Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Jerry Heldman RIP

Jerry Heldman played bass with Joe Brazil. His daughter reminisced on his passing. He set up a website about the club where he played with Joe. I think the mp3 files there include Joe.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Coltrane in Detroit

I'm trying to track down when John Coltrane and Joe Brazil might have met. According to The John Coltrane Reference, Coltrane worked in Detroit on the dates below. Joe Brazil was born in Detroit and owned a house there from 1951 to 1962. Coltrane was recorded from Brazil's basement in September of 1958. There were 9 times before that when Coltrane could have been at Brazil's house and 5 times after. There is a tape from Brazil's house on Thanksgiving, November 24, 1960 3:00am with Coltrane on soprano and McCoy on piano. In an interview with Paul de Barros, Brazil says Coltrane stayed with him whenever Coltrane was in town as a leader.
  • Nov 5-11, 1948 w/ Howard McGee
  • Mar 27, 1949 w/ Eddie Vinson
  • Jan 13-19, 1950 w/ Dizzy Gillespie
  • May 15, 1950 w/ Dizzy Gillespie
  • Feb 16-25, 1951 w/ Dizzy Gillespie
  • Nov 2, 1952 w/ Johnny Hodges
  • Dec 8-20, 1952 w/ Johnny Hodges
  • May 3-9, 1954 w/ Johnny Hodges
  • Oct 5-9, 1955 w/ Miles Davis (right after marrying Juanita Austin)
  • Mar 12, 1956 w/ Miles Davis
  • Jul 9, 1956 w/ Miles Davis
  • Jul 24-29 w/ Miles Davis
  • Apr 15-20, 1958 w/ Miles Davis
  • Sep 23-28, 1958 w/ Miles Davis
  • Dec 11-20, 1959 w/ Miles Davis
  • Aug 23-28, 1960 as leader
  • Nov 22-27, 1960 as leader
  • Feb 21-26, 1961 as leader
  • Aug 1-6, 1961 as leader
  • Jan 16-21, 1961 as leader
  • Jul 31-Aug 5, 1962 as leader

The Quest of Questions

Who is Joe Brazil? Years back, I had only heard of Joe Brazil as an obscure footnote. Today, I’m learning that he was a saxophonist from Detroit, friend of John Coltrane, teacher and band leader in Seattle, tool and die maker for automobile and airplane manufacturers, screen actor, student of math, programmer in applied physics, race track gambler and researcher of past contact between humans and extraterrestrials.

The chain of events leading up to my finding out about him started 40 years ago in an elementary school gymnasium. It was a night to try musical instruments. The lines of fifth grade kids for trumpet and flute were very long and noisy. But no one was at the table for clarinet and saxophone. Little did I know that the quest for finding Joe Brazil began here with the question: “Can I make a sound on the saxophone?”

I felt the weight of the shiny brass horn around my neck. The mother-of-pearl buttons were smooth on my fingertips. The plastic mouthpiece smelled faintly of human breath as if the instrument were alive – sentient but sleeping. The bamboo reed tasted tart on my tongue. I blew into the J-shaped metal cone. Not a pretty sound. But not too ugly, either. The vibrations of the reed tickled my lips, teeth and nose. My next question, “What sounds do all these buttons make?”

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Events with video and or audio tape in the Joe Brazil Collection

Ahmad Jamal
University of Washington
Al McKibbon
University of Washington
Art Blakey
University of Washington
Bill Evans
University of Washington
Cannonball Adderley
Black Academy of Music
Chico Hamilton
Black Academy of Music
Chico Hamilton
University of Washington
Clark Terry
University of Washington
Count Basie
Black Academy of Music
Dizzy Gillespie
Black Academy of Music
Dizzy Gillespie
University of Washington
Donald Byrd
Black Academy of Music
Donald Byrd
University of Washington
Earl Hines
University of Washington
Eddie Harris
University of Washington
Eddie Harris
Garfield High School
Eddie Harris
University of Washington
Elvin Jones
Black Academy of Music
Frank Gant & Jamil Nassar
University of Washington
Freddie Hubbard
University of Washington
Gary Bartz
Black Academy of Music
George Harmonica Smith
University of Washington
Grover Washington
Black Academy of Music
Herbie Hancock
University of Washington
Herbie Hancock
Langston Hughes Center
Joe Henderson
Black Academy of Music
Joe Williams
University of Washington
John Handy
Black Academy of Music
Johnny Hammond Smith
University of Washington
Kenny Burrell
Black Academy of Music
Kenny Burrell
University of Washington
Kirk Lightsey
University of Washington
McCoy Tyner
University of Washington
Milt Jackson
University of Washington
Mongo Santamaria
Black Academy of Music
O.C. Smith
Garfield High School
O.C. Smith
Black Academy of Music
Portia Maultsby & Lillian Dunlap
University of Washington
Roland Haynes
University of Washington
Roy Ayers
University of Washington
Stanley Turrentine
Black Academy of Music
Stanley Turrentine
Black Academy of Music

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Draft book prolog

Dim lights. Sparse audience. Break is over. The bartender silences the recorded music. The band strolls back to the stand, also known as “the altar” in some jazz clubs.
It’s a Sunday night jam session and I sat in at the end of the first set. Maybe they will call me up to play again because the night is slow. My tarnished brass saxophone lies behind me on the bar and I lean back to face my friends adjusting themselves on stage at the piano, bass and drums.
The music starts.
The front door swings open. In walks Nat King Cole’s piano playing brother, Freddy, and trumpeter Eddie Henderson. The duo is on the road and performing at Seattle’s Jazz Alley. After their show they must have decided to visit the local scene. Although we have never met, I recognize Eddie from attending his shows and owning several recordings that feature his portrait. Carmel skin, bald head, wire rim glasses and strong jaw line. He plays like a trumpet god.
Oh man! If I get called up now to perform, there are some serious listeners in the house. My heart races as my confidence scurries to safety behind the bar. Even though the lights are still dim, my saxophone feels like it’s under a spotlight. My ego tries to twist fear into bravado.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Felton Jones

I spoke with Felton Jones by phone. Felton (trumpet) and Eddie Chambliss (tenor) used to hit the afterhours sessions at Joe Brazil's basement in Detroit. Even though they were young and not as skilled as many of the musicians there, they were accepted as peers.

Felton says it was dark in the basement with a light only on the piano. About 20 people fit in the room standing shoulder to shoulder.

When you went up to play with the light on you it "felt like being in jail. You had fear if you played. It was CLASSICAL... HARD... BEBOP!"

In the 1950's many of the Detroit musicians formed a club. Joe Brazil was president. They acquired a beer and wine license, rented churches, charged $1 admission and sold hotdogs and chips to audiences during performances.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Detroit Neighbor

John Miller was seven years old when he lived two doors down from Joe on Fleming Street. Last weekend at the Detroit Jazz Festival Talk Tent, he mentioned Joe's name to some of the musicians there and saw their faces light up. He went home and Googled "What happened to Joe Brazil?" and found this blog. We spoke by phone and hope to look up more neighbors and visitors to Joe's basement.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Donald Byrd's Workshop at BAM

This is from "Four Measures of the Blues and a Bar to Spare: A BAM Line Review Supplement" by Kelly-Marie Berry.

April 9, 1974

Donald Byrd's Workshop was that of the educator-musician which is what Byrd has evolved into but I perhaps the reverse order: Musician-Educator. For years, a leading trumpet soloist and recording artist, in 1967 he received his doctoral degree in college teaching and administration from Columbia Teachers' College of Columbia University in New York.

Informative and thought provoking, Byrd's workshop was straight up lecture format and the contents of his lecture dealt with some fundamental aspects of educational philosophy. His remarks/direct and pointed:

"When you got to school, the reason why they teach you white Western history is because it is supposed to be part of your heritage. So when they talk about Beethoven they are not just talking about him because he was suppose to be a great musician, but because he was also German. And that is part of the German culture and heritage.

"When you go into a Black situation and you talk about Beethoven and Bach, well the students aren't supposed to relate to it because it is not part of their heritage. So people wonder why Black people are turned off by classical music. They are supposed to get turned off. It's alien. There is nothing absolute about Western history. Whites in this country get you to believe that everything that they teach you is absolute as if it were written by some divine person. So what the mistake is that by training Black people in the white tradition, the presumption is that their grand and great grandparents came from Europe. And that's not true. It's an alien thing."

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

UW History of Jazz Lecture Notes

These lecture notes were taken by Ken Soapes for Music 331A "History of Jazz" taught by Professor Joe Brazil.

Monday, April 8, 1974

Today in class we were fortunate to have Donald Byrd as a guest lecturer. Mr. Brazil and he grew up together and played together in Detroit. He left for New York when he was 18. Since that time he has played with a number of jazz artists such as Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane (with whom he has done many albums), and Herbie Hancock who he helped introduce to the scene. Dr. Byrd has had a very diverse past - besides being a musician he has also been an airplane pilot, a law student; he studied in Europe for four years, attended law school, is currently head of the Black Music Studies Department for the School of Music at Howard University, and is one of the foremost historians on Black Music and its ramification in society.

Directly before coming to class Dr. Byrd was notified by promoters that the concert he flew out from the East Coast to do had been cancelled.

Dr. Byrd, as noted above, has become highly educated by the standards of Western academia. He stated that he was put on the defensive by the "standards" of the academic society and had to become the "Super-Nigger." He has now grown tired of that game. Henry B. Durham once asked him why he said "Shit" all the time because he should know better with the advantage of so much education. Byrd's reply was that he does it because he does know better. He stated he has been uptight for 40 years and if he makes other people uptight that will be too bad. Academia in his eyes is an extension of Western philosophy.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Bob Antolin

In an 2000 article in Northwest Asian Weekly, Bob Antolin talks about Joe Brazil.

"At the University of Washington, he studied with Joe Brazil.

'He was a good influence,' says Antonlin. ;He would bring Bill Evans, Joe Henderson, Dexter Gordon, Chico Hamilton ... (to class) ... (when) they came to town to play in local pubs.... It was quite an occasion to see them and hear them up close and in person.'

Antonlin laments about losing contact with Brazil, who was not tenured by the university following a huge controversy.

'Joe had a direct connection with the musicians. In terms of academic environment, what better way to (learn) than by bringing in (those) musicians like he did.'

Fortunately, Antonlin took lessons with Brazil while he was still there.
'He was introducing all the jazz bebop vocabulary.... It was a very enriching situation.'"

Ken Kubota

In a 2011 issue of International Examiner, Ken Kubota mentioned Joe Brazil.

"Kubota initially started piano lessons in second grade and began saxophone in fourth grade. He continued to study saxophone with University of Washington Professor Joe Brazil, who was a great influence, he noted.

"I learned so much from him," said Kubota.
Brazil would invite musicians travelling through town to speak in class, like McCoy Tyner.
"I always appreciated that," he said.

Note from Pete Leinonen

I was at the UW when Joe was teaching and attended many of his classes, even playing for a couple, although I wasn't enrolled in them. After Joe left I was asked by some faculty members who I thought they should hire. I had some credibility with the faculty because I was also Bill Smith's bass player. I advocated for Monk, but they really wanted Herbie, who was practically a pop star by then.

Joe was a dear friend and I'm glad you're  keeping his name alive. I played with a band of veterans of various Joe Brazil groups at his first memorial, where everyone was rather shocked by his lack coverage in the Seattle press. That was my first reunion with George Griffin after his return from California. Ed Lee organized and led the band.

I met Joe early in 1962. I was working a summer job at Boeing then as a design trainee (a short lived career) when I started hearing about Joe from coworkers who were jazz fans. It seemed like everybody knew him even then. I heard him play in a lot of small clubs in those days, and some early jazz concerts. Eventually I would play myself in some of the same rooms, including the Mardi Gras and The Checkmate.