Have you ever wondered what happened to Hal Gaylor?
Oh. You don’t know about Hal Gaylor.
In the 1950s and ’60s, Gaylor was one of the most respected bassists in jazz, working with a range of musicians. Here is what I mean by range; his colleagues included Chico Hamilton, Paul Bley, Stan Getz, Bill Evans, Clark Terry, Roger Kellaway, Lena Horne, Mel Torme, Anita O’Day, Jeremy Steig and Benny Goodman. There were many others of equal stature. Later, he was in the rhythm section that backed Tony Bennett. For a time, his trio with Walter Norris and Billy Bean collaborated with Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry. Here is what I wrote about The Trio when its only album was reissued on CD in 1999.
Of the many groups that have caused ripples on the surface of jazz and then sunk out of sight, none was more intriguing or seemed to have greater musical possibilities than The Trio. It was a cooperative group whose members poured all of their considerable abilities into creating a piano-guitar-bass group that was much more than just another wannabe Nat Cole Trio. Conceived by bassist Hal Gaylor, it was also an outlet for pianist Walter Norris and guitarist Billy Bean. The trio’s intricacies were reminiscent of Cole at times but also of the Red Norvo Trio and of adventurous groups like those of Lennie Tristano. Not long after this recording, Bean disappeared into his native Philadelphia. Gaylor left jazz to become a certified drug counselor. Only Norris remains active in music. The Trio is a valuable reminder of a splendid group.
As Robert Gados reported over the weekend in the Middletown (New York) Times Herald-Record, Gaylor did not leave jazz on a whim.
THE MUSIC STOPPED FOR GAYLOR, who lives in Scotchtown, in 1973, when a virus left him deaf in the right ear. He was 44 years old. He went to a doctor in San Francisco because his ear was clogged. The doctor told him, “The cochlea is dead.” Tough news to hear for anyone; for a top jazz musician, a professional death sentence.
To read all of Gados’s story, go here.
Then go to Gaylor’s own web site to read more details of his life as musician, architect and artist, and to see his portraits of musicians.
Hal Gaylor wearing
his portrait of
I asked the writer Gene Lees and the pianist Roger Kellaway for a few words about Gaylor.
Lees: I first knew him in Montreal when we were kids, twenty-three or twenty-four years old. He was already established. I was working as a reporter and hanging out in the jazz joints. He was a great man and a great musician. We have been extremely close friends from that time ’til this. An amazingly multi-talented guy. He’s like a brother to me. I haven’t seen him in years, but we talk on the phone all the time.
Kellaway: Hal was in my first recorded trio, when he was with Tony Bennett. I just loved his playing. He was a fabulous bassist, very musical, and swung his ass off. We’ve made the masters of those recordings into a CD. We haven’t released it.
That’s something to look forward to.