The JAZZ CULTURE
The Barry Harris Trio/Choir at the Village Vanguard, below, Terrence Blanchard at Birdland
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Some ofthe members ofThe Barry Harris Choir at the Village Vanguard
by L. Hamanaka
REVIEW The Barris Harris Trio
Few musicians carry a choir along to their gig, but Barry Harris does. At least once during his Village Vanguard gigs, his singers pop up in groves along the sidelines. Dr. Harris has a good cause for this- he has written really memorable vocal arrangements and just wanted to hear them sung, including originals like “We Are One,” or standards like “Pannonica.” Note the eager and happy faces of his singers in the accompanying photospread. Opening the set by quoting “Sweet Lorraine” and then playing “Sweet and Lovely,” which Dr. Harris dedicated to Lorraine Gordon, widow of Max Gordon (she was in the corner that night with her daughter Dorothy.) (This writer walked up Seventh Avenue and noticed the Corner street sign near the Village Vanguard read “Max Gordon Corner.” Well deserved, for their contribution to promoting jazz culture in New York.) Dr. Harris 2 The Jazz Culture, VI:41
ended the song with a flourish. “Ruby My Dear,” which was written for wives and mothers, Dr. Harris unfolded the Monk poetry (he and Monk were roommates at Nica Von Koenigswarten’s
Reviews 1‐5 How To‐Tips for Jazz Vocalists 6‐12 Barry Harris Choir 11‐12 Review cont. 13‐14 Jazz heritage Ron McClure 14 Singapore Jazzman Mario Serio 14‐19 Jazz Heritage Ron McClure cont. 20‐24 firstname.lastname@example.org http://theJazzCulture.com ©
house—and sometimes practiced together) ending the song as a tone poem.
Two ofBarry Harris Singers on Cont. p. 12 sidelines at VV Open Singers Jam Every Fri. 6‐9 at Zeb's
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Terence Blanchard Quintet at Birdland
Caught the Terence Blanchard Quintet at Birdland on Thursday night. Terence Blanchard for many years has been a trumpet virtuoso in the jazz community. He is a former student of the great trumpeter and teacher William Fielder, who taught so many extraordinary trumpet players. At Birdland Mr. Blanchard was joined by Price Swenson, a tenor saxophonist from Tucson, Kendrick Scott from Houston on the drums, Fabian Amazan of Cuban heritage in Florida, and Joshua Crumbley from LA, a very geographically diverse combo. Mr. Blanchard has been composing and arranging scores for movies and spending a lot of time in the studio. Mr. Blanchard had a mike attached to his trumpet that gave him an electronic sound like a fazer pedal that guitar players use. The sound was metallic, spread and wide and sounded like doubling or quadrupling in the studio. The first song his group played had No Name, (132=quarter note) it was comprised of a rhythmic lick, very catchy, that repeated mostly unison pitches in a provocative close voicing. Then the song opened up with a melodic section, followed by a tenor sax solo whose short desperate riffs seemed motivated by alienation and a frenetic searching quality; the appendage Mr. Blanchard put on his trumpet emitted electronic squeals that did express modern isolation and despair. The drums played a Latin beat and Terence Blanchard, using electronic effects on his trumpet, was thus able to self orchestrate and amplify his sound, as if he were doubling the voices, using echo and reverb in a studio for his trumpet solo. The piano solo had a modern tinge playing mostly in the middle range. The drummer sometimes used his hands and provided a full rhythmic carpet, and the bass was right with him. The second tune, titled â€œIllusionsâ€? (about 96=quarter note) did live up to its name in capturing the disillusion that follows lost 4 The Jazz Culture, VI:41
illusions, creating a sort of airtight sound bubble of despair. The introduction was an electronically induced siren that Mr. Blanchard created to miasma-like effect. In this respect his electronic device was effective in creating the mood he wanted, sort of torturously introspective. Then the piano played a dirge-like chords and the saxophonist states the theme, a 7 note phrase repeated over and over again, using a pretty tone, which them modulated up with the piano playing a tremolo and then arpeggiated chords. Enter Mr. Blanchard with cinematic moodiness, with an Ellington feel, even quoting “Sentimental Mood” briefly, and squeezing out some blue notes. Then some free playing of trumpet and piano over a steady beat by the drums. The pianist created a dreamlike melody from which the audience is not released. The effect is to create a private mood that the audience can only watch from outside. The third song was titled “Don’t Run,” (about 175=quarter note) that seemed like an 8 bar blues form repeated, showing the drummer could swing and the sax player accented the upbeats, and then did some altered seventh based licks. Terence Blanchard played a good blues solo on substitutions and threw in three quarter note triplets, otherwise, mostly dotted quarters and a few long tones for diversity toward the end, higher and higher like screams that broke. The appendage to his trumpet did make his sound express the brutality of the modern age, death of the soul
Cont. p. 11
HOW TO-Tips for Jazz Vocalists by L. Hamanaka Vocal tips: These are practical notes about various things singers may find of interest. Stance: A singer may move, and move parts of his/her abdomen, but should not lower the head. This bends the airway, and makes production of high notes difficult or garbled. 5 The Jazz Culture, VI:41
Jaw: You can open your jaw three ways: 1. Lower the bottom half. 2. Raise the top half. 3. Open top and bottom at the same time. Donâ€™t open so wide that you start hearing clicks, or it feels unnatural. Have a natural mouth.
Posture: You should try to have good posture, because a person with bad posture looks as if they lack confidence or have something to be ashamed of, and that impression will detract from your
Hands: Hands should fall naturally and never be tense. Gestures can be very helpful to the acting in singing, and sometimes to vocal production. Eyes: Try not to close your eyes because people like to look at a person whose eyes are open. Think about it. The audience does not want to feel cut off from you. If you were having a conversation with someone, would you want them to close their eyes when they were talking to you? Also, most people look tense and tortured with closed eyes, and their faces screw up into a grimace. Try to let the emotion come out in your sound and the lyric, and let your face be a blank slate which the audience can relate to. Feet: Feet should be squarely on the floor; if you have to wear heels, make them as low as possible, and the heels should be sturdy, not pencil thin. Waist: You should not tighten your midriff with air. You donâ€™t take a breath and hold it around the waist and gradually release it. Breathing is a constantly fluid process. If you want to know how to 6
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breathe, look at a sleeping baby. To learn how to inhale or breathe in, just exhale and empty your lungs. Then open your throat and relax your waistline. To repeat, do not hold air in the circumference of your waist. Do not raise your shoulders while inhaling. This creates tension and does nothing for your lungs. It is good to maintain a state of relaxed alertness when singing or playing.
The main thing a singer has that an instrumentalist does not, is words. Therefore, diction is very important, because if no one can tell what you are saying, they cannot be affected by you. There are 32 common vowels in English, from the long “E” to the “A” in father. You should go through the alphabet and slow down your pronunciation so that you know what actions your tongue and lips make to sound each letter of the alphabet. You should know exactly how you produce vowels, and what adjustments to make. For example, the word “love,” is pronounced with a short “U.” However that sounds dull when sung. For an important word like “love” you want a brighter sound. So you might raise the back of your tongue slightly for that brighter, warmer sound and it will also brighten the pitch. Clothes: If you have a choice, do not let your clothes dominate you as a person. If you are playing a role you may not have a choice. If you choose a style, be as unique as you can but you should choose clothes that allow your personality to flower and don’t distract from your voice. Microphone: When you hold a microphone, imagine you are 7 The Jazz Culture, VI:41
singing to a person inside the microphone. If this makes you crazy, just try it once, for the sake of an imagination exercise. When you sing loud or a long tone that crescendos, pull the mike away or back up from the mike so it won’t be too loud for the audience. You may not be holding the James Malloy mike; you may not be able to hear yourself if you do not have a monitor. If you can’t hear yourself, don’t leave it to fate, but ask someone to give you feedback, and listen to the sound to see if it is balanced. Arrive early enough to do a sound check with the band, and then appoint someone or ask someone to tell you if the sound is balanced. Microphones will sound different through a different sound system or amplifier. Don’t be afraid to return a mike to the store if you don’t like it on a gig. Don’t take for granted that because you have one sound at home or in your studio, the sound will be the same in a club or concert hall. State of Mind: Most of all protect your state of mind. Don’t quarrel with anyone before a performance or at a rehearsal. If there is someone with whom you have an issue, stay away from that person before a performance. Don’t invite them to come. If you are tired and are coming after work or a hard day at home, do some stretches and if possible wash your face. There is nothing more important than maintaining a positive vibe with the band and therefore, yourself. Music is a positive force, and you have to keep your energy focused and undivided for the music to come out well. The bandstand is like a shrine of the Muse. No matter how simple the circumstances, once you enter that circle of music makers and face the audience, there should be magic inside that circle. Don’t let anyone disturb you. 8 The Jazz Culture, VI:41
When practicing, try to practice first thing, because there are a million distractions, and most of us donâ€™t have great focus. Or meditate, and call upon that meditative state when you start practicing. You have to protect your right to practice from everyone, and give them something to do. If you have a child, you need a babysitter or relative, or project for that kid to do. Then afterwards you can give them your undivided love and attention. Practice every day unless your voice needs to rest. Divide your practice time. If you have 15 minutes, you can warm Maggie Malone up, do a scale exercise and practice a song in 15 minutes. However if you are practicing for performance, you should plan your repertoire well ahead of time and go through at least a set a day, until you feel secure with that set of songs, then start on the next set. Then before the performance, at least one or two weeks ahead, you should go through all the songs every day that you will perform. You donâ€™t want to go into a situation where that will be the first time you go through all the songs. You need to pace yourself for the entire performance, both physically and mentally or emotionally. The songs should be in an order that you can switch from one to the next, and make the emotional switch or development. There are hundreds of standards that every jazz singer must know. You must know the words, the melody, the key and the changes to all these tunes, or not expect to work at all. You can keep books of your repertoire, by composers or sets, and keep one for piano or guitar, and one for bass and one for drums. These The Jazz Culture, VI:41
books can be black or dark colored with plastic covers for each song that attach to the center of the folder or cover. We could have an on-going debate on which standards must be learned. But it should consist of Swing, Ballads, Latin songs, most of which are songs that every musician knows, and not in the keys of “A” or “B.” There should be about 8 songs per set, and most of them have to be swing or up tempo. If you do not have enough time to do them all, you can use them later. Some singers sing 20 songs a set; I once went to hear Barbara Cook and she sang 40 songs in an hour. Pacing is very important, and tempo is very important, so you should experiment and find tempos (ask for help). Keep in mind that a tempo does not just mean faster or slower; there is an emotional state or message you are delivering with that tempo. You can record a prospective set and see how it works. Sit back as if you were an audience member, and ask a close friend or relative their opinion also. Unless you are singing the repertoire of a certain band for a special occasion, most of the time you will be in charge of what to sing, and how fast or slow. Then there’s your voice itself, keeping it in good working condition. So if you are allergic to milk, you can’t eat cheese and drink milk if you want a clear tone. A good warm up is the hum. You can hum in the morning, afternoon and evening, for a few minutes, up and down your range, on the “e” and “ah” vowels, and not use up your singing voice. You can hum anywhere. Don’t sing without warming up. You want to do your whole range every day, but never strain your voice. Remember in the top note there is some bottom register, and in the lowest note, some top. In that way, you don’t break your voice in two, or lose your top or bottom. Keep yourself hydrated by drinking 8 glasses of water a day. Water is the center of your diet, cleaning the inside of your body so you do not get sick. Some singers have a drink they prefer, like a certain tea or something, with honey. Having common sense helps. You can’t expect to sing well if you are loaded with drugs and alcohol, got two hours sleep, or get no exercise. As alive as you want your music to be, you have to be. 10 The Jazz Culture, VI:41
A few more Barry Harris singers
HAPPY BIRTHDAY JIMMY COBB!!
Jimmy Cobb at Birthday gig at Smoke
On the other hand, the electronic addition to his instrument seemed to muffle articulation of his 16th note runs as well as obscuring the center of the tone with a wide metallic tinge. It is pleasant to hear a trumpet player with no technical obstacles. The pianist left a lot of space between ideas, starting with lots of three note phrases growing to fives notes, where he played a game using Call and Response, with good bass and drum support and using intervals greater than thirds to create most of his ideas and later altered substitutions, sometimes swinging. Blanchard from p. 5
and a rebellion against it.
The combo then played Mr. Amazan’s original, “Pet Step Babysitter’s Theme Song,” a pretty ballad slightly somnambulistic like a fanciful dream of a favored child with lyric voicings that grew thicker and rhapsodic in texture and added grace notes that The Jazz Culture, VI:41
sounded influenced by Cuban piano music (Classical style), Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff, and Debussy, for about 5 minutes, and then broke into a colorful, happy Latin tune with a five note motif that arced in the middle, and a counter melody. The tenor solo was sparse and quiet and then took off in bellows in the mid section of the song in linear scalar phrases, after which he double-timed, stopped for a drum intro and Terence Blanchard took over and played some Spanish-flavored curt phrases. He too double timed over the middle section and drums and bass played strongly and well. The pianist played free, letting simple contrapuntal ideas and rhythms dominate loudly, after which the group restated the theme, repeating a 7 note motif into a diminuendo to end the song. They could play 1 standard and hear how unique they are in that context. Mr. Blanchard writes good tunes and a virtuoso on his trumpet. “Just one of those things,” was next by Cole Porter, with Dr. Harris evoking the beauty of the melody before breaking loose about 200=quarter note, a spirited version evoking the glamour and intensity of 52nd Street during the Golden period of jazz, perhaps a reference to a shared history with Lorraine Gordon, who as a teen danced at Frank Sinatra’s famous Paramount concert. The excitement was contagious as the bass and drums in layers of golden cymbalism, pounded forward. They traded 8’s in well meshed layers of music (Dr. Harris and Leroy Williams have been together since the 1970’s.) Cont. from p. 3
“Lotus Blossom” evoked the mysticism that was part of Billy Strayhorne’s oeuvre, visualizing floating, watery undulations with a surprising effect of a tropical rainbow of colors, with a tenderness and sensitivity that died down into ultra pianissimo. Saying, “You must cater to the boss sometimes,” Mr. Harris played, “My Heart Stood Still” at about 132=quarter note, settling into a groove while humming, making scalar passages so perfect rhythmically that it almost did not matter what notes he played, 12
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inserting 16th note triplets exactly where they would uplift the melodic line, occasionally doubling with 16th note interludes that escalated the emotional excitement, making all the elements of music meld into a Ray Drummond & Leroy Williams close fitting glove with his Trio, Ray Drummond’s heart pounding with him, and Leroy Williams alternating dark and gleaming unexpected accents carrying the trio along. Mr. Drummond hit and accented the upbeat a lot with his full, sweet and distinctive sound, a solo with perfect articulation around the melody. Leroy Williams took a solo that was all brushes, as if a great tap dancer were on his drums. Dr. Harris then continued his imaginary story, during which he bought Lorraine 5 (yes five) drinks, followed by a cup of tea. In other words, he set up “Tea for Two” that they played about 250=quarter note, creating a heart racing story line of a series of perfectly strung motifs. Leroy Williams filled and traded with bold statements from his personal and vivid repertoire. The Trio then did a slow blues at about 68=quarter note, with beautiful haunting legato line, Dr. Harris sometimes using thirds in the right hand, extending his solo two octaves below middle C, and throwing in a couple off whole tone phrases to contrast with the blues scale.”Darn that Dream” segued to “Isn’t She Lovely,” where Dr. Harris accompanied the audience singing the Stevie Wonder tune, creating a jazz version of the pop standard. Ray Drummond inserted a tasty and tuneful solo with Leroy Williams playing stop time for Leroy, as the audience sang the theme out. Katie, another Barry Harris singer at VV
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Pub. Note: Ron McClure, bassist, was born at St. Raphael Hospital in New Haven, CT, into a working class family, the youngest of three brothers. His parents had a house in North Haven and though they were not musicians they supported Ron’s talent. He came to music, like many others of his generation, through the public schools. At North Haven High School his Music Director, Alex Winsco, offered to teach him how to play bass because he needed a bass player for the legit band. Prior to that Ron played accordion, and in the band combo class at school. Mr. Winsco, a sax and clarinet player, taught beginning lessons on many instruments as Musical Director. Soon after Ron learned to play, due to a shortage of bass players in New Haven, his phone started ringing. He played with the Kingsmen, a quintet of Yale guys who played every weekend, led by Bob Shaw. The Kingsmen backed up the “Academics,” a vocal group, and thatcont. was p.Ron’s 19 14
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SINGAPORE JAZZMAN MARIO SERIO
Pub. ote: A musician with a unique style that reflects all piano literature, from classics to now, Mario Serio, a jazz pianist, accompanist, musical director, arranger and educator born in Manhattan, attended the School of Performing Arts, Mannes College of Music, the National Music Camp in Interlochen, Michigan has a successful career in Singapore. He moved there in 1995. He plays Mario Serio at a concert most styles of music, and is known as one of the most versatile pianists in that region. As jazz is a world music, Singapore has a lot of jazz, and Mr. Serio is one of the leading jazz pianists there. Of Filipino heritage, second generation American, Mario got his love of music when he was four. He did his first gig at age six on TV. He maintained his classical lessons through the High School of Performing Arts, maintaining private lessons under Stanley L. Friedberg, and after inquiries, went to SIR studios (where he studied under Walter Bishop, Jr.) then Barry Harris, a Teddy Wilson master class at Mannes College of Music, Fernando Laires at the National Music Camp, Interlochen Michigan, and Mildred Waldman at the Mannes College of Music. Mario Serio has a great ear, can sing any line back in solfeggio, effortlessly The Jazz Culture, VI:41
knows the voicings blindfolded of groups as they are playing, and is a phenomenal reader, having fluency transposing heavy classical pieces to keys like B. By Mario Serio
I started doing more gigs after college, after I left Mannes, working more regularly. I’ve had the honor and joy of working with some great groups and individuals like “The Platters, The Coasters, Nestor Torres, Shirley Bassey, Kenny Washington, Mike Clark, and Lea Salonga.
I originally came out for a four month performing contract at the Singapore’s premiere jazz club (at the time), Somerset’s Lounge at the Westin Plaza Hotel in 1994 backing jazz vocalist Nancy Kelly. I liked Singapore, …the weather, the cleanliness, the orderliness, the safeness- all though it did seem a bit antiseptic at the time, as compared to NYC, that is. It’s tropical all year round. Although I do miss the 4 seasons (I can travel to get my fix of that), I like the monotony of the weather. Also, it’s a progressive city, cosmopolitan, from a developmental standpoint, infrastructure all here, all the big names in shopping are here. Of course my lovely wife, jewelry designer SuLin Serio, is the main reason I stay here. She has her own boutique in the Tanglin Mall called SuLin Serio, since the mall opened, some 18 years ago.
What I do here is perform at various clubs and venues, teach privately during the daytime, give occasional lectures and/or workshop classes and provide musical entertainment for private or corporate functions. JC: Your career might be considered an example of how jazz has flowered and become a world music with roots far from the US, and has been successful in Singapore. MS: In the sense that I keep busy, a lot of people know me, so they call me because of my particular abilities, so I’m constantly The Jazz Culture, VI:41 16
working. If the frequency of my work constitutes exercising my craft, the answer to your question would be “yes”, although sometimes I feel there are not enough hours in the day as I’m so busy with my business (and my wife’s business) that I find it difficult to do personal projects such as record my own CD, my own recital or compose. I've seen the jazz scene in Singapore grow enormously in the 18 years I’ve been here, partially because the ex-pat community’s influence - people from the US or other countries who settle here, whose presence influence the jazz scene. Also, there are the local musicians adventurous (and fortunate) enough to study in universities in NYC, Boston, and other countries as well, bringing back valuable knowledge and first-hand experience from countries where jazz was either born or greatly developed. Then you have the technological leaps and IT platforms such as YouTube, iTunes and the Internet itself. We used to have to do research at the library, borrowing books. Now you simply type it into your computer and voila, you’re looking at (or listening to) pretty much anything you need. So these have contributed to the accelerated evolution of Singapore’s jazz scene and "world music" scene. In fact, the immediacy of information has accelerated the music of the world music scene en masse, or at least the potential is there. JC: So it’s pretty international in Singapore? MS: Singapore is considered a business hub, it’s nestled within south east asian countries, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia, etc…so it’s a pretty central launch point. That’s reflected in Changi Airport, touted as being one of the finest in the world. JC: Have you been recording. MS: Not really, I haven’t done much in the way of personal projects. JC: Do you think Singapore has become an international jazz city like London or Paris. The Jazz Culture, VI:41 17
MS: An international city, for sure. An international jazz city like London or Paris, I couldn't say because I don't know the essence of those cities. I do know something about New York though. “Singapore is an island city-state country geographically 714.3 square kilometers, just about the size of New York City (the combined 5 boroughs of Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island totalling 789.4 square kilometers). Singapore although slightly smaller than NYC has done quite well to put itself on the world map as a world class player. The F1 is here. Two integrated resorts (casinos) are here. Although these type of entities elevate Singapore’s profile (from certain perspectives), the soul of jazz is in the blues. Granted, human emotions are international and span all walks of life and social classes. But certain social conditions allow scenarios of desperation to emerge. Desperation causes the human spirit to sink or swim and in these type of extreme circumstances, certain individuals digs deep to pull themselves out and rise above their immediate circumstance. This is the place where the sheer will to survive, to supercede that which was previously done and push the envelope of your art form, to throw caution to the wind and sacrifice everything you have because you're at the point where you have nothing more to lose, comes from. Now, I'm not an authority on Singapore but it seems the standard of living (for the young musical students I've experienced thus far) looks like desperation is not so likely, which is a blessing from an overall viewpoint but again safe and secure. And in art, you never get far playing it safe and secure. That being said, there is an increasing number of homegrown artistes doing great work and making their mark on the local and international scene. Regarding the jazz venues in Singapore, the hotel scene used to be good but that has changed. The hotel is no longer a venue known for its jazz, though there are a couple that still maintain jazz artists. There are only five to six major jazz clubs or venues here presently. Mr. Serio’s clarity, his beautiful style and open personality have been embraced by the people and musicians in Singapore and The Jazz Culture, VI:41 18
he has performed at the following venues in Singapore: The Westin Hotel (Somerset's Lounge), Pan Pacific Hotel’s Lobby Lounge, 1 Altitude (1 Raffles Place), Cocotte, Raffles Hotel (Bar and Billiard Room), The Fullerton Hotel, the Regent Hotel (The Bar), the St. Regis Hotel (Astor Bar), Saxophones, Harry’s Boat Quay, Harry's Esplanade, Jazz@Southbridge, Blu Jazz, L'Opera, The Sultan Jazz Club, B28, The Kallang Theatre, Esplanade Concert Hall, Esplanade Recital Studio, Jubilee Concert Hall, Victoria Concert Hall, Transit Hall of Changi Airport. We are eager for his future recordings. See: MarioSerio.com on google. Best regards, Mario Serio +6592728953 www.marioserio.com first recording job. “My mother, Mildred, used to drive me to gigs and pick me up at 1:00 in the morning,” Ron recalled. Then, after turning 16, “In high school I had a red and black Ford Fairlane that all the girls liked.” While still in High School, and after having played the bass for a few months, and not even owning his own instrument, Ron played with Ron McClure in coffee McPartland, Bobby Scott, Toshiko shop Akioshi at McTriff’s, a New Haven jazz club, and was allowed by Winsco to use the school’s bass. Ron McClure cont. from p. 14
After one miserable semester at the Storrs campus of the University of Connecticut, having been convinced that a life in music would be too difficult by a well-meaning high school guidance counselor who’d had me on a path towards becoming a business administration major, “I finally realized that a career in music was what I wanted. It had all started with Alex Winsco, an insightful high school band director who recognized that I’d never The Jazz Culture, VI:41
be as happy doing anything other than music in life…” After dropping out of UCONN, Ron enrolled at the Hartt College of Music in Hartford, Connecticut, and studied with the legendary Joe Iadone, a protege of Paul Hindemith while attending Yale University. A former bassist himself, Mr. Iadone become a world famous lutenist, and performed with Collegium Musicum. “Mr. Iadone gave me discipline in reading rhythms correctly, and proper technique on the bass. He was very strict about hand positions and had me concentrate only on bowing for six months before combining both hands. In order for me to learn how to draw a sound out of the bass with the proper bowing technique, he arranged to have me contact a grad student named Marilyn, and had me observe her while she practiced her cello. I respectfully sat there and learned what proper bowing technique looked and sounded like.” While attending Hartt College of Music, Ron recalled…”In my senior year, I played six nights a week in Hartford at the Heublein Hotel, the main jazz club in Hartford, which featured New York City jazz artists such as Mike Manieri, who later got me with Buddy Rich’s Sextet in Las Vegas after I graduated. I didn’t use an amp till 1970, and there wasn’t much in the way of amplification at all in most jazz venues. There was usually only one microphone, and the leader usually took that for himself. I saw Scott La Faro with Bill Evans at Birdland, and Paul Chambers at the Village Vanguard with Miles Davis live, and I couldn’t hear them very well. I played opposite Sonny Rollins at the old Five Spot with Bobby Timmons as Charles Mingus and Paul Chambers stood at the bar looking and listening. That was a nervous evening for me!” After Ron graduated Hartt College of Music in the summer of 1963, he put his bass in his VW and moved to New York City to “Make it in Jazz”! When asked what the jazz scene was like then, he replied “Jazz was at its highest point in the 1960’s. Bands led by Charles Mingus, Miles Davis and John Coltrane were playing 20 The Jazz Culture, VI:41
clubs, and the scene was at it’s peak. While at a club, I met Bobby Porcelli, an alto player who lived on West 83rd Street between Columbus & Amsterdam Avenues, who let me stay with him for a few days, not having my own place yet. My first rental was a Ron McClure Trio at neighborhood gig room at an SRO on West 94th Street, where I where water-bugs climbed into my bass. A few months later, Mike Manieri, Mike Abene and I drove from New York to Las Vegas to join the Buddy Rich Sextet. We arrived in Vegas at dusk on November 22nd, my 22nd birthday, and the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Vegas was dark that evening. I met Buddy at his home, and he was devastated. A few days later we began to work. Buddy could play, but he had no redeeming qualities as a human being, that I could see. He seemed to go out of his way to make everybody miserable. The gig at the Thunderbird Hotel lounge began at 2:00 a.m. and finished as guests were having their breakfast at 7:00 a.m. The other players were: Harry “Sweets” Edison (Trumpet), Mike Abene (piano), Mike Manieri (vibes) and Sam Most (flute). After only six weeks, Buddy announced that he was going back with Harry James’ band, so I booked a ticket on the Santa Fe railroad and took a train back to New York with Mike Abene, who went back with Maynard Ferguson’s band. Soon after, Maynard’s band hired me to go to Montreal to sub for Linc Milliman, and I subsequently became the bassist with Maynard’s big band and sextet for the next 2 years. “In 1965 I was young, impressionable, curious, eager to play. I’d been well trained, and happened to be in the right place at the right time now and then. I did my first two jazz recordings with The Jazz Culture, VI:41
Maynard: “Color Him Wild” (later released on Cd as “Dues”) and a sextet album for Mainstream, with Bobby Shad as producer. My next career changing opportunity came while playing with Maynard Ferguson’s big band at a club in Atlantic City opposite the great Wes Montgomery with the Wynton Kelly Trio. After our set, everyone in Maynard’s band was sitting in the front row of the club in anticipation of hearing this great band. I was a huge Paul Chambers admirer. Due to illness, Paul hadn’t arrived. Jimmy Cobb, who I had never met, hit a couple of rim shots and gestured for me to come up and fill in for Paul. I’ll never forget that experience. They were visibly upset and concerned about Paul, but once we started to play Wes turned around and laid a huge smile on Wynton. It was the greatest moment of my life. Two months later, I had another occasion to play with Wes, Wynton and Jimmy at the Village Gate in New York City. Ron Carter, who had replaced Paul Chambers, had a record date that went overtime and Wynton asked me if I’d play their first set. Ron Carter called the following day and asked me to plat the first set that night. He said: ‘I’ll give you $20.’’! After having played with them three times, Wynton asked me for my phone number. A few months later, in July of 1965, it was 106 degrees in New York, when Wynton Kelly called me and invited me to go out to the west coast for a tour. I stayed with the band for a couple months before Wes, who had become a star, went out on his own. Wynton Kelly didn’t have as much of a name and as great as he was, his career sadly faded away. JC: How did you know their repertoire when you played with them? RM: “There wasn’t much written music in those days. Wes didn’t read music.” JC: What tunes did you play? RM: “On the Trail,” “Old Folks,” “4 on 6,” “West Coast Blues…” I have a good ear and what I couldn’t hear Wynton would show me with his left hand. The first chorus of a new tune he’d play out 22 The Jazz Culture, VI:41
of tempo showing me the roots of the chords. I’d absorbed Paul Chambers’ playing (like most bassists!). There were no problems between us musically other than the fact that I was relatively inexperienced compared to them. Wynton and Jimmy had played with Miles Davis for Ron McClure still lovin' it after all these years years! Wynton told me: 'You wouldn’t believe what I have to go through to have you in my band.' Apparently, the Brothers questioned him as to why he’d hired me. He told them to come out and listen to us. They usually came around and ended up buying me drinks!” JC: Did you ever study classical music? RM: “Coming up, I mainly listened to horn players and piano players like Miles, Trane, Rollins and Bill Evans, but I did study classical music in college and even gave a senior recital for my degree as a Double Bass Major. As a jazz bassist, I had to learn what people needed from the bass player in the rhythm section. Having played accordion prior to bass, I had learned about melodies and harmony, but I’d never thought about being a bassist in a supporting role. Paul Chambers was my main influence when 23 The Jazz Culture, VI:41
it came to walking bass lines. He had the best Time feel with a capital “T.” He studied at Curtis. People still emulate his playing. JC: Barry Harris said he taught Paul Chambers to play bass. Barry played bass in high school. RM: “I don’t take credit for teaching or discovering anyone but I heard Jaco Pastorius before he was well known. It was a Wayne Cochrane & The CC Riders recording on the jukebox at Joe Namath’s Club “Bachelors Three” in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida while I was playing there in 1975 with BS&T. I fell in love instantly with his electric bass sound, and asked the bartender who it was. I had to play the track for BS&T drummer/leader, Bobby Colomby. Bobby heard what I’d heard in Jaco’s sound. The next day, he went out and found him and later brought him to New York and recorded Jaco’s amazing solo Cd on Epic Records. A few months later, Bobby fired me and hired him. Jaco didn’t want to play BS&T’s music. He wanted them to play his, but they had hits! I often wonder what would have happened had I not told Bobby Colomby about Jaco. He was a true innovator, but his life was tragically cut short in his mid thirties. “During my 3 years with Blood Sweat & Tears chose to write instrumental pieces for them, not having what it takes to write “Pop Music” with lyrics. In 1974 I wrote the title track for “Mirror Image” on Columbia Records. In 1975 I was nominated for a NARAS Grammy for “Best Instrumental Arrangement” for an original piece called “No Show”. JC: What did you learn from the recording experience? RM: “Jimmy Einer, the producer of the BS&T recording: “New City”, helped me reduce my 1975 (Cont. in February as Part II) Subscribe Free to the Jazz Culture Newsletter:
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The Jazz Culture, VI:41