Jazz CDs: Denny Zeitlin

April 28, 2009

“Denny Zeitlin: The Columbia Studio Trio Sessions” (Mosaic Select)

“Denny Zeitlin Trio In Concert” (Sunnyside)

By Don Heckman

The rub on writing about Denny Zeitlin has always been his unlikely dual career track – as a working jazz musician and a teaching and practicing psychiatrist. The immediate temptation, frequently succumbed to, is to search for the subtle (and not so subtle) linkages between psychotherapy and improvisation. But that gets old fast. And, taking a contrary view, it may well be that Zeitlin’s enormous potential as a jazz artist has, in fact, been dimmed somewhat by the difficulty of getting away from patients and classrooms long enough to maintain a regular schedule of live performances, recordings, and all the other minutiae that are vital to international jazz visibility.

What’s most remarkable about Zeitlin, however, is how successful he has been at reaching into the deepest reaches of his creativity, despite the academic and clinical demands on his attention. And these two recent releases – which serendipitously reveal the seemingly boundary-less aspects of his art – underscore the remarkable aspects of what could have been, and what has been.

The Mosaic releases includes three studio albums Zeitlin recorded for Columbia in the ’60s: “Cathexis” (March, 1964), “Carnival” (October, 1964) and “Zeitgeist” (1966 and 1967), as well as an hour of previously unissued material. “Denny Zeitlin Trio In Concert” takes a forty year leap, chronicling live performances with bassist Buster Williams and drummer Matt Wilson, recorded at the Jazz Bakery and the Outpost Performance Space in Albuquerque between 2001 and 2006.


Then: Denny Zeitlin with Cecil McBee and Freddie Waits at the "Cathexis" session

The Columbia sessions, recorded at a time when the jazz world was flaming with new ideas, reveal a remarkably assured improvisational mind at work. Still in his ’20s, working on a medical degree at the same time, Zeitlin nonetheless had an astonishingly mature grasp of his creative goals. Well aware of the diverse currents coursing through the music – via the work of Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, George Russell, Cecil Taylor, Charles Mingus, Don Ellis, Miles Davis, among many others – Zeitlin steered his own steady creative course. Taking what he could use from his surroundings, filtering ideas through his own creative prism, he produced a set of performances that have been sitting on the shelves, unavailable on CD for far too long.

There is, first of all, his prodigious technical ability. But, unlike many of the current fast-fingered young players, Zeitlin’s virtuosity was completely at the service of an expansive musical imagination. Stunningly fleet bebop figures are juxtaposed against thick chordal clusters; tone-rich lyrical lines alternate with roving bass lines and two-handed, harmonic tsunamis; jaunty, blues and funk-driven melodies are contrasted by occasional forays across the piano strings. All of it pulling the listener into musical territories which, despite their utter sense of newness, continue to resonate with echoes of jazz familiarity.

Originals such as “Carnival,” “Little Children, Don’t Go Near That House,” “The Bells of Solitude,” “Dormammu” and the multi-part “Blue Phoenix” and “Mirage” reach well beyond the characteristic theme-and-improvisations jazz pattern, into fascinating areas of composition, improvisation and expressionistic idea-making.

Zeitlin’s take on standards is equally, if differently, fascinating. Blessed with vivid harmonic intuition, he transforms such familiar items as “I Got Rhythm,” “We’ll Be Together Again,” “Night and Day” and “Here’s That Rainy Day” into startling inspirations, as magically transformative of the originals as a Faberge egg is of its original source of reference.. On “The Boy Next Door,” he playfully devotes most of his interpretation to the verse, before climaxing with the song’s chorus. And the often-performed “All The Things You Are” becomes a tone poem, infused with rich, multi-hued cross-currents of harmony and melody.


Now: Denny Zeitlin in his home studio. Photo by Josephine Zeitlin

The new, in-concert CD, like the Mosaic package, has been released in celebration of Zeitlin’s 70th birthday. And what it reveals is the inexorable continuity of his music. Here, too, there is a pair of extended works – “Mr. P.C.” (based on the John Coltrane line), “The Night Has 1000 Eyes/10,000 Eyes” (positioning the old standard against a Zeitlin original), as well as a similarly episodic juxtaposition of Zeitlin’s “The We Of Us” with Cole Porter’s “All of You.” And, once again, Zeitlin’s improvisations find the sensitivity in virtuosity, the playfulness in emotional intensity, the swing in spontaneity – the product of a career arc spanning more than four decades of brilliant, still too little recognized, musical creativity..

It’s also worth keeping in mind that Zeitlin had a period in the ’70s, during which he embarked on a range of musical experimentation combining various electronic and acoustic media with rock, classical, pop, jazz and avant-garde techniques, before returning to his familiar acoustic, piano trio environment in the ’80s. Much of that music has been too rarely heard, as well. And one wonders what it will take to produce a full career overview of the work of this adventurous, extraordinarily gifted artist

Live Jazz: Eric Alexander and the David Hazeltine Trio at the Jazz Bakery

April 27, 2009

By Michael Katz


Eric Alexander

If you were to see Eric Alexander on the street you would probably not envision a fiery lead saxophonist – more like a scrappy second baseman from the local community college. The youthful look is deceiving. Fortyish now, Alexander has matured into a hard swinging leader on the tenor. While he doesn’t have the immediately identifiable tone of a Stanley Turrentine or Ernie Watts, his playing has an urgency that grabs your attention and holds it. Backed by the David Hazeltine Trio, with Michael Zissman on bass and L.A. stalwart Roy McCurdy on drums, Alexander performed to an appreciative Saturday night crowd at the Jazz Bakery.

The group opened with “Blues Like,” a Hazeltine composition with an up tempo blues line. Alexander set the tone for the night, alternately delivering high octane improvisation, then laying back while pianist Hazeltine and bassist Zissman backed each other on their solos. The set continued with the romantic Ivan Lins/Victor Martins standard, “The Island” (“Comecar de Novo”). Alexander will never be confused with the cool Stan Getz/Lester Young school. His slower tunes are smoldering; they give you the feeling of a thunderstorm crackling in the distance, a Scotch in hand.

Alexander moved on with an unnamed, Sonny Rollins-like hard charger, showing off his chops with a lengthy solo sans the trio. He followed with Jimmy Webb’s “Didn’t We,” a duet with David Hazeltine. The duet was a refreshing change of pace; Hazeltine is an effective match for Alexander, equaling his intensity on the piano, while lowering the temperature for intimacy. Again, Alexander exhibits a muscular style, even on the softer tunes, but it’s an arresting tone that makes you pay attention to every note.

It’s always a pleasure to hear Roy McCurdy, veteran of stints with Cannonball Adderly and Nancy Wilson among his many credits. Besides the steady timekeeping, you know there’s always an explosive solo ready to break out, in this case on Alexander’s last number, another burner entitled “Road To Marostica.”

All in all an engaging, well constructed set that showed off one of the top tenor players on the scene today.

Picks of the Week: April 27 – May 3

April 27, 2009

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

– April 28. (Tues.) The Trio: Terry Trotter, Peter Erskine, Chuck Berghofer. The label might seem a little prepossessive in some hands, but not with these guys, whose playing defines the notion of interactive musical intimacy. Charlie O’s. (818) 994-3058 http://www.charlieos.com.

– April 29. (Wed.) Mitch Forman Trio, with Darek Oles and Gary Novak. Forman and his associates offer a another approach to the piano trio, reaching into areas of free-flying expressionism. Spazio. (818) 728-8400. www.spazio.la/jazz.php

– April 29. (Wed.) Jon Mayer Trio. Mayer’s worked with just about everyone who values sterling piano backing. On his own, he’s even better, finding new riches in the treasure trove of post bebop jazz. Steamers. (714) 871-8800 http://www.steamersjazzcafe.com.

– April 29 – May 2. (Wed. – Sat.) Dave Valentin – Bill O’Connell A pair of always swinging, Latin jazzers present selections from their new CD, “Triple Play.” Jazz Bakery (310) 271-9039. www.jazzbakery.com.


Sonny Rollins

– April 30 (Thurs.) Sonny Rollins. The master at work. One of the remaining iconic figures of jazz, of course, but beyond that an improviser with an unparalleled capacity to stretch the limits of imaginative jazz invention. Samueli Theatre Orange County Performing Arts Center. http://www.ocpac.org.

– April 30. (Thurs.) Miles Mosley. Bassist Mosely continues his popular residency at the Edison, turning on the crowds with what he describes as “Cadillac Funk.” The Edison. (213) 613-0000. www.edisondowntown.com. (Also May 14 and May 28).

– April 30. (Thurs.) Charles Owens Quartet. Woodwind specialist Owens still hasn’t found a jazz style that he can’t master. Which makes for entertaining performances, no matter what he’s playing The Lighthouse Café. (310) 376-9833. www.thelighthousecafe.net


Chuck Loeb

– May 1 – 3. (Fri. – Sun.) The Chuck Loeb Trio w. Dave Weckl and Brian Bromberg. Contemporary crossover jazz from three of its masters. Catalina Bar & Grill. (323) 466-2210. www.catalinajazzclub.com.

– May 3. (Sun.) Celtic Spring. The Wood family band of Irish musicians range freely across the Celtic universe, offering selections from Ireland and Scotland to Cape Breton and Nova Scotia. Cerritos Center. (562) 467-8818 www.cerritoscenter.com

– May 3. (Sun.) Playboy Jazz Festival Free Community Concert. Johnny Polanco Y Su Conjunto Amistad, Maurice Spears and Bonesoir. The Playboy Festival kicks off its always entertaining series of free concerts with a sunny afternoon of piquant Latin jazz and briskly swinging, straight ahead trombone sounds. Expect to groove. The Beverly Hills Civic Center. 3 to 5 p.m. Free. (310) 450-1173. www.playboyjazz.com.

San Francisco


John Handy

May 3. (Sun.) Mingus Dynasty with special guest John Handy — a musical match-up not to be missed. SFJAZZ Festival. Palace of Fine Arts Theatre. San Francisco.

New York City

– April 27 (Mon.) Ari Hoenig Trio w. Jean-Michel Pilc and Francois Moutin. The combination of drummer Hoenig, pianist Pilc and bassist Moutin always ignites cutting edge jazz pyrotechnics. Small’s (212) 252-5091. http://www.smallsjazzclub.com

– April 28 – May 3. (Tues. – Sun.) Samba Jazz and the Music of Antonio Carlos Jobim. Duduka Da Fonseca, Helio Alves, Claudio Roditi, Maucha Adnet, Toninho Horta & special guest Eddie Gomez. With a line-up like this, it’s a fair bet that Jobim would have loved every minute. Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola. (212) 258-9595. www.jalc.org/dccc

– April 28 – May 3. (Tues. – Sun.) Barry Harris Trio with Ray Drummond and Leroy Williams. Bebop at its best; nobody does it better. The Village Vanguard. (212) 255-4037. www.villagevanguard.com.


Karrin Allyson

– April 29 – May 2. (Wed. – Sat.) Karrin Allyson. The always fascinating Allyson perfroms selections from her latest CD, “Imagina: Songs of Brazil.” Birdland. (212) 581-3080. www.birdlandjazz.com

New Orleans

April 27 – May 3. ( Mon. – Sun.) New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. The line-up for this massive event speaks for itself. To mention only a few scheduled artists: Tony Bennett, Doc Watson, Bonnie Raitt, Esperanza Spalding, Randy Brecker, John Scofield, Nicholas Paytojn, Emmylou Harris, Dr. John, Bon Jovi, the Neville Brothers, Neil Young, and dozens of others.(504) 522-4786. www.nojazzfest.com

Q & A: Donald Fagen

April 25, 2009

Donald Fagen on Our Secret Society

By Devon Wendell

Recently I had the opportunity for an exclusive interview with my great friend, mentor, and former employer, Donald Fagen of Steely Dan on the influence of jazz on his life and music. Here’s the result. And don’f forget that Donald, Walter and the gang will begin their summer tour of the U.S. and Europe in June.

Devon Wendell: Do you think jazz aficionados have inborn obsessive compulsive tendencies, like if I don’t go out and find every recording that Fats Navarro ever played on, I’ll go insane?

Donald Fagen: I still have a little of that OCD donald-fagen-2jazz fan thing. Luckily, I had much better taste when I was in high school. My rigid aesthetic eliminated all but the very best composers and improvisers – Rollins, Miles, Ellington, Bird and a few others – that was it. I refused to buy Blue Note albums on the grounds that Alfred Lion forced the players on the label to write all those tunes with the funk cliches in them. Moreover, my allowance limited me to only the very best albums , so I couldn’t obsess too much. Now I have horrible taste like everybody else.

DW: The fusing of rock with different genres of jazz is part of what’s made the Steely Dan sound unique. When was the first time you felt you accomplished that distinct ‘fusion” successfully in a recording?

DF: Because Walter and I were jazz fans, we were comfortable with the harmonic language of modern jazz. On the other hand, we also liked r&b, soul music, Dylan, Laura Nyro and so on. Aside from the fact that we knew there was something amusing about overdriving a delicately balanced 13th chord through a Fender amp, I don’t think we were consciously “fusing” anything.

DW: Didn’t you get the memo sent out in 1963 that no flatted 5ths or 7ths are allowed in rock n’ roll?

DF: No. but I remember that we had to inform certain guitarists that hanging on a flat 5th – as opposed to using it as an ornament in the way that blues players do – was mega-dorky, unless, of course, your intention was a surferesque farcical effect to begin with.

DW: What was the very first jazz recording you heard?

DF: Wow. Well, my mom had a few Benny Goodman sides from 30s.

DW: I notice that when you play piano at times, you attack the keys in a very percussive manner that is visually reminiscent of Monk’s. Is that an intentional or just a physical reaction to the music?

DF: Monk sounded totally natural to me the first time I heard him. And I remember thinking, hey, he plays like a gorilla, like me, it must be okay. Later I got to watch great studio players like Artie Butler and Paul Griffin. Like Monk, they basically played at Gospel level, like Aretha Franklin – tough and loud.

DW: Did you get to see Monk perform at The Five Spot?

DF: No, but I saw him later, at the Village Gate with Charlie Rouse – fantastic.

DW: Discovering jazz at a young age, did you feel that it isolated you from other people your age, like you were part of some swinging nerdy secret society?

DF: Yes, but I used to read a lot and I was skinny and Jewish so I was already isolated.

DW: Growing up, what were some of the most memorable jazz performances you witnessed, good and bad?

DF: Charles Mingus and his demonic drummer Danny Richmond were the most exciting. I saw them a number of times, usually at the Vanguard (Max Gordon used to give me a coke and sit me near the bandstand). Maynard Ferguson’s 1961 band was monstrous. I saw Monk, Coltrane, Basie, Coleman Hawkins with Roy Eldridge, Bill Evans – all bigger than life. And one country bluesman who killed me: Mississippi John Hurt.

DW: Jazz radio certainly isn’t what it was in the 50’s. Were you a fan of The Symphony Sid show out of NYC?

DF: My favorite was Mort Fega on WEVD. By the time I was listening, Sid was going heavy on the Afro-Cuban and Latin jazz thing.

DW: Did you get to hear his final broadcast?

DF: No, but someone sent me a tape of a 1961 Christmas show where he’s totally blotto.

DW: I remember being in the studio with you during the “Two Against Nature” sessions and I was playing a Coltrane recording from his early Riverside years and you remarked; “That’s when he was playing out of tune.” Has your amazing sense of pitch made it hard to enjoy some of Coltrane’s, or say Eric Dolphy’s, music when the intonation often seemed intentionally off for thematic purposes?

DF: Not at all. Coltrane rarely played out of tune, but, in any case, it’s only on some of those Prestige records with Miles – my favorite period for Coltrane anyway. I like him best as a wild, off-center hard bop player. Eric Dolphy plays out of tune, out of time and just plain out – and it’s always perfect. I couldn’t play Eric when my mom was home, though. Or the Stones, either.

DW: So many jazz artists that I’ve encountered of all ages are die hard Steely Dan fans, a lot of whom don’t particularly like rock music. How does it feel to have had such a huge impact on the music that has influenced your life so much?

DF: Actually, I know for a fact that some jazz people still hate us. And that’s okay. My jazz purist self still hates us. As I mentioned on the phone, I met Gary Giddins the other day and I said I really liked his work.. Gary said, “You know Robert Christgau’s a really big fan of yours!”

DW: What younger jazz artists have gotten your attention over the past decade?

DF: To tell you the truth, I’m pretty out of touch. I like Chris Potter. And the guys in our horn section.

DW: Do you feel any major innovations have been made in jazz in recent years?

DF: Search me. I’m pretty lost after about 1966 or so.

DW: I remember you commenting that the musicians you and Walter hire must know bebop changes. Has finding those kinds of players become an easier process over the years?

DF: Yes. Schooled jazz players can play just about any sort of music these days. Which doesn’t necessarily mean they’re all great soloists. That’s as rare as ever.

DW: Are there certain jazz recordings that you must always have with you on the road?

DF: I have most of the records I listened to in high school on an itunes playlist.

DW: For jazz and most truly innovative music, it’s the packaging that’s added to the gestalt; art work, liner notes, photography, etc. With the digital age and downloading music, do feel this that this has been lost forever?

DF: Yes.

DW: Do you find that jazz lovers take the music too seriously and miss that sense of humor that people like Duke, Monk, Sonny Rollins, Mingus, Dizzy, and even Bird incorporated so naturally into the music?

DF: Yes.

DW: For many of the “purists”, “Smooth Jazz” is considered the nail in the coffin or something out of Revelations. How do you feel about the genre?

DF: I agree. Sirius Radio recently changed the name of their jazz station from “Pure Jazz”, which played great stuff, to “Real Jazz” which is a gagger.

DW: What’s your all time favorite Steely Dan cover by a jazz artist?

DF: I still like one of the first – “Do It Again” by Herbie Mann. Also, Joe Roccisano did some nice charts where he just used the tune as a jump off point. That’s the best way to go.

DW: Honestly, whose version of “The Goodbye Look” do you prefer, yours or Mel Torme’s?

DF: I’ve always been afraid to listen to vocal covers of my tunes. I’m scared of that “Sammy Davis Jr. sings the Bob Dylan Songbook” effect. Or, “Bob Denver reads “Howl'”. You know what I mean?

DW: I sure do. Thanks for taking the time to talk. It’s always fun to hear what you have to say.

Quotation of the Week: John Lennon

April 23, 2009


Music is everybody’s possession. It’s only publishers who think that people own it.

John Lennon

To read other Quotations of the Week click Here.

On Second Thought: Love — “Four Sail” (1969)

April 22, 2009


By Dave Gebroe

A while ago, I came across a description of the quandary Arthur Lee found himself in after releasing his undisputed masterwork, 1967’s “Forever Changes.” Although I can’t recall the source, it’s since come to stand as my lasting image of the man. In 1968, Lee walked out the door, stepped onto the lawn, and turned to wave goodbye. Many years after shutting the door, we took a peek outside and there he was, still on the lawn, still waving good-bye.

“Forever Changes” is a curious case. Above and beyond the truly remarkable music, it came to represent the dangers inherent in an artist creating a definitive statement. Lee was convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that he was going to die after he completed the record, so he made sure he said everything he needed to say, and communicated it all with striking urgency. To top it all off, he somehow found a way to sum up everything and its mother with the brilliant closer, “You Set The Scene.”

But Lee didn’t die. (Not for a while, anyway). So, instead, he killed the band, erecting in its place a new version of Love. The new band had more testicles than the older, more classic incarnation, keeping Lee’s unmistakably skewed poetic perversity intact but opting to follow the Cream/Hendrix template (Lee was old buds with Jimi, having been behind the boards the first time he set foot in a recording studio). Gone was the orchestrated, almost show tune-like influence of Bryan Maclean’s songwriting, which leant a mesmerizing tension to the greatness of those first three records. Without Maclean around to keep things freakishly diverse, Love progressively became a progressive concern.

This may be the very reason the Love story with their fan base ended here. Along with the death of the classic line-up came the disappearance from their music of so many of the unique signifiers their fans had come to love. The baroque, jazzy arrangements, delicate Spanish accents, and touches of MOR sensibility that brought out the depth in their approach — all of it, gone. Instead, along with old friends and previous bandmates Jay Donnellan (lead guitar), Frank Fayad (bass), and George Suranovich (drums, with Drachen Theaker guest-whacking on three tracks), the subtlety of their previous sound is smashed to smithereens with a powerhouse, virtuoso approach that greets the idea of space and restraint with utter contempt, cramming solos and drum fills into every last inch of tape. Suranovich, especially, is all over the damn place, sounding every bit like a musician with everything to prove.

So conclusive was “Forever Changes” in the Lee canon that most see it as the last stop on the Love train. That’s simply not the case. Although it is indisputably their best record, and their days as a great band were certainly numbered, the flashes of inspiration to come were enough to see them through to the end of the decade. However, “Four Sail” is the last time it all came together full-throttle for Arthur. This thoroughly overlooked gem stands as their final release before the magic of their early days had been fully shaken off.

After Lee had assembled the new band, they entered a makeshift studio in a Los Angeles warehouse and recorded three LPs worth of material. Elektra Records were owed one more record before the expiration of their contract, and “Four Sail” contains the ten tracks that Elektra hand-picked. (The remainder came out on the Blue Thumb label four months later as the intermittently brilliant double-LP “Out Here.”) The album’s title is a cynical double entendre, referring both to their jumping ship from Elektra and the product-minded mentality of the music industry.

There are many words one could use to describe Lee’s new direction, but “product” definitely isn’t one of them. There isn’t a bad song here. Kicking off the proceedings with sledgehammer ferocity is lead-off track “August,” which in a way is a kitchen-sink template for everything late-era Love had to offer. A mysterious Spanish-style guitar intro leads in to an almost laughably bombastic power-trio assault; delicate, folk-style verses; and a crazy jam-out middle section that features drumming so busily fill-intensive that Neil Peart himself would beg for it to be taken down a notch. “August” is one of Love’s best songs, and proof positive that they hadn’t said it all with “Forever Changes.” If anything, they now had an entirely new vocabulary in which to articulate their life and times and overdriven Marshall stacks were certainly more era-appropriate by this point than flutes, horns, and strings.

Next up is “Your Friend And Mine – Neil’s Song,” a jaunty, almost Lovin’ Spoonful-like ditty about Love roadie Neil Rappaport, who, as legend had it, sold a bunch of the band’s equipment for drugs, on which he then overdosed. Lee gets in a sly nose-thumbing at him here, revealing both compassion and an “I told you so” schoolyard cruelty. The brilliant disparity between the song’s whistle-worthy melodic sprightliness and dark subject matter is a perfect example of Lee’s inimitability.

Elsewhere, we’re still on solid turf, not at all the work of a songwriter on the way down. “I’m With You” and “Nothing” are gorgeous quasi-throwbacks to earlier Love, melodically wistful and with a more folk-rock lean than the other songs on the record. “Singing Cowboy,” with its passionate drum-fills and finger-picked intro, thrusts you headlong into Lee’s vision of himself as an old-time gunslinger. “Good Times” is just that, another Lee classic. “Robert Montgomery” is a hard-rock re-imagining of “Eleanor Rigby.” And “Dream” is an awesome bit of Arthurly free-association, replete with the classic lyric, “I just stepped in from New York at 10 a.m. / International Airport / and now I’m here with all my friends again / Wonder if there’s a God?”

And then along comes “Always See Your Face,” a “Forever Changes”-style throwback with French horn backing. In its own inscrutable way, it serves as a fitting elegy for Lee’s ride into the sunset. Over a lazily urgent, galloping rhythm, Lee waxes eloquent about obsession, depression, and the necessity of unmasking oneself. It’s a little-known masterpiece in Lee’s canon, one that says goodbye to the old Love in its own understated way, without the lyrical grandiosity of “You Set The Scene”‘s “get it all in before the fade” approach. It’s a mysterious fare-thee-well with a question mark hanging over it, simultaneously managing to be quite moving and a truly tough nut to crack.

Lee wound up shooting his load in that warehouse studio with this incarnation of Love. After “Out Here” was released, he assembled a new Love, and went on to smaller and lesser things. Although there were scraps of greatness to be found on his way out, “Four Sail” was Lee’s final hurrah. With his stubbornness over never touring outside LA, compounded with his drug problems and inability to keep a single line-up together for more than the blink of an eye, Lee set himself up for both long-term failure and one hell of an interesting career. Unfortunately, he was too mesmerized by the pendulum-like swing of his waving hand to notice that the world had already shut the door on him.

News: Jaco’s Bass (One of Them) For Sale

April 22, 2009

By Fernando Gonzalez

Bassist, composer and arranger Jaco Pastorius is one of a handful of artists in the history of jazz whose work profoundly affected the sound of his instrument and, arguably, the sound of jazz itself. Now one of the tools of his trade will be available for purchase at a Fame Bureau auction on April 28.

This is not the fretless, 1962 Fender Jazz bass Pastorius himself nicknamed “The Bass of Doom” and was used in Pastorius’ solo albums as well as his work with Pat Metheny, Weather Report, and Joni Mitchell among others.0203_2_lg Rather, this is a natural-finish 1960 Fender Jazz Bass that was part of the early development of his sound and approach.

In fact, Pastorius modified this instrument to his liking and even attempted to de-fret it. And that’s where the actual owner of the bass, classically trained bassist and concert promoter Rod Glaubman, a friend of Pastorius at the time, drew the line.

“At the time no one saw the value in un-fretted instruments,” said Glaubman from his home in San Francisco. “It was a bass guitar. What happens to the instrument once you’ve done that? It’s worthless. If he did that to my main instrument, I would have to go find another fretted bass.”

Glaubman, who joined the Miami Philharmonic at 16, was not only a working musician, but eventually became an arts promoter and concert organizer, most notably through Performing Arts for Community and Education (PACE, 1974 -1986), a non-profit organization that presented hundreds of concerts. Young, Miami-based musicians such as Pastorius, Metheny, bassist Will Lee (whose father was the Dean of the University of Miami School of Music), and singer Phyllis Hyman, performed at many of these events.

Glaubman bought the Fender Jazz Bass in the early ’70s for $300. Over the years he would lend it to friends such as Lee and Mark Egan but, Glaubman says, Pastorius was the one who borrowed it most. His recollections of that relationship offer some interesting insights into the early evolution of one of jazz’s iconic players.

“Our ‘friendship was around bass playing, instruments and gear,” says Glaubman. “I was not a social friend of Jaco’s. We didn’t just hang out. He would come over to borrow my bass or my Acoustic 360 [amp]. Once or twice he borrowed an upright from me. As he was becoming famous, we would meet at PACE gigs he would be playing when he was in town. He played several PACE Benefits.”

It was hanging out with Glaubman that helped Pastorius become familiar with Bach and develop a greater knowledge of harmonics, which later became a distinctive part of his vocabulary.

“I wouldn’t characterize what happened with Jaco as ‘teaching.'” continued Glaubman. “He would come over, hang out. We would talk. I played for him and he played for me. I was a serious upright player and he was interested in left hand fingering techniques and bowing. The instrument he had chosen, the electric bass, is a brand new instrument. The upright is what, 300 years old? So you have 300 years of know-how applied to an instrument that’s only been around [since1951].

“I played some contemporary stuff, but my technique was never right for the electric bass. He would play funky stuff for me and show off his technique. On one occasion I played [Serge Koussevitzky’s] Valse Miniature which has the upright bass playing all in harmonics at the end of the finger board. Jaco had been playing with harmonics on his own, but was gassed by the ability to play actual melodies all in harmonics. We talked a lot about harmonics. If you play funky it doesn’t matter where the harmonics are. But he was on the cutting edge of electric bass.

“At another juncture, he asked me what I played to get a legato, or as he put it ‘smooth,’ sound. I gave him Bach’s Cello Suites which I played constantly and Bach’s Violin Partitas. A month later he came back improvising Bach. His level of musical comprehension was off the charts — beyond serious, past curious, disciplined in the most unusual ways.”

Glaubman sold the amp but held on to the bass, which he still occasionally played. But while he has some misgivings about selling it, expenses such as health insurance and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (Glaubman was living at the time in New Orleans) nudged him to it.

Pastorius’ favorite fretted bass, the 1960 Fender Jazz Bass will be in an auction in Paris, April 28 (details below) and then London on May 9, then possibly to Christies in New York. The estimated selling price will range between $25,000 to $40.000.

The Fame Bureau auction is April 28 at 10:00 a.m. Online bidding is available now. Here’s a link to the Jaco bass: http://www.liveauctioneers.com/item/6336208


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