ok, here's an early candidate for "best night o' music in the fort this yr," and because i'm a shitty scene supporter, i did a pert lousy job of getting the word out about this last week (was sick, had a job int, blah blah blah). luckily, others were not as remiss, and sardines
was fairly jam-packed for the duration; jam-meister lee allen informed me that they actually ran out of maker's mark, and bread! not bad for a sunday night. oh, by the way, i actually emceed the thang, too; jhon kahsen
called me last friday and asked if i would, and since we were gonna be there anyway, i figured, why not? and it was filmed by the ppl i was working with on teen a go go
for the fort worth public library's jazz archives.
actually, it felt like paying a debt. i was fortunate to get to interview dewey redman
a coupla yrs ago, when i was still writing for the local giveaway rag. at that time, he told me, he was writing a book about his life, which i don't believe he ever completed -- a pity, because he had a wealth of stories covering not just the trajectory of his jazz career, but also dealing with growing up in the segregated south, an experience that marked evabody that went through it, altho these days we tend to gloss over what was happening here as late as the '60s (hell, depending on where you live and who you are, as late as last week). anyway, last summer, donna van ness from jazz by the boulevard
called asking if i'd be available to interview dewey for the library. i told her no, i was too busy with my advertising job, and the next time i heard from her was when she e-mailed me dewey's obituary from the new york times
after he left the planet from liver failure last september 2nd.
(speaking of which: _the point_ of all this is that weatherford college -- where dewey played a memorable '94 gig with bassist drew phelps, pianist johnny case, and drummer duane durrett -- has established a dewey redman music scholarship. to get information or make donations, call the college's scholarship office at 817-598-6275.)
i only got to see dewey perform twice in life: in 1979 at town hall in new york city, as a member of the ornette coleman alumni band old and new dreams with don cherry, charlie haden, and ed blackwell, and in 2003 at jazz by the boulevard with a san antonio-based trio led by drummer gerry gibbs. while he continued working in the free idiom that he helped trailblaze with ornette in the '60s, later in his life i believe he got real enjoyment (as well as steady work on the festival circuit) playing a mixture of musics that included the bebop, ballads 'n' blues he grew up playing in the fort, as well as some of his more innovative gambits: singing through his horn, reciting his own poetry, performing on a chinese multi-reed instrument called a musette. i think it meant something to this artist who'd been hailed all over the world to receive recognition in his hometown.
this particular night, there were five different bands slated to perform, followed by a jam session. (down the street, of course, dave karnes and the jazzcats from the old sunday night black dog tavern gang were holding forth at 6th street live, and i saw at least one muso sneak out through the back door to head over there in the course of the evening.) openers were "fm acoustic," a project of bassist jonathan fisher and gtrist paul metzger (of bertha coolidge
fame; bertha bassist aden bubeck was in the house, sporting a scissorhead mohawk -- i guess that's what happens to these jazzbos when they spend enough time on the road with country acts like miranda lambert), joined by the ubiquitous joey carter on drums and percussion. now, fisher and metzger are both fine players, and their toons have an airy, rustic, methenyesque pastoralism about 'em, and i'd dig to hear 'em again in another venue, but i'm not sure zackley what this had to do with what we all were supposedly doing there (e.g., celebrating the life 'n' music of dewey redman). of course, i also usedta bitch when i went to blues "tributes" to freddie king, jimmy reed, elmore james or whoever and sat there for four hours without hearing a note of the nominal honorees' music, as extensive and widely-played as their catalog might have been. and dewey _did_ play with metheny on the gtrist's 80/81
alb and subsequent tour. but pat was playing out of his ornette bag then.
the next outfit to take the stage was, not to put too fine a point on it, the only one that actually "did the assignment": that is, they actually played music composed by or associated with dewey. since dave and daver, his band with drummer karnes, went south a coupla yrs ago, saxophonist dave williams has been involved in every jazz repertory project that's made it to the evening stage here in the fort, starting with paul unger's exhaustive miles davis exposition (focusing on the kind of blue
/ miles smiles
/ bitches brew
-and-later incarnations), an effort with enough integrity to survive the ignominy of playing the tee-tiny stage in the children's face painting area of jazz by the boulevard. williams is also a participant in gtrist sam walker's monk tribute band "thelonious," which returns to arts fifth avenue
on march 2nd and if you've read this far, you needs to be there too.
joined by chris white (the man who loves to play "outside" more than anyone in fort worth) on flute and trumpet, and the great flipside trio
riddim section of bassist unger and drummer dennis durick, williams opened with "venus and mars," a redman composition old and new dreams cut as "dewey's tune" on their first album for black saint in 1976. now i wish i still had my long-lost copies of that record and ornette's new york is now
; williams and co. also played don cherry's "augmented" from that old and new dreams debut disc, as well as the late trumpeter's "mopti" from the band's playing
alb, and two ornette toons from the '68 blue note sesh that matched ornette 'n' dewey with the "classic" coltrane bass 'n' drums team of jimmy garrison and elvin jones: "round trip" and "the garden of souls." in between, williams essayed "i should care," the lovely sammy cahn ballad that dewey used to open his '97 live in london
set. daver's tough tone and adventurous ideas were matched by chris white, who delivered a bravura performance on trumpet (his smears and cascades of notes invoked the spirit of cherry nicely), while unger and durick played as they always do, like twin whirlwinds communicating via mental telepathy -- this rhythm section is truly a joy to watch and listen to. dave williams has been wanting to do an ornette tribute for some time; here's hoping he'll find other venues to play this music with this lineup.
by this time there were some ppl in the house, so i read the proclamation from fort worth mayor mike moncrief in recognition of dewey. as it happened, marjorie crenshaw, an eminence of the local jazz scene, happened to be walking by as i did this, and she took the mike for some extemporaneous remarks about dewey. my fave: "he always said, 'you put your _technique_ up against my _tone_ and i'll beat you every time.'" amen.
the next set, by a sextet led by gtrist james shannon, had more of a jam session feel -- a buncha cats blowing on standards: along with shannon, joey carter on piano, dallasite james gilyard
on bass, duane durrett on drums, and the twin trumpets of jack evans and chuck willis. evans and willis played well together, and shannon was a good, bluesy player in the vein of a kenny burrell or grant green. bassist gilyard seemed irritated, then resigned, when he realized he wasn't going to get to solo. (i saw sumter bruton in the crowd and wanted to suggest that maybe _he_ take over the hollowbody gibson for a toon. also in the house but not playing: drummer kory cook from austin's son's of hercules, a punk/garage rawker who also digs the jazz, and titanic trap-kicker clay stinnett, who's auditioning for the drum chair in max cady while ghostcar
's on hiatus.) but again, relevance to dewey? yes, he probably played these toons thousands of times in his formative yrs, but...
dallas tenorman marchel ivery was next, and i mentioned in introducing him that he was the focus of my earliest experiences with jazz in texas, way back in the summer of '78, when my noo yawk buds 'n' i usedta go hear marchel's quartet with walter winn on drums and fort worthians charles scott (future sardines house bassist) and thomas reese (piano) at bill 'n' jeanie donnelly's recovery room on lemmon avenue in dallas -- "don't forget red garland!" marchel said, and it's true, miles' '50s pianist was also a regular on the gig. on this night, marchel was backed by joey carter on vibes, jhon kahsen on piano, daniel stone on bass (replaced midset by drew phelps), and duane durrett on drums. marchel comes from the same school of powerfully expressive tenor saxophonics as dewey; he provided several object lessons on the "tone vs. technique" dichotomy, and it was pure fun watching the expressions on joey carter's face while listening to some of marchel's wilder improvisational flights. marchel also managed to conjure the spirit of james clay, another departed fort worth tenorman, a great talent who spent too much of his short life working a warehouse gig in obscurity before restarting his career in the mid-80s. (later i had a convo with drew phelps about clay, who drew once spent two months of thursdays backing in a trio with drummer earl harvin, and don cherry's art deco
record that clay played on back in '89.)
last set o' the night (before the jam that my sweetie 'n' i had to miss, owing to the resurgence, following the last band intro, of the respiratory crud i've been fighting this past week) was by pianist daymond callahan, with his trio of bassist young hill and the ebullient drummer daniel tcheco along with special guests pat franklin on sax and chris white (again!) on flute and trumpet. callahan, an arlington native, was previously in "faces the band" (a pieces of a dream-type smoove jazz aggro) and released his music society
cd last yr. while technically impeccable, the music sounded a little sterile and gritless to these feedback-scorched ears, reminiscent of a few generations of "young lions" that were getting signed by the majors back when major labels were still signing _any_ jazz artists, leaving veterans like dewey redman out in the cold. but maybe i'm just jaded.
all in all, 'twas very heartening to see so many turn out to support jazz in the fort. now, if only this could occur more 'n once or twice a yr...