Many words follow, which one could skip in favor of the music, but this was and is an event of some significance. Here’s the press release.
The Museum of Modern Art
Saturday, July 17, 1965
Pee Wee Russell will lead an all-star quintet Including cornetist Bobby Hackett in the Garden at The Museum of Modern Art on Thursday, July 22, at 8:30 p.m. The legendary clarinetist will also be joined by Dave Frlshberg, piano, George Tucker, bass, and Oliver Jackson, drums. The group plays the sixth In a series of ten Thursday evening promenade concerts sponsored jointly by the Museum and Down Beat Magazine.
The regular Museum admission, $1.00, admits visitors to galleries, open Thursdays until 10 p.m. Tickets for Jazz in the Garden are an additional 50 cents.
A few chairs are available on the garden terraces, but most of the audience stands or sits on the ground. Cushions may be rented for 25 cents. Sandwiches and soft drinks are available to concert-goers in the Garden Restaurant. Dinner Is served to the public in the Penthouse Restaurant from 6 to 8. In case of rain, the concert will be canceled; tickets will be honored at the concert following.
Once dubbed “the Gertrude Stein of jazz” because of his highly individualistic approach to his instrument, Russell, with a style ranging from poetic to satiric, has never become dated. Though frequently associated with jazz of a Dixieland flavor, in 1963 he surprised the jazz world by recording with a pianoless quartet, playing a modern repertoire with pieces by Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane. In 1965 he was teamed with Monk and his quartet at the Newport Festival.
Born in 1906 in St. Louis, Russell was a close associate of such pioneer jazzmen of the 20s as Bix Beiderbecke, Leon Rappolo and Frank Trumbauer. He played in Chicago with the founders of Chicago Style Jazz. In 1927 he came to New York where he worked and recorded with Red Nichols, Benny Goodman, Ben Pollack, Jack Teagarden and other leading players of the day. He was among the first to bring jazz to New York’s famed 52nd Street, working at the Onyx Club with trumpeter Louis Prima, whose big band he later joined. After working briefly with Bobby Hackett’s big band in 1938, he began a long association with guitarist Eddie Condon, sparkplug of small-group traditional jazz, and was for years a fixture at Nick’s and Eddie Condon’s in Greenwich Village. Russell won first place on clarinet in the Down Beat International Critic’s Poll in I964 and I965.
Russell’s Museum concert will be videotaped by NBC-TV for broadcast later this summer as part of the Kaleidoscope series.
For Jazz in the Garden. Dan Morgenstern, New York editor of Down Beat, is Chairman of a Program Committee consisting of David Himmelsteln, editor of FM Magazine, Charles Graham, a sound systems specialist, and Herbert Bronstein, Series Director.
The series will continue July 29 with the Roy Eldridge Quintet featuring Richie Kamuca.
My friend and benefactor John L. Fell sent me, as part of an early cassette, the music from the NBC “Kaleidoscope” broadcast of September 4, 1965, hosted by Nat Hentoff: ‘DEED I DO, featuring Russell and Hackett; THE MAN WITH THE HORN, an unusual Hackett feature (the only recording of it by him that has been documented), and I’M IN THE MARKET FOR YOU, a Russell feature with Hackett joining in.
The remarkable bio-discography by Bert Whyatt and George Hulme, BOBBY HACKETT: HIS LIFE IN MUSIC, notes that eleven songs were played at this concert. Whitney Balliett reviewed it in THE NEW YORKER as well. It is too late to wonder, “Where is the rest of the video-recording?” because networks erased videotape for economy, but I would love to know if anyone ever had a complete recording of the concert. (And, while the researchers are at it, the Eldridge-Kamuca quintet and another concert, the front line Buster Bailey, Joe Thomas, and Vic Dickenson. Do I dream in vain? And I think: I was alive and reasonably sentient in 1965, and my parents had a television set. Was KALEIDOSCOPE under-advertised so that it escaped my notice, I, who read TV GUIDE avidly?)
Here’s what I have, noble and lively: the interplay between Bobby and Pee Wee, friends for almost thirty years in 1965; the wonderful terse support of Frishberg . . . and, as a side-note, the way Pee Wee says, wordlessly, “That tempo is much too fast for what I have in mind,” at the start of MARKET, and how Frishberg listens — some would have simply kept on obliviously.
Dan Morgenstern, intimately involved in this series, recalled asking Pee Wee to lead a group, Pee Wee said yes instantly and when I asked who he wanted he said, in less than two seconds, ‘Bobby,’ and we instantly agreed on Dave whom he had encountered, while the great, alas short-lived Tucker and Ollie were our choices, Pee Wee wanted Black musicians in there. He also said he did not want Condonites—not for strictly musical reasons but for a much desired environmental change.
And from Dan’s column in JERSEY JAZZ . . . . beginning with praise of the wonderful pianist Dave Frishberg . . .
Sometimes things happen in a strangely appropriate but unexpected way. When we lost Dave Frishberg recently I didn’t have to read the obits to learn that his well earned success as a songwriter sadly overshadowed, maybe even hid from view, his great gifts as a pianist. When I caught him live he’d give us a wee taste of his keyboard skills, almost like a teaser. I wanted to complain to his attorney Bernie and ask Dear Bix to pull his coat for some keyboard Quality Time but had to settle for some peeled grapes. Then I was gassed when I got a CD of a concert featuring Al and Zoot, with Dave at the piano, but the asinine producer had edited out all of his solos—something my colleague in the Crow’s Nest told me Dave was angry about, so he still did care about the keyboard….
A bit later, Dave called to tell me about a local tenor player he thought highly of and said he’d send me a sample. I was of course interested but primarily happy that I’d get to hear some of that piano! Well, guess what? There was plenty of a nice enough sax man but far too little piano, alas….
Then, just a few days ago as I write, my good friend Michael Steinman, who
is a great finder of buried treasure, sent me something that not only was of
special musical but also special personal value: an excerpt from a concert in
the “Jazz in the Garden” series at New York’s Museum of Modern Art,
co-produced by yours truly, in this instance from July 22, 1965. (The summer series ran for several years, successfully, until MOMA, modern to the core, decided that jazz was no longer in the moment and suggested we blend it with what was then considered hip, if not quite hop, to which we (Ira Gitler, David Himmelstein, Don Schlitten and I) said no thanks. (They hired a musician whose name escapes me; after a few performances, the concerts ceased due to noise complaints from neighboring tenants—who during the jazz regime had invited guests to join them in enjoyment, for free, of the sounds emanating from the Garden. Sic transit non gloria mundi, needless to say to our considerable schadenfreude!)
But I digress, the concert in question featured the inimitable Pee Wee Russell in the too rare role as leader of a band of his own choice—Bobby Hackett, bassist George Tucker, drummer Oliver Jackson and—you guessed it—Dave Frishberg. It was, uniquely, televised by NBC in an arts series, but when we asked for a copy we were told it had been wiped. However, audio fragments survived—one tune eventually appeared on a Xanadu LP, but that, we thought, was all. However, two more had been captured, and all three have now been heard by me more than half a century later. The band was great, Pee Wee was happy which made me happy, and there is great work by Dave. As I said—things happen. Ah, sweet mystery of life!
Some lament the loss of the Library of Alexandria; I lament that we cannot hear (and see!) the other eight selections this lovely band performed. What wonders they created.
May your happiness increase!