Back in January, I posted about baritone saxophonist Gil Melle and his Blue Note and Prestige sessions. For the post, I spoke with Hal McKusick, who played with him, and Raymond De Felitta, who grew up down the block from the Melle house in Hollywood. Both Hal and Raymond shed light on the visionary saxophonist, composer, artist, designer and inventor. In fact, all of the Blue Note album covers in this post were designed by Melle.
Last week, I received a lovely email from Denny Melle, wife of the late Gil Melle:
"[Director] Raymond De Felitta sent me a copy of the wonderful article you wrote about Gil. Too bad tributes always start appearing after an artist has died. But at least it's gratifying to know that jazz lovers like yourself won't allow them to be forgotten or their contribution to this unique American art form left un-acknowledged. Hal McKusick's recollections as well as those of Raymond's were heart-warming as well.
"You really did your research on Gil, and there were facts I didn't even know, even though I was married to him for close to 40 years. One thing that really stood out in your article—and you got this one so right—was 'his complete lack of fear about what others thought.' This attribute is what gave him the freedom and daring to explore beyond what was accepted as the norm.
"Although many in the jazz world felt Gil had abandoned his jazz roots when he came to Hollywood to write for film, jazz was always his first and foremost love, and he would always try and find a way to weave in an element of it in his film and television scores.
"Gil often liked to tell a story about Blue Note's Alfred Lion and Gil's early association with engineer Rudy van Gelder at the start of the 1950s. Gil said that when he first told Alfred about Rudy and how blown away he was by the new form of recording Rudy was using called 'tape,' he wanted Alfred to come over right away to Rudy's studio to take a listen.
"Alfred, with that thick German accent of his said, "Vas ist tape?" Of course, the rest is history.
"Thanks again, Marc."