I would have been eager to visit clarinetist Ron Odrich’s monthly session at San Martin on East 49th Street, New York City (it happens the first Tuesday of each month) for his swooping playing — and the lovely work of his colleagues James Chirillo (guitar); Gary Mazzaroppi (string bass); “Cenz” (drums). But last Tuesday’s session was even more special because it allowed me to hear one of the quiet masters of jazz in person.
I refer to trombonist George Masso: veteran of the late Forties Jimmy Dorsey band (a band whose trumpet section had Charlie Teagarden and Maynard Ferguson!) and then right-hand man to Bobby Hackett, Ken Peplowski, Barbara Lea, Spike Robinson, Harry Allen, Wild Bill Davison, the World’s Greatest Jazz Band, Warren Vache, Ed Polcer, Joe Wilder, Urbie Green, Helen Ward, Al Klink, Scott Hamilton, Ruby Braff, Tom Pletcher, Maxine Sullivan, Mike Renzi, Kenny Davern, Carl Fontana, Dave McKenna, Eddie Higgins, Randy Sandke, Charlie Ventura, Dan Barrett, Dick Hyman, Bob Wilber, Lou Columbo, Ralph Sutton, Jake Hanna, Woody Herman, and the King of Swing himself.
Obviously, if all those people had called upon Mr. Masso, he was special: this I already knew from the recordings: his accuracy and fine, broad tone — his remarkable combination of swing-time and ease with a broad harmonic palette and astonishing technique, always in the service of melody and logical improvisations.
Two additional facts you should know before you watch the videos that follow (featuring superb playing by everyone in the group). George Masso is one of the most gentle, humble people it will be my privilege to know — so happy that a fan (myself) would make a small pilgrimage to hear and capture him (his lady friend June is a dear person too, no surprise).
Mister Masso is eighty-five years old, obviously one of the marvels of the age. Cape Cod and Rhode Island must agree with him. And his playing certainly agreed with everyone there.
They began their set with TANGERINE:
I’M OLD-FASHIONED, taken at a walking tempo:
BLUE BOSSA, lilting and graceful:
A romping I FOUND A NEW BABY:
And — not dedicated to anyone in the room! — George’s ballad feature on OLD FOLKS:
P.S. I hope George comes back to New York City — with his trombone — soon! In April, Ron’s guest star will be baritone saxophone wizard Gary Smulyan.