Published by Ray Downes on 01 Sep 2009 at 03:57 am
BIG TURNOUT FOR JAZZ GIANT, BUD SHANK
by Gregg Gelb (Oct. 9, 2007)
Sadly, Bud passed away about one year after his concert with us. Here are some thoughts about that wonderful concert with him.
Last Friday night, Oct. 5, the Heart of Carolina Jazz Orchestra and Society opened it sixteenth annual Guest Artist Jazz Series with the internationally renowned jazz saxophonist, Bud Shank. The Temple Theatre was full of jazz fans from Sanford and the surrounding region who came to hear the 81 year-old legend. Shank is a famed veteran of jazz going all the way back to his days playing in North Carolina while a high school student in Durham and through a few years at UNC-Chapel Hill. He moved to California after his third year of college, and he immediately began playing with some of the great Big Bands of the ’40s, such as Charlie Barnett. Soon he became the lead alto saxophonist with Stan Kenton and after that he stayed in Los Angeles where he was one pioneering jazz artists in the Hollywood movie sound studios.
Shank gave a splendid and energized performance here. His power of expression is undiminished, and his ability to unleash interesting and passionate improvised melodies is still great as ever. He played six tunes with a professional jazz trio consisting of John Salmon, an excellent pianist who teaches at UNCG; Jason Foureman, a fine young bassist from Greensboro; and Thomas Taylor, a regular HOC guest drummer who also teaches at UNCG. Shank and the trio sounded like they had always played together although this is was the very first time. Some of the tunes they played were “Yardbird Suite,” by Charlie Parker, “The Touch of Your Lips,” by Ray Noble, and Shank delivered an especially fine rendition of the Richard Rodgers ballad, “My Funny Valentine.” Shank closed the show with four tunes with the jazz orchestra that are from his recent big band album including his own lush tune, “The Starduster,” which is Shanks tribute to the late Artie Shaw.
During his three-day stay in Sanford, Shank shared many stories and facts about his life and career in jazz. We learned that he was asked to join two very famous big bands; the Duke Ellington Orchestra and the Doc Severinson Tonight Show Orchestra, but Shank had to turn them down because he remained busy in the studios. Shank also developed the signature Stan Kenton saxophone section sound, in which the saxophones use no vibrato (variance of tone accomplished by shaking the jaw or throat). It was also interesting to find out that it wasn’t until the 1959 Henry Mancini Peter Gunn sound track that many more jazz artists found employment in the Hollywood studio work. Shank said that studio work was great through the ’60s and although he was one of the most successful studio players around, he wanted to continue being a jazz player. Unfortunately, many influential critics and writers of jazz, including Whitney Balliet and Leonard Feather criticized Shank or totally ignored him. Shank told me, “They despised my success, saying it was unfair that I should be so successful player, while so many other jazz musicians continued to struggle along.” Shanks problem of getting more recognition from jazz critics was not only because he was labeled a studio player, but because he was called a West Coast/Cool style player. By the late 50’s all of the cool players, including fantastic jazz players like Shorty Rogers, Terry Gibbs, and Shelly Manne, suffered from lack of recognition because the West Coast/Cool style was deemed too smooth, and not related enough to the raw, rootzy, and bluesy tradition of hard blowing energized jazz. But it was an unfair view of the West Coast/Cool players because if you go back and listen to the West Coast/Cool recordings you hear a great variety of music, some swinging and groovin’ as hard as any jazz and some as thoughtfully crafted and brilliantly orchestrated as Classical music.