A name pops up and triggers memories. Among the October 22 birthdays listed in today’s JazzWestCoast listserve was that of John Neves. Not widely known elsewhere, Neves was treasured in Boston as a standout bassist with a big sound and an untutored harmonic gift. He played for 13 years in Herb Pomeroy’s big band and taught at the Berklee College of Music. After Neves died in 1988 at the age of 57, Pomeroy said of him, “John was an exceptional musician, an instinctual player.” Pianist Hal Galper expanded on that, telling the Boston jazz historian Richard Vacca,
He played completely by ear. He didn’t know any theory. Sometimes if you asked him to play a chorus of blues in F, you had to give him the F first. And once you gave him the F, he could play anything under the sun. He was amazing.
Rarely recorded, Neves made a Savoy album with the vibraphonist John Rae and worked on occasion with Gerry Mulligan, Jaki Byard, Marian McPartland, Maynard Ferguson and George Shearing. He was in the rhythm section of the album that Stan Getz and Bob Brookmeyer recorded in 1961 as a reprise of their early 1950s collaboration. From that album, here is “Minuet Circa ’61.” Brookmeyer, valve trombone and composer; Getz, tenor saxophone; Steve Kuhn, piano; John Neves, bass; Roy Haynes, drums.
John Neves, on bass with Stan Getz and Bob Brookmeyer. Even less well known than John outside of Boston and a brief period in Puerto Rico was his older brother Paul (pictured right), a pianist who was important to the success of this album by Ahmed Abdul-Malik. He also recorded with tenor saxophonist Lucky Thompson.
(Photo of Paul Neves by Katherine Hanna courtesy of Irene Kubota Neves)