Curly "Duck" Flebber: The Lost Duck Tapes

Dr. Judith Schlesinger By

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Most scholars agree that it was the immortal Curly "Duck" Flebber who invented rebop , the style of jazz that focused on reworking bebop to make it more comprehensible for the general audience. Driven by his revolutionary vision—encapsulated in his most famous principle, "Slow it down, dammit!"—Duck strived to capture the harmonic essence of bebop while producing music that was danceable. His first attempt was his classic 30-minute ballad "Cocoa," which he released on his own Rebop label, but the critics were unkind, and not just because he forgot to put a hole in the middle of the LP. The legend goes that after Dizzy first heard Duck's extended "A Week in Tunisia," he laughed for two consecutive hours, and reportedly gasped, "That Duck ain't no Bird."

But Duck had his fans, who followed him devotedly despite constant changes in his band and the difficulty of finding his gigs. Two of his most passionate followers, the Dipple Brothers of Dubuque, taped every performance between 1950 and 1954, including the famous all-night session at the "Sup n'Bowl," and also collected every piece of paper Duck ever touched or dropped, in search of clues to his genius. "We did pick up a lot of lint," Clarence Dipple recalled in a recent interview, "But there were notes that showed Duck was onto the rebop thing as early as 1946. He was way ahead of his time. Or behind it. Anyway, different."

It took the Dipples nearly 50 years to put this CD together, but they are hopeful for its success, both to restore the luster to Duck's reputation and to supplement their small pensions. "We couldn't have a CD release party, since Duck passed on in 1973, but we did have a nice buffet at the Knights of Columbus," Clarence writes in his poignant introduction to the liner notes. The liners are worth mentioning by themselves, since they include a 47-page booklet by Phil Schaap, which makes crucial distinctions, for example, between Take 27 of "Chipowah" (recorded after a large Mexican lunch) and Take 30 (when the Pepto kicked in).

Unfortunately, the sound quality leaves something to be desired, since, as Hinkel Dibble recalls, "I didn't get the hang of that machine at first." At times, he was also obliged to record through swinging kitchen doors, since Duck was notoriously suspicious about anyone pirating his work. And "the tapes weren't really lost," Hinkel admits, "I just couldn't find the box when we moved."

The music features Duck fronting a number of configurations, including his celebrated but short-lived Flebber Fourteen, and a rare vocal on the occasion of his niece's third birthday. As far as Duck's seminal (and only) previous release, the cherished "Cocoa," Clarence says, "We were able to reproduce most of it. You can get the idea."

While newcomers to Duck's genius may be scratching their heads, this document is a must for all fans of rebop.

Track Listing: "Cocoa" (32 alternate takes), Happy Birthday, Checkies Bounce, A Week in Tunisia, Chipowah, Waddle I Do

Personnel: Curly ("Duck") Flebber (tenor sax, vocals), and various unidentified personnel

Title: The Lost Duck Tapes | Year Released: 2004

April fools!


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