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December 11, 1975     The Texas Sun
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December 11, 1975
 

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22 J cont. from page 17 just taking up vibes. There were other places near the university, but I don't remember their names, they closed too quickly. Further away was "The Jade Room" on San Jacinto. They had a black band called The RhythmKings with a singer, and depending on the night, the crowd and their mood they'd do some jazz. Mainly, the place was known for dancing--one of those revolving glass balls lit with the colored-lights Christmas display. What I remember is the singer and the song: "You, and-uh the night-uh, and-uh the moooooo-sic- uh." They tore it down a few years ago. Downtown were the "New Orleans" club and "The Iron Gate." One of them burned down. I remember seeing Elvin Jones one morning sitting in with some UT people after one of Kennedy's festivals; and the time Kinny Dorham sat in with Polk and some others and did "I Can't Get Started." I think Dizzy was in the audience for that one, but he didn't play. Billie Joe has the tape. This was near l lth and Trinity. Another place, called "The Cellar" and then "The Eleventh Doer," was in the ymphony building on Red River. I pla there a couple of times. So did Bill Metcalf, a Canadian pianist good witha ballad. The building was a pnkey gre then. It also got folked-up later; it's squared up completely now. There were lots of places, but really nothing was happening. That's not a contradiction, even after this long preamble. The same people played all the places to all the same faces, though there were more black faces on the East side, partly due to Jim Crow but mainly because the music on this side wasn't much. The places on the East side had the pungent smell of fried food mixed with the aroma of a controlled substance; the UT joints smelled of incense. That probably tells us something. On the East side you'd hear "Song for My Father" or Polk doing a Lou Rawls imitation. The white men over here were trying with little success to cut the "Kind of Blue" charts. There was talent, but in no great quantity on either side. Gerry Mulligan, Billy Taylor, Gary Burton, Jimmy Smith, Cannonball, Richard Davis, Roy Haynes, Teddy Wilson, Laurindo Almeida, Eddie Harris and many others who passed through here on his one-nighters. He even brought to town one of my personal heroes; does anyone remem- ber Leonard Feather? It all happened over a seven-or-so- year period that ended two years ago. I don't know what Kennedy's intentions were at first. I know only what I saw, and in the beginning he was obviously dedicated to bringing national talent to Austin. Over the years the festival became an opportunity to hear not only some of the heroes of the art, but also many younger and gifted musicians from all over Texas. The festivals created an atmosphere of exchange between young and old, black and white, local and national talents. To'B2a8 And we heard some mother bands, ir .ludingthe monster NTSU band with Butch Nordal of "Blues and the Abstract Truth" and "Liferaft Earth" fame; Lanny Steele's one-of-a-kind TSU group, large and small with five or more outstanding soloists; and at the last festival in '73, the most satisfyingof all, Dick Goodwin's fully-matured UT Jazz Ensemble with that fabulous sax section --Pete Brewer, Ron Brown, Paul Ostermayer, John Mills -- and NolandX. Their performance of "Night in Tunisia" with Noland's break will The places on the East Side had the pungent smell of fried food mixed with the aroma of a controlled substance. That was 1965. Two things happened stay with me forever. that year that now seem seminally This changeindirectionandintent-- significant to the development of a from entertainment to education -- "jazz scene" in Austin: the first and was occasioned, at least in part, by the best of the Longhorn Jazz Festivals and fact that in the beginning Kennedy lost the founding of the UT Experimental his ass trying to civilize the sticks, but Jazz Ensemble. more strongly I think by the presence RodKennedy'sfestivalwasasincere of Goody,in and the ensemble, for attempt to improve the cultural fabric whom Kennedy became an honest-to- of Austin by bringing in from the Godfather. outside real live name talent. That's It was a group of maybe ten men and where I first saw and heard Kinny women, certainly not much larger. At Dorham, andIthinkMonkwasononeof that first concert ten years ago the those first shows Dizzy, Coleman small, curious audience was presented Hawkins, StanGetz, twoorthreeJones with the strange figure of Dick drummers, Miles and Idon't know who Goodwin (a shock of yellow hair,' else put us on the map. rumpled trousers swaying lasciviously For several years Kennedy fought a against the beat) in front of a so-called losing battle to keep us on the map. His jazz band with no saxophones. I think loss was our gain. Without him we the reed parts were played by French wouldn't have had them or the others: horns.Wasthereeven apiano player?I don't think so, but then I don'tSeven TimesIt's Own Weight," whic remember much about the program,wasliftedbodily:!romtheUTband; an, WhatIrecalliswhatIfelt, sittingin the most recently Jazzmanian Devil, first row of the Recital Hall (the one on which_ sports Tomas Ramirez, Dude 21st), terribly excited and wishing I Skiles and John Treanor. were part of it. Now that I'd like to Briefly, that's the story of jazz in remember it more clearly, all that Austin in the last ten years, and these The Rhythm Kings were a singer and a song: "You, and-uh the night-uh, and-uh the moooo-sic-uh." really remains is the sensation. That little band grew, and through it passed a succession of competent, often inspired soloists: Emory Wipple, Don Young, Jim Mings, Nick Fryman, Pete Brewer, Tomas Ramirez, Noland X, ROn Brown, Brian Taylor and, more recently, Mike Mordecai, Bill Ginn, Paul Ostermayer, Mel Winters, Ramer/z Spencer Starnes and John Treanor. There were, and are, many others, but these are the ones I noticed. That band began as inauspiciously and unpromisingly as any disorganization I can think of. It fought overwhelming indifference from the local audience and its departmental sponsors has somehow survived. Goodwin has been ably succeeded by Glen Daum, who brings to the job extra-musical talents that promise to keep the program ongoing and thriving. For the past ten years -- with the single exception of James Polk who just keeps on cookin' --every working local James Polk jazz unit in Austin has come from the UT Jazz Ensemble. This includes groups led by Don Young, Pete Brewer, Jim Mings, Nick Fryman, Noland X and Dick Goodwin himself. Right now there are working in town several bands which have come from the ensemble, including Mike Morde- cai's "Starcrost;" Miguel Jimenez' group, last known as "Still Walkin ' "; "Nova" with Nick Phelps and Buzz Hudiburg; Bill Ginn's trio; "Forty- bands are the fruit of the last decade of development. Austin jazz has in that relatively short time come from the cocktail trio with saxophonist stage to the point where we now boast six or seven working professional groups with original books and compositional identities, and there s a variety lrums at that is as diverse as jazz itsel. these people are good, really good So, is there an Austin jazz scene? Well, in a way there always was one with Polk cookin' on the East side, but the activity over here is certainly of recent vintage. It's safe to say that for seven or eight years jazz in Austin was Red Kennedy and Dick Goodwin -- and Polk cookin on the East side. There/s an Austin jazz scene, and it's due to Dick Goodwin, who planted the seed, Rod Kennedy who watered it thanklessly, and to all the guys playing, who have put together their individual sets without any prospect of making it. " '~ " n" But they are making at. Jazzmama has drawn good crowds -- mostly musicos -- at Castle Creek; "47 X" has filled Armadillo; New Year's Eve books jazz; and all the other bands are working with a frequency unheard of five years ago. Plus, of course, there are the related groups, "The Electro" magnets" and "Steam Heat." The magnets have a thing of their own and are able to draw on a larger reservoir to build an audience. Their appeal isn't strictly jazz-based./ nd "Steam Heat"; are they a jazz group? Not without Tomas. Enough said. Why is there an interest in jazz in Austin, when there was none before? Partly it's due to our being a piece of a larger organic whole. Jazz is on the rise everywhere, and Austin should be no exception. It's just taken a little longer here. Jazz in America began losing ground as a somatic substance for the liberal intelligentsia around '64 when it was replaced, first by Bob Dylan and later by the Beatles. When Janis Joplin, the Dead and the Airplane came along a bit later jazz was dead, in the figure of John Coltrane, who died in 1967. Just as Charlie Parker had left a void in the jazz scene in 1955, John Coltrane's death a decade later left the jazz community in a malaise from which it has only =ecently emerged. This is not the place to dwell on this; the story's too complicated. It wasn t rock that dealt jazz the heavy blow. It died on its own. But it was rock, or a form of it in the music of John McLaughlin, Joe Zawinul, Chick _i Corea, Stanley Clarke, Herbie Hancock and the godfather of jazz-rock, Miles Davis, that revitalized jazz and rekindled interest in improvised music 8 m general, and jazz in particular Where else is a creative musician to turn today if he wants to play improvised music? To rock? country? Musicians who five years ago would have drifted into rock bands are today drifting into jazz The music they play is a synthesis of both; the style has changed. Pat Martino is the youngest guy ! know of who plays the guitar in a Wes Montgomery-preHendrix style; he's in his thirties. There are four major jazz co t, on page "23