Bobby Bradford – cornet | James Newton – flute | Richard Rehwald – bass | John Goldsmith – drums | Vinny Golia – clarinet
Recorded live April 2, 1977. Executive Producer: Mike Khoury. Producer: Mark Weber. Photographs: Mark Weber. Mastered by Quincy at Q! Productions. Cover Layout and Design by Mark Rudolph and Mike Johnston
Tracklist: 1. Comin’ On 2. She 3. Improvisation No. 12 4. Blue Monk 5. She (Bonus Track) Bobby Bradford and Vinny Golia – cornert and clarinet)
Recorded by Jeremy Drake, June 9, 2003. Broadcast produced by John Breckow at KPFK, 3729 Cahuenga Blvd, North Hollywood, California.
BOBBY BRADFORD EXTET
Driving the freeways late at night is part of the jazz experience in Los Angeles. And listening to the radio. In the 70s you’d hit the onramp and gun it up to 75 and be wherever you were going in 45 minutes. The freeways were wide open. You’d have to turn the radio loud to drown out the 289 under the hood of your Ford but that wasn’t a problem there were plenty of interesting radio stations. The thing about the 70s was that the entire history of jazz was still alive. For instance, in Los Angeles old Ed Garland was still active, who played with Buddy Bolden in New Orleans and Joe Oliver in Chicago. Barney Bigard was around as well as slap-tongue clarinetest Joe Darensbourg, and even Rosy McHargue! It was like walking through a dream to see these guys.
Everybody is from somewhere else. Only the oaks, sycamores, alders and cottonwoods are native. Everything else is transplanted, the pepper trees, the palms, eucalyptus, elms, jacaronda, mimosa, volkswagens, oranges, all surrounded by coastal mountains full of bears and cougars and bees and ponderosa. The Pacific Ocean breezes keep things cool. We made a deal with San Fernando to keep an eye on the subsurface seismic fault lines.
Best to drive at night so you don’t have to see all the destruction of unrestrained urban sprawl. You only see twinkling lights. The other part of the jazz experience in Los Angeles is the melancholy. What once was Eden is gone, and another kind of blues springs out of that. (To speak of the unresolved racial tensions rampant in Los Angeles is outside my abilities.) Los Angeles is spread out all over the place. It’s huge. Two dozen freeways crisscross town. Jazz clubs were everywhere back then. Down on the beaches were The Lighthouse where you could catch Art Blakey or Betty Carter passing through, and over at Rumsey’s you could catch a set of Max Roach or Kenny Burrell, and at Pasquales up in Malibu you could catch James Newton w/his wind quintet -t koto. Out in the Valley you could catch Warne Harsh at Dontes, or Bob Cooper at Carmelos, or Johnny Guarnieri at the Tail of the Cock, or Clare Fischer & Gary Foster at the Baked Potato.
And out past the zoo was Jimmy Smith’s Supper Club where Ray Crawford was a regular member of Jimmy’s band. Down in Watts was Horace Tapscott and his Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra playing in the parks and churches. Closer to the downtown skyscrapers in Hestlake you could catch Art Pepper at the Maiden Voyage next to that phony lake. And down the road in the Adams District you could drop in on Red Holloway & Sonny Stitt at the Parisian Room. Or Harold Land & Blue Mitchell at the old dixieland stronghold the Beverly Cavern. And further down the road still, you could catch Vinny Golia at the Century City Playhouse. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg. I wrote for CODA jazz magazine during those years and I went everywhere.
KPFK began in 1959 nestled in the hills above the Hollywood Bowl, it has the wide reach of 110,000 watts. You’d have 50,000 listeners to jazz shows on the weekends. This beacon of the far-left/progressive is licensed as a non-commercial station and had an eclectic mix of shows reflecting their altruistic mission statement of serving the community. Then as now, you can still hear Krishnamurti lectures, Gospel Caravan, gay issues, political muckraking, Halfway Down the Stairs with Uncle Ruthie, subversive, radical, “pinko,” refreshingly iconoclastic, nonconformist, Carl Stone’s Imaginary Landscape, (one weekend he organized a live broadcast of a Satie composition… a single tone row repeated 840 times – that took 19 hours!}, multi-cultural, counter-cultural, consciousness expanding, Smoke Rings, Delta blues, poetry w/Uanda Coleman, Atheists United, folkie, The Car Show (John Carter was a regular listener every Saturday afternoon), bio-meditation, etc – they have no jazz shows nowadays (sic transit gloria mundi), but back in the 70s they had half a dozen, with John Breckow, and Jay Green, and others, what great radio it was, too, KPFK inhabits the in-between world in that coastal range of mountains that separates Hollywood from the Valley.
You catch 101 and up in Cahuenga Pass is the 2-story stucco building that is KPFK Radio Pacifica. Chainlink fence, you ring the bell, tell ’em San Fernando sent you, they let you in. Bobby Bradford had a long-standing association with woodwinds maestro John Carter and their band lasted up to the time John died in 1991 of cancer. As well, they both kept separate bands, John his trio, and Bobby with his Extet. (The Extet morphed into the Mo’tet around 1983.)
Bobby had a storefront club in Pasadena those years, called The Little Big Horn where : he played every Wednesday night and Sunday afternoon, so he had a wide assortment of seismologists to choose from for his Extets. (Bradford told the audience, ruefully affable, regarding the composition of this quartet, “Up until we got here tonite it was an ex-tet. X as in unknown.”)(The phenomenal trombonist Glenn Ferris must have had a salsa gig, he was a regular member up to the time he moved to Paris in 1980.) John Goldsmith was around for about a year, he was one of the drummers on Sun Ra’s amazing 1970 Maeght Foundation recordings, as well as Rahsaan’s Lp The Mysterious Phantom. Richard Rehwald was with Bobby for 3 or 4 years and still resides in Pasadena, an invaluable contributor to this music, always. (Roberto Miranda has been Bobby’s first-call bassist since the early 70s.)(Rehwald was not a sub, Bobby has always used several bass players, sometimes on the same gig.)
This session at KPFK is special because there are no formal recordings of Bradford between 1973 and 1983. It was a very active time for him but nothing tangible materialized from a record company. It was the era of disco and reggae. Bobby’s arrangements have always included extensive stretching out for soloists. Each member solos and it s like wandering around the galleries of a museum, you see a different picture with each solo. Theme and variations. Mostly you’d be in the modern art section strolling through impressionistic, abstracted, cubist explorations, and if the paintings could sing, it would be lyrical. Bobby Bradford’s songs always sing.
Bobby spent most of 1973 in London working with John Stevens and Trevor Watts and it is during this period that he switched to cornet. He still keeps a trumpet around, and for awhile in the 70s he toyed with flugelhorn, but for all intents and purposes Bobby Bradford centers his sound on the cornet. His repertoire in the 70s was about a dozen tunes (Kenny Dorham’s “Blue Bossa” was a constant) — he played these songs over & over until they were genetically encoded, internalized, and that is when you’ll be hearing some real playing. How can you really improvise on tunes you don’t know, songs that are not deep down in your soul? I’ve often entertained the notion that a 3-cd set of all the versions of Bobby’s dirge-ballad “Woman” would be a wig flipper because he never plays it the same, ever.
Improvisation is where Bradford lives. He is part of that generation of beboppers that came of age in the 50s, absorbing every Charlie Parker 78 soon as they hit the street. Bradford teaches the science of bebop at both colleges where he is employed. An enterprising graduate student should write a dissertation on the thesis concerning this generation who master’d bebop but strayed into the free jazz expressions of the early 50s. Bradford’s choice was intellectual. (Stanley Crouch in his book CONSIDERING GENIUS calls Bradford one of the most intelligent men he has ever met.) Consequently, Bradford’s tunes will range from chordal/tonal-based compositions, rhythm changes, blues, and free jazz. Of course, his years playing in Ornette’s bands (1953-54, 1961-63, 1971) gave him proof that there was yet another further direction implied by bebop. Proof that our flag was still there.
So, in this land of earthquakes and avocados Bobby Bradford has been playing his craft since the early 60s, and serving as mentor to countless numbers of free jazz artists and historians, it has always been so reassuring to know that Bobby Bradford is there, a true gentleman of the arts. This airshot began at 12:30 on a radio show called Goodbye Porkpie Hat, in the early hours of a Saturday (But, to us it was Friday night) – a midnight broadcast over the Pacifica airwaves. Long may they wave. — Mark Weber, author PLAIN OLD BOOGIE LONG DIVISION (Burning Books) and jazz host ALBUQUERQUE YACHT CLUB, KM radio 18mar08 Albuquerque
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