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The Mort Report

Sex and the Jazz Musician: The Brutal Truth!

By Published: January 27, 2013
I remember the times the great Joe Albany
Joe Albany
Joe Albany
1924 - 1988
piano
would fall by and end up playing by himself because nobody knew what the fuck he was doing when he was stoned out of his head. Joe Albany, almost a giant. Worth looking up. But I digress. Back to Freddie, the cat was born and raised in The Apple. Played drums, dug jazz, hung out with every one that got high, and in the '50s that represented one hell of a lot of cats—great players and not so great. Freddie was using big time, got down to 90 lbs. and decided, to his credit, that he head for the coast. Got sidetracked in Vegas, where he got real tight with Buddy Rich
Buddy Rich
Buddy Rich
1917 - 1987
drums
and spent about two years, then on to L.A. around 1957. When I met him, Freddie maintained—and so did we all in our "own sweet way." A few years back, when Terry Gibbs
Terry Gibbs
Terry Gibbs
b.1924
vibraphone
and I did some small concerts together, I would be at his house he would regale me with many story's that you won't find in his book Good Vibes: A Life in Jazz (Scarecrow, 2003), a must read for anyone interested in the real thing—that being bebop! Freddie's name came up and Terry told me about helping him keep his shit together by setting him up as a drum teacher in the music store that he, Terry, owned at the time, and in general helping him in many ways to acquire some kind of life—and ya know what? He did!

Freddie could talk and he could and did paint verbal pictures that, if taken in context with what one was seeking at the time, started to make sense, offering a solution to whatever it was that you came to Freddie about. Freddie could be charismatic and it paid off—he became drum teacher to the stars of the day, like Dave Weckl
Dave Weckl
Dave Weckl
b.1960
drums
, Rush's Neil Peart, and the list goes on and on, all extolling the virtues of mind and thought sessions with Freddie. Not just a drum teacher, but also a consultant, a giver of life lessons. But there was a caveat, and that was: no-one had ever heard him play, and no-one can, or could, find a recording or a video of Freddie playing with any one or anybody!

Freddie left the building for good a few years ago. The last time I saw him was six or seven years ago at Terry Gibbs' 80th birthday party/dinner. Freddie was table-hopping as he was wont to do in all situations requiring one to interact with other people. Freddie was glib, talking nonstop, extolling the virtues of this and that and the other. Terry once told me that Freddie never went anywhere without carrying 10K in cash on his person. I'm kind of an expert on doing things my way, and if we ever meet somewhere, sometime I'll definitely say to him, "Freddie you sure as hell did it your way."

Terry's party was held at this mom and pop Italian restaurant in Sherman Oaks in the San Fernando Valley, on the north side of the Hollywood hills in California, not far from Terry's home. There were about forty people in attendance, the crème de la crème of the Hollywood studio and jazz music community, as were my wife Jeanne and myself. The room, the waiters, the food, the décor was very home-like and nice. The dress was Southern California casual, no ties and like that—in other words nothing ostentatious.

Alright, you've got the picture. Across the room was a small bandstand and on it was some farkatke electric piano made in Tibet. Along comes this fellow, oh say about somewhere in his 40s, with a bunch of fake books, gets up on the stand, sits down at the keyboard, puts up one of the fake books, turns to some page and starts playing "Some Enchanted Evening." He continues into a medley of all the songs from the show South Pacific, with a built-in drum machine, booming and banging through tiny (thank God) six-inch speakers, oomm-chucking along in the same meter, on and on and on.

Sitting at the table right below our intrepid pianist was Horace Silver
Horace Silver
Horace Silver
b.1928
piano
and his son and friends. Are you with me on this—can you picture all that I've described and feel the vibes (no, Terry didn't play) of this surreal Stephen King-esqe dinner, Freddie Gruber, all these studio cats, Horace Silver, the fuckin' pianist dude who couldn't have had any idea who any of these folks were, and what they were about, not that it would have made any difference to the cat. And here's the kicker: no-one—I mean no-one—paid the slightest attention to what was going on, least of all Terry. Jeanne and I looked at each other baffled and just slowly shook our heads. My friends, this was something right out of a Coen Bros. flick!


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