[Dixielandjazz] Portrait of a Jazz Man

Stephen Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Wed Dec 24 11:42:19 PST 2003

Not 100% OKOM, but there are references to well known OKOM players in
the following interview,:  Originally published in "Jazz Gazette",
earlier this year. Note the Music City approach to getting kids to hear

Steve Barbone


An Interview with Double Bassist Ace Tesone

Editor's Note: Ace Tesone was born in 1930. He is the regular bass
player with the Barbone Street Jazz Band. Prior to that, he played and
recorded with many legends in the world of jazz from 1946 to the present
time, including Lester Young, Ben Webster, Max Roach, Buddy Rich,
Barrett Deems, Muggsy Spanier, Mel Torme, Coleman Hawkins, Roy Eldridge,
Kai Winding, J. J. Johnson, Billie Holiday, Charlie Ventura and the
great Clifford Brown. The following interview took place after the
Barbone Street Jazz Band finished
their performance along with The Preservation Hall Jazz Band at the 15th
Annual Clifford Brown Jazz Festival. Clarinetist, band leader Steve
Barbone interviewed Ace:

Steve: Is it a thrill for you to pay homage to Clifford Brown here where
he was born in Wilmington, Delaware, USA?

Ace: Yes, I get choked up thinking about him every time we play this

S. How did you meet Brownie?

A. Through Ellis Tolland who own the Music City store in Philadelphia.
Ellis was a drummer. He knew every major jazz player in the world at the
time, and he gigged with most of them.

S. Music City?

A Yeah, it was a musical instrument and sheet music store in
Philadelphia, 3 stories high. The first two floors were used, but the
third floor was empty and it was a large room. Ellis got the idea that
the 3rd floor could be used to hold jazz concerts for kids. He always
said that the kids, under 21, had no place to hear jazz because they
were too young to get into the clubs. He asked me if I would work in the
house rhythm section at a reduced fee, if he made a kids club out of it.
I agreed, so he was on drums, I was on bass, and we used
several different piano players, like Red Garland, etc.

S. Did it succeed?

A. Yes, wildly. He charged the kids 50 cents and they could stay all
night and hear the house rhythm section, plus the guest stars who would
performed there before their regular club dates in Philadelphia. And
since he knew them all, every major star who played in
Philadelphia would jam for an hour or two prior to their club dates
every Friday and Saturday might. Except for Miles Davis, performers at
Music City included Bird, Monk, Pres, Lady Day, Kai and J. J., the Count
Basie Band, Woody Herman etc., etc.

S. And Clifford Brown?

A. Yeah, Brownie played there 3 times. The last time was the night
before he died in that automobile accident. We had a great session, and
it was recorded by one of the employees of Music City. Without
authorization from Ellis, I might add. Then 16 years later, I got a
call from Columbia Records about it and verified that it was authentic.
They paid us for the gig, but the guy who bootlegged the recording made
a lot more. It is out now on CD and is titled The Beginning and The End.
Brownie left about 11 PM to drive to Chicago for a gig. Pianist Richie
Powell and Richie's wife were with him. Early the next morning, they
were in Western PA and Mrs. Powell was driving. It was raining, the road
was slick, she was a novice driver and the car skidded off the road and
they were all killed.

S. When did you hear about it?

A. Later that day, I was crushed because Brownie was a musical genius.
At 25 he was playing like a guy with 50 years experience. Everything he
played was beautiful. More than that, he was a sweet and gentle man. Did
not drink, did not smoke, did not use drugs, did not chase women. He was
happily married and adored his wife, and his music in that order. It was
such a pleasure to know him and gig with him. And then later on, I found
out from Ellis that he never charged a cent for those sessions at Music
City. He believed in what Ellis was doing for the kids and he loved to
talk with them. They would say, Clifford, I want to be like you, a great
jazz player. He would laugh and say, if you really, want to be like me,
get your education first, and then be whatever you want. You see,
Brownie was college educated, mathematics major and also a genius at
math. I still miss him, he was a beautiful man.

S. What about Lester Young?

A. Well Pres was the coolest man I ever saw. He came to town for a 2
week gig in 1948, but without his regular bassist and pianist. So I got
a call from the booking agent. Wow, an 18 year old going to audition for
Pres. We set up to play and Pres called a medium tempo blues. After we
did it, he looked over and said "That's all I need to hear, these guys
will be fine." The pianist was Sam Dockery.

S. Billie Holiday?

A. She would come to sing at the Rendezvous Room in the Hotel Senator.
She brought her own pianist, but always hired me to play bass for her. I
think Pres recommended me. Lots of folks say she was a tough lady, but
she always treated me fine. We would go to her dressing room between
sets and have a drink or two with her.

S. Was she using heroin then?

A. Not then as far as I know, but she did smoke a little pot. She was a
pleasure to work with, sang hauntingly and was always very mellow with
us. A year or so later, the cops busted her for heroin in Philadelphia
and she served a year in jail.

S. Were the Philadelphia Cops tough on jazz musicians?

A Yeah, they busted them routinely for drug possession and generally
harassed them when they came into town. One time I was supposed to do a
gig with Stan Getz and Roy Eldridge. Roy showed up, but Getz never did.
The Police arrested him for possession at
the airport.

S. Barrett Deems?

A. He was fun. The Muggsy Spanier Band was in town and their bassist got
sick one night so I rushed over and filled in for the evening. I must
have impressed him because he was going to ask Muggsy to fire the other
guy and hire me, but then he said. You know, "_________ is a big guy.
He's liable to beat the hell out of me if he finds out". So nothing ever
came of it. You always knew where "one" was with Deems.

S. Sidney Bechet?

A. I never played with him, but played opposite him at the Rendezvous
Room in the hotel Senator several times. He was very aloof and did not
socialize with us (the house trio) at all. And we kept away from him
because he had a reputation for being hard to get along
with. I was a kid then and now, I wish I had made an effort to get to
know him.

T. You are also a custom tailor aren't you?

A. Yes, that's how I was able to make a living. Jazz never paid all the
bills so I did commercial work with the Lester Lanin and Meyer Davis
bands and also made clothes for clients. I even made band uniforms for
the Buddy Rich Band. Somehow I managed to balance it all out and have a
good life in and out of music. I guess I was just in the right place at
the right time to play with all these wonderful jazz musicians. And
luckily, it is still happening with Barbone Street.

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