Sunday, August 31, 2014

Big Band Bossa Nova: Stan Getz and Gary McFarland [From the Archives]

The occasion for this re-posting is the copyright Gods granting of the reinstatement of the video that you will find its conclusion. 

On it you can hear the magic of the Getz - McFarland working relationship as Stan performs Gary's big band arrangement of Chega De Saudade which has been translated into English as both No More Blues and Too Much Longing.

From this vantage point, it is difficult to remember back to when the beautiful bossa nova melodies swept the USA in the early 1960s as a prelude to the psychedelic rock craze that closed that decade with The Beatles lodged somewhere in between.

Musical styles moved rapidly during that transitional decade and so did a lot of other socio-cultural developments. 

Many of bossa nova composers explained that the music was intended as a blending of "cool" Jazz sounds with a lighter samba rhythm so as to dial down the intensity of the street Samba which is so noisily characteristic of the Brazilian carnivals.

Unfortunately, the bossa nova did not prevail as an international musical trend, but it was nice while it lasted. 

© -Steven Cerra. Copyright protected; all rights reserved.

Fresh from the sudden success of Jazz Samba and "Desafinado," Stan Getz asked the 28-year-old, strikingly gifted Gary McFarland to arrange a bossa nova album for big band as a follow-up. Getz is always his debonair, wistful, freely-floating self, completely at home in the Brazilian idiom that he'd adopted only a few months before. – Richard Ginell

Getz’s melodic gift was never more evident; even the way he plays "straight" melody is masterful. Few jazzmen have had this gift - Lester Young did - and it has to do with singing by means of an instrument, for Getz doesn't just play a solo, he sings it,… - Don DeMichael

Recorded in 1962, Stan Getz’s Big Band Bossa Nova [Verve V6-8494, CD 825771-2] which features his tenor sax in a series of magnificent arrangements by Gary McFarland is an album from a time when the world was awash in good music. 

Mainly through his early association with composers Antonio Carlos Jobim, João  Gilberto and João’s wife, vocalist Astrud, Getz was to become personified [and made quite wealthy] by his association with the bossa nova music from Brazil that became an international sensation in the early 1960s.

Lyrics were such a powerful and intriguing part of the bossa nova movement that it was initially unusual for instrumental-only versions of the music to succeed.

Big Band Bossa Nova was one of those early instrumental-only success LP’s. Getz, who had such a beautiful tone on the tenor saxophone that some musicians referred to him as “The Sound,” plays beautifully throughout, no doubt inspired in part by McFarland superbly developed and orchestrated arrangements.

Thanks to a friend in New Zealand whose collection of criticism and writings about Jazz appears to be equal to or greater than his [quite vast] collection of the recordings themselves, the editorial staff at JazzProfiles is able to share the following reviews of Big Band Bossa Nova which appeared in the Jazz press around the time of the album’s release.

Also included to further familiarize the reader with the album and its music are Gary McFarland’s and esteemed Jazz author Dom Cerulli’s liner notes to the original LP.

While Stan Getz was to go on and have a long and distinguished career, quite sadly, Gary McFarland passed away, under mysterious circumstances, at the very young age of 38.

For those interested in delving further into Gary’s music please checkout the website lovingly maintained in his honor by Douglas Payne.

Liner Notes to the Verve LP Big Band Bossa Nova [V6-8494]

“My first exposure to bossa nova was in the Spring of 1960 when a friend played a recording by João  Gilberto, a Brazilian guitarist and vocalist. I liked it immediately. Naturally, I responded to the rhythm, but it was more than that. There seemed to be more underplay, more subtlety than in other Latin rhythms but with just as much buzz or intensity. The songs had interesting chord progressions, and the melodic intervals were more modern than in traditional samba melodies. I'm sure that Gilberto's singing had much to do with my response to this music. His voice has an indefinable quality- something close to melancholy, but not quite.

I asked a Brazilian friend about the bossa nova, and he explained that it is a variation of the samba with modern harmonies and more syncopation than the traditional samba. He also told me that the first reaction in Brazil to this new music was similar to the American public's reaction to be-bop in the 40's- it was misunderstood by the traditionalists. However, it is now more widely accepted.
When Stan asked me to write an album for him, he told me to do anything I wanted. I had written a few bossa nova arrangements for Cal Tjader's group, and Stan had recorded a jazz samba album with Charlie Byrd. We both enjoyed working with this music, so we decided to do a big-band album with four songs by Brazilian composers and four songs of mine.

MANHA DE CARNIVAL (Morning Of The Carnival) is a theme from BLACK ORPHEUS. When I saw the movie, 1 was deeply touched by the gentle melody. In keeping with this mood is Jim Hall's treatment of the introduction on unamplified guitar. Following Stan's statement of the theme is an interlude in 5/4 leading into the guitar solo.

BALANCO NO SAMBA (Street Dance) was inspired by the film BLACK ORPHEUS, particularly the street scenes with the marching bands romping, the people dancing and yelling. This is more like a traditional fast samba. 1 think the band got a real happy feeling on this song.

MELANCOLICO (Melancholy) is another tune of mine. Stan plays the verse, the band enters, and he states the melody. The piano solo is by Hank Jones.

ENTRE AMIGOS (Sympathy Between Friends). Stan's phrasing on this tune is, as always, extremely lyrical. After Stan's solo the trumpets play a 16-bar figure that is typical of the high level of their performance on the entire date.

CHEGA DE SAUDADE (Too Much Longing) was also written by Jobim and is one of the best-constructed songs I have ever heard. Notice the restatement of the original minor theme in major during the last 16 bars of the song. Doc Severinsen introduces the melody in the opening statement. Stan begins his solo and is joined by Bob Brookmeyer for 32 measures, leading into the complete statement of the melody. Doc's sensitive handling of the introduction and the interplay between Stan and Bob are high points.

NOITE TRISTE (Night Sadness) is a song of mine. The melody is first stated out of tempo by Hank Jones and then restated by Stan leading into his solo. Drummer Johnny Rae plays Chinese finger cymbals on the first 16 bars of the solo.
SAMBA DE UMA NOTA SO (One Note Samba) was written by Antonio Carlos Jobim, a composer-arranger who works with Gilberto on most of his albums. I have a lot of respect for Jobim's work. This is a song I heard Gilberto sing, and I thought it would be a good ensemble piece.

BIM BOM, by Joao Gilberto, is a lilting melody in the lighter spirit of bossa nova. Solos by Stan and Jim sustain this happy feeling.

I am indebted to the whole band for making the always difficult task of recording much easier. Drummer Johnny Rae did a wonderful job of heading the rhythm section; his experience in Latin music made him an invaluable asset to the band.

About Stan - well, his is a unique talent. In the strong romantic quality of his playing, in his regard for the melody and the spirit of a song, he is perfectly in tune with bossa nova.”


DOWNBEAT 1962  Rating:*****

This is one of the most musical albums I've ever heard. And, please, let's drop the pigeonhole bit- it doesn't make a great deal of difference if this music is called jazz, bossa nova, or what.

And Getz. . . . His playing is flowing, lyrical, inventive, beautifully songlike -commonplace words all, and none describe adequately or even come close. Those words don't capture that sad-glad feeling he achieves on Melancolico or Entre Amigos. Nor can they substitute for hearing his tenor line rise like a dove from a descending trumpet figure on Melancolico; it lasts but a moment, but it's just one of many little diamonds strewn through this record.

Getz’s melodic gift was never more evident; even the way he plays "straight" melody is masterful. Few jazzmen have had this gift - Lester Young did - and it has to do with singing by means of an instrument, for Getz doesn't just play a solo, he sings it, as can be heard on any of these tracks, most evidently on Noite Triste and Chega De Saudade.

The most remarkable performance in the album is Chega De Saudade, a lovely tune by Antonio Carlos Jobim. It begins with Severinsen's unaccompanied trumpet and gradually builds, like a flower unfolding its beauty. Following Getz1 first solo, he and Brookmeyer engage in a twining duet, as if they were dancing around each other's phrases- it's a wonderful moment.

McFarland shares in the artistic success of the album. His writing is peerless. With what he's shown on this effort and his own adaptation of 'How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying' released earlier this year, he looms large as an outstanding writer. He knows the proper combination of instruments to achieve certain sounds, and he has the taste not to use all the instruments at hand all the time. His sparing use of the ensemble allows the beauty of the soloist and the material to shine through.

Perhaps McFarland's mastery of writing in song form explains his taste in orchestration, for the four songs he contributed (Balanco No Samba, Melancolico, Entre Amigos, and Noite Triste ) are much, much more than record-date lines. Others deserving credit for their work on the album are Jim Hall, for his sensitive unamplified accompaniment and for his solos on Manha De Carnival and Bim Bom; Hank Jones, whose taste matches that of Getz and McFarland. as can be heard on his out-of-tempo Noite Triste theme statement; and Johnny Rae, for general excellence (his use of finger cymbals behind Getz on Noite Triste is a perfect touch).

But it's still Getz who is most responsible for the beauty of the album. This record, 'Focus', and 'Jazz Samba', all issued this year, plus the quality of his 1962 in-person performances - well, most of them - lead me to believe Getz is at the height of his creative powers. And he sure wasn't a slouch before.”

Don DeMichael


“Gary McFarland, who arranged all the numbers here and conducted the band, wrote Balanco No Samba, Melancolico, Entre Amigos, and Noite Triste in the style of such native Brazilian bossa nova composers as Antonio Carlos Jobim and Louis Bonfa. In recent months McFarland has been the arranger on a number of records and has contributed several pleasant melodic themes, but it is still too early to detect any very clear personality in his work.

The bossa nova is, to all intents and purposes, a samba played with jazz overtones, the themes using more 'modern' chord progressions and the rhythm being more subtle than is the case with most of the older sambas. I find the work of Bonfa in particular very interesting in the compositional field but while the idiom provides an attractive means of varying the content of a jazz LP I suspect that too many records solely devoted to it will prove a little wearisome. This is by the way, of course, for this present release is the best of its kind that I have heard to date.

Stan Getz is a particularly good choice to carry the main solo role, for his style, although it has developed more strength over the past few years, is notable for a melodic awareness that fits aptly with the thematic content to be heard in the best of bossa nova. The lightness and grace of his work on Chega de Saudade and Bim Bom is immensely attractive - these are perhaps the best tracks on the LP- but one must not overlook the fact that graceful as the outlines of his solos may be they do not lack, as was sometimes the case in his earliest records, the necessary swing. Throughout this LP the impressive aspect of Getz's playing is the balance between refinement and rhythmic strength, illustrated very well on his finely constructed solos on the two tracks already mentioned and on Manha De Carnival and Balanco No Samba. The only other soloist to be heard at length is Jim Hall who is also playing better than before, with a continuity previously lacking, and he is heard to best advantage on Manha De Carnival and Bim Bom.

Two points which bossa nova can claim credit for is far superior themes than one hears in the case of the average jazz 'original' and the guiding of guitarists to the potentialities of their instrument in its unamplified form. Bossa nova may be something in the nature of a gimmick in its exploitation by the record companies but when a musician of Getz's talent uses it this LP proves that it can be stimulating and melodically attractive. I think that most readers will find this a very worthwhile LP, the playing time being rather short at 33 1/2 minutes, and the recording excellent.”

Albert McCarthy

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Lennie Tristano On Multi-Taping, Competition, Recording Echo, Rhythm Sections and Playing Together

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

Nat Hentoff is right about one thing, when you talk with Lennie Tristano as he did in the following interview which appeared in the May 16, 1956 edition of Downbeat, Lennie certainly stimulates the way you think about and listen to Jazz.

Five areas are of particular concern to Lennie as he talks to Nat about the Jazz scene in mid-20th century New York City: the legitimacy of multi-taping, the onerous presence of competition amongst musicians, the overuse of echo in recordings, rhythm sections that impede the flow of the music and growing inability of musicians to play together.

Given our recent feature on overdubbing and superimposition involving the pianist Bill Evans and the photographer Erwin Blumenfeld, the editorial staff at JazzProfiles thought it might be interesting to pursue some aspects of that thread from the vantage point of Lennie Tristano’s talk with Nat Hentoff.

An implied assumption in Lennie’s chat with Nat is how central Jazz was in the popular culture of the time as Rock ‘n Roll had not as yet become a factor and Country and Western and Folk Music were still regionalized phenomena at best.

At the time of this interview in 1956, Jazz still mattered.

© -  Nat Hentoff/Downbeat, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“After he made coffee, Lennie Tristano sat and talked in his studio late one afternoon. Except for a small lamp that gave a bare minimum of light by which to scrawl notes, the studio was dark. The room was also curiously peaceful as if it were used to long periods of silence as well as music, and relatively unused to loud, hurried anxiety.

Usually after an interview, I piece together a mosaic of quotes into a monologue that has more continuity than any real conversation short of a visiting clergyman's can really have. This time I decided not to splice the talk as much as usual, and to record instead what an actual conversation with Tristano is like.

I've talked with many people in line of assignments and after hours, and I am rarely as stimulated as by a talk with Tristano. Like the writings of Andre Hodeir, the ideas of Tristano awaken the kind of attention that moves a mind to think for itself. Whether one agrees with all of Lennie's points or not, one is always aware that unusually probing points are being made.

Lennie's Atlantic LP [#1224 entitled Tristano] had recently been released, his first recording in some four years. It had immediately detonated controversy, a phenomenon hardly new to Tristano activities. While there was nearly unanimous agreement that the music was absorbing, there were strong objections in some quarters to Lennie's use of multiple taping on several of the tracks, and some suspected that in two of the numbers, the piano tape had also been speeded up. A similar multi-track controversy had been ignited by a Tristano single record a few years before.

"I remember," Lennie said, "that around 1952, when that last record came out—"Juju" and "Pass-Time"—there wasn't one review out of the five or so that the record received that mentioned that those two sides could possibly have been a result of multiple track recording. It was only six months or a year later that somebody got the idea it might be, and then the talk started. I never really told anybody whether it was or not.

"One of the people who got so hung up on the subject," Lennie continued with amused calm, "was Leonard Bernstein. He and Willie Kapell were over here one night, and Bernstein finally decided it was a multiple track recording. He couldn't stand to believe it wasn't. And then Kapell sat down at the piano and started playing Mozart 16 times faster than normal. Lee Konitz tried to save the situation earlier by telling them it was multi-track. But he didn't know for sure, either.

"The reason I mention this background for the present controversy"— Lennie became more animated—"is to illustrate one of the most surprising things prevalent in music today—the element of competition. It's true of the musicians and non-musicians. They can't just listen to the music. They have to compete with it. If it's not in terms of speed—whether they can play as fast as the record—then it's in terms of finding out what the tune is. It's ridiculous. You can't hear music if you're not able to sit back and listen a few times, just listen. Then, if you can do that, maybe the fourth or the 10th time, you can figure out what the tune is if you want to. It doesn't really matter, anyway. The music does.

"Getting back to an example of competition by speed," Lennie said, "there was a night I was playing at Birdland, and I was playing something pretty frantic. A boy was standing at the bar—he was a pianist—and as he watched me, his hand got paralyzed. He dropped the glass he was holding, and his hand was still paralyzed a half hour later. That's kinesthetic competition, and it's a pitiful commentary on this urge to compete. Some people are affected physically another way. I've seen them get sick and have to leave the room. It gets them in the stomach. They get scared and have to cut out. They can't just enjoy the music; they listen to see if they can do it.

"It's not just me that some people react to that way," Tristano emphasized. "Many piano players, when Bud was playing great, couldn't stand to listen. They gave up, some of them, and became like slaves, like worshippers. That's why the worshipper has to elevate the artist he worships to such a height. If they remove this particular artist from any type of human contact, they feel they no longer have to compete with him. You don't have to compare yourself with God. It's not as if they had kept him on earth, which is where he belongs.

"Another aspect of this whole thing," Lennie reflected, "is the reaction of a lot of people who have played with me. They can't stand to have me pause in my line. The longer I pause, the tenser they get. Once at a concert in Toronto, I'd stopped for 16 bars. The time was going on and I could feel the drummer get tenser and tenser. Finally I hit one chord, and it was as if I'd set off an explosion. He hit everything on that drum set he could, all at once. The drums were all over the stage. It's like he was waiting for me to pounce on him.

"My audience sometimes reacts the same way when I pause. They get tense. What's Lennie going to do now? What's Lennie going to hit us with next? Instead of listening, they're worrying."

The conversation returned to the new LP. According to Barry Ulanov's notes on the set, "Lennie has fooled with the tapes of 'East Thirty-Second' and 'Line Up,' adjusting the bass lines Peter Ind (on bass) and Jeff Morton (on drums) prepared for him to the piano lines he has superimposed on them." Barry went on to mention the paired piano lines in "Requiem" and "the three lines played—and recorded—one on top of the other in the 'Turkish Mambo'... one track proceeds from 7/8 to 7/4, another from 5/8 to 5/4, the last from 3/8 to 4/4."

"If I do a multiple-tape," Lennie said slowly with determination, "I don't feel I'm a phony thereby. Take the 'Turkish Mambo.' There is no way I could do it so that I could get the rhythms to go together the way I feel them. And as for playing on top of a tape of a rhythm section, that is only second-best admittedly. I'd rather do it 'live,' but this was the best substitute for what I wanted.

"If people want to think I speeded up the piano on 'East Thirty-Second' and 'Line Up,' I don't care. What I care about is that the result sounded good to me. I can't otherwise get that kind of balance on my piano because the section of the piano I was playing on is too similar to the bass sound. That's especially so on the piano I use because it's a big piano and the bass sound is very heavy. But, again, my point is that it's the music that matters."

One of the objections voiced to these particular tracks was that whatever Lennie did to the tape made his playing very fast. "It's really not that fast, though," Lennie said. "There are lots of recordings out there that are much faster. I understand some people say that making a record like the one I made isn't fair because I couldn't play the numbers that fast in a club. Well, I'll learn the record so I can play it at that tempo 'live.' But even as is, it's not that fast. Some people are being misled by the nature of what it feels and sounds like rather than by the tempo itself. The tempo, in most jazz joints, in fact, is faster than on the record. And the record was a little above A-flat. That may account for a little of the speed, too.

"Actually," Lennie said, "we manipulated other things electronically. Am I to be put down for adding a tape echo on the blues and adding a tremolo on the last chorus of that number? In essence, I feel exactly this. When I sit down to do something, I can hear and feel what I want. Instead of trying to have three or four people on hand so I don't have the 'stigma' of multi-track recording, there are some things I'd rather do myself because there are some things I want to do that others are not capable of doing with me.

"If someone objects," Lennie pointed out, "to, let's say, the sound on 'Line Up,' that's a matter of taste. But why not hear what's happening in the line to see if that's of any value, and why not hear what kind of feeling the performance has? I have absolutely no qualms about multi-tracking. This kind of thing happens all the time in the recording of classical music, for one example. Are we supposed to give up the typewriter because we've had the pencil so long? Or am I not to use the Telefunken mike and rely instead on a dirt old crystal mike? I'm sure other people have done a lot more multi-tracking than I have. There's nothing at all wrong, for another example, in a pianist recording both parts of a two-piano classical work. Why is it wrong when I do it?"

I mentioned at this point that a recorded case in point is the Heifetz recording on both parts of the Bach Concerto in D Minor for Two Violins (Victor LM 1051).

"Anyway," Lennie said, "I will continue to do anything that will produce on a record what I hear and feel."

The conversation then veered to the problem of recording itself. "Right now in jazz," Tristano came on strongly, "everything is being recorded with a lot of echo, with the illusion of a big room. Even if the recording is done close, the full impact doesn't come through. It may be that people don't want that direct an impact, maybe they prefer to have everything softened by the added echo and want to hear their music in a sweet, mushy context like Muzak. I'm not against reverberation as such, but this excess use of echo points to the fact that a lot of people can't really take jazz in its straight, natural form.

"A little echo is all right, but now it's no longer being used as an effect," Lennie went on. "Now it's the whole thing.

"As for the Atlantic LP, except for the tracks made at the Confucius, where you really couldn't get a good balance—the engineers did a good job considering everything—the rest of the LP I made here at the studio without an engineer. And those tracks came out pretty good.

"I used a Telefunken, a great mike, maybe a foot or a foot and a half over the strings. On the blues I added a little tape echo. There was no echo, I think, on the
others here. I was trying to get a kind of cathedral sound, and I think I made it. There's quite a difference, incidentally, between a tape echo and echo chambers or reverberation generators. Tape echo, I feel, is a little more pronounced and more natural. With tape echo you can actually hear the echo coming through the second time instead of a big hollow, open sound as with an echo chamber."

Since various aspects of recording had dominated the talk up to this point, I asked Lennie why he had waiting so long to record again, even though he had received offers from almost every label in the field. "For one thing," Lennie explained, "I wasn't able to find a rhythm section. I don't mean, let me make clear, that there aren't any good rhythm section men. I just couldn't find one for myself, and I still can't."

Asked what he wanted in a rhythm section, Lennie detailed his requirements: "I want time that flows. I want people who don't break the rhythm section with figures that are really out of context. What figures are used should be in the context of what's happening, so as not to break continuity. A lot of drummers interpolate figures that break the line. All of a sudden, the line stops, and he plays a cute figure on a snare drum or a tom-tom. Some bass players do that, too. They break time to play a figure that doesn't fit with what's already happened and is happening. With rhythm sections I've played with, I don't have the feeling of a constantly flowing pulse no matter what happens. As soon as I feel the pulse being interrupted, my flow is interrupted whether I'm playing or resting, because it's all the same thing.

"I also need in a rhythm section people with feeling for simultaneous combinations of time—people who are able to perceive 5/4 and 4/4 at the same time. I'll probably be doing more and more of that. Working with 7/4 and 6/4 and the double times of those—5/8, 6/8, 7/8, and maybe sometimes 9/8. Occasionally, I've played something and tried to figure it out afterward, and have maybe done some 13/8."

Lennie continued his description of the rhythm section he's seeking: "I'd like to have a rhythm section with a feeling for dynamics. One of the faults of most jazz today is that it proceeds at one dynamic level.

"What I'm after is not an up and down kind of thing but something pretty subtle. Parenthetically, I think that drummers today are doing too much. They play the bass drums, sock cymbal, snare drum, top cymbal—four basic instruments right there. Add to that tom-toms, other accessories, and funny noises like tapping on top of the snare, and it's all much more than one man should be doing.

"Then there's the matter of tempo," Lennie said. "Rhythm sections today like to play a real fast tempo—'cooking' as some people call it. A real fast 2/4. As a result, everything is pat and things go by so fast with generally a good feeling that they don't miss the subtleties, subtleties that ought to be there. Another thing is the ridiculous ballad tempo that's prevalent. They try to get it just right so they can play double time on that, too, so they really wind up in the same place. And the in-between tempos are generally very crude.

"I want to play a lot of different tempos and more of the in-between. For example, many of the early Bird records and the early Pres sides with Basic were played at these in-between tempos. A couple of the Pres records—like 'Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie'—were fast, but he made it. Now 'Ko-Ko' was one of Bird's fastest records, and it wasn't as good as the more in-between 'Warming Up a Riff,' also based on 'Cherokee,' which had more creative Bird.

"Another thing I've missed," Lennie said, "is that people don't seem to have a feeling of playing together. That's a general comment, of course. Some people play together better than others. But a lot of people give the impression of everybody manning his particular gun and shooting wherever he wants to. Remember the old Billie records with Teddy Wilson, Roy and sometimes Pres? The rhythm section on those is sort of old-fashioned now, but they really played together. This is probably true of jazz in general right now. You don't hear the kind of togetherness in the groups that are playing. There's either a neat, commercial jazz sound, or they're trying to improvise and it's a little ragged."

Lennie came back to his specific problems with rhythm sections. "I have trouble with bass players and chord progressions. I've pointed out to them that instead of trying to find out where I'm going, they'd do a lot better and get a better sound by playing the foundation chord instead of trying to get to where I am at the moment. If they're on the fundamental chord, they'll get to relate to what I'm doing and eventually get to where I am sometimes.

"To make another general statement," Lennie said, "everybody's a soloist now.
There are no more sidemen in the world. Everybody is a star. I can't imagine anything more monotonous, for example, than a bass playing two or three choruses on a ballad unless it's a good bass player like Oscar Pettiford who can solo."

"What about the charge," I interjected, "concerning the long time you didn't record, the charge that you didn't want to set down your ideas so people could have them that accessible for copying?"

"I don't think anyone would want to copy me to start with," Lennie answered. "And what I do isn't pat or that perfect anyway. Now the way Bird played his ideas, they were perfect the way they were. Changing some of the notes would have spoiled them. What you can do is mix them up or play them in different sequences but the essential idea was perfect. Another thing you can do with Bird's ideas is play them on a different part of the bar. Instead of one, start the idea on two. Or you can stretch a 4/4 idea into 5/4 or 7/4, lengthen the phrase. I feel that if Bird's situation had been conducive to this sort of thing, he would have done that kind of thing himself. I remember doing a concert with him and we were warming up without a rhythm section. I was playing some chords and he was really stretching out.

"Another factor in my not having recorded in so long a time is that I'm not ambitious. If I don't think I have something to record that means something to me, I don't feel the necessity to release it. At least half the records of mine that are out are rejects from my point of view. A couple of the Capitol sides, for instance, and most of the Prestige, a couple on Disc, and the four on Royale. It's really pretty silly because it means part of my audience likes me because of my bad records. That's why I've felt that as soon as I learned how to play I'd lose a big part of my audience, an audience that's not too big to start with.

"I don't think, by the way," Lennie said, "that I'm the next jazz messiah. The way some people have spoken or written of me pro and con may have created the impression I thought that, but that isn't the way I think, and I've never said it Maybe that impression is also due to the antagonism against me in some quarters. If enough people put somebody down, he assumes a large proportion in some eyes.

"What I am doing is trying within the limits of my ability to develop my capacity to improvise so that I'm really improvising as much of the time as I can. I think I've

done a few things that haven't been done, at least to the extent that I'm doing them, but I don't feel there's anything 'great' about them. It took me a long time, for example, to feel 5/4 and 10/4 on top of 4/4. It's something that can't be done intellectually. It's something you have to get the feel. I am not running some kind of weird laboratory and manipulating scientific gadgets. It's been hard learning how to play what I feel on the piano because the piano is a difficult instrument. There are fingering problems we all have. Other instrumentalists, for example, generally can make the same note with the same finger. With the piano, there are spatial problems..."

There was a visitor downstairs, and this next turn in the conversation had to be postponed. As I was leaving, Lennie said, "There is one other thing I'm looking for, and perhaps the magazine's readers can help. We'll have to be leaving this building soon since they're tearing it down. I haven't found a new location yet. Anybody with an idea can write me at the studio, 317 E. 32nd St.

"I also am thinking of starting a club again. As for working in other clubs, I have offers, but I'm not sure yet what I'll be doing in that regard. Jazz musicians are expected to be entertainers. I'm not. Although I feel I can be very entertaining sometimes among friends."

The following video montage features Lennie's overdubbed version of Turkish Mambo.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Cal Tjader, Paul Horn and the 1959 Monterey Jazz Festival

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

For many years, newspaper columnist Ralph J. Gleason [San Francisco Chronicle], radio disc jockey and impresario Jimmy Lyons, newspaper columnist Philip Elwood [San Francisco Examiner] and Jazz educator and writer Grover Sales, provided a running commentary on the San Francisco Jazz scene.

All were particularly devoted to those musicians who based themselves in that lovely city with special emphasis on Dave Brubeck [even after he left to take up residence in Wilton, CT], Cal Tjader and Vince Guaraldi.

And all were very proud of their association with the Monterey Jazz Festival, which Jimmy Lyons and Ralph co-founded in 1958 and which has been held at the Monterey County Fairgrounds on the third weekend in September for much of its storied existence.

Today, Jazz Festivals are so universal that it is difficult to remember how novel they were when first established at Newport, RI and Monterey, CA in the 1950s.

The standard Jazz environment of the time, aside from occasional forays into philharmonic halls and auditoriums, was usually a nightclub in the seedier part of town. Booze and blues went hand-in-hand.

I was fortunate to be able attend both the Newport and the Monterey Jazz Festivals quite early in their existence.

As you would imagine, Cal Tjader the San Francisco-based vibraphonist and percussionist made numerous appearances at the Monterey Jazz Festival where he received a kind of “local-boy-makes-good” welcome from the fans.

I particularly enjoyed Cal’s appearance at the 1959 MJF because he added flutist and reedman Paul Horn to his standard quartet and also brought along conguero Mongo Santamaria. Like Cal and pianist Lonnie Hewitt, Paul was a great straight-ahead player and his flute lent an added “voice” [dimension] to the Latin Jazz numbers.

Here’s a more detailed look at Cal Tjader’s Monterey Concert [Prestige PR 24026], one of the earliest recordings associated with the Monterey Jazz Festival which as Phil Elwood explains was not actually recorded at the MJF, but which had a lot to do with ensuring the success of later festivals.

By way of background, “Phil Elwood blazed a trail with his jazz shows on FM radio, primarily KPFA in Berkeley, from 1952 to 1996 and was a respected critic for the San Francisco Examiner from 1965 to 2002. He died of heart failure on January 10, 2006, just two months shy of his 80th birthday.” [S. Duncan Reid, Cal Tjader: The Life and Recordings of The Man Who Revolutionized Latin Jazz, p.43].

© -  Concord Music Group; used with permission; copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“The Monterey Festivals have been a basic annual part of the jazz scene for so many years that it isn't easy to recall that way back in 1958 they got off to a rocky, money-losing start. Then came this [April 20, 1959] "preview" concert by Tjader prior to the '59 Festival; it was hugely successful, and another permanent jazz institution was launched! This package presents the concert in its entirety.

Standing still as an artist in a readily defined field is a lot easier than to shift, drift, and change one's image. Look around pop music and jazz—there are plenty of petrified performers still going through the same old thing for their same stagnant audience.

In popular music of all kinds categorization and definition have long been tools of dedicated enthusiasts as well as casual fans and the musicians themselves. Terms like the "swing era", "traditional jazz", and "cool", and the artists identified with such classifications, are assumed in jazz studies.

But when a boat-rocking jazzman like Cal Tjader comes along, all kinds of established attitudes are jumbled. Cal's music has never remained stationary long enough to be permanently defined—or to have petrified.

It's best termed just Tjader jazz.

Back in the 1948-1951 period when Callen Tjader, Jr., was teamed with pianist David Brubeck he might have been identifiable as a jazz drummer. But even then, Cal was doubling on vibraharp and coming up with some highly individualistic rhythmic material, both in the Brubeck trio and in the experimental Octet in which Brubeck, Tjader, Bill Smith, Paul Desmond and others participated.

Tjader recorded in 1949 with a full drum set, plus bongos, and conga. Yet in 1953 he was quoted as saying, "I am not an innovator, I am not a pathfinder—I am a participator."

That, of course, was a ridiculously (though typically) modest comment. What
Tjader really should have admitted was that he has remarkably good ears, and instrumental talent to make use of what he hears. When he is a "participator" it means that he is playing, and Tjader's playing for 25 years has been opening up his listeners' ears to all kinds of new musical worlds.

When Tjader made that remark, in '53, he was exactly at the point in his career that Latin music was becoming his dominant expression. He had joined George Shearing's quintet, where he stayed for 18 months, and was discovering all kinds of Latin music cul de sacs around the nation (which Shearing toured regularly), especially in the East Coast cities.

Interestingly enough it was during the same period that Shearing, too, made a noticeable shift into Latin material, and, like Tjader, explored the possibilities for harmonic and melodic adventure that Latin music could provide.

The prime source for both Shearing's and Tjader's Latin-kicks was the giant string bassist, Al McKibbon, who was playing with Shearing at the time and is with Tjader on the two 1959 concert LPs in this set.

There was little in the stiff and self-conscious rhythms of most 1950 "bop" that had the swing and freedom that Latin rhythms offered. And whereas the jazz of the '50s moved increasingly away from the dance scene (and thus, that "participation" that Tjader finds so important), the Latin music world assumes dance-participation.
Tjader and McKibbon toured the Spanish Harlem music scene whenever the Shearing band got near New York, and the more he heard, the more Tjader liked.
The work of Machito and Tito Puente especially intrigued him. And, typically, he plunged into this "new" musical world with energy, persistence . . . and participation.

Tjader, McKibbon and guitarist Toots Thielemans (who doubled on harmonica) developed some fantastic rhythmic patterns within the Shearing group and contributed immeasurably toward Shearing's own emergence as an "Afro-Cuban" jazz interpreter.

While around New York in 1954 Tjader recorded his first Latin-jazz sides, for Fantasy, including conga performer Armando Peraza in the personnel;  in that same March week, in '54, Tjader also recorded a number of jazz and pop standards, using Peraza and/or Roy Haynes or Kenny Clarke as percussionist. He was already making his musical category rather difficult to identify.

When Tjader left Shearing and returned to his San Francisco Bay Area home (a house boat at that point), Tjader's future musical direction was discernible. Before the end of 1954 he had hired pianist Manuel Durand and his brother Carlos, on string bass, as well as conga performer Benny Velarde and bongoist Edgar Resales (all from the S.F. Latin music community) and was appearing as "Cal Tjader and his Modern Mambo Quintet."

Within a year or two Tjader's name was well known in California and his earliest Fantasy "Mambo-jazz" records were spreading the word, and sounds, nationally.
Some people were even beginning to pronounce his name correctly.

An eastern tour in 1956 was something less than spectacular but it did get Tjader into Manhattan, where his mambo jazz was booked opposite Dizzy Gillespie's big band for a couple of weeks at Birdland. And Tjader also laid the groundwork for future New York engagements for his combo in various Spanish Harlem dance halls.

"None of the country was ready for Latin-jazz", Tjader commented, recalling that tour, "except parts of California and the big eastern cities."

Returning to the San Francisco area late in 1956, Tjader established some kind of a record by producing nearly two dozen Fantasy LPs in a four year period, and identifying himself nationally as the leader in Latin-jazz expression.

In the midst of that awesome four year output the Monterey Jazz Festival's managing director, Jimmy Lyons, brought Tjader's group to Carmel's Sunset school auditorium on April 20, 1959, to give what was called a "Jazz Festival Preview." Actually the performance was designed to get some local interest going for the big September event (the first Monterey Jazz Festival, the fall before, had suffered financially) and also to work out some concert-production difficulties with the same crew that would handle the Festival.

The complete concert from that April night in '59 comprises the music of this pair of Prestige discs.

That period at the end of the 1950s was a particularly important one for the larger jazz scene—from which Cal Tjader can also not be separated. Jazz festivals were burgeoning jazz clubs were in greater abundance than at any other time (before or since) and, although none of us was quite sure of it, the end of the most significant of all jazz eras was not far off. Basic blues-rock rhythms in pop music were arriving fast, ready to capture the public's fancy and swamp the free-blown sounds of the 1960's avant garde "jazz".

Cal Tjader has always been frank in his observations and thoroughly professional in his attitudes toward music and in structuring his presentations. Looking over the selections from the 1959 Monterey peninsula performance one is struck by their variety.

A handful of ballads—mellow, standard, material. Tjader loves pretty music—over the years I cannot think of a musician friend who gets more turned-on by the beauty of some popular ballads.

On the concert he also included three bop-oriented themes ("Doxie", "Midnight", "Tunisia"), a couple of swinging originals and some Latin-inspired specialties.
This is the Tjader approach and it is the reason for his continuing popularity, regardless of the current rages in pop or jazz or "free music". Tjader plays his mallets off, and tries to provide some kind of musical stimulation for everyone in any audience.

At the Monterey Jazz Festival, for instance, no artist has played more often nor been so successful. And there are plenty of San Francisco area nightclub owners who are quick to acknowledge that Tjader draws larger and more enthusiastic audiences year in and year out than do most of the "big name guys that we import from the east", as one put it to me recently.

Tjader's life has always been in musical performance, a fact that no doubt accounts for his consuming interest in all aspects of his art— and in his awareness of the broad variety of taste likely to be represented in any audience.

When you start in as a four year old vaudeville tap dancer (as Cal did) and four decades later you're still out there performing before a crowd, a certain dedication is obvious.

And this absorption in his musical craft has meant, naturally, that all manner of instrumentalists have been Tjader colleagues over the years.

Mongo Santamaria and Willie Bobo, with Cal on these LPs from Monterey, had underground Latin-popularity prior to their associations with Tjader. But their widespread fame came with Tjader, who was usually cast in the role of a dual catalyst.

He introduced Santamaria and Bobo (and many other Latin musicians) to a jazz-oriented audience and the Latin musicians, in turn, brought many of their followers into jazz surroundings and introduced that phase of American music to their ears.

What has been happening in "Latin-rock" with such groups as Santana or Malo (not surprisingly, both San Francisco bands )is a continuation of what Cal Tjader has been doing since the early 1950s.

And note that on these concert recordings the flute and alto sax of Paul Horn are featured —an extra, added attraction for the performance. Horn's flute brings some of the melodic beauty that Tjader so loves into the presentation, and his alto helps to shift the sound, occasionally, closer to the Brubeck-style combo jazz that Tjader also presents with integrity.

There are few instrumentalists whose careers have been broader in scope than Horn —the last time I saw him he was soloing behind Donovan, and he is abundantly evident on rock, pop and soul recordings.
Horn is, of course, only a single example of the astonishing breadth and depth typified by the Tjader colleagues over the years.

By never being static, even in the size of the groups, Tjader has given himself as well as his audiences the opportunity to absorb the whole spectrum of musical sound. I guess that's what he means when he says he's just a "participant".

I'm glad I've been a participant in his participation all these years. When Cal's playing there is always something worth hearing.”
—Philip E wood, S.F. Examiner

The following video montage features Cal and Paul Horn along with Lonnie Hewitt on piano, Al McKibbon on bass, Willie Bobo on timbales and Mongo Santa Maria on conga drums performing A Night In Tunisia.