Monday, November 28, 2016

Remembering Conrad Gozzo - 1922-1964

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

“It is certainly not everyday that a justly famous jazz trumpeter, making his solo recording debut, is given the opportunity to demonstrate such a variety of attacks, techniques and ideas as is Conrad Gozzo in the proceedings here under consideration..............................“
[Goz The Great! - Conrad Gozzo and His Orchestra - RCA LPM 1124/ CD 743221611072]
- Bill Zeitung

“Symphony trumpet players are not called on to produce the sustained evening-long power of the great lead trumpet players such as the late Conrad Gozzo, or to play the high notes routinely called for by jazz arrangers, notes once considered off the top of the instrument.”
-Gene Lees, Leader of the Band: The Life of Woody Herman

"It was wonderful. Ralph [Burns] was arranging, and Flip [Phillips] was in the saxophone section. I always liked [trombonist] Bill Harris. Things were working out. We were doing the Wild Root show. It was a great radio show. God, Woody did a hell of a job on it. That band was the most exciting thing in the world, and more so after he got Conrad Gozzo and Pete Candoli."
- Red Norvo, vibraphonist

Conrad J. Gozzo (1922–1964) was born in New Britain, Connecticut on February 6, 1922. Gozzo was a member of the NBC Hollywood staff orchestra at the time of his death on October 8, 1964. He died at the age of 42 of a heart attack.

I got to know Goz a little when we both played in a "arranger's band" that rehearsed at the Musicians Union Hall on Vine Street in Hollywood.

Goz was one of the first musicians who helped me understand that overlaying notations from the first trumpet chair on my drum part would help me more effectively set up kicks and fills in big band arrangements. He called this giving the band more “pop and pulse.”

And speaking of “pop and pulse,” you could always tell when Goz was in a trumpet section because his juicy tone fattened-up the sound of those horns. Everything sounded fuller; even the screaming notes had a depth to them. Every phrase had a punch and was somehow made to seem rounder; each note had more texture. His sound was the personification of lead trumpet in a big band.

Although I knew that Goz was highly respected by everyone in the Hollywood studio scene, I didn’t realize at the time how significant his experience in the music was dating back to the glory years of the Swing Era.

He played with Isham Jones (1938) and Red Norvo (1940), then performed and recorded with Bob Chester (1941) and Claude Thornhill (1941-2). After working with Benny Goodman (1942) he joined the navy and played in a band led by Artie Shaw (1942-4). He rejoined Goodman in 1945, then toured and recorded with Woody Herman. Goz was the featured as a soloist on Stars Fell on Alabama, one of Woody’s earliest hits and he went on to perform with Boyd Raeburn and Ted Beneke (1947). In Los Angeles he played on Bob Crosby's radio broadcasts (1947–51).

Gozzo was highly acclaimed as a lead trumpeter and was much in demand as a studio musician; he also took part in sessions with Les Brown (1949), Jerry Gray (1949–53), Ray Anthony (1951-8), Billy May (1951–64).

Gozzo, lead trumpeter on the Glen Gray, Stan Kenton, and Harry James "remakes," and in Dan Terry's 1954 Columbia sessions, recorded extensively with arrangers Van Alexander, Nelson Riddle, Billy May, Ray Conniff, Jerry Fielding and Shorty Rogers, and also with performers Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra. Gozzo played first trumpet on all of the recordings of composer Henry Mancini. He routinely performed on many major live television shows which were broadcast on the NBC network, including the Dinah Shore Show (1955 through 1964). Gozzo also performed on motion picture soundtracks including The Glenn Miller Story, The Benny Goodman Story, Bye Bye Birdie, Call Me Madam, Ben-Hur and Cleopatra. He also performed on the Ella Fitzgerald two-record set on Verve (Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Harold Arlen Songbook). Trumpeter's Prayer, was composed by Tutti Camarata for Gozzo, and Portrait of Trumpet by Sammy Nestico was written as a posthumous tribute.

Goz met Shorty Rogers when they were on Woody Herman’s band together. They became close friends. Thanks to this enduring friendship, when Shorty took over the Artists and Repertoire role for RCA’s Jazz recording on the West Coast, he gave Goz the opportunity to record an album under his own name Goz The Great! - Conrad Gozzo and His Orchestra - [RCA LPM 1124/ CD 743221611072].

Here are Bill Zeitung’s insert notes to that recording which will provide you with more insights into Goz’s special qualities as a trumpeter.

“Possessor of a pair of seemingly bottomless lungs, as well as of an embouchure which, at the least, must be fashioned of something close to cast iron, Gozzo has for a considerable period been a leading light of the West Coast, or Hollywood, school of jazz - in fact, there has hardly been a big band jazz record made in that vicinity during recent years which did not feature him on lead trumpet.

It is understandable that, with such frenzied activity, he would not have had the time -although he has always had the inclination - to record on his own. That opportunity, on the basis of these recordings, has been far too long in coming, and it now seems extremely safe to assume that in the future, in addition to Goz's sterling duties as leader of assorted brilliant brass sections, we will hear a great deal more of his stimulating work on solo horn.

Goz is by no means a newcomer to the jazz field, as a quick glance at his credentials will immediately make apparent. He spent a lengthy apprenticeship in the orchestra of Claude Thornhill and, in addition to playing with both Benny Goodman and Red Norvo, was a member of that wild Woody Herman band whose trumpet section also included Shorty Rogers, Sonny Berman, Pete Candoli and Marky Markowitz (Wow!).

And it should be remembered that in each one of these bands Goz played first horn. He is acknowledged by all and sundry to be one of the very best leads in the business but, except for a few fleeting instances, his solo capacities have never been apparent to the vast audience to which jazz has loomed larger and larger in recent years.

There is simply no parallel for Goz's bite, for his seemingly endless strength, for his zooming drive - any brass section in which he is playing is immediately recognizable, for to it he unerringly adds his own special brand of floating ease and inescapable power. In any other field of physical endeavor he would be known as a muscleman - he is certainly Goz the Great.

In the present album, Goz's horn is heard in three distinctly different settings: it is incisive and compact (and with more than a trace of Rex Stewart, especially in the plunger work) in the small band sides which feature only rhythm and an additional horn, in this instance the trombone and occasional alto of Murray McEachern; it is broad and swinging in front of the large, sixteen-piece aggregation (in one of whose selections, Remember, Goz plays all five trumpets, solo as well as section); and it is beautifully lyric in those selections to which strings have been added.

And, displaying Goz in another light, three of the small band tunes: Smooth Talker, Do That Again Daddy and Deibotch, were written by him in collaboration with Billy May, the latter of whom was also responsible for some of the arrangements.

It seems obvious, even upon first hearing, that, as Goz so readily admits, his greatest influences have been Armstrong and Berigan. Especially in the sides with strings: Black Sapphire, Come Back to Sorrento, La Rosita and In a Mellotone - there is far more than a trace of Bunny's tone and phrasing. The loose-jointed attack that characterizes Goz's work in the small and big band sides is perhaps an Armstrong heritage, but from whatever source it has been derived there is no doubt that it is now fully equipped with a personal idiom which is Goz's own.

A native of New Britain, Connecticut, and now resident in Burbank, California, Goz early began the study of the trumpet with his father - a man, by the way, who is still very much active in his profession. No doubt even his father, like the rest of us, now marvels at the inexhaustible vitality and ever-renewing strength which this trumpeter constantly demonstrates. When Goz's horn explodes it is simply because, like the principle of the steam boiler, the pressure within is entirely too great to be contained. Goz performs from what is seemingly an overflowing reservoir of force and power, but he is not content, as are others like him, merely to blow and screech - as these, his first solo records, so amply demonstrate, he also plays with enormous good taste, with a highly refined intelligence, and with a superabundance of refreshing ideas.”

Bill Zeitung

The following video montage features Goz performing the lovely ballad Black Sapphire by Earl Hagen and Herb Spencer on which the brilliance and beauty of his tone are magnificently displayed.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Hod O'Brien At Blues Alley

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

These days, it’s not often that Jazz fans get to visit with a bebop piano-bass-drums trio in situ, by that I mean over a length of time in a nightclub devoted to the music.

There are many reasons for this rarity, not the least of which is the fact that there are very few practitioners of The Art of Bebop Jazz Piano still among us.

We lost another one recently with the passing of Hod O’Brien on November 21, 2016. Hod was eighty years old at the time of his death.

Although widely known and appreciated in Europe, outside of a relatively small coterie of devoted fans, Hod O’Brien, a sizzling, straight-ahead bebop pianist, has been one of the best kept secrets on the US Jazz scene for much too long.

In The Los Angeles Times, Don Heckman describes him as “a masterful bop-based improviser … his lines unfolding with an impressive blend of precision and propulsive swing. In The Montreal Mirror, Len Dobbin called him “the best bebop pianist this side of Barry Harris.” And Scott Yanow, in the L.A. Scene, wrote that Hod is the “unsung hero of Jazz … [a] master bebop pianist.”

A close listening to the three albums described in this Jazzprofiles feature which Hod and his trio of Ray Drummond on bass and Kenny Washington on drums recorded at Blues Alley in Washington, DC in July, 2004 will provide a good introduction to what the fuss is all about concerning this most impressive musician.

The context for the music released on these albums is that each represents a working set by the group, or if you will, three sets that you might have heard had you dropped by the club one night to catch the trio.

A special word should be put in about the song selection on these recordings as its rare to hear such a diversity of repertoire that ranges from Jazz originals such as Freddie Redd’s rarely played Thespian [after you listen to it you’ll understand why as it is an extremely challenging song structure upon which to improvise], Randy Weston’s Little Niles, and Sonny Rollins’ Pent-Up House, to a number of standards drawn from the Great American Songbook, to a collection of tunes by one composer – in this case, Tadd Dameron.

Since I could not improve upon them, I have included the insert notes by Pete Malinverni to describe sets one and two, and those by Hod himself to describe how and why set three came about.

Praise is also due Mark Feldman and his team at Reservoir Records for making so much of the music of this deserving artist available in recorded form.

Hod O’Brien at Blues Alley: First Set [Reservoir RSR CD 180]

“Conventional wisdom has it that the creative output of an artist more or less reflects the artist's personality. If that's the case, Hod O'Brien is a joyous and witty man, given to long explications of thought. His playing suggests that he is assertive and that his intellect is a restless one. In conversation Hod is, instead, a self-effacing, humble man who listens and processes before he speaks -good traits, to be sure, for one who works in a job where tenacious self-improvement is the prime requisite, but which traits appear, at first blush, to be at variance with the fulminating pianist heard here.

These two seemingly conflicting characters find their reconciliation in live performance, revealing themselves to be, in fact, two distinct sides of the same coin-perhaps that's what makes this recording all the more historically important.

Captured here is Hod O'Brien at his most spontaneous, free of the artificial constraints of the recording studio, and encouraged to emotional heights by the presence of a lively and supportive audience. Hod likes the "immediacy of a live date. There's nothing like it-you feel the life." One certainly can feel the life, in the risk-taking flights and surprising moments only possible before an audience.

Hod O'Brien is an artist of high order, one, surely, in firm possession of all the requisite ‘musicianly’ tools, but who employs such tools so well and so craftily as to reveal accessible, human truths. The stops and starts in his phrasing, along with his use of space and dynamics, suggest, by turns, an honest, exploratory and effusive nature.

Notice, too, Hod's brand of melodic development, his musical statements often beginning with motifs with which previous statements were concluded. His careful attention to the arrangement of each selection, which might easily go unnoticed, lends a natural pacing to the entire recital. In myriad ways, O'Brien's playing rewards the careful listener, as witness to what lends Hod's music its emotional and logical art.

A Chicago native, reared in suburban New York and Connecticut, Hod O'Brien came to New York City in the Fall of 1956 and played in many of that era's jazz clubs and lofts with the likes of Kenny Burrell, Oscar Pettiford, Gigi Gryce, J. R. Monterose, and Zoot Sims. After a six-year sojourn in the musically fecund community of Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains - home to such as Phil Woods, Bill Goodwin, Bob Dorough - he moved in 1994 with his wife, singer Stephanie Nakasian, to Charlottesville, VA, where Stephanie is adjunct professor of vocal jazz at the University of Virginia. The Northeast's loss is Charlottesville's gain, the home of Jefferson being a good fit for this gentle man of broad and erudite musical knowledge.

But he can swing, too. Listen to the ‘grooviness’ of his eighth-notes, the way he finds a hammock in Kenny Washington's crisp ride beat during his solos throughout. And he can play the blues as well, his soulfulness laid bare on Frog's Legs, the Joe Zawinul vehicle written in tribute to Ben Webster.

The selections on this recording are of the "musician's choice" variety, picked by O'Brien for their "play-ability." indeed, the first four tracks feature compositions by musicians at least as well known for their playing (and singing) careers as for their contributions as writers. Hod says he picked "interesting tunes", good songs to "blow on." And blow he does, for example, in his deft exploration of Bob Dorough's Nothing Like You Has Ever Been Seen Before. Seemingly circular in nature, the harmonic and formal framework of the tune presents a puzzle the solving of which provides some of the date's most exciting moments. Thespian, written and originally arranged for quintet by the great pianist Freddie Redd, is here reduced for piano trio with no lessening of its dramatic nature. Mel Rhyne's It's Love features a ‘Confirmation’ -like scheme that gives currency to the deep vocabulary acquired over time by these musicians while they, in turn, give the tune new breath.

The final four selections are of the "chestnut" variety, picked fresh by the trio. The joy they take in playing - and in playing together - is evident throughout, their cooperative explorations fueled, in equal parts, by skill and curiosity.

While he picked the tunes for the challenges they present the improviser, Hod hopes that his non-musician listeners will enjoy his choices, too. On this, their fourth recording together (it is the third as a trio, to go along with Hod's quintet date, OPALESSENCE) Messrs. O'Brien, Drummond and Washington embody that great tradition of jazz - unmistakable, individual voices in the service of a unified, group statement.

Ray Drummond has been doing just that for years. Always engaged and focused, "Bulldog" consistently husbands the essential, structurally supportive role of the jazz bass (Hod makes special note of Ray's "strong pulse" and "clear attack") while suggesting, in his inspired note choices, interesting and wholly individual takes on harmony. Ray is also an imposing and singularly melodic soloist, as is evident on Lullaby of the Leaves.

Kenny Washington has likewise carved a characteristic voice. "I like a drummer that complements," Hod says, and he notes Kenny's penchant for orchestration, "every time, a great fill," and says that when thinking of Kenny, the phrase "snap, crackle, and pop" comes to mind. It's true. Washington consistently contributes to every musical situation in which he takes part, with his optimistic, energetic approach, always thinking, never complacent.

So, these three - O'Brien, he of the long, searching lines, at times exploratory and at times full of twists and quirks; Drummond, providing his continually creative and strong underpinning; and Washington, with his trademark electric punctuation -combined on two evenings at Washington,  D.C.'s BLUES ALLEY. The result of those nights is two CDs[obviously, a third has been released since this writing], the first of which is in your hands. What nights they must have been.”

Pete Malinverni, New York City October, 2004

Hod O’Brien at Blues Alley: Second Set [Reservoir RSR CD 182]

“Hod O'Brien. This quiet, unassuming man makes music of far reaching import; people the world over await each new recording and attend his performances as often as they are able. Why the immense popularity of Hod O'Brien? The reasons for this phenomenon, his loyal, worldwide audience, are manifold, each person appreciating O'Brien's art from his own perspective, for his own reasons.

I'll use myself as an example.

As a pianist I marvel at Hod O'Brien's virtuosity. His single-note attack and legato phrasing and his timely and explosive use of block chords are the result of the artful blend of initial gifts with years of intense study. Consistently well articulated, each note is crafted with care and shaped lovingly to achieve maximum effect.

As an improvising musician I'm thrilled by the seemingly endless flow of O'Brien's ideas that yield melodic lines of remarkable length and complexity.

He stays with each phrase, and this tenacity allows Hod to extract every last drop of melodic truth to be found there. He chooses his collaborators well-bassist Ray Drummond and drummer Kenny Washington join again with Hod-and listens and reacts honestly, the free exchange of ideas being the hallmark of truly prepared musicians who've learned, above all, to trust.

As a jazz fan I'm gratified by the homage Hod O'Brien pays to his musical forebears, in his choice of material and in the quality of his history-deepened improvisations. He opens the present set with Sonny Rollins' Pent-Up House and likewise features the compositions of such jazz greats as Randy Weston (Little Niles), Billy Strayhorn (Snibor and Take The A Train) and Duke Ellington (In a Sentimental Mood and Do Nothin’ ‘Till You Hear from Me). One hears, throughout Hod's interpretations of these jazz classics as well as those of the standards included (How About You and Love Letters), many golden moments inspired by O'Brien's appreciation of those who've come before. This is what all jazz musicians are required to do. But, of course, it is the degree to which one molds one's influences to inform and buttress one's own voice that really tells the tale, and Hod O'Brien is very much his own story teller.

And, finally and perhaps most importantly, as a human being I'm moved by Hod O'Brien's optimistic world view, evident in the obvious joy Hod takes in making music. There is an unvarnished brightness in his playing that just can't be "put on". Surely there is much pianistic technique at work here, but this music is lit from within. His genial and engaging personal demeanor, caught here on the announcements made between selections, reveals the respect O'Brien has for his audience, his colleagues and the music itself.

Speaking of his audience, this particular group was fortunate to be present at the venerable Washington, DC nightspot BLUES ALLEY on the night when this, the second such live recording by Hod O'Brien's trio, was captured by the good folks at RESERVOIR MUSIC. As companion to the 2004 release, FIRST SET, this is a fitting sequel. Once again we

hear the faithful and resolute Ray "Bulldog" Drummond (listen to his tour de force performance on In a Sentimental Mood) along with the combustible and always engaged Kenny Washington (his solo on Pent-Up House is unforgettable). Together, O'Brien, Drummond and Washington give us seasoned music of intelligence, spontaneity and wit. Perhaps you and I weren't there that night, but the quality of this recording provides the next best thing.”


Hod O’Brien at Blues Alley: Third Set [Reservoir RSR CD 187]

“I'd like to preface these notes by thanking Pete Malinverni, a great jazz pianist as well as a great journalist, for doing such wonderful liner notes for my two previous LIVE AT BLUES ALLEY CDs. With all due respect to Pete, I thought it fitting to do the liner notes for this CD, and explain how the third and final set of LIVE AT BLUES ALLEY came about.

True Confessions: All the selections on this CD are ones that I initially rejected when selecting material for the first two CDs. At that time, I thought that two sets were all of what was going to be released from the Blues Alley material. In the course of the ensuing months, RESERVOIR producer, Mark Feldman mentioned several times that there was enough material in the can for another CD. I kept refusing because I didn't think that it was good enough, but he finally persuaded me to give a listen.

To my surprise, I found the music to be highly inspired in spite of several instances of flubbed notes, and flawed phrases. There is an overall sense of excitement which pervades throughout these performances, most particularly in Double Talk and Our Delight. There is one spot in the middle of an open piano alone segment in my solo in Our Delight where the time feel is impaired due to a momentary slip of the wrist. I remember thinking at the time I played it, "Well, I'm not going to be putting this one out." But on reconsideration two years later, I felt that the entire performance really held up, and was worth hearing. From the reaction of the audience, it seems that they felt the same way.

The Squirrel has a pretty strong story line going in it, and It Could Happen To You, and On A Misty Night have nice laid back feels to them which warrant their being heard too. The ballads, though far from exquisite have merit as well. They bounce along in the solos with unyielding momentum, never causing one to be bored or impatient. Dameronia is a rarely heard, up-tempo tune, and one of my favorites of Tadd's.

So, having had this reaction, I decided that it was a good idea to give Mark the go ahead to release a THIRD SET, and I hope that you will agree when you listen to it.

I'd like to thank Ray Drummond and Kenny Washington for what is clearly a vitally significant contribution to this music. It wouldn't have the excitement and energy if it were not for them. They have been with me on five recording projects, and are my rhythm section of choice. Thanks also to Jim Anderson and Allan Tucker for their expertise involved in all of the aspects of recording and mastering, and thanks to Mark Feldman for prodding me into listening again, and for releasing this CD.

Finally, thanks to my fans in the audience for their encouraging support, and enthusiastic responses, which are as integral to this recording as the music itself, and the biggest thank you to my wife Stephanie for spurring them on with her frequent whistles, and for all of the emotional support that she gave me throughout this grueling two nights (and days) session.”

Hod O'Brien

The following Art of Jazz Piano video montage features Hod, Ray and Kenny performing Freddie Redd’s Thespian as the audio track.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Life Cycles of Bands, the Creative Process and the Challenges of Working In Different Bands

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

“It is, perhaps, in guiding other artists to discover deep within themselves unique facets of their own sensitivities and talents, and in effecting creative inspiration that artists might otherwise never have realized by themselves, that jazz musicians share their greatest gifts as teachers.” …

“Moving from band to band, performers strengthen various facets of their musicianship and deepen their knowledge of jazz, its idioms, conventional musical roles, and aesthetic values.”
- Paul F. Berliner, Thinking in Jazz: The Infinite Art of Improvisation

When I was first learning to play Jazz, I sought out every musical situation that I could participate in whether it was big bands, trio work, Latin Jazz, small combos - I just wanted to play the music.

Over time, I came to the realization that some musical settings worked better for me than others and, as a corollary, I think other musicians may have come to a similar conclusion about working with me.

It’s as hard to explain the reason/s for this feeling now as it was then. Working with some groups of musicians just felt better than working with others.

And then I became aware of another dynamic that was even more puzzling to me: even in groups where the music was “happening,” it, too, began to go stale after a while.

Fortunately for me, maturity brought a bit of wisdom and the realization described in the title of this piece which is drawn from Paul F. Berliner, Thinking in Jazz: The Infinite Art of Improvisation.

The Life Cycles of Bands and the Creative Process

“Bands not only turn over personnel when players discover that they have irreconcilable problems; they also undergo changes when members have drawn what musical value they can from their mutual association. Although it is initially desirable for members of groups to work together extensively to develop the rapport upon which successful improvisation depends, typically there are limits to the ways in which any group of musicians can inspire each other over the longer term.

"If you are working with a group of good players, then you can learn from them," Art Farmer explains. "But still, sometimes you find the music bogging down and you need to find other people. This is not to say that the players you are with are not good, but the whole thing has reached a stalemate as a unit. If you play the same songs night after night and year after year, and you find yourself playing in the same way, people get bored with it because there's no energy there. If you don't find some other way to break it, then you have to get somebody else into the band. You have to find some new songs or some new players."

Like many of his fellow artists, Lonnie Hillyer cannot tolerate the monotony of uninspired musicianship. "When I get bored playing the same old things all the time, as guys will do when they can't figure anything new to play, I like to jump on the bandstand and play with somebody in the band who I'm not familiar with. It forces me to think. That's what this music is all about. It's a thinking kind of music." Similarly, John McNeil [trumpet] extolls the stimulation that new musical components bring into routine playing.

The groups I like to play with are the kind in which, if you changed one person, everything would be completely different. For example, I was playing a blues on my first album when Rufus Reid and Billy Hart got into this weird rhythmic thing that I never heard anybody do on an album before. It would be very hard to describe, but it's the kind of thing that wouldn't happen with any other bass player or any other drummer. It was just great and made me so excited I wanted to try all kinds of new things in my solo.

Such events often have ramifications beyond the performance for the musicians themselves, from group to group and through the enrichment of the pool of musical ideas throughout the jazz community. "I like to play with other people," Kenny Barron reports, "because you can bring some other things back to the guys you normally play with."

Over the lives of bands, then, personnel changes can be a normal consequence of the creative process. In a sense, they reflect, on the largest formal scale, improvisation's cyclical interplay of new and old ideas. Just as successful patterns initially improvised by one player and immediately complemented by the others can join a band's formal arrangement as fixed features for subsequent performances, additional facets of the band's interplay also can evolve gradually into routines, informally arranged over the group's life together. When their modes of interaction become increasingly predictable and artists begin to feel as familiar with the performance styles of other players as with their own, the band's collective ability to conceive new ideas in performance may diminish overall.

Within the chaotic world of the music business, as each group struggles for survival, its collective pattern of artistic growth and achievement, its evolving visibility and commercial success, and the respective needs of its members for creative renewal sometimes reinforce one another, contributing momentum to a unified musical undertaking. At other times, the pressures that such variables create pull players in different directions. One saxophonist describes his group's decision to disband just as their popularity reached its peak: "It was a shame in some ways, because we had just built enough of a following to be invited to record by a major label. But we reached the point where we were all tired of the music, and we wanted to follow different musical interests with other bands."

Similarly, within particular bands attrition commonly reflects the fact that individuals have outgrown their positions. With the leader's encouragement, many resign to join other groups where their responsibilities are greater or to form groups where they can devote full energy to their own ideas and compositions. The successive groups formed by Miles Davis epitomize the restless quest of some artists. Keith Jarrett smiles at his recollection of the difficulties Davis faced when combining the talents of jazz musicians with players whose background in rock had not prepared them for understanding the most basic conventions associated with playing ballads.

He conjectures that Davis would rather have pursued new musical directions with a "bad band . . . playing terrible music" than remain complacent with former groups that had developed maximum cohesion within the bounds of his earlier musical interests. Moreover, Davis once shared with Jarrett the painful admission that the reason he had stopped performing ballads, a genre whose unique and masterful interpretation had gained him great distinction, was that he "loved playing them so much." Jarrett expresses admiration for such remarkable insight into the need to pursue new challenges, even when they go against an artist's "own natural instinct."

Finally, as improvisers continue to define and redefine those musical areas that have the greatest meaning for them, their changing passions are sometimes influenced by matters of cultural and personal identity. Akira Tana's interest in cross-cultural musical matters finds much food for thought in Manhattan's international environment, where there is considerable opportunity for interacting with musicians drawn to the jazz scene from all parts of the world.

“I've spoken with Japanese jazz musicians who are here in New York City searching for their own personal expression. They have worked with black and white musicians here and have come to the conclusion that they are different from them. The identity thing is very complicated. Things can get confusing, and you can have an identity crisis. As a Japanese American, I feel that parts of myself are very American and differ from the Japanese tradition. At times, I wonder if jazz can really express who I am fully. It's not the same for me as it would be if I were black and raised exclusively within that tradition.

My musical vision is a little broader than that of people who just hear and see jazz, because I've tried to learn so many different kinds of roles as a drummer—like studying classical orchestral percussion as well as jazz improvisation. Also, I sometimes feel a little dated playing the swing feeling, because a lot of musicians my age are playing funk and fusion. The funk thing is also very challenging for drummers, but the swing thing seems more conducive for a group playing jazz. Anyway, I believe in jazz, and for now I'm just trying to play meaningful music within the jazz field. But there are so many different ways of expressing yourself which have value. It's just a question of what you like.”

The Challenges of Different Bands

As musicians complete their tenure with particular bands and leave them to join others, they find each group to have contributed different aspects of their musicianship and knowledge. "Playing with each group is a formal education," Walter Bishop Jr. declares. "Each has a different feel and different repertory." Living with the compositions of some bands night after night, improvisers become fluent with complex chord progressions, perhaps, whereas the repertory of other bands may favor vamp tunes that artists use to create music from spare harmonic materials.

Musicians also gain experience playing different musical roles within the structures of various kinds of pieces. "It's true that in Bill Evans's band my function was pretty much to hold Bill's bass line through the duration of the performance," Chuck Israels says. "But I never felt it as a restriction, because the lines were so beautiful in all their detail. In other bands, the demands on me were much less specific and I had greater freedom."

It was while sitting in with Barry Harris, Keith Copeland recalls, that he got his "loud/soft bass drum technique together, because I figured playing with Barry I didn't really have to drop all those bombs. It scared me to have to deal with this technique with Barry, but," he confesses, "it made me a better drummer."

Characteristic features of arrangements also have their influence on band members. "In Max Roach's band, some of the challenges were the tempos and the lengths of the pieces. You had to be able to play faster than you played in most groups, and you needed a lot of endurance" (bassist Art Davis).

Kenny Washington reports a similar result from working with another strong player: "Johnny Griffin is known as the fastest tenor player in the world. One thing that working with Griff has really done for me is, it's made me physically stronger." In fact, before taking the position with Griffin, Washington had approached Louis Hayes, one of his mentors, for advice. Supporting the move and anticipating its demands, Hayes taught him specific technical exercises to strengthen his arms, wrists, and hands so that he could perform his role successfully.

The flexible programs of some bands encourage different players to try composing and arranging pieces. Kenny Barron remembers the excitement of having his first musical arrangement of a composition performed and recorded by Yusef Lateef 's band.

Groups also place different emphases upon solo work. Whereas small bands feature artists as soloists, large bands tend to restrict individual soloing opportunity by distributing solo slots among many performers and by emphasizing ensemble work. Important distinctions do exist within small groups, however. Many limit the activity of drummers and bass players as soloists.

From this perspective, Max Roach's group represented "a drastic change" for Calvin Hill because "the band was really into solos." It forced him to use all the knowledge formerly acquired with Betty Carter, Pharoah Sanders, and McCoy Tyner.

"Suddenly I had to be an integral part of a group as a soloist," he recounts, and I wasn't playing in the background anymore. There was no piano, and Max put the four of us in a line on the stage. There was nobody in front and nobody in back, just four individuals. Max said, "I want everybody in this band to be long-winded," so we could play a tune for an hour and fifteen minutes. Soloing with Max was not a problem, because Max is a master accompanist.

When I first joined the band, I was concerned about this, and he said, "Look, don't worry about anything. I've got the time covered, so you just play whatever you want. Just be free." He just lays everything down beautifully for you. You just go ahead and play. There is a lot of mutual feeling in the band. Everybody was on an equal level, and that's why it was so easy to solo in his band. You're not really out there by yourself.”

The idiomatic conventions and instrumentation of different bands present unique challenges. To participate in every musical situation, players must negotiate within the group's timbral atmosphere and make the most of the aural palette at their disposal. In absorbing the blend of timbral colors, they derive a distinctive experience that stimulates their conception of ideas.

Art Davis's professional affiliations depict the wide-ranging musical environments of jazz improvisers. When Davis joined Max Roach's band, the group comprised a pianoless hard bop quintet in which the unusual mix of bass and tuba accompanied the standard voices of trumpet and saxophone. Later, when performing with John Coltrane's Ascension band, Davis encountered an equally unusual combination of two basses. There, in the environment of a free jazz group whose eleven members included five saxophones and two trumpets, he intertwined his bass part with Jimmy Garrison.

Providing further contrast to these earlier experiences are the rhythm sections of some big bands. Count Basie's rhythm section of bass, drums, piano, and guitar embodied a classic swing feeling, whereas Dizzy Gillespie's rhythm section featured conga drums and an array of Latin percussion instruments, combining traditional Latin rhythms with those of jazz. Subsequently, Davis's tenure with saxophonist Arthur Blythe sometimes involved a standard quartet with piano, drums, and bass; at other times, an unconventional saxophone and bass duo. Other situations found Davis in the rhythm section of singers like Lena Home and jazz pioneer Louis Armstrong.

Altogether, Davis's affiliations spanned style periods from New Orleans jazz to the avant-garde. Another versatile artist, [bassist] Don Pate, is "known as being open-minded by other musicians because," he asserts, "I feel there's a need for every kind of jazz: swing, bebop, free jazz, fusion. Each requires you to create different things. To me, playing with a different kind of jazz group is like going to a new city or a new country. I'll try anything once, for the experience."

Expounding on the incalculable value of such varied training, Benny Bailey[trumpet] tells of learning "how to develop a big sound in swing bands, how to phrase and blend with other musicians in a section." Sometimes, the precise conditions of each band's musical environment necessitate creative adaptation, inspiring new approaches to invention on an individual's part. Before the days of amplified music, Earl Hines developed the unusual stylistic trait of playing patterns in octaves in order to project his part better, "cut[ting] through the sound of the band," which had been, he felt, "drowning me out." Similarly, Coleman Hawkins cultivated his dynamic range and characteristic "fullness of sound" in the context of groups that found him playing solos over "seven or eight other horns all the time."

Kenny Barron describes Ron Carter's quintet, which, by contrast, featured the string bass as a solo instrument. "From that experience, we all learned to use dynamics and shading. I don't think that there was a band in the world that could play softer than us. Ron's music was also a lot more structured than some, and that accounted for the overall sound the band had." Art Farmer recollects his initial discomfort as a member of the group when "Gerry Mulligan's quartet was pianoless. It just had a baritone, trumpet, a bass, and drums. Basically, I missed the piano," he reveals.

“We had a few rehearsals, and then we went to work. The first night, I just felt like I didn't have any clothes on. I felt really exposed because you didn't have any piano playing the chords to make what you're playing sound good. That was something that I had to learn to handle. It was a matter of being more careful. I learned to play lines that had musical value by themselves. Also, I learned to make an adjustment in volume because Gerry's style was much softer than others. The drummer was playing a lot with brushes, instead of bearing down with sticks, and so you couldn't go out there with your horn and start hollering and screaming.”

In contemporary fusion bands such as the Pat Metheny Group and the Yellowjackets, musicians must learn to integrate their improvisations with it preprogrammed musical events of sequencers. They must, as well, pit the rhythmic skills against the mathematically precise and mechanical delineation of time provided by drum machines (drummer Paul Wertico).

A related characteristic distinguishing bands is their individual emotion; atmospheres. It is the leader who usually sets up the feeling or the mood of the overall band, Melba Liston observes, and, as a member of the family, "You have to go that way, because if you don't, you don't fit in." Assessing the notion of a group's ambience, Liston brings up a virtual catalogue of legendary bands.

“In Dizzy Gillespie's band, players have a strong feeling "when you go on the bandstand, you're ready to burn. With Lady [Billie Holiday], you've got a laid back kind of bluesy, sultry feeling. I mean, you've got to swing, but you're not going to holler, stomp, and carry on like you do with Dizzy's band. . . . Quincy Jones's band was sort of in between. It was . . . swinging, but still a little delicate. Not nearly as bluesy, kind of white collar. . . . Dizzy's hard hat [she laughs]. And Basie's band has its own different color — tone colors and feeling that's more organized and routine. You're going to stay about the same way all night long, whereas with other bands, you reach greater highs and lows."

Within the general emotional atmosphere of a band, subtle aspects of individual performance style and unique features of collective interplay further shape the experiences of musicians. "In each group, dealing with different musical personalities on the bandstand — just individual ways people had of expressing themselves — was a lesson in itself" (pianist John Hicks).

[Bassist] Buster Williams elaborates on the variability in playing behind several individuals on the bandstand:

"When you're playing with people who have their craft together, if you're wise enough, you just look and listen and learn. There is a special sensitivity that you learn from singers which is incredible. Sarah Vaughan has got perfect pitch, so you have to play perfectly in tune with her. Betty Carter's a real jazz stylist. Nobody's a stylist like her. When she does a ballad, she does a ballad softer and slower than anybody else I've ever experienced. So, I had to learn to play with a lot of space. It's always more difficult to play slow than it is to play fast. These are the kinds of things that really expanded my playing."

Close working relationships with the jazz community's renowned figures are commonly the high points of an artist's career. Composer/arranger Gil Evans praises Miles Davis's monumental achievement as a "sound innovator," recalling the excitement of being in his musical presence during their collaborations. "Like I told him one time, T sure am glad you were born!'"

Similarly, Elvin Jones beams in remembrance of John Coltrane and cites the combined qualities of inner peace, quiet determination, and superhuman control that enabled Coltrane to attain the ever-expanding artistic goals he set for himself. With deep religious conviction, Jones deliberates upon their association.

"He was so calm and had such a peaceful attitude, it was soothing to be around him. And John, to me, has that spiritual context that he put into everything he did. It was something that everybody could recognize. ... To me, he was like an angel on earth. He struck me that deeply. This is not just an ordinary person, and I'm enough of a believer to think very seriously about that. I've been touched in some way by something greater than life."

The inseparable mixture of Coltrane's personal and musical qualities had a remarkable effect on the musicians around him, urging them to extraordinary musical heights.

It is, perhaps, in guiding other artists to discover deep within themselves unique facets of their own sensitivities and talents, and in effecting creative inspiration that artists might otherwise never have realized by themselves, that jazz musicians share their greatest gifts as teachers.

Betty Carter is "the kind of person who wants to hear you play to your ultimate," Buster Williams points out. "She has an incredible sense of swing, and the way she sings shows you who she is. When you see someone else like Betty putting everything that she has into the music, it makes you feel the responsibility to do the same. Like Miles, she has a way of bringing out your full potential."

Moving from band to band, performers strengthen various facets of their musicianship and deepen their knowledge of jazz, its idioms, conventional musical roles, and aesthetic values. Even when artists remain for an extended tenure with a band devoted to a particular idiom, the experience of improvising is seldom static. It changes constantly, in fact, with adoption of new repertory and arrangements, with developments in the individual styles of fellow players, and with turnover of personnel that dramatically alters the pool of musical personalities, bringing renewed enthusiasm to rehearsals and performances. Every constellation of musical talents and backgrounds alters the group's compositional materials as it fashions its collective artworks, and reestablishes its unique territory for invention.

In meeting the multiple challenges of a shifting mix of groups, artists sharpen technical skills as they continuously assert and evaluate their musical ideas, ultimately defining and refining their personal improvisation concepts. Bands are not simply an economic necessity for performers but are also fundamental forums for training and development. They are educational institutions indispensable to the sustenance and evolution of the jazz tradition.”