The pianist Roberta Mandel was at San Francisco State College in the 1940s with Paul Desmond, Jerome Richardson, Cal Tjader, Ron Crotty, Dick Collins and Vernon Alley, among other young musicians who went on to fame. She later sang with Boyd Raeburn’s trail-blazing band in broadcasts on NBC and CBS and was a member of the instrumental-vocal group Three Beaux and a Peep. In Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond, you can read her account of a final encounter with Desmond during his last days.
A working pianist in her eighties, Ms. Mandel keeps up with music, in part by going to New York a couple of times a year and making the rounds of jazz clubs. She went there recently. When she got home, she sent friends a report. She gave me permission to let you read it just as she wrote it. The Rifftides staff added links to information about some of the people and places she mentions.
I heard Bill Charlap at the Village Vanguard. He played all show tunes, most of which I have never heard of. His mother is a famous vocalist and sang “The Boy next Door” and broke up the place.
Next was Eldar at the Blue Note. He is 18 years old and has chops, musical taste, a very large repertoire of tunes. He is a chaming young man and speaks to the audience as if he has been doing so for years. Hard to believe what I heard and saw.
At the Knickerbocker grill I heard Joanne Brackeen. She had a great bass player and played excellently as usual. The noise was so loud I could barely hear her. Folks talked and did not listen.
Went to the Blue Note again to hear the Dizzy Gillespie alumni All stars. They were: James Moody; Slide Hampton; Roy Hargrove; Mulgrew Miller; John Lee; Dennis Mackrel and Paquito D’Rivera. They played all Dizzy tunes of course. Great night.
Went to the new jazz at Lincoln Center on 60th St. in the Dizzy Gillespie Coca Cola Room. George Cables and his group were there. Jeff Tain Watts on drums, Gary Bartz on sax. I was too close to the drums to suit me. A large dinner party was sitting near to George.
I got to the new Modern art museum. it is now 6 stories high and covers an entire block from 6th ave to 5th on 49th st. We could take pictures so I did. It is huge and I could not find anything I was looking for. I could, before they remodeled.
I also got to the Metropolitan Museum. The outside is being painted and was all covered. The Van Gogh exhibit had 200 folks lined up that Saturday. I did not wait for it. They now allow picture taking in the Met, so I did photograph all the instruments in the 2 music rooms. The old pianos with ocean waves at their feet, and mermaids were the feet. All the saxes of Adolph Sax were in one large case. Brass instruments ancient and contemporary; drums old and new; violins, violas; basses old and new. SO many things to see. Amazing place.
It rained for the 2 weeks I was there; the wind was strong and the temperature hovered between 43 and 50. I was even glad to leave, which I never have been before.
To go to Frankie Nemko’s only slightly dated interview with Roberta Mandel (Jerome Richardson has since died), click here.