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A Fireside Chat With Bud Shank

AAJ Staff By

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He recorded a lot of stuff in Europe, things that are still coming out with rhythm sections from a local town in Europe that were really not good, but they were good when he got through with them. He made them sound good. He was such a marvelous player and threw his life away. I don't think he could face it, face the notoriety that comes with that type of fame.

FJ: And Ray Brown?

BS: Ray, I first met after he left Oscar's trio. In the early '60s he came out to Los Angeles, just when jazz music was going down the toilet and most of us that had been in LA were starting to do a lot of studio work. Film composers were starting to realize that jazz musicians did excellent film scores, so I first met Ray then. We became very friendly and I associated with him and we played together a lot doing film scores.

Around 1974, we had lunch together and both of us said that we were really bored doing this ' which we were ' and about that time, a guy asked Laurindo Almeida... I had made some records with Laurindo, and the guy asked Laurindo if he would put that band back together and do a concert for him. Ray and Laurindo had been doing some duo things in a tiny little club on the Sunset strip and they called me and then we called Chuck Flores, who had been the drummer with Laurindo and I on the record.

We did the concert and Ray and I were working together on a film and we had lunch together and one of us said that we should explore this. We sensed interest again in jazz music as we knew it and so why don't we put this group together. We got a job in Australia and Ray, myself, Laurindo and Shelly Manne went to Australia and came back and went to Mexico City and came back to LA and we were working at Shelly's club. Shelly still had the Manne Hole.

I knew Laurindo better than any of them and I knew no matter what happened that Laurindo would always think it was his band, so let's call it the LA 4 and the rest of the world will think it is the Los Angeles 4 and Laurindo will think it is the Laurindo Almeida 4. And we got away with it for ten years (laughing).

And we did everything for him. He didn't have to do a thing. He couldn't do anything. All he wanted to do was sit on his stool and play the guitar. Ray did all the booking. I took care of all the finances. By this time, Shelly decided he couldn't travel anymore, so Jeff Hamilton came with us. He was in charge of the music and getting the sets together. We just let Laurindo do his thing and it worked out fine for a while.

It was a classical musician and three jazz musicians, which theoretically couldn't work, but we made it work for eight years. We did a lot of classical things. We did a lot of samba things because that is what Laurindo did best. Straight-ahead jazz things we couldn't do unless we told Laurindo not to play. By 1983, Ray and I looked at each other and said that we had taken this as far as it can go. We better quit and so we broke it up.

FJ: That band did quite a few recordings for Carl Jefferson's Concord label.

BS: Oh, yeah. In fact, I used to fly up to have lunch with him. He was great to work for. He loved the music and I had a lot of respect for him. We had a falling out. A whole bunch of people had a falling out with him later on. He was a great man. I had much respect for him.

FJ: You had a well known association with Richard Bock's Pacific Jazz label, noted as 'cool jazz.' Do you play 'cool jazz'?

BS: That is what I did. We were doing Monday nights at the Haig when Gerry and Chet were there during the rest of the week, and Dick had a lot of association with the Haig. He, obviously, had a lot of association with Gerry and Chet. Those were the first records he made. That is when I met Dick. It went on from there.

Curiously enough, the first records I made for Dick right after that, one was called The Bud Shank and Three Trombones and the next one I did was with Bob Brookmeyer and a string quartet. So many people have called me and emailed me about where to get these records and they haven't been in existence. A record company in Spain just got a hold of those masters and he is putting both of those on CD. I am very happy about that because they were both very good records.

It went on from there. I made a whole bunch of records for him. As we got into the '60s, the record business and club business started to deteriorate and Dick realized that I could adapt to any situation he put me in. If he wanted to put me with Ravi Shankar and play Indian music, I could handle that. And so I did all these strange things at Dick's suggestion and I enjoyed being put in those kinds of parameters.

So I made a lot of stuff in the '60s that bruised a lot of jazz fans. Now it is hip to do that. World music, everybody is doing world music, but back then, jazz critics were saying what is all this and that is another box I got put into. It has been a lot of work to get out of those boxes. People still associate me with all of that.

FJ: You did what you had to do to make a living.


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