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Tadd Dameron: Beauty in the Rarefied Realm of Music

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Tadd Dameron: Beauty in the Rarefied Realm of Music
Tadd Dameron (p)with Fats Navarro (tpt), Charlie Rouse (ts) and Ernie Henry (as)

JDG: Would you talk a bit about what you think are the ways in which Dameron influenced Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blakey and Charlie Rouse? (Please expand as much as you can on the influence on each of the aforementioned musicians).

PC: Tadd and Dizzy were colleagues, and shared concepts, so the influence was no doubt mutual. I don’t think he had a direct influence on Blakey, although as drummer with the Billy Eckstine’s band he would have been playing Tadd’s arrangements. If we consider Dameron’s arranging concepts’ influence on hard bop, a movement in which Blakey as an important band leader, we could make a case for this being an indirect influence. As far as we know, Blakey did not write arrangements, but he was particular about hiring players who did, such as Benny Golson. Golson was indeed directly influenced by Dameron, not only harmonically, but as an arranger, as he has said many times. Charlie Rouse first met Dameron as a member of the Eckstine Band, and worked with him later not only in New York, but in Ohio and probably elsewhere in the “mid-east” as Charlie put it to me.

Another relationship that began in 1945 with the Eckstine band was Tadd’s relationship with Miles Davis, who was deputized to cover one of the trumpet chairs when the band played and early gig in East St. Louis. Tadd was one of the musicians who took young Miles under their wing when he came to NYC to study at Julliard. Horace Silver was greatly influenced by Dameron’s writing for small groups, even though they did not meet until sometime in the 1950s. He felt that in listening to Tadd’s late 40s recordings he was “mentored” (Silver’s word) by Dameron. Frank Foster, Gigi Gryce, and Quincy Jones have all expressed similar sentiments.

JDG: What made you want to do a record particularly with this repertoire?

PC: It was a combination of worthiness of better exposure, and accessibility from a rights standpoint. There are many other Dameron tunes I would like to record, but which are tangled up in copyright disputes of various kinds. The vocal selections have all been recorded once or twice, but deserve to become part of the general repertoire. While one of the instrumentals was recorded in 1940, it is only available on rare out of print recordings. And one more, “Sando Latino” was unknown to almost everyone until Joe Magnarelli recorded it last fall.

JDG: How did you gather the cast of musicians?

PC: Bill Cunliffe, Alex Frank, and Charles Ruggiero were engaged by Ken Poston of KSDS to play with us on the Jazz Live concert. Derek Cannon, Melonie Grinnell, Kamau Kenyatta, Rob Thorsen, and Richard Sellers are all highly respected San Diego musicians, whom I have the good fortune to count among my friends. Danielle Wertz worked with me in D.C. when I gave a concert at the Smithsonian Art Museum. She has relocated to the SF Bay Area where Ken Cook, an old friend, and excellent pianist lives. Ken engaged Jeff Denson and Alex Aspinall to round out the band.

JDG: Now that this one is out of the way, what’s next?

PC: Well, I expect to be performing and educating about Tadd’s music for the foreseeable future. I have given some lectures and workshops on his music at the collegiate level, as well as lectures for general audiences, and hope to do more of this. For instance, I spoke at the talk tent at the Detroit Jazz Festival in 2013, and will be doing so in just a few weeks at this year’s Trip-C Festival in Cleveland. I do have a couple of other projects I would like to get to work on. One is the development of repertoire for jazz improvisers to perform with concert bands. The concert band community is one that I have had experience with as a wind player and conductor. I see this project as a way to help expand the wind bands’ audience, and give jazz players another venue for performance. I am also always trying to expand my own performing repertoire, not only with my own work, but with music I feel deserves greater exposure.

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