Eliot Zigmund (part 1)
I started this blog with my interview with guitarist Mundell Lowe, who introduced the unknown pianist Bill Evans in 1956 to Orrin Keepnews, one of the founders of jazzlabel Riverside Records. This introduction resulted in Bills’ first record “New Jazz Conceptions“, including the wellknown pieces “Waltz for Debby” and “Five”. February 1958 Bill recorded with the Miles Davis Sextet and in 1959 he played at Miles’ album Kind of Blue, the best-selling jazz album of all time. In 1961 Evans had his own trio.
This year it is 33 years ago (15 september 1980) Bill Evans died, “to me it (Bills music, RA) is the music of a very romantic person- tender, caressing, gently yet at times strong and vibrant. Bill seems to be a gentle person, though I’m sure this is only one of the many facets of his complex personality that often reveal themselves in music. I hear in his playing a level of emotion that doesn’t come through in ordinary conversation. Bill speaks in a rather dry monotone. He is very direct and straightforward, with a lively sense of humor that comes out in wry anecdotes and stories about different clubs he has played.“Marian McPartland writes in her book “Jazz World. All in Good Time” (1987)
Further on Marian says: “Bill is immensely tolerant of the musicians in his group, letting them express themselves in the music as they see fit. He once told me:”When a man starts with the trio, I tell them what I want. From then on it is his responsibility to play what is right for the piece. I allow him to come out and contribute in his own way….I want to be involved with my own musical problems, so I expect the others in the groups to be attuned to me, and to know instinctively what their role is.”
What happened to the people that accompanied Evans in his trios? Bassist Scott LaFaro died in an automobile accident in the summer of 1961. Drummer Larry Bunker died in 2005 at the age of 76. Drummer Paul Motian died exactly 2 years ago.
Interjazzblog approached drummer Eliot Zigmund, bassist Chuck Israels and Eddie Gomez, as well as drummer Marty Morell. With three of them there was an interview. We had a very nice converstation with Chuck Israels and Eddie Gomez and Eliot wrote a beautiful letter. We will start with Eliots letter. Eliot, Bills drummer between 1975 and 1978, is a good writer. His 10-page letter reads like a small novel.
First: who is Eliot Zigmund?
Wikipedia says: “Eliot Zigmund (b. April 14, 1945) is an American jazz drummer, who has worked extensively as a session musician.
Zigmund studied at Mannes College of Music and CCNY, where he graduated in 1969. After moving to California, he found work in the 1970s playing with Ron McClure, Steve Swallow, Art Lande, Mike Nock, Mel Martin, and Vince Guaraldi. He moved back to New York City in 1974, where he played with Bill Evans from 1975 to 1978. He also played with Eddie Gomez, Bennie Wallace, Richard Beirach, Jim Hall, Chet Baker, Stan Getz, Fred Hersch, and Red Mitchell before the end of the 1970s.
He played with Don Friedman from 1979 to 1984, and then joined a trio with Michel Petrucciani until the late 1980s. After this he worked both as a leader in small ensembles and as a sideman with Gary Peacock (1980), Carl Barry (1982), Keith Greko (1985), Eiji Nakayama (1988), and Stefan Karlsson (1995).
Zigmund has also done work as a session player for Neil Sedaka, Dionne Warwick, and The Pointer Sisters, among others. Zigmund has taught at William Paterson College and New York University.”
Now let’s listen to Eliot himself:
I started playing professionally in the early 60’s. I grew up listening to popular music that was jazz oriented and some early rock and roll, Elvis Presley, Frankie Lyman, Jerry Lee Lewis, stuff like that. When I was 12 or 13, in the late 50s, started listening to jazz with my older brother, an aspiring jazz guitarist. For me, all music from the beginning was about swinging because most of the music I listened to was swinging (or at least wanted to swing), whether real jazz or more commercial music of the time. Even a lot of the early rock stuff was shufﬂe four/ four time, or twelve/eight ballads and swung.
My older brother was a guitarist and I very much wanted to play with him and thought the simplest most direct way of doing it was to play the drums. I started playing with him with a snare drum and brushes, eventually got a hi hat and after a few years, got a full drum set together and started doing my ﬁrst gigs with my brother and others. It was a simpler time and the goal was to be a working musician, you would learn whatever was involved to work, a lot of the working technique coming out of jazz music and adapted to the particular music you were playing, latin, pop music of the day, shows. There were fewer musicians, more of a community of players, many of whom knew each other, more and better paying gigs which fueled jazz activity. There was always an overﬂow of work so I had a bunch of drummer friends and we’d trade off work, sub for each other, etc. I studied music in college, never as a percussionist but as a theory major, learned about classical music, theory, discovered Bach and Mozart (!!) and all the wonderful others, broadened my knowledge base and set out to become a working musician upon graduation from college. There was no formal jazz education, it was mostly off limits in university music departments, whatever jazz I learned was from listening to records, working and practicing.
(to be continued)