Archive for the ‘Stories’ Category

FRANCES KLAUBER: From Gene and Buddy to Frank and Dean to Moe and Larry

Tuesday, July 26th, 2005

Some may deem this to be a bit inappropriate, but it’s my web site and I can say and do what I want! And if that sounds like shades of “it’s my ball, so it’s my game,” so be it. Seriously, and forgive me if I’m a little sentimental at this time, so many of you–from all over the world–seem like family to me. I’ve never felt like anyone who ever visited was a “customer.” A supporter? Yes. A friend? Yes. Perhaps it’s because we all have one thing in common, no matter where we live and what our backgrounds may be. That’s the love of jazz, generally, and the music of Gene Krupa, to be more specific. 

Those of you who have been receiving periodic, personal updates from me are aware that my mother, Frances, has pancreatic cancer. She just celebrated her 92nd birthday last month and she is as feisty as ever, but what she has just cannot be stopped and we’re told that time is relatively short. She is quite, quite comfortable in a convalescent home outside of Philadelphia, though she detests the food and is less than thrilled with the rotten chord changes of the pianist who comes into the dining hall to entertain a few times a week. 

Frances knows changes and she knows tempos. She grew up in the vaudeville era, and from what I’ve been told, was an active participant in it as a singer and dancer in amateur shows all over the Philadelphia area. Indeed, the story goes that one or both of her brothers, Mitchell and Jack, used to go with her to gigs for the sole purpose of collecting the money thrown at Frances on the stage! The “take,” I’m told, could really add up for those days. I also understand from various sources through the years that my mother was asked to go on the road by some rather well-known vaudevillians. However, given the reputation of show business folk at the time (they were, of course, all drug addicts and drunks), Frances’ family absolutely and unequivocally forbid it. She could have made it. Her test recording of “Apple Blossom Time” came about seven years before The Andrews Sisters had the hit on it. Coincidentally, and we all know show business is bizzare, I went throught the same thing in 1978 with my recording of “Just a Gigolo” (David Lee Roth eventually had the hit on that one). Mom was the few who understood. 

The business, though, was always in her blood. She played piano, by ear and in the key of G, at home constantly, and at family gatherings, she always entertained, many times with her brothers. She pushed me into taking music lessons at the age of six, first on accordion and later on flute. I hated both instruments, although I love them today. It wasn’t until my older brother, Joel (who many of you know as the renowned musicologist who studied with the legendary writer, Martin Williams), joined a band that I found the instrument I wanted to play. Joel was kind enough to bring me to one of the bands’ rehearsals, and in the corner of the room, there they were: a gold sparkle set of “Revere” drums (for the collectors out there, I believe Revere may have been an offshoot of “Kent”). I was hooked, and as most of you know, I still am. 

Like a lot of youngsters in the early 1960s, I wanted to take drum lessons. Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich were getting much television exposure, Joe Morello was the hippest guy out there, Art Blakey and the whole hard bop movement was helping to change the course of jazz, Maynard Ferguson’s band was swinging down the house, Sonny Payne was doing his stick-flipping bit with Basie, Cozy Cole was on the road as a result of his freak hit of “Topsy Part Two,” and even a guy named Sandy Nelson was hitting the pop charts with something called “Let There Be Drums.” My mother found me a good drum teacher, and I studied. And studied. There were a lot of teachers. And a lot of drums in our house. 

Frances, who never drove an automobile, somehow managed to attend every performance of mine throughout the years — and there were many of them — at Cynwyd Elementary School, Bala-Cynwyd Junior High School, and Lower Merion High School. Over the years, and I know this was at Frances’ insistence, my brother and I where schlepped along at famed Philadelphia venues like The Latin Casino, The Celebrity Room and just about every place in the Catskill Mountains that featured live entertainment. Just as a sampling, we saw–more than once–Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Dean Martin, Shecky Greene and Bobby Darin, to say nothing of the jazz greats our father took us to see, including Harry James with Buddy Rich, Thelonious Monk, Sonny Stitt, Erskine Hawkins, Shirley Scott, Basie, Duke, Maynard, Lockjaw Davis, Woody, Duke, and of course, Gene Krupa. You would have had to have been there. There will never be another time like it, and I believe that if it were not for my mother, not only would I have never seen these legends, but I would not be doing what I’m doing or be who I am. When Gene was on the Mike Douglas Show in Philly, my mother made sure I was there. 

Charlie Ventura called my mother at home one afternoon to ask for her permission: Could I sub for drummer Tony DeNicola for a few nights at The Saxony East club in Philadelphia? I was about 16. Not only did she give Charlie permission, but Frances organized a table of ten, front and center that very night, at The Saxony East to lend support. Charlie thanked her, in fluent Yiddish, believe it or not, that night. 

My mother was often overshadowed by my more flamboyant father, but in her day, she was the one who got the things done that had to be done. In 1959, a local, children’s television host by the name of Sally Starr announced on her program that The Three Stooges were coming to Philadelphia at a club called The Latin Casino, then located at 13th and Walnut Street in center city. Non-Stooges fans may not understand, but I had to be there. I cannot imagine how distasteful this must have been for Frances and Charlie (I recall my father saying that The Stooges were corny when he was a boy), but we got there, and I guess I’m among the chosen few who can, today, say that “I saw The Three Stooges.” My mother got me there. 

We have had our differences over the years and still do, but at times like this, one begins editing out the negative stuff. And that’s a good thing. After all, how many kids can say that their mom got them in to see The Three Stooges. That’s love. And I won’t forget it. Here’s hoping she’ll be bitching about bad chord changes for some time to come. 

In “other business,” there is, we believe, an astounding new discovery on its way to We have heard a song or two over the years from a Jazz at the Philharmonic concert from Hamburg, Germany, from 1956. Some of you have heard the JATP ensemble introduce Krupa’s solo on “Drum Boogie,” and one of the versions of Gene backing Dizzy Gillespie on “My Man.” We understand that the entire concert, if not more, is available, with Gene as the only drummer of the evening, backing everyone from Dizzy to Ella Fitzgerald. Watch this space! 

My sincere thanks to all of you, my friends, for allowing me this forum. God bless and keep swingin… 

Bruce Klauber

Buddy’s Bop

Thursday, February 10th, 2005

Lest you believe that there are no drummers other than Gene Krupa, it is appropriate that we occasionally look at the artistry of other percussionists if only because some of them are featured on these pages. Buddy Rich has been a hero and an idol to many of us, regardless of our age or level of talent, and there’s a good reason for that. To these ears, Buddy Rich was, is and will always be the greatest drummer who ever lived. Like many of you, I saw him in person hundreds of times and probably have every record he ever recorded and almost every piece of video and film with his image on it. Technically, he was simply inhuman. More importantly, though, with rare exception, he swung like mad and drove and spurred on players to play way above themselves. And this happened in a wide, wide variety of circumstances, from his own big band to the Tatum/Hampton/Rich trios. 

Still, through the years, he wasn’t always the darling of critics. “Too loud,” “too heavy,” “no taste,” were some of the comments offered through the years by the music writers. One fellow went as far as to liken Buddy’s drumming to “a Las Vegas act.” Most of those opinions and quotations have been long forgotten. But there is one set of criticisms that won’t go away, and that concerns Buddy Rich’s participation in a legendary recording session. “Bird and Diz” was recorded on June 6, 1950 in New York city for Norman Granz’ Clef label, and featured a dream lineup of Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk (the only time Monk ever recorded with Diz and Bird), bassist Curly Russell and Buddy on drums. 

Some of the comments about Rich’s drumming on this session ranged from the mild, with terms like “stylistically inappropriate,” to the downright mean. One writer accused Buddy of trying to “sabotage” the session, and another went a step further by saying Rich’s sounded like “a refugee from a drum and bugle corp” on this date. 

Now a compact disc with many, many alternate takes and false starts; “Bird and Diz” remains very much in print and continues to be reissued from time to time. This recording, in LP form, was among my absolute favorites through the years, and I’ve just pulled it out again for yet another careful listen. 

The truth of the matter is that, yes, maybe Roy Haynes, Max Roach or Stan Levey would have been more “stylistically appropriate” for this recording, but Buddy’s presence makes it so much more interesting. Leave it to Norman Granz to mix all the different styles and “see what comes out.” It’s a shame that’s not done more today. 

Buddy’s bop? It’s common knowledge that Buddy wasn’t thrilled with bop or bop drummers initially (Mel Torme’ said that Rich called them “fumferers”), but he dealt with his share of boppers in his own early bands, which included players like Alan Eager, Terry Gibbs and Johnny Mandel. Whether he liked it personally or not, he was certainly listening to bop, and it’s clear that the assimilated some of the language of it, at least those parts of it that he felt comfortable with and fit in with what he was doing. And in terms of being able to “hear” what was going on musically, however progressive it may have been at the time, it is important to remember that Buddy Rich could “hear” virtually anything. 

The fact is, Buddy Rich sounds great on “Bird and Diz.” Rhythmically grounded in the swing era though he may have been, he accompanies beautifully, is dynamically sensitive to Monk, and really inspires Dizzy. Buddy’s dropping some bass drum bombs here and there and his left hand, as always, interacts between his right foot for some very tasty independence. His breaks and solos are models of perfect time and of the Buddy Rich style, some of them even sounding closer to Gene than Buddy. Buddy, naturally, always had that bass drum going, and it that’s considered the swing style and stylistically inappropriate, so be it. I think it swings like mad, and to hear Buddy Rich on closed hi-hats, gently backing up Thelonious Monk is an example of why the best of jazz is, indeed, “the sound of surprise.” 

Rich’s drums were never that well recorded on his many 1950 Verve/Clef/Norgran dates, and his sound tended to vary from recording to recording. On “Bird and Diz,” the drum and cymbal sound isn’t great, which may have led some of these music writers to hear things they weren’t really hearing. Then, too, we must remember that this was 1950, long before the advent of high fidelity. Some of the problems, false starts and breakdowns on this recording were attributed to Rich. But listen carefully to what’s going on in the studio. Monk and Dizzy have their share of problems, and Curly Russell, though a good bassist who played on hundreds of bop sessions, is clearly no Charlie Mingus or Ray Brown in a rhythmic or tonal sense. If Buddy Rich exploded here and there on this record, I’d say it was because of frustration. And no, in 1950 he was not fully comfortable with the be-bop language, but he was getting there. Remember that be-bop drummer he met on record in 1959? And remember the outcome? 

Take a listen to “Bird and Diz” again. It’s as joyful as hearing Gene Krupa backing up Dizzy Gillespie, Red Norvo accompanying Charlie Parker, or Sonny Rollins meeting Coleman Hawkins in the recording studio. As for me, I’m now listening to Buddy Rich’s explosive four-bar breaks on take seven of “Leap Frog.”

Johnny Carson and Jazz

Tuesday, February 1st, 2005

The late and great Steve Allen, originator of the “Tonight Show” format, was well known as a jazz fan, friend to jazz musicians and a pretty decent jazz pianist. Few remember that Allen really went out on the television limb in the mid-fifties by booking folks like Billie Holiday, Lenny Bruce, Art Tatum, Charlie Parker and many others. 

Johnny Carson, who died Sunday at the age of 79, will be remembered as the quintessential talk show host, comic and interviewer, but Carson also continued Steve Allen’s legacy of using the power of television to further the cause of jazz. An amateur drummer since childhood, Carson was more than a fan. He supported the music and the musicians publicly and privately. 

As one rather spectacular example, it was Johnny Carson who helped jazz drummer Buddy Rich become a star again, at a time when a 50-year-old Buddy Rich and big bands were considered old hat. Carson opened up his program to Buddy and Buddy’s new big band, beginning around 1966, and helped garner an entire new audience of all ages for “Buddy Rich: caustic comic and world’s greatest drummer.” Rich always credited Johnny Carson for reviving his career, and as thanks, awarded Johnny with a brand new set of drums. Carson loved Buddy Rich as a person and worshipped him as a player. When I was in the midst, along with the Rich Estate, of writing and producing a video tribute to the great drummer, there was nothing Carson wouldn’t do for us. 

“The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” was, of course, an entertainment program. Hard core jazz fans, naturally, didn’t think it should be that way. Years ago, I vividly recall the jazz purists saying that Carson’s conception of jazz was Dixielanders Al Hirt and Pete Fountain, entertaining players who were booked frequently. But what my purist colleagues (yes, I was one) didn’t know, was that booked along side a Pete Fountain or Al Hirt would be someone like jazz singer Joe Williams (booked over 50 times), or Sarah Vaughan (booked over 20 times). 

The other argument, in line with television’s always-at-a-distance relationship to jazz, was that a program like Carson’s only booked the most “popular” jazz players, i.e., Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, etc. Where were the likes of the more creative players like Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, Miles Davis, Clark Terry, Freddie Hubbard and the Modern Jazz Quartet? For the record, let it be said that each and every one of these players made at least one “Tonight Show” appearance. Dizzy Gillespie was on at least a dozen times. Wynton Marsalis made his first television appearances at Johnny Carson’s insistence. You can look it up. Gene Krupa was on two times that we know of, and rumors continue to abound that Gene and Buddy actually had their famed drum battle on the “Tonight Show.” 

Carson’s show was the last to feature what was called a “big band” as the house orchestra, with jazz as its common language. While players like Carl “Doc” Severinson and Tommy Newsome played the stooge on camera, the record will show that they were and are top, jazz-oriented players who staffed “The Tonight Show” orchestra with the greatest jazz musicians who ever lived, from Ed Shaughnessy and Grady Tate to Pete Condoli and Ernie Watts. Whether they were backing a comic, a vocal duo or Buddy Rich, the always swung. They’re still on the road and still swinging under “Doc’s” leadership. 

I doubt whether Johnny Carson ever thought he would be credited with these considerable contributions. But the record speaks for itself, and the careers of many jazz people would be considerably less were it not for him. The jazz world will miss him. 

Postscript: After reading this article, arranger John LaBarbara commented, “Few people really knew how good a friend Johnny Carson was to jazz and to jazz musicians.” 

“Tonight Show” drummer Ed Shaughnessy took a copy of this piece to Doc Severinson, while they were both on a “Tonight Show” band gig in Spokane Washington on Thursday, January 27th. Shortly after, Doc and Ed got a call from the David Letterman people, saying they were flying Doc, Ed and Tommy Newsome out to New York city to participate in a tribute to Johnny Carson that aired on the Letterman program last everning, January 31st. 

This article is now appearing on the web site of the Berman Music Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to the music and musicians of Nebraska, Johnny Carson’t birthplace; and it will also appear in the next issue of “Not So Modern Drummer” magazine. 

The piece was not written to gain attention, or publicity of any kind. Indeed, it was sent out privately to friends and colleagues in the music industry. I had no idea so many people felt the same way I did. 

Keep swingin’ 

Bruce Klauber

State of the Art Audio, 1953, or “How and Why we Burn”

Saturday, January 22nd, 2005

Most of the letters and emails we have received over the years thank us for making this material available. Many of those notes, by the way, have been sent to us by Gene’s friends, family and personal and professional associates. Nothing could make us happier. The goal of is, simply, to make this material available. 

On the other hand, since we’ve been at this, we have received about a good half-dozen complaints from customers who are not satisfied with the audio quality of some of our titles. “This sounds like it was taken from an LP record that is 50 years old,” read one e-mail. Well, in many cases, that’s because it was. 

This specifically applies to our “private edition/limited circulation” LP titles from the 1950s-1960s. We will be right behind you in line at Tower Records, or wherever, to purchase “Burnin’ Beat,” “Great New Quartet,” “The Gene Krupa Story” and the rest, when they are issued commercially released on Compact Disc, and are digitally remastered complete with alternate takes, unissued takes, etc. Until then, just in order to make this material available, we have transferred the original LPs to Compact Disc (in many cases along with additional material), with all the squeaks, pops and surface noise we know and love. Yes, it will sound like a 40-year-old LP. A lot of folks think that’s actually a pretty pleasant sound. 

Regarding the practice of remastering and digitizing, presumably most of you eagerly anticipated, like I did, the “Live at the Inn Club” CD with Gene, Eddie Shu, Dave McKenna and John Drew. This had been listed in Gene’s discography as a “stereo recording” for years, and all of us just couldn’t wait to hear it. What was done to it was a disgrace. It was digitized beyond any musical sensibility at all, which is when we decided to make our transfers without any digital interference. And again, those of you who expect 2005, state-of-the-art digitized sound should look elsewhere. 

Finally, whenever one or more of these titles become commercially available–“The Drum Battle” and “Krupa and Rich” for example–we remove it from our listings. Everyone who listens to Gene and appreciates his music is entitled to the best quality available. If we’re offering something at, though it may not be state-of-the-art, you can presume we list it because it comes from the best–or only–source material available. If we don’t offer it, that’s because there are better sources elsewhere…or like the “video of the 1938 Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert,” it just doesn’t exist. 

Keep swingin, 

Bruce Klauber

The Making of Lionel Hampton: Jazz Legend

Saturday, January 15th, 2005

For those interested in such things, the good offices of Hudson Music are located within New York city’s famed “Manhattan Center,” a concert facility and suite of production offices that has just been overrun by the Arts and Entertainment Network. The whole gigantic building is attached to another venerable New York city institution by the name of The Hotel New Yorker. That’s where I just spent three days, helping to edit the forthcoming Hudson Music DVD that bears the working title of “Lionel Hampton: Jazz Legend.” 

The New Yorker was once among the city’s hotel showplaces. Every big band played there. It’s now own and run by Ramada and caters mostly to foreign tourists, transients and even has a floor or two set aside for student housing. For those who actually read the dictionary, it’s listed in Websters under “F” for fleabag. I could swear I was bitten by two or three of them during the night. I got the sense that those fleas might have been the same ones that were there when Tex Beneke worked the joint. 

The experts will tell you that making a film–or in our case, a documentary or “performance-oriented retrospective”–is about as exciting as watching paint dry. It’s actually a bit more exciting than that, especially when one has an editor as talented as Phil Fallo (“Great Day in Harlem,” among many others) at the helm. Phil can make anything look good. Plus, we had the participation of one of the great mallet artists in history, Mike Mainieri, and a gentleman and scholar who is also the world’s greatest drummer by the name of Steve Smith. These fine people not only narrated our project, but had considerable input into the script. In line with that “considerable input” is the fact that Mr. Fallo and I needed to somehow translate everyone’s additions, corrections and opinions… to what actually appears on the screen. That’s not always easy. 

As an example, take a section about how Hamp just happened to play jazz vibes on an October, 1930, record session where the Les Hite band backed Louis Armstrong on “Memories of You.” No film exists of this, the story is long and involved, and everyone seems to have a different take on exactly what happened almost 75 years ago. Words are great, to be sure, but this isn’t a book. What do you put on the screen? Ken Burns? Where are you when we need you? I’ll take Ralph Burns at this juncture! 

Without giving away trade secrets, let’s just say that I found some vintage film of Pops and Gates together, though not from 1930, and a number of still pictures of them both. Phil Fallo worked his magic with this material, and you’d swear it was, indeed, Louis and Lionel in 1930. Ah…the magic of film. 

Fortunately, Lionel Hampton was among the most filmed and recorded of the jazz giants. That he was eminently photographable and always the showman certainly helped. In “Lionel Hampton: Jazz Legend,” we present film of Hamp in each decade from the 1930s (with the first clip emanating from 1936) to one of his final extended performances with “The Golden Men of Jazz” in 1993. Needless to say, in addition to playing vibes, Hamp plays drums, piano, jumps up on the tom-tom, and mixes it up with the likes of Benny Goodman, Teddy Wilson, Gene Krupa, Milt Buckner, Al Grey, Betty Carter, Billy Mackel, Woody Herman and many, many more. 

Lionel Hampton was an artist who, along the way, played with everyone from Armstrong and Tatum and Gene and Buddy, to Mingus and Chick Corea. And, as we say in the narration, “he swung them all.” Watch this space for release date. 

Book update: “Gene Krupa: The Pictorial Life of a Jazz Legend” (Warner Bros. Publications) will go on press shortly after some last minute proofing and design tweaking. It’s quite a package at 170-plus pages of photos and commentary, measures the size of a coffee-table book, and will come with a CD of unreleased Krupa gems. JazzLegends. com friends take note: I insisted that this be priced in the $16.95 range. When it’s released–and you’ll be among the first to know–be sure to buy early and often! Keep swingin and all my best for the New Year and beyond. 

Bruce Klauber


Monday, April 12th, 2004

Since the publication of our book in 1990, “World of Gene Krupa,” there has been an unparalleled resurgence in interest in the life and music of “that ace drummer man.” Thankfully, the marketplace is filled with CD reissues, videos and dvds on Gene and other great drummers in jazz history, web sites, books, posters, tee-shirts, and more than a few Krupa “sound-alike” drummers and tribute bands. Finally, the jazz history books have properly acknowledged Gene’s contribution to drums, drumming and to jazz. 

Though he died at the rather young age of 64, in 1973, Gene had a long and glorious recording career that began in the late 1920s and continued right up until 1973. That’s six decades. Unfortunately, most of the better, commercially issued recordings have long been out-of-print. Aside from a couple of foreign and domestic reissues through the years, it appears that most of them will remain out-of-print. One of our goals at is to ensure that those old LPs from the 1950s and 1960s live on. We like to think we have fulfilled that part of our mission, via the transfer to CD of rarities like “Driving Gene,” “Hey Here’s Gene Krupa,” “Great New Quartet” and all the others. 

There’s another significant part to what we do here: As jazz players and jazz fans know, often the best music is made outside of the recording studio. That’s why we’ve devoted so much time and energy to tracking down Gene’s radio and television appearances, live concerts and projects done for the overseas market. We strongly urge you to check out our newest discoveries, highlighted by something called “So Rare.” Even the folks here at can’t believe some of the tracks on this CD. 

We apply same philosophy to our VHS videos. Gene’s films and film appearances were wonderfully entertaining. Sadly, they will likely never be released commercially and are rarely shown on television. We won’t let them disappear. Our “Raw Footage” tapes are a great complement to the full-length films, and offer glimpses of Gene in rehearsal, being interviewed, on television and in rare film shorts. 

Please note that our pricing policy has changed, and is undoubtedly the most reasonable price structure in the business. Collectors have long been paying hundreds and thousands for material like this over the years. Our prices? All CDs and books are $15. All videos are $30. Shipping is free worldwide. That’s it. 

In the news department, we have received word that “The Gene Krupa Story” will be released to DVD on or about May 18th. Don’t ask why, but there are no extras on the DVD. They could have come to us: The famed “Jammin’ With Gene” promo short with Sal Mineo is on our “Gene Krupa: Jazz Legend” video. The original theatrical trailer to “The Gene Krupa Story” is on our video “Classic Drum Solos and Drum Battles.” And we also have Gene’s appearance with Sal, promoting the film, on a 1958 “I’ve Got A Secret” tv show. In the not-too-distant future, perhaps we will put all these “promo” pieces on one video. 

We’re also told that a CD reissue is on its way in the form of the great, “Gene Krupa Plays Gerry Mulligan Arrangements” recording. No word about alternate takes yet, though most of these reissues seem to be straight transfers of what was on the original LP. Note that whenever a title is issued commercially, we do take it out of our catalog. 

As many of you know, by way of my longtime affiliation with Hudson Music, I’ve gotten the chance to work with drummer extraordinaire, Steve Smith, rather closely on a number of projects. I will tell you, unequivocally, that there is no better drummer than Steve out there, and that if he’s appearing in your neck of the woods with Buddies’ Buddies, Vital Information or in a clinic or master class, just go and see him. You will be astounded. 

On a more personal basis, I will hopefully be doing some classes and a film presentation called “The History of Jazz Drumming on Film” in tandem with Steve–and solo–in the not-to-distant future. Check this space for details. By the way, Steve Smith, as well as Gene, Buddy and all of the past, present and future legends of jazz drumming (including yours truly!) use Zildjian Cymbals. They were, are and will always be “the only serious choice.” 

We intend to use this space to let you know about updates, new products, and things we’re working on. And please tell us what you’re looking for and what you’d like to see. We’re here for you 

Bruce H. Klauber, D., Mus.