Sunday, March 6, 2016

Growing Up in America

Jazz

By Rolf Dumke

[Links to previously published installments appear at the bottom.]

In contrast to my usually detailed memories of childhood experiences, I have few memories of my life in St. Paul’s Lutheran School in the 5th and 6th grades, which were taught by a strict, small and mousy man who drilled his pupils in arithmetic.
    But I do have a vivid memory of meeting a new “buddy” with strong musical interests who made me curious about a newer kind of music than the classical music that I was learning every second week at the Cleveland School of Music on University Circle.
    In 6th grade I met Chet, an unusual son of a Yugoslav immigrant family of Lutheran denomination, who was a fan of big jazz bands like those of Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, and Benny Goodman. He was incredibly well informed for a pupil who played no instrument. He enjoyed mimicking with his voice the jazz leads of his favorite bands’ trumpet players. Later on, I learned that Chet’s singing technique is called “vocalese.” Almost every conversation with this skinny, little guy was a learned discussion with an expert who liked to show off his knowledge of an arcane world.
    Chet was actually his own nickname, adopted from his favorite jazz trumpet player, Chet Baker.
    Jazz was more lively and created new, stronger emotions compared with playing Corelli, Vivaldi, or Bach alone. My new buddy started me on a wonderful path of enjoyment. On the types of jazz, see Wikipedia’s article.
    In retrospect, Cleveland turns out to have been a place blessed with great jazz, a benefit of Cleveland’s fine black music culture.


Chet Baker. According to DownBeat Magazine, Baker “was the young Lochinwar out of the West, the fair-haired boy of critics and laymen alike, riding in on his golden trumpet.” Baker, along with the trombonist Gerry Mulligan, became prominent in the laid-back West Coast jazz movement, which was becoming popular in the middle 1950s.
    Chet Baker playing “Almost blue” [YouTube].
    One Thursday evening in the fall, Chet and I went to hear a big jazz band playing dance music to a white audience in a hall on the West Side, an area populated by Ford Company workers. This was one of my few experiences of people with a working class background dancing to jazz.


Dizzy Gillespie. The second big jazz band I heard play for a dance hall was in 1964 at the joint annual ball of fraternities and sororities of Western Reserve University, where Dizzy Gillespie blew his cheeks out playing on his bent trumpet, firing up college students to hug, swing, and twist to his band’s music.
    Here he is in Belgium in 1958: “Blues Walk” [YouTube].
    Dancing to big jazz bands was a wonderful, different experience from sitting in a concert hall, with restrained, quiet audiences listening to jazz in subsequent decades. It was like the original jazz of New Orleans vs. Carnegie Hall concerts by the Modern Jazz Quartet. This intellectualization robbed jazz of an elemental urge to dance, now taken over by a different music – beat, rock and roll.
    At the end of the year Chet’s family moved away. I lost an unusual buddy, the only jazz enthusiast in St. Paul’s, who had created my life-long love for jazz.


Miles Davis. I had to move to Shaw High School in East Cleveland before I met another jazz enthusiast, the trombonist (his second instrument after the French horn) Tom Woehrmann, who played in Cleveland’s top jazz bands, performing in small basement clubs situated in the city’s black areas. In the fall of 1959 Tom took a couple of his school friends to a concert by Miles Davis in a club that was frequented by cool black couples.
    Davis displayed his memorable arrogance, turning his back to the audience while playing. In modern parlance, he was “dissing” the audience, but he got great applause and laughs by ironically sharing a universal black experience in the States. He was only being fair to this black audience, symbolically dissing whites who had dissed them.
    Davis played an icy, muted, slow trumpet that thrilled and chilled the hearts of his audience, hidden by blue light. Only when they smiled or their hands moved drinks from table to lips and back, or when people gestured while talking, did flashes of white appear in the dark room, like fluttering moths in the night.
    It was a fantastic scene: the dark blue-black club, fluttering icy music, the fluttering moths, and the sudden appearance and disappearance of smiles. We were frozen in this Alice in Wonderland of incredible jazz and iconic grins of many Cheshire cats. Meanwhile our three ghastly, cheese-white faces and our hands appeared as strange ghosts hovering in a corner of the basement club.
    Here is Miles Davis, with John Coltrane playing “Kind of Blue,” and solo playing “I Fall in Love Too Easily” and “Round Midnight,” where his icy, muted trumpet casts its spell [all three on YouTube].


Roland Kirk. A couple of months later, in December, Tom took us to an exciting gig of Roland Kirk’s trio in a small, long bar on E. 105th Street, near University Circle. There were only the bar stools and a single row of tables and chairs along the wall. The place was packed because the fame of this black, blind musician from Columbus, Ohio, had spread among jazz fans – here, mostly white – in Cleveland.
    In contrast to Miles Davis’s ultra-cool withdrawal, playing only short and icy phrases, Kirk blew his brains out playing three saxophones and a flute simultaneously, singing along. Thus, he replaced a whole saxophone section, playing successions of major cords and running solos. Kirk had developed an uncanny circular breathing routine – like that of the Australian Aborigines playing their didgeridoos – which created an almost perpetual sound stream from his saxophones, mesmerizing his audience. He played with high speed and volume for almost three hours, with only short breaks. It seemed to us that his saxophones were screaming out an agony, probably slavery, which had infested his soul.
    Here is Kirk in Montreux, Switzerland, in 1972 playing “Volunteered Slavery,” where you can hear the simultaneous playing of saxophones and flute with his humming and singing. Or “Serenade to a Cuckoo,” also at Montreux Festival in 1972. For his more explosive earlier style, see a performance of the Roland Kirk Quartet in Baden-Baden, Germany in 1961 [all three on YouTube].


Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross. Tom had also told us of a funky and playful vocalese trio that was exciting local jazz musicians. We loved Annie Ross’s flippant and sexy interpretations along with her two men when Tom played us a recording in 1960.
    I finally experienced the fulfilment of Chet’s type of music when I heard the vocal jazz trio of Dave Lambert, John Hendricks, and Annie Ross at a performance near Western Reserve University a few years later. Lambert was mimicking the trombone, Hendricks the saxophone, and Annie Ross the trumpet in a wonderful swinging performance that remained etched in memory. Here is a performance of “Twisted” in 1952 or 1954 by Annie Ross and her group, and a performance of the group with Joe Williams, “Every Day I Have the Blues,” in 1959 [both on YouTube].
    A short history of the group and their “vocalese” style of singing is given here.

Few recording artists can claim innovation let alone revolution. The 1950’s vocal trio of Lambert, Hendricks & Ross fit into that small category of performers who effectively turned a genre upside down. Expanding upon the technique known as “vocalese,” by which a jazz singer adapts an instrument to the human voice, Dave Lambert, Jon Hendricks and Annie Ross applied the style beyond the usual intimacy of a small combo to full big band arrangements. Their sharp and witty vocals, energetic delivery, and stupendous harmonies took the jazz world by storm, making instant stars of the three performers and inspiring a host of similar acts, such as the Hi-Los, the King Sisters, and the Manhattan Transfer
Bobby McFerrin. Of course, the most stupendous vocalist of our present era is Bobby McFerrin, whose Bach Prelude and “Ave Maria” can be enjoyed on YouTube, as well as “Sketches of Spain,” with Chick Corea.
    Here, for a contrast, is Miles Davis’s 1959/60 original and famous “Sketches of Spain” [also on YouTube].


Andreas Schaerer. A couple of weeks ago I was surprised by a renaissance of the Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross vocalese in Germany, while listening to the Swiss jazz band, Hildegard lernt fliegen (Hildegard learns to fly), on Bavarian radio.
    The top Swiss international German-language newspaper, Neue Zuericher Zeitung, introduces a new album of the jazz vocalist Andreas Schaerer and his band, with Schaerer attempting a one-man-big-band vocalese interpretation of drum, bass, saxophone, trumpet, and trombone. Schaerer has appeared with Bobby McFerrin in past performances.
    Here he is in Bremen in 2014, and in Berne in 2009, where he provided a one-man-big-band, humorous performance of “Knock code 3” [both on YouTube].
    Jon Turney of the London Jazz News of 2014 provides an English description of Schaerer and his band entitled “The Fundamental Rhythm of Unpolished Brains”:

No messing about here. This Swiss sextet’s fourth CD opens with complex orchestrations of two lengthy, enigmatic lyrics by the band’s compatriot Brigitte Wullimann…( L)eader Andreas Schaerer delivers all the lyrics. He is equipped with a remarkable vocal range – both octaves and styles – and a notable compositional gift….
    The results are not quite like anything you ever heard. No: They are a little bit like everything you ever heard. I lost count of the influences and allusions that flashed by, but moments that afford brief glimpses of others are legion. Vocally alone, Schaerer can sound like anyone from Phil Minton to Freddie Mercury. Tom Waits and Eugene Chadbourne are in there somewhere, too. On Don Clemenza he wordlessly evokes grand opera while his own prog-rock leaning lyrics on Zeusler are delivered in the manner of Genesis era Peter Gabriel. There are Bobby McFerrin moments, too. Did I mention that he also does beatboxing and is credited as “human trumpet,” which does genuinely sound like a trumpet?
In my college years, I was able to attend a number of jazz concerts in New York City’s celebrated Blue Note Jazz Club in the basement of 131 West 3rd.
    In Philadelphia I heard a gig by the great John Coltrane, saxophone, in a store-front club.
    Here is a wonderful film that helps you understand and appreciate Coltrane, The World According to John Coltrane [YouTube].
    I had always thought of Coltrane’s long and explosive upwards runs as breaking chains of the deprived black existence in mid-century America. The video, however, tells a completely different story. Coltrane had been working hard to be able to play long swings of notes on the saxophone like, e.g., the jazz violinist Stefano Grapelli with his violin.
    Coltrane and Davis performed in the same band and gave a memorable joint performance in Stockholm’s Konzerhuset in 1960 [YouTube].
    And in Washington, DC I heard gigs by the bossa nova jazz guitarist Charlie Bird in North East H Street.
    But the earlier encounters in Cleveland remain fixed in my memory as seeding my love of jazz, its freedom, exhilaration, and broodiness. Cleveland’s black jazz clubs and black bands’ performances had actually given me an exposure to some of the best of America’s own culture.
    In Cleveland of the late 1950s a favorite jazz program, Round Midnight, started at midnight, a time when one – including myself and a few friends – generally drove home from a party or from a concert. Thelonious Monk’s great song “Round Midnight” expressed the yearnings of a young man or woman that the night may be full of yet unattained love, as opposed to lyrics that worry that quarrels have ended an existing love. But the song can well express both feelings. Here is a great performance by the Miles Davis Quintet in 1956, and by Sarah Vaughn in 1963 [both on YouTube].

Memories always start round midnite, round midnite
Haven’t got the heart to stand those memories
when my heart is still with you
and old midnite knows it too
When some quarrel we had needs mending
does it mean that our love is ending?

Darling I need you
Lately I find you’re out of my arms
and out of my mind
Let our love take win
some midnite round midnite
Let the Angels sing for your returning
Let our love be safe and sound
When old midnite comes around
Stu Goldberg. On my second visit to Muenster, Westphalia, Germany in the late 1970s I worked at the University and Susan gave birth to two of our children, with whom we normally spoke English at home and in the neighborhood.
    One day when they were just three and four years old, I went shopping at the local grocery store and called them in English to come from one aisle to another. Then I heard a young woman say, “Honey, here are some other Americans with kids.” We immediately found each other sympathetic. The stylish woman was from Holland, married to a young American jazz musician, Stu Goldberg. Text biography [Internet Movie Database].

    The Goldbergs had two young boys. A close friendship evolved and our families often took walks with the kids, especially in the rainy fall and cold winter months, with our kids running around forest trees. I began to realize that Stu was already an accomplished and internationally known musician. He had performed at the Berlin Jazz Festival, where a reviewer called his style of playing “kantiger Romantizismus,” romanticism with a hard edge. This sounds a bit like a review of Miles Davis, but Stu’s style was more fluent and rapid. A version of his earlier music, Piru, in 1980, can be heard here [YouTube].
    I have a copy of this Stu Goldberg Trio album of 1981, Eye of the Beholder, as well as the following album, Live, 1982.
    On the 4th and 5th of March 1982, we immensely enjoyed two concerts of his trio with the Swedish bassist Palle Danielson and American drummer Jon Christensen at the Westfaelischer Kunstverein, Muester’s public art museum.

    One hundred signed LPs were made by the art museum, of which we have number 38.
    In a later solo concert Stu played a new instrument, a synthesiser with a plastic pipe into which he could puff the beginnings of authentic sounding flute or trumpet tones. This solo instrument was accompanied by his other hand on the piano, performing fine duets with two different instruments, like an organist. The synthesiser sounded either like a real flute or a trumpet with a nice breathy quality. Stu was therefore almost as adept as Roland Kirk with his three saxophones, and was an unusual instrument builder with uncanny facilities.
    A neighbor in the small town of Roxel, outside the handsome Medieval town of Muenster, was Dr. Kumpf, an old professor of medicine and a specialist in ear, nose, and throat conditions. Dr. Kumpf was a pianist and had a hobby playing with his own jazz trio in his basement. I thought I would surprise him one day when Stu was visiting, so I took Stu to Kumpf on the day his trio was there. These old guys were very happy to see us and played a round – a very, very slow round. It seemed that Kumpf and co. needed to delay starting a new phrase with a different order of chords in order to first think it out. Stu began his piano solo by playing a standard song, starting it with the regular solo lines and chords and then quickly improvising from there on until the familiar lines and chords reappeared at the end. It was a fine, superfast performance that bowled them over and made Kumpf grateful to me for many years for having brought Stu.
    Kumpf had begun his love of jazz during Nazi times in Germany, when it was illegal music. It was a breath of freedom to listen to the illegal US radio programs, but he did listen, alone in his basement, with big antennas fanned out in his garden in the long bushes, to pick up distant American Army jazz programs.
    Now, with his extensive antennas, he followed all of Stu’s concerts at official places all around Germany and taped them. Kumpf was probably Stu’s most devoted fan and through Kumpf I understood that jazz was a breath of freedom, a nice lesson.
    On our visits to Stu’s newly rented big house in an isolated and therefore inexpensive town near the Dutch border, we had wonderful dinners, relaxing before a big fireplace, with Stu challenging me to play chess, for which he had trained using the program Mephisto 3, a top difficulty. He was very challenging to beat! I had never met such an intelligent musician before.
    One afternoon we went down into their big basement where washing was done and dried on high lines attached to the ceiling. Because of the good humidity and low temperature in this basement, Stu had placed an antique clavichord, an old type of harpsichord, to protect its wooden frame.
    Stu started out playing on this harpsichord ad lib with a few jazz phrases, repeating them with small changes again and again, to get repetitious sound patterns like the modern composer, Phillip Glass. Then he subtly shifted from jazz to Bach patterns with classic sounding phrases from the mid-18th century, then shifted to faster flamenco-type patterns, and finally to Indian rhythmic patterns, as if accompanying a sitar, a plucked stringed Hindustani instrument for classical Indian music.
    It was a mesmerizing, beautiful performance, of which I obtained a tape. I played this tape for many hours each summer, driving our VW camper down from Muenster past Brussels to Paris, to Orleans and Meung-sur-Loire, west into the glaring sun for hours to Tours, then south to Poitiers and to the Bordeaux peninsula to camp on the Atlantic Coast. This was a long trip, lasting one and a half days, while Susan and the kids slept. I stayed awake in the hot sun’s glare with café-au-lait and Perrier and with Stu’s great music every summer until a half decade later when the tape frayed from overuse. I’m still sorry not have made a copy.


The difficulty of organizing concert tours and the inadequate returns for the work determined Stu’s decision to play for movie music in Los Angeles. Stu wanted a profession that would finance a middle-class life for his family and enable him to own his own home. His national and international tours did not make this possible. In the LA movie business top musicians were required to sight-read the score and play for a first (and last) take for movies. Usually, all the money for a movie has been spent for other things, with only a small amount left for paying musicians to play the score. There was no money for a second take. Two takes with second-rate musicians was more expensive than one take with top rate but expensive musicians – that was the calculation. Stu had also continued to pay his union membership fees even while abroad.
    With heavy heart we saw them leave for Los Angeles in the mid-1980s. It was not hard for Stu to get a job at these elite orchestras. All he had to do was to play, for free, at a jazz bar on a few LA Thursday nights, where many top musicians showed up. When Stu played his incredible duet with his synthesiser, all were smitten by his dexterity and the high quality of his music. Soon he had a well-paying job playing in the movie industry.
    But in a relatively short time he lost interest in playing other composers’ music, rather than his own jazz and classical music. Stu believed that his facility with his own synthesiser would be enhanced if he could compose music for and with the best synthesiser in the world, the Kurzweil K250, by Raymond Kurzweil, who had invented the first multi-font reading machine for the blind, consisting of the earliest CCD flat-bed scanner and a text-to-speech synthesizer. Stevie Wonder heard about this new machine and became the first user of the Kurzweil Reading Machine, “the beginning of a long-term relationship between them.”

The Kurzweil K250…was the first electronic musical instrument which produced sound derived from sampled sounds burned onto integrated circuits known as read-only memory (ROM), without requirement for any type of disk drive. Acoustic sounds from brass, percussions, string and woodwind instruments as well as sounds creating waveforms from oscillators were utilized. Primarily designed for professional musicians, it was conceived by and invented by Raymond Kurzweil…with consultation from Stevie Wonder….
    Shortly after the 1984 summer NAMM trade show…the Kurzweil K250 was officially unveiled…and manufactured….
In the spring of 1988, I was invited to tour eleven American universities giving lectures on my research project on German income inequality and industrialization. [My paper, “Income inequality and industrialization in Germany, 1850-1913: The Kuznets hypothesis re-examined,” was published in the book Income Distribution in Historical Perspective, edited by Y. S. Brenner, H. Kaelble, and M. Thomas, Cambridge University Press, 1991.] On the west coast I had an invitation from Berkeley, before which I visited Stu and his family in their house in Thousand Oaks, north of Hollywood. Financed by his father, the Kurzweil K250 had been installed in his new studio and Stu delighted me to show what this Pandora’s box could do: all orchestral instruments had been commercially sampled and could be played singly or in combination using one or a number of different keyboards. The same existed for a sundry collection of noises from traffic, airplanes, oceans, crashes, etc., and Stu made his own sampling from different singers. He took a sample from one of his sons and used this to play a choir of boys, like the Regensburger Spatzen, Pope Benedict XVI’s favorite choir. Fantastic! However, one sample of one boy made the whole choir’s sound unrelentingly similar and uncannily strange. Clearly, the sampling strategy was too simple.
    Another advantage of the machine was that Stu could start ad libbing jazz licks on the keyboard, and note sheets would emanate from a printer. He could also feed these notes into a machine and the synthesizer played the music. It was uncanny.
    Stu was composing Mozart-like chamber music and a new string quartet to get to know the synthesizer. He also followed the scores of popular TV series to analyze their complexity and structure. He had made a good impression to become one of four or five unpaid assistants to one of the oldest of the eight composers for the Denver Clan TV series and offered his own scores for the coming episodes.
    He had starting his newest career as TV and movie composer and not earned a cent. This took a combination of guts and talent, smarts, and initial help from a concerned father, whom I had met in Muenster.
    I was happy to see that Stu was successful and happy as composer for long-running TV series and for many movies, a sample of whose scores can be heard by clicking on the links next to the named movies in his long list on his home page. These movie scores show a huge array of approaches, an indication of Stu’s great versatility, which I had already sampled in his basement in Germany.


Stu now has a studio in Kelowna, British Columbia, and is performing jazz with his daughter and Indian drummers in Kelowna. He also has his own good Pinot Noir vineyard, which, he tells me, produces good wines – an incredible contrast with the wines Susan and I had sampled at a faculty women’s wine-tasting party at the University of British Columbia in 1972, where we found that Okanogan wines were terribly foxy and undrinkable.
    What a happy change!
_______________

Links to previous installments in chronological order of contents:
Copyright © 2016 by Rolf Dumke

8 comments:

  1. Thank you, Rolf, great installment! Though jazz has never really appealed to me, your story is thrilling and inspirational, especially what you write about the technicalities of breathing, vocalese, synthesizing, etc., and the genius of these musicians.
        And I love the story of your own passionate embrace of jazz, and your engagement with it and with many interesting individuals over the years.
        And I admire your memory. My life is not remembered nearly so well as yours – not that it has nearly as much as yours that is memorable.
        I look forward to reading comments about this installment from the blog's other musical writers, including Geoffrey Dean, Christa Saeger, Chuck Smythe, and André Duvall.

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  2. Morris, my vivid impressions of jazz in the late 1950s and early 1960s were interwoven with my personal development as a teen-aged boy, and therefore almost unforgettable, especially Miles Davis' gig in 1959.
    But it also required the tutorship of two good friends and discerning jazz enthusiasts to lead me to the best jazz of those wonderful decades of jazz history.

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    1. Your comment reminds me that I didn't grow up in a metropolitan area like Cleveland, but on a chicken farm outside a small town in Sonoma County, California and in another small town in the Central San Joaquin Valley. My most culturally elevated experience could have been being given an old collection of 78 rpm classical recordings by my high school history teacher, bless Charles Albert King's soul.

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  3. Fantastic Rolf. Thank you. Shirley and I were in St Louis one night during the 90's and asked our taxi driver where we could hear some jazz. He said most everywhere was closed on a Monday night save one place. He took us there.

    It turned into a night we have never forgotten! I heard trumpet, electric guitar and harmonica playing like I'd never heard before. The "official" group, (middle aged men), opened the mike to any visiting musicians who wanted to join them. It turned into an even more electrifying evening with creativity gushing through everyone's pores. Just amazing it was!! We LOVE good jazz! The relatively simple rules aiding the flow of boundless musical imagination and skill.

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  4. You were very lucky, Rolf! Tulare, CA was a musical desert - unless you were into Buck Owens and the other stars of Bakersfield Cowboy Music.
    I was slightly aware of this music; one of the many things my dad did to survive the depression was to play sax in a dance band. I was really more interested in classical, but managed to save up the price of Davis' "Sketches of Spain", which remains a favorite to this day. College in Pasadena was also limiting, but I occasionally visited a tiny club in Hollywood, where I discovered the Modern Jazz Quartet, especially their take on "Porgy and Bess".
    It'll take me quite a while to work through all the links you offer here, but I'll certainly do so. I'm glad to say that the University of Colorado Music School has a lively jazz program.

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    1. I just looked up a few things. (Morris, is there any way to leave this page without losing everything you wrote?)
      The other famous old Bakersfield name was Merle Haggard. It also turns out that the Dead, the Byrds, Credence Clearwater, and several other sixties rock bands borrowed heavily from this scene. See a great article in Wikipedia.
      That Hollywood jazz club was Shelley's Mann Hole, owned by the famous sax player of the name.

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    2. Chuck, I think you are referring to the comment window? I always treat the comment window warily, and I have for a very long time cautioned others to do the same - for example, ALWAYS copying its contents to the pasteboard prior to publishing or previewing, or, I guess, "leaving the page."

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  5. Thank-you for submitting this enjoyable read! What a tremendously rich group of musical and personal experiences you've had!

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