Cindy (Schreiber) Scontriano writes from California:
I just heard your NPR interview about Vince Guaraldi. I really enjoyed it and then I had a flash from the past and wanted to ask you a few questions. I think I met Vince as a little girl. My uncle played the stand-up bass in Cal Tjader’s band in the sixties and seventies. His name was Freddie Schreiber, from Seattle. I have his most famous LP, Saturday/Sunday Night at the Blackhawk. Did you happen to know uncle Freddie and if so, do you have any stories, anecdotes etc?
We lived in the bay area and sometimes my mom would take us to the Blackhawk, and other clubs, in SF to visit my uncle and hear them practice. Once the band was on TV and my uncle said “when I scratch my head, I’m saying Hi to you!” and, while he was playing the big ol’ bass, he actually scratched his head on TV! I remember Vince as a warm affectionate nice man, and as a kid I listened to all the cal Tjader music, and Brubeck, and Vince I could.
My uncle died young too, he had kidney failure and at that time
dialysis was reserved for people with families, etc (not single jazz
musicians with no children) and he passed in the mid seventies.
Anyway, thanks for your work and if Fred Schreiber rings a bell it
would be fun to hear how.
Ms. Scontriano’s message gets a reply in the form of a visit to the Rifftides archives. This item was first posted on September 13, 2005.
Freddie Schreiber was making a mark in Cal Tjader’s quintet when he died, far too young, in the 1960s. I remember him in Seattle in the mid-1950s as an aspiring bassist and an extremely witty man. He struggled to master the instrument, not with notable success. Later, within a period of two or three months, his hard work kicked in and he became a superb player. Tjader told me that he was thrilled to have Freddie on the band. Schreiber’s best recording with Tjader was Saturday Night/Sunday Night At the Blackhawk, San Francisco (Verve 8459). It has never been reissued on CD, which is a shame, but it can occasionally be found on web sites, including e-Bay. I have always liked the album. It includes, among other things, a marvelous version of Gary McFarland’s “Weep,” but in the July 5, 1962, Down Beat, reviewer John S. Wilson gave Saturday Night/Sunday Night a lukewarm once-over that ended with this:
Schreiber comes in for an occasional solo, but this scarcely relieves the generally monotonous sound of the group. The performances are loose and airy, but none of the soloists is sufficiently distinctive to raise the set out of an anonymous although generally pleasant rut.
A few issues later, Down Beat published a response from Schreiber that has been quoted by musicians for years.
I am the bass player with Cal Tjader’s group, and I have just finished reading John Wilson’s review of our latest record on Verve recorded at the Blackhawk (DB, Jul 5) I think Mr Wilson was very fair in putting down Cal and the other guys in the group, but I really think he should have listened to me more carefully. Evidently he did not listen closely to my angular, probing lines, and I am sure that not once did he take note of my relentless throbbing beat. I just hope that when our next album is released, which is entitled It Ain’t Necessarily Soul, that Mr Wilson pays more attention to my great playing–because, man–I’m too much!
And that’s one reason I miss Freddie Schreiber.
For others, see this Rifftides archive item, and this one.
And if after reading those, you haven’t had enough of Freddie’s genius at the art of inventing hilarious names, try this rambling discussion on the Talk Bass Forum.
In addition to the Blackhawk album, Freddie is on Tjader’s Time for Two with Anita O’Day, Cal Tjader Plays, Mary Stallings Sings and his Contemporary Music of Mexico and Brazil. That to my knowledge, is the extent of the Schreiber discography. I scoured my scrapbooks and the internet for a photograph of Freddie, but could not find one. If a Rifftides reader has one and would like to share it, I’ll be glad to post it.