Other Places: Cerra’s Bud Shank Seminar

Bud ShankIn his Jazz Profiles blog, Steve Cerra posts a piece about Bud Shank (1926-2009) that is packed with remembrances of the saxophonist and flutist, interviews, photographs and music clips that recall the career of an amazingly productive, versatile and expressive musician. Steve’s introduction summons his own youthful impression of Shank:

To the older guys that I hung out with, Bud Shank was the epitome of West Coast “Cool.” He was a tall, broad shouldered, good looking guy with a brush cut, who drove a sport car and who always seemed to have a good-looking babe on his arm. And, he also played the heck out of the alto saxophone.

Bud, however, was not just another pretty-face or wastrel artist-type. Rather, he was the living embodiment of the motto of my tax and financial advisor: “Work hard, put some of your earnings away and remember that it’s not all yours.”

In addition to his recollections of Shank, Steve includes a substantial portion of the notes IBud Shank - Mosaic wrote for Mosaic’s 1998 Bud Shank box set, now long out of print. He reprints the Shank chapter of Gordon Jack’s book of interviews with jazz musicians and closes with three tracks by the superb Shank quintet that had Carmel Jones, Gary Peacock, Mel Lewis and Dennis Budimir. For a welcome Bud Shank refresher course, visit Professor Cerra’s seminar. Click here and scroll up.

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  1. says

    Some time in the late 1970s-early 1980s I worked with Bud on what must have been the busiest day for string players in LA history. The rest of the orchestra were mainstream studio musicians but the string players were unknown to me–I didn’t recognize any of them, and I had been around for quite a while by that time. I have worked with string players in their 80s whose playing showed no signs of age. These weren’t them.

    It was pretty sad. They sat slumped and unenthusiastic; bows wandered, vibrato was sporadic, intonation and rhythm at random. Somehow we made it to the end of the first hour and took our ten-minute break. The composer could not have been happy with the results but must have realized that there was not much he could do about it. The second hour was no better until the last piece before the break, an alto saxophone solo, written out with no improvisation but which Bud played with his own inflections. He refused to sink to the prevailing level and played with such focus, intensity and beauty that he woke up a lot of old men who had apparently interrupted their retirement to make a few bucks. We rehearsed the cue once and made a take and for the few minutes the entire string section was upright in their chairs, concentrating, vibrating, contributing. The difference was remarkable.

    We took our next break and the composer listened to the take. When we had reassembled, he came over to where we were sitting and said, “Bud, that was beautiful, but the director said it’s too intense for the scene. Can you cool it a little?” Bud nodded. We made another take and although it was as beautiful as before, some of the intensity was gone. The string players once again sat slumped in their chairs thinking of other things. It was a real display of Bud’s ability to communicate, in this case with other musicians, other times with an audience. I learned a lot from him that day and others.