[Dixielandjazz] Fine musicians and doubling - was No chordal instrument

Steve Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Tue Sep 19 13:33:18 PDT 2006

on 9/19/06 3:00 PM, dixielandjazz-request at ml.islandnet.com at
dixielandjazz-request at ml.islandnet.com wrote:

"Larry Walton Entertainment - St. Louis" wrote (polite snip)

> Fine musicians can do about anything but
> unfortunately the vast majority of musicians don't fit this mold and I still
> maintain that instruments with similar voices and ranges have to be very
> careful to not step on others toes.  I'm not talking about a bass sax player
> doing melody while a tuba does one and five.  In Dixie with relatively
> simple chordal structure and more or less proscribed bass parts is just
> looking for a train wreck and doubling.

Ha, ha. Had to chuckle about "fine musicians can do about anything". Here is
a story from another chat list via Norman Vickers in Pensacola FL.

Steve Barbone

----start snip from Norman

This sent by C. J. Landry, retired member of U. S. Navy Commodores, the
Navy¹s premier jazz band.  CJ has done nice things for the Jazz Society of
Pensacola.  He lives across the line in neighboring Lillian, AL.
Here's an infamous Chet Baker story told by Ed Byrne:

When performing for a big star in front of a packed house of one of
the most famous concert halls in the world, anything can--and often
does--happen.  I was for several years Chet Baker's soloist sideman
and musical director, his arranger/composer.

Chet was signed with Creed Taylor's CTI Records, the most
successful and visible jazz record company at that time (1970s).
So he gets a call from Creed to do a major comeback concert and
live double CD recording at New York City's Carnegie Hall with
fellow headliners Gerry Mulligan and Stan Getz along with such
luminaries as Roland Hanna, Ron Carter, John Scofield, Harvey Mason,
Dave Samuels, and Bob James.

When they got to the rehearsal at CTI Studios, they all fell out
into bickering and other ego-induced unpleasantness.  As a result
of each star refusing to play together without also being able to
do a set each with his own band, I was Chet's compromise addition
to the play-list.

Subsequent to that, when Chet and I rehearsed our best material
with Bob James, Ron Carter, and Harvey Mason, everything went
beautifully.  On the evening of event, however, seeing the hall
filled, with people even crowding the aisles, Creed for some reason
went up to Chet and started suggesting tunes for him to play--tunes
which we hadn't rehearsed, and indeed didn't know.  This was one of
Chet's weaknesses:  as great a musician as he was, he would often
exhibit poor judgment as a bandleader.

So he scraps our whole set and starts calling--on stage--different
and unfamiliar material.  On of these tunes is "The Thrill Is
Gone," and he calls it off at the slowest ballad tempo I've  ever
heard--before or since.  Anyway, he sings the melody while I back
him up on trombone, and everything is fine--until my solo, which
follows.  Pianist James, apparently uncomfortable with the tempo,
quadruples the harmonic rhythm (plays through the chords four times
as fast) during my improvisation, in which I was obviously
paraphrasing the melody in single time.

Chet, frustrated, yells to James (about me):  "He's trying to play
a ballad!"  To this James, a successful producer in his own right
with a big ego, merely gives an indifferent shrug.  This infuriates
Chet, who turns beet red, clenches his fist and heads directly
towards James to punch him out--on stage, in Carnegie Hall, in front
of a packed house, while recording a live double album!

I am in center front stage.  Chet is on my left; James on my right,
so when I saw this going down, while recording a solo and still on
the mike, I had to shake my head at Chet, while leaning forward to
block his path to the offending pianist.  Anyway, we got through to
set--but not the concert--without further incident.

This goes to show you that no matter how well prepared you are,
shit can--and does--happen.  Remaining beyond the minutia of the
music (chords, scales, forms, etc.) is the only place to be, so
that you can be free to react to the players with whom you are
conversing, and the audience to whom you are telling your story.
Only if you are focused and strong enough can you overcome such
obstacles and distractions as the incident I have described.

---end snip

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