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TT 243: Catching Up
links and a few memories including Morton Gould and Karl Berger
Vinnie Sperrazza’s new record with Michael Formanek and myself Saturday is out; we play the record release gig at the Jazz Gallery on May 11.
Vinnie’s Substack is going very well. The essay on Max Roach and M’Boom is unique
Roz Milner gives a listen to Azimuth
Phil Freeman checks out Richard Davis
Nate Chinen attends Champion
You never know who will be in the audience. At the recent gig in Durham there was Branford Marsalis
and Abby Burton.
Abby Burton is the daughter of composer/pianist Morton Gould. There is a direct link, for my teacher Sophia Rosoff told me about Gould when discussing Sophia’s mentor Abby Whiteside: According to Sophia, Gould would show up to Whiteside before performing a concerto, saying, “Abby, fix me!” (At this time Sophia was attending and observing many Whiteside lessons.)
When I mentioned this connection to Abby Burton, she said, “Oh, I was named for Abby Whiteside.”
I am a minor Morton Gould expert and have written about him a bit online, which is why Abby Burton came to my gig. Partly I got interested in Gould because of Sophia’s connection to him; Sophia said Gould had a remarkable talent. The list of significant composers in Sophia’s circle is quite impressive: Morton Gould, Vivian Fine, Louise Talma, Miriam Gideon, Robert Helps, Barry Harris…
I once brought a copy of Gould’s educational work “Abby Variations” to my lesson. Sophia shrugged and said, “That was for his daughter, not for Whiteside.” I don’t think I put it together that daughter Abby was named for Whiteside, and in fact I’m not 100% certain Sophia knew that, either.
Now online is formerly rare audio of Morton Gould playing his piano concerto “Dialogues” with the New York Philharmonic in 1961. In my opinion it is wonderful music and stellar pianism. Indeed, as far as I know this is his best showing as both pianist and composer.
Whiteside died before Gould wrote “Dialogues,” but by that point Gould was actually past his peak in terms of popular appeal.
His most famous piano and orchestra piece, Interplay, is something like Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue plus a bit of Copland’s mixed-meter and astringent harmony. Interplay was written in the early 40’s and had many performances. Unlike many other “jazzy” classical pieces from that era, Interplay retains a tiny foothold on the culture thanks to spectacular choreography by Jerome Robbins for New York City Ballet. Interplay remains in the ballet's company’s repertory today.
Gould own 1947 record is alert and vital. On the back of the first issue, “Miss Abby Whiteside" gets a namecheck in the third column.
I like to think that before Gould went to the studio, he dropped by Whiteside’s apartment and said, “Abby, fix me!”
Abby Burton sent a photo of Morton Gould and Abby Whiteside together:
My first NYC address outside of a NYU dorm was an apartment owned by Karl Berger....this was '92 to '94 or so. Rent was $300 a month for my tiny room. I had two roommates, one was his daughter Eva Berger, the other was Jill Seifers. Both Eva and Jill were good jazz singers, I played with them both a lot.
Thanks to Eva, I once stayed with Berger and his wife, Ingrid Sertso (another excellent singer) in Woodstock. Berger's house is where I first heard the awesome Ornette Coleman LP Crisis (which was then hard to find).
Eva sang Ornette's "All My Life" beautifully with a chart prepared by Karl Berger. Now that I think about it, that was the first time I saw a piece of paper connected to Ornette that was a worth a damn.
Eva waitressed at the Village Natural, where I went all the time, she snuck me free smoothies. Eva shockingly died in her late twenties. My other roommate, Jill Seifers, also died young. Weird that both my roommates from that era were gone so soon.
It has been years since I listened to much Karl Berger, but I liked the early Don Cherry Quintet records with Berger and Gato Barbieri. The later trio records with Dave Holland and Ed Blackwell are also very good. (NYT obit shoulda namechecked those.)
I can't say I knew Karl, but he did give me one good piece of advice after checking me with Eva: "I can hear you think while you are playing. You have to think, of course, but it shouldn't sound like you are thinking." He was right, and I'm still working on that one...