Eliot Zigmund (part 2) -mid 50’s to mid ’70’s
“However it became apparent that jazz was really in my blood, it deﬁned me, reﬁned my taste in music, and my playing goals.”
Part two of this Eliot Zigmund special covers his years between his teenage years in the fifties and the time he met Bill Evans in the seventies.
Eliot: “Growing up, NYC was swing, bebop (later post bop) from the 50s onward, and they mixed and matched. So one week I could hear Coleman Hawkins play with Rex Stewart and Eddie Locke, by standing in front of the Metropole on 7th Ave and 48th St, and the next week hear him play with Monk downtown somewhere. In a relative sense, to a 16 year old, everyone was alive and playing, their presences were a given, part of life in the city.
My high school “dance band” did the the bassist’s Chubby Jackson’s children’s TV show (a jazz musician with a TV show!) and the guests were the great Gene Krupa and our “dance” band. Going to the drum stores in Manhattan you might run into Papa Joe Jones holding court, Elvin Jones hanging out between students, Jake Hanna giving advice about sticks, etc. The period from the 60s-80s in New York was a very exciting time. Great band leaders and their sidemen, from one incarnation to another, expanded the forms and vocabulary forward. Recordings were rarer, monumental, and would immediately inﬂuence players sensibilities, like a benign contagion.
I played along endlessly to my Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins, Bill Evans, Gil Evans, Count Basie, et. al. recordings until I wore them out. I learned to identify drummers just by the way they played time, Philly Joe, Max, Art Blakey, Roy Haynes, Art Taylor, Jimmy Cobb, and many others, the gladiators. As I became more of a jazz player myself I was inﬂuenced by some of the younger up and coming drummers of the day, Pete LaRoca, Joe Chambers, and of course the genius of Tony Williams and Jack Dejohnette. Harmonic concepts broadened, modal playing combined with a sophistication in blues playing, combined with european harmonic and formal inﬂuences produced a rich harmonic jazz language.
The next generation players were constantly revolutionizing their styles and approach to their instruments, strong stylistic tributaries arose, moved, merged, inﬂuencing and inﬂuenced by a decidedly intellectual black/urban musical and political agenda and the urgency of the civil rights movement in the US. There was a feeling of being swept along by a wave. As a young player, I did all kinds of commercial gigs, worked with singers, shows, jazz gigs, some early pop stuff with Neil Sedaka, Dionne Warwick and later on brieﬂy with the Pointer Sisters. However it became apparent that jazz was really in my blood, it deﬁned me, reﬁned my taste in music, and my playing goals.
I started getting serious about my jazz playing. There was always lots of jam sessions going on either on the gigs themselves – after hours if they were location gigs in resort areas, or at peoples houses in the city. A typical summer resort in the Catskills or Poconos, local resort areas driving distance from NYC, might have had 2, 3, 4 bands living on the premises. So guys, weren’t many ladies in the bands back then, got to hang out for 12 or 16 weeks with lots of other musicians. I ﬁrst met Marty Morrell working opposite him at a Catskill hotel one summer. I remember one summer away where I played endlessly after hours with Eddie Daniels and a bass player named Lanny Fields, we played trio, clarinet, bass, drums, all summer long, late at night or during the day when we weren’t working.
To this day I try to play one or two sessions a week at my place or other people’s houses or studios, I’ve spent literally thousands of hours throughout my career playing with other musicians at jam sessions. New York is one of the few, if not only place, where that kind of extra-curricular playing is always happening and welcome.
I lived on the west coast for a few years in the early 70s, did a lot of interesting playing there (Vince Guaraldi, Art Lande, Steve Swallow, Ron McLure, Mike Nock, Art Pepper,) and came back to NYC in ’74 and started working with Bill Evans a year or so after that. Playing with Art Lande and Vince Guaraldi was a good training ground for my later time with Bill Evans. Vince loved to swing, was a real bebopper at heart and always had ﬁrst class work in the bay area. I did some soundtracks for the Peanuts TV shows with him. Art Lande’s music was always challenging and on the cusp of what was happening at the moment, swung in a different way. He had a huge book of originals and we worked a bunch in the bay area in the early 70s with Art’s quintet with saxophonist Mel Martin, percussionist Glen Cronkite, Steve Swallow and myself, and also with Art’s trio with Steve Swallow.”
(to be continued)