Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Birthday Memories

I love this photograph. It's a moment at the 1962 Newport Jazz Festival. Yes, that is Coleman Hawkins. I'm still transfixed at the mere thought of standing beside the great man. I was all of twenty-five years old at the time. And since I will reluctantly acknowledge another birthday tomorrow, I find myself reminiscing a bit.

Fortunately for me, I have lived during a time when jazz was respected and enormously popular in this country, not to mention in Europe and Japan, thanks in large measure to Norman Granz and George Wein. The "Jazz At The Philharmonic" and "Newport Jazz Festival" programs provided jazz fans abundant opportunities to hear and see legendary musicians and singers. Ella was riding high, as was Sarah Vaughan. And I not only saw all of the people listed below, but on some occasions, worked with them. Many I called friends. They are not listed in any particular order, but they were alive and well when I knew them, and I'm just sitting here thinking about them all.

The Ellington and Basie bands were swinging, Oscar Peterson, Louis Armstrong, Anita O'Day, Gerry Mulligan, Al and Zoot, Dave Lambert, Ben Webster, Al Grey, Erroll Garner, Wes Montgomery, John Coltrane and Miles Davis, Bill Evans, Cannonball and Nat Adderly, Thad Jones and Mel Lewis, Stan Kenton, Mary Lou Williams (who asked me to demonstrate my remarkably inadequate scat singing ability when I met her in North Carolina); Art Pepper, Art Blakey and Charlie Mingus, Benny Carter, Pepper Adams; Sir Roland Hanna, Woody Herman, Art Farmer, Dexter Gordon, Tommy Flanagan, Al Hibler, Clifford Jordan, Hazel Scott and Dorothy Donegan, Arthur Prysock, Joe Turner and Jimmy Rushing, Barney Kessell, Carmen McRae, Shirley Horn, Billie Holiday and Betty Carter, Maynard Ferguson, Bill Potts and Benny Goodman, PeeWee Russell, PeeWee Erwin and Jack Teagarden. (I'll give you a break here so you can read the following treasured memory of Mr. T):

********* I was only fourteen and singing two nights a week with a popular dance band in Providence, Rhode Island, my home town. The gig was Wednesday and Saturday nights at a ballroom called Rhodes-on-the-Pawtuxet, a summer-light structure facing the cool breezes of the river. One night on a break, the guys in the band insisted I accompany them to a smaller building on the grounds where a private party was being held. The room was crowded and noisy, nobody listening to the music. I found a small patch of stage where I could just fit, gazing up into the face of the bandleader. He smiled down at me as I was clearly mesmerized by his playing and perhaps because I seemed the only one listening. Later I was told that my experience was one I might want to tell my grandchildren: I'd been sitting at the feet of Jack Teagarden.

Now back to the scheduled listing, still in progress:

Artie Shaw, Scott LaFaro, Jo Jones, Teri Thornton, Red Mitchell, Jerome Richardson, Jimmy Rowles, Panama Francis, Eddie Barefield, John Lewis, Percy Heath and Connie Kaye; Teddi King, Dizzy Gillespie, Joe Mooney and Stan Getz, Charlie Byrd, Teddy Wilson, Paul Montgomery and Thelonious Monk; Lurlean Hunter and Alberta Hunter; Cal Collins, Frank Rosalino, Gary McFarland and Steve Jordan; Illinois Jacquet and Milt Hinton; Ray Charles, Harry Edison, Keter Betts, Grover Mitchell and Milt Jackson; Mel Torme, Ray Brown, Paul Quinichete, June Christy and Chet Baker, and Gil Evans too.

Thanks to Jimmy Rowles, I met Gil Evans and Chet Baker, ever so briefly, when each visited Jimmy in the apartment we shared at the time in New York's Greenwich Village.

Bill Charlap is my birthday present this year. He's appearing in this area on Thursday and Friday night, March 6 and 7, at The Regatta Bar in the Charles Hotel, Cambridge, MA. His colleagues Kenny Washington, drums and Peter Washington, bass will be along, and I can't wait to hear them, my favorites now and forever.

PS ... Remind me to tell you about the time Mortimer Snerd put the make on me.

1 comment:

MrsHenryWindleVale said...

Happiest of birthdays, Carol! May your apartments ever be swanky, "Deception"-style, and your conversation partners at least as eloquent as Claude Raines' Hollenius. Perhaps a trifle more benign, though, in spirit ...

Mrs. V