Kenny Clare and Jake Hanna talking to Les Tomkins in 1975
Talking about Jazz
Kenny & Jake Hanna Parts 1 2 3
Every night a first night
Atmosphere and adaptability
Hanna: I worked with Bobby Hackett quite a while, you know. One night we were at Condons, and Gene Krupa and Pete Fountain came in: so we had em sit in. Then we had a whole group of wellknown trumpet players come in; I wont mention their names, but nobody was over five feetthatll give you some hints. Hackett was the tallest guy there! Real great playersbut Bobby sounded so much better than everybody else. And he didnt even want to play; he wanted to get off, because, you know, hes not the most enthusiastic about playing all night long. He just played this one chorus. which was just wonderful.
Carl Fontana was therewe were at the bar listeningand he said: You never know how great Hackett plays till some other heavyweights get up there with him, and he starts shining over em. Without trying tobecause he doesnt even want to blow, man.
Yeah, Hacketts a great player. Knows how to put those little bands togetherDave McKenna, Johnny Bunch, just these few guys he likes to play with him; hes got to have the right piano player. Im afraid hes overlooked, thoughhes not spectacular enough for the people nowadays. They dont realise he has that perfect time, perfect ear, perfect taste everything is perfect that this guy does.
Clare: Lots of people get overlooked to the point where their style doesnt catch on with musicians who want to copy it. For example, I remember in the middle forties Ray McKinley put a sensational band together, with Eddie Sauter doing all the charts for it, but nobody ever took up on it. Consequently, that style got lost as attention was focussed on other bands. But it was a great shame, because that was a cracking band.
Hanna: He had one with Will Bradley earlier, but that one youre talking about was the one. Of course, Ray is the one who started that Disney World job; he went down and became the MD, I guess youd call him. He called Dean Kincaid to go and help him out. Im sitting in the house one day. and I get a phone call, and its Dean. He says: Have you got Nat Pierces phone number? I said: Gee, I do, but hes out of town right now; hes working with Stan Kentons band, helping him out. Stans a little sick. Dean says: I gotta have a piano player right away for this job at Disney World down here. I said: Well. lookhow about Dave McKenna? He says: Its not that kind of job! Women and children are down there, you know!
Clare: Oh, hes a tremendous pianist. The tape of that album that you laid on me . . .
Hanna: Isnt that a classic? Thats my alltime favourite album: Dave McKennaSolo Piano. Nobodyd believe it till they heard it. What a piano player he is. You cant get the album; its a collectors item, and its a gempeople guard it with their lives. Dave lives in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, now. Hes one of those special guys, like this Irish guitar player over hereLouis Stewart. I consider him one of the greatest guitar players in the world; I put him right up there with Jim Hall and Eddie Bickert from Canada. Louis Stewart thrilled me, man. Oh, Im gonna get that guy a gig with somebodyunder the right circumstances.
Dave is equally as good on the piano, but he just wont go down to New York. Like Carl Fontana, the worlds greatest trombone playerhes not gonna leave that town, for some reason. I think Carl should be presented well; I think he should use Louis Stewartthatd be a hell of a deal. Great guitar players like him they should be making the money that these other fools are making. But thats the way it goesmoney aint your reward in jazz; its as simple as that.
Have you heard Stan Getz lately? He was up on the Coast for a while, and he came down and sat in with Supersax one davand this is the old Stanley. He and Oscar Peterson are probably playing more music than anybody in the world right now. Hes a genius. Hell take you right out of your seat, this guy. Oh, can he hear! We played Charlies thing on Embraceable You: we had Stan play a couple in frontso great, man. We said: Play another one. As good as Charlies thing was. Stanley was just as great, or, depending what you like, maybe even better. So prettyso gorgeous. Very few people playing beauty any more. Its considered passť, like brush playing. Are you playing much brushes?
Clare: Yeah, I like to play brushesyou bet. Recently I did an album with Monty Alexander where I played a lot of brushes.
Hanna: But you use the plastic on that, uh?
Clare: Its a pretty new head, though.
Hanna: Thats okay, right, but its hard to get good calf now. Cymbals are getting better, though. Well, the rockers break a lot of that equipment; so thats why they make it so heavy. Its a whole different type of musicor nonmusic, whatever you want to call it. I dont care for it myself. I havent heard anything there that compares to Cole Porter or Zoot Sims yet.
Clare: But some of the drummers have got some chops, though.
Hanna: Oh, the drummers are the best thing about it; thats the only part I really like. The bass players and guitar players are all nonsensedull, boring . . . But whats this about amplifying drums? Theyre not loud enough already?
Clare: Not when you take the front heads off, theyre not. To me, its incredibly insane. The whole basis of a drum is the fact that you hit one head. and that pushes the air through, makes the other head vibrate, andat the same time makes the shell vibrate.
Once you take the front head off, youve got nothing. All youve got is one head moving, and theres no sound from that; its just like hitting a table, a chair or something. So then you put a microphone in, and try to get an engineer to make it sound like it should with two heads on! Incredible.
Hanna: Its the same thing as iced tea; you make it hot, but you put an ice cube in to make it cold. What the hell is all that?
Clare: Its one of the beautiful cons of our time.
Hanna: Im trying to play softer, and leave out more licks. Every day I try to edit my playing. I hear Buddy Rich is playing more brushes lately.
Now, Buddy always claimed he couldnt play brushes. He sat in one night, man; he said: Well, Ill play the brushesand he wiped me out! I said: Well, thats the last time youre ever sitting in!
Oh, theres nothing Buddy cant do on drums. Its sort of like Ted Williams in baseballdont try to throw him a pitch you think he hasnt seen, because hell put it right out of the ballpark. Dont try to give Buddy music you think he hasnt heardThis is the new thing, man. Really?Buddy played it in 1932!
Clare: I had a good night one time with brushes, when Jo Jones and I went to see Max Roach play. Now, Max was accompanying a bass solo, and all of a sudden he got stuck with playing the brushes. And he played sensational. Well, with Jo there, he was really in trouble.
Hanna: Oh, Jos the master brushman; hes the greatest of all time. Well, I got a good beat off Max. They had a little jazz club on 54th Street called the Downbeat, and I saw Max work there, standing this far from him. Ill tell youhes a very big influence on my playing. The way he thinks: he puts solos together about as good as anybody I ever heard. Hes a hell of a guy, too. As far as guys that have advanced drums, I would say he would be the one that has done the most of alltaking em out of the way they used to play.
Clare: Oh, I must admit I think Klook more than Max. Max is an extension of Klook. Because Klook was busted off of so many bands for playing the way he wanted to playhes fantastic. I think Max took it a step further.
Hanna: Kenny Clarke to me is still basically a swing drummer; hes got the greatest time Ive ever heard. Oh, man, thats my biggest influence. Im nuts about himlove that ride beat. With the Boland band, you had the best seat in the house, didnt you?
Clare: Rightyou dont get any closer. Yes, after Klook. Max, then Philly Joe took it steps further.
Hanna: Roy Haynes is a pure bebop drummer. You want to hear how bop drums sound? Go hear Roythats exactly how it sounds. Yet he was with Lester Young, who hated that stylebut he was crazy about Roy Haynes. So it has to be good, what he did. That Focus record he made with Getz was sensational. He has a touch like a jewel, this guy. Another guy again that theyve overlooked; he was rated well when that style of music was in its heyday, but they overlook him now. Hes still a great player.
Clare: Ive got a Chick Corea record with him on. He sounds fantastic on that.
Hanna: Yeahagain, You cant secondguess this guy. He, Alan Dawson and Clarence Johnson all came up at the same time in Boston, but Roy left town real early, before all the other guys did. He was the first of these guys that really made it.
Before that, guys like Harry Carney, Johnny Hodges, Maxie Kaminsky came out of that area. Cliff Leemans from up around Portland, you know.
Clare: Jimmy Woodes from there, too.
Hanna: But he left years later, though. Roy was the first of that generation to go out and play that style. Don Fagerquist was from Worcesterhe was never around Boston much; he made it years later, too. But Royhe made a hell of a record with Cannonball; greatthe drumming sold the record, for my money. And, of course, he did a lot of stuff with Charlie.
Styles dont matter, though. Good is good, thats all, and I do believe you can put em all together playing, as long as theyre good players, all have that swing. You put Harry Edison right in there with Dizzy Gillespie, and its gonna come out like a gem. And Roy Eldridge, Louis Armstrong, Ruby Braffitll all sound perfect, believe me. I mean, a guy like Carl Fontanas always gonna sound good, no matter what he plays.
Clare: Yeah, Ive seen him play in Dixieland bands, modern bandshe sounds great, wherever you put him. How about the Supersax record with him on? Did that come out good?
Hanna: Whew! You gotta hear him on it. He walks off with that album; sounds like Carl Fontana and his Octet! He did it under difficult circumstances, but, oh man, its frightening, and I love him. The guys out of sight. I got some tapes from Baltimore; I didnt know the bard sounded that good in person. Frank Rosolino is devastating on this thing. As for the album with stringsl think its the best one weve ever done. April In Paris is very good. And we did Cool Blues, If I Should Lose You, Just Friends, though, was on our first album; should have saved it for the fiddles, but we didnt know they were gonna let us use em at the time.
Oh, jazz is a healthy scene all right. The healthy guys are still here. Zoot Sims is here, Buddy Rich is still working, Johnny Bunch is still playingtheyre all here. Sweets Edison sounds better than ever. Youll never kill that thing; jazz aint deadjust those dumb players, man, and the people that say it are dead. You cant give upnot when the stuff is that good. All of a sudden, Picasso happens to be inso Michelangelos no good any more?
Clare: Unfortunately, jazz has always been like this, hasnt it? The newest thing is good; anything before is rubbish. Its the only art form as such that puts everything away that was done before.
Hanna: Supposedlybut it always comes back. Naturally; when the tide goes out, its still there.
Copyright © 1975, Les Tomkins. All Rights Reserved.