Book Review: ‘Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond,’ Doug Ramsey

Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond
By Doug Ramsey with foreword by Dave and Iola Brubeck
Parkside Publications, Inc. Seattle

There was a sign in our hospital medical library which read: “Any book is new until you’ve read it.”

Certainly this can also apply to Doug Ramsey’s elegant biography of saxophonist Paul Desmond (11-25-1924 to May 30, 1977). The book has been out of print for several years and I obtained my copy through interlibrary loan. It is an oversized book, clothbound at 10” x 11”. The paper is high-quality and the photographic illustrations, some two pages, are equally elegant.

Ramsey and Desmond were friends for a long period. After Desmond died, the editor of Parkside Publications sought out Ramsey and persuaded him to write the book. Ramsey has a musical background and was a writer, so it was a fortuitous fit.

The book details how Desmond was only child whose father was a musician-composer in the San Francisco area. His mother had some psychological issues such that Paul was sent off to live with relatives from elementary school age until his late teens. His father suggested that he switch from violin to clarinet. Then it was a logical move to alto saxophone.

Of course, the author goes into detail about Desmond’s long association with Dave Brubeck and family. Most readers likely are familiar with that musical combination and recordings.

Lesser known, however, are the personal traits of Desmond. Whereas, Brubeck was a dedicated family man, Desmond was a very private person. There was an early marriage for Desmond but for various reasons, it didn’t work out. There were no children by that marriage and long thereafter Desmond was the man-about-town with multiple romances, some serious and some extremely casual. In this area, Desmond was a private person. For example, many of his acquaintances never knew that he’d been previously married.

Desmond made the move from the San Francisco area to New York where he spent his remaining years. He enjoyed his friendships with both musicians and writers, sometimes telling casual acquaintances that he was a writer. And, in fact, he was a prolific correspondent, carrying his Olivetti portable typewriter with him even on his foreign trips. There are several photos of Desmond in Europe carrying the portable typewriter case.

There was a period of time when Desmond left Brubeck and performed with small groups. Interestingly, usually these were with guitarists—notably Jim Hall and Canadian Ed Bickert.

Desmond was a heavy smoker, several packs a day, as well as a drinker who could play well while “in his cups.” Lung cancer accounted for his decline and death at age 52.

Although this book is out of print, there are occasionally copies available in the used book ads, some priced at $100 or more. I read that the electronic version is available for around $15.

Thanks to Parkside Publications and author Dave Ramsey for this “labor of love.”

Dave Bartholomew, New Orleans Trumpeter-Composer-Arranger, dies at 100

Likely Dave Bartholomew will be remembered by most as the composer of the song Blueberry Hill (1956), which Fats Domino made famous.

He was born in Edgard, Louisiana, and his parents later moved to New Orleans where he took music lessons from Peter Davis who had also tutored Louis Armstrong. As a teenager Dave was performing with various bands in New Orleans.

In 1949, he co-wrote The Fat Man with Fats Domino in 1949. His first hit was Country Boy in 1950. He was associated with various record companies — Trumpet, Mercury, Liberty — and his own record company, Broadmoor in 1967.

In addition to Domino, his compositions have been recorded by Elvis Presley, Pat Boone, Ricky Nelson and others.

Bartholomew died of heart failure at age 100 at East Jefferson Hospital in Metairie, La., on June 23, 2019.

From left, trumpeters Nicholas Payton, Doc Cheatham and Dave Bartholomew at the Louis Armstrong memorial stamp release party, New Orleans, 1995. Photos by Norman Vickers

My only encounter with Bartholomew was in 1995 for the memorial stamp release of the Louis Armstrong stamp. After the ceremony, there was a celebration at the Blue Room of the Roosevelt Hotel in downtown New Orleans. Three trumpeters performed that night — Bartholomew, Doc Cheatham and a much younger Nicholas Payton.

Drum Roll, Please: Jazz Concert Etiquette

Grumpy
The definition of grumpy is irritable or grouchy. An explanation of grumpy is a person who is always complaining and unhappy.

Charles Mingus
Nearly as well known as his ambitious music was Mingus’ often fearsome temperament, which earned him the nickname “The Angry Man of Jazz.” His refusal to compromise his musical integrity led to many onstage eruptions, exhortations to musicians, and dismissals. Although respected for his musical talents, Mingus was sometimes feared for his occasionally violent onstage temper, which was at times directed at members of his band and other times aimed at the audience. He was physically large, prone to obesity (especially in his later years), and was by all accounts often intimidating and frightening when expressing anger or displeasure. When confronted with a nightclub audience talking and clinking ice in their glasses while he performed, Mingus stopped his band and loudly chastised the audience, stating: “Isaac Stern doesn’t have to put up with this crap.” Mingus reportedly destroyed a $20,000 bass in response to audience heckling at the Five Spot in New York City.

Most of us can (I hope for the sake of jazz) can agree….Mingus was one of a kind. Musical genius…. he deserved the respect at a performance.

At that level. Wow!

Which brings to me this news.

Our Jazz Jams and Jazz Gumbos should be treated as jazz concert performances. It not only shows respect to the musicians you have come out to support, but to the organization that we are trying to grow. Is it a social event? Sure. But it is still a performance. Please show respect. At the venues we hold our events, please show respect. Our Jazz Jams are held at a venue that normally is closed on Mondays. They open so we can have a venue in which to present our Jazz Jams. Tipping is a cool thing. The servers are there for you. Treat them with respect. Treat them as you would want to be treated.

Jazz Concert Etiquette
If you are considering attending a jazz concert, keep in mind these basic rules: Even though the concert takes place in a social setting – bars, clubs, etc. – make an effort and restrain yourself from talking during performances. Turn off your phone, or at least put it on vibrate.

Let us continue to keep making forward steps. We need it now more than before.

Please, Give Peace A Chance
Still Your President
Fred Domulot
Taye Drums
Dream Cymbals
Silverfox Drumsticks
AFM Local 389

Fred Domulot
AFM 389
“Give Peace A Chance”

Great posts from two favorite jazz blogs

It was a red-letter day recently for Vickers, and, I believe for Jazz Pensacola. On May 28, 2019, two of my favorite blogs had artists who had performed for Jazz Pensacola previously.

Michael Steinman’s blog, jazzlives.wordpress.com, featured a group from the West Coast that included jazz pianist Carl Sonny Leyland, clarinetist Jacob Zimmerman, bassist Marty Eggers and drummer Jeff Hamilton. The post included several videos from the March 3, 2019 Monterey Jazz Festival.

So why was this especially important to me? Jazz Pensacola has been blessed to have pianist Sonny Leyland and bassist Marty Eggers to appear at our JazzFest in the early 2000s. And having seen them at jazz festivals elsewhere, it was like a visit from old, dear friends. Also, Michael Steinman is a good friend to us as well. When drummer Hal Smith brought his Kid Ory tribute group for our November 2017 jazz event co-sponsored by ACE (Arts, Culture, and Entertainment), the event was videotaped and Steinman featured it on his blog.

Stephanie Nakasian

Jazz writer Marc Myers’ jazzwax.com blog recently featured vocalist Stephanie Nakasian. There are several clips of her performance from outstanding recordings, including one video of her performing with a band led by Pete Rugolo who was Stan Kenton’s composer/arranger.

The significance is that The Jazz Society of Pensacola had Stephanie and her pianist husband Hod O’Brien in Pensacola for a performance in the 1980s. Then, in the early 2000s, Stephanie and Hod performed again for Pensacola JazzFest. At that time, their 13-year-old daughter Veronica sang a number with her mother. Subsequently, Veronica, now performing as Veronica Swift, has graduated from Frost School of Music in Miami and has embarked on her own singing and recording career.

In the interview, Myers leads Stephanie through various stages of her career including Hod’s death in 2016.

I have had opportunity to review both of Marc’s books, “Anatomy of a Song” and “Why Jazz Happened.”
In addition to writing a daily jazz blog, Myers also is a regular columnist for the Wall Street Journal — one column is weekly and the other is monthly. His interviews with interesting persons are not all related to jazz; they can be authors, actors or other persons of interest.

To the credit of both Michael Steinman and Marc Myers, there is a long index of their previous work so this information is readily available for those who are interested. Thanks, Michael and Mark for making my day!

See jazzwax.com and jazzlives.wordpress.com for the columns and sign up, if desired.

Drum Roll, Please: Get ready for a hot season of hot jazz

Dear friends,

Excuse me, I have to adjust my thermostat.

It’s summer!

Get ready for hot weather. And get ready for hot jazz. Our monthly jazz jams and gumbos will continue to be served.

Most important news: You asked for it, and we listened. I would like to welcome our two newest board members: Carolyn Tokson and Paul Bruno.

We are looking forward to working to continue bringing the “best” jazz to you, the members. And with the help of our two new members, I see clear sailing on the jazz seas.

Nothing can go wrong!

Peace
Fred Domulot
AFM 389

Drum Roll, Please: ‘Look What They’ve Done to My Song, Ma’

“Look What They’ve Done to My Song, Ma” is one of my favorite tunes covered by the great Ray Charles. It was written by Melanie Safka, whose fans knew her simply as Melanie. She was a Woodstock performer and a writer of other great hits.

Ray Charles’ version is a killer version!

The song is about how music companies change artists’ music, and their true message. They can ruin the deepness of an artist because their intentions are to make money…take control. This happens every day.

But look at what positive change can do, look at what we’ve done to Jazz Pensacola:

We received the 2019 Majority Opinion Research Survey of Events & Festivals, which is done annually for Visit Pensacola/Escambia County.

Check this out, according to the report:

  • The 2019 Pensacola JazzFest attracted an estimated 17,000 attendees, which surpasses previous years.
  • 31% of the 2019 event attendees were visitors to Pensacola, which is a record high for this event.
  • 85% of the destination visitors (26% of total attendees) were aware of the event before visiting (up from previous years), and 59% came to Pensacola specifically for the event (also up from previous years).
  • 12% of attendees spent the night in paid accommodations (highest since 2014) and stayed an average of 2.0 nights (similar to most years).
  • Factoring in that 59% of the destination visitors at the event specifically came to Pensacola for the event, it is estimated that the
  • 2019 Pensacola JazzFest generated 745 room nights in Escambia County, which is another record high for this event.
  • On average, destination visitors attending the 2019 Pensacola JazzFest spent $691.01 during their stay ( more than any other year, except 2015 and 2016) and resident parties spent an average of $63.29 (more than any other year, except for 2015) in the course of attending the event.
  • All together, it is estimated that the 2019 Pensacola JazzFest attendees contributed $1,505,020 to the Escambia County economy (more than any other year).
  • Factoring in that 59% of the visitors at the event specifically came to Pensacola for the event, it is estimated that the event directly aided in $992,920 being spent in the Escambia County economy (yet another record high for this event).
  • According to the 2019 Majority Opinion Research Survey of Events & Festivals, Jazz Pensacola broke many records with its last JazzFest.
  • One of the significant growth areas is how we are reaching out via social media. From April 2 to April 29, Facebook analytics show: posts reached 12.2K, had 2.9K engagements, 218 link clicks and 77 new page likes. Shout out to: Mike Suchcicki, Jazz Pensacola administrator Alice Crann-Good and Jazz Pensacola board member/secretary Ali Egan for this growth! Well done!

Plus, Jazz Pensacola’s 2019 Student Jazz Competition In March was a tremendous success. The students, families and guests greatly enjoyed having the annual event at Phineas Phogg’s in Seville Quarter. Giving the competition a “real life” performing experience with a jazz room vibe was a very positive change.

Our community recognition is reaching new heights. The Downtown Improvement Board has asked Jazz Pensacola to orchestrate the July Gallery Night with a jazz theme.

And, get this. Jazz Pensacola recently came in 3rd out of 37 grant applications for 2019 Foo Foo Festival grants! Another shout out to our administrator Alice Crann Good for the grant writing. Full funding! Our act this year will be Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. More info on that soon.

Even so…

“It’s the only thing that I could do half right…and they’ve turned it upside down.”

Just be nice. Listen to “Sketches of Spain” in the morning. it will change your day.

Peace

Fred Domulot
Jazz Pensacola President
AFM Local 389