Thursday, August 12, 2010

Curtis Amy - a forgotten West Coast saxophonist

Curtis Amy - a forgotten West Coast saxophonist ( English) Curtis Amy - een vergeten West Coast saxofonist (Nederlands)

The gentlemen with the chapeau: A Texas-to-LA tenorist ........
Hans Koert

One of those forgotten saxophone players from the second half of the XXth century is Curtis Amy. I became interested in him, when I heard (and saw) some fragments of his band at some old TV fragments from the 1963 Frankly Jazz program. Although the quality of the film is rather moderated I love to share it with you, because of the great music.

Cover of the Pacific album Katanga! ( 1963)

Born in Houston, October 1929 he learned to play the clarinet when he was a kid. When he was in the army he took the tenor saxophone. He studied at the Kentucky State College. He started to record when he had moved to Los Angeles in the mid 1950s, although his first recording dates from the late 1940s, when he still lived in Houston, where he accompanied vocalist Hubert Robinson with his septet.

Dupree Bolton, an obscure trumpet player in Curtis Amy's sextet

His first west coast recording was in the band of
Dizzy Gillespie november 1955. The first records under his own name were for Pacific Jazz with Paul Bryant. He made, all together, six albums for Pacific between 1960 and 1963 and they all seem no longer available on CD. I found some great film fragments from the Frankly Jazz program, entitled The Curtis Amy Sextet, host Frank Evans. The quality of the moving image is not very good, but the music is great.
The TV program dates from 1962, the books say, and Frank refers to Curtis' album album Katanga, but as this was recorded February 1963 the program must have been a year later. Well never mind - the music is great. The musicians are: Dupree Bolton on trumpet, also such a complete forgotten and mysterious musician, that deserves more recognition; Curtis Amy on tenor sax; Charles Coker on piano; Holland Ray Crawford on the guitar ( he's at his best here); Victor Gaskin on bass and drummer Ronald Selico.
The complete Frankly Jazz programs were half an hour and it was one of the regular local Californian jazz programs scheduled in the early 1960s, like the Jazz Scene hosted by Steve Allen; Ralph Gleason's Jazz Casuals and Jazz On Stage. - the four fragments are all taken from the original program, but the compiler starts each fragment with the same intro of the program.
The first tune presented is Summertime.

Curtis Amy had this tune on his regular repertoire - it is recorded during a live recording at the Hermosa Beach Lighthouse with his Sextet, recorded for Pacific for the album Tippin' on Through. He recorded it too as a member of the Onzy Matthews Orchestra that accompanies vocalist Lou Rawls ( July 1963).
Album of the Philadelphia Recordings (1976-1981) by Lou Rawls featuring Curtis Amy.

Next tune is Katanga.

Curtis recorded this tune for his album Katanga February 1963 with some other members in his sextet, like Jack Wilson at the piano ( Curtis Amy would play in Jack Wilson's Quartet a year later) and Doug Sides on drums.

f.l.t.r.: Kirk Lightsey - Giorgios Antoniou - Roberta Gambarini - Douglas Sides ( Porgy en Bess Jazz Club - Terneuzen ( The Netherlands)(October 2007) ( photo courtesy: Hans Koert)

A few years ago I heard Doug Sides at the drums at a concert with Roberta Gambarini and her quartet in Porgy en Bess Jazz club Terneuzen ( in the south west part of The Netherlands) October 2007.
The next one is

Curtis never wanted to be labeled as a West coast jazz musician, he said in an interview: "Texas Tenor? Well, that description goes back to when I did things like Blues Message. But West Coast saxophonist as in Wardell Grey and Dexter Gordon, Teddy Edwards and Harold Land? I'll go for that. Dexter and I played together in Onzy's band."
The last one is Blues For Amy.

As I warned you, the quality of the films is rather bad, but I hope you enjoyed the music.

Curtis Amy made a career in popular music. He became the leader of the band of Ray Charles and performed in Rhythm and Blues bands like the one of Marvin Gaye and during the 1970s up to the 1990s he wasn't active in the jazz scene. He played as a session musician on pop albums, like Soft Parade by The Doors and Carol King's Tapestry and in numerous popular productions, like films ( Dirty Dancing) and shows with his wife Merry Clayton, a gospel singer ...............until June 1994, when he recorded an album for Fresh Sound entiteld Peace For Love. This album seems to be still available. He passed away in Los Angeles June 2002.

The Frankly Jazz tunes are on the Uptown Dupree Bolton reissue Fireball and Mosaic released a 3CD compilation album entitled Curtis Amy. I hope to hear both albums once.
Hans Koert

Curtis Amy is one of those 1950s west coast saxophone players, original from Texas, who made a career in the film and pop music scene of the US in the bands of Ray Carles, but also performed as a member of the Doors and composer of the film music of Dirty Dancing. Thanks to some old fragments of a long forgotten TV-program you can learn that he was a great saxophone player .... Keep Swinging loves to point to long forgotten jazzmusicians that deserve some recognition. If you don't want to miss it - ask for the free Keep swinging newsletter.

Oscar Aleman Choro Music Flexible Records Hit of the Week-Durium Friends of the Keep Swinging blog Keep Swinging Contributions



Blogger Gerry Yaum said...

Hello I new Dupree Bolton several years ago. Here is that story.

8:33 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Thanks for your personal story on Dupree. Its historically important and shows the love and kindness you shared with each other.

10:46 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home