Jazz Buff News

THE JAZZ BUFF

July 2018

FROM THE CHAIR – Stuart Brewster

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As expected, our concert on May 12 was a gold nugget experience. Greg Abate brilliantly led a unique team of jazz masters—Andrew Speight, Erik Jekabson, Akira Tana, Jeff Chambers and Ben Stolorow—to exceptional heights. A very special time of joy (see The Joy of Bop, next page), not only for the audience but for the players as well, since they had never before played together as a group. A smash hit.

Upon reflection, I have been thinking about all the energy and effort involved in putting these concerts together. There are so many details to be tended to and various roles played by your Board members and other volunteers. But the major role generally falls upon Event Chair Harvey Mittler, who selects and proposes the musicians to the Board, makes all the contractual arrangements, interfaces with all the artists before and during the concert, obtains hotel reservations when needed, prepares copy for the mailer, the program, the press releases, and so forth. All this as a full-time working lawyer.

Some further details. The mailer design was created by Board member Teresa Anthony. A mailing party of five volunteers attached stamps and labels to the mailer, posters were installed at various locations by Shirley Douglas and myself, I also handled arrangements for space ads in the Palo Alto Weekly and the Almanac. At the concert, Doris Harry provided guidance at the parking area. Claire Mittler sold tickets at the door, Michael Griffin, Anne Callahan and I handled the sale of water and cookies, Chet and Shirley Douglas, along with Cathy Dolton and Larry Lovercheck, took tickets at the door and handed out programs. CD sales were overseen by Sam Pearl. As Hillary said,”It takes a village.” A lot of work with a resulting good time for all.

Here’s a big THANK YOU to all hands, and I hope I haven’t forgotten anyone.

July 1 starts our 2018-19 fiscal year with various events planned for this period. Financially, we are holding our own thanks to your continued membership and donations. Our first event will be a FREE member party to be held on Sunday afternoon, September 16, at the Palo Alto Art Center courtyard. I do hope you’ll come, get to know your Board and fellow jazz lovers while enjoying a bit of music (group to be announced soon) and a glass of wine. Again this will be managed by an all-volunteer team. We’d welcome more of you, of course, to join the volunteer team. Do speak to me or any Board member if you’d like to be of help.

On Saturday evening, October 6 (7:30pm), we are presenting our fall concert—the Erik Jekabson-led Electric Squeezebox Orchestra, a 17-piece big band formed by the brilliant local trumpet artist. The venue will again be Menlo-Atherton High School’s performing arts center. Once more we have received a generous grant from the City of Menlo Park for the concert and in support of our cultural activities. Mark your calendar now to have the date clearly on record. Believe me, you won’t want to miss this show.

Lots of great jazz in this area over the summer with gigs at the Stanford Jazz Workshop, San Jose Jazz, Stanford Shopping Center, Filoli, and elsewhere. Hope to see many of you “making the scene”, and of course at the Member Party on September 16 and the concert on October 6.

In continued appreciation of your support,

Stuart Brewster
Chair, Palo Alto Jazz Alliance


TWO GREAT MALE VOCALISTS

I once heard an acquaintance contend that all the good jazz vocalists are female, that no male vocalist was worth listening to. Two of us within earshot immediately produced counterexamples for this troglodyte, though he refused to back down. I was put in mind of this by the passing of two of my favorite male singers within the last several months: Jon Hendricks in November and Bob Dorough at the end of April (at age 94!). Hendricks of course was a member of the best jazz vocal group of all-time: Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, which was very prominent in the fifties and sixties. Hendricks spent the end of the sixties and early seventies in Europe, returning to the U.S. to settle in the Bay Area in 1973. Many of you old-timers will remember his Evolution Of The Blues production which ran for a number of years.

In 1973 or 1974, he appeared at a Palo Alto Club on University Ave., the short-lived In Your Ear, and I was one of five or six people in the audience. What we saw was an early version, a trial run, of Evolution Of The Blues. It bordered on tragic that there were so few of us to see this masterpiece in its gestation stage.

One album I recommend for those who did not follow his later work is the 1990 recording, “Freddie Freeloader, by Jon Hendricks and Friends.” Those friends included Al Jarreau, George Benson and Bobby McFerrin. Their rendition of the title track is a classic, and Jon’s solo on the beautiful Italian song “Estate,” which he provided English lyrics to and called it “In Summer” is something you can listen to over and over.

I had the pleasure of seeing Bob Dorough in person many times, the first time in the sixties in San Francisco at El Matador. I also saw him play at Yoshi’s (with Dave Frishberg), at the Iridium in New York City and at Garden City in San Jose. We noticed one day that he was scheduled to play on Sedge Thompson’s Saturday morning radio show (then on KQED, I believe), so off we went. Before the show we met Bob in a stairwell, and he asked us what he should play. For some reason I blurted out “Devil May Care,” one of Bob’s great originals. He did play it, but Sedge seemed to be unimpressed by Bob’s offbeat, twangy singing style, and did not ask him to play another.

Offbeat is right—he was unique and there won’t be another like him. Of course, the same can be said of Hendricks, and of Bob’s pals Blossom Dearie and Dave Frishberg. Bob Dorough made a lot of delightful albums, but for my money the best (his peak) was “Right On My Way Home” (1997)—every cut wonderful. /Ed Fox

THE JOY OF BOP

It was Bebop Central as six jazz masters royally entertained a good crowd of fans on Saturday, May 12 at Woodside Priory’s Rothrock Performance Hall. PAJA had engaged east-coast stalwart Greg Abate to lead a group of outstanding local players, and it couldn’t have worked out better. Abate and fellow alto saxman Andrew Speight teamed with trumpet ace Erik Jekabson to provide a hurricane of horns, playing jazz classics like Charlie Parker’s “Confirmation” and nuggets from Tad Dameron and Sonny Rollins, plus familiar tunes like “Out Of Nowhere,” “Stardust” (beautiful solo by Speight), “Star Eyes,” and many more. Great backup too with the redoubtable Jeff Chambers on bass, Mr. Akira Tana on drums, and the fine young pianist Ben Stolorow. The musicians all told us they had a blast, and the audience was full of praise for one of PAJA’s best concerts ever. Next concert is scheduled for October, but be ready for a free member party in September.

DOWNBEAT STUDENT MUSIC AWARDS

The June 2018 issue of DownBeat announced its annual student awards and there were three major winners from Peninsula schools. Foremost was Carlmont HS (Belmont) junior Zack Shubert who was the national high school winner for piano. Zach also won for High School Outstanding Compositions. We hope to present Zach at a future PAJA concert. Winning for “Large Vocal Jazz Ensemble,” Junior High Division was Panache 8 from Corte Madera School in Portola Valley, with Gigi Pistilli soloing on “Doodlin’”. Saarthak Singhal of Palo Alto’s Gunn High School took the award for High School Outstanding Arrangement for “Stablemates.”

IT’S FESTIVAL TIME

Two of the best jazz festivals in the world are happening this summer in our backyard. The Stanford Jazz Festival began June 22 and continues into July and the first of August with such gigs as Dick Hyman and Ken Peplowski (7/6), Tommy Igoe (7/14), Victor Lin (7/19), Bria Skonberg (7/22), Dena DeRose, Anat Cohen and Jimmy Heath (7/28), and many more. Tickets at www.stanfordjazz.org/stanford-jazz-festival-2018.

The San Jose Jazz Summer Fest’s big weekend is Friday-Sunday, August 10-12. More than 100 artists on 12 stages in Downtown San Jose. There are various genres from blues to funk to soul, but there’s enough straightahead jazz for the purist fan. Some are—Friday: Jane Monheit (8pm) and Eddie Gale (8:30pm); Saturday: Sylvia Cuenca Quartet (noon), SJZ Collective Reimagines Monk (1pm), Erik Jekabson Quintet (5pm), and Octobop (9pm); Sunday: Kristen Strom (3pm), Emmet Cohen Trio (5pm), and Eric Alexander (7pm). Much more. www.summerfest.sanjosejazz.org.

YOUR AMAZON PURCHASES CAN HELP PAJA

If you buy stuff on amazon.com, why not place the order on www.smile.amazon.com and help PAJA out? Amazon will donate a percentage of your purchase to PAJA, and we’ll all be the better for it (J!

SUMMER JAZZ

Stanford Shopping Center Free concerts, Thursdays, 6-7:30pm
Courtyard betw/Nordstrom and Crate & Barrel

June 21 to August 23      Some highlights:

6/28                 Stanford Jazz Workshop

7/12                 Todd Dickow with Charged Particles

7/19                 Pamela Rose & John R. Burr

8/9                   Masha Campagne

8/23                 Sun Hop Fat

  • Jazz On The Plazz Free concerts, Wednesdays, 6:30-8:30pm?

Los Gatos Town Center (Main & Santa Cruz Ave.) www.jazzontheplazz.com

June 13 to August 22      Some highlights:

6/13                 Natalie Douglas

6/20                 Sacha Boutros

7/16                 Tony Lindsay with Soul Soldiers

7/25                 Paula West

8/1                   MJF County HS All-Stars

8/22                 Pete Escovedo

Jazz At Filoli Admission charged. Sunday afternoons. www.filoli.org/jazz

June 17 to Sept. 16           Some highlights:

7/8                   Jazz Mafia “Miles and Mingus Revisited”

7/22                 Josh Nelson Quintet feat. Kathleen Grace

8/19                 Tuck and Patti

9/16   Pacific Mambo Orchestra


NOODLING

Thoughts on jazz    By Michael Burman

HANK JONES

Around 1990, the Wall Street Journal published an article by John S. Wilson of the New York Times telling of his plans for retirement. He was going to open a nightclub. There would be no guests but Wilson himself, seated at the sole table, in front of the bandstand, on which there would be just a piano. At the piano, every night, would be Hank Jones, who would play just for him. Heaven indeed!

July 2018 brings the centenary of the birth of Hank Jones, who was therefore a contemporary of such fellow pianists as Thelonious Monk, Marian McPartland, Nat Cole, George Shearing and John Lewis. Hank was still a teenager when Benny Goodman played the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles in 1935, and was in his mid-20s when Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie recorded “Ko Ko” a decade later. Those bracketing events essentially define Hank Jones’s style: light, swinging, yet explorative.

Hank was one of several jazz musicians born in the South whose families later moved north. The names of Milt Hinton and Nat Cole come immediately to mind: their families moved to Chicago, and Hank’s to Pontiac, Michigan, some 30 miles north of Detroit. Named after his father, Henry, a Baptist deacon, Hank was the first of three sons in a large family: Wikipedia says the number of children was seven, while obituaries say 10, which number I recall his telling me. But while the exact size of the family might be in doubt, that they were musical is certain: Hank followed his two older sisters in studying piano, and his two brothers, Thad and Elvin, became famous jazz musicians in their own right.

To his father’s disapproval, Hank began playing professionally at age 13, and continued to do so for a decade or so around Detroit. He then moved to New York City with saxophonist Lucky Thompson, and Hank soon became the pianist with Hot Lips Page’s group at the Onyx Club on 52nd Street. It was with Lips in 1944 that Hank made the first of his more than one thousand recordings.

In those swing-into-bop days, the easiest to detect of Hank’s main influences was Teddy Wilson. But to the end of his life Hank acknowledged the influence of Art Tatum. In fact, it was hearing Tatum on Detroit radio that overcame Hank’s reluctance to practice as a young piano student. That said, by the mid-‘40s he knew that, musically, things were not what they used to be. Bud Powell and Al Haig were the pianists to watch, and learning from them, Hank fused a style which melded the lyrical with the percussive.

Hank played with everybody. He was on Stan Getz’s first recordings as a leader, in 1946. He backed Charlie Parker, both as part of Jazz At The Philharmonic in the late ‘40s and in quartet sessions in the early ‘50s. His “day job” during this period was as Ella Fitzgerald’s accompanist. Soon afterwards, he was a member of Artie Shaw’s always interesting Gramercy Five. Hank and Kenny Clarke were the constants in the Savoy Records house rhythm section of the mid-‘50s (the usual bassist was Wendell Marshall). Check out “Presenting Cannonball” (Adderley’s first recording as a leader), or Milt Jackson’s “The Jazz Skyline” or “Jackson’s-Ville”, both of which reunite Hank with Lucky Thompson, or Hank’s own “The Trio”.

For the 1960s, plus a year on either side, Hank had a real day job, working in the studios, backing guests on shows such as “The Ed Sullivan Show” and “Captain Kangaroo”. All that work was uncredited, as was what might have been his most famous anonymous appearance, accompanying Marilyn Monroe when she sang “Happy Birthday, Mister President” to Jack Kennedy.

In the 1970s, Hank began to record again, often as leader of a trio (check out 1977’s Grammy-nominated “Bop Redux” with George Duvivier and Ben Riley), and as part of “The Great Jazz Trio” which he formed later that year with Ron Carter and Tony Williams. That trio would go through many personnel changes over the next 33 years, but there were always four constants: they were always great, they always played jazz, there were always three of them, and the pianist was always Hank Jones.

Hank’s playing was timeless and encyclopedic. In addition to those already mentioned, he played in big bands and small groups with Andy Kirk, Benny Goodman, Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young. He recorded with innumerable vocalists including Billie Holiday, Betty Carter, Ernestine Anderson, and notably for me, in duet with Abbey Lincoln (“When There Is Love” from 1992) and with Roberta Gambarini (“You Are There” from 2005). His two-piano recordings with John Lewis (“An Evening With Two Grand Pianos”—1979) and George Shearing (“The Spirit Of 176”—1988) are not to be missed. Still doing it at the time of his death in 2010 at the age of 91, he was a member of Joe Lovano’s quartet (“I’m All For You”—2003 and “Joyous Encounter”—2004 and the Lovano-Jones duet “Kids” in 2006.

The National Endowment for the Arts began its Jazz Masters awards in 1988, and Hank was honored the following year.

Always well turned-out in jacket and tie, Hank was a true gentleman, ever modest and never willing to say a bad word about anyone. One of my own jazz listening highlights came in 2002 when Alisa Clancy and I interviewed him for KCSM-FM’s “Desert Island Jazz”—just the three of us in Stanford’s Campbell Recital Hall. I clipped a lavalier mic to his lapel, and he played “Monk’s Mood” just for the two of us: magic!

I never missed an opportunity to see Hank Jones play. And when John S. Wilson opens his nightclub, I’m hoping he’ll add another seat for me.

Michael Burman hosts “The Weekend Jazz Oasis” Saturday evenings on KCSM Jazz 91.1