AS A JOURNALIST, I was lucky enough to spend lots of time with Buddy Collette, the jazz composer, bandleader and woodwind player who was also a native to this shapeshifting place, Los Angeles. I learned so much from Buddy about L.A. and its music scene. He was instrumental in helping to integrate the Local 47 Musicians’ Union. As well, he spent decades performing in clubs and classrooms, educating new generations about jazz and the role of Central Avenue in that story.
Jack’s Basket Room
Buddy was the first person to introduce me to Jack’s Basket Room. He referred to it “Jack’s Basket.” It was an after-hours club on South Central Avenue. Low key, large room with a simple stage where local musicians as well as those who were traveling through town, would stop by for a gig. One of the first stories Buddy told me over lunch at Nibbler’s (“Where every table is a booth”) was about Charlie Parker’s famous post-Camarillo gig at Jack’s. He was in attendance. Sitting down in front. If you were in town and were a musician, you needed to be there to bear witness.
Up until a few years ago, the shell of Jack’s still stood. You could drive by it and imagine what it was like to see a cluster of musicians lingering outside hoping to hear the great Bird let loose.
My new piece about the club and what happened with the building is now up at Alta. Click here to see what the old spot looked like and read Buddy’s words about what it was like to sit there and be transported by the music.
SUNDAYS OFTEN meant a long drive through the heart of the city, when I was growing up.
Fathers’ Day would be no different.
Thank you, Dad for indulging us always.
Though his early work— a kind of personal answer to his fellow alto saxophonist and innovator Charlie Parker— lay right within jazz — and generated a handful of standards among jazz musicians of the last half-century — he later challenged assumptions about jazz from top to bottom, bringing in his own ideas about instrumentation, process and technical expertise.
— Ben Ratliff via The New York Times
He was always free. Now fly high. Farewell, Ornette.
(a very different Santa Monica)
THURSDAY WAS a research and reconnaissance day, sweeping mostly through East and South L.A, with Gary Krist, author of the excellent “Empire of Sin: A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder, and the Battle for Modern New Orleans.” One of the highlights was finally visiting New Orleans pianist Jelly Roll Morton’s grave at Calvary Cemetery in East Los Angeles. We were given a map as well as very precise directions to the plot/memorial. We trudged out under a somber sky and there he was, below a tree. I wished I’d brought along some sort of token offering, perhaps for next time.
“On 2pm on July 10 Jelly Roll Morton died in Los Angeles County Hospital, a victim of ‘cardiac decomposition’ due to ‘hyper-tensive heart disorder,’ according to the death certificate….On the morning of July 16, when the casket containing Morton’s body was carried inside, a church that could seat a thousand looked almost empty. Fewer than a hundred people assembled to mourn a man who had helped bring the sound of jazz to the world . . .The newspapers barely noted the passing of the first great composer in the American music the world embraced as jazz, but Down Beat devoted several pages to the man’s demise. One headline though, said it all: “Jelly Rests His Case.”
— from “Jelly’s Blues: The Life, Music and Redemption of Jelly Roll Morton” by Howard Reich and William Gaines
And here’s a little bit of that “Spanish Tinge” that JRM loved so much. Thanks for the suggestion GK:
Happy Birthday, Lady Day
And here … live from The Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles
Guitarist Tommy Tedesco
LIKE MANY, I had been long waiting for a look at filmmaker Denny Tedesco’s documentary about the L.A.’s famed group of session musicians, The Wrecking Crew.
Earlier this week, I got a chance to speak with Tedesco, son of session guitarist Tommy Tedesco, about his 19 years behind-the-scene efforts to finish the film and secure the music clearances. I wish I had had unlimited space because Tedesco can spin and loft an anecdote like his father. And there were many.
Like any company town, L.A. had it’s own factories. Evidence of work was everywhere. But instead of smoke stacks churning out soot, Los Angeles’s airwaves were full of the fruit of their labor — music.
“They were in a factory town and they were pumping out music and it was fast,” Tedesco says, “But some factories make Rolls Royces while others make Pintos.”
While the decades-long gig kept him close to home, Denny’s father lived a life on the road — L.A. surface streets, freeways and canyon passes. Paging through his father’s old work books were enlightening. Though Denny says he felt his father was around much of the time, it was, he now realizes, an impression of presence, looking back at all the dates, pages and pages of 10, 13, 15 hour days. “My Dad kept his guitars in the car. Always. We had four phone lines at home. And he had an answering service. This was 1968! There was no way someone was going to get a busy signal. The first thing he’d ask when he hit the door: ‘Any calls?'”
It was all about staying a float.
My piece goes up tomorrow — I will post it then — but until then here’s the film’s trailer:
I AM always grateful to the places music takes me.
Here is a beautiful moment I stumbled upon a few days ago while back in New Orleans. Louis Armstrong paying homage to the great W.C. Handy.
Happy Thanksgiving, all!