Bobby Brooks and Harold Howard | San Bernardino Freeway heading into L.A. in Bobby’s Mercedes | June 18, 1983 | Photo by Mark Weber
Los Angeles is all about driving. They’ll probably have to re-think that concept someday, when the wheels fall off, but in my lifetime it was pedal to the metal, four on the floor (or, three on the tree), fill ‘er up with ethel and hit the road, Kerouac, jack.
Santa Monica Freeway (Rt.10) | mid-morning October 14, 1979 | Photo by Mark Weber
So much of the jazz life in Los Angeles is spent at night on freeways — going to & from places where the music is invoked, where the seance is taking place. Los Angeles is spread out over hundreds of square miles and Harold and I lived on the same corner of the metropolis, so, after we met at Bell’s BBQ when he was with H. Ray Crawford’s Quartet, we hooked up and trooped all over L.A. together.
Bobby & Harold & the Mercedes on San Bernardino Freeway | June 18, 1983 | Photo by Mark Weber
There’s a lot of ways you can tell a story, so many different angles. How all the parts fit together is tricky, but not that hard, providing that you’re not overly concerned with verisimilitude and/or parallelism — I’d play country music with my grandfather on a weekly basis and at the same time, in a parallel universe I’d catch Johnny Otis or Buddy Collette or Sun Ra. One minute I’m photographing Supersax and the next I’m photographing SuperFox.
The dimensions of a life.
A person is never just one thing all of the time — there exists several lives inside you — how the self morphs into thousands of situations is all about survival (the Buddha regarded the self as insubstantial, a little too creaky to be relied upon). Sometimes the uniformity of a story is outside our purview. What appears to be conflicting story lines sometimes come together in interesting ways. My friend the poet Joan Jobe Smith explained to me one day while we were in Kansas that that concept is known as parataxis. (I think over the years I’ve put my own spin on parataxis, so don’t quote me on that one.)
My Grandpa Harry Matthew | 1977 | Photo by Mark Weber
Johnny Otis and Buddy Collette | July 15, 1984 | Photo by Mark Weber
June Tyson & Sun Ra | Club Lingerie, Hollywood | November 22, 1981 | photo by Mark Weber
Supersax | June 6, 1980 | Cal Poly, Pomona | morning clinic | Med Flory, Jay Migliori, Lanny Morgan, Jack Nimitz, Ray Reed, Frank De La Rosa, John Dentz, Lou Levy, Conte Candoli | Photo by Mark Weber
This guy with Super Fox looks as stunned as a hog staring at a wrist watch | Slone’s Lounge, Slauson Avenue | April 10, 1977 | photo by Mark Weber | Something about her eyes tells me she didn’t buy that shirt for herself | I think she was one of the waitresses and now in retrospect it seems I was unwittingly borne into her discomfit | sometimes it’s easier to just take the picture when someone asks than to play the high card (if I was even aware at the time of my complicity) | then again, I suppose she didn’t exactly have to put the shirt on, then again, maybe she was too nice not to don this gift from an admirer? | us men are such galoots sometimes | anyway I’m ranging too far afield, remember, Mark you’re suppose to be the nonjudgemental objective anthropologist in this, keep your cool, Say cheese.
Maybe looking at old photographs brings a sense of order to things? It can also throw you some curves. There are some heavy memories in some of those old photos. If you think about it: looking into old photographs is a form of out-of-body experience, it is time travel. That thing we call self momentarily inhabits that place in those photographs. Like that line in the Ezra Pound poem, “these faces in a crowd / petals on a wet black bough.”
Stan Getz in the crowd | June 20, 1981 | Photo by Mark Weber
I’ve always said that in jazz culture we have 2 degrees of separation, rather than the more common algorithm of 6 degrees. It’s a small world, a subculture. We all know each other, and if I don’t know you then I know someone who does. For instance, I don’t actually know saxophonist Steve Lehman, but I do know the bassist Matt Brewer who does know Mr Lehman. I’m little shaky on how this sequence works, is that two degrees or only one? Am I the first degree? Anyway, let’s say I didn’t know Matt, I certainly know his mother Cris Nichols who runs the box office at the Outpost Performance Space as well as being on staff at KUNM.
3 bass players: Matt Brewer, Rufus Reid, David Parlato @ old Outpost | October 14, 1996 | Albuquerque, New Mexico USA | Photo by Mark Weber
I’ve made a lot of friends in jazz…… Harold Howard was a good one. He was a teetotaler, only smoked cigs and pot. He had a barbershop in Five Points, which is a section of Pomona. There was always some interesting things going on there, an education for a white kid. He was a graduate of the Westlake College of Music when it was located in downtown Los Angeles. In his later years he was a teaching assistant in the music department at Cal Poly, Pomona.
Betty Carter & Melba Joyce | December 3, 1976 @ The Lighthouse | Photo by Mark Weber | (Melba was Bobby Bradford’s first wife and is the mother of Carmen Bradford and a singer herself, her father was the renowned big band singer Melvin Moore who worked with Lucky Millinder and recorded with Dizzy Gillespie. Melba has been with the Count Basie Orchestra for many years, as has Carmen.)
Lammar Wright, Charlie Rouse, Harold Howard | June 18, 1983 | Hollywood Bowl | Maybe this isn’t such a great shot of Lammar but I had to add him to Harold’s memorial page because he was such a character and member of our backstage gang those years | I have to tell you about Lammar another time, we really had a lot of laughs together (he was hiding out in L.A. under the name of Gibran) he was one of the original beboppers. | Photo by Mark Weber
Harold Howard, Bobby Brooks, Kenny Barron | backstage, Playboy Jazz Festival | June 18, 1983 | Photo by Mark Weber
Martin Banks and John Gilmore | April 2, 1981, Los Angeles | photo by Mark Weber | Martin was a trumpeter on Dexter Gordon records and a member of Tina Marsh’s band in Austin, he and Harold go way back to the times they played R&B record dates in Los Angeles in the 50s.
Floyd Dixon and Harold Howard | June 16, 1984 | Photo by Mark Weber | Floyd waiting on a call from Del Mar or Hollywood Park or Santa Anita or his bookie | Floyd was a riot to hang with, he’s the guy who took me to meet B.B. King | you know him from his famous R&B songs “Hey Bartender,” and “Operator 210.”
Danny Turner and Harold Howard | backstage at a Basie concert | February 10, 1980 | Danny played flute on Pat Martino’s first album, and he’s been with Basie forever | Photo by Mark Weber
Sometimes people ask you to take their picture. They want you to come over to their table and take a picture of them sitting there with all of their friends. I loved doing this. (That’s how that SuperFox photo came about — I don’t have a clue who those good folks are.) In the black clubs of Los Angeles there is a tradition of wandering photographers who work the clubs on the weekends at night. They have a Polaroid box camera with a loud flash and I would guess they do pretty good.
This guy on the right came over and poked his finger in my chest and said, “You’re going to take my picture, come over here,” so I gulped my beer and followed him | The Pioneer Club, 88th & Vermont, Watts | 1978 | I never figured out his gruff manner as he continued telling me what I was going to do concerning this photo he wanted of himself and his running buddy | he didn’t seem to be threatening, besides, I’d been in jail with tougher guys than this, so I was smiling | the odd thing is he never asked me for a copy or made any arrangements to get a copy. Maybe I need to point out that I was the only white guy in a radius of ten miles from this juke joint. Me and my crazy white guy friends who were with me. | Photo by Mark Weber
Mr Slone at far right asked me to take a photo of his staff who threw him a surprise birthday party this night | Slone’s Lounge, Slauson Avenue, Los Angeles | April 16, 1977 | Photo by Mark Weber | Pee Wee Crayton’s Ultimates of Soul played weekends here that year.
This really wasn’t a big part of our day, in fact, I would have completely forgot about this scene except that Cal and I have been digitizing ALL of my old jazz negatives | one can surmise that these people wanted to attract attention to themselves regarding the concept of Playboy magazine and sexuality | The Crab certainly is up to some devilment that’s for sure | June 18, 1983 | this has that Weegee 1940s Speed Graphic & flashbulb look | Photo by Mark “Weegee” Weber
The Crab delivers a piece of his crab mind | “crab mind” is not exactly Buddha nature, but then it could be? The Buddha wasn’t fond of religious dogma or fundamentalists, either | The Crab just couldn’t get it out of his craw to leave these people alone | June 18, 1983 | Playboy Jazz Festival | Photo by Mark Weber
I think The Crab had been pestering these picketers earlier when they were out front of the Playboy Jazz Festival, but when they moved around to the back of Hollywood Bowl the Crab decided it was Debate Time, he liked nothing more than a good satisfying argument, maybe that’s why we named him The Crab | his mother called him Craig Sherman, but we called him The Crab, a good friend of mine from Upland | photo by Mark Weber | June 18, 1983
My friend Harold got away from us on March 17, 1993, and every March 17 since then I have a private moment where I remember him. We were going to write a book together about the Los Angeles jazz scene. Harold had the greatest memory I have ever come across, we’d get home from an evening out in the clubs, and being that I wrote a jazz column for CODA in those years, we’d sit at his table repeating this ritual many times over the years: I take out my pen and notebook and Harold could remember every tune played that night and in what sequence, and what instruments were played. He was about ten years older than me and grew up in South-Central Los Angeles and had all of that music history in his head. I had a few stories myself, so we were going to write a book. This is said in the past tense because I still have some of the tapes we set down and some of the pages, but to write a book about Los Angeles is so daunting, I’ve kind of linger’d at the idea of continuing.
Once, when we were sitting around marveling at Harold’s unusual capacity for remembering details, his wife Ruth asked him to name all the families on the street where he grew up, and he named off the addresses and the names of entire families in these households and I think he even tossed in a few grandparents and what cars they all drove, AND THAT was from way back in his past.
September 25, 1981 | we three, Dwain Kaiser (bookstore owner & union organizer & good friend), Harold Howard, and Horace Tapscott in Cecelia & Horace’s den in Los Angeles | We had just come from the Hollywood Bowl where Miles had played | Miles only played 45 minutes and the concert was over before it was dark! So, we looked at each other and said, Let’s go see what Horace is doing | we sat up all night talking and drinking tea and smoking and talking . . . . . .(Columbia has recently released that night’s concert on CD) | Hey, you can see my old camera bag in the foreground! | Photo by Mark Weber
The last time I saw Harold was in 1991 when Janet & I flew out (from Albuquerque) to attend John Carter’s memorial service — November 21 — and we all drove out to Harbor College together, back onto those freeways again. Even though we always kept in contact via telephone (I left Southern California May of 1986). Always dapper in his suit and tie. When Ruth called to say he was gone I was dumbfounded. Apparently he had not been feeling well and they had checked him into the hospital and he expired between bed checks completely mysteriously.
Janet got to witness his remarkable memory as he expounded on the histories and the glories that were jazz in Los Angeles in the 50s. I could ask him about obscure figures like Curtis Amy, or Lou Blackburn, or Onzy Matthews, or Carl Perkins — Harold knew them all. Ask him about that saxophonist from East L.A. that Bradford always talks about: Earl Anderza and Harold could lay it out.
Saxophonist Bill Byrne shows Art Pepper a clarinet | Laurie Pepper close by and pianist Mike Lang | Donte’s, North Hollywood, after closing | 3 a.m. | January 16, 1982 | Photo by Mark Weber
Jimmy Smith playing with H. Ray Crawford’s band: Charlie Dumas, drums; Harold Howard, trumpet; and there’s me off to the side with my beloved Fujica ST-701 | February 1980 @ Bell’s BBQ, Pomona, California | this snapshot by my friend David Flowers
I don’t know if it’s a function of age or whether I’m turning into a cold fish but I’m really not overcome with nostalgia anymore. I don’t have episodes of sentimentality like I used to — I think drinking brings that on. I haven’t had a drink in years. So, the nostalgia thing is more circumscribed. Oh, I have fond memories, but I think you know what I’m getting at: I’m living in the present, baby. Ha ha ha. Who was it that said: “You might be done with the past but the past is not done with you”? Boy, they said a mouthful on that one. Especially since Cal and I have been digitizing all of these nearly 40-year-old negatives, it can be psychically draining looking at old pix. For years, I couldn’t do it for more than an hour without exhaustion.
Bobby Brooks driving with eyes closed explains how 4/4 sits on top of 3/4 | Photo by Mark Weber
Bobby at the wheel | Harold smoking his Kool | San Berdoo Frwy | Bobby was a drummer out of Denver and he and Harold had a band during these years | Photo by Mark Weber
San Bernardino Freeway at junction of the 210 heading west | Photo by Mark Weber
So, I started out writing about a good friend dearly departed and rambled on about freeways and the interconnectedness of jazz and it’s social networks. Well, it’s like my exuberant Grandfather Harry said when he saw Sonny Rollins album WAY OUT WEST with the cowboy tableau, “Wow, is this good?” And I said, Yes. And he said, “It looks good!”
Mark Weber | June 8, 2o12
- 1. “three on the tree” refers to the gear shift being on the steering column, and there being only 3 gears.
- 2. Santa Anita, Del Mar, Hollywood Park are horse race tracks in Los Angeles.
- 3. Please NOTE that all of these photos were scanned & digitized from the negatives and then doctor’d in PhotoShop by Cal Haines. THEN Monsieur Klaus organized the sequence and narrative flow and insertion of the photos into my text. I am grateful to them for this, it is a pleasure to work with them both.
- 4. In 2008 Polaroid ceased manufacture of their instant film, although it is available, I understand, through a specialty company — I kind of doubt the tradition of wandering photographers continues to exist in Watts.
Harold & Bobby Brooks visiting my alley pad in Upland, CA | 1983 | one time when they were over my jet black cat Lynx Rufus was very curious about Bobby, who was also jet black, and Bobby said, “Lynx is thinking: Hey, you the same kind of cat I am!” | Photo by Mark Weber
KKGO on the radio
Harold & me | June 1980 | my little alley pad Studio 400 1/2, Upland, California