Reminiscing in Tempo: Memories and Opinion/Volume Seven: What do you recall about the first live music performance you ever attended?

September 12th, 2006

 

 

Memories of four Jerry Jazz Musician subscribers

_________

 

I have a fond memory of one of the first music performances I attended. In 1970, at the age of 15 and a student in an all-boys Jesuit high school in San Francisco, I wanted to go hear B.B. King, who was coming to San Francisco to perform at the Fillmore West. (On another occasion Albert King performed, but it was in a bar that I couldn’t go into, so I listened from an alley that a stage door opened onto.) No one that I knew had any interest in hearing B.B. King, so I asked my mother if I could go by myself. To make the sale, I showed her record albums of B.B. King that I had, so that she could see that he was a respectable guy and not one of the hippies that she wanted me to avoid.

The deal was that I would take the Muni bus to the concert and that at exactly 12 midnight, my mother would be out in front of the Fillmore West on Market Street to pick me up. 12 midnight was quite a negotiated deal, since it involved convincing my mother that unlike the Symphony, nothing interesting started to happen until 10 pm. Under pain of death I had to be on the street at 12 midnight.

I don’t recall the first groups (Mongo Santamaria may have been one), but when B.B. King came onto the stage, with that bright red Gibson ES-345 and Fender Twin Reverb, backed up by Sonny Freeman on drums and Duke Jethro and Bobby Forte (“Valentino the 12th” as B.B. King introduced him, mysteriously to me) and the other members of his regular, great touring band, I wormed my way through the crowd until I was at the foot of the stage and that Twin Reverb was right in my face. There I stayed as musicians from the local scene arrived to show homage to the King of the Blues Guitar. At midnight, Carlos Santana and Elvin Bishop were on the stage, and I had to leave. The next day in Ralph Gleason’s column in the San Francisco Chronicle, I read that the concert went on until 5 am.

However, a deal is a deal, so down I went to a foggy, cold Market Street at midnight, and there was my mother, blocking traffic, parked where no parking was allowed, in her V8 Oldsmobile, not giving a rip about people honking at her, since after all she was waiting for her baby, and that was that. I was surprised at how cheerful she was when I got in the car, since it was midnight after all, but her first comment to me was: “What a lovely group of people that was at your concert!” I didn’t realize what she meant until years later: at midnight many of the middle-aged African-American concert-goers, dressed in suits and ties and dresses, carrying folding chairs (since the Fillmore West was “festival seating”, i.e., no seats other than the floor), were leaving at the same time that I was. Years later I realized that most of the people leaving the Fillmore West when I was were around my mother’s age, dressed nicely, etc. No drugs, no booze, no crazy hippies — just reasonable-looking people who enjoyed a kind of music that my mother had no conception of whatsoever, and would never listen to and couldn’t recognize, but was willing to allow her 15 year old son to go to alone, because she understood that kids liked music and a deal’s a deal.

_________

B.B. King: Live and Well

*

I Want You So Bad

 


The first LIVE music performance I can recall took place when I was but a little twirp. I went to Birdland in Manhattan to hear the Hi-Los and became FASCINATED beyond belief by their accompanist, Clare Fischer. I’d never heard ANYONE ever play like that before.

I spent the next day experimenting with voicings until I found remnants of the SOUND that IS Clare Fischer. This affected my entire life because that SOUND became an integral part of my playing and eventually my writing. Of course, I did not become a counterfeiter of Clare’s. Instead, it became the inspiration to continue experimenting with voicings, reharmonizations, etc., leading to a larger harmonic ‘vocabulary’ than I had before.

_________

The Hi-Lo’s

*

Yesterdays

 

_____________________

I follow jazz since my teens (I’m 56) but I can clearly remember my first jazz concert. I’m Brazilian and living in São Paulo, a town currently with 17 million inhabitants. At that occasion São Paulo was much smaller, although always a place full of artistic life, in music, theaters, art exhibitions, movies (São Paulo for instance has a large Japanese population and there were times in São Paulo when there were four or five Japanese movie theaters, which probably didn’t exist elsewhere in such a large amount).

When I bought my ticket to attend the jazz concert which would be held the next evening, I did so with my pocket money, without telling my parents because I was fearing they wouldn’t let me go. I was 14. During the show there were several jazz groups, one after the other, some very known names for me, others not. When it was half past midnight I looked to my watch and said to myself: “I’m not going home, I’ll stay until the end !” And that’s what I did, although always fearing my parents attitude when I would finally get home. After the concert ended I walked to a bus stop and waited a very long time for a bus to show up and take me home (I was 14 and no car of course). When I was approaching my building at 4 AM I saw my father walking in circles on a terrace we had, and I thought to myself: “Oh, oh, I’ll be in trouble soon…”

I finally got home and the first thing my father did was to shout at me madly, in despair, telling me not to do that again, etc.

I went to bed as the most happiest fellow in the world, filled with the most beautiful sounds my ears could grasp and, infected with the jazz virus until the present date!

 


I was born in 1927 in Montreal, Canada, a contemporary (and early fan) of Maynard [Ferguson] and Oscar [Peterson]. The first live performance that I remember, and probably the first I attended, was a big band concert at the Snowdon Theatre during WWII by the Montreal High School Victory Serenaders, led by one Percy Ferguson. What was so special? Well, in the trumpet section was little brother Maynard — a very young teenager — even then playing those stratospheric sounds that made him so famous . And, at the piano, Oscar Peterson!

Several years later, on an afternoon during the Christmas season, I was at the Alberta Lounge in Montreal, home base for the Oscar Peterson Trio. At the time, Maynard had been playing in the US with Boyd Raeburn’s band . Home for the holidays, he paid a surprise visit to the lounge and sat in. The word spread. You could not move in the Alberta. The music was unforgettable.

Seems to me that I grew up in exactly the right place at the right time.

_________

Maynard Ferguson

*

The Way You Look Tonight, by Maynard Ferguson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Share this:

Comment on this article:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

In this Issue

Art by Russell Dupont
Twenty-eight poets contribute 37 poems to the Jerry Jazz Musician Fall Poetry Collection, living proof that the energy and spirit of jazz is alive — and quite well.

Short Fiction

Photo/CC0 Public Doman
Short Fiction Contest-winning story #52 — “Random Blonde,” by Zandra Renwick

Interview

photo by Michael Lionstar
In a wide-ranging interview, Nate Chinen, former New York Times jazz critic and currently the director of editorial content for WBGO (Jazz) Radio, talks about his book Playing Changes: Jazz for the New Century,, described by Herbie Hancock as a “fascinating read” that shows Chinen’s “firm support of the music

Great Encounters

photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
In this edition, Con Chapman, author of Rabbit’s Blues: The Life and Music of Johnny Hodges, writes about Hodges’ early musical training, and the first meeting he had with Sidney Bechet, the influential and legendary reed player who Hodges called “tops in my book.”

Essay

photo of Esbjorn Svensson Trio/Pkobel/Creative Commons
“The Trio That Should Have Reshaped Jazz” — an essay by Scott Archer Jones

Photography

Veryl Oakland’s “Jazz in Available Light” — photos (and stories) of Mal Waldron, Jackie McLean and Joe Henderson

“What are 4 or 5 of your all-time favorite Blue Note albums?”

"What are 4 or 5 of your all-time favorite Blue Note albums?"
Dianne Reeves, Nate Chinen, Gary Giddins, Michael Cuscuna, Eliane Elias and Ashley Kahn are among the 12 writers, musicians, and music executives who list and write about their favorite Blue Note albums

Pressed for All Time

"Jazz Samba"/Verve Records
In this edition, excerpted from Michael Jarrett's Pressed For All Time, legendary producer Creed Taylor remembers the 1962 Stan Getz recording, Jazz Samba

Interview

Photographer Carol Friedman
In an entertaining conversation that also features a large volume of her famous photography, Carol Friedman discusses her lifelong work of distinction in the world of jazz photography

Art

"Dreaming of Bird at Billy Bergs" - by Charles Ingham
“Charles Ingham’s Jazz Narratives” — a continuing series

Humor

photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
"Every Soul is a Circus," by Dig Wayne

Interview

photo by Francis Wolff, courtesy of Mosaic Records
Maxine Gordon, author of Sophisticated Giant: The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon, discusses her late husband’s complex, fascinating life.

Short Fiction

photo/Creative Commons CC0.
Con Chapman, author of Rabbit's Blues: The Life and Music of Johnny Hodges, contributes a humorous short story, "Father Kniest: Jazz Priest"

In the Previous Issue

photo of Sullivan Fortner by Carol Friedman
“The Jazz Photography Issue” features an interview with today’s most eminent jazz portrait photographer Carol Friedman, news from Michael Cuscuna about newly released Francis Wolff photos, as well as archived interviews with William Gottlieb, Herman Leonard, Lee Tanner, a piece on Milt Hinton, a new edition of photos from Veryl Oakland, and much more…

Contributing writers

Site Archive