Interview: Anthony Ortega (Part 4) - JazzWax

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January 13, 2012


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Wow, I had no idea that Anthony's discography was so extensive.
The "Young Moderns" album has some nice flute work in addition to his excellent alto. The Zieff arrangements are exquisite and there are also nice solos by Art Farmer and violinist Dick Wetmore. Wetmore (who can be heard more extensively on a Gerry Mulligan Mosaic set) also recorded an album of Zieff compositions in 1954 that has never been reissued. (That album also featured Jimmy Woode, Jimmy Zitano, and Dick Twardzik. It was Twardzik who introduced Zieff's work to Chet Baker.)
Jimmy Ford, the other alto with Maynard's group, retreated back to Houston where he maintained a reputation for eccentric behavior and Charlie Parker sound-alike alto playing.

Han Schulte

Anthony Ortega also recorded this century.
For the Swiss avant-garde label Hatology Ortega made the cd "Scattered Clouds" in July 2000 at Foxfire Recording, Van Nuys, California with pianist Mike Wofford and drummer Joe LaBarbera.
Anthony plays alto on 8 tunes, including his own composition "Scatterd Clouds". He is on tenor on "Island of Trolls", a song composed by his wife Mona Orback Ortega.
This cd is out of print but worthwile looking for because Ortega even gives "Body and Soul" a new life.

Bruce Armstrong

Marc, thank you for the interview series with Anthony Ortega, especially that wonderful video featuring he and his wife Mona.I had been aware of his playing since his early recordings with Maynard Ferguson and could tell right away that he was into something different (harmonically) on his solo work, but it was not until Gerald Wilson’s magnificent album—“Lighthouse Blues,” with its solo features for Anthony--hit the airwaves in L.A. that I was able to really appreciate his great artistry. I was in college at the time and must have played his solo on “Perdido” a thousand times, fascinated by his ability to play “outside” and “inside” effortlessly on Gerald’s great arrangement. His solo on “El Viti” on that same recording still stands as a perfect example of “outside” playing within the context of a big band arrangement. I had the opportunity to see Anthony with Gerald’s band on several occasions over the years and was never disappointed. Both his solo work and his lead alto were major factors in lifting performances by Gerald’s band to a very high level. If ever a jazz musician was deserving of greater recognition it is Anthony Ortega. He is a jazz giant.

T.K. Tortch

Wow. Your comment in the last part of this series, that it's a shame his catalog is unavailable -- after hearing this, it really is a shame!!

John P. Cooper

Good reading!

No mention of Mexican American Ernie Cacares the baritone saxist who played with Glenn Miller?


This is a very moving last part of your interview with Anthony Ortega who did something very admirable:

He tried to play as much jazz as possible, uncompromisingly and incorruptibly. And he never lost faith in what he did.

An outstanding example for honest musicianship. -- Now, I will listen more closely to Mr. Ortega's solos on the Dinah Washington & Billy Taylor albums.

And I will go for his own favorites, especially the one with Bob Zieff's participation (I guess he is still around).

Yep, the three Caceres brothers: Ernie, the baritone & clarinet player who played the 'hot' clarinet solos in GM's band, was also one of the otherwise very modern sounding 1949-Metronome-All-Stars: -- Marc has dedicated a whole article on him, as the surprising member of a bebop band:

His brothers Emilio & Pinero played violin and trumpet.

Mike Litovsk

Deeeeelightful! Thanks Marc.

And, incidentally, even more proof that Buddy Collette was an A#1 class act.


John P. Cooper

Reading of AO with the Hampton band triggered a dream last night with Hamp and AO on stage fronting his 1967 'Newport Uproar" band. I was jazzed! Their competition was a school stage band with two dozen trumpets.

Wild dream!


Following up on Brew's comment, Pinero also played piano and was in Bobby Hackett's band for awhile, contributing at least one original to the band's book. Emilio and Ernie recorded some hot trio sides in 1937 that have been occasionally reissued, along with their cousin guitarist Johnny Gomez. A later jazz album by the brothers was never reissued. Emilio spent most of his career in latin dance bands for the reason discussed by Ortega.

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  • Marc Myers writes regularly for The Wall Street Journal and is author of "Anatomy of 55 More Songs," "Anatomy of a Song," "Rock Concert: An Oral History" and "Why Jazz Happened." Founded in 2007, JazzWax has won three Jazz Journalists Association awards.
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