Dave Frishberg —- May 23, 1979 —- photo by Mark Weber
Late April 2020 Jazz @ Noon every Thursday (starts at 12:07 after the satellite news) Host MARK WEBER KUNM Albuquerque, USA 89.9 FM (Mountain Standard Time) also streaming on the web KUNM.org Current time zone offset: UTC*/GMT -6 hours (*Coordinated Universal Time)/Greenwich Mean Time)
Book Review: I’m sure glad Dave Frishberg wrote this. His autobiography is tremendous, MY DEAR DEPARTED PAST (2017). I love how he delves into “regional” (my quotes) jazz scenes, ie. His hometown, Minneapolis, and the two years he spent in Salt Lake City, among others. He doesn’t overlook how great jazz players exist everywhere and not just in NYC, L.A., or Chicago. Soon as I’m done reading this, it will sit on the shelf along with my three other top favorite musician autobiographies: Merle Haggard’s (the first one, not the second one, he wrote two), Hampton Hawes’ RAISE UP OFF OF ME, and Art Pepper’s. The only difference being that Dave wrote his all by himself and those three were co-authored. We find out that Dave studied journalism in college, having no chance of getting into the music program as he was an “ear player,” and tongue-in-cheek reports, only “vaguely familiar with – Scriabin? Who was that?” or any of the European classical stuff, having been a jazzer since age 14 when he was memorizing Albert Ammons and Pete Johnson. His memory for the past is quite good, although, during his stint working with the 3-man writing team at NYC radio station WNEW, they ran a contest to name the next U.S. satellite into outer space and he remembers all kinds of arcane and bizarre examples from the postcard entries but not the final one they settled on? I kind of was interested.
Did Dave keep a diary? I always wonder about that. Like the engineer of all those Beatle records, Geoff Emerick, how did he remember all those details about engineering those records so many years ago?
I like autobiographies to be as honest as possible. Like Ezra Pound said, there’s a certain beauty to facts. As much as I like Henry Miller, much of his stuff is only half true, bordering on fiction. Well, as J.G. Ballard points out, the fiction writer’s task is to invent reality. I like that. Dave Frishberg, though, is the Real McCoy. Some, like Gore Vidal’s memoir PALIMPSEST is biased to be sure, but you’d not expect elsewise from Gore. Now, “confessional poets” hardly need write autobiographies, obviously, but Sylvia Plath’s THE BELL JAR (1971), which was marketed as fiction, is closer to autobiography to my way of thinking.
I suppose we read biographies, memoirs, personal histories and autobiographies to see how others are navigating this life we’re all involved with. Or, as Brautigan has it in his haunting SO THE WIND WON’T BLOW IT ALL AWAY.
Other favorite memoirs of mine: Eric Clapton’s; David Sedaris’s; Al Franken’s; Barbara Kingsolver’s; Annie Dillard’s AN AMERICAN CHILDHOOD; William Finnegan’s BARBARIAN DAYS (about surfing, mostly); It was Kenny Davern who insisted I read Sedaris, telling me he’s good on long flights and funny as hell; Thomas DeQuincey’s CONFESSIONS OF AN ENGLISH OPIUM EATER; Keith Richards’ LIFE; Mae West’s GOODNESS HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH IT (1959); and Jimmy the Wags MY LIFE IN THE NYPD (2002); and along those same lines, the scary three memoirs by the anonymous “Joey” who wrote three books about being a hitman; and don’t forget the unforgettable EDUCATION OF A FELON by fellow Angeleno Edward Bunker; in terms of the West, my favorites are Wallace Stegner’s MORMON COUNTRY, and David Lavender’s ONE MAN’S WEST; and Tony Hillerman’s SELDOM DISAPPOINTED; for sobriety memoirs I highly recommend THE CRACKER FACTORY by Joyce Rebeta-Burditt (I still have my Mom’s copy with her name in it: Joy Weber); Also, THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN; Also, Viktor Frankl’s essential MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING on his survival of Nazi’s death camps; and David Hackworth’s ABOUT FACE mostly about Viet Nam War (I had him autograph my copy!); and did Mencken write a memoir? He must have; two others who I wish would write memoirs are humorist Dave Barry, and crime-fiction author Lawrence Block; Oddly, I have never read Anne Frank’s; also, comedian Tim Allen’s is a knee-slapper; then there’s THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN L.A. GANG MEMBER about the Crips by Monster Kody Scott; I recently read Judith Freeman’s memoir THE LATTER DAYS and was surprised how much it mirror’d her first novel THE CHINCHILLA FARM, both great; Of course, Mark Twain’s oddly non-generic AUTOBIOGRAPHY, one of my Bibles; Sixties rockers are all writing their memoirs these days and I’m glad, the Sixties were a happening time, I totally dug almost enviously (except I’m not a girl) Carly Simon’s title BOYS IN TREES (for a girl’s memoir, a great title!) not knowing, until I read it, that one of her famous songs is called that; Phil Lesh’s autobio and Jorma Kaukonen’s both very good; Zappa’s THE REAL FRANK ZAPPA book is the best of all the books on Zappa; And Dylan’s CHRONICLES is a bonafide masterpiece, how can one person be so talented? And who cares if it drifts into impressionism. Don’t believe all the bad reviews by 20-somethings in THE NEW YORKER; and hey, Barack Obama’s AUDACITY OF HOPE (2006) is so intelligent, how did he get to be president? Most of our presidents are as dumb as a box of rocks; And then there’s one of the masters: Joan Didion’s WHERE I’M FROM; and Kurt Vonnegut’s three collections of memoirs, or “collages” as he calls them; then there’s Larry McMurtry’s three short memoirs (could be one book, really), I’m a McMurtry nut; and also, Joan Baez’s first autobio DAYBREAK (1968) I read in high school when it first came out and was very influential to me.
Apparently, jazz musicians don’t write autobiographies, not unless you count Sidney Bechet’s largely avoidable one, and I started to add Mezz Mezzrow’s to that category, but Dave really likes that one, so, I probably should re-read it. And, sorry to say, but Frank Foster’s and Jimmy Heath’s have issues I had a hard time with. Your time is better spent reading one of the great books of all time: JOURNEY TO THE END OF THE NIGHT by Celine.
Geezus, I didn’t mean to get so carried away talking autobiographies. As well, there are so many others I’m forgetting momentarily.
Then, to top it off, Jessica Mitford’s masterpiece THE AMERICAN WAY OF DEATH.
Dave Frishberg hanging out at Two Dollar Bills, Franklin Avenue, Hollywood, to see Joanne Grauer Trio —- April 18, 1980 — That’s tenor saxophonist Bob Hardaway to Dave’s left, and that’s Al Cecchi and Wolfgang Melz of Joanne’s trio —- a rather paparazzi photo by Mark Weber
That’s Dave Frishberg peeking over the top of the piano with Bill Berry out front of the Bill Berry Big Band at the Bonaventure Hotel, downtown L.A. —- August 29, 1979 Lunchtime concert on the terrace —- saxes L to R: Bob Efford, Coop, Marshal Royal, Med Flory, Bill Byrne (baritone) w/ Monty Budwig (bass), Nick Ceroli (drums) —- the trombones were Benny Powell, Jimmy Cleveland, Buster Cooper! Cat Anderson on trumpet among others —- photo by Mark Weber —- Dave is the pianist on all their albums
Bob Wilber Quartet at Donte’s: John Heard (bass), Nick Ceroli (drums), Dave Frishberg (piano) —- May 23, 1979 —- photo by Mark Weber
Dave Frishberg sideman with Bob Wilber Quartet at Donte’s —- May 23, 1979 —- photo by Mark Weber
Dave Frishberg warming up to go Live over Southern California airwaves, from Bakersfield to Tijuana, on John Breckow’s late night KPFK jazz show May 27, 1979 (we’d all been down the street and around the corner at Donte’s this night catching Prez Conference) —- photo by Mark Weber
Two tenor players named Bob: Bob Hardaway and Bob Cooper at Donte’s as members of Prez Conference —- May 27, 1979 —- photo by Mark Weber
Hanging out at the bar at Donte’s, that’s Dave Frishberg and Alan Broadbent and a demure young lady that I didn’t catch her name —- May 23, 1979 —- photo by Mark Weber —- Dave lived in Los Angeles, near Donte’s he says in his book, from July 1971 to 1986 when he relocated to Portland, Oregon —- On page 19 Dave says his “list of most gifted musicians I ever ran across . . . “ was a saxophonist he knew at the University of Minnesota, name of Dave Karr, “. . . and Al Cohn, Zoot Sims, Alan Broadbent, Bob Dorough, and a handful of others.”
Sheila Jordan with Steve Kuhn Trio in Los Angeles! February 7, 1981, they were playing a week downtown at The Maiden Voyage —- Kuhn(piano), Harvie S(bass), Bob Moses(drums) —- photo by Mark Weber —- I called Sheila this morning at her place upstate on her little hill in Huntersland, outside Middleburgh NY “I have to drive down to Middleburgh for groceries and my mail.” I asked how things are, “I’m fine.” I told her I was reading Dave Frishberg’s autobiography and she said, “Oh, I’ve known Dave since our days at Page Three.” Among other things I told her about Anita O’Day and the “Not necessarily” joke (p74) and she laughed, “That sounds like Dave!” And told her how, in the chapter on the Page Three, Dave goes into raptures over how much he and everybody loved your singing. “I worked there eight years. Monday and Tuesdays. Monday they had a regular trio and that was jazz jam night, that’s where I met Steve Swallow, he was young then and came to jam night.” The rest of the week was the regular revolving cast of cabaret, even Tiny Tim. I said that Dave relates that after his stint he got Herbie Nichols the job. And that one night Herbie sent in a sub and it was Cecil Taylor, much to the consternation of the regular cast of performers. “Yes, that’s true. I was there. I think I was the only one who could sing with Cecil, it was out there!” She loved it. “It’s all in my book. That’s where George Russell first heard me. Jack Reilly was the pianist the night George came. Jack was George’s piano student, so he came to hear him. And after he heard me he asked ‘Where did you learn to sing like that?’ and I said ‘Hell,’ and he said ‘Can I go to Hell with you and see?’” Sheila’s biography JAZZCHILD written by Ellen Johnson, highly recommended. (In the acknowledgements I think I might be “Jeff Weber”? I keep forgetting to ask.)
Sheila Jordan & Cameron Brown in duet at Outpost Performance Space —- March 5, 2015 —- photo by Mark Weber
One of my favorite pictures of Sheila Jordan —- March 5, 2015 —- photo by Mark Weber —- On the telephone this morning [24apr2020] I asked Sheila if she ever played piano? —- because in the Bruce Lundvall biography PLAYING BY EAR (2013) fabulous informative book by Dan Ouellette on page 243 they have you playing & singing when you moved to Detroit at age 14 (the book says 12) “I was 14 when I left Summerhill, and No, I was singing WITH a piano player” —- I noted how she has a piano there at her upstate digs and she said, “Well, I can pick out tunes, but I’m no piano player, that’s just for friends who stop by or for rehearsals”
Sometimes we’d go to outdoor shooting ranges, other times we used indoor ranges, and they’d give you your choice of targets. Kenny Davern picked out this one (I always just took the old-fashioned bullseye type, not exactly wanting to be aiming at a human, paper or otherwise). This is one of Kenny’s that I kept and now hangs in our garage Kenny was a reader. I still have his copy of LINCOLN by Gore Vidal that he impressed on me. For my part, I got Kenny into Larry McMurtry and at the time of his passing (12dec2006) we were planning a weekend road trip over to Texas to McMurtry’s bookstore in Wichita Falls. After I read Elijah Wald’s study on Robert Johnson and Mississippi blues ESCAPING THE DELTA (2004) I gave it to KD and he absolutely agreed with me how good it was. So, I gave him the Robert Johnson box to take home and give a listen of which he immediately brought back two days later with a pained look on his face, “I can’t listen to this, this guy can’t count.” He was bugged over Johnson’s irregular bar count, 12, 12 ½ , 13 ½ , dotted eighth notes all over the place. Another story about Kenny I recently got to remembering with a chuckle: Kenny had quite an arsenal of guns. He even had a Nazi Luger! (We never took that shooting, it was so elegant and brutal, evil.) He asked me if I knew where he could get his shotgun sawed off. “You know that’s against the law, Kenny?” He knew that. We didn’t care. I said I did. So, a few days later I’m at a concert at the Outpost and in the door comes KD and he’s carrying the fucking shotgun! My hair stood on end! It’s in a tote bag but it’s obviously a rifle. Kenny Kenny Kenny. Another loveable weirdo. This might be the Wild West but it’s toned down some little bit these days. I was hoping Frishberg had some Kenny stories, but he must be saving those, he only briefly mentions Kenny when they were working at Nick’s. Speaking of more books: it was Kenny that hipped me to T.J. English’s hair-raising police procedural on the Hell’s Kitchen Irish crime gang THE WESTIES (1990).
Kenny Davern Quartet soundcheck preparing for two nights at the Outpost Performance Space which was Released on an Arbors CD —- Greg Cohen (bass), KD (clarinet), Tony DeNicola (drums), James Chirillo (guitar) —- December 13, 2004 —- photo by Mark Weber —- I think Greg now resides in Berlin, he was named after Gregor Piatigorsky
Dan Morgenstern in the stacks at IJS Institute of Jazz Studies, Rutgers University of New Jersey – August 9, 2o11 —- photo by Mark Weber —- I asked Dan what might be his favorite jazz autobiographies, here’s his response [email DM > MW 4/25/2020]: Of course, Armstrong. Most recent edition has preface by me. I’m handicapped due to move four years ago, bulk of my library is in storage, so am weak on titles, but: Mingus (part fiction but fun read); Buck Clayton; Benny Golson WHISPER NOT (very good); Artie Shaw; Benny Goodman, strange Ellington, more like autobiographical scrapbook; Milt Hinton one of the very best. Some not listed because too manipulated by co-authors, such as Miles, and Dizzy. Sure I’ve overlooked some, oh wow, Mezz! recently republished; and Eddie Condon, excellent; As for Louis, SWING THAT MUSIC should be mentioned as the very first though his second, the authentic one. Shaw and Louis only ones actually written by themselves rather than “with.” One to add: Max Kaminsky . . . . Virously Yours, Dan
There I am standing at the tip of the turn where the Ohio River joins the Mississippi River —- When I told Janet that this is where Huck & Jim missed their turn that fogbound night and mistakenly went south down the Mississippi instead of left up the Ohio and eventually north to freedom she looked at me like Does this guy really believe that? You bet your hat I do. I keep a piece of driftwood next to my typewriter (computer) that I picked up from there that day —- December 25, 1988 Cairo, Illinois