For our December Muse Intro, Lory Hawley gives us:
WAKING TO LIVE JAZZ
This is a story about how someone (me) who knows almost nothing about jazz groups or jazz, was blessed with the early morning sound of live jazz being played in the home where I was a guest.
A bit of a back story; a dear friend by the name of Phil Gainsborough, co-founder and former president of Associated Securities in Los Angles, is a musician; he plays a mean saxophone.
Though his vocation has been economics and investments, his very passionate avocation has been music. Phil was a DJ for KJAZZ in the San Francisco Bay Area for a time, when he was only 16, and he learned the ropes from Pat Henry who founded KJAZZ. In L.A. he also had a program on KABC.
Phil’s story of how he came to be a founding band leader of a now famous jazz tentet called the Phil Norman Tentet (Norman is his middle name) has always inspired me. He had always wanted to form a jazz group but had no musicians and no gigs. I’ll quote Phil here “It all began when I was asked if I had a group to play regular Wednesday night gigs at an L.A. jazz club call Lunaria. I had no music, no charts, no bandstands. No musicians. But now I had a string of Wednesday nights. And I soon learned that if you want to get something done, just commit to doing something you haven’t done before”.
He knew the sound he wanted; small group instrumentation, something like Art Pepper or Dave Pell, who he knew. So he borrowed a few charts from Dave, “rented” some charts from local musicians, and bought charts from Roger Neumann a fellow Sax player. Someone loaned him some bandstands. Now he just needed musicians…
L.A. has a rich collection of musicians, and he was able to convince several top players, many of them studio musicians to join his venture. His opening night line-up included jazz greats like Bob Florence, Carl Saunders, Frank Capp among others. “Quite the group to start with. I was in business”. And he was; they recorded 7 albums, had a Grammy nomination for a wonderful version of “Linus and Lucy” which is on one of my favorite albums “Then and Now” which is their take on 12 famous jazz pieces. I recommend the album highly. By the way, their music can be streamed from all the usual sources.
So, back to my early morning wake up to live jazz. My husband and I were visiting Phil and staying at his home in Bel Air. The night before, Phil told us that he had a rehearsal with the band the next morning, but the studio wasn’t available, so he was going to do it at his home. He felt badly about it; hoped we wouldn’t mind. He promised a plate of the world’s best cinnamon rolls and French roast coffee to ease being subjected to very early morning “noise”.
So, the next morning around 7:00 a.m. I was awakened by loud voices and raucous laughter down the hall. Thinking about those cinnamon rolls I got dressed and headed out to the kitchen where I found a large group of men; clearly great friends. Lots of kidding and banter; talk about charts and titles of songs. Instrument cases stacked everywhere; an upright base being unzipped from its cloth case. Someone running his fingers over the keys of Phil’s baby grand in the living room.
I was still sleepy; hugging that mug of French roast as I walked around taking in the organized chaos. The living room had been transformed. There were bandstands everywhere; beautiful instruments; a gorgeous jazz guitar gleaming in the morning light; conga drums and percussion goodies. I might have been sleepy, but these guys were bright and awake and ready to swing.
Larry Koonse’s guitar
Brad Dutz’s drums
I heard a New Zealand accent; their arranger, Alan Broadbent, holding a stack of charts was going over some of the songs.
Phil made a brief introduction; I was met with smiles and warmly welcomed into their world. Though they were all in a playful mood, at the same time they were all business; they took their positions and began to tune up. I had grabbed my camera and began to shoot. For me, the air was electric…though the jokes continued, on the beat they began; the explosion of sound that filled the room was overwhelming. I was kicked into another realm; this was an opening in the universe where this mystery called music poured through. It was life itself. I got it. Music is life…
I danced through my camera; it became my instrument that I was playing; there was a rhythm to how I saw, and how I shot that was not analytical; it was improvisational, mindless yet calling on my skill set. It was jazz….
What a gift that morning was; I had always loved music, but to experience that joy and love that filled the room; I caught a glimpse of the heart of the creation of music and it changed how I listened to not just music, but to the “art” of creativity. No matter how it is expressed; photography, painting, baking; there is a dance when you lose your mind and come to your senses.
This event was 11 years ago, yet the joy and the insights remain. Teachers come in all forms and a group of L.A. musicians, that morning, were mine. Give them a listen… The Phil Norman Tentet.
Alan Broadbent and pianist Christian Jacob
A brief video snippet I shot that captures, I hope, what I was experiencing; the laughter and the professionalism.
Christian Jacobs, pianist
The Phil Norman Tentet