Jazz Professional               



Sophistication, The Samba And The Search

The timely emergence
The flute's voice
Sophistication, the Samba and the Search
Playing with big orchestras
Enjoying a more interesting life
Let's get rid of the categories
Food for thought
Improvisation: Can it be learned?
Bud Shank Today
Selected performances

Talking to Les Tomkins in 1980

That whole West Coast Jazz thing in the 'fifties had a definite relationship to the Kenton band. It seems that all of us—Shorty Rogers, Shelly Manne, Bob Cooper, etc.—met Kenton at the same time. I got drafted, but I took care of that in about six months, and was back. Then Stan got a new band, went back on the road, and all those guys stayed in Los Angeles. Most everybody was working at the Lighthouse with Howard Rumsey's group. And a kind of little cult sprung up, dominated by a bunch of musicians who had been much more sophisticated, I guess you would say, than prior jazz players. The studying had been more schooled; everybody there had done an awful lot of research, and had a lot of formal education compared with the average jazzman. The same thing was happening in San Francisco, with Paul Desmond and Dave Brubeck, as it was in other spots in Los Angeles. Jimmy Giuffre was very, very important in all this—and he was one who had not been with Kenton.

To me, and, I guess, to most people, that was what West Coast Jazz was all about. In New York, things were a little bit more fiery, and less regimented—I hate to say less sophisticated, because it was still sophisticated in its own way.

There was an obvious difference between what was going on in Los Angeles and what was going on in New York. The West Coasttype records started to receive some attention—and it was great. Right—a lot of it has carried on. Even the very first things that Laurindo and I did came from that same era—that was in 1952. A lot of interesting things popped up here and there.

The very first "Brazilliance" album was a teninch; then, about a year later, the twelveinch LPs became popular—so we quickly did the other side. We were putting jazz musicians and Brazilian musicians with Brazilian folk songs—which is essentially what bossa nova was, nine years later. In the meantime, though, between 1952 and 1961, when the Stan Getz/ Charlie Byrd records were made, a lot developed in Rio with the rhythm section—and that's where the big difference was. The rhythm things that were happen along with what Laurindo and I were doing—it was totally different to what happened as bossa nova. The guys in Rio, who helped develop the classic drum patterns and the bass patterns, which are very important to us now, were all admittedly well aware of what Laurindo and I had done. But they were also well aware of what Gerry Mulligan, Chet Baker and other jazz guys were doing. Again, I think it's relevant that all the guys they were listening to were from the West Coast. Those Brazilian musicians say that Gerry and what he was doing had a big influence on them. Anyhow, that rhythm pattern, that became bossa nova, developed in Rio; when Charlie and Stan made that record, that was what grabbed everybody. Plus that song: "Desafinado." Sure, some recognition for our part of it would have been nice. The albums are not available now, but we actually made three of them. We initially did the two teninches, which became the first twelveinch; then in 1955 and '56 we did two more twelveinch albums. Those three albums were repackaged so many times—I think there were maybe eight albums put out up through the middle 'sixties from that material off those original three. They even added strings on one of the remakes.

Yes, I was involved in some later developments. I went to Rio in 1963 and 1964, and while I was down there I met Sergio Mendes, as well as a lot of other great, groovy musicians, like Roberto Menescal; I played with them a lot. I did not work in Rio; I was working in Buenos Aires, and did some concerts around that area. Then in 1965 Sergio came to Los Angeles with a whole group of people, and he didn't know anybody so he called me. And I worked with the group; we worked two weeks at Shelly's ManneHole, which had just opened at that time, followed by some more concerts and whatever. During that time, I recorded with Sergio and the group—I think that one was called Brasil '66; it was the first of the still–running series. I also made an album under my own name, "Bud Shank And His Brazilian Friends" on Pacific Jazz, with Sergio's rhythm section—Rosinha De Valenca on guitar, Sebastian Neto on bass, Chico Batero on drums—and a very good Brazilian piano player, Joao Donato, who had come up separately. Making that album was fun.

Even before I started playing those melodies with Laurindo in the early 'fifties, I was always fascinated by them.

Then, when the bossa nova era hit, I was even more fascinated, because it was right in my groove; I was sitting there waiting for it. To this day, I love those songs—and some of the new songs that are coming from Brazil. We still do a couple with our group now; such as "O Barquinho"—that's been around for years, but it's a great song. I love to play those things.

The Brazilians of the late 'fifties and early 'sixties were a fabulous group—Joao Gilberto, Jobim, Menescal and those guys really came up with some great things. Those songs have been here for twenty or fifteen years; they're going to be here for another fifteen—they're very important. For that matter, if you look hard enough, you're going to find a lot of samba influence in disco music—that’s where it is. That's what that thing evolved into. It's basically a two, and it's a dance music. Bossa nova got its roots from the street samba and American jazz music. You can see the street samba all over disco music; instead of dancing in the streets, they do it in clubs now. It's had a lot of important influences on music—and everything between jazz music and what is known as disco: all the dance things on variety shows on television and in films or whatever—they just wouldn't be the same without it.

From the middle 'sixties till 1974 I wasn't really doing a great deal outside of studio music. It must have been around 1970 that I made the "Age Of Steam" album with Gerry Mulligan. About that time, Gerry came back to L. A.; he and I went up to San Francisco and did an album at the Grace Cathedral. Well, we did just one side of an album for a group of people who were very much involved with recording techniques and sound. The Grace Cathedral is marvellous for natural acoustics; they wanted to demonstrate all this, and one side of the album was rock groups, the other was Gerry, myself, a harp player and Howard Roberts playing guitar—and the house organ; that was all. They had preset microphones all over the cathedral, so that we could wander around anywhere we wanted to and play—it was nice. After we did that one, Gerry came back down to L. A., called me and said: "Hey, I'm going to do another album real quick"; so we did "Age Of Steam" before he went back to New York. We did those two things back to back. For the cathedral recording, he wrote a fragment of a melody which had "Grace" in the title, and the track called "Grand Tour" on the studio album had a relaxed quality to it that was very similar—there was most certainly a link between the two. You know what? I never heard that album after we did it. I'll have to get hold of that one somehow. I think that was A& M, wasn't it? As for that 'sixties/ 'seventies period when so many strange things were happening—the whole world went nuts, I think, in all art forms. Science, the automotive industry, the clothing industry, whatever—everybody went crazy in the 'sixties. They had gone as far as they could sensibly go—to my mind, observing all this. Rock music had reached a conclusion, shall we say, with the Beatles—there was nowhere else to go. So the rock people went nuts, just searching for anything. We, as jazz musicians, had reached a point also where there was really nothing else to go for; so many people just went crazy, in their search for something. In the clothing area, they just started freaking it up. The world was in a very healthy state, economically, in the late 'sixties; a lot more people had more money than they had before, and I don't think everybody knew exactly what to do with it.

For all the searching, I don't think anybody found anything until the 'seventies came along—and then things started to calm down again. Some things really aren't straightened out yet. It's true that a lot of very odd things were sold as jazz music for a while. Now, out of one element, we have come to what is known as fusion jazz—among other things. Another segment of music went back to search some more—and that's where I am. The people who are following what my group of people are doing—they're going back and collecting themselves, doing some more research, and saying: "That was the point of departure—where is the next point going to be?" I really feel that's why there are so many musicians like myself who are now working and recording again. Something new will come out of this element; something will also come out of the fusion or jazz/ rock thing. Maybe the two will come together again; we're now into speculation—I don't know what happens next. I'm glad they came back and looked for me! I guess we're still involved somewhat with the freeform thing, naturally. There are the loft groups in New York; a lot of young musicians are still outside—way outside—searching. Maybe they'll stay outside—maybe that's the place to be. But then again, there are more and more younger musicians who are coming out with some very, very deep roots; they've obviously done a lot of research. A perfect example is Jeff Hamilton, the kid with our group—and there's a lot more just like him, coming out that way. I think that's extremely healthy. Five years ago, any musician who was twenty–five years old didn't know anything but rock music. You would very seldom find what we know as a good jazz musician of that age; there were the guys in their forties, and. that was it, really. Now we're finding the whole thing's turning around. There are a lot of kids twenty–five, twenty–six and younger now who have done an awful lot of homework. I'm really happy to see that.

Copyright © 1980, Les Tomkins. All Rights Reserved.