Wednesday, November 18, 2009

GROW TOGETHER

Scotty, I've had “Pieces of Jade” for two month now. I planned to review the album sooner, but I got sidetracked. Lately, I received many great new albums and. I try to listen to them shortly after receiving them, but sometimes, that is difficult to do, and I fall behind. Growing another set of ears would help. I could listen to more music. Anyway, today I spent two hours with your album, which is a part of Resonance Records Heirloom Series. Scotty, after I got a haircut I went Christmas shopping at Tanger outlet mall in Howell, MI. From my house, the mall is an hour away. I was alone. I didn't have any distractions. "Pieces of Jade" captured what an exceptional jazz bassist you were. You have a huge tone that filled up my ears and my SUV. Jazz critic and historian Joe Goldberg was correct when he stated you handle the double bass like a big guitar.

The trio you assemble was tight knit. Pianist Don Friedman and drummer Pete LaRoca complemented you. You guy performed mostly familiar standards such as "I Hear a Rhapsody", "Green Dolphin St" and "My Foolish Heart". The chemistry you all had was immediately noticeable. The trio had fun playing together.

Neither of you, treated this session as just another day at the office. It would've been great to experience this trio after LaRoca, Friedman and you had performed steadily for a few years, and had worked out the kinks, but that wasn't meant to be. That awful car crash ended your life. You made an indelible mark on the jazz world, performing with greats such as saxophonist Ornette Coleman, bandleader Benny Goodman, trumpeter Chet Baker and pianist Bill Evans.

My favorite tracks on the albums were the 1960 rehearsal session with Evans, and radio personality George Klabin’s 1966 interview with the pianist. Listening to you and Evans rehearse "My Foolish Heart" was a treat. I felt as if I attended the rehearsal, and watched Evans coach you. I wish more musicians would include behind the scene moments on their recordings. It would give listeners a glimpse of what it takes to make a fine jazz album. In the interview, Evans talked candidly about his relationship with you.

Klabin asked Evans about your work ethic. Evans said you were meticulous, enthusiastic and committed. He discussed your shortcoming as well, noting you had so music you wanted to say on your instrument that sometimes to you overplayed, and it was a challenge harnessing you. The pianist said you sought out experienced musicians that you could grow with. Always pushing yourself was the quality he admired most about you. You didn't show up to a gig or a recording session to just to collect a paycheck.

I got the impression Evan's superb albums "Sunday at the Village Vanguard" and "Waltz with Debby" would've been different--maybe even less successful--without your participation. For me, the icing on the cake was pianist Don Friedman's "Memories for Scotty". The composition was an ode to you. It was emotional. I wondered how Friedman got through it without breaking down. He had his piano weeping. Scotty, like trumpeters Booker Little, Clifford Brown, and Fats Navarro you died too soon. Alive you made some wonderful music, and some of that is documented on “Pieces of Jade”.
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