Jan 4, 2013
When ticking off the names of the truly great jazz figures that came out of the be-bop era, Tadd Dameron may be the name that least comes to mind. Saxophonist Dexter Gordon called Dameron the "romanticist" of the bop movement, as perhaps more than any other musician, he added form to the then-emerging style of bop. Whether as a composer (standards like “Lady Bird”, “Hot House”, “Good Bait” and “If You Could See Me Now”), arranger (the Big Bands of Jimmy Lunceford, Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie) or performer on piano with Fats Navarro, Charlie Parker and Clifford Brown, Dameron was a star.
Paul Combs new book, Dameronia: The Life and Music of Tadd Dameron(University of Michigan Press) may be the closest we get to a definitive portrait of the man, who passed away far too young from cancer at the age of 48. A talented jazz performer, composer and teacher himself, Combs spent the better part of twenty years researching and writing the book. In the process, he uncovered a number of previously unrecorded or released compositions and arrangements created by Dameron, something of a “holy grail” for bop aficionados
Combs does not shy aware from the more sordid aspects of Dameron’s life – he squandered his talents, becoming a drug addict who served a sentence at a federal penitentiary in Lexington, Kentucky. However, the overall message of the book – and of Podcast 327 – is that Dameron was a formidable talent, and a man who sought redemption at the end of his life. His legacy is safe.
Podcast 327 is my conversation with Paul, including these musical selections from the Dameron catalogue:
Tadd Dameron’s Big Ten – “Webb’s Delight” from WMCA Radio Broadcast from the Royal Roost, February 19, 1949. Per the notes on the website plosin.com:
"Webb's Delight" is essentially the same tune as "Sid's Delight" (as recorded by Dameron and Fats Navarro for Capitol the same year) and the classic "Tadd's Delight" (recorded by the Davis Quintet in June 1956 and issued on 'Round About Midnight). Dameron was evidently keen on delight -- there's also "John's Delight," a different tune recorded with Davis for Capitol in April 1949.
The band is Miles Davis (trumpet); Kai Winding (trombone); Sahib Shihab, Benjamin Lundy, and Cecil Payne (sax); Tadd Dameron (piano); John Collins (guitar); Dillon "Curley" Russell (bass); Kenny “Kloop” Clarke (drums); and Carlos Vidal (conga).
Dizzy Gillespie & Orchestra – “Good Bait” from The Complete RCA Victor Recordings. An early be-bop standard recorded in 1947, originally written for (and credited with) Count Basie, becomes magic in the hands of ol’ Diz. The band includes Gillespie, Dave Burns, and Elmon Wright (trumpet); William Shepherd and Ted Kelly(trombone); Gayles “Big Nick” Nicholas (tenor sax); John Lewis (piano); Al McKibbon (bass); and Clarke (drums).
Fats Navarro and Tadd Dameron – “Lady Bird” from The Complete Blue Note and Capitol Recordings of Fats Navarro and Tadd Dameron. A definitive bop statement, Apex Studios, NYC, September 13, 1948, and featuring Navarro (trumpet); Allen Eager and Wardell Gray (sax); Dameron (piano); Curly Russell (bass); and Kenny “Kloop” Clarke (drums).
Barry Ulanov And His All Star Metronome Jazzmen – “Hot House (Fats Flats)” from The COmplete Charlie Parker-Lenny Tristano Sessions. Recorded from a radio broadcast entitled "Bands for Bonds", at theWOR Studios, NYC, November 8, 1947, this is the sound of bop taking off. The band includes Navarro (trumpet); Charlie Parker (sax); Lennie Tristano (piano); Billy Bauer (guitar); Tommy Potter (bass); and Buddy Rich (drums).
Sarah Vaughan – “If You Could See Me Now” from Young Sassy. The definitive ballad from the Dameron canon, it became the theme song for Sarah Vaughan. Feautirng Freddie Webster (trumpet); Leo Parker (baritone sax); Bud Powell (piano); Leroy Harris (alto sax); Hank Ross (bass clarinet); Ted Sturgis (bass); and a nine-piece string section.
Tadd Dameron with John Coltrane- “Soultrane” from Mating Call. Recorded at the studio of Rudy Van Gelder in Hackensack, New Jersey on November 30, 1956, this session was one of the first after Trane left the Miles Davis Quintet, at least partially for reasons of his heroin use. Dameron knew talent when he saw it, and he quickly put together a quartet that included the pair playing with Philly Joe Jones on drums and John Simmons on bass.
Jeri Brown - "You're a Joy" from Fresh Start.
Combs points to this song as one worthy of greater performance.
Written by Dameron and recorded for his best post-prison album
The Magic Touch, it gets a fine traetment here
from Justin Time artist Jeri Brown, backed by Cyrus Chestnut on
piano, Avery Sharpe on bass and Wali
Paul Combs – “Do-Bla-Bli” from Quintet Plays Tadd. Here’s proof that author Combs can blow with the best of them as well. This is a tune Dameron originally wrote for Babs Gonzalez’ late Forties group “Babs’ Three Bips and a Bop” for Blue Note. The recording features Combs and Jim Cameron on sax, Don Hemwall on piano, Herman Hampton on bass, and Stanley Swann on drums.