"Tommy Flanagan"- sounds like an Irish gentleman strolling the countryside indeed someone you might think of in a silly way drinking Bailey's and Cream
but what was it Tommy, what was it he happened to be?
Whatever it was he happened to be- he must have been
Something a little more than the cream of a 60 year old bebop dream
Something more than the undying presence of a heavy on this jazz scene.
He must have been something not best "heard not seen" but best "heard" both heard and seen.
"A beautiful cat"- and who will deny this?
But, if you "only" heard the music- oh, if you only heard the music
You "heard" the gentleness and playful nature of one Tommy Flanagan in only two dimensions
You see, to "see" Tommy Flanagan was to know where all of that- simultaneously majestic and cherublike bold, beautiful, bebop-poesy came from.
The soul inside- a beautiful cat, and you just had to see him.
He was the Jazz Poet and sure he played those changes well- spritely, with distinction.
And yet his poetry didn't stop there.
He was also a man of the world a real friendly soul as at home in a village in Germany as in a downhome neighborhood of South Philly
A true master of the art of good humor and who spoke the language of kindness and decency with an uncommon spontaneity and level of invention
He won friendships with people he never even spoke to people smiling to themselves "that cat is a good cat, or I don't know what..:"
It is said perhaps, he smiled with the regularity and consistency of the sixteenth notes in a most classic solo he would have played on Confirmation, Relaxin' at Camarillo, or any other steady cooker he had cooked up and made.
Night after night town after town he essayed that characteristically delightful bebop poetry becoming neither jaded or the older cat you write off as dated.
just all the more charming, so much the more charming... and if you only heard him well - you caught something,
I love jazz because...it's in my blood! My late father, Billy Ainsworth, was a musical prodigy who dropped out of school at 17 after he stunned the seasoned musicians of the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra with an in-off-the-street audition
I love jazz because...it's in my blood! My late father, Billy Ainsworth, was a musical prodigy who dropped out of school at 17 after he stunned the seasoned musicians of the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra with an in-off-the-street audition. He was on the band bus the next day as Dorsey's alto sax and clarinet player, and never looked back. He played with great bandleaders such as Freddie Martin, Tex Beneke and Ray McKinley, some before he was out of his teens (they had to lie about his age to get him into nightclubs). Many older musicians have told me he was the greatest alto sax player they ever worked with. He was equally great on clarinet and was clarinetist and harmony singer for cocktail jazz pioneers, the Ernie Felice Quartet.
He eventually left the road and settled down, and that's when I came in. By that time, he was, by day, vocal group session leader/player/arranger for classic jingles and commercial music produced in Dallas. At night, he played in society bands, jazz combos and elegant showrooms. Tuesdays were slow in the showrooms, so band members' families got in free, and my mom took me to see him backing such legends as Tony Bennett, Mel Torme, Steve and Eydie, and a very old Ella Fitzgerald. Between that, hearing his record collection, growing up around the legendary musicians and singers who were like aunts and uncles to me, and just listening to him practice around the house, filling the neighborhood with incredible jazz sax riffs, I couldn't help becoming that weird kid who was listening to Peggy Lee, Ella and Manhattan Transfer when my classmates were listening to rock, country and soul.
Even though he died before I ever sang professionally, he remains my inspiration and all my CDs are dedicated to him. I like to think that he'd like my music, since it's built on the foundation he handed down to me.