Saturday, November 18, 2017

Alone Together with Rein de Graaff and The Metropole Orchestra

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


“Rein de Graaff is a man of contrasts. He is one of Europe's foremost jazz musicians, but he describes himself as "a jazz fan who happens to play the piano." He turned down many offers to go on tour with American stars like Sonny Stitt and Archie Shepp because he has not much time to travel; he is a businessman on weekdays who gigs only in the weekends.


He will explain to you at length that he considers himself a jazz musician rather than a pianist: "I don't play the piano like a pianist does. I comp like a drummer and play single-note lines like a horn player." However, he has recorded some of the most fluent, swinging and beautiful piano solos I've ever heard in the Low Countries.”
- Jeroen de Valk, Jazz author and critic


Although, the general focus of most of the postings to JazzProfiles is about Jazz musicians and Jazz styles, there are occasions in which we like to spend time with Jazz interpretations of our favorite tunes.


Or to put it another way, no tunes, no Jazz for as the late bassist Charles Mingus stated: “You’ve got to improvise on something.”


As Charles implies it’s all intertwined as one thing leads to another and I generally find myself recounting who the Jazz musician or Jazz group is that’s performed one of my favorite tunes.


Or to rework the tile of this piece a little, Alone But Together; you really can’t separate the Jazz musician from his/her music.


Which brings me to a tune that has always fascinated me - Alone Together.


These excerpts from Ted Gioia’s continually fascinating The Jazz Standards: A Guide to the Repertoire go a long way toward explaining why.


Alone Together - Composed by Arthur Schwartz, with lyrics by Howard Dietz


“At 14, Arthur Schwartz played piano accompaniment to silent films in his native Brooklyn, and from an early age he showed a knack for writing his own songs. At his father's urging, though, Schwartz put music on the back burner and pursued a career in law. With degrees from NYU and Columbia in hand, he was admitted to the New York bar in 1924, and practiced law for four years before turning his back on the legal profession to work full-time as a songwriter. Around that same time Schwartz met up with lyricist Howard Dietz, another Columbia University alum (where Dietz had been a classmate of Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein), and the following year they launched their first Broadway production, the successful revue The Little Show. ...


Alone Together made its debut in the 1932 show Flying Colors, which closed as a financial failure after 188 performances, ...The song fared better than the show, however, and Leo Reisman enjoyed a top 10 hit with his recording that same year.


"Alone Together" has an unusual form, with a 14-bar A theme that resolves surprisingly in the tonic major, but in the last restatement is truncated to 12 bars that conclude in the minor. The form can confuse the uninitiated, and don't be surprised if you hear the pianist at the cocktail bar try to squeeze "Alone Together" into a standard 32-bar AABA form. Yet I suspect that the very peculiarities in the composition, especially the major-minor ambiguity, account for much of the appeal to improvisers.


Artie Shaw played the key role in establishing "Alone Together" as a jazz standard, recording it with his band in 1939,  … When Dizzy Gillespie recorded "Alone Together" in 1950, he followed the Shaw playbook with a somber rendition over string accompaniment. Miles Davis adopted a far more modernistic approach in his 1955 recording, with the countermelodies and shifting rhythms bearing more the stamp of Charles Mingus (who was bassist on this date) than the trumpeter.


The personality of this song would change gradually over the years, as it lost its exotic, mood music origins and emerged as a dark, minor-key song in a straight swing rhythm. In the right arrangement, "Alone Together" can sound like a hard bop chart written for a Blue Note session. In fact, given the dark, brooding quality of the tune, I'm surprised it didn't show up on more Blue Note dates, but when it did (as on Stanley Turrentine's 1966 session with McCoy Tyner for the Easy Walker date), it fit perfectly with the grit and groove of the proceedings. Sonny Rollins takes a similar tack on his 1958 performance for the Contemporary label [Sonny Rollins and the Contemporary Leaders].


The composition is still typically performed at a medium tempo, not much different from what Leo Reisman offered back in 1932 — although usually more medium-fast than medium-slow nowadays. But fast, aggressive versions are increasingly common —.”


The version of Alone Together that prompted the development of this feature is the one that Dutch Jazz pianist Rein de Graaff recorded on October 3, 1992 in Hilversum, The Netherlands with The Metropole Orchestra conducted by the renown Rob Pronk.


You can located in it on the Timeless CD Nostalgia [SJP 429] which is a compilation CD made up of five tracks with Rein performing with the Metropole in 1992, two tracks of Rein performing with Barry Harris in Groningen, Holland in 1991 with a rhythm section of Koos Serierse on bass and Eric Ineke on drums and four tracks recorded in 1994 in Monster Holland, with alto saxophonists Gary Foster and Marco Kegel and Rein, Koos and Eric.


Thanks to some visits together during his recent trips to the United States, I’ve had the opportunity to get to know Rein somewhat. In conversation - by the way, his English is better than mine, - he is soft-spoken, extremely polite and mild-mannered. He loves “a piece of bread” with all manner of food and in a conversation over a meal he is relaxed, unassuming and an attentive listener; although I suspect that on the subject of most things to do with bebop, he could finish my sentences for me, but demurrers [did I mention that he was polite?].


But all of that vanishes when he sits down at a piano keyboard and becomes a take-no-prisoners, monster improviser who is capable of unfurling line after line of dotted eighth note, syncopated melodies that are loaded with bebop licks that you’ve heard before, but never quite combined in this manner. He becomes an original by the way in which he weaves together the unoriginal as he tries to get as close as possible to the nirvana of interlacing chorus after chorus of uninterrupted improvisations [what Jazz musicians referred to as “lines”]. Sometimes, ideas seem to come to him so fast and furious that he can barely put them together before moving on to the next set of musical thoughts or suggestions. It’s like he’s managed to memorize every piece of bebop ever played in the past, deconstruct them and put them together in a new and different way - instantaneously.


And he doesn’t rush - he pushes the time because he plays ahead of the beat - but he doesn’t rush.


In listening to a lot of Rein’s recordings lately [he’s sending me more!!] - I always suspected that one of the keys to his success as an improvisor was his ability to chose the right tempo to play the tunes he favors.


And what do you know, he confirmed this in a recent conversation about his playing on the tune Flamingo on a CD that he along with Marius Beets [pronounced Bates in English] on bass and Eric Ineke on drums made with tenor saxophonist Scott Hamilton. [You can find this track in a video montage at the end of this piece.]


I was sharing with him how the sequence of choruses he plays on this eleven [11] minute track had literally reduced me to giggles they were so good when he blurted out - “It’s the tempo!”


Bingo! - the implication being that the tempo was just right in leaving him time to think and connect one well-constructed, improvised line [melody] with the next.


Of course, notwithstanding his incredible talent, I imagine it helps to have been doing this for 50 years!!


Jeroen de Valk who recently published a revised and expanded biography of trumpeter Chet Baker wrote these insert notes for the Nostalgia  CD.


“Rein de Graaff is a man of contrasts. He is one of Europe's foremost jazz musicians, but he describes himself as "a jazz fan who happens to play the piano." He turned down many offers to go on tour with American stars like Sonny Stitt and Archie Shepp because he has not much time to travel; he is a businessman on weekdays who gigs only in the weekends.


He will explain to you at length that he considers himself a jazz musician rather than a pianist: "I don't play the piano like a pianist does. I comp like a drummer and play single-note lines like a horn player." However, he has recorded some of the most fluent, swinging and beautiful piano solos I've ever heard in the Low Countries.


The most astonishing aspect of Rein's artistry is his understanding of the bebop language. He is almost entirely self-taught as a pianist and has been living most of his life in a small town in the north of the Netherlands. But when he visited New York for the first time as a young man, he felt at home right away. At a jam session in Harlem, a big fat mamma from this black neighbourhood hugged him warmly, with tears in her eyes. "You sound like a black man!", she shouted. This was obviously the highest praise that could possibly be bestowed on Rein.


Although it may sound weird, it is perhaps his jazz fan status that makes him sound so consistently inspired and professional. He makes music because he loves to do it and for no other reason. Music is for him, to quote Zoot Sims, "serious fun". He always plays with at least a hundred per cent dedication.


On this record, you hear what Rein does: playing bebop piano. While listening to the duo-tracks with Rein's favourite pianist, bebop master Barry Harris, you will notice how much they sound alike. Their solos are characterized by clarity; each phrase is a small melody with a beginning, a middle and an end.


Rein plays the first seven choruses in Au Privave, Barry the next five. Then they alternate eight choruses, followed by 'fours' until the last theme. In the next tune, you hear


Rein plays Nostalgia and Barry Casbah, two tunes based on the chords of Out of Nowhere. Barry plays two choruses, Rein the next two. Then they take half a chorus each, they alternate 'eights' for one chorus, followed by a chorus of 'fours'.


Another passion of Rein's is the musical world of Lennie Tristano, the legendary pianist, composer and guru of the cool school who died in 1978 at the age of 59. In four tracks, he plays with two alto saxophonists who know a thing or two about Tristano's concept: Gary Foster from LA (right channel) and Marco Kegel, a 22-year-old from Holland. Their collective improvisations will remind you of Warne Marsh and Lee Konitz, Tristano's great saxophone team.


As usual, the themes are complicated lines, based on standards. Tristano used to say: "That's our link to the people." Ablution is All the Things You Are. Lennie's Pennies is Pennies from Heaven (in a minor key, for a change), Dreamstepper is You Stepped out of a Dream and Subconscious-Lee is What Is this Thing Called Love. The rhythm section is once again Koos Serierse (bass) and Eric Ineke (drums). They have been working with Rein for almost twenty years.


In the first five tracks. Rein is featured soloist with the Metropole Orchestra. The arrangements, written by Dolf de Vries (Alone Together),  Rob Pronk (How High the Moon, I Cover the Waterfront), Henk Meutgeert (Afternoon in Paris} and Lex Jasper (Cherokee), are just right for this combination: relaxed and inspiring. They give the rhythm section room to swing, allow the horns and strings to phrase as one man, and Rein to improvise freely at great length.


Rein sounds as if he has been working with these experienced studio musicians for a hundred years. Listen to him playing bebop piano. He is brilliant.”


  • Jeroen de Valk



Friday, November 17, 2017

'Kind of Bill' - Dado Moroni, Eddie Gomez, Joe LaBarbera

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


On September 29, 2017, BFM Jazz released an audio CD entitled Live at The Casino Sanremo: Kind of Bill [B 074 HCYL 22] which features the talents of pianist Dado Moroni, bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Joe LaBarbera.

Anyone familiar with the career of the late pianist Bill Evans certainly knows about Eddie’s 12 year association with him and the fact that Joe played in Bill last trio before Bill’s death in 1980.

But it would also be true that anyone familiar with Bill Evans’ style of playing with its lyrical and lush voicings, rhythmic displacement and moody and introspective harmonies would be rather surprised to find Dado as the pianist in a tribute album to Bill.

Dado is a hard bop oriented, funky swinger who’s perfectly happy in a straight-ahead, pulsating and hard-charging environment.

Bill and Dado both play piano, but to my ears, all comparisons end there as their style of playing the instrument is so markedly different.

Gene Lees once asked Bill Evans, as both were entering the London House in Chicago, IL to hear pianist Oscar Peterson’s trio, why Oscar didn’t incorporate Bill’s unique approach to voicing chords in his playing?

Bill replied: “It wouldn’t fit with what he was doing.”

When I think of the styles of Dado and Bill, “It wouldn’t fit with what he’s doing,” immediately comes to mind.”

But Dado did find a way to make it work and the key is in the CD’s title.

Kind of Bill refers to compositions usually associated with Bill throughout his 25 year career rather than original compositions by Bill. The sole exception is the trio’s performance of Bill’s original composition - Funkallero.

Dado, Eddie and Joe each also contribute an original to the nine track selections that make up the CD and these are evocative of Bill Evans’ way with Jazz improvisation.


The media release that accompanied the recording explains it this way:

Kind of Bill describes perfectly the intent of the project to capture the music and magic of famed pianist Bill Evans. Created by pianist Dado Moroni, this album features the Grammy award winner bassist Eddie Gomez (Miles Davis, Bill Evans, Dizzy Gillespie) and Evans' drummer Joe La Barbera. Kind Of Bill is an homage which doesn't strictly include Bill's compositions. But also includes songs that under Evans' fingers became entirely new, and original songs by Moroni, Gomez and La Barbera.

Bill Evans has not been with us since September 15, 1980, a very sad day for musicians and music fans. However his notes and his magic are very much alive and this project wants to celebrate this aspect of his world: the never-ending life of his message and legacy.

Because of Evans’ incredible talent and ideas, he needed special partners to develop that wonderful sound that characterized his vision of music, people that, with their fantastic musicality and sensitivity, were able to bring that vision to life…to create that unforgettable, beautiful “Bill Evans Sound.” Eddie and Joe LaBarbera were able to make such contributions.

KIND OF BILL [written by Joe La Barbera]  describes perfectly the intent of the project created by pianist Dado Moroni, who has never hidden his love for Evans, bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Joe La Barbera.”

Dado, Eddie and Joe kicked off the 2016 summer Jazz festivals in Italy with a performance of this material at the Casa del Jazz in Roma, before traveling to the Casino di Sanremo in San Remo, Italy where on July 1, 2016, they recorded the music for the new CD in a live performance.

They reprised the Kind of Bill project for a performance at the  Albenga Jazz Festival on July 4, 2017 where the following video was made.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Shelly Manne – Anything But – “Un Poco Loco”

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


“Shelly Manne was one of the greatest, not only as a person but also as a musician who gave 120 per cent on every performance. Even though he was busy in the studios during the day, he would still be at the cub every night, and at the end of the set he would always say, ‘Do I sound O.K.?’”
- Chuck Berghofer, bassist

“Shelly Manne was a prince of drummers.”
- Jack Montrose, tenor saxophonist

“Shelly can sit in any rhythm section, from a trio to the biggest band and make it swing; he is an experimenter and an innovator of the highest order; he can, when the occasion calls for it, subdue himself to fit any style of soloist; and he is also a solo drummer of exceptional taste and quality.”
- Andre Previn, pianist, composer, arranger, conductor

“Take an eighteen-year-old New York City cross-country champ from a broken home, walk him into a Manhattan music shop with his alto sax, give him a set of drums in trade, and out walks what many would later call ‘the most musical drummers who ever lived.’”
- Jack Brand and Bill Korst, Shelly Manne: Sounds of a Different Drummer
  

Shelly Manne was not, as the title of the of Bud Powell’s tune translates - “A little crazy” – not even close.

For as Richard Cook and Brian Morton assert in their Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, 6th Ed.: Shelly was one of the finest – and shrewdest – musicians in modern Jazz - … [who] became definitive of the West Coast sound, playing drums with a cool melodism and restrained dynamics. For a time he ran his own club, the Manne Hole, bred horses [maybe this is where the ‘crazy’ part comes in ?], but he was never anything but a whole-hearted musician.”

Ted Gioia, in his seminal, West Coast Jazz: Modern Jazz in California, 1945 – 1960, offers a broader context in which to view Shelly and his music:

“In the 1950s, the role of a West Coast drummer was beset by many contradictions. … [and as a result of these incongruities], West Coast percussionists came to be viewed as anti-drummers. Their distinctive approach to time-keeping was seen by many as a subversion of the modern Jazz tradition of high-energy drumming. In the eyes of their critics, such drummers meant their instruments to be seen and not – or only barely – heard. …

Shelly Manne was the drummer most associated in the Jazz public’s mind with this new approach to drumming. Yet Manne’s recorded legacy from the 1950s reveals that his highly stylized approach to Jazz drumming was anything but narrow and parochial. …

… Manne’s body of work becomes well worth consideration and praise when we evaluate it less as a stage in the history of drums, and more as a body of music.” [pp. 264-265]


While I wholeheartedly agree with Ted’s assessment, there are also times when Shelly’s drumming  is the feature that makes this “body of music” so worthy of “praise and consideration.”

One example of how Shelly comes forward to shape and influence the music can be found in the following detailed description of his work in Jack Brand and Bill Korst’s Shelly Manne: Sounds of a Different Drummer on Un Poco Loco from the Swinging Sounds Vol. IV album [Contemporary 3516, OJCCD 267-2]

“In 1956, Shelly Manne was to enter one of the most successful years of his career. By this time, Charlie Mariano's alto was heard with the Men in place of [Bill] Holman's tenor. On January 19th, the group recorded the first seven selections for Shelly's Volume 4, Swinging Sounds album.

Clearly, Shelly was escaping from the "West Coast Experimental" school and was playing in the type of group that made him the happiest — straight ahead, swinging jazz. The album included the theme [Bill] Holman had penned for him at the Tiffany Club [A Gem for Tiffany] and a Manne composition called "Parthenia," the street on which he and Flip and the critters [horses that he and Flip bred and put to show] lived.

… on February 2nd, the Men recorded "Un Poco Loco," featuring the now legendary drum solo that Manne fans had marveled at during the [1955 Shorty Rogers] Giants' tour with the Kenton Festival. Now he recorded a rendition with his own swinging group.


To say that Shelly Manne was a unique drummer is an understatement. Even today it is difficult to imagine an extended drum solo played with a bare left hand, a brush in the right hand and a tambourine sitting on the head of a small floor tom tom — and the entire solo played on a small four-piece kit with just a ride, crash, and hi hat cymbals.

Fortunately it was recorded on Contemporary and thanks to Fantasy's Original Jazz Classics series, it is available today on cassette and CD. This particular song, com­posed by pianist Bud Powell, was included in many "hip" jazz groups' repertoire.

A simple theme made complex by its rhythmic statement and by the fact that it was always performed at a very fast tempo, it had been played by nearly all the East Coast bop players. Max Roach had recorded the tune with Powell as early as 1951. Roach's first takes on the session were common­place mambo rhythms, but on the third take he used a double paradiddle-type of rhythm be­tween a cowbell and the torn toms.

Now, five years later, Shelly recorded the tune using a very complex pattern under the main theme and then a symphony of rhythms based on four notes, the tones of the snare drum (snares off), the small tom, floor tom and bass drum — all tuned to perfection. The tambourine offers an unusual percussive message — tonal because of the tom tom underneath, yet stark and outstanding in its contrast with the other sounds.

The arrangement of the song is a unique weaving of Latin and swing passages. Shelly and the band introduce the main theme with a very fast Latin rhythm (played with the brush and hand). As Charlie Mariano's alto begins to solo, Shelly switches to a drum stick in his right hand, playing a montuno rhythm on the ride cymbal bell, while his bare left hand moves to the vari­ous torn toms.

As the bridge goes into a half-time swing beat, he picks up the brush with his left hand to play triplet patterns against the ride cymbal jazz pattern. As Mariano's solo eases out and Stu Williamson's trumpet solo begins, the piano and bass melt into a quarter note ostinato.

It is here that we hear the imagination of Shelly Manne take control. He uses sleigh bells to accentuate the quarter note pulse that becomes almost hypnotic until the bass and piano ascend their notes up to the ultimate release into swing, then Shelly uses two drum sticks to take the last trumpet chorus out in the original fast Latin tempo.

Freeman's wonderful rhythmic style is heard soloing at this tempo until he brilliantly relinquishes the music to Vinnegar's half-time swing bass solo. During the last measures of Leroy's solo, Shelly begins the four-tone theme that he will use to build variations upon.

To fully comprehend the subtle mufflings with the palm of the left hand pressing on the drum head, finger rim shots and bass drum patterns, brush scrapings on the heads, and the complexity of the solo's musical construction, the listener must hear it over and over again. The written solo, wonderfully transcribed by Robert DeVita,* cannot tell the entire story; one must listen to fully understand the musical genius of Shelly Manne.” [pp. 78-79]

[* These can be found on pages 81-83 of Jack Brand and Bill Korst’s Shelly Manne: Sounds of a Different Drummer].






And you can here it all on the following video tribute to Shelly as Un Poco Loco forms the audio track which features Shelly’s singular drum solo along with Stu Williamson [tp], Charlie Mariano [as], Russ Freeman [p] and Leroy Vinnegar [b].

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

DAVE SCHILDKRAUT by Gordon Jack

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

                                                         
As many of you know, Gordon Jack is a frequent contributor to the Jazz Journal and a very generous friend to these pages in his allowance of JazzProfiles re-publishings of his excellent writings. He is the author of Fifties Jazz Talk An Oral Retrospective and he developed the Gerry Mulligan discography in Raymond Horricks’ book Gerry Mulligan’s Ark.

The following article was first published in Jazz Journal July 2016.
For more information and subscriptions please visit www.jazzjournal.co.uk
                                         
© -  Gordon Jack/JazzJournal; copyright protected, all rights reserved., used with permission.

If Dave Schildkraut is still remembered today it is probably because of a recording session with Miles Davis, Horace Silver, Percy Heath and Kenny Clarke that took place on Saturday, April 3rd. 1954. One of the titles was Solar which Miles never recorded again but the tune became so popular that Tom Lord’s discography lists 350 recordings by people like Phil Woods, Bill Evans, Chris Potter and Lee Morgan.  A minor blues with subtle differences, Ted Gioia’s authoritative book on Jazz Standards highlights, “The ambiguity in tonality” of Solar which of course adds to the charm of the piece.

Dave Schildkraut was born on the 7th. January 1925 and he made his professional debut with Louis Prima in 1941. He played with Anita O’Day and Tommy Dorsey and when musical work became scarce in the forties he worked as a floor manager at Woolworths and later as a clerk at Decca. Around 1952 he was in Buddy Rich’s big band with Harry Edison, Eddie Bert and Zoot Sims at New York’s Paramount Theatre backing Frank Sinatra. Mrs. Sinatra - Ava Gardner – was usually to be found in the audience.

In 1953 Stan Kenton invited him to join the band which was about to undertake a highly successful European tour. He remained with Kenton for another tour titled a Festival of Modern American Jazz that lasted for a month from January 28th. 1954 with guests Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Lee Konitz, Erroll Garner, Candido and June Christy. They visited twenty- two cities opening at Wichita  Falls, Texas, concluding at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. Bill Perkins who was in the band told me in a Jazz Journal interview, “The player Bird liked the best was Davey who was a complete original”.  Schildkraut returned the compliment. In Robert Reisner’s book (Bird - The Legend of Charlie Parker) describing him as a “Musical Knight Of The Road”. Dave was apparently a poor poker player regularly losing all his money to Charlie Mariano during interminable games on the band-bus. Sitting next to Lee Konitz in the section meant few solo opportunities but Schildkraut made his mark on Kingfish, Fearless Finlay, Blues Before And After, Sweets and especially Egdon Heath.   

Just prior to the Solar recording Miles Davis had been absent from the New York scene for about ten months due to personal problems. He spent time at his home in East St.Louis before moving out to California for engagements at the Lighthouse in Los Angeles and the Down Beat club in San Francisco. On his return in February 1954 he contacted Bob Weinstock of Prestige to tell him that he was ready to record again and Horace Silver, Percy Heath and Kenny Clarke became his rhythm section of choice for recordings and bookings at Birdland and the Open Door. Schildkraut’s inclusion on the Solar date is a mystery because as far as I know he and Miles Davis had never worked together.

Saxophonist/author Allen Lowe who was a friend of Dave’s told me that Weinstock drove Schildkraut to Rudy Van Gelder’s studio in Hackensack, New Jersey for the recording.  On the way he made a sarcastic comment concerning Schildkraut’s work with Kenton, implying that Stan’s band was not considered to be hip. This of course annoyed Dave who wanted to prove himself at the session which he certainly did. He told the leader that rehearsals were unnecessary so they went ahead with the recording and Love Me Or Leave Me, I’ll Remember April and especially Solar are some of the finest examples of his work. On the latter, Miles establishes an intimate mood in a cup mute and when Dave eventually moves centre-stage, his four choruses add a fragile, almost haunting beauty to the performance.  Kenny Clarke performs immaculately throughout, uninhibited by a missing hi-hat which he had mistakenly left at home.

Solar which was his own favourite recording is so well regarded that it has become the subject of a jazz-myth concerning a Charles Mingus Blindfold Test in Downbeat. Legend has it that Mingus was apparently convinced he was listening to Charlie Parker when Leonard Feather played Solar for him. It was actually Dave’s solo on Crazy Lady from a George Handy session that was played prompting these comments from Mingus, “That could trick me. It might not be Bird on alto but I think it’s Bird. If it’s not, it’s a cat who sure loved him”.

Initially credited to Miles Davis, Solar’s provenance has been in dispute for years. At least two other originals that were credited to the trumpeter (Four and Tune Up) were found to be written by somebody else (Eddie ‘Cleanhead’ Vinson) and there has always been doubts about Solar. These doubts were resolved in 2011 when the Music Division of the Library of Congress acquired Chuck Wayne’s Collection of correspondence and manuscripts.  Wayne was a consummate bebop guitarist who had worked with Woody Herman, Gil Evans, George Shearing, Lester Young, Frank Sinatra – the list just goes on and on. Within the collection was an unpublished 10” acetate disc of a recording Chuck made with Sonny Berman in Oklahoma City in 1946 titled Sonny. When Larry Appelbaum the senior Music Librarian played the disc he immediately recognised Solar.

This might be apocryphal of course but Miles apparently once said to Chuck Wayne, “Are you the cat that showed me (Solar)? Well…sue me”.  Davis copyrighted Solar on the 8th. August 1963 and the first two bars of the tune appear on his tombstone in Woodland Cemetery in the Bronx. Many jazz musicians like Duke Ellington, Coleman Hawkins, Milt Jackson, Lionel Hampton and Clark Terry have their final resting place at Woodland.

After the Solar session Miles went on to re-establish his career but Dave never acquired the reputation he deserved.  A true original musically he could also be somewhat eccentric. Bob Sunenblick told me that on an engagement with Elliot Lawrence, Dave took a really fine solo during the early part of the evening. After intermission Lawrence called for the same composition. Schildkraut stood up but didn’t play a note -“I played everything the first time” was his excuse. Behaviour like that would not have endeared him to bandleaders, club owners or record producers.

The fifties was a particularly busy period in New York recording studios for musicians of Schildkraut’s calibre. Hal McKusick for instance who acknowledged Dave’s influence on alto performed on 27 sessions in 1955 alone. Between 1954 and 1959 Schildkraut recorded on a mere 15 occasions but never as a leader. His career could almost be summed up as a series of deliberately ignored possibilities. Dizzy Gillespie wanted to record with him but was turned down more than once. Norman Granz offered him a date with strings with the same result. Bob Weinstock too was keen to have him on the Prestige roster but it did not happen

Schildkraut’s friend Bill Triglia was once performing at Birdland with Lester Young. During intermission he took the great man to hear Dave who was working at a strip club on 52nd. Street. Thoroughly impressed Young asked Schildkraut to come and sit-in with him at Birdland but Dave refused. Incidentally it should not come as a surprise that a jazz musician would play in a strip club since many did when work was scarce in the fifties. Brew Moore, Herb Geller, Joe Maini and Philly Joe Jones were all familiar with the burlesque scene. Brew once said “I was 21 years old before I saw a naked woman from the front.”

Each of his infrequent recordings can be recommended particularly a 1954 session with George Handy where he is featured in an octet including Kai Winding and Allen Eager who was soon to disappear from the U.S. jazz scene. The date is also notable for Lean To which has one of the few baritone solos by the most recorded baritone man in history – the legendary Danny Bank. Another session well worth tracking down is the Tony Aless date a year later titled Long Island Suite which also featured Seldon Powell and Nick Travis.


In 1959 he re-joined Kenton for a month as a sub for Charlie Mariano. Two years later he was recorded at the El Mambo in Clinton, Long Island with that most lyrical of trumpeters, Don Joseph.  No longer available, this album is long overdue for reissue. Don was another who disappeared from the scene far too early preferring to teach in the public school system on Staten Island. This was thought to be Dave’s swan-song too because nothing was heard from him for a considerable time. Herb Geller once described him to me as, “A nice Jewish boy from Brooklyn with no alcohol or drug problems who just seemed to stop performing. He was one of the best saxophone players I knew. He played great alto and fantastic clarinet – just sensational”.

With his three children, Schildkraut was very much a family man unwilling to undertake the travelling expected of a professional musician. He took a clerical position with the City of New York confining his musical activities to playing clarinet at Bar Mitzvahs in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn and occasional bookings at local clubs like the Café Bohemia. John Coltrane knew him and on one occasion at New York’s Jazz Gallery in the sixties he dedicated a song to him which apparently surprised Dave.

In 1979 Allen Lowe recorded him on alto and tenor leading a quartet with Bill Triglia at a music school in New Haven, Connecticut. Allen also arranged for Curly Russell who had played with Dave at the El Mambo in 1961 and was an old friend of Schildkraut’s to be in the audience. They perform bebop staples and song-book classics together with an up-tempo romp on Stars And Stripes Forever. On Now’s The Time Dave quotes briefly from Charlie Parker’s solo from the classic 1945 recording with Miles Davis.  Parker along with Benny Carter, Lester Young and Bud Powell were three of his premier influences. The sound quality is a little uneven but it is an essential purchase for the many who would like to be re-acquainted with Dave Schildkraut.

His behaviour could be a little unconventional.  Bill Crow once told me, “Around 1990, Eddie Bert who is famous for digging people out of the wood-work arranged for Davey to come out and play with us. He sounded wonderful but he is very spooky about seeing flying saucers all the time. Maybe he does but he seems to see them more than anyone I have ever met.”

Despite such a brief performing career Dave Schildkraut was highly regarded by his peers:  “He was the only saxophonist to capture the rhythmic essence of Bird” (Dizzy Gillespie);  “He was one of my favourite people on and off the bandstand” (Jackie McLean);“The two most original saxophonists after Charlie Parker were Lee Konitz and Dave Schildkraut” (Bill Evans); “He was one of the greatest saxophonists I ever heard” (Stan Getz); “Dave Schildkraut was a personal favourite” (Bill Perkins); “He was one of the premier Bird-influenced altoists” (Mose Allison). Ralph Burns, Bob Dorough, Al Cohn and Red Mitchell were all similarly impressed by Schildkraut. His reputation with the jazz media of course was a little different. Downbeat magazine managed a mere 117 word obituary for him when he died on January 1st.1998.

I would like to thank the Creative Framing & Blue Water Gallery of Colorado for providing the Chuck Lilly photograph that introduces this article.”



SELECTED DISCOGRAPHY
As Leader
Last Date (Endgame CD005)
As Sideman
Stan Kenton: The Holman And Russo Charts (Mosaic MD4-136)
Miles Davis Quintet (Essential Jazz Classics EJC 55638)
George Handy, Handyland U.S.A. (RCA 74321611122)
Tony Aless, And His Long Island Suite (Fresh Sound Records FSR 1664)