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sgcim

Life in Eb The Phil Woods Autobiography

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Good story from the book, p. 156:

"At an important political fundraiser in San Francisco, Paul Gonsalves was tore up, bouncing off the dressing room wall like an oval billard ball. Duke told him to lay out on this one; too many important people to allow Mex onstage. Paul kept saying he was cool, no problem, really felt like blowing man, no problem! Let me at that sax!" Duke insisted: "Paul! Cool it on this one!" Paul kept raving about "no problem, man" Duke finally blew. "Don't bullshit me! I invented bullshit and you ain't goin' out there."

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Does anyone see the need to get this in print over the Kindle version? I can get the Kindle version for $10. The paperback is $22.

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Yeah, I'm reading it on a Kindle, and the photographs reproduce well enough. Sometimes they don't on a Kindle. But in this case, they're satisfactory.

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On 12/23/2020 at 11:21 AM, Larry Kart said:

I'm pretty much enjoying the book, but at times I'm left with an underlying uneasy feeling about -- and this is close to but not quite it -- how tightly wound Phil was/could be.

BTW, I'm just past the point where he and Chan split up after, Phil emphasizes, seventeen seemingly good years together (as he says, people who speak snarkily about him marrying Bird's widow; he quotes from Art Pepper's "Straight Life" to that effect)  forget that "we were in love with each other"). Also, I've yet to encounter anything in the book about Chan that's negative, just mentions of a spat or two. Further, Phil seems to have been a warm caring stepfather.

Allen Lowe alert:

On p. 138 there's a fairly creepy story about a New Year's Eve gig for $35 that Phil had at a longshoreman's club in Brooklyn, under the leadership of the latter-day Al Haig, that, Phil says, "was the first indication I had that [Al] was stone nuts!"

There's a fair bit more about how out there Al had become. Phil concludes: "What a poet! What a piano player! What a piece of work!"

 

Chan also has some weird stories about Haig. I kind of made my peace with this aspect of his personality, which I can only attribute to alcoholism with its tendency to produce Jekyll and Hyde personality traits. I remember Curley Russell told me he was shocked at the later stories about Haig because, in the early days of 52nd Street "he was the straightest guy I knew, always went right home after the gig." When I knew him he never showed a sign of any of this.

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38 minutes ago, AllenLowe said:

Chan also has some weird stories about Haig. I kind of made my peace with this aspect of his personality, which I can only attribute to alcoholism with its tendency to produce Jekyll and Hyde personality traits. I remember Curley Russell told me he was shocked at the later stories about Haig because, in the early days of 52nd Street "he was the straightest guy I knew, always went right home after the gig." When I knew him he never showed a sign of any of this.

After reading "Death of a Bebop Wife", there's no aspect of Haig's personality I find positive. From locking her up in a room for two weeks until she read Mein Kampf, to forcing Jimmy Raney to cross the street with him if they encountered a Jewish person Haig knew, the guy was just a POS. And he did admit he pushed his wife down a flight of stairs to at least a few musicians. Hell, I didn't even like his playing with Bird.

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1 hour ago, sgcim said:

After reading "Death of a Bebop Wife", there's no aspect of Haig's personality I find positive. From locking her up in a room for two weeks until she read Mein Kampf, to forcing Jimmy Raney to cross the street with him if they encountered a Jewish person Haig knew, the guy was just a POS. And he did admit he pushed his wife down a flight of stairs to at least a few musicians. Hell, I didn't even like his playing with Bird.

1) I have many doubts about the book; suffice to say that the way she described it to me before it was published was much different than the way it came out. Let us just say that the story she finally printed was better than the one she originally intended to tell. Of course Al can no longer respond, though Joanne, who he married a few years before he died, did not think the story as told matched the man she knew. As for his admission, well, I knew him probably better than anyone else, and I accept his version, which was that they were two mutually abusive fall-down drunks. And the coroner's report of NYC described it, unambiguously, as an accident.

2) as for his playing with Bird I accept Bud Powell's critical judgement that "Al Haig was a perfect pianist," as well as Hank Jones and Tommy Flanagan who both told me they thought Al set the standard for that style of bebop piano.

Edited by AllenLowe

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46 minutes ago, AllenLowe said:

2) as for his playing with Bird I accept Bud Powell's critical judgement that "Al Haig was a perfect pianist," as well as Hank Jones and Tommy Flanagan who both told me they thought Al set the standard for that style of bebop piano.

I agree with you, Allen.  Regardless of Haig's faults as a human being -- and they were considerable -- he was a fantastic pianist.

Similarly, I've read interviews with Carol Sloane where she talks about Jimmy Rowles' abusiveness towards her while they were together.  He did some terrible things.  But I still listen to Rowles' music.

Maybe I shouldn't.  But (in most cases) I think it's best to make a distinction between artists and their art.

 

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I believe in art. Artists...not so much. If a human creates a "perfect" work, it's not by anything they did...except to have the tools to get out of the way.

 

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1 hour ago, AllenLowe said:

1) I have many doubts about the book; suffice to say that the way she described it to me before it was published was much different than the way it came out. Let us just say that the story she finally printed was better than the one she originally intended to tell. Of course Al can no longer respond, though Joanne, who he married a few years before he died, did not think the story as told matched the man she knew. As for his admission, well, I knew him probably better than anyone else, and I accept his version, which was that they were two mutually abusive fall-down drunks. And the coroner's report of NYC described it, unambiguously, as an accident.

2) as for his playing with Bird I accept Bud Powell's critical judgement that "Al Haig was a perfect pianist," as well as Hank Jones and Tommy Flanagan who both told me they thought Al set the standard for that style of bebop piano.

I liked his playing after the 40s more than his 40s playing.

Was Jimmy Raney a liar?

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16 minutes ago, sgcim said:

I liked his playing after the 40s more than his 40s playing.

Was Jimmy Raney a liar?

I don't know if he was a liar, but from what I know he was pretty crazy.

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2 minutes ago, AllenLowe said:

I don't know if he was a liar, but from what I know he was pretty crazy.

I met him. He seemed very sane to me. He wrote an essay about being Haig's protege, until he found out Haig was an antisemitic nut!

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45 minutes ago, sgcim said:

I met him. He seemed very sane to me. He wrote an essay about being Haig's protege, until he found out Haig was an antisemitic nut!

Haig wasn't an anti-semite. I knew him for about 6 years. I was one of his closest friends. I am Jewish.

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The relevant passage about Al Haig from Woods' autobiography:

"Less great were several memorable encounters with Al Haig, one of  them a New Years Eve gig at a longshoreman's club in Brookyn. It looked like a scene from 'On the Waterfront' with pitchers of beer on the table. There was no bandstand, the three-foot Acme piano in the middle of the dance floor was out of tune, and the other bandmember was a midget with a snare drum and a hi-hat... His time came and went, and no sign of Al. The crowd was getting rowdy so I offered to play the piano. It was a quarter tone flat and the midget was little short of time. Finally Al showed and I jumped on him. 'What is this, Al? That little MF can't play, and I can't tune to the piano, and we might end the year in the river with cement overshoes! And the bread sucks and you're late!'

"Al's retort was the first indication I had that he was stone nuts! 'Oh, all of you artist type exhibit tension and bring an overload of emotional problems to the marketplace of life! Don't you know any polkas? Are you a musical illiterate? Communist or what?' 

"I excused myself and went to the toilet with my horn and case and slipped out the back door. I ran like the wind to the subway, hoping I wouldn't be missed until I was safely aboard the first train out of this gig from hell."

Afterwards Al shows up at Phil's home in rural Pa., where he interacts bizarrely with Chan and Phil's step kids and lobbies to become a semi-permanent houseguest. Phil finally drives him back to New York; on the way Al buys a bottle of sherry for a dollar and a half. "When I finally ejected him from my Falcon at 52nd St. and 7th Ave. the last words I heard were, 'Yeah, f--- you. You're a self-centered bastard and your wife's a shrew, your kids are a drag, and your fucking arthritic dog is a faggot!' [The day before Al had picked up the dog by its hind legs and shaken it violently, saying that this was a sure cure for its arthritis. At this Chan snapped and said Al had to go.]

 

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2 hours ago, sgcim said:

I met him. He seemed very sane to me. He wrote an essay about being Haig's protege, until he found out Haig was an antisemitic nut!

Raney was, I've heard at least, an extreme binge drinker prone to long spells of doing God knows what and/or where and then popping back in like nothing had happened (and maybe that was how it seemed to him). So I don't know how sane that makes him, although of course that's quite different than being a list.

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13 hours ago, AllenLowe said:

 

2) as for his playing with Bird I accept Bud Powell's critical judgement that "Al Haig was a perfect pianist," as well as Hank Jones and Tommy Flanagan who both told me they thought Al set the standard for that style of bebop piano.

How right they were! :tup

Bird knew! :excited:

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19 hours ago, Larry Kart said:

The relevant passage about Al Haig from Woods' autobiography:

"Less great were several memorable encounters with Al Haig, one of  them a New Years Eve gig at a longshoreman's club in Brookyn. It looked like a scene from 'On the Waterfront' with pitchers of beer on the table. There was no bandstand, the three-foot Acme piano in the middle of the dance floor was out of tune, and the other bandmember was a midget with a snare drum and a hi-hat... His time came and went, and no sign of Al. The crowd was getting rowdy so I offered to play the piano. It was a quarter tone flat and the midget was little short of time. Finally Al showed and I jumped on him. 'What is this, Al? That little MF can't play, and I can't tune to the piano, and we might end the year in the river with cement overshoes! And the bread sucks and you're late!'

"Al's retort was the first indication I had that he was stone nuts! 'Oh, all of you artist type exhibit tension and bring an overload of emotional problems to the marketplace of life! Don't you know any polkas? Are you a musical illiterate? Communist or what?' 

"I excused myself and went to the toilet with my horn and case and slipped out the back door. I ran like the wind to the subway, hoping I wouldn't be missed until I was safely aboard the first train out of this gig from hell."

Afterwards Al shows up at Phil's home in rural Pa., where he interacts bizarrely with Chan and Phil's step kids and lobbies to become a semi-permanent houseguest. Phil finally drives him back to New York; on the way Al buys a bottle of sherry for a dollar and a half. "When I finally ejected him from my Falcon at 52nd St. and 7th Ave. the last words I heard were, 'Yeah, f--- you. You're a self-centered bastard and your wife's a shrew, your kids are a drag, and your fucking arthritic dog is a faggot!' [The day before Al had picked up the dog by its hind legs and shaken it violently, saying that this was a sure cure for its arthritis. At this Chan snapped and said Al had to go.]

 

In that whole series of events I don't see insanity - I see an alcoholic with a very caustic sense of humor (the speech about temperamental artists) - and as I said, an alcoholic for whom drinking brings out the whole Jekyll and Hyde thing. I saw this is another very close friend, also a great jazz pianist.

At least this is not as bad as the Frank Rosolino story (and just to add to the story,  I remember a friend of mine on the Cape telling me that one of Haig's sons lived near her and was a very strange and reclusive guy).

Edited by AllenLowe

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19 hours ago, JSngry said:

Raney was, I've heard at least, an extreme binge drinker prone to long spells of doing God knows what and/or where and then popping back in like nothing had happened (and maybe that was how it seemed to him). So I don't know how sane that makes him, although of course that's quite different than being a list.

Raney's alcoholism didn't kick in till the mid 50s, and his time spent as Haig's 'protege' was before that time period, so his comments about Haig telling him to cross the street, because of the presence of a Jewish person approaching was not affected by his later alcoholism.

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On 12/24/2020 at 4:44 PM, AllenLowe said:

1) I have many doubts about the book; suffice to say that the way she described it to me before it was published was much different than the way it came out. Let us just say that the story she finally printed was better than the one she originally intended to tell. Of course Al can no longer respond, though Joanne, who he married a few years before he died, did not think the story as told matched the man she knew. As for his admission, well, I knew him probably better than anyone else, and I accept his version, which was that they were two mutually abusive fall-down drunks. And the coroner's report of NYC described it, unambiguously, as an accident.

2) as for his playing with Bird I accept Bud Powell's critical judgement that "Al Haig was a perfect pianist," as well as Hank Jones and Tommy Flanagan who both told me they thought Al set the standard for that style of bebop piano.

I didn't say that Haig wasn't a great pianist, just that I didn't like that limited harmonic style, and relative diatonic approach he had to improvisation back in the 40s.He was a virtuoso, who had a strong background in classical piano music, and could sight read anything.

Still, I'd rather listen to Bud Powell, Hank Jones or Tommy Flanagan than Haig. Bird loved Haig because he was a superb accompanist.

21 hours ago, Larry Kart said:

The relevant passage about Al Haig from Woods' autobiography:

"Less great were several memorable encounters with Al Haig, one of  them a New Years Eve gig at a longshoreman's club in Brookyn. It looked like a scene from 'On the Waterfront' with pitchers of beer on the table. There was no bandstand, the three-foot Acme piano in the middle of the dance floor was out of tune, and the other bandmember was a midget with a snare drum and a hi-hat... His time came and went, and no sign of Al. The crowd was getting rowdy so I offered to play the piano. It was a quarter tone flat and the midget was little short of time. Finally Al showed and I jumped on him. 'What is this, Al? That little MF can't play, and I can't tune to the piano, and we might end the year in the river with cement overshoes! And the bread sucks and you're late!'

"Al's retort was the first indication I had that he was stone nuts! 'Oh, all of you artist type exhibit tension and bring an overload of emotional problems to the marketplace of life! Don't you know any polkas? Are you a musical illiterate? Communist or what?' 

"I excused myself and went to the toilet with my horn and case and slipped out the back door. I ran like the wind to the subway, hoping I wouldn't be missed until I was safely aboard the first train out of this gig from hell."

Afterwards Al shows up at Phil's home in rural Pa., where he interacts bizarrely with Chan and Phil's step kids and lobbies to become a semi-permanent houseguest. Phil finally drives him back to New York; on the way Al buys a bottle of sherry for a dollar and a half. "When I finally ejected him from my Falcon at 52nd St. and 7th Ave. the last words I heard were, 'Yeah, f--- you. You're a self-centered bastard and your wife's a shrew, your kids are a drag, and your fucking arthritic dog is a faggot!' [The day before Al had picked up the dog by its hind legs and shaken it violently, saying that this was a sure cure for its arthritis. At this Chan snapped and said Al had to go.]

 

I can understand those other things, but taking a dog and shaking it violently, and then calling it a faggot, well, that's just a bit too much...:g

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In the book Woods extolls the virtues of the Dizzy Gillespie big band that toured South America for the State Departmant in 1956 (this after the band's mid-east tour) and says that it was recorded during the South American tour in topnotch form by Dave Usher. So I ordered volumes 1,2 and 3 of "Dizzy in South America." Vol. 1 arrived today, and it is something else. The band is really together, well recorded, and hot as hell. Rhythm section is Walter Davis, Nelson Boyd, and Charlie Persip, tenor soloists are Billy Mitchell and Benny Golson, Frank Rehak plays his ass off on trombone, and Dizzy himself is in fabulous form.

41ON3qG-GUL._AC_UY218_.jpg

41X624D3QWL._AC_UY218_.jpg

2180GQHQY8L._AC_UY218_.jpg

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I was just watching the DVD of Woods with Quincy's Big Band in Switzerland and Belgium. Woods is incredible on his two features, "Gypsy" and "The Midnight Sun Will Never Set". Julius Watkins plays some great out solos on his features, and Quentin Jackson does some great things with the plunger on his features.

Also great rhythm section of Joe Harris and Buddy Catlett, but I don't know what Patty Brown and Les Spann were doing there.Also great solos by Budd Johnson, Clark Terry, Jimmy Cleveland, Jerome Richardson, Sahib Shihab, Benny Bailey, and Ake Persson. Great band!

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All three of those volumes are great. . . I picked them up when released. I also feel Woods played quite well on the Monk tour a decade or so later.

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2 hours ago, Larry Kart said:

In the book Woods extolls the virtues of the Dizzy Gillespie big band that toured South America for the State Departmant in 1956 (this after the band's mid-east tour) and says that it was recorded during the South American tour in topnotch form by Dave Usher. So I ordered volumes 1,2 and 3 of "Dizzy in South America." Vol. 1 arrived today, and it is something else. The band is really together, well recorded, and hot as hell. Rhythm section is Walter Davis, Nelson Boyd, and Charlie Persip, tenor soloists are Billy Mitchell and Benny Golson, Frank Rehak plays his ass off on trombone, and Dizzy himself is in fabulous form.

41ON3qG-GUL._AC_UY218_.jpg

41X624D3QWL._AC_UY218_.jpg

2180GQHQY8L._AC_UY218_.jpg

Forgive me this Detroit history digression. For folks who may not be aware of Dave Usher: As a young bebop fan in the '40s in Detroit, he met Dizzy here after a show at the Paradise Theatre and they grew to become good friends. He was Dizzy's business partner in Dee Gee Records (based in Detroit in the early '50s), and by the late '50s Dave was commuting back and forth to Chicago, where he worked for the Chess brothers producing jazz records for Argo. (That's why Barry Harris' debut LP is on Argo and why the blind Detroit pianist Bess Bonnier has a record on Argo; Dave also produced Ahmad Jamal's LPs at the time, including "But Not For Me.")

When Dave's father got sick in 1959 or 1960, he returned to Detroit full time and took over the family's oil reclamation business. He eventually built that business into one of the world's leading hazardous waste clean-up companies. What really put them on the map -- and made Dave rich -- was that it was his company, Marine Pollution Control, that got the contract o clean-up the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989. That where the money came from to finance recordings like these Dizzy CDs from South America. (They are as good as Larry says they are, by the way.) In later years, Dave and Annie Ross were close -- he was cited in her NYT obituary as a "companion" and one of her survivors. He's still kicking here in Detroit, though the last time I saw him (pre-pandemic), he health and memory were not what they used to be. Dave is a mensch among mensches. He used to take me out his little boat in the Detroit river, help me recover some Yiddish words from childhood and tell LOTS of great stories. I love the fact that he put Dizzy on the board of directors of his company, and Dizzy took the responsibility seriously, showing up for meetings, etc. 

Carry on ...

Edited by Mark Stryker

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1 hour ago, Mark Stryker said:

Forgive me this Detroit history digression. For folks who may not be aware of Dave Usher: As a young bebop fan in the '40s in Detroit, he met Dizzy here after a show at the Paradise Theatre and they grew to become good friends. He was Dizzy's business partner in Dee Gee Records (based in Detroit in the early '50s), and by the late '50s Dave was commuting back and forth to Chicago, where he worked for the Chess brothers producing jazz records for Argo. (That's why Barry Harris' debut LP is on Argo and why the blind Detroit pianist Bess Bonnier has a record on Argo; Dave also produced Ahmad Jamal's LPs at the time, including "But Not For Me.")

When Dave's father got sick in 1959 or 1960, he returned to Detroit full time and took over the family's oil reclamation business. He eventually built that business into one of the world's leading hazardous waste clean-up companies. What really put them on the map -- and made Dave rich -- was that it was his company, Marine Pollution Control, that got the contract o clean-up the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989. That where the money came from to finance recordings like these Dizzy CDs from South America. (They are as good as Larry says they are, by the way.) In later years, Dave and Annie Ross were close -- he was cited in her NYT obituary as a "companion" and one of her survivors. He's still kicking here in Detroit, though the last time I saw him (pre-pandemic), he health and memory were not what they used to be. Dave is a mensch among mensches. He used to take me out his little boat in the Detroit river, help me recover some Yiddish words from childhood and tell LOTS of great stories. I love the fact that he put Dizzy on the board of directors of his company, and Dizzy took the responsibility seriously, showing up for meetings, etc. 

Carry on ...

He also helped make the Uptown Diz and Bird "Town Hall, NYC, June 22, 1945" a reality. I got him to put Sunenblick in touch with Lorraine Gillespie to seal the deal.

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