Jack Tracy (1927-2010), a Down Beat editor in the early 1950s who became a formidable jazz record producer starting at the end of the decade and whose recordings included the Benny Golson-Art Farmer Jazztet, died on December 21. He was 83. [Photo of Art Farmer, Jack Tracy and Benny Golson by Chuck Stewart, courtesy of Steven Cerra]
Jack's name and liner notes graced many of Mercury's jazz and pop albums of the period. He soon was sent to run the Los Angeles offices. But once the folk-revival movement began in earnest in the early 1960s followed by the British Invasion, he struggled to find the types of groups to record that his bosses demanded, Jack told me several weeks ago. "I tried," he said. "I went to all the clubs and saw all the young groups, but I just didn't understand the music or what would sell."
Record promoter Dick LaPalm remembers:
"In early February 1960, I had just returned to Chicago from a promotion tour for Nat Cole. When the phone rang, it was Leonard Chess [pictured]. He was very excited and wanted me to fall by the studio to hear a new jazz group that Jack Tracy had just signed. The problem was that Leonard didn't know a lot about jazz and even less about this group.
"It was already late, and I was kind of reluctant to face the Chicago winter, but Leonard wouldn't let me get out of this one. So in sub-zero weather, I headed out to hear the initial recording session of musicians Leonard refered to as 'Benny Goldman and another guy who plays a big trumpet.'
"It was worth the trip. In fact, I should have paid admission. Producing the session was my friend, Jack Tracy. A few minutes after I walked into the control room, Jack hit the talk-back mic...'OK, guys. We're on a roll. Killer Joe. Take three.'
What I'll remember most about Jack was his love for JazzWax. Not a week went by without an email from Jack excitedly expressing his enjoyment for one or more of my posts. We also spoke at length for my book some weeks back.
On the morning of his passing last week, I received the following holiday thanks from Jack:
"Marc: Thank you for Jazzwax , it has become a regular part of my must-checks. My best wishes to you for a happy holiday season. Peace. —Jack"
I'm going to miss Jack. For more on his long career as an observer and participant in jazz history, see Steve Cerra's fine interview at Jazz Profiles here. [Photo of Jack Tracy by Steve Cerra]
Jean-Pierre Leloir (1931-2010). French jazz journalist Guy Kopelowicz sent along the following sad news from Paris:
"French photographer Jean-Pierre Leloir died Monday evening [December 20] at his Paris home, his daughter Marion announced today. He was 79. Leloir was the ever-present photographer on the Paris jazz scene since 1951. Many of his photos adorned the covers of jazz albums by Art Blakey, Louis Armstrong, Donald Byrd, Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Lester Young, Duke Ellington, among many others."
To visit the late photographer's site, go here.
Jazz Montreal. Video-journalist Randy Cole taped the following performance at Montreal's Segal Centre for the Performing Arts on December 18. The song is Change of Heart, by trumpeter Kevin Dean. The trio is Dean, Al McLean on alto saxophone and Mike Rud on guitar. Dean is a founding faculty member of the Schulich School of Music's Jazz department at McGill University...
Freddie Green. Michael Pettersen in Evanston, Ill., has launched a site in tribute to guitarist Freddie Green. You'll find the site here.
CD discoveries of the week: The Ben Wolfe Quintet Live at Smalls is a driving, contemporary hard-bop session. Recorded at the New York jazz club Smalls, the group features bassist Wolfe, saxophonist Marcus Strickland, trumpeter Ryan Kisor, pianist Luis Perdomo and drummer Gregory Hutchinson. All of the music was composed and arranged by Wolfe, who understands how to create attentive hooks and build on them with historical flavor. Sample the cat-like For the Great Sonny Clark or Telescope. This is a perfect album all the way through. You'll find Live at Smalls at iTunes or here.
Clyde McPhatter is all but forgotten today. But throughout the '50s, his voice pioneered the smooth, emotional sound that dominated early soul before Jackie Wilson, James Brown and Marvin Gaye added earthy energy to the mix. A founding member of the Dominos and the Drifters, McPhatter went solo in the mid-50s for Atlantic. But perhaps McPhatter's greatest vocal years were from 1959 to 1965, when he recorded for MGM and Mercury. During this seven-year period, McPhatter was given the full strings and choir treatment, which perfectly framed his licorice timbre. A new two-CD set Clyde McPhatter: Love Please includes all of his MGM and Mercury singles, remastered. Unfortunately for McPhatter, his distinctly silky '50s sound never quite made the jump to the more urgent '60s as tastes changed. The singer died in 1972 of complications brought on by acute alcoholism. You'll find Clyde McPhatter: Love Please at iTunes and here.
Oddball album cover of the week: The New York Quartet recorded two albums for Coral in 1957—this one and Adam's Theme. The group was comprised of Mat Mathews, Herbie Mann, Joe Puma and Whitey Mitchell. I have not heard this one, but based on its title, one can only assume the arrangements are "easy listening" in spirit. As for the cover, it's fun to see the early suburban love ritual of resting greasy hot dog skewers on each other's clean shoulders—a pastoral rite popular in the '50s.