Funky Butt Hall, Deep Ellum, the Cherry Blossom, the Grand Terrace, Minton's, the Lighthouse at Laguna Beach. Mister Jelly Lord, I thought I heard Buddy Bolden say, Open up that window and let the bad air out. O play that thing! Hello Central, give me Doctor Jazz, he's got what I need, I know he has. Struttin' with some barbecue. I'm coming Virginia. It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing. Born in Texas, raised in Tennessee, no one woman's gonna make a fat mouth outta me. I'd rather drink muddy water, live in a log, than be up here in New York treated like a dirty dog. Mercy. Your feet's too big. Hey Charlie, let's play the blues in B. I'm gonna move way out on the outskirts of town; don't want that iceman comin' round. Salt peanuts, salt peanuts, ooh bop shebam. Freedom's the shape of jazz to come.
These legendary places, names, lines from lyrics, and song and record titles are, for those who know the story of jazz, some of the music's most famous historical touchstones, among which are those connected with Elm Street in Dallas and with native Texas musicians Jack Teagarden, Charlie Christian, and Ornette Coleman. Concerned with these and other celebrated moments and figures in the history of jazz, the present gathering of articles, book-review essays, talks, and ruminations expands on and adds to my book Texan Jazz, published by the University of Texas Press in 1996. Although the sixteen pieces collected here were written during a fourteen-year period, from 1992 to 2005, they represent but a fraction of the time that I have been fascinated by jazz. My love for the music began over fifty years ago in 1954, when, as a sophomore, I formed part of the dance band at Beaumont's South Park High School. In that year I purchased my first jazz recordings in local shops and learned something about the early periods of the music, especially the work of Jelly Roll Morton and Duke Ellington from the 1920s and 1930s. In 1955 I heard recordings by the great Charlie Parker, who, without my being aware of the fact, would die during that same year at the age of thirty-five. At the time I could hardly have imagined that I would spend the rest of my life listening to, rejoicing in, and marveling at a music that has become for me an endless source of aural pleasure, historical and cultural insights, and even regional pride, once I discovered the many Texans who were crucial to the creation of this art form admired around the globe.
Shortly after publication of Texan Jazz, I was invited by Norbert Carnovale to contribute one of six projected volumes in a series on jazz that he was editing for Greenwood Press of Connecticut. I had been recommended to this general editor by Dr. Richard Burkart, my college trumpet instructor, to whom I am indebted not only for making possible the writing and publication of my second book on jazz, The Early Swing Era, 1930 to 1941, but also for having introduced me to the music of Count Basie, Miles Davis, and Les Brown when, in 1957-1958, I became a member of the Technicians, the dance band that Dr. Burkart directed at Beaumont's then Lamar State College of Technology. Prior to my college career, it had been my high school orchestra teacher, Harold Meehan, who had first opened me up to the panorama of jazz with its invigorating rhythms, tonal richness, and complex system of improvisation. Almost from the beginning of my jazz education, I was aware that Texans had been active at high levels in the music's history, including Beaumont's own Harry James, a star trumpeter of the Benny Goodman Orchestra. In fact, I learned early on that the James home had been moved from downtown Beaumont to Florida Street, the very street on which I lived when I first began to listen to jazz. Coincidentally, the first important album that I acquired, entitled I Like Jazz, contained an impressive example of James's trumpet virtuosity: his solo on the 1937 Goodman radio broadcast of "Jam Session." Also in high school I discovered that multi-reedman Jimmy Giuffre was a native of Dallas, this after having heard him on a number of albums participating as a key member of the group known as Shorty Rogers and His Giants. While still in high school I was fortunate enough to hear Dr. Burkart's Lamar Tech jazz octet perform several of the pieces that had been recorded by the Giants, two of which, “The Pesky Serpent” and “Indian Club,” were composed by Giuffre. Later in the early 1960s I would encounter the music of other Texas jazzmen, among them Vernon's Jack Teagarden and Fort Worth's Ornette Coleman. It was this early exposure to Texans in jazz that eventually led me to write Texan Jazz.
But the publication of my first book would by no means signal the end of my jazz education in terms of a Texas contribution. Even though my second book was devoted primarily to non-Texas musicians of the swing era, in researching that volume I unearthed a number of native Texas jazzmen whose work I had overlooked in writing Texan Jazz. One example was a Beaumont-born drummer, Oliver Coleman, who in the late 1930s was an outstanding member of the Earl Hines Orchestra. Even though I discussed Coleman's work in The Early Swing Era, I remained unaware that he was a Texan until after the book was published. On the other hand, I did discover at the time of writing this second book that I had left out of Texan Jazz multi-reedman Clarence Hutchenrider from Waco, who was an important member of the Casa Loma Orchestra throughout the 1930s. Later, in "The Roots of Texan Jazz," I would cover the career of Hutchenrider, as well as that of cornetist Tom Howell of Cameron, also discovered after the publication of Texan Jazz. Thus, each of the essays in the present collection examines further the important roles played by Texans in jazz history. Even after more than fifty years I find that I am far from exhausting this captivating subject. Indeed, the essays collected here strike me as having but inaugurated an investigation into this unlimited field of study. One wish that I have for this selection of essays is that it may encourage others to explore Texan jazz in new areas and from new perspectives.
Today I can recognize the potential for future articles and books on Texans in jazz primarily because the high school and college that I attended in Beaumont permitted the teaching of jazz as a legitimate part of the educational curriculum. Without my understanding it at the time, my high school and college teachers were preparing me for a lifetime of enrichment, both in terms of aesthetic enjoyment and of a growing knowledge of the significant position occupied by jazz in the history of the nation, and even the world. Although native pride may not have been a lesson that my teachers tried to instill in me as one of the values of learning about jazz through listening to and trying to perform the music, being able to identify Texas musicians—and even a folklorist like Austin's Alan Lomax—as significant figures in its creative and critical record was yet another benefit accruing from my early instruction in the history of jazz.
One professional consequence of my introduction to jazz over a half-century ago is the great satisfaction that I now take in sharing my enthusiasm for this music with new generations of students. For several years I have had the privilege of teaching, at the University of Texas at Austin, a freshman seminar on Jazz and Literature. Although the field of my degrees is not music but literature, I have long cultivated an interest in the relationship between the two art forms. A number of world-class writers of poems, short stories, novels, and plays have created works based on the lives of jazz musicians, the impact of the music itself, or its symbolic meaning in terms of ideas of freedom, hero worship, and integration. In conjunction with reading such works of literature, as well as biographies and autobiographies of the musicians, my students listen to jazz and discover the musical and extramusical meanings that the writers on jazz have heard in live or recorded performances, have observed in seeing the musicians play, sing, and interact with their fellows, and have described in such revelatory and stimulating poetry and prose.
The essay-review included here on Alfred Appel's book Jazz Modernism reveals among critics and commentators a growing awareness of the links between jazz and the twentieth-century movements of modernism and postmodernism in world art and literature. Once again, Texans, as musicians, authors, and artists, have figured significantly in the connections created and observed between jazz, art, and literature, including, for example, trombonist Jack Teagarden, writer Donald Barthelme, and painter Robert Rauschenberg. The aesthetic, cultural, and historical reach of jazz has truly been global in its impact and appeal, and this fact makes the inclusion of jazz studies in public schools and higher education a valid and commendable development. It is of course ironic that this music, which was originally denigrated and even condemned for its wicked origins and for being a crude, corrupting influence on youth, has proven one of the most respected products of American civilization. Personally I am eternally grateful to my schools and teachers for having brought this music and its legacy to my attention during the formative years of my education. I am hopeful that these sixteen essays will help to bring an appreciation for jazz—its cultural and historical dimensions as well as its Texas connections—to all those with ears to hear and hearts and minds willing to experience the allure of this enduring music.
Known for many different types of music, Texas is perhaps least recognized for its crucial contributions to the history of jazz. Even devoted fans of this music can be surprised to find that a prominent jazz musician was or is a native Texan. This is largely owing to the fact that most Texas jazz musicians have had to leave the state in order to earn a living by playing their music. Although it was to Kansas City, New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles that many of these jazz musicians migrated, it was in the state's small towns and cities that they first heard the music they were drawn to, where they began to learn its art, and where they performed with territory bands before eventually landing spots in such name big bands of the day as those of Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Jimmie Lunceford, Glenn Miller, or Stan Kenton. Texas jazz musicians also joined the ranks of smaller groups led by such stars as Jelly Roll Morton, King Oliver, Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Charles Mingus. But how musicians in outlying towns like Jefferson, Rockport, Wichita Falls, Amarillo, or Texarkana first heard the infectious sounds of jazz and later became members of major outfits and even band leaders themselves still remains something of a mystery. In Jefferson in 1930, the family of Steady Nelson (1913-1988) owned no radio, and yet by 1940 this trumpeter was a featured soloist in the Woody Herman Orchestra. Kenny Dorham, born in tiny Post Oak in 1924, would become one of the preeminent bebop trumpeters of the late 1940s and of the hard bop movement of the 1950s. Indeed, during every period of jazz history, Texans have played important roles in the development of this music that has captured the imaginations of listeners around the world.
In some ways, the roots of jazz were planted early on in Texas soil. The blues, which forms one source for jazz, had perhaps its earliest exponents in Texas, including Blind Lemon Jefferson (ca. 1880-ca. 1930) of Couchman, referred to as the King of the Country Blues. Likewise, ragtime, the other musical tradition from which jazz drew its inspiration, had its first great composer in Scott Joplin (1868-1917) of Texarkana. Joplin's 1899 "Maple Leaf Rag" was a landmark of ragtime, and "The Entertainer," made famous by the 1973 movie The Sting, starring Paul Newman, brought to Joplin's music, if not to his name and birthplace, universal acclaim. In order to aid listeners from within the state and those from outside its borders to remember or recognize the importance of Joplin, Texarkana has established in his memory an annual Jump Jive & Jam Fest, held at the site of the Scott Joplin mural in downtown Texarkana. Other towns and cities have also begun to pay tribute to their native musicians who were vital figures in the history of jazz. In 2003 several events were held around the state to celebrate Texas jazzmen: in San Marcos, the mayor of the city proclaimed August 16 Eddie Durham Day; in Dallas, the Marshall Agency and the South Dallas Cultural Center presented its Annual Jazz Legends Festival, whose inaugural fete in 1999 had honored native son Red Garland; in Fort Worth, the first annual Jazz by the Boulevard Festival took place in September 2003 and featured the city's own Dewey Redman; and in November, Corpus Christi hosted its forty-third annual Texas Jazz Festival, with hometown pianist-trombonist Joe Gallardo among the lineup of locally born talent. Other cities like Houston and Denton have honored any number of native musicians, with Houston even laying claim to having held the first jazz festival on record in 1922.
Although it would be possible to mention men and women from every large Texas city and many a small town who have advanced the cause of jazz, the careers of six Texas musicians can represent many parts of the state as well as most of this music's principal periods, from hot to swing, from bebop and hard bop to harmolodics.
Eddie Durham (1906-1987) of San Marcos was one of the first and most influential Texans in jazz. A member of the Oklahoma Blue Devils that recorded in 1929 and of the Kansas City band of Bennie Moten during the late 1920s and early 1930s, Durham was on Moten's milestone recording of 1932 and helped create the riff style that became a fixture of the swing era. A composer-arranger who had taken correspondence courses in music theory while a boy in San Marcos and performed in groups with his brother Joe and his cousin Allen, Eddie Durham played a central role in establishing the popular swing-era style of the Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra from 1935 to 1936, with arrangements of tunes like "Avalon" and "Pigeon Walk" and his own originals like "Lunceford Special" and "Harlem Shout." Later Durham contributed classic compositions to the Count Basie Orchestra from 1937 to 1938 with tunes like "Topsy," "Blue and Sentimental," "One O'Clock Jump," and "Swinging the Blues," the latter considered the epitome of the Basie style. In addition to serving as a composer-arranger, Durham played trombone in the brass sections of the Moten, Lunceford, and Basie bands as well as amplified guitar, the instrument he pioneered and later introduced to the greatest of all electric guitarists, Charlie Christian (1916-1942) of Bonham. In 1939, at the height of Glenn Miller's renown as a swing-era celebrity, Durham wrote several fine musical charts for the Miller organization, including "Glen Island Special" and "Wham (Re Bop Boom Bam)," and has even been credited in part with one of the most famous Miller arrangements of all, "In the Mood." During World War II, Durham trained an all-girls orchestra, one of the first and most successful, the International Sweethearts of Rhythm. An unassuming figure, Eddie Durham was at the center of the swing era and left his indelible print on this period, during which jazz was more popular than at any other time in its history.
Another Texas trombonist, one who would revolutionize the playing of this rather awkward slide instrument, was Jack Teagarden (1905-1964) of Vernon. Like Durham, Big T, as Teagarden was called, belonged to a family of musicians (his brother Charlie was a superb swing trumpeter) and was active in jazz circles in the state in the early 1920s, after which he made a huge splash in the big pond of the New York jazz scene. Arriving largely unheralded, Teagarden unveiled to musicians in the East his phenomenal technical skills and his blues-tinged Texas voice with its languid, soothing lullaby of a drawl. His first recordings in 1929 reveal him already to be a master improviser, as he maneuvers on "That's a Serious Thing" with seemingly effortless leaps, from one register of his horn to another, tossing off ornamental turns as if the instrument were equipped with valves, when in fact he executes them almost entirely with his lips. In the same year of the market crash, Big T recorded with Louis Armstrong in one of the first integrated recording sessions in jazz. In the 1940s Teagarden would become a member of the Armstrong All-Stars, but before that, between 1934 and 1939, he was the star soloist with the Paul Whiteman Orchestra and afterward led his own big band.
One of Teagarden's most impressive performances came in 1933 when he participated in the first recording session for jazz vocalist Billie Holiday. His rip-snorting solo on "Your Mother's Son-in-Law" has all the earmarks of his Texas open-range upbringing. From 1936, I would single out his rendition of Johnny Mercer's "I'm an Old Cowhand" as an example of his trombone virtuosity and his delightful vocal treatment of the witty lyrics, which include such lines as "I'm a ridin' fool who is up to date. / I know every trail in the Lone Star State, / For I ride the range in a Ford V8." Mosaic Records reissued this recording in 2001 in a CD box set that includes among several photographs of Teagarden one from 1926 when he was touring in El Paso with Doc Ross and His Jazz Bandits. This box set illustrates the serious attention that continues to be paid to Jack Teagarden, who has been called by critic Gary Giddins "the best trombone player in the world."
Born six miles from the town of Fairfield, Kenny Dorham (1924-1972) was introduced to jazz through his pianist sister, who commented to their parents that KD would one day be a great musician like Louis Armstrong because he "jumps around when he hears music." But only after he moved to Austin did Dorham pick up the trumpet, playing it first in high school and later at Wiley College in Marshall. During World War II he joined various outstanding bands, including those of Dizzy Gillespie and Billy Eckstine, but it was in 1948 that he had his big break when he replaced Miles Davis in the Charlie "Bird" Parker Quintet. In 1949 Dorham appeared with the Bird at the Paris Jazz Festival, the first international gathering of its kind. Dorham's boyhood dream had been to become a cowhand, and in fact in his youth he did drive cattle to the dipping vats. But as a musician he was destined instead to achieve a worldwide reputation as a fleet-fingered trumpeter whose "running" style exhibits a remarkable melodic and logical gift. His solos rarely repeat the same musical ideas, although they are immediately identifiable as his own, full of half-valve effects, unexpected twists and turns, and a mellow tonal quality that makes his sound endlessly appealing.
As a member of Charlie Parker's bebop quintet, Dorham demonstrated his ability to keep pace with one of the greatest jazz musicians of all time. Later, as a founding member of the Jazz Messengers, he was at the forefront of the hard-bop movement, with its gospel-intoned, soulful "preaching" of the word of jazz. In 1960 Dorham recorded his own version of Johnny Mercer's "I'm an Old Cowhand," turning it into an exemplary piece of hard-bop Texana and in a way fulfilling through this piece his early ambition to be a real Texas cowboy. Not only was Dorham one of the most outstanding jazz trumpeters of any era, but he contributed to the jazz repertory such classic compositions as "Blue Bossa" and "The Prophet," the former inspired by his appearance at a jazz festival in Brazil in 1961. In 1960 and 1963, he was invited to Norway and Denmark to record with local Scandinavian musicians. Some ten years before his untimely death, the Texan composed "Dorham's Epitaph," a lovely piece lasting only one minute and nine seconds but played with his inimitable blend of secure technique and passionate expression.
Both Dorham and Teagarden were on occasion referred to as Texas mavericks. They certainly shared a Texas brand of jazz through their rugged individualism and their pride in place. Just as Teagarden would sing in the lyrics to "I'm an Old Cowhand," "Look out Texas, here I come, / Right back where I started from," Texans have tended to congregate with their fellow natives, to choose tunes that remind them of their roots, and to return to Texas at the end of their careers. Two of the many Texans who eventually returned to their home state were Dallas reedman Buster Smith (1904-1991) and pianist Red Garland (1923-1984). Prior to resettling in Big D, these men made a profound impact on jazz history, with Professor Smith, as he was called, serving as a direct influence on Charlie Parker, the seminal figure in the bebop revolution. But perhaps no other Dallas musician was so closely associated for such a long period of time with the careers of major jazzmen as was Red Garland. The pianist's recorded work with Miles Davis and John Coltrane, from the mid- to late 1950s, typifies the fundamental supporting role that many Texans have played in jazz, whether their style has been identified as Texan or not.
Red Garland first joined forces with Miles Davis in 1955, some five years after the trumpeter had worked his way from bebop into a cooler, more nuanced style, with a greater emphasis on introspection. In this regard, Davis had moved away from bebop's largely technical exhibitionism that had left many listeners unable to respond emotionally to the sheer speed and number of notes reeled off by Parker and his imitators. In forming his own quintet that would eventually include new star tenor saxophonist John Coltrane, Davis found in Garland a pianist whose relaxed rhythmic sense and expansive chords fit perfectly with the hauntingly intimate sounds that Davis was beginning to explore. In a series of historic recordings by the Davis Quintet, Garland not only backed up two of the most daring horn soloists of the 1950s but contributed as well his own swinging solos full of his trademark block chords and long, single-note runs. Typical of his role in the Davis Quintet was his "comping" and soloing on driving pieces like the 1956 "I Could Write a Book" and "Bye Bye Blackbird." After leaving Davis in 1958, Garland recorded extensively on his own, forming groups that on several occasions included fellow Texans, among them trumpeter Richard "Notes" Williams (1931-1985) of Galveston and alto saxophonist-flutist Leo Wright (1933-1991) of Wichita Falls. If not the innovator that Davis and Coltrane proved, Garland was one of the most influential pianists of his generation, creating on the keyboard what has been described—in the work of Texas saxophonists like Arnett Cobb (1918-1989) and Illinois Jacquet (1922-2004) of Houston and David "Fathead" Newman (b. 1933) of Dallas—a sound as big and bright as the wide-open spaces of the Lone Star State.
More of an originator than Red Garland is another Dallas product, multi-reedman and composer Jimmy Giuffre (b. 1921). Educated at what is now the University of North Texas in Denton, Giuffre studied music there before the creation of the school's nationally famous jazz program, established by Gene Hall (1913-1993) of Whitewright. Like two of his classmates, fellow Dallasites Gene Roland (1921-1982) and Harry Babasin (1921-1988), Giuffre emigrated to Los Angeles where he became a leader in 1950s West Coast jazz, with its lower-keyed exuberance. As a member of Shorty Rogers and His Giants, Giuffre experimented with various new techniques, such as huffing on his clarinet without vibrating the instrument's reed. He also utilized unusual instrumental combinations in the groups he formed, such as his piano-less quartet and trio, the latter featuring himself on clarinet, tenor sax, or baritone sax along with guitarist Jim Hall and bassist Ralph Peña. Recognized originally for his arrangement entitled "Four Brothers," written in 1947 for the big band of Woody Herman, Giuffre primarily composed for small groups throughout the 1950s but also wrote a piece entitled "Suspensions" for Brandeis University's 1957 Modern Jazz Concert featuring a fourteen-piece orchestra performing so-called Third Stream music, a fusion of jazz and classical strains. But undoubtedly Giuffre's greatest success came through his folksy trio compositions, especially "The Train and the River," a work representative of his down-home approach that generated a subdued yet pulsing swing in the best jazz tradition.
As late as 1993, Giuffre was still exploring new musical realms, as on his CD entitled Conversations with a Goose, where he plays both clarinet and soprano saxophone. Included on this CD is "Watchin' the River," a piece composed jointly by Giuffre and the two members of his trio, pianist Paul Bley and bassist Steve Swallow, a group that originally recorded together in 1961 and 1962 and reunited in 1989. This work might be considered a more classical version of "The Train and the River," for here Giuffre's clarinet is slightly folksy but more often distantly akin to the far-out multiphonics of his fellow Texan John Carter (1929-1991) of Fort Worth, who in the 1980s recorded on clarinet his markedly avant-garde epic series, Roots and Folklore. On Giuffre's "Calls in the Night," also on his 1993 CD, he creates on soprano sax eerie sounds that evoke vividly and at times tenderly the title of his original composition. Many of the titles of tunes on this CD (all chosen by Giuffre) depict the western outdoors, as in "Echo Through the Canyon," "Among the High Rocks," and "White Peaks," with the last of these offering an example of Giuffre's classical-jazz soprano sax at its most touching. In "Jungle Critters" he shows off his most advanced conception on soprano, as he matches trills and appropriately dissonant pitches with those played by the pianist and bassist. Another in a long line of Texas mavericks, Jimmy Giuffre stood out from the first as his own musician, and ever since he has gone his own way on every reed instrument on which he has performed and through every composition he has penned.
If Teagarden, Dorham, and Giuffre were mavericks, Ornette Coleman (b. 1930) of Fort Worth, even though a latecomer, is the father of them all. Playing a white plastic alto saxophone in 1959, he recorded in Los Angeles his third album, presciently entitled The Shape of Jazz to Come. Through this album, Coleman turned the jazz world on its ear with his unorthodox sound and technique, odd intervals, piercing saxophone cries, and angular themes delivered in something of a Texas twang. The "hick" riff-theme in "Congeniality" was once described by a friend as seeming to say "I'm goin' toooooo Foat Wuth." On the other hand, tunes like his "Lonely Woman" and "Peace" represent the deeply probing nature of Coleman's music, which belies any characterization of the composer-improviser as either a naif or a yokel. Now in his seventies, he continues—when he makes one of his rare public appearances—to amaze with the originality of his musical conception. Over the years he has tried every imaginable approach to the music, even teaching himself to play the violin and trumpet in an effort to realize the unique sounds that he has heard in his head from the beginning of his career. An iconoclast of the first water, Coleman—whose many Cowtown classmates, including Dewey Redman (b. 1931), have followed his lead into the Free Jazz movement, or what he calls “harmolodics”—still maintains his position as the most avant-garde figure in jazz, which he has held since he began recording over forty-five years ago.
From Scott Joplin's ragtime to the swing of Eddie Durham and Jack Teagarden, from the bebop and hard bop of Kenny Dorham and Red Garland, to the Third Stream of Jimmy Giuffre and the harmolodics of Ornette Coleman, America's world-class art form can truly be said to bear, in every period of its evolution, a definite Texan stamp.