Archive for the ‘Stories’ Category

Norman Mailer’s 50th Birthday Party

Monday, December 1st, 2008 friends:

Herewith is a chapter of a new book in progresss, with the working title of “Life with the Legends: Walking with the Showbiz Icons.” This segment is representative of a pretty singular instance, in one opinion anyway, and concerns how I got invited to the famed, 50th birthday celebration that the late literary icon, Norman Mailer, threw for himself in February of 1973. It was quite a night. Enjoy!

From 1971 to 1973, pianist/record producer Andy Kahn and yours truly performed in a musical group that we had the nerve to call “The All-Star Jazz Trio.” Kahn and I had been playing together since we were kids, with me on drums, and a number of bass players. By the time we turned 18, we had become decent jazz players. Well, enthusiastic ones anyway.

In 1971, there was virtually no live jazz to be heard in center city Philadelphia, but that didn’t stop us from approaching a restaurant/club– called “Skewers” and located on tony Rittenhouse Square–about presenting live jazz several nights a week. If memory serves, Andy Kahn played solo piano the first night, I brought my drums down–for free–the next night, and the following night a bass player who had been enjoying us from the bar joined us. We were booked five nights per week, and it didn’t take long for the whole enterprise to pick up steam.

All the real and wannabe jazz fans came out of hiding to hear these rambunctious, 18-year-olds, if only because Philadelphia jazz fans had nowhere to go after the demise of clubs like Peps, the Showboat and New Jersey’s Red Hill Inn. It didn’t take long for musicians to get the word about the action, and we had our share of well-known “sitters in,” including Pepper Adams and Jerry Dodgian of the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra, pianist Bernard Peiffer, Ronald Reuben and Glenn Dodson of the Philadelphia Orchestra (we later recorded with Reuben and Dodson), and on one evening, just about half of the Woody Herman Orchestra. We even hired our own press agent, who made sure our names appeared in the gossip columns regularly in exchange for a $25 per month fee.

Supporting us through the years in our musical endeavors was a dear, dear friend, who left us much too soon some years ago, named David Kay. Kay was not a jazz musician. He was a fan and listener who was exposed to the real stuff in New York City at a young age. His mother was jazz singer Carol Stevens, who recorded several impressive projects for Atlantic Records backed by the likes of Herbie Mann; did very well on the New York jazz club scene; and got some great write-ups in the trades and even in Time magazine. Since 1969, Stevens had been living with Norman Mailer, the literary giant and larger-than-life personality who passed away on November 10th of last year at the age of 84.

Always the publicity hound, which is why Mailer was as much a “personality” as he was a writer, he decided in February of 1973 to throw himself a 50th birthday bash. But this would be no mere party. It would be held at the Four Seasons hotel in New York City with 550 of Norman Mailer’s closest friends as invitees. In true Mailer style, he decreed that each and every one of the 550 people invited would have to pay $30 per person (then a hefty fee) to attend the bash. Evidently, all or most of them paid up, and the guest list included some major names, like Shirley MacLaine, Muhammad Ali and then-Senator Jacob Javits. A couple of somewhat lesser names were also on the guest list, courtesy of David Kay and his mother. Those names were Andy Kahn and Bruce Klauber. And we didn’t have to pay the $30 admission fee.

I have no recollection of just how we got to New York. I suspect it was either in Kahn’s Fiat or my Vega. However we did get there, what we witnessed upon our arrival at The Four Seasons was absolutely incredible. People were jammed in everywhere, and there were big stars at every turn. The crowd was buzzing in anticipation of Mailer’s remarks that were to be made later that evening. He was supposed to be saying something of major, international consequence (long-time Mailer foe Gore Vidal once commented that everything Mailer ever said in public was supposed to be of major consequence).

Kahn and I were greeted by our friend David Kay, his mother, and surprise of surprises, the “Man of the Hour” in person. Mailer was quite gracious, and said something to the effect that he heard of the fine work we were doing as young jazz musicians, and that he understood us to be “quite talented.” I don’t remember whether or not he patted us on the head.

Then the music began, and this was music of the real, all-star variety. The players included baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams, who had kind of taken Andy and I under his wing when he played with us in Philadelphia; composer/multi-instrumentalist David Anram; and the legendary bassist /composer Charles Mingus. Pepper Adams tried to make us feel comfortable and at home. I think he realized that one of us–that would be me–was in way over his head that night. Andy Kahn, who had been in show business since childhood, was not in over his head. He was in his element.

One of the many real novelties of the evening had to do with just how the food was served. This night, guests were invited to get whatever they wanted–from desserts to appetizers to entrees–direct from The Four Seasons kitchen and eat in the kitchen if they so desired. None other than Charles Mingus himself made sure that Andy and Bruce, the two young jazzers from Philadelphia, were escorted properly into the Four Seasons kitchen. Mingus suggested that we all dine on apple pie, which he deemed “the best in the world.” It was, and the Charles Mingus who was said to be among the most volatile personalities in the music world, was not on view that evening.

Then it was time for the birthday boy’s big speech, the one that would be of major, international consequence. Mailer sauntered up to the microphone in front of 550 adoring fans. It soon became clear, however, that the honoree may have downed too many bourbons too quickly.

The notoriously anti-feminist Mailer began his remarks thusly: “A lot of people ask me,” he said after the applause had died down after his introduction, “why I associate with so many worn-out, older women. Well, I’ll tell you why. Because they’re all the same once you get past the old, worn-out part.” Hoo boy. And that was just the start of it.

His remarks only went further downhill from there. Mostly, he was rambling semi-incoherently, and the portion that was supposed to be of major consequence had vaguely to do with a citizen’s agency that he wanted to set-up to investigate the CIA. He called it “The Fifth Estate,” or something like that.

The evening seemed to slowly deflate after that, but the partying, eating and drinking continued long into the night, though not with the same fervor. I was ready to leave. Andy Kahn, bless his heart, wanted to stay until morning.

I again have no recollection as to when we got back to Philadelphia and how we got there. What I did know was that we had a singular experience that defined jazz and defined New York City during those great days.

I wish I had a photograph of that night, but I do have one memento. Our press agent certainly worked overtime for us in this case. A day or two after the party, an item appeared in the entertainment column of the Philadelphia Inquirer that read in part, “Andy Kahn and Bruce Klauber of The All-Star Jazz Trio playing at Skewers, were Philadelphia representatives and invited guests at Norman Mailer’s 50th birthday party held at New York CIty’s Four Seasons hotel.”

It’s true. I still have the press clipping. Andy and Bruce were, indeed, there.


Tuesday, November 11th, 2008

Thankfully, the presidential election is over. And thankfully, someone else will be the President of the United States as of January 20, 2009. I have no quarrel with the character or intellect of John McCain, though I have been questioning the latter via his interesting choice of Sarah Pallin as Vice President. President Elect Barack Obama deserves our respect and support. Yes, he may be a bit short on the experience side–which is why his choice of Joe Biden as VP was such a good one–but above all, Obama is, quite simply, an inspiring presence on a scene that really needs some inspiration.

But let’s get our priorities in place. Sure, the economy is in shambles as is just about every other area of our society, and sure, we’re at war. But we all know what the most important issue is here at the site: Jazz.

With that in mind, our crack team of investigative reporters has discovered the President Elect’s history with jazz and his true feelings about it.

According to a February 8, 2007 profile in the Honolulu Star Bulletin newspaper by B.J. Reyes, which covered Obama’s time spent at a Honolulu prep school, “Barry” Obama started listening to jazz in earnest while he was in junior high school. “Barry was into things that other kids our age weren’t into,” said a one-time Obama school mate Dean Ando. “I remember when we went into a record store just to browse. He went through the entire jazz section while we were there. That affects me to this day. He’s the one who introduced me to jazz. When everyone else was into rock, Obama was into jazz.”

In terms of his favorites, those in the know claim that Obama is a big fan of Miles and Coltrane. And Herbie Hancock made an appearance in one of Obama’s television commercials. No word yet about the President Elect’s feelings about Eddie Shu.


There’s a new book out on Sammy Davis, Jr., entitled “Deconstructing Sammy,” written by a newspaper and magazine investigative reporter named Matt Birkbeck. My recommendation? Pass it by.

Whatever your feelings about Davis, there is no denying that he was among the most versatile and energetic of performers. No one has come along before or since who had the range of talents he had, which included singing, dancing, comedy and some swinging instincts as a multi-instrumentalist on drums, vibes and trumpet. His knowledge of jazz was encyclopedic, and in terms of breaking down racial barriers in the entertainment industry, Davis was a maverick. . Until he sadly became a caricature of himself in later years, he was something to see, and I was fortunate to have seen him many times. I spent some time with him at Atlantic City’s Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino shortly after he had hip replacement surgery in 1985. I was struck by the fact that he didn’t seem to be a happy fellow until he hit the stage. Remembering that he was responsible for engineering only one of two filmed appearances (that we know of) of Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich together (available on “Buddy Rich Jazz Legend” and “Gene Krupa: The Champ” on this site), and recalling that drumming was once a part of his stage act, I asked if he was still playing. “I put the drums Buddy gave me in storage,” he said. “The more I listened to Buddy the more I realized I could just never, ever be that good. No one could. So I gave them up.”

Unfortunately, Sammy Davis is best known today, if he is known at all, for things other than his music. And that’s what this book is about. It focuses on his alleged mob ties, admittedly legendary tangles with the Internal Revenue Service, the suffering and illness of his widow, and other juicy tidbits that have nothing whatsoever to do with why Sammy Davis, Jr. was famous during his lifetime. And presumably, it was Davis’ fame as an entertainer that made the publication of this book possible, but author Birkbeck all but ignores his talents, capabilities and contributions as an artist. “Deconstructing Sammy” has my vote for the most depressing book of the year. It’s like watching an autopsy. If that’s your taste…solid. Go out and buy one of Sam’s records or DVDs instead.

The 100th birthday of the man who made the drums a solo instrument, Gene Krupa, will be upon us on January 15, 1909. Modern Drummer magazine plans a tribute of sorts, and in the newest issue of Down Beat magazine, one of my favorite human beings, John McDonough, has a good piece on Gene and several other drumming legends, including Sid Catlett, etc. McDonough, of course, continues to refuse to acknowledge the existence of the Krupa or “Legends of Jazz Drumming” DVDs, but that’s not going to change. There is serious talk of a few major, major events that will celebrate Gene’s 100th, so watch this space. Carefully.


We often get emails about the availability of Krupa big band charts. There are several sources out there, but one of the very good ones is, who also offer just about every commercially -issued DVD and CD in the universe. Charts include “Disc Jockey Jump,” “Boogie Blues,” “Opus One,” “Leave Us Leap” and several others. On some of the Krupa charts I’ve obtained through the years, the orchestrations were about 89 percent faithful to the originals. There were some wholesale changes made here and there, for reasons that I still cannot figure. I hope the ones out there today are a bit closer to the originals. The only way to ensure complete accuracy is to go to the expense of having someone transcribe the charts right off the record.


Our good colleagues at are now in the Beta testing phase of what is certain to be an incredible, 24-hour internet drum channel. Even at this early testing stage, DrumChannel is incredible. Log on and join up to read incisive bios, get lessons, trade information, view vintage footage (check out the promos of the legendary Buddy Rich show from the Statler Hilton hotel) and much more.


We continue to do our bit for the economy by offering everything we’ve got for $10 per. But again, we do ask that you please seriously consider buying more than one item at a time so that we can continue to provide free shipping all over the world. Until then, keep swingin’

Bruce Klauber
November, 2008

Jazz: September 2008

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

I cannot think of a business or an individual who has not been touched by the unfortunate economic situation in this country in some way, shape or form. is no exception. After all, is there really a choice between filling the gas tank or spending $20 for a Gene Krupa DVD? While I’m confident that a good many of you, and God bless you for it, would go for the Krupa DVD, most just cannot. And I understand. Over the summer, we experimented with the idea of pricing each and every DVD, CD and book at $15, with free shipping worldwide, of course. The response was so overwhelming that we are still, believe it or not, fulfilling orders. In an effort to lend an assist to the economy, the thousands of collectors out there, and to benefit, we are changing our pricing structure for the immediate future: Everything is, once again, $15.

Please take advantage of this extraordinary price break, and please be patient with delivery. As many of you know, each order is custom made, custom duplicated and custom shipped, and if something is not right or not exactly what you wanted or were looking for, we hope we’ve demonstrated our desire and ability to go to the ends of the earth until everyone is happy.

The only thing we ask in return is, given the low, low price and the fact that we continue to offer free shipping all over the world, please think about ordering more than one item. That’s all we ask.

Despite our recent rants about YouTube and the “vintage footage for free” situation, there are still outfits out there who know there is a market for unearthed discoveries. The folks running the “Jazz Icons” organization is one example. Another is Drum Workshop, Inc., one of the world’s premier manufacturers of quality drums, and certainly the makers of the best drums in the United States.

Drum Workshop, in addition to prepping the internet, has gotten into the DVD business in an impressive way. In the coming months, look for three of the most sought after programs in jazz drumming history: The famed, Buddy Rich, Statler Hilton programs.

For those unfamiliar with the shows, here’s a bit of background

Collectors of Buddy Rich material, and there are many all over the world, have their “Buddy Rich holy grail list. The “Eddie Condon Floor Show” television programs from the late 1940s, where Rich relaxed, sang, played and danced with dixielanders and mainstreamers, are high on that list. Right now, only some audio portions have been discovered.

Then there are those who still believe there is film from the Krupa and Rich “original drum battle at Jazz at the Philharmonic” of 1952. Norman Granz, the late producer of JATP and mastermind behind the famous duel, repeatedly denied there was any film taken of Gene, Buddy or any Jazz at the Philharmonic show.

The third item that has been discussed by collectors and fans throught the years are the Statler Hilton Shows.

In the past 10 or so seasons, there wasn’t a year that didn’t go by where someone stepped forward and claimed to have or own the shows and/or to know someone who did. A snippet or two did surface, but nothing ever more than a tantalizing minutes’ worth. Now, thanks to Drum Workshop and Cathy Rich, they will soon be in wide release, in all their mesmerizing entirety.

It would have been great if Rich had been able to do television programs like these on a regular basis throughout his career. They combined all facets of his talents as a player, as a personality and as champion of jazz.

And, of course, he was no stranger to television, having appeared often during the 1950s on “The Steve Allen Show,” “Broadway Open House,” “The Marge and Gower Champion Show,” “The Patti Page Show” and various others. And from the 1960s through the 1980s, hardly a month went by without an appearance on programs hosted by Johnny Carson, Dick Cavett, Merv Griffin, Mike Douglas and Dinah Shore.

In December of 1981, Buddy told author Doug Meriwether that there were plans afoot for an actual Buddy Rich TV series. “We’re going to have our own series very soon on PBS,” he told Meriwether. “Yeah, with the whole band and some guests who will be appearing with us, taped before a live audience. It’s something I’ve wanted. I’d been told more than once by people who supposedly knew what they were talking about, that the audience for a jazz series, man, was just too small. I never bought into that, and I feel we can prove them wrong.”

Well…he did and didn’t. Three programs were filmed on February 16th through the 18th, 1982. at the Terrace Ballroom within New York city’s venerable Statler Hilton Hotel. They were and are remarkable, but they were never sold, perhaps never offered for sale, never aired and no other episodes were filmed. A very, very few have even seen them.

And Buddy’s guest stars on these three shows? How about Mel Torme’, Lionel Hampton, Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan, Ray Charles, Anita O’Day and Woody Herman? Wow.

Rich didn’t wait around to see if the programs were sold or aired. As usual, he just went straight ahead after the taping of the shows, and continued to be a constant guest star on everyone else’s talk, music or variety show. Indeed, three weeks after the filming of these shows, Buddy and the band were off to London to tour with Tony Bennett and Sammy Davis, Dr., with no looking back.

Watch this space for release dates and availability.
Keep swingin’
Bruce Klauber
September, 2008


Friday, July 11th, 2008

You would think that Gene Krupa would have an FBI file that measures three feet in thickness, if only because of the unfortunate drug incident of 1943 and the reams of press surrounding it. Surprisingly, that is not the case. Some months ago, under the Freedom of Information Act, I petitioned the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice to release any records in their files related to Gene.

There are 14 pages in Gene Krupa’s file. Twelve were released to me. The two pages not released had to do with medical records which would constitute an invasion of privacy, and some info that may or may not have disclosed a confidential FBI source.

The majority of the papers carry a date of February, 1949, specifically February 12, 14, 16, 18, 21 and 23. These records are pretty difficult for the lay person to decipher, but it appears that on or about February 12, 1949, the office of Canadian Immigration contacted the FBI for a background check on Gene. The “FBI Radiogram” from that date reads, “Gena (sic) Krupa…please advise by radio if any criminal record at Bureau. Subject described as well-known dance band leader, age 39, native of Chicago, present residence 10 Ritchie Drive, Yonkers. Report received subject possibly was charged in California with contributing to delinquency of a minor. No further particulars available.”

(In all probability, Gene was playing at a venue called the “Armories” in Brockville, Ontario, which opened for business in 1948 The “rat” could have been someone at the Liquor Control Board there, in that liquor laws had been substantially relaxed in that year and there could have been concerned about having a wild-eyed “hophead,” i.e. Krupa–performing in a liquor-serving establishment. Just speculation.)

The rest of the documents relating to this incident, which must have had to do with a gig in Canada with or without the whole band, detail the sad events of Gene’s January 19, 1943, the actual charges against him, his time in jail, fines paid, and just what charges were overturned.

For those interested in such things, the actual fine for the misdemeanor charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor was $500. On May 18, he was sentenced to 90 days in jail but got out a few days early because of good behavior. However, on June 30, a jury found him guilty of a felony charge, “hiring and employing a minor to transport narcotics; marihuana cigarettes (sic).” He was sentenced to an unspecified term in San Quentin prison. Out on $5,000 during the appeal process, the felony charge was reversed by the California District Court of Appeals on June 30, 1944, because of double jeopardy.

On September 24, 1953, it again appears that Canada was suspicious of Gene, as a “Liaison Representative” from Ottawa, Ontario, seems to have asked the FBI for up-to-date dirt on the drummer. The reply, from none other than Ms. J. Edgar Hoover, reads, “Records of the FBI Identification Division reflect no reported arrests for Krupa since 1943.” Someone in Ottawa must have really had it in for Gene, as almost two years to the day later, the “Liaison Representative” asked about the dates and availability of fingerprint files within the FBI offices. The Bureau replied that there were no fingerprints taken after the 1943 incident.

Maybe this Canadian guy didn’t like be-bop. Or drum solos.

More interesting than the files themselves is what is not included. After all, in 1952, Krupa was the first American jazz performer to visit Japan, and during his during his Jazz at the Philharmonic days, he was all over Europe and points north and south. In the late 1950s, under Norman Granz’ aegis, he again toured Europe, and in the 1960s, went to South America and Israel, among other locations. And presumably, he was an annual visitor to the Frankfurt Music Fair, representing the Slingerland Drum Company, until he was too ill to travel around 1972.

Of all the cities and countries Gene visited in the world, only Canada caused a problem. Maybe someone knows the reason why.

There have been a few stories written in recent years, notably in Gene Lees’ “Jazzletter,” that suggest Gene was hounded by law enforcement officials, particularly during his Las Vegas tenures in the 1950s at the Frontier Hotel. Let the record finally show, that at least according to the FBI, he was not.

When I first went through all this paperwork and saw most of it dated 1949, my first thought was that some or all of this may have had to do with a messy drug situation that occurred within Gene’s big band in that year.

However, that incident happened in late July, five months after the Canadian nonsense. Although it was widely reported in the press at the time, and Gene was said to be very, very angry about it, what happened in Detroit on or about July 26, 1949, hasn’t been discussed for years. Since we’re on the subject of file openings, here’s what happened, courtesy of a Chicago Tribune article dated July 27, 1949.

It seems that three members of the Krupa band–guitarist Ralph Blaze, trombonist Herb Randel and trumpet John Bellow–were accused of possessing marijuana and later arrested at a downtown Detroit hotel. Presumably, the band was playing a theater or club in Detroit at the time. Police found Blaze in possession of two reefers and a pipe. The two members of the brass section were in for bigger trouble. They were found with cocaine, in addition to the pot, and ultimately pleaded guilty to violating federal narcotics regulations and were released on $1,000 bail pending sentencing. I don’t think Bellow or Randel did any actual time.

In addition to the drugs, Detroit police found three, 18-year-old girls in the hotel room. Two were from out of town and said they flew in to visit Randel and Bellow. The third was a home town girl who said she met Ralph Blaze “a week ago.” Blaze and the ladies were not charged with anything.

After leaving Krupa, Ralph Blaze had a long and successful career with Stan Kenton and many other west coast groups, and also established himself as a respected sculptor. He was active in the recording studio and in live performance into the early 1990s.

Herb Randel, a reliable section man, spent some seasons in Woody Herman’s 1950 to 1951 “Third Herd” after being relieved of duty by Gene (Woody had more tolerance for bad boys back then). Randel seems to have fallen off the radar screen after 1951,

John Bellow showed up in the trumpet section of a 1958 Charlie Barnet band and in a Quincy Jones-led studio group that backed Billy Eckstine in 1961. Tom Lord’s incisive discography, which lists Bellow as “Bello,” says he participated in 63 recording sessions from 1946 to 1964. After that, nothing.

Some good things happened in 1949, including some nice recordings for Columbia and Roy Eldridge’s happy return to the band, which lasted from February to October. I get the idea, however, that the Detroit incident, coupled with sad state of the band business in 1949, really helped sour Gene on the idea of keeping the large group together much longer.

The decision was almost made for him. In 1950, he lost his long-time Columbia Records contract and his switch to the RCA label was brief and not very productive. In the beginning of 1951, he cut down to a 12-piece crew. They sounded awful. Check out the CD entitled “Gene Krupa: London House 1964 and Cavalcade of Bands 1951” for an example.

In retrospect, it is simply incredible that Gene Krupa was able to keep a big band of any kind together until almost 1952. Benny, Woody, Les Brown, Dorsey and Basie gave up in 1950 (although all but Benny would ultimately re-form) and Ellington was barely hanging in there.

Gene would play, and play very well, in big bands again, on record and in person, but only for record sessions, special concerts or television shows. From 1952 until his death in 1973–21 years–this big band icon was a small group drummer.

Update and correction:

Our good colleague Mike Berkowitz, the marvelous drummer, conductor and leader of the wonderful “New” Gene Krupa Orchestra, has been kind enough to update us as to the whereabouts of trumpeter John Bello, who played on the 1949 Krupa band. Earlier in this column, I said I could find nothing on Bello beyond a 1964 record date.

This demonstrates the current limitations of the web as a research tool–and in this case, the current limitations of the researcher as well–especially when it applies to jazz.

As incredible as Tom Lord’s “Jazz Discography” is, how can researchers track a musician who played and recorded a whole lot of music that might have not been jazz?

Bello, by the way, is the correct spelling of his name, which has sometimes been listed as “Bellow.” He lived, according to Mike Berkowitz, in the Philadelphia/Atlantic City area for many years, and Mike actually used him on some band dates there. In earlier years, he also worked extensively with Maynard, Quincy Jones, in a number of Broadway pit bands, etc.

What is particularly astounding is that Bello was, for some years, Judy Garland’s lead trumpeter, having appeared on dates under the baton of Mort Lindsey, Bill LaVorgna and Howard Hirsch. Every Garland fan certainly has a copy of the famed, Carnegie Hall concert recordings. Lead trumpet player on that date: John Bello.

Our apologies to Bello, who lives in Florida and still plays with rehearsal bands here. And our thanks to Mike Berkowitz, who is, indeed, “extraordinaire.”

BOBBY DURHAM: 1937-2008

Tuesday, July 8th, 2008

Drummer Bobby Durham, one most versatile and technically able players in the world of jazz percussion,  died at the age of 71. 

Durham, who never really received the attention he deserved, was a rarity in jazz:  He was equally at home driving a big band (his five years with Duke Ellington being a great example), in a trio setting (his work with the Oscar Peterson Trio was legendary), and backing a jazz singer, via his 10-year tenure with Ella Fitzgerald.

He was born in Philadelphia, learning drums there at a young age.  At 16, he was good enough to be a part of the band backing R & B pioneers, The Orioles.  When discharged from the Army in 1959, after three years in the Army band, he continued his work in the R & B area, most notably with King James and later with Lloyd Price.  He ultimately joined Lionel Hampton’s band, which was a natural extension of his R & B roots, before moving over totally to jazz with players like Basie, Ellington, Harry “Sweets” Edison, Grant Green, Shirley Scott and many others.

In the mid-1970s, he formed an alliance with trombonist Al Grey, whom he met on the Basie band.  For several years, they both headquartered in Philadelphia, performing frequently at a club fronted by Grey called “Just Jazz.”

The club was actually owned by a veteran tap room owner named Jack Manoff, who was a distant cousin of mine.  That, coupled with the fact that I was reasonably active on the Philadelphia jazz scene at the time, meant that I was given virtual run of the place.  Guitarist Jimmy Bruno and I often sat in with the Just Jazz house band that featured Grey and Durham.  On one fateful night, reedman Sonny Stitt was the headliner, and the fearless Bruno and Klauber ended up on the bandstand playing “Cherokee” at a ridiculous tempo and in a ridiculous key (Sonny could be that way with those he perceived as amateurs).

We got through it somehow. 

I spent much good time with Bobby Durham that night and on other evenings at “Just Jazz.”  He was especially proud of being one of the first  endorsers of Fibes drums, and loved to show off his shiny, fiberglass-covered-with-chrome kit (I got my first Fibes set because Bob got one!). New drums aside, I was specifically interested in how he was able to keep those mile-a-minute tempos going without rushing, without dragging but always swinging. 

He always maintained that relaxation was the key, and that problems will only present themselves when a player would push or tense up.  I remember saying, “Yeah…that’s because you can do it.”  He could only say, “You can do it, too.”

In terms of his solos, he was more influenced by Buddy and Louie than anyone realized, and while he enjoyed the spotlight, he insisted that soloing was just something he was asked to do.

He never led a record date of his own and as time went on, he more or less accepted the fact that he wasn’t going to become a household name. That’s a shame.  He should have been.

Still, he played and swung with the best of them. Up until yesterday, only three living drummers could say they played with Basie, Ellington, Ella and Oscar.  They were Ed Shaughnessy, Louie Bellson and Bobby Durham.  Now there are two.

God bless them all.

Dr. Bruce H. Klauber

George Carlin: Last Jazz Comic Standing

Sunday, June 29th, 2008

If Lenny Bruce was the first “jazz comedian,” George Carlin may have been the last.

Bruce, who died in 1966, and Carlin, who passed away on June 22, did not play musical instruments, but they both riffed, improvised, innovated, took risks and chances, and composed spontaneously like the best of the jazz greats.

Both were closely associated with jazz musicians throughout their careers. Bruce appeared in clubs with dozens of jazz legends, and on his one and only television special aired locally in New York city in 1959, available only from, he had Buddy Rich, Cannonball Adderley and the jazz singing group of Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, as guests. In the late 1960s, Carlin co-starred with Buddy Rich on “Away We Go,” a summer replacement television show. And, like too many jazz musicians of yore, Bruce and Carlin both had drug problems.

George CarlinBruce and Carlin worked most of the jazz joints when there were such things, and both were busted for obscenity. Bruce was first arrested in 1961 at the Jazz Workshop in San Francisco for uttering a 10-letter word that referred to a sex act, Carlin’s run-in with the law occurred in 1972 at the Milwaukee Summerfest for his “Seven Words You Can Never Say On TV” routine. One of the words in Carlin’s act, by the way, was the very same word Lenny was busted for 11 years earlier.

Bruce first came to fame when the ruling comics were folks like Milton Berle and Jerry Lewis, whose vaudeville roots were at the core of their outlandish physical comedy. In terms of their verbiage, it was pretty much “take my wife, please,” and “a rabbai and a priest were standing on the corner.”

The old-guard comics who labeled Bruce “sick” at the time –like Lewis, Berle, Henny Youngman and the rest, continued to base their humor on physical shortcomings and crass caricatures of women, the Japanese and other ethnic groups, and put down humor in general.

Sample lines? “I’ll take my wife on a vacation to somewhere she’s never been,,,The kitchen!” Or, even better than that, “Why don’t you walk into a parking meter and violate yourself?” These could only be topped by Bob “Peace Corps” Hope’s famed, You’re looking well. What do you hear from your embalmer?”

Hoo boy.

Bruce was simply offended by the hypocrisy of it all, including what he viewed as the hypocrisy of language.

Lenny BruceLike it or not, he changed the course of comedy, and virtually everything we hear today is an extension or modification of what Lenny Bruce did over 40 years ago.


Pushing the comedic, linguistic and verbal envelope, Lenny Bruce was revolutionary, much like Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie were when they knocked the jazz world on its rear end as pioneering be-boppers. In the staid 1950s, no one–especially a comic–dared publicly mock things like organized religion, sex, and revered icons like Billy Graham and Eleanor Roosevelt.

And his use of obscenities in his act? Lenny Bruce said over and over again that he only wanted to demonstrate that they were just words. When he repeated one or more of them over, over and over again, you got the point. It was just a word or words.

There was a price to be paid for being revolutionary. Lenny Bruce was arrested on obscenity charges seven times from 1961 to 1964. He was found guilty on two of the charges, with one being reversed after Bruce’s death. On December 23, 2003, 37 years after his death, New York Governor George Pataki posthumously pardoned him.

Like Lenny, George Carlin “worked clean,” for the first several years of his professional career, and was quite successful at it on television, in Vegas and on the club circuit. Coincidently, when Carlin and Jack Burns worked as a comedy team and arrived in Hollywood from Fort Worth in the early 1960s, it was none other then Lenny Bruce who helped them get a booking on the Jack Paar television show. This could have been a result of that fact that, at Bruce’s “Gate of Horn” nightclub obscenity bust in 1962 in Chicago, Carlin was one of two audience members/protestors who was locked up.

In the early 1970s, George Carlin changed his comedic voice and seemingly lifted a good portion of Lenny Bruce’s act and attitude. Showbiz nay sayers thought it was strictly a career move back then. In other words, maybe Carlin saw the handwriting on the wall, dropped the coat and tie and “turned hippie,” strictly for reasons of commerce, much like Bobby Darin did when he lost the toupee, starting singing folk songs and suddenly became “Bob” Darin.

Though it may have been a career move or appeared to be that way in the beginning–the “Seven Words You Can Never Say On TV” bit was eerily similar to several of Bruce’s routines and it was common knowledge that Carlin idolized Lenny–I fervently believe that George Carlin ultimately found his own voice.

Bruce always claimed that his mission was to “hold a mirror up to society.” He didn’t live long enough to do that effectively. I think Carlin did, and in the process, influenced generations of younger, socially aware comics.

If historians chose to write about such things, they might say that the jazz equivalent of George Carlin would be Miles Davis, in that Miles was amongst the very, very few who not only moved along with the times, but was at the forefront of inventing the future.

The ultimate difference between Bruce and Carlin? The times dictated that George Carlin was able to live by a credo that Lenny Bruce could not: That the job of a comic is, by and large, to be funny. Lenny Bruce was hounded and persecuted for his innovations. George Carlin was applauded.

George Carlin was 12 years younger than Lenny Bruce.

Twelve years is a generation, and a generation makes a difference in public perception.

Is there another “jazz comic,” i.e., a pioneer, revolutionary, risk-taking, improvising, riffing innovator and heir to the “jazz comic throne” out there?

Some of the “older guard” are still out there in business. Veteran Pete Barbutti continues to wail on “jazz whisk broom” and play to the band. Mort Sahl, a politicial and moral firebrand of the late 1950s and rival of Lenny Bruce’s, is pitching at the age of 80, though history has long passed him by. Likewise another 1950s icon named Shelly Berman, who pretty much sticks to acting these days.

If there is any worthy successor to the Lenny Bruce/George Carlin seat, that would be Jon Stewart. Stewart embodies the literacy, the intelligence, wit and irreverence of guys like Lenny, Carlin, Richard Pryor and Sam Kinison, coupled with a respect for the tradition of those who maintain that the job of a comic is, as Dean Martin once said, “to be funny.” Stewart is satirist and an irreverent, political pundit among other things, and he consistently holds a mirror up to society. Sound familiar?

Tune in his program on “The Comedy Channel.” Jon Stewart has it all. George and Lenny would be proud.

And maybe Stewart even likes jazz…

Jazz Column: May 2008

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008

The International Association of Jazz Educators, the voice of jazz education in more than 42 countries since 1968, has declared bankruptcy. With over 10,000 members, a thriving annual convention, plenty of local chapters and a number of still-impressive publications, this news was shocking.

The term I’m hearing used most often by those in IAJE is “blind sided,” meaning that even many close to the organization did not realize that massive amount of debt amassed. There are, of course, allegations of IAJE Board mismanagement and other accusations and instances of finger-pointing. Those things go with any Chapter Seven territory.

I have little knowledge of the IAJE management skills past and present. I resigned as an active member a few years ago, as I became frustrated and insulted by the fact that IAJE never mentioned word one about any of our videos, books, DVDs, CDs, or anything else, for that matter

Perhaps this was a part of their problem. It seemed to me that IAJE had the same advertisers, sponsors and supporters year after year after year, and nothing was seemingly ever done to court newer companies, which would include outfits like Hudson Music, Alfred Publishing, EJazzLines, and yes, IAJE chose to believe we just didn’t exist.

Then there is the issue of just how many music-themed conferences can be supported annually, as a big part of the IAJE revenue picture was its big, annual get-together. There are two NAMM (Music Merchandiser) confabs, the Frankfurt Music Fair, the Percussive Arts Convention, and Lord knows what else during the course of 12 months. Just how many of these can be viable in today’s economy? Jazz Improv Magazine has also entered the fray with a convention, and they reportedly did very, very well with it this year in New York city. There is even talk that Jazz Improv may take up some of the IAJE slack in terms of publishing and a convention. Just how that would work or if it would work are questions.

Jazz Improv, as everyone in the industry knows, is almost totally advertising driven, meaning that anything mentioned editorially, by and large, is directly connected to paid ads. This concept has been a mainstay of weekly “shopper”-type newspapers across the country for years. The fact that it’s being applied to jazz, presumably successfully at that, really says something for the publisher. Editorially, though, outside of a column or two, the publication is barely readable, rife with inaccuracies and laughably amateurish.

Everything, seemingly, is for sale at Jazz Improv. Can you imagine a large and lengthy issue devoted to Buddy Rich without even mentioning any of the Buddy Rich DVDs on the market…including the only official DVD of his life story? The point is, if a publication has little or no credibility, how seriously can any of its endeavors be taken?


The coming months are going to revitalize and revolutionize the worldwide percussion community. Both Hudson Music and Drum Workshop are launching two, separate, 24-hour, internet drum channels. Hudson’s is DW’s is Exact details will not be forthcoming until the formal launching of these projects–Hudson’s is set to start in June–but both will feature interviews, lessons, blogs, vintage and contemporary clips, interactive features, etc.

With DW, I will be involved in producing some of their impressive, stand alone DVD product, including the commercial release of the Gene Krupa/Dukes of Dixieland project “Championship Jazz” coupled with the famed Harry James/Buddy Rich outing from Chicago in 1965. I am also looking forward to writing narration for a most significant DW discovery, that being the “thought to be long lost” television specials filmed by Buddy Rich in 1982. Filmed live at the Statler Hiton Hotel in New York city in February of 1982, these three, never-aired television specials featured BR and the band, along with guests such as Anita O’Day, Lionel Hampton, Mel Torme’, Ray Charles, Stan Getz, Woody Herman and Cathy Rich. Throught the years, especially when I was heavilly involved in Buddy Rich material, someone came to me almost every six months with the claim that they had these tapes. They never did. Leave it to Don Lombardi at DW. He’s got them.

By way of, I will be contributing weekly blogs, clips, commentary, etc., most of the vintage variety. I am looking forward to truly having an international forum, much like I do in this space, that will grant exposure to the unsung giants of the drums–new and old–as well as rare material of those we know and love.

These internet drum channels are coming at a good time. WIth sites like YouTube and MySpace running rampant with unauthorized and unorganized material, anyone interested in percussion or drum history can now log on to or to find out absolutely everything they wanted to know about drums…all in one (rather, two) places.



Our German colleague, Arthor Von Blomberg, has reported that several appearances by his Krupa orchestra did very, very well at some dates in London, including the prestigious Ronnie Scott’s club. Arthor is still angling for some U.S. festival dates…

Though we haven’t yet seen it, bassist Milt Hinton’s new book, chock full of his great photos, of course, is now on the market…

On the maket is a new CD by Naples, Florida’s finest–a guy you’ve read about in this space many times–trumpeter Bob Zottola. In two words? “Buy it.” For more info, log on to Bob’s great site at, where you can also sign up for his great newsletter that lets fans know everything happening, jazz-wise, in Naples…

More Krupa discoveries are on the way, courtesy, once again, of the hard work of our man in Las Vegas, Paul Testa. All we can say at this juncture is that part of this DVD will feature every network obituary ever aired about Gene’s death…

If those of you who run into me personally within the coming weeks seem to think I look like Claude Rains in “The Invisible Man” (all bandages), don’t think I’m auditioning for a film part. On May 5th, two days after my birthday, I had a “larger-than-a-silver-dollar” sized malignant melonoma removed from under my right eye. It was caught–all of it–very early in quite in time, but do to the size involved, a number of skin grafts had to be performed. This will take some time, but the experts who know about such things claim I’ll be looking just like Frank Jr. again in no time at all. Guess my days of using no sunscreen are over…

Drummers, by nature, are not political animals, maybe because most of them are just animals. I’m no different, but I will answer finally answer the question that all wanted to know, in line with who I’m endorsing for president. Answer: I was, am and always will be a confirmed supporter of Harold Stassen.

Keep swingin and God bless,

Bruce Klauber
May, 2008 visitors may have heard this story before, but it bears re-telling:

Tuesday, April 8th, 2008 visitors may have heard this story before, but it bears re-telling:

Some seasons ago, we pulled the famed “The Drums By Jones” CD from our list of available products. Hudson Music and I had been in negotiations with the original producers of the project to issue it worldwide in a deluxe edition. Sadly, the folks who claimed to have the rights to the material were asking for more money for the rights than we would have recouped in a lifetime, so the deal fell through.

Shortly after, we received a strongly-worded document from those who said they were legally representing the owners of the material. We were asked, among other things, and in no uncertain terms, to remove “The Drums By Jo Jones” from our website. We did.

Since that time, we have heard absolutely nothing about what was supposed to be planned as a deluxe–there’s that word again–two CD set with booklet, unreleased photographs, and more. Try as we might, we cannot find any existence of this by the company who said they were releasing it (there is an English outfit by the name of Carter International who may or not be offering this, but we have little or no information about the company or the product).

In our quest to make these essential pieces of history available to our visitors, we are again offering “The Drums By Jo Jones” on CD…until we are told to do otherwise. It is essential and a must-have.

Presumably, everyone has already noticed that we have the entire 1948 film, “Smart Politics” available. Thanks to Robert Bierman to letting us offer this gem that features Gene and the crew in “Young Man with a Beat,” sung by the inimitable Freddie Stewart.


Look for two, upcoming magazine features of interest–I hope–by yours truly. One, in the next issue of the eagerly-awaited “Traps” magazine is a piece of major-league length on the history of the drum battles, complete with some graphics that you probably have never seen. We are told that this should be on the news stands on or about April 21st. This, as far as can be determined, is the only feature piece dedicated to the guilty pleasure of percussionists near and far, the drum battle. For subscription info, log onto

“Classic Drummer Magazine” bills itself as “the fastest growing drum magazine on the planet.” It may be, and since their inception, they have devoted themselves to covering players and subjects that the other publications don’t. As just one example, they have recently done a feature on the one and only Donny Osborne, perhaps the only real “Buddy Rich protege who ever existed. I was interviewed recently and extensively about my participation in the “Classic Rock Drum Solos” DVD. Writer Bob Girouard was incredibly knowledgeable about the DVD, about my work, and about the world of rare and vintage film in general, and that’s rare. For more info on this fine publication and for details on how to subscribe, visit


Even those of you who know me personally may not be aware that I’ve been a fan of Frank Sinatra, Jr. since 1967, when I first became aware that there was a Frank Sinatra, Jr. Those who continually try to compare Frankie to anyone are in the wrong ballpark. The fact is, Frankie is out there with a crack, 20-piece orchestra, singing songs and presenting orchestrations that are timeless. I had the great opportunity to interview Frank Sinatra, Jr.–and later review the show–for the “Naples Daily News” (a Scripps-Howard publication). We are reprinting it in its entirety and urge everyone to see Frank, Jr.’s show whenever he’s booked in your area.



Frank Sinatra Jr. could have taken the easy way out and chosen not to sing for a living.
But comparisons to his illustrious father have never stood in the way of his passion for the music of America’s finest composers and orchestrators and his quest to have it heard.
Singing the 45 years before youngsters like Harry Connick and Michael Bublé offered their take on his father, Sinatra Jr. has worked harder than most to carve out a solid career as a vocalist, bandleader, conductor, composer and actor.

(Sinatra played the Philharmonic Center for the Arts on Monday, March 31).
No, there haven’t been any hit records, television or stage shows, but he works quite a bit, even though his “Sinatra Sings Sinatra” show is an expensive one to mount.
Frank Sinatra, Jr., born in 1944, is the middle child of of three and the only boy. Nancy was in the limelight as a hit-making recording artist and film star, “ and Tina did well as a film producer and managing products with the Sinatra name. The younger Sinatra is the only sibling who maintains a constant stage presence. He was married for a while, is single now. A son, Mike, from another relationship, is a student at University of Califorina.

The music seemed to consume him from an early age.

“When I started as a kid I wanted to be a piano player and a songwriter, “ he told Will Haygood of the Washington Post. “I only became a singer by accident. I was in college, playing in a little band. The lead singer got tanked one night. A guy in the band pointed at me and said, ‘You sing.’ I said, ‘Me? Why me?’ He said, ‘You’re a Sinatra aren’t you? Sing!’”
As for his father, he also told the Post, “He was unreachable. He was traveling, or off making some movie. When I began in this business, with Sam Donahue’s band in 1963, “it was only on rare occasions when we saw each other.”

That would change decades later.

It’s taken years, though, for Sinatra to finally be satisfied with the sound of his own voice, he said in a phone interview
“I have become a better singer,” he said, “in the sense that I have gotten closer to the sound that I always wanted to hear my voice make inside my head. … I am now so much more comfortable working. It’s taken a lot of years for me to finally arrive at that attitude, vocally.”

The younger Sinatra studied his father’s style carefully through the years and when and if he wants to, he can sound eerily and uncannily like his dad. A good example of this can be heard on the 1996 album “As I Remember It,” a heartfelt musical and spoken tribute to Frank Sinatra.
“Yes,” he says a bit reluctantly, “that was a good record.”

That recording and his “Sinatra Sings Sinatra” program, where he sings many of the songs made famous by his father, stand as the exceptions through the years. After his father’s death, he says, “the audience wants me to sing those songs.”

Frank Jr. has long had his own eclectic repertoire (some recorded for his recent Reprise release, “That Face”), which dates back to one of his first studio efforts, “Spice.” The title song and a dark number called “Black Night” were written by the younger Sinatra.

“Nelson Riddle knew exactly what he wanted to do with the song ‘Black Night,’ ” Sinatra explained. “On the night that was recorded, that was March 29, 1971 — it was my first album with Nelson Riddle — something very, very difficult happened. We were in the recording studio here in Los Angeles, and Sinatra came walking in, because he heard I was recording that night. He came into the studio that night and he sat there and said, ‘What an arrangement!’ Nelson just blew him away. It was a very exciting evening.”

As hard as it may sometimes have been for the singer to carve out a niche for himself as a performer on his own terms, there have been many, many moments through the decades that he fondly remembers.
“I was the opening act in Vegas for three years for comic Phil Harris and the legendary bandleader trumpeter Harry James,” said Sinatra. “Phil Harris was one of the funniest people I ever knew. He could do more with less than anyone. He was incredible, the consummate stage performer who was also one hell of a musician. He was just brilliant.” (Contemporary audiences will know Harris as the voice of Baloo in the 1967 Walt Disney film, “The Jungle Book.”)

A thoroughly studied musician, Sinatra continues to be fascinated by the orchestrations — many featured in the “Sinatra Sings Sinatra” program — that made the music of Frank Sinatra timeless.
How is it that those arrangements — by craftsmen like Riddle, Gordon Jenkins, Billy May, Don Costa, Billy Byers and the rest — sound as if they were written yesterday?
Sinatra’s explanation is that “they knew how to orchestrate. They knew how to make best use of the musical instruments. They knew how to write counterpoint in music. They knew how to make the instruments sound as they wanted them to sound.”

Listeners at the Phil will hear many of these songs and arrangements as the arrangers wanted them to sound, played by a 20-piece orchestra under the direction of Terry Woodson. And this orchestra is as fine as any group of its kind, past or present.

In 1988, while leading, conducting and singing with his own band at downtown Las Vegas’ Four Queens Casino and Hotel, Frank Sinatra Jr. received a telephone call that would put his years of study, listening, learning and performing to the ultimate test.

“I had been conducting for myself,” he explained. “And the reason why I had been doing that is because we were working on such a small stage that there was no room for a conductor. So I ended up conducting for myself. When Sinatra came in one night, he said, ‘My God, the kid conducts!’ In his eyes, all of a sudden I was Eugene Ormandy, you know what I mean?
“He called me in early 1988. I was in my hotel room in Atlantic City and I was discussing the show that we were doing with my trumpeter, Buddy Childers, and my drummer, Bob Chmel. The phone rang and my father was on the phone, which surprised me, and he said to me, ‘Why don’t you come out and conduct for me?’

“So when my friends revived me with the smelling salts, I said, ‘What in the world is going on?’ He said, ‘I need somebody to conduct for me.’ I said, ‘What’s the matter with the guy you’ve got?’ Then I had to hold the phone away because he was yelling. He said, ‘These people don’t have the slightest idea of what I’m doing!’ Then he said to me, ‘Maybe another singer would understand what a singer is trying to do.’ And that was a pretty revolutionary thing to do. You never go to a show to hear a singer and see that the show is being conducted by another singer.

“He brought me in, and I began to learn him. I knew the music. I had to learn him. I was with him the last seven years that he worked. It was a wonderful experience and I miss it like you can’t imagine. It was a learning experience, and it was probably the greatest compliment that he ever gave me. And he didn’t give out compliments easily.”

After his father’s death in 1998, Frank Sinatra Jr. again hit the road with his own band. And one of the key members of the band was the pianist and sometimes conductor of his father’s orchestra, Bill Miller.
Miller, best known for being the pianist on the elder Sinatra’s famed “One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)” was the original lounge pianist at the Desert Inn in Las Vegas in 1951.

“My father was playing at the Desert Inn that year,” Sinatra recalled, “and I believe it was the first year that he ever played Las Vegas. “He met Bill Miller and loved his touch and the way he played. Bill Miller joined Sinatra in 1951. In 1951, I was seven. Bill would come to our home and rehearse with my father. I was taking piano lessons already, but I listened to a professional, and I tried to get the touch on the piano that Bill Miller had.
“As the years went by, whenever there was a Sinatra recording session and I could go to it, I would make it my business to be there and listen to the arrangements. But I would always find myself standing by the piano, listening to what Bill Miller was doing. Without knowing it, he was my teacher.

“Bill was with my father for almost 45 years. After my father died, Bill had been in retirement. In October of 1998, I went to Atlantic City to work and I was surprised to learn that the hotel who had booked us was the final hotel Sinatra performed in when he was still working. So I got an idea in my head.

“I told my people I wanted the big orchestra and that I was going to call Bill Miller to see I could convince him to come out of retirement. Bill Miller came to Atlantic City, and with very low, ethereal music playing, he was sneaked onto the stage and started to play his famous ‘One More For my Baby.’ And when the lights came up on him, people recognized him and they gasped.

“I was sitting there in the darkness, and the older I get, the more I look like Sinatra. When I was sitting there in a dark blue light, in my tuxedo, the resemblance was a little striking. The people were dead silent, and it really moved them, so much so, that they had tears in their eyes. Bill Miller worked with me until July, 2006, when he had a heart attack and died. He played right up until the end. His daughter came up to me after his death, telling me, ‘You gave my father another eight years of life.’ But Bill died never knowing what he taught me about music. I miss him every day.”

Of the new breed of singers who have followed in his father’s footsteps, Sinatra is “just glad they’re doing better music. That also goes for Rod Stewart and Michael Bolton, who are both friends of mine. The fact that they’re singing better music pleases me a great deal. They’re going to educate a generation.”

As for the future, Sinatra will continue to take work, when the gig is right, with nothing less than a full orchestra, playing the great songs and the great arrangements. There may be more film and television roles down the line per his guest spots on “The Sopranos,” and he has just completed a second appearance on “The Family Guy.”

Musically? In a 2001 essay entitled “Frank Sinatra is Alive and Well and Singing in Europe,” poet and Sinatra family friend Rod McKuen, hit the nail on the head when he commented, “Frank Sinatra Jr. is his own man, and while he’s proud to be ‘the keeper of the flame’ at this point in time, there is absolutely no doubt that he will be creating his own standards as a singer and writer in the near — not distant — future.” Or, as no less than the Washington Post put it in 2006, Frank Sinatra Jr. is “uniquely gifted in his own right.”


The following week, Tony Bennett was in town at the same venue, and he absolutely killed. The 82-year-old legend was onstage for an astounding 90 minutes and sounded better than he did 40 years ago. Special credit must be given to pianist Lee Musiker and drummer Harold Jones. Jones, playing a wonderfully sounding DW set of drums, demonstrated why he was, as Bennett said, “Count Basie’s favorite drummer.”


There should be, we hope, some major announcements on the DVD and CD fronts, in terms of getting things out commercially, properly and internationally. Stay tuned.


We are headed up north for a series of shows, but will return to Naples, FL in early June. Not only am I playing at least three nights down here, I am contributing regularly to The “Naples Daily News,” “Naples Sun Times” and “ETC.” I am in the fortunate position of covering the great jazz scene regularly…while getting to–literally–play a part in it as well.

God bless and keep swingin’

— Bruce Klauber, April, 2008.


Monday, February 19th, 2007 is proud to welcome our newest supporter, Dave Bedrock’s American Drum School. You’ll find his advert on our CD page, and it is, without doubt, worth more than a click or two. Dave has been in the drum world for ages, with expertise in just about every type of music. Like my colleagues at Hudson Music, and DCI Music Video before that, Dave saw the possibilities for drum tutoring via video at the dawn of the video age. He is a pioneer, and his concept of online lessons–as well as plenty of more great goodies–is a superb one. His site was and is among the best drum-related sites on the web.

The manager of the late Anita O’Day, Robbie Cavolina, checked in with us after reading our column on Ms. O’Day. To say that he was not happy is an understatement, stating that I knew nothing whatsoever about the nature of their association, that it was Ms. O’Day herself who wanted to continue performing, etc., etc. I offered to open up our web pages for Mr. Cavolina to reply to my criticisms, at any length whatsoever and with no editing involved. I have never heard from him again, but the offer still stands.

Too many folks in the jazz world seem to be checking out these days, including fellow Philadelphian Michael Brecker, jazz and blues legend Jay McShann, reedman Kenny Davern and a really great writer by the name of Whitney Balliet. Balliet, to many of us aspiring jazz writers growing up, idolized him, as well as Martin Williams, Leonard Feather and various others. My brother, the musicologist Joel Klauber, gave Whitney the monicker of “the poet laureate of jazz,” and we’re happy that it stuck.

We are, hopefully, “this close” to signing a deal with Alfred Publishing for the book, “The Great American Drum Catalogs: The 1950s.” We will keep you updated. We are also told that our 1956 “JATP in Hamburg” discovery will be released shortly in a deluxe edition by Fresh Sound Records in Barcelona, Spain. The folks at Fresh Sound are really, really fabulous, and it continues to be interesting to consider the fact that we had to go to Barcelona to get this released properly. Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t jazz “born” in the United States?

The Bopworks drum stick manufacturing company out of Austin, Texas, specializes in making sticks that have the look and feel of those great sticks from the 1950s and 1960s. Indeed, they are shortly coming out with a Mel Lewis model based, I believe, on Mel’s famed Gretsch stick. The big news, however, is that yours truly, Bopworks and the Estate of Gene Krupa are about to sign agreements for the issue of an “officially sanctioned” Krupa stick, the first on the market since Slingerland ceased producing them in 1972. The stick will be an exact duplicate of the Slingerland, late 1940s model, and will carry a reproduction of Gene’s actual signature. Though Bopworks may be a relatively small operation right now, it won’t be for long. We will let you know when the exact issue date is, and in the meantime, please visit the Bopworks web site at

While visiting Naples, Florida, recently, I noticed that Steve March Torme’ was booked at the Naples Philharmonic to perform what was called “Torme’ Sings Torme’. While I was aware that Mel’s son was a singer, I had only heard him doing pop-type stuff, and I wondered how anyone could do a vocal and musical tribute to one of the certifiable geniuses of music. And yes, Mel was friend of mine. He wrote the introduction to my first book on Gene Krupa and narrated our famed, “Buddy Rich: Jazz Legend” videos. To my surprise, Steve March Torme’ was just fabulous. I was so moved by the show, that I wrote a review of it for the Naples Sun Times newspaper. This is the review as it appeared in the paper:

Steve March Torme”s recent, sold-out performance at The Naples Philharmonic Center for the Arts was, quite simply, an extraordinary musical event. Steve March Torme’ is the son of the late, legedary and multi-talented Mel Torme’, and in this multi-media program, entitled “Torme’ Sings Torme’, Steve March pays vocal and verbal tribute to his father. Filling dad’s shoes–especially when dad was an absolute genius as a composer, singer, drummer, pianist and author–is virtually impossible. Mel Torme’ just cannot be imitated. Wisely, Steve March Torme’ doesn’t even try, though if anyone could do it, he could. There are, in fact, a few moments where the vocal resemblance is erie.

Certainly, the musical influence is present–how could it not be?–but Steve March Torme’ is very, very much his own man and it is obvious that this tribute to his father is nothing less than sincere and heartfelt. The program he chose to present focused on songs made famous by Mel, including “Mountain Greenery,” “Lulu’s Back in Town,” “Sweet Georgia Brown,” “Stardust,” “Ridin’ High,” and of course, as an encore, “The Christmas Song.” The stellar, 12-piece big band, under the musical direction of pianist Steve Rawlins, tackled the most difficult arrangements in the Torme’ cannon, those being the famed orchestrations written for Torme’ in the mid-1950s by the great Marty Paich. Vocally, these charts are not easy to navigate, as they are filled with key changes, tempo changes and interludes of scat singing. Torme”s interpretations, without exception, are swinging, joyous and effortless, with all of the sense of perfection that was a hallmark of his father’s. More importantly, Steve March Torme’ draws no attention to the fact these pieces are difficult. One can only imagine how much rehearsal went into this. But then again, the younger Torme’ did grow up with this music.

He is quite candid, onstage and off, about his relationship with his father. Mel Torme’ and Steve’s mother, Candy Tockstein, divorced when Steve was 2 1/2 years old. Tockstein subsequently married Hal March, best known as the host of televison’s “The $64,000 Question.” By the age of 12, Steve had already made up his mind that he wanted to be a performer and had his own band a year later. After the death of Hal March, he established a relationship with his father, and both realized they had much in common. He had his father’s support as well. In one, telling segment of this program, Steve shows a vintage piece of video which shows the elder Torme’ sitting in with his son’s band at what appeared to be a rock club in Los Angeles. And, yes, Steve was scatting pretty well even then.

In the late 1970s, he recorded something called “Lucky,” for United Artists records, and later produced and sang on Liza Minnelli’s “Tropical Nights,” a Columbia records release. Through the years, he’s also done various acting jobs in films and television. Legendary arranger Quincy Jones was always impressed with Steve’s talent, and tapped him to be one of three siners for the famed vocal group, “Full Swing,” which toured the world and recorded for Planet Records. Since then, he has concentrated on a solo career, and has made more than a smooth transition to jazz. This current tour is in support of his new CD, “The Essence of Love,” which includes a duet with famed jazz vocalist Diane Schurr.

The entertainment industry is not an easy business as it is, and growing up in the business had to have been difficult. In this case, however, you’d never know it. Steve March Torme’ is funny, self-effacing and generally just a nice guy. After what must have been an exhausting, two-hour show, which also included a few turns at the piano, guitar and a surprisingly agile tap-dancing segment, he sat in The Phil’s lobby for hours afterward, signing CDs and photos, telling stories and listening to more than one tale from those who knew and/or saw his dad perform. And by the way, he does the darndest, verbal impression of Mel Torme’ that anyone has ever heard.

Steve March Torme’ is not the first, and likely will not be the last, child of a major performer to follow in mom or dad’s footsteps. Currently on the road, just to name two, are Frank Sinatra, Jr., who is paying tribute to his father and Deena Martin, doing the same. But ultimately, an artist with the talent of Steve March Torme’ will go his own way musically, as it is already clear that he was and is very much his own man. I can’t wait to hear what the future will bring. In the program notes, Steve March Torme’ thanks his father “for showing me how important professionalism is.” Believe me, it shows.

Dr. Bruce H. Klauber is the biographer of drum great Gene Krupa, producer/creator of the Warner Brothers and Hudson Music “Jazz Legends” DVD series, and a jazz drummer and recording artist since childhood. Mel Torme’ wrote the introduction to Klauber’s “World of Gene Krupa” book and narrated his two-part DVD, “Buddy Rich: Jazz Legend.” Visit him on the web at

Finally, friends, we have some exciting discoveries on the way. Please note that we have already released “Gene Krupa: 1966” on CD, which contains about 17 minutes of very rare material of the Jazz Quartet with Carmen Leggio, recorded in Detroit in 1966. Upcoming, from the same year is an unbelievable Krupa concert, with Eddie Shu, Wellstood, etc., that was likely recorded at a state fair some where in the midwest. This features state-of-the-art recording and some of the best Krupa playing ever captured on tape.

Stay tuned, God bless and keep swingin’.

Bruce Klauber February, 2007


Wednesday, January 10th, 2007

First and most importantly, belated good wishes to all of you for a swingin’ New Year and beyond. Your continued support, encouragement–and suggestions–mean the world to me. Here’s hoping that this year brings more discoveries and more great projects.

Our apologies to those mail order supporters who did not get the message that for most of the month of January, as well as the last two weeks in December, all mail orders need be sent to: Bruce Klauber, 1108 Forrest Lakes Boulevard, Naples, FL 34105. Joy and I are down here enjoying children, grandchildren, in-laws and the rest. Naturally, Joy did her annual Christmas bash, and this year there were over 20 good folks in attendence. It’s worth the work.

Naples, Florida, is one of the great jazz towns in the country, believe it or not. We’re sitting in here at least two nights per week and doing some subbing when asked. The wonderful scene here is led by a superb singer by the name of Jebry, aka Judy Branch, who spent some great time with the Harry James band of the late 1960s. Her husband, Bobby Phillips, is a fabulous, fabulous drummer, and these great people lead some of the darndest jam sessions you ever heard. In fact, we’re going out on the town tonight with Jebry and Bobby for something of a “jazz tour” of nearby Fort Myers.

The drum catalog book project is moving along, and is now on the desk of the Alfred Publishing Company. Truth be told, I wasn’t thrilled about my treatment from the previous publisher who was considering this, despite the fact that I’ve personally helped put hundreds of thousands of dollars into their collective pockets. At this late date, the very least I can expect–and demand–is respect. Alfred Publishing is a company filled with good, compassionate, understanding and forward-thinking people. Like Hudson Music, for me, it’s the place to be. We have narrowed our conceptual sights down a bit for this book, and I think the working title, “The Great American Drum Catalogs: The 1950s” says it all. I’ve bombarded Alfred with more than enough ideas over the past year or so. I have the feeling that this one, like our 1950s “Jazz on TV” DVD project, will go through.

The idea of a Gene Krupa drum stick is still very much a possibility. Vic Firth is still up in the air about it, but there are several smaller companies ready to move on the idea right now. Stay tuned. In the meantime, we are doing everything possible to gather up what’s left of the famed, Capella “Heritage” model Krupa stick, in hopes of making them available on our site.

In another area, and forgive me if I’ve gone through this before, the YouTube era is indeed here and there seems to be no stopping them. What you might not know is this: YouTube is broadcasting thousands of videos illegally, without regard to copyrights or ownership, and this includes footage from virtually every video and DVD I’ve written and produced since 1993. And all this goes on without credit of any kind. Two examples? The famed, Jerry Lewis/Buddy Rich drum battle sequence from the mid-1950s was given to me, personally and exclusively, by Jerry Lewis as thanks for a significant personal donation I made to Muscular Dystrophy. This footage shows up, as of today, an astounding 18 times on YouTube, in full-length form. Another blatant instance is the Krupa/Rich drum battle from the Sammy Davis, Jr. television show of 1966. I went to the ends of the earth to discover, restore and pay for this footage, and it’s up there for all to see, at no charge and with no credit given, on YouTube. This is called stealing, and YouTube is stealing from hundreds of companies and individuals, from Hudson Music and Alfred Publishing to CBS and CNN. Want to sue? Wait in line. Want to force them to stop showing clips illegally? Prepare to fill out several dozen pages of paperwork. It’s grown too big too quickly–just like the internet–to stop it, though believe me, I’m going to try.

Though there is no real way to combat this, I will take the suggestions made in the Forum — about making downloads of clips that are not on YouTube available on the site — to heart.

Due to your wonderful support over the years, our singular product line and the efforts of our genius of a Webmaster, this web site is among the most visited of its kind in the world, with a domain name that has become quite, quite valuable. We’ve said this several times over the past year, but 2007 will be the year of actively pursuing appropriate advertisers. No site reaches the audience we do and there are literally hundreds of potential drum and jazz-oriented companies out there who should be advertising on Since all of you have helped make us what we are, I offer you the following: A home page display ad will cost $1,500 per month, with the biggest, bottom-of-the-page banner that we can fit. Other pages list at $1,000. This includes a link on our links page, any graphic design needed, and when appropriate, some insightful editorial about the company itself. Anyone out there–and anywhere–who successfully gets a company to join us gets 20 percent of whatever is sold. This is a deal. For more details, if necessary, e-mail me personally at

Finally, we are going to extend our DVD sale price of $20 through January. You all deserve it.

God bless and keep swingin’

Bruce Klauber January, 2007