Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Remembering Keystone Korner

Picked up the book Keystone Korner: Portrait of a Jazz Club yesterday, although I still have trouble calling any e-version a proper book. I was attracted to the book because it reminded me of visiting the famous San Francisco music haunt a few times back in late 1977 or early 1978, when I was newly out of college and hanging out with my engine-nerd brother in the Bay Area. Last laugh is on him, I guess, as he is an early-retired millionaire while I am still down at the steel mill chucking steel like a slave.

I remember it as a relatively small, unremarkable space where I could always manage to get front row seats. Cover must’ve been about 8 bucks then since it was before both jazz and San Francisco became exclusive domains of the upper crust. At that price I was able to see and hear some great acts, usually either going alone or with my long-lost friend Dave, another young jazz-obsessed white guy saxophonist who played some tenor. I played alto in those days. Wonder what ever happened to Dave? I can’t even remember his last name or I could Google him up. What I do remember is the rat on the floor under the bed when I stayed over at his Oakland apartment after one late night performance.

Back at Keystone Korner:

Cecil Taylor on solo piano. Cecil played that piano like he had three hands. I am not a big piano fan but he was amazing. Last I heard of Cecil, now an octogenarian, is that he was 419’d last year out of something like half a million dollars.

Max Roach, the greatest jazz drummer in history, with his second great quintet featuring smokin’ Billy Harper on tenor and Cecil Bridgewater on trumpet. This band is relatively unsung but probably second only to the Clifford Brown-Sonny Rollins group of the mid-50’s (kind of like Miles’ mid-60’s Wayne Shorter band in comparison to his late-50’s group with Trane). Max was professorial. Billy Harper never played a bad note then and still hasn’t, one of the best tenors alive and one of my perennial favorites.

Dewey Redman, at the peak of his creativity. This was Ear of the Behearer-era, all originals before he (like many masters who must get frustrated with their own creativity) regressed to playing standards. At the time he was at the top of my list of active tenor players and I really looked forward to hearing him live. Unfortunately, Dewey was not friendly.

Dave, where are you now? Do you still play tenor?

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