On another Toshiko Akiyoshi bender. Hard to believe these platters are over forty years old, the music sounds brand new. Lush, complex, burnished, swinging and, like, very smart. A lotta notes, Med Flory told me, and Steve Huffsteter hits a high one, and a higher one, and another.
Man, Edie Adam’s did a devastating Marilyn Monroe parody. If Marilyn hadn’t been so fucked up she might have sued. It surpassed even SCTV’s Catherine O’Hara and Andrea Martin at their cruelest. I saw it on the Edie Adam’s box set, I imagine some one has put it on YouTube as well. Also, among the many long buried treasures revealed in this collection is a solid dozen minutes of the Woody Herman Big Band c.1963, and what a blazing aggregation that was. You could hear that music in a club now and it would still sound state of the art. Were I Scott Yanow I could rattle off the soloists, but alas I ain’t. A smoking young bunch they were however. And in that very same program the daring Edie gave Jack Sheldon six or seven minutes to go a surreal monologue about falconry that was as hysterical as it was weird. Clean, though. She must have warned him.
I met Edie Adam’s several times. Had a few extended conversations. Wonderful stories, wonderful lady.
Ran into Louis Van Taylor last nite. Damn what a player. Had one of those casually intense conversations that are the hallmarks of jazz players, and I remember how I had to earn my way into those conversations by writing like a motherfucker. I gotta say I miss that rarified air. I vividly remember the moment I realized I’d been accepted into the fold when me and some of LA’s finest players were sitting in a Glendale bar between sets, surrounded by drunks and Armenians and insulting each other. You’re one of us, they said. Fuck you, I said. Mutual respect, be bop style. If you’re gonna write about jazz, you need to write as well as they play.
About a decade ago some ancient record geek died and the grandkids dropped off his perfectly maintained collection of swing albums at a Goodwill. Without telling Fyl I bought over a hundred of them. We’ll write it off, I told her later, which we did, helping to undermine the economy. Anyway, I listened to a mess of them, the Basie and Ellington and Artie Shaw and scads more, gave some lame ones to Alan Hambra, who is still mad, and tucked a sizeable proportion into my closet, awaiting the hipster big bang revival when they’ll be worth a zillion dollars. That hasn’t happened yet. So sometimes I dig though the box and pull out a few obscure albums. It really is hard to feel hip and with it listening to Charlie Barnett but damn if Roy Eldridge didn’t burn the place down on that opening solo, and the band is tight and swinging, Buddy DeFranco is on clarinet, Dodo Marmarosa on piano, the drum and bass and guitar section almost like Basie’s, and I’d forgotten how wonderful a singer Kay Starr was. August of 1944 this was, and the Yanks are racing across France to this stuff. Swing helped win the war, or didn’t lose it anyway.
No Cherokee, though.
These Artie Shaw records are great. A whole mess of them, broadcasts mostly, in beautiful condition, like the obsessive uncle died and the kids dropped his boring old records off at the Goodwill. That must be how they wound up in my closet with my old shirts and Ted Nugent. Anyway Dodo Marmarosa is cooking and Little Jazz blows high and Dave Tough–another epileptic–keeps it swinging as Artie is between Ava and Lana.
I saw Monk at the Five Spot he said. He saw Trane at some little dive too. I remember walking down the street in Harlem, he said, and there was a piece of paper in a bar room window with a hand written George Benson in letters almost too small to read. Went inside for a beer and heard this young cat just burning on guitar. He was playing jazz back then. I can’t remember who was on the B3. I remember seeing Lee Morgan at the Lighthouse, the other guy said. Bennie Maupin was on tenor. The same band on the LP that’s playing now, listen. I listened: Bennie was cooking, then in comes Lee, solid. I remember the music was so good, he said, and Lee so right on and I was so happy and before I knew it I was drunk. I mean drunk. My ride had split, they were sweeping the floor and stacking the chairs and I had to walk home from Hermosa Beach to Inglewood. Damn man, how far was that? It was twenty miles. Hangover hit me about halfway there. He shook his head at the memory. But man, Lee Morgan sounded so good.
First show I ever saw at Charlie O’s was the Dave Pell Octet. Mort Sahl walked in and sat at a nearby table. Pell blew long, airy solos in a set of Lester Young. This is Prez’s horn, he said. I heard Mort Sahl tell someone that Prez had left it to Pell in his will. The band was swinging, precise, beautifully charted, a lot of Shorty Rogers arrangements, very West Coast. The crowd dug it. Everyone seemed to know everyone else. Out back in the parking lot silver hairs huddled, giggling and smelling of weed. We stepped back inside just as Dave Pell counted off a perfect Lester Leaps In. He crooked the horn at an angle, shut his eyes and let the notes flow.
Rest in peace.