Monday, December 31, 2007

The Paul Horn Quintet

In 1962 during what was then called "Easter Week" [April], I was the drummer in a quintet that won the Intercollegiate Jazz Festival which was held annually at The Lighthouse Cafe located in Hermosa Beach, CA. [For more about a DVD by Ken Koenig that chronicles the history of this Jazz club, please visit].

Much of the music that our quintet played was inspired by and/or derived from the Paul Horn Quintet. Although it was was formed in 1959, our quintet didn't catch-up to Paul's group until 1961 when it started to make a regular mid-week gig at Shelly's Manne Hole in Hollywood. Once we did hear Paul's group, it's music was to make a huge and lasting impression on us.

The original group consisted of Paul Horn [alto sax/flute], Emil Richards [vibes], Paul Moer [piano], Jimmy Bond [bass] and Billy Higgins [drums], although by the time it made the gig at Shelly's, Billy Higgins was in New York making all of those wonderful Blue Note recordings and Milt Turner had replaced him as the drummer.

The quintet that I performed with at the Lighthouse 1962 Intercollegiate Jazz Festival had the same instrumentation as Paul Horn's 5Tet except that guitar replaced vibes.

By 1962, nearly every Jazz fan had become familiar with the modal Jazz played by the Miles Davis Sextet in the Kind of Blue album,

and with "unusual" time signatures immortalized by the Dave Brubeck Quartet's
Time Out! album.
What made the Paul Horn Quintet particularly appealing to our us was that it was playing modal Jazz in combination with unusual time signatures, just the thing to peak the musical interest of 5 young lads ranging in ages from 18-22.
[For more on modal Jazz go here - and for unusual or complex time signatures go here -].
So there we were for almost a year, spending our Wednesday nights [or was it Thursdays?] straddling chairs with their backs turned toward the stage, nursing Coca Colas for over four hours while we soaked in this wonderfully different music. On many nights, the five of us made up half the crowd at the opening set and the entire crowd by the closing set!
Of course, none of these tunes were available as published music so we had to memorize them and later notate them, correcting any flaws through subsequent listening at the club.
To their credit, both Paul's and Emil, who composed all of the group's original music, were extremely helpful in helping us correct mistakes and in explaining alternatives to or extensions in the music.
And they couldn't have been nicer about often times stopping at our table when a set had concluded to answer any questions before going out for a smoke or to visit the den of metabolic transmigration. Sometimes there were so many questions that they didn't get treated to a break between sets. I guess our enthusiasm and energy was contagious and they were pleased to be with others who shared their musical interests.
We listen to this music so often that thinking and playing modal Jazz in complex time signatures became almost second-nature to us and by the time of our 1962 performances at the Lighthouse Intercollegiate Jazz Festival no one had to count the unusual time signatures - we just felt them!
Count Your Change became for us a blues in 4/4 time for the first 8 bars of the theme followed by six measures in 5/4 time concluding with two measures again in 4/4; I mean, your basic 16 bar blues, right!?
Or how about Half and Half with its two introductions, the first centered around the piano and bass improvising on two chords and the second introduction consisting of a 12-bar section in 6/8 time with the tune breaking down into three phrases: [1] the first 12-bar phrase in 4/4 and is made up of 8 bars of ensemble or horn solo and 4 bars of drum solo, [2] an 8-bar phrase in 6/8 and [3] a final 8-bars in 4/4.
I particularly liked this one because as the drummer I got to finish the last four bars of every one's solo in the first 12-bar phrase. :)
By the time we started playing Paul Moer's Fun Time it was imperative that we "felt" the time instead of having to count it as the measures in the choruses run 3/4,3/4,/5/4 [repeated 4 times] followed by a chorus of 5/4,5/4,3/4,3/4.5/4!
I could continue with many more of these musical roller coaster rides contained in the quintet's musical repertoire, but I hope you get the idea from these brief descriptions about how intriguing and adventurous this music was and how proud we felt to be able to accomplish it.
The Paul Horn Quintet will always have a special place in my heart for making this musical journey possible in my life.
I think perhaps the uniqueness of the music that our group featured at the 1962 Lighthouse Intercollegiate Jazz Festival may have played a major role in our wining the competition both as a group and on all of our individual instruments, respectively; another reason for us to be indebted to the Paul Horn Quintet.
Much of this wonderful and intriguing music is preserved on the Collectibles two-fer CD that includes the Columbia albums "Profile of a Jazz Musician" and "The Sound of Paul Horn" [Collectibles COL-CD-7531, Sony AZ 61328] and "Something Blue" [hifijazz J-615 reissued on CD as OJCCD 1778-2].
If you wish to know more about the technical elements involved in each tune, Leonard Feather does an admirable job of describing them in the insert notes to the Columbia/Collectible albums as does Gene Lees in the insert notes to the hifijazz album. You can also located more about the Paul Horn Quintet beginning on page 204 of Robert Gordon's fine book, Jazz West Coast [London: Quartet Books, 1986].
Incidentally, the Paul Horn Quintet featuring Emil Richards on vibes staged a reunion at The Los Angeles Jazz Institute's "Jazz West Coast 3" held on October 2, 2005 [for more about the LA Jazz Institute go here -].
Mike Lang [piano], John Belzaguy [bass] and Joe Porcaro [drums] made up the rhythm section and two of the tunes they played were none other than Count Your Change and Half and Half.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing those memories as well as your thoughts on Horn's music. You're right: those reissues contain wonderful music!


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