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The Weekender
Lifelong Love Affairs With Straight-Ahead Jazz

When I was a college student, I was pretty much a rock ‘n’ roller. Creedence Clearwater, Led Zeppelin, etc. Perhaps I’d venture in the direction of “jazz” with some Blood, Sweat & Tears or Chicago Transit Authority. One day my roommate put on what he called a “real jazz” album. The vaguely familiar refrain of the song from “The Sound of Music” started pretty mellow, but within minutes “My Favorite Things” became unrecognizable to me. John Coltrane was doing what John Coltrane does with any melody. I was absolutely unprepared, and I ran screaming out of the room. That’s jazz??

An unusual introduction for sure, but my eyes were suddenly wide open to the musical possibilities available in jazz. Using John Coltrane as a stepping off point, I began to explore the wonders and challenges that jazz, in all its forms, had to offer. My record collection expanded to include Cannonball Adderley, Thelonious Monk, Dexter Gordon, Miles Davis, Nina Simone. I even ventured over to Leon Thomas, Pharoah Sanders, and Sun Ra.

Now, a few decades after that introduction, my taste runs more to John Pizzarelli, Joey DeFrancesco, Kurt Elling, and Veronica Swift. And The Jazz Cruise is a wonderful 7-day immersion in the music my wife and I love so much. And at home, the request is often, “How about playing that show tune by Johnny C?”

— Mark Burchill

 

May 1999: Zurich, Switzerland — Awaiting luggage delivery from my in-bound flight from Newark, I spotted a very well-dressed fellow passenger I thought looked like Max Roach. I asked and he confirmed he was. I said the last time I saw him was probably in 1956 at New York’s Basin Street East jazz club. He said that may have been the last time he played with Clifford Brown.

Max agreed to a photo and then invited my wife, Barbara, and me to be guests at his concert with South African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim at Tonhalle concert hall.

Concert evening — full house, standing room only. We were seated stage-center on the stage! Max performed for 45 minutes solo — relating drum history, paying tribute to such historical giants as Philly Joe Jones and Kenny Clarke, and giving drum lessons to the audience. Abdullah Ibrahim then performed a 45-minute piano solo.

Following intermission, Max and Abdullah returned together for one 45-minute number, trading off on drums and piano.

Following the concert, Barbara and I were invited back to Max’s dressing room. He relaxed with a fruit snack and was happy the performance had gone so well.

Autumn 1999: New York, City Center Auditorium — Barbara and I attended a dinner concert in honor of Max and vibraphonist Milt Jackson (Modern Jazz Quartet) sponsored by the Veritas social support organization. Unfortunately, Milt could not attend due to health issues and Stefon Harris stepped up to the challenge. Scores of musicians, newscasters and celebrities attended. Late evening, Max and I met again and he introduced me to one of his daughters.

Barbara and I sent Christmas cards to Max until 2007, the year of his passing.

My thanks to Entertainment Cruise Productions for this opportunity to relate these moments with jazz and my appreciation for the music and the human qualities of this extraordinary musician and man.

— William F. Kluckas

 

Jazz has been a passion of mine for about 67 years. As I approach my 80th birthday on April 17, 2021, I remember clearly the day I came upon jazz by accident at the tender age of 13.

My parents had seen Duke Ellington in 1938, on their honeymoon, at the Cotton Club in New York City. My mum was more with it than my dad, who was classically oriented.

I had not heard jazz other than a Mills Brothers record that my parents played. I listened to a local group on the radio, the Happy Gang, who were on the fringe of the music. Robert Farnon was an early member of this group.

One day I was over at my neighbour’s — Kenny Collis. We were both about 13 or 14 and had 78’s of the current (pre: Elvis, Bill Haley) hit parade. My friend pulled out a record of his father’s, a 78 with a green Columbia label. Kenny put it on the record player and an amazing new sound, to my ears, came out.

It was the Benny Goodman Sextet. Along with the clarinetist were Charlie Christian, guitar, Nick Fatool, drums, Lionel Hampton, vibes, Fletcher Henderson, piano, and I think Artie Bernstein on bass. It was a recording, I believe, from the late 1930s of “RoseRoom” on one side & “Airmail Special” on the other.

I was knocked out by “RoseRoom” and played it over and over at least 8 or 10 times. Thus was my lifelong interest in jazz born!

I had to have it — where could I buy it? I checked record stores but it was long out of print. I had to get creative and after much bargaining, I finally reached a deal with my friend and the record was mine.

What was the deal? I can’t remember how many hockey cards I traded Kenny for it. He didn’t even ask his father permission to barter it. I still have this monumental “jazz starter” recording up on my wall. Today, my jazz collection numbers over 20,000 LPs and CDs!

Still not able to go to bars since I was 7 or 8 years below the legal drinking age, I ventured to matinees at Toronto’s Town & Colonial Taverns & concerts at Massey Hall, to see, among others: Louis, Duke & Count plus Erroll Garner, Oscar Peterson, Teddy Wilson, Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, Clifford Brown, Bill Evans, Zoot Sims, plus the great Canadians, Rob McConnell, Moe Koffman, Peter Appleyard and Guido Basso. I got all of their autographs, part of my extensive collection of over 300 jazz artists autographs.

To this day this music has been an obsession. My love of it led to doing a radio show for over 25 years from the local university and interviewing over 600 jazz people, including Dave Brubeck, Stan Kenton, Count Basie, Joe Williams, Harry Edison, Stan Getz, George Shearing and more. After the radio days ended, I began to share my jazz knowledge and love through a series of lectures, which have been presented at senior and community centers.

As we look forward eagerly to our 10th cruise coming up in 2022, I am grateful for the opportunity this cruise provides for me to continue my passion.

— Robert Fogle

 

I grew up living in Westchester County, outside of New York City. I discovered jazz when I was 13 years old and my Dad would take me into NYC to see Marian McPartland and George Shearing and others.

When I was 17, I started taking the train into the city and going to listen to jazz in the various clubs around town and one night, I decided to go hear The Count Basie Band at Birdland.

I got there early, paid my admission and then sat at the bar. In 1957, 18 was the legal drinking age and most of the clubs didn’t bother checking ID, so I wasn’t bothered about sitting at the bar although I ordered a 7UP. Shortly thereafter, a guy came in and sat down 2 stools away from me. After he ordered his drink, he turned to me and we started a conversation about Basie and other jazz groups in town. After a while he had finished his beer and the bartender came over. He ordered a Rheingold beer and said to the bartender … “and give my friend here one too.”

I was surprised, introduced myself, and thanked him. He said, “I wish we saw more young people digging jazz.” He put out his hand and said, “I’m Jimmy Smith.”

He had just bought my first beer ever at Birdland.

— Ted Ledgard

 

My story is simple.

There was a young man who lost his mother when he was 3 years old and had to live with various relatives, switching households whenever there was an empty bed available.

Only Yiddish spoke in the household. All the relatives were very, very poor.

He enlisted during WWII and served in Germany. After the war, when he went to college with the GI Bill, in Michigan (a very cold place in the winter), he had enough money to either purchase books or a warm coat – he purchased the books.

He graduated and married, and had children, and, played Ella Fitzgerald and all the other jazz legends for his children. That Old Black Magic and all the greats were our lullabies.

That is my dad.

I see and hear him when I listen to every jazz song from that time.

So to me Jazz is love, family and happiness.

— Debbie Heller

 

I fell in love with jazz under the covers with a transistor radio while I was still in high school. Long after I should have been asleep, I was listening to Sid McCoy on WCFL (1000 AM) in Chicago. Sid started with, “Hey, hey, old bean and you too baby; it’s the Real McCoy” while Frank Sinatra sang, “At Long Last Love” in the background, and he ended with “Roses on your pillow” while Frank sang “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning.” Sid introduced me to so many great jazz artists.

In college, I fell in love with another jazz lover, and jazz was the soundtrack of our years together before he passed as we listened to Johnny Hartman and John Coltrane. Jazz accompanied us as we made our home in many places around the world: clubs such as The Plugged Nickel in Chicago, The Parisian Room in Los Angeles, Blues Alley in DC, Ronnie Scott’s in London, The Jazzkeller in Frankfurt, and many small clubs throughout Europe. Jazz festivals were our frequent destinations from San Francisco to Montreux to Pori (in Finland), and for 20 years, the North Sea Jazz Festival in The Netherlands was our pilgrimage.

My favorite jazz memories, however, are of quiet moments listening at home especially after long, busy workdays. We selected from thousands of LPs and CDs collected over the decades or a myriad of mix tapes/CDs my husband made with such care. In later years, jazz calmed the demons of dementia.

Jazz sustained me through the loss of my husband — it awakens so many fond memories. Jazz has nourished me through the limitations imposed by the pandemic. Jazz forms communities, and this has been so true of regular Monday night guests to Live from Emmet’s Place where for a year we have had a haven from the outside world with Emmet Cohen, Kyle Poole, Russell Hall, and wonderful guest artists.

And jazz gives me hope and something to look forward to as I anticipate the joy of 200+ hours of music on the The Jazz Cruise ’22.

— Rosemary Dawson

 

I will turn 74 this year, which means I have been a jazz fan for nearly 55 years. In the mid-60s, we had a stereo in our college dorm lobby, and somebody put a record on by Charles Lloyd, called Forest Flower. I was hooked.

I found a Jazz radio station in Los Angeles called KBCA when I returned for summer vacation at my parents’ house the next year. Straight-ahead jazz on a commercial station was amazing! My roommate in the fall of 1966 had a reel to reel tape of over an hour by The Three Sounds, led by Gene Harris. I did not have a huge budget for music purchases, but the jazz bug has stayed with me all these years.

I have lived in the SF Bay Area since 1969, and have seen many of the jazz greats live in concerts at the Concord Pavilion and San Jose Jazz Festival and many others.

I look forward to The Jazz Cruise to help break this pandemic-caused lack of live jazz for far too long.

— Steven Coffeysmith

 

When did I realize I loved jazz? Blame it on the Yankees.

Growing up across from Yankee Stadium, my Dad played (ok, blared) Miles, Dizzy, Peggy Lee, Coltran & more … all from his souvenir stand across from the bleachers. And yes, the game was on as well. When the crowd roared, we knew what was going on. And the music never stopped.

After the games there were the jazz clubs of NYC once I was of age. How lucky was I to experience so many of the greats no longer with us today (Nina, Ella, Oscar Peterson, I could go on & on). Manny (of Manny’s Baseball Land fame) passed this past January leaving his gift of loving jazz to all that knew him. Long story short, my love of jazz was always.

As is the love of a parent who shared his passion.

Can’t wait for the next Jazz Cruise!

— Lisa Koltun

 

I’ve loved jazz since I was a little girl and my Dad was spinning his old 78’s and playing along with his bongos in our basement. Quite the dance party! My appreciation of the many faces of jazz has deepened and grown throughout the many years since.

I love Jazz.

— Lynn Klein

 

My home was in London in 1951. There was one radio in our house in my parents’ bedroom and one day I walked past it and heard the most exciting, dynamic piano music. I had never heard anything like it before.

I heard a little of the announcement at the end and could make out ‘boogie woogie.’
I wrote to the BBC and asked them about it. I received a very nice letter giving me a list of boogie woogie recordings so I rushed down to the record shop on Putney High Street. They had none of the recordings on the BBC list but they looked up a big alphabetic catalog and found ‘Basie Boogie,’ a big band piece and that became my first jazz record, of course, that was a 78rpm recording.

It was a few years before I was able to find the records of the boogie woogie giants, Meade Lux Lewis, Albert Ammons and Pete Johnson, finally enabling me to hear the real thing. That music led me into the jazz world, including the New Orleans-style jazz clubs in London.

— David W.S. Mason M.D.

 

Arthur Taylor was a very good friend of our family. My mom and step father were indexers and worked on AT’s book, Notes and Tones, and helped with publishing the book.

Background: My mom and I were born in Paris, my mom knew lots of jazz musicians in the 50s and 60s and was married to a jazz musician, my father Claude Pallier, who recorded one disc with James Moody. She got divorced, and married an American and we all came to NY in the mid 60s. AT knew my mom back in Paris and was delighted that she was in NY as was he.

My memory of being in his apartment with his Taylor’s Wailers, while they rehearsed was bar none. (1990s) We were allowed to stay for a short stint as later we would all meet at Condon’s near Union Square. The gig was almost surreal — the intensity, the audience response and more.

Walter Davis was one of my favorite piano players and I had the honor to sit with him and have a drink before they took the stage. Sadly he passed away a couple of weeks later. When AT became ill I helped his wife take care of him. I took it very hard as the rest of my family when he died. Wonderful human being, great drummer and band leader.

I was 35 then, I’ll be 70 in 2 months, I can still feel that intensity in my head when I think of the music and the wonderfully talented musicians. I am honored and privileged.

— Dominique Pallier

 

I think I fell in love with jazz the day I was born! The year was 1962 … both of my parents were avid jazz enthusiasts!

In 1962 Sheldon Manne (known as Shelly) and His Men-Speak Low was my Mom’s absolute favorite … well I was born a girl so they named me Shelly … after Sheldon Manne, one of the greatest drummers, bandleaders and composers!

Jazz has been in my blood for 59 years! And yes, I still listen to SPEAK LOW … My parents since are long gone but the story and love for jazz still lives on!

— Shelly R. McCrae

 

I can’t have been more than 8 or 9 years old. I grew up in Birmingham. That’s the one in England – not Alabama.

My mum would take it in turns with Barry, our next door neighbour, to take me and his two sons to school. So one week she’d take us all in her rather cramped Mini. The following week Barry, their Dad, would take us all.

Now Barry was a second-hand car dealer. They clearly had a few quid. So guess what? Virtually every other week a different car.

This one week I can remember slipping into the back seat of a Daimler Jaguar with sandy coloured leather seats which my skinny little 8-year-old frame literally slid into. Like a slide. It had electric windows and it was an automatic. How cool was this I thought?

It was about to get a whole lot cooler.

Suddenly I was aware of a drum beat coming out of the door … Barry had turned on his stereo with quadrophonic speakers.

THE DRUM WAS COMING OUT OF THE DOOR!!!

Then I heard a piano start to play … the same hypnotic 6 notes – over and over again … what WAS this?

And then it happened.

The saxophone … and Barry turned the volume right up … The saxophone was coming out of the door straight into my 8-year-old ears. I thought this was by far the coolest thing I had EVER heard in my entire life. It was transfixing, this haunting melodic off-beat tune.

The piano kept playing the same notes over and over again … then the drum beat starting getting louder and more insistent.

I was suddenly aware we’d arrived at the school gates. I felt like I’d had an epiphany. Life would never be the same again now I’d discovered this sound. I had to find out what it was.

What I had in fact discovered courtesy of my next-door neighbour was Take Five and the wonderful world of Brubeck and Desmond.

Life has never been the same since.

— Susie Hall

 

The first time I knew I loved jazz was hearing Sarah Vaughan sing on the radio for the first time during my freshman year in college in 1966!

— James D. Ross

 

We both discovered we loved jazz before we discovered each other. For Angie, it was in high school jazz band in Humboldt, Iowa. A highlight was when Bobby Shew came and did a clinic and performance with them. David discovered jazz when singing with Dave Brubeck’s quartet performing “Gates of Justice” in Des Moines.

Jazz continued to influence our lives. We honeymooned at a jazz festival on Catalina Island and attended many jazz concerts. We introduced our twin sons to music at an early age and they have excelled in both jazz and classical music in high school. Alex is now studying classical trombone at DePaul and Christian is studying jazz saxophone with Dick Oatts at Temple.

We are taking our first Jazz Cruise in January.

— David and Angie Ertl

 

I grew up in New Orleans, so jazz was in the air we breathed and the water we drank. But, I took it for granted as a kid. We got a new high school band director my sophomore year of high school. He told me he wanted to form a “stage band” and needed me to teach a couple of clarinet players how to play sax (I went to a very small school). He played Maynard Ferguson’s Live at Jimmy’s album for me and I was hooked. I saw Maynard that year in New Orleans and I couldn’t believe Mike Migliore was playing the same instrument as me. My expectations were elevated.

In college I could only fit marching and basketball band into my schedule. Jazz ensemble met during the afternoon when I often had engineering lab classes. I got a job in Dallas after graduation and played in several community bands (non-jazz). Then, in 1986, someone ran an advertisement in our company newspaper that just said “Jazz musicians wanted for big band.” It took about a week and we had a big band. We connected with a local community college and started rehearsing and playing. That community-based big band is entering year 35 now. And the absolute highlight has been hosting many amazing guest artists over the years.

We’ve held over 50 guest artist concerts and I’ve been fortunate to hang out with enough talent that would make a jazz museum envious: Kurt Elling (twice), John Pizzarelli, Eric Marienthal, Clark Terry, Phil Woods, James Morrison, Veronica Swift, Randy Brecker, Sean Jones, … As I’m sure you know from The Jazz Cruise, they are delightful people to just hang out with and chat. And then you get the bonus of their amazing talent as a musician.

I had a long career in energy efficiency and sustainable development with my mechanical engineering degree, but my life was made whole by my continued association with jazz.

— Paul Westbrook

 

The minute I knew I loved Jazz, the Montreal Jazz Festival, circa 1993. My husband is Canadian and grew up in Montreal, we met at work in Wichita, KS, and were friends for a couple years.

The love bug struck when we traveled together, as friends, to Montreal for the Jazz Fest. Summer in Montreal is romantic enough, but when jazz is added, it becomes magic. It was my first time seeing Dianne Reeves, Charlie Hayden, Houston Person, and Ron Carter. And as they say, the rest is history!! I have loved jazz, and my husband, ever since!!

— Brenda Aldinger

 

I was about 16 years old and I heard my neighbor’s record player playing “Love for Sale” by Stan Kenton, I was hooked. That weekend I took my newspaper route profits, ran to the record store and purchased the record which I played forever.

— James Guy