Monday, September 25, 2023

Madd for Tadd- "Central Swing & Our Delight"

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

“... Dameron is a much underrated performer who stands at the fulcrum of modern Jazz, midway between Swing and Bebop. Combining the broad-brush arrangements of the big band and the advanced harmonic language of bop, his own recordings are difficult to date blind. The title of one of his most renown tunes - On A Misty Night - catches the sense of evanescence which seems to surround both the man and the music.”

Richard Cook and Brian Morton, The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, 6th Ed. 

At the time [1948] that Miles began spending more time at Gil's basement apartment, the New York scene was vibrant but also in another state of upheaval. Big bands were bailing out, and the 52nd Street clubs were closing one by one or converting to strip joints. Yet New York's jazz world, drastically shrunk now in its venues, was still innovating. The seeds of a post-bop direction were already in evidence, not just among Evans and his friends. Arranger/composer/pianist Tadd Dameron, who had written for Gillespie's big band, was fronting a medium-sized combo; his current music had a light, fluid approach that veered off from the more frenetic side of bop.6 Dameron's music and working groups provided an alternative to Miles Davis's work with Charlie Parker in the late 1940s and had a formative impact on Davis’ evolving style.”

- Stephanie Stein Crease, Gil Evans, Out of the Cool: His Life and Music [pp. 154-55]

“‘I taught Tadd, you know,’ recalled Dizzy. ‘You can tell that his writing was very much influenced by my harmony, by what I had worked out on the piano by myself.’”

- Dizzy Gillespie to Alyn Shipton, Groovin’ High, The Life of Dizzy Gillespie [p. 163]

Over the years, the editorial staff at JazzProfiles has spent a lot of time researching the music of Tadd Dameron as this link to our “Career Overview” will attest.

So you can imagine our excitement when Terri Hinte, who heads up a public relations firm that specializes in Jazz, sent along a media release and preview recording of “Madd for Tadd: Central Swing & Our Delight” by a 15-piece big band led by saxophonist Kent Engelhardt and trumpeter Stephen Enos set for an August 25th release on Tighten Up Records.

Upon receipt of this information, the first thing I did was search for their 2018 debut recording - The Magic Continues - which I had completely missed upon its issuance. 

If you are a fan of Tadd’s music, you won’t want to miss these recordings. They are magnificent from every perspective: the reimagined arrangements of Tadd’s music including many of his lesser known and somewhat obscure compositions; the high quality of the musicianship which does justice to the skill required to play Tadd’s music well; the imaginative soloing which brings out new dimensions to many of Tadd’s pieces; the superb audio enhances makes Tadd’s music and makes it feel fresh, vital and of the moment; the informative booklet notes by journalist and author Willard Jenkins which offers commentary on each of the tracks on the recording.

These recordings are an excellent example of the way in which the Jazz Repertoire is becoming the American Classical Music of the 21st Century. Not only is it studied, examined and preserved, but it is performed and recorded and, in so doing, brought to life for future generations to enjoy.

Many of the qualities and admirable attributes associated with “Madd for Tadd: Central Swing & Our Delight” are delineated in the “News & Info” releases that Terri puts together to accompany the releases by clients that she represents.

They are little “gems,” goldmines of information that few critics or bloggers - including me - can surpass.

So perhaps it is best to just share them with you “as is.” They are as delightful as the music they represent.



“Kent Engelhardt doubles down—literally—on his pursuit of big-band arrangements of the works of Tadd Dameron with Madd for Tadd's August 25 release of Central Avenue Swing & Our Delight (Tighten Up). The two-disc set (a follow-up to their 2018 debut The Magic Continues) finds MFT, Ohio-based alto saxophonist Engelhardt's 15-piece Dameron big band—co-led and conducted by trumpeter Stephen Enos—performing 21 new orchestrations of the totemic composer's tunes as well as a new original composition by Engelhardt.

As the title suggests, Central Avenue Swing & Our Delight is really two separate albums in one. Central Avenue Swing features music that Dameron wrote in 1940 for the Kansas City bandleader Harlan Leonard and His Rockets, as well as his 1949 composition "Heaven's Doors Are Open Wide" and Engelhardt's title track. Our Delight, meanwhile, comprises songs that became showpieces for some of the bebop era's greatest soloists.

For Engelhardt, who serves as Professor and Coordinator of Jazz Studies at Youngstown State University, Dameron's music held a natural attraction. "He had a profound gift of melody, like George Gershwin and Duke Ellington," Engelhardt says. "He created melodies that instantly stuck, and his harmonic inventions brought colors to the music that just hadn't been heard before, foreshadowing what was to come."

Yet Dameron (1917-1965) did most of his work for the small combos that were bebop's staple; though he personally preferred writing for large ensembles, he was rarely able to realize those ambitions during his lifetime. "The challenge was carrying over Dameron's concept to a large ensemble setting without losing the integrity and spirit of the small groups, and the improvisational component," says Enos, who is also the founder of the Tri-C Jazz Studies Program at Cuyahoga Community College. "The key was to try and hear what Tadd was hearing at the piano and basing everything on that. The more time we spent with this music, the more we appreciated what a genius he was."

Of course, Engelhardt and Enos are no slouches themselves. They breathe new life into prewar swingers like "Dig It" (with its buoyant call-and-response between vocalist Erin Keckan and the band) and "Take 'Um" (with Dave Kana's marathon tenor sax solo) and reaffirm the charge of bebop classics "Lady Bird," highlighted by an Engelhardt alto line, and "Mating Call," whose Latin rhythms are accented by beautiful brass and reed exchanges. It's enough wonderful music to drive anyone Madd for Tadd.

Kent Engelhardt was born May 20, 1963, in Youngstown, Ohio to parents that loved music and spread that love to their son. He began taking piano lessons at the age of six, switched to saxophone in middle school, and studied jazz with campus legend Tony Leonardi at Youngstown State University.

After completing his bachelor's degree, Engelhardt went on the road with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra (under the leadership of Buddy Morrow) before returning to YSU to teach and earn a master's degree. He earned another master's as well as a Ph.D. in ethnomusicology at the University of Pittsburgh (with Dr. Nathan Davis), while continuing to teach at his alma mater, where he remains to this day.

Drawn to Tadd Dameron's music since his undergrad days, Engelhardt directed his research professorship at YSU toward the project of transcribing, notating, and editing Dameron's compositions for big band (as recorded on his final album [on Riverside], 1962's The Magic Touch). That accomplished, Engelhardt put together an ensemble that would allow him to hear the music he'd written. Thus was born, with the help of his friend and colleague Stephen Enos, the 15-piece Madd for Tadd ensemble, drawing together musicians from around the country to vivify Engelhardt's interpretations of Dameron's work.

Madd for Tadd showcased Engelhardt's arrangements as part of a celebration of Dameron's centennial at the 2017 Tri-C Jazz Festival in Cleveland; following that performance, the band recorded the tunes for their first album, 2018's The Magic Continues. Rather than sating Engelhardt's appetite for Dameron, however, these accomplishments only increased his hunger to explore the great composer's music. Central Avenue Swing & Our Delight forms the next link in a chain that, says Engelhardt, is not yet complete.



If the Guinness Book of World Records recognized such achievements, Kent Engelhardt would surely deserve recognition for his epic undertaking: transcribing, editing, and notating all of the legendary Tadd Dameron's compositions. Not only well-known, frequently performed bebop anthems like "Hot House" and "Good Bait," but also more obscure tunes like "Handy Andy (aka Gnid)" and "Super Jet."

Not content with getting his arrangements down on paper, Engelhardt, Professor and Coordinator of Jazz Studies at Youngstown State University in Ohio, formed a 15-piece band, Madd for Tadd, to record them. The ensemble's first recording, The Magic Continues (2018), offers heady remakes of the songs from Dameron's final album, The Magic Touch (1962), plus five other compositions. In 2017, MFT got to celebrate the centennial of Tadd Dameron's birth by performing the magical tunes at the Tri-C JazzFest in Cleveland, the city in which he was born.

Boosted by the positive response to that performance and their luminous recording ("If you love Tadd Dameron, this album is a must," wrote blogger Marc Myers), MFT tripled their output with the new double-disc follow-up, Central Avenue Swing & Our Delight. It includes no less than 22 more freshly conceived treatments — half taken from material Dameron wrote in the early 1940s for Kansas City mainstays Harlan Leonard and his Rockets and half from various contributions to the bop-era playbooks of Billy Eckstine, John Coltrane, and Blue Mitchell.

What makes MFT's recordings so special is the shared vision of Engelhardt and his musical partner Stephen Enos, trumpeter and founder of the Tri-C Jazz Studies Program at Cuyahoga Community College in Ohio. One of their missions was to convert Dameron's small group recordings to a larger band treatment — Dameron's preferred setting, but one he never got the chance to work in for most of his career because his forward-looking concepts didn't mesh with existing trends. The Magic Touch was recorded by such an ensemble including Clark Terry, Bill Evans, Johnny Griffin, Ron Carter, and Philly Joe Jones.

For all the recordings, alto saxophonist Engelhardt and trumpeter Enos (who also conducted) recruited a handpicked ensemble of music educators from Ohio and Pennsylvania and other parts of the country. The stalwart musicians included pianist Phil DeGreg (Cincinnati), trumpeter Brad Goode (Denver), bassist Dave Morgan (Youngstown), trombonist Michael Dease (Michigan), and DIVA pianist Jackie Warren (Cleveland).

"I've always wanted to put together this kind of band," says Engelhardt, who also contributes original compositions to the mix. "A good number of us have played together a lot over the years. I mean, the rhythm section, we've all known each other for decades. As music educators, we were all familiar with the process of playing fresh material. We did many of the recordings in one take."

Says Enos, 'The challenge was carrying over Dameron's concept to a large ensemble setting without losing the integrity and spirit of the small groups, and the improvisational component. The key was to try and hear what Tadd was hearing at the piano and basing everything on that. The more time we spent with this music, the more we appreciated what a genius he was."

Engelhardt didn't take the usual path to embracing Dameron. He was initially hooked not by the Tadd tunes made famous by bebop legends including Charlie Parker (on whom Engelhardt has written two books), Dizzy Gillespie, and Miles Davis, but by what proved to be the swan songs on The Magic Touch. This was back when he was in college, listening to a lot of records and trying to figure out how to write music.

"My schoolmate Dave Rivello (who now directs the New Jazz Ensemble at the Eastman School of Music], played me this recording of some Tadd Dameron stuff. There was just something so special about it. I wasn't exactly sure why at the time. But I picked up a few recordings at a used record store and just fell in love with The Magic Touch. I wanted to learn everything I could learn about it, so I could have it become part of me."

Engelhardt was hardly alone in taking his time gravitating toward Dameron's utterly distinctive blend of lyrical jazz melodies and classical-shaped harmonics. "He had a profound gift of melody, like George Gershwin and Duke Ellington," he says. "He created melodies that instantly stuck, but it took a while to figure out how and why. And his harmonic inventions brought colors to the music that just hadn't been heard before, foreshadowing what was to come. And he was only 23 when he first made his mark!"

Engelhardt immersed himself in Dameron's compositions as part of a research professorship at Youngstown State. "I'm a jazz detective," he says. "My background is in ethnomusicology, so I know how to research, and how to create something new from my discoveries."

"I didn't know if I was ever going to get to perform the music anywhere outside of Youngstown with my students. But Dave Morgan, my colleague at Youngstown, said why don't you call Steve [Enos] and see if you can use Tri-C's new recording studio. We hadn't played together or done anything together for a long time, but we were good friends, so I pitched the idea to him and he just went head over heels. He said, man, we've got to do it! We've got to put together a band right now! Dameron's centennial was coming up and we just had to perform his music in Cleveland to mark the occasion! That made me even more excited about what we were doing."

The Magic Continues includes transcriptions and arrangements of 15 Dameron compositions including the enduring classic "If You Could See Me Now," "Fontainebleau," and "Our Delight." Among the revelations on the new collection are "Lady Bird" based on the 1948 version that Dameron recorded with trumpeter Fats Navarro, and a second version of "Our Delight" that Dameron penned for Billy Eckstine.

"If you talk to a jazz trumpet player and you go, hey, do you know those Navarro recordings, they flip out. Those are the favorite recordings of jazz trumpet players all over the place. Everybody plays 'Lady Bird,' but Tadd never got to have it recorded by an ensemble that would bring out its harmonic genius." Engelhardt not only arranged it for a larger band, but also wrote lyrics that are sung by Erin Keckan, a much-admired Cleveland artist.

"Mating Call" and "Soultrane" are based on the versions Dameron recorded with John Coltrane for their 1957 recording. "A Blue Time" and "Smooth as the Wind" are from trumpet great Blue Mitchell's 1961 album, Smooth as the Wind—"all new music," per Engelhardt, that Dameron arranged for brass, strings, and rhythm.

Kent Engelhardt was born on May 20, 1963 in Youngstown, Ohio. His mother played piano and organ when she was younger. His father didn't play but loved music and telling stories about going to dance halls and amusement parks to see the likes of Harry James (he was there the week that Frank Sinatra joined James's band). Kent's father had a small record collection, but one item, the EmArcy anthology Jazz of Two Decades, captured the fancy of his son, who started taking piano lessons at age six.

Motivated by the EmArcy collection of'40s and '50s recordings, Kent, who switched to saxophone during middle school, attended a Jamey Aebersold jazz camp, where he got to meet and interact with saxophonist Dave Liebman and trombonist and composer/arranger Slide Hampton. He went on to study saxophone, clarinet, flute, and jazz at Youngstown State, joining a list of jazz notables who went there including pianists Harold Danko and James Weidman and saxophonist Ralph Lalama. Like many others at Youngstown State, Kent's jazz skills were honed under the tutelage of Tony Leonardi. After graduation, Kent toured internationally with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra conducted by Buddy Morrow.

Back at YSU, he taught part-time, acquired a Master's in Performance (clarinet) in 1993, and was hired as a full-time faculty member. He attended the University of Pittsburgh, where he acquired a Master's and Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology. His advisor was the beloved educator and saxophonist Nathan Davis, whose ties to Kansas City, his hometown, opened doors for Engelhardt's research into the music of Charlie Parker. (Engelhardt also has transcribed the music of the Jay McShann Orchestra with Parker, Count Basie, and Mary Lou Williams.)

Engelhardt, who has performed with a wide range of artists including Clark Terry, Buddy Rich, Mel Torme, Frank Foster, Joe Lovano, Maria Schneider, and Slide Hampton, is hardly finished with Tadd Dameron. "My next project will be to create larger group arrangements of Tadd's music that has been kind of forgotten about," he says. "And then there's a few things with Clifford Brown and Benny Golson which haven't really been investigated much. There's never any shortage of music to investigate."

It's easy to understand Engelhardt's enduring love for and fascination with Dameron's music. "Tadd once said there was too much ugliness in the world, and that he was looking for beauty," says the jazz gumshoe. "Well, he found it again and again and we're all the richer for it."

Madd for Tadd: Central Avenue Swing & Our Delight

(Tighten Up Records) Street Date: August 25, 2023

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Media Contact: Terri Hinte -

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your kind words and your posting! We are extremely grateful.
    Kent Engelhardt


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