THE JAZZ BUFF
FROM THE CHAIR – Stuart Brewster
Special recognition and appreciation needs to be extended to the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation for making an award of $150,000 to the Community School of Music and Art in Mountain View. The award will be split with Taylor Eigsti who will use the money to create a work for piano and ensemble entitled, “Imagine Our Future.” According to school spokesperson Sharon Kenny, Taylor plans to “engage young people in a social composition process drawing on their words, sounds, images and colors for musical inspiration.” The work is scheduled to be premiered in April 2020. Congratulations to all hands.
This recognition of Taylor is especially rewarding to PAJA. Our founder Dr. Herb Wong recognized his talent early on and nurtured him over many years. We were instrumental in taking him, as a mere kid, to an International Association of Jazz Education conference at Disneyland (Herb had been one of the presidents of that now defunct organization). Taylor met and played for several jazz luminaries at the conference. Later, I remember Taylor, still just a teenager, open a gig for Dave Brubeck in Redwood City.
Taylor is a longtime faculty member at SJW, and I heard him last summer at one of the Festival concerts; he was in what I would call his Power Mode, fast fingering, resonating in many directions, an exciting tour de force. Can hardly wait until 2020 to hear what new aspect of his multifaceted skills will come forth.
Did you see the article last month in the SF Chronicle about the Amoeba Music store in the Haight section of San Fran, still operating after 20 years? Part of the story focused on the revival of demand for vinyl records. In my opinion, this report omitted a significant point, namely why the renaissance? Again, IMO, it is due to the quality and character of the sound. As a survivor of 78s, 33 1/3s, tape, cassettes, eight tracks, CDs (no, I don’t go back to wax cylinders) and now streaming via some digital device, I have always found vinyl warm and mellow, soothing and relaxing. But, of course, my overall favorite is to experience what PAJA tries to keep going here on the Midpeninsula—hearing JAZZ LIVE. There’s nothing else quite like it. Our next concert will be in the spring. Stay tuned.
Another successful year has closed down. Your Board is most appreciative of the expression of support as indicated by your significant response this month to our special year-end request for donations. This will help us keep swinging.
Chair, Palo Alto Jazz Alliance
SJW BY THE NUMBERS
The 2016-2017 Stanford Jazz Workshop annual report reveals what a popular and important resource SJW is to jazz education and the jazz community in general. Total workshop enrollment this year was 811 students, ranging in age from 10 to 69, and from 19 countries and 29 states. About $80,000 in donated financial aid was distributed to students in need. At the Festival, total attendance exceeded 11,000. There were 41 free jazz events on campus during the year, with total attendance at those events 4,350. And chocolate lovers—1,750 complimentary See’s truffles were handed out.
SOME DIZZY HISTORY
2017 was the centenary of John Burks “Dizzy” Gillespie’s birth. This excerpt from an article on Dizzy in the Wall Street Journal (October 23, 2017) by jazz historian John Edward Haase summarizes beautifully some of Dizzy’s impact on jazz.
In 1940, [Dizzy Gillespie] met the 20-year-old alto-sax sensation Charlie Parker. They bonded immediately and, over the next few years, invented a new paradigm: music with asymmetric rhythms, rapid-fire tempos, fast-moving and complex chord progressions, and virtuoso improvisations using multiple scales and altered tones. This music– which much of the public found radically different, puzzling, or off-putting—was intended more for listening in small night clubs than for dancing in big ballrooms, as had been swing music. By 1945, the new style—known as bebop or bop—was fully formed, as heard on such Gillespie recordings as “Shaw ‘Nuff” and “Hot House”. . .
Gillespie developed an unmistakable trumpet style—rich with drama, bravura, humor, technique, and melodic and rhythmic invention—that set him far ahead of his contemporaries. Even today, his torrid cascades of high notes dazzle the ear. He also composed and collaborated on a number of jazz standards such as “Groovin’ High,” “Anthropology” and “Salt Peanuts.”
His impact was enormous. He was one of the most influential trumpeters of the 20th century, taking his distinguished place in the lineage of jazz trumpet royalty that began with Joe “King” Oliver, Louis Armstrong and Roy Eldridge. Gillespie affected virtually every trumpeter who came after him.
Gillespie attracted attention with his beret, goatee, horn-rimmed glasses, and, when playing, froggy cheeks. From 1951 on, a 45-degree-uptilted bell on his trumpet gave him further visual identity. A bandmate fell on his horn, bending it, and Gillespie found that he liked the sound projection. From then on, each of his trumpets was custom-made with an uptilted bell.
BIG BAND AFTERNOON AT SJW
Miles Ahead Big Band and Combo. SJW Alumni Big Band. Sunday Dec. 17, Dinkelspiel
Directed by composer/arranger Ray Brown, the SJW Alumni Big Band opened a gala, choice program, performed by some of the Bay Area’s top big band musicians. Warming up on maestro Brown’s tricky charts, the alums got going on “Joy Spring” and “Moonlight in Vermont,” where Michael O’Neill showcased his tender touch on tenor. Sweet work, there. Finishing up a satisfying set, the band blew hard on Brown’s “Straightahead City.”
Next up was the Miles Ahead Combo directed by Raffi Garabedian. The Miles Ahead Combo and Big Band are staffed by SJW’s high school all-star performers. Guitarist Grant Grech capably led the seven man combo through their three-tune set, hitting it big on Thelonius Monk’s “Rhythm-A-Ning.” Everyone soloed, standing tall.
The big noise of the afternoon was the Miles Ahead Big Band under the direction of Mike Galisatus; it’s one of the top prep big bands in the state. Last year they made the finals at the Next Generation Jazz Festival in Monterey, no mean feat against tough competition. This afternoon they were an amazingly tight ensemble of 19 supremely capable players. The soloists were so rich in talent, it was hard to believe these weren’t professionals. Seriously. Both Cameron Wanser and Nicholas Delurgio shone on tenor and were featured throughout the performance. Brian Lee had a terrific alto solo on “Lost In The Hours.” Paly trumpeter Armen Krakirian hit some high notes while taking several star turns, and drummer Sophia Stroud did fine work all through the six tune set.
It’s simply hard to believe these young people can play at such an advanced level. High schoolers they may be, but you’d be happy to pay big money to hear these all-stars any time they come to town.
Big kudos to Jim Nadel, Ernie Rideout and others at the Stanford Jazz Workshop for the great work they do with the Miles Ahead (high school) and Giant Steps (middle school) programs—Bay Area treasures that give us hope for the future of jazz./Michael Griffin.
SAN JOSE JAZZ WINTERFEST
This year’s Winterfest runs from February 15-28. . . 11 events, many held at Café Stritch. Headliners include Cyrus Chestnut, Dee Dee Bridgewater, and vocalist Veronica Swift, with Benny Green. Order your tickets now on the San Jose Jazz website.
NOODLING Thoughts on jazz
By Michael Burman
ARCO (Part 2)
In 1939, Duke Ellington’s bassist for four years had been Billy Taylor, Sr., after a career (originally on tuba) with McKinney’s Cotton Pickers, Jelly Roll Morton and Fats Waller. Late that year, Duke hired the phenomenal bassist Jimmy Blanton, then barely past his 21st birthday. Always one to avoid confrontation, Duke, rather than fire Taylor, had both Taylor and Blanton on the bandstand; Taylor read the writing on the wall and left the band in January or February, 1940. Duke then made the unprecedented move of his bassist to the front of the stage. Aural evidence suggests that all of Blanton’s most famous contributions to Duke’s orchestral recordings, such as “Jack The Bear”, were pizzicato, but Blanton played arco on some his duet releases with Duke from October 1940: “Body and Soul”, “Sophisticated Lady”, and “Mr. J.B. Blues”. (Blanton was soon to die far too young, in 1941 at age 23, from tuberculosis, the same disease that some 25 years later was to kill Paul Chambers at age 33.)
A decade younger than Slam Stewart, Major Holley likewise performed arco-and-voice, sometimes in a pseudo-“Mumbles” style, albeit in the same range as the bass. (You’ll recall Stewart vocalized an octave higher.) Stewart and Holley even recorded together a couple of times, for the French label Black & Blue in 1977, and four years later on “Shut Yo’ Mouth” for the Delos label. You can find some amusing examples from the latter on the Web, even if a little goes a long way.
It’s Jimmy Blanton whose influence is most evident down the years. Just as Gene Krupa made the drummer a high-priced guy, so did Blanton make the bassist a prominent and important figure. Blanton’s direct children are Charles Mingus, Ray Brown (it was Ray whom Duke Ellington chose in 1972 to reprise the Ellington-Blanton duets from 1940), and the sadly neglected Oscar Pettiford. Charlie Haden and Scott LaFaro are more recent examples of bassists influenced by Jimmy Blanton.
For arco excellence, chosen almost at random out of innumerable examples, check out solos by Eddie Gomez on “Elsa” (from Bill Evans’s “Montreux III”), Miroslav Vitous on “Think Of One” (from Chick Corea’s “Trio Music”), John Clayton’s “What A Friend We Have In Jesus” (from “Parlor Series, Vol. 2: The Negro Spirituals Dialogue”, and Christian McBride on “Introducing Brad Mehldau,” to name a few. Oh, and the wonderful Don Byas/Slam Stewart duet on “I Got Rhythm”, available on YouTube.
It remains the case that an arco bass solo is a surprise, causing a listener perhaps to wonder if the radio or CD player is on the wrong frequency or playing some cuckoo disc. Why this should be so, I don’t know. But I do think that it’s no bad thing. As Whitney Balliett observed, jazz is the sound of surprise, and if an arco bass solo still surprises us, so much the better.
Michael Burman hosts “The Weekend Jazz Oasis” Saturday evenings on KCSM Jazz 91.1
PAJA 2017 CONTRIBUTORS
As ever, we wish to give a special shout of gratitude to those who made additional contributions (over and above dues) in 2017. Many of you responded to our December fundraising letter, and we do appreciate your thinking of us at year’s end.
Cheryl & Bob Bartholomew
Ralph Deadwyler, Jr.
Malcolm & Cosette Dudley
Stephen E. Erickson
Les & Kay Filler
Paul & Jeanne Foerster
Glenn Grigg & Shirley Cantua
Max & Lori Jedda
Dr. K. Knox
Richard & Beverly Marconi
Kent Mather & Marcia Pugsley
Eileen Merten & Justin Rockwell
David & Elizabeth Miller
Bruce Powell & Jan De Carli
Eugene & Nancy Sharp
Brenda Smith & Cheryl Branco
Brad & Terry Soper
Sueann & Jeffrey Stone
Terry Tran & Alice Nguyen
REMEMBRANCES: CHASING THE KING COLE TRIO
By Herb Wong
This is excerpted from a piece Herb wrote for the King Cole Trio tribute in the March 1992 issue of Jazz Review. Courtesy of the Shirley Douglas American Jazz Archives.
The recent outpouring of Nat Cole reissues, many of which are reviewed in this issue, has caused me to flash back to the early days of my passion for and pursuit of the King Cole Trio. My interest was strongly trapped as a young grade-school student when I first heard them on an NBC series in 1938. That powerful introduction served to ignite a lifelong love for the Trio and for Nat Cole’s piano and singing.
My brother Woody and I were devotees. As very young jazz record collectors, we were captivated by the groovy lyrics and the swinging, spirited sounds of the group. We promptly began a vigorous hunt for anything and everything we could find by the Trio. We sold magazines and greeting cards, mowed and raked lawns, ran errands and did whatever else we could to finance our special mission.
Their records were extremely hard to locate. Records then were generally sold through small record and sheet music departments of furniture and hardware stores. It was rare to find a shop selling only records. We probed stores from Stockton and the Sacramento Valley to the San Francisco Bay Area. Salespeople would respond to our queries with “King Who?” Some of these salespeople allowed me to browse their backroom stocks in search of titles by the Trio (as well as other lesser passions of mine, such as Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five, Billie Holiday, and the Harlem Hamfats [!]).
Another source was jukeboxes. We checked periodically with jukebox service companies to inspect the depositories of returns from jukeboxes. One side of a record would sometimes be perfectly clean though the other juked side was well-worn. We bought these 78 rpm discards for a dime. These were bargains considering that mint, blue label Deccas were retailed at 37 cents.
It was our good fortune to have seen the King Cole Trio perform at a number of venues both in northern and southern California. Nat’s facile fingering, joyfulness, winsome smile, and body language at the keyboard were remarkable.
My love for the King Cole Trio’s music continued into adulthood. I first began sharing the musical wealth of the Trio while programming V-Discs and special broadcasts on the Armed Forces Radio Service. Likewise, since I began broadcasting in 1959 on Radio KJAZ-FM in San Franciso, a portion of my air time has consistently been devoted to the Trio. I am currently focusing on the Trio as part of my teaching curriculum in a year-long course on the jazz piano trio at a nearby college campus.
I am extremely gratified to see the recent reemergence of the Trio’s body of recorded works, much of it not available in the past. Let’s hope that, bolstered by the ambitious efforts of Mosaic, LaserLight, Stash, and other companies, the King Cole Trio will receive much wider, overdue attention.