SUPERSAX – The Band That Played Bird

was a big deal. In Los Angeles there was a lot of buzz about this band that intended to play the music of Charlie Parker. The jazz radio stations kept us apprised of their impending flight. And it was a big deal that they set for themselves, to play the music of Charlie Parker is no walk in the park. But these guys grew up with Bird’s music, they revered his music, and walk in the park or not, they saw it as pure love. As well, they always looked like they were having fun. Perfectly capturing Bird’s joie de vivre, the buoyancy, the exhilaration Bird put into the amazing thing to be alive. And playing five saxophones in harmony straight into the sky.

That was always one of the extra bonuses of seeing Supersax live was Med Flory’s humor and old-school hipster demeanor. Always a comfort to know that hipsters still exist. Being a hipster in such a conservative town like Los Angeles is tantamount to being a political statement. Keep the squares guessing. ( I was wondering why I don’t have more photos of Supersax until I realized that I didn’t start taking my camera to jazz functions until the summer of 1976.)

And in the wake of their success two other similar outfits popped up in Los Angeles. Dave Pell put together his immortal Prez Conference playing the music of the master of time & space, Lester Young. And Tony Rizzi & His Five Guitars jumped up to play the music of Charlie Christian.

And then, by extension, in a similar vein, and to a lesser degree (because they didn’t harmonize iconic solos) was Bobby Knight’s Great American Trombone Company that worked around North Hollywood 1977-1978. Six trombones + rhythm section. The one CD that exists sports Carl Fontana, Rosolino, Charlie Loper, Lew McCreary, Phil Teele, & Knight on trombones, with Lou Levy, Chuck Berghofer, & Frankie Capp.

Supersax was 5 saxophones plus rhythm section. This was the basic band — a nonet — augmented with addition of a trumpet (most usually Conte Candoli) or a trombone (Frank Rosolino or Carl Fontana) — And on their third Capitol album a string orchestra, and in later years the addition of L.A. Voices for three albums.

They had the town sewn up. Gigs everywhere. Their fledgling formal debut performance was at Donte’s in the Valley, (aka San Fernando Valley), December 1972. Then Shelly’s Manne-Hole, the Parisian Room, repeatedly at Dontes, every Sunday at Dontes, the Playboy Club in Beverly Hills, The Times in Studio City, the Improv in Santa Monica, then up north to Monterey Jazz Festival (September 1973 –Dizzy sat in! ) which was broadcast over the southland via KBCA (Where are these recordings?) Onward to Hollywood Bowl, Hungry Joe’s (Where Stan Getz sat in! ), Pilgrimage Theatre, and all over town and down to San Diego. Subsequent gigs in NYC on 52nd street, back and forth from Detroit to Chicago (at Ratzo’s Zoot shared the bill with them, and sat in on their set! ) Wow. Med told me, “Chicago and Detroit were really our best towns.” They loved Supersax.

The idea for this project laid its seeds in 1955 when Med Flory caught Woody Herman’s Band at Basin Street in NYC and they played Shorty Rogers’ arrangement of “I’ve Got News For You” that incorporates Bird’s chorus from “Dark Shadows” amongst the scenery. (Recorded Dec. 22, 1947.) (Ralph Burns wrote the “Dark Shadows” chorus for Shorty’s arrangement.) This would be the inspiration.

The genesis of Supersax seems to follow a thread surrounding “Just Friends.” In the liner notes to the first Supersax album Med talks about his friend Joe Maini: “Joe was working in a big band I had around Los Angeles when I wrote out the Parker solo on ‘Star Eyes’ for full saxophone section. Then I did the introduction on ‘Just Friends’ and Joe, who memorized Bird’s solo note for note gave me the lead line for the rest of the chart.” (Note that this is Med’s big band The Jazz Wave that was borrowed by Terry Gibbs)(also interesting to note that of the 7 CDs extant of this Terry Gibbs Dream Band there are no recordings of Med’s two charts mentioned above). Never the less, “Just Friends” has followed Med around for years. He has adapted it for almost every format available in jazz. In it’s nascent stages there is a tantalizing aside among Med’s liner notes to the Supersax JAPANESE TOUR cd that . . . “we taped ‘Just Friends’ in ’64 just before Joe died.” WHERE IS THIS RECORDING? Wow. As well, the co-founder of Supersax, Buddy Clark, speaks of listening to this recording, too. After Maini’s untimely death the idea of harmonizing Bird for saxophones was shelved for awhile until 1971 when Buddy put a fire under Med to get it going again. In the intervening years Med brought this tinkered chart onto Los Angeles mainstay Mike Barone’s Big Band . . .

Regarding “Just Friends” with the Mike Barone Big Band, Gary Foster told me he remembers playing Med’s chart with Mike’s Big Band (1968-1969) at their regular gig at Donte’s,

here’s Mike’s email [April 16, 2011]:

Mark, I just remember that Med brought the sax chart in and we read it on the gig. Then after a while (weeks?) he brought the big band chart in and same thing. I think we played it every week after that. “Supersax” did start in my band. Can’t tell you the date. — Mike Barone

And when I asked Med about Supersax beginning in Mike’s big band, he said, “In a way, yeh.” And added, “Mike is a terrific, talented, great guy, hell of a trombone player, too.”

Have you ever heard Med’s additional lyrics to “Just Friends”? He’s a certifiable wordsmith. On volume 2 of SUPERSAX WITH L.A. VOICES (Columbia Records, circa 1984) here’s Med’s introductory verse:

There they are In their favorite bar;Wondering where their love has gone;In their favorite bootSmiling sadly at the truth that it’s time to say goodbye

Co-founder Buddy Clark left the band in late 1975. The bass chair after his departure was held down mostly by Monty Budwig and Fred Atwood. Med said, “When we started Buddy used to write the charts and he didn’t know anything then, so I was teaching him how to write for saxes and he turned out to be a genius. Buddy was tough, he was tough.”

It’s not like this sort of idea was new, composers and arrangers have been harmonizing music since the cave man days. What was new was the idea of taking a genius solo off a record and re-imaging that as composition in itself. Proof that improvising is actually spontaneous composition. That improvisors are essentially spontaneous composers.

My mind immediately gravitates toward Lennie Tristano when it comes to the practice of learning iconic solos. Connie Crothers clarified that Lennie asked students to try three things.

1) Sing along with solos on records.
2) Sing away from the records.
3) Then play the solos on your instrument, learn the notes, internalize the notes, go to the feeling behind the notes, understand the solo on the feeling level. Lennie wanted his students to get away from the written note, to learn to listen, to learn by ear. “The written note is nowhere in this,” Connie said, adding, “and Lennie wasn’t concerned that you memorize, to memorize implies that you are working at it and he wasn’t for that. Singing was the big door-opener for me.”

Transcribing solos off records and/or playing along with records is certainly not new, but Warne Marsh, Lee Konitz, and Ted Brown would memorize these iconic solo improvisations and use them for launching into further improvisations. Most commonly using Lester Young’s recordings.

Saxophone sections have been harmonizing in jazz as far back as Don Redman and Bill Challis in the early 1920s. Duke Ellington’s saxophone section and Jimmy Lunceford’s saxophone section are extreme examples of what mellifluous heights can be achieved by these reed buzzing metal tubes with holes in them. Other obvious predecessors would be Zoot Sims’ 1956 album PLAYS TENOR & 4 ALTOS arranged by George Handy. And you could look to the Sauter-Finegan Orchestra, the Benny Goodman Orchestras of the 30s, and certainly Nelson Riddle’s studio orchestras of the 50s. As well, all the harmonization going on in vocal quartets from The Four Freshman and the HiLos and Lambert, Hendricks & Ross in the 50s all the way back to the harmonizing quartets of the black Mississippi Delta of the 30s. Also, you have to take into account the Hollywood Saxophone Quartet, who were not strictly jazz players but A-list studio musicians, who recorded a couple memorable albums in 1955 for Capitol with arrangements by Billy May, Lennie Niehaus, Russ Garcia, Marty Paich, and others.

The isolated instance of Bix Beiderbecke’s solo from “Singing the Blues” (rec. Feb. 4, 1927) had been used as a vehicle for singers and horn sections simply because it was such a sensation for its time, and even an orchestrated version recorded by Frankie Trambauer’s Orchestra where Frankie’s original saxophone solo that he recorded with Bix was orchestrated for this larger outfit (rec. Jan. 10, 1929). Prettier sounds you’ve never heard — I’m listening to it right now, wow.

In the strictest sense, the first harmonized Charlie Parker solo for four saxophones you have to hear Hal McKusick’s “Now’s the Time,” where Hal commissioned Ernie Wilkins to write the chart for this masterpiece (rec. 1958). Hal says that the only previous instance of harmonizing a Bird solo was the Ralph Burns “Dark Shadows” but he hadn’t heard that at the time of his recording. “Ernie was a saxophonist so I knew he could have some fun with it, otherwise, I could have written it out.” Ernie Wilkins used a canon-like idea, “like one sax was slightly behind the beat, very effective.” Then he harmonized Bird’s solo in a flight so beautiful for four saxes it raises you up out of your chair and you want to shout. Hal went on to say that as a teenager he would write out Lester Young’s solos so that he could play them, and doubts that he was the only one to do this. But, as to harmonizing Bird solos his “Now’s the Time” is the first, subsequent to the “Dark Shadows” quotes.

A most obvious precursor to me would be Jimmy Giuffre’s writing “Four Brothers” for Woody Herman’s Orchestra recorded in December of 1947. (Jimmy Giuffre fully acknowledges the influence that Gene Roland’s ideas had on this four saxophone concept.) And then there was the 1959-1961 Terry Gibbs Dream Band in Los Angeles that sat most of the saxophone section that would become Supersax.

And don’t forget Jimmy Giuffre’s 1958 recordings of multi-tracked tenor saxophones done in the Music Barn at the Lenox School of Music. (See the cd THE SWAMP PEOPLE.)

And then you must factor in the 1959 Art Pepper + Eleven album with arrangements by Marty Paich on several Bird tunes and Bird-associated tunes.

ALSO the 1966 album BUD SHANK & THE SAX SECTION with charts by Bob Florence for four saxes + rhythm section — Bud Shank, Bob Cooper, Bill Perkins, Bob Hardaway, John Lowe, all Hollywood stalwarts backed by Ray Brown, Dennis Budimer, and Larry Bunker. AND an absolute close relative is the December 4 & 5, 1957 sessions by a Gerry Mulligan Octet that recorded seven tunes that are indispensable to the history, released as THE GERRY MULLIGAN SONGBOOK, with saxophonists Lee Konitz, Allen Eager, Zoot Sims, Al Cohn, and Gerry + rhythm section of Freddie Green, Henry Grimes, & Dave Bailey, arranged by Bill Holman ( ! )

So, you see, the concept is not new, but what was new was the idea of harmonizing not only the original melody but also the subsequent improvisation thereupon. Certainly, one of the high-points of this approach has to be Lee Konitz & Gary Foster’s quintet recordings (and concerts) in Japan during November 1995 where they used Warne Marsh’s recorded improvisations upon previous iconic improvisations to further add their own improvisations! (see the cd BODY AND SOUL.) Later developments in saxophone harmonization began with the one tune on Anthony Braxton’s immortal album NEW YORK, FALL 1974, that has the nascent beginnings of the World Saxophone Quartet, which along with ROVA, took this idea and ran with it. Also, Steve Lacy’s equally immortal five-saxophone album SAXOPHONE SPECIAL, 1974. And in the 1980s Odean Pope’s Saxophone Choir for eight saxophones + rhythm section (hear their album THE SAXOPHONE SHOP, 1985 and their cd LOCKED & LOADED, 2004). AND Sam Rivers eleven-saxophone ensemble The Winds of Manhattan with the cd COLOURS, 1982.

Supersax made eleven albums and four tours of Japan. The saxophonists that passed through its ranks were all veterans of the big bands and therefor were knowing in the ways of horn section blending. ( I asked the tenor saxophonist Doug Lawrence of the current Count Basie Orchestra what his most important job was and he said without missing a beat: “Blending.”) Saxophonists involved were Med Flory, Joe Lopes, Warne Marsh, Jack Nimitz, Jay Migliori, Lanny Morgan, Ray Reed, Don Menza, Bill Perkins, Bill Hood, Gary Foster, a short but staggering list.


The pivot note between a half
diminished chord and the minor seven
The avocado seed sprouting in a water glass
on the windowsill suspended with toothpicks
The stillness before the ghost of Santa Ana
sends his winds
The eucalyptus, bamboo, and bougainvillea
The mystery of it all, a Lighthouse in Hermosa
Beach radiating a pulsing beacon
orange groves

In Los Angeles we got a big kick over that top-40<
song about how “It never rains in southern Calif-
ornia,” ha ha ha, you’d hear it on the car radio
as we were hydroplaning down the freeways
when it rains in southern California it is hard and
torrential and doesn’t stop for nine or ten days
When those storms blow in from the Pacific
you better check the air in your life raft

It’s a car thing
And Los Angeles is all freeway
Much of a jazzer’s life is spent late at night
traversing the city by freeway
And before GPS and Mapquest we all used
spiral-bound Thomas Bros map books
or directions from a friend, “Take the 110 south, get off at
Artesia, take that west to 101, bring that south to Pier”
(remember when the 110 was the 11?)
and remember when gas stations used to give out maps?

Driving you never feel the quakes —
you get home and turn on the TV and they’re chattering like
monkeys at feeding time at the zoo (newscasters imported
from the East) like this never happens, a 3.2 earthquake, so
you were on the road and missed it, driving home from
Surrounded by mountains and mountain lions
salamanders, lizards, ground squirrels, crows & hawks
incense cedars, pines, and Doug fir
California is alive and crawling . . .
And then out of your car radio
comes Bird played by five saxophones
carrying the night, connecting the lights

I sometimes wonder if the arrival of Supersax in 1972 was exaggerated in my mind simply because this was the year I was first looking into Charlie Parker’s music ( I was age 19 ). These were the years that Bird’s Dial recordings were finally re-issued on the English Spotlite label and we paid dearly for those six volumes (on LP). The Verve recordings had remained easily available but the Dials had been out of print for years, until 1973. The Savoys were in disarray until finally compiled and re-issued in 2000.

Los Angeles jazz scholar Kirk Silsbee (same age as myself ) reminds me that: Supersax appeared when the renewed interest in bebop and innovators was stirred up by Ross Russell’s Bird biog and the prodigious jazz reissue programs that were flooding the market with twofer sets of the original recordings. No one was using the term “jazz repertory” yet but that’s precisely what Supersax was doing: interpreting classic material in a creative way.

Why were there no saxophone solos on Supersax records? As Med told me, “Supersax is all about Bird, period.” Supersax played the line unadorned. In fact, Med harmonized the line all within the octave so as not to detract from what Bird was saying. There are no impressionistic harmonies employed or vast intricate extension of chords other than what illuminates exactly what Bird said. Supersax was not conceived as a vehicle for its star saxophonists to take solos. That was not the premise. Even though, as a matter of verisimilitude indicative of the arrangers mind solos did exist in Supersax, almost merely as architecture. This band wasn’t about solos. It was about Charlie Parker. One imagines that someday more live Supersax recordings will be released. There are certainly enough performance recordings in existence, circulating among collectors. This was the era of the portable cassette recorder ( in the 1970s a “portable” was the size of a Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary).

Because in their concerts Supersax did not eschew saxophone solos. The thing is, once you add 3 or 4 solos at 4 or 5 choruses apiece you wind up with a ten-minute tune. Which translates to only 4 tunes on an LP. It was executive producer Mauri Lathower that stuck to his guns and requested they lose the solos for their Capitol releases, and I think Mauri was right. Those shorter versions got themselves onto the radio where the longer versions would have been reserved for 3am radio.

It was Mauri who heard them at Donte’s at their public debut and the reaction was so electric that he knew he had to sign them. Donte’s was your standard jazz club of that era — I’d guess the capacity was about 100 — you could pay $2.50 to sit at one of the tiny little round tables or in booths surrounding the walls OR for free you could stand at the long bar that faced the band stand on the opposite wall, separated by a pony wall (cut off at four feet). At the front door was a night blooming jasmine bush who’s luscious aroma was so strong we had to wash it down with extra beer.

When I asked Med how involved John Palladino was as a producer he said that he was totally on the job, “He was the greatest, don’t leave him out.” And his opinion of Mauri Lathower, the executive producer, is equally as high, “…just the greatest, don’t ignore him, just the greatest.” So, in early 1973 Supersax recorded their legendary first session at Capitol Records studios (the studios are on the rectangular bottom floor of the famous ten-story round building in Hollywood.) Med tells me that Bill Perkins was on these first sessions. And so, John Palladino takes the tapes upstairs to Mauri’s office and it was Mauri who realized then that to make this work we needed shorter versions. So, rather than edit the first session they went back into the studio (February 1, 4, 10, 1973 ) and put together the album we’ve come to know as SUPERSAX PLAYS BIRD. Bill Perkins had left the band prior to these sessions and Joe Lopes replaced him. Jay Migliori replaced Pete Christlieb. Lou Levy came on the band in the middle of recording their second album SALT PEANUTS, replacing Walter Bishop Jr. To those that lament the lack of saxophone solos please note that from what Connie Crothers tells me Warne Marsh thought the whole Supersax thing was great, “Warne was very excited about it, he thought it was the greatest thing, he was on fire with it.” (Warne was with Supersax July 1972 – mid-1977.)

Talking with Med in North Hollywood over the telephone:

“When Bill Hood left, he was playing tenor, that’s when we picked up Warne Marsh. He was fixing tv sets at the time, ‘course they were into movie money, his mom had this great place with a tennis court and swimming pool on Laurel Canyon Boulevard, but he was just sensational, that guy, Warne Marsh, you know I listened to him for years, he must have been on the band ten years, at least. Everywhere we’d go back east there’d be a bunch of strange-looking people coming, they didn’t give a rat’s ass about the saxes, they just came to hear Warne. You know, so I’d turn him loose and gawd he was good. The only time I ever heard him choke was when we were playing down at Hungry Joe’s [Huntington Beach] and Stan Getz sat in. Did I tell you this story? Maury Stein, who had Stein on Vine [music store across street from Local 47], great guy, good tenor player, terrific in his time.

Anyway, he brought Stanley down with him to the gig and I said, “Come on.” So, he’s standing behind me looking at the tenor part, or my part [alto], it didn’t matter which because he wasn’t playing on it, you know, but I could see his hands shaking, like that, and it was weird, and then he started to play and I’ve never heard anybody play that good, before or since, he just tore it up! And a good tempo, too, “Moose the Mooch” boop be bah, right in there, great tempo for tenor, you know, and he just killed it, and he went on and on and on and got better and better and better and the joint fell down! And then Warne got up to play, I don’t remember if they were playing a duet, or what, but he couldn’t play, everything he started he’d have to break off in the middle, because his mind wasn’t clear. He took a bath that day, you know, but that was the only time he was below his potential. Gawd, he was unlike, I mean, there was nobody played like Warne! He just had his own thing.”

I asked the same question I had asked Connie Crothers about how I sometimes get the feeling that Warne is thinking about chords too much when he’s playing. (But, when Warne is thinking about chords, it’s stratospherically beyond what we normally think of as changes.) And Connie said, No, Warne had it all ingrained and was mostly concerned about making music. He didn’t have to “think” about chords. Med picked it up from there, “Oh, yeh. Just like Bird he had every key down. He was at home in any key. I’m 84 and there’s still a couple of keys in there [chuckling] I sometimes have to think a little bit. No, he wasn’t encumbered by any kind of rules, you know, he made his own rules, he was too much. Nobody like him. Had a lot of great players in that band . . .”

I asked if Conte was on the band when Dizzy sat in at Monterey?
Med said with satisfaction, “Yeh.”
I asked, “Did Conte and Dizzy just trade?”
Med said, “I don’t know how it went, really, it’s been a long time, but Count, whew, you know, just being on stage with Diz…. I told you what Diz said about Conte? He said that Conte was the closest to him when it came to playing bebop, that Conte was the most like him. He told me that so I didn’t get it from anybody else. He knew. Just listen to Count on those L.A. Voices albums, what he does is just so fuckin’ gorgeous, so unlike anything else. ANd then you got Lou to listen to, his brain, he played with singers so much he knew how to fill in, he was the greatest at it.”
I asked if Dizzy played the entire set?
Med said, “I don’t remember but he showed up pretty early.”
I said, “He must have been in ecstasy.”
Med said, “He loved us. He said, Why don’t you do something in unison? I said, No, we already tried that, it’s gotta be harmony. (He said) Well, you oughta do it. And I said, No, no, no. You know, he had to give me some advice, ha ha ha, what a great cat, geezus.” Then I why some enterprising record company didn’t record Supersax + Dizzy Gillespie, then I said, “Well, you had Count.” Med said ruefully, “Yeh, we weren’t looking for a trumpet player.” I asked if Supersax ever played dates without a trumpet or trombone. “I don’t think so. If we did, I forgot. But it had to be way way back there. Once we got started it was always nine guys.

I asked about Bill Perkins departure after the first (unreleased) Capitol session. Apparently Perk didn’t want to mess with re-recording “KoKo.” Med said, “Those poor tenor players in the middle playing all that stuff. We used to tacit everybody else out and just play the two tenors together. It sounded like a couple drunken bees. You know, at record dates when we were just screwing around, we’d already recorded the thing, so we’d just play those two parts in the room just for laughs, and it was funny.

I asked about his technique of utilizing a rub in the harmonization. He explained that a rub is a half-step interval between either the 2nd alto & 1st tenor, or the 1st tenor & 2nd tenor, or the baritone & the tenor. Now that Med has explained that to me I can hear it plain as day. I asked what would it sound like if you didn’t put the rub in the sax section, would it be too sweet? Med said, “It’d sound like every other sax section in the world — sixth diminished, sixth diminished, sixth diminished — that kind of thing, but it’s lazy, pre-school. I do it (the rub) in the brass, too, everything. When I got a big chord with the brass I’m looking for something to really screw it up in there, you know? to make it sound [like]: What kind of animal is that? I like to think of the band like it’s a gawd damn big animal, so if you’re standing in front of the stage your hair will blow back!

Then we talked about his upcoming sessions with his big band The Jazz Wave and the work on the new album called BEBOP 101. I asked him about the eight year span between the first sax charts he wrote and the demo recording session of the three tunes at Tutti Camarata’s studio in Hollywood — “Just Friends,” “Chasin’ the Bird,” & “Star Eyes” — recorded just before Joe Maini got away from us (d. May 8, 1964). Med & Joanie had left NYC for the Coast on the evening of Christmas Day 1955. Shortly thereafter in Los Angeles his old friend Joe Maini came by and sold him the record player of dubious origin and among the stack of records was Bud Powell’s MOODS album . . . “So, I started playing that thing and the first thing I wrote was ‘Blues for Alice.’ ” So, this was 1956, I asked, and you harmonized it for five saxophones? Med said, “Yeh. Lead alto and baritone doubling the lead an octave and everything else filling in. So, then I wrote ‘Star Eyes’ and ‘Just Friends.'”

So, maybe this demo has four tunes? All of us Supersax fanatics would sure love to hear this stuff.

At such speeds the Supersax
must turn themselves over to telepathy
floating in the gravitational field of Charlie Parker
loquats, lemons, California’s cornucopia

“When I first heard Supersax I just couldn’t believe what I was hearing, I couldn’t believe it, it was so together — being a big band freak and a saxophone player I was tuned into each individual player, and the artistic vision of Charlie Parker,” sayeth clarinet master Bill Payne, who was on the road playing horn with Barnam & Bailey for 13 years.

Tenor saxophonist Ted Brown sends this note [email 17apr11]:

We were visiting my family in Long Beach over the Christmas Holidays in 1972 and spent one night in Pasadena with Warne, Geraldyne, Bill Hood and Julie McDonald at her home. Supersax had just played their first gig at Donte’s and Bill Hood had a tape of it which just blew my mind… especially when I heard the 5 saxes doing Bird’s break on “Night In Tunisia.” He said they had been rehearsing those charts in someone’s garage for 14 months before they did that gig. But maybe there is more to the story. Another unique characteristic of Supersax was that counter to what some artists will do with a project like this: pick a composer and cover their music for a couple concerts and an album and be done with it, Supersax took on Bird and stuck with it for twenty-plus years.

Woodwinds maestro Gary Foster sent me this email [April 15, 2011]:

Dear Mark,
Your writing about Supersax is very interesting to me. In the late 1960’s I was Bill Perkins’ sub on the second alto chair with Mike Barone’s big band. The band played at Donte’s every Wednesday for six months and was off for six months. Mike’s sax section was Med Flory, Perk, Tom Scott, Bill Hood and Jack Nimitz. I was waiting by the phone each week for a call from Perk. In the Barone book was the first orchestrated Bird solo I had ever played – that was Bird’s solo on “Just Friends” from Bird With Strings. I am sure that Med wrote that arrangement. It was thrilling to play and, of course, Med knew and played the lead alto (Bird’s solo) perfectly. The baritone sax part was an exact duplicate of the lead part (sounding an octave lower) so the voicing was four part harmony ala Guiffre’s Four Brothers voicing with the solo voice doubled on the bottom. All other SS arrangements that followed were written in the same way except for a few written by Warne. More on that later. I believe that the “Just Friends” arrangement had been played by Terry Gibbs band earlier. Med also played in Terry’s band.

From 1971, I was a member of Laurindo Almeida’s quartet, replacing Bud Shank there. Buddy Clark, who became co-leader of SS was the bass and Chuck Flores was the drummer with Laurindo. When SS formed for their first club dates, the band was Med, Perk, Jay Miglori, Pete Christlieb and Nimitz. The first added soloist was Count and the rhythm was Buddy, Jake Hanna and Lou Levi. As they got started with regular nights at Donte’s it was very exciting. I went to hear them and Perk called me to be his sub there. It was very challenging music. Occasionally I subbed for Perk on second alto. One night working with Laurindo, Buddy asked me to sub for Pete C. at a rehearsal the next day. I wasn’t available and suggested Warne. That was the first hook up of Warne with SS. As the recordings reflect, there were no saxophone solos on the early recordings. The soloists were trumpet or trombone and piano. I remember driving Warne to the airport for their trip to Japan. Warne eventually wrote a few arrangements for the band. Bird’s solo on “Now’s The Time” was extraordinary. Warne, however, would not write in the always parallel voicing style of the other arrangements and his arrangements had contrary motion in the baritone parts. SS played Warne’s arrangements live but did not record any of them that I know of. Regards, Gary

The Los Angeles drummer Dick Berk used to sub for Jake Hanna (post-1975 — because before that he was touring with Cal Tjader) and I called him in Portland OR and asked him to give me a quote, and he thought a minute and then said: “If you couldn’t play with Bird, at least you could play with Supersax!” I told that to Med and he laughed, “Yeh, Dick Berk, great drummer, New York time, subbed for Jake, terrific drummer, great cat, salt of the earth,” pronouncing it salt of the oith.

Regarding Lennie Tristano’s pedagogy Ted Brown email [April 16, 2o11]:

Hi Mark,
It is true that Lennie encouraged his students to memorize some of the great solos of Pres, Bird and others but that was just a learning tool. He mainly wanted students to sing the solos to develop a feel for a good melodic line. He never suggested they play them or write them out or do them in a group of 4 or 5 horns. Some of us wrote them out and played them for our own use…in fact I had been doing that before I started with Lennie…and we did use one with Willie Dennis and Ronnie Ball on Tickeltoe in 1956.

The earliest group I remember using that approach was Woody Herman’s band around 1945-46 when one of his arrangers took part of a Dizzy Gillespie solo and harmonized it for the trumpet section…but that was only for 8 or 16 bars…not a whole tune…but it was very impressive.

There was also a great solo that Bird made on a blues with a male singer….. Woody’s band took that Bird solo and slipped it into another one of their charts…perhaps I’ve Got News For You?…or The Goof And I?…can’t think of the title…but that also worked out great.

Also, Dave Pell and Bill Holman did some charts of Lester Young solos which they called Prez Conference…but that never had the same impact that Supersax did. And in 1956 Warne and I did Prez’s solo on I Never Knew…also Warne, Art Pepper and I did Prez’s solo on Broadway. Hope that helps. — Ted


Lester Young was a poet
John Muir was a poet
and even though I have written
thousands of poems, alas
I am merely a writer of words

I’ll let you in on a little secret:
most of the people who write poems
are not poets
they are merely good people who write poems

Lester Young was a poet
John Muir was a poet
What was Charlie Parker? a combination astro-physicist
and adept at time travel

Over the telephone with Charles McPherson we spoke at length of the grandeur that is the musical accomplishments of Charlie Parker and he explained many of the complexities of this music that Supersax faced.

Mark Weber : Charles, I regard you as one of the world’s preeminent Charlie Parker scholars and feel lucky you’ve always welcomed my questions when it comes to Charlie Parker, so, as I’ve been immersing myself in the work of Supersax lately, I wondered what your thoughts were on that band?

Charles McPherson: Well, I think they did about as good a job as you could do on some things. On a project that complicated and tricky, they were about pretty clean, the saxophone players, and it was a novel idea for sure, and great to hear Bird. It’s almost like Bird in more than one voice, harmonized like that, it was great. I thought it was interesting, I wish they were still around doing things. Yeh, I was quite impressed, actually. And Bird is a very very tricky guy to do this with because rhythmically there’s some stuff that Bird does that damn near defies notation. I mean, to get it exactly like the way he might have really done it rhythmically is almost — you know — What guys almost always do is they end up rounding off, if you will, boxing it. You know, putting it in a box, to make it more defined or more easily put in a box, let’s put it that way. And Bird’s rhythm was so subtle, about as micro as you can be in terms of slicing the beat up into little bitty pieces. Okay, now these pieces, you know, it’s just like slicing an atom you can slice forever and things just get smaller and smaller. Well, where Bird would start phrases would be so in between in between. And he could nail it. But, to write that? and actually have people play that? is quite difficult and these guys [Supersax] came pretty close to doing that.

MW: You know how Bird would do that horse laugh-like thing, like on “Blue N Boogie” — would that be possible to notate?

CM: Yeh, you might be able to do that. You could get close to that. I think the hardest thing about Bird is the rhythm. I can remember there were people like Lou Donaldson who was around at that time, and still around, when he talks about the old days when Bird was in New York, he said — this is interesting — he said: That when we heard Sonny Stitt then we understood Charlie Parker. Because, Sonny Stitt rounded off, he put it in a place rhythmically where it’s sort of boxed. He boxed it. And we went AH! Okay, now I see! [Stitt] just made it [obvious], Lou said. But, we could never to the nth degree do what Charlie Parker was doing. You just can’t do it, it’s too forensic. To get that forensic to really nail the rhythmic nuances of that, is like we couldn’t do that, we couldn’t hear that. But, Sonny boxed it, you know, rather than this little micro-beat hear, he just made it a bigger micro, and made it maybe a half-a-macro [chuckling] and that boxed it and it was: Ah ha, I see. He just made it more understandable, or maybe attainable, let’s put it that way.

Because, Sonny Stitt, compared to Bird is a straighter. He’s more of a straight line. In other words, let’s say if you would take accents and make it a line going from point A to point B, or make it from one basketball end of the court down to the other basket at the other end of the court. Okay, there are several ways you an get down there. You can get down there in a straight line, just run down there and just make the basket, fine. Or, you can zigzag like Michael Jordan where it is so tricky that you can’t — I mean, he’s so, whew — that’s why people are falling all over themselves trying to check him, because he’s not going to be where people think he is, ’cause he’s gonna turn on a dime. So, when he goes down the court it’s going to be serpentine. And in a zigzag fashion and the accents would be him pivoting in a point in time in unexpected places. That’s different than going down the court in a straight line. That’s the difference between Charlie Parker and about 90% of everybody else.

MW: Parker never sounded like he was affecting a consciously modern approach, even though he most certainly was a modernist composer. It seemed so natural.

CM: Oh yeh. He was a natural. And, I don’t think he was “trying” to do anything. You know, you see that’s the difference, it’s more Zen than that, there’s no “trying.” He just is. There’s no “trying.” That’s for other people. Bird was just what he was. He was a natural-born genius and that’s it. Nothing else to say. Even though, he had left brain — like that interview he did with Paul Desmond, lets people know that he had both left and right brain, he had the whole shebang, maybe that’s what real genius is, because, in that interview, Paul asked Where did you get this technique my gawd, and Bird says: Well, it wasn’t done with mirrors. I practiced eleven to fifteen hours a day every day for about three years.

Well, okay, so that’s left brain right there. So, he’s natural — then he also said in that same interview: It’s like an old pair of shoes, you can have a good pair of shoes but if you put polish on them then there it is. See, he’s got the whole shebang, he’s got the ability to know that the technique is the polish, so, he got the whole thing, he’s got the cognitive thing, but he’s also got this other inspirational natural thing. And they facilitate each other. You can’t beat that. When an artist has technique and inspiration, that’s what genius is. That separates a craftsman from an artist. Or: ordinary from genius, they have the whole thing.

MW: Do you think Charlie Parker was one of these guys like Muhammad Ali who reputedly could slow time down? So that he could see in between the seconds?

CM: Yeh, I think Bird had that. But you know what that is? because you know he’s not really slowing time down. What he is, is that he’s just fast as hell.

MW: But, in his mind he perceives it as slower, a second goes by slower for him than for us normal people.

CM: Yeh, because in that second he can see more or do more. Or, the second is longer because there’s more to the perception. This is all about perception, right? You know, a second is a second. And there’s a lot of other stuff, too. And there’s that fast reflex, so you have speed, which makes a second not the same for everybody. And then you got muscle memory. And Charlie Parker had that, from what I understand.

MW: Charles, could you explain muscle memory?

CM: Muscle memory is — the term is used to describe athletes and athletic ability, where a person has a better muscle memory than other people. Like a guy bowling, for instance, if someone says Here’s what you do if you want to get a strike: Angle your wrist this way, and look right between those two pins, and you make your arm and your wrist control the ball to go right between those two little pins, and if you were able to do that you’d get a strike every time. Okay, some people, once they’re shown, they will remember to make their wrist a forty-five degree angle, (if that’s what it was), and do it every time and that’s why they get more strikes than everybody else.

But, playing a musical instrument is part athletic, also. You’re using your fingers, your arms, your body. So, if you are told a certain thing, to hold your hand a certain way, well, the difference between those people, is that most people would have to be told that a hundred times before they maybe finally do it. Where a person with muscle memory, once they’ve been shown the physicality of a particular movement, they just remember it. Now, if you have that, can you imagine how much time is taken off when you’re learning anything?

MW: Yeh. I wonder what the pathway is to that?

CM: Well, the pathway is probably a focus and a concentration that is off the charts, number one.

MW: Could it be equated to, say, when you’re playing saxophone, you could rely on muscle memory to automatically hit the right note depending on what the harmonic landscape is?

CM: Well, musicians will know the tune. Which means you know the melody and the harmonic structure, and the physical structure of the tune. So, knowing the tune means knowing those things. But, your ear, because you hear what is, and where what is, then you just play what you hear. And that should be informed by the particular emotionality that that sound evokes from you. Or, — at least — if you are interpreting what that composer might have wanted to evoke emotionally. There’s a bunch of informing going on when you play. So, all you do as an improvisor is to maybe understand the general emotional consensus of this particular tune and then you work with the spirit of what that is, and the physicalities of what it is. That should be no more than knowing the English language for a writer who’s going to write something. You know the sentence structure, and the function of a verb and a noun and a prepositional phrase, those things are known. You don’t even have to think about that. What you do think about is: What is it that I want to say?

MW: Can you fake the emotion?

CM: You can try to fake the emotion, but if you fake the emotion then that’s already speaking for itself. That means it’s a fake emotion. So, you can’t fake it. You can attempt to fake it. It’s like watching an actor attempt to play a scene where he’s suppose to be really crying but he’s not crying, so, I guess you can maybe bring false tears, maybe you can do that. But, I think for the moment even an actor is feeling whatever it is, so he can bring about the tears. So, the musician has to be able to — if you’re playing — first of all, music is a weird thing. You don’t have to feel nothing that you’re playing. You don’t have to feel it. You can just do it, but you don’t feel it. To do the act of playing or singing a note just requires the physical capability of doing that. Now, what you mean behind the note, what you feel about it, is totally a different thing. So, that’s why there’s such a thing of you hearing somebody and they might not move you. That’s what that is. Even though it’s subjective. A lot of people can do it, but there’s nothing behind it.

That’s the difference between a singer like Billie Holiday, for instance, who you do get the impression that every note, every word, every lyric that she is actually singing, that she really, not only intellectually understands the meaning of the words, but actually the meaning of what the words mean emotionally. That’s a difference, than somebody mouthing a word that’s in the English language. That’s a big difference.

MW: When Supersax first came out did you think that these guys were our of their minds to attempt this?

CM: I didn’t think that, no. But, I knew that this was going to be a hard thing. But these are guys that can read and do that. So, I knew it would be possible. When it first came out, it was novel, right? because nobody had really conceived of something like that and so the novelty of it was interesting. But I knew it was daunting, pretty challenging stuff here. And those guys did a pretty damn good job of doing that.

MW: My perception of it at the time that they hit was that it was a big deal. Did it seem like that to you, then?

CM: Yeh, it was. And it got a lot of attention, a lot of people liked it, it was startling. You know, since then, you can go and hear a big band and hear their saxophone section play a solo, which is kind of like what they were doing, but they did it first, and they conceptualized it and organized it in the way that they did, and created a body of work dealing with it, not just one solo. It’s a body of work. So, that’s different. Now, I play gigs all the time where maybe we’re playing a chart that Bird played and they’ll have eight or sixteen bars of his solo, but that’s only one chart. Supersax had several charts with Bird’s solos, so they certainly organized this in a very conceptualized way, which is good.

MW: In a great big way.

CM: Yeh !

In some ways Supersax is the key backwards into the 1950s Los Angeles jazz scene. A period of such depth and dimension that it is only now becoming apparent what incredible jazz was being made in L.A. then. What happened was: After the triple-whammy of the decade-long 1930s Great Depression, and the Dustbowl Migration, and WWII, America was a changed place. The doughboys shook off the mud of Europe but never returned home to the family farm. Many of them went to southern California. Likewise, many of the big bands, like Woody Herman and Stan Kenton, rolled in for a pit stop. Came off the road and decided to hang out for awhile in the canyons of Sunset Strip. The cats in Supersax are part of this history.

Bobby Bradford is a cornet player renowned for his work with Ornette and John Carter and professor of music at Pomona College since the mid-70s and one of America’s leading scholars on Charlie Parker and when Stanley Crouch’s biography of Bird ever comes out, you’ll have a lot of Bradford’s perspective therein. I called Bobby to hear his thoughts on Supersax.

Mark Weber:  Bobby, I was wondering what your first impressions were when Supersax first hit.

Bobby Bradford: Well, first of all I thought it was a great idea. And then, number one, you got a hell of a problem — to get down and get that stuff notated somewhere near where it is. Even though it’s impossible to notate some of that stuff Charlie Parker played, those guys had all heard the records. He [Med] had to have really really good players, not just a guy who’s a good studio reader, but somebody who had heard this music and could play those kind of delayed phrases like Bird.

MW: Great point. Sometimes we over-look the obvious. And in this case it’s absolutely imperative that the players know Bird’s music from hearing the recordings.

BB: Yeh. Some of the that stuff Charlie Parker played, you get a studio musician who could just sight read anything, I mean, he couldn’t play that, not effectively. So much of Bird’s stuff goes [sings a line] You can’t write that [laughter] You had to have guys who had heard it and who really liked it, too. Because there was no money in the beginning. All that rehearsing that they did.

MW: Yeh, somewhere between eleven and sixteen months, depending on who’s telling the story, before they ever presented it live.

BB: And no money. That’s like John [Carter] and I rehearsing for a year before we got anything, and then just a little funny job. But, he [Med] had good people in there. I was just looking at a photograph the other day where Warne Marsh was in the group at one point. I think Med did most of the hard work, didn’t he?

MW: Mostly, yes, Med. But in the early years Buddy Clark wrote some arrangements, and Warne contributed maybe half a dozen charts. And Med’s idea was to put a “rub” in the sax section — a whole step between two of the internal sax parts, so it wasn’t what you’d call unison harmony.

BB: You see what happens is, it’s not like he’s doing some far-out harmony. He knows that with a full saxophone section it can be really colorless if you don’t know how to voice for five saxophones. Now, somebody like Benny Carter, he had that nailed down. And so did this guy Ralph Burns who used to write for Woody Herman, there’s a bunch of guys who know how to do that, and what’s the guy here [Los Angeles], plays tenor, has a tricky eye, Bill Holman.

MW: You know, Dizzy actually suggested that they write in strict unison — Dizzy played with them at Monterey — but Med said they’d tried that and rejected it. You know Med wanted the line to be clearly what Bird played, and part of that was that he voiced the saxes within an octave.

BB: Well, you can see that that right there — within an octave — that creates some interesting problems . . . . What happens when you’re writing for five parts, whether you’re writing for Supersax or anybody else, one of the techniques is to have the melody on the top line and have the baritone, or the lowest voice, play the same thing. But you see where you run into problems is that when Charlie Parker’s solo goes to a place that’s kind of high, then you’re forcing the baritone into Squeakysville. See what I mean? Now, Charlie Parker tended to play in the sweet spot of the alto — he didn’t play those altissimo things, like someone like Braxton would do on some of his stuff. Where they stay up there in the super high high register. Charlie Parker explored the best part of the saxophone.

Everything he played you could hear the pitch. It wasn’t a squeak, or something you sort of reach for where you got half of it or you didnt. So, you see, what happens when you are writing for five parts, whether you are writing for Supersax or anybody else, one of the techniques is to have the melody on the top line and have the baritone, or the lowest voice, play the same thing. But you see where you run into problems is that when Charlie Parker’s solo goes to a place that’s kind of high, then you’re forcing the baritone into Squeaksville. See what I mean? Now, Charlie Parker tended to play in the sweet spot of the alto — he didn’t play those altissimo things, like someone like Braxton would do on some of his stuff. Where they stay up there in the super high high register. Charlie Parker explored the best part of the saxophone. Everything he played you could hear the pitch. It wasn’t a squeak or something you sorta reach for where you got half of it or you didn’t. So, as it goes up you force the baritone up higher, too, into a tough range for them to be able to play.

And then you also have the problem, as Charlie Parker played all those strange notes against the chord, how to deal with the other three notes that your going to put in there, because the chord, most of the time, has to contain the good notes in a chord. When I say ‘the good notes’ I mean, if it’s a dominant seventh chord you want to make sure you’ve got the 3rd and the 7th in there somehow. Because that’s what makes a dominant seventh important. Because sometimes you’ll be playing, depending on how you are writing this, say it’s a C7 chord, there might not be a C. Because you can get along without that C, being that that’s the root of the chord, you don’t always have to have a C when you’re writing — you could write a C7 chord and it could very effective, and the notes you might have could be D, which is the 9th, which is not part of the chord, but it’s okay. And an E natural, and a Bb. And maybe a G. But a dominant seventh chord doesn’t do what it’s suppose to do if it doesn’t have the 3rd and the 7th in it. Like, in the C7 chord that would be the E and the Bb.

See what I mean? So, the writer has to really sit down with a sharp pencil, and spend a lot of time, often, sitting at the piano trying to figure out how to make that work. And it also makes those inside parts hell to play, you see? Because they are often not melodic, like what Charlie Parker is playing. Or what the baritone saxophone is playing, doubling below, which is very singable. You know, Charlie Parker will be playing [scats a bebop line]. Now, if you’re going to harmonize that with those other notes in the middle, those parts are going to be awkward. With awkward leaps, just because they have to be obedient to what the chord is.

MW: Lanny said it was agony.

BB: Of course it is. It takes a hell of a player. And the writer, of course, has to try to have some consideration for what the people are having to deal with in the inside voices. It’s just like the inside voices. It’s just like the inside voices that the Woody Herman band when he was using three tenors and a baritone, the Four Brothers. If you played the inside parts, it was agony. But if you played it, it sounded great once they got everybody in there doing his part.

MW: So, those Four Brothers inner parts were kind of weird?

BB: Oh yeh! And difficult to play! ‘Cause you see they have to leap around according to the mechanics of harmony. Where the top part and the bottom part are playing the tune.

MW: Lanny was telling about the night Stitt sat in with them at the Parisian Room and I asked if Stitt played one of the parts? and Lanny was laughing so hard at that idea, he said, No, he wasn’t going to put himself through that kind of agony. He stayed away from those parts.

BB: [Laughing] Not only is it hard work, but you can’t remember a lot of that.

MW: Yeh, Lanny said that the only way to learn those parts was to play them over and over again, because they’re nearly impossible to memorize. Because it doesn’t do anything.

BB: In other words, that’s like: You look out on the football field and you see the wide receivers running looking great catching passes and the quarterback running back and you don’t pay a lot of attention to those guys on the line, those big refrigerator guys bumping each other, to protect the quarterback. There’s a lot going on in there. See, fans tend to watch the quarterback and those guys running out to catch passes. And all that noise out there, that BAM, CLASH, CRASH, all of that is the defensive linemen trying to keep those other guys at bay so the quarterback can throw the ball and look pretty. And those guys playing those parts inside — if you played that inside part without the hearing the top you’d say: This is noise.

MW: The only concession is that it move forward.

BB: Oh yeh. But the thing is, you see, it follows the curvature of a Charlie Parker solo. And if you can finally get those notes under your fingers, it’s a hell of a sound.

MW: And it wasn’t parallep harmony, either.

BB: Oh no. You see that’s kind of boring. And first of all, parallel harmony will get you into trouble trying to stay inside the octave, if that’s what the game is. Often [in other settings] you want a bigger sound. So, you go outside the octave. You may have the baritone saxophone with a big gap between him and the trombone, because you want a totally different sound, more — for want of a better word — a more orchestral kind of thing. And these guys were trying to stay within that octave and make that thing swing like the reality of Charlie Parker’s solo.

MW: Yeh, and the only reason Med had that rule was that he wanted to keep it strictly about Bird’s solo.

BB: Yeh, yeh. Of course, that was the whole project. It wasn’t about his orchestration. This is just to put Bird on paper and to hear it harmonized. That’s why I’m sure he rejected the idea of everybody playing a Charlie Parker solo in unison.

MW: Yeh, Med gets all burned up if you even mention the word unison.

BB: If you played Charlie Parker solos in unison with five saxophones, after about thirty minutes you’ve had enough.

AND I called Los Angeles trombonist Michael Vlatkovich to get the lowdown on what Frank Rosolino was all about.

Mark Weber: Michael, what are the distinguishing characteristics of Rosolino’s trombone style?

Michael Vlatkovich : He really capitalizes on how the trombone works, using the overtone series and lip slurs.

MW: This is something that other players don’t employ?

MV: Other trombone players don’t use it to the extent that he did. The overtone series, he really works the overtone series. Because you hear him doing a lot of arpeggiated stuff. He isn’t that much of a diatonic player, he leans more toward what’s available, he utilizes what the trombone can do. I think he realized early on that it was a way to move quickly around the instrument and it was relatively easy.

MW: Do you use this approach yourself?

MV: Yes. I would say that I do it more than many. Certainly not the most.

MW: Are they standard positions on the horn?

MV: In some cases, no. You’re really only utilizing a particular position, rather than moving the slide, you’re using one position or two positions.

MW: So, from one or two positions you can extract a half-dozen notes? Is it all lipped?

MV: Yes. Of course, the higher you go the overtones get closer together, so there’s a point where the position doesn’t matter, at all. In fact, I hear there’s this European guy who plays really high and doesn’t move the slide at all. He just plays fast bebop lines and doesn’t move.

I was telling Lanny Morgan how it seemed to me that the sax section did all the work in Supersax and the trumpet and trombone got to have all the fun. Lanny said that my observation wasn’t too far from the truth. And when I mentioned this to composer and bassist David Parlato he said that it was genius to have the brass take solos because sonically it works as a momentary departure from the sound of saxophones. David was a working musician in Los Angeles at the time Supersax came on the set and caught them many times at Dontes. See the David Parlato Timeline @ the Metropolis website for more about David. What follows in the next paragraph are David’s thoughts on Supersax excerpted from our conversation.

“It is actually a brilliant orchestration idea because it relieves the orchestration of the saxophone sound coming at you all the time — from a listeners point of view. So, when that would be done you would hear a rhythm section take off with a soloist that was not a saxophonist. Of course, if you were a saxophonist in the band, I would have wanted to play some solos. The Beatles really changed everything, the scene shifted, and never came back. And that’s a good example of what Supersax did, even though it’s a little later after the Beatles, this is when Supersax really gets their thing together. SO, in that sense they’re actually masterfully presenting an historical statement: Charlie Parker’s music. They’re breathing life into it in a beautiful way. And that’s at a time when BITCHES BREW is history. So, it’s a very retro thing, even at the time that they did it. And the beautiful thing about it is that the power of the music made it really live — their faith and belief in that music and the way they executed it brought it to life and it was really powerful to hear it done that way and kind of showed how eternal Charlie Parker’s vision, as a musician, was.

And as you know, when that stuff comes on it still sounds hip, hip as a bitch right now, you know, no question about it. And that’s because Charlie Parker was a genius and he channeled that through and reinvented the whole approach, took it to another geometric level of what improvising could be, so that’s the power, and they matched it by bringing it to life, it wasn’t half-hearted, they couldn’t pull those things off without — can you imagine how many hours they rehearsed? But, it was a labor of love, and that shows when you hear the Supersax recordings, it definitely lifted off. It would sound good if it was happening today, if somebody decided to do that today, you know. That stuff will always sound good. Now, it’s an acquired taste, you know? You’re going to have to know — have to feel the Charlie Parker revolution and understand that, and like it, and then Supersax makes all the sense in the world.

[ At this point I told David about the impending debut of Supersax New Mexico. Then, I added that a fact that we intend to over-look, and that Bobby Bradford points out is that you wouldn’t be able to replicate Charlie Parker if you hadn’t heard Charlie Parker’s records.]

I agree with that and that makes Supersax really powerful because they were all influenced by Bird by actually hearing him play live and being around him. They were all of that generation. For them to have the baton passed on to them that soon after has a great bit of power. But, every saxophone player after Parker is influenced by Parker, whether they want to be or not [chuckling]. I can confirm that Bill Perkins was very hard on himself and a perfectionist like you say. Now, I didn’t know him they way they did, but I did know him to be very hard on himself as a perfectionist would be so the “KoKo” story doesn’t surprise me.

I still think it’s genius to have a different instrument play a solo, not that they’re not all great saxophonists, but to have a different instrument other than a saxophone, so that there’s no way that you could compare it to a Charlie Parker solo.

[ I asked about the saxophone voicings and Med’s keeping it all within an octave.]

Right. It’s called close voicing, because you get the whole chord inside one octave. So, the lead alto plays the melody and an octave lower the baritone plays the melody, so they’re in unison but they’re an octave apart. So, it’s not strict unison, they’re spread, and in between them are the three other voices that never go above the lead alto sax or below the baritone sax. So, they’re all moving along bookended at the top by the alto and the bottom by the baritone. And then as the chords move those inner voices move with the melody and cover the harmony, you know? flesh out the harmonic sound. So, you can get a really rich thing, and that’s also like the sound George Shearing had.

So, what you’re doing is putting the melody note on the top and the bottom and the three other voices have to cover whatever that chord is in there. So, the intervals are going to be moving around, they’re not going to be the same, [ I had asked if the inside saxes had a strict intervallic relationship with the lead sax] the second alto, for instance, is not always going to be the same interval beneath the first alto, that’s what’s called parallel organum, and that has a certain sound but that’s not what Supersax did. And a lot of piano players can do this. On a solo they might decide to play a section of their solo where they do that voicing. George Shearing did that, the vibes played the melody in a different octave than the piano, and the voices were filled in on the piano in between these two. So, it defines the melody really well. It makes it really full and fat because you have these three voices in the middle that are moving around showing what the harmony is as the harmony is moving by.

[ I mention Med telling me about how they’d sometimes for fun just have the inner saxophones play their parts sans the melody and how I’d love to hear some of that. And even though all of this science is going on inside the voicing it sure always sounds to me like they’re all moving forward straight ahead.]

Exactly. It’s a side issue. Really, the main way to enjoy it is to listen. Because the main thing in that voicing that you’re going to hear is the melody because the top voice is definitely what the uninitiated ear always goes to, is the highest voice. And then to have that doubled below with the lowest voice makes the power, so you’re always going to hear that melody. So, the real way to listen to it is to just enjoy the momentum, the forward motion that it has. And the richness is created by those three inner voices.” —David Parlato.

Lanny Morgan has always been gracious and a regular guest via telephone on my KUNM Thursday radio show, so, I gave him a buzz to get some clarification on the intricacies of playing in Supersax. He was the 2nd alto in the band.

Lanny Morgan: Yes, the two tenors and the 2nd alto play the inner parts.

Mark Weber: Med says that for fun, in private sessions, he’d have the three inner saxes play their parts, sans the lead lines. Just for a laugh.

LM: Yeh. We did that in the studios. It’s not that much fun, really. Because, actually, they’re almost impossible to play, and they’re not much fun to play, either. It’s just a matter of playing them over and over until you finally get it, almost by rote.

MW: When did you join the band?

LM: I joined the band in 1975. They started in ’72 and they rehearsed in Bill Perkins’ garage for a year, then they opened at Donte’s, and then they recorded three albums for Capitol and the first one won a Grammy, then they didn’t do another until DYNAMITE in ’78. We recorded that for BASF. And that was at the end of a road trip. We did a month over there in Germany and wound up in Villingen [April 24-28, 1978] where MPS Studios are, and we did that record there. I’ve always thought it was a good record.

MW: When did John Dentz join the band? Because DYNAMITE is the first time we see him on record with Supersax.

LM: Let’s see, when I first joined the band Jake Hanna was playing drums. And Jake stayed about a year, or a year and a half. When I joined it was Buddy Clark, Jake Hanna, and Lou Levy, and Conte, and sometimes Frank Rosolino. And then it was Med and I and Warne Marsh and Jay Migliori and Jack Nimitz.

MW: You started in 1975, when?

LM: Actually I started subbing on the band in 1974. And I joined the band permanently in 1975, probably spring 1975.

MW: And you replaced Joe Lopes.

LM: Right.

MW: When you had features on the band did they always remain the same or did those move around after awhile?

LM: No, they always stayed the same. We tried to get Med to let us mix it up a little bit but he didn’t want to do it. He wanted everything to remain the same. I always played on “Ornithology,” and Nimitz and I always played on “Moose the Mooche,” we used to trade choruses, then eights, then fours. And Jack’s main feature was “Night in Tunisia.”

MW: “Ornithology” was Warne’s chart.

LM: Yes, that was Warne’s. A very hard chart.

MW: Did Warne also double the lead with alto and baritone?

LM: No, Warne used five-part harmony.

MW: And that was his solo vehicle as well.

LM: Right, Warne used to play on that in the beginning. Then, later, it became my feature. When I first joined I played a little bit on everything. They kind of mixed things up a little more than we used to do at the end. It was so set there at the end. I always wanted to play on “Cherokee.” Med’s feature was a blues in C, I can’t remember the name. But, “Cherokee,” was always the two tenors. So, normally, all of us got to play once a set. So if you played three sets, you got to play three times a night. And you got to stretch out pretty good. I think on “Moose the Mooche” I played four choruses, maybe five.

MW: At the time that Supersax was really going strong was that your main job?

LM: No, I was still doing a lot of studio work, too. And I was playing with Bill Holman, Bob Florence, Bill Berry, and everybody. In fact, I got in trouble once with Bill Berry, my old friend, because I turned down one of his jobs because Supersax had a gig, and he said Why do you always turn me down for Supersax? And I said, Bill, you try getting a sub for Supersax. You can’t get one! But of course he didn’t want to hear that. But, it worked out okay, anyway.

MW: When was Supersax last gig?

LM: It’s been a long time. You know everybody’s gone except Med and I. And I wasn’t in the original band, so, Med is the only one left of the original band. Joe Lopes is gone. And Bill Perkins is gone.

MW: Is John Dentz still around?

LM: Yes, but he hasn’t played in years. He lost his hearing, you know. His wife was a dental technician, maybe still is, and inherited a dental lab. So, they’re living up in either Big Bear or Arrowhead.

MW: Remember how he used to cock his head sideways while he was playing like he was trying to hear the reflection off the wall? And that look on his face.

LM: Yeh, yeh, [chuckling]. He was a funny cat. He would look up at the ceiling, too! Eyes wide open.

MW: Right!

LM: We always used to laugh at him, it was pretty funny. He was a good guy, I like John. He was a great drummer. He was one of the most steady drummers I ever heard in my life. Any tempo.

MW: He was with Supersax over ten years.

LM: Yes. And I remember after that [John’s hearing loss] we went to Japan and took Ralph Penland with us. We played a little club in Yokohama called The Bird. A lot of guys were going over to do that. That was about a week’s work.

MW: When was that? Had you done the L.A. Voices albums, yet? [December 1982 through January and February 1983] John was on those dates

LM: You better let me dig out my datebooks and look into that.

MW: [ I told Lanny about Supersax New Mexico]

LM: Really? That’s great!

MW: Yeh, their first date is May 21st in Santa Fe.

LM: That’s wild! I’d like to hear them! They’ll be fine, it just takes a lot of work. You know, Med tried to put the band back together again but, you know, I just don’t think it would ever work again because most of that was the feeling — just being together for all that time — a lot of empathy and feeling for what everyone was doing. And so, he put it together, he got Danny House on baritone, and Pete Christlieb on tenor, and Gene Cipriano on tenor. But, no matter how good those people play it just didn’t sound the same. When we used to work with that band — I’m talking maybe two weeks out of every month — the band was really tight.

MW: How did Supersax set up in the recording studio?

LM: We did it several different ways. One of the ones, I remember we were in a circle. I don’t think we were ever in individual booths. I think we were in a semi-circle. Everyone might have had their own mike. I know most guys, including myself, don’t really approve of that way of recording [individual booths], it gives the control booth too much control. Some of the best recordings I ever made — sound-wise — were with Wally Heider where he set one mike in front of the whole group.

MW: I like recording with one ambient mike and also have everybody miked individually for insurance purposes, in case we need to raise that instrument in the mix. But mostly rely on the single mike as the fundamental track. I’m also partial to raising the drums and bass in the mix.

LM: I like the sock cymbal.

MW: What was the fastest tempo Supersax ever played?

LM: I can’t give you a number, but I think it was “Salt Peanuts.” Yeh, we did “Salt Peanuts” and “Koko” pretty fast. And another one, “Bebop.” And another one we recorded called, “The Bird.”

MW: Like 300 bpm?

LM: No, I think they were closer to 400.

MW: So, you didn’t necessarily thin about that? Somebody would count off and you’d go?

LM: Yes. Med always counted us in. A couple things started with drums, so, drums would just take it and then we’d come in. “Salt Peanuts” starts like that. And it was right up there.

MW: Did tempos ever change? Like a radical change just to see?

LM: No. Everything was right where Med wanted them. A lot of those things were a lot faster than Bird recorded them — but they were right where Med wanted them, so that’s where we played ’em.

MW: Med told me that Bill Perkins took issue after the first sessions when Capitol wanted to re-record everything sans solos. That Perk balked at doing “Koko” over again.

LM: Well, it was more than “Koko.” It was some other tunes, too. Perk was such a perfectionist that he wanted to get every note — you know? you have to skate on some of those, you just have to play with feeling. Bird sorta did that, too. So when they told Perk they were going to have to re-do it, he just wigged out, and said that he couldn’t do it. So they brought in Joe Lopes. Joe Lopes is an excellent reader, he wasn’t the jazz player that Perk was but he sure got the parts down.

MW: Tell me about the time Zoot sat in with Supersax.

LM: That was at Ratzo’s in Chicago. There were two groups on the bill. It was us and Zoot’s band and Zoot played a couple tunes with us. The exciting one was down at the Parisian Room when Sonny Stitt sat it. Yeh! I forgot exactly when that was. I think John Dentz was in the band and Buddy Clark was still in the band, so that was awhile back. And I think Menza and Jay Migliori were on tenors, so, Warne wasn’t there. Stitt was a good friend of Red Holloway’s — Red used to be the doorman there at the Parisian Room.

MW: Wow. I saw Stitt and Red play tandem tenors at the Parisian Room. It was billed that way. So, did Stitt just solo with Supersax or did he play one of the parts?

LM: [Hearty laughter] No, no, no, I don’t think he would have wanted to put himself though that kind of agony. I don’t remember what he played, probably a rhythm thing. But, whatever it was he played the shit out of it.

MW: So, he didn’t play over the top of the sax section, he’d wait for a chorus?

LM: He’d wait for a chorus, then he’d play a bunch of choruses and when he got through, Blue would play. Blue Mitchell was playing with us then. Blue was a tremendous player, I mean, they both were [he and Conte]. I never heard Blue make a mistake, ever. I never heard him fluff a note. Everything was perfect. It was when we were working at a place in San Diego, for a week, that Blue started complaining about headaches. So, we took him to a doctor and they gave him some medication, something strong, and then when he got back to L.A. they found out he had brain cancer. That was quite a loss.

MW: He was a nice guy.

LM: Yes, he was. A nice guy and a hell of a player. So was Count. Nice guy and hell of a player.

MW: My claim to fame is that Blue bought me a beer at Donte’s, once. I think I had given him a photograph.

LM: Wow. Yeh, he was a good guy. I had known him, and Junior Cook, from New York when they were working with Horace’s band. Yeh, Blue really impressed me when he played with us.

MW: Well, what are you working on these days, Lanny?

LM: I’m writing some more things for my sextet. Doing the Lighthouse every few months. I’m working at a place called Typhoon, down at Santa Monica airport, Emil Richards has a big band there, and actually we did a DVD with that band. That’s about it.

MW: When I caught you last year at Charlie O’s [April 10, 2o10 Van Nuys, CA] with John Heard’s Trio with Roy McCurdy I was blown away. I think I was high for a month after that show. In fact, I wish I had brough along a Zoom to record it. Unbelievable.

LM: Well, there you are.


Biscuit Evans sed he could
play the sax like that
any day any time just
as soon as God kissed
him on the forehead
right where his third
eye would be

PART TWO of same conversation with David Parlato:

“You could say that Supersax is the quintessential tribute to Bird. Enough to make a grown man cry, really. It’s wicked, wicked good. When I talked with Buddy Clark [Clark lived briefly in Albuquerque toward the end of his life, circa 1998] he said that they slowed down Bird’s recordings so they could hear what the ghosted notes were, what the quickest notes were. So they could transcribe. What I got about Buddy was — he was a very determined, very aggressive personality. You know, he fell out of a hang glider, or something, and survived!

[ I mentioned how Med had taught Buddy how to write for saxophones.]

Okay, going back to that voicing thing. Once you have the harmony, all those tunes had harmony, they came with harmony, and then you had the melody — to fill those three voices in, to somebody who knows what they’re doing, is somewhat formulaic, okay? It’s ‘somewhat.’ I don’t mean to say it’s mechanical, it’s just that you know that’s the sound that we have, that’s the signature sound. It followed a pattern. I say ‘somewhat’ but it’s definitely not rubber-stamped or mechanical. The only way that would be the case is if every part was moving the same way. That’s called parallel and they’re not doing that. That would be totally formulaic, mechanical, rubberstamp. But still, there was a routine to what they were doing, that the arrangers would get very fast at.

[ I mention how Med said each tune presented its own set of problems.]

The main problem would be to get the melody the way they wanted. And the other problem would be to figure out how to imply the chord with the three inner voices when the note that Bird played was distant, in the chord, you know? Like a flat thirteenth or something like that. So, you’ve got two notes by two of the fives saxophones [in Supersax that was the lead alto and the baritone] that is like a distant note from the chord and how do those three voices in the middle anchor that chord and reflect the fact that it’s a flat thirteenth and anchor that to show that it is in relation to this chord. And you have to do it with three voices. And then the next note is an eighth note, probably the same chord, but a different melody note so you want to move those three voices, even though the chord hasn’t changed, the melody note has changed. So, this is why it’s not exactly formulaic. So, the next note is not a flat thirteen, say it’s a third, of the chord, then those three voices inside have to move in a melodic way and still cover the same chord. So that becomes challenging. And with note-y music like Bird’s there would be a number of notes in one harmonic space of two beats or four beats during which time the melody notes would be changing but the harmony notes would have to be moving, but the harmony wouldn’t be changing! It would be challenging.

[ I mentioned how Connie Crothers and Charles McPherson both emphasized and wanted to make clear that it’s not about working or trying. That implies that you’re stressing the value of effort and it’s not about that.]

That’s very intelligent to know that. You know I’m doing hypnotherapy now, and the thinking along those lines is beautiful because what your doing is you are programming your subconscious mind to have that attitude about the creative work that you are going to do and so you don’t use the word try because that implies that you could fail. You don’t use the words I will do it because that implies that it is in the future. You don’t use the word work because you want to be in the zone and be relaxed and be able to be in touch with the intuition and subconscious. So, I applaud that kind of catching the self talk that has failure built into it. They want to make sure that they’re not operating on that level. So, I understand that. I understand the purpose of it.” — David Parlato


“Perhaps you seek too much,
that as a result of your seeking
you cannot find,” said Siddhartha,
“When someone is seeking it happens
quite easily that he only sees the thing
that he is seeking.”


Med Flory: It wouldn’t hurt to mention Dave Pell — that he had that octet that was pretty gawd damn great all those years. Long before we did what we did, you know? It had no effect on it [Supersax], but it was there. As a matter of fact, Buddy and I were playing on his band for awhile.

[Legend has it that it was after a Dave Pell Octet gig at the Crescendo on Sunset Blvd — 1957 — they were over at Med’s place winding down and Buddy asked for Med to play “that thing with saxes — Just Friends.” And it was on this night that Buddy and Med decided to get Supersax off the shelf and running.] [ Again, there seems to be two dates that are attributed to this legendary demo of four songs for five saxes, including Joe Maini — 1957-ish and just before Maini died in 1964.]

MF: So, that’s how that got started, was a gig of Dave Pell’s.

MW: What about Roger Kellaway’s involvement — those string charts he wrote for the third album.

MF: Johnny Williams was going to do it and then he got a movie, so, I don’t remember who recommended Roger but I got him. And Don Specht wrote one but it was in a different mood, it wasn’t really modern string writing, it was traditional strings, it kind of puts you to sleep.

MW: Warne wrote four arrangements for the band, “Salt Peanuts; Ornithology; The Song is You; and Now’s the Time.”

MF: Yeh. I think I’ve re-written all but one of them.

MW: So, you rewrote the same charts? [see “The Song is You” on Vol. 1 w/L.A. Voices]

MF: Yeh.

MW: Did Warne use the same thing with the baritone and alto playing the lead melody?

MF: Pretty much. He got kind of strange every now and then, but yeh, it sounded really good.

MW: And he kept everything inside the octave?

MF: Yeh, that was The Rule, you know, you gotta do that because it’s Bird. It’s the line that matters, not what expertise you have as a harmonist. You can do all that but you got to do inside the octave, which is plenty tough. And you got to keep it rolling. The other parts got to move like the lead does. Dick Grove had this jazz college where he taught cross-voicing, which, jezus crhist, there’s nothing worse. It always sticks out like a sore thumb. Like when you got a note doubled, so one goes up and the other goes down and then they end up where they were and nobody is going dah dah dah dah on the same note. It never works. You juts gotta keep doing it and you can do some pretty strange stuff inside of the octave, in order to make it work and also augment the harmony, to the point where you’re into second-degree harmony, in order to make something work maybe you go to another key for two beats, you know? in order to get the thing to flow linearly exactly like the lead, like Bird. When it goes up, go up, you know? When Perk was on the band he always wanted to, “Hey, let’s play it again only slower,” and frankly, I didn’t have the time to go back over things slow. We have to do it up to tempo, when it goes up, go up!

MW: David Parlato said Perk was a perfectionist and really hard on himself.

MF: Yup. And that doesn’t always work with this band ’cause it ain’t about how good you play, it’s about how good Bird played. Sounds weird but that the way of it.

MW: How well did Supersax records sell?

MF: The first one sold 10,000 copies in the first three weeks, so that got it going. Not like it should, but, that’s the way it’s still selling, people are still buying it.

MF: I used to go into Birdland with my wife Joanie, the best lookin’ chick in New York City, flat-out, man, she was something else. And Pee Wee, that little fart, he’d upt us right down in front, you know, to attract some attention. And be right in front of Bud, you know, I could just reach out and almost touch Bud’s right hand, you know? and he’d be playin’ and he’d check out Joanie, and he’d play a ballad, man, that was so gawd damn’d gorgeous it’d just rip your heart out. And then he’d play something like “Hallelujah,” or one of those up things. He was the best. He was my favorite jazz piano player of all time.

[ Regarding Hal McKusick]

MF: Yeh, he was my mentor on Claude’s [Thornhill] band. He hipped me to a lot of stuff. I was just out of college and didn’t know shit, and he was so hip it was unbelievable.

MW: Did Hal always talk with that slow laconic laid-back voice, maybe it’s from Boston, did he talk like that back then?

MF: He wasn’t from Boston was he?

MW: Newton, a suburb of Boston.

MF: No shit. He’s not like that school at all. All those guys sound like Boots Musulli, whatever his name is, all the alto players.

MW: Was Hal always laid-back?

MF: Yeh! He wasn’t a cheerleader if that’s what you mean [chuckling].

MW: He just seems to take everything as it comes — very calm.

MF: Well, he was hip and cool. A lovely combination. He and Joanie left NYC the evening of Christmas Day 1955. Just prior to that he had went back to Indiana and bought a Dodge convertible — a 1952 model he seems to recall. “I drove it back to New York, we packed up, the drove it back to Logansport for a few days, and then hit the trail — Route 66.”

MW: How did Supersax set up in the studio?

MF: Facing each other, three on one side, two on the other. More or less. Whereas, on the gig it was me and the alto and the baritone on one side and the two tenors on the other. Normally, they used to split the tenors, but I like to write tenors as a section, together, so you can’t have them on both sides of the section when you want them to be playing thirds or a unison or something like that. I’m not sure that’s the first band that ever did that, but I did it, because it makes sense. So, like that. And we had baffles around. So that one horn wouldn’t leak into the other we had baffles between each horn. About four feet, something like that.

MW: And you could see over the top.

MF: Yeh. We could see, and hear, but it didn’t leak.

MW: So, obviously, you all had your own microphones.

MF: Oh yeh. And one on top and one for ambiance. That was at Capitol, they knew how to do all that.

MW: I kind of thought you would all just be around one microphone?

MF: We’ve done that, too. You can do it, but that ain’t how they do it when they’re doing it, you know.

MW: So, did you set in on the mix session?

MF: Oh yeh. We’d mix, John Palladino and Mauri, and me. And on break we’d go down the street to the Brown Derby. They had a Cobb salad there, I’m tellin’ ya, those were marvelous days.

JAMMING ON KEROUAC’s 239th, 240th, & 241st CHORUS

Charlie Parker looked like Buddha
Charlie Parker, who recently died
Laughing at a juggler on the TV
was called the Perfect Musician
And his expression on his face
Was as calm, beautiful, and profound
As the image of the Buddha
Represented in the East, the lidded eyes
The expression that says “All is Well”
— This was what Charlie Parker
Said when he played, All is Well
his Eternal Slowdown
In the Great Historic World Night
And wailed his little saxophone,
The alto, with piercing clear
And how sweet a story it is
When you hear Charlie Parker
tell it

*NOTE regarding 15th paragraph:

from one of the chief consultants on my advisory committee, Dan Morgenstern of the Rutgers JazzArchive, perceptively pointed out that the 1929 “Singing in the Rain” recording was never formally released, so would not have been an influence. It surfaced on bootlegs in the 1970s(?)(because Leonard Feather refers to it in his linernotes to the first Supersax album). It can now be found on the BIX-TRAM-TEAGARDEN Mosaic box. And I would be remiss to forget the Benny Carter sessions with ten saxophones of 1964 in Hollywood, somewhat of a predecessor of Odean Pope’s Saxophone Choir, in a way. Bobby Bradford in his interview of April 30 stressed the importance of Benny Carter’s saxophone writing. Here’s Dan Morgenstern’s astute remarks:

“. . . when you first talk about saxophone sections and rightly mention Duke and Lunceford, you should include Benny Carter, who may have been the greatest writer for this instrumentation of them all, and for decades–there was the l937 Hawkins All Star Jam Band saxophone quartet doing Crazy Rhythm and Honeysuckle Rose in Paris, and the revisit to that concept with Further Definitions in 1961…and in 1964, Benny leading 10 other reeds (a Vee Jay session from which for years only one track was issued until Blue Moon (Spain) put out eight others in ’99 (but I don’t suggest that being mentioned, just FYI, kinda fun). But Benny was the King of sax section writing, I humbly submit. And I’m mystified by your citation of a Trumbauer 1929 recording of his Singin’ the Blues transcribed for section–the first instance of that I know of is Fletcher Henderson’s 4/10/31 recording. a Bill Challis arr. (with Rex Stewart doing Bix but the whole sax section doing Tram). I can’t find a Jan. 1929 Trumbauer band session…..

PS: I saw Supersax in NYC but forget what club it was, except that it was downstairs and maybe on 52nd St…had to be shortlived if there…think Fontana was the brass. I dug the concept but was sorry that when Warne was in the band he didn’t get more to play….. Cheers, Dan”

(c) Mark Weber / Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA / April 2o11 / All photos by Mark Weber

Supersax at a morning music clinic and evening concert June 6, 1980, Cal Poly, Pomona, California – photos by Mark Weber

Saxes: Med Flory, Jay Migliori, Lanny Morgan, Ray Reed, Jack Nimitz
Bass: Frank De LaRosa
Trumpet: Conte Candoli
Drums: John Dentz
Piano: Lou Levy

Bibliography and sources:

1. JazzWax blog interview with Med Flory by Marc Myers
2. Jack Goodwin’s discography of Warne Marsh >
3. Mark Weber’s Thursday KUNM jazz radio show interview’s with Med Flory and Lanny Morgan
4. telcon w/ Hal McKusick 13apr11
5. Med Flory’s liner notes to Vol. 1 cd SUPERSAX THE JAPANESE TOUR
6. Gene Lee’s LIFE OF WOODY HERMAN, p.152
7. YouTube : Supersax playing “Night in Tunisia” @ Ford Anson Theatre, probably October 21, 1979 w/ Jay Migliori, Ray Reed, Lanny Morgan, Med Flory, Jack Nimitz (superb solo), Conte Candoli, John Dentz, Monty Budwig, Lou Levy — could be the reputed KCET television broadcast footage professional shot and produced, utilizing at least two cameras — simulcast over KKGO radio
8. Med Flory Archive at Library of Congress
9. Leonard Feather liner notes to SUPERSAX PLAYS BIRD (their first LP)
10. email consultation with Kirk Silsbee 13apr11
11. email consultation with Gary Foster 13apr11 and 15apr11
12. email consultation with Connie Crothers 13apr11 and telcom 16apr11
13. BIX biography by Jean Pierre Lion (2005)
14. email consultation with Ted Brown 16&17apr11
15. telcom w/ Med Flory in North Hollywood 17&19&27apr11
16. telcon w/ Bill Payne in Vegas 17apr11
17. Safford Chamberlain’s biography on Warne Marsh AN UNSUNG CAT
18. telcon w/ Dick Berk in Portland OR 19apr11
19. telcon w/ Charles McPherson in San Diego, CA 22apr11
20. telcon w/ Bobby Bradford in Altadena, CA 23&30apr11
21. telcon w/ Michael Vlatkovich in Culver City, CA 23apr11
22. telcon w/ Lanny Morgan in Van Nuys, CA 24apr11
23. telcon w/ David Parlato in Santa Fe, NM 26apr11
24. email consultation w/ Dan Morgenstern 4&5may11
25. Don Menza states in the liner notes to his 1981 Lp HIP POCKET ” . . .at various times I played both
alto and baritone parts with Supersax.”
26. Note that Buddy Clark’s arrangement of “Night in Tunisia” for their first album SUPERSAX PLAYS BIRD (1973) is the same arrangement as on JAPANESE TOUR (winter 1975 with Rosolino in for Conte) — but by their 4th album CHASIN’ THE BIRD (July 1976) Buddy is out of the band and Med has wrote his own arrangement of “Night in Tunisia” and this 2nd version appears on CHASIN’ THE BIRD with Blue Mitchell sitting in for Conte on this track — this came to light when Cal Haines noted the differences (his band SuperSax New Mexico plays the Buddy Clark version, published by MCA Music).

(c)2011 Mark Weber


  1. charley krachy

    Wow Mark, What an amazing essay…!!
    Enjoyed reading and listening again to this great music….

  2. tedgbrown

    Hi Mark, Wow what a great job you did on this project. A tremendous amount of work and all so interesting! I’ll never forget the impact Super Sax had on me that night in Pasadena in 1972 when I heard the tape of their first gig. I saw the band in 1973 when they came to Boston, but lost track of what they were doing after that. Great stuff!

  3. tedgbrown

    Hi Mark. Wow great job on this project. I learned a lot.
    Thanks, Ted

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