|BUSTER WILLIAMS TURNS 75
Although other bassists have overshadowed him in getting publicity, Buster Williams has been one of jazz’s great bassists for the past 55 years.
Among the countless number of major artists who he has worked with have been Sarah Vaughan, Miles Davis (filling in for Ron Carter),
Nancy Wilson, the Jazz Crusaders, the Herbie Hancock Sextet of 1968-73, Mary Lou Williams, Hank Jones (in the Great Jazz Trio), the
Timeless All-Stars, Sphere, and 4 Generations Of Miles in addition to leading his own occasional groups.
What better way to celebrate turning 75 then playing creative jazz with a top-notch quartet? At the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center,
Williams led a group also featuring Steve Wilson on alto and soprano, pianist George Colligan, and drummer Lenny White. Mostly performing
originals, their music was high-quality post bop. White consistently drove the ensembles hard, Williams played some of the most interesting
basslines and commentary I’ve ever heard behind soloists, Wilson was inspired by the other’s playing, and Colligan showed that he is a major
talent. Among the songs that they performed were “Where Giants Dwell” (which recalled Elvin Jones’ groups), “Dance Of The Butterfly,”
Williams’ thoughtful ballad “Christine” and the closer, a version of “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was” that included a heated soprano-drums
duet. The music was quite stirring, inventive and exciting with Buster Williams youthful playing a joy to hear.
For the past year, singer Cathy Segal-Garcia has been booking excellent jazz artists each Saturday night at the Bar Fedora at Au Lac LA (710
W. 1st Street). Recently I had the pleasure of seeing a solo set by vocalist-guitarist Paulinho Garcia. Born and raised in Brazil where he worked
as a bassist, Garcia moved to Chicago in 1979, switched to guitar, and began singing. He led Made In Brazil and teamed up with tenor-
saxophonist Greg Fishman as a duet called Two For Brazil. In recent times, Garcia moved to Los Angeles.
At Bar Fedora, Paulinho Garcia performed warm vocals accompanied by his fluent guitar including such songs as “There Will Never Be
Another You,” “Bluesette” (mostly taken in 4/4 time), “Blackbird,’ “When I Fall In Love” (including the rarely heard verse), “Waters Of
March,” “O Pato” and many lesser-known but rewarding Brazilian songs. A special highlight was “A Night In Tunisia,” one of many tunes on
which he scatted brilliantly. Garcia, whose talking between songs was charming, had no difficult keeping the audience’s attention and he
swung throughout his brand of Brazilian jazz. The only suggestion I would make is that he should feature his guitar playing a bit more and
take some solos rather than have it always be a stimulating accompaniment to his singing.
It was a highly enjoyable show. Catch Paulinho Garcia whenever you can. More information on this series can be found at www.
A JAM SESSION IN LOS ANGELES
Quite by accident one Monday night I happened to catch the first set in a jam session at the Mint. Run by drummer Kevin Kanner, the jam
featured tenor-saxophonist Rickey Woodard, pianist Eric Reed, guitarist Graham Dechter, bassist Mike Gurrola and a bass trumpeter whose
name I unfortunately missed. The all-star group dug into such songs as an uptempo “Unit 7,” Dechter’s “Hammerhead,” Horace Silver’s
“Strollin’” and a very fast and extended “Blue ‘N Boogie.” On the latter Dizzy Gillespie tune, it was fun getting to hear the soloists forced to play
coherently at such a tempo; they all did well. This was an exciting and unexpected performance at a club not that closely associated with jazz. I
departed as the next set, which would be featuring young up-and-coming players, was getting ready to begin. My next appearance at the Mint
will not be an accident!
BAMBI AND BEYOND
And now for something completely different. Tyrus Wong (1910-2016), who lived to be 106, is profiled in the documentary Tyrus. A Chinese-
American artist, Wong was responsible for most of the drawings in Bambi, the 1942 Disney classic. Wong was also a prolific artist, painter,
greeting card designer, film production illustrator for Warner Bros. and even a kite maker. He had a fascinating life full of ups and downs and
always retained a cheerful attitude. While little-known by those outside of the industry, he kept busy and produced impressive work in several
At the historic Egyptian Theatre, both Bambi (which looks beautiful on the big screen) and the documentary Tyrus were shown with a panel
discussion taking place in between. The documentary was particularly informative, well-made and heartwarming. Tyrus, which will be
shown on PBS’ American Masters series sometime this summer, will hopefully be made available on DVD in the near future. Do yourself a
favor and see it. More information can be found at www.tyrusthemovie.com.
THE FIRST RECORDED SOUNDS IN HISTORY
The first jazz recording was made by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band in 1917, the first instrumental recording was cut in 1889, Thomas
Edison made his earliest existing talking record the previous year, and he officially invented the phonograph in 1876.. But a few years ago, a
brief recording by what sounded like a female vocalist singing part of “Clair de Lune” was discovered. It was made in 1860!
Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville (1817-79) had a vision. The Frenchman, being impressed by early photographs, painstakingly constructed
an artificial ear called the phonautograph, a device that could transfer sound to paper. Although he had no way of playing back what he
“recorded,” he believed that future generations would be able to study and read the sounds in the lines that he created. During 1857-60,
mostly with his voice but on one occasion apiece a guitar and a cornet, he created the first-ever recordings. It took 150 years but finally, due to
the development of computers and the detective work of an important organization called First Sounds, 50 of these phonautograms have
finally been heard for the first time. Unfortunately due to erratic pitch variations, many of these recordings are barely listenable. However in
1860, Edouard-Leon Scott (somehow anticipating the future problem) wisely recorded the sounds along with a tuning fork. That allows today’s
archivists a way of making the pitch consistent on the later phonautograms and the results much more coherent.
Archeophone Records (www.archeophone.com) has long been involved in releasing vintage recordings, but nothing quite this early! They
recently made available the 48-page book Edouard-Leon Scott De Martinville – Inventor Of Sound Recording – A Bicentennial Tribute. The
full story of Scott’s innovations and his frustrating life are related in great detail. While he created a minor stir in the scientific community in
1860 with his invention, it was soon written off and forgotten. When Edison began exhibiting his phonograph in 1878, Scott’s pioneering work
was never mentioned and, although he protested and offered proof of his invention, he was ignored. Now, in the year of the bicentennial of his
birth, he is finally gaining some recognition.
The book contains a paper disc that is playable on turntables. While many of the brief recordings are not too listenable, it does include the first
ever recorded music (a cornet in 1857 playing a scale) along with the now-famous version of “Clair de Lune.” The latter is heard for the first
time at its correct speed, which is actually half of what was originally released. It turns out that the singer is Edouard-Leon Scott himself,
creating the earliest example of a listenable human voice ever to be recorded.
More information about the inventor can be found on You Tube in a fascinating hour-long documentary called First Sounds: Humanity’s First
Recordings Of Its Own Voice
FOUR JAZZ BOOKS
Jazz journalist Josef Woodard knew the great bassist Charlie Haden (1937-2014) for quite a few years and interviewed him about various
subjects on 17 occasions during 1988-2008. Conversations With Charlie Haden (available from www.silmanjamespress.com) contains all of
those talks along with an introduction by Woodard and brief forwards from Bill Frisell and Alan Broadbent. During 1958-59, Haden was
probably the only bassist in the world who could have given the revolutionary Ornette Coleman the support that he needed in his new free
jazz, playing without set chord changes and improvising based on the melody and mood of a piece rather than its chord structure. Haden talks
a lot about those years, his associations with Old and New Dreams, Keith Jarrett and Pat Metheny, and his leadership of his Liberation Music
Orchestra and Quartet West. He also philosophizes about life, discusses jazz education, and conveys an enthusiastic and optimistic attitude
about creating new music.
In these colorful discussions, the bassist’s joyful personality, intellect and curiosity towards life shine through. The result is a fascinating and
important book that is a tribute to the spirit of Charlie Haden..
Every veteran jazz musician should write their memoirs. Living the jazz life results in lots of stories and adventures which, if not documented,
would otherwise be lost. Hod O’Brien (1936-2016) was (along with Barry Harris) one of the last of the great bebop pianists. He completed Have
Piano…Will Swing (available from www.stephanienakasian.com) the year before his death. While not a large book, O’Brien’s memoirs cover
the main parts of his musical life and are filled with good-humored tales. Included are stories about O’Brien’s beginnings in New York in the
late 1950s, his time working outside of music in the 1960s, his return to fulltime performing in the early 1970s (including playing regularly
with Roswell Rudd), the pianist’s happy marriage to singer Stephanie Nakasian (their daughter Veronica Swift has developed into an
important young jazz singer), and his many club gigs. Along the way he worked with such artists as Donald Byrd, Rene Thomas, J.R.
Monterose, Chet Baker, Ted Brown, Danny D’Imperio, and Herb Geller. This very readable book also includes a complete discography and a list
of his compositions.
Jean-Pierre Leloir (1931-2010) was an important photographer from France who spent much of his life taking photos of celebrities.
Fortunately he was also a jazz fan and documented many jazz artists who appeared in France in the 1950s and ‘60s. Jazz Images (available
from jazzimagesrecords.com) actually says very little about Leloir’s life in the comments from five notables who knew him, but the 140 full-
page photos (most of which have never been seen before) speak for themselves. Released in alphabetical order from Cannonball Adderley to
Lester Young and including such greats as Louis Armstrong, Chet Baker, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington (including one with
Armstrong), Ella, Billie Holiday, Helen Merrill, Thelonious Monk, Wes Montgomery, Anita O’Day and Ben Webster, Jazz Images is one of the
great jazz photo books. It is full of the life and joy of jazz.
In Strange Fruit – Billie Holiday and the Power Of A Protest Song, Gary Golio succeeds at what must have seemed nearly impossible. He wrote
a book geared towards children (junior high and early high school) about “Strange Fruit,” the poem/song that Lady Day sang in a protest
against the lynching of African-Americans. Filled with the beautiful illustrations of Charlotte Riley-Webb, the book expertly tells the story
behind “Strange Fruit,” Billie Holiday and Barney Josephson’s Café Society. While it does not take long for an adult to read, the carefully-
chosen words and drawings hold one’s interest and make this a book worth revisiting several times. It also teaches children the truth without
causing them nightmares! It is easily recommended and available from www.lernerbooks.com.