Thursday, January 07, 2010

Things Ain't What They Used to Be

Memorial Service for Terry Pollard
Set for Saturday, January 9, 2010
at Haley Funeral Directors 24525 Northwest Hwy Southfield, Michigan
for additional information contact Gary Pollard, 313-399-6651

Foto by tgw, "Apollo 759," New York City, 2010.
Passing Away

I'm sitting here embedded in a 78 rpm and LP record collection. Sitting around the Califone record player checking out the old sounds with C-Minor Clarence Long Ride; we call him "Daddy" around here. Clarence is an old wrinkled almost wadded up and thrown away jazz man. "I played a brief minute with Chris Powell and the Five Blue Flames down in Philly before I went out on the Coast to try my luck. Out there I played with Buddy Collette, Lawrence Marable...even heard of those cats?" "Yeah, I went to college with James Clay who ended up in LA--he made a record with Lawrence Marable." "I knew Jimmy Clay, dude. Texas cat. Sickly dude though. Cat could blow when he wasn't in pain. You hear a lot of pain in his horn?" "What happened after the Coast?" "I did a lot of studio work out there. I got in the MGM orchestra for a while through Benny Golson. That cat loved Hollywood. You dig the Prez, man, I know that--I see all these Prez Aladdins over here--but I worked with Lee Young in the movie studios a lot. I never met Lester. Seen him blow many times, but I never got to meet him. He wasn't the meetin' type. He didn't trust nobody. Me neither really when you pin me down about it."

Clarence was going through the files of 78s boxed on a table in one corner of my apartment. "Jesus," he says, pulling a record out of the files, "here, man, play this. I knew this dude, from K.C., Benny Moten's brother...played the fucking juiced-up accordion." He hands me a Capitol record, #57-7033, "Bus Moten and His Men." I put it on the Califone turntable. I play the A side, it's called "Gone." It's a mild-mannered little slow blues. Bus is singing. He's got a good voice--sounds like Louis Jordan--and sure 'nuff, here came an accordion, wow, and an accordion with bells and whistles all over it, like the accordion Clifton Chenier used to play. Bus's accordion sounds like an electric organ.
Bus Moten, singing and playing the piano. Bus was Bennie Moten's brother and he conducted and managed the Bennie Moten Band. Bus led his own band after the Bennie Moten Band was turned over to Count Basie and Walter Page and became the Count Basie Orchestra. Bus took Oren "Hot Lips" Page from the Bennie Moten Band with him--and Lips fronted Bus's band for a brief time. [I must turn you on to a great little Website I discovered navigating through the various channels of the vast Google Ocean: Jerry's currently running a great feature on "Kansas City Jazz"--taken from Frank Driggs's book on the subject--with photos and mp3 tracks of the actual music. Fun site for jazz aficionados.]

"Damn, man, where do you cats get all these old records?" Clarence sang out as he brought me over another record as Bus Moten's "Gone" was ending. He handed me Sittin' In With #630, the Julian Dash Septet doing "Devil's Lament," and on the other side, "Dance of the Mother Bird." "Both them tunes were big in the black community back in them days--in the juke joints--juke joints always had hot juke boxes. Dash was out of that Tennessee State College band that Erskine Hawkins took over after they all graduated. I met Julian at the CBS Church studios in 1953, winter, at the Buck Clayton Jam Session recordings. You know those records?" "Damn right I do. In fact, I have those albums on iTunes on that computer over in that corner. Those were the coolest damn sessions--laid back as hell--with a lot of second-banana players like Julian." "I was there laying the cables from the mics to the board room," Clarence chimed in. "I came to that gig with Joe Newman. He was lead chair with the Basie Band then. Remember Joe?" "Yes, I do remember Joe. Like Sweets." "Yeah, man, he was just like Sweets and Snooky [Young]."
This is the first "Buck Clayton Jam Session" LP (Columbia) I bought; I was a teenager who hung around Bea Brown's Record Shop in my hometown every afternoon I got off working at my brother's magazine stand and tobacco shop (an interesting place--the original owner of the joint had once had a bookie shop in the back room complete with a racing wire, odds board, telephone hotlines and an alarm system and everything. When my brother bought it the old telephone and racing wire boxes were still back there along with one very old timey telephone on the floor in a corner--you could feel the spirits of a bunch of gentlemen wearing green eye shades, talking fast on the telephones, yelling bets out, chalking up the race results boards...then my brother tore all of that out and made a book store out of the space).

The first Buck Clayton Jam album was recorded in 1953 then issued in 1954--I was but a pimple-face kid when I first heard it. Bea Brown had let me go through her new LP shipments and I had found it in those--each LP came with a demo LP with it then. I listened to the demo in one of Bea Brown's listening booths. I knew I had to have it after only about 2 minutes into it. And I bought it. Records weren't cheap then. I paid $3.49 for it. That was a lot of money for a kid making a buck an hour in his brother's magazine stand and tobacco shop (working in that tobacco shop is why I never got hooked on cigarettes--not only from selling so many of them and being around cigarette smokers and how they stunk and what a stale odor they left behind after they'd smoked themselves out of your face but also because I saw the tobacco caste system. The pipe smokers were on top; next came cigar smokers (only men smoked pipes and cigars); next came the cigarette smokers--and in the early 1950s nearly every son of a bitchin' man for sure and every other woman on the planet smoked cigarettes. Then came the untouchables of the tobacco caste system, the very lowest of tobacco addicts, the roll-your-own (Bull Durham, Duke's Mixture, Prince Albert, Velvet) bunch and the very lowest of all tobacco users, the snuff dippers (Levi Garrett's, Copenhagen) and tobacky chewers (when I was a kid nearly every other Major League baseball player had a wad of chewing tobacco in his jaw during games) (Red Man, Beechnut) (the spittin' fools). In the tobacco shop, pipe tobaccos were considered the fine wines of smoking--and pipes were considered the ultimate in smoking instruments; cigarette tobaccos (all of 'em laced with saltpeter to make them burn faster) comparable to Gallo Thunderbird wines (keeping the wine analogy going).

So, yes, LPs were expensive at $3.49...but I managed to buy a lot of Lps in those days because I had a little system where I could cheat my much-older brother out of a quarter or fifty cents here and there as I made change behind the cash register every afternoon when I got out of school. Att the end of each of my shifts, I worked all day on Saturdays, my little-brotherly thievery garnered me enough money to buy records or nice shirts, my other passion in those days. Jazz Lps and Don Roper of California shirts--or I'd order custom-made shirts from Milton's Clothing Cupboard in Chapel Hill, North Carolina (from whence I also used to buy my trademark Kangol caps, too, before they became popular like they were in the 70s).

I remember getting home and breathlessly and just as breathlessly taking this new Buck Clayton Jam Session out of its cellophane wrapper, then pulling out of its sleeve the shiny fresh lacquery black 12-inch record. Carefully handling it, I put it on my little Decca record player with goose-pimple anticipation and soon I was diggin' it over and over and over. On my little cheap-ass Decca portable record player (it cost me $25 at Bea Brown's--Bea let me pay it off at $3 a week). But it was state-of-the-art in portables, and it was a real portable, with a lid on it and a handle on it like a suitcase handle. When it was closed up it looked like a woman's vanity case. It had built-in speakers that gave out a thin tinny sound--with no fidelity whatsoever, though OK by me, a dumbass teenage very-curious kid. This record buying on my part happened at the beginning of the hi-fi (high fidelity) era of recording--tweeters and woofers coming into the amplification picture--capturing the boom of the basses in the woofers and the deep ends up to the highest wails of the drums and pianos and the horns in the tweeters--fine tuning down the ultra-soprano squealing of those old wax and shellac recordings of the ancient past and bringing glory to sounds we never knew existed on the earliest monoaural recordings.

I wasn't able to hear a hi-fi system until I got to college. Then while I was in college the first stereo recording came out.

I remember the first stereo I ever heard. I was at a party with my first wife (the ex-airline stewardess) and my friend and her future husband had just finished putting together his own stereo system from a kit you bought from Harmon-Kardon or Pioneer and built yourself from the parts and plans these kits provided. I remember he had the speakers hidden in two corners of his living room about ten feet apart--they were hidden behind some rubber plants (rubber plants were the houseplants of preference in these now terribly long-ago days that seem like yesterday in my mind) and when he put the LP on the turntable, put the needle into the first first, I didn't hear anything. Really--my ears weren't expecting what they were hearing, couldn't translate it. Then out of this aural confusion, I began to hear a crisp guitar sound coming from behind the rubber plant on my right--a guitar so clear I could swear there was a guitar player over there playing instead of it coming out of a speaker. Funny, I thought, but the guitar sounded as though it were playing alone--but then from over on my left my left ear was startled to hear a left-side attack against the guitar on the right of a booming kettle drum under a rather rumbling bass. Then my friend and the future husband of my wife turned the juice up on the damn thing and the mid-range horn sounds hit me in the face and suddenly after toking a few Mexican cigarettes over the line (and I said I'd never smoked cigarettes--roll-your-own, too), I realized what stereophonic sound was.

I mean, folks, you can't imagine the impression stereo and its broad separation of sounds made on me. Sounds spread across several tracks, 4 tracks at first, then gradually breakin' 'em on down to 8 tracks--then 16 tracks--up to today when they have--what?--5,000 tracks?--the computerized boards now and Pro Tools--Jesus, music is all fraudulent today. What you hear even when these automaton musicians are performing live is fraudulent. These big stars don't sound nearly so hot when they are unamplified and not Pro-Tooled in tune and on pitch or cued by cues embedded in the tracks of their computer loops that they hear over earphones--wearing radio transmitters on their asses. Sorry, but I accidentally watched a brief moment of the People's Choice Awards last night (and I had to quickly switch it off because I was overgrowling with anger at its phoniness) but I saw it long enough to know the one-tune-wonder whatever, rap queen?, Queen Latiffa was hosting this mess--as if Queen Latiffa were a singer or a musician! Is a rapper a singer? Rappers are really like comics, they are actors by trade--a rapper memorizes his raps--kids in school learn to rhyme way early in their lives--rhymin' and then playin' the dozens with your rhymes has been around a long time.

I remember rap salons around New York City in full flourish when I came to NYC (Sean the second time, in the early 70s. You went up to these second-story salons that had couches and easy chairs around a round table, with lots of rubber plants in the corners and maybe a Zebra skin rug on the floor. And you sat around these tables with whoever else was up there and you rapped--while you drank fruit juices or coffee--and your rap sessions got the musical effect that happened when two people got to rapping back and forth at each other--either in argument or agreement. Some salons had several rap lounges and you joined whatever rap session was going on. I went up and visited a rap salon that was on East 58th, up on the second floor and run by a really classy black chick who went on to move on up into the retail fashion business--rappers started out as promoters, business-oriented people. P Diddy-Doody-DudeyColmes) was a business major at Howard University before he got into the Rap and Hip-Hop business. Like comics, rappers easily move into acting roles--except for poor P Diddily squat whose acting debut in an Oprah-produced "Raisin in the Sun" was an embarrassing failure, though Oprah tried to butter him up as one of the greatest actors to ever live on her network daytime show. I haven't seen Puffy in any recent dramatic roles anywhere--not even in summer theater. Some of these rappers act like Oprah acts; or Madonna acts; or Markey Mark acts. Phony rasslers make just as good actors. They're serious as rappers but become comics as actors. L.L. Cool J, for instance, is a terrible actor; yet he gets roles over and over, currently a big-time role on the new CSI-LA cop show, big-time enough that I think he's hosting the Grammys this year.

And those Buck Clayton Jam Sessions, there were at least two or three of them issued.
This is the second Buck Clayton Jam Session LP I bought. It came out in 1954--recorded in January '54 after the first Jam Session had been recorded, as Clarence said, in the Winter of 1953. This record brought Woody Herman into Buck's very successful jam format. These LPs were very popular--they brought Buck Clayton, a really cool trumpeter, back to the forefront after he'd faded after making a big name for himself as lead trumpet in the original Count Basie Kansas City Orchestra and then later with his own small groups. Woody Herman at the time was on his fifth or sixth Thundering Herd aggregation--plus he had started a small group called The Woodchoppers for a while--Woody introduced that group, a septet I believe, out in Vegas--it was a really swinging band--with Sal Nestico on tenor and Jake Hanna on drums. Woody was having record contract troubles at the time of this Buck Clayton Jam Session album--not selling well on the major labels, or being dropped from his major label. So like a lot of musicians began to do, he formed his own record label, the Mars label.

Woody's clarinet adds a weird flavor to the jam tunes he's on--"How Hi the Fi" (there's "Hi Fi" entering the language) and "Blue Moon."

God, I know every note of these LPs by heart; I hear them running around in my head as I hack out this post. Buck Clayton, Joe Newman, Lem Davis, Julian Dash, Urbie Green, Henderson Chambers, Walter Page, Jo Jones, Freddie Green, Sir Charles Thompson--and then there's Woody's clarinet soaring over the whole sound--a little off--a little off minor--just enough to work but to sound so weird. These jams represent jazz transitioning, moving from the post-WWII experimenting over into the model 50s, the polyrhythmical and -tonal musings like those of Charles Mingus and the buddings of free-form in John Coltrane's early albums; and Ornette Coleman was on the scene by 1959.

For instance, speaking of transitional, you hear Lem Davis (Charles Lemuel Davis) on these jams. Lem was a fine and mellow alto player (Johnny Hodges sweet) out of one of the finest little bands in the land at that time, the Eddie Heywood Band. By the time Lem made this Buck Clayton session, he'd been listening to Bird--I mean, he blows lines that are so very much like Charles Parker, Jr., blowing on these sides. Lem blows some beautiful choruses--sweet boppish clotheslines full of very clean clothes waving in rhythmic air to the cool breezes and yet staying hot and warmed under that high-noon sun. I really dig Lem Davis--Charles Lemuel Davis--one of the long forgotten.
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Believe it or not but this is the only Google image I could find of Lem Davis.

Now back to Clarence's bringing me Julian Dash records to play (remember C-Minor Clarence "Daddy" Long Ride?). Clarence was back over going through the 78s. "Damn, here's one of Julian's I always liked." He brought over VeeJay #117 (1954), Julian Dash and His Orchestra doing "Zig Zag" and "So Let It Be." I played "Zig Zag." It was a swinger. Julian's had a full Bean sound, yet not as rough edged as Bean; but it definitely is a Hawkins sound. "Zag" is a totally well-conceived jump boogie thing that really moves. Julian's backed by a guitar, drums, bass, piano--"Man, those cats are cookin'. Julian was a low-spoken dude. That's a good horn he's blowin'." "What happened to him?" I asked. "Damned if I know. After that Buck Clayton session I never heard of him again. Probably dead [Saint Julian Bennett Dash died in 1974]. They've all passed, man; all of 'em. It's sad listening to these records because of that. These cats were there at the beginning of r and b for sure--man, that's ziggin' and zaggin'. You know what that Zig Zag refers to don't cha?" "What?" "Them's the papers we rolled our mezzrolls in--our joints. Zig Zags. French rollin' papers. It was easy in them days since square cats rolled their own cigarettes in those days, you dig?--with Prince Albert and Bull Durham, all that rollin' tobacco. You know, you bought pot by the Prince Albert cans in those days, too. A tin of Prince Albert was like an ounce--$3 a can when I first came to New York City." [Julian Dash's Wikipedia entry was very weak until the Growlers edited it.]
Julian Dash--he had the same booking agency as Lester Young.
When tenor sax player Julian Dash joined Vee-Jay in 1954 for his first recording session, he had already achieved fame as a long-time member of the great Erskine Hawkins band. Joining Hawkins in 1938, Dash played on such hits as "After Hours" and "Tuxedo Junction." He was born St. Julian Bennett Dash, on April 9, 1916, in Charleston, South Carolina. Before the Vee-Jay sessions, Dash had recorded under his own name for Mello-Roll (1950), Signature, Sitting In With (1951), Mercury (1951), and Coral. Dash cut for Vee-Jay with his working group: Hank Marr (piano), Warner E. Stephens (electric guitar), Lee Stanfield (bass), and Bill English (drums). Vee-Jay released one single from the four-number session in August, "Zig-Zag" backed with "So Let It Be," but neither side found an audience. According to Dr. Robert Stallworth and Tom Kelly, both 78 and 45 rpm releases of Vee-Jay 117 suffer from reversed labels.

I, too, feel like Clarence when I listen to these 78s of these obscure musicians not that many people remember and most people have never heard of. Like Willie Bunn. I've done a post on Willie Bunn before, but Willie was an exceptional guitar player--I mean this dude was cookin' sizzling notes on his barbecue guitar back when guitars weren't so heavy metal and took a little more skill to play--Willie played an acoustic guitar with a pick up on it. Willie's records are extremely rare--especially in near-mint condition. The Willie Bunn sides in my 78 collection have been played so many times, probably on a juke box in a juke joint, there are so many scratches, Willie's playing is distorted as hell but you can hear it clear enough to hear how crazzzzy good Willie was on the git box. (I never hear a guitar called a git box these days--or a bass called a git-fiddle. Nor basses call bullfiddles either).

Today there must be fifty billion guitar players--most of them working in the fifty billion rock bands that are now blasting forth their wares around the world-- all of them of different calibers, though none of them have managed to figure out how to play guitars like Willie Bunn could. Besides, Willie could solo on a guitar. Young guitarists seem to only be able to play the same old three-key-change rock 'n roll riffs, a mixing together of scale running, that started it seems like as soon as the first wah-wah pedal was invented or the first twang bar was placed on a guitar or the first electronic board on the floor was put at their feet--special effects--a loud clashing of guitar choral smears--loud banshee-like single string screeches or cheesy twang-bar smeared chords--referring back to Jimi Hendrix, though no son of a bitch ever played the guitar like Jimi. The guitar was like an appendage on Jimi--like an extra penis.

I'll tell you a White blues guitarist who I used dig a whole lot and that's Lonnie Mack--his version of Bobby Blue Bland's "Further on Up the Road" is a White boy classic. I've got a video of Lonnie, Roy Buchanan, and Albert Collins playing that tune down at a Texas jam session back in the 1980s and what a kick. This was right before Roy Buchanan, a man who played a guitar unlike any other White or Black man or woman, hung himself in a jail cell down in Maryland--hung himself with his necktie, I think--though don't quote me on that. I remember seein' Roy's obituary in the NYTimes.

Or how about a woman guitar player--how about Mary Osborne?
Here's Mary Osborne cookin' with Crisco. Look at that git box she's playing--talk about wide body. Wide-body guitars came about about the same time as wide-body airplanes.
Finally, Clarence had to leave. Not before I'd played him my favorite Lester Young 78s and a whole series of Metronome All-Star 78s from 1941 up into the early fifties. "Billy Eckstein was one hell of a voice," he said after I played him the Billy Eckstein two-part blues on a Metronome All Star release from the early 50s. "He drank like a fish, though. His eyes sparkled like diamonds when he was drunk. Women loved Mr. Jelly Roll. 'Jelly roll killed my daddy...killed my mama, too....' Whooo did old Billy Eckstein get a lot of good pussy, baby, let me tell you. But he drank himself to death, I'm sure, though I don't know that for sure. I stopped drinking back when my old lady, Miss Loucerne, died of liver cancer. Silent cancer, baby. Your fuckin' liver turns to rock and then the cancer slides up to your brain and boom, one day you're fine and then next afternoon they're lookin' for your next of kin. Mean shit that cancer, so I quit drinkin' and smokin'." "Smokin'?" "Well, sure, I still do the weed...what'y'all call it now--pot! Pot comes from a code word, 'Hey, cat, you wouldn't have a pot of tea made would you?' Every cat knew what a pot of tea was. Dizzy sang it at the end of 'Swing Low Sweet Cadillac' know, hell everybody knows Dizzy was a stone pothead--we called 'em mezzrollers and vipers cause of the way they hissed when they toked on a joint. 'Member at the end of "Cadillac," Dizzy sings, 'Ten-der-leaf Tea,' and he ain't talkin' 'bout no brand of tea, he's talkin' 'bout the hemp leaf, baby, the hemp leaf."

And before I come to the end of this recording, as I was cleaning up around the Califone record player, I happened to remember a little 10" Brunswick Lp--yeah, right, you've never heard of the Brunswick label have you? It was a Decca subsidiary--and I went back in the 10" file and found it, it's Brunswick BL 58055. On the back of the album you find the personnel and there she is, Terry Pollard. On piano. With Terry Gibbs on vibes, Louis Ciccone on drums, and Kenny O'Brien on bass (Kenny was from New Orleans). Young, young Terry Pollard playing the piano. At the end of the liner notes when they list the band, they have it "Terry (feminine) Pollard, piano."

They're having a memorial service for Terry Pollard in Smithfield, Michigan, a burb of Detroit, Terry's hometown, this coming Saturday. I tried to talk thedailygrowlerhousepianist, going jauntily about town now introducing himself as Horatio Parker, into driving us up for the service--I offered to pay the gas--and he said that would be fun, but he couldn't, too busy trying to make a living. It's gettin' tough for musicians around NYC these days. The best gigs are in Europe--our own House Pianist himself just returning from a successful 9-day gig in Switzerland.

We say "goodbye" to Terry Pollard--damn I remember shaking her hand so clearly--as she sat at that table in that LA jazz club smoking that cigarette, wearing that sleeveless dress, so cute, so pretty, and I was so in love with her--though I never saw her again after that.

Ironically, Terry had been living in a nursing home in The Bronx for many years before she died. A nursing home that was only a couple of handfuls of subway stops from me in Manhattan. I regret not being aware of that because I would have surely made the pilgrimage up there to see her if I'd a known...I truly would have.

for The Daily Growler


Bill Crow said...

I also regret not knowing. I'd have gone to see her. We played together on Terry Gibbs's quartet for a summer in the early 1950s, and I enjoyed her music and her sweet nature.

Bill Crow

The Daily Growler said...

Terry and Terry together--that had to be fun...saw them in L.A. back in the 60s...I remember their smokin' rendition of "Seven Come Eleven"--wow!

Bill Crow, one of the greats you are, Bill. I first heard you on that marvelous Storyville LP with Zoot Sims and Bob Brookmeyer--Hank Jones, you, and Papa Jo Jones...beautiful swinging session...

Thanks for many years of great jazz, wealth, but above all much happiness to you...