Sunday, March 18, 2018

Dave Brubeck Interview by Monk Rowe - 11/21/2001 - Wilton, CT

Bill Crow Interview by Monk Rowe - 10/18/1995 - NYC

Louie Prima - 1910-1978: A Tribute

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“The three greatest early jazz musicians to have recorded extensively, Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet, and Jelly Roll Morton, have all testified to the influence of opera and, in Morton's case at least, other forms of concert music in the formation of their styles.

As Joshua Berrett has shown (Musical Quarterly, Summer 1992), it was from opera singers that Armstrong learned the high-flown bravura style that set him apart from the simpler and more straightforward New Orleans cornetists trained solely in the brass band tradition. Moreover, he interpolated in many of his recorded solos passages from favorite operatic arias and ensembles. Among the first records he acquired, as a teenager, were ones by Caruso, Tetrazzini, and Galli-Curci.

Such slightly younger New Orleans cornetists as Sharkey Bonano, Wingy Manone, and Louis Prima have often been singled out as disciples of Armstrong — which they surely were. But it has been suggested that some of the similarities between their playing and his may be due to the fact that their Italian heritage gave them easy access to the same operatic music that influenced him, as well as to Neapolitan songs and salon music.”
- William H. Youngren, The European Roots of Jazz in The Oxford Companion to Jazz, Bill Kirchner, ed.

“The Famous Door had swung open the previous February. The first band to work there was led by the trumpet player Louis Prima, who had recently arrived from New Orleans. Prima was, in those days, a very good jazz musician, but he was also an extremely entertaining performer, peppering his sets with a lot of amusing jive vocals and good-humored patter. (In his later years he became king of the Las Vegas lounge acts.) To the consternation of the musicians and jazz purists in the audience, Prima's effusive showmanship soon began drawing crowds of big spenders who were less interested in his improvising than in his comedy. But they turned the Famous Door into the hottest club in town.”
- Ross Firestone, Swing,Swing,Swing: The Life and Times of Benny Goodman

“For New Orleans musicians, especially, showmanship was—and remains—a fact of life. Was it not Louis Armstrong, above all, who understood the relationship between music and entertainment, and never wavered in his application of it, even in the face of critical hostility.”
- Richard Sudhalter, Lost Chords: White Musicians and Their Contribution to Jazz, 1915-1945.

Trumpeter, bandleader and showman/entertainer Louis Prima was the original “Louie Louie” before the character by the same name was enshrined in the famous rock ‘n roll song.

He was born Louie Loui in New Orleans, LA into a family of Italian immigrants on December 7, 1911

He taught himself trumpet (1925) and began performing in various bands based in New Orleans.

“Though Louis Prima recorded widely and well throughout the '30s, achieving great popularity and visibility, his name is often conspicuous by its absence from standard jazz histories. Dealing with him seriously means confronting one aspect of New Orleans jazz which chroniclers, almost as a point of honor, seem to find distasteful.

That, of course, is the matter of showmanship. The flamboyance of Prima's latter career, in which his identity as a trumpeter became almost totally subordinate to his role as a high-energy showman, seems to offend those who would represent jazz as an art music of solemnity and unstinting high purpose. The Las Vegas image, the raucous sound of Sam Butera and the Witnesses, the risque badinage with singer Keely Smith — such make it all too easy to mistake this showbiz aspect of Prima for the creative substance, ignoring his past achievements and core musicianship.

Far from being exclusive to such as Prima, the idea of hot music as an arm of highly commercialized show business runs throughout the early years. It's present in the singing, dancing, and impromptu comedy skits of the dance bands, including those that prided themselves on their dedication to jazz. Its absence is a root cause of the failure of the great Jean Goldkette orchestra, an ensemble which either stubbornly resisted advice to "put on a show" or acquiesced in a manner landing somewhere between perfunctory and downright hostile.

For New Orleans musicians, especially, showmanship was—and remains—a fact of life. Was it not Louis Armstrong, above all, who understood the relationship between music and entertainment, and never wavered in his application of it, even in the face of critical hostility.

"You'll always get critics of showmanship," he told British critic Max Jones. "Critics in England say I was a clown, but a clown — that's hard. If you can make people chuckle a little; it's happiness to me to see people happy, and most of the people who criticize don't know one note from another."

Prima, in common with his two hometown friends Wingy Manone and Sharkey Bonano, accepted — as had Nick LaRocca before them — that they were, above all, entertainers; they might now and then get together for their own enjoyment, and even (as in the case of the 1928 Monk Hazel titles) make music to suit themselves.

But where the public was concerned, the paying customers always came first. By his own lights, and by the laws of the box office, Prima was doing what he properly should be doing, and with resounding success. It is only regrettable that the nature of his fame in later years has drawn attention away from his skills as one of the most accomplished, often thrilling, of New Orleans trumpet men.

He arrived in New York in 1934 and right away landed a job at the Famous Door, a 52nd Street club popular with—and owned by—musicians. At first Sidney Arodin was his clarinetist, but when Arodin left to work with Wingy elsewhere in town, his replacement was Pee Wee Russell, who'd played with Louis's elder brother Leon (also an excellent trumpet player) in a Texas band headed by pianist Peck Kelley.

Things started happening. Broadway columnist Walter Winchell took note. The little band was featured on a coast-to-coast CBS radio hookup. Society folk, ever on the lookout for novelty, ''discovered" Prima. He fit the role admirably, dispensing an early form of the high-voltage fare which was still sending the customers into orbit twenty years later at Vegas and Tahoe.

Critics, predictably, couldn't resist sniping: the formidable John Hammond, while praising Russell, complained that Prima "persists in playing identical solos night after night"— this from a man who never complained when Billie Holiday sang the same predictable embellishments for three decades. Another commentator found Prima performances to be "all on one level."

Whether or not that was so, audiences hardly seemed to mind. The Famous Door did turn-away business—and provided inspiration for a cluster of other tiny places that began opening along "Swing Street." Executives of the American Record Co., clearly viewing both Prima and Manone as potential competitors for Louis Armstrong, signed them both, the former on Brunswick, the latter for the thirty-five-cent Vocalion label alongside fellow — Crescent City trumpeter Henry "Red" Allen.

Between September 27, 1934, and July 17, 1937, Louis Prima recorded some fifty-four titles, mostly backed by small jam groups. What strikes the listener now is the overall excellence of the bands (Pee Wee is the clarinetist on some, with Arodin, Weinberg, and Eddie Miller on others), the ease with which Prima handles a wide variety of material — and the incendiary brilliance of his trumpet work. Again and again, he fires off compelling, technically assured solos, fluent throughout the entire range of the horn.

The records (and those of Manone) tend to follow a pattern: more or less straightforward melody chorus, Prima vocal in what one musician called "that hoarse, horny voice of his," solos by a sideman or two, then the leader's trumpet back for the big finale. Within that, there are consistent peaks, including tough and exhilarating Russell solos on "Chasing Shadows," "The Lady in Red," and "Cross Patch."

Prima, for all his gaudy ways, stands up well. There's no denying the pervasive Armstrong flavor, but what's refreshing here is how freely he's able to work within that vocabulary. There are moments, particularly when he descends into his low register, when his figure shapes and sense of drama recall those of Bunny Berigan.”

Source: Richard Sudhalter, Lost Chords: White Musicians and Their Contribution to Jazz, 1915-1945.

Louie has long been one of my favorites Jazz musicians from the heyday of Jazz in New Orleans and its early development in New York City.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Metropole Orchestra [Metropole Orkest]

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

As a young man aspiring to make a career in music, the catchphrase as I was maturing in the business was – “Don’t give up your day gig.”

Fortunately for my career in the music business, I came-of-age in the greater Los Angeles area where discipline, diligence and the ability to read music resulted in a decent living being earned by playing club dates, working casuals and receiving some studio calls for gigs involving TV and movie soundtracks, commercials and jingles.

I even got to play at the famed Lighthouse Café in Hermosa Beach, CA for six months as part of a college quintet that spelled the featured group while the latter took a dinner break during the famous [infamous?] 2:00 PM – to 2:00 AM Sunday marathons at the club.

Bassist Howard Rumsey, The Lighthouse’s impresario, fed us, gave us all the free Coca Cola we could consume and provided enough actual money to pay for a fill-up in my ’55 Chevy; but hey, it was THE Lighthouse and I think that all of us in the group would have paid him to make the gig!

The era of resident orchestras as maintained by the movie studios was coming to an end, although a number of local municipalities sponsored bands for their summer concerts series, and there were many classical orchestras in the area, too.  But this kind of “legit” work never appealed to me [sitting around for what seemed like hours, counting 142 measures of “rest” and then picking up two huge, heavy cymbals to strike them together once before sitting down again to count more measures of rest was not my idea of playing music]. 

Sometimes, the chance to pick-up a few schimolies by riding a bus with a big band came my way, but the music was generally uninspiring and the downside was being out-of-town when the studio contractors called, thus losing your place in the hierarchy.

Imagine my surprise then when I learned that many cities in Europe kept radio orchestras on staff that were supported by various state governments. Can you picture it – being on salary with benefits and showing up for work each day to play Jazz on a regular basis – and this is your “day gig?!” Heck, they even got paid for rehearsals [and the music obviously sounded much because of this extra time to learn it].

Most of the major European countries, but especially Germany and Holland, maintained such aggregations who in turn supplied a steady stream of music for broadcast over radio and television as well as a fairly active performance schedule at some of these countries most renown concert halls.

Holland, a nation of only around sixteen million people, provides government support for two, such orchestras – The Metropole and The Concertgebouw – the former playing at concert venues throughout The Netherlands while the latter performs primarily at its namesake auditorium in Amsterdam.

Unfortunately, for those of us without ready access to Holland, until the advent of concerts streamed via the internet, the music of these orchestras was not widely heard outside The Netherlands.

To compound matters, since it lost its recording contracts with the Koch and Mons record labels, commercial CDs by The Metropole Orchestra are only rarely available and the Concertgebouw Jazz Orchestra, for the most part, has underwritten the issuance of its own recordings during its comparatively briefer existence.

However , thanks to the munificence of a Dutch internet Jazz buddy, as well as, one in southern Oregon, I have been a regular “visitor” to most of the concerts performed by these orchestras over the past ten [10] years or so.

In order to help its readers to sample some of the music of The Metropole Orchestra, the editorial staff at JazzProfiles has prepared the following YouTube.

The audio track features trumpeter Terence Blanchard and his quintet performing Miles Davis’ Au Bar du Petit Bac with The Metropole Orchestra. Miles wrote this tune as part of a soundtrack he composed and recorded in 1957 for director Louis Malle’s film Ascenseur pour L’échafaud [Lift to the Scaffold].

Listening to the way in which the string section of Holland’s magnificent Metropole Orchestra plays Jazz phrasing, one wishes for a time machine so that Charlie Parker and Clifford Brown could be re-make their famous “with strings” albums and benefit from a string section that knows how to play Jazz.

The reasons why The Metropole Orchestra are so adept at Jazz phrasing are explained in the following article about the orchestra, its history and evolution by the noted Jazz author, Mike Hennessey.

[Incidentally, when the string section is included, it is referred to as The Metropole Orchestra and sans strings it is The Metropole Orchestra Big Band.]

Also integrated in this piece for JazzProfiles’ readers is an overview of the orchestra and its origins and development as excerpted from the orchestra’s own website 

The High-Flying Dutchmen - Jazz Now, July 2004 issue

Mike Hennessey spotlights the unique Metropole Orchestra

© -Mike Hennessey Jazz Now, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“The Metropole Orchestra was founded in 1945 by the Dutch Radio Foundation. It came into being because, after the Second World War, Holland's newly re-established public radio network needed an ensemble capable of producing high quality music programmes covering every genre of light music.

Dolf van der Linden was appointed chief conductor and was given the task of recruiting musicians for the orchestra. He began by contacting top class Dutch musicians who were playing in orchestras all over Europe and inviting them to return to Holland to join the new ensemble.

The son of a music dealer who owned several musical instrument shops, van der Linden took violin and music theory lessons from his father, who was an excellent player, and later studied composition at a music academy. When he was 16, he took a job as a theatre organist and, from 1936 to 1939, he worked regularly as an arranger for various radio orchestras. It was after the war that he concentrated on conducting.

The 17-member Metropole Orchestra made its début on November 25, 1945 and has since won international acclaim as a major institution of the European music community.

There is no other ensemble like it anywhere in the world.

The orchestra today has 52 full time members, all on regular salary with full social security and pension rights. It plays an average of 40 concerts a year and spends about eight weeks a year doing studio productions. It is financed by the Dutch government and has an annual budget of 5.5 million euros.

Dolf van der Linden was chief conductor for three and a half decades, up to his retirement in 1980, and he developed the ensemble into an orchestra which included a full symphonic string section and a conventional big band line-up.

The orchestra rapidly earned a glowing reputation throughout Europe, first through radio and television productions initiated by the European Broadcasting Union, then later through live performances in various countries. To date, the Metropole Orchestra has performed in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, France, Norway, Greece and the United States.

Over the years, the orchestra has worked with a glittering array of world-class vocalists and instrumentalists from the worlds of opera, operetta, musicals, Jazz, rock and pop. But perhaps Dolf van der Linden's greatest achievement was that, in spite of playing in a multitude of musical styles and in constantly changing circumstances, particularly with regard to technical developments, the orchestra always maintained a strong identity of its own.

When van der Linden retired in 1980, he was succeeded by Rogier van Otterloo, the son of the celebrated conductor, Willem van Otterloo. He rapidly brought the orchestra up to speed with the newest developments in music and adopted a double rhythm section policy, one for Jazz and the more traditional forms of light music and one for pop and rock music.

Rogier van Otterloo's involvement with the orchestra came to an untimely end with his death in 1988 at the age of 46. It took a number of years to find a worthy successor and it was in 1991 that Dick Bakker, already a successful composer/arranger, was appointed chief conductor and artistic director.

Bakker studied music at the Hilversum Conservatory and also qualified as a professional sound technician. He has won many international awards and it was with his song, "Ding-a-Dong", that Teach-In won the 1975 Eurovision Song Contest. Since 1982 he has expanded his European activities, composing and arranging music for the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the Hungarian Symphony Orchestra, among others.

The brilliant Dutch composer and arranger, Rob Pronk, was the Metropoleís guest conductor for 21 years the current principal guest conductor is the Grammy Award-winning Vince Mendoza.

The roll call of artists who have appeared with the Metropole Orchestra over the years is staggering and richly diverse. It includes Charles Aznavour, Burt Bacharach, Kenny Barron, Shirley Bassey, Tony Bennett, Michael and Randy Brecker, Ray Brown, Joe Cocker, Natalie Cole, Pete and Conte Candoli, Eddie Daniels, Manu Dibango, CÈline Dion, George Duke, Bill Evans, Clare Fischer, Ella Fitzgerald, Tommy Flanagan, Art Garfunkel,

Gloria Gaynor, Stan Getz, Astrud Gilberto, Dizzy Gillespie, Herbie Hancock, Roy Hargrove, Shirley Horn, Freddie Hubbard, Hank Jones, the King's Singers, Lee Konitz, Hubert Laws, Joe Lovano, Vera Lynn, Bob Malach. Andy Martin, Bob Mintzer, Mark Murphy, Peter Nero, the New York Voices, Bill Perkins, Oscar Peterson, Frank Rosolino, Zoot Sims, the Supremes, the Swingle Singers, Lew Tabackin, Clark Terry, Toots Thielemans, Mel Tormé, Sarah Vaughan, Dionne Warwick, Kenny Werner, Andy Williams, Nancy Wilson and the Yellowjackets.

Arrangers and composers who have contributed scores to the Metropole's book include Bob Brookmeyer, John Clayton, Steve Gray, Peter Herbolzheimer, Bill Holman, Chuck Israels, Jim McNeely, Vince Mendoza and Rob Pronk.

The Orchestra today has its own recording studio with the control room built by NOB Audio and the control room acoustics designed by the British company, Recording Architecture. Recordings are made and mixed using a Neve VR Legend 60-channel console and a protools mix cube. In addition, there is a hard disc editing system, the full range of state-of-the-art out-board gear and custom-made ATC monitoring facilities. The whole set-up is designed for Dolby Surround post-production and has projection systems installed for the recording and editing of film and television scores.

For live recordings the orchestra uses Audio 1, a mobile studio with separate recording and machine rooms, which is equipped with a first class SSL console, plus state-of-the-art microphones, outboard-gear and monitoring facilities.

Recordings by the Metropole Orchestra are not that easy to come by, but currently has 21 releases listed on its website, including albums featuring such guest soloists as Claudio Roditi, Swiss saxophonist George Robert, German saxophonist Peter Weniger, trombonist Andy Martin, bassist Chuck Israels, Clark Terry, Dee Daniels, Bill Perkins, Jiggs Whigham and Lew Tabackin.”

© -The Metropole Orchestra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

The Metropole Orchestra is the world's largest professional pop and jazz orchestra. Renowned for its wide-ranging abilities, the Metropole Orchestra performs anything from chansons to World-music, film-scores, Rock- or Pop-tunes as well as high-octane jazz. The orchestra is a regular feature at the North Sea Jazz festival and the yearly Holland Festival along with countless TV and radio programs broadcast to millions. The ever-growing Dutch film and television industry relies heavily on the Metropole Orchestra for its film scores. Since 2005 the Metropole is under the baton of its Chief, four-time Grammy Award winner Vince Mendoza, and can be seen frequenting the concert stage, in festivals and on recordings in the Netherlands as well as internationally.

A sampling of the performers who have shared the stage with the Metropole Orchestra underscores the ensemble’s quality and flexibility to cover a wide range of genres: Oleta Adams, Vicente Amigo, Antony & The Johnsons, Within Temptation, Andrea Bocelli, Joe Cocker, Elvis Costello, Eddie Daniels, Brian Eno, Ella Fitzgerald, Stan Getz, Astrud Gilberto, Dizzy Gillespie, Herbie Hancock, Hank Jones, Chaka Khan, Pat Metheny, Ivan Lins, Mike Patton, Paquito D’Rivera, John Scofield, The Swingle Singers, Jean ‘Toots’ Thielemans, Gino Vannelli, Steve Vai, Sarah Vaughan, Nancy Wilson, Dino Saluzzi, Trijntje Oosterhuis, the legendary Turkish singer Sezen Aksu and Fado-queen Mariza, just to name a few.
The CD recording Ivan Lins & The Metropole Orchestra with the Brasilian singer/songwriter Ivan Lins, released in August 2009, received a Latin Grammy for 'Best Brasilian Album'. 


The Metropole Orchestra was popular right from its inception in 1945 by founder Dolf van der Linden, who led the group from one success to another. When van der Linden formed the group shortly after the Second World War, his mandate was to create an ensemble with the ability to produce high level performances of pop and jazz music for public radio. He traveled extensively throughout Europe to find the right mix of musicians for his orchestra. His refreshing and challenging musical ideas spoke directly to a public starved for a new musical culture after years of war. Dolf van der Linden directed the orchestra for 35 years. Radio, and in later years television broadcasts helped spread the orchestra’s fame even further. International tours and pan-European broadcasting (EBU) brought the Metropole’s musical message to countless listeners all over the world

Perhaps the greatest compliment to the legacy of Dolf van der Linden is that the Metropole Orchestra has maintained its own unique musical personality and still continues to develop within an increasing variety of musical styles and technical innovations.


The energetic, young Rogier van Otterloo, the son of the famed classical maestro Willem van Otterloo, followed van der Linden as Artistic Director and Chief Conductor. Van Otterloo’s enthusiasm was contagious and the orchestra developed into a first-class ensemble with the flexibility to work in the newest genres in light music, from rock 'n roll onwards. The Metropole Orchestra was expanded to include a double rhythm section, one for pop-music, the other for jazz- and World-music. Van Otterloo developed into a major figure as composer and arranger. Soloists from genres ranging from American top jazz stars to Opera divas joined forces with the Metropole Orchestra. The orchestra contributed greatly to the growing European jazz scene.
1991 and beyond

Dick Bakker’s arrival to the Metropole brought a new life to the Metropole orchestra. The group made countless appearances in large-scale television productions at home and abroad and a selection of memorable performances including the Acropolis concert with George Dalaras and Mikis Theodorakis in Greece, and performances at Amsterdam’s rock temple, Paradiso. At the same time, The orchestra moved to a new, modern studio and worked steadily on recordings for radio, television, cds and film soundtracks.

In 1995 Vince Mendoza began his relationship with the orchestra primarily in the area of jazz. The relationship blossomed with the music that he wrote for the orchestra as well as the concerts and recordings featuring many of the top Jazz and Pop soloists in the world. During this time a new fleet of arrangers and composers joined the ranks to create the contemporary sound of the orchestra that you know today. In 2005 Mendoza became the chief conductor and continues to maintain the high level of performances that the public has grown to expect from the orchestra. Today the Metropole is active with more than 40 concerts a season on concert stages all over the Netherlands and internationally.

In 2013 the dynamic young British conductor Jules Buckley was appointed as the Metropole Orkest’s newest chief conductor, after having been guest conductor since 2008.

Composer, orchestrator and conductor Jules Buckley is musical pioneer who pushes the boundaries of contemporary genres. In 2004 he co-founded the Heritage Orchestra, a flexible chamber ensemble, dedicated to performing new music with a daring approach to crossing and linking musical genres. As the principal guest conductor of the Metropole Orkest in recent years, Jules has led projects with Snarky Puppy, Laura Mvula, Gregory Porter, Tori Amos, Markus Stockhausen, Michael Kiwanuka, Jonathan Jeremiah and UK house music duo Basement Jaxx.

Ever the musical agitator, Buckley’s work has led to collaborations, recordings and live projects with the likes of Massive Attack, Arctic Monkeys, John Cale, Emeli Sandé, Cinematic Orchestra, Jamie Cullum, Beardyman and Dizzy Rascal. This year, he has worked with the WDR Big Band, Jose James and the Royal Concertgebouworkest, Patrick Watson and L’Orchestre Nationale d’ile de France, and arranged and conducted Caro Emerald’s number one album “The Shocking Miss Emerald”. Other recent highlights include work with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chilly Gonzales, as well as various performances of the hugely successful Urban Classic project, including a BBC Radio 3 Prom, where he conducted the BBC SO alongside some of the leading lights of the British urban music scene including Laura Mvula, Maverick Sabre, Jacob Banks, Wretch 32, N-Dubz’ Fazer and Lady Leshurr.


The Metropole Orchestra prides itself on the glittering array of great artists it has worked with. In alphabetical order, the lineup of stars: Oleta Adams, Sezen Aksu, Antony & The Johnsons, Charles Aznavour, Burt Bacharach, Victor Bailey, Kenny Barron, Shirley Bassey, Jeff Beal, Jim Beard, Tony Bennett, Andrea Bocelli, Terry Bozzio, Michael Brecker, Randy Brecker, Ray Brown, Patrick Bruel, John Cale, Amit Chatterjee, Chico Cesar, Joe Cocker, Natalie Cole, Pete and Conte Condoli, Elvis Costello, The Creatures, Pete Christlieb, Ronnie Cuber, Eddie Daniels, Manu Dibango, Céline Dion, Eva de Dios, George Duke, Brian Eno, Sertab Erener, Peter Erskine, Bill Evans, Clare Fischer, Ella Fitzgerald, Tommy Flanagan, Bruce Fowler, Art Garfunkel, Gloria Gaynor, Stan Getz, Astrud Gilberto, Dizzy Gillespie, Herbie Hancock, Roy Hargrove, Tom Harrel, Conrad Herwig, Roger Hodgson, Shirley Horn, Freddie Hubbard, Al Jarreau, Ingrid Jensen, Hank Jones, Junkie XL, Mike Keneally, Nancy King, The King's Singers, Lee Konitz, K's Choice, Hubert Laws, Ivan Lins, Joe Lovano, Vera Lynn, Kevin Mahagony, Bob Malach, Mariza, Andy Martin, Nancy Marano, Dina Medina, Daniel Mendez, Pat Metheny, Bob Mintzer, Mark Murphy, Andy Narell, Daniel Navarro, Silje Nergaard, Peter Nero, Ed Neumeister, The New York Voices, Trijntje Oosterhuis, Alan Parsons, Mike Patton, Bill Perkins, Oscar Peterson, Fabia Rebodao, Diane Reeves, Paquito D’Rivera, Frank Rosselino, John Scofield, Zoot Sims, Sister Sledge, Mike Stern, The Supremes, The Swingle Singers, Lew Tabackin, Within Temptation, Clark Terry, Jean 'Toots' Thielemans, Tulug Tirpan, Mel Tormé, Rafael de Utrera, Steve Vai, Gino Vannelli, Sarah Vaughan, Harvey Wainapel, Dionne Warwick, Kenny Werner, Andy Williams, Nancy Wilson, The Yellowjackets and Karim Ziad.


Michael Abene, John Adams, Manny Albam, Jeff Beal, Bob Brookmeyer, Dori Caymmi, John Clayton, Michel Colombier, Bill Dobbins, Clare Fisher, Steve Gray, Tom Harrell, Peter Herbolzheimer, Bill Holman, Chuck Israels, Jim McNeely, Vince Mendoza, Bob Mintzer, Ennio Morricone, Ed Neumeister, Chuck Owen, Gunther Schuller and Maria Schneider.

The following playlist features various iterations of The Metropole performing with or performing the music of Michael Brecker, Maria Schneider, Tim Armacost, Paul van Kemenade, Herbie Hancock, Mike Abene, Ronnie Cuber, Terence Blanchard, Kenny Barron, Horace Silver, Gary Smulyan, Ruud Brink, Rob van Kreevald, Jeff Beck and Harvey Wainapel.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Oscar Peterson - In The Black Forest

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

Oscar Peterson's contract with Verve ran out in 1964 and he left the company. He signed with Limelight, a new subsidiary of Mercury that would prove to be desultory and ineffectual and eventually was closed down. The Limelight albums are not rated among his best, although one is notable as his first substantial venture as a composer. This was The Canadiana Suite which the editorial staff at JazzProfiles covered in a previous feature.

I had been a long-time admirer of Oscar and his prodigious technique, but frankly, he put out so many LP’s during his association with Norman Granz’s Verve label that I began to hear a certain sameness in his playing despite the thematic context.

In a way, I had the feeling that Oscar was a victim of his own success and I began to view him as a musician who had stopped growing as an artist.

The best description of Oscar’s plight was contained in a piece that appeared in The Times on London, May 11, 1970, in which Max Harrison wrote that, after the Carnegie Hall concert of 1949, “in terms of fame and fortune he never looked back: he toured the world and made far too many LPs. Indeed, musically he seemed never to look forward. He traded in the dullest sort of virtuosity - keyboard mobility as an end in itself, the effect frantic but uncommitted. That was sufficient to enthral an international audience, yet gradually the cognoscenti gave Peterson up, and I recall describing him, in Jazz Monthly a decade ago, as 'the biggest bore in jazz.'”

And yet, in the late 1960s, I had a number of piano playing friends who assured me that Oscar was really a different pianist than the one who was making LP’s by the fistful for Norman Granz and that what he really had to offer was being put on display in a series of six recordings that he made for the MPS label which was based in Germany one of which was entitled - The Way I Really Play! [The exclamation point is mine.]

I sought out these LP’s and after listening to them, it didn’t take me long to agree that there was indeed another Oscar Peterson, one who seemed to perform differently when he was doing so - Exclusively For My Friends - which is the title of the 4 CD set of the MPS albums that was issued by Verve in 1992 [314 513 830-2]

Gene Lees describes the background of how this music came about and explains the circumstances that helped create a startlingly different Oscar Peterson than the one that had been “mailing it in” at the end of his Verve relationship with Norman Granz [Granz had sold the label to MGM in 1962].

“For some time Oscar had been playing a series of private parties for a German millionaire. They would eventuate in some of the most acclaimed albums of his career - indeed, Richard Palmer would write, "some of the most remarkable recordings in jazz history." These included his first important solo albums.

Hans Georg Brunner-Schwer's grandfather was a small businessman named Hermann Schwer, who manufactured bicycle bells in the Black Forest - Schwarzwald, in German - in the late nineteenth century. During the pioneering days of radio broadcasting, he began manufacturing receivers. The business grew.

Schwer had no sons to whom he could leave his business. He had only a daughter, Gretl, and she disappointed him when she married. She chose a musician, a symphony conductor named Brunner, who had been a classmate and friend of Herbert von Karajan. Brunner lived just long enough to father two sons, Hans Georg, born a little less than two years after Oscar Peterson, on July 21,1927, and Herman, who arrived two years later. His widow married a career army officer named Ernst Scherb.

Schwer's company was SABA, the acronym of a much longer name. Its factories were in the lovely little Schwarzwald city of Villingen, not far from the Swiss border. The surrounding folded hills are covered with steep-sloping farms and deep pine forests. In the 19308, SABA patented an automatic tuning device that locks a radio to a frequency, eliminating drift. It is still in use, though the patent has long since expired. SABA grew to be a major manufacturer of radio receivers. When World War Two arrived, the company was impressed into military manufacturing and prospered -until the Allied air forces put the small industries of Villingen, SABA among them, on their target list. They destroyed the SABA facilities.

With the defeat of Germany in 1945, Villingen fell into the French zone of occupation. The French commandant appropriated the finest home in the community for himself- the Brunner-Schwer house built by the grandfather and standing next to the ruined SABA works. The teen-aged boys, Hans Georg and Herman, and Gretl, their mother, were moved into the chauffeur's cottage. By then the grandfather was dead, and they, along with their mother, had inherited the estate, its lands, and what was left of SABA.

Stepfather Ernst Scherb, who had been captured on the eastern front, was at last released by the Russians, returned, and took over the reorganization of SABA, which he carried out with military discipline and clarity. In the meantime the French returned the home to its owners. Scherb decided the two boys should be trained to direct the company. Herman was a brilliant student who was chosen to run the business side of SABA. He obtained an MBA degree. Hans Georg was an indifferent student - in the formal sense at least - with a brilliant flair for those technical fields that interested him. He was elected to run the engineering and manufacturing side of the company.

Hans Georg had inherited from his father more than the love of music. Like the father - and like Oscar Peterson - he had the odd gift of absolute pitch. Again like Oscar, he was big, and he liked big things. He began collecting and restoring classic automobiles made by the now-dismantled Maybach company; some of his restorations are worth as much as half a million dollars. And Hans Georg built up, of all strange things, the world's largest collection of air-raid sirens, indicative of his intense interest in sound.

Hans Georg had learned to play accordion, then piano. Herman Brunner-Schwer, an enthusiastic soccer player, liked to associate with athletes; Hans Georg preferred the company of musicians and sound engineers. He knew the owner of the Berlin company that manufactured the excellent Neumann microphones, and people at Telefunken, as well as the manufacturers of the most sophisticated loudspeakers and recording equipment. He designed and installed on the third floor of his home at Villingen one of the most advanced recording studios in the world.

An associate put it this way: "Hans Georg loved sounds that matched his personality, full and deep, going down if possible to ten cycles and up to twenty thousand cycles. Commercially, these things were not available, but he was striving to achieve them."

The human ear cannot hear frequencies as low as ten cycles, but the body can feel them. And whereas the ear cannot hear higher than about fifteen thousand cycles - and many people can't hear even that far up the sound spectrum - the upper partials, as they are called, of sounds, which are in the very high frequencies, determine the timbres, the characteristic colours, of instruments.

Brunner-Schwer experimented with his advanced studio by recording German folk musicians from the Schwarzwald. But his deepest musical passion was for American bands of the swing era. Despite Hitler's formal proscription of jazz as "decadent Negroid Jewish music" - many musicians were sent off to concentration camps and eventually gas chambers for playing it - thousands of Germans nursed a secret love for the music and listened to caches of pre-war records or to the BBC from London, on whose signal they could hear Glenn Miller's air force band. Brunner-Schwer was one of these listeners.

In 1962, the Brunner-Schwer brothers began an association with a business consultant named Baldhard G. Falk, who had emigrated to the United States after gaining his doctorate in economics from the Free University in Berlin in 1951 and lived in San Francisco. Falk says the name Baldhard, drawn from Norse mythology and then misspelled on his birth certificate, is almost as odd in German as it is to the ear of the English-speaking, and even his American wife calls him BF.

Falk cleared up a business problem in the United States for SABA and the Brunner-Schwer family, after which he became their American business agent. A tall, fair-haired, humorous Prussian of considerable personal charm, Falk got along well with Hans Georg. For one thing, he too was a jazz fan. Once during the war, he was almost arrested for playing The Lambeth Walk outdoors on a wind-up gramophone. "And that," he said with a chuckle, "wasn't even jazz."

One of Hans Georg's early musical assignments for Falk was to find the American jazz accordionist Art Van Damme, whom Brunner-Schwer, an accordionist, considered one of the greatest players of the instrument in the world, and have him go to Villingen to record.

In the last days of the Ray Brown-Ed Thigpen edition of the trio, Oscar was invited to perform in a paid engagement for a small group of Brunner-Schwer's friends. From that point on, he would go to Villingen at least once a year to play under exquisite circumstances for Brunner-Schwer. The audiences were small, no more than twenty or twenty-five persons, and raptly attentive. "They were really only props," Falk said with a smile. "I don't think Hans Georg cared whether they were there or not."

These parties were reminiscent of the nineteenth-century salon gatherings at which Chopin and Liszt were heard to advantage. The Brunner-Schwer house is in the midst of two and a half acres of groomed gardens. Musicians stayed as guests of the family in the home, which has a huge entrance foyer, a sweeping curved stairway, and wooden detailing hand-carved in the last century by Schwarzwald craftsmen. The parties were superbly catered by the staff of the Schwarzwald Hotel Konigsfeld.

Brunner-Schwer was never present except at the start of these recitals. He would first set his microphones, then go up to his recording equipment in a studio under the mansard roof, watching the performance on a television monitor. More perfect circumstances in which to make music would be difficult to imagine, and every musician who ever performed for Brunner-Schwer came away vaguely dazed by the pleasure of the experience. Sometimes there was no party at all: Oscar would sit at the piano in shirt sleeves, as at home, and muse pensively on the instrument while Hans Georg, unseen and for the instant forgotten, captured these reflections on tape.

A friendship developed between Brunner-Schwer and Oscar Peterson, despite the fact that Hans Georg spoke almost no English, although such was the perfection of his ear that the few words he did command were pronounced so well that one was deceived into assuming he spoke it fluently. But Baldhard Falk, when he flew in from San Francisco, or Brunner-Schwer's wife, Marlies, would translate for them. Both Oscar and Hans Georg, Falk points out, were physically big men, and they shared several passions - for jazz, for the piano, for advanced technology, and for sound.

Oscar was fascinated by everything about Brunner-Schwer's equipment and use of it, including the radical (for the time) way he miked a piano. He used, at least in the early days, two microphones, usually Neumanns, placed inside the instrument and so close to the strings that they were almost touching; a much more distant mike placement was usual at the time. Some of the microphones, in fact, were prototypes Brunner-Schwer had borrowed from their inventors before they were even marketed commercially. And the piano itself was superb, a full nine-foot concert grand, a German Steinway. The German-made Steinways were rated much more highly by pianists than the American-made instruments.

Because of the power of his technique, Oscar dislikes pianos with light actions, and the action of Brunner-Schwer's Steinway was crisp and strong. After the salon recitals, when the guests were gone, Oscar and Brunner-Schwer would listen to the tapes, and Oscar would shake his head and tell his wife Sandy and anyone else who was there that no one had ever captured his sound the way Hans Georg did. And it seemed that these tapes were destined to languish unheard by the world, like Gerry Macdonald's tapes of the trio with Herb Ellis.
SABA was by now marketing high-fidelity equipment with capacities that exceeded the quality of available commercial recordings.

Hans Georg had gone into the recording business in a limited way, setting up the SABA label, on which he issued his Art Van Damme and other recordings, a total of forty albums sold through equipment dealers in Germany. The Oscar Peterson tapes could not be issued because Oscar was under contract to Limelight, and there was no plan to issue them, although they were far superior to the Limelight albums.

SABA continued to grow throughout the 1960s, finally reaching the point where it had to be refinanced or sold. The Brunner-Schwer family decided to sell and considered offers from several companies. Falk - after long and complex negotiations - finally made a deal with the American company General Telephone and Electronics. GTE acquired SABA but Hans Georg retained the music division, including the inventory of tapes. At this point Hans Georg decided to go fully into the record business, marketing his material through his MPS label - Musik Produktion Schwarzwald. He thought that nothing could announce his entry into the business with as much eclat as the Peterson material. And Oscar's Mercury contract had elapsed.

Falk flew in for Brunner-Schwer's 1968 Oscar Peterson house party. Oscar and Hans Georg listened to hours of the tapes they had accumulated, selecting not the best of the material but the best that was not covered by the Mercury contract. Recording contracts specify that the artist cannot re-record material for a certain period, usually five years. None of the tunes recorded for Limelight could be issued in an MPS version. Oscar called Norman Granz to discuss possible release of the material by MPS. Falk, whose fluent English was one of his important business assets to Brunner-Schwer, spoke to Granz, who named a price to which Hans Georg agreed, and, that being done, Granz sent them a contract.

"It was the shortest contract I have ever seen," Falk said. "Only a page and a half long. It was a world-wide contract for release of four albums by Oscar, for a lump sum and royalties. So MPS started with that, those four albums. Hans Georg got his money from GTE for SABA and started investing heavily in music and hiring salesmen. It was at that time that we met you in New York." So it was. Oscar returned from West Germany in 1968 with test pressings of the first albums. Falk and Hans Georg flew to New York. Oscar called me. Given his developed skill at hiding his emotions, I was surprised at the enthusiasm in his voice.

Oscar had told me on several occasions that his best playing had been done in private. I had heard him play with a wonderful muted pensiveness, and nothing on record - even the London House records themselves - equaled what I used to hear in the late-night sets at the London House.

So when Oscar told me that he believed these German recordings were the best he had ever made, my eyebrows rose. He said he wanted me to write liner notes for at least two of the albums, both containing only solo performances. For now, he wanted me to meet the company's owner and his consultant in the United States. "The owner," he said, "is Hans Georg Brunner-Schwer, and his associate is - you're not gonna believe this name - Baldhard G. Falk." In the argot of jazz, Baldhard is slightly salacious.

I met Oscar, Brunner-Schwer, and Falk for lunch at the Carlisle Hotel, after which Hans Georg and BF, as I was learning to call him, repaired to my apartment to listen to the pressings. I remember being astonished by the recordings. I told Oscar, "This is the way you really play," and one of the albums was titled The Way I Really Play. In the days after that, I played the albums for various jazz musicians, who agreed that these were the best Peterson recordings they had heard. By then Oscar had left New York to tell interviewers in various places that he thought the MPS recordings were his best.

And critics were soon agreeing with him, including some who had been among his skeptical listeners. In The Times of London, May 11, 1970, Max Harrison wrote that, after the Carnegie Hall concert of 1949, "in terms of fame and fortune he never looked back: he toured the world and made far too many LPs. Indeed, musically he seemed never to look forward. He traded in the dullest sort of virtuosity - keyboard mobility as an end in itself, the effect frantic but uncommitted. That was sufficient to enthral an international audience, yet gradually the cognoscenti gave Peterson up, and I recall describing him, in Jazz Monthly a decade ago, as 'the biggest bore in jazz.' Always there were a few people, chiefly jazz pianists, who stubbornly maintained that in private he played in a manner which flatly contradicted his public image, but evidence was lacking and we never believed them.

"Peterson's apparent satisfaction with his easy successes confirmed such incredulity, yet between 1963 and 1968, when pausing from his travels, he was recording, almost secretly, at Hans Georg Brunner-Schwer's Villingen studio in the Black Forest. As never before, Peterson had sole charge of repertoire, tape-editing, etc., and many performances accumulated over those years were rejected. The survivors amount to about 170 minutes' jazz, however, and show him in so new a light as to compel reassessment. Earlier, irrespective of his material's character, Peterson strung together quite mechanical pianistic devices, the detritus, it sounded, of a thousand half-hearted improvisations, but here, as, say, the compact exploration of Perdido shows, spontaneity is balanced with the fruits of long consideration. These 26 treatments last from two minutes to over a quarter of an hour and always the length feels exactly appropriate. They are, in fact, substantially different one from another, and as the contrast between Little Girl Blue's velvety quiet and the bouncing gaiety encapsulated in Lulu’s Back in Town proves, the range of expression is wider than on all Peterson's other discs together....

"To hear Peterson's I'm in the Mood for Love pass from sombre opening chords through increasing but always cogent elaboration to its churning double-tempo climax is like watching the speeded-up growth of a natural organism, and the transmutation process whereby so much is drawn from so bad a tune is inexplicable....

"[Oscar Peterson] is, indeed, a conservative, a rare type in this music, but he has learnt one of Tatum's main lessons well, for, as the lithe, bounding phrases of Foggy Day or Sandy's Blues show, in his best moments decoration assumes a functional role and so is no longer decoration, ornament becomes integral to the processes of development."

Two years later, when My Favorite Instrument - one of the two solo albums for which I had written the notes - came out in England, Harrison wrote in Jazz Monthly, "It is a luxury to be able to indulge in a categorical statement for once, and to assert that this is the best record Peterson ever made. Of course, the sleeve note gets too excited and says he is better than Tatum" - the barb's aimed at me - "although even an offhand comparison between this version of Someone to Watch Over Me, described as a tribute to the older man, with the master's own performance of this piece reveals a considerable difference in executive refinement, and further listening uncovers the more concise yet more subtle structure of Tatum's reading. Such claims on Peterson's behalf are futile, but it is important to define just what his musical and pianistic achievements are.

"He is not original. Unlike, say, a James P. Johnson or a Cecil Taylor, there is very little in his music that can be isolated as being his alone. Peterson's strongest suit is his knowledge. He has learnt every procedure that has occurred in piano jazz up to his time and uses them in his own way. Put something in a new context and it can take on a fresh meaning: what is personal in [these] performances is not the musical and pianistic elements of which they consist but the particular way these are put together. Peterson's other point, obviously, is a technique which, unlike the techniques of most jazz pianists, has been systematically developed in all areas. This accounts not only for the feeling of completeness which all these improvisations convey despite their diversity of musical character, but also for his powers as a soloist: what Peterson does share with Tatum is that, contrary to popular superstition, he has no need of bassist or drummer. This is confirmed by the above program's freedom from that mechanical aspect which makes so many of his trio performances infuriating, and this in turn is underlined by such factors as that each track seems exactly the right length - two minutes is just right for Lulu, as are six for Little Girl Blue. And from none of the editions of his trio have we often encountered, say, the mood of wistfulness that sounds through Bye Bye, Blackbird or the lyricism of I Should Care.

"That Peterson's stance is essentially retrospective is shown by such things as the music's rhythmic vocabulary, as on Perdido. But notice that he displays a far better sense of dynamics here than we should ever suspect from his trio recordings, and that he makes a use of the bottom register superior to that of almost any other jazz pianist. The integration of bravura into the overall shape of Body and Soul is fine, too, even if it lacks the continuity which (no matter how often he is accused of not having it) is one of Tatum's most conspicuous qualities. Hear also the internal balance of the chords in Who?, the depth and warmth of tone - all taken for granted by non-pianistic listeners but none of them easy to achieve. Perhaps Little Girl Blue is Peterson's best recorded performance: its velvety quiet follows most tellingly on Lulu’s brief yet bouncing gaiety, and while nobody would claim for him the depth of Powell or Yancey, this music is more than merely pensive.

"Here, I am sure, is the one Peterson LP that should be in every collection."

The first four MPS albums were not only a critical success, they sold well in Europe, particularly West Germany.

Brunner-Schwer made two more albums with Oscar and then suggested a more formal and planned contractual arrangement. In view of the expansion of MPS, Norman Granz negotiated a contract calling for higher fees. And he suggested that for the first album, Oscar be recorded with a large orchestra, including strings. Oscar had made only one other album of that kind, a somewhat abortive and forgotten Verve recording with Nelson Riddle. Granz suggested that the arranger be Claus Ogerman, and Hans Georg immediately agreed. Ogerman - like Falk a Prussian by birth - was a far different arranger from Riddle. A former jazz pianist himself, he had revealed, in albums made for Creed Taylor at Verve after Granz sold it, deep sensitivity for soloists in albums with Bill Evans and Antonio Carlos Jobim. Ogerman had a distinctive gift for writing string arrangements of a curiously austere lyricism that somehow enhanced but did not interfere with the featured player. Granz suggested that the album be made in New York, and since Ogerman then lived there, it was a sensible arrangement, to which Brunner-Schwer agreed.

The session was set for the A&R recording studio, one of the best and best-known in New York. Oscar at that time was a contracted Baldwin artist. In exchange for the endorsement of their instruments by major artists, which they are able to use in their advertising, piano companies provide instruments on command for the engagements of their contracted artists in various locations. Steinway was noted for its indifference to endorsements; Baldwin sought them sedulously. And when Oscar arrived in a city, he had only to pick out a Baldwin he liked and the company would send him the instrument.

But the concert grand Baldwin he chose for the album with Ogerman for some reason could not be used, and Oscar confronted a studio piano he found inadequate - "I don't like the box," as he put it. He declined to record on it. Brunner-Schwer faced a dilemma. He had committed substantial funds to this recording, including Ogerman's arranging and conducting fees, the cost of the A&R studio, and the salaries of the musicians who sat there waiting, and would be paid whether they played or not. He made a decision: to record the orchestra now and to overdub Oscar's part in Villingen on the piano Oscar liked. Oscar instantly agreed, the session proceeded, and he completed the album later in Villingen. The album, Motions and Emotions, is a lovely piece of work. It would be described by some jazz critics as a pop album, but the definition is irrelevant. Oscar plays an extended embellishment of Jobim's Wave that is breath-taking.

Oscar made in all fifteen albums for MPS. The concepts for them were planned and prepared, often in conversations with Brunner-Schwer. One of them was a quartet album with Bob Durham on drums' and Sam Jones on bass - and guitarist Herb Ellis. It was called Hello, Herbie, the first words Oscar said when his old friend arrived from California for the sessions. Another was an album called In Tune, with the brilliant vocal group known as The Singers Unlimited, which Oscar had brought to the attention of Brunner-Schwer. Led by Gene Puerling, the group's arranger, and with the young Chicago studio singer Bonnie Herman as the lead voice, the group made elaborate orchestrational albums by complex overdubbing of the four voices. Bonnie Herman vividly remembers the sessions. By then Brunner-Schwer had built a new studio on the property, installing therein a Boesendorfer Imperial concert grand piano. It was there, in fact, that Oscar became familiar with the Boesendorfer, which instrument he would embrace. "You could look out the window when you were recording," Bonnie said. "You'd see all the gardeners working, and the paths leading from the main house, lined with roses. And every morning there was the smell of fresh-ground coffee. Marlies, Hans Georg's wife, would make us fresh-ground coffee."

The last recording for Brunner-Schwer, a trio album with Niels-Henning 0rsted Pedersen on bass, was made in the spring of 1972. Norman Granz had returned actively to the record business, with the Pablo label - named for Picasso - in Beverly Hills. Oscar became a contracted Pablo artist, doing all his recording from then until 1986 for that company.

Oscar told the French writer Francois Postif in an interview published in Le Jazz Hot in April 1973, "I've never counted the number of albums that have come out under my name or under that of my trio, but I think it has to be about 60 now. And I made lots of albums with other artists, like Dizzy and Roy. But I think the best album I've ever recorded was the first solo album for MPS." He was referring to My Favorite Instrument. "Perhaps it was because it was the first album where I was completely free, and in which I did what I felt like. I chose the tempos, the keys I wanted to play in, if I wanted to change keys in the middle of a tune, there was no problem, because I was alone at the piano, alone with no one to give me problems."

It is a wistful statement. "Wistful" is the word his nemesis, Max Harrison, used to describe his performance of Bye-Bye Blackbird in the Villingen recordings. Harrison said of the first Schwarzwald albums: "It would be ridiculous to sound a valedictory note on a man of 45, yet it is through such music that Peterson will be remembered."

The great improvisers of the past, Chopin and Liszt among them, had only one way to leave their music for posterity: to write it down on paper. But the jazz improviser can leave his actual performances, and his recordings are his legacy. It is not coincidence that jazz evolved coeval with the development of recording technology.

Those MPS recordings, the sound quality of which was the state of the art at the time, are so important a part of the Peterson body of work that one is forced to ask, what happened there in the Schwarzwald?

For one thing, the man who once made ten albums in a week in Chicago recorded only fifteen albums in Villingen in eleven years, and mostly under ideal conditions.

Oscar Peterson is quite possibly the bravest man I have ever known. Challenge him, and he will respond. If it's a drunk in the London House or the Hong Kong bar who is distracting him, he will simply put on the pressure until he has conquered both the distraction and the distractor. If bravura display is all that will reach the back of a huge concert hall, that will be what he does. He simply will not surrender.

But at Villingen, with the roses in the garden and the smell of coffee in the morning, he had no need to command or demand respect: he already had it, had indeed the adoration of the people around him.

Jack Batten described one of Oscar's appearances in Toronto. "Peterson," he wrote in Maclean's (April 17, 1965), "was introduced to the Massey Hall audience with a lavish encomium by a local disc jockey, and the crowd - the house had been sold out two days earlier - hailed him long and vigorously as he walked onstage, a huge coffee-colored man of bearish contour, resplendent in a modish jet tuxedo and laceless patent-leather shoes. His hands and wrists dazzled with gold - gold cufflinks, gold wristwatch band, gold identification bracelet, and large beveled gold wedding band on his left hand."

The identification bracelet was the one Fred Astaire had given him.

What happened at Villingen?

Nothing had to be conquered. The gold, as it were, came off, the patent-leather shoes were slipped aside. There in the Black Forest the shy and sensitive boy from Montreal High School sat down at a Steinway and played Bye-Bye Blackbird.”

The following video features Oscar along with Sam Jones on bass and Bobby Durham on drums performing a rather incredible version of Horace Silver’s Nica’s Dream. To my ears, this is a side of Oscar that was seldom heard up to the time of the MPS LP’s [c. 1965-1972] and rarely heard after their issuance when Oscar was again returned to recording for Norman Granz after he formed Pablo Records.