That night with Trane and Red many years later became a poem, although with poetic license Trane became Miles, and I created a scene that never happened with an older brother I never had. But the poem is true to the heart of experience.
Anyway, that's my particular love affair with Prestige. Shared by everyone? I'm not sure. Prestige, as I've noted before, has been somewhat the forgotten stepbrother to Blue Note. The New York Times' obituary for Bob Weinstock was a little backhanded -- " Prestige releases...weren't known for perfection. Mr. Weinstock generally set up recording sessions with no rehearsal time."
I'M NOT SO OLDI was just fifteen when Charlie Parker diedMy older brother took me asideAnd said, Kid, it's a bad dayIt's a sad dayWell, I didn't know why and I had to be toldHey, but I grew upAnd I learned my stuffAnd I learned enoughAnd I'm not so oldWhen I was a kid just starting to moveI filled my soul with that rhythm and bluesAnd I listened to the CloversAnd the CoastersAnd I couldn't get enough of that rock and rollI was growing upAnd the beat was mineAnd it still sounds fineAnd I'm not so oldThen one night I turned on the radioLooking for some of that rock and rollAnd I heard some bebopBrought me to a full stopDidn't know what it was but it moved my soulI was almost grownAnd they said it was MilesI still dig his styleAnd I'm not so oldI saw Monk dance around the Five Spot floorAnd a cat from Texas made the Five Spot roarHis sax was plasticHis sound fantasticAnd I went back again to hear Ornette blowI was all grown upAnd he made jazz freeStill sounds good to meAnd I'm not so oldOnce they said that jazz had passed awayBut I go down to hear the young cats playThey play in the traditionThey've got a missionThey play sweet and strong and free and boldWell, I may be grownBut the cats blow onAnd the music's youngAnd I'm not so old
Well, perfection is overrated. And Peter Jones and I, talking about those days, have commented on what we remember as the incredible level of quality of those independent jazz labels -- it was all good.
Was it? I guess that's what I'll be finding out with this blog project. Next up, April 8, 1949, the Stan Getz Octet, including Five Brothers.
We think of the guys like Getz who became such giants in their field as having been born leading a group, playing "Desafinado" on TV, but Stan was 22 and newly graduated from the Woody Herman band, in one of his first sessions as a leader. Even at 22, he was a veteran - he'd joined the Jack Teagarden band at 16, when he was so young that Teagarden made him his ward.
An octet is big for a small jazz group, small for a big band, and this album is not big band jazz, certainly -- it's the combo format,a stated theme followed by virtuosic soloing, that was the hallmark of the bebop era. The most famous large small combo of the era -- or what came to be the most famous, since it was pretty much ahead of its time, was the Miles Davis "Birth of the Cool" nonet. Getz's octet was more straight-ahead -- I guess in the Prestige tradition of getting a bunch of guys together to blow with no rehearsal (although actually alternate takes don't seem to be so rare).
Getz was best known at this time as one of the Herman Herd's "four brothers," the four-saxophone section of Getz, Serge Chaloff, Zoot Sims and Herbie Steward -- and later Al Cohn. Sims and Cohn are the carryovers from those brothers, joined now by Alan Eager (a Herman alum but not a brother) and Brew Moore -- four tenor players, with Getz choosing baritone for this session. There's actually a sixth saxophone-playing brother involved, and this one makes them stepbrothers, in a way, to Miles' nonet -- Gerry Mulligan is listed as arranger.
I am writing this blog as a fan, as an archivist, not as a music critic or musicologist. I'm not that good. I can't tell you who's soloing when. I'd be a washout on a Leonard Feather blindfold test. In his allmusic.com bio of Brew Moore, critic Scott Yanow suggests that as a quintet of Lester Young acolytes, they all pretty much sounded the same on that session, so maybe I'm not the only one.
I can tell you that this is real Prestige jazz, the kind that makes you glad you're a jazz fan, and you get to sit still and listen to it, or snap your fingers to it, or stand still in the middle of the night and stare at whatever your contemporary equivalent to an old AM radio is. YouTube and Spotify both have this
Both takes of "Battleground" were actually released on 78, one as Prestige release and the other as a New Jazz. So I was able to listen to all of it.
All the brothers were young. Al Cohn and Zoot Sims were 24, Brew Moore was 25, Alan Eager like Getz a junior member at 22. But all were seasoned veterans. And all the brothers were valiant. Having five brothers in a small combo means succinct solos, and they make it work brilliantly. Generally a string of solos means a cutting contest. Here it's brotherly love, and wonderful cooperation to make a unified sequence.
In "Battle of the Saxes" (the only one without an alternate take) one gets the feeling that if they'd had just a little rehearsal time, they might have learned the tune, but once they start soloing, it could matter less.
With all those horns, there's not a lot of space for solos from the rhythm section, but Walter Bishop, Jr. has a few nice moments on piano. The others are Gene Ramey (bass) and Charlie Perry (drums). I wasn't at all familiar with Perry, but research reveals he's considered one of the great teachers of drumming technique, and one of his books on jazz drumming (co-authored with Jack deJohnette) is available (excerpted) online.