Saturday, September 27, 2014

“Fine As [Phineas] Can Be”: Phineas Newborn, Jr.[From the Archives]

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved

While developing the video montage located at the end of this piece on which Phineas Newborn, Jr. performs Stevie Wonder's You Are The Sunshine of My Life with Ray Brown on bass and Jimmy Smith on drums, the editorial staff at JazzProfiles thought it would be fun to add some new images to this feature and re-post it to the blog.

As stated in the annotation the accompanies the video of his appearance on Jazz Scene USA 1962: "Now that the dust of history has settled, there can be no question that Phineas Newborn, Jr. [1931-1989] was/is one of Jazz's most important and enduring pianists. 

Blinded by his dazzling technique during the time he was on the scene, many critics dismissed him without catching on to his brilliant musicality.

We are fortunate that some producers (most notably Lester Koenig at Contemporary) saw fit to capture newborn's artistry on record with at least some regularity."

As pointed out in the original piece, bassist Ray Brown had a great deal to do with keeping Phineas in the studios at Contemporary. After Les Koenig passed away, Ray enlisted the aid of Norman Granz at Pablo to record the reclusive Phineas.

While Norman's massive efforts on behalf of Jazz and its makers has finally been well-documented in Tad Hershorn's biography - Norman Granz: The Man Who Used Jazz For Justice - one wonders if the impresario efforts of Ray Brown will ever be documented in such fine fashion.

Dating back to his days with Dizzy Gillespie's Big Band in the mid-1940's until his death in 2002, Ray did so much to produce in-performance and recorded Jazz at the highest levels, efforts which, in many cases, remain anecdotal and largely undocumented.

Thank goodness Ray held Phineas near-and-dear-to-his-heart and created scenarios that brought him into the recording studio from time-to-time or the career of this great Jazz pianist would have been largely confined to recordings he made from about 1955-1965 [Phineas died in 1989.].

As a case in point, the recording of You Are The Sunshine of My Life that forms the sound track on the closing video was recorded in 1976.

In addition to Phineas, Ray formed trios with pianists including Gene Harris, Benny Green, Larry Fuller, Geoff Keezer, Dado Moroni, not to mention his legendary association with pianist Oscar Peterson in the 1950s.

And then there are the numerous artists that Ray managed, including, for many years, vocalist Ella Fitzgerald, the almost countless number of recordings he made with artists that Norman Granz represented on his Verve and Pablo Records labels, and the Jazz concerts he produced both domestically and internationally for over forty [40] years.

I doubt that this side of Ray Brown's contributions to Jazz will ever be researched and written; I hope I'm wrong.

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

“This is the greatest thing that ever happened to Jazz – the greatest pianist playing today.  In every respect, he’s tremendous. He is just beautiful. A wonderful Jazz musician,”
- Jazz pianist, Gene Harris

“Technically, he was sometimes claimed to run a close second to Art Tatum. In reality, Newborn was a more effective player at slower tempos and with fewer notes; but he could be dazzling when he chose,…. A sensitive and troubled soul, even the lightest of his performances point to hidden depths of emotion.”
- Richard Cook and Brian Morton, The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, 6th Ed.

“I hear in him all that is emotional, as well as all that is cerebral and virtuosic, about jazz piano in one of its most sophisticated forms.”
- Leonard Feather

Legendary bassist Ray Brown, along with Les Koenig of Contemporary Records and Norman Granz at Pablo Records, were largely responsible for insuring that one of the greatest Jazz pianists of all-time – Phineas Newborn, Jr. [1931-1989] - didn’t slip into total obscurity following his initial acclaim.

Although Phineas was not a celebrity, he was highly regarded by knowledgeable Jazz fans, especially in the 1950's and 60's. ''In his prime, he was one of the three greatest jazz pianists of all time, right up there with Bud Powell and Art Tatum,'' said the late Leonard Feather, who for many years served as a Jazz critic for Downbeat magazine and The Los Angeles Times.

There was a time when Phineas looked set for stardom, but mental problems forced him to return to Memphis in the '60s, where he spent his remaining years struggling against the alcohol and drug problems that exacerbated an already fragile emotional state.

Whenever Phineas [who prefers to pronounce his name - “Fine as, ” with the accent of the first syllable, hence the title of Ray’s tribute tune] could pull himself together, Ray Brown brought him into the studio and recorded him in a trio setting along with Ray on bass and such drummers as Jimmy Smith or Elvin Jones on drums.

I got to know Phineas a little during the early 1960s when he played one of the week nights at The Manne Hole, drummer Shelly Manne’s venerable club in Hollywood. He usually worked with bassist Jimmy Bond and drummer Milt Turner, but drummer Frank Butler often performed with him, as well.

One night he told me “his [my] Count Basie story.  It seems that Bill Basie was a friend of his Dad, a drummer who led a Rhythm & Blues band on Memphis’ famous Beale Street during the late 1930s.  Basie nicknamed Phineas, Jr. “Bright Eyes” because ‘as a boy his eyes would light-up as soon as he heard the music!’”

It was staggering to try and take-in all that Phineas had to offer. His technique was phenomenal and he tossed off so many ideas while improvising that if you stopped concentrating even for a second you were lost.  Listening to him in such an informal and personal setting was an exhilarating experience. Sadly, it was often not much of a shared experience as he hardly drew an audience.

The legendary Jazz pianist George Shearing once said that the “trick” to this music is getting it from the head and into the hands. Based on my first-hand observation of Phineas, I had the feeling that he had invented the “trick!”

With his technique, harmonic mastery, rhythmic displacement, and brilliant tone, Phineas Newborn, Jr. was nothing short of a Jazz piano phenomena.

But prodigious technique is frequently more of a curse than a blessing in Jazz circles and is often heavily criticized.

As the late Jazz writer, Leonard Feather, pointed out in his liner notes to Phineas Newborn, Jr.: A World of Piano [Contemporary LP S-7600; OJCCD 175-2]:

“There has always been a tendency among music experts, and by no means only in jazz, to harbor misgivings about technical perfection. The automatic-reflex reaction is: yes, all the notes are there and all the fingers are flying, but what is he really saying? How about the emotional communication?

Art Tatum at the apex of his creative powers suffered this kind of treatment at the hands of a not inconsiderable pro­portion of the critics. Buddy De Franco, of course, has been a consistent victim. Phineas has been in similar trouble, and not because of any lack in his ability to transmit emotion but possibly, I suspect, because of the listeners' reluctance or in­ability to receive it. Nat Hentoff, in the notes for Maggie's Back in Town, pointed out that Phineas has "harnessed his prodigious technique during the past couple of years into more emotionally meaningful directions!" True, though conservative; I would lengthen the harness to four or five years. During that time, too, the technique has taken on even more astonish­ing means to accomplish even more incredible ends — witness one ploy that is uniquely remarkable: the ad lib use of galvanic lines played by both hands two octaves apart. Today, bearing in mind that Bernard Peiffer is French and Oscar Peterson Canadian, it would not be extravagant to claim that Phineas has no equal among American jazz pianists, from any standpoint, technical or esthetic. He is a moving, swinging, pianistically perfect gas.”

George Wein, the impresario who founded the Newport Jazz Festival, wrote these thoughts about Phineas and his music in 1956 as the liner notes to Phineas’ first album for Atlantic Records Here is Phineas [#1235; reissued on CD as Koch 8505].

For years now I've listened to people scream at me about unknown pianists they have discovered. "He’s greater than Bud . "He cuts Oscar . "He leaves Tatum standing still". As many times as I have heard these cries, that is how often I have been disappointed. In­variably, these unknowns are, at their best, simply minor talents, and, at their worst, pale copies of great pianists.

About a year ago I began to hear stories about a fan­tastic pianist in MemphisTenn. with the almost quaint sounding name of Phineas Newborn. Jr. Men I re­spected, such as John Hammond, Willard Alexander and, of course. Count Basic, among many others, insisted that I must hear this guy. Due to my previous sad experiences, I could not get excited. However, when I got a chance to really hear Phineas in Storyville [a nightclub in Boston which Wein owned], for the first time I was not disappointed. The unknown had lived up to his press notices.

Phineas Newborn, Jr. was born December 14. 1932 in MemphisTenn. I believe this makes him all of 23 years old at the recording of this album. In all my years of listening to music I have never encountered a music­ian of such tender years who had such a fantastic com­mand of his instrument. Perhaps my reaction to Phineas can be traced to my personal concern with the piano. If this was my only reason for liking him, then I say it would be sufficient, for to my knowledge the only pianist who has as great, or greater command of the piano is Art Tatum.

Phineas is a two handed pianist, as opposed to the tendency of modern pianists to dwell on the single finger, right hand style. The only time he can be ac­cused of being a one-handed pianist is when he puts his right hand in his pocket and plays two choruses of a ballad, such as Embraceable You. exclusively with his left hand. Unfortunately, he does not do this in this album, but when you see him in person, ask him to play a left-handed solo for you. His left hand is de­veloped to such an extent that he can and does execute any passage or chord with his left hand that he would do with his right. When you realize that he has the fattest right hand of anyone since Tatum (he might even exceed Tatum for sheer speed) then you get an
idea of just what happens.

However, technique is only one facet of music. What of Phineas' basic musical style? From whence does he come and where is he going?

First, let me warn the reader of what not to do upon first hearing Phineas. Do not be so overpowered by his technique that you neglect to listen to the music he plays. Through all his technical intricacies I hear a wonderful musical mind, a mind that without copying has absorbed the music of the jazz masters. I get a funny feeling when I hear Phineas. I concentrate on his fan­tastically-"Bird'-influenced ideas and then I can't help but get the feeling that at any moment he is going to swing right into a Waller-James P. Johnson stride piano effect. He never quite does and I sometimes wish he would.

Phineas says his first jazz idols were Bird, Dizzy and Bud Powell. Later on, after he had begun to develop his own style, he heard Tatum. There is no doubt of the influence that these men left on Phineas. There is also evidence that he has listened to Erroll Garner.

However, there is never a question that Phineas has a unique approach to music. (In this album I believe Daahoud comes the closest to defining the Phineas Newborn style).

The only real criticism I have of his playing can be traced to his immaturity, both musically and in years. He tends to want to play everything in the same tempo. To be more explicit, he feels so relaxed at up-tempos that even in ballads he resorts to double-timing in order to utilize his technique. Also, he has a few figures of which he is fond. These appear a little too often in his playing. As soon as Phineas gets over the idea that he must create an impression the first time around the nightclub circuit, I am sure these minor faults will disappear.

Biographically, Phineas' history is not startling. The son of Phineas Newborn, Sr., a fine drummer and band leader in Memphis, he and his brother, Calvin, one year his junior, had an early musical beginning (Calvin plays guitar in the Phineas Newborn Quartet and is heard on some of the sides in this album). Phineas started the study of piano at the age of six with the pianist in his fathers band. He continued right through high (trumpet, tuba, baritone horn, French horn). Later on, he learned the vibes, and in college and the Arm/ he acquired the baritone, tenor and alto saxophones. Those who have heard him say he is nearly as fantastic on these various instruments as he is on the piano. For­tunately, Phineas has concentrated on piano and does not try to impress us with his versatility.

His formal education, in addition to graduating from the Memphis School System, consists of two years as a music major at Tenn. A & I. Later on he spent a year at Lemoyne College in Memphis, before he was drafted into the Army in August 1953. He was discharged in June 1955, and played with his father's band until last month when he made the break after the Willard Alex­ander agency convinced him he should come North and let the world hear his talent. I am sure that Count Basic, who is Phineas' greatest booster, had much influence on his decision.

As in any record, the music in this album speaks for itself. My personal favorites are the Clifford Brown Daahoud, and a very Tatumesque Newport Blues. I also like his treatment of the Ellington standard I’m Beginning to See the Light. He is accompanied very ably by two jazz greats, Oscar Pettiford on bass and Kenny Clarke on drums, in addition to his brother Calvin on guitar.                                             


Leonard Feather, who, as noted, became an early and frequent champion of Phineas’ music, offered these cogent observations about him and comparisons with other Jazz pianists in the liner notes to Phineas’ 1969 Contemporary album, Please Send Me Someone to Love [S-7622; OJCCD 947-2:

“For a more than a half century, there was a series of evolutions in keyboard jazz, which originated in ragtime, then was marked by the successive advent of stride, with its volleying left hand; horn-style piano, characterized mainly by a fusillade of octaves or long runs of single notes in the right hand; bebop piano, with its central concern for harmonic experiments and relatively limited left-hand punctua­tions; and a 1950s trend marked by a concern for rich, full chords and a more expansive left-hand concept.

The only pianist who succeeded in absorbing many character­istics of each of these phases, in fact the first authentic and com­plete virtuoso of jazz piano, was Art Tatum. His death in 1956 seemed to close the book; there was no room for development, no area to examine that he had not already explored.

Time has shown that there were indeed other directions. The atonal improvisations of Cecil Taylor were acclaimed by many observers as taking jazz forward into a freer, more abstract music. Bill Evans launched what I once characterized, in an essay on jazz piano for Show magazine (July 1963), as the Serenity School, cre­ating new harmonic avenues, new voicings, swinging without hammering, asserting tersely yet subtly, rarely rising above a mezzo-forte. McCoy Tyner, armed with exceptional technical facili­ty, moved along still another route with extensive use of modes as a departure from the traditional chordal basis.

All these changes during the late 1950s and throughout the '60s did nothing to demolish the theory that Art Tatum represent­ed the ultimate. Coincidentally, it was during the year of Tatum's death that Phineas Newborn, Jr. first came to New York and emerged from Memphis obscurity (he was born Dec. 14,1931 in WhitevilleTenn.) to establish himself as the new pianistic pianist, in the Tatum tradition.

In the abovementioned Show article, I wrote: "Most astonish­ing of the dexterous modernists is Phineas Newborn, Jr. As small, timid, and frail as Peterson is big and burly, Newborn belies his meek manner with a relentlessly aggressive style. His technique can handle any mechanical problem and he has, moreover, a quick, sensitive response to the interaction of melody and harmo­ny." Commenting that most critics tended to be skeptical of tech­nical perfection, I wrote of Newborn's A World of Piano! album (Contemporary S-7600) that it was "the most stunning piano set since Tatum's salad days in the 1930s."

A year later, in 1964, I went out on a rare limb to declare unequivocally, in Down Beat, "Newborn is the greatest living jazz pianist."

Five years later, while perfectly content to let that categorical statement remain on the record, I reflected on what esthetic, what ratiocination led me to this conclusion. Under the spell of a set by Peterson in top form I might have made a similar remark. In either case, my reaction would have been primarily emotional, but the emotions in evaluating a work of art are often guided, per­haps subliminally, by a consciousness of the craftsmanship required for its creation.

Despite the chattering of the anti-intellectuals, I cannot see how any possible advantage can be found in technical limitation. Clearly technique can be abused, or used without imagination; 1 can think of a dozen popular pianists, some of them well-known via network television, who have made this point painfully clear. But a man like Newborn, who reached his present command of the instrument by practicing perhaps six or seven hours a day, automatically has an advantage over the simplistic artist, who resorts to simple figures and clich├ęs only because that is as far as his fingers and mind will take him.

Phineas demonstrates all the virtues and none of the handi­caps (if there are any) inherent in knowing how to use the piano. Taking him on his own terms, he's an involved, committed artist, for whom the instrument is virtually an extension of the man. This would not be possible if he were in any way hamstrung by not being able to execute whatever idea may cross his mind.

I won't deny that when he uses a personal device, such as the parallel lines in unison an octave apart, I am impressed by the ease with which he dashes off such passages; but even more meaningful to me is the originality and artistry of the melodic structure he has been able to build.

When Phineas plays the blues, as he does on at least three tracks in this album, it is not down-home, backwoods blues, but it's just as deep a shade of blue, and comes just as straight from the heart, as if he were a primitive trying to make something meaningful out of three chord changes and a couple of riffs. I hear in him all that is emotional, as well as all that is cerebral and virtuosic, about jazz piano in one of its most sophisticated forms.”

If you spend some time listening to the music of Phineas Newborn, Jr., I think that it would be safe to say that you, too will “… hear in him all that is emotional, as well as all that is cerebral and virtuosic, about jazz piano in one of its most sophisticated forms.”

After all, if Leonard Feather is indeed correct, there have only been two other Jazz pianists comparable to Phineas in the history of Jazz: - Bud Powell and Art Tatum.

Not bad company, eh?

Friday, September 26, 2014

Grover Sales - "Jazz: America's Classical Music"

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

“Strongly opinionated and superbly literate, longtime Bay Area resident Grover Sales was the kind of jazz critic who left no doubt about where he stood on issues ranging from the genius of Lenny Bruce to the paucity of gay jazz musicians.
During a career that spanned 50 years Sales wrote about jazz, film and cultural politics and published widely in the San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, the Tiburon Ark and Gene Lees' Jazzletter. He wrote three books: Jazz: America's Classical Music, a biography of John Maher and, with his wife Georgia, The Clay-Pot Cookbook, which sold more than 800,000 copies.

Sales was also publicist for the Monterey Jazz Festival from its birth in 1958 until 1965, and for the hungry i nightclub. He also did freelance publicity work for artists such as Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Judy Garland and Dick Gregory, and wrote liner notes for several Fantasy recordings.
Over the years, he taught jazz history courses at Stanford University, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, San Francisco State University and the JazzSchool.

Sales became a jazz fan at 16, after hearing a broadcast of Benny Goodman's band with drummer Gene Krupa, and later became what he called "an inveterate Ellington groupie" after hearing a recording of "Black And Tan Fantasy".
After serving in the Army Air Corps in Southeast Asia during World War II, Sales studied at Reed College in Portland, Oregon, and then settled in the Bay Area, where he received a BA in history from the University of California at Berkeley.
In addition to his wife, Sales is survived by a daughter and two stepsons.”

If you were a Jazz fan living in the San Francisco Bay area, sooner or later, you met Grover Sales.

Columnist, author, instructor in Jazz Studies at Stanford University in nearby Palo Alto, CA and for many years, Publicity Director of the Monterey Jazz Festival, Grover seemed to be everywhere in the world of Bay Area Jazz.

I met him on several occasions and he was always welcoming, engaging and directly to the point.

He wrote a book - Jazz: America’s Classical Music [New York: Prentice Hall, 1984; New York: Da Capo Paperback Edition, 1992]  - to which I am constantly referring.

This foreword to Grover’s book was written by his great friend and Jazz author and essayist, Gene Lees.

“It occurred to me some time ago that I have, by accident, known most of the major figures in jazz history, some of them slightly and some of them intimately. Whatever I know of the subject I learned from them, not from books. Countless hours of conversations with them have long since sunk into my subconscious and shaped my thinking not only about jazz but about art in general and life itself.

One consequence of this experience is a skepticism toward histories of jazz, some of which are too technical for the layman, some of which reveal a limited technical grasp by the writer, some of which are at odds with the reminiscences of those who made it, and all too many of which have been political, serving one partisan purpose or another.

It is no surprise to me that Grover Sales has written a sensible, useful, and, to the best of my knowledge, accurate introduction to jazz, because that is a reflection of his character. His approach to the music has always been informed with the humility of the scholar. And in his various capacities as writer, lecturer on jazz history at San Francisco State University and—at one time—publicity director of the Monterey Jazz Festival, he too has had the opportunity to know many of the major figures in jazz.

A few months before he completed work on this book, Grover did a program at San Francisco State on the career of Dizzy Gillespie, using photographic slides and records to trace the life of this remarkable musician. The participants in this presentation included an audience of 300 students and faculty members, and the object of the exercise, Mr. John Birks Gillespie himself. At several points in the proceedings there was a suspicious mist in the eyes of Mr. Gillespie, a man in whom lives not only a brilliant musical mind and a vast sense of the world's humor but also a deep gentleness. Yes, I would say that Grover Sales is well qualified to describe and discuss the music of Dizzy Gillespie.

Jazz is a living music, not only in the sense that it is still evolving in our time, but in the sense that as a music that is substantially improvised, its emphasis is on the performance rather than on the writing. In jazz, the creator and performer are one. It is a music that has evolved through recording, and indeed it seems likely that had the phonograph not been invented, jazz might not have come into being. Certainly it could not have had its phenomenal rapid development from a folk music into an art music requiring enormous knowledge and skill. (During that seminar with Grover, Dizzy said that no question annoyed him more than the one about whether he ever played any "serious" music. "Men have died for this music," Dizzy said, and added with his customary dry wit, "You can't get more serious than that.")

Much of its history is preserved on records, albeit in the early days records with poor sound quality. And so the emphasis in an approach to jazz history must be on listening rather than reading. And it seems to me that if anyone were to follow this book very carefully, acquiring the records Grover recommends and then listening to them as he reads, he (or she) would come out at the other end with a rather considerable familiarity with the art, equipped now to appreciate and enjoy it on his own. I think this is an important point about this book: It is meant to be a linked listening-and-reading experience.

I believe this book does a major service for the art, particularly for the young, whether they intend to be players or appreciators, who will carry it into the future.

[Gene Lees is a former editor of down beat and a long-time contributor to Stereo Review, High Fidelity, and other major publications, as well as a composer and lyricist whose songs have been recorded by Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, and most of the major singers in jazz and popular music. He is the publisher and editor of The Jazzletter, whose subscribers include almost all the major jazz musicians.]

Following Grover’s death on February 14, 2004, Gene issued this essay entitled Vanished Friend in The Jazzletter [Vol. 22 No. 3]

Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.                                                    — Albert Einstein

“... Grover Sales lectured on jazz history at Stanford, which he did also at various times at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, San Francisco State University, and other schools. Grover's lectures made effective use of his enormous collection of records and an equally wide-ranging archive of photographs, which he projected as illustrations. His lecture on Duke Ellington was outstanding, but then all his lectures were formidably informative.

The institution of jazz training programs at universities has produced generations of skilled musicians, though many of them have a cookie-cutter similarity to each other. Where are they all going to work when the audience has long been shrinking? The universities should be educating the audience as well. But, I have been told by academics, such "survey courses" are not popular. Really? When I did a lecture at the Santa Fe chamber music festival it was the best-attended they had ever had. Grover was there and participated in the discussion.

Grover used to lecture on jazz at the library in Tiburon, California — always to standing-room audiences that were backed up out the door. And he would go anywhere to preach his gospel of American music. He lectured to the very young and the aging as well: he taught at Elderhostel.

He drew on personal experience, having known just about everybody in jazz history. He once did an extended radio interview with Earl Hines as a pilot broadcast for Chevron. Hines sat at the piano and explained what he was doing to Grover, and talked about his past.

I met Grover in the fall of 1959, not long after I became editor of Down Beat. I came out to California to cover the Monterey Jazz Festival, which, the critic Ralph J. Gleason assured me, was doing it right. Grover was the festival's publicist, a position he held from 1958 to 1964. Gleason, who then wrote for the San Francisco Chronicle, said that this new festival was avoiding *he quicksand of commercialism in which, he said, the slightly older Newport Jazz Festival was sinking. He was right then; but in time, the Monterey Festival, no longer guided by its founder, the late Jimmy Lyons, would become one of the most flagrantly "commercial" jazz festivals in America. But it was superb in those early years, and Grover represented it with justified pride.

Somebody hung the nickname "Groove" on him, and it gave him an almost childlike pleasure. He was a handsome man whose comportment somehow made him seem taller than his six feet. He had a full head of wavy gray hair. He lived in Belvedere with his wife, architect and art collector Georgia Sales. It's a lovely community, across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. He was more than a fixture in that area, he was a presence in its culture, a perpetual gadfly.

When Groove died on February 14, 2004, at the age of 84, the San Francisco Chronicle carried an obituary by Jesse Hamlin, that said: "Grover Sales, a veteran Bay Area critic, author and teacher who wrote about jazz, movies and cultural politics with passion, knowledge and biting wit, has died of kidney failure at Marin Convalescent Hospital in Tiburon.

"Mr. Sales was a lucid, literate, and opinionated man whose gift for language and pleasure in expressing his often contrarian views delighted and sometimes infuriated readers of his essays and reviews. His work appeared in a wide range of publication over the last 50 years, including The Chronicle, San Francisco magazine, the Los Angeles Times, the Tiburon Ark, and Gene Lees Jazzletter"

He wrote a book called Jazz: America's Classical Music, published by Da Capo Press, in print since 1984. It is a good brief introduction to jazz. He also wrote, in collaboration with his wife Georgia, The Clay-Pot Cookbook, a Book of the Month Club alternate which has thus far sold nearly 900,000 copies. It has been in print since 1974.

Grover wrote a number of pieces for the Jazzletter over the years, including in 1984 a carefully researched essay called Why Is Jazz Not Gay Music? Grover consulted (and so did I) the Gay and Lesbian archives of Los Angeles, whose people said they were well aware of the comparative rarity of homosexuality in jazz, particularly in contrast with the classical music world. A high proportion of "classical" composers in the United States, including Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, David Diamond, Virgil Thompson, Giancarlo Menotti, and Samuel Barber, have been homosexual, but you would have trouble counting ten homosexual jazz musicians, a phenomenon on which Ralph Burns, who was homosexual, commented.

There was nothing biased in Grover's piece, he just examined a phenomenon. He was attacked for it by one of the few overtly homosexual jazz musicians, but the piece stands up, even now.

He was born Grover Sales Jr., on October 26, 1919, in Louisville, Kentucky, where his father was a prominent judge. Since it is not Jewish custom to name children after living relatives, and certainly not after yourself, it would seem the father was no more religious or conventional than Grover.

When he was sixteen, Grover heard a radio broadcast by the Benny Goodman band when Gene Krupa was in the drum chair. He told an interviewer years later, "It was a religious experience. I'd never heard anything like it. I went to bed and had a high fever. My mother had to rub my chest with Musterol, and I've never been the same since."

Grover lived in New York City from 1938 through 1940. It was there that he first heard Duke Ellington, specifically Black and Tan Fantasy. He said it was "an eerie and hypnotic minor blues that went far beyond Goodman. Immediately I ran to the local record store screaming, 'What have you got by Ellington? Give me all of it.' I have never lost the fever."

He attended the University of California at Berkeley from 1948 to 1951, graduating Phi Betta Kappa. He won a Highest Honors in history award in 1949. As well as being publicist for the Monterey Jazz Festival during its best years, Grover was a publicist for the hungry i, and, at various times, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, the Royal Ballet, the Bolshoi Ballet, the Budapest String Quarter, Elizabeth Schwarzkopf, Woody Allen, Johnny Cash, Judy Garland, Andre Previn, Dick Gregory, and Lenny Bruce, surely a disparate lot. But Grover was interested in ail these people, and he wrote a movie script called The Trial of Lenny Bruce that has yet to be produced. It's based on the transcripts of Lenny's San Francisco trial.

For one of his jazz history classes, Grover designed a retrospective on the life and work of Dizzy Gillespie, whom he lavishly admired and loved. It used photo slides and records of course, but what made this class exceptional was that Dizzy was present. At the end of it, he was almost in tears, I think Grover said that he actually was in tears.

He later wrote: "When a clumsy journalist asked Dizzy Gillespie if he ever played any 'serious' music, Dizzy grew serious indeed: 'People have died for this music. You can't get no more serious than that.' Dizzy could have had in mind the plight of jazz fans in the Third Reich, where, if you were caught with records or magazines devoted to what Dr. Goebbels called 'American nigger kike jungle music,' you could be imprisoned — or even shot. This became the subject of the unique 1993 film Swing Kids, written by Jonathan Marc Feldman with obvious love and rare authenticity. Following disastrous reviews that revealed more about the critics than the film, it folded after a week in the theaters, but survives on video cassette and on Cable TV.

"Those of us who came of age in the 1930's to embrace big-band swing with religious intensity have no trouble accepting the premise of Swing Kids. But reviewers unfamiliar with Mike Zwerin's La Tristesse de Saint Louis: Swing Under the Nazis — or the careers of Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff who fled Hitler to found Blue Note Records — found it 'silly' and 'weird.'

"But the film's premise is rooted in fact. At the dawn of Nazi hegemony in the early 1930's, a close-knit band of dissident teenagers, as portrayed in Swing Kids, loomed in open rebellion against the regime, united by their adoration of Basie, Ellington, Ella, Django and frenzied jitterbugging in the soon-to-become verboten dance halls of Berlin."

In the first year of the Jazzletter, I was introduced to the Czech novelist Joseph Skvorecky, who showed me a short story called Eine Kleine Jazzmusik. It is a narrative about a group of young Czech jazz musicians at the time of the German occupation. Contemptuous of the Germans, they stage a jazz concert under their noses, mocking the conquerors. They are taken to a concentration camp and executed, all but their girl singer, who becomes the mistress of a German officer — and stabs him to death in his sleep. The story, Skvorecky told me, was true. That's what Dizzy meant, and those kids weren't the only ones who died for "this music."

Grover was incensed when various movie critics excoriated Swing Kids. He wrote: "The reactions of film reviewers who helped to ruin Swing Kids' chances for wide distribution seem akin to the notorious attacks on Ellington's 1943 Carnegie Hall premiere of Black, Brown & Beige by established music critics languishing in ignorance of the jazz experience. And Benny Goodman's epochal 1938 Carnegie Hall concert goaded the New York Times' first-string music critic Olin Downes to write: 'hard, shrill, noisy, monotonous . . . swing of this kind will quickly be a thing of the past.'

"Of the film, Janet Maslin in the New York Times wrote: 'Swing Heil is the battle cry of the swing kids, long-haired big-band-loving teenage rebels in Nazi Germany. You may want to read that sentence slowly, just to make sure it does not describe some missing chapters of Wayne's World or simply seem too nutty for words.' It escaped Maslin that Swing Kids wore long hair, wide English-style trousers, and gaudy ties to signify a dramatic break with the military.

"New York magazine's David Denby, from whom we might expect better, said: 'What the naive filmmakers don't seem to understand is that totalitarianism made rebellion meaningless. No one even noticed.' This amazing argument flies in the face of history: the Nazis did much more than merely 'notice' this musical threat to their ideology.

"In the Los Angeles Times, Kenneth Turan found the film 'unsatisfactory from just about every point of view. Awkward, hollow and emotionally heavy-handed, it transforms a sea of movie cliches onto those unfamiliar German shores.'

"Similar was the consensus in the standard video guides. Video Hound said: 'There is something disturbingly silly about the entire production.'"

I agree with what Grover wrote about that picture. And the film is corroborated by everything I have ever heard from jazz lovers (including Claus Ogerman) who lived under the Nazis.

Grover didn't suffer fools gladly, and particularly when they were critics. He could be scathing on that subject. He particularly detested the San Francisco Chronicle's music critic John Wasserman, who got drunk and killed himself in a car crash. Grover once called Wasserman "a ganglion of solipsism, the Rex Reed of San Francisco," saying:

"Rex Reed is somebody with no background, absolutely no judgment, and no taste. Rex Reed is a joke and is never taken for anything else. He has a counterpart on every major newspaper who is comparatively young and relates to the young reader — a brash, uninformed, arrogant writer who occasionally has a clever gift for smart-ass journalism and the bitchy aside ....

"It's very easy for somebody to write a vicious attack on a bad pornographic movie or a spaghetti western. That doesn't take any special talent. What does is for somebody like Judy Stone to review Bertolucci's 1900 and have a complete and thorough background about Bertolucci and the history of Fascism in Italy. She does her homework ....

"There's a great deal of difference between writing a serious piece of criticism about a serious work and making a career out of attacking Marilyn Chambers, Jerry Lewis, and Annette Funicello."

Whatever cause he took up, Grover did so with ardor. In common with some of his neighbors, Grover became incensed by the use of these ghastly noisy leaf-blowing machines by gardeners at ungodly early hours, and they raised the issue with the Belvedere city council. The council gave them a pat on the head and promised to make a study of the matter. Grover asked how come the British could throw out a government and replace it within days and Belvedere couldn't decide a simple issue without a "study." That got him nowhere.

So Grover rented a leaf blower, and on a day of a council meeting he went to the building and started the leaf blower and walked up and down by a window, blowing leaves out of the flower beds. The council of course couldn't hear its own hot air. But that wasn't enough. He went right into the council meeting, with the noisy monster going full blast.

Belvedere passed an ordinance restricting the use of these devices. It became a model for the country, adopted by one community after another. So if those infernal machines have fallen silent in the early hours in your town, you may owe it to Grover Sales.

If he sounds cranky on the subject of other writers, he was uncommonly generous to those he respected. If my attempts over these past years to record aspects of jazz history that seem in danger of being lost, then the jazz world owes Grover a debt. None of this would have happened without him.

He was an early subscriber to the Jazzletter and praised it to anyone who would listen. He sent copies of it to a friend named John Fell, who in turn sent them on to James Lincoln Collier in New York. That was about 1986. I couldn't in those days get a book published to save my life, and I was about to fold the Jazzletter. Collier, whom I did not know except by reputation as author of one of best jazz histories, took those Jazzletters to Sheldon Meyer at Oxford University Press, telling him, "You ought to be publishing this guy." Collier (who would become a very close friend) wrote me a letter saying that if I would submit an idea to Sheldon Meyer, he thought he might be receptive. I did, and Sheldon published Singers and the Song, which got rave reviews. There have been something like sixteen books since then, including my biography of Woody Herman. I owe it all to Grover Sales and Jim Collier, and I told Jim so when I called him recently about Graver's death. He said, "Oh, I think you'd have found some other publisher." I said, "I don't. And had I not found Sheldon, the Jazzletter itself would have died."

So you can imagine how I feel about Grover's passing from the scene. …

Georgia sent out an exquisite card when he was gone consisting of three lovely photos of Grover and two quotations, one of them from an unpublished autobiography, titled — typically Grover — Ragtime Cowboy Jew. "Looking back, I've been lucky to survive the approach of my eighties, lucky in my marriage, my travels, my teachers, my friends and my colleagues, and luckiest and most rare of all, to be able to combine my passion with my career." The other quotation: "And now, that little while, is all my life, and all reality, how long or brief it seems to be."

Atque in perpetuum, frater, ave atque vale.
Hail and farewell, brother.

The jazz world has lost its most passionate evangelist. I have lost a very dear friend.”