Friday, January 31, 2020

Ronnie Scott's Revisited

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

“The feel becomes more important, the truth of it. You accept yourself for what you are. If it’s not Stan Getz or Mike Brecker or John Coltrane, at least it’s you. For better or worse.”
- Ronnie Scott

“There have been musician-run Jazz clubs before – Shelly’s Manne Hole, Ali’s Alley, Fred Anderson’s Velvet Lounge – but none with the quiet charisma of Ronnie Scott’s in London’s Soho.”
- Richard Cook and Brian Morton, The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD

“It is no small tribute to the talents of Ronnie Scott and Tubby Hayes that their Couriers of Jazz Quintet was the first to break the ice for modern Jazz with a two-tenor combo, by no means an easy unit to work with. There has been one other such successful two-tenor unit in recent years, that of tenors Al Cohn and Zoot Sims which excited Jazz fans during its brief existence.”
- Ralph J. Gleason

Over the years, the editorial staff at JazzProfiles has had the good fortune of visiting London on a number of occasions.

These trips were mostly to do with business, but usually included a little pleasure thrown in on the side.

One cold and rainy night [apologies to Dickens] as we were finishing work, a colleague who was also a Jazz fan suggested that we drop-by tenor saxophonist Ronnie Scott’s world-famous Jazz Club located at 47 Frith Street in the Soho section of the city.

The club opened on 30 October 1959 at 39 Gerrard Street, also in Soho, before moving to its present location in 1965.  Having celebrated its 70th anniversary in 2019, it is still in operation today. 

My colleague had a membership in the club which provided for a reduced cover charge, a discounted drinks ticket and other privileges including an annual subscription to the club’s newsletter.

He was also apparently so well-known to those granting admission that they allowed us access to the downstairs bar, a small basement room at Ronnie’s where musicians hung-out before, during and after sets.

After we had settled-in, we both noticed that Ronnie Scott was there smoking a cigarette and having a drink. I gathered that my associate knew Ronnie well enough to walk over to say "Hello" ["Hallo"?] and introduce me to him.

Upon meeting Ronnie, I blurted out something to the effect that I had been in his debt for a number of years.

By way of background, I had studied drums in Southern California with the late, Victor Feldman.

Also a native of London, Victor had come to the United States in 1956 at the urging of none other than Ronnie Scott.  Scott had been like an older brother to Victor, so when he basically told Victor that there was nothing left for him to achieve in English Jazz circles, Victor took his advice and accepted Woody Herman’s offer to come to the USA and join his big band

It was the beginning of a 30-year career for Victor [who died in 1987] which was marked by huge commercial success in the Hollywood studios as well as a number of artistic high points in the Jazz World including a stint with Cannonball Adderley’s Quintet, a recording session and short term gig with Miles Davis and a number of his own, excellent piano-bass-drums trios with bassists such as Scott LaFaro, Monty Budwig and John Patitucci and drummers like Stan Levey, Colin Bailey and Johnny Guerin.

All of which prompted me to say to Ronnie Scott: “If it hadn’t been for you, Victor Feldman may not have come to the states and I might have missed the chance to study with him and to get to know him as a friend.”

Ronnie shook my hand and then said: “Victor and Tubby Hayes were the best Jazz musicians that England ever produced.”

To which I said: “I’m glad I never had to choose between them.”

Ronnie Scott smiled and retorted: “Smart man.”

He then motioned with his head to bring over a nearby cocktail waitress and as she approached us he turned and said: “Keep your money in your pocket, you’re my guests tonight.”

Nice man who did a ton for Jazz.

If you wish to know more about Ronnie Scott, his career in music and the history of his club, there is no better pace to start than with a copy of John Fordham’s Jazz Man: The Amazing Story of Ronnie Scott and his Club, [London: Kyle Cathie Limited, Rev. Ed., 1995].

Mr. Fordham is a Jazz critic, writer and broadcaster who contributes regularly to The Guardian and he has a number of other books on the subject of Jazz to his credit.

© -John Fordham, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“'Blow!' yelled Tubby Hayes. His partner Ronnie Scott launched a solo on 'Some of My Best Friends Are Blues', a mid-tempo twelve-bar blues that constituted one of his rare contributions to the art of jazz composition. The tenor was harder and more gravelly now, but zigzagging gracefully over the chords. A packed house at London's Dominion Theatre on that night in 1958 had already warmly greeted the band's breakneck opening version of Cole Porter's 'What Is This Thing Called Love?', even though the band they had really paid to hear was still to come - the American Dave Brubeck Quartet, then at the beginning of its boom years.

Hayes and Scott cut distinctly contrasting figures in the footlights. Though both were immaculate in suits - something that the sartorially pre­occupied older man had always insisted on - clothes looked as if they fitted Scott to the last thread, while Hayes couldn't help resembling a schoolboy who had borrowed his father's Saturday night special.

As with most British modern jazz ensembles, nobody did anything par­ticularly demonstrative on stage. Scott would stand virtually motionless at the microphone, the horn held slightly to one side, his eyes often closed. He was restrained in the presentations on that night, slightly nervous but still registering his old familiar trademark.

'Thank you very much,' he said to the audience's applause for 'Some of My Best Friends Are Blues'. 'And now from a brand new LP which you may have seen in the shops, entitled Elvis Presley sings Thelonious Monk...'

The headlong delivery of the Cole Porter tune had been virtually a def­inition of their style, preceding the melody with wild, nervy riffing like the sound of frantic footsteps on a staircase, Porter's original notes suddenly materialising as if the perpetrator had burst through a door.

Most of what the Couriers did had that crazed momentum about it, it was sealed, hermetic, impervious, music not particularly suited to the expression of human frailties of the kind that were being poignantly articu­lated at the time by Ronnie Scott's old playing partner, the West Indian Joe Harriott, or by the Scottish player Bobby Wellins. But it had a gleeful, belli­cose appeal. On the Dominion gig, they closed an equally tumbling version of 'Guys and Dolls' with a call-and-response section that turned into a head­long unison coda, ending on a blipping high note as if someone had abruptly planted a full stop in the music. It brought the house down. The finale was a rendition of 'Cheek To Cheek' so fast that only dancing partners bound at the neck could possibly have sustained the lyric's original sentiments.

Though Brubeck himself, highly impressed with Scott and Hayes, was to say at the end of the tour 'they sound more like an American band than we do', there was an unintentional irony in his remark. Brubeck didn't really sound much like an American band at all, being preoccupied with European conservatoire music and a kind of ornate, theoretical jazz. But American modernist outfits like those of Art Blakey and Hank Mobley in reality sounded quite different to the Couriers.

The attack of the rhythm sections was the dividing line - Blakey's cym­bal beat was restless and probing, the momentum sporadically lifted by huge, breaker-like rolls and admonishing tappings and clatterings. With underpinnings so strong, the soloists could afford to play less, and avoid the hysterical, fill-every-chink manner frequently adopted by their admir­ers abroad. Insecurities about their quality by comparison with the Americans led British bebop bands to a kind of over-compensatory pyrotechnics, like teenagers driving cars too fast to prove their mettle. The palais-band tradition was audible in the Couriers' work too, in expert but slightly fussy arrangements that sounded very close to the repertoire of a miniature dance orchestra. But the Brubeck tour of Britain was a golden opportunity for the band, and the Dominion gig - recorded for EMI as The Jazz Couriers In Concert - was a high spot of it.

Though the band represented as much as he'd ever wanted from playing, Ronnie Scott revealed later that year, in a passing remark during an inter­view, that he had not forgotten that old 52nd Street dream. He was featured in Melody Maker in the autumn of 1958, where he was described as 'one of the post-war angry young men of jazz'. Scott reiterated his dislike of critics, a point he made whenever he got the chance. He was asked if he wanted to be a session player and replied that nothing would please him more, except that 'the only sessions I've done recently have been rock 'n' roll, where I have to play out of tune/ But the end of the interview showed the way his mind was turning. What were his hopes for the local jazz scene? Td like to see a new type of jazz club in London/ Scott replied. 'A well-appointed place which was licensed and catered for people of all ages and not merely for youngsters/
By the summer of 1959, the steam was going out of the Jazz Couriers. Tubby Hayes had never really stopped relishing the idea of a larger band, one that could handle the growing scope of his writing and arranging.

The last date was 30 August at the City Hall in Cork. And after the demise of the Couriers, which Ronnie Scott would have continued with indefinitely if the choice had been entirely his, there seemed little enough to get excited about in the jazz world. The only versions of the music that seemed likely to attract a substantial following were the Dave Brubeck group and the Modern Jazz Quartet. They were subtle, intelligent outfits, but they didn't display that infectious creative tension audible in Stitt's band, or Miles Davis's, or the Couriers themselves on a good night. After the first tidal wave of rock 'n' roll had subsided, you could demonstrate your taste by having a recording of one of Brubeck's explorations of fancy rhythms and hybrid classicism in your collection, or the hushed, cut-glass chamber-jazz of the MJQ. They were the closest fifties jazz came to pop­chart success.

Critics were divided about them. Benny Green had by this time virtu­ally stopped playing and was working regularly as a jazz critic for the Observer, a new career offered to him by that newspaper's most influential jazz fan, theatre critic Kenneth Tynan. Green was a fluent and witty writer, one of the few jazz musicians who was comfortably capable of turning the offhanded, oblique, observant and frequently macabre humour of the music business into prose. He hated the hyping of Brubeck and the MJQ and frequently laid into them in print. 'The British jazz fan is highly con­scious of his own insularity,' Green began an article on Brubeck during the pianist's 1959 visit to the Royal Festival Hall. 'He yearns to be in the swim, so our promoters cater most thoughtfully for this desire by sticking topical labels on their American touring shows/ Green went on to describe Brubeck's popularity 'as one of the peculiar aberrations of current taste'.

The Modern Jazz Quartet fared little better. Green concluded resignedly that: 'For the last five years four men have sought with painful eagerness to transform the racy art of jazz into something aspiring towards cultural respectability/ That much was undeniable. The MJQ took pains to dress like a classical chamber group, and performed with a measured and metic­ulous deliberation, for all the improvisational gifts of its four members in other settings.

While on holiday in Majorca that year, Scott had a reminder that maybe running a club could simply be fun (which was all he'd ever really asked for) and an opportunity to make a little money, present musicians he admired, and have somewhere amenable to play. He met a drummer and club proprietor called Ramon Farran, who was the son of a Catalan band­leader and had married Robert Graves's daughter Lucia. Through Farran, Scott came to meet the writer at Canellun, the house that Graves had built in the picturesque village of Deja in 1929. The poet broke the ice by simply enquiring: 'What's the pot situation like in London now?' He turned out to be fascinated by jazz, had even acted as patron to unconventional artists like Cecil Taylor. Scott was in turn fascinated by Graves and a little dis­comfited by his circle too. They had all read so much, and they were so funny, but with a sense of humour impenetrably dependent on knowledge and an education Scott hadn't had the benefit of, not the wisecracking, fatalistic, self-defensive shield against fate that came from a childhood on the streets of the East End.
Graves showed Scott around his booklined study. He seemed, Scott reflected later, to have written most of them himself. 'I've tried writing,’ Scott began tentatively, 'but I find it the hardest thing in the world.'

'Of course you will,’ Graves replied somewhat brusquely. 'Unless you're God.'
They got on well. Scott spent a good deal of time walking and swim­ming with Graves. He was astonished by the old man's boundless energy, springing up the steep slope from the sea to the house like a gazelle.

By 1961 Ronnie Scott was visiting the Majorcan capital Palma regularly, often performing with Farran's Wynton Kelly-like trio at the drummer's Indigo Club, and he was to continue his visits until the early 1970s. Graves would periodically visit London, too, in the days after Ronnie Scott had become a promoter as well as a performer of jazz. 'Robert's in the club/ Scott would call through to Benny Green. 'Do you want to come down?'

The breakthrough was an accident, of course. Jack Fordham, the Soho entrepreneur, had lost interest in the Gerrard Street premises that Scott and King had occasionally used for their own jazz presentations. Fordham's principal living came from the hamburger joint - one of the first - he ran in Berwick Street. Eventually he offered 39 Gerrard Street to Scott for a knock­down rent. It became Ronnie Scott's first club.

Pete King - who like Benny Green had by now realised that he needed to choose between a playing career and something more promising - was almost entirely involved with promotion, partly on his own account, and partly in association with Harold Davison, and worked out of his own Soho office. He caught Ronnie Scott's enthusiastic conviction that this was the moment they'd been waiting for. Then Scott went to his parents to ask for help and got a loan of £1000 from his stepfather to get the ball rolling. Sol Berger was by this time a successful partner in a textiles company, and he willingly bought a stake in his step-son's club.

Number 39 Gerrard Street had nothing but space and not very much of that. The two would-be club proprietors went to the East End in search of cheap furniture and bought a job lot of chairs which they arranged in aus­tere lines in front of the bandstand. Pete King's father-in-law, a Manchester carpenter, came down to help build a few rudimentary tables. Then there wouldn't be room for dancing, so it was going to have to be a venue for fans who really wanted to come and listen. There was no liquor licence and the best the establishment was likely to be able to provide was tea, for years sta­ple fuel for the Archer Street metabolism (the two men had established a lifelong 'tea bag connection' with a Chiswick wholesaler), coffee, and maybe a hamburger.

From the start, it was an unspoken agreement that the front man would be Ronnie Scott and that the club would bear his name, though King was crucial to the graft of administration even then, and would become the dif­ference between survival and collapse in later years. King's commitment was total, and Stella was obliged by the working hours to bring up their two children almost singlehanded. But to King, Scott was the unchallenged star. Someone had to embody the club in the eyes of the jazz public. Scott was the most highly regarded modern jazz musician in Britain, apart from Tubby Hayes, and his reputation was something money couldn't buy.

The London modern jazz world of the late 1950s was a limited market and for the new contenders in it, the lie of the land was not so difficult to gauge. In Wardour Street, a stone's throw away, was the Flamingo, already in existence for two years. The old Studio 51, which opened after the Club Eleven's demise, had started life with a modern jazz policy but by 1959 was presenting revivalist and traditional music. As for the amount of music you could reasonably expect to present and still come out ahead, Saturday night audiences were good and Sundays passable, but weekdays were graveyards.

Scott and King thought the entrance prices charged by the other jazz clubs were too low ever to be able to finance really unusual acts. They never considered Americans, and anyway the embargo was still firm. They would gradually improve their modest premises so that one day it would be the kind of place where people wouldn't mind paying a little more just to be in a real club. And they would build towards making jazz a part of London life. After scratching together the basics, they went about developing a marketing policy. What this amounted to was a weekly pooling of gags by the musicians that could be deployed as publicity in small ads in Melody Maker. Scott had never seen any reason why you shouldn't present any enterprise to the customers as if the whole thing were a joke, as long as you didn't treat it as one when it really counted, and that meant playing. He therefore placed an entry in the columns of Melody Maker of 31 October 1959 which declared the following:

39 Gerrard Street, W1

Friday 7.30pm.

Tubby Hayes Quartet; the trio with
Eddie Thompson, Stan Roberts, Spike Heatley.

A young alto saxophonist, Peter King, and
an old tenor saxophonist, Ronnie Scott.

The first appearance in a jazz club since the
relief of Mafeking by Jack Parnell.

Membership 10/- until January 1961.
Admission 1/6 (to members) 2/6 (non-members)

The entry concluded boldly: 'The best jazz in the best club in town' - Ronnie Scott having learnt from the American example that you didn't lose any­thing by excess. If the punters didn't agree they could always vote with their feet. It was a gamble, but Ronnie Scott came from a long gamblers' line.

Scott and King had opened the proceedings with a shrewd mixture of attractions, a blend of the new and the familiar intended to cut across as many of the modern jazz persuasions as possible. Hayes was a sure-fire cert, of course, and would be appearing with the Couriers' old pianist Terry Shannon, and with Phil Seamen on drums and a brilliant new bassist, Jeff Clyne, who had played on the streets of Edgware with Ronnie Scott's step­sister Marlene and who had revered the local heroes, the Feldman brothers, on those same streets. As for the reference to the 'young alto saxophonist Peter King', this was not a gag at his partner's expense but introducing a sensational new arrival on the scene, a thin anxious-looking nineteen-year-old from Tolworth in Surrey, who had been playing for just a little over two years and already demonstrated his intense admiration for the work of Charlie Parker - King's speed of thought and richness of resources were close to rivaling Tubby Hayes even then. The newcomer's preoccupation with Parker extended, as Benny Green observed, to his small-talk, which consisted almost entirely of analyses of the structure of various Parker solos.

In the press, Peter King was modest about his achievements. He said he was 'limited both technically and musically. But I can feel something com­ing.' In fact, as the more discriminating of local observers immediately realised, King was virtually there. He was already one of the few British interpreters of Parker's methods to execute the complexities of bop with an air of ease and relaxation. This was not so much discernible in the young man's demeanour onstage (his eyes would be downcast as he played, his legs splayed and knees bending with the beat like a man who had spent a long time on horseback, and he perpetually looked nervous) but in the flu­ency with which streams of new melody tumbled from his horn, and the momentum of his rhythmic attack.

King had never served an apprenticeship in one idiom and then switched to another. He was a modernist through and through. His very existence was a testament to the value of the players of Scott's generation having made those pilgrimages to New York and spent those long hours in Carlo Krahmer's studio listening to imported 78s. They had built a spring­board for new players that would make possible a conclusive rejection of the inferiority complex that British players had about their jazz.

The first gig also featured Eddie Thompson, a pianist whose ideas absorbed swing music, bop, the majestic 'orchestral' jazz pianists like Art Tatum and Duke Ellington and a good deal of classical music too. In fea­turing Thompson, the club was opening with one of the finest keyboard artists in the land.

It was an evening of magic. Scott and King had already set themselves several dates that they had eventually missed and the club wasn't really ready for business even on that memorable occasion of 30 October 1959. There were shows every night of that weekend; in the daytime frantic efforts were made to improve the place. The club was packed with musi­cians and friends. Ray Nance, Duke Ellington's trumpeter who was returning to the States after the band's European tour, dropped in on the Friday night to wish Scott luck. It became obvious that the all-nighters were such a magnet for after-hours players looking for somewhere to blow that the club began to charge them 2/- for the privilege, a state of affairs that caused a certain amount of hurt surprise.

Many in the business, who thought they knew only too well not only the prospects for modern jazz in London, but the temporary nature of some of Ronnie Scott's enthusiasms as well, gave the place no more than a couple of weeks. But in the event it was just what the London jazz public needed. It was informal, it didn't charge nightclub prices, the music was consistently good and it was devoted to a no-messing policy of presentation of the best practitioners of jazz in BritainMelody Maker ran a spread on the club the week after it opened, with photographs of Scott, Thompson, Tubby Hayes and others. The copy declared:

In addition to presenting the top names of British modern jazz, Ronnie intends to feature promising young musicians at the club and Friday's guest stars included the new alto sensation, Peter King.

In its pre-Christmas edition, its correspondent Bob Dawbarn also com­mented on the new arrival as 'a highly optimistic note for British jazz. There are still too few places for the modern musician to ply his trade, but the players themselves took matters into their own hands.'

Word of mouth was the publicity machine for the most part, apart from those little ads in Melody Maker. Scott devoted himself to making a minia­ture art-form out of them in the hope that people would seek them out, promising anything he could think of. He would claim that the club would be featuring an unexpected joint appearance by Sir Thomas Beecham, Somerset Maugham and Little Richard. He would promise food untouched by human hands because the chef was a gorilla.

The place caught on. Visiting musicians from abroad, increasingly prevalent in Britain as Harold Davison and others staged more and more concerts that would tie into existing European tours, were to be seen in Ronnie Scott's, which added to the glamour of being there. There were, after all, few enough places in any town where such a rare bird as a jazz musician could truly feel at home. The drummer Shelly Manne, in London with one of Norman Granz's 'Jazz At The Philharmonic' packages, even returned to the States to open a club of his own after having spent some time absorbing the atmosphere at Gerrard Street. That the place was run by musicians was already promising to be a considerable benefit. Even though Scott and King were not in a position to pay big money, they were in the same business as the professionals they were hiring, and they were honest. Players didn't suffer the crippling paranoia, fleecing and all-round disrespect that often characterised relationships between jazz musicians and promoters.

Two problems were soon apparent. The first was that there was a law of diminishing returns about presenting British jazz players - even the very best - night after night. Scott and King soon felt the draught of this diffi­culty. They ran the establishment on a simple principle, based on a consul­tation with the rudimentary accounts at the end of each week. If there was enough in the kitty to pay the artists and the rent for another week's work, it meant the place was still open.

The second snag was the absence of a bar. Scott and King looked into the formalities and the regulations were complicated. If you were going to serve alcohol, you needed a 'wine committee'. Ronnie Scott and Pete King formed two-thirds of the wine committee and asked Benny Green to be the third, being a literary man and a correspondent for a high-class newspaper. Green duly travelled to Wembley police station to make a statement as to why Ronnie Scott's Club wanted to make a public nuisance of itself in this way.

'What is the purpose of this club?' asked the station sergeant wearily.

'It's to try to get rhythm sections to play in time,' intoned Green, straight-faced.

The sergeant dutifully took it down word for word. The club's liquor licence was also dependent on providing some form of emergency exit in the case of fire. It was rudimentary enough, and fortunately never had to be tested, being simply a metal ladder that extended upstairs into the hallway of the Jewish garment manufacturer above. Relationships with that estab­lishment were mixed during Ronnie Scott's tenure in Gerrard Street.

 Early on it became apparent that Scott and King were going to be no orthodox club-owners. Scott's guiding philosophy, as it had been back in the days of the nine-piece, continued to be that if you could get a laugh out of it, it couldn't be all bad. The word soon got around. Here was a place where all of the misfits and square pegs of a square mile of London dedicated to the entertainment of the normals by the weirdos could relax in congenial company - like writer Colin Maclnnes, a deep devotee of jazz and friend of Denis Rose, like actor and playwright Harold Pinter. A man called Fred Twigg attached himself to the club, and became its odd-job man and cleaner. He took to sleeping on the premises, which worsened a chronic condition that Twigg lived with - apparitions. He often complained to the proprietors of flying creatures and gorillas that frequented the establish­ment at night. And in those early days, the club unexpectedly became an actors' studio as well.

Ronnie Scott had known the actress Georgia Brown from the East End, and she suggested to him that the Gerrard Street cellar would be perfect as a daytime rehearsal room for an actors' company. The company turned out to involve the likes of Maggie Smith, George Devine of the Royal Court Theatre, Michael Caine and Lindsay Anderson. (Ronnie Scott fell unrequitedly in love with an actress called Ann Lynne and visited the Royal Court night after night to watch her in performance with Albert Finney.) Scott and Benny Green found the rehearsals irresistible. They both took to standing behind the tea bar for hours, endlessly making lemon tea for the labouring thespians and eventually found their own communications with others helplessly enmeshed in fake stage-speak. 'What dost thou fancy in the 4.30?' Scott would enquire of Green.

One of the rehearsals involved George Devine donning an elaborate mask, and demanding that the actors guess the emotion expressed by his body-language only. Devine went up to the street to prepare, and promptly vanished. It transpired that the passing citizens of Soho had concluded from Devine's mask that exotic fetishistic pursuits were going on downstairs, and had mobbed him. Devine eventually tore himself away and fled inartistically down the steps. 'Fear!' promptly supplied the members of the actors' company on the appearance of the master, still sticking to instructions.

Throughout 1960, the difficulty of sustaining an audience for the local musicians continued to nag at Scott and King. The Musicians' Union ban had stopped being unconditional two years previously and international artists regularly came and went. But residencies, the maintaining of an imported star in a British venue night after night for a week, or a month, had not been considered. King, who still worked with the now highly suc­cessful impresario Harold Davison, knew that the latter would not be keen that his protégés step on his territory.

But King also knew that things could not go on as they were. He began at the British Musicians' Union, with the assistant secretary, Harry Francis, who was amenable to the idea of a new arrangement that would suit the requirements of a specialist nightclub. If the exchange of artists would be one for one, Francis was convinced that the request would go through on the British side. King turned his attention to the real nub of the problem. Since the 1930s, James C. Petrillo of the American Federation of Musicians had effectively battened down any form of trade in musical resources likely to cause loss of earnings to his own members. Petrillo (nicknamed 'Little Caesar' because of his stocky, pugnacious, Edward G. Robinson-like demeanour) was a man with a straight-shooting style of negotiation that made him a formidable opponent. The American Federation's policy had grown out of far leaner years than the 1950s and King, as a musician himself, was generally sympathetic to the union's orig­inal position. Its inflexibility from the mid-fifties onwards was principally fuelled by the attitude of the British Musicians' Union, which was con­vinced that American members would receive far more attractive invita­tions to Britain than the other way around. King reasoned that if jazz musicians were the Cinderella’s of the profession already, it was short­sighted now that times were not so hard to turn down a policy that might further the public's interest in the music generally.

Scott and King needed to pick their first guest, then worry about the bureaucracy afterwards. They chose Zoot Sims, a one-time partner of Stan Getz in the Woody Herman band and a player with much the same lyricism and raffish elegance as Getz but with a more robust and muscular delivery. Sims was popular at the Half Note Club in New York, an Italian family business by the Cantorino brothers, with a reputation similar to that of the Scott club in London for presenting good music to audiences that cared about it in an atmosphere conducive to relaxation and inventiveness. Sims accepted readily.

King then went to New York to try to sew it up. He told the music press that Tubby Hayes was taking a holiday in America at the same time, and it was only reasonable that he, as Hayes's manager, should make an attempt to arrange some work for his client. King met Sims for a beer to chew it over. They played Tubby Hayes's records to the Cantorino’s, and from dis­trusting a project they felt they didn't really need - an English jazz soloist on a month's residency in the heart of New York's jazzland - the Italians came around to the idea, and wanted to help Zoot, an old friend. The mat­ter went backwards and forwards inside the American Federation officials' headquarters for what to King seemed like an age. But the news finally came through that Petrillo had accepted the deal. King rang Scott in London and told him they were in business. Scott rang Harry Francis at the Musicians' Union and the swap was on. Finally they called Sims, who asked simply: 'When do I come?'

The exchange was arranged for November 1961. Ronnie Scott's Club was about to become an international jazz venue.

Zoot Sims was a delight.

After his first show, the proprietors of London's new international jazz club sat bemused in their locked up premises, counting the hours until they could hear him play again. For Scott, who had probably already subcon­sciously decided that a policy of booking practitioners on his own chosen instrument was going to be one of the principle ways he would enjoy being a promoter, Sims was a definition of the modern jazz musician who was still functioning wholeheartedly and pragmatically in the world everybody else had to live in.

He had a lot in common with Ronnie. He had been a teenage saxophone star in a showy jazz orchestra, the Woody Herman band. He was an unpre­tentious, unaffected, music-loving enthusiast. He knew jazz history. And he always played the music as if he enjoyed it. Sims was the kind of player who could have thrived in just about any sort of jazz band of the previous forty-odd years.

Sims delivered his easy-going swing and gentle rhapsodising through­out the month of November 1961 to thrilled audiences at the club. A casual, fresh-faced man, Sims would play without demonstrativeness, holding the instrument still. His opening bars would establish the tune with the direct­ness and confidence of a player completely at ease with his raw materials, and much of his appeal was founded on the manner in which his sound exhibited both confidence and a heady lightness, as if he were performing a graceful juggling act in slow motion. King arranged a short tour of out-of-town venues for Sims, and the proprietors presented him with a silver brandy flask after his last performance. Other local musicians donated such peculiarly British gifts as copies of Goon Show records.

Sims was also one of the first Americans to experience the off-beam goings-on that entered the folklore of the Ronnie Scott Club in its various in­carnations. Somebody threw a smoke-bomb into the room on 5 November which cleared the premises, but the Californian, a man after the Eastenders' hearts, barely raised an eyebrow. Fred Twigg, the club's vision-prone cleaner, was deeply suspicious of the quiet, unassuming visitor. 'Russian spy,' he warned Scott ominously. 'He's a Russian spy.'

In an interview, the usually unforthcoming Sims declared he was delighted with playing in London, since the intimacy of a club gave him the opportunity to relax. 'It reminds me of the Half Note,' Sims said. 'The atmosphere is warm and it's an easygoing place. Musicians like it. It has the same kind of management.' Sims added that he'd like to see Ronnie Scott play in the States. 'It depends on his confidence,' the American accurately observed.

For Scott's part, he was sad to see Sims go. 'My God,' he mused. 'What an anti-climax next week's going to be.'”

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Dave Pike - I Don't Stand A Ghost of A Chance

Ronnie Cuber - THE SCENE IS CLEAN - "Flamingo"

Tamir Hendelman - "The Cape Verdean Blues"

Dizzy Gillespie in South America - Part 3

© Copyright ® Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

If you don’t know the music on this 3 CD set, you should, as you will find it to be some of the fullest expressions of Dizzy’s mature style ever captured on record, as well as, a record of the beginning steps of instrumentalists such as Phil Woods, Benny Golson and Charlie Persip that would help them develop into full-fledged Jazz icons during the later years of their careers.

The interviews included on this, the third disc in the set, are priceless primary sources.

And the band, feeding off of the enthusiasm and energy of the audience, never sounded more exhilarating. Charlie persip’s big band drumming is a revelation.

Dizzy’s solo on Night in Tunisia is one of his most spectacular on record IMHO.

“In the course of an interview with Dan Morgenstern, many years ago, Dizzy Gillespie stated: “I’m a rhythm man, you know. I used to play for dancers," and added, talking about his wife, Lorraine, "She used to be a dancer, and I still try to phrase like that. I loved to play for the chorus line at the Cotton Club. One night — I had just joined Teddy Hill - I was playing something that really made that line step, and Bill Robinson was watching in the wings. He turned around to somebody and asked. 'Where did that little bastard come from?' I'm still a rhythm man."

Given his predilection for rhythm, it is not surprising that Gillespie became involved, early on, with Latin beats and notes. In cosmopolitan New York he was first exposed to the world as a member of the Teddy Hill orchestra, in 1937. The Latin Beat was in the air. In 1938 he appeared at the Savoy Ballroom with the eminent Cuban flautist Alberto Socarras. "I wanted my band to play everything," said Socarras, ""Spanish music, Brazilian music, Argentine music, Cuban and American music. But I wanted my music to sound American. So when the trumpet solos came, Dizzy took over. It sounded American because an American was playing it. It was easy for Diz to go from American music to Cuban music, see. Also, I wrote my own arrangements, and Dizzy s solos were very nice, very Cuban-like.'

"We played Cuban music first, like boleros and things like that, and he phrased his solos marvelously. Then we played rhumbas, fast numbers, and his style was very Cuban. To him it was as easy as American music was to me."

When Gillespie joined Cab Calloway’s band in 1939, his section mate and roommate was Cuban Mario Bauza, who had taken a day off so that Dizzy could replace him and thereby directly audition for Cab. "Mario was the first to impress me with the importance of Afro-Cuban music," Diz stated. He became interested in its various aspects and told Bauza that if he ever led his own band, he would incorporate a conga drum. A man of his word, Diz did just that in the 1947 edition of his big band when he hired the great Chano Pozo. Recordings such as "Algo Bueno," "Manteca" and "Cubano Be-Cubano Bop" were instrumental in establishing Afro-Cuban as a powerfully viable jazz expression.

His  State  Department  trip to South America in 1956 gave the ever-inquisitive Gillespie a firsthand opportunity to encounter indigenous forms such as the tango and samba. After playing in Ecuador, the band arrived in Buenos Aires via a non-playing stopover in Chile. 

In Buenos Aires Osvaldo Fresedo, the tango king, had a nightclub where his band appeared. Usher, who had been invited by Dizzy to record the big band but who also served unofficially as press liaison, tells the extraordinary story of the event. "Fresedo did an impromptu recording with his orchestra and Dizzy. Before that, for publicity purposes, I went to the opera house and got Dizzy a gaucho costume. So Diz had the hat. the lace shirt, a vest and a big belt. Actually. Che Guevara’s sister gave Dizzy and me a belt. Dizzy was also wearing boots with spurs, so we just had to get him a horse. I went to a stable near the racetrack. The horse was swaybacked."

"Dizzy was waiting at the Starlight Club on a side street. We made our way there in a cab — slowly, because a stable boy was following on the horse. Dizzy got on the horse, holding his trumpet and a glass of milk. They're taking pictures of him, when all of a sudden, he gives the horse a little kick with his spurs and it takes off.

"We're on this side street, and the horse goes toward the main drag. It’s about five o’clock in the afternoon. No stop lights on an avenue that's about 16 lanes wide, and Dizzy got right into the traffic. We thought he was going to get killed, but he made it back and went right into the club and started recording."

In Rio de Janeiro Gillespie became enmeshed in the samba. “We went up to the Esquola de Samba, which is a school for the samba up in the hills behind Rio, and we watched the performers,” says Usher. “And ofcourse Dizzy loved it. He was like a little child, so fascinated by the rhythms."

Dizzy described the experience as "dancing and rhythm, that's all. There are no melodic instruments. The rhythms themselves make melodies. Run you crazy. The samba school consists of rhythm sections comprised of different instruments, like the tambourine, cuica and berimbao."

Cepao, identified by Diz as the chief arranger at the television station, was involved with the recording Gillespie did with a samba band in the Hotel Gloria nightclub. "Cepao made an arrangement on something inspired by me, and I played with it," Dizzy explained. "They made some terrible breaks that sounded just like Charlie Parker and me. They wrote music that sounded like the lines we played and then put samba rhythms behind it. Cepao was the first to do that down there."

Jazz musicians are often praised (perhaps not often enough) for the adaptability and facility at their command that enables them to "get in the moment." I need not waste any words in explaining this phenomenon. Just listen to Dizzy’s creative, spontaneous alchemy in “Cepao’s Samba.”

Understanding will come to you much more directly and deeply. We not only hear this take but also the next one, unannounced. Both of his three-chorus solos, related but each a distinctive gem, will make your spirits soar.

On the next track, "Gloria Samba," Dizzy's muted horn joins with flute to carry the jaunty melody, but he has no solos.

The tracks with Fresedo place Gillespie into another domain but again reveal his faculty for fitting into a new situation, here exploring and instinctively understanding the dramatic draperies of the tango, as on "Preludio No. 3" and "Capricho de Amor," or the more lightheartedly romantic moods on "Adios Muchachos" and "Vida Mia," while remaining in character and, incidentally, reinforcing his reputation as a master of the coda.

Those of you who have either volumes 1 or 2 of Dizzy in South America know the power, precision and heart of the 1956 Gillespie orchestra. Here are two more examples, all previously unissued.

First up is "Yesterdays," featuring Phil Woods in an arrangement by Howie Kravitz, who, as Phil explains, "was a fellow student when I was at Juilliard." It is a welcoming chart, and the alto saxophonist decorates it with warmth, color and swing. Woods, who was with the band for both its Middle Eastern and South American tours, says this of his leader: "There was magic when Dizzy was in front of a band. There was magic wherever he was, but when he planted his feet and took his batting stance in front of you, look out! When he puffed his cheeks and hit one of those driving, fiery solos, you could see the energy and hear the gasps of delight from band and audience alike. You had to take care of biz when you played with Diz!"

All of the above applies to Gillespie’s solo on "A Night in Tunisia." This is not to say that there is anything shabby about Dizzy's solo on Volume I’s "Tunisia," but that one is more laid back — for Diz. This solo is of "jaw-dropping" dimensions. While my mandible was descending to the floor, the rest of my head was shaking itself in awe. I had to play it again before moving on to Benny Golson s tenor saxophone solo. The thrust of Benny's inspired improvisations are further proof of Phils adage that "you had to take care of biz." Bassist Nelson Boyd s solo changes the pace before Charlie Persip drums the shouting ensemble back onto the bridge. Frank Rehak’s trombone, in his instrument’s traditional role on Gillespie’s anthem, plays the last eight bars of the theme and then it’s Dizs coda.'Nuff said.

The spoken documentation of the tour originally consisted of three interview sessions. The first was conducted with Gillespie at the Continental Hotel in Buenos Aires, and you are aware of the Spanish translator in the background. Dizzy gives a history lesson and dispenses some nuggets from his deep well of wisdom. His reference to the elements necessary for the music to be truly considered jazz are equally applicable today — even more so.

The other two discussions were brought about by Dave Usher, who felt it was important to reunite some of the surviving members of the South American tour to share their remembrances. In 2000 he participated in one meeting with tenor saxophonist Billy Mitchell (who, sad to say, passed away on April 18,2001), Charlie Persip and deejay Boo Frazier (Dizzy's cousin who served as an aide de camp on the tour) and another meeting with Benny Golson and trombonist Rod Levitt.

These tapings, quite naturally, contain many stories about the Gillespie band and the entire South American experience, but they go beyond that. The first includes tales of the Basie band, Dinah Washington, Lester Young and others, and the second contains references to Astor Piazzolla, Heitor Villa-Lobos and Lalo Schifrin.

In 2001 Usher taped three more interviews, with Quincy Jones, Phil Woods and Lalo Schifrin. Some of the same topics and people are discussed from other angles with ardor and insight; there are revelations about the effect of Dizzy’s tour on Jobim and Gilberto; and further testimony is offered on the widespread influence of Gillespie on the music of the 20th century. It is better listened to than described. Listen!

DIZZY IN SOUTH AMERICA Volume 3 is a unique combination of music and talk. Together with the preceding volumes it gives a vivid account of an important chapter in the life of one of the greatest musicians the world has ever seen and heard.”
—Ira Gitler

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

The Dave Brubeck Quartet - Calcutta Blues

Joe Morello's hand drum solo on this track is one for the ages. The drummer as musician.

Julie Kelly sings Corcovado (A.C. Jobim) arr. Otmaro Ruiz

Dizzy Gillespie in South America - Part 2

PART 2 – The Interviews
© -Steven Cerra. Copyright protected; all rights reserved.

The subsequent account by Quincy Jones is drawn from the JAM SESSION website which is maintained by the Meridian International Center – Arts for Cultural Diplomacy and the Institute for Jazz Studies and helps provides a background for Dizzy’s 1956 State Department Tour of South America.

Dave Usher also interviews Quincy and it appears as track 13 on Volume 3 of Dizzy in South America.

Following Qunicy’s testimonial there is a transcribed, text interview with alto saxophonist Phil Woods about his impressions of Dizzy and the South American tour of 1956 and a YouTube of Dave Usher’s interview with composer-arranger Lalo Schifrin, whom Dizzy met during the tour and who was to play such a significant role in Dizzy’s musical career for many years thereafter.

Our sincere thanks to Dave Usher, once again, for his generosity in allowing these materials to be featured on JazzProfiles.

© -Meridian International Center-Arts for Cultural Diplomacy; copyright protected; all rights reserved.

Quincy Jones, Los Angeles, California

One of my happiest recollections is when the U.S. government in 1955 asked Dizzy Gillespie to organize a band that would travel to Southern Europe, the Middle East, and South Asia as America's first Jazz Ambassadors. Dizzy was booked on a Jazz at the Philharmonic tour of Europe and was unable to recruit and rehearse the group. Since we had a history of working together he asked me to do it and, at the age of 22, I levitated. At the time, I was working on the first record by a 17-year-old unknown track jumper from San Francisco named Johnny Mathis. After I got the request from Dizzy, I explained to George Avakian that “my Nation” (Diz) had called and I had to decline the offer of working with Johnny.

Over several months, I found the best jazz musicians in the United States, reworked some of the older arrangements, wrote new ones, plus had band members like the great Melba Liston and Ernie Wilkins compose original charts. We wrote arrangements for the national anthems of every country we visited and also composed a piece representing “The History of Jazz.” We picked up Diz in Rome in March of 1956 and continued on to our first gig in Iran. The band was ready to play.

The entire trip was an adventure. We didn't know what we were getting into; neither did the State Department. It was new for everyone. While we expected to encounter leaders, we also wanted to meet the people. From Pakistan to Iran, Syria, and Yugoslavia we had a great time — learning about local customs, jamming with each country's musicians, and letting the music bring us together. We became the kamikaze band representing our country. I say that because there was conflict of some kind going on in every place we visited.

They were so pleased with our tour accomplishments that we were asked to make another trip that summer. We visited South America where, again, jazz helped us to build bridges and tell a larger story of America — and ourselves — to people from all walks of life. Music and art have that kind of power — and the fact that the State Department adopted this model for decades after our 1956 tours means that it worked.

There is no substitute for these kinds of personal exchanges — especially those based on the arts. They allow us to better understand one another, to respect and value our differences, and more importantly, our similarities. They also do this on a profound level that can change attitudes and beliefs. Believe it or not, some of these countries had never seen or heard trumpets, trombones or saxophones play together.

The jazz tours, many over fifty years in the past, may not be known by some Americans, especially the very young. That is why I am pleased Meridian International Center has organized Jam Session for travel around the country and the world. This exhibit captures America's jazz greats as they shared their spirit with the people of the world — and shows how music can create lasting connections.”

© -Subsequent interviews transcribed and reprinted with the permission of Dave Usher; copyright protected; all rights reserved.


“Dizzy was just pivotal to my whole being, to the core of my being.

One of the last gigs we did was the Dizzy Gillespie-Phil Woods All-Stars in Europe.

Now we’re playing Birks Works, and Dizzy says to me: ‘You’re having a little trouble with the pick-ups, aren’t you?’

And I said: ‘Well, I got no rhythm, you know: I’m Irish.!’ All of a sudden, I was back to being 24-years old again and I’m playing with Dizzy Gillespie.  But when he said that to me, school was open again.

He said: ‘You know, I’m standing right next to you’

Dizzy never missed a beat, he never missed a trick. Now the sound at the gig is echoing all over the place, the drums are reverberating and I couldn’t hear the center of the beat.

So I said to Dizzy: ‘Birks, so how the hell do you find the center when its all spread out like that?’

Dizzy doesn’t miss a stitch, never did, so he says to me: ‘You know, I’m a rhythm man!’ [laughter!]

Dizzy is the most important musician to come out of Jazz. He had it all. He could communicate with the people and he took a lot of raps because he was a communicator.  He was always modest and even when the critics were putting him down, Dizzy always gave the credit to Charlie Parker [nicknamed “Bird”].

Bird was the meteor who came across the sky and disappeared, but Dizzy was the guy who took it all and carried right through to the end.  He was always ‘going to school.’ Dizzy was good at playing the piano; Bird didn’t play any piano. Birks [Dizzy’s middle name] had the piano down; harmonically he was a master.

Nothing was ever said in that Ken Burns thing [PBS documentary series on Jazz] about [doesn’t continue this thought but instead asked the question]. Where would Charlie Parker be without [composer] Jerome Kern?

You know, the Jewish-European harmonic sense is what Dizzy and Bird got and it fed the Bebop soul.  Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, all those cats – I call them Jewish European, but they weren’t all Jewish – but they all had the European tradition of harmony.

But this never gets mentioned. Without songs they wrote like The Song is You and All The Things You Are, you wouldn’t have Dizzy and Bird. Diz and Bird went hand-in-hand with the European harmonic tradition; [Burns] really missed the boat on this … [relationship].

These are the songs they utilized [to create the structure for Bebop] and these songs are European-based [harmonically]. They are not an American invention: these didn’t come Appalachia or the spirituals in New Orleans; this is how Jazz got its voice, as a blend of Afro & European things.

[The influences on] Jazz is not just based on one continent, but on influences from the whole world.

Dizzy was the first one to collate it [these Afro-European influences], to analyze it and to put it into a form and explain it to the Swing [era] guys like [tenor saxophonist] Coleman Hawkins; and [alto saxophonist composer-arranger] Benny Carter was there too; he was utilizing this harmony.

You can’t subdivide [subtract?] the rhythm from the harmony. When you got the rhythm that Birks had plus the harmonic sophistication, you got the whole package. [By comparison], Bird was just instinctive, but Dizzy was more studied [in the accomplished sense of the word]; he was just a student all his life.”

At this point, Dave Usher reflects on [but doesn’t give a specific location for] a later tour that he had made with Dizzy in the 1980s and hisf suggestion to Dizzy that they use their off-night to go hear a Jazz group.  Dizzy’s answer was: “I don’t want to hear a Jazz group, I want to hear their thing” [i.e.: native or indigenous music].

[Phil picks it up from here again and says]: “Yeah’ like jamming with a snake charmer [something Dizzy actually did in Karachi, Pakistan during a 1955 tour]. He was always studying music no matter where he went.”

I never met him before he did it, but Quincy Jones put that  band together – God Bless Quincy Jones – he was the one that heard me on the [earlier] Birdland All-Stars tour and that led to me being on the band for the 1955/56 State Department Tours.

Can you imagine, I’m 24-years old and I’m on stage playing Groovin’ High with Dizzy Gillespie? It began a friendship and that love that we had for each other … [interrupts thought and continues with] … I can tell you a whole bunch of stories about how important he was to my life, but that South American tour in 1956 was pivotal.

I’m so happy that you are finally releasing [the music] from it because, Man, when Dizzy took that batting stance and put that horn up to his chops with a big band, that was Dizzy at his best. Just listen to his performance on A Night in Tunisia – he hits it out of the park. It’s primo; it’s just primo. We knew that at the time, of course. But now, the rest of the world can hear it too.

Dave Usher: Well, that’s the wonderful part of being able to do this [release the music from Dizzy’s 1956 tour of South America]. He’s been so underrated; I don’t know what we can do to make history find its way [to accord Dizzy the recognition he deserves].

Phil continues:  His [Dizzy’s] contribution is so important that its probably going to take historians a hundred [100] years to figure it out. We haven’t even figured out Duke Ellington, yet!  American goes on; the ash tray is full; buy a new car. And now its even worse than ever with most people’s attention span being as long an eight note.

Hopefully, the cats [Jazz musicians] will always know and his message will be clear. But your right, people have a funny viewpoint of who Dizzy is. ‘ Oh, that Dizzy Gillespie, he’s just that crazy guy that funny guy.’ They have no idea of his depth.  Because he could communicate [through his humor] with an audience, even the be-boppers put Dizzy down. They criticized him for show-boating or pandering when he was just being Dizzy and trying to help people feel good.

Dave Usher: [Point well-taken] … it’s very interesting that when Dizzy and I got together and started Dee Gee Records [in 1951], we did tunes like School Days and
Oo-Shoo-Be-Doo-Be because both of us felt that it would be an opportunity to bring people in who wouldn’t normally listen to us. And within the structure of that commercial appeal, he could play and the group could play, which is exactly what those things were all about.

Phil Woods continues: That’s similar to the reason why Charlie Parker made the album with strings, to play some [recognizable] melodies. Bird didn’t have that savoir faire, that je na sais quoi communication that Dizzy had.

What’s wrong with trying to touch some people?  Is that a dirty word? Miles and his guys moved it into an art form, but there’s a balancing act between art forms and entertainment and Dizzy is the guy who walk that tightrope and do that trapeze act.

This is why he [Dizzy] was the best choice for the State Department. Because even though people didn’t understand the music, they liked the way this man stood up in front of that band and boy, they sure knew he was a ‘rhythm man.’ Just the way he used to dance during the introduction to Manteca.

And we had a lot of laughs like when he called me and said: ‘Look we got this quick State Department tour of South America coming up. I know you got the $25 last time, but this time it’ll be $50 [assumedly referring to Phil’s weekly tour salary], but you are the only guy whose got a passport and all the shots. And you know the book; you wanna come back?’

I said, ‘Oh, thank you.’  And I went to South America and it was like a Gift from God.

Dizzy was always doing stuff, like one night he kidnapped me. This was in the 1960s. Art Blakey was working somewhere and I was sitting at the bar, bitching and complaining.

During the break, Art and Dizzy kidnapped me, the put me in a cab and one sat on either side of me in the back seat and Dizzy got a look on his face and said: ‘What’s your problem Woods?’

And I said: ‘Well, you know, things [work opportunities] are just not happening.’

Dizzy said; ‘If you got your act together, you could make something of yourself.’

I said: ‘You really think I’m any good ?!’

Dizzy said: ‘Yes, if you stop whining and grow up and play your horn.’

I said: Ya, but I’m a white guy …. [trails off].’

Dizzy said: ‘Bird gave it to everybody. Bird gave the music to all races. If you can hear it, you can have it. You have the talent; grow up.’

Phil: Art Blakey was saying the same thing. So that’s when I got my own band and I never looked back.’

Can you image these Giants of Jazz taking time out of their busy scheduled to talk with this Irish-honkey who is crying the blues? You know when your 24, 25 or 26-years old you have all these doubts.

Dave Usher interjects: Yes, but he [Dizzy] wouldn’t say that unless he felt it.

Phil comments: I know, I know, I was always grateful that he gave me that kind of support. I always looked up to him for that and admired him.

The last tour we did together Dizzy said to me: ‘I’m so lucky to be a Jazz musician.’ Here’s this guy who at that time had been doing it for 50+ years who still thinks that he’s a lucky so-and-so.

And I feel the same way.  Dizzy always gave something back; he was especially patient with the young guys and I’ve always tried to keep that tradition, too. Charlie Parker was this way, so was Art Blakey and many of the other Giants.

That ‘oral tradition of the tribe’ which has kind of been lost with all of this Jazz education that we have now. But, then too, I’m all for it because any time you can get a guy to play an instrument he’s less likely to kill you with an Uzi.

I’m the last generation to learn at the feet of the Masters. I mean I was there. The Masters and The Youth used to travel on the same bus. There are no more buses. I mean, that was our university.

It ain’t just about Giant Steps [i.e.: being able to play on the complicated chord changes to this tune written by tenor saxophonist John Coltrane as a rite of initiation].

The young guys and the old guys played in big bands together, small groups together; there was a sharing, like a family thing that was very special.

Piazzolla [Argentine tango composer and bandoneón player. His oeuvre revolutionized the traditional tango into a new style termed nuevo tango.] came to hear my quintet when we were working at Fat Tuesday’s and he said: ‘You had no idea how important it was for us to hear you guys during the 1956 tour.’

He [Astor Piazzolla] wanted to take the old fashioned tango to another step; you know, they call him the Charlie Parker of Argentina. ‘When I hear that [Dizzy’s band], I knew exactly what to do.’

Because Piazzolla was European-trained, he related to the intricate harmonies of Dizzy and that combined with the rhythmical aspects of the Afro-Cuban thing that he was doing.

I mean the light went on all over South America [as a result of Dizzy’s 1956 tour]. Even Jobim, same thing.  The sophistication of that music, the difficulty of bebop reached them.  It’s one of the most difficult ways to improvise ever created.

Now kids can kind of rattle it off, but it sounds like it’s being done by rote; it doesn’t have the touch of the street like it had then [1940’s and 50’s].

You had to have the sophistication to learn it, but you also had to have both feet planted on the sidewalk and the sidewalk wasn’t exactly 5th Avenue, baby, or the Champs Elysees. [laughter]

It was the people’s music.  It wasn’t an elitist type of an art form which it has sort of become today. Everyone was dancing to the same beat. In those days, Jazz unified American families and the whole world. It wasn’t only important to the South American musicians, it represented freedom to all those Iron Curtain countries.

Those State Department tour are an example of whenever American wanted to do something good, in those days they sent a Jazz band. I mean our first tour was Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Greece, Turkey – all the trouble spots of the world.  I think they should have sent Dizzy a couple of more times, it might have saved us some lives.

Dizzy’s lessons have really paid off because now I think that some of the strongest music is coming from the Latin American countries.

People ask me: ‘Where is Jazz going’ and I think its going to international areas that have more rhythmic sophistication.

Dizzy, Monk and Bird took it harmonically about as far as you can go.  And then the Free [Jazz] guys took it another step to atonal – you know, no tonal center.  That didn’t work then and it still doesn’t work now. Minimalist stuff doesn’t work and is very dull.

Dizzy also pointed out that ‘South American musicians knew more about our music than we knew about theirs. He was right and we got to redress that balance, I think and start to “steal their licks” [musical phrasing]. It’s happening, there are some developments and you can trace all of these to the father – Dizzy.

At this point, Dave closes the interview with Phil stating in the waning moments: ‘I’m so lucky to be a Jazz musician.’”