With just days to go until year-end, it's time once again for my roundup of favorite quotes from JazzWax interviews over the last three months. If you're looking for the other volumes in this series, simply go to the search engine atop the right-hand column and type in the word "Mindblowers."
I created this quarterly feature for readers who missed the original JazzWax interviews and for those who simply want a recap all in one place. Here, then, are 25 mindblowing moments from my recent interviews with Johnny Mandel, Bill Holman, Bud Shank, Creed Taylor, Danny Bank, Ronnell Bright, Loren Schoenberg, Benny Powell and Art D'Lugoff:
Arranger Johnny Mandel on Frank Sinatra: "The only rough word I ever heard from Frank came when I called and asked him if he wanted me to treat the [Ring-a-Ding-Ding] project like a Billy May or Nelson Riddle date. He said [imitating Frank's voice], 'If I wanted them, I’d of called 'em.' I told myself, 'OK, schmuck, shut up.'
Johnny Mandel [pictured] on Johnny Mercer's reluctance to write the lyrics to Mandel's Shadow of Your Smile: "Years later, in a bar, Hoagy said to Johnny [Mercer], 'You had just written Emily with Johnny Mandel with great success. Why didn't you also write The Shadow of Your Smile with him?' Johnny told Hoagy that he feared Hoagy would think the song was too similar to Hoagy's New Orleans. Hoagy paused and said, 'I never even noticed.' After that, every time Johnny Mercer and I would meet, he'd hit himself on the head with his open palm and say, 'I turned that song down, what a dummy.' "
Johnny Mandel on why a jazz score was used for I Want to Live: "I didn't know this at the time but Susan Hayward, the film's star, was a huge Gerry Mulligan fan. [Director] Robert [Wise] and Susan wanted to get him in the film. Gerry was very big at the time."
Bud Shank on appearing in and recording the soundtrack for I Want to Live: "I still shudder at the thought of that film. All of the source music for I Want to Live was performed on the stage next to the one constructed for the death scene! But, of course, performing Johnny's music was never anything but joy."
Johnny Mandel on Buddy Rich: "In 1946, Buddy was still thinking in terms of swing. He liked Benny Goodman’s sound. When I’d play bop in Buddy's band, Buddy would pound me on the chest with his finger and say, 'I hate bebop, I hate Charlie Parker.' "
Johnny Mandel on growing up in New York: "I spent a couple of years going to P.S. 9 on 82d St. and West End Ave. One day my mother dropped me off at school. It was Election Day of 1932, the day Roosevelt was elected president. She didn’t realize there wasn’t school that day. I started wandering around, and they found me conducting traffic on West End Ave. I was seven years old."
Arranger and saxophonist Bill Holman on trumpeter Conte Candoli: "Count had a pretty dry sense of humor. He was very sincere and felt very deeply about music. I remember one night we were playing at this club, and someone walked out making a gesture like he was holding his nose. Conte handed his horn to me and took off after the guy, and made him apologize. [laughs] His attitude was, 'You don’t mess with my band.' "
Producer Creed Taylor on Wes Montgomery: "I took a copy of the Little Anthony 45-rpm [of Goin' Out of My Head] down to play for him. Wes listened to it and said, 'Creed, you must be going out of your head. I can’t do that kind of stuff.' I told Wes, 'Listen to the chord changes and the melody, and you’ll find there’s something there that’s going to be very useful for you in a recording studio.' I also told Wes that Oliver Nelson was arranging and that he already had the chart in his head. 'Forget the vocal and performance,' I told Wes. 'Listen to the changes.' That was the only time I had to talk to Wes in a somewhat uncomfortable situation."
Creed Taylor on helping Wes Montgomery: "Bumpin’ in March 1965 was arranged by Don Sebesky. I remember we had a little trouble there. One of the tracks with strings had a tricky turning point, and Wes couldn’t read music. It got Wes down. He was sitting there looking depressed. Don went over and asked him what was wrong. Wes said, 'All these cats are sitting around with music on their stands. I don’t know what to do.' So I stopped the date. From that point on, Don made a guide track using a Fender Rhodes electric piano for Wes. Don would record it onto a tape. Then he’d give the tape to Wes, who would take it and rehearse on the road. Using the recording, Wes would get the songs down pat. He’d nail all the turnarounds and everything else."
Creed on turning the Mondo Cane theme into a hit in 1963: "I pulled all the popular records of More I could find. All had been recorded as ballads. To hear how the melody would sound at a faster clip, I took a 45-rpm of one of the ballads and doubled the speed to 78 rpm. The melody line sounded great fast. I told Claus [Ogerman] what I wanted to do. I said, 'Let's have a theremin play the strong melody line.' He loved the idea. Up to that point, none of the More ballads had been hits."
Creed Taylor on the cover of Cal Tjader's Hot Sauce: "I had the art director put a bottle of Tabasco on there, and the album took off at the stores. McIlhenny, the maker of the sauce, sued Verve to take the bottle off. To settle, I told them we’d take it off in the next printing. Of course, it never happened. The company was selling a ton of hot sauce by then and quickly forgot about it."
Creed Taylor on how he began recording jazz bossa nova albums: "In 1961 I got a call from guitarist Charlie Byrd. He wanted to play some records for me over the phone. Charlie said the music was new, from Brazil. He knew I liked Latin stuff. As soon as I finished listening to the songs Charlie played through the phone, I called Stan and told him about what I had heard. Then I had Charlie play the music over the phone for Stan. I told Stan he should record a Brazilian music album with Charlie. So Stan and I flew down to Washington, D.C., in February 1962 and we did it. The result was Jazz Samba."
Creed Taylor [pictured] on jazz's influence on the bossa nova: "Stan played the first song, Desafinado. I said, 'Wow, what a weird sounding thing.' As I was listening, I started to realize that the song had a flatted 5th, which is what Dizzy Gillespie had come up with in his song Bebop. In the months that followed, I spoke to Antonio Carlos Jobim, Desafinado's composer, about that flatted 5th. He told me about all the American jazz artists he had listened to in Rio. Of course, the title of Desafinado translated means 'slightly out of tune.' He had used the flatted 5th in Desafinado, and I found that intriguing."
Creed Taylor on the recording of Getz/Gilberto: "Joao [Gilberto] wasn't at the recording session when everyone arrived. So I sent Monica Getz, Stan's wife, over to Joao’s hotel room. She said she found him sitting in the dark playing the guitar. I think he was agoraphobic. Anyway, she got him downstairs, put him in a cab and drove three blocks to the studio. When he arrived, he just took out his guitar and started playing."
Baritone saxophonist Danny Bank on Benny Goodman in the mid-1940s: "Benny liked to rehearse a lot. Not while we were on the road but in New York. He’d call rehearsals for very early in the morning, 7 am usually, and hold them on Carnegie Hall's stage. He liked the way the band sounded there. He had had success there in 1938, of course, and the acoustics were fantastic."
Danny Bank on Benny Goodman's habit of constantly hiring and firing musicians: "Benny was a pain. In those days he hired and fired as soon as he had a great band. He was obsessed with trying to recreate his original band with Harry James and Ziggy Elman. So he’d fire and hire someone else, always tinkering, always trying to improve the band to his liking."
Jazz writer and musician Loren Schoenberg on how Hank Jones coped with Benny Goodman's temperament: "The Hank Jones way involved a hat. When Benny would make a face or start some of his shenanigans, Hank would reach for a hat that he kept on the piano. Benny would see it and cool down."
Pianist Ronnell Bright [pictured] on accompanying Sarah Vaughan in 1958: Sarah was constantly playing tricks on that tour. One time we were about to go on in San Remo, Italy. As I mentioned, I would be the first to walk on stage. As I'd pass by Sarah in the wings, she'd typically hand me a list of songs in the order she wanted to sing them. But on this night in Italy, as I passed her, she let the list drop to the floor on purpose to see if I’d bend down to get it. I didn't. That night we played what I wanted, and Sarah had to follow. [laughing] That was the last time Sass did that."
Trombonist Benny Powell [pictured] on Count Basie: "We wouldn't even add a new chart [to the band's book] unless it had some kind of emotional impact. You have to remember that the band seldom rehearsed, except when we had new material. When that happened, Basie would sit in the audience, just listening, to see whether [the song] had the right kick."
Benny Powell, when asked if the Basie-band solos behind Frank Sinatra were improvised: "No. Quincy had written everything out in terms of who would play behind Frank, when they’d play and what notes they’d play. It wasn’t a loose affair. Frank decided who would play behind him."
Saxophonist Hal McKusick on Neal Hefti and Lil Darlin': "When I asked Neal [pictured] about the song, he said he originally wrote Lil' Darlin' as a medium-uptempo tune. But after Basie ran it down the first time, he asked Neal if the band could try it really slow. Basie said, 'I'm hearing something.' Neal said sure. He knew Basie's instincts were always spot on. Basie said, 'Let me beat it off.' He proceeded to count off Lil' Darlin' at the much slower pace. After it was over, Neal said all he could do was smile and say to Basie, 'You did it.' "
Village Gate owner Art D'Lugoff on Charles Mingus: At around 2 am one night, Charlie [pictured] came into my office at the Village Gate and woke me up. He wanted to apologize. He said, 'Oh, Art, I'm so sorry I threw all those ashtrays at people in the audience.' He said he was flinging them at people who were too noisy. He was as polite as can be when he was telling me this. I said, 'Charles, don't worry about it. I can understand your feelings.' He said, 'Thanks so much, Art,' and quietly left. I always loved booking him."
Art D'Lugoff on jazz: "What you have to remember about all of these jazz musicians is they were very creative people. They were eccentric because they were enormously gifted. They didn't live by everyone else's rules. If they did, they wouldn't have become jazz musicians. They would have been something else."