While the real photographer was setting up for the atmospheric shots used in Bud Shank’s 2001 sextet album On The Trail, I snagged this one of Conte Candoli as he entertained the band and bystanders with the theme from The Godfather.
In addition to Shank and Candoli, On The Trail features Jay Thomas on tenor saxophone and a favorite Shank rhythm section: Bill Mays, piano; Bob Magnusson, bass; and Joe LaBarbera, drums. I was enlisted to write liner notes. When the recording at Raw Records in Port Townsend, Washington, was done, Mays and LaBarbera invited Candoli and me to join them in a game of tennis. We explained that we weren’t tennis players. “That’s okay. We have extra rackets. It’ll be fun,” Mays said.
We found a high school tennis court; two real players in tennis whites and two guys in street clothes. I was wearing sneakers, but Count’s shoes had leather soles. Our mismatched doubles teams batted the ball back and forth to great hilarity as the rank amateurs played like rank amateurs, Candoli’s Guccis frequently slipping on the asphalt. Finally, he made a flying lunge at a ball headed out of bounds, slid out of control, fell and rolled. We all rushed over, determined that nothing was broken and helped him up. Concluding that discretion was advisable, Count and I retired to the sidelines and cheered the survivors.
Less than four months later, Count was dead of a cancer no one had suspected in August. At the center of my many fond memories of him is the day he played so well on the record date and his childlike pleasure in that ad hoc fooling around on the court. His longtime colleague Bud Shank left us in 2009.
Here’s a good way for all of us to remember Countwith LaBarbera, Pete Jolly at the piano and Chuck Berghofer on bass. The piece is Candoli’s “Secret Passion.”