From the technology of Michael Brecker, George Garzone, Bob Mintzer, Dave Liebman and Bob Berg, Steve Grossman is ceaselessly considered the best; he’s definitely essentially the most forgotten. And but his story continues to resonate amongst his surviving mates and contemporaries.
One other participant typically touted as the perfect of the post-Coltrane technology, if such a title exists, is Boston-based saxophonist and educator Jerry Bergonzi. Certainly, Michael Brecker was as soon as requested the way it felt to be ‘king of the tenor sax’ and famously responded “I don’t know, you’d higher ask Jerry Bergonzi.” Although Bergonzi is evident in his perception that ‘nobody will be king of the tenor sax’, he has loved an distinctive profession in jazz, working with such gamers as Dave Brubeck, Dick Oatts and Mulgrew Miller. Now 74 years outdated, Bergonzi seems to be again on the profession of his outdated buddy Steve Grossman.
This dialog is the fourth of a five-part collection about Steve Grossman. Interview by Charles Rees.
London Jazz Information: How did you first encounter Steve Grossman?
Jerry Bergonzi: I first encountered Steve as a result of I knew his brother Hal Grossman, who was a trumpet participant. Hal was at all times speaking about his youthful brother, how he was a fantastic saxophone participant; he was enjoying alto and he was transcribing this and transcribing that. Hal mentioned he sounded sort of like Cannonball on alto.
Then, lastly, I flew to New York with Hal – it was the primary time I’d flown anyplace – and we frolicked with Steve. By that point he was enjoying tenor, and we went to totally different golf equipment, listening to folks play and sitting in. I bear in mind we sat in at this place with Jimmy Lovelace on drums and Jymie Merritt on bass. Simply bass and drums. It was a studying expertise for me. At the moment, Steve was actually sort of upbeat. He was completely straight!!
Then there was a bass participant, Don Pate, used to play with lots of people, and I performed for his senior recital at New England Conservatory. He had Webster Lewis on organ, Lenny White on drums, this different drummer… He had two of each instrument besides bass; it was myself and Steve Grossman on tenor saxophone. By that point, Steve was already enjoying with Miles and I may see a shift in his manner.
LJN: What did that shift in his manner appear like?
JB: He was extra withdrawn. I may inform he wasn’t as extroverted or as enthusiastic.
Later I moved to New York Metropolis and he came to visit to my loft with Greg Herbert. They had been each tripping, and Steve slugged down a pint of I.W. Harper bourbon in report time. Different occasions he would come over in search of a mouthpiece he may promote. I may let you know so many bizarre tales about Steve Grossman, however that’s not the purpose. The purpose is Steve had his points however at all times sounded wonderful. He was a fantastic participant.
LJN: What was it about his enjoying that you simply admired?
JB: He actually had nice time really feel, nice method, performed with nice authority and vitality….he was only a pure saxophone participant. I do know he took classes with Joe Allard and all that stuff, however so did lots of people. You can inform he’d put in his time finding out the jazz language. I by no means heard something of him enjoying that I disliked. I didn’t care if he was making an attempt to sound like Sonny Rollins or no matter, he simply sounded nice. All people admired Steve.
LJN: Some have noticed that you simply picked up parts of Grossman in your enjoying. Do you’re feeling that’s the case?
JB: Oh, for positive. But it surely wasn’t like I received it from Steve Grossman. I received it from the folks all of us listened to: Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Joe Henderson and Wayne Shorter….and naturally Dexter Gordon, Hank Mobley, Sonny Stitt, Stanley Turrentine… However yeah, everyone was influenced by Steve Grossman. He was on the highest of his recreation. He was enjoying with Miles [Davis], Elvin [Jones] and making information, so he at all times had loads of notoriety. There was a time the place I actually checked out Steve, like I checked out this particular person and that particular person. You understand, you simply maintain checking folks out and discovering out the way it matches into your creative, musical scheme of issues.
LJN: Is there a selected recording of his that stands out to you?
JB: In all probability the one I used to have – I misplaced the tape – was at a membership referred to as Sonny’s Place, with Andy LaVerne on piano. They performed requirements all night time and he simply sounded so nice enjoying them.
LJN: Do you bear in mind what yr that got here out?See Also:Ziv Taubenfeld’s Full Solar – Out of the Beast Got here Honey (Clear Feed, 2022) ~ The Free Jazz Collective
JB: It was most likely round 1973, ’74. That interval.
There’s additionally a fantastic recording dwell in Boston with Steve Grossman, Masabumi Kikuchi on piano, Gene Perla on bass, and Elvin. It’s a quartet and simply sounds outrageous. It’s Steve on the prime of his recreation….yeah, I by no means heard Steve sound higher than that, actually. He’s nonetheless early twenties at that time.
I believe that some folks peak early. Like, to me, Stan Getz: there’s nothing I like greater than early Stan. Early Steve….ridiculous! However the factor is, I don’t actually assume Steve received any higher at a sure level. Sadly he had an issue with medication. He at all times sounded nice, however I ponder, had Steve been a bit extra mature and didn’t have the drug drawback, the place may he have gone together with his music? I do know Bob Berg was into medication: he stopped. Mike Brecker: he stopped. Bob Mintzer: he stopped. However Steve mentioned “I wish to dwell the Chicken guide”. Cool, however that’s a short-lived guide…
LJN: Dave Liebman has mentioned a number of time that Grossman was ‘the perfect’ of the post-Coltrane technology. Is that one thing you agree with?
JB: Yeah, he would say that. I imply, it’s a tough factor to say who’s the perfect; I don’t view issues like that. There’s issues I like about Liebman greater than Grossman, like his creativity and the truth that he doesn’t play clichés. Steve, you recognize, had his favorite clichés that, regardless of the place he’s within the tune, he’ll simply choose one out and play it doesn’t matter what the chord is. However he was on that echelon of tenor gamers out of New York, on the highest of record.
LJN: That’s just about the unanimous perspective amongst your technology. However you will have a novel perception into the youthful technology as a long-time educator additionally. Do you hear your college students discussing Grossman in any respect?
JB: Not many. They don’t know who Steve Grossman is in comparison with Mike Brecker; everyone’s speaking about Mike, and for good purpose. I do have one pupil now who simply idolises Steve Grossman; all he needs to do his play like him. And, having heard it, I did sort of get uninterested in listening to it. It’s laborious to recreate one thing like that as a result of that’s what was taking place again then. Steve was bringing out the Coltrane language at the moment, and the fusion-y, modal language, which he performed nice.
LJN: Would you care to invest as to why they bear in mind Brecker however not Grossman?
JB: Steve Grossman was not precisely the nicest man on the planet at occasions. That’s not the case with Mike Brecker: Once you meet Mike Brecker you simply love him from the get go. He was a fantastic, encouraging particular person.
LJN: So that you assume it’s extra to do with persona than artwork?
JB: Yeah, I believe he peaked too younger. He wanted to develop up in some respects, and get extra human. However I do know that when you will have a drug behavior, it’s stronger than you might be. Medication could make anyone nasty.
LJN: This yr is the fiftieth anniversary of Stay on the Lighthouse. You might be becoming a member of Gene and Dave Liebman – the surviving members of the quartet – and Adam Nussbaum for a celebratory tour, in a way sitting-in for Grossman. It it an honour to be requested to do this?
JB: Effectively first, no person may sit in for Steve Grossman, so I don’t even take into consideration that. No one may play like that….Steve Grossman is Steve Grossman. I’m sitting in for me. I can solely play nearly as good as I can play; that’s laborious sufficient for me (laughs). However yeah, it’s an honour, undoubtedly.
LJN: What’s Steve Grossman’s final legacy in your opinion?
JB: He had a fantastic really feel. Genuine, for essentially the most half. In a while I believe that it might be slightly bit spinoff typically, in comparison with early Steve Grossman the place he was enjoying language that we hadn’t heard. He had his personal tackle it, however he sort of deserted it. I ponder if folks simply pigeon-holed him as a Coltrane disciple, so he determined to not go in that course. However anyway, Steve Grossman’s legacy is his enjoying; not the truth that he was a drug addict. After they made that movement image about Charlie Parker, all they did was discuss his drug behavior… Man, he simply made nice music. Effectively it’s the identical with Steve Grossman: he sounded improbable.
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