sidewinder

AOTW October 16 -22

53 posts in this topic

Originally released on Contemporary in 1956, this was Tatro's only session as leader with an all-star West Coast lineup. It has one of the coolest cover designs ever:

e00017vju38.jpg

The album, featuring very progressive arrangements for the time (and building on some of the concepts from 'Birth of the Cool'), has been reissued by Fantasy under the 'OJC' imprint.

Scott Yanow's review on AllMusic almost deserves a thread of its own. Quote:

'This CD reissue has composer Duane Tatro's only album as a leader, and it is easy to hear why his services were not more in demand. Tatro's 11 originals have overarranged ensembles, plenty of humorless dissonance, and not much solo space for the members of his octet. In other words, the music is rather dry and dull. Despite the presence of trumpeter Stu Williamson, altoist Lennie Niehaus, Bill Holman on tenor and baritonist Jimmy Giuffre, very little of interest occurs, making this a badly dated effort.

Discuss... (starts Oct 16) :g

Edited by sidewinder

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hmm. I didn't think it was that bad. (I only have the download from emusic, but will listen again.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If Larry Kart is still here, he will have a few pages to type about this record. :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Great ! I recall Larry mentioning that it was Lester Koenig's son John sat in the front of the car pictured on the cover.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sorry I'm late to the party; I had to root the White Sox home tonight. I've loved the Tatro album since I first heard it not too long after it came out. The only part of it that's a bit dated are the quasi-fugal touches that marred so much West Coast "progressive" writing of the time; otherwise, IMO Tatro is the most interesting of that bunch by a good margin, and if pushed, I'd say he was one of the major jazz composers -- the only drawback/doubt being that there is so little recorded evidence of what he could do, aside from AFAIK this album and a track on Red Norvo's "Music To Listen to Red Norvo By" (OJC -- originally Contemporary) that I recall as pleasant/interesting but nowhere near as intense as the music on "Jazz for Moderns." Tatro, who may still be with us, went into TV scoring, and did work for a lot of shows. He also wrote a 12-tone Concerto for Electric Guitar and Orchestra for Howard Roberts, which Tatro (I called him up on the phone once in the 1980s) said he was going to send me a tape of, but that didn't happen. I recall being able to listen to some of it (a radio broadcast of the premiere) over the 'Net a few years ago, but that "some" was frustrating; the sound clip was maybe two minutes, and two-thirds or more was taken up by the announcer's introduction. From what I could tell, it wasn't a jazz piece, just strong modern music.

About "Jazz for Moderns," what always gets me about it -- why I almost always listen to it straight through -- is not so much the overtly "progressive" aspects but the formal inventiveness and near uncanny economy of the writing, the way each piece takes you to a place you never quite expect to go (even if you've been down these tone roads many times before), with the transitions and switchbacks along the way typically being very intense, even climactic. My favorite "for instance" of this may be "Minor Incident," with (I once wrote) "its solemn central horn call" -- the arrival of/placement of which surprises me every time; and besides it's such a lovely austure melodic shape (beautifully played by Joe Eger). Also, it's on that piece that valve trombonist Bob Enevoldson plays a lovely (again quite austere) and fairly long solo (by the standards of these piece, which average about three minutes) that Tatro wrote out for him, backed by haunting and/or haunted saxophone figures. Also, again, note that that magical, mysterious horn call is intoned again (with slight different notes values?) to end the piece, though this time I believe it's Enevoldsen on the valve trombone who plays it. I've said "mysterious" once and perhaps hinted at it before; what I have in mind I guess is that this music, while it evolves in a quite natural manner by and large, leaves one (or leaves me) with the feeling that it's just put together differently -- and differently not to be far-out but out of necessity. I once tried to explain it this way: writing of "Minor Incident" that "it consumes all it proposes with a passionate puritanism." In this, Tatro reminds me a good deal (so shoot me, I'm crazy) of early to mid-'50s Monk, the way the shapes of a piece (or, in Monk's case, also a solo) seem to emerge from the belly of the still-stalking- about prior beast while it also gnaws at the legs of the yet-to-emerge next one. Not only does neither man waste a gesture, it's as though the moral principle that underlies that drive or impulse becomes what generates the beauty.

BTW, the late bassist Ralph Pena plays his ass off on "Jazz For Moderns." Also, I believe that because of the harmonic complexity of much of the material, Tatro wrote out everyone's solos, with the exception of Lennie Niehaus' -- and maybe Joe Maini's and Bill Holman's. Certainly, Neihaus is the only soloist who sounds really at ease here (though Enevoldson does play his written-out solo quite well), but then not only was Niehaus' thinking as a player akin to Tatro's as a writer, Niehaus' facility in out-there harmonic territory was just plain remarkable. On the other hand, it's interesting to compare Niehaus' handsome but rather straight reading of Tatro's "Maybe Next Year" with Art Pepper's gorgeously flowing interpretation of the piece on his 1958 album "Smack Up." Genius will out.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Many thanks Larry for your views on this album.

Makes me reach for my copy and spin it right away...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Great choice! Because this is one which I alway wanted to know more about .... Thanks Larry for the recollections - this will sound interesting to me, that's for sure!

I will see if the dumbminded ZYX guys can deliver a copy of this any sooner than the Helen Humes, which was AOTW sometime last years and which I am still waiting for ... :angry:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sorry I'm late to the party;

But you are early.. :):tup

Those are interesting thoughts about the evolving nature of the compositions. Some of these pieces remind me of 50s Teddy Charles and (oddly maybe?) the Blue Note Don Grolnicks.

I'm just really getting into this album on the vinyl and hope to post some further impressions during the week.

Edited by sidewinder

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Teddy Charles and Tatro were certainly swimming at the same end of the pool at that time, but I don't recall anything of Charles that has the fierce sotto voce compactness of Tatro at his best. Not that what's good about Charles isn't very good. Don't know the Don Grolnick Blue Notes. What would you recommend?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here is a link to a relatively informative article about Tatro by Stuart Nicholson (a writer I normally find a hollowly self-important twit):

http://www.jazzinchicago.org/Internal/Arti...DuaneTatro.aspx

Nicholson does make at least one error here. The baritone solo he cites on "Maybe Next Year" is by Bob Gordon, not Jimmy Giuffre. Makes me wonder, because why are you even writing about the music of this period with would-be authoritativeness/attentiveness if you can’t tell those two quite distinctive players apart? BTW, I’m pretty sure that Tatro didn’t write out Gordon’s solo for him.

Here’s a link, through a website devoted to Howard Roberts, to that clip from the concerto that Tatro wrote for him:

http://www.utstat.utoronto.ca/mikevans/hro...unds/music.html

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I find one hit at Social Security Death Index for "Duane Tatro" - born June 27, 1920, died March 13, 2004 in California

But according to the Nicholson article, our DT was born May 18, 1927.

Mike

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Mike -- Sadly, that's probably our DT who died. He lived in the Valley, and that's a pretty unusual name. And I wouldn't trust Nicholson on details. I notice now that he says "Easy Terms" is "virtually a feature for Niehaus," but it's Joe Maini who takes the alto solo there. Also, Bill Holman is the more prominently featured soloist on "Easy Terms." (The liner notes are quite clear as to who plays on what tracks, and it also would be nice to have ears and use them -- Niehaus and the Bird-like Maini are easy to tell apart. BTW -- Maini is in very good form on "Dollar Day.") Speaking of Bird, what would it have been like to have heard him on some of these pieces! I'm sure he could have assimilated Tatro's language at one or two gulps, and despite the difference in "temperature" between them ... well, check out Bird's solo on "Four Brothers" with the Woody Herman Band in 1951 in Kansas City on "Bird with the Herd" (Drive). It's especially interesting to hear how Bird can't hear how the bridge of "Four Brothers" goes the first time through, but then he eats it up the next few times. Also, to link back to Tatro, Bird is playing some different things because of what's going on behind him, and "Four Brothers" is pretty simple compared to Tatro's writing.

Anyhow, I've listened again to "Jazz for Moderns" and have more thoughts. One of Tatro's key musical preoccupations (it's not his only one, but IMO it's his richest vein) is what Nicholson alludes to when says of "Multiplicity," "...the subject is developed, juxtaposed, and restated in keys quite remote from the tonic before returning once more to the home key...." OK, but what's really going on here I think -- what the "language" of this music is about -- is what it means to Tatro to move toward and way from "the home key." And I think "the home key" isn't quite the right way to put it, because fairly often that sense of "at homeness" is [a] not exclusively harmonic but timbral as well and it's often not part of the initial material of the piece, i.e. the piece begins at a point [or points] of implicit harmonic remoteness from a "home" that were not yet sure will be referred to at all; in other words the music, in part, is about reaching nodes of "at homeness" that we've come to think might not be there for us any more and then moving away from, even abandoning, them. Finally (or further) the relationship between the nodes of harmonic "at homeness" in Tatro's work is almost always "contrapuntal" (if you will) in terms of the formal expectations the piece has set up -- i.e. such moments tend to arrive just before or just after we expect them to, if we've expected them to arrive at all, and this sense of piqued expectations and off-center arrivals is again, a big part of what the language of this music is about; those principles and those moments are IMO typically lovely and moving, and crucial to the quality of Tatro's work. Some examples, in addition to the previously mentioned "Minor Incident," would be "Backlash" (were "at home" for the first time at about 1:36, then we're moving away from that -- and dig the gorgeous, ambiguous/ambivalent place we arrive at about 2:08!) and "Low Clearance" (BTW, how, i.e. out of what instruments, does Tatro get those near-symphonic, lower-register textures at the very end of this piece? There's an echo here of some moves in Schoenberg's Chamber Concerto No. 1, which probably lurks behind a lot of Tatro's thinking, though if so, he's fully assimilated that influence.)

Finally, a question or thought about the titles of these pieces, if indeed they're Tatro's and not Lester Keonig's. We know several things from the liner notes and from the shape of Tatro's life after this album -- born in Van Nuys but reared in Iowa, Tatro was part of the anxious/hopeful migration (in his family's case, re-migration) to the West Coast that so many Depression-Era mid-Westerners lived through (my wife's family for one came West from Kansas at about the same time, 1941, that Tatro's family made their move). Also, Tatro was, in the early 1950s, kind of making it financially (as production manager at an electronics plant) but in such a way that this relative "success" was close to preventing him from doing his own thing musically -- both in terms of time and also, it's fair to assume, because the music he wanted to make wouldn't bring in any money. The "answer" for him, as it turned out, was to write TV scores for shows like "The FBI" (with Efram Zimbalist Jr.) -- at least then Tatro was being paid for writing music, not for supervising employees on a shop floor, but still.... In any case, a lot of those titles (if they are Tatro's) -- "Backlash," "Turbulence," "Low Clearance," "Dollar Day," "Easy Terms," "Maybe Next Year" -- seem like they might be linked to some of the financial/social/artistic stresses and dilemmas alluded to above. Not only that, built into the music in what seems to me to be a unique and potent way, there is that rich, tense dialogue between "at homeness" and no longer being at home -- a dialogue in which Tatro locates himself, at least at the time he wrote these pieces, in a very honest, even-handed manner. That is, harmonic "at homeness" in these pieces is, while we certainly experience it, is never really a matter of full-stop resolution, nor is it, in emotional terms, ever sentimental or (in terms of the way these pieces work) a "realistic" place to stay. What is real, instead, are the distances from which we (necessarily?) stand from this "at homeness" we no longer can realistically, honestly occupy, though we do visit it, look at it from where we stand, dance to and away from it as best we can. Duane Tatro was a deep customer.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Don't know the Don Grolnick Blue Notes. What would you recommend?

I was thinking of the two Grolnick albums compiled on the 'Complete Blue Note' doubletime CD set ('Weaver of Dreams' and 'Nightown'). Very different musical styles but theres something about the fierce sense of purpose and - I guess - lack of recognition/limited recording opportunities as leaders that these two composer/arrangers share.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

About Tatro's still being with us, composer/arranger Bill Kirchner informs me that "Duane is alive and well--I spoke with him earlier this year, I think."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Long been tempted by this one, but have never bit, expecting a lot of West Coast foo-foo with a little bit of darkness thrown in. If it gets Larry's juices flowing this much, that's obviously my bad!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I do wish I had more to add. This is one of those cases I feel a bit intimidated by others (Mr. Kart). Oh well. What I do enjoy about the album is the use of a wide array of instruments -- French horn, baritone sax. I keep thinking I hear a tuba in the mix, but apparently not. I'll have to go listen again to see if it the valve trombone or more likely the baritone sax. I don't want to start the whole East Coast West Coast thing, but it does seem to me that a lot of this music - sort of large jazz ensembles playing "chamber jazz"/Third Stream Jazz were on the West Coast. (I wonder if we have a thread devoted to this kind of music. I'll investigate later.)

My favorite pieces are track 7 Dollar Day, track 9 Outpost and track 11 Conversation Piece. I suspect it is because they are the most up-tempo and simply grab me a bit more.

It is a shame that vol. 2 was never recorded and Tatro is so neglected.

While there may indeed be some solo space, to my ears it sounds like a pretty heavily written out piece, as is much of the Third Stream music. I wonder/suspect if that contributed to its lack of impact, at least in terms of these pieces not being recorded frequently by others (both Tatro specifically and Third Stream more generally). Musicians generally couldn't recreate these large ensembles as the recording industry got tighter. When they did get a large group together, they wouldn't have rehearsal time and thus stuck to more open, swinging standards. If they were going to rescore it for a smaller group, they probably would pick something that had more solo space. Just a thought. In any case, definitely interesting music, which I am glad was recorded.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have been so busy completing a writing project that I have not had much time to enjoy myself here these past few months. The manuscript is now in print, and the pages proofed, so I am finally seeing the end of the tunnel, and now I can say a few words of thanks to Larry for his very incisive take on Duane Tatro's music. Like I have said so many times on this list, it is very satisfying (and validating) to see music of my own youth so well received by a (slightly) younger generation. Not all of the West Coast Jazz was pallid, uninspired stuff! I have loved the Tatro album from the time I received my first "hard-cover" copy, smuggled home to me in Cape Town from the U.S. in 1956 by a merchant marine older brother of a friend. Admittedly I found it a bit "strange" at first, but after several spinnings on my little "Hi-Fi" (with the 258 gm. tone arm!!), I began to see some of the things that Larry articulated so much better than I could. I have always thought it a very "rich" album, with new joys to be discovered on each listen.

A funny thing ... although they are quite stylistically different, I have always kept this album next to Lyle Murphy's album "Gone With The Woodwinds" (Contemporary 3506) ... both are Koening guilty pleasures. Also, it is reminiscent of some of the music to be found on Shelley Manny vol. 1 and the more experimentall vol. 2 also on Contemporary ...

What a great job Lester Koenig did of recording this music, and thanks also to Fantasy for making it available again.

LARRY .. YOU HAVE TO FINISH THAT BOOK ON THE EXPERIMENTAL STUFF OF THE FIFTIES!!! If I had your musical knowledge and powers of description I would do it myself ... but I know my limitations.

Garth,

Houston.

Edited by garthsj

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Garth -- Thanks for the kind words, but it's Allen Lowe who was contemplating writing (in fact, may have done a fair amount of work on) a book on the more experimental stuff of the Fifties. As I recall, he could find no publisher interested in the project at that time, and proceeded to put it back on the shelf. I know the feeling, having once (in about 1981) proposed writing a book on hip comedy -- a subject that I think I was well-qualified to deal with for several reasons, among them that in the course of covering the comedy scene on a regular basis as a journalist I'd been able to interview just about all the notable surviving figures from the '50s and '60s. Sheldon Meyer at Oxford University Press was interested in the project (in part because I had Martin Williams in my corner) but then told me that the marketing department had shot it down, saying that they didn't believe that a book on this subject would sell. A few years down the road, at the height of the stand-up comedy boom, the subject arose again when I got a feeler from another publisher. I quickly hooked up with an agent (a very unwise move this turned out to be), took a month off from work and wrote a sample chapter about Mort Sahl that was exactly how I wanted it and the rest of the book to be -- analytical in tone but not, so it seemed to me, in an off-puttingly dense manner and aware of the human and professional realities involved, which is more or less the way I've tried to write about jazz. My agent, with whom I'd signed an exclusive year-long contract, said, No -- that a book on this subject had to be a series of personality profiles, and she refused to send what I'd written to the publisher. At that point I said to myself, This is it not meant to be.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Larry .. perhaps we should be having this conversation offline but I did want to tell how much I enjoyed your book. I took it with me on my road trip to visit my son in Toronto, so you were read in some strange motel rooms in red-state America, as my schanuzer Sam and I shared the bed. I do wish I had the same powers of description that you have, and you shot down some of my jazz favorites in places, but I have never been confronted so eloquently! An I do wish that you had forced them to buy you an index ...

I know what you mean about being ambivalent about getting an agent. I have deliberated getting one for what will be my last academic magnum opus ... a "social history of American television" as bookend to my earlier social history of moviegoing ... but I really wonder what an agent can do that I cannot. I am also torn between going my ususal academic publisher route and being kept alive for a long time (as is true with my propaganda book) with average (2-3,000 copies) annual sales, as opposed to a trade house with a bigger advance, but where you can be on the reminder list in 18 months!

How has your experience with Yale been? ... At least Sage (with whom have done several books and projects) market the hell out of anything remotely successful.

Yes, I realized after I had written that earlier plea that it was Allen who was writing that book on early experimental jazz ... I do hope that he finishes it, as apparently there are at least three of us who would buy it. Actually, if the JWC list, and the attendance at Ken Poston's Jazz Weekends are anything to do by, there are a lot of us 50-60 somethings still interested in the music of our youth who would welcome a project of that nature.

Also, I was hoping to get your take on those two Shelly Manne albums ... any insights on that music?

Garth -- Thanks for the kind words, but it's Allen Lowe who was contemplating writing (in fact, may have done a fair amount of work on) a book on the more experimental stuff of the Fifties. As I recall, he could find no publisher interested in the project at that time, and proceeded to put it back on the shelf. I know the feeling, having once (in about 1981) proposed writing a book on hip comedy -- a subject that I think I was well-qualified to deal with for several reasons, among them that in the course of covering the comedy scene on a regular basis as a journalist I'd been able to interview just about all the notable surviving figures from the '50s and '60s. Sheldon Meyer at Oxford University Press was interested in the project (in part because I had Martin Williams in my corner) but then told me that the marketing department had shot it down, saying that they didn't believe that a book on this subject would sell. A few years down the road, at the height of the stand-up comedy boom, the subject arose again when I got a feeler from another publisher.  I quickly hooked up with an agent (a very unwise move this turned out to be), took a month off from work and wrote a sample chapter about Mort Sahl that was exactly how I wanted it and the rest of the book to be -- analytical in tone but not, so it seemed to me, in an off-puttingly dense manner and aware of the human and professional realities involved, which is more or less the way I've tried to write about jazz. My agent, with whom I'd signed an exclusive year-long contract, said, No -- that a book on this subject had to be a series of personality profiles, and she refused to send what I'd written to the publisher. At that point I said to myself, This is it not meant to be.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

bump - I bet a lot of people here got this record as a result of the Concord sale. I did and it's in the queue, but I didn't want to forget about the thread.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Long been tempted by this one, but have never bit, expecting a lot of West Coast foo-foo with a little bit of darkness thrown in. If it gets Larry's juices flowing this much, that's obviously my bad!

bump - I bet a lot of people here got this record as a result of the Concord sale. I did and it's in the queue, but I didn't want to forget about the thread.

Yeah, I got it in the sale.

Seldom do I not get what Larry says in relation to any music, but such is the case here. I hear the "devices", but they just don't engage me at all beyond the "intellectual" level. I listened 3 times last night, and was left with a "well, ok, there it is" feeling and nothing more. Maybe it's the band, maybe they were so busy reading/interpreting the charts "correctly" that they didn't have time to put some flavor into them. Holman plays very nicely, though.

Maybe in time...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'll have to dig out my old vinyl copy of this.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I too got it in the Concord sale, but I haven't opened it up yet.

One track from the album is included in the 4 CD compilation The Contemporary Records Story, and it is one of my favorite tracks of the set. So I'm looking forward to this.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yeah, I got it in the sale.

Seldom do I not get what Larry says in relation to any music, but such is the case here. I hear the "devices", but they just don't engage me at all beyond the "intellectual" level. I listened 3 times last night, and was left with a "well, ok, there it is" feeling and nothing more. Maybe it's the band, maybe they were so busy reading/interpreting the charts "correctly" that they didn't have time to put some flavor into them. Holman plays very nicely, though.

Maybe in time...

I hope so, in time. But then one man's fascination may be another's "foo-foo." The trick with Tatro, I think, is to forget all about the quasi-fugal textures (which mostly I would like to do) and to some degree just accept as given the harmonic "outness" when that's what we have, and instead focus on how these pieces fit together/work themselves out (which will involve some return to the harmonic outness realm at some point, but perhaps from a different perspective). For one thing, Tatro seems to me to be a maker of structures, first, last and foremost, not a guy who wanted to flaunt devices; and those structures have never lost their blend of stone necessity and How did that happen?" mysteriousness for me. Try "Minor Intrusion" in particular.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.