International Jazz Day – Bemsha Swing !

“Charlie Haden was the bass player with the Ornette Coleman quartet.  I saw them live in Vancouver  at The Cellar (the original Cellar) in the early 60’s.  Don Cherry was the trumpeter, but I cannot remember the drummer’s name.  Don Cherry actually subbed for me on a New Year’s gig.  He’d stuck around after one of the Coleman trips to Vancouver, and was working in Harlem Nocturne, a club on East Hastings Street.  The owner was Ernie King and he wasn’t paying the band anything extra for New Year’s Eve and Don was annoyed. Don’s comment about it to me was ‘that (expletive deleted) Ernie King is only paying scale.’  And the reason I couldn’t do the New Years job with the band I put together was I had the flu. I had a lot of money in that job and was able to pay Cherry handsomely.  It gave him enough money to leave town.  In early January  he took the train back home to L.A, but not before he phoned and thanked me.” 

“I can’t remember the name of the venue of that New Year’s gig.  It was a ‘pick up band’.  Someone phoned and asked ‘can your band play for us on New Year’s Eve’.  I said, ‘sure’, and then phoned around to find who might be available.  The only guy I remember I’d booked was a piano player named Cec Ducklow.  The other two?  Who knows?  When you worked casuals in those days you never rehearsed.  We all knew the standard repertoire (about 400 tunes). We’d get on the band stand, and I’d say, ‘let’s start with ….’ and suggest a key.  That was it.”

Thanks for this to John Frederickson, my brother-in-law who introduced me to jazz and trumpet playing. I bought a trumpet with money I earned weeding 3 acres of beets, matched by my father. Turns out I was a total loss and could play nothing by ear or keep time or a pitch. So I became a listener, and a bit of a geek liking what my dear departed boss Craig Walls called “egghead jazz.” Truth is you’ll get out of different jazz styles what you put in. Like poetry there is such a wide range out now and more it’s accesible than ever there is really something for everyone.

Three version of the classic  Bemsha Swing, a Thelonious Monk original with  Clark Terry (trumpet) Sonny Rollins (tenor sax) Thelonious Monk (piano) Paul Chambers (bass) Max Roach (drums) Reeves Sound Studios, NYC, December 7, 1956 Monk usually left a lot of space between the notes (think of white space to make a graphic design stronger) as part of his unique style and timing. John Coltrane and Don Cherry, did it this way and here it is with Don Cherry trumpet and Charlie Haden on bass who is miked in this mix so you cannot mistake his role in this version. The duet between Haden and Cherry is lovely.
Here is an anecdote from The Guardian by Don Cherry’s daughter, Neneh to finish off this poet for International Jazz Day.
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