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Eliot Zigmund (part 2) -mid 50’s to mid ’70’s

December 1, 2013 Leave a comment

“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 with Art and Gary

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 vince guaraldithere (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)

Eliot Zigmund (part 1)

November 24, 2013 Leave a comment

evansI 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 Eddieevans gomez zigmund 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)

 

Evans time

November 18, 2013 Leave a comment

evans 1 Last month I interviewed a few Bill Evans musicians, Eliot Zigmund, Chuck Israels and Eddie Gomez. I hope I can interview Marty Morell as well in the Spring.

This week we will start with Eliot.

The day I announced my interview with Chuck, Evan Evans said to me: “Jazz music the last 3 decades? Well, no Bill Evans is a big loss, but his Modal Jazz concept transformed the art and many still are trying to push the boundaries further. Keep an open mind, like my dad, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy some of the new and radical styles from many new and radical artists. The last thing Dad wanted, was to hear something that had been done before.”

Never mind what happens. It is Evans Time!

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