Her Pythons. He once said that he was 21 years old before he saw a naked woman from the front.

By 1948 he made his way to New York where he had to wait six months for his Local 802 union card which would allow him to work in the city. He was one of the regulars though along with Mulligan, Sims, George Wallington, Kenny Drew and Warne Marsh who played in private sessions at Don Jose’s studio, a fourth floor walk-up on West 49th. Street. The studio was characterised by a red door which became the title of a well known Sims/Mulligan original and much later Dave Frishberg added a very hip lyric (Zoot Walks In). He did manage to get the occasional booking in Brooklyn strip clubs with the young Mike Zwerin who described him as one of the ‘White Presidents’.

In 1949 Brew worked briefly with Claude Thornhill who he said, “Was some kind of freak genius. He could take the worst, out of tune piano and make it sound in tune.” The band loved his playing but apparently found him hard to handle because of his heavy drinking which nevertheless did not affect his playing. Ironically, Serge Chaloff who had his own personal demons was warned by his mother (the celebrated Madam Margaret) to keep away from Brew because of his extreme behaviour. She thought he was a bad influence!

By now he was playing regularly at the Royal Roost and Bop City in a Kai Winding group which included Mulligan, Wallington, Curley Russell, and Max Roach or Roy Haynes. They worked as far afield as Tootie’s Mayfair in Kansas City where Bob Brookmeyer sat in and they recorded no less than 14 titles in 1949. Occasionally trumpeter Jerry Lloyd (aka Hurwitz) was added. He had played with Charlie Parker and was highly regarded by his colleagues but his recordings never seemed to do him justice as a soloist. He composed two fine originals for the group – Mud Bug and Igloo – but by the late fifties he had dropped out of music and was driving a cab in New York to make ends meet. Some enterprising label (Fresh Sound perhaps?) should reissue all the material Moore recorded with Kai Winding because titles like Sid’s Bounce, Night On Bop Mountain and Lestorian Mode feature some of his finest work.

In the late ‘40s he began a long romance with Arlyne Brown (songwriter Lew Brown’s daughter) which continued until 1953 when she became Mrs. Gerry Mulligan. Arlyne once described him to me as, “A soft, sweet, southern boy with an enormous talent looking like a combination of Leslie Howard and James Dean”.

He often performed with Machito’s Afro-Cuban orchestra at Birdland and the Apollo and he can be heard on their recording of Cubop City. Harry Belafonte once sat in with the band at Birdland and Brew has a solo on the singer’s debut recording Lean On Me with Howard McGhee’s orchestra. Soon after yet another Birdland engagement this time with Miles Davis, JJ Johnson and Charlie Parker, he returned home to New Orleans where he apparently lived in a ‘dive’ with Joe Pass and writer William S. Burroughs. While he was working there he drove up to Baton Rouge for a two week engagement at the Flamingo with Mose Allison. The pianist told me that he had heard Brew in many situations, “But even on the dumbest gig with people that could barely play he always sounded terrific. He was a very bright, sensitive character who could also write poetry. He was something of a hero to all the southern guys because he was the first one of us to work and record in New York”.

He continued working in the south but early in 1953 he was booked to appear with Charlie Parker in Montreal for a TV performance on CBFT’s ‘Jazz Workshop’. Returning to New York he recorded with Chuck Wayne and then re-joined Kai Winding at Birdland. The arrangements were by Tom Talbert and Winding’s group included Phil Urso, Cecil Payne, Walter Bishop Jnr., Percy Heath and Philly Joe Jones. In an enthusiastic Metronome review George T. Simon said, “The soloists are all good notably Kai and Brew Moore who blows some mighty exciting, moving, well-toned horn. Urso keeps up with him some of the time (the two engage in cutting sessions now and then) but he has neither Brew’s ideas nor his drive.”

Brew worked fairly steadily at the Open Door in Greenwich Village usually with Don Joseph or Tony Fruscella along with Bill Triglia and Teddy Kotick. There were always a number of drummers available like Nick Stabulas, Al Levitt or Art Mardigan and Freddy Gruber kept his kit there when he was not working. Charlie Parker was often the featured attraction and on one occasion he and Brew ‘goosed’ each other as they slowly ambled around the dance floor. They finished up serenading a large piece of chewing gum stuck to the floor. Another of Brew’s favourite haunts in Greenwich Village was Arthur’s Tavern where Parker often held forth. Once when the great man didn’t have his alto, he borrowed Brew’s tenor. Arthur’s Tavern opened in 1937 and is still going strong – no cover charge, minimum one drink per set.

Some time in 1955 folk singer Billy Faier drove through Washington Square shouting “Anybody for the coast?”. Brew’s gig book was anything but full so he joined Billy who also had Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Woody Guthrie in the car. Brew left them in Los Angeles and took the bus to San Francisco which was to become the centre for the new beat culture.

The years spent in California were busy and productive ones. He worked regularly at the Black Hawk and the Jazz Cellar where Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Kenneth Rexroth gave poetry readings. It was probably at one of these clubs that Jack Kerouac heard him because he mentions listening to Brew in his book Desolation Angels. He had a popular two-tenor group with Harold Wylie at The Tropics and he recorded with Cal Tjader for Fantasy. He also appeared at the 1958 Monterey Jazz Festival with trumpeter Dickie Mills and he sat in for a set there with Gerry Mulligan.

He always said, “I go where the work is” and in 1961 he emigrated to Europe. He did six months at The Blue Note in Paris with Kenny Clarke and appeared at the Berlin Jazz Festival with Herb Geller who told me, “He was a wonderful, natural player like Zoot. It was strictly talent and intuition with both of them. I was very fond of Brew”. He worked extensively in Sweden and Denmark throughout the sixties but often returned to the States doing casuals in Manhattan. He played at the Half Note with Bill Berry and on one occasion there Anita O’Day and Judy Garland were also on the bill. He was featured at Newport in a jam session in 1969 which was the year he played Danny’s Restaurant and The Scene with Dave Frishberg. John Carisi sat in at Danny’s and Dan Morgenstern’s Downbeat review said, “Brew is incapable of playing a dishonest note. His music is just pure and loving and a joy to hear.” Ira Gitler was similarly impressed at The Scene, “Moore’s brand of emotional, romantic, hard swinging music captivated the waitresses and bartenders as well as the regulars. Brew was beautiful.”

The story of how Brew Moore died in Copenhagen in 1973 has become an established part of jazz folk lore but not all the details are well known. He gave a party to celebrate an inheritance and during the festivities fell down some stairs and broke his neck. Mose Allison filled in the gaps for me a few years ago – “Brew had been staying at Carmen Massey’s house in Biloxi when he heard he had inherited all this money. He had been scuffling on the fringes of the jazz world all his life and never made much at all. He left for Europe and discovered he had lost a good luck charm he had been carrying around for years. He wrote to Carmen asking him to check if he had left it at the house. The next thing Carmen hears is that Brew had died and a few days later they found Brew’s lucky charm. That story sounds like something out of Truman Capote.” As Herb Geller once said, “It could only happen to a jazz musician.”

Brew Moore: A Wandering, Soulful Tenor Saxophonist

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

“Moore was a terrific, but star-crossed tenor player, at his best as good as Getz and Sims, but never able to get a career together as they did. He left only a small number of records behind him ….”
- Richard Cook and Brian Morton, The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, 6th Ed.

If, as Louis Armstrong’s states – “Jazz is only who you are” – then the inventiveness and spontaneous nature of tenor saxophone Brew Moore’s music was certainly reflective of his wandering and constantly searching lifestyle.

Mark Gardner, the distinguished Jazz author offered these insights about Brew in the liner notes to Brothers and Other Mothers [Savoy Records SJL2210].

“Milton A. Moore Jr. was a drifter, a born loser, a hero of the beat generation and a brilliant saxophonist. Yes, he once remarked that any tenorman who did not play like Pres was playing wrong-that was the extent of his admiration.

Moore was born in Indianola, Mississippi, on March 26, 1924, and his first musical instrument was a harmonica given to him by his mother as a seventh birthday present. He played in his high school band and at 18 got a job with Fred Ford's dixieland band. He arrived in New York during 1943 and heard what bebop was all about. He would return to New York several times in the late forties to lead his own quartet, work with Claude Thornhill (an unlikely environment), swing his tail off in front of Machito's Afro-Cubans, gig with Gerry Mulligan and Kai Winding at the Royal Roost and Bop City.

Moore was never around one place for too long. He would take off for Memphis or New Orleans, playing all kinds of weird jobs ("I go where the work is"). Around 1953-54 he was on the Greenwich Village scene, a frequent jammer at Bob Reisner's Open Door where other cats playing mostly for kicks and little bread included Thelonious Monk. Charlie Parker, Charlie Mingus and Roy Haynes. It was at the Open Door that Bird and Brew once serenaded a piece of chewing gum stuck to the floor. Recently discovered recordings also found Parker and Moore together on 1953 sessions in Montreal, Canada.

One day in the 'fifties Brew casually took off for California. As Moore told it, "Billy Faier had a 1949 Buick and somebody wanted him to drive it out to California and he rode through Washington Square shouting 'anyone for the Coast?' And I was just sitting there on a bench and there wasn't s*** shaking in New York so I-said 'hell, yes,' and when we started off there was Rambling Jack Elliot and Woody Guthrie." After Woody heard Brew play at the roadside en route he refused to speak again to the saxophonist.

Guthrie didn't dig jazz. "But we were the only juice heads in the car so Woody would say to Jack or Billy, 'Would you ask Brew if he'd like to split a bottle of port with me, and I'd say, 'You tell Woody that's cool with me.' Then they let me off in L.A. and I took a bus up to San Francisco."

Before that fantastic journey. Brew had worked around with his buddy Tony Fruscella, a beautiful trumpeter who was also over-fond of the juice. Allen Eager was also a regular playing partner of Fruscella's. Brew stayed in Frisco for about five years, played all over town, made a couple of albums under his own name, recorded with Cal Tjader and drank a lot of wine. He was seriously ill in 1959 but recovered and in 1961 moved to Europe and for three years drifted around the Continent.

Twice in the 1960's he returned to the States but there was still no s*** shaking and nobody bothered to record him properly (a date as a sideman with Ray Nance was the only evidence of the final, unhappy return). His parents were very old and his mother sick. Brew was far from well and didn't look after himself. Friends kept an eye on him and tried to ensure that he ate regularly but Moore was almost past caring.

When he decided to split back to Scandinavia via the Canary Islands where he played at Jimmy Gourley's Half Note Club in Las Palmas, some of his admirers in New York produced a four-page newspaper called "Brew Moore News," in which Brew wrote a touching little verse:

Love I feel, but longing much;
Thy face I see, but cannot touch.
Your presence in heart is good, I know,
but hand in hand-it's greater so.

Time was running out for Brew. There was one more album - a great set made at a Stockholm club [Stampen] where Moore really grooved. Then came the news that he had died after falling down a flight of steps in a restaurant.

The final irony: Brew, who had scuffled and scraped for cash almost all his life, had just been left a substantial sum of money, to give him genuine security, by a relative who had died. It happened too late.”

“Scuffling” is very much the byword when talking about Brew as one has to jump here and there to find the few scraps of information and opinion that has been written about him in that Jazz literature.

Jazz author and critic, Ralph J, Gleason, had this to say about him in the insert notes to one of Brew’s best recordings – The Brew Moore Quintet [Fantasy 3-2222 –OJCCD 100-2]:

Mainly main idea is to get back to simplicity.' says Brew Moore of his work these days. "I like a small group—such as the quintet we have on this album—where there is no other front line and I can let myself go. The biggest kick to me in playing is swinging-freedom and movement. And with a small group, I can do this more easily.

"Music must be a personal expression of one's own world and way of life. When every­thing else gets to be a drag there is music for forgetfulness and also for memory and or a reminder that there is more good than bad in most things. The idea of playing for me is to compose a different, not always better I'm afraid, melody on the tune and basis of the original song, rather than construct a series of chord progressions around the original chords. I feel that in several spots in this group of tunes we attain the rapport necessary for good jazz. I hope so."

And when you listen to these numbers, you will agree that Brew … has done what he set out to do. These all swing and even Brew, who is most critical of his own work ("I guess I never have been happy with anything I did") had to say of this album, "It swings. You can say that."

Brew has two absolutely golden gifts. He swings like mad and he has soul. These are things you cannot learn by wood-shedding [practicing], or in any conservatory. You have to be born with them or learn them by living. Brew had them and he also has a priceless gift for phrasing.

"Everything he plays lays just right," one musician put it. It certainly does. …  When Brew says it, he says it simply, but it rings true. That's the best way there is.”

Ted Gioia, in his definitive West Coast Jazz: Modern Jazz in California, 1945-1960 encapsulates the essence of Brew and his career when he writes:

“After high school Moore began a peripatetic career that brought him little fame but gave him a heady taste for life on the move. …

By the time he moved to San Francisco [1954], Moore had achieved a reputation for excellence among Jazz insiders …. Jack Kerouac depicts a Moore performance in Desolation Angels, where Brew (or Brue, as Kerouac spells it) starts his solo with, the beat prosodist tells us, "a perfect beautiful new idea that announces the glory of the future world.”

This future glory eluded Moore to the end. His quartet and quintet albums on Fantasy, made during his California years, were his last commercial recordings in the United States. These along with his sideman re­cordings with Tjader, find the tenorist at absolutely top form, stretching out over standards with an impressive melodic and rhythmic inventiveness. In 1961, he moved to Europe, where, except for intermittent appearances in the United States, he lived until his death in 1973 as the result of a fall.”

To give you a sampling of what’s on offer in Brew Moore’s music, with the help of the crackerjack graphics team at CerraJazz LTD, we put together the following video tribute to Brew on which he performs You Stepped Out of a Dream with Swedish baritone saxophonist Lars Gullin [who also did the arrangement], Bent Axen [p], Niels-Henning Orsted-Pedersen [b] and William Schioppfe [d]. The music was recorded in Copenhagen in 1962.