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Interviews

Loren Schoenberg: From Benny Goodman to The Savory Collection

By Published: December 7, 2010
So I put a band together of my friends, just a rehearsal band, and started working and then I started to attract really good musicians to play in it. So once I had Mel Lewis
Mel Lewis
Mel Lewis
1929 - 1990
drums
, once I had Harold Ashby
Harold Ashby
b.1925
, Rolf Ericson
Rolf Ericson
b.1922
, or Johnny Carisi
Johnny Carisi
b.1922
or whoever was in the band, more people wanted to play in it, and it eventually turned into an actual band that was working. Not a lot, but we were working. John Hammond [the famous A&R executive who discovered Basie, Goodman and Bob Dylan] was interested, and [others], people who had some influence. And the next thing you knew, we started doing the Newport Jazz Festival. Then we made a record and Benny heard the record. I was working for him at that time in another capacity and that's how it happened. And that's how we became the last Benny Goodman big band.

Discs from the Savory Collection

AAJ: When you were beginning with your big band, did you have any trouble finding places to play?

LS: Sure we did. Of course we did. We played a noon-time gig at a place called The Red Blazer, which was on 88th and Third Avenue. And I paid the band. I don't remember what it was, but I paid them something. And we worked our way up from there.

AAJ: When did you release your first record?

LS: 1984. That was my first big band record.

AAJ: What was the personnel?

LS: "Well it was mostly young guys. It was all my peers, like Howard Alden
Howard Alden
Howard Alden
b.1958
guitar
, Ken Peplowski
Ken Peplowski
Ken Peplowski
b.1959
clarinet
, Matt Finders and Doug Lawrence
Doug Lawrence
Doug Lawrence
b.1956
and all these good players, but maybe one third of the band or one quarter of the band were the old time great guys, the veterans, like Danny Bank
Danny Bank
b.1922
, Mel Lewis
Mel Lewis
Mel Lewis
1929 - 1990
drums
or Eddie Bert
Eddie Bert
Eddie Bert
1922 - 2012
trombone
.

AAJ: Were there any members of The Harlem Jazz And Blues Band? (The band was comprised of original Basie alumni and others from the same era, such as Eddie Durham
Eddie Durham
Eddie Durham
1906 - 1987
multi-instrumentalist
and Eddie Barefield).

LS: No. That was an older generation, a slightly older generation. They were some people I had worked with. I had worked with Jo Jones
Jo Jones
Jo Jones
1911 - 1985
drums
and Roy Eldridge
Roy Eldridge
Roy Eldridge
1911 - 1989
trumpet
and all those people, but they were like grandfathers. I would play in their band or sit in or both, but this was a different generation. My parents' generation was the generation that was my band. That was the grandparents' generation.

AAJ: I read you also played sax with Eddie Durham [the '30s Basie arranger, trombonist and inventor of the electric guitar].

LS: Yes, I played with them all. I played with Al Casey
Al Casey
Al Casey
b.1915
and Sammy Price
Sammy Price
Sammy Price
1908 - 1992
piano
and Harold Ashby and Russell Procope and Paul Quinichette
Paul Quinichette
Paul Quinichette
1916 - 1983
sax, tenor
and Sonny Greer
Sonny Greer
Sonny Greer
1895 - 1982
drums
, Jo Jones, all of those.

AAJ: This is the late seventies?

LS: This is the late seventies and the early eighties.

AAJ: A lot of these guys were in their own bands?

LS: Yes, a lot of them worked at The West End. I lived around the corner from The West End. [The West End was at Broadway and 114th Street]. And I became the all purpose sub, 'cause I played saxophone and piano. So whenever they needed anybody, you know [it was] "Call Loren," and I ended up working in the band.

AAJ: What was your book for your own big band?

LS: Basically it was arrangements I got from Benny Goodman, and then Buck Clayton
Buck Clayton
Buck Clayton
1911 - 1991
trumpet
and Benny Carter
Benny Carter
Benny Carter
1907 - 2003
sax, alto
started giving me music. They would give me some charts. So the book was largely things from the Goodman library and then augmented by Benny Carter and Johnny Carisi and people I knew who had just come. They wanted to hear their stuff played too. At that time there were no jazz repertory bands so there was probably nobody playing the stuff, so I think they were actually happy to have it played.

AAJ: When did Benny Goodman take over your band?

LS: 1985.

AAJ: Was it for the one gig?

LS: Originally it was just for one gig, for a public television show called Let's Dance, and he needed a band. It was proposed to him that Dick Hyman
Dick Hyman
Dick Hyman
b.1927
piano
put together a band of all the old-timers and he didn't want to do that. So he said, "No." And then I gave him a copy of my record and we were swimming one day at his house up in Stamford and in the middle of the swimming thing he just said "Oh, by the way, I think I'm going to use your band on the TV show." Oh my God, I was so excited. So we did a concert in New Jersey in Waterloo Village for the New Jersey Jazz Society in the Fall of '84, because Teddy Wilson played. And then we did the TV show in '85 and then he took the band over. The band actually started really working. And within a few months I was gone.

[Goodman had a reputation for replacing musicians en masse. One currently working drummer claims to have been fired three times by Goodman, the Donald Trump of jazz, in the '60s. And trumpeter Doc Cheatham
Doc Cheatham
Doc Cheatham
1905 - 1997
trumpet
said in an interview that once Goodman fired the whole band that he (Cheatham) was in, except for him. And so it was that soon Schoenberg left too, from his band. All in the name of art, we assume.]


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