90

Tadd Dameron Birthday Celebration at Smoke

Nick Catalano By

Sign in to view read count
Tadd Dameron was born on Feb. 21 in 1917, and for the past few years, Smoke has celebrated his birthday over President's weekend. This year the tribute featured tenor saxophonists George Coleman and Eric Alexander on alternating nights, with a rhythm section of drummer Joe Farnsworth, bassist John Webber and pianist Richard Wyands.

Tadley Ewing Peake Dameron hailed from Cleveland and began his arranging work with swing bands, writing for Harlan Leonard, Jimmie Lunceford, Coleman Hawkins, Count Basie and Artie Shaw. Very little of this swing writing has survived in present-day retrospectives—a glaring omission, given his later popularity. In the early '40s, he became enamored with bebop and began gigging in New York leading groups as a pianist. At various times such bebop stalwarts as Fats Navarro, Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Dexter Gordon and Wardell Gray performed in his groups. His bebop writing was much in-demand and appeared in arrangements for the pioneering Billy Eckstine and Dizzy Gillespie bop orchestras. His signature song "If You Could See Me Now" was written for Sarah Vaughan later in the decade and in 1948 his orchestral piece "Soulphony" was world-premiered at Carnegie Hall by Gilespie's band.

Dameron's writing has endeared itself to many performers in the post-bop era and the celebration at Smoke drew guests such as drummer Jimmy Cobb, all eager to join the party. On the other hand perfunctory analysis of his work has led to some critical misconceptions—that he failed to sufficiently incorporate bop rhythms and other stylistic devices. Revisionist critical commentary of Dameron's contribution is much needed and that is bound to come because of tributes like the one at Smoke.

On the night I attended I had to catch the last of three sets and, by that time, most of the Dameron standards had already been performed. Actually, only one of his compositions, "Ladybird," was left, but Webber dazzled the late nighters on this tune with some interesting intervallic leaps. Dameron's melodies often transcend octaves, making them difficult for singers—which may be the reason vocal recordings of his songs are relatively rare. But knowledgeable instrumentalists find the heads fodder for exploratory improvisations.

Dameron's groups in the early '50s often featured trumpeter Clifford Brown, who continually performed and recorded Dameron tunes like "The Scene is Clean" throughout his career. After years of drug abuse, which included a two-year prison sentence, Dameron passed away in 1961 at age 48 but his music has never been forgotten thanks to many tributes such as the annual birthday celebration at Smoke.

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Jelly Roll Morton Front and (Lincoln) Center New York Beat Jelly Roll Morton Front and (Lincoln) Center
by Nick Catalano
Published: September 19, 2017
Read Pat Martino at The Jazz Standard New York Beat Pat Martino at The Jazz Standard
by Nick Catalano
Published: August 8, 2017
Read John Pizzarelli Celebrates Sinatra-Jobim New York Beat John Pizzarelli Celebrates Sinatra-Jobim
by Nick Catalano
Published: July 21, 2017
Read Collegiate Jazz at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola New York Beat Collegiate Jazz at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola
by Nick Catalano
Published: March 31, 2017
Read John Pizzarelli Soars at Birdland New York Beat John Pizzarelli Soars at Birdland
by Nick Catalano
Published: September 16, 2016
Read Joey DeFrancesco at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola New York Beat Joey DeFrancesco at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola
by Nick Catalano
Published: August 18, 2016
Read "John Pizzarelli Celebrates Sinatra-Jobim" New York Beat John Pizzarelli Celebrates Sinatra-Jobim
by Nick Catalano
Published: July 21, 2017
Read "Pat Martino at The Jazz Standard" New York Beat Pat Martino at The Jazz Standard
by Nick Catalano
Published: August 8, 2017
Read "Jelly Roll Morton Front and (Lincoln) Center" New York Beat Jelly Roll Morton Front and (Lincoln) Center
by Nick Catalano
Published: September 19, 2017
Read "Collegiate Jazz at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola" New York Beat Collegiate Jazz at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola
by Nick Catalano
Published: March 31, 2017
Read "My Fats Waller Obsession: Why Do We Collect Music?" My Blue Note Obsession My Fats Waller Obsession: Why Do We Collect Music?
by Marc Davis
Published: May 31, 2017
Read "Mavis Staples At Stern Grove" In Pictures Mavis Staples At Stern Grove
by Walter Atkins
Published: September 11, 2017
Read "Toshiko Akiyoshi Trio at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola" Live Reviews Toshiko Akiyoshi Trio at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola
by Keith Henry Brown
Published: September 7, 2017
Read "Passion, Grace and Fire" The Vinyl Post Passion, Grace and Fire
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: October 15, 2017
Read "Geno Thackara's Best Releases of 2016" Best of / Year End Geno Thackara's Best Releases of 2016
by Geno Thackara
Published: December 12, 2016
Read "Hard Boppin' at Smalls" In Pictures Hard Boppin' at Smalls
by Dave Kaufman
Published: August 2, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.

Please support out sponsor