A Jazz Life
Memoirs and studies drawn from experiences as a student of Warne Marsh, 1982-87
(Painting of Warne Marsh by Charles Coffman)
This work is first dedicated to my longtime friend and mentor, the jazz bassist Sonny Dallas. I could never repay Sonny for what he gave me, and it is safe to say that most of what you are about to read could not have happened without him.
On the subject of "could not have happened without" I also pay tribute to my parents, Henry and Edith. I think it's an even safer statement that neither of them could ever have imagined a work like this emerging from our family. Nevertheless, here it is Mom and Dad, and thanks for everything.
My last dedication is to the future, and specifically to my sons Frank and John David: I hope that your individual journeys will be as interesting as mine has been so far, and that you each find your voice and learn to use it wisely.
Also, with personal thanks to Safford Chamberlain, Charles Coffman, and above all Jack Goodwin for his friendship and support. I encourage all readers to visit the website that Jack has created with information and news regarding Warne: http://www.warnemarsh.info
And of course, to Warne Marsh. Thank you again man, I am forever in your debt.
© 2005/2006/2007/2008/2009 by John Klopotowski, all rights reserved
Table of Contents
- Introduction/Technical Notes
- Part I - The Story
- I. Fall, 1980
- II. 1981
- III. 1982
- IV. 1983
- V. 1984
- VI. Onward
- VII. Post-scripts
- Part II - Studies in Jazz Improvisation
- Slow improvising
- Meter Studies
- Polymetric overview
- Polytonal overview
- Getting started
- Next steps - basic melodic patterns
- Beginning Meter Studies — the 2/4 work in eighth notes
- 2/4 triplet work
- 2/4 'double-time' work — 16th notes
- Moving on — combinations of 2/4: 4/4 and 6/4 meters
- 4/4 studies
- 6/4 studies
- Completing the quarter note meters — 3/4, 5/4 and 7/4
- 3/4 studies
- 5/4 Studies
- 7/4 Studies
- Beginning the eighth note meters — 3/8 studies
- 5/8 studies
- 7/8 studies
- Singing recorded solos
- Ear training/jazz harmony
- Warming up
- "Levels" of improvising
- Appendix A - List of audio/video examples in order
- Appendix B - Bibliography/suggested reading
- Appendix C - Discography
Between roughly the fall of 1980 and late in 1987 I came to learn about, meet, study with, and perform with jazz tenor saxophonist Warne Marsh. Since then I have often had the thought that the story was unusual and worth telling, and that I should write a book about it. Some circumstances in the summer of 2005 led me to start organizing notes on the technical aspects of my studies with Warne, and I then decided to begin work on the book that I've been imagining for many years. At this time (Spring of 2009) I have been at work on the project for almost four years and in addition to documenting the musical material that I learned with Warne I also tell the story of our time together. When I received the very sad news of his death in December of 1987 I mourned the loss of a good friend and mentor, and also felt that the jazz world had lost one of its most brilliant artists. As the pain of that loss receded over the following years it became increasingly clear to me that the beauty and inspiration evident in Warne's best work is still with us and arguably sounds as fresh today as when first created.
In 1991 I was contacted by author Safford Chamberlain and in introducing himself Safford mentioned then that he was an English teacher and saxophone player, had studied briefly with Warne before his death, and was planning to write a biography of him. I remember saying in that first phone call that (in my opinion) while a reasonable segment of the jazz world knew of Warne's unique abilities and contributions as a player, it seemed to me that there was very little awareness in the jazz community of his highly developed and unique teaching ability. This brings me to my second intention, which is to shed more light on Warne's role as a teacher and mentor and to document the information and methods that he shared with me. So while the first section of the text presents the history of our relationship and the issues that arose as a result, the second presents my recollection of the technical material that we covered in lessons. I also am of the opinion that much like his actual playing, Warne's conception of the underlying language and structures in jazz was unique and is still not widely known at this point in time.
In closing, I would like to comment on the title. I remember coming across the suggestion that for an average jazz enthusiast (or as Warne put it, 'people who work a day gig') who is getting to know the music through listening and reading, another way to learn is to become friends with a jazz musician in the local community. After a period of about two years an understanding of what can be regarded as the "jazz life" should be formed, and the resulting real-life experience would be far deeper than any book could ever offer. This work then is my attempt to share and honor major segments of several 'jazz lives' and communicate the profound passion, brilliance, commitment, and love for the art that informs and has informed those lives.
Finally, if there are comments or feedback please send them along, I am happy to hear from anyone interested in Warne's legacy.
With best wishes,
mail to: jklopotowski@gmail. com
For computer readers - audio and video examples are inserted or linked throughout the text. Computer speakers or headphones are required, to hear/view any of the examples click on the hyperlink (blue underscored text), the link will open and the example will begin to play. Clicking an audio or video link when reading in Internet Explorer, Firefox, or some other browser should open Windows Media Player, the QuickTime media player, or the default media player on a computer. If the media link opens in the browser rather than a separate media player then when finished listening or viewing click the "back" button in the upper left hand corner of the browser page to return to the text. All examples are audio clips unless identified as video.
For print readers – there are multiple audio and/or video examples mentioned throughout the text and a companion data CD containing mp3 or mpeg files of the examples is included. The reader is encouraged to listen to or view these examples when reading for the first time.
Part I – The Story
"It has to be put inside you, and you have to be ready to have it put there.
All that happens to you makes a feeling out of your life and you play that feeling …"
– Sidney Bechet on jazz improvisation (quote continued in Part II)
I. Fall, 1980
"Hey John, have you ever heard of a bass player named Sonny Dallas?" It was an innocent enough question, and thinking back it was posed by my wife, Leslie, in the fall of 1980 when I was twenty-five years old. Even though I was a young man then I was both a jazz player and listener and considered myself fairly well-informed however my response was no, I hadn't heard of Sonny Dallas and asked why. Leslie told me that she had recently met a woman at work who was involved with him, and that he had been an active jazz player in New York in the 1950's and 60's and had either performed and/or recorded with Bill Evans, Phil Woods, Lee Konitz, Lennie Tristano, Warne Marsh, and others. Leslie went on to say that she had told Sonny's friend a little about me and that he passed back a message that he would like to meet. (I found out some time later that jazz drummer Chiz Harris, a friend of Sonny's, had a test of whether someone was 'hip' or not – if they had heard of Sonny Dallas they were, if they hadn't they were not!)
Leslie and I were living at the time on the north shore of Long Island in a small harbor town called Port Jefferson, and I was enrolled as a doctoral student in music composition at Stony Brook University, which was fairly close to Port Jefferson.
Port Jefferson is located on Long Island roughly fifty miles from the New York borough of Manhattan
I entered the graduate program at Stony Brook two years earlier, however by 1980 had been a serious student of jazz for probably seven years and earned an undergraduate degree in Music/Jazz Studies at William Paterson College in Wayne, New Jersey with jazz guitar as my major instrument. William Paterson was in northern New Jersey close to the city of Paterson, which was where I grew up and not far at all from New York City.
After about a week or so I summoned the courage to call Sonny and found him to be friendly and approachable. We chatted a little and set a time to get together at his home, a small house located on the southeastern shore of Long Island. When Leslie and I arrived the four of us got better acquainted and Sonny gave a slightly more detailed account of his past than when we had first talked on the phone. He had just turned 49 years old, was of Italian descent (his family name had been shortened from D'Alessandro), grew up in Pittsburgh, was originally a singer but took up the bass in the late 1940's, and moved to New York in 1955 to play jazz. One of his early friends and employers was alto saxophonist Phil Woods and Sonny had performed with Phil and recorded two albums with him in the 1950's. He worked for several years with pianist Lennie Tristano (starting in 1959) and in fact lived for a period of time in the basement of Lennie's house in Queens. Sonny had bought his current house in the 1960's when he was making a decent income as a free-lance player in New York and moved there permanently around 1970 or so.
I really didn't have much to match Sonny's experiences in my own story, but shared some of my educational background and experiences as a player. After spending time talking we went to his studio on the second floor and played some duets for awhile. These are somewhat dim memories now, but I recall that the first tune we played was "All the Things You Are," also that we played everything with a metronome beating quarter notes, and finally that Sonny was a tremendous soloist and played a quarter-note bass line that reminded me strongly of Paul Chambers, Miles Davis' great bassist in his 1950's groups. We played for an hour or so, and then when we were recapping the night and saying our goodbyes Sonny mentioned that he had been having regular weekly sessions at his house for several years with various players and that I was welcome if interested. I told him that I was definitely interested, thanked him, and said that I would be in touch.
Sonny Dallas in his studio in 1984
Through Sonny I was also given a fast introduction to the musical world of Lennie Tristano. During the first evening that we met he spoke with obvious respect and affection for Lennie, but I had to confess that I didn't really know his music. In retrospect though, this was mostly due to lack of exposure to Lennie's work when I was studying jazz as a full-time student. Through my readings in jazz history however I did know of him as one of the principal "cool jazz" players from the late 1940's. Sonny mentioned that there weren't a lot of Lennie's recordings available, however an LP called "Descent into the Maelstrom" had been released near the end of his life and Sonny was on two tracks. He put the record on the turntable, but rather than play a track that he was on he chose a solo piano track of a standard called "It's You or No One." I had a reaction that in retrospect is fairly common among many of Lennie's admirers - I was riveted as I sat and listened! I really had never before heard a pianist produce that sort of intense sound and also deep jazz feeling. Besides his strong sense of swing he was also playing a 'walking' bass line with his left hand as he improvised a single-note melodic line in the right, along with chords. One thing that struck me (and I still clearly remember) is that I naturally started tapping my foot on the second and fourth beats of each bar as I was listening. However, what was unusual was that there were moments when I was suddenly 'wrong': while I hadn't done anything different in my time keeping I found myself tapping on what felt like the first and third beats rather than the second and fourth beats. As I kept it going though I would then find that I was back on the second and fourth beats without making any sort of adjustment for my 'mistake. ' This went on through the track, so at the same time that I was inspired and impressed, I was also somewhat confused! When the track ended I asked Sonny about what I had heard. His slightly vague/jazz slang response to my question was that Lennie was able to "put it on the wrong side of the barline. " I didn't know what that meant, but I accepted it and in retrospect had my first seeds of curiosity planted about the Tristano approach to jazz.
Lennie Tristano: "It's You or No One"/Descent Into the Maelstrom
The next day I decided to do some research on Lennie in "The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Jazz" by Brian Case and Stan Britt and found this entry:
Born 1919 in Chicago, blind pianist and teacher Lennie Tristano attracted a small dedicated group of disciples in the '40's and '50's for what was popularly called 'The Cool School'. Running counter to the prevailing passions of bebop, Tristano experimented in linear improvisation, long, undulating Bach-like lines, counterpoint, atonality, a low decibel count and intense and subtle rhythmic complexity. … In 1949 the Lennie Tristano Sextet with altoist Lee Konitz, tenorman Warne Marsh, (and guitarist) Billy Bauer, recorded a classic (Crosscurrents). Over a steady rhythm the players wove in and out of each other's lines lightly and precisely. Intuition from this session dispensed with a harmonic base and is arguably the starting point of the New Thing – certainly free collective improvisation has never sounded so seamlessly beautiful.
Though his detractors have accused Tristano of sounding bloodless and academic, Charlie Parker respected his music and the two men played together on the All Star Metronome broadcast. Tristano's moving blues for Bird, Requiem (Lines, 1955) proves that the cerebral approach need not preclude feeling. … Always a recluse, the great pianist did not choose to record again until 1962 (The New Tristano) which in terms of melodic invention, facility with complex time signatures and sheer technical mastery remains unsurpassed. An outspoken, uncompromising man, Tristano has remained aloof from the jazz world since, completely out of sympathy with the overt emotionalism of today's music – 'all emotion, no feeling'.
It became clear to me that Lennie Tristano was a large subject, and I resolved to find the recordings that were mentioned so that I could study them and form my own opinions.
Lennie Tristano at a solo concert in Copenhagen - 1965
I remember having a somewhat restless sleep on the night that Sonny and I played and I dreamt that I could hear his bass line during what seemed like most of it. I decided to call him the next day and told him how much I enjoyed playing with him, and he graciously returned the compliment. And so we started playing once a week on a regular night and were joined by a good friend of Sonny's, tenor saxophonist Jim Brostman. Although Jim was playing tenor at the time, he was originally a trumpet player and impressed me as quite a brilliant guy and musician. The sessions were marvelously informal, and I became a regular participant for the next six years.
Thad Jones remembered
The sessions at Sonny's went on this way for the first few weeks, and one result was that I experienced something of a personal rebirth in jazz as a result. I was reminded of a time a few years before when I had chosen music as my major as an undergraduate student. I became immersed then in the world of jazz, generally practicing my instrument for at least four hours a day for several years and also doing a lot of playing with others and teaching at a busy music studio. My primary teachers had been Bob DeVos, a well-known northern New Jersey guitarist, and also the faculty members that I both studied and came to be friends with at William Paterson. Included in that group was Thad Jones, the great jazz trumpeter/composer/arranger. Though I don't think any student was ever a close friend of Thad's (he was frequently absent because of tours with his big band) he was always very friendly, warm, and encouraging. I remember first meeting him in late September of 1975 when he had just returned from a tour of Japan. We were all nervous when he showed up to the Jazz Improvisation class that he was teaching, but after hearing me play and getting to know me a little he invited me to sit in with his quartet at the campus coffee house two nights later (I had recently turned twenty years old when that happened). He was performing there for three nights with a quartet drawn from the members of his big band that included Walter Norris on piano, George Mraz on bass, and Mel Lewis on drums. He had me up to play two tunes in the second set, the room was filled to capacity, and I had quite an auspicious introduction to both my new school (I had transferred to William Paterson that fall from Rutgers University in Newark) and also to the world of professional jazz. I had the sense that night that I went through a rite of passage, and that though I was "over my head" in playing with the group I had to accept his generous invitation and learn what I could from the experience. Recently someone sent me a recording of a concert that Thad gave at the school just about a year before I started, and both his mastery of the trumpet and ever-creative and clever mind are in full display.
Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Quintet: "Hot House" (excerpt) – with Jerry Dodgion (woodwinds), Roland Hanna (piano), and George Mraz (bass) – recorded 9/12/74 at William Paterson College
Thad Jones - this picture was taken sometime during the time I knew him and is exactly how I remember him – bigger than life and full of spirit.
As time went on groups of students would also travel to New York to hear the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra on Monday nights at the Village Vanguard. On breaks he would invite us into the kitchen, which was considered sacred ground in jazz (there are famous jazz legends about John Coltrane practicing in the corner of the kitchen during breaks when he worked at the Vanguard). I also heard as much other live music in New York as I was able at that time, and some of my primary influences were guitarists Pat Martino and Jim Hall, and also the jazz universe that grew out of the various bands that Miles Davis had led, especially pianists Bill Evans and Chick Corea.
By the time I started graduate school at Stony Brook though my jazz life became somewhat dormant as I was immersed in classical studies and composing for the first two years and also much further removed geographically from northern New Jersey and the New York environment. I did miss my activities in the jazz world and I remember sharing this at the time in a phone call with one of my best friends, Bob Keller, a marvelous tenor saxophone and woodwind player who had been on the faculty at William Paterson. In that call Bobby encouraged me to look for a bass player locally, so when the opportunity came to get together with Sonny I had been hoping to find a situation where I could start playing regularly with other musicians again. Bobby also knew of Sonny (so he passed Chiz Harris' 'hip' test) since he had grown up in Queens and heard Sonny frequently there in local clubs with different players, and had even played with him once at an open session.
I was very enthusiastic in those first few weeks with Sonny and the idea came to me then of studying jazz again, however I realistically doubted that I would have the time given my commitments at school. The thought stayed with me though and when I went to the next session I was sitting with Sonny and Jim and listening to music before we started playing. I decided to mention what had been on my mind, so I told them that I was thinking about studying jazz again. Sonny asked who I was considering as a teacher and I mentioned that my first thought was that I was sorry that Lennie wasn't still with us and teaching because he would be my first choice. I went on to say though that if I were to study with a guitarist I would choose Jim Hall since I admired his playing a great deal, and if it were anyone else I would choose alto saxophonist Phil Woods since he was clearly a master improviser and jazz performer. Sonny's quick response surprised me: "well, if I were a young cat and looking to study there would only be one teacher I would consider." His statement aroused my curiosity so I asked, "really, and who would that be? "He responded, "Warne Marsh – in my opinion he's the greatest improviser in the world, and he's teaching in New York." And further: "I have his phone number and would be happy to give it to you." This surprised me because at that point we had not listened to many of Warne's recordings, and had discussed his work only peripherally in relation to Lennie Tristano. So I was intrigued to say the least, but for the time being filed the information in my mind and planned to get more familiar with Warne's music.
It turns out that I was correct in my suspicions and didn't have the time to devote to studying jazz again due to the circumstance that as a first semester doctoral student I was immersed in my school work. There was a series of events about to unfold though that moved me forward in the direction of studying, whether I thought I had the time or not. Over the course of the previous few weeks Sonny had become quite enthusiastic about the sessions we had been having, and sometime around the New Year he brought up the idea of going into a recording studio to capture some of what we had been doing. I was all for it, and the timing was good in that I was on break between semesters at school and could spend a little more time practicing. Sonny had a contact who owned a recording studio in the town of Lake Ronkonkoma on Long Island and we booked some time for a session in early January. My recollections of the evening are that we were going through a very cold patch of winter weather and when we got to the studio it was in a basement and had no heat. This was a difficult environment for anyone there, and I remember feeling it physically in my fingers. So I was quite cold and also nervous, and this affected my playing in that I was "rushing" a lot, and whether it was nervousness or the cold I also didn't have a very free flow of ideas as I was improvising. Once the session was over and I received a copy of the tape I was fairly horrified at the result, so I called Sonny quickly and apologized for my performance. I also brought up the subject of lessons – over those first few months we had been sharing general ideas about teaching (I had amassed a reasonable amount of private and classroom teaching experience by then), and Sonny had several jazz students that he required to come for lessons once a week. I asked if he might relax that requirement a little and take me on as a student every other week. He pondered it and said, "well, I think I can help you with note availability" (whatever that meant!). After a brief pause he then said that he wasn't sure about bi-weekly lessons but would give it a try.
So we started lessons that month and in our first meeting Sonny explained his overall approach to teaching improvisation and offered some feedback regarding my jazz feel (or lack of it) that was a little tough to hear, but was very encouraging in that he felt I had tremendous potential as a player. His method involved working on some basic melodic and rhythmic patterns and then improvising through sets of chord progressions in twelve keys to develop facility as an improviser. He also taught me his approach to harmonic improvising or chord substitution: he had done significant playing in New York with pianist George Wallington, and Wallington was very much a player in the style of Bud Powell. The material related to chord substitution involved a technical approach to altering the harmonic structure of a jazz standard. This was essential information for me both in general and also because Sonny would improvise his bass lines along these principles. If a player didn't have this training there was a very real chance that they would never really "hear" or be able to respond to what he was doing. Finally, at the very end of the lesson he challenged me by saying: "All my students sing solos, when I studied with Lennie he let me pick the first one, and I'll do the same with you." (I picked Charlie Parker's solo on "Billie's Bounce.")
The assignment of singing a solo with a recording was new for me as I had not been "taught" this way before. This was liberating and also gave confidence over time in that I was learning and internalizing some of the great recorded jazz literature by ear and then would learn to play the same material. In that two-week period I not only learned to sing the solo but also went ahead and taught myself to play it on the guitar and piano and felt I was well-prepared for my next lesson.
The lessons with Sonny went on this way for some time and I felt I was making great progress as a result. I was also growing as a player through the weekly sessions we were having with Jim, and it was a standard practice then for us to spend a bit of time listening and conversing each week before we started playing. The listening could be casual, such as when one of us may have heard a new recording and brought it with us, or it could be quite detailed when listening to classic jazz recordings. This was definitely the case with recordings of Lester Young and Charlie Parker (I'll also refer to them by their jazz nicknames of Prez and Bird). Regarding Bird, at that time (the pre-CD era) there still weren't a lot of his recordings available, and in fact a double-LP reissue of his Savoy Records master sessions from the 1940's (including the take of "Billie's Bounce" that I learned) had come out toward the end of my last semester at William Paterson. However, it was at the sessions at Sonny's that I first heard the set of famous recordings that Bird had made for Dial Records, also in the later 1940's. I was captivated by these recordings, and most especially Bird's treatment of the several ballads that he played. For myself and many others, his sensitivity, lyrical flow of ideas, and depth of feeling in playing ballads are unsurpassed. I remember one night that we were listening to some of the Dial tracks ("Bird of Paradise," "Embraceable You," "How Deep is the Ocean," etc. ) and the recording of "Out of Nowhere" came on. After we listened once through (we were listening to a cassette copy) Sonny sat next to the cassette player and rewound the tape. He then would stop frequently as he replayed the tape, highlighting and replaying certain phrases, singing the phrases, and sharing his thoughts on what made Bird such a great player. Not only did my ears grow immeasurably through experiences like this, but on a deeper level I fell in love with those recordings and also with Bird as a jazz artist and musical figure.
Charlie Parker: "Out of Nowhere"/Dial Records
I learned several of his solos later in my studies, but to bring this story back around to Warne Marsh I had a similar experience through the course of 1981 with his recorded music and my appreciation of his stature as a jazz artist.
Warne did become a favorite subject of our pre-session listening in 1981, but let me first backtrack in my narrative timeline. After Sonny gave his recommendation that I study with Warne I thought about it and at home the next day again took out "The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Jazz." I found this entry on Warne Marsh:
Born 1927 in Los Angeles, tenor-man Warne Marsh is a disciple of Lennie Tristano's 'Cool School'. Making his debut with altoist Lee Konitz and leader Tristano on the celebrated Capitol sessions of 1949, Marsh's work is characterized by great rhythmic subtlety, a pale sound, and long, looping lines that plait with those of Konitz. For many years, he recorded solely with other Tristanoites, preferring – like his mentor – to perfect his playing in isolation rather than compromise with the commercial world of the jazz club. … A master of inflection, his curiously-wrought lines seem to challenge every convention while exhibiting a highly personal sense of balance. Sinuous, yet never declamatory in the currently fashionable style, Warne Marsh has yet to receive the recognition he deserves. …
from left to right – Warne Marsh, Peter Ind, Lennie Tristano, Jeff Morton, photo taken in Lennie Tristano's studio in the early 1950's
I thought this was both an interesting and intriguing appraisal, and couldn't find a description quite like it pertaining to any other jazz musician in the book. I decided then that I needed to get to know Warne's playing for myself and went to the local record store to look for some of his recordings. These are a little easier to locate currently, but in late 1980 there were not many of his records available. However, I had some luck and came home with two LP's: "Warne Out" and also "Jazz Exchange Vol. 1: The Warne Marsh Quintet featuring Lee Konitz and Niels Henning Orsted Pedersen." I immediately put on "Warne Out" and had the first of many moments that continue to occur when I listen to Warne: what I heard not only identified him as a highly skilled improviser, but also as one of the most unique players that I had encountered. The LP is a trio recording made in Los Angeles in the later 1970's with Warne joined by Jim Hughart on bass and Nick Ceroli on drums. This is a spare setting, however it was obvious that nothing was missing in terms of other instruments. The first track is cleverly titled "Loco 47" (Local 47 is the Los Angeles chapter of the Musicians Union) and is an improvisation on the harmonic structure of the song "This Can't Be Love." Warne begins by playing a relatively simple melody, and then goes on to improvise several choruses that sound to my ears to be an example of spontaneous playing of the highest order. Beyond that, it just "sounds right" in a way that defies any verbal analysis or explanation, and shares this quality that I believe is inherent in all great jazz performances either recorded or live. One element I also noticed was a rhythmic command and freedom much like the first track of Lennie Tristano that I heard at Sonny's house, however it seemed that Warne went even further than moving the implied downbeat back and forth. There are phrases that he improvises in polyrhythm over the basic time that Jim and Nick provide, as well as phrases that toy with the overall sense of meter in a playful way but always come back to the correct spot in the form. Finally, Warne's sound and 'concept' in some way revealed a healthy 'sense of humor' to me. This is a term that I used to hear in reference to jazz improvising, and while it is difficult to define I believe that "Loco 47" amply displays it. Over the years I have developed an internal personal "short list" of greatest recorded examples of Warne's playing, and "Loco 47" is definitely on that list.
Warne Marsh: "Loco 47"/Warne Out, Interplay Records, with Jim Hughart, bass, Nick Ceroli, drums, 1977
In contrast, the Jazz Exchange LP was recorded live in a jazz club in Copenhagen in December of 1975 and features a quintet of Warne and Lee together with three Danish musicians led by the well-known bassist Niels Pedersen. Historically this time marked Warne's first visit to Europe, a reunion with Lee after about a decade of not playing together, and also the beginning of regular visits to Europe for the balance of his life. The material features compositions by Lennie Tristano, Lee, and Warne as well, and I also include his solo from "Blues for Lester" from this LP on my "short list." To me this performance also captures Warne at his commanding best and features a unique quote of the song "Would You Like to Wish on a Star?" placed in an unusual spot in the form.
Warne Marsh: Solo on "Blues for Lester"/Jazz Exchange Vol. 1, Storyville Records, Copenhagen, December 1975
Once I had bought these records I brought them to our next session and remember asking Sonny as we listened to "Loco 47" - "Son, is that a head that Warne wrote?" His response surprised me – "no, he's improvising. Warne can improvise a line that sounds like he sat there composing it for hours before he played it." Sonny loved the recording and especially the saxophone/bass/drums trio format because of its simplicity (it reminded him of a widely acclaimed LP named "Motion" that he recorded with Lee Konitz and drummer Elvin Jones in 1961). However, to return to the account of our listening sessions, the one recording of Warne's that we ended up listening to for many hours was called "The Art of Improvising, Vol. 1." This recording had very small distribution when released and has not been available for many years.
The Art of Improvising
When Sonny first brought out his copy of "The Art of Improvising" I was quite intrigued: in terms of format "The Art of Improvising" consists of twenty relatively short tracks that for the most part are edited jazz performances of Warne that were recorded live during an engagement at The Half Note jazz club in New York City in 1959. More specifically, on most of the tracks there is a quick fade in and out at the beginning and end and everything other than Warne's solo is removed. (There are a few tracks where Lee plays simultaneously with Warne. )
When we first started listening to this record I was somewhat mystified, as I had never heard any like this before. Some of my first impressions were that Warne's style at that time was entirely unique (as it was throughout his career), and though his sound reminded me of some players (notably Lester Young), it was unlike any I had heard. Also, his approach to the material was much the same as in the trio recording I had purchased, although he was a much younger man when these recordings were made and his sound or tone was lighter. He had a very free approach rhythmically, but also exhibited a highly subtle sense of jazz swing. One other thing I noticed was the consistency of the performances – though some of the individual phrases or entire solos stood out slightly as being very inspired, he operated on a high level of performance throughout that never resorted to cliché or self-parody and yet was firmly rooted in the tradition of jazz as I knew it.
Since the "Art of Improvising" was unavailable Sonny let me make a cassette of it and I listened to it frequently. Prior to playing at sessions he also would go through a similar process as when we were listening to Charlie Parker of playing one track several times, and then replaying certain phrases for deeper listening. We also later used this recording in a playful way for "blindfold tests": since the tracks did not feature an opening melody statement and were frequently without piano we would try to identify the harmonic structures of the songs after we hadn't listened to the tape for a couple of weeks and our ears were a little fresher. It was around that time that I also started wondering if somehow Warne's general approach could be expressed through the guitar, and decided to set myself on the path of finding out if it was indeed possible. In short, over the course of the first six or eight months of 1981 I came to regard Warne Marsh as one of the greatest living jazz improvisers, and though it took me many years to verbalize it I fell in love then with his playing and general approach to jazz.
Warne Marsh: "Indiana"/ from The Art of Improvising Vol. 1, recorded at The Half Note, NYC, 1959, Revelation Records
My life in 1981 continued on these various paths - playing sessions, studying with Sonny, practicing, listening deeply - on a daily and weekly basis. The course of study that Sonny set for me definitely seemed to be yielding results, and I especially enjoyed the process of singing and playing recorded solos along with the other things we were doing. Along with the technical work we did in lessons Sonny shared stories of his background as a young musician in both Pittsburgh and New York. He was a gifted story teller and gave me a very real feeling and sense of "jazz lore" if you will, and made the jazz life palpable to me (in contrast to reading about it in a history book). Finally, along with my work in lessons I continued to acquire recordings of interest. There were two releases in 1981 that were significant to me: Atlantic records reissued major recordings of Lennie Tristano that were brought out originally in 1955 and 1962 as a two-LP set, and also released a two-LP set of live quartet recordings from 1955 that featured Lee Konitz with Lennie and had been previously unavailable. I'll address these recordings shortly, however there was an event that occurred in August of 1981 that I still vividly recall and is important to this story.
The Village Vanguard
When living in Port Jefferson I made a habit of reading the New York Times and the Village Voice when possible. I would regularly check the listings of upcoming club and concert performances in New York and the surrounding metropolitan area in those papers and was intrigued to see a listing for the Warne Marsh/Sal Mosca Quartet in the second week of August at the Village Vanguard. Sal Mosca was a prominent jazz pianist and had been one of Lennie's foremost students in the 1940's. At that time I didn't really know his playing, but Sonny always spoke highly of Sal and was personally very fond of him although they had not seen each other in quite a while. At any rate, I had not been to the Vanguard in some time, so I made plans to go into New York (about a two-hour ride one-way) on Thursday evening August 13 and stay for the entire performance. The format then at the Vanguard was that bands would play three one-hour sets beginning at 10pm, 11:30pm, and finally at 1am, so the total night would last four hours and groups were booked for six consecutive nights from Tuesday through Sunday (Mondays were big band nights, at that time the Mel Lewis Big Band performed there regularly). I think this kind of performing intensity has been somewhat reduced these days to less sets and less nights at many clubs around the US, however as a young player in training the fact that significant musical strength and endurance was necessary to perform in this setting was not lost on me. Some other things I also always enjoyed about the Vanguard were the sense of history and the intimacy of the room. I can't imagine that the club holds much more than a hundred people, and that is with all the tables spaced fairly close together.
August 13 turned out to be a typical hot and humid summer night in New York, and I arrived at the Vanguard and settled into a centrally located table before the music started. The band took the stage (a small bandstand surrounded by red drapes in the corner of the room) and Warne and Sal were accompanied by Frank Canino on bass and Skip Scott on drums. I didn't know anything about these players at the time, but both were young and capable and I found out later were significantly connected to the extended Lennie Tristano world – Frank was a student of Sal's, and Skip had grown up knowing Lennie (his stepfather, Dick Scott, was a jazz drummer who had played with Lennie, Warne, Sonny, and other players). I remember that the first tune was based on "There Will Never Be Another You," and opened with a jazz line that was typical of Lennie's approach to small group writing (I found out later that it was "Smog Eyes," and was written by tenor saxophonist Ted Brown, a well-known player and student of Lennie's in the "early" days). I was struck immediately by Warne's presence: in such small quarters he occupied a central location and was a commanding figure. He impressed me as a fully mature and capable statesman of jazz – he appeared to be around the age of fifty and clearly was a master. He also had some notable idiosyncrasies – one being a very relaxed persona and physical presence that incorporated a lot of free but subtle movement that expressed the music that he was playing. His dress was casual – a long-sleeve, horizontally-striped, dark colored polo shirt with the top button open, light-colored pants, and a wide brown leather belt with a large buckle. He may have been wearing sandals with socks, and his sleeves were pulled up just below the elbow. He also had what I would characterize as a combination of aristocratic and 'beatnik' bearing – Warne had short-cropped graying hair that was slightly receding and he wore a goatee, also graying, and without a moustache. His eyes were active and piercing but he often kept them closed while playing. As I listened to him over the course of the entire evening I was struck again by the absence of clichés, noticeable formulas, or self-parody, and at the time I sensed that he was exploring for four hours and taking the band and audience along with him (if they were up to the journey!). Musical thoughts or ideas would come along in the course of his playing; at times he would linger on a certain idea if it seemed to catch his interest, at others he would just keep moving, but to my ears he never repeated himself. All of it was of exceedingly high quality, and also extreme virtuosity.
Warne Marsh, October 1980
Sal Mosca provided a striking contrast to Warne: in appearance he looked to me a little like the filmmaker Martin Scorsese and wore a light-colored short-sleeve shirt with buttons down the front. His shirt was outside his dark colored pants, and the top button was open. If Sal's dress was quite conventional (and if he were in the "Little Italy" section of Manhattan it would have been) his playing however was startling: to my ears it was highly abstract in just about every way, and yet struck a delicate balance of being firmly rooted in the jazz tradition. It was clear to me that night and still today that I have never heard a player that sounds like Sal Mosca, and this is a very difficult feat to achieve. One piece that evening that I still remember was a duet that Warne and Sal performed of the jazz standard "You Go to My Head," and it was extraordinary. It took me some time to recognize the underlying structure since the melody was never stated by either player, and the best description I can offer is that it sounded every bit as "contemporary" as the 20th century classical music I was studying in graduate school, and yet was an improvised jazz performance. Some of the other pieces I remember were compositions of Lennie Tristano's that I knew – "317 E. 32nd" and "Lennie-Bird," and there were also two performances that featured Warne that were memorable: a saxophone-bass-drums trio performance of the standard "I Love You," and also a very fast reading of "Cherokee." I really could not get enough and the music had a cumulative mind-altering effect on me that left me euphoric by the end of the night.
Sal Mosca, October 1980
There was also a personal element to the evening in that I had a brief conversation with Warne. I summoned up the courage to approach him on a break, and given the close quarters of the Vanguard the performers essentially have no refuge as they enter and exit the stage area. I think it was after the second set that I decided to introduce myself and engaged him as he was heading toward the kitchen. I forget exactly what I said, but it was something very complimentary, and I believe his response was a quick and soft "thanks man" as he kept walking. I then said as he continued walking away from me, "by the way, I'm a guitarist and I play with Sonny Dallas."Warne had known Sonny for almost twenty-five years at that point and they had both been members of Lennie Tristano's most commercially successful jazz group in the 1960's. He had also first recruited Sonny to play with Lennie in 1959 (they started with club performances in New York and then went on a US tour as a quintet with Lee Konitz with the Newport Jazz All-Stars that summer). Once I mentioned Sonny's name Warne quickly stopped, turned, and looked at me in a way I would later become accustomed to: I had the feeling that he was staring directly inside of me! There was a momentary silence, in retrospect it really wasn't a long moment, but it certainly seemed longer, and he finally said "oh yeah? … Is Sonny still playing the Fender? "(Warne was referring to the electric bass that Sonny played at the time as opposed to the acoustic bass that he played earlier in his career. ) I responded, "yes he is, and he sounds great. He speaks very fondly of you all the time and wanted me to say hello for him."Warne paused for a moment, looked at me again in that searching way, and said: "you give Sonny my love." He then turned around and headed toward the kitchen.
I didn't know exactly what to make of the exchange but was glad I talked with Warne and eager to pass on both his greeting and my impressions of the evening to Sonny. After the long ride back to Port Jefferson I arrived home around 4am and clearly remember getting up late the next morning and feeling filled with a euphoria that was still with me. I thought that if I could, I would go back that night and do it all over again. It turns out I could not, both because I had a commercial gig of my own to play and also because it was a fairly grueling eight-hour trip that took some planning. That said, I was powerfully affected by the experience and couldn't wait to tell Sonny about it. We spoke the next day and he was glad to hear that Warne had sent his love and also that the music was of such high quality.
The Vanguard again
I noticed in the Village Voice in November that Warne and Sal would be playing again at the Vanguard from the 17th through the 22nd. Because of school I didn't have the free time in November that I had in August, consequently I was only able to get in for the last night of the engagement. This was a lower-key evening than the one in August (perhaps due to being the last night of six and also a Sunday), however was very consistent with the quality that I had heard on that first night. By the time the third set came (at 1:00 am) the club was fairly empty, and I moved closer to the bandstand. I could overhear a little bit of conversation, although Warne and Sal didn't talk much at all, and the only person who would address the audience was Warne when he would introduce the players at the end of each set. As the time neared 2am I realized there would probably be only one more tune, and at that point the rhythm section (Frank Canino and Skip Scott again) launched into a fast blues. Warne started playing alone with them (Sal did not enter for some time) and started quietly building a solo that gradually increased intensity. This went on for some time and I remember having the distinct feeling that he was overtaken by some force that moved his playing from excellent to inspired. There was a look in his eyes of being somewhere else, and not focused in his vision on anything specific in the room. This is difficult to explain in words, but it was a very powerful experience and I had the sense during that final tune that we were privileged to be hearing one of the great living jazz players at a moment of highest inspiration.
Warne Marsh/Sal Mosca Quartet: "Blues"/Village Vanguard, November 22, 1981
For me personally I felt that somehow I was not quite the same after witnessing that last performance of Warne's. It reminded me of a rare recording that Sonny had shared with me of a solo that Warne had played on the tune "Cherokee" when he was with the band called "Supersax." (Supersax featured arrangements of Charlie Parker's solos for five saxophonists and rhythm section and would also feature the members as soloists. The group earned a Grammy award for their first recording. ) Apparently Warne had some close friends that recorded him often in live performances, sometimes editing out the other players much like some private recordings of Charlie Parker. The solo is brilliant and stunning, it is taken at a breakneck tempo and yet the flow of ideas from Warne seems utterly unaffected by the speed. He weaves in and out of the rhythm, and even at that high speed plays very much "within the time." It was clear to me from hearing this one solo, recorded perhaps sometime between 1972 and 1975, that at any moment Warne could elevate his playing to a level well beyond any that I had heard. I knew that night that I and the small audience at the Vanguard had the good fortune to experience one of those moments with him.
Warne Marsh with Supersax: "Cherokee"/date and location not exact, but in the mid 1970's
In the fall of 1981 I also became aware of a new local jazz radio station - WYRS-FM - which broadcast from Stamford, Connecticut and was able to reach listeners on Long Island. The program director was Rick Petrone, who was also a working bass player, and along with playing a lot of good music there were historical segments on the great figures in jazz as well as interviews with local well-known players. Sometime that November Sonny called and told me excitedly that he had phoned the station about a recording and was invited by Rick to do an interview on December 1st. I listened that evening from home and the interview started with Rick playing a track from Lennie Tristano's LP "Descent Into the Maelstrom."The conversation was marked by an audible familiarity, perhaps because both Sonny and Rick were bass players. Sonny began by talking about his friendship with Lennie and tried to dispel what he considered to be prevailing myths regarding Lennie's temperament and his approach to playing and teaching jazz.
Sonny Dallas: Interview excerpt 1/ Commentary on Lennie Tristano, WYRS-FM, Rick Petrone, host, December 1, 1981
Sonny Dallas: Interview excerpt 2/ Commentary on Lennie's lack of exposure
Rick also featured tracks from Sonny's recordings with Lee Konitz ("Motion" and "You and Lee") and Phil Woods ("Warm Woods" and "Phil Talks With Quill") as well as the Lennie Tristano Quintet recorded live at The Half Note in New York in 1964. I was happy that Sonny was getting attention from the station and Rick, and Sonny took many phone calls from listeners while at the studio.
Sonny Dallas: Interview excerpt 3/Commentary on first gig with Lennie
Lennie Tristano Quintet: "Subconscious Lee" (Lee Konitz)/ recorded live at the Half Note, NYC, June 1964 (video clip)
Sonny Dallas, Warne Marsh, Lennie Tristano, Lee Konitz at The Half Note, New York, June 1964 (Nick Stabulas not pictured)
I heard a real surprise as I was listening again to WYRS later that week though: Warne Marsh was scheduled to do a similar interview on December 8. This must have been a hastily arranged date because Sonny hadn't heard of it when he was there, and was as surprised as I when it was announced. It turned out that I couldn't be home to hear the interview when it was broadcast but Leslie offered to record it on cassettes.
I had been out at a rehearsal and didn't get home until after the interview was finished, but Leslie confirmed that she had made the cassettes and I decided to stay up and listen. I was quite amazed by what I heard: first of all, the character of the dialogue, at least in the first thirty to forty-five minutes, was quite different from Sonny's interview. While I think that both Warne and Sonny were possibly a little nervous, or at the very least had to overcome the inertia of getting started, Sonny struck me as more approachable. That said, the tone with Warne was serious from the start, and the first topic that was addressed was Lennie Tristano. The interview began with a live recording of Lennie's group playing "Indiana" at Birdland in 1949 and featured a wonderful solo by Warne. The line of questioning that Rick took in this part of the interview was directed at getting Warne to share his thoughts as to why the band enjoyed little commercial success or recognition in the jazz community. These were difficult topics, and contributed to the serious character of the dialogue. Warne's brief but well-considered comments also heightened the seriousness. For example, Rick kept prodding Warne as to why the band had endured years of obscurity in the 1950's, and his response was a slightly heated: "do you have an answer?" The conversation seemed to relax though as they got more into the interview, and Warne mentioned early on that one of his outstanding memories of "the past" was "Lee Konitz – how beautiful he sounded." He also summed up his view of the best way to approach Lennie Tristano: that in his thinking Lennie was "simply a very well-informed musician" and also "heart and soul with the great traditions of jazz." In speaking directly about Lennie's sextet in the 1940's Warne made the understatement that the group was "well-rehearsed" and that Lennie encouraged and trained the players to both fully realize their individual potential and competence, and also to function as a group to the best of their abilities. Regarding his early studies Warne noted that "Lennie was very heavy on this matter of individual competence." He also mentioned that Lennie's attitude toward recording was that they needed to be aware that a document was being created that should "stand the test of time." This explained why so few of his recordings were released, however those that came out are generally regarded as being of exceedingly high quality.
Warne Marsh: Interview excerpt 1/ Commentary contrasting Charlie Parker and Lennie Tristano, WYRS-FM, Rick Petrone, host, December 8, 1981
As the interview proceeded Warne also addressed some of Lennie's philosophies of teaching, and Rick brought up the specific matter of singing solos with recordings. This was in the context of commentary on a recording that Warne had done in Los Angeles in the mid-1950's of Lester Young's composition "Tickletoe" with alto saxophonist Art Pepper. Rick asked why a student should sing a solo, and also whether Warne thought there could be a danger in copying the player being studied. Warne's response was that Lennie encouraged a student to abandon themselves to their influences, and more specifically that if a student was sufficiently moved by an artist's work then he or she should "allow themselves to be as completely influenced by a player as possible." However the next step for a student was the real test, and that was to let go of those influences after internalizing them and have the "courage" and trust to express their own voice. Warne went further on this point: "it's like this – each of us has his own melody in us somewhere, and the point of education is to crystallize it, to bring it to the surface …" As the interview proceeded this concept of the importance of the individual voice became a central point, as well as the worthiness of the pursuit of jazz performance and improvisation as artistic endeavors. He also made it clear that in his view jazz as an art form was rebalancing some of the trends in music in general back toward spontaneous playing. He contrasted the intimate small jazz group as a unit where players needed to "think for themselves" with the standard modern symphony orchestra of over one hundred players with essentially one person "doing the thinking for everyone." Finally, and this is a subjective impression, I heard in Warne's responses and explanations a very clear conviction that not only was the pursuit of jazz as an art a highly worthy and noble activity, but also that for him there was clearly no other path in life.
Warne Marsh: Interview excerpt 2/ Commentary on his influences
Two other points in the interview also caught my attention: the first was Warne's response to a question that hypothesized Rick being a young music student newly arrived in New York from a distant location and overwhelmed by the choices available. The question to Warne was simple - "what would you tell me to do?" Warne's response was that he would advise that person "to listen to everything you can, and learn to discriminate. " He went on to say that when he was a young player in that situation the choices were clear: "in the 40's there were two kinds of jazz available in New York – Bebop and Dixieland. " Though he didn't mention all the other trends that had come and gone since then he made it clear that his musical values were formed at that time through his experiences in studying and performing with Lennie Tristano, his exposure to Charlie Parker and Lester Young both live and in recordings, and in his study of the music of Bach and Bartok. He noted that "if Lee and I have had any success it's largely due to sticking with something for thirty years."
Warne Marsh: Interview excerpt 3/ Commentary on rapport with Lee Konitz and individuality
Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh: "Subconscious Lee" (Lee Konitz)/ excerpt from NBC-TV broadcast "The Subject Is Jazz", 1958 (video clip)
His final thought on this question was to "not be afraid to look back. " He mentioned that the great influences in jazz were all still very much with us, even if only through recordings.
The last point that caught my attention came at the end of the interview and was in response to a casual question about Warne's current students. He had noted that since the 1970's teachers such as he and Sal Mosca had noticed a change in the student population in that the newer generation of students were "taking it all seriously and wanting to dig deeper than what's available in rock and roll. " In specific response to Rick's question Warne mentioned that the task of "presenting a student properly" was a concern for Lennie, and he took it seriously as well. He mentioned a few of his current students - vocalists Judy Niemack and Janet Lawson, tenor saxophonist Jimmy Halperin - and then … the tape ran out! I sat there amazed at what I had just heard for the last two hours, and instantly knew not only that I had to study with Warne Marsh, but also somehow that I would. What remained to be seen was how that was actually going to happen.
The early winter of 1981/82 moved along for me in a somewhat "normal" fashion however there was a special event that January: a performance at Gulliver's, a jazz club in West Paterson, New Jersey. This was one of the clubs that was close to where I had grown up and along with attracting some major talent on weekends there was also a regular Monday "Guitar Night" that was an established tradition and had received attention in national magazines. The schedule was structured so that major players (Jim Hall, Joe Pass, Pat Martino, etc. ) were alternated with local veterans and younger promising players and Bob DeVos had recommended me to the owner (Amos) for a Monday night gig. It was scheduled for late in January and I asked a marvelous pianist and old friend named Rave Tesar to perform with me. We rehearsed a few times and played the gig, but we had been playing semi-regularly for several years so were quite comfortable with each other. On the night of the gig the weather was slightly treacherous because of a snowstorm that weekend but there was still a good crowd and the evening was probably the high point in my life as a performer up to then.
copy of calendar from Gulliver's in West Paterson, NJ, Jan/Feb 1982
After this performance was over I settled back into my routines but during those first couple of months of 1982 a plan also occurred to me as I surveyed the calendar for the year: the school semester would be finished at the very beginning of May, and I thought that I might contact Warne and ask if he would take me as a student for the summer. I decided to bring this up with Sonny but had some trepidation about it due to the strength of the bond we had established. It turned out that in March we were hired to play at a private party as sidemen by a local pianist who called us occasionally, and on one of the breaks I was sitting alone with Sonny. I remember looking over at him during a quiet moment and saying, "Son, I'm thinking about going into New York and studying with Warne, what do you think?" He sat quietly for a few moments (which was unusual for Sonny), and then said in a soft voice: "that's great man, I'll be interested to see what he can do for you." The heaviness of the moment was palpable and I decided not to press it. I realized that his response was in stark contrast to what he had said when he first recommended that I study with Warne, but so much had happened with us since then that obviously the entire nature of our relationship had changed. I left the topic by saying that I was thinking of calling Warne when the semester ended and would ask for his phone number then. Around that time I also remember seeing an occasional small ad in the music classifieds of the Village Voice, and it looked something like this:
I remember going to see Sonny for a lesson on a Saturday in later April and singing Lennie's solo from the recording "Line Up" both with the recording and with him accompanying me on the electric piano. I also played very well and decided to take advantage of the momentum by bringing up the subject again of studying with Warne. His response this time was quite different: "you're definitely ready man, Warne is going to love you!" He then gave me two phone numbers: Warne's home in Ridgefield, Connecticut and also his studio at the Bretton Hall Hotel in Manhattan. As I left Sonny that day he said that I was going with his full blessing. I thanked him, but it was difficult to fully express how much I appreciated his support and generosity, and also his facilitation of my journey. I didn't know at all how things would go with Warne, and in fact was somewhat terrified of what I was about to do both because I felt that I realized his stature as an artist and also was quite intimidated by what he had achieved. That said, I called him in Connecticut late that afternoon. I was extremely nervous, but with a jittery voice introduced myself and said I had met him at the Vanguard in August, was playing and studying with Sonny and would like to come for a lesson if possible. He said that would be fine and that the first lesson was more of an interview and would be free. We set a date for 3:00 in the afternoon of Monday May 3 at Bretton Hall; it was difficult to think of much else before then, but finally that Monday arrived.
Bretton Hall – May, 1982 – the first lesson with Warne
Bretton Hall Hotel – Broadway between 85th and 86th Streets, New York City (the circled window was Warne's studio)
Letter to Jack Goodwin dated October 15, 1999: (excerpt)
… I quite agree with you that Warne's work has grown in stature in my mind over the past twelve years, which I didn't think was possible. I'm going to attempt to reconstruct my story, in bits and pieces, because it's fairly long. Fairly soon after I met Sonny, I thought about studying jazz again. I had actually been a "jazz major" in college, which in retrospect seems absurd, but I went on to graduate school on Long Island to study classical composition and all that it entails. I didn't think a lot about jazz for those two years, but then I met Sonny, and got really excited about what we were doing. I mentioned one night that I was thinking about studying again, and he asked who with. I replied either Jim Hall or Phil Woods, but I didn't know if either of them taught or would take me as a student. His reply was that if he were young and looking to study there was only one person in the world he would consider. My interest piqued, I asked who that would be. "Warne Marsh – he's the greatest improviser in the world and I've got his phone number." I told him I would think about it. This had to be in late 1980. We had made a recording in January '81 and I thought I played horribly, so I asked him if he would take me as a student. We started working, and he really helped me. I had never sung solos with records before that, and I really got into it with Sonny. I still think that is the quickest way to make sweeping changes in your "concept" – to sing and then play a solo on your instrument. We did Lester Young, Bird, Lee, Warne, I learned to sing and play "Requiem," and after a little more than a year I started working on "Line-Up." During that time though I would read the Village Voice and a lot of players advertised for students in New York, and occasionally I would see a small ad that said "Jazz Lessons – Warne Marsh. Hotel Bretton Hall, Rm. 412." That was it! (Talk about mysterious)I forget exactly when, but over a period of time I decided I was going to go study with Warne in New York, which was frightening to me. I thought he was the greatest jazz player I had ever heard, so to have the chance to actually study with Warne was a little surreal. I was enrolled in the Ph. D. program in the University at the time, the semester was ending at the beginning of May, and I resolved to seek out Warne. If things went well I would study with him over the summer and see how things looked at that point.
I remember it was maybe March of that year that Sonny and I were playing a gig and I mentioned that I was planning to go see Warne. He seemed crushed – he got really quiet, and said "that's great man – I'd like to see what he could do for you." It was an awkward moment, but I had a lesson with him in maybe the middle of April, and sang "Line Up" note for note with Lennie. We were both in great spirits, so right before I left I said "Son, I think I want to go see Warne, do you still have his number?" He said "man, you've earned it" and I went in with his blessing. So I called Warne in Connecticut -he divided his time between there and New York - and set up a lesson for Monday May 3 at 3pm in New York.
I lived about 50 miles from New York, so I left at around 1:00 that afternoon, and was really nervous. I got there and Bretton Hall was a large old hotel that I learned was a low-rent situation with lots of artists as residents. Warne's rent was $60 a week, I think. I took the elevator to the fourth floor, got out and walked to my left down a hallway maybe thirty yards, and as I walked farther down the hall heard the unmistakable sound of Warne playing – something very free, out of tempo, it sounded like he was working with material around the tonic chord in a minor key. I couldn't believe what I was about to do, but took a deep breath and knocked on the door. The playing stopped, the door opened, and there was Warne. He eyed me and said "do we have an appointment?" I said yes, we had talked on the phone when he was in Connecticut, and that I was Sonny's friend. He invited me in and I walked into a large room, old, with at least a 12 foot ceiling, and probably 20 or so feet across and 30 or so feet long, with a good sized window that looked out on Broadway, opposite from where the door was. There was a piano on the left against the wall as soon as you walked in, an old Steinway upright that was pretty good. Above it was a long rectangular black and white print that was yellowed with age of a violin student apparently taking a music lesson, with people listening while they sat and waited. I later learned this was a well-known picture and was a depiction of Liszt's studio, probably in Paris sometime around 1870 or so. It contributed to the room's old, nineteenth century feeling. To my right was a mattress propped against the wall, this was apparently where Warne slept. There was a good-sized open space in the middle of the room, with an old rug on the floor, and toward the window, an old drum set. In the corner to the right of the drums Warne had what looked like a small old kitchen table against the wall which served as a desk, and to the left of the drums was a really old sink, stove, and refrigerator unit that gave the place the feeling of a tenement in Harlem. Behind the drums if my memory is right I think you could actually sit on a ledge to look out the window. I think there was also a microphone on a stand in the middle of the room, and a TEAC 4-track tape recorder sitting propped up on a chair. On the wall nearest the door was a bulletin board of sorts: I think there was a notice for a gig for the Carla White/Manny Duran Quintet and also two photo portraits of a couple of boys, and I assumed they were Warne's sons. I asked Warne if I could use the bathroom, and he said it was down the hall and to the right. I walked all the way down the hall past the elevator, then turned right and walked another 30 or 40 yards to get to the bathroom, which was pretty bad and I think had a small flood on the floor because the shower overflowed. I remember being afraid I would get robbed in that place, and also I couldn't believe that Warne Marsh was actually living like this. But I mustered up some courage, and put off any other judgments, and headed back to his room.
Once back in we made a little bit of small talk, ask someone who knew Warne what that was like! He was exceedingly quiet, almost brooding. I think he made himself some coffee and while doing that asked if Sonny had said anything to me about a book that he wanted to write. I said yes, he mentioned in passing that he would like to collaborate on a book with Warne and Lee on jazz improvisation. Warne asked me what I thought of the idea. I said "based on what I know about you, my guess is that you probably wouldn't be interested in writing any books." He paused and then said slowly: "that's right man – my book is in my head." I forget what happened next, but I think we talked a little bit more, I think he asked what he could do for me, or what I wanted from him. I said that first I didn't really have an agenda, I just wanted to be a better improviser, and would take whatever advice he could give me. I did say though, that I heard something in his and Lennie's playing that really intrigued me: it was the ability to turn the beat around at will, and if he could explain any of that to me I would appreciate it. This was when he explained the concept of the meter studies to me for the first time, and also how Lennie's lines were composed. That discussion took several minutes, and next he said he needed to hear me play, alone, and with the metronome. I said OK, and decided to play, I think, "You Stepped Out of a Dream." I asked if he wanted to hear the melody, he said it was up to me, but not really. So I played a couple of choruses, and not too bad. While I played he mostly stood with his back to me looking out the window, and when I finished he stayed there for what seemed like forever. He finally turned around and said "… you sound good man, in fact, you don't really need to study with me. …I like the way you play with a lot of downstrokes – I require that of all my guitar players. …But … there's a place for you to go … the only thing is, if you go there, you can't come back. Your assignment this week is to think about whether you want to go there or not."
I didn't know what to say! But he was very serious, and I took him seriously. I did say that I didn't consciously think about the downstrokes, it just came out that way. He said he got into some pretty serious arguments with his guitar students over it, but that was the way it had to be. (Charlie Christian played with something like 90% downstrokes. )Warne's comment was that he didn't see how a player could play two consecutive notes with a different technique – to him every note had to get the same amount of weight. I think I asked him what I should practice, and he gave me my first assignments in the meter work, and told me to spend about half my practice time slow improvising, and to play standing up, it helped you get looser (I had sat in a chair while playing for him). The hour was about up, and a young girl came in towards the end with what looked like an alto case. Before I left though I told him that I was prepared to sing Lennie's solo on "Line-Up." He eyed me again and said "Yeah?" He put the tape in and I did it. He had his back to me again, and turned around quicker this time and said "Yeah, John." (I told Sonny this later and he said "Warne said 'Yeah'? Oh, then he really dug you man!") It seemed that the hour was much more a real lesson than an audition or interview, so I asked Warne if I owed him any money and he said if I decided to study I would owe him for a lesson, if I didn't then I didn't owe him anything. I was feeling pretty excited at that point, like I had met some kind of challenge that I had set for myself, although with a million more questions as a result, so I set up another date with him. He said he really wanted me to think about it before coming back, but if I did it would have to be weekly for at least a while, so we made a time for the following week.
So that was basically my first lesson, Jack, you already know the outcome, but I will continue with some details and how everything progressed in future e-mails. All I can say is, was Warne ever right – once you go there you can't come back!
Follow up letter to Jack Goodwin dated October 28, 1999: (excerpt)
… two further brief impressions … the whole environment at Bretton Hall was somewhat frightening at first, but I felt safe there pretty quickly. I started going in for lessons in the evening after that first one. It made the drive a little easier because of less traffic, and I enjoyed being in New York at night. Also, there was one small detail that I forgot to mention about the room that always caught my eye – there was an old, tall, standing lamp in the left corner opposite the door and near the sink that had no shade, just an exposed bulb. Somehow Warne rigged a small saucepan up at the top to serve as an improvised shade. It was quite bohemian, and every time I looked at that lamp with the saucepan shade I had to smile, and I still can picture it. It served as a reminder of what the really important things were that were happening in that room.
Regarding these two letter excerpts, I had struck up an acquaintance and close virtual friendship with Jack Goodwin in August of 1999, and I came to know Jack through the author Safford Chamberlain. I remember having a conversation with Safford around that time, and he made a passing mention of cassettes that were being passed around. I asked if he knew of anyone I could contact who might be interested in trading some recordings. Safford suggested that I contact Jack, and said that he had helped him with a complete discography of Warne's work that was to be included in his book. He gave me Jack's physical and email addresses, and I contacted him with an introductory email. I heard back from him within a day, and we struck up a fast and close friendship that continues to the present. It turned out that he had a large collection of unreleased recordings of Warne that dated back to the 1940's and continued up to his last recorded performances at the end of 1987. Jack had been an admirer of Lennie Tristano since 1950 or so, and also all the players involved with Lennie by extension, but as a result of a lot of concentrated and critical listening had come around to the assessment that Warne was a unique and gifted artist in the pantheon of jazz greats. We started exchanging recordings, and this began a second, more recent, stage of my study of Warne's music. I will draw on what I have learned through this study, and it has given me a bigger frame and perspective to the work I did together with Warne as teacher and student when he was alive. For now though, let me pick up the thread of that first lesson and what came next as a result of it.
The first three months of study
There is a good deal of technically oriented material drawn from the first two months of lessons in the section on meter studies in Part II, and while this does not tell the whole story there are significant aspects that I won't repeat as this section of the text and the technical section will start to dovetail. As far as the structure of what I experienced, in retrospect it is clear to me that there was a first stage of my studies that lasted until roughly the end of July. At that point Warne let me know that he would be in Europe performing for a few weeks and back in later August. In the larger sequence of events I went from starting the lessons in early May, to actually playing with Warne for the first time in late June, and then performing with him at an impromptu event in New York about a month later.
In the aftermath of the first lesson I plunged into the various assignments and two specific items were quite new to me: the meter studies and slow improvising. As far as the meter work was concerned the first week was quite frustrating. In contrast though, the discipline or activity of slow improvising was in many ways revelatory for me. I had never practiced this way at any length before, but it made perfect sense as Warne explained it. So slow improvising ultimately became the one activity that I started doing then, and in fact still do, that uniquely integrated everything I was working on, however put the focus clearly on spontaneous individual performance. I would perform in this way at each lesson for Warne, and always felt from him that he was listening intently to everything I was doing, and aware of much more than I was capable of at that time. Warne could be stern, and the first basic admonishment/criticism he made came not in a specific statement about something I played, but a more general one: after I played for him in the second lesson he said with some intensity that "improvising is not about playing licks." This was one of those statements that I thought a lot about afterward, and certainly all the way home. While it seems basic and obvious that any improvised solo is being created spontaneously, another side to the issue is that much of jazz teaching then and probably now is oriented to learning pre-set patterns and/or "licks" that are mastered in various ways, and then reassembled by a player in the course of a solo. There are well-known players who have gone to the point of stating that their "method" consists of working over a handful of favorite licks in this way, along with adding spontaneous connecting material. Some of Sonny's teaching to me was oriented along these lines, but to be fair to him it was with the intent of having me develop an improvisational "concept" that was more rooted in the work of the great players of the past. That said, I, and many young players I'm sure, would resort to these patterns or licks too often. When a player makes that decision internally they are not being truly spontaneous, and in fact must be somewhat conscious about what they are doing. Warne was aware of this immediately, and would have none of it. The key component to being truly spontaneous though seems to me to be an attitude - or perhaps commitment is a better word - to create music that we have not created before. As I grew to understand and appreciate this notion I also realized that practicing in this way served as a vehicle for experiencing creativity on a daily basis, and also as a means to develop self-awareness as improvisers.
Many years later I came across a recording of a broadcast of Warne performing duets with the great jazz bassist Red Mitchell in June of 1980 at the Sweet Basil jazz club in New York. Music producer Michael Cuscuna interviewed Warne briefly on one of the breaks, and he addresses this very issue in the following interview excerpt. Warne's response includes a statement that I always remember and in some ways summarizes his approach to improvising jazz: "I never want to be so tied to ideas themselves that I can't play a continuing melody." My understanding of his use of the word "ideas" includes both pre-conceived or prepared 'licks' as well as musical-political opinions and positions.
Warne Marsh: Interview excerpt/ Sweet Basil, NYC June 5, 1980, introduction by Billy Taylor
I've also included "It's You or No One," the first piece that Warne and Red played in the broadcast. To my ears not only is this a wonderful example of two masters arguably at the peak of their abilities, but the sound and character of Warne's playing that is captured reminds me strongly of what he sounded like when I played with him in 1982.
I actually did not play with Warne for some time in my lessons. His tenor sat prominently on a stand at Bretton Hall but he did not offer or invite me to play with him for almost two months. If he needed to demonstrate something he would generally sing whatever he was talking about, or occasionally play an example on the piano. That said, in the course of getting to know each other I gave him a cassette of my performance at Gulliver's in January as I wanted him to hear me in a live gig situation and thought that those tapes were a good representation. I was quite surprised to come back the next week and find him listening to the cassette when I arrived. He was very complimentary, he said that he especially liked how "loose" I sounded, and he then said that the next time he would work in the area with a guitarist that he was going to use me for the gig. I couldn't quite believe my ears, and that was probably the first time (of many) that I felt the particular combination of intense excitement and intense fear at the prospect of playing with Warne.
In the second or third lesson he mentioned that I struck him as being a serious teacher and that he would be happy to discuss anything related to the topic, and so we began talking about education on a regular basis. There were two comments in particular that he made in our ensuing conversations that have remained in my memory, and I'll paraphrase the first: "If I've made one mistake in teaching it has been to assume that a student is closer to my level of knowledge and experience than they really are." In response I asked what effect this had on any particular dynamic with a student and his reply was that they could be frustrated through a lack of understanding or comprehension of what he was telling them. Because of this he felt he became a better listener to what students were sharing with him, and also became more involved with the questions he would ask them in lessons. The other comment that stuck with me was surprising: "It should only take two years to teach a student what they need to know." This statement was somewhat shocking to me in light of the fact that Lennie had students that stayed with him for many years, some for more than twenty years, and Sal Mosca did as well. I asked Warne about this and his response was that he was opposed to that sort of relationship, I have also heard Lee Konitz further suggest that the relationship at that point is about more than learning music. Even at that early stage of studying with Warne it was clear to me that he did not want to encourage dependence, and in fact it seemed that all the work we were doing was pointing toward independence and mastery. He would offer more information regarding teaching as he thought that I was reaching new levels of understanding over time.
So during that first ten to twelve weeks of my studies it felt like we were building a strong rapport and relationship, and I certainly took the work very seriously and had the utmost respect for Warne as a teacher and mentor. I really enjoyed my evening trips into Manhattan and subjectively thought I was making rapid progress, although in retrospect I didn't exactly feel that I consciously knew or could articulate what I was progressing toward other than being a better musician and improviser. In that way there was a palpable sweetness about being so engaged in the moment, and there was much joy contained in the newness of what I was experiencing in my studies with Warne. I could never forget what he said in the first lesson about a 'place to go,' however that 'place' remained undefined and actually we did not discuss it again. What we did discuss was music and improvising and that was enough for me.
Playing with Warne
If memory serves me correctly the first time Warne and I played together was at a lesson on a Thursday in later June. He mentioned that he was having a session the next week and asked if I was available. I froze when I heard the question, but I responded yes, however mentioned that we had not played together yet. He seemed surprised and immediately picked up his tenor, saying, "then let's play something." As I recall we agreed on "There Will Never Be Another You," and for many reasons (including the fact that I had never heard Warne in such close quarters before) it was an experience bordering on the magical for me. I do remember though having some doubt as to how I should ideally accompany him, so when he was soloing I chose to play a quarter-note 'comping' style that imitates what a bass player might do, and is sometimes called the "Freddie Green style" after the well-known guitarist with Count Basie. I thought the piece went well, and when we were finished Warne turned to me and said, "see, we can play together. I have to get you to stop playing like a bass player though." We then played another tune and I imagined that there was a bass player with us, so I did not define the pulse in what I played. We were to have more detailed discussions in the fall about my role as a guitarist with him, and though my memories of those couple of weeks starting at the end of June are somewhat of a blur, I do remember being extremely excited and aware of an accelerating pace of events and involvement that seemed to be taking place.
The session was set for noon on that following Thursday, and we had scheduled my lesson for 11:00 so I needed to make an early start from Port Jefferson. Toward the end of the lesson the first player to arrive was the bassist, Earl Sauls. Earl was also from Northern New Jersey, and our paths had first crossed when I was a student at William Paterson College. He became an in-demand bass player in Northern New Jersey at that time, and I knew that he had done a lot of playing with my friend Rave Tesar. So it was surprising and comfortable to see him again, and as we conversed the other players arrived. They were a pianist named George Ziskind who was one of Warne's best friends and an excellent player, and a drummer from Copenhagen who was visiting New York at that time. I don't recall the drummer's name, but he had either played with or met Warne in Europe and Warne arranged the session essentially for him. The drummer's excitement and enthusiasm were quite contagious, and one of the memories I have is that after every tune he made some sort of statement about how he could not believe he was in New York and playing jazz with Warne Marsh. I remember being very quiet and somewhat cautious and reserved (in fact, I believe those qualities characterized my behavior throughout my studies), but also was quite amused by the drummer's incredulous comments. We played several tunes that afternoon, and Warne did offer some coaching comments. One was that he chided George and I to really listen to what each other was doing. (In retrospect this was one of the few times that I played with Warne when a pianist was present. )He mentioned that having both piano and guitar in a group required special treatment, and also a special approach on the part of the two players. In his opinion the ideal was what Lennie had done with guitarist Billy Bauer in his early groups, and in his characteristically succinct way his comment was "Lennie and Billy did it." That said, I remember that some of the tunes were "There Will Never Be Another You," "317 E. 32nd," "My Old Flame," and "Yesterdays." At the end of the session the drummer produced a camera and some group photos were taken, he then announced that he was heading to another session at an address in Harlem and the rest of us chuckled and cautioned him to be careful in that neighborhood.
When I left I traveled to New Jersey to have dinner with my parents, and was filled with impressions of the day. It seemed that once I was out of Warne's studio and alone in my car a voice in my mind echoed the drummer's comments during the session in that I had a hard time believing I had just played in a group with Warne Marsh. These experiences essentially started a new phase to our relationship, and in retrospect it was always difficult for me to play with Warne for various reasons. One was a sense that in some way I didn't really belong there, or put another way I didn't feel ready then to play with him. My strategy for managing those thoughts was to focus on the task at hand, and I did eventually become comfortable playing with him in that I came to believe that I was up to it. Acquiring that belief or confidence was a process that took some time though, and I didn't really become aware of it until a few years later when I visited him in California in February of 1986.
As I fell into somewhat of a regular schedule many of our lessons were on Thursday evenings, and occasionally I would then travel to New Jersey to visit my parents after the lesson. I had done this the week before the first session with Warne, and after having dinner I went to hear tenor saxophonist Zoot Sims leading a quartet at Gulliver's. I met my friend Bob Keller there, and also said hello to Amos, the owner of Gulliver's. During those years I tried to get there whenever I could, and had heard guitarist Harry Leahey a few weeks before on a Monday. I mentioned to Amos then that I was studying with Warne, and that he was available if Amos was interested. He was, so I gave him Warne's number, and this resulted in a weekend engagement in late July. I did not play there with him and had no expectation to, however this indirectly led to my first performance with him.
The Gramercy Park Hotel
When I arrived at Bretton Hall for my lesson on Thursday July 22 Warne immediately asked if I was free on that Saturday. It turned out that I did have a gig, at that time I was playing a fair amount of wedding and commercial jobs on Long Island. I asked why and he said that there was going to be a party on that early evening where he had agreed to perform, but would be prior to playing later that night at Gulliver's. I started suggesting other guitarists he might contact, but his reply was "think for you, not for me." It was clear from his tone that he wanted me to arrange for a substitute to cover my job so that I could do the performance with him, so I made a call from his studio and was able to find a replacement. Warne said that the gig was to be on the rooftop of the Gramercy Park Hotel in Manhattan, and that I would be part of a group that would play one set with him, and then the remainder of the evening for the party. After the details of the gig were taken care of we went on with the lesson, but it was fairly difficult to focus and contain my excitement. So, as happened a few weeks before when Warne invited me to the session with the Danish drummer, I left Bretton Hall that evening with my head spinning. This was a lesson with more than one surprise however, and once we settled down to going through my work Warne said that we needed to talk about what I was going to do for the next month. When I asked why he said that he was leaving for Europe early the next week to play some gigs, the primary one being a concert on August 12 at the North Sea Jazz Festival in a quartet with Sal Mosca. So we laid out the work I would do, and this was fairly easy as I had become grounded in the activities of slow improvising, singing and playing solos, working through the meter studies, and also composing.
After much anticipation that Saturday I left for Manhattan in the late afternoon. I knew nothing about the gig other than that it was a wedding reception on the rooftop of the Gramercy Park, and the hours were from 7 to 11pm. When I got up to the roof I was somewhat amazed at the environment, it was a beautiful early summer evening, and we were surrounded by the skyscrapers of Manhattan.
view from Gramercy Park Hotel – New York City
I found out that the bride was one of Warne's students, and the other players in the band were trumpeter Simon Wettenhall, bassist George Kay, and drummer Tim Horner. I had not met any of these players before, and found out that Simon was an Australian who lived at Bretton Hall and had been a student of Warne's in Los Angeles. In the later 1970's he moved to New York in order to continue his studies and took up residence at Bretton Hall. George lived in Ossining, New York and was part of the group of younger players that I was starting to meet. Eventually we did quite a bit of playing together with Warne. Tim lived in Brooklyn and was working then with jazz vocalist Helen Merrill, and he was clearly a seasoned player. Regarding the gig, as Warne had described to me we were going to play one set with him as a quintet, and then he was leaving for Gulliver's. The rest of us would then perform until 11pm as a quartet. So the first set was a mini-concert, and on the rooftop of what seemed like quite a special place on that early summer evening in Manhattan. I don't recall all of what we played, however we began with "It's You or No One," this was a standard practice with Warne (I found out later that he often opened with this tune for Lennie and also because Lennie would start many of his gigs with it). I do remember that we played Lennie's piece "317 E. 32nd," and also the ballad "Lover Man." There was great spirit and energy, and this continued for the rest of the evening after Warne had left.
August 18, 1982
The phone rang early in the morning, and I was surprised to hear Warne's voice on the other end: "Yeah, John!" "Warne? How are you man, when did you get back from Europe?" The conversation went on from there, and he had called to invite me to a session that afternoon however I was unable to get to New York on short notice. He then asked if I could come in the next day, and I could, so he scheduled the session for 1:30 in the afternoon at Bretton Hall. Our conversation was brief, and I may have been woken up by the phone ringing so was not entirely awake. In contrast Warne sounded very awake, and I thought that he may have still been on European time, and in fact had returned to New York either the day before or on that Monday. He said the concert with Sal Mosca was fine and we would talk more the next day, but I mentioned that I had been to a session at Sonny's the night before and played with tenor saxophonist Jimmy Halperin for the first time. Warne knew him well as Jimmy had studied with Lennie as a teenager in the later 1970's and was currently studying with Sal.
The prior few weeks had been a positive natural pause in my studies and gave me a chance to reflect and digest what was happening, and also to rest a little from the intense work that I had done since the beginning of May. It was clear to me that I was experiencing an adventure and that I was still at the beginning stages of it. I had started lessons with Warne with the sole intention of learning whatever I could from him, and was aware that the work was progressing in a way that I could not have imagined. The other thing I could not have imagined was playing with him to the degree that had taken place before he left and what also seemed would be continuing. In retrospect, there were a few factors that characterized that initial period of lessons and interaction, and they were present in equal measure. There was first a gravity or seriousness about everything we discussed, as if we were doing the most important work that a musician could embark upon. There was also a palpable joy to the music we played, and finally, there was a timeless, almost other-worldly character or feeling that I strongly perceived. This character pervaded all of what I was doing with Warne, even if I sat alone at home late at night listening to music, but it was strongly perceptible to me when I was with him at Bretton Hall, and also when I was practicing. The feeling that I was accessing something hidden from regular perception was strong for me and impossible to shake.
When I arrived at Bretton Hall for the session I found that the group of players included both Simon Wettenhall and George Kay, the trumpet and bass players from the gig at the Gramercy Park Hotel. The drummer however was Taro Okamoto, and Taro had been the drummer with Warne on the gigs at Gulliver's that took place on that same weekend in late July. We had not met before, and Taro was a friendly guy who I found out lived in Brooklyn. I remember having a conversation with him either that day or shortly thereafter, and we were talking about how he had met Warne and also his general perception of his playing. Taro said something like this: "so many tenor players that I play with try to copy Coltrane – but Warne is … different." I nodded my head in agreement, and this reminded me very much of how Sonny would describe Warne when we had first met. So I was excited to be at the session, and we played for about two hours that afternoon. Warne and Simon were a formidable front line, and we played several of the jazz compositions (or "lines") of Lennie Tristano, and may also have played Charlie Parker's blues "Billie's Bounce" with Warne and Simon playing all of Bird's solo. Regarding Lennie's lines (and also those written by Warne and Lee), I had been going over my transcriptions of them with Warne in my lessons. When we performed at Gramercy Park though he asked me not to play the lines because he felt that it created a "top-heavy" sound. What he wanted me to do instead was play "harmony." Warne used this term with me quite a bit, and I found that it had for him a broad reference, much the same as his use of the word "melody." I think the first time I heard him bring this up was in response to a question I asked regarding his advice for me on "comping." ("Comping" is a shortened version of the word "accompanying," and refers to the underlying accompaniment, generally improvised, that a chordal player provides to a jazz soloist. )He said first that he strongly disliked the term, and much preferred the word "harmony." I asked why and he said that it seemed to him that too many pianists and guitarists resorted to formulaic patterns that were not in the spirit of fully improvising, and essentially resulted in them playing "licks," however not in the sense of melodic formulas. Warne wanted me to be much more free and responsive in the accompanying or harmony role, and said that I should improvise the harmony part just as he or I would improvise a melody. I then asked how I could improve myself that way, or learn to be more responsive harmonically. His reply in part was to "take a solo you know well, for instance "Line Up," put the tape on, and improvise a harmony part to what Lennie is playing on the recording. That feeling of connection to the soloist is what you are looking for when you create a harmony part."
During the session we also talked about his recent trip to Europe and the big surprise was that he had led a recording session that took place just after the concert with Sal, however the players involved marked a somewhat radical departure: the pianist was Hank Jones, the bassist was George Mraz, and the drummer was Mel Lewis. Warne was excited about the result and had a cassette of a rough mix that he played for us.
Warne Marsh/Hank Jones Quartet: "Switchboard Joe" Holland, 1982
I had many responses to what I heard, but first and foremost was an exceeding happiness for him in what looked to be a significant career development. I also knew the other players fairly well: Hank Jones was (and is) one of the great pianists in jazz and the brother of Thad Jones and drummer Elvin Jones. Mel Lewis had been the co-leader of the big band with Thad, and I had known him in my days as a student at William Paterson. George Mraz was not only the bassist that I had played with when Thad invited me to sit in with his group (along with Mel on drums), but was also perhaps my favorite bassist in jazz at that time. One curious aspect of this project was that the offer to record came to Warne alone, and not in the context of a quartet with Sal. The session of the quartet with Hank Jones was subsequently released on the European record label Criss Cross under the name "Star Highs," and was the first of several different sorts of recordings that he made for the company. Warne also was to perform with Hank Jones in New York, but that didn't happen until later in 1983. I was aware that Warne seemed to be making an attempt to move away from some of the identifications that he had acquired with the community surrounding Lennie, but also knew that he was definitely not moving away from Lennie's influence on his playing or teaching, and in fact Lennie's ideas continued to serve as the model for us.
Since Warne was now back I resumed regular lessons and also attended several sessions at Bretton Hall within a month of his return from Europe. There were two experiences though that still stand out for me, and the first was at a session at Bretton Hall at 10:00 at night on Monday, August 23. When I arrived I found that the only other player with us was the bassist George Kay. Before we started Warne talked with the two of us and said that "if we were going to be the nucleus of his new band that we would need to play together a lot." I believe I was fairly reserved in my reaction however was excited and surprised to say the least. I didn't really know what to expect that evening, but I remember that the three of us played for about four hours in total, until around 2:00 the next morning. It was a very intense and intimate session/rehearsal, and as I participated I was aware of the difficulty of abandoning myself to the moment and my role in the group as opposed to just listening to Warne more or less as an appreciator of his playing rather than as a participant. The creative tension that I experienced as a result of this caused some confusion for me, and I specifically remember this reaching a peak while we played "All the Things You Are." Since this was a session our arrangements were quite informal, and in this case started with Warne playing a melody chorus followed by a solo, I then followed him, and George followed me. Many of the tunes we played that night took this form, and after each of us played a solo we would generally then improvise together, or the three of us would trade phrases before Warne restated a melody chorus at the finish of a tune. On this particular tune though something different happened once George finished his bass solo, however it was not in the way of a different arrangement or format. Warne started playing again, however what I heard from him was startlingly virtuosic to a degree in both improvisational and instrumental technique that I was quite unable to play with him, and as an analogy to speaking I literally felt dumbstruck. I remember realizing in an instant that I could never come up with anything that would add to or complement what he was doing, and so I chose to improvise a harmony part. When we finished the piece he looked at me and in a very annoyed tone of voice said "you should know when another player is inviting you to improvise together!" I didn't know what to say, and was surprised by the reprimand, but after a moment said quietly, "Warne, what you played was so intimidating that I was essentially unable to respond." I chuckle now when I recall this story but was stung by what happened, however it was momentary and the evening was really very special for me. Combined with his announcement at the start, I also knew that I had just played with Warne Marsh for several hours and had heard his best playing 'up close and personal' as the cliché goes.
The other event that I remember from those few weeks in late August was Warne announcing suddenly that he was flying to Chicago to play at a jazz festival over the Labor Day weekend with pianist Lou Levy and guitarist Jimmy Raney. He didn't say much about the gig, however when he returned we started playing the jazz standard "My Shining Hour" on a regular basis and this was a tune often associated with Jimmy Raney. Many years later I was able to obtain a recording of the broadcast of their set, and according to Safford Chamberlain there was also a review of this concert in the Chicago Tribune where Lawrence Kart wrote that Warne "repeatedly surpassed himself, producing a solo on 'I'm Old Fashioned' of such musing grace that one could scarcely believe it had been improvised."
Warne Marsh/Lou Levy Quartet: "I'm Old Fashioned" Chicago, 1982
Safford's biography of Warne references this performance in some detail and the event is used as an opportunity to tie in Warne's use of drugs, and specifically cocaine. I will categorically state though that although I spent relatively little time with Warne I never saw the sorts of things that Safford mentions, and he never looked to me as though he was "dying of cancer" (a direct quotation attributed to Harriett Choice in Safford's book). My own direct experience with the issue is that Warne was always articulate, lucid, and clear-thinking with me, and when we were together his use of pot seemed recreational. There is also an anecdote related to drug use that Safford Chamberlain shares in his book that he attributes to me, however was either misunderstood or misquoted by him. It involves a conversation that I had with Warne late one night at his studio, and it was about an LP called "The London Concert" on Wave Records that features him, Lee Konitz, Peter Ind, and Al Levitt and was recorded in March of 1976. This record was hard to find, however I had purchased a copy at a small jazz record store in New Jersey and enjoyed it very much. When I mentioned to him that I had found the record his immediate response was to ask what I thought of it. I told him how much I enjoyed it, he then surprised me by saying: "I don't." I asked why and he said that he had taken a pill that evening and did not feel well at all as a result. His specific quote was: "come on John, by this point in my life I could get out of bed in the middle of the night, start to play, and sound good based on all my experience, but that isn't really improvising." He was being acutely self-critical, and it was specifically about using a drug that negatively impacted his performance. He was clearly unhappy about that. Somehow Safford took from that anecdote that Warne was expressing arrogance, however this could not have been further from the truth. On a larger scale though, the idea and use of the term "improvising" as Warne referenced it in his anecdote was to become a central theme over the fall of 1982.
After Labor Day – autumn 1982
The passing of the Labor Day weekend marked the arrival of the Fall season in New York. I continued the work we did over the summer in lessons, however the conversations about improvising and thoughts that I had as a result were getting more and more interesting. I sensed then that Warne was leading me somewhere in my entire understanding of improvising (or the work was, he never took personal credit for anything whenever I thanked him). The result of that evolution in my playing was becoming evident to me, and it may have been shortly after I recorded a slow improvisation on "I Got Rhythm" that I came into my next lesson feeling quite energized. I remember having a conversation with Warne where I looked at him and said "you know, I think I'm beginning to understand what you've been telling me" (about improvising), and his response was to smile slightly and say slowly: "there have been indications of that." What had been leading up to that conversation was a highly contrasting set of impressions that I was getting from the studies: while Warne offered many details when discussing the meter work or the writing I was doing, as contrast the coaching that he gave me after listening to my slow improvising was geared toward abandoning myself to an unconscious process and essentially learning to forget or let go of the technical work that I was doing. I also remember an interview with him in the magazine Saxophone Journal where he was asked which recordings of his that he liked. He mentioned "The Art of Improvising Volume 2," and said that he considered it to be a good example of his "best unconscious playing." Along these lines there was another lesson around that time that we had scheduled for 7:00 in the evening, and there was to be a rehearsal or session afterward at 8:00. We had a normal sort of lesson for that time, however when Taro Okamoto and George arrived Warne turned to me and said quietly: "you know everything we just talked about for the last hour?" I nodded and he continued: "… forget it all and just play." It was clear to me around that period of time that I was learning some very large lesson from Warne that was not technical, and really it was something that could not quite be put into words or defined with ease. It was however very exciting, and I often felt that I was bursting with joy over my new discoveries. We had another lesson around that time where I was feeling enthusiastic about all of this and at some point started excitedly trying to explain what I thought improvising meant. I went on with several analogies for at least a few minutes while Warne stood quietly looking out the window at the traffic on Broadway with his back to me. He finally turned around and said: "But John, … improvising isn't relative … it's absolute!" He then turned back to look out the window in silence. I was confused by what he said but also sensed that I needed to continue to be patient with the studies. In retrospect, it took more than a year to understand his statement declaring improvising to be "absolute."
As all of these events were taking place in my personal practice I was also presented with an interesting opportunity to manage a series of three jazz concerts at school. This was to be a new program on the seasonal calendar of the Fine Arts Center of SUNY Stony Brook and I was placed in charge as a student volunteer or intern. The concerts would span the 1982-83 concert season on three Monday evenings in October, February, and April and this coincided roughly with the school year. The opening event was going to attract some attention and through channels I contacted Phil Woods' agent and booked his quartet for the first concert. At that time I also had a personal connection to jazz pianist/vocalist Ben Sidran, he is/was a first class jazz performer and had a good friend on the faculty. (Ben also had a book out and was doing some work in radio. )I contacted him and we booked a date for the April concert. Needing to fill the February date I decided to mention to the director that I was studying and working occasionally with Warne and that I might be able to book a concert with him. The idea was approved so I then presented it to Warne at my next lesson, however I was afraid that he would say no either because of the low fee, or also because I wanted to do the gig (if it happened) with Sonny and Skip Scott as the rhythm section. I was afraid that Warne would veto the idea of playing with Sonny because of the electric bass, and given that possibility I chose not to mention it to Sonny until I got the go ahead from Warne. When I brought up the whole issue at my next lesson I was startled by his response: he listened as I told him about the series and my idea for a concert with him in February. I finally got to the question: "so would you be interested in doing a concert with Sonny, Skip and I on Long Island?" He turned to me and said in a soft and strikingly warm tone of voice, "of course man." The next steps were to talk to Sonny and Skip, they were both very excited even though the event was not going to happen for several months.
The Phil Woods Quartet in concert
As we moved further into the month of October the concert with the Phil Woods Quartet was rapidly approaching and the entire sequence of events gave me some interesting experiences in jazz concert administration. I knew that Phil's quartet was performing at Gulliver's on the Friday and Saturday prior to the concert at Stony Brook, however I learned from his agent sometime during the week before that the group was also performing on that Sunday night in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and would be driving between all the gigs. On the day of the concert I called his agent in the morning and was told that they were on their way from Harrisburg (perhaps a nine-hour drive), and that worried me because the weather forecast called for heavy rainstorms in the New York metropolitan area. By my calculations if on schedule they would be hitting the worst of the New York rush hour traffic. I started to worry, and sure enough my fears were confirmed when by 6:00 that evening they had not arrived and also had not contacted myself or anyone else. I was on campus most of the day and by the evening had become quite nervous about everything as the concert had sold well and there would be a full house, however I had no performers at 6:30 in the evening! I was tremendously relieved when two cars finally pulled up with Phil and Jill Goodwin, the jazz pianist Hal Galper, bassist Steve Gilmore, and drummer Bill Goodwin. They had driven all day through bad weather, and as expected had hit terrible traffic around New York and all the way out through Long Island. Some anger and frustration was delivered to me, and I was aware that Phil was an intense guy through stories from Sonny and others. Even though I did my best to smooth over the situation, I was blamed for not contacting them and my protests saying that I had made repeated unreturned calls basically fell on deaf ears. Finally I said to Phil: "let me show you to your dressing rooms and the backstage area, I think you'll like it." His reply was: "OK motherfucker, then show me where I need to go." Based on that response and the general mood the evening was not getting off to a great start.
Tensions eased quite a bit though once everyone got their equipment in and set up, and after that the band did a hasty sound check. That left less than thirty minutes before the concert was scheduled to start, and by then there was a large crowd waiting in the lobby of the Fine Arts Center. I chose to attend to the group, so escorted them to the green room where they could relax and have something to eat and/or drink. Even though I had some personal connections to Phil and his bassist Steve Gilmore I didn't say anything about that, however maybe fifteen minutes before the concert was due to start I was talking a little with Steve about a duet album he had recently made with guitarist Harry Leahy (Harry had been a member of the band for a time in the late 70's, they were a quintet at that time with Mike Melillo playing piano). The green room was somewhat crowded and there was a good deal of cocktail party type chatter going on. I finally mentioned to Steve that I was playing regularly with Sonny and he became very interested and asked me several questions about him. (Sonny refused to come to the concert although I offered him free tickets; he prided himself on his reclusive nature although he made sure to have me send his love to Phil. )After a minute or so of the conversation Steve turned and looked around the room and spotted Phil on the other side. The room was large and rectangular, perhaps sixty feet long and thirty feet wide, and there was a grand piano and also a small kitchen unit in it. Steve said in quite a loud voice, "hey Phil: this guy here is a guitar player and plays in a band with Sonny Dallas!" Phil looked over and said "no shit!" and quickly came over to talk with both of us. It seemed that in an instant any sense of tension was completely dissipated, and the three of us talked about Sonny for several minutes. I also mentioned that I was studying with Warne and working with him occasionally and the conversation was very relaxed, in fact Phil made me feel quite like a colleague at that point. Gradually everyone else left the room to find their seats and I was left alone with the band. I walked them to the backstage area, made sure everything was OK, and then found my own seat. The group gave an excellent performance starting with Neal Hefti's tune "Repetition" (this piece was recorded by Charlie Parker when he performed with a small string orchestra). I remember the ballads most: one was a tribute to the recently deceased Bill Evans written by Phil and titled "Goodbye Mr. Evans," and another was a beautiful piece written by the bassist Red Mitchell called "It's Time to Emulate the Japanese." Phil played the clarinet on one or two tunes that night, his playing was masterful and I was especially struck by the warmth of his sound.
Phil Woods – circa 1986
The concert was a great success both artistically and financially, and I was amazed at the result given how the day had gone up until shortly before 8:00 that evening. The band finished by about 10:30; afterward Phil and the other players greeted anyone from the audience who was able to find the green room, and they all stayed for perhaps ninety minutes. I found out from Steve that they were driving back that night to Delaware Water Gap in New Jersey, a community on the Pennsylvania border perhaps an hour from New York City where several jazz players had taken up residence. Given that we were about fifty miles east of New York my guess was that they would get home between 3:00 and 4:00 the next morning, and that was after two full days of driving and giving concerts and also the weekend at Gulliver's. The only member of the quartet that didn't live in Delaware Water Gap was Hal, he lived in Massachusetts and was being dropped off in New York, and from there he would take a train home. I was struck that I was being given a good "inside" look at one type of professional jazz life, and frankly it was quite intimidating. It turned out that the concert was recorded for broadcast on the campus radio station, WUSB-FM, (Phil was gracious to sign a release prior to going onstage) and I looked forward to hearing it. In the aftermath of everything that happened I then looked forward with even greater anticipation to the next concert scheduled for February 7, 1983 with Warne, Sonny, Skip, and myself.
As 1982 was drawing to a close I remember going into New York for a lesson sometime early in December, and shortly after arriving Warne asked if I was available to work with him on Sunday, January 16. I immediately replied "sure, what is it?" and thought that perhaps the gig would be at a small local venue similar to Gulliver's. He said that he had booked a gig at a club in lower Manhattan called the Jazz Forum. On hearing that I then asked who would be on it, and his short response was "George Mraz and Taro." The instant I heard George's name I became both very excited and also very frightened or intimidated. I asked if we would rehearse at all, and Warne said that George wasn't available for rehearsals, but that he would handle the gig just fine. I of course knew that, and mentioned again that I had played briefly with him in September of 1975 with Thad Jones. Accepting the gig did have an impact on my studies: even though I was continuing with everything as usual the work then took another step up in intensity or focus. In addition to my own playing and improvising I was now concerned about playing as well as possible for Warne. We did start having sessions at least once a week at that time, and they were quite focused. I believe one of these happened on the evening of December 22, and present were Warne, Taro, the bassist George Kay, and also Simon Wettenhall and singer Judy Niemack. This was more people than normal and at the beginning of the evening Warne quieted everyone down and said that he had some announcements to make (highly unusual to say the least!). He began by saying that he had committed to a new working band, and it was to consist of himself andalto saxophonist Gary Foster in the "front line," George Mraz on bass, and myself and Taro filling out the rhythm section. He added that there might or might not be a pianist, he was thinking that over. He also mentioned that he had been meeting recently with jazz manager Helen Keane, and Helen had managed Bill Evans among other jazz artists. The suggestion was that Warne was now being managed by Helen, and he said that we would be performing across the US, Europe, and Japan, and recording as well. The group would essentially be a re-creation of the original Lennie Tristano Sextet, and would feature the same repertoire, including free improvised pieces. He then singled out George Kay, and advised him not to be disappointed because there would be a lot of work and George Mraz would not be able to do all of it. After Warne shared this news we launched into a three-hour session that was amazing, and then said our goodbyes. He was off to California for a short holiday visit, and Leslie and I were to visit her family in Massachusetts for a few days over Christmas. The next session/rehearsal was scheduled for January 5 at Bretton Hall, so I had about two weeks off to reflect, gather my energies, and prepare myself for the coming weeks.
Even though the holiday period generally is a time to take a break from work, this was essentially impossible for me in late 1982 and early 1983. The upcoming gig at the Jazz Forum was pretty much always in my thoughts, and I was working on my lesson material as well as participating in extra sessions with Warne at Bretton Hall. The concert we were scheduled to play at Stony Brook in February was also in my thoughts, but less so because of the immediacy of the January 16th date. Even though I was experiencing a good deal of nervous tension then I was also most comfortable in this preparation phase, and some of the rehearsal/sessions that I participated in seemed truly remarkable to me. There was one in particular when we were playing as a quartet with Taro and George Kay, and a big part of what Warne and I were doing then was simultaneous improvising. Generally this would happen following a round of individual solos. At one point Warne said that it was possible to rehearse that sort of playing and asked if I was familiar with fugue technique. I smiled and answered yes and he went on by saying: "OK, then let's play "It's You or No One" but we won't take solos. Instead I'll start alone with a short phrase, you should then answer that phrase and then add to it, I'll then answer you and add to it, and we'll go on that way for a few choruses. The phrases can be of any length but let's start with shorter ones, and within a chorus or so we should be improvising together." He counted off the tune, and it was another instance of magic in a session with Warne: we played four choruses in that way and I could not quite believe my ears. I was particularly struck by our 'collective mind' in terms of how the musical ideas were created and passed back and forth - this could result in a dense contrapuntal texture, but actually what we played was quite transparent because we were all listening to each other so intensely and willing to leave space in what we were doing. After this rehearsal I started practicing this sort of playing at home by recording myself playing over a tune, and then playing the tape back and improvising together with it in this way.
The Jazz Forum
The weekend of the 15th and 16th finally arrived, and in the days leading up to that point I had shared with Sonny how nervous I was. When I first told him about the gig I was concerned that he would be hurt because Warne didn't hire him, but he was extremely supportive of me with everything I was doing. He repeatedly told me that I would sound great, and that I would not be playing in New York if Warne didn't think I belonged there and could handle it. On the night before the gig I decided to practice quite a bit and for privacy went to Stony Brook and set up in a small practice room in the basement of the music department with my instrument, a small amplifier, and my metronome. Since it was a Saturday night in January and between semesters, the building was quite deserted. I stayed there until at least one o'clock in the morning and when I left felt that I had done everything I could to prepare. When Sunday came though I was quite agitated through the day, and also was alone because Leslie had gone to see her sister in New Jersey and they would both be coming to meet me at the gig. I chose to do this so that I could focus, but the nervousness was acute at times. Finally it came time to get ready and go, and I got to the Jazz Forum around 8:00 for a 9:00 start. I was surprised to find Warne already there, and looking quite well in a sport coat and open-collared dress shirt. We chatted a little and he introduced me to Mark Morganelli, a jazz trumpeter who was also the producer of the shows at the Jazz Forum. I began to set up my equipment, and while I was doing that Taro had come in and shortly thereafter George Mraz arrived. The stage was quite large for a lower Manhattan club, and actually had monitors and tasteful lighting. Once we were set up we stayed in an informal backstage area but this was also accessible to the audience since you needed to walk through it to get to the rest rooms. There were a few people around but we were basically left alone, and I tried making some conversation with Warne. I'm sure he picked up on my nervousness and at one point I asked him if he thought we would play a third set (the gig was scheduled for two sets). He replied: "John, what are you worrying about a third set for when we're about to play a million or so notes in the first one?" I became quiet as a result, but his reply didn't bother me, in fact I appreciated it and quite agreed with him. After another ten minutes or so (of no conversation but a lot of pacing around) I said, "Warne, do you ever get nervous?" He looked at me for a few long seconds and finally broke into what for him seemed like a big smile and said "John, you amuse me." I laughed with him and this broke some tension, it was clear to me that at his age of 55 and mine of 27 that the mentor/apprentice aspect of our friendship was quite evident, and I really appreciated that I was with him at that moment. Finally we walked up to the bandstand, and I immediately realized that there was quite a large audience at the club. The Village Voice had listed the date that week on a page called "Voice Choices," and the write-up said something like 'one of the all-too infrequent appearances of tenor saxophonist Warne Marsh. 'Before going on the bandstand the four of us had talked a little and we were set to start with "It's You or No One." Warne had discussed playing it the way he had recorded it in the "Star Highs" session the previous summer, with an opening chorus featuring himself and George Mraz. One final point that I remember: in the minute or two before we began playing I had the suspicion that we were being recorded. I had made a conscious decision not to do that myself because I wanted to be fully focused on my playing and also did not want to put Warne in the uncomfortable position of having to tell me no if I had asked his permission. That said, Mark Morganelli had a recording booth at the club and I had the feeling that a tape was running.
So we started, and the tunes we played in the set were all titles that we had rehearsed a great deal: "It's You or No One," "Star Eyes," "Victory Ball," "Background Music," "This Is Always," and to close the set "Lennie's Pennies." Warne had asked me to bring a book of charts in case George needed to see anything, but of course he knew all of the tunes. Still, something humorous happened at the start of "Background Music": since Warne's line is based on the harmonic structure of "All of Me," by habit it was the convention to call the name of the standard tune when on a gig or in a session. As Warne turned around after "Victory Ball" he looked at the three of us and said quietly, "All of Me?", almost as a question. George nodded and said "what key?" and the reply was "A-flat." Now, the standard bass part in "Background Music" starts with a quarter-note bass line immediately rather than playing the first chorus "in two" as might be done on many standard tunes without jazz lines in the first chorus. George nodded again, letting us know that he was ready, but it turned out that he was actually expecting the tune "All of Me" since we didn't mention the name of the line and my guess was that he had never played it before that night. Warne counted it off and launched into the line and George started in two, but gave a fast and surprised look up (I was consciously watching him), shook his head and smiled (as if someone had thrown cold water on him), and immediately went into a quarter-note bass line. When I remembered this moment later on I thought of the stories that Sonny would tell about his first gigs with Lennie's group and how it took him some time to get used to the sound of the lines that the group featured.
In terms of the set itself, it was extremely intense, and even though I was nervous the act of playing took over and I let myself go and hoped for the best, much as an athlete might in an important event. That said, I felt a little 'tight' on the whole, but this struck me as normal since first sets are rarely as relaxed as subsequent sets on a jazz gig. I was aware of my family and friends in the audience, and particularly Leslie: I thought that there was a high likelihood that she and much of the audience were somewhat shocked by the intensity of the music and also the virtuosity of the group. The last tune of the set, "Lennie's Pennies," ended in a flourish and Warne introduced each of us before saying that we would take a short break, and as we walked off the bandstand he turned to me and said quietly "yeah, John." Knowing Warne I appreciated this subtle but meaningful pat on the back. I tried to rest a little during the break but it was difficult given the adrenaline that I was feeling as a result of the first set. At some point during that break I walked over to the bar to get some water, there were a lot of people in that area and a good deal of accompanying commotion. As I waited a younger man approached me and asked "John?" I replied "yes?", and he introduced himself as Jon Pareles, a music critic from The New York Times. He complimented me on my playing and asked why he had never heard of me. I had no answer, but said something along the lines that I was an "unknown" but lived on Long Island and was studying with Warne. He asked about the tunes we played, I told him what they were; the conversation was pleasant and lasted perhaps five minutes; soon after that it was time for the next set.
I was again unsure of the number of sets we would play, but wasn't worried about it in light of what Warne had said to me before the first set. The second set kept up the intensity and included "You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To," "You Stepped Out of a Dream," "Come Rain or Come Shine" and finally an up-tempo treatment of "The Best Thing for You Would Be Me." After that tune Warne addressed the audience and said that if they wanted to hear more music then we would take a short break and come back for a third set. There was rousing applause and that is in fact what happened. When we came off the bandstand I also found out that Warne had invited the singer Judy Niemack to join us for a portion of the final set. She was and is a gifted vocalist and improviser, and I particularly enjoyed the fact that she sang the jazz lines in unison with Warne and also improvised vocally on the changes. The break was somewhat brief and I believe we went back up for the third set at around midnight. Warne introduced Judy to a large round of applause; one aspect to this performance was that I also had the sense throughout the evening that I was playing for the most well-informed audience that I had experienced up until that time. We had talked over what we were going to do and had decided on Lennie's line "Wow" from his early Capitol recordings, followed by the ballad "We'll Be Together Again," and finally Lee's line called "Kary's Trance." It felt like the energy level immediately jumped up quite a bit and Judy was a great addition to the group. After "Kary's Trance" she left the stage to loud applause, and an exciting energy seemed to fill the club. Warne then asked what I felt like playing, and I responded with "All About You," Lennie's line on the standard "How About You." This went quite well, however I also had a sense that I had not performed at my best level through the evening. I wasn't stressing about it, I was too focused on each moment, but there was a feeling that I had not reached that place internally where I knew that I was producing my best playing. That said, I remember that "All About You" went very well, and for the next tune Warne called "Bye Bye Blackbird," a standard not generally associated with him but one that we had been rehearsing at Bretton Hall. This also went very well, and when we finished it was clear that we would play one more tune. Warne again asked what I felt like playing and I looked at him with the questioning suggestion – "April?" He nodded yes and counted it off, and played Lennie's line written over "I'll Remember April." Warne played the first solo and for whatever reason when he passed it to me it felt like my best playing presented itself for the first and only time that night. I remember finishing the solo with an obvious strong cadential or closing phrase and the audience immediately gave me a loud round of applause. The performance ended with another round of introductions and generous applause from the audience, and then we were finished.
I remember hanging out at the club until perhaps 2am, and eventually got home at around 4:30. The next day I found out that a friend of ours had snuck in a cassette recorder and taped the last two sets. I couldn't believe it, and had two reactions: worry that Warne would find out and that I would be in trouble, and also intense curiosity to hear it, especially the last tune given how it went. It turned out that the tape had run out after "Blackbird" so he didn't have the last tune, "April," on the tape. That said, even though the recording was of poor quality it was amazing to hear.
Warne Marsh Quartet: "Blackbird" from the Jazz Forum, January 16, 1983
There was another surprise in store for me that week, and that came on Thursday in The New York Times when I read through the arts pages and found this short review:
I was quite amazed, and suspected that Jon had gotten his information from me in the brief conversation we had at the bar. I was curious if Warne knew of the review but had not been in touch with him since the gig ended. I was to see him for a lesson though on Friday afternoon at Bretton Hall.
(I had a more recent surprise concerning this brief review: it is also now archived on the New York Times website, if connected to the internet this link will launch the archived version: New York Times review - Jazz Forum )
When I arrived that afternoon Warne seemed a little more quiet and serious than usual. We started talking about the gig almost immediately though, and perhaps it was my imagination but because of the tone in his voice I had a feeling that he was angry with me. When I mentioned the review he said that he had seen it but was dismissive, apparently he did not care much for reviews or reviewers. I then asked if he had any feedback for me after the performance. He had his back to me and he may have been making coffee, but he turned around, looked directly at me, and said, "you played some beautiful phrases." I appreciated his compliment and agreed with him, I knew that I had in fact played some phrases that I was pleased with. In that sense the conversation was not about praise or criticism, but was more an objective coaching discussion in the aftermath of a performance. I thanked him and then asked, "and what about the rest of the phrases I played?" Warne seemed slightly uncomfortable, sort of looking down and searching for words, and finally said: "well, … you need to develop consistency." He then became more animated: "You can't be the kind of player who sounds good in sessions but then can't take it to the bandstand." This sentence was delivered with a force that I was not used to hearing from Warne, and I had the feeling that in his way he was letting me know that he was not happy with the gig. What came next though was quite a shock and surprise as he continued: "so at this point I think you've learned what you need to know and are now free to do whatever you like concerning lessons, you are free to stop if you choose to, or whatever you want to do." Perhaps it was a fragile and youthful sensibility on my part, but I felt as though he was firing me from playing with him. I thought for a few moments and then said, "well Warne, I don't in any way feel that I've finished my work with you. That said it would be a lot easier if at some point I came in for lessons every other week rather than weekly." He nodded, and then after a pause I continued: "so do you have any advice for me on how to develop consistency?" On hearing this question he gave a quick response (as he often did) of a quiet "humph" before answering, and then took some time to answer fully. He finally looked at me and said: "can you think of one thing, as in a quality or aspect, that would describe your best playing?" This exchange actually seemed like we were both pushing each other with questions and answers in a way that we had not up until that day, and that through the process we were getting to some deep issues with me. I thought for a bit and then said "well, … I'm struck that when things are flowing well that there is a kind of … power … that comes through my playing." His response was "… OK, then I want you to focus on that power, and stay with it in your mind until you feel like it's always coming there for you."
That conversation was the essence of the lesson and I don't think I played anything for Warne that day. I scheduled another one for the following week though and that was to be our last meeting before the concert at Stony Brook. I felt hurt though, and leaving Bretton Hall was quite difficult, but I was serious in my response that in no way did I think I had finished my work. So I knew that I needed to regroup fairly quickly and considered the conversation about the 'power' in my playing. I thought a lot about that and for that evening thought that there were lessons to be learned that did not involve different meters or harmonic structures, or really anything technical, but were more about truly discovering an inner voice and quality that would speak no matter the choices in style of any particular player. That said, I had incurred some wounds that day and knew that I needed to experience some healing. I was also concerned because of the upcoming concert, and now that I had no other work before the date I was fully focused on it and also was responsible for managing the event.
I was anxious to get to my next lesson, in addition to negotiating a new landscape concerning our teacher/student relationship I also needed to go over details about the concert at Stony Brook. One important piece of business involved potentially recording the concert for rebroadcast on the campus radio station, WUSB-FM. I had gotten a call from the program director, Rich Koch, asking about it and my response was that I didn't know how Warne would respond to the request but that I would ask him. I brought a release for him and brought up the subject, there was a natural deference in just about all of my communications with him, however I felt even more of this after the last lesson, and would have certainly felt it in asking for his permission to record a performance. His response surprised me – the recording was fine with him on one condition: he specified that he wanted individual open reels of each tune recorded at 15 inches per second, and also copies of the entire gig on reels done at 7 1/2 inches per second. (These could be one or more reels but include several tunes each. )I knew from my experience as a composition student that the recital hall was fully equipped with excellent recording equipment and was quite sure this was all possible, so we added his request to the waiver and he signed. I don't remember a lot of other details from the lesson except for one important exchange – at some point in the course of his coaching to me he mentioned that when showing up for a gig that one had to be "ready to improvise." I didn't ask for any explanation, but as I pondered that comment on the way home one impression I had was that a player needed to get control of their mind and nerves and find an internal state that would foster both a level of performance that was satisfying to both the player as an artist and the audience as listeners. I knew that my internal environment of nerves and preoccupation with extraneous details did not help me at the Jazz Forum, and I expended considerable energy overcoming those thoughts and feelings. I could not be sure exactly what Warne meant by his comment, but for me this one and many others had value because they made me think and find my own answers. Concerning the concert at Stony Brook I was resolved to handle all of those factors better than I had with the Jazz Forum gig.
Concert at Stony Brook
I spoke to Warne in the early afternoon on the day of the concert, he was taking the train to Stony Brook and we needed to go over the connections one more time. The ride was about two hours from Manhattan and he was scheduled to arrive at around 6:30 in the evening. The weather was clear and cold and there was a fair amount of snow and ice on the ground from a recent storm. I waited with Leslie in the parking lot at the Stony Brook station and went up to meet him when the train arrived. He was wearing an ankle-length light-gray colored down coat, these were very warm and popular in our area at the time and it looked a little like a cape or cloak except that it was bulky (but very light). When we said hello he asked how I was feeling and I looked at him and said: "I'm ready to improvise, man." He smiled and nodded. We got into the car and he said hello to Leslie, he had recently met her at the Jazz Forum and was very gracious to her, and in fact always was once they had met. We chatted some on the ride over to the Fine Arts Center, but it was no more than a ten-minute ride. When we walked in and went backstage to the green room there was a special moment that I had been anticipating for some time: Sonny was there and immediately greeted Warne, and the two of them warmly embraced for several seconds. Sonny's entire demeanor changed around Warne – he was acting like an excited teenager, and it was obvious to me that he was really happy to see Warne again. The other people present were Leslie, Sonny's girlfriend Margie, and also Skip and his girlfriend Laurie. We needed to go onstage for a soundcheck so I ushered everyone out to the hall and we worked with the recording engineer regarding our setup - getting the microphones placed, and also a good balance for the recording. The process took about fifteen or twenty minutes and once everyone was comfortable we went back to the green room and were now joined by some friends including Jim Brostman and Jimmy Halperin. We needed to figure out what we were going to play though, so the four of us huddled around the grand piano to come up with a list of tunes. One difference with this concert was that Sonny had some definite ideas about tunes that he wanted to play, and also Skip and I knew his arrangements and the three of us had been rehearsing quite a bit in advance of the concert. It was easy to come up with a list, and in the course of doing that Sonny also talked over changes that he liked to use on some of the tunes. I'm sure that Warne would have heard them on the spot but it was good to talk it over so that we all knew what would be coming. Shortly after our chat it was time to go up to the stage.
The concert got off to an interesting and actually somewhat informal start. Rich the program director of WUSB acted as an MC and informed the audience that the concert was being recorded and that he wanted to tape a spoken introduction for the beginning of the broadcast. The fact that everything was so contrived was a bit humorous, and I felt a nice relaxed and genial feeling before we started playing. I was in for a surprise though when we started: we had chosen "317 E. 32nd" (Lennie's line on "Out of Nowhere") as the first tune, and once Warne counted it off I immediately heard Sonny whispering my name loudly and with some definite urgency ("John … John! …"). The layout on stage had me standing on the left facing the audience while Sonny sat on a chair in the middle and Skip was setup to his right. Warne stood center stage where his microphone was placed. When I heard Sonny trying to get my attention I immediately looked to my right and he had a panicked look on his face. What had happened was that his bass had gone quite out of tune, he had left it on stage on an instrument stand after the soundcheck and apparently something had happened to cause it to go out of tune. There was no turning back at that point though so we somehow got through the tune although all of us knew what was going on and as a result made it shorter than it would normally have been. There was no stress about it though, and once we were ended Sonny tuned his bass and we continued.
In the course of playing I remember the music feeling good to me however in a fleeting thought I also knew that the concert was just getting started and that we had a fairly long evening in front of us. There was a good-sized audience, not quite as large as for the Phil Woods group but quite generous in their applause and response. As the set progressed we all settled in, and we played "Star Eyes" next, followed by "Background Music" and then the ballad "You Don't Know What Love Is." Next was Lennie's line "Victory Ball," and to close the first half of the concert we played "It's You or No One." All of the material had strong ties to Lennie, as would the selections in the second half of the concert. I remember "It's You or No One" coming off quite well and that we received a very nice response from the audience before heading back to the green room for a brief break.
Warne Marsh Quartet: "It's You Or No One", concert at Stony Brook, February 7, 1983
The atmosphere backstage was relaxed and friendly, and was more just a chance to catch our breath before the second set rather than a long pause.
Once we were back onstage something funny happened to start the second half of the concert: Rich told us that for some reason his introduction was not recorded (although he said that everything else was sounding good in the booth) and he wanted to do the intro again. This continued the informal atmosphere, the audience got a laugh out of the glitch and gave us a loud welcome on the 'retake. 'We started the second half of the concert with "You Stepped Out of a Dream," and then Sonny was featured in an arrangement that he had created on "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To." Warne introduces both the song and Sonny and there is a funny exchange on the recording between the two of them. The arrangement came off quite well with Sonny playing the melody on both the in and out choruses and Warne playing a very creative three-chorus solo.
Warne Marsh Quartet: "You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To", concert at Stony Brook, February 7, 1983
We followed that with "Fooling Myself," "Lennie's Pennies," "Embraceable You," "Kary's Trance," and to close the concert "Strike Up the Band." I believe we played until almost 10:30 and opted not to do an encore, the music had been intense and Warne also needed to catch the last train back to Manhattan at about 11:00. That said, once we were back in the green room we were joined by quite a few people, and there were some who knew Warne from many years before in New York. One friend of his offered to drive him halfway to Manhattan, and from that station (Huntington) there were more trains available than from the Stony Brook station. Once he made that connection Warne opted to stay for some time. In addition to the energy in the room there was also a moment that I will never forget: before Warne left with his friend he stood with Sonny for some time with their arms around each other's shoulders and both of them displayed broad grins. I could tell how much this meant to Sonny, and I was genuinely touched by the warmth and friendship that Warne showed. (I have always had a regret that no one had a camera to capture that moment for posterity. )Sometime around midnight we all packed up our gear and said our goodbyes, for me personally this was a highly significant evening in many ways; however I still had a fair amount of unfinished business in terms of picking up the tapes later in the week.
Sonny and Warne – with the Lennie Tristano Quintet at the Half Note, June, 1964
On Tuesday February 15 I stopped at the offices of the radio station and picked up thirteen individual boxes of tape reels that were recorded at 15ips, these were of each tune as Warne had requested. There were also two reels of each half of the concert recorded at 7 1/2ips and finally four cassette dubs that were done for each of us. I experienced several shocks on first hearing the tape, and the first concerned the quality – it sounded to my ears like recording studio quality, and I couldn't quite believe what I was hearing when I first played the cassette. My second shock was over the characteristic of Warne's sound – it was absolutely beautiful and also quite representative of how he sounded in a live setting. Many of Warne's released recordings and others that I had at the time or that I subsequently acquired alter his sound somehow through engineering techniques, however that was not the case at all in this recording. My final shock came quickly, and that had to do with the beauty of his improvising. I know that his playing held to a very high and consistent level in everything that I had heard of him both recorded and live, however I sensed that his playing on that evening was of a special nature. Perhaps it was the excellent quality of the recording, but it was obvious to my ears. In particular, I continue to be moved by his playing on the ballads and his exquisite rendition of "Embraceable You" that evening:
Warne Marsh Quartet: "Embraceable You" concert at Stony Brook
I was also surprised to see a review of the concert in the next issue of the campus newspaper "The Statesman," and it was written by a faculty member named KrinGabbard. I did not know Krin but he remains on the faculty of Stony Brook as a Professor of Comparative Literature and English.
I did share the review with Warne but unfortunately two comments that Krin made soured him on it. The first is "… the oblique, often perverse, inventions of Lester Young," and the other is "… Marsh's playing often reflected Tristano's eccentric approach to harmonics." His reaction was understandable, but I also thought that it prevented him from enjoying a nice account of the concert from an obviously knowledgeable and skillful writer. That said, I remember watching an interview with the actor Richard Burton conducted by Dick Cavett on public television where the topic came up. (To anyone who remembers or can find these shows, they were quite brilliant. )When Cavett asked Burton if he ever read reviews the response was "no, because if they're bad they're horrible to read, and if they're good they're never good enough." I'm not sure if Warne shared those exact opinions but I thought it was sage advice. Some years later I came to be acquainted with the conductor Herbert Blomstedt when I worked for the San Francisco Symphony and Mr. Blomstedt also would never read a review. This was quite a feat considering the large marketing department both at the symphony and his artistic representatives, IMG. When I learned of his policy regarding reviews I asked him why he felt this way and he essentially had the same response as Richard Burton.
Jumping back in time a bit though, I saw Warne for a lesson at Bretton Hall on the Friday after the concert, and this was at 2:00 that afternoon. I didn't have the tapes or review yet, so this was essentially a 'regular' lesson (if there ever was such a thing!). We did talk about the concert though and he was quite complimentary and made a specific comment that there was one tune in the second half where he thought my playing was "really loose." He went on to tell me to listen to the tape, and to use that feeling as a goal for myself. I immediately thought he was referring to "Fooling Myself":
Warne Marsh Quartet: "Fooling Myself", concert at Stony Brook, February 7, 1983
but he said no. I then named off all the other tunes from the second half but he didn't remember them!
The exact track always remained a mystery. There was also one brief but significant moment late in the second set that I also mentioned to him at that lesson. All through the concert (and in fact the Jazz Forum gig as well) I did not play any of the lines with him, even though I knew them all. When we came to play "Kary's Trance" though I decided to play some of the line with him in the last chorus, even though I knew he had said not to. Perhaps I was rebelling against his authority, but I thought that two players playing the line in unison would strengthen the sound and I felt sufficiently inspired to play it with him. By that point in the tune a tremendous momentum had been gathered, and we launched into the first phrase of the 32-bar line in unison. As we approached the second 8-bar phrase though I knew that it began with a passage that invited harmonization and that he would in fact do that when he had performed the piece with Lee. I decided in a split second to play a third below Warne so as to be in harmony with him, but when I did, he did the same thing! Neither of us had time to readjust though and finished the phrase that way, however Warne actually stopped playing for a brief moment. He quickly looked over at me with his tenor in his mouth in the pause after the phrase but with what I would call a 'knowing' smile on his face. That look was perhaps equivalent to any compliment from Warne that I had received verbally. Here's the recording of that exact moment:
Warne Marsh Quartet: "Kary's Trance" (excerpt), concert at Stony Brook
I had a friend in the audience who made a point of mentioning that moment and said that he didn't know exactly what happened that caused Warne to look over at me, but it was obvious to him that it was an admiring look. When I was at my lesson I did ask Warne if he remembered it, his response was to smile and give his quiet "humph" sound before turning to look out the window.
Once the gigs at the Jazz Forum and Stony Brook were done we started on our new arrangement of lessons every other week. I delivered the tapes on the next time that I went into Manhattan on the 23rd of February, and then saw Warne once that March. When I arrived at Bretton Hall that afternoon I was surprised to meet the jazz pianist Lou Levy, he arrived at Warne's studio toward the end of my lesson. I didn't know it at the time but I would not see Warne for several weeks as he was leaving shortly after for some dates in Europe with Lou. There was however an internal situation developing with me that was surprising: over this time period and through a good part of the summer I found myself increasingly falling into a dark, depressed mood, and though it was difficult to admit it was because I felt rejected by Warne. I was actually relieved that he was going away for a while, it seemed like I needed the break from my work with him. I should mention though that it took some years but eventually an LP was released that he recorded on the tour with Lou in a quartet setting, it was again on the Criss Cross label and was called "A Ballad Album." It may have taken as long as until 1986 for the record to be released, however when I heard it I thought that it was one of the most beautiful sessions that I had heard from Warne, and also very different from anything that he had done up to then. This LP remains one of my favorite recordings of his, and I also subsequently acquired some live recordings made on that tour, and many of them are stunning.
When he returned we resumed lessons, but unfortunately my mood was not improving, and my depression deepened over the next few months. Finally by the beginning of July I decided to take a real break from all my musical studies and shared this with Warne at a lesson. I asked him what he thought and he replied quietly: "… things have felt a little bit forced lately." So we agreed to take a break of unspecified length, however this did not relieve my depression at that time. I was excited though to see that Warne was playing at the Village Vanguard in the last week of July, this was in a quartet setting with Hank Jones as co-leader, and the rhythm section was George Mraz on bass and Bobby Durham on drums. I traveled into Manhattan for the first gig of the week and stayed for the entire night. It was wonderful and magical to hear Warne again, and in retrospect I was struck by the difference in my perceptions of him and his playing since the first time I had heard him in that same room almost two years earlier with Sal Mosca. That said, I returned home to Port Jefferson and continued to struggle with depression. I am obviously a serious guy and have been afflicted with depression at times throughout my life, but was surprised by how this particular episode lifted: I simply decided to let go of everything, not take things so seriously and accept my circumstances rather than struggle against them. I also decided to take the entire month of August off with essentially no practicing or teaching. I planned to resume activities in September, and as the month of August passed I felt myself progressively letting go of worry and feeling much more positive, and if possible, lighter in being. It was in this frame of mind that I called Warne in early September to schedule a lesson, and we set it for Tuesday September 13 at 1:00.
September 1983 – a new time
When I arrived at Bretton Hall that afternoon something immediately felt quite different - the mood or atmosphere seemed more relaxed and casual, and diametrically opposed to the tension that I had felt since after the gig at the Jazz Forum. Warne and I dispensed fairly quickly with our hellos and he then spoke to me in a somewhat more expansive way than I had been used to. He said that he was glad to see me again, and also said that he had not been at all sure that I would return to studies with him. This comment was a little surprising to me, perhaps I had not been clear enough in my communication but I wasn't planning to quit lessons or disappear without some sense of closure if possible, and I did not feel at all that our studies had come to an end. He then went on to surprise me in several other things that he said: one of the first was to ask if I was available to work with him sometime during the next week at the West End, a club in upper Manhattan near Columbia University. Given how things had been I must have seemed surprised and asked if he was sure, he said yes and then offered this apology: "I'm sorry, I should have been calling you to play over the last few months." I had an immediate sense of redemption of sorts and he continued by saying that he was hiring different guitarists for the week, I believe he was playing for five or six nights and asked me to think it over and pick a night. I looked at my calendar and picked the Friday night, which was September 23. We left it at that until the next week, but I knew that I would have to get myself ready for the gig and looked forward to the rigor and discipline of regular practice and performance again.
Once the subject of the gig was settled Warne went on with more surprising things to say: "OK, now that you're studying again, there's only one piece of work left for you to do – sing love songs." I was somewhat stunned and asked for some explanation. He went on to say that I should focus on singing in every way possible, and primarily by learning to sing the words to the standards that we played as vehicles for improvising. He said that these songs were almost in their entirety dealing with love, and the assignment at that point was fairly simple: pick a standard song, find a good recording by one of the classic jazz singers and bring in one standard for each lesson to perform for him. This idea was not new or unfamiliar to me and I remembered hearing a quote attributed to Lester Young to the effect that a player should know the words to all the songs they were improvising on. Sonny was also a beautiful singer, in fact he began his career in music as a singer and took up the bass later as a way to get more work. That said, no teacher I had worked with up to then had ever assigned learning and performing standards this way, and I was curious as to where Warne was leading me with the assignment. I forget exactly what he said next but it was along the lines of explaining why he thought the work was valuable and right for me to do, and as follow-up I asked him: "have you done this work?" He replied: "… it's the most recent piece of work that I've done." He also said that along with learning standards in this way that he thought it would be good for me to work through jazz harmony with him and that he taught the subject entirely by ear so it went along naturally with the other singing assignments. And I would also continue to sing jazz solos and lines that I might want to learn.
That lesson in early September of 1983 felt to me then, and also in retrospect, as a marking point of a new stage in both my studies with Warne and, as it would turn out, in my relationship with him. I knew that I had weathered a personal crisis that summer and came through it with a renewed sense of purpose and optimism. When I scheduled the lesson it really did feel like a new time or stage of studies, and also that I was very happily back to being entirely focused on the process of studying and growing. Warne's new assignment of singing in general and singing love songs specifically also seemed that it was not in any way coincidental. From the vantage point of more than twenty years later the act of improvising feels much more to me that I'm singing rather than playing an instrument. Specifically, it is my awareness of my voice and breath that is present for me to a much larger degree than any consciousness of the physical aspects of playing the guitar. The difference in how my playing feels to me now in contrast to the fall of 1983 is that we were just laying the groundwork at that time. Given the context that Warne established though, I have always associated the work that we began with the phenomenon that we all refer to as love. I worked diligently on studying harmony and continuing to improvise over the next several months, but was also always in a frame of mind where the topic of love in all of its aspects (romantic, general, familial, and others) was present for me and was a subject that I dwelled on. In this way I believe that my studies at that time entered a poetic phase that was crucially important for me and that would frame art in general (and specifically the kind of improvised jazz that I have played before and since then) in a much larger context than I had ever been exposed to.
The West End
I didn't see Warne for a lesson again until September 27 and but that was after the gig at the West End had taken place and some interesting things happened that night that I would like to share. As a first comment, I was struck by how different my preparation for the gig felt. It seemed that I had reached a new level in that I was disciplined in my practice beforehand, but also not terribly concerned with the results, so in retrospect it seemed that I had found a way to be more 'in the moment'. As another facet of my preparation I also decided to go into Manhattan on the Tuesday of that week to both hear Warne and to get the feel of the room. On the gig were a guitarist named Bob Ward, (Bob was an excellent player around my age and lived at Bretton Hall), and also Steve LaSpina on bass and Taro Okamoto on drums. I had heard a fair amount about Steve, he had been playing around Manhattan on many different gigs and was an excellent and in-demand bass player. Warne as usual sounded great, and on this particular evening I had the strange sensation that he was often playing directly "at" me. It seemed that he was perhaps looking at me at times and also pointing the bell of his saxophone in my direction. At any rate, it was fun to hang out at the club that night, and I felt that I was ready to play on that Friday. One fact of my life at that time though was that I did quite a bit of driving, and unfortunately found out that week that my brakes were in critical need of repair. I was advised not to drive into Manhattan that Friday until I had them fixed. My normal routine would have been to sleep late on the day of the gig, however I needed to take the car to the mechanic that morning so wasn't able to. Another fact about my life in those years, and for many after, was that I suffered from chronic migraine headaches. These could be quite debilitating and happened usually about once a week. I was always afraid that I would develop a headache on days when I had important things to do, and sure enough I came down with one that day. I had a strong prescription pain medicine at the time and took a dose in the afternoon, unfortunately the headache was dulled but didn't go away. So I drove into Manhattan that evening with a functioning car, but was not feeling my best physically.
When I arrived at the West End I met Warne and also the other players, they were a surprise to me in that I didn't know them, and in fact never had heard of them. The bass player was an older black man named Peck Morrison. Peck was very friendly, and in appearance was short and chubby and had a shaved head. The drummer was Earl Williams, also an older black man and very friendly, and both Earl and Peck were enthusiastic about my playing that evening. As I had come to expect with Warne, there were immediate surprises: I found out on arriving that the first 30 minutes of the gig were being broadcast live on WKCR-FM. This was enough of a surprise, but I also heard that the broadcast was being billed as a birthday tribute to John Coltrane. I thought this was somewhat ironic in that while Warne certainly respected Coltrane's work, at the same time he represented an entirely different approach to jazz and improvisation that in fundamental ways was not at all compatible with that of John Coltrane. So when I heard the talk about his birthday I smiled to myself and thought that Warne had to have had similar thoughts and that I was almost in on a private joke in a way. This was on my mind when I saw him next to the bandstand on one of the breaks later in the evening. He had his tenor in his hands and was doing something with the mouthpiece. In a short conversation I asked: "Warne, what are you up to, practicing on the break?" He laughed immediately and I could tell that he knew I was referring to the 'legendary' stories of John Coltrane finishing a set at the Village Vanguard and then walking directly from the bandstand to the kitchen, where he would then practice for the half-hour break while standing in a corner. He replied deliberately but with a smile: "no, I'm trying to find a reed that works."
Before the gig started Warne also introduced me to Phil Schaap, a broadcaster on WKCR who ran the jazz program at the West End. He was an enthusiastic guy and also struck me as a walking encyclopedia of jazz history. Later that evening when we had a chance to chat I mentioned that I played a lot with Sonny Dallas and Phil immediately started spouting off facts about Sonny's career that I'm not even sure Sonny remembered! So Phil was a lot of fun, and I subsequently obtained a copy of a tape of the broadcast, although not for a few years after that evening. Phil's energy is evident in these two excerpts, these were the last two songs we played in that opening half hour: (caveat emptor: these tracks are from recordings of the broadcast made at some distance from the station and as a result have a fair amount of static and extraneous noise, I include them however as historical documents. )
Warne Marsh Quartet: "These Foolish Things", broadcast from the West End, September 23, 1983
Warne Marsh Quartet: "Anthropology", broadcast from the West End, September 23, 1983
Once the broadcast concluded we went on with the gig, which lasted until 2:30am. There were a couple of funny moments that I still remember, and one happened after we played "Background Music" (Warne's line on "All of Me"). When Warne called the tune (and this was very similar to the gig at the Jazz Forum), he actually said "All of Me in A-flat." He counted it off and away we went, and I noticed that Peck seemed to be a little confused by the cross-meters in the line, and then Warne improvised entirely in that spirit of rhythmic freedom and complexity. After the tune ended Peck turned to Earl (and the bandstand at the West End was quite small, so we all heard everything each other said), and laughed, saying: "man, my hair got in my eyes on that one!" What he of course meant by this oblique comment was that he became confused during the tune, and the joke was that since his head was completely shaved there was no actual hair to 'get in his eyes. 'One other moment I remember from the evening was that at one point Warne called the ballad "This Is Always" and Peck started singing the first few lines quietly, and almost as a question: "this isn't sometimes, this is always (?)" Warne nodded and that was the only confirmation Peck needed. Witnessing that exchange told me very clearly that I was on the right track in learning to sing standards in my lessons (and actually at one point learned the words to "This Is Always").
Following the gig I settled into my new work, and also continued with much of the practicing that I had been doing before my break that summer. I recall the entire fall period, and actually the rest of 1983, as being a very sweet time of my life in general and specifically in my studies with Warne. There was nothing I could exactly point to as to why this was so, but I was very aware of a good feeling and positive energy that seemed to be around me.
In addition to singing and my ongoing instrumental practice I also remember reading fairly intensely in philosophy in the summer and fall of 1983. This was not a new pursuit though, and is related to an earlier period of time in my life: following my move to Long Island in 1978 to attend graduate school I began to feel that my past in New Jersey was slipping away from me. I remember having a conversation with Bob Keller between my first two semesters and sharing that although I was learning a great deal and working very hard, I was not at all sure of the ultimate purpose of my work and feeling out of sorts, disconnected from jazz, and searching for meaning in life and music (a light conversation!). Bobby's first response was practical and simple: "what you need is a bass player!" He had a second response though, and that was to write something on a notepad and hand it to me, saying: "I highly suggest that you read a book called 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,' I've written down the title for you with the author's name (Robert Pirsig)." The book gives a somewhat in-depth review and discussion of key arguments and authors in the history of philosophy and though I have not read it in some time I did share it with Warne in early 1984, and also remember reading other books on philosophy in the fall of 1983. One of these was an anthology that I unfortunately don't have anymore, but that's because I loaned it to Warne and he never returned it! At any rate, I remember an essay toward the end of the book that was titled "A Survey of Metaphysics" and written in the early 1900's by a French philosopher whose name I don't recall. The essay contained a passage that went something like this:
'though philosophers of many different orientations may argue various points there is one on which all agree – there are two ways of knowing an object: a relative knowledge, and an absolute knowledge. Relative knowledge depends entirely on the distance between the observer and the object and involves many factors because the observer is outside the object. In contrast, absolute knowledge does not depend on distance or relationships, but only requires the observer to enter into and fully merge with the object, thereby becoming one with it. In this sort of knowledge all boundaries are dissolved. '
I read this passage late at night at home in Port Jefferson and immediately recalled the lesson I had with Warne in the fall of the previous year where he had responded to an effusive barrage of comments that I had made regarding improvising by telling me: "… but John, improvising isn't relative, it's absolute!" As I wrote earlier, I did not at all understand what he was saying to me in that statement, however over that next year I came to have an intuitive understanding as my commitment to jazz and improvising deepened. That said, when I read that passage in the article I immediately understood what Warne had said and was excited to bring the book to my next lesson. I told him about the essay, and in fact read the passage to him, and then asked if he remembered what he had said to me in the lesson that took place about a year before that night. He shook his head and said no, however he said that it was interesting to him and asked if he could borrow the book. I never got it back, however over the course of the next few months I would ask him questions about his thinking on topics related to philosophy and he always graciously took my questions seriously and gave me thoughtful answers. Sometime after the beginning of 1984 I decided to tell him about the Robert Pirsig book and offered to lend him a copy, and he took me up on the offer. Warne didn't say anything about it but based on my reading of the book I spent a fair amount of time considering the philosophical concepts of dualism and the idea of divisions of subjects and objects. I remember asking this question at a lesson in March of 1984: "do you consider improvising to primarily be a subjective or objective experience or phenomenon?" This was again in the evening, and on hearing the question Warne was silent for quite some time. Finally he looked at me and said: "… when I'm alone here in my studio playing, then improvising for me is entirely subjective. However when I'm performing in front of an audience the music belongs to them, and in that sense is entirely objective. That's the best answer I can give."
Friends from Norway
In early January Warne mentioned that he had been making regular trips to Norway since about 1980 and that a Norwegian trumpet player by the name of Torgrim Sollid would be visiting New York with his girlfriend in February. Warne wondered if I would be interested in meeting him, and also said that he thought that we would take a liking to each other. Torgrim also did significant work in the field of mental health and Warne knew that Leslie was a music therapist and thought that she might be a good resource for him. Leslie and I were both happy to meet Torgrim and his wife Marianne, and I said to Warne that perhaps they would like to visit Long Island and come to a session at Sonny's house. Warne was happy that I extended the invitation and made the arrangements. Our regular sessions at that time were on Monday nights, so we made plans for them to come to Port Jefferson on Sunday the 22nd of January; they were to spend the night with us, and then on the next day we all planned to go to Sonny's. I had scheduled a lesson for that Tuesday afternoon so would bring them back into New York since he had also gotten Torgrim and Marianne a room at Bretton Hall.
It was obvious who Torgrim and Marianne were when they got off the train as they were clearly Scandinavian in appearance. He was sort of a bear of a man, not overweight but tall and filled out, and with a full beard. He tended then to dress in colorful clothes that also identified him as being from another culture. Marianne was very sweet and of fair complexion, she was also becoming a jazz singer and very interested in everything that we were doing. (It turns out that Torgrim knew of Sonny and was thrilled to be meeting him, and unlike when I met Sonny for the first time Torgrim was well acquainted with several of his recordings including the "Motion" LP with Lee and Elvin Jones. So Torgrim passed the 'hip test!') After meeting at the train station we all then went back to the apartment in Port Jefferson. The surroundings were quite rural and even though it was winter time I think Torgim and Marianne enjoyed the location in contrast to the bustle and concrete of Manhattan. The remainder of that day was spent in getting to know each other, sharing dinner, listening to and discussing music in a lot of depth, and conversing well into the night. Early in the conversation something came up that caught my attention fairly quickly: they both said that Warne could not stop talking about a book about "some guy riding a motorcycle." I was amazed, because I knew that they were referring to "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance," however Warne had never given me an indication that he was even reading the book, let alone enjoying it. I told them a little about the book but didn't make much of it, however that story was perhaps the first indication that I actually could be an influence on Warne.
The session at Sonny's was the highlight of the next day, and Torgrim and Sonny immediately hit it off. There was an exchange that happened early in the evening before we played that surprised Sonny, and me as well. Somewhat out of the blue Torgrim mentioned to Sonny that he listened frequently to a cassette that Warne had given him of Lennie and Sonny playing duets in Lennie's studio. Sonny immediately looked at him and said something like: "Really? Man, I don't have any of those tapes and have wanted a copy for years." Torgrim then reached into his backpack, pulled out a cassette and said something like: "vell Sonny, this is the tape, you're velcome to make a copy." (Torgrim also pronounced Warne's name as "Varne.") Sonny immediately put on the tape and tears came to his eyes when he heard it. I still recall some inspiring moments that night in my own listening, and one involved the song "How About You." The tape is obviously informal and the section starts with Lennie teaching Sonny the chord changes. It sounds as if Sonny didn't really know the tune, or at least not the way Lennie played it. Once Lennie is finished going through the changes he turns on the metronome and counts it off, and to my ears what he starts playing is so fantastic and abstract that I was both mystified and amazed on hearing it. This was another one of those experiences listening to Lennie that immediately stuck in my mind that I have not forgotten. Many years later I asked Sonny for a copy of the recordings, here are excerpts of both passages:
Lennie Tristano/Sonny Dallas: "How About You"/excerpt
With that exchange serving as backdrop we then went upstairs to Sonny's studio and played for several hours, I believe Marianne took some photos that I've saved and subsequently converted to digital files:
My one regret is that no one made a recording of the session, but that was very much in the spirit of the time in that we rarely recorded weekly sessions. Following our playing we stayed quite late into the night sharing more conversation.
On the day after the session I drove into Manhattan with Torgrim and Marianne in the afternoon, and then had my regular lesson. They went to their room on the tenth floor to rest, and we agreed to see each other again later on. I remember an interesting exchange with Warne following the lesson, and this was framed by my wondering if he might mention that he was reading "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance." He didn't mention it earlier, however after the lesson we both rode the elevator upstairs and were alone. There was a somewhat awkward silence possibly because we were out of the confines of his studio, however I was used to that with him and it didn't bother me. While we were in the elevator though he looked over at me with his customary intense and penetrating gaze and said quietly: "… so that book covers a lot of ground." I nodded and replied: "yeah, … it does." That was all that was said! I knew though that as Warne was typically a man of few words that the mere mention of the book meant that he was enjoying reading it.
Torgrim had also given Sonny and I copies of a record called "Warne Marsh in Norway: Sax of a Kind." The record was produced in Oslo in May of 1983 and released there on a small label called Hot House records. It featured Warne with a group of Norwegian players that included Torgrim, and what immediately attracted my attention was that there were several "lines" on the record that I didn't have recorded versions of, and these included Lennie's pieces "All About You," "Leave Me," and also Ted Brown's piece called "Featherbed." The ensemble passages on the record are all excellent, however the individual solos (other than those by Warne) vary in quality. That said, there is one track that immediately caught my attention: a quartet version of Warne playing his line "Sax of a Kind" that was originally recorded with Lennie in 1949 as part of the Capitol recordings. This track amply demonstrates that the concepts that Lennie was working on with his group in the late 1940's transferred very well to a modern context (remember that in January of 1984 there were not many recent recordings that were truly representative of Warne at that time, and what I was experiencing with him in a live setting was not generally available). The track opens with Warne playing a duet chorus with drums that is ingenious in his improvised line and serves as a 'prelude' to a magnificent solo.
Warne Marsh Quartet: "Sax of a Kind"/from "Warne Marsh in Norway
It turned out that since Torgrim was staying in New York for a few weeks we made arrangements for him to join us for another session on the following Monday. Our meeting in 1984 paved the way to a long-standing friendship, and he was to visit again in May of 1986, staying with us for a week at that time.
As 1984 moved into the month of April I had the distinct feeling that I was on a bit of a roller coaster: Leslie and I were informed in February that we had to move, and in March we found another apartment about ten miles to the east of Port Jefferson in a town called Miller Place. Moving has always been difficult for me, and this time was no exception. The distance of the move was enough to make it quite a chore and also between having to deal with a piano and everything else our lives were quite disrupted for a few weeks. That said, I did settle back down and started a new routine of practice in the new apartment, however I had a studio that was less than half the size of my studio in Port Jefferson. Warne was traveling in Europe through the first half of April while we were in the process of packing and moving so I didn't miss any lessons, however we had a lesson scheduled again for Tuesday, May 15 at 4:00 in the afternoon. Throughout the beginning of the year I had noticed that traveling into the city was becoming increasingly difficult due to a lot of road construction so on that day I left more than two hours ahead of time. Even with the extra time though I still encountered a lot of traffic and delays and became increasingly frustrated on the drive. As I sat in my car and barely moved I had the thought that everything - practicing, commuting, earning an income - was feeling harder to do than at any time over the previous two years. Once I had that thought, I immediately remembered what Warne had said fairly early in our studies: that it should only take two years for a teacher to tell a student what they need to know. Another thought then flashed into my mind: 'who knows, maybe this is my last lesson with Warne. 'I immediately banished the idea though, it frankly was too unsettling and was not something I had considered at all up to that moment. That said, the thought was unusual and seemed to be something that came to me as opposed to being the result of a logical order of other thoughts.
I finally did get to Manhattan but because of the traffic was at least twenty minutes late, so that made the commute almost two and a half hours. When I got upstairs to Warne's studio I immediately apologized for being late but he told me to relax and not to worry about it. He then said that he had some news: "I've decided to leave New York and move back to LA. I'm giving up the studio and am either giving my things away or selling them." I was taken aback and after a moment replied: "wow, so how much longer will you be teaching?" Warne: "I'm thinking of this as the last lesson." When I heard that I was shocked. The fact that I had some sort of strange premonition about the whole thing didn't matter to me as much as the fact that here I was in what seemed to be my last lesson with Warne. I stood there silently for a bit, essentially unable to come up with a response, and thankfully Warne took the lead: "let's talk about anything you like, is there something I can get for you?" I was grateful for that and said, "sure, a cup of coffee would be great." While he made the coffee my thoughts were racing, and unlike the first lesson I must confess to not remembering a lot of details of what we specifically talked about. I'm sure I recapped what I had been working on and asked his advice on how to keep going. I remember that around that time I was singing and playing several Charlie Christian solos for the first time, and he had loaned me the LP of the famous date of Lester Young and Charlie Christian recorded with the Benny Goodman All-Stars in 1940. I sang and played for him and we talked about Charlie Christian – he really loved his playing and I asked him if he ever had the experience of hearing Charlie Christian's line in his head, but being played on a tenor saxophone rather than the guitar. He replied: "all the time man." I told him that the reason I asked was because I had the same experience with Lester Young – hearing his line in my head but played on a guitar. There were also a couple of things he said that have stuck with me, they may have been that day, or around that period of time. Specifically, in regard to the material we had worked on in the meter studies he continued to remind me to forget all of that work and not play it after I had gone through it once. His specific quote was: "don't get into devices John." That said, he encouraged me to stay connected to the material by teaching it, and to continue working on any phrase or piece of material in ways suggested by the meter work – in all keys, starting at different points in a measure, and in different subdivisions of the beat. He strongly encouraged me to be as simple and direct as possible and said: "the easiest thing to do after sitting alone in a room and slow improvising for thousands of hours is to get complex in your playing. The audience though, wants simplicity. Give them what they want John."
He also said something regarding both improvisation and performance that I have never forgotten: in regards to consciously directing our playing his exact words were "the final control is to give up control." I strongly resonated with that idea as I had encountered concepts like it in much of my reading in Eastern philosophy. I'm fond of this particularly poetic expression found in the book "Zen in the Art of Archery" when the student archer struggles with 'loosing' the shot and the master archer gives this advice:
"… the shot must fall, it must fall from the archer like snow from a bamboo leaf, before he even thinks it."
When Warne mentioned this idea of "control" it brought up a question from me: if we finally give up conscious control, what about when a player uses ideas from other players? His advice was succinct: "any material is free, as long as you can hear it." By that point in my studies I understood that 'hearing' was not at all the same as thinking, and if any of us were to aspire to the level of improvising that Warne inhabited then that would mean fully committing to connecting to our inner voice and perfecting our technique so that our fingers could allow that voice to speak without interference. In the moments when I have reached that level of improvising the entire process is quite unconscious, and I have never felt 'the same' afterward.
The one concern that did come to me as soon as Warne said that we were having our last lesson was a conscious thought about what I would say to him on parting. During the entire lesson I was fairly overwhelmed with emotion, one way of describing how I felt is that any book, film, or story that depicts a deep relationship between a mentor and pupil may suggest what I experienced with Warne, but really could not come close to what it felt like. (I'm reminded of the line from the Rodgers and Hart song "Wait Till You See Her": "Painters of paintings, writers of books, never could tell the half …")What he had done for me over those two years made me aware of a debt to him and a time of good fortune that I suspected would be hard to let go of. I knew that I would face that time soon enough, in fact it would start as soon as the door to his studio closed behind me, but I wanted to find the best words possible to say goodbye. As the hour drew to a close I packed my things and walked to the door, and Warne walked with me. I turned and looked him in the eye for a few moments without saying anything, and finally said: "Warne, I can't begin to thank you enough for what you've done for me over the last two years. Words don't do it justice, but I will always owe you man." In a very sincere and soft tone he said: "John, I've only always tried to give you a piece of what Lennie gave me." We shook hands, I said goodbye and that I looked forward to seeing him again, whenever that might be, and as I turned right and walked down the hall to the elevator the collective weight of everything that had happened in that room was very much with me. I was sad, but also curious about the future in a way. I also knew that I had been given a rare gift and that I was quite a different musician and person than when I had first walked down that hallway just over two years before that afternoon.
In the aftermath of my last visit to Bretton Hall my thoughts often turned to Warne, however he was not directly available to me in that he didn't give me any forwarding information in Los Angeles and didn't contact me over the summer. I continued my daily practice and routines though and once I had gotten through the summer I decided to seek him out somehow. I contacted some mutual friends in New York and was given the name of someone who would know how to reach him. I made the call, and did get a phone number for Warne, and called him in September. He was his usual quiet self but seemed happy to hear from me. We talked for perhaps ten minutes, and toward the end of the conversation I asked if he would be open to me sending him a cassette of myself practicing. He was, so over the next week or so I prepared the cassette and sent it off and as I recall I recorded myself slow improvising as well as playing a solo that I may have been working on. I didn't hear anything from him for several weeks and was curious as to whether he received the package or not but on coming home one day Leslie said to me: "there's a message on the answering machine that I've saved for you, I think you'll want to hear it." I immediately listened to it and heard Warne's voice: "John – I got your tape and I'm very impressed with your improvising. Call me and we'll talk about it." That was it, but I immediately had a glow in the aftermath of hearing that message. It may have been the next day that I called Warne, but this started an informal 'distance-learning' arrangement for the two of us that continued over the next couple of years. In that call we chatted for twenty minutes or so, and in terms of my work we essentially reviewed what we had done and I gave him progress reports. Reconnecting with Warne was a significant development for me; I had missed him terribly when we were out of touch and also felt a bit rudderless without his supervision of my practice.
1985 was in retrospect a year that prepared the way for some significant future activities, and in relation to my music studies I view it as an intense period of 'research' in that my principal activity was private practice. Through the year I also kept in touch with Warne, and in the course of discussing the work we talked over an idea that formed the basis for a long-term plan for me: He was increasingly talking about opening a performance venue in the LA area that would feature jazz but would be more of a coffee-house in that he specifically wanted to downplay the sale and availability of alcohol. He felt it was really the only solution for a serious jazz artist in terms of having a space to perform and create a community, and also have some measure of artistic control over the process. I had no idea how I could do it, but I did think that the idea had merit and kept it in my thoughts in case any opportunity should arise to act on it. I also had a wonderful surprise in the fall: Warne called to say that he would be in New York and would be sitting in with pianist Susan Chen at a restaurant on the East Side of Manhattan. He invited me to meet them and said that he would be happy to see me. I was both excited at the prospect of seeing him and also was curious whether he would comment on my appearance – due to a macrobiotic diet that I was following I had lost a fair amount of weight and had also shaved off the beard that I had been wearing since 1979. When I arrived at the restaurant (I don't remember the name but it was a smallish French place) I took a seat and saw a couple of people that I remembered from Bretton Hall. I was surprised to see that Jimmy Halperin was playing with Warne and Susan, and I heard some music that night that was different and caught my attention: I believe Jimmy was playing a solo when I came in (Susan was accompanying him), and when it came time for either Warne or Susan to take a solo they looked at each other and started improvising single-note lines together. It sounded great in the way that good improvised jazz counterpoint can, but I thought that it was the latter part of the tune and that they had most likely played individual solos before I got there. I was surprised though in the next tune when the same thing happened but neither of them took individual solos, although once again Jimmy did. This went on through the set, and one other memorable tune was an improvised duet by Warne and Jimmy on "Lover Man" that sounded extraordinary to me and was one of those moments when I felt very lucky to be hearing a live performance. Once the set was finished I saw that Warne was nodding to some people but ignoring me. As he moved toward the back of the room he approached my table, still ignoring me, and I finally looked at him and said "Warne?" He stopped and looked at me for a brief moment and said "John? I didn't recognize you, you're looking quite well!" I told him that I had lost some weight and decided to shave off my beard but thanked him for the compliment. I ended up sitting with him, Susan, and Jimmy for the rest of the evening until we all left together. I also mentioned the intriguing simultaneous improvising that I had heard, and they nodded but didn't comment on it. I had no idea when I would see Warne again, but really enjoyed being with him that evening and looked forward to continuing our work through letters and phone calls.
Sometime in later October Bob Keller called and asked if I had seen the current New Yorker Magazine, and mentioned that it included a profile of Warne written by their jazz critic Whitney Balliett. I was unaware of the article but bought a copy and on reading it immediately realized that Balliett had grasped Warne's essence and skillfully translated it into a beautifully written profile. (The article was also anthologized in the 1986 book "American Musicians – 56 Portraits in Jazz." )In it he gives considerable space to quotes from Warne that came from interviews done while he was still at Bretton Hall, and among other things this was the first time I had encountered any information regarding Warne's family and young years, and also about his personal life with his wife Geraldyne. The article also begins with a brief summary of the history of jazz improvisation, which Balliett describes as "the heart and soul of the music." The summary follows a chronological line and begins with New Orleans jazz, then mentions the Swing period, Bebop, and finally "Free Jazz." The summary ends with this statement regarding improvisation in a 'free jazz' context: "… for a long time it has laid a disquieting hand on the music." And then follows immediately with this sentence: "But there is a savior on the horizon – a fifty-seven year old tenor saxophonist named Warne Marsh." This sentence begins the profiling of Warne's life and work up to that time, and in my reading includes this important characterization: "… he is one of the most original jazz improvisers alive, and he is perfecting a kind of improvisation that draws on all jazz." I had many immediate reactions to the article, perhaps the first was that I was very happy to see an article on Warne in such a respected magazine and written by such a skillful author. By then it was for almost five years that I had considered Warne to be one of the greatest living improvisers, and although I had greatly enjoyed his performances and recordings during that time I also knew that he was relatively unknown in the jazz world at large and struggled with lack of work and recognition. I found out later that Warne liked Balliett a lot and was quite humbled by the article. Still, I guessed that he was uncomfortable with terms like 'savior', but Balliett also used the article as a forum to advance some of Warne's highly articulate ideas about the music at large:
I became convinced in the bebop days that jazz is a fine art, not a folk music for second-class Americans. I think of it as the most significant music since the Baroque period. It has reestablished self-expression in music – the individual voice – which ceased in the mid-nineteenth century. It has also reestablished melody.
and the process of improvisation and performing:
You are, of course, doing two things on the bandstand – performing and improvising. It's very demanding to improvise in front of an audience. When I improvise, there is nothing visual in my head. In the back of my mind, I have a sketch of the song I'm playing, and I also hold on to its mood and feeling. And I listen constantly to what is going on around me. My mind works ahead a bar or two, although I don't think in terms of bars. From the first, Tristano taught us to go around the bar lines and to impose other metres on the four-four time. To a certain extent, the length of a phrase is controlled by instinctive knowledge. So when I begin a phrase I don't have the least notion where it will end. The more I improvise, the closer it comes to singing. …
I hoped that the publication of the article would lead to more work and visibility for Warne and also took from it a vote of confidence of sorts due to the fact that I could read in the article a description of the issues that were so important to me and that I had essentially committed myself to in terms of my artistic work. Warne had instilled that understanding and belief in me, and though I knew that my internal commitment was paramount it was also gratifying to see mention of the work in the outer world.
As a final point, it was in this article that I first encountered the quote from Sidney Bechet on the process of learning to improvise jazz that I have used at the beginning of each section of this work:
It has to be put inside you, and you have to be ready to have it put there. All that happens to you makes a feeling out of your life and you play that feeling. But there's more than that. There's the feeling inside the music too. And the final thing, it's the way those two feelings come together.
When I first read the quote I was amazed at the accuracy of the description of the process and also at how the quote summed up my experiences of that previous five years. I have used it often in explaining my view of the ideal path and larger issues involved in studying jazz improvisation.
As 1985 drew to a close there was also a general feeling of excitement building, and no doubt this was partly due to the fact that Leslie and I were planning to take a vacation trip to California in mid-February.
During the first six weeks of 1986 I remained busy with practicing, students, sessions, and a few gigs; however the anticipation of seeing Warne in California in February was very exciting and occupied most of my thoughts. In a new development, Leslie had started singing jazz seriously and was studying with Sonny, and she was hoping to sing for Warne while we were there. We were to be gone for a total of twelve days and planned to spend the first five days in San Francisco and then drive to Los Angeles for the balance of the trip. It turned out that Northern California was going through a period of heavy rain during that time, this limited what we were able to do and was generally quite dreary so we opted to shorten our stay and drove to LA after four days. When we arrived in Los Angeles the weather was sunny, warm, and most of all dry and we were happy to be there.
Once settled at my brother's house in Venice I called Warne on Wednesday and we set up a date for the next day, Thursday the 20th, at noon. I drove out to his house in Van Nuys and it was immediately just great to see him. (I have to confess that I never got over how exciting it was for me to knock on a door and have Warne Marsh open it!) After saying hello again he gave me a quick tour of the house. It was a single story L-shaped 'ranch' style house with 2 or 3 bedrooms down a hallway to the left of the front door, and a large family/living room just beyond the front hallway. There was a kitchen and dining area immediately to the right, and beyond that a door that led to a garage. The living room was large and had a grand piano against the far right wall and to the left a living area with his stereo system where we sat and conversed for a bit. A sliding glass door behind the piano led to a small backyard and patio. After seeing the layout I joked that the house was a bit of an upgrade from Bretton Hall and Warne laughed in agreement. The contrast in living conditions was actually acute and I was happy to see him in such a comfortable arrangement.
When we sat down to catch up he mentioned that he had recently recorded some duet tracks with Susan Chen that he liked and played a couple of them for me from a cassette of a rough mix. Each track sounded exclusively like what I had heard when I had met them most recently in New York – there were no individual solos, and they both improvised single-note lines together for several choruses in each tune. This was again very unusual music, I had recordings of some duets that Warne had done with Sal Mosca but these were more conventional in that there were definitely individual solos that preceded any simultaneous playing. Warne said that he thought of the date as showing a new direction in his playing, and the following tracks amply display the creative spirit inherent in the recording. Based on the standard "Indian Summer," the texture is contrapuntally dense, however the individual lines repay close listening as Warne and Susan together create a shifting texture that is a byproduct of where their collective line is taking them. The two takes are superficially different in tempo, but on a deeper level are different because Warne and Susan's improvising create two entirely different readings of the tune:
Warne Marsh/Susan Chen: Summer Morning
Warne Marsh/Susan Chen: Summer Evening
I had set the time up as a lesson though, so I stayed focused on that and thought I would talk with him about the recordings later on after we had done our work. After a bit of time he asked if I wanted to play together, and once we had tuned I was startled by what he then said to me (a version of this recollection also appears in Safford Chamberlain's book): "so what's happening here is that no one takes a solo anymore. What we'll do is improvise together and feel our way through each tune for a few choruses until we get to an end point." I nodded and thought that although we had done quite a bit of simultaneous improvising in the past he had never completely done away with individual solos. I forget what the first tune was, possibly "All the Things You Are" or "It's You or No One," but it was great, unusual, and wonderful for me to play with and hear Warne again. After we finished that tune he nodded and said to me quietly: "yeah John, you're the first guitar player that I've been able to do this with." We kept playing, and I remember some of the tunes were "Out of Nowhere" and "Kary's Trance," although we didn't play any unison lines together. I remember that each tune got better and better, and at the end of "Kary's Trance" we finished on a descending line that was a sixth apart and lasted for a few sustained notes, and I added one last note alone. Once the tune was finished he looked at me and said "if we were recording this I would splice that note out." I agreed, we were so together on what had come immediately before that final note, and really all the way through, that the last note would have been superfluous. We ended up playing six tunes in total, and in retrospect this was one of the most extraordinary sessions of my life. Afterward, my one comment to Warne was that it was curious to me that the people who knew of his playing and work considered him to be one of the greatest living jazz soloists and improvisers, and yet he had essentially renounced the jazz solo in the duets we had just done and in his recording with Susan. I commented that I thought it would take an extraordinary lack of ego to do such a thing, and his reply was: "well, … there's never been much of that with me from the very beginning." The character of the duets that we had played that day also brought to mind a quote from Warne in the Whitney Balliett profile:
I want to get away from bebop music, and what I mean is the really stifling form of starting a number by playing a melody, then going into a string of long solos, then restating the melody. I want to structure everything in terms of polyphony and poly-rhythms – the kind of counterpoint that we did with Lennie Tristano thirty years ago and that has been done all too rarely since. Audiences enjoyed it then, and I suspect they'll enjoy it even more now. What I need is the places to play it in – small college halls, maybe – and the musicians to make it work.
By then it was close to the time for me to be leaving but he asked if I had anything else that I wanted to talk about. I mentioned that I had learned to sing Bird's solo on "The Song Is You." (Warne had written the Supersax chart for that solo, it is excellent.) I sang it for him with the recording and felt really good about it, and when I was done he looked at me, smiled, and said "very impressive!" We agreed to talk the next day, he was trying to put together a session for that Sunday with some of his students that would include Leslie and I. What he actually said was that he would like to have us over for dinner and a session on Sunday afternoon. While I was really looking forward to playing again, one of the first thoughts that came to mind (and that I didn't share!) was: "This I've got to see – Warne cooking dinner!?" I had a smile on my face as I said goodbye that afternoon, and I also realized that I had played some of the best collective music of my lifetime in those couple of hours.
We talked on the phone the next day and Warne said that everything was set for that Sunday at 1:00, and that some of his students would be coming over. The plan was to play for awhile and then have something to eat. Once the session was confirmed Leslie started to get very nervous, which was something that I could certainly relate to. I still experienced a lot of excitement and anticipation at the prospect of playing with Warne, but it was nothing near to what I had felt in the beginning. On Saturday we called Sonny and he was very supportive and encouraging with Leslie. Much as he had said to me prior to the gig at the Jazz Forum, he told her that she was doing a great job with her singing and just to relax and enjoy it, and that Warne would love her. We went over some things together on the day before, one cool thing that Leslie had learned was Lester Young's solo on "Lady Be Good," and I wondered if Warne would be up to playing it together.
On that Sunday (February 23rd) we got to Warne's house at 1:00, he answered the door looking like he had not been up for a long time, but looked relaxed in a white shirt and was very friendly. As I brought in my equipment he showed Leslie around the house and some other players started to arrive as well. It turned out that a good friend of his by the name of Jim Amaresco would be making the dinner, and this would be a simple meal of spaghetti. (I was not surprised that Warne had delegated the task!) Not long after we had arrived I asked Warne if he would mind if I took a picture of him, he said that would be fine and suggested that we go out onto the patio behind the house. The backyard included the small paved patio and also a wooded area that featured a lemon tree in bloom and a wooden picket fence:
Van Nuys, February 23, 1986
(When I showed this photo to Sonny his response was: "come on Warne, can't you smile?" I said jokingly – "Son, he is smiling!" (note the left corner of Warne's mouth) …) I forget the names of all the players, but there was a bass player who was studying with Warne, also an alto player named Jon, and a pianist named Rhonda. Once the music started we all had a lot of fun and actually did play Prez' solo on "Lady Be Good." Leslie sang it though in the key of C rather than the original key of G. Warne transposed and played the solo beautifully as Leslie sang it and I also played the line. It was a hit with everyone and Leslie sang a few other tunes, as I recall one was "Teach Me Tonight." She was a big fan of Blossom Dearie and had a lot of that sound and feeling in her singing. Warne always mentioned Blossom as the best example of a singer who worked out the piano accompaniments rather than improvise them, and he loved both Blossom and her associate, pianist-singer-composer Dave Frishberg. Everyone had a great time and the session lasted a couple of hours and was followed by the meal. We ended up leaving around 6:00 and this was another occasion where I had to say goodbye to Warne without knowing if I would ever see him again. While this was much less emotional for me than our last lesson at Bretton Hall, that feeling was still there although I was comforted by knowing that we would be keeping in touch. We flew home that Tuesday, arriving late and tired but exhilarated from the many highlights of our stay in California. I had to make a quick recovery though because I was playing a concert at Stony Brook at noon the next day.
Playing and teaching
The concert at Stony Brook on the day after getting home was one of many that I gave between 1985 and 1987. I was increasingly busy with my teaching, and happily so, and through this and the increase in jazz performance opportunities I came to a decision to stop accepting free-lance commercial gigs. Sonny had always said that playing music (other than jazz) for money usually had a negative impact on a player's jazz feeling, and for me the decision was simple in terms of my artistic temperament. It was risky though, because even though I wasn't extremely busy with that kind of work I still did my fair share and the gigs paid reasonably well. There was a small shock in store for Leslie and I though – our landlord let us know that since his wife was expecting a baby that he was planning to renovate the house and we would have to move again. This placed a bit of a hardship on us, but we found a small house in a town called Sound Beach just to the east of Miller Place. Moving was becoming one of my least favorite things to do though, and once we were moved in to the new house we had occupied five different dwellings in the eight years that we had lived on Long Island. There was one other, more pleasant, surprise at that time though – Torgrim had called in April and said that he was planning to travel to New York alone at the end of May and wondered whether he could visit. We offered to put him up and he ended up staying for over a week. During his stay we played a lot both at our house and with Sonny and also talked over many things. Torgrim had begun playing the drums along with continuing to play the trumpet, this was his original instrument and as a teenager he had played in a quartet with Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek.
The John Klopotowski School of Music
I got a call to play a jazz gig in Port Jefferson on a Saturday night in July, this was rare and the gig was on a ferry boat that docked in Port Jefferson harbor. The harbor was a cross point to Connecticut and the ferry ran to Bridgeport on a year-round basis. As a harbor town, Port Jefferson would fill with people on summer weekends, and the music was part of the entertainment that was offered on a Saturday night cruise. While looking for parking I entered a medium-sized lot behind the row of stores that fronted Main Street in Port Jefferson. The entire parking area was called Traders' Cove and the store fronts had back entrances accessible from the lot along with other arts and crafts type stores. As I drove around looking for a spot I noticed a small store front, perhaps ten feet wide, with a "For Rent" sign in the window. I didn't make much of it at first, but started driving by the spot to take more of a look. I finally mentioned it to Leslie and she thought it was worth looking at the space so I called the realtor. It turned out to be a small storage space underneath and behind a dress shop that had a Main Street address and I could see that it would be quite suitable as a teaching studio. The dress shop closed at 6:00 every night so that was ideal as well for larger sessions and rehearsals. In terms of students I felt that I had developed enough of a roster to support the move, and rather than go to their homes or have them come to my house I now planned to do all of my teaching at the studio. Also, there was not a real music store in the village of Port Jefferson so I thought that factor would help me. I used the last two weeks of August to set up and get comfortable in the space and also to schedule a run of advertising that was set to launch after the Labor Day holiday and coincide with the beginning of the new school year. (The musical quote is from the beginning of the Fugue in C minor from J. S. Bach's Well Tempered Clavier, Book 1. )
In addition to private lessons I also planned to hold regular sessions for three different groups of players: one would be the younger, school-age students, another would be the adult students who were studying jazz with me, and I hoped that my friends (peers) would come out on occasion and play at night during the week.
As I look back through my appointment book for 1987 I am struck by the sheer volume of lessons that I gave, and in that regard my school/studio had developed into quite a successful venture. Leslie and I were able to take a break in February though, and made plans to take another trip to Los Angeles. I assumed that I would be playing with Warne as we had the year before, but when making my arrangements found out that the airline would not guarantee that I could bring my guitar on board the plane. I had heard some real horror stories about players having their instruments significantly damaged when they were forced to check them as baggage, so after a lot of deliberation I decided not to bring my guitar. When I got to LA though I called Warne and he began the conversation by apologizing, saying that he was trying to put a session together for us with Jack Nimitz (baritone saxophonist with Supersax) but hadn't gotten a commitment yet from a rhythm section. It was then that I told him I had been unable to bring my guitar, and I detected a surprised reaction but when I explained that it was due to the airlines he was fine with that (Safford Chamberlain wrote a different version of this story in his book).
Warne was performing though on Wednesday night, February 18, at a club in the San Fernando Valley called Alphonse's. We made plans to see him there and also to visit him at home later that week. When we arrived at the club the band was already on the small bandstand and launched into the first tune, which I believe was "You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To." Warne then introduced the players and I was surprised and delighted that the drummer was Chiz Harris. Chiz was an old friend of Sonny's and I've always remembered the story that Sonny told about him. The bass player was Warne's longtime associate Jim Hughart, and there was a guitarist who I did not recognize. His playing did seem familiar to me though and just before Warne announced his name I looked at Leslie and said: "… Ron Eschete." Warne then said "… and on guitar, … Ron Eschete." Leslie and I smiled at each other, and I had known Ron's playing both from hearing him on the radio at home and also because he had made an excellent recording of Lennie Tristano's piece "Line Up." (His recording actually gave me the impetus to learn the solo. )The set went on and was classic Warne, and it was beautiful to hear him performing live again. He looked very professional with a sport coat and open collar dress shirt, and was fully in command of his playing. There was also a good-sized audience and I had the feeling in the room that Warne's stature as a Los Angeles jazz veteran had earned him a measure of respect. Soon after he finished playing he came over to the booth where we were having dinner and after saying hello he stood at our table for a brief moment. I took the opportunity to ask him a question (and prefaced it as I am wont to do): "Warne, can I ask you something?" He replied, "sure man, what?" I smiled and asked, "can I give you a hug?" He looked momentarily surprised, but then said "sure." So I stood up and embraced him, and I remember the moment well. It had been on my mind for some time, and especially in the recent months when he had been such a great support to me in getting established in my teaching practice and daily life as a musician. And I was always acutely aware that in so many ways he had taught me the language that I used as an improviser as well as initiated me into his world of jazz, and introduced me to the poetic world of song lyrics dealing with love and other subjects. All of that feeling went into that hug for me, and also the sense that we were really friends now as opposed to just teacher and student. After our embrace he sat down and we chatted for awhile until he needed to get ready for the next set. Leslie and I stayed for the entire evening and then made plans to see him for dinner at his house two nights later and again that Sunday.
My collective memories of this visit are more about Warne the person rather than Warne the jazz player and teacher. At his house he made a point of showing me photos of his father and talking about him, and I know that he learned the art of woodworking from his dad. He also spoke very fondly of both his sons, KC and Jason. Warne was an avid reader across many topics and I remember several 'cowboy' books by Louis L'Amour that were lying around. He was obviously a big fan and I think somehow embraced the solitary cowboy aesthetic that is prevalent in the western US. So we spent a couple of quiet hours sitting and talking and that evening turned out to be the last time I would see him, however I did not expect that to be the case and would only know it in retrospect. For me then, the year 1987 was starting to be one of some serious personal shocks and losses, but as I left California I was content and looked forward to getting back to my studio. I also had another concert at Stony Brook just two days after returning to Long Island and looked forward to preparing and also starting to teach again.
Letter from Jack Goodwin, 18th December, 1999:
Twelve years ago tomorrow, 19th December, George phoned me to tell me that Warne had died the previous evening at Donte's.
As today is the 18th it's a special day for me and many others.
(reply sent the same day):
I don't know if I've told this story to you or someone else, but I'll repeat it in either case. I received a similar call to you on Saturday 12/19/87, but my call was from Torgrim in Norway. I was teaching that day at my studio in Port Jefferson, NY, I had given a couple of lessons that morning and had a guitar student named Bob scheduled for 1pm. He arrived perhaps fifteen minutes early and also Leslie had dropped by to say a brief hello. Regarding the telephone at my studio, this was long before the era of cell phones and I shared the line with the dress shop directly above me so I generally avoided using it during the day unless a student needed to call and cancel at the last minute. I remember that the call came just before 1:00 and I was surprised to hear that it was Torgrim, and he sounded upset. After saying hello he went on quickly with something like this statement: "John, I have just tried to call Varne to discuss some details around the recording we made in September but was told by a person who answered the phone that he has died of a heart attack on Thursday night at a gig at Donte's." And after a brief pause and in a deeper, more somber tone: "I am wery sorry to give you this news." I was stunned to say the least. We talked for a little bit more and then I got off the phone and said I would call him back later. After I hung up the phone, which was in a small kind of back-room area where I had a couple of bookcases, records, and stereo equipment, I walked out into the main room where there was a large bulletin board. I told Leslie and Bob what had happened and probably didn't look very well. I had a lot of difficulty feeling connected to the present and thought it best to cancel the lesson, and remember offering a verbal tribute to Warne in front of Leslie and Bob. I toasted his photo (the one I took in LA in 86, it was framed on the bulletin board) with a mug of coffee that I had made just before Torgrim called and told Warne again how grateful I was to him, how great I thought he was, and that I loved him and wished him all the best, wherever he was.
Leslie and Bob wanted to be sure that I was OK and in reality there was no way I could know, but I reassured them and then said that I wanted to be alone for awhile. I had lots of confused impressions – Torgrim had told me about Warne suffering the heart attack after finishing his solo on "Out of Nowhere." I immediately recalled that the last time I had talked to Warne was the Tuesday before (9 days before) and when I called I asked what he was doing – he said that he was playing "Out of Nowhere" - ! Also, I remember having a conversation with him around that time about his difficulty in finding work. I asked if he could work at Donte's and he said that he wouldn't because of principle: the owner was paying the musicians around $50 a night, and that was demeaning to him and any of the musicians who worked there. I thought that it was ironic that he would die there given his feelings about the club. I assumed he was subbing for Jack Sheldon who had a regular Thursday night gig there with a quartet with Ross Tompkins – they both played on Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show."
My best friend at the time was a fellow named George Khouri, we had been graduate students together on Long Island, he was a jazz pianist, and he moved to San Francisco around May or June of 83. Once he was in San Francisco I encouraged him to study with Warne so he used to fly down to Van Nuys and Warne became very fond of him. George helped Warne and Susan line up some work here in San Francisco, and Warne may even have stayed at George's place when he was in town. Anyway, I had to call George that day, and it was probably the hardest phone call I've had to make in my life. He broke down in tears on hearing the news from me and later that week attended Warne's funeral.
After a very difficult afternoon I remember deciding to play alone in my studio that night, and one of the tunes was "I Remember You." After that night I really couldn't play much for at least the next month or so. Also, with Warne's knowledge and approval Leslie and I were planning to move to LA in June of 88 following the school year, and certainly a big part of it was to be around him again. Leslie and I ended up splitting up permanently in March, and after a lot of thinking and decision making I decided to move to San Francisco to be around George, which I did in June of 88.
I hope these accounts haven't bored you – I can imagine the void you felt when you heard the news and thereafter.
One interesting sidebar to this account is that it turns out that Warne did a recording session two days before his death, and this was for a solo saxophone recording. He had told me about a long-term project that Tosh Taenaka was funding (Tosh had been Warne's producer and benefactor for many years and had founded the Interplay record label for him). The plan was to record Warne in settings ranging progressively from solo saxophone up to a recreation of Lennie's sextet. When we had this conversation I felt that Warne was hinting that I could be the guitarist in the sextet, but my experiences at the end of 1982 with the same topic tempered any big excitement that I had about it although I of course would have jumped at the opportunity. But as Warne recounted it, the duet recording with Susan Chen was the duo volume of the project; he had made two quartet recordings (one with Susan, George Mraz, and Akira Tana, the other with Ron Eschete, Jim Hughart, and Sherman Ferguson) that were posthumously released; he planned a quintet session with Gary Foster sharing the front line; he wasn't sure what form the trio recording would take; and last but not least he said that "I'm even going to record alone." Though I had heard of this directly from him I forgot about it until I heard from Jack Goodwin (in 2002 I think) that some of the recordings had been released around that time in Japan by Tosh. The CD is called "Warne Marsh – Personal Statement" and is extraordinary both as improvised compositions and also as apparently his last recorded music (no tapes of his final gig have surfaced to my knowledge). In recent years though I have struck up email correspondences with both KC and Jason Marsh and the family was quite upset at Tosh's release of the recording, however with no legal recourse to stop it. My feeling about the recording is one of ambivalence: while I enjoy hearing anything that Warne has done I also realize that he was just starting the solo project and may have ultimately rejected the material that Tosh released. It also seemed very clear to me that Warne was restoring his relationships with his family and the thought that a producer of his would in essence defraud his estate is abhorrent, especially in light of the meager royalties that Warne's vast recorded output had earned for him. So while I find the solo recording to be intriguing it also carries many difficult associations for me.
One other project that Warne was looking forward to was a three-week tour of Italy scheduled for April of 1988 in a trio setting with Joe Pass on guitar and Niels Pedersen on bass. (The tour ended up going on with Lee Konitz replacing Warne. )When he told me of that booking I raised my eyebrows in anticipation of what the tour could produce as I was very fond of all three players and felt that they had established mutual chemistry at least in duet settings with each other in the past. Warne mentioned that the tour would also be quite lucrative. I bring all of this up first in terms of processing my reactions to Warne's death so as to make the point that he was very much alive and well and looking forward to the future. And so was I as the plan to move to Los Angeles was fully in place. He had experienced some heart-related problems late that summer and I pictured him as being frail and somehow not at the full strength he exhibited when we played together. It took more than fifteen years for me to learn how wrong I was in those impressions and this came due to my obtaining a copy of a video tape of a gig that he did in San Francisco in October of 1987. In it he plays with a quartet consisting of Larry Koonse on guitar (a wonderful player), Seward McCain on bass, and Jim Zimmerman on drums, and Warne looks better than at any time that I had known him. Specifically he looks very fit and, well, 'clean' is the word that comes to mind. So I have to consider his passing as a very sad and unfortunate event, and there has been scarcely a day that has gone by since then that I have not thought of him.
The events of that next week underscored the other personal difficulties that I was experiencing then in that Leslie and I had separated and reconciled, and she had been planning to go to Los Angeles alone for the week around Christmas to visit friends. In retrospect I now realize that Warne's death plunged me into my first real experience with deep grief and the long healing process that follows the loss of a loved one. I remember feeling terribly empty, lost, confused, and so on for several weeks if not years after Warne's death. On that Sunday I bought the New York Times as usual and read a brief obituary, so the news was definitely getting out. Still, I was most concerned for my immediate circle of friends who were close to Warne: Susan, George, and from a distance, Torgrim, and spoke with them all by phone that day. I also heard from Bob Keller, he called to say that word was spreading around New York and how sorry he was, and that Phil Schaap was hosting a marathon memorial broadcast to Warne on WKCR-FM. The broadcast that I did with Warne from the West End was played again during the marathon as were many other live sets, but it was all very difficult to listen to.
I forget exactly when Leslie left for Los Angeles but it was early in the week and I decided to spend Christmas Eve and Day with my parents in New Jersery. It was odd for me to be alone with them again at Christmas, and I was obviously not at all myself. After dinner on Christmas Eve I was having difficulty feeling festive so I decided to drive into Manhattan alone and attend a performance of Bach choral music at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church on Central Park West and 65th Street. I got into town, parked my car and walked to the church for the 11:00 pm start, but was really feeling quite badly. I got as far as walking up to the front door of the church, but when I saw all the people, heard the music, and generally took in the festive atmosphere I felt that I just could not find any source of joy to draw on in attending the concert and service. I turned away and went back to my car. On the way back to my parents I decided to drive past Bretton Hall again, and while driving I looked for something to listen to on the radio. I switched to WKCR and heard music that sounded very familiar but that I could not immediately place: it turned out to be one of the variations from Bach's "Goldberg Variations" and in the performance that had been released a few years before by Glenn Gould. I had shared this recording with Warne on a cassette that fall with the comment that "if you want to hear what can be done with a piece of material you should check this out." I asked him several weeks later what he thought and his reply was "I actually can't listen to it – it's too perfect." That said, somehow he overcame his resistance and came to embrace that particular recording and also share it with others. Larry Koonse told me a few years later that he had just bought a double-CD set with both of Gould's historic performances of the work, and he had first learned of it through Warne. So it was both surprising and comforting to hear this music on that evening, and following the variation I was even more surprised to hear Gould being interviewed by author and music critic Tim Page. Given my openness to symbolism I felt that some force was communicating to me and offering comfort.
In fundamental ways then, this story ends in December of 1987 but in other ways the story continued and is continuing. When I began this project I had a very clear idea of the larger story arc that I wanted to document as well as the content and material that I studied with Warne. But I didn't know how I would end up telling it all. What seems fitting is to continue with a few strands in the form of post-scripts to the main story, and I also think that part II of this book may be my ultimate tribute to Warne. While stories and anecdotes are important and entertaining, the work that an artist leaves behind is their gift to us all and I have been honored to both know and study with Warne, and to be able to document many of his thoughts and efforts. As a last point though, over the several weeks immediately following Warne's death I came to realize how much I really loved him but had not realized or admitted until then. I remember the questions he asked when I sang "How Deep Is the Ocean?" in a lesson for him regarding who I was singing to, and once he was gone I realized that so much of the love that I was expressing was really directed toward him. In that way I came to feel that his final and ultimate lesson for me was to expose me to an experience that would enlarge and deepen my capacity for love. Since that time I have been married and divorced again, and also now have two sons of my own. The various kinds of love that we all have access to, and the ways that we feel and express that love only grows more profound to me as I move through life. In closing, I'll offer again to you Warne, wherever you may be, what I said to you as I left your studio in Bretton Hall for the last time: "I can't thank you enough for what you've done for me man, and I'll always owe you."
The idea of including a few brief addendums was initially prompted by my reaction to receiving the news of Sonny Dallas' death in July of 2007. That specific post-script is titled "Christmas, 1997." The first post-script picks up where the main story left off:
The WKCR-FM Memorial Broadcast
I thought it fitting to include an audio excerpt from Phil Schaap's memorial broadcast to Warne. It went on for several days and included a survey of all of Warne's recorded work that was released, as well as several live sets that were in the WKCR archive. Phil is one of the most knowledgeable people on jazz that I have encountered, and he also grew up in Lennie's neighborhood and knew most of the people in 'the scene. 'His obvious admiration for Warne, and knowledge of both his artistic nature and output are apparent in this brief excerpt. On listening again what also comes through for me is the deep sadness, shock, and grief that characterized those several days in 1987.
The specific recording under discussion is Warne's performance on the 1953 Metronome All-Stars recording. Phil gives all the pertinent details (anyone familiar with him will realize what an understatement that is!), but what is interesting to me is that I didn't actually hear the recording for the first time until I asked Jack Goodwin in 1999 if he would share a copy of the broadcast with me. I did know of this particular segment though because Bob Keller asked at the time if I was familiar with a 16-bar solo that Warne had played on "How High the Moon" with the Metronome All-Stars. I replied that I wasn't and he said that Phil made the broadcast unusual in that he repeated the solo several times over so as to enhance comprehension and appreciation. So I didn't hear this segment when it was first done, but have listened to the solo many times over since then.
Excerpt, Warne Marsh memorial broadcast, Phil Schaap, host, WKCR-FM, December 1987
One final point about the actual recording: I heard many years later that when Warne finished playing Lester Young leaned over to him and whispered in his ear: "yeah Prez." (He would often refer to others as "Prez.") Warne never forgot that and treasured the memory.
1988 brought significant changes in my life: Leslie and I separated permanently in March, and after spending much time thinking it over I decided to move to San Francisco that June. Soon after arriving I settled on living in a studio apartment near the Pacific Heights neighborhood, and stayed there for over four years. At that time I was aware that I had lived in seven different apartments in the prior ten years, so even though my studio was small it was still a welcome place to establish some stability after the turbulence that I had been through. The rent was comparable to my teaching studio in Port Jefferson, and I thought then that had I decided to move to Manhattan the rent for a similar studio would have been at least three times as much.
I was in my apartment one day in the summer of 1991 when the phone rang, and the voice on the other end introduced himself as Safford Chamberlain. Safford said that he was a saxophonist and writer from LA who had studied with Warne, and that he was writing a book about him and wondered if he could speak with me. I asked how he had gotten my number and he replied that he had heard about me through my "ex-wife's husband"! That piece of information was a shock, so I asked him to provide more details. He went on to say that he played in a regular rehearsal band in LA and one night was talking with the pianist about his book project on Warne (which was in the very early stages). The pianist mentioned that his wife's ex-husband (it was clear to me that he was referring to Leslie) was a jazz guitarist who had studied and played with Warne in New York. Safford asked if he could get my phone number, which Leslie supplied. His call surprised me in several ways – that Leslie was remarried, that someone was writing a biography of Warne, that somehow they had crossed paths, that she had shared my information with Safford, and that I was actually speaking with him. Once I had digested what he was telling me one of my first responses was that I was very happy that someone was doing a book on Warne. I also mentioned that I had thought many times of documenting my story in some sort of book form for several reasons: my experiences reminded me of some classic master/apprentice stories but more importantly this was due to Warne's skills both as a jazz teacher and thinker, and his connection to and concern for his students. In my mind his activities as a jazz teacher were largely unknown but on a level of excellence equal to his playing and recordings. But my idea to write it all down was just that – an idea. Safford mentioned that if possible he would like to meet and asked if he could come to San Francisco to interview me, and I readily agreed.
I was also aware at that time of another book that was being written about Warne, and I had heard of it through Susan Chen. She had mentioned that there was an Australian writer by the name of Mursalin Cornelius who had contacted her and was actively soliciting stories and information regarding Warne. She gave me his address and as I recall I did correspond with him around that time. Given the distance he asked if I could supply in writing or on cassette anything I cared to tell him about my time with Warne. I decided to turn on a cassette recorder and speak my recollections, but after listening to some of my first attempt I decided against participating. Once I had listened to the tape I imagined Warne's reaction and in my projection of his response he was not happy. In relative terms it was really not all that long since his death and he was still very much with me. I suppose I always remembered his reaction to the book that Sonny proposed and this colored my responses. At any rate, I imagined that Warne would tell me that I should concentrate on my own playing and forget the stories, that the best tribute I could pay him would be to perform to my best capacity, and also to continue to grow. So I wrote a friendly letter to Mursalin saying something along those lines and apologizing.
Mursalin's book was eventually published in the year 2002 and is titled "Out of Nowhere," and through a re-introduction by my friend Jack Goodwin (who informed me that Mursalin went by the nickname "Marcus") I resumed my correspondence with him (now by email though) shortly before the book came out. I have read it several times and would consider it extraordinary even if I did not know Warne. The book takes the form of a novel, or perhaps more accurately a historical novel, so Warne is a character who speaks with a first-person voice. However, I have to say that Marcus somehow created a voice for the 'character Warne' that is entirely faithful to the Warne who I knew. On my first reading I recalled that while I did not send Marcus any of my own recollections I did send him a complete copy of the WYRS interview that Warne gave in December of 1981. My thinking was that Marcus should hear Warne directly if possible. I imagine that he used the tone and verbal phrasing in that interview to conjure a voice for Warne, and the result is very interesting.
Returning to Safford, after our initial phone conversation I recall that we met on a Monday afternoon at my studio apartment and spent at least four hours together. Once he arrived we got down to business fairly quickly and he asked if he could turn on a cassette recorder while we talked. I agreed, and I think that speaking into a tape that someone else would ultimately control was easier for me than doing it myself as I had attempted for Marcus. Safford was gracious in letting me tell my story and much of it appeared in the final version of his book. I started the conversation pretty much as I've started this book – by recalling the circumstances that led me to meet Sonny, how Sonny introduced me to Warne's work, and finally how that led to my studying with Warne. There were many anecdotes along the way but the recount of my first lesson took quite a bit of time and really did set the stage for what was to follow in terms of my experiences with Warne. As an aside, once I received a copy of the finished book it was very interesting to read that many others had similar sorts of experiences with Warne in terms of what could be described as either eerie premonitions or synchronicities. It was also comforting at that time to feel that I was part of some larger community. This was not at all the case in 1991 - at that time my only other real outward connection to Warne was through Susan and I did feel quite isolated in California. But meeting and sharing my story with Safford was healing in that I could put it all out there for someone else to consider, and in that way hopefully get an objective reaction to what I had to say. After that day I maintained some contact with him, though not much, however it was through him that I came to contact Jack Goodwin. To parallel the title of Safford's book, Jack to me is an "unsung cat" in terms of the entire story, and I will elaborate in a separate section.
I also shared other information with Safford in terms of contacts. In addition to giving him both Sonny and Skip's phone numbers I mentioned that it seemed to me that at the time of Warne's death there was a small circle of devoted students who were close to him: Susan, George Khouri, the pianist Rhonda in LA, Torgrim in Norway, and myself. I shared as much information as I had and Safford did the rest, and in terms of the book I really didn't hear that much about it until I actually received the hardcover copy in December of 2000.
The years following Warne's death were difficult in ways, but in terms of seeing his legacy become public, and indeed grow, they ultimately have been very successful. Safford's book is certainly a major work and has done much to raise awareness in the jazz community of Warne's contributions. To that end I am extremely grateful for his efforts.
As I wrote at the beginning of these post-scripts, one of my responses on hearing of Sonny's death was to sit and write something that I had intended to include in this text when I got around to it, and receiving that sad news prompted my writing. There was a subsequent memorial concert for him held in Manhattan in September of 2007 that was organized by Bob Keller and New York saxophonist Richard Tabnik, and I helped from a distance in San Francisco. I originally planned to attend and perform on the concert however was unable due to a move that I was going through right at that time. I asked Bob if he would read the piece at the memorial, which he did, and according to him it was quite well-received and many in attendance were touched by it:
In late 1997 we were living in Glen Cove, and it had been about four years since I had played jazz regularly. My feeling internally was that I had shut down that part of myself and essentially decided to move on with a different sort of life. Still, I could not miss the irony of being back in the New York metropolitan area with almost no connection to the jazz scene there. We were planning to have company for Christmas and I was out doing some errands with the car radio on, and had tuned to WKCR for a broadcast related to Bach. I was surprised to hear that Phil Schaap was the host and had Lee Konitz as his guest. In the midst of some of the conversation and commentary Phil mentioned that Lee would be performing in a few days at a venue in lower Manhattan called The Knitting Factory. When Phil asked Lee about the gig he responded that it would commemorate the release of his LP "Motion" and would feature a trio with Sonny Dallas and drummer Jeff Williams. I stared for a few moments at the radio in the dashboard and immediately thought, "do I dare?" It had been over ten years since I had been in touch with Sonny, and I felt really bad that I had let us drift apart like that. Still, I knew that he could have a temper and didn't relish being scolded by him, even though I knew he had the right to do so. But at the same time I could not imagine missing the opportunity to hear Lee and Sonny in a trio setting. After thinking it over I devised a plan to go late and listen to the last set. I hoped that the space would not be exposed like the Vanguard and a lot of clubs, where Sonny would easily see me. When I got to the Knitting Factory (so named for an earlier incarnation of the building) I was relieved to see that the room was very dark and long, so I could stand along the back wall essentially unseen. There was also apparently a real backstage area so the players were not visible until they took the bandstand. Sometime after 10 pm Sonny, Lee, and Jeff came up, fiddled a bit with their instruments, and then Lee began a solo chorus as he often does these days to start a tune. I immediately recognized "Just Friends," and could not quite believe my ears and good fortune to be hearing this gig live. As the set went on I had many thoughts and impressions, one being that I marveled at Lee's seemingly ceaseless flow of ideas. He had turned seventy late that year and I realized that he was a great model for me of a creative artist still producing valid work after so many decades of activity, and entirely devoted to improvising in the truest sense of the word. And Sonny was Sonny – I would recognize that bass line in an instant. One other thought that I had was actually a question: "can I do this again?" As I stood there the thought came that 'what I would need is this,' and I looked down at my left arm and hand as if I were holding the neck of my guitar, and remembered how I used to feel that my instrument was not separate from my body, but rather an extension of it and the means for expressing what I was hearing. I let those thoughts sit but felt very lucky to be there. I was also struck by the difference in the audience some fifteen years after I had been active in New York – these looked to be mostly students, probably from the nearby campus of NYU, and clearly soaking up what these three masters had to offer. I also decided to sheepishly leave once the set was finished, I still did not want to be recognized by anyone.
Lee and Sonny – The Knitting Factory,December 30, 1997
On the next day though I decided to write to Sonny, and I sent him a brief note saying how much I enjoyed the performance and how beautiful he sounded to me. I mentioned something along the lines of what I wrote above about Lee, and mailed the letter off without a return address, still not wanting to be yelled at, or have any kind of confrontation. A day later my phone rang at about noon, I answered and heard on the other end: "John Klopotowski?" I said "yes?", and again: "John the Boptist?" I asked, "Sonny?" He said something like "hey man, I had to track you down, where are you?" I gave him a quick update and then essentially gushed an apology for everything, and told him that I felt quite badly about our separation. His response was one that I have never forgotten: "John, the only thing that matters is that I love you man, and never forget that!" I suppose a good description for my feeling at that point was that I melted inside, and felt an immediate reconciliation. We talked about what we were both doing, and he was touched that I had a son named Frank, which was his given name. It was clear to me that Sonny loved and cared for me as a person even more than as a musician. When I told him that I had not played in over four years he said: "come out here and play with me man, I'm having sessions with some young players on Monday nights." We had the conversation on a Friday so I knew that I would have to practice for the entire weekend, but I agreed. I'll never forget how my fingertips hurt that weekend, but it was a good hurt, and my line was still there, in fact it felt a whole lot better than my fingers! But Sonny and I remained close friends again from that day forward, and I will always be grateful to him for his love and support. There is much that has been written on the concept of "unconditional love," but Sonny taught me what that is just from the way he lived his life and treated me, and I will always be grateful to him and treasure his memory.
I've mentioned Jack in various places in this text as well as included sections of his discography of Warne's recordings as an appendix. I consider him to be a significant part of the Warne Marsh (and this) story, as well as another unsung hero of jazz.
I 'met' Jack in the summer of 1999 through an introduction by Safford Chamberlain. The way we met was by email: I contacted Jack and from there a fast and furious friendship developed that continues into the present time, however we have never actually met in person and have spoken by phone twice as I recall. The genesis of our meeting came from a conversation that I had with Safford that summer. I was experiencing a musical 'rebirth' of sorts in that my living situation made it possible to start practicing regularly again, and on a daily basis I was reviewing most of the material that I've outlined in Part II. When Safford called to ask about something related to his book I mentioned that I was listening a lot to the "Art of Improvising" and in discussing that recording Safford made a passing reference to 'bootleg tapes' of those dates. This aroused my curiosity and I asked if he was aware of any 'trading networks' related to Warne's music. His response was that I should contact Jack and introduce myself, and he gave me Jack's mailing address, phone, and also email address. I should mention that Jack lives in Northern England, and although email was a new medium to me at that time I proceeded to send off a brief message late in the evening of August 5:
Jack: I was given your e-mail address by Safford Chamberlain. I am a jazz guitarist and former student of Warne Marsh, I studied and played with him during the early 1980's in New York. I have some recorded material in my possession that I feel has historical significance. I am interested in communicating about existing taped material of his, if you can help me please respond. Thank you, John Klopotowski
Jack's reply came early the next morning, which was characteristic of his habit of swift response:
Good to hear from you, I have heard YOU on tape as I have a broadcast from the West End Café NYC 23 September 1983 with Warne, yourself, Earl Sauls and Earl Williams. Remember that one?
I have approx. 80 cassettes of Warne's. These are all concert, club or air check recordings and in the main have never been released on LP or CD. I would be delighted to exchange any of these with you if you have any additional material. I could send you my tape list (which contains all the Warne recordings plus others) by attaching it in MS Word format to an e-mail if you are familiar with this concept. You could then print it out if you wanted to. Otherwise if you let me have your address I could post it to you. Let me know.
And thus began our friendship. Although my dialogue with Jack is ongoing it has been almost ten years now and the life cycle of our friendship has never ceased to amaze me, and it began with that first reply.
As technological background, in retrospect that summer brought two very significant advances into my life: one was the ability to create CDs from my collection of tapes, and the other was email. Regarding the first, I had a conversation with Sonny where he advised me to purchase a Philips CD recorder (he had just gotten one and raved about it). I had owned a CD player for about ten years and still was listening both to cassettes and vinyl LPs, but preferred some aspects of CD technology. Perhaps at the top of my list was the ability to easily locate a specific track. When I bought a CD player in 1987 I remember finding the first CD of Warne that I purchased – a Japanese import of the complete version of his sessions with Art Pepper from Contemporary Records in the 1950's. I remembering telling him about it: "I now have you on CD – it's all the tracks of the date with Art Pepper," and his one-word deadpan reply: "Congratulations." (Very Warne!) When I realized what I could do with a CD player though I knew that there were two recordings that were at the top of my list to own in that format: the complete Well-Tempered Clavier of Bach as recorded by Glenn Gould, and both volumes of the Art of Improvising. Columbia Records cooperated by releasing the Bach recordings in a 3-CD box set in the early 1990's however it was not until I purchased the CD recorder that I was able to create a disc of the Art of Improvising. I also began transferring any tapes of value to CD format, and this was not long before I contacted Jack.
Regarding email, in 1999 it was a very new mode of communication for me and in retrospect it ideally suited the purpose that Jack and I shared. We rapidly exchanged volumes of information early on, and this was supplemented by regular mail delivery of packages of CDs and cassettes. In the beginning Jack was very interested in the recording from Stony Brook, and I also sent him a copy of Warne's interview on WYRS. His first package to me contained CDs of a gig that Warne and Lee had done in Newcastle in December of 1975 at a small pub where Jack sat close to the band. In addition to conversing with all the players he took several photos that night that now appear on his website.
Lee, Dave Cliff, Al Levitt, Warne – December 22, 1975 (Peter Ind not pictured)
Over the course of the next few years we shared many recordings and also collaborated on unearthing some mysteries of new recordings that would surface.
A condensed summary of Jack's interest in Warne would read something like this: he first became aware of his playing in 1950 through Lennie and Lee's recordings. He was immediately interested in what Lennie was doing and for some reason also heard something quite unique in Warne's playing. It amazes me that he perceived that unique quality in Warne that early on, because as we know Warne developed as an artist through the balance of his life. That said, Jack has often referred to Warne's composition and solo on "Marshmallow" with Lee (included in the third WYRS interview excerpt) as the work of a young genius, and when I encounter someone who has never heard of Warne that is usually the place where I begin telling the story.
One other aspect of knowing Jack that I have enjoyed from the start is his writing, and we both tended to write lengthy emails in the beginning. I have always admired letter-writing somewhat as an art form, and in graduate school I read both volumes of the complete letters of Mozart and his family, as well as many original letters and documents pertaining to both J. S. Bach and Beethoven. In that way the past really came alive to me, and in my exchanges with Jack I was fortunate to find an equal partner in writing to each other. My point about email is that those exchanges would likely not have been possible without the technology.
The biggest reason for recognizing Jack though is that, although quite unknown, he has perhaps been the chief advocate in the world for Warne's music and played a formative role in both books that have been published to date. I am amazed when I consider this spread of awareness, and have been surprised and overjoyed at the growing levels of respect that Warne has received. On a personal level, my total knowledge and appreciation of his output took a quantum leap when I 'met' Jack as I studied and internalized the recordings that he sent.
In my experience it is clear that there are always people who play a key role in topics of interest in terms of disseminating information early on, or who are strong advocates for a cause against what seems like significant indifference. Jack Goodwin is and has been that sort of person in relation to Warne Marsh's artistry, and the jazz community owes him a debt of gratitude. Thankfully he has been in touch with the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University in Newark, NJ and at some point in time they will house his entire collection. (Coincidentally Rutgers-Newark is where I went to college for my first two years; I spent a good deal of time at the Institute with then-director Chris White, the current director is Lewis Porter. )
May, 2002 – trip to New York
Well here I am again writing to you from an airplane, I wanted to do this while the memories I have are in their current fresh state. It was (or has been, it's not quite done yet) a great and amazing trip, and I'd like to recap the highlights for you.
The flight to Newark was fine and the first thing I did when my guitar came off the conveyor belt in its anvil case was open it up and check everything. It was all fine, and I checked it again late that night at my mother's. The bridge did shift slightly - it's what is called a 'floating bridge' which means it's not attached to the body of the instrument and is held in place by the pressure of the strings. I've got the correct position outlined with pencil marks and slid it back into place and everything was fine. I got to sleep at my mom's on the late side because of the time change and then left at around 11:30 the next morning for the ride into Manhattan. It was a beautiful, clear day and I picked up Bob Keller at around 12:15. He lives at 105th St and West End Ave, and after seeing his apartment I wanted to drive past Bretton Hall. On the way down we listened to Warne playing with Supersax, and it was amazing to be there again, just about twenty years to the week after I had started studying with Warne.
We then headed across town and out to Long Island, and got to Sonny's about 3:30 in the afternoon. He was waiting for us with the drummer Eric Haft, and it was a wonderful reunion complete with hugs and kisses. We sat and talked until about 4:30 and then the four of us played until about 6:30 when Eric had to leave. The three of us then continued on until about 8pm. It was quite a good session, here are some specifics: I called "It's You Or No One" as the first tune, and Bob wanted to play an unaccompanied chorus in the manner that Lee often does, and then we all joined in. The general character of that tune and really the whole session was quite free, in fact really the free-est playing I've done since the last time I played with Sonny. The character of his bass line, which I really don't hear from any other bass players, is that first of all his harmonic concept is rich with chord substitutions in the style of Bud Powell, George Wallington, and all the great bop pianists. He also has the ability to reorganize the meter in his line a la Lennie, which he often does, while staying perfectly within the structure of a tune. This is fantastic stuff, and can be really disorienting at times (which it was!). Still, I commented to Bob on the phone yesterday that most players tend to either get very intimidated by Sonny, or else ignore him. I've always chosen to play with him as much as I can, and respond to what he plays. The difference from years past is that I can now do a lot of the things he does, and when we both do them together - well, let's just say that's when things can get really interesting. There were a couple of times early on where I really went out on a limb rhythmically and kind of got stuck out there. It all worked out beautifully though, and with many great moments. At about 8pm the three of us went to a diner near the train station, and then Bob caught his train back to Manhattan. Sonny and I stayed up talking until 2 in the morning or so, and then I slept in a mobile home that he bought recently that was very cool and was dubbed my "pad."
We left for Stony Brook by 10:30 or so the next morning, this was sure to be another trip down memory lane for me and on arriving we needed to check in at the lobby of the Fine Arts Center. I didn't know beforehand but it turned out that we were playing on the same stage where we performed with Warne, which is what I hoped for. There were also two lecturers: in the morning Lewis Porter gave a lecture on jazz history, and in the afternoon Barry Harris talked about improvisation. Lewis was in the lobby when we arrived and I introduced myself and mentioned Safford's book (note: Lewis Porter was the editor of "An Unsung Cat"). Sonny and I then went to the "Green Room" where there was a nice layout of food and drink,
May 11, 2002, Green Room at Fine Arts Center, Stony Brook University
and I also checked my instrument, which needed new strings. We shared a dressing room, so I hung out in there alone for an hour, changed strings and warmed up.
I went out for a sound check at around 1:45 and then Sonny's band took the stage at about 2:05. They played four arrangements: "Jeanine," "Topsy," "Lament," and "I Could Write a Book." After that there were three adjudicators who were not terribly kind or helpful, but we all felt that we did the best that we could. As I was having a bite to eat after playing I found out that someone was videotaping the concert and selling tapes, so I ordered one and should have a copy in a month or so. Sonny and I left at around 4pm and went back to his house where I stayed until about 7:15. It was great to be there, I'm actually still amazed by it all in that when I think of how moving all of these experiences were to me, and that just over two weeks ago I had no idea I was going to do any of it. And the day wasn't over yet . ..
concert with Dowling College Jazz Ensemble – May 11, 2002
Dowling College Jazz Ensemble: "Topsy" – Stony Brook Jazz Festival, May 11, 2002 (video file)
After leaving Sonny's I drove into Manhattan to have dinner with a friend. We met at Bleecker and Thompson Streets in Greenwich Village, near the Village Gate and the Actor's Studio. There were lots of people about, and the energy level was very high. By that time I was quite hungry, so we went to a small Italian restaurant and sat and talked until 12:30 or so and then headed to my car. As I left town there was more traffic in the city at 1am than at 9pm! One image that caught my eye as I was stopped at a red light on 10th Ave. in the Chelsea area was an all-night car wash open on the corner with cars that were actually in line for a wash. New York!
On Sunday my mom and I went out for dinner in the evening to celebrate Mother's Day. I realize now that given what I felt in being there that I need to make a trip like that once a year or so just to renew myself, so a life as a performing jazz musician (and teaching also) remains something that I continue to think about.
Let me run but I hope you're well,
In recent years one of the most satisfying activities that I've been involved with related to jazz has been performing and speaking in schools. This started in May of 2004 when my older son Frank was turning seven and in first grade at Jefferson Elementary School in San Francisco. That particular performance was meant to be a surprise birthday present for him but I had been planning it through the school year with his teacher (who was a jazz fan and enthusiast). We decided to schedule it without telling him, and I hired a bass player and drummer to come with me on his birthday. After signing in at the main office we quietly went upstairs and knocked on the classroom door at around 1:30. Frank answered the door and was very surprised and excited to see us, and said in a loud voice, "hey everybody, it's my dad and he's got a band with him!" We came in smiling and I introduced us as their "friendly neighborhood jazz group." I had planned a short program consisting of a tune from a recent Disney/Pixar movie (the theme from "Monsters Inc."), a feature for John Clark on bass ("Body and Soul") and a final tune ("These Are Soulful Days"). In between I gave some brief comments on two elements that for me define jazz and collectively set it apart from any other music: swing feeling and improvisation. We took a lot of questions from the kids, anywhere from the type of picks I use through questions about John's bass and also how much each of us has practiced over the years. Frank was thrilled and in terms of both making his birthday special and exposing young children to live jazz the event was a great success and also very moving and meaningful to me on a personal level. I remember Warne's continual emphasis on the future in his last years and can't think of a more fundamental way to have some influence on the future than teaching and exposing our children to art.
Given the success of that event I thought about doing it the next year and Frank took the lead on it this time: at the beginning of the school year he announced to his second grade teacher that I would be giving a concert for his birthday in May! For this event I was able to play in the school cafeteria for all the second grade classes. I decided to play a duo with John this time and concentrated on Disney material exclusively. We reprised the performance of the "Monsters Inc. " theme and for the rest of the talk used the song "Someday My Prince Will Come" as a vehicle. In discussing the tune I mentioned that a famous recording had been done by Miles Davis and asked if anyone knew who he was. Several hands quickly shot up and a young boy answered that he was studying the trumpet and that Miles was a famous jazz trumpet player. This was in a class of children mostly aged seven! I talked again about the feeling of swing, and also used "Someday My Prince Will Come" as a vehicle to demonstrate a jazz waltz (and featured John). We closed the performance with the same tune, however we played it in a faster 4/4 treatment to show that jazz musicians had a lot of freedom when interpreting music.
John Clark /John Klopotowski
John Klopotowski/John Clark: "Someday My Prince Will Come" – Jefferson Elementary School, San Francisco, May 6, 2005 (video file)
I remember that one of the children asked what improvising was, and my reply was to compare improvising jazz with acting in a play: we have a story to tell but with only a few lines that we had to say, the rest we were going to make up as we went along. But however we did it, we needed to tell the story. Later that afternoon I remember sitting alone at home for awhile, somewhat overwhelmed by what I had just experienced. At this relatively later date in my life and the development of jazz I often wonder "whither jazz?" (to paraphrase Leonard Bernstein from his Norton Lectures at Harvard) but am firmly convinced that the living art that has been and is so much a part of my life needs to stay alive and be passed along to the younger generations. I look forward to continuing these sorts of activities for some time to come.
Part II - Studies in Jazz Improvisation
"… But there's more than that. There's the feeling inside the music too.
And the final thing, it's the way those two feelings come together."
– Sidney Bechet on jazz improvisation (continued from Part I)
1 - Finding the Melody
I would like to start with a brief overview as introduction to the discussion of the musical material that I worked through with Warne. In the context of the larger goals that I was seeking to achieve in studying with him I always kept the following quote in mind from his December, 1981 interview on WYRS: "it's like this – each of us has his own melody in us, somewhere, and the point of education is to crystallize it, to bring it to the surface …"
Warne Marsh: Interview excerpt
Warne's concept of a player's "own melody" is also mentioned in this passage from a book review written in 2002 by New York jazz pianist George Ziskind:
Out of Nowhere: The Musical Life of Warne Marsh, by Marcus M. Cornelius
Reviewed by George Ziskind
"The world has gone mad today and good's bad today . . ."
Aside from the fact that Cole Porter wrote those words in 1934 as part of the bridge of "Anything Goes" (and the words are truer than ever in 2002!), this snip of lyric also can be connected to - I can still hardly believe it - one of my major heroes, tenor saxophonist Warne Marsh. Surely the world must have gone mad in order for two wonderful and excellent books to have been published within a two year period about this elusive, hard for some to understand, vastly underrated master jazz improviser.
First came "An Unsung Cat" by Californian Safford Chamberlain. (Chamberlain interviewed Branford Marsalis as part of the research for the book; at the mention of Warne's name, Marsalis paused for a few beats and said, "Wow. .. that's really an unsung cat!") And now we have a second book, this time authored by Warne Marsh appreciator/devotee/expert Marcus M. Cornelius of Australia. Its title - rife with implied asides - is "Out of Nowhere: The Musical Life of Warne Marsh."
The barest of the bare bones of the Warne Marsh story could be put like this: he was born into a movie business family, met (trumpeter) Don Ferrera while in the army who, seemingly as part of some pre-destined and other-worldly continuum, hooked him up with Lennie Tristano - and he was off and running on the path to posterity.
Though Warne remained a lifelong proponent of Lennie's teaching methods, he added his own "melody" (he used that word to denote the totality of one's musical conception), an original and highly unique method of improvisation that played hob with meter, with which notes were "legal" to use in one's improv, and with the very tenor saxophone sound he produced—surely like none other on earth, yet the one sound to properly present the brilliance of his playing.
Before I met Warne I had not heard the word "melody" used in this way, and obviously his use of the word connotes much more than the textbook definition gives us. When I first met Sonny Dallas he frequently would refer to a player's "line," and I believe the two terms carried similar meanings and associations for both Warne and Sonny. The creative use of terminology aside, I was quite struck when I heard Warne make the statement in the interview excerpt regarding both the point of education and the function of the teacher as I had not heard any teacher articulate a philosophy or approach like that before. When I thought the matter over, it seemed to me that all the education I had experienced up until that time was more concerned with putting information and knowledge into me, and only secondarily with how I would then synthesize and express that knowledge. To be fair, there were definitely great teachers that I had worked with before then who were interested in my 'soul' (prior to studying with Warne the most recent had been Sonny), but even with those teachers it seemed that if I were to develop a unique voice in the course of the work that more than anything it would be something that could not be planned for, and really not a focus of studies. Over the ensuing years though I have continued my interest in education and subsequently found that the original meaning of the term "educate" is from the Latin term educare, which is translated as "to draw out." To me this is clearly what Warne was getting at, and he credited Lennie Tristano with introducing him to the concept. Once I heard Warne's interview I was very curious as to whether he could help me in this way, and if so then specifically how that might happen.
As I understand the process now, it involved the combination of a few regular activities or disciplines that were suggested or assigned by Warne, along with ensuing in-depth discussion in lessons of what happened as a result of that work. I hoped then that following the path that Warne established could lead ultimately to the result of crystallizing my own melody, and also thought that this was what he was suggesting in my first lesson when he mentioned that there was a "place for me to go." There were primarily four areas or disciplines that I worked on that could lead to this sort of transformation or growth, and with patience and trust in what Warne was teaching a sense of an individual voice began to grow. The four disciplines are:
- slow improvising
- singing and playing classic recorded solos from the jazz repertoire
- meter studies
My hope also gradually evolved into faith in the total "method" or system, and I believe that this work can help any jazz improviser to develop into a better and more individual player. It is clear to me that this sort of development is primarily internal, and needs to be done alone and with full contemplation on the work. As an aside, I think that inner growth of this sort would be hard to experience if only performing or playing at sessions with other players, or with the focus on development being primarily external. With my background at that time both as an instrumentalist (with many hours of solitary practice under my belt) and composition student (also with many hours spent alone working at a desk and/or piano) the discipline that Warne suggested was not new or uncomfortable to me. That said, much patience and diligence was required, and I needed to be primarily focused on what I was doing at any given moment, while also keeping my larger objectives in mind. This part of the book will treat the four areas mentioned above separately and in as much detail as I can recall, and I have also added a few other areas of inquiry that were fundamental to the work we did.
2 - Types of improvising: melodic, rhythmic, harmonic, formal
To continue, I believe it is important to consider the musical dimensions where jazz improvisation can take place. Some of these are quite familiar to many of us (such as melodic improvisation), however the others may not be so obvious. Warne's point of view on each of these elements of music was characteristically unique, and as a starting point his use of the term "melody" as detailed in the preceding section carried a very different set of associations than are generally implied. That said, even in considering a conventional definition of melody (according to dictionary. com: "a rhythmically organized sequence of single tones so related to one another as to make up a particular phrase or idea") I hope that the musical examples of Warne's playing and writing that have been offered to support this text will foster an appreciation of his unique approach in improvising melodies or jazz lines. It is also clear that Warne's work and approach to rhythm is an extension of his work and studies with Lennie Tristano, and taken together their contributions comprise a highly individual approach to rhythm and meter in the context of jazz. Rhythm is addressed in detail in the section covering meter studies, however in the interest of overview I was struck that in answering my questions on rhythm in our first lesson that Warne tied in both the harmonic and melodic dimensions to their rhythmic expression, and in working through the meter studies it was clear that melody, rhythm, and harmony were inseparable.
Regarding harmonic improvisation there are a few ways that the term might be interpreted, and these generally can be divided between the functions of a soloist as opposed to those of a rhythm section player in a jazz group. In Warne's view, as a soloist he would rather play within a simple underlying harmonic context that would leave him free to improvise harmonic structures in his lines (in fact, the only other harmonic instrument in many of his recordings or performances was a bass). Since the song forms used as background structures were generally standards that were popular in jazz this more took the shape of improvising extensions of harmonies that could take the melodic line and therefore the background harmonic structure into polytonal regions. His approach is in contrast to that taught to me by Sonny Dallas, and Sonny drew many of his ideas on jazz chord substitution from his work with jazz pianist George Wallington, one of the foremost followers of Bud Powell. In that approach to harmonic improvising the underlying harmonies of a song form would be re-worked, and this was generally according to new approaches to the ii-V harmonic movement. In the following video clip Warne discusses some of the ideas regarding jazz harmony that were evolving in the 1940's:
Warne Marsh: Interview excerpt on harmonic improvisation (video clip)
Ideas of chord substitution prevalent in bebop can generally be traced back to Bud Powell and before him Art Tatum, however the highest level of using chord substitutions in this way would be to improvise the harmonies (or spontaneously substitute new harmonies) within a song. Harmonic improvising of this sort requires an extraordinary level of empathy on the part of the players in a group, but could either confuse a soloist, or (in the case of players such as Warne and Lee Konitz) ultimately confine them. Warneonce remarked to me in a cynical tone regarding many of the younger guitarists that he would play with that "they actually think I need them to comp for me." That said, he was very comfortable playing with pianists Lennie Tristano, Ronnie Ball, Sal Mosca, Lou Levy, Hank Jones, and Susan Chen as equal partners.
Regarding the improvising of form, this is a topic where Lennie Tristano's influence on Warne as a teacher and jazz player is quite clear. Lennie is often cited in jazz history texts as the first creator and proponent of "free jazz" and this is a result of two recordings that he made with his sextet in 1949 for Capitol Records, "Intuition" and "Digression."
Lennie Tristano Sextet: "Digression", NYC, 1949
Warne describes the process of recording these pieces in the following interview excerpt; he also mentions how the pieces are examples of the improvising of form:
Warne Marsh: Interview excerpt on free improvisation and the Capitol recordings (video clip)
Finally, please keep in mind that while it is true that the parameters of improvising melody, rhythm, harmony, and form naturally dissect the music for purposes of analysis, all the parameters are synthesized into a whole "concept" in any performance, even when practicing alone. One of the primary avenues to working on this synthesis is the discipline of slow improvising, the subject of the next section.
In our first lesson Warne introduced me to two practice disciplines that were quite new to me: the first he called "meter work," and the second is what he referred to that day as "slow improvising." As a connection to the present, I think it's worth noting that I still regularly engage in slow improvising as a fundamental practice discipline. (This is in contrast to the meter work which was a 'once-through' type of study. )I came to believe that slow improvising is one of the most important things a player can do in order to experience spontaneous playing on a regular basis and develop through the process.
In playing for Warne on that first visit to Bretton Hall I chose "You Stepped Out of a Dream," and it was after my playing and Warne's general response that he mentioned slow improvising for the first time. Now up until that moment I don't remember playing much at all alone with a metronome, however for some reason I started doing it in preparation for meeting Warne. So in the week or so leading up to meeting with him I would put the metronome on and choose a standard to play, however the tempo would generally be the tempo that I would perform a particular tune. (For example, if the tune were "Lennie's Pennies" the tempo would be fast). Warne's suggestion was to take the standards that I was playing and improvise alone on the harmonic structures with the metronome beating a slow quarter note tempo (generally between 60 and 80 to the quarter note). His comments on the value of this discipline were that he felt it was the best way that he knew to start developing a "single-time" concept (this is further discussed in the 2/4 meter study section). He also suggested that I spend about half of my practice time in slow improvising at that stage of my development as a player.
So I took his advice and have practiced regularly in this way since then, although the restrictions on tempo, and indeed even using the metronome, have loosened somewhat. Some of my subjective reactions though are that playing in this way began to connect me to my unique individual voice. Up until then, I suppose I was somewhat aware that I had a voice as a player, but I was not at all in the habit of focusing on it in this way. So in the beginning just the act of allowing it to speak (or more precisely, sing) was highly liberating, and it seemed that it very much wanted to be heard, and in fact still does. (I never fail to have a self-deprecating chuckle when I re-read that line …)Playing in this way is intensely intimate, in fact in its essence is a solitary activity. However, it is from this type of playing that a sense of our individual voice can emerge, and for me I got to know very well when I was connected to it fully, or in varying degrees, not. In an interesting paradox, when playing with full focus and concentration there is a somewhat strange feeling of not being conscious about what is happening, or more precisely, consciously directing what is happening or being played. I do realize that we are always conscious in some way, but Warne would be quick to offer the comment that "I could hear you thinking" whenever my playing wasn't of the purest creative feeling. In this regard, I developed a notable sensation of "surrender" as I practiced slow improvising over a long period of time, and this also came about through Warne's comments and encouragement.
It struck me immediately though that this practice discipline would also yield significant results both in self-awareness and the chance to reach another level creatively. A good example that I can cite in this regard is Lennie Tristano's recording of "Line Up." When I was working on playing this solo Warne mentioned to me that Lennie had created the recording by playing over pre-recorded tapes that Peter Ind (bass) and Jeff Morton (drums) had made, however he played the tape back at half-speed and then slow improvised in the lower register of the piano and recorded the result. When Lennie then played the tape back at double the speed we have the final product, and it is remarkable. In the fairly early stages of my studies with Warne I experimented with this technique and found it interesting to record myself, and listen back at both regular and double speeds. I bought a used reel-to-reel tape recorder around that time and had the idea to overdub myself on a pre-recorded practice LP of Charlie Parker tunes. Unusual as it is, a recording I made then is one of the few that I was happy with around that time, and I took it as a model or goal of how I would like to sound in 'real-time' at some future point.
John Klopotowski: "Liberty Ave."/ recorded in 1982 in Port Jefferson, NY
I would also like to include an edited example of Warne, and this is a solo chorus taken from a recording with Red Mitchell of "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You." It was obvious to me that Warne had spent years practicing slow improvising and one result is that he could produce solo choruses that were marvels of spontaneity and creativity that also give the sense that no other instruments or players are needed to create a full and complete musical expression:
Warne Marsh (excerpt): "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You"/ Fasching Club, Stockholm, April 19, 1980
As I progressed in lessons Warne would adjust the amount of time that I would spend on various parts of the work, and by the end of my studies I was spending perhaps 80% of my practice time in slow improvising.
1 – Polymetric overview
As Warne and I were becoming acquainted in my first lesson he asked how he might help me with my playing. Part of my response was that since first hearing Lennie Tristano on recordings, and then some of Warne's own recordings, I had been fascinated by a sense that the downbeat was being shifted in the course of the improvised line, and yet the structure of the song form was always intact. At the time the best description of this quality that I had came from Sonny Dallas: he called this kind of rhythmic shifting in the melodic line 'playing on the wrong side of the bar line. 'Warne's response about this was that when he and others were studying with Lennie in the later 1940's that some of the exercises involved a method of practicing melodic fragments and patterns that he called "meter work." He then expanded on the subject and offered these details: Lennie took all the possible meters beginning with 3/8 up through 7/4 (expanding successively in eighth notes: 3/8, 2/4, 5/8, 3/4, 7/8, 4/4, 9/8, 5/4, etc. ) and then practiced melodic patterns and fragments in these meters, however always in the overall context of 4/4 time. The subject matter of this section is based on these studies in as much detail as I can remember, and as a general comment I believe that this work amounts to musical training that develops the capacity to feel or perceive two meters simultaneously. That said, awareness of the 'primary downbeat' (or 'the one' in musician slang) is always required, and as I worked through the studies the question Warne would repeatedly ask as I performed them for him was whether I felt where the downbeat was located in the context of 4/4 time. To test me he would also stop me at any given point in a phrase and ask which bar and beat I had just played.
The course of the meter studies consisted of working through variations on a small set of melodic patterns, first in the simple quarter-note meters (2/4, 3/4, 4/4), and then progressing to the asymmetrical quarter-note meters (5/4 and 7/4). Once those were covered we then studied the eighth-note meters, and finally worked on combining some of the meters into phrases that mixed them together. Warne described many of the "lines" or jazz compositions of Lennie Tristano, Lee Konitz, Ted Brown, himself, and others as being compositional studies or assignments in combining meters in this way and were written over harmonic structures of standard songs popular in jazz at the time.
2 – Polytonal overview
If the meter studies can be thought of as learning to use a polymetric rhythmic language in jazz improvising, there was also a polytonal melodic and harmonic language that formed the basis for the musical material that was practiced in this way. As a start, the rhythmic variations were practiced in all one-octave major and harmonic minor scales, however the basic one-octave scales become polytonal when the patterns are extended beyond the octave.
Next, along with the two major and minor "modes" another way of practicing the melodic and rhythmic patterns was through the functions of tonic major and minor harmonies, and also three alterations of dominant harmonies. Along with the one-octave major and minor scales, these were the five basic "chord forms" that all the material was practiced in, and this was done in twelve keys. Following are some details on each harmony:
1 – Tonic major:
To start, let's consider this harmony:
In some systems of jazz harmonic terminology this would be called a "C Major13+11" arpeggio, however Warne referred to this chord as an extended tonic major harmony. The organizing principle is the superimposition of overlapping tonal centers in a series of 5th relationships: C Major, G Major, D Major, and if there is room available on an instrument, A Major. The available notes would then form the chord shown above however one notable difference with other systems used in teaching jazz improvisation is that the scale that corresponds with this harmony contains some different available notes in each octave:
Therefore, the high C# in the harmony or arpeggio is not "heard" or felt as a dissonance, but rather as "a note you can sit on" as Warne described it, or in more traditional terms a note that can serve as resolution to a phrase provided that it is prepared properly.
2 – Tonic minor:
The tonic minor harmonic center is the simplest of the five harmonies, in this case the melodic minor scale of the key is used in both octaves to define the key center, and all notes are the same in each octave:
The tonic minor sound is important on its own, however also forms the basis for the dominant harmony alterations.
3 – Dominant 1:
In more standard terms this first dominant harmony could be described as C13+11, however in the polytonal context Warne described this harmony as the combination of a tonic minor sound built on the 5th degree of the associated dominant 7th chord. So the scale associated with this harmony would begin as a C Major scale, however once the note G was reached in the lower octave the scale tones from that point would be identical to a G tonic Minor (or G melodic minor) scale:
This has some similarities to a mode used by jazz players called the "Lydian Dominant" scale, however just as the Tonic Major scale would have different pitches in each octave this scale would as well. This sound is the most conventional of the three altered dominant sounds and as a subjective comment it is the least dissonant of the three.
4 – Dominant 2:
The second dominant alteration is derived by superimposing a Tonic Minor extended harmony beginning on the flatted 7th chord tone of the dominant chord. As the example above shows this moves the material into the area of Bb tonic minor, however in the context of a C dominant 7th chord. Warne thought this sound was significant beyond the second octave because the #9th tone (transposed an octave higher) becomes available when played as an arpeggio, and is also available an octave lower when played as a scale:
The altered chord tones available are the b9 and #9 primarily.
5 – Dominant 3:
This final altered dominant 7th chord is actually used quite a bit in jazz, although again not exactly in the context taught by Warne. The idea here is to superimpose a tonic minor scale/arpeggio beginning on the b9 of the dominant chord, so if the lower chord is C7 then the superimposed tonic minor scale would begin on either Db or C# in the second octave. Also, the segment of this scale from C in the second octave to the C above the staff is sometimes called the "super Locrian" scale. However, as in the other polytonal harmonies the available notes in this harmony/scale change depending on the octave, so we begin with a C7 scale (either mixolydian mode on C, or dominant harmony #1 in this explanation) but move into Db melodic minor in the second octave once the b9 chord tone is available. As in the second dominant harmony Warne liked the additional altered chord tones in the third octave, in this case the b9 and #11 (both transposed up an octave) of the C7 chord.
The first steps in working with this material would be to slowly play through the twelve major and twelve harmonic minor scales, first forward and then backward (or upward and downward), and it is essential to do everything slowly at first. Along with these scales a player should also go through basic 7th chord arpeggios: tonic major, tonic minor, and dominant seventh, and these should also be played in all keys. A second method of working through the material is to introduce the piano (or a keyboard). A good way to get these sounds into the ear is to play the basic harmony in the left hand, and the scale being studied in the right hand (slowly). The voice and ear should be involved as well at this point, so all of this material should be sung, however singing in one key is fine as learning to perceive and perform the intervallic relationships are the most important things when training the ear. In order to sing the scales and arpeggios one should find a pitch in the lower part of their vocal range and use that tone as the root.
By the way, even though I've spent some time explaining a polytonal and polyrhythmic language for jazz improvisation, Warne remarked to me once that 'a lot of great music can be played within the seventh. 'I took this to mean that a player should be very comfortable with all the materials within an octave before expanding on that material. Also, if I were to draw a rhythmic parallel, Warne thought that in the beginning stages of study the majority of attention should be on developing the "single-time" line, and this term refers to the improvised melodic line made up of phrases consisting of quarter notes, eighth notes, and their equivalent rests.
To summarize then, a player should be able to both sing and play the one octave major scale and the harmonic and melodic minor scales in all keys, and also the tonic major, tonic minor, and dominant seventh arpeggios in all keys. This should be done slowly at first, for example in eighth-note subdivisions at a tempo of 60 to the quarter note on the metronome. To develop instrumental facility a basic requirement is to be able to play all of this material in eighth-notes at the highest speed on the metronome. A player will need more facility than this as they move forward, but acquiring instrumental technique should be a natural progression as the material is practiced.
This beginning 'work' or study becomes quite interesting when the scales and arpeggios are expanded beyond an octave. Once comfortable with the material within the octave I encourage taking each of the five extended harmonies discussed in the polytonal overview and working through them in the same way: playing slowly upward and downward, as a keyboard harmony study, and also singing.
Next steps - basic melodic patterns
The next preparatory step in the meter work is to become familiar with a small set of basic melodic patterns. There are three of these, and they each consist of four-note groups or melodic patterns that can be moved in both directions through either a scale or chord. We use numerical scale designations to describe these patterns as this kind of description easily allows transposition to all keys and chord forms. (For example, when referring to scale tones in the key of C Major then 1=C, 2=D, 3=E, etc. ; in the key of C Minor 1=C, 2=D, 3=Eb, etc. )
Using the numerical tone designations, the first pattern is 3-1-3-1, and this shape will be moved upward and downward through all scales and chords and in all keys. Here is the beginning of the first pattern as it is moved upward through the C Major scale and also the C tonic major harmony:
When this pattern is treated as a piece of basic or generative source material it will yield significant results because when applied to the meter studies it can be considerably altered rhythmically. We are still in the preparatory stage though, so the first steps here are to move the pattern upward through all the combinations of scales and chord forms that have been discussed.
For a full treatment Warne also had me invert the pattern and to do this I moved it as a 1-3-1-3 shape however downward through all the material I just mentioned. Here is the beginning of the inverted pattern being moved downward through both the C Major scale and the C tonic minor extended harmony:
C major scale:
C tonic minor harmony:
I do realize that if one were to work through all of what I have described in the last few paragraphs that it could take a great deal of time. I myself struggled with this material in the first week of study with Warne as my routine or practice was to go through all of it in all the keys every day. This took many hours, and I didn't find the material all that friendly in terms of getting under my fingers, not to mention the mental gymnastics I went through to both understand and produce it. When I went to see Warne the next week he asked how the work went and my response was something along the lines of 'that was possibly the hardest I've worked on something in a week, and the most frustrated I've ever been because of my lack of comprehension of it! 'He didn't seem to be happy with that response and asked why I didn't call him immediately. I then described what I did each day, he was normally exceedingly quiet but when he heard this he immediately chided me in a concerned way for being so methodical about it all. While he felt it was important for me to be disciplined about the work, one of the points he often repeated to me then and for some time to come concerned the importance of being "loose." I offer these stories as a way of tempering any sense of oppressiveness about the meter work. Practicing these exercises really is meant to be a discipline that promises meaningful freedom in improvising as an end result, and also a systematic way of "working with your material" (Warne's quote).
In addition to the pattern 3-1-3-1 ascending and its inversion (1-3-1-3) descending, we next worked on the figure 3-4-3-1 in the same way (ascending):
3-4-3-1 moved upward through C Major scale:
The inverted form of the pattern is 1-7-1-3, in this example moved downward through the C Major scale:
The third pattern is a familiar jazz melodic idea: 1-2-3-5. Here is an example of it being moved upward through the beginning of the F tonic minor extended harmony:
The inversion, 5-4-3-1, starts on the 5th of the scale or chord. The following example moves this figure downward through the G harmonic minor scale:
This pattern is known widely as one that John Coltrane used extensively in his recorded solo on "Giant Steps" and other performances, however it is a basic musical idea.
The second and third patterns should be treated like the first: played in twelve keys through the basic major and minor scales and the five extended chord forms and associated scales. Once again, it is important to go through the material slowly, to play it as a keyboard harmony study, and if so moved to sing it in one key. Also, to pick up on the story of my first two lessons, it is encouraged to be somewhat free or random rather than methodical in working through the material. Still, a player needs to be honest with themselves when practicing, and I knew that at lessons Warne could ask me to play any of the material in any key, and I prepared myself accordingly. Moving forward then, when a level of comfort is reached then the next step is to work on the first basic meter, 2/4 time over 4/4 time.
Beginning Meter Studies – the 2/4 work in eighth notes
When Warne first explained the nature of the meter work I asked the question "why 2/4?" and his answer was that any of the 4-note patterns formed the smallest viable musical idea that he could work with in terms of 'organizing the material. 'The details of the 2/4 meter work involve taking the phrases that were described in the last section and first playing them in eighth notes beginning in four different starting positions in a measure of 4/4 meter:
a) starting on the first beat
b) starting on the eighth note before the first beat (the "and" of 4)
c) starting on the fourth beat of the measure before the first beat (the upbeat)
d) starting on the eighth note before the fourth beat in the pickup measure (the "and" of the third beat)
Regarding the fourth starting point, Warne felt that the middle of the third beat in the pickup bar to the first full bar was the earliest a phrase could be initiated without feeling like the pickup bar was the actual first measure. (When he said this I immediately thought of the bebop line "Donna Lee": the melody begins on the third beat, not as pickup to the first bar but on the third beat of bar 1. )
In terms of performance, it became clear to me that I was learning to simultaneously feel or be aware of two aspects of musical time: the location of the 4/4 downbeat (or the "1"), and also the location of the phrase and note being played. I had never encountered a system of thought anything like this before studying with Warne, however if even the simplest piece of music is considered it is clear that these two levels of rhythmic awareness are always being developed simultaneously, even if unconsciously. The systematic logic of the meter work takes this awareness to entirely new levels though, and also made it clear that I needed to learn to 'feel' this awareness as opposed to thinking about it consciously.
This brings me to a point that is crucial in going through the meter work, and also was quite startling to me when I first experienced it. To pick up the thread of the story of my early lessons with Warne, I suppose it was the third lesson where I actually started performing the 2/4 studies for him. To recap, the first lesson was introductory in nature, where he revealed some large areas that I would work in should I choose to continue, and in the second lesson I performed some of the patterns that he explained in the first lesson, however not yet in the context of the 2/4 work. So in the third lesson I showed up in New York ready to go through the material and move on to the next steps, and had conjured up a possible complex scenario of applying this system to improvising that could potentially have me practicing diligently for the rest of my life. When we then came to going over the material Warne asked me to play some of it, and he would randomly call out a key and either a scale or harmony to move a pattern through along with one of the four starting points in the measure (for instance, "3-4-3-1 up the E Major scale starting on 1," or "1-3-1-3 down the third altered dominant on Ab starting on 4"). As I went through a few different versions of these he would stop me and ask what beat I had ended on as a check point. When we seemed to be finished with that portion of the lesson he looked at me with his normally serious expression and asked: "do you think you have it?" I said "yes," and his next sentence surprised me – "OK … then never play it again." I probably looked quite dumbfounded, so he went on (I need to paraphrase here): "the important thing in your playing is to improvise completely, and if you practice this material too much you run the risk of becoming mechanical as opposed to spontaneous in your approach to improvising. So learn it once, then forget it. But before you can forget it you have to be sure that you've really learned it." As a comment, there were many things that Warne would say to me then that took some time to understand. Sometimes the understanding would come on the two-hour drive home, or the next day, or perhaps later in the week. In terms of the absolute nature of "improvising" as he referred to it, my recollection is that it took at least six months for me to understand Warne conceptually, and actually a few more years to feel that it was showing up in my playing on a regular basis. So when he first instructed me to "play it once and forget it" I was caught off-guard but I trusted his advice.
The next stage of the meter work was my first exposure to organized polyrhythmic playing, and this involved performing the 4-note patterns as eighth-note triplets played in 4/4 time and starting at different points in the measure.
2/4 triplet work
Once I had gone through the 2/4 studies in eighth notes the next assignment or level of the work was to practice the same set of patterns as triplet eighth notes in 2/4. Now, there is no lack of simple triplet melodic material to practice, however the three patterns (and inversions) that Warne had given me immediately create a complex polyrhythmic feeling or 'environment' because the four-note figures are grouped as units of the three-note triplet subdivision of the beat. If you first work through this either listening internally or tapping on your knees you'll hear what I mean. For instance, if we start with any of the three patterns and play them as triplet eighth notes starting on the first beat we would separate from the quarter note pulse within the first two beats of the bar and not reunite or 'synch' back up with the pulse until the downbeat of the next measure. When we continue this 'pattern' the phrase would then separate again and reunite on the downbeat of the next measure. So this level of the meter work is a perfect example of the difference between the terms polyrhythm and polymeter. In my understanding a polyrhythmic phrase features extended groupings of notes with subdivisions of the beat other than eighth or sixteenth notes while the term polymeter suggests the feeling of two meters being played at once (for example 5/8 over 4/4. )The idea or 'concept' of polymeter will become more clear when we advance to discussing meters other than 2/4, however when I went through this stage of my studies with Warne I began to get a glimpse of the possibilities that could come out of the polyrhythmic and polymetric nature of the meter work.
The actual technical assignment was fairly simple - Warne directed me to practice the 2/4 triplet work by playing phrases beginning in two places:
a) starting on the first beat of the 4/4 measure, and
b) starting on the second beat of the 4/4 measure
This phase of the meter studies was also interesting to me in that I think it may have been my first organized exposure to practicing 'across the bar line' phrases. 'Playing across the bar line' was a description that I often encountered in the various articles, liner notes, reviews, etc. that I had read concerning Lennie Tristano's music and teaching. Sonny Dallas had first introduced me to the concept in my lessons with him, and one of my basic assignments/practices then was to improvise through the various harmonic progressions with different rhythmic phrases that he provided. The 'across the bar line' phrase would start after the beginning of a measure, continue through the next chord change or series of chord changes, and come to a stop or resolution somewhere within a later measure rather that at the beginning of one. This gave a melodic line a separate identity from the underlying harmonic structure and was in Sonny's mind (and generally accepted in jazz teaching) a vital quality that would help give a soloist independence from the song form and also the rhythm section. Those sorts of phrases can be heard in all the classic jazz recordings, and Lester Young's playing is probably the foremost earliest example of this sort of combined melodic/rhythmic approach. It was obvious to me that as we moved through the work and the meters became more complex that the 'across the bar line' fluency that a player could develop was significant. This quality is highly noticeable in Lennie's playing and writing, hence the mention of that description in the literature I had encountered.
So at my next lesson we spent some time going through this material and Warne would again stop me at various points and ask me to identify my location in the measure I was playing. By the way, we always set the metronome at a relatively slow tempo (quarter note = 80 for instance) and had it 'beat' quarter notes. As time went on I was developing a good feeling for the material so there were no problems in doing what Warne would ask, and he repeated his advice not to continue practicing the material once I had learned it. He then assigned the next level of the work, which was a sixteenth-note or double-time study.
2/4 'double-time' work – 16th notes
Perhaps five or six weeks had gone by at this point in my lessons, and while in retrospect this isn't all that long of a time it was clear to me that the total work we were doing had a lot of depth to it and was taking me somewhere. So as we arrived at the point where I would tackle double-time studies in the 2/4 meter work it was taking less explanation from Warne for me to understand what he wanted me to do. In that regard then, the double-time work essentially replicates the eighth note level of the work, however the player should be thinking in 16th notes, and if possible performing the work at twice the speed of the 8th note level.
Like much of what I was doing in the lessons with Warne, I had never encountered an organized way of working on double-time phrases. That said, I think all jazz students are very aware of double-time as a concept and my guess is that the familiarity with Charlie Parker's contributions to the music have a lot to do with that. However, I had never heard the phrase 'single-time' before I met Warne, and I thought that the term and idea were ingenious and both very pertinent to my developing abilities and also really for any player if they were to consider the implications. Warne made a couple of basic points in this regard, the first being that until a player firmly establishes their single-time line then it was not advisable to venture into double-time territory. The next point was that ideally the double-time line would not be all that different in makeup from the single-time line, it would just be moving at twice the speed, and in the ideal there should be consistency in single-time and double-time phrases in terms of construction. This was clear to me from listening to some of Bird's recorded solos at half-speed in that the double-time phrases were quite consistent in character with the eighth-note phrases, and were not what I would call 'passage work' as it is described in classical music (technically difficult filler that can lack elegance in construction).
The actual double time 2/4 work was quite like the single time work, i. e. the scales and harmonies were performed as before, and the phrases were to be started in four different spots in a measure:
a) starting on the first beat of a 4/4 measure
b) starting on the sixteenth note before the first beat
c) starting on the middle of the fourth beat of the measure before the first beat
d) starting on the second sixteenth note of the fourth beat in the pickup measure
When I came into New York for the next lesson we went through the material, and I was aware that we had finished the 2/4 portion of the meter work. Warne mentioned this and asked if I felt that I understood everything we had done, and I said yes. He then said that I should take all of that material and use it as a source for composing a thirty-two bar 'line' or jazz composition over a jazz standard of my choice. I will detail this process in the section on composition, but I was surprised and excited, and felt somewhat rewarded for getting that far in the work. As Warne explained it, now that I had gone through the 2/4 work he would add composition to the things I was doing and I would write a piece on roughly a weekly basis. He mentioned that writing was a regular part of Lennie's lessons, and that some of the well-known lines from his students were written originally as assignments for lessons. For example, he mentioned that Lennie was teaching Lee Konitz about the diminished scale in the later 1940's and he asked Lee to write a line using that scale. Lee came in with "Subconscious Lee," a classic piece in the jazz literature (written over the harmonic structure of "What Is This Thing Called Love?").
So I went home and thought over the assignment and decided to write something on the chord changes to "Back Home in Indiana." This was a tune that I enjoyed playing and would improvise on regularly. I used much of the material that we had gone through in the meter work to that point and produced a line that I brought in the next week (and subsequently titled "Bretton Hall"). Warne's reaction was characteristically reserved: after I played the line he nodded and said to do another for my next lesson. I found out in later lessons though that if he didn't like something he would say so immediately and most likely go through the piece phrase by phrase with comments. As review I also revisited "Bretton Hall" with him many months later and mentioned that it was the first line that I had written for lessons. He smiled and asked, "that was the first line you wrote?", implying his approval.
John Klopotowski: "Bretton Hall"/ recorded in 2002 with Louis Aissen, organ, Bob Scott, drums
Moving on – combinations of 2/4: 4/4 and 6/4 meters
The next stages in the meter work involved combining the 2/4 materials in order to create 4/4 and 6/4 patterns. (There are other ways of creating 4/4 and 6/4 phrases, however we first began working on these meters as "compounds" of 2/4. )I should first mention that Warne called attention to the 6/4 meter in giving an overview of this next stage. Specifically he noted that a feeling of 6/4 against 4/4 can be created in two ways: a combination of two 3/4 phrases, or a combination of three 2/4 phrases. Since we had not yet worked on 3/4 meter we would at first be working on the second option, however 6/4 meter is probably most generally felt as a combination of 3/4 phrases. Warne also mentioned that in studying any of the quarter note meters beyond 4/4 (5/4, 6/4, and 7/4) that the phrases become quite long, and it takes some special attention in 'handling' them. He also advised that because of this it was not necessary to practice patterns in these meters all the way through the available scale and harmonic forms because it would be impractical. He would advise either discarding work that could result in mechanical or overly complex playing, or would not assign work that in his opinion would serve no useful purpose.
Warne's initial suggestions for creating 4/4 patterns was to combine any two of the 2/4 patterns into a longer phrase of four beats. The overview of the 4/4 work is then fairly easy to explain: once a phrase was created or chosen it could be practiced through all of the scale and harmonic forms in single-time, triplet, and double-time divisions of the beat and starting in the locations detailed in the 2/4 studies. The actual work though was fairly time consuming and took patience and perseverance in order to fully master. In terms of the patterns used Warne left it up to me to create them, but initially he had me take the three patterns that I studied in 2/4 and combine them into various 4/4 phrases. For example, if I took the 3-1-3-1 pattern:
and combined it with the 3-4-3-1 pattern:
the following 4/4 phrase would result:
This phrase would then be treated as the material was in the 2/4 studies, for example, moving the phrase upward through the C Major scale -
or inverting it -
and so on. As we had added composition to my work I would then use any of the material I was working on as potential source material for the lines I was writing.
6/4 meter took two forms and as I mentioned above this first look was based on combinations of three 2/4 patterns. In this stage the work followed naturally from the 4/4 work as combinations of the 2/4 patterns into longer phrases. So again, if the 3-1-3-1 pattern is taken as a starting point:
and then combined with two other patterns:
a 6/4 phrase is created. When moved upward through the scale, the result would start this way:
There are a couple of additional points worth mentioning in relation to 6/4. The first is that moving any pattern in this way will result in a long phrase (the phrase shown immediately above covers twelve beats in 4/4 time). Warne suggested as a general practice that phrases practiced in this way should be about fours bars long, and that is in the 4/4 "base" meter. So in the example shown above the phrase would finish after three "sequences" of the original pattern. Harmonic interest is a quality that we should be striving for, so in this case the extended harmonies serve as better source material than the scales since a broader harmonic range is covered in a phrase. Also, it can be challenging to create interesting melodic material in working through 6/4 in this way, so it is advisable to be creative and come up with new patterns.
Completing the quarter-note meters – 3/4, 5/4 and 7/4
These last three quarter-note meters provided ample opportunity to work on a new level of rhythmic practice, and since the meters involve odd-numbered groupings of beats the material is polymetric. These patterns also give a feeling of cross-accent which Warne would sometimes describe as "inflected meter," and this kind of rhythmic activity creates a feeling of another meter (and always an odd-numbered meter) that is superimposed on a 4/4 ground meter. There are several good examples of this sound in the composed lines of Lennie and Warne. As a first example I offer Warne's piece "Background Music." The underlying harmonic structure is from the song "All of Me":
Warne Marsh/Lee Konitz: "Background Music"/ line only
In considering the rhythmic structure of the line the first four bars use a phrase that consists of a 3/4 pattern over 4/4 time; the entire phrase is repeated at the start of the second half of the line (in bar 17), and then the feeling of 3/4 against or over 4/4 is used again in the last eight bars. I'll discuss potential melodic material that can be practiced from this line shortly, but first as an additional audio example here is Lennie's line "Back Home," which uses a similar rhythmic feeling (3/4 over 4/4) to start both the first phrase and the second half of the line:
Warne Marsh/Lee Konitz: "Back Home"/ line only
These two examples show many of the possibilities that can come from the meter work, and the first technical observation I will make is that along with being both excellent pieces of music and vehicles for improvisation the phrases demonstrate great skill at moving melodic material simultaneously through different harmonies while also stating a "cross meter" or alternate meter to the underlying 4/4 time. In that sense there is a definite sense of playfulness or humor to my ear, and I also think that performing this material successfully calls for an awareness of the rhythmic language that is being used.
The 3/4 meter work brought some new rhythmic feelings, and these were entirely in the area of inflected meter. The technique of suggesting a secondary meter in a phrase involves making that meter heard or felt through the use of accent, and in this case the accent would be placed on the first beat of each sequence in 3/4 (the secondary meter). The first task though was to come up with some basic 3/4 patterns and I did that initially by modifying the first three patterns that Warne gave me in the 2/4 studies. So 3-1-3-1:
can be extended to 3-1-3-1-3-1:
The other two basic patterns (3-4-3-1 and 1-2-3-5) can be modified in a couple of different ways, one would be to repeat the first two notes of the 2/4 pattern (3-4-3-4-3-1):
another would be to repeat the last two notes (3-4-3-1-3-1):
The starting points of each pattern within the 4/4 meter were also modified once I began work on 3/4, 5/4, and 7/4. Warne instructed me to practice each phrase in two ways, the first would begin on the first beat of the 4/4 measure, and the other would start on beat two of the 4/4 measure. This reminded me of one of my favorite lines that Lennie had composed, "Two Not One." Based on the standard tune "I Can't Believe That You're In Love With Me," this is one of his more complex efforts and in addition to featuring long eight-bar phrases each phrase starts on the second beat:
Warne Marsh/Lee Konitz: "Two Not One"/ line only
In terms of other melodic patterns, the lines "Background Music" and "Back Home" provided some excellent melodic material in 3/4 meter. In these cases I'll resort to traditional notation rather than numerical descriptions, however I did practice these figures in all major and minor keys and through the extended harmonies. Here is one of the patterns:
Warne described the pattern as '8-5 with an ornament (a turn) on the 5th degree,' and the total pattern lasts for three beats and then is played in sequence moving downward through a scale or chord. The example above moves through the A harmonic minor scale, and as notated there should be an accent placed on the first beat of each 3/4 pattern. This pattern is a slight variation on the first phrase in "Background Music":
5/4 meter is prominently heard in Lennie Tristano's composition "Victory Ball," written over the chord sequence of George Gershwin's standard "'S Wonderful" for the occasion of the Metronome All-Stars recording session of 1949.
Metronome All-Stars with Lennie Tristano and Charlie Parker: "Victory Ball"/ line only
"Victory Ball" is one of the clearest examples of Lennie's work in rhythm: the first phrase consists of a 5/4 meter pattern that starts with a tonic arpeggio up to the 9th of the chord followed by a descending scale passage, and then moves from the tonic harmony to the E diminished 7th harmony in the third bar while maintaining the feeling of 5/4 over 4/4:
In working on 5/4 I again needed some basic material for practice and as a start I took the 2/4 patterns and then combined them with the 3/4 patterns to form a couple of 5/4 patterns that worked for me. It is also worth noting that 5/4 meter is sometimes referred to as a "compound" meter, which means that it is derived from the combination of two simple meters, in this case 2/4 and 3/4. In a standard 5/4 measure the groupings of 2 + 3 or 3 + 2 are both possible depending on the context (for example, the Dave Brubeck piece "Take 5" works on a 3 + 2 grouping), so long as the total pattern adds up to five beats. The same is true in the meter studies however 4/4 remains the "primary" meter.
One of the first patterns I practiced was 1-2-3-5/3-4-3-1-3-1:
Regarding using some of this material for practice I also used the first phrase of "Victory Ball" and played it through all scales and harmonies. One last point with 5/4 is that just as with the 6/4 meter studies the 5/4 patterns covered a lot of space (or more precisely, time): an original pattern and two sequences would last for fifteen beats or almost four measures in 4/4 time. I didn't go beyond that length of phrase in any of the work that I did, however I did practice the 5/4 patterns starting on the downbeat of the first measure and also again from the second beat.
When a phrase in 7/4 time is played with one sequence the total number of beats covered adds up to fourteen, or more than three measures of 4/4 time. While I am sure that Lennie used some 7/4 material in his playing and writing I'm not aware of any examples that I might quote immediately. 7/4 then is also a compound meter like 5/4, and can be broken down in a few ways: 4 + 3, 3 + 4, 2 + 2 + 3, 2 + 3 + 2, and so on. A simple method for creating a few 7/4 patterns would be to start by combining a 4/4 pattern with a 3/4 pattern, however keep in mind that the 4/4 patterns were also combinations of two 2/4 patterns. So we are always working with fairly brief and germinal material, and I think this was one idea that Warne was trying to get across in the study: that simple ideas and fragments can become quite complex when treated in a polytonal and/or polyrhythmic context.
In the case of 7/4 I encourage any readers that are still practicing this material (I'm smiling as I write!) to come up with some combinations that result in 7/4 phrases. Remember that these are long phrases so they don't require many sequences, and probably work best when played through harmonies as opposed to scales.
Beginning the eighth note meters – 3/8 studies
Once I had finished the work on 7/4 we started the last phase of organized meter studies, and this was in the '8th note meters. 'As background, it can be noted that in most of these meters the underlying pulse is not felt in the individual 8th notes, but rather in various larger groupings of 8th notes. So in the 3/8 patterns the cross-rhythm or inflected meter would feel more like the secondary pulse is in dotted quarter notes (three 8th notes combined) and this secondary beat becomes 'out of sync' fairly quickly with the quarter note pulse in 4/4 meter. 3/8 meter is 'regular' though in the sense that the larger dotted quarter note pulse repeats and moves in and out of sync with the 4/4 pulse in equal time units. In comparison, the 5/8 and 7/8 meters group the larger beats into uneven units. One other characteristic of the 8th note meters is that the patterns move fairly quickly because the phrases are much shorter, and especially in comparison to the longer quarter note meters (5/4, 6/4, 7/4). 3/8 is then a good meter to study in terms of covering a large range whether in moving material through a scale or harmony.
The task of finding basic 3/8 patterns was simple since the first three patterns in the 2/4 studies could be easily modified:
3-1-3-1 = 3-1-3
3-4-3-1 = 3-4-3
1-2-3-5 = 1-2-3
These are very basic and can be further modified (for example, the inverted versions of each pattern work very well). As with 3/4 and the other odd-numbered quarter note meters I worked on this material starting in two spots in the bar: the first beat and the second beat, and also with inflected-meter accents.
As a start to discussing 5/8 meter I would like to offer another of Lennie Tristano's lines as an example: "All About You," composed over the harmonic structure of the standard "How About You?" Pay particular attention to the phrase that starts in bar 17.
Warne Marsh with Norwegian players: "All About You"/ line only
In some of his writing and playing Lennie was fond of using repeated figures that create a complex texture in which rhythmic tension is built and then resolved. In this particular line he does this at the beginning of the second half of the piece (bar 17) where there is a repeated figure in 5/8 over 4/4. This phrase also features the dissonance of the flatted third vs. the natural third, and lasts for eight bars that move the key temporarily to Bb Major from F Major. Lennie then creates a feeling of resolution in the 25th bar when the harmony comes back to the tonic key temporarily before referencing the subdominant once more in the next two bars. "All About You" is notable though for the passage starting in bar 17 that features the 5/8 figure.
There are many options for material to practice in 5/8, and one simple phrase would be to play ascending and descending scale fragments of five notes each through all the major and minor scales and harmonies. Another interesting option is to add an extra note to the original set of 2/4 patterns:
3-1-3-1 = 3-1-3-1-3
3-4-3-1 = 3-4-3-1-3
1-2-3-5 = 1-2-3-5-1 (or 1-2-3-5-3)
These figures all work well when played through either scales or harmonies because there are no repeated notes either in the pattern or in leading to the next group of each sequence. I encourage any players that are practicing the material to find your own patterns and fragments as well.
7/8 is perhaps the most complex meter studied in that it can be felt as some combination of 2/4 and 3/8 time, however the patterns are logical:
By the time we reached this stage of the meter work Warne had become progressively more relaxed in terms of assignments, and we spent a lot more time talking over the lines I was writing than in going through the patterns of each of the meters that I've been discussing in this section. As with all the meters and materials discussed to this point though I encourage any musician who is practicing this material to develop your own melodic patterns and fragments, both from the material I've given and also in whatever you might come up with on your own. And remember – after you've played it once correctly, forget it and don't play it again!
As a final example from the compositions of Lennie Tristano I offer the piece "Leave Me," written over the harmonic structure of the standard "Love Me or Leave Me." There are several obvious uses of inflected meter in this piece: the first eight bars use a repeated phrase in 7/8 meter over 4/4 (first used by Lennie as the opening phrase in "Turkish Mambo" on his 1955 LP), the second eight bars use a 5/4 phrase over 4/4, the bridge references 7/8 again (but with a more complex melodic figure), and the final eight bars feature a blues-inflected phrase in 3/4 over 4/4. However, it seems to me that the mastery in this line owes largely to Lennie's ability to integrate and transcend the technical features and create a valid and memorable piece of music that also serves as a starting point for improvised performance.
Warne Marsh/Sal Mosca Quartet: "Leave Me"/ line only
In conclusion then, the meter work is quite interesting on its own terms as a jazz study that can build "technique" and strikes me as being similar to studies of both counterpoint and harmony in traditional musical education. In my view the meter work in this way was meant to give a player the ability to feel more than one meter at once, become fluent in a polytonal environment, create a framework for working through a piece of material, and finally to stimulate ideas that could be used both in writing and in playing spontaneously. As a last musical example in this section here is a private recording of Warne playing "Leave Me" with a quartet in 1975 and then improvising several choruses using some of the material as a springboard to his unique and ingenious spontaneous imagination.
Warne Marsh: "Leave Me"
Singing recorded solos
This project has led to the forming of some new friendships, and one interesting person I've been in touch with is a saxophonist named Frank Tehan. Frank studied improvisation in 1959 with both Lennie Tristano and Lee Konitz and we have had many spirited communications around all of the topics in this book. Frank has also written an essay on learning to sing recorded jazz solos and I will use an excerpt as a starting point for my discussion of the topic:
Being in the company of a genius is a learning experience in itself: Lennie's integrity and dedication to music made a deep impression on me, but the study that affected me the most was the listening/singing process, the "sing-along," and ever since I have tried to really understand why. Connie Crothers told me that Lennie felt the sing-along process was his most important contribution as a teacher.
The sing-along process has two parts that are then blended into one. Focused and repeated listening to recorded solos allows the hearer to take the feeling of the music deep within, and the singing with the solo allows the hearer to express what is taken in. The singing can be the beginning to learning how to express music through oneself, and becomes the bridge to expressing music, eventually one's own music, through an instrument. It is as if the sing-along process not only opens a door to letting music in, but also to letting music out.
The singing also clarifies what one is listening to. Lennie said, "If you can't sing it, you haven't heard it." Singing then becomes a way for the listener to judge how well one is hearing the music. To really hear music requires a degree of concentration and dedication that most of us never attain in our usual listening to music.
The sing-along process is usually applied to an individual solo that one wants to learn. But there is an "expanded" listening, the goal of which is to really hear all the lines of a musical group together at the same time. To do this successfully requires one to first separate out, with focused listening and singing if you can, the musical line of each instrument in the group until one can hear each line perfectly, then finally bringing all the lines back together as a whole. I believe this type of listening is very important in helping a musician to appreciate and understand the sound and role of all the instruments that make up a musical group, and expanded listening is essential when playing with others.
I was not aware of Lennie's thoughts on singing with recordings that Frank attributes to Connie Crothers, although I've certainly imagined the importance that Lennie placed on this particular area of his teaching. (For any readers not familiar with her, Connie is an excellent jazz pianist who came to New York from California in the early 1960's in order to study with Lennie. She went on to become one of his foremost associates and continues his tradition of teaching in the New York metropolitan area. )Concerning her comments to Frank, I remember as a college student that I had musician friends who were also serious sketch artists and/or painters, and it was an accepted practice for them to draw sketches in the style of Leonardo and other masters. I also knew poets who would write sonnets in the style of Shakespeare, actors who would memorize and perform classic monologues and scenes from films, and to draw on my own background as a graduate student I composed many pieces in the style of the Bach inventions, fugues from the Well-Tempered Clavier, and canons in the style of the Goldberg Variations. So when I encountered the method of singing with jazz recordings and then learning to play what I was singing it made a lot of sense to me as a learning tool.
Ideally, the end result in the other disciplines I mentioned is the acquisition of increased artistic 'technique'. That said, the singing and playing of a jazz solo struck me as being quite different in several ways. Chief among these is the fact that the end result is to be performed, even if only in front of a teacher. Because of this the activity takes on what I think of as a 'real-time' characteristic. As this real-time component is one of the distinguishing features of improvisation as an art form, the player is called upon to synthesize their entire knowledge and being into what they are creating and performing in the moment. Therefore, learning jazz solos in this way strikes me as being the ideal vehicle to explore this space in a 'dress-rehearsal' kind of way, and indeed gives an insight into what a veteran jazz player must be thinking and feeling in the act of creation, at least on some fundamental internal levels. Moreover, unlike the disciplines that I mentioned in art, poetry, theatre, or musical composition, singing with Charlie Parker or any of the other players that I chose gave me an insight into what it felt like to function on their level. It also seems to me that when this is done at its best that deep levels of concentration are attained. In order to fully perform a recorded solo the primary awareness must be of the music itself, so this is one aspect of 'practice' that can bring the player deeply into the moment. This degree of concentration strikes me as a crucial attribute for any player to develop.
Technology has certainly evolved dramatically since the time I was studying with Sonny and then Warne, and even more so over the time since they were students. In terms of technical aids to learning a solo from a jazz recording the prevailing method in years past was to transfer the original recording from vinyl to some kind of taped format. This was generally cassette tape, but reel-to-reel tape was an option and could come in very handy when passages needed to be slowed down to half the speed of the normal recording. I suppose this could be done with a turntable that played at 16 rather than 33rpm, but that method took the risk of damaging the LP from repeated playing. On the topic of learning solos from records, Thad Jones used to tell this amusing story that shows how far we have come with technology: he mentioned that trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie was the primary influence for him was when he was growing up in the 1940's in Detroit and learning to play jazz. Thad recalled that he would collect nickels and then go to either a café or bar that had a juke box with some of Dizzy's recordings. He would keep putting the nickels in the machine to hear a solo repeatedly before it finally occurred to him that he could actually save all of the nickels and buy the record for a lot less than he was pouring into the machine! Along with being amusing this story also showed me the dedication of many jazz players in learning their craft, and the ingenuity that could be found in order to acquire new information.
In terms of my own methods though, cassette tapes were the primary vehicle, and when I was first studying with Sonny Dallas a friend recommended a small Panasonic cassette player (I think it was called the 'Thinline') that could be held in your hand. It featured cue and review buttons, ran on a couple of batteries, and cost less than thirty dollars. One of the chief virtues of the machine was that the review button could be pressed and released while the play button was down and immediately rewind a phrase or section of a recording so that fast repeated listening was possible. By that point I had transcribed quite a bit of music from cassettes in the course of my guitar studies, and when in graduate school I took some advanced ear-training classes where some of our regular assignments were to transcribe excerpts of cassette recordings that our professor left in the music library. However, in both these cases the cassette machines that I was using were a bit unwieldy in terms of how the buttons worked, and the Thinline method was much easier.
My intuitive method of learning a new solo was to first listen to it many times to get an overall feel for it, and this included both surface details (length, tempo, etc) and deeper qualities (form, overall phrase architecture, rhythmic articulation, etc). Once comfortable that I had a conception of the entire solo I then returned to the first phrase and would listen to it once, and then sing with it and repeat the phrase until I felt satisfied that I had learned it. I would then go on to the next phrase, repeat the process, and when memorized I would go back to the beginning and sing up to the most recently learned phrase. It was clear to me then that I could not place any time restrictions on this process, and it seemed to me that I needed to allow the sound and feeling of any particular solo that I worked on to penetrate my consciousness at its own pace. I suppose then that two attributes any music student needs in order to take on and complete these kinds of tasks are patience and perseverance. For example, there were shorter and less complex solos of Lester's that could be learned reasonably quickly, and others (Lennie's "Line Up" for example) that would take quite a bit of time and regular effort. That said, the process was the same whether for a short solo like Lester's "Song of the Islands":
Lester Young: solo from "Song of the Islands"/ Count Basie Band
or a longer piece such as Lennie's "Line Up," however each assignment or project would dictate how long it would take to finish. I should also mention that as testament to the retentive aspects of this discipline I can still sing both of these solos today.
Returning to the technical side of the process though, I remember seeing advertisements in the early 1980's in Downbeat magazine for a Marantz 2-speed cassette recorder and this machine intrigued me. I finally bought one and still have it, and while being larger than the Panasonic it has essentially the same features, however can also record, output to a stereo system, and has two playback and recording speeds available. Once I owned the Marantz it was very easy to listen to fast passages at half the speed of the normal recording, and it became an invaluable tool in learning complex passages. One aspect of this process though is that solos or phrases that are played back at half speed are also lowered in pitch by an octave. As an example, consider Charlie Parker's solo on the blues "Billie's Bounce" from his Savoy Records recording:
Charlie Parker: solo from "Billie's Bounce"
I was able to learn most of this solo at the original tempo, however there is one notable double-time phrase that occurs at the end of Bird's second chorus that I could not decipher at the original speed:
Charlie Parker: excerpt from "Billie's Bounce" solo
When slowed down using the method of changing tape speed one finds that while the speed is cut in half all the pitches are also lowered an octave, with the result being that Bird now sounds as if he is playing the baritone saxophone!:
Charlie Parker: excerpt from "Billie's Bounce" solo, half speed with pitch lowered an octave
Still, I was quite grateful to have a means at my disposal to learn difficult music accurately, and I used the half-speed technique to learn all of Lennie's performance on "Line Up." That said, it would be difficult for a bass player to learn bass lines from a recording in this way simply because the range of many pitches would most likely be unintelligible once they were lowered by an octave. Life in the digital world has brought us a solution though, and that is in the form of computer software that can lower the speed of a recording (in digital format) by half or more but without changing the pitch. There are various products available that can perform this task, but the important thing is the end result. Here is the same double-time excerpt from Bird's solo with the tempo cut in half, but with the pitch remaining the same:
Charlie Parker: excerpt from "Billie's Bounce" solo, half speed with normal pitch
One other benefit to using software that can alter an original recording in this way is that the speed can be lowered at any rate, not just in half (a factor of 50%). Much like turning the dial on a metronome to push the bounds of instrumental technique, a phrase or entire solo can then be progressively increased in speed and practiced until mastered. The final goal would be to play the solo with and without the recording at regular speed.
Another dividend from learning material with this degree of care and accuracy is that it might then be used for unique jazz performances. I have heard live recordings from the 1950's of Warne together with Lee Konitz playing Bird's solo on "Billie's Bounce" (and others), and these performances predated the appearance of the group Supersax by more than ten years.
Lee Konitz Quartet with Warne Marsh: "Billie's Bounce", excerpt from radio broadcast from The Half Note, New York City, 1958
As a final thought or postscript, shortly after I had moved to San Francisco in 1988 I landed a job working as the artist liaison for the San Francisco Symphony. My principal duties were the care of the guest artists that appeared with the Symphony each week. The regular music director at that time was Herbert Blomstedt and he had his own assistant, however due to a scheduling conflict I was asked to drive him home one night. The orchestra was scheduled to record Beethoven's Third Symphony the next morning and shortly after getting settled in the car Mr. Blomstedt said that he had some work to do and promptly gave a preparatory beat with his hands and started singing and conducting the piece. I knew the score well and though it is a tough call it is my favorite of the Beethoven symphonies. He went all the way through the first movement, probably some fifteen minutes long, and singing perfectly in tune. He also was doing this without looking at a score. When he finished I turned and started to burst out a comment something like "that was incredible!" but he stopped me with a hand gesture and continued directly into the second movement. He lived about a half hour south of San Francisco and we arrived at his home before he finished that movement. Given all the work I've done singing solos though I could really appreciate this rehearsal method. I was ultimately struck by the fact that the tradition I learned from Sonny and Warne, (and they from Lennie), stretches far back into the past and crosses many genres of music.
It makes sense to me to include a separate section on composition at this point, but frankly with trepidation! A primary reason for this is that in more than seven years of in-depth study on the subject as a student, not only was there never anything approaching a definitive text on the matter, there really wasn't any text. Composition also strikes me as a very broad subject, and because of this can be difficult to organize when taught (as opposed to ear-training or harmony. )Most of my study took place as private lessons with teachers in the New York area and there was never a text book, or even any documentation that might help. So that made the study seem very much like a passing of information between master and apprentice that took place in a mentoring environment about all things pertaining to composing.
When Warne first assigned writing as part of what we were doing in lessons I was excited to draw on the skills that I had developed, and one sense that I brought with me was an approach to 'line writing' that I absorbed through studies of sixteenth century modal (or in another term, "species") counterpoint. This was the one compositional 'laboratory' that I really enjoyed working in, and I began those studies in an advanced seminar in graduate school, and then continued work privately for some time after the conclusion of the course. In many ways those studies remind me of the work that I did on meter with Warne, however obviously the meter work was performed rather than written. In retrospect though, one quality both studies share is that when any segment of the work is done successfully one time then the student keeps moving forward until reaching an endpoint in the entire study.
The goal in studying counterpoint is to develop an awareness and mastery of the linear dimension of music, but not necessarily to produce work for public performance. This distinction was very clear to me in studying counterpoint as the course had nothing to do directly with my compositions, but did give me a real sense that I was a composer and engaged in studies that literally had been going on for centuries. One contrast with the meter studies though is that since I was also improvising and applying the knowledge both to my playing and writing there could be a danger of becoming overly mechanical in the application of those ideas. As I have mentioned in the account of the meter studies, Warne was careful to caution me on that, and did so quite regularly. That said, every composer that was a major influence on me – Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner, Brahms, Debussy, Stravinsky, etc. – had studied and mastered the principles and technique of counterpoint, and once I had also internalized those principles I could easily hear it in the 'line writing' in really anything those composers, and others, produced.
I also had studied jazz arranging and composition with Thad Jones as a young college student and was aware of Thad's stature as both composer and arranger in the jazz world. That said, none of us had enough core knowledge to fully appreciate Thad in those days, and to be fair his teaching methods were unusual to say the least. I remember that we all had a final project to do for the class, it was a big band arrangement of the song "Please Don't Talk about Me When I'm Gone," and the William Paterson Jazz Ensemble was going to read through all of our charts when we were finished. I thought I had done a pretty good job but the read-through was typical of Thad in that he rarely would give verbal comments or suggestions, but rather would communicate his suggestions musically. As an example, I had written an eight-bar introduction to the chart that worked through a 'turnaround' harmonic progression and ended on a tonic chord that I altered to be a dominant 7th with a raised 9th (quite dissonant). Thad liked it, but stopped everyone and looked over at me with a mischievous smile and said enthusiastically: "John, I've got a chord for you!" He then picked up his horn and played an arpeggio from the highest note downward, and it was obviously some sort of altered structure with a lot of dissonant notes. I couldn't hear any of it, and just smiled and shook my head, but that was how Thad's mind worked, and it was both intimidating and inspiring at the same time. In retrospect though, my experiences with him gave a glimpse into the life of a 'real world' successful jazz professional, and were a great preparation for being with Warne.
When I began submitting writing assignments in the course of my lessons with Warne I was very eager to get his comments on my work. However, as I went through the 2/4 stages of the meter work I had no idea that he would relate it to composing. By the time I had reached the end of working on double-time though I immediately grasped that the material would be a rich source to draw from, similar to a good fugue subject and all of its permutations. In a similar way, when I had studied counterpoint the melodic material was actually not as organized, however the rhythmic structure of the exercises was very tightly controlled. Ultimately though I was given a frame of reference for any phrase that I hear, and it is particularly acute in the classical masterpieces but also obvious to me for instance in the work of Lester Young and Charlie Parker. As Lennie has stated regarding the linear dimension in music, I came to regard it as primary for the simple reason that the 'line' is what is pulling any piece of music forward, and can be composed so as to be of interest and beauty in terms of its melodic, rhythmic, and if applicable, harmonic structures. And the best lines make all of those qualities transparent – to paraphrase Warne: they just 'are. '
So when I started writing for my lessons I was excited to see what I could produce now that I understood the rhythmic and harmonic language that Lennie and Warne were speaking in, and I wanted all of my lines to have an internal structure similar to the counterpoint studies I had done some years earlier. Reaching those goals can be hit or miss, but one thing I also learned in studying counterpoint was that if I did a lot of writing then perhaps a little of it might be good, so had low expectations other than to work my best and hopefully be occasionally surprised by the result. After doing a few of these for Warne though I think that one of the biggest lessons I learned was the primacy of any individual phrase, whether it be written or improvised. Warne summed this up by evaluating each phrase by what he perceived as the number of ideas in it, and followed the principle of "one phrase – one idea." He also was very firm in his demand that each phrase have a fairly clear beginning, middle, and end and often cited the first phrase in Charlie Parker's classic solo on "Billie's Bounce" as being a perfect phrase with a clear beginning, middle, and end.
The arc of my writing experiences with Warne started with the first line that I brought him ("Bretton Hall," based on the chord structure of "Indiana") and continued through the end of our lessons in New York. The goal that he set at the beginning was that eventually we wanted our improvising to be as valid as anything we might sit down and write, however in the early stages of study the process of writing removed the demand of being spontaneous and could help a player develop an individual approach to the material. He actually was never very complimentary of his own writing (despite having written some classic lines in my opinion), however he said that going through the process with Lennie was invaluable, and in terms of the individual phrases "produced some real gems" along the way. In all of my writing I was attempting to synthesize the polytonal and polyrhythmic language that I was learning, and still create a piece that sounded natural.
John Klopotowski: "Just Dandy"
As time passed it was clear that I was getting a lot out of doing the composing so Warne began to emphasize the exercises more in terms of having an impact on my improvising. Regarding his own playing, he mentioned that when he (and Lennie) felt that he was improvising on an equal level (or better) than anything he wrote that he was finished with writing as an assignment. That said, he strongly endorsed composing and said that he really got into it when he was playing with Supersax (he contributed some wonderful charts to their book), and that for instance I could do a lot of writing for any group that I might lead or be a part of.
The last line that I wrote in lessons was unusual: it is based on the chords to the tune "I Cover the Waterfront" and I remember that we were working at the time on what Warne called "short rests." He thought that I had an understanding of "long rests" (or the space between phrases) but wanted to hear more from me in terms of space within any phrase. I remember playing the line while he accompanied me at the piano, and after I played it once he said that I "had it" and that I didn't need to write anymore unless I wanted to.
In light of these examples and anecdotes I want to reassert my original inclusion of composition as part of the four activities that were at the core of my studies with Warne. Composing original pieces can be a great help in developing an individual voice or approach and especially so because writing exists outside of the real-time context of improvising. In terms of the specific assignment to write with the material that came out of the meter studies, I have always been aware of a curious paradox: that when the restrictions in composition are highest or most severe there are times when extraordinary pieces of music are created as a result. With effective coaching and reflection on the part of the student the lessons learned through composing can be integrated with individual improvising, so much so that there is no disconnect between the sound of written or improvised material.
When Warne gave the assignment in September of 1983 to begin learning the lyrics to many of the songs that I was performing I chose "Out of Nowhere" as the first one. The reasons were simple: I had an LP of guitarist Tal Farlow playing "Out of Nowhere" with Gene Williams singing the vocal chorus (also with Eddie Costa on piano, and Vinnie Burke on bass), the reading was quite literate so would be a good one to learn (as opposed to a reading that takes many liberties with the original melody), and it was also in a good key for me (Eb rather than the conventional key of G). So I plunged into the assignment, and enjoyed it immensely. In addition to the basic musical details of singing the melody in tune and in rhythm, this was also the first time that I considered the text or lyric of a song in some depth. Though "Out of Nowhere" is definitely a love song, the lyric also emphasized the role of surprise events in our lives:
You came to me from out of nowhere
You took my heart and found it free
Wonderful dreams, wonderful schemes from nowhere
Made ev'ry hour sweet as the flowers for me
If you should go back to your nowhere
Leaving me with a memory
I'll always wait for your return out of nowhere
Hoping you'll bring your love to me.
Tal Farlow trio featuring Gene Williams: "Out of Nowhere"
With "Out of Nowhere" I established a habit of discussing the text or words of each song in some depth with Warne, and in the context of those discussions we would explore multiple meanings and interpretations of each tune (the bulk of these tunes were written for Broadway shows and though they served a dramatic purpose they were also very much popular entertainment). But as I started the process of studying songs in this way I was buoyed by - well, how much fun it was to sing like that! Although I had done a lot of singing of various types by that time in my musical life I had no aspirations to be a singer (on gigs that is), and the singing that I had done was always in a context of intense musical study. Now, that sort of singing was very often inspiring, enlightening, or liberating, but it was never on the order of casual fun that, as an example, I remember my father having. Through those years he always listened to a New Jersey radio station named WPAT, and the station featured popular or 'light' treatments of many of the jazz standards that I played (for instance, by recording artists such as Frank Sinatra or Mantovani). My father would sing along with the radio (and quite well in tone, pitch, and rhythm), sometimes with the words but often without, and clearly for pleasure. So during that period in my studies with Warne I was exposed for the first time to a different type of experience with singing and really enjoyed it.
Warne liked what I did with "Out of Nowhere" and his only advice was to keep going and bring in another song for the next lesson. I decided then to make a cassette of recorded versions of songs that I liked, and some of the singers were Chet Baker, Blossom Dearie, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Mel Torme, Joe Williams, and Johnny Hartman. I also had some old Frank Sinatra recordings with Tommy Dorsey, and the next song I learned might have been "Mean to Me." I remember singing that for Warne and his immediate response was: "it sounds like you've been listening to a lot of Frank Sinatra." I said yes, I had learned the words from one of his recordings, and this was the only time that I remember Warne chiding me for copying an artist, although he is often quoted as saying that Lennie regularly gave that comment to students in terms of their improvising. I didn't at all take it as a criticism, but more as encouragement that I could trust my own instincts in singing a lyric without depending on a recorded interpretation.
I learned several other songs from Sinatra recordings though, and one was "How Deep is the Ocean?" from his "Nice 'N Easy" LP. This was two or three months into the work, so by then I was comfortable and in the habit of considering the possible meaning of the lyric from lesson to lesson. Working on "How Deep is the Ocean?" put me in an especially introspective frame of mind (this story is also told in Safford Chamberlain's book) and for the week or two that I spent learning it I often pondered the question of who I was addressing when singing the lyric – could it be my wife, my mother, music in general?
How much do I love you, I'll tell you no lie
How deep is the ocean, how high is the sky?
How many times a day do I think of you?
How many roses are sprinkled with dew?
How far would I travel to be where you are?
How long is the journey from here to a star?
And if I ever lost you, how much would I cry?
How deep is the ocean, how high is the sky?
Frank Sinatra: "How Deep Is the Ocean?"
I sang "How Deep" for Warne at a lesson that fall and he liked it, and in typical fashion asked me: "how did it feel?" I said that it felt good, but that I was also struck by an overwhelming sadness in the lyric. Warne asked, "how do you mean?" I said, "you know … 'and if I ever lost you, how much would I cry, how deep is the ocean' … man, that imagery and feeling is just so unbearably sad to me." Warne's quick response was: "but John, it's 'if I ever lost you,' you haven't lost her yet!" That response shocked me because it was so optimistic, and also representative of Warne's mind in that he had caught a small but crucial detail that I had missed. He then went on to say: "you also need to be thinking of who you're singing to." That comment stunned me given what had been so much on my mind when I was learning the song. I mentioned that to him and he smiled, but also left the question for me to ponder without giving me any answers. The attention to detail that we were giving to lyrics also prompted Warne to comment one evening on the importance of finding the best words to express ourselves in all situations. He summarized the point by saying, "you've got to mean what you say, and say what you mean." We both knew that this was an oft-used expression in jazz and otherwise, but through this study I had a newfound appreciation for what it conveyed.
I can't say for certain that Warne had a favorite songwriter, but if there were a short list then certainly Jerome Kern would be on that list, and also Harold Arlen. During that time of my studies he had found an excellent book written by the composer Alec Wilder called "American Popular Song" that he recommended and I also recommend to anyone interested in this subject. We were talking about something in the book one evening when he handed it to me opened to a page and in typically succinct fashion said: "read this, anyone who could write it knows where it's at." The page was turned to the chapter on Harold Arlen:
… I can think of very few (other songwriters) who have any emotional kinship with the jazz musician and his bittersweet, witty, lonely, intense world. … This love for the jazz players and their marvelous inventiveness has had a profound effect on Arlen's songs …"
So singing in this way became one of the daily or regular disciplines that Warne introduced that I continue to practice, and since then I have learned the lyrics to many standards that I play. I highly recommend it as a way of getting to the core of a song in a way that transcends reading a melody, or even listening to a recording of an instrumentalist playing a melody, no matter how great the player might be. To reinforce something that I said to Safford in our first meeting, I did connect to a much larger context of the material that we were playing. And as the titles of so many standard songs reflect, the subject of love is fundamental to what we were playing.
Following Warne's move back to the Los Angeles area we eventually were in touch by phone and mail both casually and for coaching, and I had the idea that at some point I would make a recording of a handful of songs that we had studied and send them to him. It wasn't until 1987 that I was able to do that, and I made the recording in a teaching studio that I was renting at that time in the downtown Port Jefferson area. It was a makeshift overdub done on a Sony Walkman Pro cassette recorder, but I was able to pre-record some piano backgrounds and then play those through my stereo system while I overdubbed the vocals and listened to myself through headphones. There were perhaps a half dozen songs that I recorded in that way, when I talked to Warne on the phone after he received the tape he said that he loved it but joked that I should find another piano player!
Ear Training/Jazz Harmony
At the same time as I began studying the lyrics to standard tunes with Warne I also began a detailed study of jazz harmony. He taught harmony primarily through singing and ear-training rather than as a written or textbook study and provided this conceptual overview when we started the work: if we agree that a jazz player needs to be able to "relate harmonically" (Warne's quote) to whatever playing environment he or she might be in, a key factor is the ability to instantly recognize harmonies that another player might be playing. The method of study and practice was fairly simple to explain – we would start by working through all the two-note intervals, then move to triads or three-note chords, and finally work through the permutations of seventh chords. The task was to learn each stage by singing it, and then to be tested in lessons by both singing and also reproducing with my voice anything that Warne would play at the piano. The final step was to give the interval, triad, or seventh chord a name. The background structures for the study were the major and harmonic minor scales, and the triads and seventh chords were sung in both "closed" and "open" spacings. This subject matter is probably the most traditional of the various topics that I went through with Warne but he did have a somewhat unique approach to the understanding and teaching of the material. (If additional background is needed on any of this material a good place to start is the text "Scales, Intervals, Keys, Triads, Rhythm, and Meter: A Programmed Course in Elementary Music Theory" by John Clough and others, and published by W. W. Norton. )
The material that I worked through in lessons with Warne begins with the thirds, and these should be sung upward and downward through both the major and harmonic minor scale.
C major scale ascending in thirds:
C major scale descending in thirds:
C harmonic minor scale ascending in thirds:
C harmonic minor scale descending in thirds:
The basic methods for practice are to first sing the material slowly (generally on some kind of "ah" sound such as "la") and if necessary to use a piano to match the pitches. Next I would play either the lower or higher note on the keyboard and sing the other note without accompaniment, and finally I would sing the material unaccompanied.
Once the thirds are mastered the singing work then moves in this way through both scales and with all intervals up to and including the thirteenth. Moving in order, the next intervals in the study are the fourths, shown here ascending through the C Major scale:
Finally, the intervals above the octave (the ninth through the thirteenth) were important to study since jazz harmony regularly makes use of the second octave.
In the interest of space I haven't included all the intervals, however just as we studied all the thirds, fourths, etc. in both the major and minor scales we also followed the same procedure with each starting interval in the example above. When singing these larger intervals it is important to find the lowest note in your range because you will run out of vocal space fairly quickly due to the width of the intervals.
As I sung through this material over a period of several weeks I was struck by the more intense and permanent level of comprehension that is achievable when singing the exercises as opposed to studying the intervals on paper as is done in many music theory classes. This became especially clear with the intervals greater than an octave, or to use a term from some systems of teaching harmony, the "compound" intervals. In a classroom setting it can be easy and convenient to equate the compound intervals with their counterpart within the octave. For example a Major 9th (M9):
consists of the same notes as a Major 2nd:
however the difference in singing and perceiving a M9 rather than a M2 is striking. Simply put, the larger the interval the more difficult it can be to both sing and hear, and the principal faculty that needs to be developed is the "inner" ear, or being able to hear the interval clearly in your mind before singing. When this is achieved it becomes easy to perceive an interval by ear and then develop the capacity to respond harmonically.
The first stage of studying triads is to sing them in root position upwards and downwards starting on each degree of both the major and the harmonic minor scales:
Triads of the C major scale:
Triads of the C harmonic minor scale:
The order of qualities of triads in both scale forms does not change regardless of the key, and follow these sequences:
Major scale Harmonic minor scale
I = Major i = minor
ii = minor ii = diminished
iii = minor III = Augmented
IV = Major iv = minor
V = Major V = Major
vi = minor VI = Major
vii = diminished vii = diminished
When working through the material it becomes possible after some time to recognize not only the quality of any given triad, but once a key center is established to also recognize the degree of the scale that a triad is built on. The work can then move into the study of the function of chords and harmonic progressions, however this is not an area that I really discussed with Warne as he assumed that I was familiar with the subject. However, if I were working with a student that needed to study harmonic functions I would start with singing and playing simple progressions of two chords, for example V - I or I - IV and go on from there.
One other concept to discuss in relation to triads is the notion of the "voicing" or spacing of a triad. There are two options for spacing, and they are traditionally referred to as "closed" or "open." A closed voicing refers to a triad where all notes are located within an octave, while an open voicing spans more than an octave. Following are notational examples of a root position C Major triad first in closed voicing and then in open voicing:
As the examples show, an open voicing can be created by taking any closed-voiced triad and moving the middle tone either up or down an octave, and this can be done with all inversions of triads. Singing the open voicings through the Major and harmonic minor scales took a bit of planning due to the wider spread in register of each triad. It was very satisfying work to do though as I had been using open voicings for some time on the guitar but had not studied them in any systematic manner before then.
In summary, the complete study of triads involves singing through the major and harmonic minor scales in all three possible inversions, and in both closed and open voicings. (I suggest writing out all the possibilities as a study guide). As with the intervals, the methods for practice are to first sing the material slowly and if necessary to use a piano to match the pitches; next to play the lowest pitch on the keyboard and sing the other notes without accompaniment; and finally to sing the material unaccompanied. Warne would then test me in lessons by playing various combinations of triads on the keyboard and have me sing them back either moving up or down the chord. It was quite rewarding to sing the sounds and feel them resonating in my body, and indeed to feel the different qualities of all the interval and triad combinations as opposed to thinking them.
By the time I reached the end of the triad studies I realized that I had accomplished quite a bit on the continued training of my ear, and the particular areas that were both new to me and helpful were the interval studies above the octave, and also the triad studies of the open voicings. As we then moved on to seventh chords we now were considering material fundamental to the jazz harmonic language and also quite familiar to me.
The work with Warne in singing seventh chords was a logical extension of what had been done with triads, and it began by singing through all the inversions of the diatonic sequences in major and minor in closed position.
Seventh chords of the C major scale:
Seventh chords of the C harmonic minor scale:
The addition of the seventh to each chord also yields another inversion, in standard terms this is called the third inversion (the 7th is the lowest sounding note):
This stage of the study was familiar to me, however I had not sung through the seventh chords in open voicings. I found two of these to be very useful: the first takes the third of the chord (in root position) and moves it up an octave (for these examples I will use piano notation and the harmony is again C Maj7):
When the other closed position seventh chords are subjected to the same process (moving the second lowest chord tone up an octave) these additional voicings result:
There are many harmonic possibilities in these voicings and for those so inclined I recommend going through the work as there is immense benefit in training the ear. In terms of singing it is only necessary to work through the inversions in one or two keys that fit an individual voice range, however for general musical knowledge it is advisable to study all the major and minor sequences on the keyboard and then devise related warmup material to be performed on an individual instrument.
The other open voicing that is worth studying moves the two 'middle' notes of a root position seventh chord up an octave (I will use F Maj7 as an example):
When compared with the first set of open voicings we see that a greater spread is available in this voicing. For example, if the first set is considered in terms of the interval between the outer voices you will notice that the largest distance in any of the voicings is a 10th:
However in the second set of voicings the first two possibilities span a 12th, and the last two voicings span an 11th:
As with the first set of open voicings it is only necessary to sing through the inversions in one or two keys that fit an individual voice range, however it is advisable to study all the major and minor sequences on the keyboard and then devise individual warmup material.
I thought I would include a brief section on the topic of warming up because it did come up in one lesson and led to a couple of memorable quotes from Warne. All musicians also do warmups, or at least have at some point, so I thought this would be of interest.
I forget the exact reason but one of my lessons was scheduled for 11:00 in the morning one week, and that was on the early side for me during those days. Once I got to Bretton Hall though I had the feeling that it was even earlier for Warne! An 11:00am lesson for me then meant that I needed to leave from Port Jefferson by no later than 9:00, and because of the early hour I generally did not have a chance to play before I left. On this particular day Warne was drinking some coffee when I arrived and had his tenor strap around his neck so I knew that he had been playing. He asked if I had warmed up yet and my response was no, so we then went over his methods and ideas on the topic. He started by setting the metronome to a tempo of 60 and had me begin with a C Major scale in quarter notes (the conventional rather than the polytonal "C Tonic Major" version). I started on the lowest C on the guitar and went upward to the highest note on my instrument in the key (high C – 5 ledger lines above the treble staff) and then descended to the lowest note on my instrument (E, the lowest open string) and then back up to middle C. Warne's comment during the initial stage was that to play a "good quarter note" it was necessary to hear the note almost a full half-beat, or eighth note, in advance. This was so that I could place the quarter note correctly on the beat, absolutely synchronized with the click of the metronome. After C Major we then started to ascend in half-steps, so the next key was Db Major. We never discussed fingerings on the guitar in lessons, Warne left that up to me, and in both those scales I essentially improvised the fingerings and position shifts on the fingerboard. At any rate, somewhere along the way in the Db scale I made a mistake and was either slightly late or early with a note, and that was what prompted Warne's comment on hearing the note a half beat ahead. I also remember this comment clearly: "there is one right place for a note and about a million wrong ones." I remember being impressed by the level of detail and attention that we were giving to this seemingly mundane task, but also considered attention on this level to be an important insight into Warne's own playing.
After his first comments I played the next couple of quarter note scales well. He then asked if I felt good with what I had played so far, I said yes, so then he said "OK, then move up a half-step and play the next scale in quarter-note triplets." He mentioned further that it was best to feel the triplet as three even divisions of a half note, rather than subdividing quarter notes into eighth-note triplets in order to feel the quarter-note triplet. From quarter-note triplets we moved to playing in eighth notes, and then eighth-note triplets. He had me play one version of the eighth note scales with accents on the weak eighth note (to do this it was essential to play using all downstrokes so that the accents were even), and also one version of the eighth-note triplet scales with phrasing in groups of two, creating a feeling of inflected meter. It was clear that we were setting up a pattern of increasingly smaller subdivisions of the beat, so the next scales were in 16th notes, then 16th note triplets, and finally 32nd notes. He also had me play in minor, and I used both the harmonic and melodic minor scales, and also the extended chord forms.
Doing all of that took the better part of the hour, however we weren't finished yet. Once I had gotten through the 32nd note scales I rested for a bit and then Warne said: "so you can warm up that way, or you can put the metronome on and warm up by slow improvising." And then he gave this final comment, which I have never forgotten: "or you can play any Lester Young solo in any key and at any tempo." We looked at each other and both smiled, there was nothing left to add after that comment. Since then I have used the scale warmup, slow improvising, and also Lester Young to start my playing time. It is particularly sweet for me to play a Lester Young solo alone in that context, and when I do I immediately think of Warne and how he loved Prez.
Warne Marsh (excerpt): solo on "Blue Lester"/ The Times, Los Angeles, December 17, 1974
I believe that the importance of using the process of recording as a tool for improving as a jazz player can't be overstated. I first came to this conclusion when making informal tapes of myself around the age of twenty, and found that recording was an invaluable thing to do in terms of assessing progress in my playing. Up until the time that I met Sonny I would record myself in different contexts, but doing so was not integrated into my practice as such. He was the first teacher who gave me tapes to practice with, and those were cassettes of exercises that went through different harmonic progressions in all keys and at a variety of tempos, and also several practice tracks of tunes that we were playing. I spent many an hour practicing with those tapes, and they remind me of the sort of warming up that vocal students might do, however in the context of improvising jazz. Once I had started studying with Warne and was doing slow improvising on a daily basis I then started to record myself periodically so as to hear what my line was sounding like. Related to this practice, I remember seeing an interview with the pianist Arthur Rubinstein once where he discussed his methods when recording. He said that his habit was to record a complete first take of the specific piece he was recording, and then sit down in the booth with his score and "give himself a lesson." This description sums up what I think is the most important aspect of using recording as a learning tool: when listening back we then are able to turn a largely subjective experience into an objective one. I realize that it is difficult to make listening to ourselves entirely objective, but at the very least we are then listening after creating the music rather than being involved in the act in real time. I think that the ability to listen back with a critical ear is then essential, but also needs to be carefully balanced or monitored so as to not produce an overly critical mindset, or also a 'picky' one where we might record too often and overdo it.
Recording slow improvising
One specific technique intrigued me though, and as I have written in the essay on slow improvising the idea occurred to me after my first lesson with Warne. It started when he told me that Lennie had recorded "Line Up" as a slow improvisation that was overdubbed at half the speed of the rhythm section tapes and then doubled in speed for the final track:
Lennie Tristano: "Line Up"/excerpt
Lennie Tristano: "Line Up"/half speed excerpt
I also came across the following account from an interview that Lee Konitz gave to a Belgian journalist, in it Lee recounts hearing "Line Up" for the first time at Lennie's studio:
Lee Konitz: Discussing "Line Up"
When Warne told me about Lennie's recording technique it confirmed a suspicion that I had after listening to the entire track at half speed repeatedly for about two months leading up to that lesson. I had also started to slow improvise on a regular basis during the same period of time and that led me to think that I might start recording myself at half speed while slow improvising and then listen back at different speeds to hear what I was coming up with. Perhaps the biggest gain from recording at the slower speed is that the line played back at the higher speed then can serve as a model for what we might try to accomplish in our actual playing at those speeds. In this way we aren't copying any other players, but rather in an interesting sense are 'copying' ourselves. By discovering this recording technique I believe that Lennie was highly innovative, remember that when he originally made those recordings it was for his own use and self-study. Once Atlantic Records had released the tracks he was roundly criticized for what he had done, and according to what I've read he responded with some bitterness and never actually gave specific details on his procedures. It's interesting to note though that over time and with the increase in the number of available tracks in recording that over-dubbing came to be an industry standard procedure.
As time passed the old reel-to-reel recorder that I was using had stopped working and I bought a two-speed Marantz cassette deck. I thought that I would principally use it for learning to sing solos, but I discovered that if I recorded myself at the slower speed and played back at the higher one that then I could listen back at double speed as I had with my reel-to-reel machine. The last set of recordings that I made this way was early in the year 2000.
John Klopotowski: "improvisation on Yardbird Suite"
Recording Live Performances
In addition to recording ourselves for self-study and to monitor development one other important use of recording is in listening back to live performances. For many years I did this unconsciously in that I would record various performances and listen afterward, but I didn't really have a definable philosophy on the topic until later in the 1990's. Around that time I entered into a period of fairly regular performing in San Francisco, and late in 1999 I bought a digital mini-disc recorder on Sonny Dallas' recommendation. I had been using a Sony Walkman Professional cassette recorder since 1986, and this produced excellent tapes, however the change to the digital format of the mini-discs was an upgrade. After purchasing the mini-disc recorder I started to record more regularly and would subsequently study both my own performances and also other jazz performances. I felt that it was important to know what other players were actually doing on the bandstand, and in some cases the live gigs that I would go to hear either preceded the release of recordings (which were no doubt heavily edited) or there were no official recordings.
In terms of assessing my own playing the live recordings have been invaluable in many ways. The first is obvious and much the same as recording in a studio – the listen back gives a sense of how a piece came off in a general way. So if there are obvious mistakes we can then determine what to practice or rehearse so as to correct those mistakes. Secondly, since jazz is at heart a spontaneous art a live recording can preserve that art, and as the 'composer' we have a chance to contemplate our work. I also noticed one other phenomenon when listening back – that sometimes a performance would feel extreme in terms of quality (good or bad), but upon listening to the recording I would have the opposite reaction. When I was playing mostly with a trio we would often have that experience, and I think that over time a performer can develop the healthy viewpoint that you should just play your best for the audience and stay in the moment, with a minimum of judgment. I have heard the expression "sometimes feel is not real" and I think it has some application in this way.
One last point regarding recording is that in a selfish way my guess is that any musician who records has the immediate goal of documenting their best playing for posterity, with the equal goal of studying and learning from the resulting recording. Warne and I never really talked about recording live gigs, but when looking at his complete discography it is clear that he was both aware of and supported the process of recording live informally. He did make a great deal of studio recordings (difficult as they may be to find), and though those recordings may have represented potential income and publicity I believe he was more acutely aware of creating artistic work for posterity and documenting his playing and output over time.>
This is not a topic that specifically came up in lessons with Warne, although he did make some oblique references to the idea of the simultaneous existence of 'levels' of increasing complexity in improvising. Some of this information is practical in nature, and the rest is perhaps philosophical.
A practical understanding of levels in improvising is for me performance based, and directly related to my studies with Warne. As explanation, if I take a chronological approach it was at the beginning of my studies that I first started to improvise alone (actually, with a metronome as a time-keeping device) and then would perform in that way when I went to my lessons. Those performances struck me as a 'first level' of improvisation: to be able to perform for your teacher, and this may be a first opportunity to confront nervousness and self-consciousness. I believe an argument can be made that performing alone is the first level, but I also think in part that performing suggests sharing music with at least one other person. Along those lines the dictionary gives us these definitions (among others) of the word perform: 1 - to do in a formal manner or according to prescribed ritual, or, 2 - to give a rendition of. In that sense performing for Warne alone in lessons fit both definitions, and I suppose if one were recording alone then that could be considered a performance in that someone else is an intended audience, even if only the performer. So for me the first level of improvising to confront is to be able to play for one's teacher or anyone with whom a coaching relationship exists. The next level is performing with others, but in the closed environment of a session (a rehearsal could also qualify here). In this situation the qualities of relaxation and trust in one's abilities are key, as is lack of self-consciousness. These are universal concepts that can be applied to any discipline that involves performance, and athletics, acting, and public speaking immediately come to mind. In all three of those disciplines the third level of improvising is also present: improvising (with or without others) in front of an audience. To do this well suggests the mastering of many concepts: finding one's voice, being relaxed and not self-conscious, trusting our processes and abilities, and also finding levels of concentration that allow us to "get out of the way" and allow our best level of performance to express itself. I find it interesting that when Warne and I discussed teaching that he made a point of saying that if I were to lead an amateur musician ("someone who works a day gig" in Warne's description) to a realization of what improvising is that I would have done my job with that student. The comment suggests that playing in sessions and in front of an audience were advanced levels in his conception, and really for those musicians who were truly committed.
I also came across another mention of the concept of levels in improvisation from Lee Konitz in the profile of him by jazz writer Whitney Balliett published originally in the New Yorker Magazine (reprinted in the anthology "American Musicians – 56 Portraits in Jazz"):
I think of improvisation as coming in ten levels, each one more intense than the one before. On the first level, you play the melody, and you should sound as if you were playing it for the very first time. Freshly. If it doesn't sound that way, you're not ready to go to the second level. Playing the melody properly gives you the license to vary it, to embellish it, which is what you do on the second level. The melody is still foremost, but you add little things to it on the third level. Variation – displacing certain notes in the melody – comes in around the fourth level, and by the time you get to five, six, and seven you are more than halfway to creating a new song. Eight, nine, and ten are just that – the creation of wholly new melodies. Moving through these levels can take place during a set or over the course of an evening. Sometimes, though, you never get past three or four or five, but that's O. K, because no one level is more important than any other.
These are advanced and somewhat zen-like ideas in approaching improvising jazz, but they have a strong ring of truth for me. Sonny Dallas always considered Lee as a prime example of a jazz artist who is particularly gifted in playing a melody, and in his last years Sonny continued to remind me to put my attention on the melody first. He would also fondly recall the time in the early 1960's when he lived in the basement of Lennie's house and Lee lived on the floor immediately above him. Sonny would listen to Lee practice on a daily basis and felt privileged to be able to do so, and he often compared Lee at that time to Charlie Parker (Sonny said that Lee would regularly play Bird's solos in practice). This example comes from the classic LP "Motion" recorded with Sonny and Elvin Jones, and it clearly displays Lee's endless creativity as an improviser – on many levels!
Lee Konitz Trio: "I Remember You" ("Motion")
Lee Konitz –a recent photo
I have struggled a bit in writing a final conclusion, but on thinking through all of the material - both the chronological account and the musical studies - I'm reminded of this quote from Warne: "you know everything we just talked about for the last hour? … forget it all and just play." His advice mirrors a well-known quote from Charlie Parker: "you got to learn your instrument - practice, practice, practice . .. then forget all that and just play." These quotes also suggest similarities with other performing disciplines that involve the mastering of a craft: endless hours can be invested in developing mastery however all of that behind the scenes work is distilled when in the moment of performance. The choice of the word "forget" in both quotes also suggests the importance of surrender in any spontaneous process, much like the advice from the Zen master archer that the shot must be loosed by the archer reflexively, before any conscious thought interferes.
I have always been fascinated though by the internal and background processes that leads any of us to reach this level of mastery and am again reminded of a quote: Phil Woods supplied some liner notes for the LP that guitarist Harry Leahey and bassist Steve Gilmore recorded, and one phrase stuck with me (a paraphrase of a TV commercial that was airing around that time): "these two cats play music the old-fashioned way - they learned it!" And that was perhaps the central question that led me to study with Warne - how does one learn to play that way?Perhaps this was the "old fashioned way" but through working with Warne as a student I came to appreciate the duality of seriousness of purpose coupled with unbridled joy that came from exploring jazz improvisation with him as a mentor. I do think that the material and methods that Warne taught were ideally suited to my purposes, but on a larger scale I have found other systems of practice that mirror the habits of hard work, understanding, focus or concentration, and ultimately love that were the underpinnings of what he taught me. The process of integrating those practices should also lead a diligent player to a unifying reality: that when improvising at best capacity the only conscious thought is to follow the improvised line that the player hears internally. Through Warne's guidance and coaching I was able to understand and embrace the process of improvisation in this way in that the line or melody became paramount, and any technical instrumental concerns were consciously abandoned and actually regarded as possibly interfering with 'true' improvising. So in my view this is the 'summum bonum' of improvising, however musicians are also given the gift of being able to roam though the landscape of jazz while engaging in our practice, and a sweet gift it is. This suggests that what Sidney Bechet called the "feeling inside the music" can take over if we allow it to, and in a curious paradox this has represented real freedom for many players.
Integrating the topics detailed in Part II is a process that has had different manifestations for me at the various points of my improvising life, and at its core the process remains rather mysterious. In that sense then my intention is for the information that I have shared to serve as a path for others to choose and negotiate on their own. If I also consider my original intention of bringing Warne's ideas in teaching jazz to light I am honored to pay tribute in this book to a brilliant musician and improviser. When Warne touched music he embodied excellence, and I have learned through my experiences in learning from him that excellence is truly its own reward.
Appendix A - List of audio examples in order
Lennie Tristano: "It's You or No One"/Descent Into the Maelstrom
Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Quintet: "Hot House" (excerpt)
Charlie Parker: "Out of Nowhere"/Dial Records
Warne Marsh: "Loco 47"/Warne Out, Interplay Records, with Jim Hughart, bass, Nick Ceroli, drums, 1977
Warne Marsh: Solo on "Blues for Lester"/Jazz Exchange Vol. 1, Storyville Records, Copenhagen, December 1975
Warne Marsh: "Indiana"/The Art of Improvising Vol. 1, recorded at The Half Note, NYC, 1959, Revelation Records
Warne Marsh/Sal Mosca Quartet: "Blues"/Village Vanguard, November 22, 1981
Warne Marsh with Supersax: "Cherokee"/date and location not exact, but in the mid 1970's
Sonny Dallas: Interview excerpt 1/ Commentary on Lennie Tristano, WYRS-FM, Rick Petrone, host, December 1, 1981
Sonny Dallas: Interview excerpt 2/ Commentary on Lennie's lack of exposure
Sonny Dallas: Interview excerpt 3/Commentary on first gig with Lennie
Video example – Lennie Tristano Quintet: "Subconscious Lee" (Lee Konitz)/ recorded live at the Half Note, NYC, June 1964
Warne Marsh: Interview excerpt 1/ Commentary contrasting Charlie Parker and Lennie Tristano, WYRS-FM, December 8, 1981
Warne Marsh: Interview excerpt 2/ Commentary on his influences
Warne Marsh: Interview excerpt 3/ Commentary on rapport with Lee Konitz and individuality
Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh: "Subconscious Lee" (Lee Konitz)/ excerpt from NBC-TV broadcast "The Subject Is Jazz", 1958
Warne Marsh: Interview excerpt/ Sweet Basil, June 5, 1980, introduction by Billy Taylor
Warne Marsh/Hank Jones Quartet: "Switchboard Joe" Holland, 1982
Warne Marsh/Lou Levy Quartet: "I'm Old Fashioned" Chicago, 1982
Warne Marsh Quartet: "Blackbird" from the Jazz Forum, January 16, 1983
Warne Marsh Quartet: "It's You Or No One", concert at Stony Brook, February 7, 1983
Warne Marsh Quartet: "You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To", concert at Stony Brook, February 7, 1983
Warne Marsh Quartet: "Embraceable You" concert at Stony Brook, February 7, 1983
Warne Marsh Quartet: "Fooling Myself", concert at Stony Brook, February 7, 1983
Warne Marsh Quartet: "Kary's Trance" (excerpt), concert at Stony Brook
Warne Marsh Quartet: "These Foolish Things", broadcast from the West End, September 23, 1983
Warne Marsh Quartet: "Anthropology", broadcast from the West End, September 23, 1983
Lennie Tristano/Sonny Dallas: "How About You"/excerpt
Warne Marsh Quartet: "Sax of a Kind"/from "Warne Marsh in Norway"
Warne Marsh/Susan Chen: " Summer Morning"
Warne Marsh/Susan Chen: " Summer Evening"
excerpt, Warne Marsh memorialbroadcast, Phil Schaap, host, WKCR-FM, December 1987
Dowling College Jazz Ensemble: "Topsy" – Stony Brook Jazz Festival, May 11, 2002 (video file)
John Klopotowski/John Clark: "Someday My Prince Will Come" – Jefferson Elementary School, San Francisco, May 6, 2005 (video file)
Warne Marsh: Interview excerpt
Warne Marsh: Interview excerpt on harmonic improvisation (video)
Lennie Tristano Sextet: "Digression", NYC, 1949
Warne Marsh: Interview excerpt on free improvisation and the Capitol recordings (video)
John Klopotowski: "Liberty Ave."/ recorded in 1982 in Port Jefferson, NY
Warne Marsh (excerpt): "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You"/ Fasching Club, Stockholm, April 19, 1980
John Klopotowski Trio: "Bretton Hall"/ recorded in 2002 with Louis Aissen, organ, Bob Scott, drums
Warne Marsh/Lee Konitz: "Background Music"/ line only
Warne Marsh/Lee Konitz: "Back Home"/ line only
Warne Marsh/Lee Konitz: "Two Not One"/ line only
Metronome All-Stars with Lennie Tristano and Charlie Parker: "Victory Ball"/ line only
Warne Marsh with Norwegian players: "All About You"/ line only
Warne Marsh/Sal Mosca Quartet: "Leave Me"/ line only
Warne Marsh: "Leave Me"
Lester Young: solo from "Song of the Islands"/ Count Basie Band
Charlie Parker: solo from "Billie's Bounce"
Charlie Parker: excerpt from "Billie's Bounce" solo
Charlie Parker: excerpt from "Billie's Bounce" solo, half speed with pitch lowered an octave
Charlie Parker: excerpt from "Billie's Bounce" solo, half speed with normal pitch
Lee Konitz Quartet with Warne Marsh: "Billie's Bounce", radio broadcast from The Half Note, New York City, 1958
John Klopotowski: "Just Dandy"
Tal Farlow trio featuring Gene Williams: "Out of Nowhere"
Frank Sinatra: "How Deep Is the Ocean?"
Warne Marsh (excerpt): solo on "Blue Lester"/ The Times, Los Angeles, December 17, 1974
Lennie Tristano: "Line Up"/excerpt
Lennie Tristano: "Line Up"/half speed excerpt
Lee Konitz: Discussing "Line Up"
John Klopotowski: "improvisation on Yardbird Suite"
Lee Konitz Trio: "I Remember You" ("Motion")
Appendix B - Bibliography/suggested reading
Balliett, Whitney, American Musicians, Fifty-Six Portraits in Jazz, Oxford University Press, 1986.
Case, Brian and Britt, Stan, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Jazz, Harmony Books, 1978.
Chamberlain, Safford, An Unsung Cat, The Life and Music of Warne Marsh, Scarecrow Press, 2000.
Clough, John; Conley, Joyce; and Boge, Claire; Scales, Intervals, Keys, Triads, Rhythm, and Meter: A Programmed Course in Elementary Music Theory, W. W. Norton and Company, 1999 (3rd Edition).
Collier, James Lincoln, The Making of Jazz, A Comprehensive History, Dell Publishing Company, 1978.
Cornelius, Marcus M. , Out of Nowhere, The Musical Life of Warne Marsh, Aurora Nova Publishing, 2002.
Gould, Glenn,The Glenn Gould Reader, Alfred A. Knopf, 1985.
Hamilton, Andy, Lee Konitz: Conversations on the Improviser's Art, University of Michigan Press, 2007.
Herrigel, Eugen, Zen In The Art of Archery, Vintage Books, 1953.
Jeppesen, Knud, Counterpoint, Prentice-Hall, 1939.
Pirsig, Robert, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, An Inquiry into Values, Morrow Quill Paperbacks, 1974.
Shim, Eunmi, Lennie Tristano: His Life in Music, University of Michigan Press, 2007.
Shim, Eunmi, Lennie Tristano (1919-1978): His Life, Music, and Teaching, Unpublished doctoral thesis, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1999.
Tehan, Frank, A Guide to Lennie Tristano's Sing-Along Method and the Art of Improvising, Unpublished essay, 2008.
Wilder, Alec, American Popular Song, The Great Innovators, 1900-1950, Oxford University Press, 1972.
Appendix C - Discography (with thanks to Jack Goodwin)
The following abridged discography contains historical information related to the recordings and examples used in the text, both released and private. For those interested in the full version of the discography it is available on Jack Goodwin's website (if online the link will take you to the webpage).
WARNE MARION MARSH
Born October 26, 1927 Los Angeles, CA. Died December 18, 1987, North Hollywood. CA.
JOOP VAN DER LEIJ
EDO ESSED and PIET KOSTER
1 - Sessions & Issues
R = LP recording
PR = Private recording exists
PCD – privately recorded compact disc from original PR
49-0304 LENNIE TRISTANO SEXTET.
'Capitol Recording Studio', NYC, March 4, 1949.
Lee Konitz, as; Warne Marsh, ts; Lennie Tristano, p; Billy Bauer, g; Arnold Fishkin, b; Harold Granowsky, d.
1 WOW 3413 3:22
2 CROSSCURRENT 3414 2:50
all R Affinity AFF-149 : Cap 57-60003 : Cap 5C052. 80853 : Cap CL-13157 : Cap CR-8084 : Cap DAG-135 : Cap ECJ-50. 076 : Cap M-11060 : Hot Club de Vienna 1013 : Interplay SNIRCP-25007 : VIP LP-17
all CD Cap CDP 7243 8 52771
1 R Cap H-371 : Cap T-371 : Cap LC-6598
2 R Cap EAP1-491 : Cap K-41549 : Smithsonian P6-11891 (1st Ed. ) : Telefunken 80177
2 CD GoJ CD-53149
49-0516 LENNIE TRISTANO SEXTET.
NYC, May 16, 1949.
Lee Konitz, as; Warne Marsh, ts; Lennie Tristano, p; Billy Bauer, g; Arnold Fishkin, b; Denzil Best, d.
1 MARIONETTE 3784 3:05
2 SAX OF A KIND 3785 3:01
3 INTUITION 3786 2:30
4 DIGRESSION 3787 3:07
all R Affinity AFF-149 : Cap 5C052. 80853 : Cap CR-8084 : Cap DAG-135 : Cap ECJ-50. 076 : Cap M-11060 : Interplay SNIRCP-25007 : VIP LP-17
all CD Cap CDP 7243 8 52771: Classics 1290/CD: Proper Box 64
1,3,4 CD GoJ CD-53149 (as Disgression)
1,2 R Cap 57-60013
1 R Cap H-371 : Cap T-371 : Cap IJ-060-80156 : Cap K-83091 : Cap LC-6598 : Cap T-796 : Franklin Mint FM Jazz-061 : Hot Club de Vienna 1013 : Telefunken 80177
2-4 R Cap EAP1-491 : Capitol K-41549 : Telefunken K-41549
3 R Cap 1224 : Cap CL-13456 : Cap T-20578 : Franklin Mint FM Jazz-097 : Telefunken C-80263
49-0628 LEE KONITZ QUINTET.
NYC, June 28, 1949.
Lee Konitz, as; Warne Marsh, ts; Sal Mosca, p; Arnold Fishkin, b; Denzil Best, d.
1 UNTITLED JRC 28 ?
2 UNTITLED JRC 29 ?
3 MARSHMALLOW JRC 30G 2:53
4 FISHIN' AROUND JRC 31D 3:45
3,4 R Barclay 74014 : Barclay BLP-84062 : Esq 32-027 : Esq EP-15 : Gazell 2003 : HMV FELP-100. 008 : Melodisc 1111 : Metronome MEP-44 : New Jazz NJ-807 : OJC 186 : Prestige 807 : Prestige EP-1314 : Prestige LP-101 : Prestige LP-7004 : Prestige LP-7250 : Prestige P-24081 : Prestige/Fantasy OM-2008 : Prestige SMJ-6522 : VSM FELP-10013 : Xtra 5049
3,4 CD OJC 186
3 R Musica Jazz 2MJP-1032
3 CD Storyville STCD-8314
49-0927 LEE KONITZ QUINTET.
NYC, September 27, 1949.
Lee Konitz, as; Warne Marsh, ts; Sal Mosca, p; Arnold Fishkin, b; Jeff Morton, d.
1 TAUTOLOGY JRC. 39F 2:53
2 SOUND LEE JRC. 40B 4:04
all R Barclay 74014 : Barclay BLP-84062 : Esq 32-027 : Esq EP-15 : Gazell 2003 : HMV FELP-100. 008 : Melodisc 1111 : Metronome MEP-44 : New Jazz NJ-813 : OJC 186 : Prestige 813 : Prestige EP-1314 : Prestige LP-101 : Prestige LP-7004 : Prestige LP-7250 : Prestige P-24081 : Prestige/Fantasy OM-2008 : Prestige SMJ-6522 : VSM FELP-10013 : Xtra 5049
all CD OJC 186
1 CD Storyville STCD-8314
2 R Musica Jazz 2MJP-1018
2 CD GoJ CD-53182
53-0709 METRONOME ALL STARS.
NYC, July 9, 1953.
Roy Eldridge, tp; Kai Winding, tb; John LaPorta, cl; Warne Marsh, Lester Young, ts; Terry Gibbs, vibes; Teddy Wilson, p; Billy Bauer, g; Eddie Safranski, b; Max Roach, d; Billy Eckstine, voc.
1a HOW HIGH THE MOON, PR. 1 53S-507 2:38
1b HOW HIGH THE MOON, PR. 2 53S-508 2:38
2a ST. LOUIS BLUES, PR. 1 53S-509 3:15
2b ST. LOUIS BLUES, PR. 2 53S-510 3:00
all R Metro 2348. 124 : MGM X-1078 : MGM E-3176 : MGM EMG-03 : MGM MM-2095 : MGM 109 : MGM EP-574 : MGM EP-63014 : MGM 2353. 071 : Swingtime ST-1015
all CD Moon MCD-048 : Verve 819. 442
1a,1b R Verve 2615. 044
2a,2b R Metro 2355. 013 : Metro 2356. 015 : MGM 11573 : MGM 692 : MGM SP-1060 : Radio TV Beograd RBT-4329
2a,2b CD Verve 840. 029
2b R Official 3035
2b CD Makin' Friends 19541. 2
2b CD RCA 74321. 19. 541
55-0614 LEE KONITZ SEXTET.
NYC, June 14, 1955.
Lee Konitz, as; Warne Marsh, ts; Sal Mosca, p; Billy Bauer, g; Oscar Pettiford, b; Kenny Clarke, d.
1 TWO NOT ONE 1573 5:23
2 THERE'LL NEVER BE ANOTHER YOU 1574 4:43
3 DONNA LEE 1575 6:12
4 DON'T SQUAWK 1576 7:10
5 TOPSY 1577 Mosca out 5:23
6 I CAN'T GET STARTED 1578 Mosca out 3:53
7 BACKGROUND MUSIC 1579 5:45
all R Atlantic LP-1217 : Atlantic 90050 : Atlantic 590. 020 : Atlantic 50298-ULP : Atlantic P-6071A : Atlantic P-4549A : London LTZ-K. 15025 : Mosaic MQ10-174 : Mus LPM-2007
all CD Atlantic 30XD-1033 : Atlantic 8122-75356 : Mosaic MD6-174
1,6 R Atlantic EP-552 : Metronome MEP-253
1 R Franklin Mint FM Jazz-061
1 CD GoJ CD-53182
2,4-6 R I Grandi del Jazz 43
3,5 R Atlantic EP-551 : Metronome MEP-252
3 R New World NW-242
5 R Atlantic R2-71726
6 R Atlantic 81705
55-0621 LEE KONITZ-WARNE MARSH SEXTET.
'Coastal Studios', NYC, June 21, 1955.
Lee Konitz, as; Warne Marsh, ts; Ronnie Ball, p; Billy Bauer, g; Oscar Pettiford, b; Kenny Clarke, d.
1 ALL THE THINGS YOU ARE 1580 -
2 I SAW YOU LAST NIGHT 1581 -
3 RONNIE'S LINE 1582 3:05
Note: This session has often been dated as June 15, but the original Atlantic log book clearly states that it took place on June 21.
1,2 Atlantic unissued (masters don't exist anymore)
3 R Atlantic EP-552 : Atlantic LP-1217 : Atlantic 90050 : Atlantic 590. 020 : Atlantic 50298-ULP : Atlantic P-6071A : Atlantic P-4549A : London LTZ-K15025 : Metronome MEP-253 : Mosaic MQ10-174 : Mus LPM-2007
3 CD Atlantic 30XD-1033 : Atlantic 8122-75356 : Mosaic MD6-174
56-1126 ART PEPPER - WARNE MARSH QUINTET. 'The Way It Was'.
'Contemporary Studio', Los Angeles, CA. , November 26, 1956.
Art Pepper, as; Warne Marsh, ts; Ronnie Ball, p; Ben Tucker, b; Gary Frommer, d.
1a I CAN'T BELIEVE THAT YOU'RE IN LOVE WITH ME 5:23
1b I CAN'T BELIEVE THAT YOU'RE IN LOVE WITH ME a. t. 5:33
2a ALL THE THINGS YOU ARE 6:32
2b ALL THE THINGS YOU ARE a. t. 6:26
3 WHAT'S NEW? Marsh out 4:04
4 AVALON 3:50
5 TICKLE TOE 4:50
6a WARNIN', take 1 6:06
6b WARNIN', take 2 5:50
7 STOMPING AT THE SAVOY Marsh out 5:50
all CD ConCar 98. 646 : ConJVC VICJ-23640 : ConVic VDJ-1577 : Con S-9001 (CD?) : OJC 389
1a,2a,3,5 R Con GXC-3155 : Con LAX-3131 : Con M-3630 : Con S-7630 : OJC 389
1a,3,6a CD Con VDJ-1593
2a or 2b? CD Prestige PRCD-11010
58-0514 LEE KONITZ - WARNE MARSH.
Educational Program: 'The Subject Is Jazz', NBC-TV. NYC, May 14, 1958.
Don Elliott, tp (2,7), mell (1, 3,6), vibes (4, 7); Lee Konitz, as; Warne Marsh, ts; Billy Taylor, p; Mundell Lowe, g; Eddie Safranski, b; Ed Thigpen, d; Gilbert Seldes, presentation.
1 MOVE (introduction with announcer's voice over) 0:45
- introduction by Seldes 0:53
2 GODCHILD 2:56
- explanation by Seldes ('cool' versus 'bop') with samples of Prez, Miles ('Boblicity') and Lennie
- Tristano ('Wow') and Seldes + Billy Taylor trio (p, g, d) 6:05
3 LADY BIRD/HALF NELSON 4:18
4 EVER SO EASY 2:48
5 SUBCONSCIOUS-LEE Elliott out 2:28
- discussion between Seldes and Konitz 2:48
6 MOVE 3:06
- talk by Seldes 0:35
7 SIGN-OFF BLUES (with voice over) 1:32
Note: Also broadcast on a later date, by National Public Radio (NPR).
Note: Another video film ("A Fat Lady Production") of the Lee Konitz Quartet / Live at The Village Vanguard, 1984, contains an insert of approx. 7 min (dated 1954!), consisting of 'Move' (3:06) / the discussion of Konitz by Gilbert Seldes / 'Subconscious-Lee' (2:28).
allTVBr TV Education Films.
5,6 Video "A Fat Lady Production" of the Lee Konitz 4 / Live at The Village Vanguard, 1984.
58-0700 LEE KONITZ - WARNE MARSH. "Bandstand USA"-RB.
'Half Note', NYC, c. July, 1958. (1-4 also dated " late 50's". )
Lee Konitz, as; Warne Marsh, ts; NobbyTotah, b; Paul Motian, d.
1 YARDBIRD SUITE 3:22
2 TOPSY 6:19
3 'ROUND MIDNIGHT 3:28
4 317 EAST 32ND STREET 4:10
5 BILLIE'S BOUNCE 6:51
6 BACKGROUND MUSIC 3:56
7 BILLIE'S BOUNCE (2) 3:06
8 WILL YOU STILL BE MINE Marsh out 3:45
9 CHEEK TO CHEEK Konitz out 3:19
10 I CAN'T GET STARTED 5:47
11 TWO NOT ONE inc. 0:50
1-10 PR (Most likely two broadcasts: 1-3 / 4-10)
59-0217/24 LEE KONITZ-WARNE MARSH QUINTET.
'The Half Note', NYC, February 17 & 24, 1959.
Lee Konitz, as; Warne Marsh, ts; Bill Evans (*), p; Jimmy Garrison, b; Paul Motian, d.
Note: The following 42 tracks were recorded by Peter Ind on the two Tuesday nights of a two week engagement when Bill Evans replaced Lennie Tristano who had commitments to teach. In the early 70's, Connie Crothers made an edited tape (with Marsh's solos only) at the request of Lennie Tristano who wanted a solo tape of Warne's playing from that date. Warne Marsh ultimately gave a copy of this tape to Bill Hardy of Revelation Records and the tracks were issued on LP's, i. e. 20 excerpts on Revelation 22 (issued 1974) and 14 on Revelation 27 (issued 1977) under the title "Warne Marsh: The Art Of Improvising". In 1994 Verve issued 12 complete tracks on the 2 CD set Verve 521 659-2. However, all of the original tracks have circulated amongst collectors for some time in a condition which required editing. This has now been done. Since we have no knowledge of the dating or sequence of each track between the two sessions, we have divided all tracks into two parts (21 tracks - 3 sets? - per evening). Two titles were recorded three times. We assume one version was played as a daily sound check (listed as track 1 below).
In early September 2004 my co-worker in Holland, Joop van derLeij, consulted guitarist/arranger Axel Hagen to analyse the origin of the Revelation excerpts. These results are included in the following summaries (22 and 27 indicating the two LP's - Revelation 22 and 27).
Assumed program A:
1 YOU STEPPED OUT OF A DREAM 27-track 10 7:42
2 PALO ALTO * 22-track 1 9:13
3 HOW ABOUT YOU? * 9:15
4 MY MELANCHOLY BABY * 27-track 1 6:54
5 SCRAPPLE FROM THE APPLE * 22-track 5 7:53
6 YOU STEPPED OUT OF A DREAM * 22-track 4 7:39
7 317 E. 32ND * 27-track 2 7:44
8 APRIL * 22-track 6 8:44
9 IT'S YOU OR NO ONE * 22-track 2 8:09
10 JUST FRIENDS * WM out 5:40
11 BABY, BABY ALL THE TIME * WM no solo 8:31
12 LENNIE-BIRD * (also private 2nd copy, incl false start / 9:31) 8:39
13 SUBCONSCIOUS-LEE * 22-track 3 7:41
14 BACK HOME 22-track 19 6:41
15 HALF NELSON 22-track 20 6:41
16 TANGERINE 27-track 4 6:25
17 YARDBIRD SUITE 27-track 6 7:36
18 BODY AND SOUL * 7:15
19 BACKGROUND MUSIC 27-track 11 8:26
20 WILL YOU STILL BE MINE? 27-track 7 9:02
21 PENNIES IN MINOR 27-track 14 inc. 6:34
2-13 CD Verve 521 659-2 (2CDs)
14,15 PCD (A) private CD-A/ see next Revelation listings
16,17,19,20 PCD (B) private CD-B/ see next Revelation listings
1,21 PCD (C) private CD-C/ see next Revelation listings
18 PCD (D) private CD-D/ see next Revelation listings
Assumed program B:
1 IT'S YOU OR NO ONE 7:50
2 HOW ABOUT YOU 22-track 10 6:29
3 SCRAPPLE FROM THE APPLE 22-track 11 5:09
4 YOU STEPPED OUT OF A DREAM 22-track 17 7:53
5 317 E. 32nd 27-track 9 8:31
6 APRIL 22-track 18 10:26
7 IT'S YOU OR NO ONE 22-track 14 (ens. ) / 22-track 16 (solo) 6:57
8 YESTERDAYS WM out 5:25
9 BABY, BABY ALL THE TIME 22-track 12 7:04
10 LENNIE BIRD 22-track 8 8:33
11 SUBCONSCIOUS-LEE 27-track 8 9:51
12 TWO NOT ONE 22-track 13 inc. 7:46
13 BACK HOME * 22-track 7 7:53
14 HALF NELSON * 22-track 15 8:15
15 THE SONG IS YOU 22-track 9 10:30
16 LOVERMAN WM out 4:35
17 YARDBIRD SUITE * 27-track 12 9:32
18 WILL YOU STILL BE MINE? * WM out 6:37
19 PENNIES IN MINOR 27-track 5 6:23
20 'ROUND MIDNIGHT 5:00
21 FISHIN' AROUND * 27-track 3 7:04
4,6,8,9,10,12,15 PCD (A) private CD-A/ see next Revelation listings
1,2,3,5,11,16 PCD (B) private CD-B/ see next Revelation listings
7,19,20 PCD (C) private CD-C/ see next Revelation listings
13,14,17,18,21 PCD (D) private CD-D/ see next Revelation listings
Excerpts on Revelation 22 (side one: 1-10 / side two 11-20).
(with indication of track source )
1 Palo Alto (as 'Strike Up The Band') Verve (A)-1 2:30
2 It's You Or No One Verve (B)-2 2:10
3 Subconscious-Lee Verve (B)-6 1:37
4 You Stepped Out Of A Dream (add LK) Verve (A)-5 2:22
5 Scrapple From The Apple Verve (A)-4 2:18
6 I'll Remember April Verve (B)-1 1:36
7 Indiana PCD (D)-5 1:55
8 Lunar Elevation (Lennie Bird) PCD (A)-8 2:26
9 A Song For You (The Song Is You) PCD (A)-9 2:11
10 How About You? PCD (B)-4 1:55
11 Scrapple From The Apple (add LK) PCD (B)-5 2:00
12 Baby, Baby, All The Time (as 'Blues') PCD (A)-7 1:20
13 I Can't Believe That You're In Love With Me PCD (A)-1 2:21
14 It's You Or No One PCD (C)-5 1:10
15 Half Nelson (mistitled 'Indian Summer')(add LK) PCD (D)-1 2:00
16 It's You Or No One (add LK) PCD (C)-5 1:10
17 You Stepped Out Of A Dream -2 PCD (A)-6 2:05
18 April, I'll Remember (I'll Remember April)(add LK) PCD (A)-3 2:30
19 Indiana PCD (A)-4 2:40
20 Half Nelson PCD (A)-5 2:49
Excepts on Revelation 27 (side one: 1-7 / side two 8-14).
(with indication of track source)
1 Melancholy Baby (mistitled 'Sweet Georgia Brown') Verve (A)-3 2:02
2 317 E 32nd (titled Out Of Nowhere) Verve (A)-6 2:49
3 Fishin' Around PCD (D)-6 1:56
4 Tangerine PCD (B)-1 2:22
5 Pennies In Minor (mistitled 'Lennie's Pennies') PCD (C)-6 2:18
6 Yardbird Suite PCD (B)-6 1:50
7 Will You Still Be Mine PCD (B)-10 1:57
8 What Is This Thing Called Love PCD (B)-7 2:10
9 317 E 32nd (titled Out Of Nowhere) PCD (B)-8 1:55
10 You Stepped Out Of A Dream PCD (C)-3 2:45
11 Background Music ('?' on sleeve) PCD (B)-9 1:55
12 Yardbird Suite ('?' on sleeve) PCD (D)-3 1:58
13 It's You Or No One (mistitled 'Lennie's Pennies') not yet found* 2:00
14 Pennies In Minor ('?' on sleeve) PCD (C)-2 1:10
*Note: Excerpt 13 could not be related to one of the complete tracks from these two dates.
64-0606 LENNIE TRISTANO QUINTET.
'Half Note', NYC, June 6, 1964.
Lee Konitz, as; Warne Marsh, ts; Lennie Tristano, p; Sonny Dallas, b; Nick Stabulas, d.
1 SUBCONSCIOUS-LEE 7:34
2 317 EAST 32ND STREET 10:28
3 BACKGROUND MUSIC 9:43
1a SUBCONSCIOUS-LEE 5:50
2b 317 EAST 32ND STREET 9:44
3c BACKGROUND MUSIC 7:32
Note: TV Show 'Look Up And Live' (broadcast on 64-0809)
1-3 PR This private recording includes the original voice-overs and all music from the broadcast. 1a-3a have voice-overs and consequently some music, edited out.
1a-3c R Jazz Records 06 : Richelieu AX-120 (mistitled: Sub-conscious-ly; 32nd Street East; and Musical Background
1a-3c CD Jazz Records JR6CD
"Shelly's Manne Hole", Los Angeles. January 3, 1974.
Frank Rosolino, tb; Med Flory, as; Joe Lopes, as; Warne Marsh, ts; Jay Migliori, ts; Jack Nimitz, bars; Lou Levy, p; Buddy Clark, b; Jake Hanna, d.
1 THE BIRD inc. 12:38
2 STAR EYES 13. 12
3 MOOSE THE MOOCHE 13:51
4 LOVER MAN 3:57
5 SCRAPPLE FROM THE APPLE 12:36
6 JUST FRIENDS 3:35
7 SALT PEANUTS 9:42
8 LADY BE GOOD 4:16
9 PARKER'S MOOD 4:01
10 KO KO 11:09
11 AULD LANG SYNE (spoof on Lombardo's version) 2:03
12 LOVER inc. 5:11
13 ORNITHOLOGY 12:09
14 GROOVIN' HIGH 13:10
all PR Track timings include intro. remarks by Med Flory.
74-1217 WARNE MARSH QUARTET.
'The Times', Studio City, CA, December 17, 1974.
Warne Marsh, ts; Lou Levy, p; Jim Hughart, b; Frank Severino, d.
1 IT'S YOU OR NO ONE 7:12
2 FEATHERBED (piano solo omitted) 5:42
3 BLUE LESTER 8:15
4 THIS CAN'T BE LOVE (piano solo omitted) 2:49
5 IF YOU COULD SEE ME NOW (piano solo omitted) 3:45
6 STRIKE UP THE BAND (drum solo slightly edited) 9:12
7 STELLA BY STARLIGHT (fades out near end) 5:41
1-7 PR Recorded by Charles Coffman
75-0605 WARNE MARSH QUARTET.
'The Times Restaurant', Ventura Blvd. , Studio City, CA. June 5, 1975.
Warne Marsh, ts; Lou Levy, Dave Mackay*; p; Fred Atwood, b; Dick Borden, d.
1 SUBCONSCIOUS-LEE 3:53
2 EQUINOX 4:58
3 LITTLE WILLIE LEAPS 4:23
4 YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT LOVE IS 4:53
5 ALL THE THINGS YOU ARE* 8:03
6 I'LL REMEMBER APRIL* 7:06
7 YOU GO TO MY HEAD* 5:49
8 SIPPIN' AT BELL'S* 3:48
9 YOU STEPPED OUT OF A DREAM 6:37
10 THE MORE I SEE YOU 4:41
11 THE TROLLEY SONG 6:29
12 GIANT STEPS 6:14
13 LEAVE ME 4:41
all PR Mainly Marsh solos only.
75-1205 WARNE MARSH QUINTET.
'Jazzhus Montmartre', Copenhagen, Denmark, December 5, 1975.
Lee Konitz, as; Warne Marsh, ts; Ole Kock Hansen, p; Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, b; Svend Erik Nørregard, d.
1 BLUES BY LESTER (POUND CAKE) 7:44
2 LENNIE-BIRD 8:28
3 YOU STEPPED OUT OF A DREAM 10:10
4 I'LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS ?
5 STELLA BY STARLIGHT ?
6 TWO NOT ONE ?
7 TUNE UP ?
8 I ALWAYS KNEW ?
9 DARN THAT DREAM ?
10 FEATHERBED ?
11 DONNA LEE ?
12 WOW! 6:30
13 LITTLE WILLIE LEAPS 8:00
14 JUST FRIENDS 7:52
15 OLD FOLKS 4:16
16 AU PRIVAVE 10:49
1-3 R Storyville SLP-1017 : toryville SLP-4001( -1 as 'Blues For Lester')
1-3 CD Storyville STCD 8201
13-16 R Storyville SLP-4096
12-16 CD Storyville STCD 8203
4-11 Storyville unissued
77-0514 WARNE MARSH TRIO.
'Jim Hughart's Model 'A' Studio', Granada Hills, CA. , May 14, 1977.
Warne Marsh, ts; Jim Hughart, b; Nick Ceroli, d.
1 LOCAL 47 (This Can't Be Love) 3:48
2 LINER NOTES (You Stepped Out Of A Dream) 3:51
3 There Will Never Be Another You 3:56
4 Spring Time (It Might As Well Be Spring) 5:23
Note: Original title of Local 47 is "Loco 47" (other titles of issues on Trio PAP-9092 see
77-0515 & 77-0605).
1,2 R Discovery DS-863 : Interplay IP-7709 : Trio PAP-9092 : Flyright FLY-212
1,2 CD Discovery DSCD-945
3,4 PR unissued
77-0515 WARNE MARSH TRIO.
'Jim Hughart's Model 'A' Studio', CA. , May 15, 1977.
Warne Marsh, ts; Jim Hughart, b; Nick Ceroli, d.
1 WARNE OUT (It's You Or No One) 3:20
2 LENNIE'S PENNIES 3:56
3 DUET (All The Things You Are) Marsh overdubbed ts 4:45
4 BALLAD (I Should Care) bass overdubbed 8:00
Note: Other titles on Trio PAP-9092 see 77-0514 & 77-0605
all R Discovery DS-863 : Interplay IP-7709 : Trio PAP-9092 : Flyright FLY-212
all CD Discovery DSCD-945 (-4 as ' Warne Piece/Blues')
77-0605 WARNE MARSH TRIO.
'Jim Hughart's Model 'A' Studio', CA. , June 5, 1977.
Warne Marsh, ts; Jim Hughart, b; Nick Ceroli, d.
1 Warne Out Again (This Can't Be Love-2) 6:07
2 WARNE PIECE (Blues) Marsh overdubbed ts 5:42
3 Later On (Lennie's Pennies) 5:02
4 Besame Mucho 6:10
Note: Other titles on Trio PAP 9092 see 77-0514 & 77-0515
2 R Discovery DS-863 (as 'Ballad') : Interplay IP-7709 : Trio PAP-9092 : Flyright FLY-212
2 CD Discovery DSCD-945 (as 'Ballad')
1,3,4 PR unissued
80-0418 WARNE MARSH - RED MITCHELL DUO.
'Fasching Club', Stockholm, Sweden, April 18, 1980.
Warne Marsh, ts; Red Mitchell, b.
1 HOT HOUSE 4:24
2 TEA FOR TWO 4:26
3 GONE WITH THE WIND 4:10
4 ORNITHOLOGY 5:24
5 IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU 4:44
6 EASY LIVING 7:09
7 I'M GETTING SENTIMENTAL OVER YOU 4:30
Note: Above and following from two nights (April 18 and April 19 with 6 sets)
1-7 R Storyville SLP 4092
1-7 CD Storyville STCD-8257
5 CD Storyville STCD-8314 (gives date as April-18-19)
80-0605 WARNE MARSH-RED MITCHELL DUO. WKCR and National Public Radio-RB.
'Sweet Basil', 88 Seventh Ave, NYC, June 5, 1980.
Warne Marsh, ts; Red Mitchell, b.
1 IT'S YOU OR NO ONE 5:16
2 GONE WITH THE WIND 5:52
3 EVERYTHING HAPPENS TO ME 6:24
4 CHEROKEE 5:49
5 SIPPIN' AT BELLS 5:56
6 EASY LIVING 6:59
7 THESE FOOLISH THINGS 5:21
8 TOPSY 4:41
all R Fresh Sound FSR-1038
all CD Fresh Sound FSCD-1038
all PR Including introduction by Billy Taylor and interview with Marsh by Michael Coscuna
81- 0816 WARNE MARSH-SAL MOSCA QUARTET.
'Village Vanguard', NYC, August 16, 1981
Warne Marsh, ts; Sal Mosca, Frank Canino, b; Skip Scott, d.
1 ALL THE THINGS YOU ARE 11:58
2 CROSSCURRENT 7:41
3 SOUND-LEE 7:28
4 FOOLIN' MYSELF 6:44
5 IT'S YOU OR NO ONE 7:44
6 AFTER YOU'VE GONE inc. 2:26
7 BACKGROUND MUSIC 6:16
8 ALL ABOUT YOU 8:40
9 LOVER COME BACK TO ME 8:21
10 TIME WAS 5:57
11 LENNIE BIRD 7:08
12 WOW 8:09
81-1122 WARNE MARSH-SAL MOSCA QUARTET.
'Village Vanguard', NYC, November 22, 1981.
Warne Marsh, ts; Sal Mosca, p; Frank Canino, b; Skip Scott, d.
1 TWO NOT ONE 8:31
2 SUMMERTIME 10:33
3 LITTLE WILLIE LEAPS 8:15
4 YOU STEPPED OUT OF A DREAM 11:17
5 BLUES 9:45
all PR/CD Recorded by Skip Scott
81-1210 WARNE MARSH on Station WYRS, Stamford, Connecticut.
Warne Marsh interviewed by Rick Petrone
1 INTERVIEW 2hrs. 45 min.
82-0724 WARNE MARSH QUARTET / QUINTET.
'Gulliver's', West Paterson, NJ. , July 24, 1982.
Warne Marsh, ts; Joshua Breakstone, g; Earl Sauls, b; Taro Okamoto, d.
1 VICTORY BALL 6:38
2 POLKA DOTS AND MOONBEAMS 8:34
3 APRIL 7:11
4 SIPPIN' AT BELLS 5:52
Note: Marsh also performed at a wedding reception earlier that evening at the Gramercy Park Hotel, NYC, with Simon Wettenhall, tp; John Klopotowski, g; George Kay, b; Tim Horner, d.
82-0814 WARNE MARSH QUARTET.
'Studio 44', Monster, Holland, August 14, 1982.
Warne Marsh, ts; Hank Jones, p; George Mraz, b; Mel Lewis, d.
1a SWITCHBOARD JOE take 1 5:00
1b SWITCHBOARD JOE take x 5:44
2a STAR HIGHS take x 7:40
2b STAR HIGHS take 2 6:44
3 HANK'S TUNE 5:34
4a MOOSE THE MOOCHE take x 5:46
4b MOOSE THE MOOCHE take y unissued ?
5a VICTORY BALL take x 4:35
5b VICTORY BALL take y unissued ?
6a SOMETIMES take 1 6:06
6b SOMETIMES take x 9:45
7 ONE FOR THE BAND 6:20
1b,2a,3,4a,5a,6b,7 R Criss 1002
1a-4a,5a,6a-7 CD Criss 1002-CD
82-0905 WARNE MARSH.
Chicago Jazz Festival, Grant Park, Chicago, ILL.
Warne Marsh, ts; Lou Levy, p; Jimmy Raney, g; John Whitfield, b; Dick Borden, d.
1 MY SHINING HOUR 6:07
2 I'M OLD FASHIONED 7:45
- introduction by Lou Levy 2:45
3 317 EAST 32ND STREET (announced as 213 W 32nd Street) 6:06
4 SUBCONSCIOUS-LEE 5:19
5 LIMEHOUSE BLUES 6:43
- sign-off by Lou Levy 0:22
6 LUNARCY 7:19
all PR Recorded and broadcast by unknown US-Radio
83-0116 WARNE MARSH QUARTET.
'Jazz Forum', NYC, January 16, 1983.
Warne Marsh, ts; John Klopotowski, g; George Mraz, b; Taro Okamoto, d; Judy Niemack vcl. *
1 IT'S YOU OR NO ONE 10:02
2 VICTORY BALL 8:04
3 STAR EYES 9:20
4 BACKGROUND MUSIC 7:34
5 THIS IS ALWAYS 8:38
6 LENNIE'S PENNIES 7. 31
7 FEATHERBED 8. 40
8 YOU STEPPED OUT OF A DREAM 10. 08
9 COME RAIN OR COME SHINE 10. 46
10 THE BEST THING FOR YOU WOULD BE ME 7. 34
11 WOW! * 10. 16
12 WE'LL BE TOGETHER AGAIN * 5. 26
13 KARY'S TRANCE * 10. 00
14 ALL ABOUT YOU 7. 41
15 BYE BYE BLACKBIRD 10. 53
16 APRIL & sign off by Warne Marsh 11. 19
83-0207 WARNE MARSH QUARTET.
'Fine Arts Center', State University of New York, Stony Brook, Long Island, NY,
February 7, 1983.
Warne Marsh, ts; John Klopotowski, g; Sonny Dallas, el. b; Skip Scott, d.
1 STAR EYES 8:36
2 BACKGROUND MUSIC 5:49
3 YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT LOVE IS 10:46
4 VICTORY BALL 7:24
5 IT'S YOU OR NO ONE 9:48
6 YOU STEPPED OUT OF A DREAM 6:50
7 YOU'D BE SO NICE TO COME HOME TO 8:09
8 FOOLIN' MYSELF 5:42
9 LENNIE'S PENNIES 7:11
10 EMBRACEABLE YOU 8:27
11 KARY'S TRANCE 5:21
12 STRIKE UP THE BAND 5:50
10,11 cassSallad D-102731 (own rec. of Dallas) as "Unbreakable Me" and "Kary's Trance"
83-0518 WARNE MARSH. Rehearsal.
'Studio 10', Norwegian Radio, Oslo, Norway, May 18, 1983.
Torgrim Sollid, tp; Warne Marsh, ts; John Pal Inderberg, bars; TerjeBjørklund, p; BjørnKjellemyr, b; Carl Haakon Waadeland, d.
1 317 EAST 32ND STREET ?
2 HIGH ON YOU ?
3 EASY LIVING ?
Note: Recorded by Oeystein Storm Johansen. (Complete tape exists).
all TV Norwegian Television (broadcast in whole or in part in documentary 'Logical Lines", broadcast by NKR-TV 84-1125).
6 TV Norwegian Television ( # broadcast in whole or in part in documentary 'Logical Lines", broadcast by NKR-TV 84-1125).
83-0521+ WARNE MARSH.
'Roger Arnhoff Studio', Oslo, Norway, May 21 & 22, 1983.
Torgrim Sollid, tp; Warne Marsh, ts; John Pal Inderberg, bars; TerjeBjørklund, p; BjørnKjellemyr, b; Carl Haakon Waadeland, d.
1 ALL ABOUT YOU 6:30
2 MY ROMANCE 6:02
3 HOW DEEP IS THE OCEAN Marsh + bars out 4:05
4 SAX OF A KIND tp + bars out 4:38
5 TIME ON MY HANDS 4:18
6 FEATHERBED 5:15
7 EASY LIVING Marsh + tp out 4:26
8 LEAVE ME bars out 5:20
all R Hot Club Records HCR-7
83-0523+ WARNE MARSH and Students.
'Troendelag Music Conservatory, Jazz DePR. ', Oslo, Norway, May 23-27, 1983.
Warne Marsh, ts; OeysteinTrollsaas, ts; Stein IneSolstad, g; VigleikStoraas, p; Odd MagneGridseth, b; Tor Haugerud, d.
1 I'LL REMEMBER APRIL ?
2 WHAT IS THIS THING CALLED LOVE ?
Note: Recorded by Oeystein Storm Johansen.
1,2 TV Norwegian Television (used in whole or in part in documentary 'Logical Lines", broadcast by NKR-TV 84-1125).
RB: Recorded and broadcast by Norwegian Radio
83-0726 WARNE MARSH QUARTET.
'Village Vanguard', NYC, July 26, 1983.
Warne Marsh, ts; Hank Jones, p; George Mraz, b; Bobby Durham, d.
1 STRIKE UP THE BAND 5:35
2 STAR EYES 8:42
3 VICTORY BALL 6:45
4 COME RAIN OR COME SHINE 10:25
5 SLOW BOAT TO CHINA 6:27
6 WHAT IS THIS THING CALLED LOVE 8:01
7 ALL THE THINGS YOU ARE 10:05
8 I'LL REMEMBER APRIL 11:08
9 SWEET LORRAINE 6:36
10 EMBRACEABLE YOU 7:43
11 LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME 8:29
12 SUMMERTIME 7:35
13 MOOSE THE MOOCHE 8:11
14 DON'T GET AROUND MUCH ANYMORE 7:54
15 OUT OF NOWHERE 8:25
16 OW! 8:19
17 THIS IS ALWAYS 5:35
18 SOMEBODY LOVES ME 8:14
19 WALKIN' 9:11
20 I GET A KICK OUT OF YOU 7:19
83-0923 WARNE MARSH QUARTET. RB-WKCR-FM.
'West End Café', 2911 Broadway, NYC, September 23, 1983.
Warne Marsh, ts; John Klopotowski, g; Peck Morrison, b; Earl Williams, d.
1 SONNYMOON FOR TWO 7:35
2 YOU STEPPED OUT OF A DREAM 5:23
3 THESE FOOLISH THINGS 7:35
4 ANTHROPOLOGY 6:00
all PR Broadcast by Station WKCR-FM announced by Phil Schaap.
83-1028 WARNE MARSH-HANK JONES QUARTET.
'Village Vanguard', NYC, October 28, 1983.
Warne Marsh, ts; Hank Jones, p; George Mraz, b; Tim Horner, d.
1 IT'S YOU OR NO ONE 8:37
2 STAR EYES 8:52
3 THE NEARNESS OF YOU 8:06
4 MOOSE THE MOOCHE 8:24
5 DON'T GET AROUND MUCH ANYMORE 8:50
6 JUST FRIENDS 8:07
7 STARDUST 5:40
8 THREE LITTLE WORDS inc. 3:08
9 ORNITHOLOGY 9:06
10 I'M OLD FASHIONED 9:47
11 TWISTED BLUES 8:18
12 LOVER MAN 8:11
13 SWEET GEORGIA BROWN 8:08
14 EMBRACEABLE YOU 9:35
15 SUBCONSCIOUS-LEE inc. 4:38
84-0300 MANHATTAN STUDIO. Video-Film documentary on Lennie Tristano.
Oslo, Norway, issued March 1984.
Music by and/or interviews with, Lennie Tristano, Warne Marsh, Lee Konitz, Connie Crothers, Sheila Jordan, Barry Ulanov and Charlie Parker.
1 Documentary in 2 parts respectively ca. 38 and 37 min
Note: Produced (1982 - 1984) by Jan Horne for Norwegian Television (NKR-TV).
1 TV Video-film; 2 parts, Vol. 1 and 2
CD Interplay IPCD-8609 : Art Union ARTCD-34
86-0114 WARNE MARSH - SUSAN CHEN.
'Classic Sound Productions Studio', NYC, Jan. 14, 1986.
Warne Marsh, ts; Susan Chen, p.
1 THIS THING 3:00
2 SUMMER MORNING 2:38
3 SUMMER EVENING 2:42
4 PENNIES 1:47
5 ALWAYS 3:30
6 MARVELLOUS WORDS 2:52
7 STRIKE OUT 2:20
8 ANOTHER YOU 2:38
9 IT'S YOU 2:05
10 ALRIGHT 3:25
11 THIS BE LOVE 3:38
12 HAVE YOU MET 1:52
13 AGAIN 1:53
Note: for other titles on Interplay IP-8601 see 85-0617
all R Interplay IP-8601
87-1018 WARNE MARSH QUARTET in concert for "Jazz In Flight".
'In Flight Dance Studio', 333 Dolores St. , San Francisco, Oct. 18, 1987.
Warne Marsh, ts; Larry Koonse; g; Seward McCain, b; Jim Zimmerman, d.
1 IT'S YOU OR NO ONE 8:58
2 I CRIED FOR YOU 9:08
3 BACKGROUND MUSIC 2:43
4 TIME ON MY HANDS 7:00
5 317 EAST 32ND. STREET 8:12
6 WHAT IS THIS THING CALLED LOVE 6:04
7 GEE BABY, AIN'T I GOOD TO YOU 7:02
8 JOY SPRING 8:43
9 EASY LIVING 5:56
10 AFTER YOU'VE GONE 6:20
11 SONNYMOON FOR TWO 8:01
87-1215 WARNE MARSH.
Van Nuys, CA. , December 15, 1987.
Warne Marsh, ts; solo improvisations.
1 INTRODUCTION 2:24
2 STATEMENT 1 5:01
3 STATEMENT 2 8:44
4 STATEMENT 3 6:00
5 STATEMENT 4 3:51
6 STATEMENT 5 2:28
all CD JAZZBANK/Archives MTCJ-1050 (Jap)
The following is a Los Angeles newspaper extract published just after the event:
Warne Marsh (died 18 December 1987).
This jazz saxophonist died of heart attack after collapsing onstage while giving a performance at Donte's in North Hollywood. According to another member of the quartet, Marsh "just slipped off his stool. " He was pronounced dead at the hospital.