Jerry Case is a jazz guitarist unlike any other. I say this not because he is among the relatively few 7-string guitarists, nor does his individuality arise from a radical approach to music or to the instrument. His influences are mostly familiar names, yet when we listen to Case, those influences aren't
obvious. They did play, however, an important role in his musical development.
Speaking as one who witnessed my older brother's progress, he's always been such his own person, whenever he copped musical ideas from others, it amazed me to hear those ideas undergo an immediate re-personification when played by him! The technique, the attack, and Jerry's mind directing his hands' movements caused the "stolen" motif to suddenly bear his personal stamp. Most creative musicians dream of having their own style or sound. Many work hard in hopes of achieving this. Having a unique approach to playing guitar came so naturally to my brother, I believe the persona that is Jerry Case inhabits the music he plays...totally. That's as it should be, yet for many sincere and talented musicians, it remains a goal almost impossible to realize.
Jerry Case was born November 24, 1943 in Washington, D.C. His parents were transplanted Texans serving the country during World War Two. J.C. Case worked at the Naval Observatory, but near the war's end the Case family returned to Texas. J.C. and Floy Case were musical, so it's no surprise that J.C. gave Jerry his first instruction on guitar when Jerry was ten. Within a few months, father and son were performing together on local radio programs in Paris, Texas. At age eleven, Jerry was teaching guitar to other youngsters. A local newspaper story about the prodigy was picked up by the Associated Press, and subsequently reprinted in various other newspapers. Throughout the late 1950's, Jerry was in demand for backing vocalists, all of whom were a bit older than he. Television appearances and guest spots on the famed Big "D" Jamboree provided the budding young musician with invaluable experience, the solid foundation for the professional musician he was destined to become.
Upon completion of high school, Jerry fulfilled a year-long military obligation as the National Guard was called to active duty because of the Berlin Wall Crisis. He and some buddies began playing dances on their off time. When they returned to civilian life, they continued to play together. This led to an encounter in Lawton, Oklahoma with professional western swing musicians whose playing inspired Jerry to reach the next musical plateau. Jerry accomplished this with apparent ease after guitarist Bobby Davis befriended him and soon had Jerry placed in the band of a Liberty recording artist (Joe Carson). The Carson band and subsequent road gigs allowed Jerry to develop more of the jazz-oriented ideas that had become most appealing to him.
His chordal approach flourished in a pop combo led by vocalist Judy Kaye, and when he later backed Bob Wills ("King of Western Swing"), Jerry's solos registered favorably on the "old man's" face, although Jerry's style was a bit more sophisticated than what one usually hears in this context. A Nashville recording session with Wills in 1966 reveals Jerry's jazz-tinged style as heard in fills behind vocalist Leon Rausch. Also, the Eldon Shamblin-style rhythm guitar playing by Jerry, has the unusual distinction of being true to the source, yet somehow is heard anew in a fresh rendition. This is most apparent on the intro to Big Balls in Cowtown, where the rhythm guitar is very prominent. The session bassist Bob Moore had instructed the engineer: "Hey, bring that rhythm guitar up in the mix, he's playing some good shit!"
It was when Jerry Case was with Bob Wills that he adapted his guitar into a 7-stringed instrument. His inspiration was George Van Epps, whose peerless guitar stylings inspired others to do likewise. Jerry honed his playing skills in the context of jazz-influenced pop groups. He also relished sitting in with the jazz stalwarts in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. The veteran jazz musicians included Red Garland, James Clay and Charles Scott. Jerry performed with Hank Crawford and James Clay at a Fort Worth jazz festival held at a black club called The Malibu. During the 1970's, Jerry was a mainstay in the popular Bill Swift 3 + 1 combo, which for several years featured the superb vocalist Drenda Barnett fronting the group.
A series of jazz albums, begun by his younger brother (yours truly) was recorded between 1970 and 1986. Many of these featured Jerry Case. As the LPs were issued, reviews in national jazz magazines and European publications would extol the merits of guitarist Jerry Case. Of the 1975 LP Eclipse, Bob Rusch (Cadence Magazine) described the two side-long performances as "bold, assertive music". A later record, titled Jazz Potpourri, earned this notice from the international publication Jazz Forum: "Although little-known to the world at large, the Case Brothers and their crew sound like a vital addition to the contemporary mainstream." The critic Carl Brauer was specific in bestowing the highest praise: "Particularly memorable are the three solo performances by Jerry Case. He brings to each piece first-rate technique coupled with a keen harmonic sense such that his approach has an original stamp to it." Brauer concludes his review with this pensive observation: "At a time when the jazz world seems blessed with many highly talented guitarists covering the whole spectrum of musical styles, it would be unfortunate if a musician as singularly talented as Jerry Case was overlooked." Bob Rusch summed up his Cadence review of Jazz Potpourri in concise wording distinctly Ruschian: "He (Jerry Case) is a bitch of a guitarist and this is a bitch of a record..."
The natural follow-up to this record did not come until the mid-1980's. Jerry's Solo Guitar Artistry received accolades from those already familiar with his style and gained a fanatical admirer in jazz guitarist Robert Yelin, who also published a jazz guitar catalog: "This is a magnificent 7-string solo guitar album. Case plays in a contrapuntal style similar to George Van Epps but Case's chords are more modern. Case plays chord melody style with the melody, chords and bass lines all being played at once!! He's incredible! The tunes are all between 3 1/2 and 4 1/2 minutes long. Each time around on the same song Case changes the harmony. It's like hearing the same song played by four or five different guitarists! I've never heard anything like that before!! There are 10 tunes on the album and they are all great. GET THIS ALBUM!! IT'S A TREASURE!!"
Armed with this new release, Jerry Case moved to Los Angeles in mid-1986. He soon met bassist Eugene Wright who loved Jerry's playing and hired him for several "casuals". Ozzie Cadena, formerly affiliated with important jazz record labels Savoy and Prestige, had become a booking agent in L.A. where he booked Jerry for solo guitar and other gigs. Fellow Texan Red Young, organist, arranger and over-all music activist, included Jerry with his own group to play a special birthday party for Natalie Cole in the Capitol Records building. Attendees included Horace Silver and Nina Simone (a guest from France). In short, Jerry Case found general acceptance within the L.A. jazz community soon after his arrival. Eventually, he settled into a home-base gig at Casey's Tavern, but augmented this with a myriad of other jazz gigs ranging from solo, duo, to small groups of three to six players. The pianist and arranger Bob Hammer, multi-reed masters Irv Cox and John Sitar, bassists Art Davis, Kristin Korb, Jim Bates, pianist/composer Leroy Lovett, trumpeter Stacy Rowles, fellow Texan/guitarist Jimmy Wyble and many other primo musicians are among the performers with whom Jerry Case has made creative music on the west coast.
In addition to the series of albums Jerry Case recorded before leaving Texas, he has since recorded with Alexis Donnelly, the Lee Lovett Orchestra, the Bill Kalmenson Sextet with Jon Nagourney, and he has co-led a trio CD with Jon Nagourney that has Richard Maloof and Eugene Wright alternating on bass.
1966 - FROM THE HEART OF TEXAS: Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys Kapp KL-1506 LP
1970 - THE SOUNDS OF MSA (alternate title - The Moods of Maurice Anderson): Maurice Anderson MSA Vol. 2 LP
1973 - PLEASANT DREAMS: John & Jerry Case Quartet/Trio Dawn DSLP-401 LP
1974 - SERENADE: John & Jerry Case Quartet Priority PRS-403 LP
1975 - BST + 1: Bill Swift Trio featuring Drenda Barnett BST no # LP
1976 - TWO MOODS - John & Jerry Case Sextet Priority PRS-405 LP
1977 - SLIM RICHEY'S JAZZ GRASS: Mike "Slim" Richey Ridge-Runner Records RRR0009 LP
1978 - JAZZ POTPOURRI - John & Jerry Case Quintet Priority PRS-406 LP
1986 - SOLO GUITAR ARTISTRY: Jerry Case Priority PRS-410 LP
1987 - THE BEST OF BOB WILLS: Bob Wills (includes selections reissued from the 1966 Kapp LP) MCA MCAD-5917 CD
1998 - ALEXIS DONNELLY SINGS PEGGY LEE: Alexis Donnelly L & R Records no # CD
1999 - ECLECTIC CHRISTMAS: Miss Alexis Donnelly L & R Records CD
1999 - SWINGIN' WITH AN ATTITUDE: Lee Lovett Orchestra WFL Records WFL-10220AB CD
1999 - THINGS ARE SWINGIN': Miss Alexis Donnelly L & R Records CD
2005 - SERENADE: Jerry Case Quartet (CD reissue of Priority LP) Musicase MSO-3 CD
2005 - NUAGES: Jerry Case (CD reissue of Solo Guitar Artistry with additional solo guitar tracks) Musicase MSO-7 CD
2008 - FIRST POINT: Bill Kalmenson Sextet with Jon Nagourney Buffalo Jump Productions CD
2008 - TEXAS SUNSET SUITE: Jhon Kahsen Quartet with Jerry Case Musicase SJA-102 CD
2010 - PERSONALITY: Jon Nagourney / Jerry Case Trio (with Richard Maloof and Eugene Wright) JNJC01 CD
2012 - JAZZ POTPOURRI: John & Jerry Case Quintet (CD reissue of Priority LP, plus bonus track) Musicase no # CD
to be continued...
I've not mentioned the bass playing of Jerry Case. It makes sense that a 7-string guitarist (the added string is a low B, A, or Bb in Jerry's case) "hears" bass lines. Long before he became a 7-string player, Jerry had shown how easily he could play the acoustic bass, swinging and solid, with the choice notes that make all the other instruments sound better! I don't know how he does it, and with such ease. He didn't study bass, although his musicianship must have evolved with his ear absorbing everything about the function of bass as the harmonic and rhythmic foundation to a music group. Whether playing acoustic or electric, he's got the sound and the groove. Quite a number of the recordings in my series made use of his bass playing for the benefit of the other participating musicians, and for the listener who is apt to ask, "Hey man, who's that playin' bass?"
OTHER ARTIST PROFILES WILL SOON BEGIN TO APPEAR ON MY BLOG
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