Sunday, July 27, 2014

Listening to Prestige Records - Part 11: Don Lanphere

Here's the first artist I know nothing about. Don Lanphere brought a quartet in to record on July 2, 1949 - Lanphere on tenor,  Duke Jordan (piano), Tubby Phillips (bass), Roy Hall (drums). A jazz great on piano, and two other guys I've never heard of on bass and drums. I was able to find a reference to Phillips in Charlie Spivak's orchestra, no references to Hall at all. He co-led a quintet with Fats Navarro on September 20, 1949, with a real major league rhythm section -- Al Haig (piano), Tommy Potter (bass), Max Roach (drums)

Lanphere was on the scene in the late 40s, by 1951 a total casualty of the drug epidemic. He spent some hellish years, then went back to the Pacific Northwest, where he became a local legend (much like J. R. Monterose in upstate New York), and starting in 1982, recorded quite prolifically for regional labels, with some pretty good people -- Bud Shank on one CD, Larry Coryell on another. And by that I don't mean to denigrate the local guys who never made it big in the jazz world. There are a lot of superb musicians most people, including me, have never heard of. From right around my area, Joe McPhee is an amazing talent. Hugh Brodie. Jeff Otis, who just passed away. In Boston, Stan Strickland is a legend, and he's the best musician I ever heard who didn't have a major breakout.

The Prestige sessions with Fats Navarro are on Spotify in the "Fats Navarro 1947-49" collection, and this one is on YouTube.  Several of the later sessions are on Spotify. Don Lanphere is a good one. He deserved his legendary status in the Pacific Northwest.

Some of the Charlie Parker basement sessions are on YouTube, but my ear isn't good enough to pick out Lanphere.

But here's a fun bit of gossip, from his obituary on a website called The Last Post, which is a collection of jazz obituaries. By Todd S. Jenkins:

A native son of the Pacific Northwest, saxophonist Don Lanphere was one of the region's jazz icons. He learned to play at home on his father's alto sax. As a teenager he idolized Coleman Hawkins and gigged with name touring bands whenever they came to Washington. Lanphere began his music studies at Northwestern University in Illinois and played with local bandleader Johnny Bothwell. At the age of nineteen Lanphere and the band answered the Big Apple's beckon-call and headed for New York.

After a short time in the city, Lanphere was fired for stealing Bothwell's girl, Chan Richardson. He secured a job with Fats Navarro and recorded some excellent sides, then explored the big-band and swing scene. He played Carnegie Hall with Woody Herman's Second Herd, moved on to Artie Shaw's Gramercy Five, and gigged with the bands of Claude Thornhill, Charlie Barnet and Billy May. Lanphere also made friends with Charlie Parker and recorded the altoist at home with some friends. Those legendary tapes became known as "The Basement Sessions"... and Lanphere's girl, Chan, later became Mrs. Charlie Parker.

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