When we decided to have a jazz museum, all we had was a building, a large room full of antiques, and about 400 records I had bought over the years. The antiques would have to be sold off to make room. This was the top floor of the building, and we already had another floor below that was full of antiques. A record album museum was exciting to me because I had recently learned from our daughter that album covers were going to be a thing of the past.
Our daughter was beginning to download songs and albums onto her iPod. I was horrified to think that she would have no hard copy album covers and more importantly, no liner notes. The liner notes tell you who composed the music, who did the arrangements, who played on the tracks, when it was recorded and where, not to mention the tunes and the time for each tune. In addition there might be photos and information about the band, or the recording session. Part of my love of getting a new album was reading the liner notes as I listened to the record. The history of jazz is written on the backs of record albums, not just in books. The cover art was also interesting because each album was different, and a photo of the band might be there, also. Liner notes and cover art were about to be history going forward!
We decided to have a record album museum, but no CDs because we had no room for them. That meant the museum would only contain music up to about 1989, when CDs took over for good.
The museum needed a curator to design the look for the walls, paint, albums, etc. We chose our daughter, not knowing what a talent she had for that type of thing. We couldn’t have found a better curator. It is interesting to me that my path in life was to put together a museum, and I was given just the right kids to help me do that. She has done a fantastic job, as you can see in the photos. Our son’s story will come later in the process. The early photos are from early 2008.
William Alonzo Anderson, known as Cat Anderson (September 12, 1916-April 29, 1981), had a birthday two days ago. Cat became famous in the Duke Ellington Orchestra and was probably the best high note trumpet player in history.
I’ll never forget hearing the Ellington band in Ft. Worth in 1971, probably near the end of Cat’s tenure with the band. He was amazing with the upper register, but what stayed with me just as much was that he slept on the band stand sitting in his chair when not playing. I had never seen anyone do that before, or since. I wondered how he knew when to wake up and play, and I also wondered how he didn’t get fired. I leaned later in life that Duke was willing to put up with just about anything from his musicians–he was very loyal.
I don’t really remember much else about the concert that day. Cat’s playing was so impressive that I still can see and hear him playing “Satin Doll”. It was so effortless for him to do what very few could even come close to doing. I did read later in life, also, that Cat practiced four hours a day, both on off days and on performance days. I also heard from friends that he was very secretive about what size mouthpiece he played. I was told he would always take his mouthpiece with him on breaks. He was only 64 when he died. Now that I am 64 I can say that he died very young!
Mel Torme (September 13, 1925-June 5, 1999). Today would have been Mel Torme’s birthday. He is most famous for being a co-writer of “The Christmas Song”, which is my favorite Christmas song.
He recorded with the Boss Brass twice, and the example I posted shows how they took a tune the Boss Brass recorded in 1977 (the first tune- “Just Friends”) and how they basically recorded the same arrangement with Mel, with a few changes. Mel loved working with this band.
I never appreciated Mel enough until I was able to play his show in Dallas in 1979. I remember that it was in August, because it was the only time I ever played Christmas music in August during a show. He was an incredibly versitile performer. He was a song writer, singer, and a pretty good drummer, which he played during his show.
We used a big band in his show, including 4 trumpets. Don Jacoby had contracted the gig at the extinct Playboy Club with me on lead. At the rehearsal, I missed a note on one tune that had some strange lines. I learned that he had perfect pitch because he heard my wrong note (which I didn’t since I had never played the tune). Even the right note didn’t sound right to me, but anyway, he caught it and told me what note it was supposed to be, in my key. Not too many singers can do that in a rehearsal with a band. Usually it’s the conductor that did that, but I don’t remember him carrying a conductor. I just remember thinking he could have been a teacher if he had that desire.
“The Christmas Song” was written in 1946 and I read that it took him about 45 minutes to write the song. He told us in the show that he wrote the song in August in Palm Desert California, when it was over 100 degrees outside. That was a strange time to write Christmas music, but he made so much money on that one tune in royalties that he never needed to work again. Not bad when you are 21 years old!
Mel was also a good scat singer, which isn’t that easy to make sound right. It’s rare that a song writer can also sing, scat sing, and play instruments. Mel could do it all. I wish I had known more about him at the time I worked with him. Compared to most of today’s singers and song writers he stands out as one of the all time greats. His nickname is The Velvet Fog for his voice quality, but he jokingly referred to it as The Velvet Frog.
The picture is not the album cover these two tunes are from–I seem to have lost the cover. The title of the cd is “Unforgettable” and was recorded in 1991. It is one of my favorite albums in my collection. The tunes are: “Thou Swell”, and “Almost Like Being In Love”.
I had the chance to work with Natalie in Dallas one night a few years after this cd came out, and we did these tunes, along with most of the other tunes on the cd. It was one of my favorite nights as a musician and I remember it very well.
Natalie brought her conductor, a lead trumpet player named Dave Trigg, and her rhythm section. They were all great to work with, which is how it should be. The better the musicians, the more they respect everyone else around them. It was all about playing great music that night.
Her rhythm section played together all the time, and it showed. It was one of the best I have ever played with and I just kept smiling at them all night. There is nothing better than a good bass player. He helps to set the pitch, since you always tune up from the bottom in any group, and he can do more to set the time than the drummer. He and I exchanged looks a few times that night, and he knew I loved what he was doing. I told him after the gig how great they sounded. He knew they were good, and he knew I knew something about music, too, to appreciate how well they played together. If their playing didn’t get you excited, you must be deaf. They appreciated coming into a town where the horn players could read music will and get it right the first time. We only had a short rehearsal that afternoon.
Listen to the rhythm section on the second tune. I’m pretty sure it’s the same rhythm section I worked with that night. The feel and sense of time from those guys is beautiful. That’s what you want from your rhythm section. That’s the heart beat of the band and if it’s not right, the horns won’t be right. It sounds like it locks into place when it is right. It comes from everyone listening to each other and playing a lot together. The rhythm section can’t be fighting each other over where the time is, they have to agree on where it is before you add anyone else.
Natalie Cole knows all of this, or she wouldn’t have the right musicians and writers working for her. It was a night I will never forget, and it was what I had worked for all my life. Those few nights when everything is right is what keeps you going and motivated. Listen to these two tunes—this is how it’s done.
This is my favorite vocal arrangement ever. Nan Schwartz did the arrangement and won the Grammy in 2009 for best vocal arrangement. Natalie Cole did a great job, also, in singing this classic tune.
The great trumpet solo was by Warren Luening, who was a great studio trumpet player in L.A. who died in 2012 at the age of 71. The cd was released in 2008, and I have been in love with it ever since. Natalie is really a great singer, but more than that, she surrounds herself with the best musicians and writers. Most singers can’t sing both jazz and rock/pop styles, but Natalie can do both. She is now 65 years old.
I have played this tune over and over since 2008, marveling at the work by all. It’s even better if you listen to it late at night in the dark, on really good speakers. I think it was this tune that forced me to buy my first McIntosh preamp at the age of 62! It was worth it, although it was a used 1988 model. Ha ha One thing leads to another.
Guido Basso was a charter member of the Boss Brass and one of their two great trumpet soloists. He was a child prodigy on trumpet, from Montreal, and went to the Conservatoire de musique du Quebec where Maynard Ferguson had attended a few years earlier. Today he is 77 years old.
I love his solos, his ideas, and how they lay so right on this piece. That’s what makes the great soloists– they have the ability to play more than just notes. The solo makes sense and flows together throughout. Guido is a master at making improvisation sound easy and organized when for most of us it’s a train wreck.
Don’t you know he did a lot of listening to Clark Terry? His flugelhorn playing reminds me so much of Clark Terry at times. Clark died earlier this year and would have been about 16 years older than Guido. It’s all interconnected in music. We are all influenced by everyone else, and it has always been that way. Jazz is a product of everyone, and has evolved because of the great ones listening to everything around them. Jazz is a product of all of us. Rob McConnel may have written the composition, but Guido Basso guided the recording into a statement of his own within the written score, based upon Guido’s experiences of playing and hearing jazz. I have an idea that Rob wrote it with Guido in mind. This album as released in 1976, when Guido would have been 39.
I can’t imagine how much fun it must be to be able to improvise this fast and this well, and what an incredible mind you need to process all that information in such a short space. As a lead player, I’m always in awe of the jazz player’s mind. Guido is one of my favorites, and this piece shows you why. Also, how about that band behind him?