Monday, December 03, 2007

A Departed Bari Player

Cecil Payne
He played the baritone saxophone, a big clumsy sax with a sound like a walrus with a stomach ailment unless played just right. There have been a very few successful baritone saxophone players since Mr. Adolphe Sax invented the original sackbut-like saxophone in the 18th century. I can't think of any "Classical" music for the bari (Oh, I know, Bartok and Strauss used them--and Ives used one in his 4th Symphony)--like there is no Bach's Cantata for Baritone Sax and Harpsichord. The only form of music where the bari was really given its true workout was in jazz. Jazz has always needed big booming bass sounds to give it a base. Since jazz comes out of march music and old marching bands needed bass sounds to give depth to the orchestrated brass and woodwind hup-two-three-four, foot-coordinated, drum-induced rhythm that made the band MARCH though marching bands hadn't yet learned to swing. Yeah, the jazz dudes added that, they called it "syncopation"--I used to hear that word dropped all the time in discussions of early "modern" jazz music--"Hey, man, that cat was a syncopatin' fool out there tonight"--that and the word "modulation"--those used to be working words when it came to jazz but I don't hear them used any more. Modulation became "modal" and was first used blatantly by white jazz writers to describe the pseudo-Classical-jazz inventions of Bill Evans the white piano player that Miles Davis brought into the limelight with the first jazz stereo album, Kind of Blue. Shadings, man, shadings. So yeah the jazz dudes just added some measures of syncopation to those set-in-concrete-footstep marches--and hup-two-three-four could become ah-one-and-ah-two-and-ah-three-and-ah-four; or they could double the beat and really start swinging marches eight-to-the bar--you know, drag in some passing notes and other embellishments to make the marches start marching from side to side inside of bobbin' straight up and down like marchers march when they're marching under strict martial orders.

Marching bands used big heavy horns for their bass sounds: tubas, Sousaphones, euphoniums, and then somebody said, "Hell, let's throw a bari into the mix"--so in bands like Duke Ellington's Washingtonians there suddenly appeared a baritone sax player, in Duke's case it was Harry Carney and though Harry never really got right up on the front line and wailed, he kept that Duke sax section deep in the bottom as well as giving base to the top of the groove, because these bands weren't marchin' anymore, they had become dance bands--and the shuffle was coming down the pike tripping off the feet of the new-kind of dancer that was taking to the floor, dancers not interested in the boring march-like beats of the reel or the quadrille or Handel in the Strand, but dancers with feets that now wanted to jive-off of the rag beats and the slow-drag blues beats that were boiling up out of the belly of New Orleans and on up on the backs of the riverboats on up into that Mississippi Delta where the marching bands were jug bands and the blues were still being hollered pliantly out in the cotton fields.

From Harry Carney came others: Ernie Caceres (the San Antonio Tex-Mex bari player), Adrian Rollini (Adrian also played the even eviler bass sax), and then the young guys got the urge and along came the great, unsung Serge Chaloff (one of Woody Herman's Four Brothers--see CD Boston Blow-up for Serge at his best--with the great Boston writer and arranger Herb Pomeroy), the heavily sung Gerry Mulligan, the never heard of Charlie Fowlkes (w/the 50s Count Basie Band) [he's prominent on the Buck Clayton Columbia records jam session LPs of 1953-54], but along in that time, too, came Brooklyn's own Cecil Payne. [Mr Ed asks: "Does anyone remember Frieda Payne?]

I first heard Cecil in the Dizzy Gillespie Big Band back in that organization's heyday in the late forties, just before Miles went to California and met Gerry Mulligan who had this idea for an extended octet, a tentet, and then what developed out of that was "the birth of the cool"--you could say a bari player (Gerry Mulligan) had a big part in the invention of "cool jazz," which we old funky boppers called "West Coast Jazz," but hey, Miles made his name off of that old Capital records project back in 1950. [Gerry Mulligan was at his best on his first two hot quartet albums with Chet Baker on Pacific Jazz or World Pacific Jazz.]

Here's from the Wikipedia explanation of the bari sax:
The exceptional weight of the instrument (13-14 pounds or 6.5 kg), as compared to the other three commonly used sizes of saxophone, makes it difficult to use in marching bands. Baritone saxophone players in marching groups often use a special harness that distributes the weight of the instrument onto the player's back instead of around his neck, as is the conventional way of supporting the instrument. The baritone saxophone can still be used in a marching band with the standard neckstrap. Its reed size is notably large, twice that of an alto saxophone reed and noticeably larger than that used by the tenor saxophone.
And here's a cool foto of Cecil Payne.

And Cecil Payne died the other day.
Cecil Payne: Dec. 14, 1922 - Nov. 27, 2007

Born in Brooklyn on December 14, 1922, Cecil Payne proved one of the bebop eras strongest baritone saxophonists; nonetheless, he has always worked in undeserved obscurity. After leaving the military service in 1946, Payne cast aside the guitar, alto, and clarinet to pick up the bari for a brief stint with Roy Eldridge's Big Band. Payne soon joined the most progressive big band of the era, Dizzy Gillespie's, where he made his reputation as a fluid player on a sometimes cumbersome instrument and played on the orchestras groundbreaking recordings, including Cubano-Be-Bop. Payne later freelanced in NYC with Tadd Dameron and Coleman Hawkins ('49-'52), later working with Illinois Jacquet ('52-'54). Payne had remained highly active during the decades since; even though his eyesight had begun to fail him, his songful sax, flowing lines and warm tone, remained fully intact well into his 80's. He was a childhood friend of Randy Weston's and they remained very close to this day. His friend Art Bailey was a major influence in his musical comeback and his life in the Greater Philadelphia area.

Cecil Payne was one of the truly great human beings on this Earth. His positive attitude and his endlessly optimistic nature, no matter how bad things were, always got you a “It is what it is” and an “Everything is Everything” and never a complaint or a negative word was uttered from his mouth. The Earth is a little emptier from his passing.

About 6 years ago, Cecil had gone into seclusion because his eye sight was failing and he didn't want to bother anyone. Ron Carter ran into Wendy Oxenhorn from the Jazz Foundation of America and said, “I'm worried about Cecil. No one has seen him in a year.” The Jazz Foundation called him up, spoke to him, he said he was “fine” and didn't need any help. He admitted that he had been going blind, and being the independent strong soul that he was, could only walk as far as the local corner deli and was living on 2 cans of Slimfast and some M & M's for over a year and a half. After hearing that, Wendy tried to tell him that they could at least get “Meals On Wheels” delivered to his home and he'd get a wonderful meal each day- but he wouldn't hear of it. The next day, Wendy called him and said, “Cecil, I was up all night worried about you- please would you let us try the Meals on Wheels just once.” Cecil said, “Well, I don't want you to worry about me and “Meals On Wheels” sounds cool...” as he said slowly in his Cecil way, “Meals...on Wheels...”

Because of these nutritious meals his health improved, he came out of seclusion and started to play again in New York City at Smoke with Eric Alexander, Harold Mabern, Joe and John Farnsworth, John Webber and others he loved dearly. Minoru Odamaki was very helpful as well setting up gigs in New York and even driving him two hours away to the gigs. Now in his 80's, Cecil had the chance to play the Annual “Great Night In Harlem” Benefit Concert for the Jazz Foundation at the Apollo, where he was reunited with many old friends, seeing one another after all those years, like Quincy Jones, Ron Carter, Frank Foster, Freddie Hubbard, Candido, Ray Baretto, Clark Terry, Frank Wess and so many others. You would have thought he was 25 again if you had seen his face light up when being reunited with his peers. After this, Cecil found time to perform in the local nursing homes in the Somerdale area, entertaining elderly patients for free.

The Jazz Foundation became very close to Cecil, like family, and found other ways to make his life easier, along with another blessing that came into his life: his landlord Bucky Buchman, who knew and loved Cecil for over 20 years. Bucky also stepped in and along with his assistant Tony Bassett and Ian Greenan, who lived close by, they watched over him like he was part of the family and he was never really alone again. This past year Cecil spent in a nursing home with this extended family looking in on him several times a week. Never complaining about the pain of his Cancer, never a negative word, just the same optimistic Cecil who would say, “The Sun is Up and so am I, it's a good day.”

Last year Cecil said to me, “I want to go home.” He said he was tired and ready. He said, “It's time to go.”

This morning, he got to do just that. He passed at 6:30 AM, he did not die alone. Bucky called to say “he's gone.” The sun came up this morning and Cecil rose with it.

“Love and Bebop” Cecil Payne...

~ Wendy Oxenhorn (where do people like Wendy come from?)

So goodbye, Cecil--yeah, I've heard him called "Cess-ul," but I like Ceese-el better. Ivy divey.

for The Daily Growler

Note: There is a great Cecil Payne album out there somewhere. It's from the late 50s and I think it's on Emarcy, but I can't find it in any of the Cecil Payne discographies I could find by Googling.

I left out mentioning bari player Pepper Adams--I never dug him that much.

Here's a Nice Little Bio of Tex-Mex Bari-man Ernie Caceres by Jim Cullum's Son: Jim Cullum Runs a Successful Jazz Club in San Antonio, Texas:

Ernie Caceres

caceres.jpg - 55.5 KThe inscription: "To my buddy Jim Cullum Sr. with sincere admiration--Ernie Caceres"

Ernie Caceres was born in Rockport, Texas in November, 1911. He was the brother of Emilio (violinist) and Pinero (trumpeter and pianist). Starting in 1928, he worked in local Texas bands, and then with Emilio in Detroit and New York. He joined Bobby Hackett in the summer of 1938, then played tenor sax in Jack Teagarden's band in 1939. In 1940, he joined Glenn Miller and stayed with him until 1942. He appeared with the Miller band in the movie Sun Valley Serenade.

After stints with Johnny Long, Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, and Woody Herman, Ernie served in the US Army in 1945, after which he played at Nick's in New York and with Billy Butterfield. He took part in many Eddie Condon recordings and broadcasts in the '40's and '50's. He led his own quartet at the Hickory Log in New York in 1949 and worked regularly on TV with the Gary Moore Orchestra. In 1956, Ernie worked with Bobby Hackett's band at the Henry Hudson Hotel in New York. During the '60's, he worked regularly with Billy Butterfield and made many appearances at jazz festivals.

In about 1964, he returned to San Antonio, playing locally and subbing for my father occasionally on clarinet. On a couple of our tours, our trombone player couldn't make it, so Ernie filled in on baritone sax. He became great friends with my father--they had a mutual admiration society. Then, when Ernie became ill with throat cancer, Dad was at his side during his ordeal. Ernie willed his prized baritone sax to Dad.

During the '68 HemisFare, Emilio and Ernie re-formed their group of earlier years and played weeknights at the Landing for several months. He also made many other Landing appearances, mostly on clarinet, but sometimes on baritone.

Ernie was quite a character. He was a great cook of Mexican food, especially sauces of all kind including mole. He and Billy Butterfield used to hang out a lot together in New York and had a lot of fun with their vintage MG's.

A Young Harry Carney and a Young Serge Chaloff Wailin' on Their Baris
...and a Young Gerry Mulligan

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