Archive for annalise stalls

“Juan’s an ‘Old Problem'” (Duke fires Mingus)

Posted in Jazz in Charlotte, JazzLives!, The Jazz Continues... with tags , , , , , , , , on March 2, 2019 by curtjazz

For those of you who weren’t with us in Charlotte on February 22-23, 2019; well, you missed some amazing jazz, as Neil Caine honored Charles Mingus. I was fortunate enough to be the MC for the weekend and in that capacity, tell a few stories related to one of the greatest bass players in the history of jazz. Due to time constraints, I only made passing mention to one of my favorites – one from Mingus’ fascinating autobiography, Beneath the Underdog. I did promise to post the story in full, because it is a classic.

Charles Mingus idolized Duke Ellington from his youth. He always considered the Duke to be one of his greatest musical influences. So it had to be a thrill for Mingus, when, in 1953, he was hired to fill the bass chair in the Ellington Orchestra. It was a short-lived honor, however, as Mingus, who was known for his irascibility, almost as much as his prowess on the bass, almost immediately butted heads with Ellington’s famed valve trombonist, Juan Tizol (the composer of “Caravan”).

The “disagreement” was so heated, that Ellington, who almost never terminated anyone from his band, felt that someone had to go and that someone, was Charles Mingus.

Mingus gives an account of his firing, in his autobiography. Over the ensuing years, some have questioned the veracity of parts, or all, of Mingus’ version of the facts but it is so entertaining and, for those who knew Ellington, so plausible, that it has become the accepted account. Below is that story. Please note that Mingus wrote much of the book in the second person, and we will not make any revisions to his preference:

Tizol wants you to play a solo he’s written where bowing is required. You raise the solo an octave, where the bass isn’t too muddy. He doesn’t like that and he comes to the room under the stage where you’re practicing at intermission and comments that you’re like the rest of the niggers in the band, you can’t read. You ask Juan how he’s different from the other niggers and he states that one of the ways he’s different is that he is white. So you run his ass upstairs. You leave the rehearsal room, proceed toward the stage with your bass and take your place and at the moment Duke brings down the baton for “A-Train” and the curtain of the Apollo Theatre goes up, a yelling, whooping Tizol rushes out and lunges at you with a bolo knife. The rest you remember mostly from Duke’s own words in his dressing room as he changes after the show.

“Now, Charles,” he says, looking amused, putting Cartier links into the cuffs of his beautiful handmade shirt, “you could have forewarned me—you left me out of the act entirely! At least you could have let me cue in a few chords as you ran through that Nijinsky routine. I congratulate you on your performance, but why didn’t you and Juan inform me about the adagio you planned so that we could score it? I must say I never saw a large man so agile—I never saw anybody make such tremendous leaps! The gambado over the piano carrying your bass was colossal. When you exited after that I thought, ‘That man’s really afraid of Juan’s knife and at the speed he’s going he’s probably home in bed by now.’ But no, back you came through the same door with your bass still intact. For a moment I was hopeful you’d decided to sit down and play but instead you slashed Juan’s chair in two with a fire axe! Really, Charles, that’s destructive. Everybody knows Juan has a knife but nobody ever took it seriously—he likes to pull it out and show it to people, you understand. So I’m afraid, Charles—I’ve never fired anybody—you’ll have to quit my band. I don’t need any new problems. Juan’s an old problem, I can cope with that, but you seem to have a whole bag of new tricks. I must ask you to be kind enough to give me your notice, Mingus.”

The charming way he says it, it’s like he’s paying you a compliment. Feeling honored, you shake hands and resign.

[Bottom photo; L to R] Your humble blogger; Neal Caine; Will Campbell; Annalise Stalls; Ocie Davis; (not pictured – Orlando Fiol)

And that’s the way it happened, according to Charles Mingus. And who are we, to doubt him. Thanks again to the fantastic musicians, who made Mingus proud, through their efforts in The Jazz Room last weekend: Annalise Stalls; Will Campbell; Orlando Fiol; Ocie Davis and of course, Neal Caine.

Until the next time, the jazz continues.

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A “Blowin’ Session” in the QC

Posted in Jazz in Charlotte, JazzLives!, Unsung Saxophone Masters, Video Vault with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 16, 2019 by curtjazz

Jazz lore is filled with stories of the “Blowing Session”; where the great instrumentalists who played the same instrument, would gather on a stage and demonstrate their prowess. Usually this would begin with the basic head arrangement of a well known standard and from there, the combatants would take things to the next level, in their solos, each vying to outdo the last. Often, these were friendly completions; other times, if some of the cats had “beef” with each other, this could be a battle nearly to the death.

Sometimes, the cats would take these battles to the studio. There, we would get a mixed bag; the constraints of studio time costs and realizing that the results would have to fit onto at least one side of an LP, could dampen some of the fancier flights. However, we still have some classic and near classic recordings, and many of these, to no surprise, involved tenor saxophone players. I’ll drop a list of some of the best at the end.

Right now, you need to know about a little bit of the revival of that tradition that will be happening in Charlotte, NC on January 17 – 19, in Jazz Arts Initiative’s THE JAZZ ROOM. We will have have some of the finest tenor players from the area, coming together to do battle. Each will appear with our all-star rhythm section (Lovell Bradford – piano; Aaron Gross – bass; Malcolm Charles – drums) and in various combinations on stage together. The musical sparks are bound to fly!

Juan Rollan

Over the weekend, our lineup will change from night to night and it includes the following sax masters: Chad Eby; Greg Jarrell; David Lail; Brian Miller; Juan Rollan; Annalise Stalls and PhillipWhack

Chad Eby

The accompanying clips are samples of a few of our tenor masters, smokin’ their way through some of their prior gigs. Now, image what we will get when we bring all of these ingredients together.

Phillip Whack

Two sets nightly, from Thursday, January 17 – Saturday, January 19, means you will have six opportunities to be a part of JAI’s Tenor Madness. Thursday and Friday, the times are 6:00 pm and 8:15 pm; Saturday sets are at 7:00 pm and 9:15 pm. THE JAZZ ROOM is located at The Stage Door Theater at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center. I will be your MC for all sets but please don’t let that stop you from coming!

Annalise Stalls

Tickets are a true bargain! $14 in advance and $16 at the door, until there are no more. To get them, go to CarolinaTix.org

For further info about Jazz Arts Initiative, visit their website thejazzarts.org

Oh yeah, I did promise a list of recordings that include some great tenor battles. Here are five to get you started, in no particular order:

Boss Tenors – Gene Ammons & Sonny Stitt [Verve]

A Blowin’ Session – Johnny Griffin (w/ John Coltrane & Hank Mobley) [Blue Note]

Tenor Conclave – Al Cohn; Zoot Sims; Mobley; Coltrane [Prestige/OJC]

Tenor Madness – Sonny Rollins (w/Coltrane on the title track) [Prestige/OJC]

Alone Together – Tough Young Tenors (Walter Blanding Jr.; James Carter; Herb Harris; Tim Warfield; Todd Williams) [Antilles/Verve]