By now, you probably know that bassist Scott LaFaro was a member of the Bill Evans Trio from 1959 to 1961 and that he died in an auto accident in July 1961. But before LaFaro's association with Evans, he was a working musician in New York and then in Los Angeles. Just before his trip West in 1957, La Faro recorded his first trio album—This Is Pat Moran (Audio Fidelity)—with Moran on piano and Gene Gammage on drums. The album also was issued as The Legendary Scott LaFaro by the label in 1958, one assumes to capitalize on both fan bases.
As Moran's playing demonstrates on this album, she had a graceful, assertive style and a keen, bebop sensibility in '57. In addition to recording This Is Pat Moran, the trio recorded Beverly Kelly Sings with the Pat Moran Trio at around the same time.
Who is Pat Moran? Born Helen Mudgett in 1934 in Enid, Okla., Moran studied piano at Phillips University in her home town and then at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. She started as a concert pianist but switched to jazz, forming a quartet. She also recorded with Mel Torme, Oscar Pettiford and Terry Gibbs. That's where the in-print trail goes cold . [Photo of Pat Moran by Ray Avery/CTSImages.com]
But after a little web research yesterday, it appears Moran is still performing and recording. Here are the liner notes from The Gospel Truth (2000) by pianist Patti Moran McCoy, which is how Moran is known professionally today:
"My career started when I was studying piano at the Cincinnati Conservatory. I used to go downstairs and play the piano in the parlor in the evenings. Some of the students suggested I get a manager and play professionally.
"One evening a man who was the booking agent for Doris Day [pictured] said he could book me in a piano bar in downtown Cincinnati. I would have to change my name from Helen Mudgett to a more 'show business' type name. So I became Pat Moran—the name of a cellist at the school I admired.
"One thing led to another and I quit school. I started playing small bars, but I wasn't very good at it. The owners mostly wanted me there to attract men, I suppose. I had been listening to bebop, and I spent most of my time teaching myself to play it. Therefore, I got fired quite frequently!
"Finally I hooked up with a girl singer from the Conservatory, Bev Kelly. We headed for Chicago, signed with a big booking agency, added a bass player and drummer and started singing four-way vocals. We started working at a black club on the street level of a hotel on the South Side.
"We lived in the hotel and played the club for six months. During that time we recorded several albums. We sang with Mel Torme and Duke Ellington's band on Porgy and Bess (along with a cast of other great singers and musicians). My quartet played all the hottest jazz spots in America, including Birdland in New York and the Blue Note in Chicago—before the agency decided I should just have a trio.
"I met bassist Scotty LaFaro at a jazz club in St. Louis. LaFaro was playing with Chet Baker at the time. It was their last night there, and we were opening the next night. I remember that the night after closing, we were all standing around talking, and some girl asked Chet to sing for her.
"Chet started singing Look for the Silver Lining. It was pretty funny. Chet was missing a front tooth, but he was still a good-looking guy! Scotty and I became great friends.
"I've been thinking about my life as a young jazz musician. I guess the highlight of my career was when I played at the Hickory House in New York City. We were taped live from the club twice a week. It was pretty amazing to be playing to an audience consisting of many jazz greats like Miles Davis, Gil Evans, Erroll Garner, Cannonball Adderley (he always called me 'Miss Moran'}—and anyone who was anybody was playing in the city at that time.
"After retiring from the road back in the early '60s, I wrote and recorded a children's album, Shakin' Loose with Mother Goose, with Steve Allen and Jayne Meadows (it won the National Book Award), I recorded several CDs, and I have been on National Public Radio with Marian McPartland."
Back in 1957, Moran was a terrific jazz pianist, and with this recording, we're able to hear LaFaro's engaging brilliance in a trio format two years before he joined Evans and Paul Motian.
JazzWax tracks: This Is Pat Moran has been issued on CD and as a download. If you opt for the download, go here. (You'll find it has been stupidly labeled "explicit" at Amazon. Perhaps they meant "exquisite.")
If you want the CD, Fresh Sound has combined This Is Pat Moran and Beverly Kelly Sings with the Pat Moran Trio. It's here.
The Pat Moran Quartet (1956), with Moran on piano, John Doling on bass, John Whited on drums and Beverly Kelly—all singing four-part harmony while they played—can be found here.
Patti McCoy Moran's Gospel Truth can be found here.
JazzWax clips: Here's Pat Moran with Scott LaFaro on I Could Have Danced All Night...
Here's Beverly Kelly backed by Pat Moran and Scott LaFaro on Lover Come Back to Me...
And here's the Pat Moran Quartet, with all four members singing from 1956...