Saturday, February 17, 2018

Marty Paich

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


"Dans The Broadway Bit, I Get Boot Of You et What's New, il remet tranquillement en cause la conception usuelle du grand orchestre, car «pourquoi ne pas se servir d'une petite formation à l'intérieur d'une grande ? » Mulligan esquissait déjà cette position avec son tentette. Sections ou ensembles se voient ramenés au second plan : ils lient les solos, exposent parfois les thèmes, relancent brièvement la tension, puis s'effacent pour laisser le champ libre aux solistes supportés par la seule rythmique. Ces derniers sont des familiers de Marty Paich : Art Pepper, Jack Sheldon, Vie Feldman et Jimmy Giuffre. La précision des jonctions petite formation / grand orchestre garantissent l'équilibre de l'ensemble. L'arrangeur applique cette même formule lorsqu'il a en charge la célébration de deux solistes, Art Pepper et Ray Brown. Pour l'alto, il construit de véritables concertos : «Je voulais lui apporter une source d'inspiration différente de celle à laquelle il était habitué avec son quartette. Je voulais qu'Art sente derrière lui l'impact d'un orchestre.» Soutenir, mais ne pas étouffer. Une fois les choses mises en route, l'alto se retrouve bien souvent seul devant Russ Freeman, Joe Mondragon et Mel Lewis."
- Alain Tercinet, West Coast Jazz [Marseille, Parenthesis/Epistrophy, 1986]
"In The Broadway Bit, I Get Boot Of You and What's New, he [Paich] quietly questions the usual design of the great orchestra because "why not use a smaller group inside a big one? Mulligan already sketched this position with his tentette. Sections or ensembles are brought to the background: they link the solos, sometimes expose the themes, briefly relaunch the tension, then fade to leave the field free to the soloists borne by the rhythm section alone. The latter are familiar with Marty Paich: Art Pepper, Jack Sheldon, Vic Feldman and Jimmy Giuffre. The precision of the junctions small formation / large orchestra guarantees the balance of the ensemble. The arranger applies this same formula when he is in charge of the celebration of two soloists, Art Pepper and Ray Brown. For the alto, he built real concertos: "I wanted to bring him a source of inspiration different from the one he was used to with his quartet. I wanted Art to feel the impact of an orchestra behind him. "Support, but not stifle. Once started, the alto often finds himself alone in front of Russ Freeman, Joe Mondragon and Mel Lewis."

I wanted to re-post this piece on Marty from the earliest days of the blog to clean-up some line breaks, correct some typos [wanna bet more than a few remain?], and to add the opening quotation from Alain Tercinet's West Coast Jazz [I did not own a copy of this work when I was writing the original piece] and the video at the end that feature Marty's work on alto saxophonist Art Pepper classic album.

But most of all, I wanted to re-read it myself as a way of remembering how much pleasure Marty's skills as an arranger have given me over the years.

His writing takes me back to the ebullience of my youngest days in the music when I was surrounded by the melodic and rhythmic sounds of West Coast Jazz. Marty provided a "voice" for a lot of the artists who became closely associated with this style of Jazz: the big bands of Stan Kenton and Terry Gibbs, vocalists like Mel Torme, and the small groups of Shorty Rogers and Art Pepper.

Extended pieces or "profiles" such as this one is what helped set my course when I first started blogging about my Jazz heroes eight years ago [has it really been that long?]

My motivation then, as it is now, was to pay tribute to my Jazz "inspirations" and "teachers" with lengthy narratives, hopefully well-researched in the Jazz literature at my disposal, as a way of commemorating them.  After all, our immortality rests in the mind of others.


It is hard to disagree with Ted Gioia’s claim that “Marty Paich is one of the unsung heroes of West Coast Jazz.” [West Coast Jazz: Modern Jazz in California, 1945-1960: [New York: Oxford University Press, 1992]

As revealed by Charles Barber, curator of the Marty Paich website, this anonymity may in part be due to the fact that Marty “… took little interest in self-promotion, never acquired a personal agent, happily saw his business affairs managed by his capable first wife Huddy, and as soon as finances permitted decamped Los Angeles for a ranch in the Santa Ynez Valley north of Santa Barbara.” 


Or as Gioia’s asserts: “His personal lifestyle had none of the flamboyance and eccentricity of his long-time friend and collaborator Art Pepper’s, and his years of extended labors in the studios make it all too easy to overlook his contributions to jazz.” 


And yet, Marty Paich was a prodigious talent: a pianist, composer, arranger, conductor, producer, and musical director whose career spanned half a century, and included work with such Jazz artists as Shorty Rogers, Buddy DeFranco, Anita O’Day, Shelly Manne, Stan Kenton, Art Pepper, the Terry Gibbs Dream Band, Sarah Vaughan, Stan Getz, Ella Fitzgerald, Mel Tormé, as well as, popular music artists including Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand Aretha Franklin, Linda Ronstadt, Stan Getz, Sammy Davis Jr., Michael Jackson, and many more. Not a bad resume for a name that is largely unknown outside of professional circles.

Born in Oakland, California on January 23, 1925, Martin Louis Paich came from a non-musical family which may explain why his first instrument was an accordion! He would be asked to play it on picnics and family special occasions. Although his earliest music lessons were on the accordion, he also took instruction on the piano.

As Charles Barber details: by age 10, Marty had formed the first of numerous bands, and by age 12 was regularly playing at weddings and similar affairs. While attending McClymonds High School, Marty also took up trumpet.

After graduating from McClymonds High School, Paich attended a series of professional schools in music, including Chapman College, San Francisco State University, the University of Southern California, and the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music where he graduated (1951) magna cum laude with a Master's degree in composition.

In a 1988 interview with Ted Gioia, Marty explained that during his service career following WW II:



“There was no pianist in the band that I was attached to, an air force band. And being that I was an accordion player, closest to the keyboard, they said, ‘Paich, sit at the piano.’ My right hand was all right, but I had no left hand at all.” 
Gioia goes on to state that Marty developed into a first-rate pianist as can be heard on his Mode trio LP [105, reissued on CD as VSOP #64], “… a talent that has been overshadowed by his greater recognition as an arranger.” 

I have always thought that Marty played what musicians’ refer to as “arranger’s piano” which has less emphasis on single note runs and horn-like phrases and uses more chords played with one or both hands to develop rhythmic motifs. Or as Joe Quinn states in the liner notes to the Mode trio LP:

“Marty’s arranging and composing talents are as much in evidence in this LP as his playing technique which is an added bonus in this interpretive collection.” Joe goes on to explain that “Marty’s prominence as an arranger has grown so during the past five years [c. 1952-57] that he has had little opportunity to purvey his talents as a pianist on record. In fact, although he has worked as a sideman on several dates, this is the first recorded set [along with red Mitchell on bass and Mel Lewis on drums] which has appeared under his own name.” 


Following his discharge from military service, Marty took some classes at San Francisco State before ultimately receiving a master’s degree in composition with high honors in 1951 from the Los Angeles Conservatory of music. Additionally, he was able to use the GI Bill to study with composers outside the faculty at the conservatory and Marty applied these funds to work under Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco. As told to Gioia during their interview: “I spent four years with him being my composition and orchestrations teacher. And that’s how I got ninety percent of my formal knowledge.”


And yet, the beginning of his involvement in composition and arrangement pre-date his formal study as Marty “… started arranging when I was about twelve years old. … By the time I was sixteen years old I was actually selling my arrangements, I think for about $20 or $25.” [Gioia interview] Marty sold these early charts to Gary Nottingham since his orchestra provided his earliest paying work as arranger; together with Pete Rugolo he wrote some of that band's best-known charts.


What Gioia refers to as “street smart” arranging skills probably came about in the following manner as described by Charles Barber, curator of Marty’s website:

“From the beginning of his professional career, he also learned music in the time-honored ways: he transcribed countless tunes and charts from recordings, he attended innumerable concerts, and he sat-in on a thousand jams. And from the beginning Paich had an extraordinary ear for style, and tremendously eclectic taste. These gifts would serve him well in his career and provide the opportunity to work in an amazingly large circle of musicians.”

Although most of his small group recordings with The Giants would feature either Pete Jolly or Lou Levy on piano, two of Shorty Rogers earliest quintet LPs would include Marty on piano. These were the 1953 tracks on the seminal Cool and Crazy LP [RCA BMG 74321610582] and the RCA Bluebird compilation released on CD as Shorty Rogers – Short Stops [5917-2-RB].
In addition to working with Shorty’s small group primarily in 1953, Paich took a series of jobs in the Los Angeles music and recording industry. These included arranging (and playing) the score for the Disney Studio's full length cartoon film The Lady and The Tramp, working as accompanist for vocalist Peggy Lee [who was also heavily involved in developing the music for the Disney animation], touring with Dorothy Dandridge, and providing arrangements for many local bands in Los Angeles.

In 1954, and perhaps as an extension of his time with Shorty Rogers, Marty began his writing experiments for larger small groups or what he would ultimately call “a band within the band.” Octets and dek-tettes [10-piece groups] would become the vehicle for such arranging platforms beginning with Marty Paich Octet: Tenors West Vol. No. 10, GNP-153. Paich's work on this recording reflected one of his greatest strengths as an arranger: making relatively small groups sound like full-size orchestras.
Employing Bob Enevoldsen on everything from valve trombone to vibes to tenor saxophone, Harry Klee on bass as well as alto flute using the piano’s upper register to play unison lines in the upper horn or trumpet register, Paich develops orchestral colors that are reminiscent of everything from the Woody Herman four brothers sound [from which, no doubt, the name – “Tenors West” – is derived] to the yet-to-come Henry Mancini hip, slick and cool Peter Gunn resonances. A trumpet plays under a baritone sax, a bass plays “lead” in a “choir” made up of trumpet, flute and piano, and rhythmic riffs and motifs punctuate backgrounds everywhere. On this recording, Marty is the musical equivalent of a kid in a toy store trying everything in every combination.

In addition to eight originals, Paich especially employs the “four brothers tenor sound” using three tenors and either Harry Klee’s flute or a baritone sax played by Jack Dulong to create beautiful renditions of three standards: There’s No You, Take the “A” Train, and Mulligan’s Line for Lyons, breathing new life into these familiar melodies with his intriguing arrangements. Incidentally, Conte Candoli on trumpet has never sounded better as his usual, fiery self. Also, if you’ve ever wondered what the “Chet-Baker-side” of Conte would sound like, this is the album to checkout.

Throughout the decade of the 1950's, Paich was active in West Coast Jazz performance while also working intensively in the studios. He not only played on, but arranged and produced, numerous West Coast jazz recordings, including albums by Ray Brown, Ella Fitzgerald, Terry Gibbs, Stan Kenton, Shelley Manne, Anita O'Day, Dave Pell, Art Pepper, Buddy Rich, Shorty Rogers, and Mel Tormé. His professional and personal association with Tormé, "though occasionally a difficult one," would last decades. Many jazz critics feel their work together with the Marty Paich Dektette to be the high point of their respective careers.

One of Marty enduring contributions to the “West Coast Sound” was the development of arrangements that “… are gems of control and restraint; they boot the musicians along without unduly distracting attention from the soloists.” [Bob Gordon, Jazz West Coast: The Los Angeles Jazz Scene of the 1950s, London: Quartet Books, 1986, p. 177]. Marty also became quite adept at voicing his arrangements to accentuate the signature sound of some of the more notable West Coast Jazz instrumentalists such as Jack Sheldon’s puckish trumpet and the full, mellow alto saxophone tone of Art Pepper.
Charles Barber described Marty’s skills as a composer arranger as follows:

“The music of Marty Paich is characterized by a wide-ranging catholicity of style, a tremendous sense of color, and impeccable taste. He was never a musical braggart, and never put himself first. His dedication was to the music he wrote and arranged, to the text it endorsed, and to the artists with whom he worked. Although notoriously perfectionist and demanding in the studio and onstage, Marty was a man of uncommon humility.

He was influenced by many forces: his classical training gave him skill and superb technique. His experience in jazz created a sense of driven pulse and easy improvisation. ...

And he was fast. What composer-conductor John Williams described as “the best ears in the business” could work with terrific speed, hearing instantly what was needed, and what was possible. He was often called upon to bail out others who had gotten stuck in muddy waters. In that regard, a fair amount of his music went un-credited.”


In the 1950s and early 1960s, the chronological emphasis for this piece, whether Marty was writing for Ray Brown, Stan Kenton, Terry Gibbs, Art Pepper or Mel Tormé, he always wrote in the context of the signature sounds of these musicians or groups.

It would be difficult to find a better example of this strength than Ray Brown’s Bass Hit [Verve 314 559 829-2] as arranged and conducted by Marty for as Don Heckman states in his insert notes :

“Bass players have rarely appeared as soloists with a big band. … Ray Brown has never been one to avoid a challenge. … Holding everything together are the arrangements of Marty Paich. … Although Paich’s charts, for the most part, have the sprightly rhythmic uplift one associates with West Coast, he also brings a Count Basie-like sensibility to several numbers, perhaps most notably “Blues for Sylvia” [co-composed by Brown and Paich].”
On Bass Hit, Paich surrounds Brown with his “small” big band, a format, as has been noted, that Paich was becoming quite expert at. This one included such distinctive soloists as trumpeter Harry “Sweets” Edison, Herb Geller on alto sax, clarinetist Jimmy Giuffre with his signature lower and mid range sound, guitarist Herb Ellis along with pianist Jimmy Rowles and the always-present-on-Marty-Paich-led-dates, Mel Lewis on drums, to round-out the rhythm section. Ray Brown and the stellar players joining him on this recording all benefited from Marty’s “gift” of writing arrangements that allowed them to put their personality into the music.

To paraphrase Don Heckman: “In a sense, the real question about Bass Hit was how well Brown would fit into the kind of orchestral context provided by Paich, in association with these soloists – both stylistically and as a lead instrumentalist. The answer, best stated by the music itself, is testimony to the great adaptability that [both Paich] and Brown have demonstrated throughout their careers.” 


During this period, Marty also prepared arrangements for what many considered the most swinging version of the Stan Kenton orchestra as co-led by lead trumpeter Al Porcino and drummer Mel Lewis. This swinging emphasis was no doubt due to the fact that the band performed arrangements written by Gerry Mulligan, Bill Holman, Johnny Richards and Marty.
In 1957, Marty contributed two charts to the Kenton book that were recorded in January of the following year for Stan’s Back to Balboa album [Capitol Jazz 7243 5 93094 2]. These were the furiously up-tempo The Big Chase and an absolutely stunning arrangement of My Old Flame. Michael Sparke, the noted expert on all-things-Kenton when its comes to his studio recordings had this to say about Marty’s association with Stan and these arrangements:

“Marty Paich was never a regular member of the arranging staff, but was one of the few writers that Stan entrusted to submit the occasional chart, and ‘My Old Flame’ became a classic in the book. In [Kenton trumpeter] Phil Gilbert’s view, ‘Marty Paich was one of Hollywood’s great arrangers. He wrote lush, rich charts for dozens of the best singers. His ballads were unique in their harmonies and extraordinary originality. I still remember the feeling I got when we first rehearsed ‘My Old Flame’ at Zardi’s [a Beverly Hills, CA supper club]. After all the moving moods throughout, came the classical climax. I said, ‘My God, that’s gorgeous. Everyone was stunned." 


… Nothing could better portray Paich’s versatility or be a stronger contrast to ‘Flame’ than ‘The Big Chase,’ which sweeps all before it in an exciting surge of sound. “Playing’ The Big Chase’ felt like the number for a circus high-wire act,’ continued Phil Gilbert. ‘Maybe Stan said, “Marty, write something at 150 miles an hour.”’ 


In 1991, Marty was to conduct The Big Chase and My Old Flame along with reprisals of his Body and Soul arrangement for the Kenton band and his original composition Neophonic Impressions 65 done in 1965 for Kenton’s 1960’s Neophonic Orchestra.
The occasion would be a four day-celebration involving alumni members of the Kenton band organized by Ken Poston, then of jazz radio station FM88.1 KLON, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Kenton Orchestra’s debut at the Rendezvous Ballroom on Balboa Island, CA.

In the four CD Stan Kenton Retrospective [Capitol CDP 7 97351/52/53/54 2] Ted Daryll comments: “Two sessions in January of ’58 delivered, among others, Marty Paich’s gorgeous idea on ‘My Old Flame’ that featured the equally beautiful sound of Bill Perkins’ tenor [saxophone].
A few years later at another of Ken Poston’s four-day festivals dedicated to Jazz on the West Coast, this time under the auspices of the Los Angeles Jazz Institute, I asked Bill Perkins for his recollections about playing on Marty’s arrangement of My Old Flame and he had this to say:

“It was a wonderful work, but I really had to concentrate or I’d be swept away by all the beauty that was going on around me. Everybody on the band loved to play that chart; it was so moving and beautiful. I must have played it a hundred times and it was a relief each time it was over because I didn’t want to mess up what Marty had done with it.” Also in 1957, Marty continued his band-within-band love affair with the release of nine of his original compositions on the Cadence Records Marty Paich Big Band [CLP-3010] which was issued on CD as Marty Paich: The Picasso of Big Band Jazz [Candid CCD 79031].

According to Frankie Nemko-Graham’s insert notes for the Candid CD:

“During the past years Paich has written many small band arrangements for such groups as the Dave Pell Octet, Shelly Manne, and several vocalists, using the trumpet, alto sax, tenor sax, trombone, baritone sax and the French Horn.
With this instrumentation he was able to run the gamut of color. Which gave him an idea. ‘Why not,’ he thought, ‘use this small band with a big band?’ So when Albert Marx asked him to write an album he decided to practice his theory. To the six instruments mentioned [Jack Sheldon, Herb Geller, Bob Cooper, Bob Enevoldsen, Marty Berman, Vince De Rosa] he added two trumpets [Pete Candoli and Buddy Childers], another trombone [Herbie Harper], another sax [Bill Perkins] and a rhythm section [Marty on piano, Joe Mondragon, bass and Mel Lewis on drums].

He wasn’t trying for a big band sound. He wanted, instead, to help swing and excite the small band in front. The results are something new and different. In the first track “From Now On,” for instance, the five brasses are playing the melody while the small band is supplying the harmony. When the trumpet solo starts, the background would usually be the standard sax section. Instead, Paich wrote a figure in the brass. With this he used the remaining front line to play in unison.

Paich says he can’t give enough credit to the soloists on this album. To Jack Sheldon on trumpet for his tasty conception of “From Now On.” Bob Enevoldsen on valve trombone on almost every track. Bob Cooper on tenor sax playing his usual best. Vince De Rosa for his wonderful French Horn and Marty Berman on baritone.”
[All of whom are featured in a significant way to help create the trademark Paich small-band-sound-within-a-larger-band sound].”

Paralleling Marty instrumental work during the mid-1950s, Marty also employed his developing arranging skills and small band within a big band format to assist in launching the career of vocalist Mel Tormé in a new direction.

Initially this was accomplished through a series of 5 albums that Tormé and Paich made together on the Bethlehem label beginning in 1955 with It’s A Blue World [30152].

However, it wasn't until the 1956 release of two albums that the tandem of Tormé and Paich really hit it stride. These were Lulu’s Back in Town: Mel Tormé with the Marty Paich Dek-tette [CD R2 75732] and Mel Tormé Sings Fred Astaire [CD R2 79847].
Joe Quinn provides this background as to how the design for this recording came about in his insert notes:

“Because he is jazz oriented, one of the first sounds to attract Mel’s attention in the modern vein was the Gerry Mulligan tentet which operated on the west coast some years ago, and produced some of the freshest combinations which are in vogue today. Mel always felt that these same patterns, re-worked for the proper vocalist, would be a distinctive blending of voice and instrument to the mutual satisfaction of both.”

In his review of the recording for www.allmusic.com, Scott Yanow had this to say: 

“This Bethlehem LP (last reissued in 1978 and originally known as Mel Tormé and the Marty Paich Dek-Tette) is a classic. Singer Mel Tormé was matched for the first time with arranger Marty Paich’s ten piece group which was called Dek-tette. Among the sidemen are trumpeters Pete Candoli and Don Fagerquist, valve trombonist Bob Enevoldsen, Bud Shank on alto and flute and either Bob Cooper or Jack Montrose on tenors; in addition Paich uses both a French horn and a tuba. The arranged ensembles and cool-toned soloists match perfectly with Tormé's warm voice and there are many highpoints to this essential date. In particular "Lulu's Back in Town," "When the Sun Comes Out," "Fascinatin' Rhythm," "The Lady Is a Tramp" and "Lullaby of Birdland" are standouts but all dozen selections are excellent. This is one of Mel Tormé's finest records of the 1950s.”



Finally, Joseph F. Laredo in his supplemental notes to the CD offered these insights about the powerful association between Tormé and Paich and why their names deserved to be linked as co-creators in these collaborative Bethlehem efforts:

“Although four decades have passed since its debut, this album, universally acknowledged to be a milestone in the history of vocal jazz, remains an electrifying listening experience. Mel Torme arrived at Bethlehem in 1955, having weathered a brief flirtation with the trappings of bobby-soxer idolatry in the late '40s, and was determined to explore the full range of his artistic potential. The most empathetic partner imaginable soon entered his life in the person of arranger Marty Paich, whose inventive charts for a group led by drummer Shelly Manne had made a forceful impression on Mel. Together, they developed the concept of a versatile ten-piece instrumental backing ensemble dubbed the "Deck-tette, " modeled along the lines of the contemporaneous Gerry Mulligan Tentet and the Miles Davis Nonet of "Birth of the Cool" fame.

In 1956, Tormé and Paich recorded this masterpiece. Mel later gleefully reflected that the opening selection, "Lulu's Back In Town," seemed to "Stick to me in a glue-like manner," and his romp through the tune became an instant signature performance. Each subsequent track shimmers with similar brilliance, although special mention must be made of an extended dissection of George Shearing,"Lullaby Of Birdland, " which features Mel improvising and interpolating like a virtuoso possessed. In the 1980s, Torme embarked on a series of enormously successful album collaborations with Shearing for the Concord label, efforts which resulted in the singer's first Grammy Awards .

The Tormé and Paich partnership flourished at Bethlehem until the label folded in late '50s, at which point it was briefly continued at Verve, and later revived on a pair of critically acclaimed outings for Concord in the '80s. The singularly gifted and prolific Marty Paich, who worked effectively with everyone from Mahalia Jackson to Michael Jackson over the years, died in 1995. A little over a year later, Mel Torme suffered a debilitating stroke that has curtailed his career to date. Fortunately, both artists were captured for posterity, at the very height of their considerable powers, on the unforgettable collection you are holding now."

-Joseph F. Laredo

The second, equally unforgettable partnership between Tormé and Paich on Bethlehem took place later in 1956 on Mel Tormé Sings Fred Astaire which John Bush considers to be the best of the lot as noted in the following critique that appears on
www.allmusic.com.
“Though it's sometimes relegated to second or third place among Tormé's best albums of the '50s (behind Mel Tormé and the Marty Paich Dek-Tette and It's a Blue World), it's difficult to hear how Mel Tormé Sings Fred Astaire can't be the best album of his entire career. Featuring an artist at the peak of his ability and talent, a collection of top-drawer songs from the best pop composers ever, and a swinging ten-piece that forms the perfect accompaniment, Sings Fred Astaire is one of the best up-tempo vocal albums ever recorded. Coming hot on the heels of Mel Tormé and the Marty Paich Dek-Tette in 1956, this tribute to Hollywood's most stylish dancer finds Tormé obliging with his nimblest and most elegant singing. Even while Marty Paich’s band takes "The Way You Look Tonight" and "Cheek to Cheek" at a breakneck pace that Astaire himself would've had trouble with, Tormé floats over the top with death-defying vocal acrobatics. He's breezy and sophisticated on "They Can't Take That Away from Me," ecstatic and effervescent on "Top Hat, White Tie and Tails" (matching an exuberant solo by trumpeter Pete Candoli), and even breaks out an affectionate croon for "A Foggy Day." A collection of perfect hard-swinging pop with a few ballads thrown in for good measure makes Sings Fred Astaire a masterpiece of the vocal era.”

And once again from Joseph F. Laredo’s supplemental insert notes:

“Recorded in November of 1956, this collection forged another link in the brilliant chain of successes that Tormé would string together while at Bethlehem in collaboration with Marty Paich. … ‘Once again, Marty’s colorful writing was right on target,’ Tormé later explained while reflecting on this Astaire tribute. “He placed the tuba, the low end of the Dektette, in many positions other than the obligatory bass note. Sometimes he would write a unison line for the trumpet and alto, using the rest of the band as a bed under them. The results were sensational.’ It is difficult to disagree with this assessment.

The pleasure Tormé took in making these recordings is palpable.”

Following the demise of the Bethlehem label, Tormé and Paich kept their artistic juices following together with a move to Verve and the release of Mel Tormé Swings Shubert Alley [821-581-2], although this time Marty had graduated to a full orchestra for the date including Art Pepper on alto sax.
In his liner notes for the album, Lawrence D. Stewart observed that:

“Geometry insists that the whole is equal to the sum of its parts; but when the proposition is Mel Tormé plus Marty Paich, the result is far more than a combination of singular talents. Tormé and Paich have made over half a dozen records together, always experimenting in the balancing of this jazz equation. But the formula they have uncovered for this set is the most astonishing yet.

Tormé does not conceive of himself as a soloist with a background accompaniment. Instead, he treats his voice as one more instrument in the band and achieves his effects by balance, counter-rhythm and even harmonic dissonances, which ring against these instrumental changes. ‘Most singers want to finish singing and then have the band come in for a bar and a half – and then they’re on again,’ observes Paich. ‘But Mel’s always saying “Let the band play – let the band play.” It’s quite unselfish from his standpoint and it doesn’t overload the album. It makes for good listening.’ It does even more than that: it gives a totally new conception to some rather traditional music.”

Richard Cook & Brian Morton had this to say about the album in The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD: 6th Edition [London: Penguin, 2002]:

“This is arguably Tormé’s greatest period on record, and it captures the singer in full flight. His range had grown a shade tougher since his 1940s records, but his voice is more flexible, his phrasing infinitely assured, and the essential lightness of timbre is used to suggest a unique kind of tenderness.

Marty Paich’s arrangements are beautifully polished and rich-toned, the French horns lending distinctive color to ensembles which sound brassy without being metallic. There may be only a few spots for soloists but they’re all made to count, in the West Coast manner of the day.

It’s loaded with note perfect scores from Paich and a couple of pinnacles of sheer swing ….”
[p. 1456].

If you haven’t heard these recordings by Tormé and Paich, get them and listen to sheer genius at work.
In 1959, the year before the Shubert Alley recording, vibraphonist Terry Gibbs began fronting a big band on Monday nights [the customary off night for working musicians] at a few venues in Hollywood. Later to be called the “Dream Band,” during its initial existence is was sometimes referred to as “The Bill Holman Band” because most of the bands early charts were “loaned” by Bill as Terry could barely afford to pay the musicians, let alone, buy arrangements.

However, the band did “make a go of it” for a couple of years and Terry did commission three charts from Marty for the band. These were: Opus One, I’m Getting Sentimental Over You and Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise. Lest anyone be concerned about what Marty could do with a “full Armada under his command,” the three arrangements announce immediately that Paich could take the additional instrumentation of a larger band to new heights of power and propulsion. These charts for the Terry Gibbs Dream Band provide a microcosmic laboratory for studying a master, big band orchestrator at work.

Beyond his continuing work with Tormé and the definitive, big band arrangements for Gibbs, Marty would be involved with two more very special projects in 1959.

The first of these involved alto saxophonist Art Pepper whom Marty once described this way:

“When I first met Art he was the greatest saxophone player that I had heard. Far above anybody else. I couldn’t believe how beautifully he played. And at that time there was the battle going on: a lot of writers were writing about East Coast Jazz and West Coast Jazz. Art to me was the ‘sound’ of West Coast Jazz, that melodic style he played, rather than that hard-driving New York style that a lot of guys were playing. I just fell in love with him the first time I heard him. And then eventually we worked together.” Gordon, p.165].

At the time, Marty’s devotion to Pepper turned out to be a good thing for us Ted Gioia points out: “Between 1958 and 1960, Paich was directly or indirectly responsible for about half of the recordings in the Pepper discography.” [Gioia, p.303] 


What makes this fact even more significant is that after 1960, Pepper would spend long stretches in prison because of nefarious activities associated with his drug habit and not re-surface again on the Jazz scene until 1975.
On Art Pepper + Eleven: A Treasury of Modern Jazz Classics [Contemporary OJCCD 341-2] the Pepper- Paich mutual admiration society produced a Jazz classic with a recording that is an almost perfect representation of the skills of everyone involved: from Les Koenig, owner of Contemporary whose idea it was to put the pair together in such a setting, to Pepper’s outstanding soloing on alto sax, tenor sax and clarinet [not to mention Jack Sheldon’s as the “other voice” on trumpet]; to Marty’s scintillating and inspiring arrangements; to all of the musicians on the date in executing his charts both with accuracy, style and for infusing them with a sense of excitement.

In his insert notes to an album, Nat Hentoff explains:

“In this new, uniquely integrated set, Pepper receives a differently challenging, frame work from Marty Paich than he – or most other soloists – has yet received on records. And Art responds with consistent brilliance.

What Paich has done has been to provide more than just accompaniment for Art. He has integrated the resilient band backgrounds with Art’s playing in a way that stimulates Pepper but doesn’t obstruct the improvisatory flow of ideas. Paich was able to accomplish this fusion because he knows Pepper’s style well through several years of association, including dates on which Marty was a pianist for Art. 


“I wanted to give him,’ Paich notes, ‘a different kind of inspiration than he’s used to with just a quartet behind him. I wanted Art to feel the ‘impact’ of the band, and I thought this setting would spur him to play differently than usual – though still freely within his natural style. And it did. Art and I have always thought very much alike. I couldn’t have asked for a more compatible soloist.’ Keeping Art free and yet integrated with the band was the main challenge for Paich. ‘There are even sections here – unlike the usual big band situation – in which Art improvises with ‘just’ the rhythm section.’”

Or astutely put another way by Ted Gioia, the overriding reason for the album’s success was that:

“Paich’s sensitivity to Pepper’s distinctive talent is evident throughout ‘Art Pepper plus Eleven.’ Other arrangers had been able to capture specific sides of Pepper’s musical personality; - Shorty Rogers, for example, had created several successful settings to feature the lyrical quality in Pepper’s ballad work – but Paich was able to develop settings that wrapped perfectly around the full range of Pepper’s sound, not only utilizing his alto voice in different contexts, but also effectively exploring his seldom-heard playing on clarinet and tenor sax.” [p.304]

“The collaborations between these two artists remain among the most satisfying meetings of musical minds West Coast jazz produced.” [p.303].
And finally, after contributing full big band arrangements for others during 1959, Marty was given the opportunity to write them for his own big band when Warner Brothers records approached him to make an album which was eventually combined with an earlier 1957 recording on Cadence and issued and re-issued under a variety of titles [Moanin', The Broadway Bit, I Get A Boot ouf of You].

As usual, Marty remained loyal and employed the distinctive sounds of trumpeter Jack Sheldon, of valve trombonist Bob Enevoldsen, French Horn player Vince De Rosa, tenor saxophonist Bill Perkins, and drummer Mel Lewis, but he also would relinquish the piano chair to Russ Freeman and add vibist Victor Feldman whose work he greatly admired. And, of course, there’s more from Art Pepper on these tracks.
In 1959, there was also the continuing alliance with Art Pepper, although as Ted Gioia makes clear:

"The Paich big band sessions for Warner Brothers, coming only a few weeks after the recording of ‘Art Pepper plus Eleven,’ serve in many ways as a counterpoint to that work. Once again Pepper is featured prominently, and Paich, relying heavily on Ellington compositions, shows that he has also learned Duke’s technique of tailoring the arrangements to the players involved. [Emphasis mine]."

This album was a great way for Marty to close the decade of the 1950s and an ideal stopping-point for the editorial staff at Jazz Profiles to close this all-too-brief retrospective on the career of one of the most talented composers and arrangers in American popular music during the second half of the 20th century.

While compiling this piece, the editors of Jazz Profiles had the delightful experience of listening to Marty’s arranging and composing mastery in these broad settings while realizing, at the same time, that what was under review was ONLY Paich’s work during the decade of the 1950s! Marty was to go on to actively make use of his wondrous writing skills for another thirty years!! As Messer’s Barber and Gioia point out, each in their own way, a major key to Marty success during these three decades would be his continuing humility and sensitivity to the talents of others.

“As you discover Marty’s music for yourself, please consider these findings: When he was alive, his music changed by artist and occasion. Now that he is gone, the music will live within and be further transformed by musicians like yourselves.”
-Charles Barber, curator Marty Paich website

Friday, February 16, 2018

Johnny Smith: Quiet and Dignified

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


"As far as I'm concerned, no one in the world plays the guitar better than he. They might play it differently, but nobody plays better. Johnny could easily overplay because he's got chops unlimited, but his musical taste would not allow him to make an over­statement. As a result, he makes beautiful music."
- Barney Kessell, Jazz guitarist

The few times I was in his presence – mainly accompanying friends to the guitar clinics he was conducting – Johnny Smith, who died on June 12, 2013 at the age of ninety-five - struck me as a quiet and dignified man.

He was universally adored by Jazz guitarists.

Although he reappeared on the Jazz scene from time-to-time, most of his now-legendary recordings were made in the 1950s.

Before opening a guitar store in Colorado Springs, CO in 1958, Johnny was very active in the New York studios.

Fortunately for Jazz fans, and notwithstanding their commercial aspects, in what has become an almost customary act of conscience and consideration, Michael Cuscuna and his fine team at Mosaic Records have assembled Johnny’s classic recordings into an 8 CD set and issued it as The Complete Roost Johnny Smith Small Group Sessions [MD8-216].  

The highlights of Johnny’s career, the reasons for his relocation to Colorado and his own thoughts about his music are covered in detail in the accompanying booklet to the Mosaic set which were written in 2002 by Vincent Pelote of the Institute of Jazz Studies which is on the campus of Rutgers University, in New Brunswick, NJ.

Here are excerpts from the introduction [paragraphing modified].

© -Vincent Pelote/Mosaic Records, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“Johnny Smith hasn't been a household name since his hit single Moonlight in Vermont in 1952. There is the occasional magazine or newspaper article, but it is largely the guitar community (a rather clannish bunch) who still sings the praises of this titan of the guitar. Guitarist Barney Kessel once said about Smith: "As far as I'm concerned, no one in the world plays the guitar better than he. They might play it differently, but nobody plays better. Johnny could easily overplay because he's got chops unlimited, but his musical taste would not allow him to make an over­statement. As a result, he makes beautiful music." Kessel's comments are indicative of the universal respect that Smith enjoys among his fellow guitarists. While Smith himself steadfastly maintains that he does not consider himself a jazz player, critics and musicians alike continue to hail him as a giant among the jazz guitar elite.

John Henry Smith, Jr. was born in Birmingham, Alabama, on June 25, 1922. His father, a foundry worker, played five-string banjo on which the young man got to "plunk around a bit" whenever his dad's musical friends dropped by the Smith household. When the Depression closed down the foundries in Birmingham, the Smiths had to leave to find work. After stays in New Orleans and Chattanooga, the family finally settled in Portland, Maine. It was during this time that Smith's love for the guitar began to grow and he eventually taught himself how to play. He worked out a deal with the local Portland pawnshops: in exchange for keeping their guitars in tune, they let him hang around and play the instruments.


Smith diligently practiced and pro­gressed to the point where, by age 13, he had a number of adults studying under him. In fact, one of those adults gave Johnny his first guitar while the young man was a sopho­more in high school. Some of his early influences included Django Reinhardt, Andres Segovia, Charlie Christian and Les Paul. Smith listened to a wide spectrum of music and musicians on radio and records, but was really drawn to the freedom, spontaneity and creativity of jazz and whole­heartedly appreciated the musicianship and improvisational skill it demanded. Smith played for a short time in the Fenton Brothers dance band, then joined Uncle Lem & His Mountain Boys, a local hillbilly band. The Depression was still going strong, but young Smith was earning as much as $4.00 a night — good money at that time. He even­tually dropped out of high school to concentrate on his music.

At 18, Smith left the Mountain Boys to form his own group, the Airport Boys (an early indicator of his lifelong love of flying). The trio used the interesting instrumentation of two guitars and a stringed bass for which Smith wrote arrangements. When World War II broke out, the guitarist enlisted in the Army Air Corps, but faulty vision in one eye forced him out of flight school. Smith then joined the Air Corps band. Since his favored instrument was not suited to a military band, Smith was given a cornet and an Arban method book and told to lock himself in the latrine for two weeks and practice until he could play it. Faced with the prospect of either learning the cornet (he couldn't read music at the time) or being shipped off to mechanics school, he practiced intensely and became accomplished enough to join the band. He even advanced to first chair in the 364th Air Corps Band out of Macon, Georgia.

The fol­lowing year he was reassigned to the 8th Air Corps in Montgomery, Alabama, and was ordered to form a jazz band. Smith managed to assemble a quartet from the avail­able talent with the unusual instrumentation of two guitars, a mandolin and a bass. Glenn Miller (at that time an Air Corps major) heard Smith with his group and tried to "req­uisition" him for his own band, but the Air Corps nixed it.

After the war, Smith returned to Portland and became a staff musician at the NBC radio affiliate there. He also played guitar in the local nightclubs and trumpet in the pit band of a Portland vaudeville theater. In 1946, conductor Eugene Ormandy invited the guitarist to join the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra, an offer he declined.

That same year Smith's boss at the Portland station sent a demo recording of Smith's playing to Roy Shields, the music director at NBC in New York City. Shields was sufficiently impressed and hired the guitarist as a staff musician. Smith's well-known reluctance to consider himself a jazz guitarist may have its roots in his tenure at the network, where he was often called upon to play everything from classical to polkas. This was an extremely busy time for Smith. Besides per­forming on as many as 35 radio (and later television) programs a week for NBC, he also played jobs with the New York Philharmonic (under Dimitri Mitropoulos), the Philadelphia Symphony (under Ormandy), and the NBC Symphony Orchestra (under the legendary Arturo Toscanini).


In an interview with Bob Campbell in 2001, Smith talked about his tenure with the volatile maestro: "Toscanini was a genius, but he was a tyrant with a nasty temper. He'd fly into towering rages. One time in rehearsal he jerked his beautiful gold watch from out of his vest pocket and slammed it down on the podium, sending parts spray­ing all over the stage. I walked on eggshells playing under his direction. I was very careful not to set him off."

In 1950 and '51, Smith served as guitarist for Benny Goodman's orchestra and sextet, which also included Terry Gibbs. His only high-profile recording from this period is an April 1, 1951 Goodman broadcast on WNEW which was issued on Columbia as the Benny Goodman trio plays for the Fletcher Henderson Fund to benefit the then critically ill arranger. Buck Clayton, Lou McGarity, Smith and Eddie Safranski joined the trio of Goodman, Teddy Wilson and Gene Krupa in various combinations. The gui­tarist is featured on After You've Gone, Honeysuckle Rose and One O'clock Jump.

Smith signed with Roost Records in 1952 and struck gold on his first session as a leader with his beautiful rendition of Moonlight in Vermont with Stan Getz. He talked about the piece in an interview with Edward Berger in 1990 (for the book on Teddy Reig: Reminiscing in Tempo: The Life and Times of a Jazz Hustler): "Why Moonlight in Vermont took off I really don't know. Other guitar players have told me that they were intrigued by my use of closed voicings in harmonizing the melody. On a piano, you can play a closed-voiced chord while keeping your fingers together. But on the guitar, you really have to spread out and, to my knowledge, no other guitar player had used this approach before."

Whatever the reason for its success, Moonlight in Vermont was voted Jazz Record of the Year 1952 in Down Beat. Besides garnering praise by critics and musicians, it went on to become one of the bestselling instrumental singles of all time. It was the first of many outstanding recordings that established the guitarist's tasteful trademark style of lush, complex, legato chordal voicings, interspersed with lightning-fast runs, all executed perfectly with a clear, rich sound and clean articulation.

Moonlight also began a long and successful associa­tion with producer Teddy Reig, who owned the Roost label. Smith told Bergen "My first impression of Teddy Reig was of a hard-nosed businessman. Neither one of us had any high expectations of having a big hit. One thing I will say for him: he never pushed me to change my name! With a name like John Smith, everybody I talked to about becom­ing a professional musician would advise me to adopt a more distinctive name. It got to the point that I decided to keep it just out of spite!" Reig was more than just Smith's record producer. He also acted as the guitarist's manager and arranged tours for Smith with both Stan Kenton's and Count Basic's orchestras.


During the '50s, Smith was also a frequent headliner at Manhattan's jazz clubs, especially Birdland, where he would appear up to 22 weeks a year. But he rarely recorded as a sideman. Notable exceptions are the first Jazz Studio session for Decca in October 1953 with Joe Newman, Bennie Green, Frank Foster, Paul Quinichette, Hank Jones, Eddie Jones and Kenny Clarke, a Hank Jones Trio date with Ray Brown for Clef two months later and Johnny Richards' ambitious annotations of the muses on February 22, 1955 for Legende, a subsidiary of Roost. When his quartet backed up Ruth Price, Beverly Kenney and Jeri Southern on Roost/Roulette albums, he received co-leader billing as he did on the 1962 Art Van Damme album A Perfect Match for Columbia.

In 1958, Smith's second wife died, leaving him with the responsibility of raising their four-year-old daughter, Kim. Smith realized that in order to do this properly he would have to seriously cut back on his playing and recording activities. He also felt he had to find a more conducive set­ting for raising a daughter than New York City, so he moved to Colorado Springs in February 1958 and opened his own guitar center. He flew back to Manhattan only when record dates required it.

In 1965, Teddy Reig left Roulette, the company to which he'd sold Roost in 1958. He made a production deal with Verve, which resulted in three more Johnny Smith albums in 1967—68. Smith's last commercially released recording, solo performances originally recorded in February 1976, were coupled with 1994 George Van Eps solos on a Concord Jazz CD entitled LEGENDS.

When Joe Bushkin called Smith in 1976 for a Bing Crosby tour with dates in the United States, the United Kingdom and Norway, the guitarist couldn't say no. "I had backed Bing on some orchestra dates years ago, but I wanted to get to know him. I had tremendous respect for him and we had a lot of common interests like hunting and fishing. So I said yes." Milt Hinton was the bassist and Jake Hanna the drummer. A Bushkin album 100 Years of Recorded Sound on United Artists came out of that tour.

Smith has lived happily in Colorado for the past 44 years [55 years until his death in 2013], dividing his time between operating the center, teaching, playing and enjoying life. He retired the guitar in the mid '80s. Today, he lives with Sandy, his wife of 42 years, in the same house he bought in 1958. Though retired from playing, Smith is far from forgotten. Awards and accolades continue to come his way. In 1998, the guitarist received the James Smithson Bicentennial Medal, which is awarded annually by the Smithsonian Institution for distinguished cultural contributions in public service, the arts, science or history. In 1999, the JVC Jazz Festival in New York honored Smith with a gala tribute featuring a pantheon of jazz guitar greats, both veterans and rising stars.

When introduced, Smith, who made a rare trek to Manhattan, said with characteris­tic modesty: "I never considered myself a jazz player — just a guitar player who tried to supply what was missing." The beautiful recordings in this set, regardless of the labels, are a testament to the legacy of a brilliant musician.”



Thursday, February 15, 2018

Bassist Andrew Simpkins Remembers Sarah Vaughan

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


“What I am about to do really can't be done at all, and that is to do justice to Sarah Vaughan in words. Her art is so remarkable, so unique that it, sui generis, is self-fulfilling and speaks best on its own musical artistic terms. It is—like the work of no other singer—self-justifying and needs neither my nor anyone else's defense or approval.


To say what I am about to say in her very presence seems to me even more preposterous, and I will certainly have to watch my superlatives, as it will be an enormous temptation to trot them all out tonight. And yet, despite these disclaimers, I nonetheless plunge ahead toward this awesome task, like a moth drawn to the flame, because I want to participate in this particular long overdue celebration of a great American singer and share with you, if my meager verbal abilities do not fail me, the admiration I have for this remarkable artist and the wonders and mysteries of her music.


No rational person will often find him or herself in a situation of being able to say that something or somebody is the best. One quickly learns in life that in a richly competitive world—particularly one as subject to subjective evaluation as the world of the arts—it is dangerous, even stupid, to say that something is without equal and, of course, having said it, one is almost always immediately challenged. Any evaluation — except perhaps in certain sciences where facts are truly incontrovertible — any evaluation is bound to be relative rather than absolute, is bound to be conditioned by taste, by social and educational backgrounds, by a host of formative and conditioning factors. And yet, although I know all that, I still am tempted to say and will now dare to say that Sarah Vaughan is quite simply the greatest vocal artist of our century…."
- Gunther Schuller’s tribute to Sarah Vaughan which preceded a Vaughan concert at the Smithsonian Museum in 1980.


Too much of a good thing?


Never when it comes to Sarah Vaughan.


I had heard her on records, but nothing prepares you for the astounding brilliance that comes across when you hear her in person.


In Sarah’s case, “astounding brilliance” is not hyperbole; if anything, it is an understatement!


In the summer of 1962, I was working a piano-bass-drums trio gig in the North Beach area of San Francisco, just down the street from Sugar Hill where Sarah was appearing with her trio [the Jazz Workshop was also nearby].


On my first set break, I headed down the street to checkout what was happening at the Jazz Workshop when I pasted the entrance of Sugar Hill and heard Sarah doing her thing.


I explained to the person collecting the cover charge at the door that I was a musician working up the street and asked if I could step inside for a minute to hear Sarah.


It was the most generous off-handed “gift” that anyone ever gave me as I found myself utterly dumbfounded by being in the presence of Sarah Vaughan.


She was just sensational in every way. What she did with her voice in a pure, acoustic setting was spell-binding.


There’s a reason why all you have to say is “Sassy,” because to try to “say” anything else descriptively about Sarah’s music borders on the ineffable, especially when her music is “in performance” [I prefer that expression to “live”].


Needless to say, I caught her every chance I had while she was at Sugar Hill and took every opportunity thereafter to catch her “in performance.”


I thought the following remembrance of Sarah by bassist Andrew Simpkins would make a nice sequel to our recent posting about the recent release on Resonance Records of a CD capturing Sarah’s 1978 performance at Rosy’s Jazz Club in New Orleans, LA.


It appeared as a published interview conducted by Gene Lees in the November, 1997 edition of his Jazzletter.


“Richmond, Indiana, present population about 38,000, lies barely west of the Kentucky border and 68 miles due east of Indianapolis. Indianapolis was a hotbed of jazz, the birthplace of Freddie Hubbard, J.J. Johnson, the Montgomery Brothers, and a good many more, some of them known only regionally but excellent nonetheless. Wes Montgomery never wanted to leave Indianapolis, and ultimately went home.


Richmond is on a main east-west highway. It was Highway 40 in the days before the Eisenhower presidency, but now it is Interstate 70. No matter: as it passes through town, it is inevitably called Main Street. Richmond was early in its history heavily populated by anti-slavery Quakers, and continued its sentiments right into Copperhead days. Copperhead was the name applied to southern sympathizers in Indiana, formerly a Union state during the Civil War.


Andy Simpkins, one of the truly great bass players, whether or not he turns up in the various magazine polls, was born in Richmond on April 29, 1932. His father therefore was born within short memory distance of slavery itself. A black Chicago cop who was working on his degree in sociology taught me an important , principle: that a black man in any given job is likely to be more intelligent than a white man in the same job, for had he been white he would by now have risen higher in the system. This may not be a universal verity, but I have found the principle to be sufficiently consistent that I trust it. Andy's father illustrates the point. He was a janitor; that's what the society in his time would allow him to be. His private existence was another matter.


"My father did a lot of things in his life," Andy said. "In his younger years he played saxophone and clarinet a little bit. He worked for many years on the janitorial staff of the school system of Richmond. His real life — all through the years he worked for them — was growing plants. He grew vegetables and beautiful flowers and sold them to people in the area. He was a wonderful horticulturist. He had greenhouses, and his plants were famous.


"My father was an only child, I'm an only child, and I have one son, Mark, who is in radio in Denver, Colorado." Andy laughed. "The Simpkins family line runs thin!"

Andy combines formidable facility with a deep sound, beautiful chosen notes, long tones, and time that hits a deep groove. Those are some of the reasons he spent ten years with Sarah Vaughan.


In spite of occasional clashes, she adored him, and she did not suffer fools gladly or second-rate musicianship at all. Andy also worked for her arch-rival and close friend Carmen McRae, and mere survival with either of those ladies, let alone both of them, is perhaps the ultimate accolade for a jazz musician. They were prime bitches to work for. I merely wrote for Sass; I never had to work for her. I just loved her, and so did Andy. He remembers mostly the good times, and it was inevitable that we would talk about her.


Andy first came to prominence with a trio called the Three Sounds, whose pianist was Gene Harris. The drummer was Bill Dowdy. They made more than twenty albums for Blue Note. Andy toured for a long time with George Shearing, worked with Joe Williams, and recorded with Clare Fischer, Stephane Grappelli, Dave Mackay, and Monty Alexander.


He never forgets the role of his parents. For, as in the cases of most of the best musicians I have known, strong parental support and encouragement were critical elements in his development.


"My mother was a natural musician," Andy said. "She never had a lesson. She played piano by ear, and she had the most incredible ear. She played in our church for forty years, all the hymns and all the songs. She used to hear things. When my Mom would hear something playing on the radio she'd hum along, not the melody, like most people, but the inside harmony. I'd hear her humming those inside parts of the chords, any song she heard. It was incredible. I think that's where most of my musical talent comes from.


"But my Dad was really instrumental in seeing that I studied music and learned the theory, and to read, all the things you really need beside just your ear — although a lot of people have made it just on the ear. He saw I had a great ear and he started giving me lessons at an early age. And he made a lot of sacrifices to do that. To this day I think of my Dad making all kinds of sacrifices, doing extra jobs, picking up trash that he could sell for metal, just working so hard to make sure I had lessons, to see that I could study.


"Clarinet was my original instrument for a couple of years, and then I started studying piano. I had a great piano teacher, Norman Brown. Along with teaching me legitimate piano studies, and exercises, he also taught me about chord progressions and harmony. And that was very unusual at that time. Every week at my lesson, he would bring me a popular tune of the day, written out with the chords. So all the time I was studying with him, I was learning chords. And you know what else he did? He was a wonderful legitimate, classical player, but he also played for silent movies.


"I was fortunate: my mother and father lived long enough to see that I was successful. They were alive through the time I was with George Shearing. I was with George from '68 to '76. And before that the Three Sounds. We accompanied all sorts of people, and my Mom and Dad were in on that. Any time I was close enough that I could pick them up and take them, they would go to my gigs. Even when I was much younger, playing my jobs, my Mom sometimes would even nod out and go to sleep, but she would be there! She wanted to be there.


"I started out playing with a nice little local band in Richmond, a kind of combination of rhythm and blues and jazz. We used to play around Richmond and Muncie and a lot of little towns around there. When the band first started, we didn't have a bass player. I was playing piano. With the ear I had, I always heard bass lines, and I was playing the bass notes on the piano. A few months after we were together, a bass player joined us, from Muncie.


"I had listened to the bass before that. I had listened to the big bands. I was already hooked on jazz music. But I wasn't taken with the bass. There were all the great bass players working with those bands at that time. I guess it was the sound they got. It was the way bass was played at that time. They got kind of a short sound. The sound wasn't long and resonant.


"And this player joined the little band that we had. His name was Manuel Parker. He had this old Epiphone bass, it was American-made but it had a wonderful sound. He got this long, resonant sound that I'd never heard. I said, Wow! He could walk, and had that great groove, and this wonderful big fat resonant sound along with it. I was awestruck.


"We used to rehearse at my house a couple of times a week. I was probably eighteen, nineteen. He lived in Muncie, which was forty miles away from Richmond. Say we'd rehearse Tuesday and Thursday. So on Tuesday, he used to leave the bass at my house. I just started getting his bass out and playing with records. I knew the tunes. I'd tune the bass up, because the turntable ran a little fast. I heard all those lines. And I got hooked. No technique, I didn't know the fingering or any of that. But I heard the notes and I found them on the bass. And from that point on, that was it. I guess the other instruments were the route to the bass. This is where I was supposed to be, because it felt so totally natural.


"I was competent on the other instruments. I read well. In fact, when I went into the service I auditioned on clarinet and got into the band. I played them okay. People said I was a fairly good player. But I felt about the bass: this is the instrument that's been waiting for me.


"I was drafted into the Army in '53. Went through eight weeks of basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. I auditioned. The orders came down: I didn't make it. I had to take another eight weeks of basic. After the second eight weeks, I was accepted in the band. At that time, they had just started to desegregate the bands. But at the beginning, they were still segregated. After a few short months, I was transferred up to Indianapolis, to Fort Harrison — sixty miles from my home town! I played clarinet in the concert and marching band, bass in the big swing jazz band that we had within the band, and piano in a couple of small combos. That's when I really got around to studying.


"In the band there was a legit bass player, a wonderful classical player. He started to just teach me, on his own -legitimate, correct technique. I could read the bass clef, of course, from playing piano. He started teaching me correct classical fingering and approach to the instrument.


"I spent two years in the army, in the band the whole time, and fortunately was in Indianapolis. At the time, Indianapolis was swinging. It was live. J.J. Johnson might have left by then, but the Montgomery Brothers were there. I think Wes was still there. This was '53. I was going into town at night and hanging out, and not getting much sleep. I was playing at night with a lot of guys. [Drummer] Benny Barth was still there. I played a lot with Benny Barth. Al Plank was there. This town was rockin'. I went to one gig that went till midnight, and then I'd play an after-hours thing that went till three, then had to get up at six.


"And in the daytime, I played in the army band. I was submerged in music. I was really blessed. I didn't have to go and shoot at anybody and get shot. A lot of my friends in basic training went to Korea. Most of them didn't make it back. The 'police action', as they called it. I was in Indiana through 1955. I was discharged in '55.

"After the Army, I joined a little rhythm and blues band. The leader was from Chicago. His name was Jimmy Binkley. In the band that I played with back in Richmond, we had a sax player who called himself Lonnie 'The Sound' Walker. He was one of these rockin' tenor players. I sort of grew up around him. That's where we got the name for the Three Sounds. When we first formed, we were four: Gene Harris, Bill Dowdy on drums, myself, and Lonnie Walker. We called ourselves the Four Sounds. We went on from 1956 to '58. He left and we had a couple of different saxophone players. We went on as a trio and recorded our first record for Blue Note as the Three Sounds.


"The review in Down Beat ripped us asunder. It was by John Tynan. Here we are, our very first record, kids, fledglings, all optimistic excitement, and he tore us apart."


That review appeared in the April 16, 1959, issue of Down Beat, the second to have my name on the masthead as editor. Tynan — John A. Tynan to the readers, Jack or Jake Tynan to all of us who worked with him — presented the subject as the transcript of a court case in which a prosecutor says, "Here we have, beyond doubt, one of the worst jazz albums in years. The performances speak for themselves — horrible taste, trite arrangements, out-of-tune bass, an unbelievable cymbal, ideas so banal as to be almost funny."


The judge says, "Why was it ever released, then? Who would buy such a record as this?"


It must have been devastating to the members of that trio. Tynan became, and remains, one of my best friends. He left Down Beat to write news for the ABC television station in Los Angeles, a post at which he worked until his retirement. He lives now in Palm Desert, California. I called him, to see if he could lay his hands on that moldering review. He thought that he might, if he looked long enough. Nor could Andy readily provide a copy of it. So I undertook a little archaeology of my own and found it.


"In later years, on reflection," Andy said, "I thought there was some validity to what he said, but at that time he could have given us a little bit of a break. I guess that's not the way it is, if you're gonna be out there in the world. But at the time, we were really hurt. We went to see him. We were all over two hundred pounds, big strapping country boys. I guess we just looked at him real hard. I don't know what we had in mind."


Apparently nothing more violent than glowering. The Down Beat west coast office at that time was on Sunset Boulevard at Gower. Tynan remembers their visit only vaguely. Reconstructing the events, I found myself chuckling over the incident, all the more because just over four months later — in the September 3, 1959, issue of the magazine — the group received a glowing four-star review.


Andy said, "The three of us lived in Cleveland at first. Coming from a little town, I thought, Cleveland! I was really in the big town, after Richmond, Indiana. We went to Cleveland because Gene had an aunt there, and we could stay with her. There was an old club called the Tijuana, which I guess in the '40s was a big-time show club. It had been closed. It was just up the street from Gene's aunt's house. They were getting ready to reopen. They wanted fresh new talent. So we went and auditioned for the guy. They didn't even have a piano on the stage. The stage was surrounded by the bar, one of those deals. The piano was in the corner. The three of us got the piano and lifted it on the stage to do this audition. And we got the gig. We started out at $55 a week. We stayed two years and ended up getting $60. We got people coming in there.


"We met a guy who had a recording studio in his basement. He would record us when we rehearsed. Our idols at the time were Oscar Peterson, Ahmad Jamal, Max Roach, Horace Silver, Art Blakey, and all the people from that era. We had all their things down. We knew their charts!


"There was a jazz club downtown in Cleveland. We used to go there on Sundays, our night off, and hear all our idols. Gene was a very aggressive guy. He'd ask them if we could sit in. And they'd let us do it! We'd sit in with the horn players, and play their charts. It was very tolerant on their part. But we had those charts down.


"And by our doing that, the word began to filter back to New York about us.


"We had that gig at the Tijuana for a couple of years, and then finally it ended. Bill Dowdy says, 'My sister lives in Washington, D.C. Let's go to Washington. We can stay with her.' Bill and Gene are both from Benton Harbor, Michigan. They played together as kids long before I met either of them. They were in high school together. Bill's now in Battle Creek, Michigan. He's teaching there, privately and in one of the schools and he produces concerts. We're all still in touch. Gene lives in Boise, Idaho. I talk to Bill more than I do Gene.


"So we went to Washington. We got a lot of help from a guy who was a union representative. He took us around. He told us about one place that had been closed and was going to open again. It was called the Spotlight. We auditioned. The manager liked us, and we played there a month or so. Then we played in a restaurant in Washington for about nine months.


"A good friend of the manager of the place was Mercer Ellington. He came to listen and was just taken aback by us. Mercer was really the one who actually discovered us. A club in New York needed another group. Stuff Smith was playing there. They wanted a young group, new faces, to play opposite him. Mercer talked to them and they hired us.


"We'd been in Washington about a year when we went to New York. As I said, the word had filtered back from Cleveland about us — to Blue Note Records, Alfred Lion and Frank Wolff. They were wonderful people. They came to hear us at this club and loved us right away and signed us. At the same time, Jack Whittemore from the Shaw booking agency, little Jack, came in too. He was a wonderful man. Golly moses."


There was a radiance in his voice when Andy mentioned Jack Whittemore. One hears much, and much of it derisive, about the businessmen of jazz, particularly agents. But Jack was loved. He was kind, good, honorable, funny, feisty, tiny, stocky and argumentative. I used to call him the Mighty Atom. Once, in Brooklyn, he got into an argument and then a fist-fight with the owner of a jazz club, over the issue of the acts Jack had been booking in there. The bartender separated them and told them to cool off. Jack asked the owner if business was really that bad. He said it was. "Then why don't you come to work for me?" Jack said, and that's how Charlie Graziano became Jack's second in command and one of his best friends. Jack was like that.


Jack had been an agent for GAC and MCA before becoming president of the Shaw agency, which in the 1960s was the primary jazz booking agency; later he went on his own, and the acts he booked included Miles Davis, Bill Evans, Art Blakey and the Jazz


Messengers, Sonny Stitt, Stan Getz, McCoy Tyner, Phil Woods, Horace Silver, and many more. When Jack died at sixty-eight in 1982, the professional jazz community was devastated. There was no one to replace him, and no one has turned up since to fill his shoes. After his death, all the musicians he booked paid Jack's estate the commissions they owed him, with a single exception — and everyone in the business knew it — Stan Getz.


This precis of Jack's career will explain the warmth in Andy's voice on mention of his name. Jack could make a career; Horace Silver credits Jack with establishing his.


"Jack came to hear us," Andy said. "He liked us, and he signed us with Shaw. From that point, we started to record for Blue Note. We did quite a few albums for Blue Note.


"And a funny thing happened. The Down Beat review was so scathing that I think it made people curious. They started buying our albums and got us off the ground. I really believe that. How could anything be that bad? People said, I've gotta hear this! I believe that to this day.


"We started recording in '58. I stayed with the Three Sounds until '66. At that point, we'd made twenty albums or so together. In the meantime, we did some records for other companies — Limelight, which was a subsidiary of Mercury. Jack Tracy was our producer. I saw Jack recently! We did one with Nat Adderley for Orrin Keepnews at Riverside. It was a wonderful record, called Branching Out. We recorded some for Verve, too."


"That was one hell of a trio," said bassist John Heard. Born in 1938, John was twenty when that trio began to record; Andy was by then twenty-six, and that much difference in age is a lot at that time in one's life. "When they'd come to play Pittsburgh," John said, "I used to stand around outside the club and listen to them. I used to follow Andy around. He didn't know. I don't think he knows it now. Andy is a Monster."


"Bill Dowdy left the Three Sounds before I did," Andy said. "Bill was good at business matters. He was very orderly. He used to take care of books and that kind of thing for us. He and Gene had a big falling out. And they'd been friends since school days. Bill left in '65. I left about a year later, only because I wanted to play some other music with other people. I wanted to branch out musically. I came to Los Angeles. There were all these great players, and I wanted to work with them and expand musically. For a couple of years I was in L.A. freelancing.


"Somebody told George Shearing about me and he needed a bass player. I went to his house and auditioned for him, just the two of us. He pulled out a couple of charts and I read them. He said, 'I always had heard that you didn't read. I don't know where this came from, but you read fine.'"


"Well you know, Andy," I said, "that may seem like a small detail now, this is the kind of rumor that can seriously impede someone's career. I'd always heard that Chet Baker couldn't read, and Gerry Mulligan told me that was nonsense. He said Chet could read, but his ear was so good he didn't have to. He could learn anything instantly."


"I know, I know," Andy said. "Well I read for George, and joined him in 1968. I replaced Bob Whitlock. Charlie Shoemake was the vibes player, Dave Koontz was the guitarist, Bill Goodwin was the drummer. Bill left soon after. There were different guys through the years. Stix Hooper played with us for about a year. Harvey Mason played drums with us, Vernel Fournier for just about a minute. I was with George for eight years.


"I knew a lot of songs, but I credit George: I learned a lot of songs from George Shearing, kind of remote things. I'll tell you another song I credit for teaching me a lot of songs, remote songs, and that's Jimmy Rowles. Rowles! Listen! Those two guys, along with my piano teacher, are responsible for a lot of things that I know.


"I left George in '76. I was still living in L.A. Back to freelancing and studio calls and gigs and casuals. I was married to my first wife, Katherine, in 1960. She passed away in '92. She had lung cancer. She smoked, she smoked. My wife Sandy quit smoking a couple of years ago.


"After Shearing I was doing film calls and studios and this and that. Then I got a call in '79 from Sarah Vaughan's then husband, Waymon Reed. Trumpet player. He was her music director. Sarah was looking for a bass player, and I'd been recommended. I auditioned for Sarah, and she loved me. I spent ten years with her. Until 1989.


"It was a great relationship. She could be weird," he said, laughing. "As everyone who worked for her knows. Especially players."


"Well my relationship with her was a little different," I said. "I dealt with her as a songwriter. And as an old friend."


I recounted to Andy the details of an event in which our trails almost crossed. I had written an album for Sarah, based on poems of peace by the present Pope. The producer was the well-known Italian entrepreneur Gigi Campi, who among other achievements had founded and funded and managed the remarkable Clarke-Boland Big Band, jointly led by drummer Kenny Clarke and the Belgian arranger and composer Francy Boland. Sass wanted to use her own rhythm section, but Gigi Campi insisted on organizing his own for the project, which involved a large orchestra, recorded in Germany. He hired two bassists, Jimmy Woode and Chris Lawrence, and the drummer was Edmund Thigpen. Nothing wrong with that rhythm section, but facing some difficult musical material, Sass no doubt would have felt more secure with her own, which included, besides Andy, the pianist George Gaffney, whose background includes periods as music director for Peggy Lee and Ben Vereen, among others.


"The Sass lady!" Andy said. "That album you wrote for her, it was aside from the kind of thing she usually did. And how well, how unbelievably, she learned and did it. Difficult music. Good heavens. That was '84? Did you see her being more disagreeable than usual?"


"Not particularly." I said. "She was too scared of that material, and I was the only one who could teach it to her. She could be crusty, though. She pulled it on other people there, but not on me. Although, I'll tell you, she could be demanding, even of me."


I told him the story. After she had sung the material in a triumphant concert in Dusseldorf, and it had been recorded, I flew home to California. But Sass, hearing the tapes, was unhappy with some of the tracks and wanted to overdub the vocals. This was to be done in a studio in Cologne. And she insisted that I return to Germany to be with her. So, after two or three days at home, I flew back to Germany, and held her hand in the studio — and since she was listening to the orchestra in headphones and I couldn't hear it, I heard that incredible voice of hers totally unadorned.


"Well after that," Andy said, "we did an Italian tour. She wanted to have an audience with the Pope."


"That started when we were in Germany," I said. "Everywhere she and I went the press asked us if we had met the Pope. And eventually she got a bee in her bonnet that she wanted to meet him. Curiously enough, I met him — met? a handshake — in Columbia, South Carolina, during his American visit. There was a huge rally and I sang some of that material in the concert. But she wanted to meet him even by the time we finished recording."


"Well she did," Andy said. "The promoter we were with in Italy got her an audience with the Pope. That's no small matter. This guy was a heavyweight, named Corriaggi." "Who was her pianist during that period?" I asked. "There were a lot of people, but for the longest period it was George Gaffney. He's wonderful. A great arranger too.


"As great as she was, she sometimes had trouble relating to real life. She had some strange ideas about normal, everyday living. She seemed to attract wrong guys. There were guys out there going for who she was and what she had and the prestige of being involved with her."


"I met some of those guys," I said. "I believe that she was very insecure."


"Oh sure," Andy said. "I had a couple of run-ins with her, as anyone would who was with her for a long period. About the silliest things. For instance, we were traveling. I was using a flight case for the bass. She bought one; I was using that. They're always big, and they weigh a lot, but they have to be to protect the instrument. And sometimes they don't even work. That amazes me. On a couple of instances, I've opened it up after a flight and the bass was in shambles inside the trunk.


"So I decided to have one custom-made. When I did that, she turned left. Suddenly she didn't want to pay the oversize charges when you fly. They'd been paying it right along. It's not my expense. The promoter pays for it. It's like the tickets. She went really out on me about that! And the one I'd had made was lighter than hers.

"But the things that really made me mad — and she made everyone mad who worked for her, and they loved her at the same time - - seemed to melt away when she opened her mouth. Sometimes you'd want to stomp her into the ground. And then she'd start singing, and none of it mattered. I've talked to I don't know how many guys about this.


"After about "five or six years with her, and the damage to the instrument, even in the trunk, I got gun-shy about it. I started — and this is tricky to do with a stringed instrument — to have them write it into the contract that the producer had to provide a bass. Sometimes you win, and a lot of times you lose. A lot.


"The best way to find a decent instrument in an area is to get in touch with a symphony player or a jazz player, or somebody who does both, who might want to rent one of his instruments. The chances were better that way that you could find something good. Otherwise you'd have to go to a store.


"With all that mind, I came out better than I would have thought, most of the time.


"But one time I had an instrument that was the worst I ever had. It would not stay in tune. You'd play a few notes, and it would start slipping and go flat. We had this one tune we did together, just she and I, East of the Sun. Just bass and voice. It was in five flats. We're doing it and this bass is slipping, it was going all over the place. And she went where it went! I'm going nuts. And she just heard it, and found wherever it was. At the end of the tune, the piano always played a Count Basie ending. Plank, plank, plank. George Gaffney was with us at the time. Of course, it was 'way somewhere else from where we were.


"But her ears! It was the darnedest thing I ever heard in my life, man. She was right with me. We were together, but we weren't in the key. I'd heard her do amazing things up till then, but I said, 'Lord, have mercy, what is this! She constantly amazed me, but that incident took the cake."


I said, "Sahib Shihab told me once that Big Nick Nicholas said you should listen to her if only for the way she used vibrato. And she had a weird ability to hit a note in tune and then seem to penetrate even more into the heart of the pitch. It was the strangest thing."


"Yeah!" Andy said. "It was, Wow! If I can play a ballad at all, interpret a ballad, I would have to credit that to her. I'd play one sometimes on a set, and I told her that, and she loved it. I recorded My Foolish Heart on one of my albums.


"When I was working with Gerald Wiggins — I worked with him quite a lot — he heard it. We worked at a place called Maple Drive in Beverly Hills, and a place called Linda's — and he would insist that I play it every night. I'd say, 'Oh Wig, I don't want to.' He'd say, 'Shut up and play it.' I was still with Sarah at the time.


"I got it on record, and I wanted her to hear it. As I said, I'd learned how to approach a ballad melodically from her. Just through osmosis. I played the record for her. I was nervous. And she said, 'Andy, that is gorgeous.'


"That was not long before she passed.


"After she got sick, during that last year, we did a tour. This would be around '88, to Italy. This promoter, Corriaggi, who was Frank Sinatra's promoter over there, booked us, and the tour was great. I knew her moods. She was totally evil that whole tour, and it was the best tour we ever did. The weight that this guy carried! We didn't even go through customs. It was a car tour, surface. There were two cars, Rolls-Royces, a car for her and a car for us. He used to take us to these great places to eat. They'd be closed, but they'd stay open especially for us. The greatest food, the best treatment. Whatever she wanted, and the same with the band. And she was totally evil all the time. I know she could be weird, but this was . . . But now I think back and I believe she was getting ill, even then. Her breath was getting shorter. We'd be walking through an airport, and she'd have to stop, panting, and rest. So I think it was coming on her at that time, and we didn't know what it was.


"She could be totally exasperating. Looking back, however, I have to think very hard about the things that made me angry with her. I seem to remember all the fun things and the laughs and the great times. Which says to me that those other things weren't that important.


"She was really hurt when I left. But, again, I just wanted to move further on and do other things. But she didn't travel that long after that anyway. We used to do a thing where we'd end up on two notes, in harmony. She'd jump on me and say, 'I want to sing that note, the bass note."


I mentioned the times when it was said that she had a four-octave range and she would huff, "The day I've got four octaves, I'm calling the newspapers."


Andy laughed. "She always used to deny that, but I think she did. She certainly had three. That's a definite.


"Those were incredible years. I was ten years with her. I left in '89. She died a year or so later. Sarah really spoiled me for singers. I had to pull myself together and say, 'This is not right. There are other people who can sing, you know.' I found myself unconsciously comparing.


"When it comes to scatting, Ella did it well. Sarah did it well. Carmen did it well. But in my estimation, the queen of scatting is Betty Carter. She does it as an instrumentalist does. Most people need to not scat, I'm gonna tell you."


"I don't like scat singing most of the time," I said.


"I don't either," Andy said.


"If any singer was ever qualified to do it, it was my hero, Nat Cole. And he didn't do it. He just sang the song. The best scatting I've heard comes not from singers but from instrumentalists, Dizzy, Clark Terry, Frank Rosolino."


"And don't forget the trombone player, Richard Boone!" Andy said. "But I really feel most people need to leave it alone. What I like about Betty is the sounds don't vary. She oo's and ah's for different notes and registers."


I said, "The schools are teaching scat to young singers, and I wish they wouldn't."


"Yeah," Andy said. "How about knowing a song as written? At least before you start scatting. Some people don't even know the song. Please! There are a lot of singers that I like, and I used to run them by Sass. Julius La Rosa, for one. I said, 'I think he's great.' She said, ‘Yeah!' People who can really sing. First of all, I can understand the lyrics, and that takes me a long way. And they can sing in tune. And in time. I always thought Julius La Rosa was wonderful. And I think Steve Lawrence sings great too. I always liked Gloria Lynn.


"I'd like to ask you a little about the bass, and about your own playing. Your said you didn't really like some of the old style of bass players."


"The notes were on the money," Andy said. "But the sound wasn't there."


"They used to use full-hand grips instead of fingering the instrument."


"And that's why the sound wasn't happening," Andy said. "You're using the balls of your fingers to mash the strings all the way down to the fingerboard."


"Don Thompson and I were talking a year or two ago about individual tone on an instrument. And he said he thought it was almost impossible not to have a personal individual tone, for physical reasons."


"Certainly," Andy said. "Don's right. That's the thing about stringed instruments. The pressure. What part of your finger you're playing on when you press the strings down. And so far as pizzicato is concerned, the part of your picking finger that you play with. The tip, or the longer part of the finger? These things are crucial. They make the difference. That's why I feel as I do about the instrument. You can take five bass players and have them play the same bass, and they'll sound different."


I told him that once I had watched Ray Brown instructing a student. Ray took the boy's instrument, a cheap Kay student-model bass. And he produced from it the same sound he did from his own instrument. I asked, "Where do you think the business of long sustained tones began?"


"In my memory, Blanton got that," Andy said. "This guy! And I guess all the guys at that time played without amplification. He stands out as far as being big in his sound, playing with a full band, with no help but just his strength."


I said, "Then came Mingus, Ray Brown, Red Mitchell, Scott LaFaro. No instrument evolved as much as the bass after about 1945."


"That's probably true. Red Mitchell is a definite influence in my playing. Of course, he did that cello tuning, fifth tuning. The range is wider. I've got a lot of younger heroes, like Stanley Clarke. Age doesn't matter. A real large hero of mine is Niels Pedersen. Oh, I mean! He seems to cover the whole spectrum of great sound, a strong walking time sound, great facility. A lot of cats have facility, but he plays and phrases like a horn or pianist would, and has the facility to back it up, and harmonically he's always on the money. And tempos don't matter."


"How is that long sound produced?"


"It has to do with a lot of things. Part of it is the instrument itself. But those earlier guys had good instruments too. Foreign instruments, which so many of the great ones are. Mine's German. It's about 150 years old. It's a kid compared to some that I know about. German, French, Italian. Those old craftsmen.


"It has to do also with the way the instrument is set up, as far as the way the sound post inside of the instrument is set. It has to do with the height of the bridge. A higher bridge produces a bigger sound, but it's more difficult to play. Mine is not high, but it's not super-low. Some guys have the strings down so close to the fingerboard that you've got to really play light or you'll start getting slapping."


"Of course," I said, "the amplification has been so improved."


"Yes, we do have that. But I still like to have gigs turn up now and then where you can play acoustic. They're getting rare any more. I've been playing Fridays and Saturdays at a hotel in Santa Monica called Shutters, with an outstanding pianist named John Hammond. He worked for Carmen."


"That says it."


"We played together with Carmen at the old Donte's. He's a marvelous players. I keep the amp really low, just a touch."


And that brought us back, inevitably, to Sarah. "The Sarah stories go on and on," Andy said with a quiet and affectionate chuckle. So I told him another one.


Some years ago, Roger Kellaway wrote and produced an album — an outstanding album, but little noticed — for Carmen McRae. I had heard the tapes, the rough mixes. And one day I was over at Sarah's house. She lived in Hidden Hills, a gated community just off the 101 freeway a little west of Woodland Hills, California. She had just done some of my songs. I said to her, "You've been recording a number of my songs. Thank you."


"Hmm," she said with a certain sniffy hauter, "I thought you'd never mention it."


She made us drinks, and after a while she said, "How's that album Carmen did with Roger?"


"Very nice," I said. "Beautiful charts, beautiful recording."


She had just risen to her feet to refill our glasses. "No," she said, "I mean, how's Carmen singing on it?"


"Sharp," I said.


She continued across her sunny living room toward the bar, monarchical in manner, though she was not very tall, her words trailing loftily over her shoulder: "Shit. I didn't know anybody but me knew that Carmen sings sharp."


Andy roared with laughter.


"Oh that Sass," he said wonderingly. And warmly.”