ARTS FIFTH AVENUE, Fort Worth's premiere performance space, will present "REMEMBERING SARDINES" on Friday, December 1, 2017. The event will offer a night of live jazz and Italian cuisine in remembrance of the now defunct venue Sardines Ristorante Italiano, which was a Fort Worth landmark from 1979 through 2011. All proceeds from this event will go to help Kenny Hardee (one of Sardines' former managers) who is in desperate need of a liver transplant. Although Mr. Hardee is employed and has medical insurance, out-of-pocket costs for this operation add up to a daunting 100,000 (!). Please join Gracey Tune along with pianist Johnny Case, multi-instrumentalist Joey Carter and others for this worthy cause. A silent auction will offer an impressive selection of collectible items, including some real surprises, related to the once popular night spot. Gracey Tune, Deb Wood and Kitty Case will prepare Italian food for all attendees to enjoy in fond remembrance of a unique venue known for its fine acoustic jazz and romantic atmosphere as well as its Southern Italian food. Admission price is $25.00 each. Dinner is included in the cover charge.
The music wasn't unnamable because it was given many names. Among its listeners and critics there seemed to be no consensus of a universally accepted label to cover the varied innovative approaches to revolutionary jazz from the late 1950's through the 1960's. My awakening to the wide world of modern jazz occurred in my teen years. As a budding musician, I loved the preceding stages of this music's evolution and aspired to become adept at playing everything from 1930's "swing" through the early-1960's gospel-tinged "soul" jazz, with special emphasis on absorbing the most challenging 1940's "bebop" innovations of Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. All the while, in keeping informed through incessant reading about jazz, I was fully aware that while the bebop revolution had been triggered by young musicians' dissatisfaction with their perceived creative limitations of the swing idiom, the music of my own era was entering another musical revolution by restless young musicians revolting against what the challenging bebop had become in its various descendant forms such hard bop, "mainstream" and "cool" jazz.
The introduction of modal jazz (favored by Miles Davis and John Coltrane) was a desire to push the boundries of jazz into unchartered territory. This produced some refreshing music different in nature to forms of jazz previously heard. Modal jazz was not, however, a true pathway to freedom, being more restrictive harmonically than some of the more adventurous bop. The music of Thelonious Monk, Herbie Nichols and Randy Weston exhibited greater rhythmic and harmonic diversity and freedom. As such, their music inspired a new breed of musicians seeking a manner of expression unencumbered by many of the rules inherent with all the previous developments in the evolution of modern jazz. My own goal was to learn the music I loved, which meant the music that the new breed was rebelling against, and as I progressed in my mission, I grew intensely curious about the exciting new development of "new breed" artists such as Ornette Coleman and Cecil Taylor. I would soon be trying to grasp both the bebop concept and free jazz explorations, the latter of which were collectively most often referred to as "The New Thing".
The controversy created by the musical mavericks of the late 1950's and early to mid-1960's was astounding. Most established jazz artists were very outspoken in their negative reaction, to the point it seemed that some mainstream players must have felt threatened by any public acceptance of a music so radically different than that which they had spent so many years learning and honing their improvising skills. You could hear some say: "If what they're doing is the right way, then all the years I've spent learning how to play was all for nothing?!" I personally never saw the arrival of this startling new music as a "replacement" but as an alternative. I did not believe the choice meant choosing one approach to the exclusion of the other. As for the players themselves...yes, each approach required a serious commitment for the fullest realization in performance. Artists who embraced and sought to perform both mainstream jazz and avant garde were scarce indeed.
I learned to recognize references to this new musical development by many names: Avant Garde, Free Jazz, The New Music, New Black Music, Outside Jazz, Free Form, The New Wave, Energy Music, The New Thing, and, in certain musicians' circles, "Outside Shit". The most hostile reactionaries designated it "Anti-Jazz"! The New Music was not based on standard songs, or song forms. Revolutioanary jazz compositions often had no conventional harmonic foundation, as in no chord progression. To improvisers of the earlier forms of jazz, this was a radical break and it created a dilemma for players at a loss for creating with no guiding framework. Among the more radical of new original jazz compositions were those with no key signature and no bar lines. The more open-minded musicians perceived new possibilities based on melody and rhythm and an organic development of those elements. The various innovators in this new realm found their own disparate and individualistic ways to play "free" music.
The Ornette Coleman concept is different from Cecil Taylor's, yet both composer-performers share credit as the pioneers of free jazz. They ushered in an era of exploratory inventiveness freed from restrictions applied to all the former stages in the development of modern jazz. One retained element in their music of the 1950's was the steady pulse, the swinging beat. Most listeners (especially musicians) were so shocked at the absence of chord changes, numerous jarring effects within improvised solos and abandonment of familiar tunes long favored by many jazz listeners, no one seemed to notice that the music still swung in the usual manner of conventional jazz. That would change: In 1962, Cecil Taylor decided that he would further free his music from past conventions and opted for a textural rhythmic interplay rather than a stated tempo. Sunny Murray, who had played with Taylor's group for over a year, became the first jazz drummer to completely abandon time-keeping. He is the father of free jazz drumming and a master at his art.
more to come...
Roy Lee Brown passed away on Friday, May 26, 2017 at the age of 96, a few days after suffering a massive stroke. I had known him since the spring of 1987, when my wife Kitty and I attended "Brownie Day", held annually at the Gilbert Ranch west of Fort Worth. Why it had taken me so many years to attend I cannot say. I had known and loved the music of Milton Brown and his Musical Brownies since first hearing reissued recordings on the Dance-O-Rama set Decca released in the mid-1950's. I will never forget first meeting Roy Lee, and being startled at the physical resemblance to his late brother whose photo was prominently displayed on the Decca record sleeve. Scholars of early country music acknowledge Milton Brown as the founding father of western swing music. In meeting Roy Lee, I already knew that he was the youngest and only surving brother of the great singer/bandleader whose vision and musical innovations in the mid-1930's would establish the model for Bob Wills and numerous others to emulate and reshape in correspondence to their own tastes, imagination and ambition. This was the beginning of a friendship and productive working relationship that would develop before the 1980's were gone.
My invitation to attend Brownie Day had come from my friend Billy Luttrell, a fine guitarist who owned and operated a music store in Fort Worth. He had invited me in previous years, but this time for whatever reason it felt right to go. The atmosphere: lively and friendly with a variety of scrumptious aromas emanating from the kitchen. A large table crowded with delectable food choices greeted all guests at this annual ranch house party. I recall sitting in for pianist Charlie O'Bannon, and playing with a small group of western musicians, but it wasn't until afterward that someone introduced Kitty and me to Roy Lee Brown. He had perhaps sung before we arrived, but when we met him he was in an adjoining room to the one where music was being played. We were impressed with his warm smile and the apparent joy it gave him in welcoming us to the event, which had long ago been established to honor the memory of his brother and the enormous contribution made to Texas music by Milton Brown and his Musical Brownies. We also met Roy Lee's wife Ellen, whose manner was gracious and kind. They had been married for many years. Little did Kitty and I know that within a couple of years the four of us would become well acquainted, primarily from the shared desire to bring to the public an invigorated revisitation of the musical legacy that was Roy Lee's inheritance.
My mom, Floy Case, had recently become aware that Roy Lee sought performance opportunities, having retired from being a fireman with the Fort Worth Fire Department. He wanted to use his new free time to play the music he remembered so well from his teen years when he often accompanied his older brothers Milton and Derwood with the band on their numerous dance gigs. Roy Lee had served behind the scenes, changing strings for guitarist Derwood, as strings would invariably break during a long night of heavy playing. Floy Case encouraged her friend Johnnie High to book Roy Lee on his popular Saturday night Country Music Revue. Normally anyone desiring to perform on High's very professional show would be required to audition. My mom assured Johnnie that in this instance, no audition was nescessary! Indeed, Roy Lee Brown performed in primo fashion, backed by the CMR house band including pedal steel guitarist Maurice Anderson, a masterful swing stylist in his own right. Needless to say, Roy Lee was invited back for future appearances on the popular opry-styled show. My chance to hear Roy Lee and to accompany his singing would be in a similar setting, when a special program entitled A Journey through Western Swing was produced at the Grapevine Opry a few miles north of Fort Worth. I still have a newspaper clipping (alas with no date attached) touting the event which featured Leon Rausch (who had gained popularity as a vocalist with Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys) along with Roy Lee Brown, vocals; Tommy Camfield and Bobby Boatright, fiddles; Tom Morrell, steel guitar; Billy Luttrell, rhythm guitar; Lanny Long, bass; David Brown, drums and myself on piano. During Roy Lee Brown's segment of the show he spoke on the mic, addressing the wide acceptance of Bob Wills as the "King of Western Swing". He asked that if we give that distinction to Wills, then consider the importance of the prior innovations of Milton Brown and acknowledge Brown as the "Father of Western Swing". There was no trace of bitterness in Roy Lee's message, simply an intense need to educate those born too late to have experienced the Milton Brown phenomenon, and to implore aficionados of western swing to give credit where it was due. I was impressed with his performance of songs from the Milton Brown repertoire, and with his commitment to this musical mission.
The approaching summer of 1988 brought shock and sorrow to the Case family and to the many friends of Floy Case. She died suddenly in the early morning hours of June 14. The last several years of her life had been remarkably active, and her recently acquired friends spanned all age groups. Late in her life she told me that western swing was her favorite kind of music. I recalled that my mother attended the show I had played with Roy Lee Brown, Leon Rausch, Tommy Camfield and others. By mid-1989 I felt compelled to call Roy Lee Brown and ask if he would like to record a tribute to Milton. I got the sense that he'd been having similar thoughts. He and I agreed to do a co-op project and he kindly let me take responsibility for putting together the musicians I felt would be second to none !
Coincidentally, it was during this time period that mega-talented Tom Morrell had begun making occasional visits to my jazz gig at Sardines Ristorante Italiano. Morrell lived outside of Dallas, so whenever he was in Fort Worth for a gig or whatever purpose, he'd stop by. Most often it was on a night when I played solo piano, during the week. Tom would order an Italian dinner, listen to a set and then we'd talk on my break. I had known Tom since 1964. We'd first recorded together as sidemen in 1969, and in the 1970's I featured his jazz steel guitar styings on several albums on my own indy label, Priority Records. Ironically, it was because of my mom that I'd heard a recent (1980's) Leon Rausch album with some wondrous pedal steel guitar work by this masterful musician. I had long been aware there was no one better than Tom for western swing pedal steel. I also knew that he deserved to have his own album. The high regard with which I held his steel playing was such that my desire to record Roy Lee Brown was practically contingent on Tom's participation. I therefore asked Tom to cooperate with me on a 1989 co-op project between me and Roy Lee Brown with the understanding that the following year he and I would produce Tom's first album issued under his name. I assured Tom that it would be "his baby". He would be free to choose the musicians (with one stipulation for pianist!) and it would be his choice of tunes, arrangements, tempos, sequencing, packaging...he would control all facets of the album. Tom agreed, so with assistance from guitarist Billy Luttrell, I began contacting the other players I had in mind to accompany Roy Lee Brown on his debut album.
During our phone conversations, it was clear that Roy Lee and I both wanted to approach the Brownie repertoire with a modern concept. After all, Milton Brown was modern in his day. Actually he was a musical trailblazer, and any attempt to "honor" him by playing in an "old timey" manner would miss the point or, worse... it would be insulting to Brown's innovative accomplishments.
There would be no attempt to emulate the original Brownies. The members of that historic assembly consisted of Milton Brown, vocals and band leader; Cecil Brower and Jesse Ashlock (or later, Cliff Bruner) fiddles; Fred "Papa" Calhoun, piano; Bob Dunn, amplified steel guitar; Derwood Brown, rhythm guitar and harmony vocals; Ocie Stockard, tenor banjo and Wanna Coffman, bass.
Roy Lee advised me not to try to play like Papa Calhoun. He likewise did not wish for Morrell to play lap steel, which was Tom's inclination. Roy Lee was emphatic that his preference was for pedal steel, exactly as I had hoped would be the case. Twin fiddles (one of Milton's "firsts" in a western band) were of utmost importance. Also a two-four swing rhythm rather than the hard-driving four-four was a signature element in Brownie music. The easy, relaxed swing of the original Brownies could be quite hypnotic, and there's something magical in the chemistry of those particular musicians. The joy radiating from their unity is of a nature such as I've never heard in any other band. The primary point is: There will never be another band like Milton Brown's. The project ahead of us had another intent: Show that the music of Milton and his remarkable band is viable in today's context. I liked that this goal was important to Roy Lee, who so thoroughly knew this music and the men who had made it. The depression era needed a music that was uplifting, and its power to make folks temporarily forget their troubles may be at the heart of a musical freshness that remains unfaded by passing styles and trends through the subsequent decades.
I got to work on recruiting new "Brownies". In addition to Morrell, who would the other band members be? The great Tommy Camfield, fiddler extraordinaire (and perfect for this project) had recently passed away. My queries to Carroll Hubbard and Buddy Wallis were not productive. In the meantime, Billy Luttrell called to tell me that Leon Rausch would play bass and sing harmony vocals with Roy Lee. As rhythm guitarist, Billy Luttrell was an integral part of this emerging band. It was either Billy Luttrell or Roy Lee who suggested fiddler Randy "Snuffy" Elmore, whom I did not know. After Elmore confirmed his participation, he recommended Wes Westmoreland as his twin fiddle partner. Wes was also someone I hadn't known before, but the these two fiddlers provided the greatest and happiest surprise of the project. Randy Elmore and Wes Westmoreland play together as one, in their phrasing and with violin tones that are a perfect blend. There are no intonation problems with this team. I was amazed at how quickly they could create new arrangements for the tunes, some of which they had probably never heard before! Elmore and Westmoreland are both lively and imaginative soloists. Elmore also plays great electric mandolin and contributes wonderful solos on both instruments.
David Brown (no relation to Roy Lee) was to be our drummer when we first began making plans, and I honestly don't remember exactly what happened. I remember that we had to find a drummer because David Brown was no longer in the picture. When the name Bob Venable entered my thoughts, there was no need to look any further. I knew of him because he had sat in with my brother Jerry Case, who liked Bob's tasteful, swinging approach. Bob was from Chicago and had played a lot of dixieland jazz (including one night with trumpeter Bobby Hackett). After relocating in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, he found work playing with tenor banjo wizard Marvin "Smokey" Montgomery. Some of that work was in a dixieland context, and some was with the Light Crust Doughboys on their dance gigs. Marvin, whose career dated back to the beginnings of western swing, was a friend of Roy Lee Brown. The fact that Bob Venable was Marvin's first call whenever he needed a drummer was ample verification that he'd be great on our upcoming tribute to Milton Brown.
Roy Lee selected all the material for the recording. One song written by Ellen Brown was the only exception to the otherwise Milton Brown repertoire. Those selections were drawn from the huge number of songs Milton had recorded for RCA Victor and Decca, the latter being the label on which the vast majority of his recordings had been issued. As an added treat for Browniephiles, Roy Lee chose to frame the program with the opening/closing theme song, just as Milton had done on his daily radio broadcasts in the mid 1930's.
Every conversation I had with Roy Lee yielded interesting facts from the era still crystal clear in this man's memory. He valued accuracy to the maximum degree. He often spoke of the numerous inaccuracies he found in the widely-praised biography of Bob Wills ("San Antonio Rose") by Dr. Charles Townsend. Upon meeting the professor, Roy Lee confronted the author and cited poor research for "lots of mistakes" pertaining to the era through which Roy Lee had personally lived among participants written about in Townsend's book. My own narrow time frame of admittedly limited expertise (1964-1966) provided a point of corroboration regarding poor research: I found two mistakes and an inexcusable omission with the information pertaining to a single photograph! I see full justification for Roy Lee's staunch disdain for misrepresenting history in the fact that Townsend's book, in numerous printings, has not been revised and continues to misinform readers who rely on praise bestowed by others ignorant of historical facts. Admittedly, not everyone appreciated Roy Lee's candid comments. I appreciated his determination to correct errors regardless of negative reactions from some who preferred their long-held beliefs, even if based on falsehoods. To those, he was apt to respond: "I can't help it if you don't like the facts, but we're talking about history and I believe in truthful representation." This quote is mine, but I remember so well his convictions I want to say these are the words Roy Lee Brown would speak.
During the months of preparing for the release of Roy Lee's album, he often spoke of his strong desire to tell Milton's story, and the beginnings of western swing. He in fact was already working closely with the respected writer Cary Ginnell, a Californian who had made trips to Texas in pursuit of the treasured recollections, not only of Roy Lee, but of music fans from the 1930's who still lived in the Fort Worth area and were eager to share memories of those early years. Roy Lee knew the resulting book would reflect the times in an authentic manner, as it would tell the story through chronologically sequenced oral histories by the people who were present when the music was an exciting new phenomenon.
The 1980's witnessed the demise of the long playing record, or LP. I had issued four during the decade, the last of which was "Solo Guitar Artistry" by Jerry Case. Its first test pressing was unacceptable because it contained pops and other surface noises. After several failed attempts I finally received an acceptable test pressing and gave the "okay" for production. By the late 1980's, when the Roy Lee Brown project took place, the most common medium for recorded music was cassette tape. The compact disc had been introduced, but the cassettes were extremely popular, and more affordable than the new digital discs such as I would have preferred. The vertical front cover includes a photo of Roy Lee Brown smiling above the title "Western Swing Heritage". On the j-card inside the plastic case, there is an inscription following the descriptive notes which reads: "This album is dedicated to the ones who have gone before."
The finished product was issued in late 1989. News of its availability (in local record stores, or direct from its co-producers) circulated by word-of-mouth. This commonly ascribed "best advertising" brought in good local sales within the first weeks of the cassette's release. The print media in the city known as "The Cradle of Western Swing" chose to ignore Western Swing Heritage by Roy Lee Brown and his Musical Brownies. Although this dissappointed me, it came as no big surprise. I almost expected the slight even though a popular entertainment columnist for the Fort Worth Star Telegram, prior to the album's release, had enthusiastically requested the copy we provided to him. I had already witnessed inexplicible behavior, some bordering on the bizarre, from this individual who was in a position to disperse, or withhold, music news pertaining to Fort Worth area performers. The lack of local coverage was nicely superceded by the glowing review that appeared in the March/April 1990 issue of Country Music magazine, with strong representation on the magazine racks in retail stores nationwide. Rich Kienzle, a noted music scholar and enthusiast, included Western Swing Heritage in the albums reviewed in his Buried Treasures segment of the magazine. Kienzle begins: "It's an established fact that Milton Brown and his band, The Musical Brownies, were the first real Western swing band. Their records for Decca through 1935 and 1936 were, in the eyes of many aficionados, better than Bob Wills' early recordings, since the Brownies included pioneer electric steel guitarist Bob Dunn and pianist Fred "Papa" Calhoun. This past summer Milton's brother Roy Lee, now in his seventies, recorded a Brownies tribute, Western Swing Heritage (Priority PTS-3001). This cassette-only release doesn't recreate The Brownies note-for-note, which would be impossible since most of its ex-members are dead, but even with its more modern sound, Roy Lee has revived The Brownies infectious joy and spirit". Kienzle also acknowledges the individual participants and their respective instruments and cites some of the songs included, such as "Four or Five Times", "If You Can't Get Five, Take Two", "Texas Hambone Blues", Chinatown, My Chinatown" and "My Mary".
Roy Lee Brown assembled the same group of musicians for a second volume in 1991 and issued Western Swing Heritage II on his own label, Brownie Records. Some listeners prefer this release, as it seems to build on the strong group rapport that was very evident with the first album. Within the next few years, the complete works of Milton Brown and his Musical Brownies were made available with the release of a five-disc boxed set of CDs. The Texas Rose label presented first-rate re-mastered original recordings with an accompanying booklet detailing the historical significance of the music. In 1994, the long-awaited book "Milton Brown and the Founding of Western Swing" by Cary Ginell (with assistance from Roy Lee Brown) was published by University of Illinois Press. It received an award from ARSC (Association for Recorded Sound Collections) in the music research category. The book remains in print and is available through the most popular retailers online.
Although his death was noted only in his hometown newspaper and music journals such as Western Swing Monthly, Roy Lee Brown's passing marked the end of an era, as he truly was the last link to the originators of western swing music.
Great News! Also, it's very unexpected news, as there were numerous nominees in the various categories. The CD (Johnny Case and his Texas Swingtet) was nominated in four categories, and has become one of five finalists in the Duo/Group category of AWA Awards. The Academy of Western Artists will present their awards ceremony and show on March 16 in Fort Worth, Texas. I hope to attend just to be part of this event. I'm grateful to have been nominated for this album of Texas Swing featuring two of my favorite veteran players, Billy Briggs and Walter Lyons.
Johnny Case is an ASCAP member who has recorded and issued numerous original tunes in three categories: Jazz, Country Music and Western Swing.
The following list applies only to notated music, not his works of Musique Concrete or spontaneous composition.
J A Z Z
ADRIFT Recorded 2005 - Love's Bitter Rage CD.
AMENDS Recorded 1977 - Jazz Potpourri LP (reissued on CD)
BIRDERIC Recorded 1975 - Eclipse LP (reissued on CD). 1991 - Jazz Journey CD (reissued on Revisitation CD).
BLUES FOR TED CURTIS Recorded 1975 - Eclipse LP (reissued on CD).
CONTEMPLATION Recorded 1971 - Pleasant Dreams LP
CRUDSCRAPER BLOOZE Recorded 2005 - Texas Sunset Suite CD.
DAYBREAK Recorded 1971 - Pleasant Dreams LP.
EMPATHY Recorded 1977 - Jazz Potpourri LP (reissued on CD).
EXCURSION Recorded 1977 - Jazz Potpourri LP (reissued on CD).
FIRE Recorded 1970 - Contrasts in Jazz LP.
FULL MOON Recorded 1974 - Contrasts in Jazz LP (reissued on Jazz Potpourri CD).
GLOBAL JUBILATION Recorded 2005 - Love's Bitter Rage CD.
HIGH STAKES Recorded 1977 - Jazz Potpourri LP (reissued on CD).
IN THE EAST Recorded 1974 - Serenade LP (reissued on CD).
LAMENTO (see: Love Astray)
LEWIS WORRELL Recorded 2003 - Waiting For the Moment CD.
LOVE ASTRAY Recorded 2008 - Strays...and Other Songs CD (reissued as Lamento on Revisitation CD).
LOVE'S BITTER RAGE Recorded 2005 - Love's Bitter Rage CD.
LOVE SURVIVES Recorded 2005 - Love's Bitter Rage CD.
MID-AFTERNOON Recorded 1971 - Pleasant Dreams LP
MORNING SONG Recorded 1971 - Pleasant Dreams LP.
NO LITTLE LAMENT (for Booker Little) Recorded 2005 - Love's Bitter Rage CD.
ODE TO JEAN GENET Recorded 1991 - Jazz Journey CD (reissued on Revisitation CD).
ONE TOO FEW Recorded 1991 - Jazz Journey CD (reissued on Revisitation CD).
THE OPEN SEA Recorded 1991 - Jazz Journey CD (reissued on Revisitation CD).
PASSING THROUGH Recorded 1975 - Two Moods LP (reissued on Eclipse CD).
QUARRY'S PLIGHT Recorded 1991 - Jazz Journey CD (reissued on Revisitation CD).
SERENADE Recorded 1974 - Serenade CD (reissued on CD). 1975 - Two Moods LP (& Eclipse CD).
SONG OF NO RETURN Recorded 2005 - Love's Bitter Rage CD (reissued on Revisitation CD).
SONG OF SOLANGE Recorded 1991 - Jazz Journey CD (reissued on Revisitation CD).
SONG OF SOLANGE (vocal version) Recorded 1992 - Four Roses Suite CD, Spectrum of Specters CD, Revisitation CD).
STRANGE DREAM Recorded 1970 - Pleasant Dreams LP.
SUMMONS Recorded 1970 - Pleasant Dreams LP.
TURNING POINT Recorded 1971 - Pleasant Dreams LP.
THE VEILS Recorded 2001 - Last Nites CD.
WAITING FOR THE MOMENT Recorded 2003 - Waiting For The Moment CD (reissued on Revisitation CD).
C O U N T R Y
COUNTRY WAYS Recorded 2003 - Country Ways CD.
DRIFTING BACK Recorded 2005 - Drifting Back CD. 2007 - Texas Sunset Suite CD.
A HEART TO STEAL Recorded 2003 - Country Ways CD.
JUST IN SONG (for Justin Tubb) Recorded 2003 - My Daze of Ways Bygone CD
ONE AMONG THE DALTONS Recorded 2003 - Country Ways CD.
W E S T E R N . S W I N G
BUCKBOARD BOUNCE Recorded 2007 - Texas Sunset Suite CD.
RANCH HOUSE RENDEZVOUS Recorded 2007 - Texas Sunset Suite CD.
RIDING HIGH Recorded 2007 - Texas Sunset Suite CD.
WESTERN SAGA SWING Recorded 2007 - Texas Sunset Suite CD.
CD NEWS ITEM:
The Johnny Case / Texas Swingtet CD has been nominated in four categories for the Academy of Western Artists 2016 Annual Awards
to be held at Texas Christian University (TCU) in Fort Worth, Texas on March 16, 2017. The categories for which the CD has been
nominated are: Male Artist, Duo/Group, Album and Song (Corrine, Corrina).
JOHNNY CASE and his TEXAS SWINGTET featuring BILLY BRIGGS
1. MILK COW BLUES
2. BLUE BONNET LANE
3. C JAM BLUES
4. YOU DON'T LOVE ME BUT I'LL ALWAYS CARE
6. CORRINE, CORRINA
7. MY ADOBE HACIENDA
9. LITTLE COQUETTE
10. HANG YOUR HEAD IN SHAME
Personnel: BILLY BRIGGS, tenor saxophone; WALTER LYONS, guitar; JOHNNY CASE, piano;
CHRIS CLARKE, acoustic bass; GREG HARDY, drums (plus vocals on 1,4,6,7 & 10)
Recorded December, 2015 at Patrick McGuire's Studio in Arlington, Texas
Produced by Johnny Case
Executive Producer: Patrick McGuire
Recording. Mixing & Mastering by Patrick McGuire
(Descriptive notes included with CD)
The WESTERN SWING MUSIC SOCIETY OF THE SOUTHWEST will induct Jerry Case and Johnny Case into their Hall of Fame on Saturday, July 16 in Lawton, Oklahoma. Although the Case brothers are in several Halls of Fame relating to western music, this marks the first time for both to be inducted in the same year. Lawton has special significance for Jerry Case, and to a lesser degree for Johnny as well. Jerry Case can credit the inspiration and help of several musicians in Lawton, especially the late guitarist Bobby Davis, for advancing his career by arranging for his first truly professional gig: In late 1963 Jerry Case became lead guitarist for the ill-fated "Little" Joe Carson, a recording artist (Mercury, Capitol, Liberty) whose touring appearances included the famed Golden Nugget in Las Vegas. After Carson's tragic death in early 1964, Jerry Case went on to work with Judy Kaye, Bob Wommack, Billy Gray, Leon Rausch, and ultimately with Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys in 1965 and '66. With Wills, he recorded the Kapp LP "FROM THE HEART OF TEXAS" produced in Nashville, Tennessee.
Please read the newest Performer Profile by clicking on Music, then locate (and click on) Discography, Performer Profiles, etc. Scroll down past the discography and find the Duane Durrett profile. It's followed by my most recent posting in memory of a great bassist, educator, and quality individual: Kerby Stewart
The jazz pianist Thomas Reese was an established artist on the Dallas/Fort Worth music scene when I first met him in late 1966. I'd heard him perform with the Julius Hemphill Quartet, which participated as the intermission band at a concert by the Ornette Coleman Trio. This was my first hearing of alto saxophonist Hemphill, who led his group through a set of standards, played with fire and creative spirit equal to that of the headliner's more adventurous free jazz. Hemphill's bassist Louie Spears was familiar from having heard him with the Red Garland Trio performing at the Arandis in Dallas. The drummer's identity is less certain in my memory, and the sidemen weren't identified during the concert or on the printed program. It was possibly Saul Samuels or Chester Freeman. I would soon leave western swing to pursue my dream of playing jazz, so the opportunity to hear this group was an unexpected treat, added to this unusual Fort Worth booking of Ornette by his sister Trudy Coleman. In hearing the pianist Reese, two things relating to my own musical development were immediately clear: First, I realized immediately that I still had much work, or "woodshedding" to do. Second, I felt that attaining the degree of artistic proficiency I heard in the playing of Thomas Reese was within my grasp, given that I was quite determined to find my way into this exciting genre of music. But I didn't meet him that night, and hadn't yet learned his name. All I knew is that he played really well, with a natural sense of swing, rich left-hand harmonies and an unusual rolling type of rhythmic-melodic invention in his right hand soloing. I'd not heard anyone quite like him, even though he seemed to me very comfortable in sort of a Wynton Kelly bag, for lack of a more precise description. Anyone close in spirit to W.K. was alright in my book!
Within a few months after the Coleman concert, Reese came out to a weekly jazz jam session where I was playing with the Adrian Watts Trio. I'd been hearing Adrian talk about a pianist whom I should hear and get to know. As soon as I saw Reese walk in the door, I recognized him as the pianist I'd heard at the concert. I remember some things about that night so clearly, especially sitting at a table with Reese and how easily we became friends. He was into the hippest of jazz: "Do you have that Booker Little side Out Front?" Then his response to my affirmative answer: "Yeah man, that's a beautiful side." Within the same conversation, "Yeah I want to hear more of this NEW THING!" He was referring to the avant garde free jazz movement in New York, inspired by Cecil Taylor and Ornette Coleman. Their adherents included Don Cherry, Archie Shepp, Paul Bley, Sun Ra, Albert Ayler, Sunny Murray, Henry Grimes, Bill Dixon, Carla Bley, Don Pullen, Milford Graves, John Tchcai, Roswell Rudd, Marion Brown and many other adventurous and innovative artists. Sonny Rollins and especially John Coltrane were among the few well-established jazz artists to welcome the free jazz movement. I kept abreast of the New Music (another name for the "New Thing") by mail-ordering recordings that could seldom be found in the retail record stores. My desire to play jazz was not limited to the bop and post bop which I was eager to learn, but also extended to the music of those young musicians rebelling against the expressive limitations they perceived in previous types of jazz. Learning of this same interest in my new friend was most refreshing, because I heretofore hadn't known anyone who shared my taste for avant garde jazz. From this first encounter with Thomas Reese, I felt that we were kindred spirits.
Thomas became a frequent participant in the Sunday jam at the Escape Club on Fort Worth's West Freeway. It was the only such open session for jazz musicians in Fort Worth at that time. The Flamingo Club on Evans Avenue had a fine organ trio (Hammond B3, guitar and drums) but pianists and bassists were therefore not part of the Flamingo's scene. Reese really needed the chance to keep active and our gig provided that, although he was accustomed to playing with musicians far superior to most of us at our Sunday set. Sometimes, Reese would play Adrian Watts' set of drums, and I would get to play with him. Reese had a happenin' thing on drums, and I felt inspired, never intimidated. The reason I didn't feel intimidated is because already the sense of real friendship was strong and although I truly looked up to him, it was easy to relax in his company.
I invited him to come visit me and check out some of the newest sounds from the avant garde. Reese was receptive to the idea and a series of visits followed, sometimes separated by many months. Typically, he'd call from the bus station downtown. My gigging schedule left my days free, so whenever he called I was on hand to provide his ride. During the course of more than a dozen years, Reese had day jobs, some of which didn't last very long. There was one period, however, when he remained on the same "day hang" for an extended time enabling him to buy a car and to feel more independent. From his very first visit through all those that came later, it was a rewarding educational experience for me to simply hear his comments on the artists and their music. As a collector of LPs I literally had them in rows, standing propped up against a wall. He'd look through the albums slowly, carefully reading the pertinent info. Sometimes he'd make no comment, but often he did, and the sight of some would earn an exclamation of excitement! It was through this routine that I would gradually learn something about his associations with other jazz players. It was only upon seeing the name in a personnel listing that Reese would acknowledge his ties with heavyweight jazz men. He'd point to a name and begin..." This stud here is a player, I knew him in St. Louis..." He would fill me in on their musical activities and perhaps add some other observations. In addition to his obvious affiliation wih Julius Hemphill, I learned in this manner about his link to Ronald Jackon (later known as Shannon Jackson). Reese held the Charles Tyler LP on which Jackson had recently made his recording debut. Reese referred to Jackson as "Roundhouse", a nickname known only to insiders. On another occasion he became excited when seeing his friend John Hicks listed as pianist on a Sonny Simmons record. We listened to the whole album, much to Reese's obvious enjoyment. The trumpeter Lester Bowie, just then beginning to make a name for himself in conjunction with the Art Ensemble of Chicago, would visit Thomas Reese while in Fort Worth for short periods of time. Reese himself had once played trumpet, and on one Sunday afternoon brought it with him to my house where I recorded us playing the old standard "Blue Moon". The acoustic bass was another instrument he'd played in the past, but it was the piano Reese had settled on, and when he played the piano at my pad, you can believe I listened. He was adept at using spread-out left-hand chord voicings when I relied on close-voiced chords. Hearing him do this encouraged me to start striving for more variety in my playing...all to the good! I never officially took lessons from Thomas Reese, but he was a mentor to whom I'm indebted. My record collection served as a "lending library" for my friend, and I didn't hesitate to let him take as many LPs home with him as he wished. Often there would be a dozen or more. I never worried about not getting them back, even though I treasured them. Reese always returned all of my records, and always in the same condition as when they left my house.
Long after the Escape Club jazz session had become history, I'd still get to hear Reese play in different contexts. I enjoyed hearing him in a trio setting, especially when in the company of bassist Charles Scott, or his brother Nathaniel. The better the other musicians were, the more uninhibited Reese played. One night he brought Julius Hemphill to my house. It happened to coincide with a time when my brother was at home. Jerry played acoustic bass, I had a snare drum and cymbal for my pacification (and probably the others' irritation!) while Julius wailed on the alto and I heard Thomas playing some of those dark chords I immediately recognized as familiar voicings of pianist/composer Andrew Hill. The best I ever heard Reese play was in the 1970's when he had a regular gig three nights a week at The Recovery Room in Dallas. I think it was structured so that Reese played on Red Garland's nights off. The line-up was Marchel Ivery, tenor saxophone; Thomas Reese, piano; Charles Scott, bass; Walter Winn, drums. It is likely that James Clay frequently sat in with his friend Marchel as they often liked to do the two-tenors thing. I heard Reese with this group and realized I had never before heard him really inspired, with his chops up. Only a steady gig with primo players can bring out this wondrous and energetic free-wheeling creativity. I've said to many musicians, Thomas Reese could not be touched when he was "on". Of the numerous times I heard Reese play in different settings with various musicians, it was indeed only a precious few times that I had the privilege of hearing Reese perform up to his full potential. It was one hell of a natural phenonenom, awe-inspiring to those of us who witnessed a ferocious storm of spontaneous music.
Maybe it's because Fort Worth is like a small town, but Reese and I would happen upon each other quite often. I was playing the Three Stags Club at a hotel called Green Oaks Inn, when I encountered Reese in the hallway on my break. He was headed for a banquet room where he was to play later that night. After my own gig finished, I hung out in the doorway next to the trio, and absorbed more about the Red Garland approach than I'd previously known. The upright piano was a bit out of tune, the room was noisy...and for whatever reason Reese stuck pretty much to the locked-hand style while I was there. The trio had a nice groove, but I don't recall if I knew who the other players were. I believe the bassist was Clayton Mitchell, whom I was yet to meet. I also had gigs playing bass (I had owned a Kay upright since 1964, and began seriously trying to play bass in the late 1960's). On bass I worked with pianist John Pointer's Trio at the Club Malibu. Actually it was the drummer's gig - his name was Monte Gillium. We played other clubs, including Boozie's Lounge, where Reese strolled in one night. He played two or three tunes, at Pointer's invitation. There was another haunt in the black community where Reese and I played regularly on Sundays, with me on bass. The name has left me, and so have the names of places where we played only one time. My bro Jerry was on a few of those gigs with Reese, the club names and dates are now far beyond recall.
At some point Reese was actually with a "commercial" funk-type band. He played electric piano with Six Feet Under, and although I never heard the group, my brother had occasion to hear them and confirmed that it was a good group of the type. I certainly did hear Reese on keyboard at several different night spots. After I had married, Kitty learned of the Bob Stewart Trio playing a gig not far from our home. Again in a hotel club, we went to hear Reese with the trio, and he sounded good on the Fender Rhodes piano. Reese was among my subs at Sardines, where the house piano was a Yamaha grand. I remember him coming by to sit in and when he turned the piano back over to me the impression I had, following what I'd just heard from Reese, was that my playing sounded mechanical and sterile. Another lesson...I resolved to work harder to avoid falling into that trap.
Years later Reese and a lady came by Sardines one night, sat at a table and listened. At break time, he introduced me to Elise Wood, a flute player and friend of John Hicks, who had been booked into the Caravan of Dreams. I implored Reese to play something. Time limitations, however, dictated they couldn't stay very long: Reese and Elise had hurried over to my gig between the two nightly shows at the Caravan of Dreams. Ms. Wood was complimentary of my playing and I was flattered at the thought that they'd actually come to hear me play, being that she was in town with Reese's famous friend, direct from New York City. I recalled how Reese, many years prior to this night, had educated me about John Hicks, who was destined to earn his stellar reputation in the jazz center of the world.
I haven't talked about Reese's demeanor. He was an unusual cat and he was unusually quiet. I'd seen him in white clubs but also in some black clubs where few whites would go. He was much the same, a very reserved..almost shy but thoughtful personality. He had the "slow walk" down! I term it thus and I'd try to match his ultra-slow pace whenever we were walking together to or fro a gig site. I can tell you, his gait was - slow - to the extreme. He had a thin frame, often wore a coat and a groove fedora hat. When Reese was surprised at suddenly seeing an old friend, he had this loose dance-like body movement that seemed to radiate a joyful greeting: "Well look here!!" With a smile he'd speak, tagging that hip gesture: "aw man, good to see you... how've you been?" Obversely, whenever confronted by a beligerent white man with a racist attitude, he could deflect the antagonism with his quiet but firm adherence to Black Pride. He refused to engage in counterproductive banter.
He could be funny. Some of his expressions were very humorous. Before I started my stint at Sardines restaurant, three other pianists had played that gig. The first was Al Malacara, a fine jazz pianist who was classically trained. Nevertheless, Al had his personal style of playing jazz that avoided the usual tell-tale signs of academia. On my first date with Kitty, I took her to hear him play solo while we had an Italian dinner. Sometime later, I saw Reese and related the experience of hearing Al suddenly go into a very modernistic, advanced musical excursion which left me without a clue regarding whether it was improvised or written or where in the hell it came from, as the harmony was very different. I told Reese: "Al played something that scared me!" Reese chuckled a bit with "oh yeah?" and was obviously amused. He brought up the subject months later. "You remember that time you said Al scared you? Yeah I heard him doing that too". Just like me, Reese seemed mystified at what he'd heard. Then he summed it up: "Yeah, man...Al's got some secret shit!" Later I learned that Al was playing Bartok, then it all made sense to me, and I'm sure to Reese as well.
One unforgettable night for Kitty and me was when a special engagement at the Caravan of Dreams jazz club brought together many alumni from Fort Worth's I.M. Terrell High School, an all-black school during segregated times, known for producing an unusually high number of formidable jazz musicians. On the stage that night, playing together in their hometown as they had not in decades, were Dewey Redman, Ornette Coleman, Prince Lasha, Charles and Nathaniel Scott, Charles Moffett and Thomas Reese. After closing my set at Sardines Ristorante Italiano, I rushed with Kitty downtown to the Caravan where we heard the last set, and caught a very inspired Thomas Reese at the grand piano, not playing it safe with Red Garland chords, but burnin' like nobody's business - true creativity in motion, which is what jazz is all about. Kitty became one of his biggest fans that night. Forever-after, whenever Kitty encountered Thomas Reese, she'd let him know how much she loved his playing. We saw him a few times in the eighties and a couple of times he came to visit in the 1990's. He told me that "Roundhouse" was moving back to Fort Worth. This was exciting news. Ronald Shannon Jackson had made an international name for himself in the decades since that debut recording with Charles Tyler in 1966. Jackson had played in New York with Charles Mingus briefly, then had longer stints with Ornette Coleman, Albert Ayler and Cecil Taylor. He made recordings with all three of those titans of free jazz before striking out on his own and forging a successful career with his band, The Decoding Society, which played his original music.
Once relocated in Fort Worth, Shannon Jackson seldom played locally, but practiced routinely and rehearsed with various Fort Worth musicians. His name stature was such that he booked gigs overseas for a substantial fee, thus enabling him to make do with only one or two concerts a year. Reese was part of Jackson's band in the mid-1990's when they played a concert in London and recorded "Shannon's House" for Koch International. The CD has consistently been available since its initial release. Two of the recorded works are by Thomas Reese: Hymn to Mandella and Midnight Sermon. He is heard on keyboards alongside another talented Fort Worth performer/composer, the tenor saxophonist Rachella Parks.
While playing late one night at the relocated Sardines restaurant, my dear friend walked in and up to the bandstand. I eagerly greeted him with a hug, as it had been years since we'd seen each other. Reese was accompanied by another man, whom he introduced to me as "Roundhouse" Shannon Jackson. After my last set came to a close, I sat with them for a long, satisfying conversation. Jackson asked me what had brought me to jazz. I told him it was hearing a record of Wynton Kelly playing a blues called "Old Clothes". Mostly though, I listened to these longtime friends reminisce about jazz in Fort Worth during the 1950's, including a time when Ornette returned home from California and brought Don Cherry with him for a gig. Reese and Jackson were both in attendance. I had often heard Reese speak about a club called the China Doll, but this evening there were clubs mentioned I'd never heard of before. They recalled famous jazz artists coming through town, playing one club or another in the black community without the white public ever having a clue about the event. No advertising (outside the community) was necessary to fill one of the local joints where jazz was played. Reese recalled how he had reacted the very first time he heard a record by Thelonious Monk: "Man, I understood him right off!" I laughed because it seemed natural that Reese would groove on Monk at a time when many folks found Monk's music bewildering. Reese credited me with having introduced Albert Ayler's music to him, back around the time we first met. Ironically, Ronald Shannon Jackson was destined to become his drummer. We talked about Ayler. Jackson was certain a major biography was to be published within a year. The only one I am aware of (by Jeff Schwartz) had already been published online. The author's acknowledgements include Kitty and John Case because I supplied the author with a French recording of Ayler and Kitty translated the French liner notes into English. Jackson was not happy that the author hadn't tracked him down for a personal interview, but relied on information second hand...an article on Jackson that had appeared in Downbeat. I felt that Jackson had a valid point in saying that a biographer would be better served by talking directly with the people close to the author's subject. On the way out to the parking lot, Jackson chided me for not recognizing him on a previous occasion when he had come to the original Sardines. Perhaps I should have known him because I'd seen Jackson giving testimony at the funeral of James Clay in early 1995. What could I say? I told Jackon the truth: "I'm sorry man I didn't know it was you!"
As a result of this reunion with Thomas Reese, I began calling on him again to sub for me at the "new" Sardines (we'd relocated due to eminent domain having pushed the restaurant out of its original location). He subbed mostly on the solo piano nights, but also at least once with the trio on a weekend. Once when Jerry Case was flying into the area, I took the night off so Kitty and I could pick up my brother at the airport, then drive to the restaurant so the three of us could have dinner and listen to Thomas Reese. It was wonderful hearing him again, and it was some of the best solo playing I'd ever heard him do. He also seemed happy to be back into playing situations such as this restaurant offered. After all, it was indeed a jazz gig.
One winter night, Reese came out to see me, and I was on break when he walked in. We sat at the bar. He told me he'd just learned that he had a terminal illness. My heart sank when I heard his words. He said ever since the doctor gave him the bad news, he'd been "feeling a little queasy". We sat there together, not saying anything for a while until Reese began talking about musicians in his neighborhood and some distant relatives who were musicians. Some were names I was familiar with, others weren't. I was still learning from him, although much of what he said didn't fully register, or not enough to stay with me. After awhile he left, and when I came home to Kitty I had to share the saddest news that we would be losing one of the most soulful spirits among our friends. Rachella Parks and I decided to co-host "A Tribute to Thomas Reese" to be held at Sardines on Sunday, April 18, 2004.
In addition to numerous circulars we distributed to publicize the event, Ken Shimamoto's article in Fort Worth Weekly ("The Show") featured a photo of Reese along with a thoughtful write-up. I will quote the opening paragraph: "When Thomas Reese and Ronald Shannon Jackson were teenagers in the segregated Fort Worth of the 1950's, it was pianist Reese who introduced budding drummer Jackson to jazz in the form of a record by Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. By the late 1970's, Reese was playing weekend gigs at the Recovery Room on Lemmon Avenue in Dallas with saxophonist Marchel Ivery and his quartet. It was fast company - Reese would occasionally relinquish the piano bench to Red Garland, a former member of the classic late-50's Miles Davis Quintet - but Reese was equal to the task, a player of deep feeling and impeccable swing."
Shimamoto's article goes on to cite Reese's bout with cancer, which rendered him unable to work and left him struggling to pay for health care. This was definitely a time to pay tribute to this largely unheralded but masterful jazz musician. Word of this event also was broadcast on public radio. Of course the circular was prominently displayed in windows and elsewhere at Sardines Ristorante Italiano, the most natural choice for a tribute venue. It's safe to say everyone who knew Thomas Reese was willing and able to help spread the word and eager to help in any possible way. Reese was much-loved and respected by everyone who knew him.
The guest of honor arrived with family members several minutes before the slated 5:00 PM starting time. They were seated at a long table close to the bandstand. It's doubtful that any other event in Fort Worth has attracted as many jazz musicians from the neighboring larger city of Dallas, a real indication of the high esteem in which Thomas Reese was held in the North Texas jazz community. On this occasion Dallas and Fort Worth musicians merged in a musical outpouring of love and support. Although Reese did not feel up to playing, the participants included pianists Roger Boykin, Frank Hailey, D.J. Sullivan, John Pointer, Joey Carter, Red Young and myself; bassists Bruce Mendoza, Brandon Nelson, Alex Camp, Kyp Green, Byron Gordon; guitarists Dave Marcus, Clint Strong, Keith Wingate; trombonist Pat Brown; multi-instrumentalist Chris White (trumpet & flute); trumpeter Freddy Jones; violinist Jennifer Bryan; tenor saxophonist (and co-host for this event) Rachella Parks with church musicians; tenor saxophonist Dave Williams; trumpeter Bill Atwood; drummers and percussionists Lamar Favors; Ron Thayer, Jaelun Washington, Daniel Tcheco, Duane Durrett, Don Sowell, Ahmad Medina plus vocalist Carla Norris-Hopkins. One very special moment for Thomas Reese was the presentation of "Father's Verse", a reading by his daughters Dwana Mishun Reese and Twyla Reese-Hornsby. The attendees also included the talented Toby Guynn, who made an audio recording of the entire event and Marjorie Crenshaw, truly Fort Worth's perennial "First Lady of Jazz". Marchel Ivery could not attend but sent a generous donation to assist with medical costs. Many, if not all of those in attendance filled the tip jar with cash and checks presented to Thomas Reese and family at the conclusion of the show around 11:00 PM. Some folks were surprised that Reese had managed to stay for the whole show. He was still strong enough to pose for numerous photos outside the restaurant. Reese expressed deep gratitude to everyone for their love and support.
Thomas Wesley Reese was born July 22, 1937 in Gladewater, Texas. His parents, Amos and Estella Wesley Reese, moved to Fort Worth when Thomas was very young. He attended public elementary school and graduated from I.M. Terrell High School in 1955. Afterward, Reese attended Lincoln University in Missouri. It was during this time Thomas married Faye Perry and they had three children. Reese played music professionally for almost 50 years, eventually becoming known as the "Elder Statesman" of Fort Worth jazz musicians. Thomas Reese passed away February 10, 2005. Survivors include his wife Faye Reese, his son Derek, daughters Twyla Reese Hornsby and her husband James, and Dwana Mishun Reese, two grandchildren and one grandchild. Celebratory Services were held on a wet and dreary Wednesday afternoon, Febuary 16, 2005 at Saint Andrew's United Methodist Church on Missouri Avenue in Fort Worth. The Officiating Pastor was the Reverend Doctor Luther Henry. Musical performances were by Marjorie Crenshaw ("Come Sunday") and myself ("Someday My Prince Will Come"). Services included heartfelt testimonies from friends and associates. Particularly memorable was the testimony of vocalist Carla Norris-Hopkins. Other musicians paying their respects were John Pointer, Duane Durrett and Ronald Shannon Jackson. David Washington was there to represent both himself and his wife, the tenor saxophnist Rachella Parks, who had been hospitalized. I was left wondering about some things Thomas had told me regarding his interest in Buddhism. His personality, his whole character seemed to harbor the wisdom I associate with that eastern religion. I was in fact under the impression he had become a Buddhist.
As we stood outside the church, Marjorie Crenshaw spoke to me about Thomas, and how she'd known the Reese family since the early 1940's when Thomas was a small child. Every Sunday the Crenshaws, Reeses and numerous other families attended Saint Andrew's United Methodist Church where the funeral had just taken place. Marjorie could remember Thomas playing outside the church building, more interested in the fun of childhood games than in hearing the Sunday sermon. Marjorie's words gave me a deep sense of the continuity of these families, their longevity in terms of community, religion and culture. Burial of Thomas Reese was in the Garden of Paradise at Cedar Hill Memorial Park in Arlington, Texas.
Shannon Jackson: SHANNON'S HOUSE - Rachella Parks, Thomas Reese, others. Rec. March 19/20, 1996 Koch International CD 3-7834-2H1
Carla Norris-Hopkins: HELLO, I REMEMBER - Reese on 2 selections w. Alex Camp, Roger Boykin, Andrew Griffith. Issued 2005 YESIAM CD
Dewey Redman in Concert with Thomas Reese, James Gilyard, Duane Durrett. Recorded in Houston, Texas 1995 cassette transferred to CD-R
Thomas Reese Trio with Charles Scott & Larry Reynolds live recording, date unknown. archival recording - cassette transferred to CD-R
Thomas Reese & Johnny Case: Reese on trumpet at the Case home - probably early 1970's. archival recording - tape on reel transferred to CD-R
more detailed info to come......
Thanks to all the performers and listeners for making this year's event one of the best yet! Since the beginning of this annual event, multi-instrumentalist Roger Boykin of Dallas, Texas has been Master of Ceremonies and primo performer on alto sax, flute and guitar. He's also a fine pianist, but he lets me and Kelly Durbin handle piano duties. As co-founders of the James Clay tribute, Duane Durrett and I appreciate Gracey Tune's enthusiastic help in providing Arts Fifth Avenue (in Fort Worth) as our venue. Regular performers include James Gilyard, bass; Bob Stewart and Duane Durrett, drums; Lou Harlas, bass; Brad Leali, alto sax, with guests James Shannon, guitar; Clyde George, organ; Clint Strong, guitar; Jack Evans, trumpet; Chris McGuire, trumpet and reeds; Tom Burchill, guitar; Harold Bosarge, drums; Fred Sanders, piano; Lynn Seaton, bass; Randy Lee, tenor sax; Buddy Mohmed, bass and vocalists Carla Norris-Hopkins, Sandra Kaye, Cynthia Scott, Tatiana Mayfield and Victor Cager. Some of the talented musicians in attendance this year included Curtis Bradshaw, David Perrine, Raymond George, Rachella Parks and Marjorie Crenshaw, who is a regular attendee. We who perform are honored that members of the Clay family have attended every year, including James' widow Billye Clay of Dallas and their son Randle, who is currently working and residing in Florida. The arts writer Bill Martin and Tom Kellam of the Fort Worth Jazz Archives were present again this year, and Martin told me that our tribute to James Clay is his favorite of such events, because it has the warmest sense of community, and is a heartfelt expression of love by all who knew the lengendary jazz tenor man. We look forward to the 8th annual "Remembering James Clay" at Arts Fifth Avenue in Fort Worth slated for September 2016.
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Compilation CD by Johnny Case honors tenor saxophonist James Clay
H E A V Y I S H I S L E G A C Y
In Homage to James Clay who lived from 1935 to 1995
1 SONNYMOON FOR TWO (Sonny Rollins)
2 ALL BLUES (Miles Davis)
3 BODY AND SOUL (Green-Heyman-Sour-Eyton)
4 SOFTLY AS IN A MORNING SUNRISE (Sigmund Romberg)
James Clay, tenor sax; Johnny Case, piano; Jim Perkins, amplified bass; Dave Breashears, drums. Recorded live at the Caravan of Dreams in Fort Worth, Texas - November 1988
5 ELEVATION (Gerry Mulligan-Elliott Lawrence)
Johnny Case, piano; Chris Clarke, bass; Mark Lignell, drums. Recorded live @ J.R.'s Place in Fort Worth, Texas - 1980
6 FIVE WILL GET YOU TEN (Sonny Clark*)
Johnny Case, piano; Duane Durrett, drums; Byron Gordon, bass; Sylvester Jones, tenor sax. Rehearsal for a concert (Jazz by the Boulevard) recorded 2004 at Sardines Ristorante Italiano, Fort Worth, Texas.
7 BLUES FOR BROTHER GEORGE JACKSON (Archie Shepp)
Chris White, trumpet; Sylvester Jones, tenor sax; Johnny Case, piano; Byron Gordon, bass; Joey Carter, drums. Recorded March, 2005.
Liner Notes by Johnny Case
HEAVY IS HIS LEGACY
Decades have passed since the soulful tenor saxophone jazz artistry of James Clay first reached my ear. It was a live set at an after-hours club on Fort Worth's south side. He was what some call a journeyman, his travels through the world of music still revealing jewels found in surprising places. As testimony to this man's greatness, the musicians who heard him in person invariably remember their first hearing of James Clay. Why? Simply said, it's because these attentive listeners knew, by his music, that they were hearing the "real thing". His gift to communicate goes beyond the usual standards of many talented artists. Such direct playing from the heart distinguishes Clay's musical statements and separates his artistry from the often admirable work of his contemporaries. It wasn't for nothing that his nickname was "Heavy". His slender frame embodied a powerful vibrant spirit we can hear from the earliest recorded examples until the last days of his life. Late in his life, I once had the strange impression that a gust of wind could eradicate what had become a frail and fragile existence. Yet upon hearing the huge sound and still-vital expression coming from within his being, I sensed that the music itself was all that remained of James Clay. Soon his music and physical presence would both be gone.
This compilation is a tribute to the great jazzman it was my privilege to know and to perform with on various occasions. The first four selections on this CD are from one such occasion in November of 1988 at the Caravan of Dreams jazz nightclub in Fort Worth, Texas. My friend Duane Durrett, a prominent drummer and jazz educator had asked my trio to perform at a fundraiser for the college where Durrett had long before established an impressive jazz program. Under Duane's direction, the band had performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival with David "Fathead" Newman. At the fundraiser, the Weatherford College Lab Band performed a set prior to the scheduled time for my trio. As a bonus, their band had a special guest soloist for this event, the veteran tenor saxophonist James Clay. Durrett and Clay had long been musical associates, so I was not overly surprised at this additional treat.
When it was time for my trio to go on, I sat down at the Bosendorfer piano which had been brought in for Cecil Taylor, whose Fort Worth engagement had ended the night before. Suddenly, James Clay came walking across the stage toward me. He was wearing a nice suit and he looked great. I'll never forget how humbly he asked: "Would it be okay?" My surprise was surpassed only by my delight that we would perform together again. It had been several years since our last encounter. Neither he nor I knew there would be a recording of our performance. Later I would learn that my young drummer, Dave Breashears, had asked the soundman at the Caravan of Dreams to make a "souvenir" recording of our set. What is most evident on this recording is James Clay's towering spirit. Even a casual listen will reveal several reasons for Clay's stature among his peers. This document also makes clear why the nickname "Heavy" is most appropriate for this thin man of jazz whose true weight resided in his full-bodied tone, the immediacy of his statements, a total musicality projecting great depth with each James Clay performance.
Three additional selections complete this disc. The Johnny Case Trio circa 1980 is heard performing Gerry Mulligan's Elevation, live from J.R.'s Place, a Fort Worth venue that provided this pianist his first full-time jazz gig. We played six nights a week. Bassist Chris Clarke and drummer Mark Lignell were both students at North Texas State University, later known as UNT or the University of North Texas. The school is known world-wide for its jazz program.
The following track, Sonny Clark's Five Will Get You Ten, is from a rehearsal for a 2004 concert at Jazz by the Boulevard, an annual jazz festival in Fort Worth that ended circa 2010. This quartet was co-led by Johnny Case and Duane Durrett, shortly after the CD release of Waiting for the Moment on Sea Breeze Jazz.
* In recent years, there has been speculation that Thelonious Monk, not the credited Sonny Clark, was the true composer of this piece, and that Monk's title for it was Two-Timer. From a purely musical perspective, it could have been written by either composer, so the mystery is likely to remain unsolved.
The closing track is a Case quintet performance of Archie Shepp's homage to black political prisoner George Jackson. The tenor and trumpet front line evokes the familiar jazz atmosphere of those decades when James Clay periodically appeared in national and international venues, yet more frequently graced some obscure clubs throughout his home base of Dallas/Fort Worth. This premier Texas Tenor, who was among the most spontaneous of players, never failed to convey love, passion and truth, regardless of the context or material. What more can any artist give than the eloquent and soulful expression of life's greatest treasures such as we hear in the music of James Earl Clay?
Note: Johnny Case issued this CD-R in 2013 and presented it to the Clay family at the 5th annual "Remembering James Clay" event at Arts Fifth Avenue. HEAVY IS HIS LEGACY is not for sale, but copies were given to attendees who made contributions to tenor saxophonist Rachella Parks' tax-exempt medical research organization, The Sarcoidosis Foundation of Texas.