Unknown Dameron: Rare and Never Recorded Works of Tadd Dameron – Paul Combs
Highly influential, yet virtually unknown,Tadd Dameron influenced the greats. These are some of his elusive works!
Tadd Dameron (1917-1965) is a man relatively unknown to many today. As an arranger and composer his work was largely in the background…However, his impact gives us insight as to his importance. From 1947 to 1950, he recorded music that inspired, indeed showed the way, for Horace Silver, Benny Golson, Frank Foster, Gigi Gryce, and Quincy Jones. Performed brilliantly by Paul Combs and band.
While Dameron is fairly well-known for some eight compositions that have become part of the jazz canon, there are many more of his works that deserve our attention. The 12 selections recorded here were either never recorded, or only recorded rarely, and not easily available.
“Conversation” (1940) was copyrighted along with other pieces Tadd wrote for Harlan Leonard; “Moon From The East” (1962) was written for Benny Goodman’s USSR tour in 1962; “Take A Chance On Spring”(1963), with lyric by Maely Danielle, was recorded by Karin Krog and Per Husby on a record that won an award in Europe; “Don’t Forget It” (1942) written during Dameron’s tenure with Jimmie Lunceford, is very much in the vein of the popular songs of the day-It was never recorded; “The Search” (1948) was copyrighted along with some other tunes that were recorded by Dizzy Gillespie at the time; “Never Been In Love” (1963), lyric by Irving Reid, was first recorded by Bill Lee and Muriel Winston; “Sando Latino,”written for a 1962 Milt Jackson session on Atlantic, was lost in a vault fire at Atlantic that year; “A La Bridges” (1940) was written for and recorded by Harlan Leonard’s Kansas City Rockets; “Zakat” (ca 1945) was written for Jimmie Lunceford, it was never recorded; “Come Close”(1962) only appears as a piano arrangement filed with the Copyright Office. The title and the melody suggest that Dameron had a lyric in mind, none have come to light; “The Rampage” (1956) shares some thematic material with “Small Groove,” which Tadd wrote for Woody Herman around this same time, and may have been the basis for the Herman version. This is its first recording.
Paul Combs, saxophonist/arranger (Dameron’s biographer) and 11 great musicians:
Alex Aspinall; Derek Cannon; Ken Cook; Bill Cunliffe; Jeff Denson; Alex Frank; Melonie Grinnell; Kamau Kenyatta; Richard Sellers; Rob Thorsen; Charles Ruggiero; Danielle Wertz
CD of the Month KUVO, Denver:
Although Cleveland born pianist Tadd Dameron recorded a few albums under his leadership and appeared in several others as an accompanist, Mister Dameron is far better known as an outstanding composer and arranger, in fact he’s considered the leading arranger and composer of the bop movement. Tadd relocated to New York City during WW2 and immediately made a name for himself composing many songs that have become standards including writing “If You Could See Me Know” specifically for Sarah Vaughan. Dameron wrote charts for Dizzy Gillespie’s big band in the late 1940’s. In the early 1950s he became saxophonist/vocalist Bull Moose Jackson’s pianist and arranger when an upstart Benny Golson was in the sax section, years later NEA Jazz Master Golson said his composing and arranging skills are a direct derivative of Tadd Dameron. In the 1960s Tadd continue writing and arranging for many top names of jazz including Miles Davis, Sonny Stitt, Milt Jackson and several others. Sadly, Tadd died due to cancer in 1965, he was only 48.
Saxophonist-educator-author Paul Combs grew up in Camden, NJ across the river from Philadelphia where he earned his Bachelor of Music degree for composition at the Philadelphia Music Academy now the University if the Arts. In the early 1970s he relocated to Boston where he not only played in many venues of the area, he decided to write a biography of Tadd Dameron, his most important influence in his compositional and arranging skills. After over 25 years of research and overcoming obstacles, Dameronia: The Life and Music of Tadd Dameron was published in 2012 garnering rave reviews. While writing the book, Paul discovered many songs written by Tadd that had never been recorded in addition to others who were recorded only once or twice. Combs decided to record an album of these songs: Unknown Dameron: Rare and Never Recorded Works of Tadd Dameron has recently been released by Summit Records. Paul on saxes teams up with among others, Bill Cunliffe, Jeff Denson, and Charles Ruggiero just to mention three. Of the 12 tunes on the Unknown Dameron, three are vocals performed by Danielle Wertz. The others range from swing to bop to medium tempo, all the songs reflect the amazing artistry of Tadd Dameron and the sensational sax of Paul Combs. As pleasant as it is to hear this previously unavailable material from Dameron, we can look forward to a follow up session because Combs has more previously unheard music from Tadd that didn’t make it to this recording. To paraphrase one of Tadd Dameron’s best known songs, this is a most delightful listening experience!
Although Tadd Dameron was heralded to some degree as a composer during the early years of the bop era, he has been greatly overlooked for the most part following his death from cancer 55 years ago this month, aside from a few frequently recorded tunes like “Hot House”, “If You Could See Me Now”, “Good Bait” and “Lady Bird”. Dameron wrote extensively for other bands, though opportunities to record under his own name were sporadic. In the latter part of his career, Dameron was further hampered by his battle with drug addiction and imprisonment on drug charges.
Saxophonist Paul Combs spent a quarter-century working on his biography of the artist (Dameronia: The Life and Music of Tadd Dameron) and his research uncovered numerous Dameron compositions that had either never been recorded or were little known. These performances come from four different sessions with varying personnel. It becomes clear that these are not second tier works that were rejected or set aside. The live recording of “Conversation” has a choppy Raymond Scott-like rhythm, featuring Bill O’Connell’s playful piano, the leader’s gritty, hard-blowing baritone saxophone and Derek Cannon’s expressive trumpet. The exotic air of “Moon From The East” has more emphasis on the ensemble, with brief solos featuring the leader, Cannon and pianist Kamau Kenyatta.
Many of Dameron’s works deserve to have lyrics, though too few have been written. Vocalist Danielle Wertz, a singer worthy of wider recognition with an expressive voice and lots of self-confidence, is featured on several selections. She scats up a storm in “Taking A Chance On Spring”, trading fours with Combs on alto saxophone (though he plays baritone elsewhere in the song), is a masterful ballad interpreter in the bittersweet “Never Been In Love” and converses with baritone in the upbeat “Weekend”, both with lyrics by Irving Reid.
Combs’ research and strong arrangements bear significant fruit throughout the CD and it is apparent that the musicians took time to get familiar with this forgotten music. Hopefully more Tadd Dameron gems will be revealed.
-Ken Dryden for The New York City Jazz Record
In jazz, there is “obscure” there’s “overlooked” and then there’s “unknown.” Pianist and composer Tadd Dameron was a major contributor to the early days of bebop and hard bop, with some classic compositions to his credit like “Our Delight,” “Hot House” and “If You Could See Me Now.” He tended to stay in the background of the music scene, so he’s fairly unknown, and in this day his writing genius is generally overlooked.
Saxist and arranger Paul Combs brings out obscure and previously unrecorded Dameronia, and the result is a highly pleasing and wide ranging mix of clever melodies and grooves. Combs uses a mix and match approach to the tunes, with artists including Derek Cannon/tp, bassists Rob Thorsen, Alex Frank and Jeff Denson, pianists Melonie Grinnell, Ken Cook and Bill Cunliffe, percussionists Alex Aspinall or Richard Sellars and vocalist Danielle Wertz for this dozen bon mots.
The team bops well with horn and Combs’ tenor on the puffy pattern of “Conversation” with a hep strut on “A La Bridges” and an uptown “Don’t Forget” with Cunliffe and Frank in a classy mood. The horns breeze through a hep and harmonious “The Rampage” with Combs’ alto gracing the lovely “Come Close.” Wertz is cheery on the bossa “Weekend” and misty on the floating “Neve Been In Love” with soft sensuality emoted for a delightful “Take A Chance On Spring.” These are tunes that have been composed with care, and arranged with prideful love. Check this one out for timeless thoughts of vintage sounds.
Tadd Dameron is a man relatively unknown to many today. As an arranger and composer his work was largely in the background, and except for a few years in the late 1940’s, he was not a band leader or recording artist per se. However, the impact of those few years gives us some insight as to his importance. From 1947 to 1950, he recorded music that inspired and showed the way for Horace Silver, Benny Golson, Frank Foster, Gigi Gryce, and Quincy Jones.As a tribute to Tadd Dameron, musician/educator/author Paul Combs has arranged 12 of Dameron’s songs that were either never recorded, or only recorded rarely, and not easily available. Accompanied by 11 great musicians Paul Combs has released Unknown Dameron: Rare and Never Recorded Works of Tadd Dameron via Summit Records. In a way, the CD is an extension of Paul’s efforts to spread the word about Tadd Dameron that initially began with Paul Combs’ book titled Damoronia-The Life and Music of Tadd Dameron. The recording sessions were recorded at the KSDS Jazz Live Concert at the Saville Theater in San Diego, CA and at various studios in San Diego and San Rafael California in 2017 and 2018.
Performed brilliantly by Paul Combs and his band, “Conversation” is a live performance that features an easy relaxed, swinging groove with a unison horn line between Paul’s baritone saxophone and Derek Cannon on trumpet. “Moon From The East” was written as more of a tone poem for Benny Goodman. Kamau Kenyatta plays a wonderful piano solo followed by an impressive baritone solo from Paul Combs. Richard Sellers gives an exciting drum performance toward the end of the song. Danielle Wertz’s lovely vocals revive “Take A Chance on Spring,” “Never Been In Love,” and “Weekend” along with Ken Cook’s fine piano solos. Paul Combs’ work is impeccable on “A La Bridges” “Come Close” and “Rampage” during which Paul plays alto saxophone on the latter two songs.
While Dameron is fairly well-known for some eight compositions that have become part of the jazz canon, there are many more of his works that deserve our attention. Hence, the 12 selections recorded here by Paul Combs and his band for Unknown Dameron: Rare and Never Recorded Works of Tadd Dameron, are sure to peak your interest in the man who worked with Jimmy Lunceford, Count Basie, and who helped to create the sounds of the next generation of jazz big bands such as those of Billy Eckstine and Dizzy Gillespie. Dameron also co-lead a band with Miles Davis, wrote songs for Ted Heath in the UK as well as others in England and France. He’s gone but not forgotten, thanks to Paul Combs. Check it out.
-Sounds of Timeless Jazz
There has been an increased interest recently in the music of Tadd Dameron whose centennial was celebrated in 2017. Saxophonist PAUL COMBS, author of an acclaimed biography of Dameron, put together a quintet to explore rarely recorded or unrecorded works by Dameron. Unknown Dameron (Summit – 749) presents a dozen of these tunes, recorded at four sessions in 2017 and 2018. Each piece is a gem, reminding the listener of what a fine tunesmith Dameron was, and causing wonder as to why they have not received more attention. One session centered on three pieces featuring vocalist Maely Danielle, songs that deserve more attention. Combs has created a wonderful tribute to one of our too often overlooked jazz treasures.
Tadd Dameron (1917-65) was arguably the most significant arranger-composer to emerge during the classic bebop era (1945-60). He gained experience writing for Harlan Leonard’s Rockets, Jimmie Lunceford and Count Basie during 1940-45 and then during the bop years several of his songs (most notably “Hot House,” “Good Bait,” “Our Delight,” and “If You Could See Me Now”) became standards. While he led groups and record dates on an occasional basis after 1950 (including dates featuring Clifford Brown and John Coltrane) and arranged several albums, he never became a household name.
Baritonist and altoist Paul Combs is the perfect person to perform a set of mostly unknown Tadd Dameron compositions. Combs is the author of the book Dameronia – the Life and Music of Tadd Dameron. In his research he came across a dozen superior songs that were either only recorded once (such as “A La Bridges” which was cut by Harlan Leonard) or never at all. The quality of the generally unknown material is quite high and quite a few of the tunes could become standards in the future if enough musicians discover this project.
Mostly utilizing quintets with trumpeter Derek Cannon, either Bill Cunliffe, Melonie Grinnell, Ken Cook or Kamau Kenyatta on piano, Alex Frank, Rob Thorsen or Jeff Denson on bass, and Alex Aspinall or Richard Sellers on drums, Combs (who is particularly individual on baritone) brings to life such numbers as “Moon From The East,” “Don’t Forget It,” The Search” and “The Rampage.” His arrangements make most of the songs sound like they were being performed by a top notch hard bop group from around 1960. Danielle Wertz takes fine vocals on “Take A Chance On Spring,” “Never Been In Love” and “Weekend” that add to the value of this release.
Anyone with even a slight interest in Tadd Dameron, bop or straight ahead jazz should pick up this significant release which is available from www.summitrecords.com.
– Scott Yanow for LA Jazz Scene