Saturday, March 15, 2008

Memories of the Tenor Conclave -Von Freeman,Teddy Edwards and Buck Hill

"Tenor Conclave" (Timeless) was one of those recordings that somehow got past me. I recently copped a 'used' copy while down at the Jazz Record Mart. Imagine the three tenor tandem of Von Freeman, Buck Hill and Teddy Edwards blowing up a breeze in front of a 'live' audience. In the vaunted tradition of the old jam session tenor sax battle they come out guns blazin'. European pianist supreme Rein De Graaf's brainstorm for this session, each man being from the midwest, east coast and west coast of America was stroke of pure genius. Each man from the same generation of gutsy, gritty urban tenor saxophone playing.
Plus my own personal ties to each man was piqued. I'd follow Von Freeman around Chicago from 1971 to the present day. His floating jam sessions are the stuff of legend (In fact I'm near completion of a chapter on Von Freeman to be included in my hopefully soon to published book on Chicago jazz. As of yet I've not decided on a title). Von was always willing to be quite candid with me whenever we talked. He was 'hard core' jazz deep in his bloodlines.The epitome of the word 'jazz'.
Teddy Edwards I met some years before he died. He was to be a guest with an All star band that included Barry Harris at Joe Segal's Jazz Showcase celebrating Charlie Parker Month - August of every year since Bird's untimely demise in 1955. Edwards however came up quite ill and had to recuperate at an area hospital the day of the gig. While tuning into a radio program hosted by Bill King (of WBEE once an all jazz AM station), let it slip that Edwards was convalescing at Mercy Hospital on Chicago's near south side. I made a beeline straight to the hospital to visit Edwards who I had never met before. Walked into his single bed room and there seated beside him was none other than Barry Harris. The Master Harris and I had a warm friendship over the years because he enjoyed my enthusiasm for jazz (and he once wrote me a nice letter that I will always cherise). He introduced me to Mr. Edwards and we sat and had a wonderful chat. Mr. Edwards would go on to recoup and head back to California.
About two years ago I was sent Buck Hill's newest CD of the time by his record label. I had always admired his playing and history as one of the unsung saxists in America and wanted to get him on my radio show for a talk about his life. I did get in touch with him and we scheduled a time to talk 'live'. Well it didn't go too well for Mr. Hill is a man of few words. I damn near had to coax every sentence outta him. Best put he lets his saxophone do the talking. While I was rather embarrassed that he didn't seem comfortable talking he was genuinely very nice and I could feel his warmth regardless.
And on this CD, Tenor Conclave these true giants of their profession more than ably meet the task. The session is from the word 'go' fun. They mix it up with the usual standards - Perdido/Wahoo, How High the Moom/Ornithology, Red Top plus each get to solo on a trio of ballads. One has to believe there is more material in the vaults to share.
As I sit and listen to this session all the joy and honesty of these commited men to their art form brings back fond memories and gives us a valued moment of jazz history. They've made their mark. I'm just grateful to have met and to have been touched by them all.