[Dixielandjazz] Bird and strings, Hefti and Nat Pierce

Richard Broadie rbroadie at dc.rr.com
Sat Jan 1 16:29:26 PST 2005

The album was arranged by Neal Hefti who told he that he had no prior 
history of arranging on strings prior to that session.   I "stereoized" this 
recording for Neal at his request and met him at Genio's Restaurant in 
Burbank where I gave him a cassette of the session.  He told me that Bird 
was very excited about working with strings and saw it as a sign of respect 
as well as a chance to make some great music.  The recordings, recorded 
between 1947 to 1949, if memory serves me correctly, were the first charts 
that Neal had ever written for strings.  To me the arranging was great.  But 
Neal lamented, saying that his knowledge of proper voicings, etc. were very 
limited at the time and that he wished he could, somehow, do the whole 
project over with his current perspective.

Some of the jazz players included Stan Freeman, Ray Brown, Buddy Rich, Al 
Haig, Tommy Potter, Roy Haynes, Al Porcino, Chris Griffin, Bernie Previn, 
Bill Harris, Don Lamond, flip Phillips, Manny Albam and Shelly Manne.  Oh 
yes, and Neal Hefti on trumpet.

I've been out of touch with Neal for about 10 years.  The last time we 
talked he was playing trumpet once a week at a jam session in Toluca Lake 
and having a good time while getting his chops back.  He talked about coming 
down to Palm Springs to sit in with me on the gig I had at that time.  I'm 
sorry to report that his sitting in never happened.  Dang!
More on Neal.  I used to go to monthly lunch once a month with a group of 
people known as Big Band Associates where fans and players of big bands 
gathered.  The original site was held in a building in downtown that was 
removed so that the Staples Center (home of the LA Lakers & Clippers) could 
be constructed.  After that, we moved to Alphonso's in Teluca Lake.  At one 
meeting, where Neal as well as Gerald Wilson were my guests, Nat Pierce (a 
very dear friend for many years) told me how intimidated he felt by Neal's 
presence that day.

Nat said that when he was on Woody's band, the guys were anything but 
wealthy.  When they'd go to a recording session in NYC, they'd take the 
humblest forms of public transportation to reach the gig.  Some would get 
out of busses, subways and a rare few showed up in cabs.  Then Neal would 
show up in a limo.
To quote Nat, "The SOB was so loaded with cash that he not only got there by 
limo... his (deleted expletive) driver would sit there through the entire 
recording session, probably making more bucks than any of us players."  Just 
some insight from one great musician about another.  As long as we were 
friends (and I, for a while acted as messenger boy between Nat in LA and 
Charlie Barnet in Palm Springs) I was always in awe of Nat's great arranging 
skills (he did most of Woody's book over many years) and was surprised to 
learn that he was as in awe of Neal as I was of him.  I could now get on to 
Charlie Barnet stories but I think I'm rambling here a bit too much.

Hope you don't mind me sharing some of these stories before I totally forget 
them.  I think they need to be saved.

Oh yes, Mitch Miller was on oboe on the Bird with Strings sessions.  I never 
met him.

Dick B.

----- Original Message ----- 
From: <ALSINGERPRESENTS at aol.com>
To: <csuhor at zebra.com>
Cc: <dixielandjazz at ml.islandnet.com>
Sent: Saturday, January 01, 2005 12:38 PM
Subject: [Dixielandjazz] Fwd: [ Bird and strings

> Charlie Parker in about 1950 did "BIRD AND STRINGS" with Mitch 
> Miller.....the
> album is universally regarded as some of the best jazz ever!!     al 
> singer


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