Friday, January 31, 2014

The Cannonball Adderley Sextet BBC Jazz 625 TV Show Full (1964) Pt I

The Cannonball Adderley Sextet BBC Jazz 625 TV Show Full (1964) Pt II

Caricature and Syncopation - The Art of the Unexpected Revisited

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

In Art, caricature is generally a gross exaggeration and/or oversimplification of someone’s features.

In Jazz, syncopation comes from a rhythmic displacement created by articulating weaker beats or metrical positions that do not fall on any of the main beats of the bar, while stronger beats are not articulated.

Because both caricature and syncopation come as a surprise to the senses, they take us to unexpected places and cause a feeling of wonderment.

Indeed, because of its unpredictable nature, the eminent Jazz author, Whitney Balliett, exclaimed that Jazz was “The Sound of Surprise.”

Caricatures have a long association with political lampooning such as those that appear in editorial cartoons.

Movie stars are often the subject of caricatures in entertainment magazines.

The word “caricature” comes from the Italian “caricare” which means “loaded portrait.”

When human faces are drawn with a resemblance to some other animals, Italians call this “caricatura.”

While not, per se, antisocial, caricatures often carry a counter-culture connotation, something outside the mainstream of society or something that is unconventional.

Almost from its inception, Jazz, too, was deemed inappropriate music for normative society.

Jazz’s syncopated rhythms were startling to the measured-metered-ears of those in staid society. In their sedate and serious view, Jazz sounded reckless and wild and was sometimes referred to as “Jungle music.”

Of course, the rejection that parents gave Jazz when it first appeared in the 1920’s and 1930’s was just what it needed to make it more attractive to the younger generations of those decades.

Although it may sound herky-jerky, frenetic and out-of-control, the “irregularities” of Jazz syncopation are in reality a fairly sophisticated process.

The same can be said of caricature.

Before one can alter the prevailing standards of an art form, one has to master them.

Caricaturists are often highly accomplished artists who prefer to take their art in unexpected directions.

If you will, they become practitioners of “The View of Surprise.”

A similar level of sophistication is required of the Jazz musician in order to master the intricacies of syncopation as described below by Barry Kernfield in The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz. [pp. 87-88; paragraphing modified]

Irregular articulations.

“The character and vitality of jazz derive to a considerable extent from the irregularity of its rhythms. While rhythmic tension can be created by the setting up of conflicting patterns (…) between the explicitly stated beat and the lines played against it, greater subtlety results from rhythmic articulations that shift and change in their relation to the beat.

Syncopation, which is fundamental to jazz rhythm and ubi­quitous in both arranged and improvised pieces, involves the shifting of articulations from stronger beats to weaker ones or to metrical positions that do not fall on any of the main beats of the bar; the strong beats are silent, either because a rest occurs in those positions or because the articulation of a pre­ceding weak beat is tied over (…).

Syncopation depends for its effect on a persisting sensation of the beat against which the articulated notes set up strong rhythmic contradictions; unless the beat is preserved in another voice in the ensemble or is swiftly reasserted, the listener loses his consciousness of the metrical framework, or even of the beat itself, and the syncopated pattern ceases to be perceived as such.

Examples of syncopation are most obvious in (but by no means restricted to) performances in which a steady pattern of accents placed on the beat (for example, the two-beat formula of a ragtime bass line or an unchanging jazz-rock drum ostinato) provides an accompaniment against which syncopated lines are creat­ed. Some fundamental rhythmic devices in jazz are based on syncopated patterns (…).

In the process known as ‘turning the rhythm (or beat or time) around’ the meter is accidentally or deliberately rede­fined over a long period by the displacement of accents or the disturbance of phrase structures. The repositioning of strong and weak beats in the metrical unit of the bar, by means of dynamic accent, harmonic change, and the shaping of melodic lines, is at first perceived in conflict with the established meter, but gradually the ear is persuaded that the new positions are regular and a shift in the meter is thus achieved.

Exciting, even disorienting, effects can be created if different members of the ensemble pursue their own independent definitions of the meter.”

While there is no formal relationship between caricature and Jazz syncopation, frequent readers to the blog know of the editorial staff’s fondness for combing Art and Jazz in videos produced with the assistance of the crackerjack graphics team at CerraJazz LTD and the production facilities of StudioCerra.

In order to illustrate both caricature and Jazz syncopation the following video features the work of caricaturist Charles Bragg and the music of tenor saxophonist Ralph Bowen’s quintet.

Both have their own websites which you can visit via and, respectively.

The music is Ralph’s original composition A Little Silver in My Pocket on which he is joined by Jim Beard on keyboards, Jon Herington on guitar, Anthony Jackson on contrabass guitar and Ben Perowsky on drums.  The tune was named in honor of Ralph’s time as a member of Jazz great Horace Silver’s quintet and it can be found on his Movin’ On Criss Cross CD [#1066]

Although the song’ structure is not particularly complicated, it is made to sound so because of the way it is syncopated, particularly by bassist Anthony Jackson and drummer Ben Perowsky.

A Little Silver in My Pocket has it all - rhythmic displacement, shifting meters, odd time signatures, turned time, irregular beats – all of which are more startling to the ear because of where Ben Perowsky places the articulated beats to create the underlying syncopation of the tune.

Speaking of Perowsky, stick around if you can to 5:37 minutes and listen to how Ben really heightens the tune’s fade-out with a series of super, drums licks.

Talk about “irregular articulations!”

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Phineas Newborn Jr Trio Jazz Scene USA 1962)

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Anderson Jazz - "Correspondence"

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

“Peter and Will Anderson are different - and, yes, they are wonderful. But I am fascinated and beguiled by an unprecedented facet of their wonder. You see, I've been teaching at the Jazz conservatories almost since Jazz reached the classroom and most students know precious little about pre-BeBop Jazz. When Peter and Will Anderson stepped into my classroom, I came face-to-face with two fully involved Jazz musicians.”
- Phil Schaap, Professor, “Origins of Jazz,” graduate level course, Juilliard School of Music

Recently a Jazz buddy in southern California, by way of a recommendation from a mutual friend in The Big Apple, gave me a recording by Pete Anderson and Will Anderson entitled Correspondence which was issued on Small’s Records [SRCD-0053] in 2012.

The Anderson Brothers are identical twins which means, I guess, that I was blown away twice at the same time while I was listening to it.

What an encounter - love at first hearing - absolutely brilliant music.

Pete, a tenor saxophonist and Will, an alto saxophonist, had the good sense to surround themselves with a rhythm section made up of Kenny Barron on piano, Ben Wolfe on bass and Kenny Washington on drums, leave everyone with enough room to stretch out and, in the process, create one of the most engrossing and captivating Jazz CDs in recent memory.

The disc is available via

Here’s what Robert Levin had to say about the recording on

“Peter and Will Anderson / Correspondence / SRCD-0053

“I've been making all the gigs I can by two reed players, Peter and Will Anderson. Identical twins, they're still in their early twenties and I can't say enough about them. They're Juilliard graduates, but there's nothing studied about the way that, as instrumentalists, arrangers and composers, they make music.

They're naturals and while essentially into bebop—which they play with a passion, unpredictability and sense of discovery that can make you feel like you're back at the beginning of it at Minton's or Monroe's Uptown House—they can claim an astonishing affinity for the full range of jazz forms and styles, at least up to the 'new thing.’

I've listened to them play all kinds of jazz now and have yet to hear an inauthentic note. They easily hold their own with the best of the Dixieland players. They interpret Thelonious Monk compositions in a way that I'm sure Monk would have appreciated. They have a solid grip not only on what Miles Davis and Gil Evans were after in the Birth of the Cool period but on the work of a John Kirby as well.

Along with the depth of knowledge they demonstrate about saxophone players as diverse as Johnny Hodges, Stan Getz, Hank Mobley and Gigi Gryce, to name just a few, they understand Ellington and—they play ballads with an emotional sophistication that's way beyond their years—they know what to do with a Billy Strayhorn song. Have I mentioned that they also command their principal instruments, the clarinet and alto and tenor saxophones, with a stunning authority?

I could go on and on about the Andersons. Right now the distinctions between them as musicians are as subtle as the differences in their appearances. It will be fascinating to see how they progress, if and to what degree they diverge from one another and what they make of their prodigious talents once they've become fully centered in their individual identities. But what they're presenting at this point in their development is already, I think, substantial and compelling enough to be worthy of preservation on a CD or two."

You can sample the Anderson Brothers in action along with Kenny B., Ben Wolfe, and Kenny W. on the following video which offers the Get Out of Town track from the Correspondence CD as its soundtrack.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Ernestine Anderson: [Still] Incomparable

When this piece on Ernestine was first published on 9/13/2011 [where does the time go?], we had not discovered this photograph of her by William Claxton.

As you will hear on the concluding video, Ernestine was one heckuva belter.

But she has enormous range, too: one minute she's "taking you out" with some filthy blues and the next minute she's caressing you with a beautifully rendered ballad.

Ernestine Anderson is somethin' else, especially when she is in the company of pianist Monty Alexander and bassist Ray Brown.

To use a phrase favored by the late New Orleans trumpeter, Henry "Red" Allen, Ernestine is "one of the all-time greats."

The editorial staff at JazzProfiles thought it might be fun to add the Claxton photo and reprise this feature on Ernestine, whom, Richard Cook and Brian Morton, in their The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, 6th Ed., once described on her many CD's on Concord as less a Jazz singer and more of a "rhythm-and-blues shouter, a belter," upon whose voice "pianist Monty Alexander's knowing vivacity acts as a tonic." [Another of my bad puns?]

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

"The voice —that rich, warm, sultry, infinitely sensitive voice —is the embodiment of Ernestine Anderson.

To hear her sing is to know the woman who loves television soap operas ("I have to have my soaps"), old people ("I just relate to old people; they've seen a lot"), children ("We're kind of on the same wave length"), and Ray Brown.

"I trust Ray's judgment',' she says. "He knows I won't do something I don't want to do, and I have to want to sing a song to do it justice But Ray, now, he's a pretty good salesman.

"I came into this recording session with a list of songs and arrangements I wanted to do, and Ray took one look at it and started crossing out things, moving stuff around, changing everything. I knew it was going to happen, and it all came out right. It's beautiful, what he does!'
- Edith Hamilton, Jazz Critic, The Miami Herald

Anderson knows how to transform and restructure a melody so thoroughly that it takes on a vital new life.”
- Leonard Feather, Jazz Critic, The Los Angeles Times

“… with her tasteful, slightly gritty, moderately swinging contralto; she's someone who … always gives you an honest musical account.”
–Richard Ginell

“She can sing the blues. She can sing a ballad. She can swing you out of the country!
- Etta James, Vocalist

Ernestine has always been one of our favorite vocalists and we wanted to remember her on these pages with this brief piece and the video tribute below it on which she sings Never Make Your Move to Soon accompanied by Monty Alexander [p], Ray Brown [bass] and Frank Gant [drums].

Ernestine provides spaces in her singing that makes the lyrics “feel” warmer and more casual. Her command of the music is so strong that she makes every song she sings sound like it was written just for her.

I know it’s quite common to compare singers to “Billie, Ella and ‘Sassy,’” and they are all dynamite, but with Ernestine you get Ernestine.

The way she sings is incomparable.

Ernestine is still “on” the Jazz scene and we hope she digs our brief presentation.

She put a lot of good music out there over the years and this is our small way of saying “Thank You.”

© -Time Magazine, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“…. The scimitar eyes may close, the slender hands seem to carve the phrases out of the choky nightclub air. And the voice, sweet and strong above the rhythm section, curls around the lyrics like a husky caress. The voice belongs to singer Ernestine Anderson, at 29 perhaps the best-kept jazz secret in the land.

Although she has been singing professionally half her life, Ernestine has caused so little public stir that she only recently caught the ear of the record makers (a first Anderson album, misleadingly titled Hot Cargo, was issued this summer by Mercury).

Last week Ernestine was singing once a week for $25 at Los Angeles' Little Avant Garde Club. She gave the patrons mostly standards—But Not for Me, Gone with the Wind, Take the A Train—that dramatically displayed her talents. She can swing upbeat ballads in a light-textured voice or noodle a bit of the blues in tones as soft as velvet. She can modulate with shrugging ease, swell or diminish volume with a sure instinct for melody and lyrics.

Most important, she has the rare ability to play the kind of emotional brass that shivers the spine. Ernestine singing My Man somehow makes believable a woman's capacity to suffer a man who "isn't good, isn't true," but to whom nevertheless she will "come back on my knees some day."

Ernestine Anderson was born in Houston, the daughter of a construction worker. In the neighborhood Baptist church she used to sing hymns with her grandmother. At 13 she was singing at the El Dorado, a big ballroom, and after the family moved to Seattle, she became a regular with local bands. She went on tour with Bumps Blackwell's band, then with Johnny Otis, finally with Lionel Hampton, who took her to Manhattan. For a while she had a "steady gig" at a Greenwich Village spot, but she never attracted real attention until she went to Sweden in 1956 with an "all-star" jazz group headed by Trumpeter Rolf Ericsson. The Swedes loved her and mobbed her concerts. When she got back to the U.S., choice dates were still hard to come by, but West Coast jazz critics, notably the San Francisco Chronicle's Ralph Gleason, started to take note of the best new voice in the business.

Partly because the market for good jazz singers—i.e., singers who phrase and improvise in the manner of instruments in a jazz band—is remarkably small, Ernestine has remained a critical success and a popular failure. She is inevitably compared to Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday. Ernestine invariably rejects the comparisons. "I wish," she says, "they would let me be just me." She is, and "just me" is plenty good enough.”

August 4, 1958

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Frank Rosolino Quartet - Jazz Scene USA - Live TV 1962

Dexter, Freddie, Ira, Ivar, Jack, Jackie and The Connection [From The Archives]

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

"A quintessential bebopper who was incessantly inventive with his melodic lines, Gordon played with authority at all tempos and maintained a commanding presence on the bandstand. His enormous sound, swaggering approach and innate sensitivity would profoundly influence generations of bebop, hard-bop and post-bop saxophonists—Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane among them."

- Ed Enright

The above quotation is excerpted from Ed Enright's essay Everybody Loves 'Dex' which appears in the January 2014 edition of Downbeat magazine along with other tributes to the "Sophisticated Giant" [Dexter was 6'6" tall] by Dan Quellette, from his new book about record producer Bruce Lundvall, who was responsible for helping to return Dex to the US after a 15 year tenure in Denmark and reviving his career with a new recording contract for Columbia, and two pieces by the esteemed Jazz writer and critic, Ira Gitler.

All of which reminded the editorial staff at JazzProfiles that it was time to repost this earlier blog feature about Dexter, Ira and some wonderful memories from when the World was young.

It seems that you couldn’t walk a block in the Hollywood of my “Ute” [apologies to Joe Pesci, that should be “youth”] without literally passing a movie house, a theater or a night club.

Walking a few blocks down Vine Street from Franklin, across Hollywood Blvd. and then turning left on to Sunset Blvd. would bring you past the TV production facilities of ABC, CBS and NBC. This short walk would have also brought you by Capitol Records, the Huntington Hartford Theater, Wallich’s Music City and a half-dozen watering holes all of which featured some type of Jazz.

A quick stroll west would bring you to Cahuenga Blvd and Shelly’s Manne Hole and on your way over on Selma Street from Vine you’d pass the Ivar Theater.

Although I had both walked and driven by it a number of times, I had never been inside the Ivar.  I had heard from friends that it was a small, intimate theater and a great place to watch stage plays.

That was about to change when I noticed tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon’s name on the marquis announcing his appearance in the West Coast version of Jack Gelber’s The Connection, a play that had premiered in New York City in July, 1959.

Dexter’s name was legendary in some West Coast Jazz circles, particularly those associated with Central Avenue [Hollywood’s contemporaneous counterpart to the early bebop scene on NYC’s 52nd Street].

I stopped at the Ivar’s box office to pick up some tickets, although I must confess to knowing absolutely nothing at the time about Jack Gelber’s play.

This was going to be my first opportunity to hear “long tall Dexter” in person which was reason enough for me to check out Jack’s play.

Shades to come of his role in the movie ‘Round Midnight, Dexter “acted” in the play along with performing the music he composed for the play with Gildo Mahonnes on piano, Bob West on bass and Lawrence Marable on drums.

Shortly thereafter I picked up the Blue Note LP The Music from the Connection: Freddie Redd Quartet with Jackie McLean [[B2-89392] with Jackie on alto sax, Freddie on piano, Michael Mattos on bass and Larry Ritchie on drums. It was different than what Dexter had written for the West Coast version although I seem to remember Dexter performing Freddie's Theme for Sister Salvation as the curtain rose and fell at the Ivar.

I had been a fan of Jackie McLean’s music for some time, but I knew hardly anything at all about Freddie Redd’s music or the details about Jack Gelber’s play and how he came to write it.

Ira Gitler’s informative and insightful insert notes to the recording gave me all the missing information.

We recently wrote to Ira and asked his permission to present on these pages his original liner notes to The Music from the Connection: Freddie Redd Quartet with Jackie McLean.

He graciously agreed to allow them to be posted to the JazzProfiles blog with the proviso that anyone also wishing to publish them in any form or fashion seek his consent before doing so.

Like Leonard Bernstein, I came away from the play whistling the Theme for Sister Salvation and I haven’t forgotten it since.

© -  Ira Gitler, copyright protected; all rights reserved. Used with the author’s permission

THE CONNECTION by Jack Gelber is a play about junkies but its implications do not stop in that particular circle. As Lionel Abel has stated in what is perhaps the most perceptive critique yet written about the play (Not Everyone Is In The FixPartisan Review, Winter 1960), "What adds to the play's power is that the characters are so like other people, though in such a different situation from most people."

The situation in which the four main protagonists find themselves is waiting for Cowboy (Carl Lee), the connection, to return with the heroin. These four, Solly (Jerome Raphel), Sam (John McCurry), Ernie (Garry Goodrow), and Leach (Warren Finnerty) are in attendance at the latter's pad with the bass player. One by one, the three other musicians drift in. They are also anxiously awaiting Cowboy's appearance. Also present, from time to time, in this play-within-a-play, are a fictitious playwright Jaybird (Ira Lewis), producer Jim Dunn (Leonard Hicks) and two photographers (Jamil Zakkai, Louis McKenzie), who are shooting an avant garde film of the play.

The musicians not only play their instruments during the course of the play but, as implied before, they also appear as actors. Some people have raised the question, "If they are actors, why are they using their real names?" Pianist-actor Freddie Redd, composer of the music heard in The Connection answers this simply by saying that he and the other musicians want recognition (and subsequent playing engagements) for what they are doing and that there would be no effective publicity if they were to appear as John Smith, Bill Brown, etc. Author Gelber concurs and says that having the musicians play themselves adds another element of stage reality.

When The Connection opened at The Living Theatre on July 15, 1959, it was immediately assaulted by the slings and arrows of outrageous reviewers, a group consisting, for the most part, of the summer-replacement critics on the local New York dailies. Although several of them had kind words to say about the jazz, none were explicit and one carper stated that the "cool jazz was cold" which showed his knowledge of jazz styles matched his perception as a drama critic.

A week later, the first favorable review appeared in The Village Voice. It was one of many that followed which helped save The Connection and cement its run. In it, Jerry Tallmer didn't merely praise the jazz but in lauding Gelber as the first playwright to use modern jazz "organically and dynamically", also pointed out that the music "puts a highly charged contrapuntal beat under and against all the misery and stasis and permanent crisis."

This the music does. It electrically charges both actors and audience and while it is not programmatic in a graphic sense (it undoubtedly would have failed it if had tried to be) it does represent and heighten the emotional climates from which it springs at various times during the action.

The idea to incorporate sections of jazz into The Connection was not an afterthought by Jack Gelber. It was an integral part of his entire conception before he even began the actual writing of the play. If Gelber did not know which specific musicians he wanted onstage, his original script (copyright in September 1957) shows that he knew what kind of music he wanted. In a note at the bottom of the first page it is stated, “The jazz played is in the tradition of Charlie Parker." (The Connection is published by Grove Press Inc. as an Evergreen paperback book.)

Originally Gelber had felt the musicians could improvise on standards, blues, etc., just as they would in any informal session. When the play was being cast however, he met Freddie Redd through a mutual friend. Freddie, 31 years young, is a pianist who previously has been described by this writer as "one of the most promising talents of the '50s" and "one of the warmer disciples of the Bud Powell school". During the Fifties he played with a variety of groups including Oscar Pettiford, Art Blakey, Joe Roland and Art Farmer-Gigi Gryce, all of whom recognized his talent.

After he had gotten a quartet together at Gelber's request, auditioned for him and was given the acting-playing role in The Connection, Freddie told Jack of his long frustrated wish to write the music for a theater presentation. Armed with a script and the author's sanction, he went to work. In conjunction with Gelber, he decided exactly where the music was to occur. By familiarizing himself with the play's action, he was able to accurately fashion the character and tempo of each number. What he achieved shows that his talent, both the obvious and the latent of the '50s, has come to fruition. He has supplied Gelber with a parallel of the deep, dramatic impact that Kurt Weill gave to Brecht. His playing, too, has grown into a more personal, organic whole. Powell and Monk, to a lesser degree, are still present but Freddie is expressing himself in his own terms.

The hornman he chose to blow in front of the rhythm section and act in the drama, has done a remarkable job in both assignments. Jackie McLean is an altoman certainly within the Parker tradition but by 1959 one who had matured into a strongly individual player. His full, singing, confident sound and complete control of his instrument enable him to transmit his innermost musical self with an expansive ease that is joyous to hear. It is as obvious in his last Blue Note album (Swing, Swang, Swingin' — BLP 4024) as it is here or on stage in The Connection. As an actor, Jackie was so impressive that his part has grown in size and importance since the play opened.

During the early part of the run, Redd's mates in the rhythm section were in a state of flux until Michael Mattos and Larry Ritchie arrived on the scene. Mattos has worked with Thelonious Monk, Randy Weston, Max Roach and Lester Young among others. Ritchie came out of B. B. King's band to play with Phineas Newborn and later, Sonny Rollins. Together they have given the group on stage a permanence; the fusion of many performances' playing as a unit is evident here.

The first music heard in the play is introduced by a mute character named Harry (Henry Roach) who comes into Leach's pad early in the first act with a small portable phonograph on which he plays Charlie Parker's record of Buzzy. Everyone listens religiously. When the record is over, Harry closes the case, and leaves. With this, the musicians commence to play Buzzy (not heard here) but are interrupted by Jaybird who rushes up on stage exclaiming that his play is being ruined by the junkies' lack of co-operation. After some argument, he leaves and the quartet begins to play again. This is Who Killed Cock Robin? The title was suggested by Warren Finnerty because the rhythmic figure of the melody sounds like that phrase which he, as Leach, screams in his delirium when he is close to death from an overdose later in the play. It is an up tempo number, yet extremely melodic as most of Freddie's compositions are. In the composer's words, "It is intended to plunge the music into the action of the play and to relieve the tension of the confusion which had begun to take place."

McLean and Redd solo, urged on by the rhythm section which features Larry Ritchie's dynamic drumming.

One of the devices employed by Gelber is having his main characters get up and solo like jazz musicians. Sam, a Negro vagabond junky goes on at length, promising to come out into the audience at intermission and tell some of his colorful stories if they will give him some money so that he can get high until he goes to work on a promised job. As he finishes, he lies down and asks the musicians to play. They respond with Wigglin', a medium-tempo, minor-major blues which Redd explains, "accentuates Sam's soulful plea to the audience. It is humorous and sad because we suspect that they know better."

This is effective "funk" that is not self-conscious or contrived. Jackie and Freddie are heard in moving solos; Michael Mattos has a short but effective spot before the theme returns.

The last piece in Act I is detonated by Ernie's psychopathic out-burst. Ernie is a frustrated saxophonist whose horn is in pawn. He sits around bugging everyone by blowing on his mouthpiece from time to time. In his "confession" he digs at Leach. In turn, Leach ridicules his ability and laughs at him for deluding himself into thinking he is a musician. Music Forever calms the scene and in Freddie's words, "expresses the fact that despite his delusions, Ernie is still dedicated to music."

The attractive theme is stated in 2/4 by McLean while the rhythm section plays in 4/4. Jackie's exhilarating solo at up tempo shows off his fine sense of time. He is as swift as the wind but never superficial. Freddie, whose comping is a strong spur, comes in Monkishly and then uses a fuller chordal attack to generate great excitement before going into some effective single line. The rhythm section drives with demonic fervor. This track captures all the urgency and immediacy that is communicated when you hear the group on stage. In fact, throughout the entire album the quartet has managed to capture the same intense feeling they display when they are playing the music as an integrated part of The Connection.

The mood of Act II is galvanized immediately by the presence of Cowboy who has returned with the heroin. Jackie comes out of the bathroom after having had his "fix" and the musicians play as everyone, in their turn, is ushered in the bathroom by Cowboy. The group keeps playing even when they are temporarily a trio. In this
album they are always a quartet. Since this is the happiest of moments for an addict, the name of the tune is appropriately Time To Smile. Freddie explains, "The relaxed tempo and simplicity of the melody were designed to have the audience share in the relaxing of tensions."

The solos are in the same groove; unhurried, reflective and lyrical.

In order to escape from a couple of inquisitive policemen, Cowboy had allied himself with an unwitting, aged Salvation Sister on the way back to Leach's pad. While everyone is getting high, she is pacing around, wide-eyed and bird-like. Sister Salvation, (Barbara Winchester), believes Cowboy has brought her there to save souls. She sees some of them staggering and "nodding", and upon discovering empty wine bottles in the bathroom thinks this is the reason. She launches into a sermon and Solly makes fun of her by going into a miniature history of her uniform. The music behind this is a march, heard here in Theme For Sister Salvation. When she tells them of her personal troubles, the junkies feel very bad about mocking her. This is underscored by Redd's exposition of a sadly beautiful melody in ballad tempo. Here, in the recorded version, McLean plays this theme before Freddie's solo. Then the march section is restated. The thematic material of this composition is particularly haunting. I'm told Leonard Bernstein left the theater humming it.

Jim Dunn is in a quandary. Jaybird and one of the photographers have rendered themselves useless by getting high. The chicks that Leach supposedly has invited have not appeared. Leach asks Freddie to play and the group responds with Jim Dunn's Dilemma, a swiftly-paced, minor-key theme. Redd especially captures the feeling of the disquietude in his two-handed solo.

From the time of the first fix, Leach has been intermittently griping that he is not high. Finally Cowboy gives him another packet as the quartet starts to play again. He doesn't go into the bathroom but makes all the preparations at a table right onstage. The tune O.D., or overdose, is so named because this is what Leach self-administers. Where in the play the music stops abruptly as he keels over, here the song is played to completion. McLean is again sharp, clear and declarative. Redd has another well developed solo with some fine single line improvisation.

I first saw the play the week it opened. My second viewing was in March 1960. To my amazement, I found myself injected into The Connection. As the musicians left the pad of the supposedly dying Leach, they reminded one another that "Ira Gitler is coming down to interview us for the notes."

The above is just a small part of why The Connection helps The Living Theatre justify its name. Gelber's dialogue, which still had the fresh feeling of improvisation on second hearing, is one of the big reasons. Another large one is Freddie Redd's score. Effective as it is in the play, it is still powerful when heard out of context because primarily it is good music fully capable of standing on its own.


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Jack Brownlow: A Hometown Favorite [From The Archives]

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

Every town has one.

Whether its PittsburghClevelandReno or Seattle.

Somewhere in these cities, there is an exceptional Jazz musician who is mainly known only to those familiar with the local Jazz scene.

For whatever reason, these local Jazz musicians don’t travel, preferring to stay close to home while working the occasional club date, party or benefit.

Every so often, a group of local admirers cobble some schimolies together and produce a compact disc to put on display their local favorite’s talents.

These fans know that their player is special and want portable accessibility to the music while at the same time doing their bit to document it for posterity.

Until the advent of e-commerce, the “distribution” of such recordings often consisted of making it available for sale on a card table that was staffed by someone before and/or after gigs or performances.

When you’ve listened to a lot of Jazz, you can usually tell when someone is special.

You hear it first in the phrasing and with the ready expression of ideas while soloing.

Jazz soloing is like the geometric head start in the sense that you never catch up.

When you improvise something it’s gone; you can’t retrieve it and do it again.

You have to stay on top of what you are doing as Jazz is insistently progressive – it goes forward with you or without you.

People who can play the music, flow with it. Their phrasing is in line with the tempo, the new melodies that they super-impose over the chord structures are interesting and inventive and they bring a sense of command and completion to the process of creating Jazz.

These qualities help bring some Jazz musicians to national, if not, international prominence. Deservedly so.  It’s not easy to play this stuff.

We buy their recordings, read articles about them in the Jazz press and attend their concerts and club dates.

But throughout the history of Jazz, be it in the form of what was referred to as “territory bands,” or local legends who never made it to the big time or recorded, or those who only played Jazz as a hobby, word-of-mouth communication somehow managed to inform us of the startling brilliance of these locally-based musicians.

Such was the case with pianist Jack Brownlow who for many years was one of the most highly regarded Jazz musicians in the greater-Seattle area.

The eminent Jazz author, Doug Ramsey, first brought Jack Brownlow to my attention in 1999 when he hipped me to the fact that Jack’s trio would be appearing at Seattle’s Jazz Alley to commemorate the release of its Jazz Focus CD Suddenly It’s Bruno [JFCD 031].

I was living in Seattle at the time, and little did I know it, but Bruno [Jack’s nickname] and I were neighbors as we both resided in the Green Lake suburb of the city.

Listening to Jack Brownlow play Jazz that evening was a memorable experience.

He reminded me of Nat King Cole, Paul Smith, George Shearing and Bill Evans, all of whom are piano stylists in the sense that their technical ability, or as some call it today, their “pianism” is implied rather than stated.

Jack plays “pretty” piano; the instrument’s sonority rings true. There’s a lot going on in the music, but you’re not overwhelmed by it. He guides the music where he wants it to go and in so doing takes the listener with him on a melodic musical journey.

His knowledge of harmony is huge, but here again, much like Jimmy Rowles, it’s understated. Jack hints; he alludes; he creates impressions. He frames the original chords with substitutions and augmentations, but he doesn’t hit-you-over-the-head while doing so.

To my ears, a key underpinning of Jack’s style is his strong rhythmic sense. He is able to play so lightly while weaving in and out of his inspired solos because of his absolutely centered sense of time. He always knows where he is in the music.

Doug Ramsey wrote the following insert notes to Suddenly It’s Bruno and has graciously allowed us to reprint them on these pages.

They contain a wonderful overview of the career of his friend and a gifted pianist who over the years became a hometown favorite of many Jazz fans in the Seattle and Washington-state area.

© -Doug Ramsey, copyright protected; all rights reserved. Used with the author’s permission.

Suddenly it's Bruno

“Well, not quite suddenly. Jack Brownlow has been playing his inventive melodic lines and exquisite harmonies since he was a boy in the 1930s. At 12, he discovered that he could play any song in any key, without written music, an inheritance from his mother. He studied formally, but when he demonstrated to one of his piano teachers that certain Chopin sonatas needed harmonic improvements, she decided she had taken him as far as she could. His development accelerated. In his teens he was a professional pianist, working in his home town of Wenatchee, Washington, and occa­sionally in Seattle, across the Cascade mountains.

Following his days as a Navy musician in World War Two, Jack spent four months in Kansas City. Most of his play­ing there was at Tootie's Mayfair, a club where Charlie Parker and other KC heroes had worked a few years earlier. As in Bird's day, the experience was intense and the hours were long, from 10 in the evening until 4 a.m. Later in 1945, Brownlow and his service friend Jack Weeks, the bassist and composer-arranger, lived in Los Angles. Working out his Local 47 musicians union card, be spent six months playing around California—mostly at the Big Bear resort in the mountains above Los Angeles—with Weeks and the prominent dance band of his father, Anson Weeks. With an addi­tional six-months hiatus in Wenatchee, he completed the union waiting period and returned to LA., immediately find­ing work with dozens of players prominent in the yeasty post-war Southern California jazz community. Among them were Lester Young, Lucky Thompson and Boyd Raeburn. With Raeburn's trailblazing big band he played piano when
Dodo Marmarosa was otherwise occupied and is heard on some of the bands radio transcriptions.

In late 1946, Weeks enrolled at Mills College for the opportunity to study with the modernist French composer Darius Milhaud. Another young veteran named Dave Brubeck made the same choice. Brownlow considered going to Mills, but he returned to Wenatchee, went into the printing business with his father, married and raised a family. Bruno——his nickname ever since a neighbor's child pronounced Brownlow that way—never gave up his night gig. He played for dances, in taverns, in clubs, in concerts. He accompanied singers and wrote instrumental and vocal arrangements. The lack of sleep was compensated by steadily deepening musical skills. Soon, musicians who worked with Bruno or heard him in the Pacific Northwest circulated word about him, as had Navy musicians and his LA. colleagues.

Ray Blagoff, later a lead trumpeter in name bands and the Hollywood studios, was with Jack at the Farragut Naval base in ldaho. 'We were all in awe of his ear,’ Blagoff says. 'He could play anything in any key. We met shortly after I reported to Farragut. ‘I told him I'd like to play I Had the Craziest Dream " in E. He didn’t 't bat an eye, and I was thrilled because no one had ever been able to accompany me in that key. I told him I had learned the tune from the Harry James record. He said Harry James recorded it in E-flat and my turntable must have been running at the wrong speed.’

His uncanny ear was matched by harmonic acuity and an accompanying gift of melodic inventiveness. Musicians who heard him were impressed. Those who worked with him were astonished. They included the violinist Joe Venuti, whose cantankerousness equaled his brilliance. On their first meeting, Venuti tried his famous trick of derailing the accompanists by changing keys every few bars without warning. Every time he turned left, Bruno and his protégé, bassist Jim Anderson, were on him like flypaper. After Venuti got over his frustration at not being able to instigate one of the train wrecks that gave him so much pleasure, they all settled in and played a great gig.

Bruno moved to Seattle in 1965 and dedicated himself totally to music for the first time since his Los Angeles days. He became a fixture at America’s Cup and, for years, at Canlis, the elegant restaurant high above Lake Union. Usually, he played alone. Occasionally he was joined by Jim Anderson or another bassist. Canlis patrons with sophisticated hearing, among them George Shearing and Alan Hovhaness, were treated to chords and melodic patterns light years beyond what they might have expected as a background for dining. After dinner, the serious listeners joined the cocktailers clustered around the piano.

Musicians serious about developing in harmony, improvisation and repertoire have always found in Jack a wise and will­ing teacher. On his nights off and frequently during the day, the music room of Brownlow’s house, Chateau Bruno, became a workshop for developed and developing musicians. Over the years, they have included trumpeters Randy Brecker and Jay Thomas, guitarist John Stowell and bassists Clipper Anderson, Rufus Reid, Dean Johnson, Andy Zadrozny and Gary Peacock They studied informally with Bruno, as did saxophonist Don Lanphere when he was growing up in Wenatchee

At a party at my house in New York in the early 1970s, the alto saxophonist Paul Desmond, hearing Brownlow for the first time, said, "If I played piano, that's how I'd want to play it.' Paul did not have his horn along. He tried to persuade Bruno to extend his East Coast stay so that Desmond could round up bassist Ron Carter and a drummer for some sessions. Brownlow had to get back to Seattle. The results of what would have been an intriguing partnership must be left to the imagination.

In the mid-1990s, Jack reached the saturation point as a restaurant pianist. He ended the nightly job at Canlis and put himself once again on the jazz market. Work materialized almost at once at clubs in Seattle. The pocket conservatory in his living room saw increasing activity, as the city's latest crop of young jazz players showed up to learn and jam. Bassists are particularly attracted to Bruno's harmonic wisdom. There have been so many of them that if there is ever a Jack Brownlow Big Band, it is likely to be Bruno and 15 bass players. In 1996, his first album, Dark Dance appeared as a CD on the Bruno label. He and Clipper Anderson appeared as a duo at the Bumbershoot Jazz Festival in Seattle in 1997. Musical director Bud Shank featured The Jack Brownlow Trio at the Jazz Port Townsend Festival in 1998… .

Bruno became a Seattle institution soon after he established himself in the city in the 1960s. Fans and musicians spread his name far beyond the Pacific Northwest. For years they urged him to record. When he finally did, it was for a label [his own] with virtually no distribution. Now, after five decades of exquisite music-making, Suddenly It’s Bruno takes him to a wider audience and matches his accomplishments to his legend.”