Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Duane Tatro and his Jazz Heritage: Jazz for Moderns

Duane Tatro en zijn Jazz Erfenis: Jazz For Moderns ( Nederlands) Duane Tatro and his Jazz Heritage: Jazz For Moderns (English)

An almost forgotten jazz composer

Hans Koert

A few days ago I bought myself a reissue in the Original Jazz Classics series the Collectors Choice 50; a copy of the Contemporary album Jazz for Moderns by Duane Tatro, with a great cover photo by William Claxton. The name Duane Tatro was new to me, but the men, who played in his band were all known west coast jazz musicians from the 1950s, like Stu Williamson, Bob Enevoldsen, Lennie Niehaus, Jimmy Giuffre, Bob Gordon and Shelly Manne ( to list some of the most well known). I learned that this record turned out to be the only one dedicated to his music as a composer-arranger.

Duane Tatro.

His eleven compositions here are redolent of several of the "futuristic" trends in West Coast jazz of the period. The octet scores are full of striking textures, sounds and directions - jazz may not have gone this way, but it's still fascinating to listen back to what might have happened (cover text).

Jimmy Giuffre

Who is this Duane Tatro? Duane Tatro was born in Van Nuys, California, May, 1927. His family moved to Decorah, Iowa when he was just a baby. His father, constructed radios, which were known, in the 1930s and 1940s, as Farm radios, because they could be used with 6VDC rechargeable batteries or on farms where they had a 32VDC electrical system. In Decorah, Iowa the factory was located: L. Tatro Radios. As a 14 years old boy the family moved to California, where Duane learned about jazz - working in a restaurant, named Waterloo, he heard the orchestra of Larry Clinton, Woody Herman and Tommy Dorsey playing in the dance hall next to the place. As he loved to play that music, he started to save money to buy his first instrument - thanks to his father he could obtain a clarinet and not long after that he bought himself a tenor saxophone. During the war he played gigs with USO groups. USO means United Service Organizations Inc. and was founded in 1941 as a private, nonprofit organization that provides morale and recreational services to members of the U.S. military. Nowadays it is stil active with programs in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Bob Enevoldsen

He decided to become a member of the Union. His first band was led by Mel Tormé. He received an invitation from Stan Kenton to join his orchestra, but as was still at high school, they had some doubts excepting it. But ....... he did ... and so he became a member of the Stan Kenton band, which was on tour with the Bob Hope show. But when the tour finished and the band returned to the east, Duane left the band and went back to school again. When he had finished high school he played in overall dance orchestras and joined the navy. When the war had ended he started as a musician in a navy band of the Great Lakes. Being a member of that band, he became interested in writing music and arranging tunes for the band. He became a student in music at the University of Southern California.

After a few years he continued his study in composing in Paris with Arthur Honegger. Arthur Honegger ( 1892-1955 ) was a famous Swiss composer of classical music, living in Paris after the war. During his two and a half year stay in Paris he studied, except composing, also conducting. Although his studied classical music, he loved to make music while in Paris with local groups or with Americans who visited Europe and needed a band to accompany, like Rex Stewart. He even toured to Tunisia with Roy Eldridge. He was also part of the band that played at a discussion program at the French radio, titled Radio Diffusion Francaise. He returned to the States in 1951 and became a lecturer at the University of Southern California. It was in the 1950s that he composed and recorded the music for this Contemporary Record Jazz For Moderns. The first recording set was in Los Angeles, the 13th of September 1954 with an octet, featuring Lennie Niehaus, Bill Holman, Jimmy Giuffre, Stu Williamson, Joseph Eager, Bob Enevoldsen, Ralph Peña and Shelly Manne. Duane Tatro is labeled as the leader, the conductor and the composer of the four tracks: Turbulence - Folly - Multiplicity and Backlash. A year later, in 1955 two other recording sessions were scheduled:

Stu Williamson (tp) Bob Enevoldsen (vtb) Vincent De Rosa (frh) Lennie Niehaus (as) Bill Holman (ts) Bob Gordon (bars) Ralph Peña (b) Shelly Manne (d) Duane Tatro (arr, cond). Recorded in Los Angeles, CA, April 4, 1955

Low Clearance - Outpost - Maybe Next Year - Conversation Piece

Stu Williamson (tp) Bob Enevoldsen (vtb) Vincent De Rosa (frh) Joe Maini Jr. (as) Bill Holman (ts) Jimmy Giuffre (bars) Ralph Peñna (b) Shelly Manne (d) Duane Tatro (arr, cond) Recorded Los Angeles, CA, November 1, 1955

Minor Incident Dollar Day - Easy.

These eleven tracks were released for Contemporary records March 1956 as Jazz For Moderns. In 1955, after he had finished the Contemporary recordings of his compositions ( Duane is not active on saxophone or any other instrument in these recordings), he started a “serious” career in electronics. The original liner notes, written by Lester Koenig, learn that he became the production manager of an electronic plant and that he didn't had time to compose at that moment. Lennie Niehaus en Bob Gordon
Some of his compositions have been recorded by others, like Divertimento, which was recorded by
Red Norvo in March 1957 and Maybe Next Year was recorded by Art Pepper in October 1960. Another composition: Concerto For Electric Guitar and Orchestra was specially created for guitar player Howard Roberts ( 1977)
Duane Tatro is nowadays vice president of the American Society of Music Arrangers and Composers and participates in the Meet The Composer programs at both San Diego and New Mexico State University. He made a great career as composer of film music, for films and TV like the series M*A*S*H . Enjoy a compilation of some of his, most classical orientated compositions.

What about the music: In the liner notes by Lester Koenig, founder of Contemporary Records in 1951, he describes the discussion if these tracks are jazz or classical compositions. Tatro's eleven maturely conceived and executed pieces, while utilizing the an-atonal and polyphonic techniques of 20th century compositions, still retail the basic swing and feeling of jazz. The descriptions of Duane Tarto himself in the liner notes suggest that this is hard to understand stuff if you're not an expert of "modern classical music", but, be surprised, playing this great recordings, which is, in my humble opinion, pure west coast jazz. I Listen to some fragments of this reissue at at the Amazon site: ......... Enjoy ............ and get yourself a copy.

Duane Tatro's Jazz For Moderns - It really hit me !! Great West Coast Jazz
Hans Koert


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Blogger Gordon Sapsed said...

Duane Tatro is is conducting a live performance of his 'Jazz for Moderns" arrangements at the Los Angeles Jazz Institute's "Modern Sounds" Festival on October 22nd 2011 .
for details see the LA Jazz Institute website:

Gordon Sapsed

7:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Back in the 70s while working for a high end audio shop in the Washington D. C. area, I had the opportunity to listen to a live performance of Duane Tatro's "Dialogue For Amplified Guitar & Chamber Orchestra". The local Fm station, WGMS was broadcasting the performance. The thought of listening to a "serious piece" of music of this nature brought anticipation, and was even more enticing when the announcer explained the concept and format of the piece. A lot of "kudos" were given to Mr. Tatro, but just a mere mention of Mr. Howard Roberts, jazz guitarist, and the Studio Arts Orchestra.

Shortly into its progression, I was greatly disappointed, for I have never heard
such cacophony since a piece by the composer, George Crum, which deserves to
remain nameless. Remembering the announcer stating Mr. Tatro's career in
Television, it soon became clear this piece sounded like several background
compositions for a 70's TV drama, strung together. The real credit goes to Mr.
Howard Roberts and the Orchestra for actually staying to play the whole
composition (they had no choice). Fortunately for the audience, they could have
left anytime. For those who remained, there wasn't a clue when this piece
concluded, and after a prompt, then responded with a polite applause.

10:58 PM  
Anonymous Hans van den Berg said...

Wish I could find this album and more. So far I could find only two albums in Amsterdam from this series: Joe Gordon (nr 18) and Jenkins/Jordan/Timmons (nr 22)
Anyone knows shops in Holland where to find more of these albums INCL. the one by Duane Tatro, I'll be glad to hear from you!

5:11 PM  
Blogger Hans Koert said...

contact me at keepswinging at live point nl

5:28 PM  

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