7th Annual James Clay Tribute

Submitted by johnnycase on Mon, 09/07/2015 - 9:50am

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.    


                                                                                                              *                *                *                            

                                                                 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.



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. 






JERRY CASE - Jazz Guitarist

Submitted by johnnycase on Sun, 03/22/2015 - 10:17pm

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.

                                                                                                                 Select Discography

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


                                                                     Next Artist Profile: THOMAS REESE - pianist and composer


Welcome to Johnny Case Music

Submitted by johnnycase on Wed, 02/25/2015 - 11:27am

Welcome to Johnny Case Music, beautifully designed and realized by Jen Schultes. Her imaginative approach and website implementation expertise should be obvious to anyone who explores the numerous features of this site.

I requested that a blog be included which will serve multiple purposes. I am most eager to pay homage to some of the remarkable musicians I have known during my 52 years in the music profession. Many are gone, but the impact of their music is a permanent part of me, and a vital influence in the music I play.

I love all the arts. I have consistently found that the artists who inspire my accolades are quite often not the well-known names. This strangely (or perhaps not strangely) applies to the various realms…music, drama, painting, poetry and literature. I will no doubt use my blog to speak of many such individuals. They are my inspirators.

Kitty and I chose the new website name in acknowledgement of my varied musical interests, although modern jazz is my most treasured creative mode. Please feel free to contact me on this site.