Posts Tagged ‘Jake Hanna’

DRUMMING LEGEND JAKE HANNA’S BIOGRAPHY: About the Man who Wrote the Book on the Integrity of Swing

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

Woody Herman led a band for six decades, and in those six decades, granted complete musical freedom to only two sidemen: Drummers Dave Tough and Jake Hanna. Because of their taste, time, ability to swing, support and play for the band, the Old Woodchopper let them play any way they wanted. In the process, Tough and Hanna became legends.

There’s a new book out about one of those legends, Jake Hanna, and it stands as essential reading. For anyone who can read.

Maria S. Judge, Hanna’s niece, has written her uncle’s biography, “Jake Hanna: The Rhythm and Wit of a Swinging Jazz Drummer” (Meredith Music Publications) and like the subject, the work is as much a “production” as it is a bio. That’s because Hanna, who sadly left us only two years ago, was quite the multi-faceted “production” himself, fondly remembered as a story teller, humorist, sports fan, family man, teacher, mentor, talent scout, and a versatile percussionist who virtually stood for the concept of swing. And the concept of swing he stood for was his concept of swing.

Obviously, a regular bio could not do in this singular case, which is why Ms. Judge enlisted the contributions of, count ‘em, 192 friends, fans, family members, fellow musicians, students and admirers. As a whole, they tell of the drummers’ many sides, ranging from genial family man and uncompromising musician, to rabid sports fan and hilarious raconteur.

Indeed, a good majority of the 192 contributors herein say something about the man’s famed sense of humor, whose pinpoint, spontaneous wit rivaled that of any professional humorist. His lines and his stories, liberally sprinkled throughout, will have you laughing until you gasp for what’s left of breath. Start with the story he tells about Buddy Rich with Sam Most and the sextet in Chicago.

Above all, of course, Hanna was a drummer, with legions of admirers in and out of the business. Drummers of every style and age—including Charlie Watts, no less—worshipped him. Though Judge’s work is not an instructional book or educational manual, there’s plenty of meat here for drummers about Hanna’s style, philosophy, technique, drum tuning, the art of playing brushes and cymbals, his thoughts on equipment, and opinions on other drummers, musicians and singers. And sure, though he revitalized the bands of Maynard Ferguson and Woody Herman much in the same way as Louie Bellson revitalized Duke’s band, he was a superb small group player and accompanist to singers, was instrumental in the formation and ongoing success of the Concord Jazz label, was responsible for convincing Rosie Clooney to come back to the business, and set an example for jazz and for integrity by becoming the first player to leave a lucrative studio position to play jazz exclusively.

As just one example of how highly he was regarded in and out of the jazz community, when Bing Crosby returned to live performing for the last several years of his life, he only wanted one drummer backing him: Jake.

In describing Jake Hanna, two of the phrases that crop up again and again are “one of a kind,” and “they don’t make them like that anymore.”

How true. But as funny as he was, to Jake Hanna, it was all about music.

Guitarist Howard Alden was right on the mark, saying, “…He was all about music. There was a sincerity and honesty in his playing, and if you played sincerely and honestly with him, he would like it and respect it. He had no tolerance for bullshit. When he played he was behind every note, there was no trying to put on airs. He was completely in service of the music, the beauty and the swing.

“Jake was the most sincere, no-nonsense musician on any instrument, not just drums. Every note was from the heart and was full of integrity.”

It’s not certain whether awards are given out for books like these. If they’re not, there should be. If they are, Maria S. Judge should win it.


Wednesday, August 8th, 2012


The name of Andy Kahn appears often in this space. That’s because I love his playing, I can’t get enough of it, and I want everyone to hear him. In the 50 or so years of our personal and professional association, I’ve heard him advance and evolve in a thoughtful, intelligent and sometimes exploratory manner. What you won’t hear from Andy Kahn are “licks” of any kind. Not Oscar’s. Not McCoy’s. Not Bill Evans’. Not Chick Corea’s. Not Paul Bley’s. Not Bernard Peiffer’s. Okay, 24 years ago he did quote from a solo by Harry “Sweets” Edison.

What’s particularly gratifying about his playing is, of course, his Great American Songbook repertoire, and that listeners won’t even be aware of licks or the lack of them. Quite simply, Andy Kahn makes a beautiful sound.

Right now, he holds the Thursday night spot at center city Philadelphia’s Prime Rib restaurant, and Fridays at Girasole in Atlantic City. I have no doubt that all or some of the other five nights per week will be eventually filled.


Right next door to the Warwick Hotel’s Prime Rib is a space called Tavern17. Featured there not too long ago was singer Mary Ellen Desmond, backed by pianist Tom Lawton and bassist Lee Smith. It was one of the more wonderful evenings of music I’ve ever had. For the complete story, check out the re-cap on the Community Pages.


How many drummers in history have accompanied Jimi Hendrix, Count Basie, Ray Charles, B.B. King, Charles Mingus and Charlie Ventura? And how many drummers have been on network television five nights per week for almost 30 years? Only Ed Shaughnessy. Ed has written a superb book about his life and his drumming and it’s available from Rob Cook at and other outlets.

The daughter of the late and great Jake Hanna has let us know that the long-in-preparation book about her dad should be available early this fall. Jake was a colorful character and a one-of-a-kind drummer, and I know first-hand that the book is chock full of great musical stuff, and great “Jake Stories.” Check out for release date.


Stephan Peiffer, son of pianist Bernard, and pianist/educator/musicologist Don Glanden are the behind-the-scenes “powers-that-be” responsible for the release of “Bernard Peiffer: Improvision.” Part of the Universal Music “Jazz in Paris” series, “Improvision” is the first “new” Peiffer release in a half-dozen years. This stellar project issues, for the first time on CD, two incredibly rare LPs: “Bernie’s Tune” from 1956, “Modern Jazz for People who Like Original Music” from 1960, and some private material from the 1970s. “Astounding” is the only word for this project and for Bernard. For more details, log on to the Jazz Times Community Pages.


I’ll be doing more work in the near future with Michael Ricci’s web site. Michael was one of the first out of the box, in 1995, with a comprehensive jazz site, and it’s only gotten bigger and better as time goes on. Latest development is a wide-ranging venture that will bring to visitors—via web pages and an app—every jazz and jazz-related event that is going on in your particular town. “Jazz Near You” is slated for a September launch.

How many folks visit Michael’s site? I can only say that, as you read this, my “How to Guide” on how to book jazz into a restaurant or club will have been read by nearly 4,000 people. That’s a lot of readers,and hopefully, a lot of eventual gigs for all.


I doff my cap to Suzanne Cloud, Wendy Simon-Sinkler and all other involved parties at Philadelphia’s Jazz Bridge, who worked tirelessly to put together what I consider to be one of the most important jazz events of the decade. This was a Town Meeting, hosted by Jazz Bridge and the newly-formed Philadelphia Jazz Coalition, and it was a forum to address the great, near-great and not-so great issues that face jazz musicians in Philadelphia and nationwide. Once again, for my take on that memorable evening, visit the Jazz Times’ Community Pages.


My recent visit to Atlantic City was done in secret. I wanted to be alone while visiting old haunts and keep an open mind when visiting new ones. Some nice folks from Caesars’ security staff let me know that business seems to be on the upswing. That is as it should be. It’s the summer season. The beach was packed, the new, Michigan Avenue stores seemed busy; every Jitney that passed me was full and casino floor—even in mid-day on a weekday—appeared to be doing well.

There’s even some jazz to be heard here. Pianist Orrin Evans had a recent date as a part of what was called the “Chicken Bone Beach Fesitval,” and the honchos at what once was the Playboy/Golden Nugget/Bally’s Grand/Hilton—and now the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel—are booking jazz on Sunday nights. Recent visitors included pianists Alan Broadbent, John Coliani and Jim Ridl, often heard in duo formats. How about booking jazz seven nights per week?

With the untimely death of Resorts co-owner Dennis Gomes in February, surviving partner Morris Bailey was looking for another co-owner and has found one in the form of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority. These folks know what they’re doing and hopefully will continue to breathe new life, a new life started by Dennis Gomes, into A.C.’s oldest casino.

The same old problems still exist here, however. Urban blight and decay, abandoned lots and homes are on view, often yards away from billion-dollar hotel/casinos. Regular Atlantic City visitors are used to this. Newcomers are not. Doesn’t anyone down there realize that no one wants to see this in what is supposed to be a resort town? And what happened to the promises that were made from the day gaming was legalized in 1978? Until things are really and truly cleaned up, this town will continue to be in trouble.


Composer/conductor/pianist Marvin Hamlisch’s sudden death at the age of 68 on August 6th was a shock. He did a conducting gig as recently as July 21 and had just completed the score for the musical stage play of Jerry Lewis’ “The Nutty Professor.”

Hamlisch was not a jazz man, nor did he profess to be, but he was the last of a breed of “old time tunesmiths” in the tradition of Great American Songbook composers. Call me a cornball if you will, but you could whistle Hamlisch’s tunes. And you could dance to them. There was elegance, wit, musical logic and exquisite simplicity in many of his tunes. Even Sinatra dug him and tried to make a hit out of Hamlisch’s “There’s Something About You,” written in tandem with frequent partner, Carole Bayer Sager.

Sadly, and I didn’t know of this until his death, Marvin Hamlisch was being strongly considered to replace Philly Pops’ conductor Peter Nero after Nero’s planned departure at the end of the 2013 season. That would have been great for this city. And for music.


Bob Brasler’s obituary did not appear in Down Beat magazine, and the flag in front of the A.F.of M. Local #77 wasn’t flown at half-staff upon his death. That’s because Bob was best known as being one of this area’s most innovative real estate developers and forward thinkers, responsible, in good measure, for Philadelphia’s National Constitution Center.

But musicians loved Bob Brasler, who passed away at the age of 75 in June, and Bob Brasler loved musicians. It didn’t matter what the nature of the social or charitable gathering was. All he needed was a piano player, and Bob would end up singing half the night.

The trio of pianist Andy Kahn, bassist Bruce Kaminsky and yours truly, accompanied Bob frequently through the years, often at the Arthur Ashe Youth Tennis Foundation headquarters (an organization, by the way, that Bob and his darling wife Sibby virtually put on the map) and most recently at his 75th birthday gala. Bob’s singing was an important part of these occasions, with charts, keys, lyrics and song lists submitted to us long, long in advance.

When Bob died, I got a call from Sibby, saying that Bob insisted, shortly before his death, that our trio play at his memorial service. I wasn’t surprised, but I was touched and honored.

This guy put on a show. And a heck of a show it was. He was one hell of an entertainer, and one hell of a human being. Wherever Al Jolson has been residing since 1950, I know he said the following when hearing of Bob Brasler’s arrival: “Brasler’s here? Oh, shit.”

Hoping for a Happy 2011!

Saturday, February 5th, 2011

Many of you know that the past few years have not been great ones personally or professionally. Things are starting to improve on all fronts slightly. I am doing a good bit of writing for Jazz Times (be sure to log on the and go to the “community articles” section to see a bunch of neat stuff), Modern Drummer magazine (we’re talking about doing profiles of Marty Morrell and Nick Fatool as among my 2011 projects), and have another new CD release out with the marvelous Fresh Sound Records.

The Fresh Sound release is the “entire” Jazz at the Philharmonic concert of September, 1952, that highlighted by the legendary Krupa/Rich drum battle. It has been issued in bits and pieces though the years on LP and CD, but this is the whole show. Completely remastered with comprehensive notes, the original program and actual, 1952 reviews of the show, the CD also has bonus tracks by Billie Holiday, Buddy Rich and another unissued JATP program featuring Max Roach, Flip Phillips and the gang. If it were not for Jordi Pujol and his colleagues at Fresh Sound, thousands of hours of incomparable music would be lost. I urge everyone to visit them on the web at You won’t believe what you’ll find there.

In line with the difficulties of the past year or two, there was a point where was close to being history. But, due to your patience, support and understanding, we are now more than afloat. I am filling orders, depending on size, the day they come in, and those of you who have ordered recently know that if something isn’t right, I’ll make it right, with replacement copies and some gratis product included as a way of thanks. In line with “new” recordings here—though it won’t be officially posted for a while—courtesy of Paul Testa we have a great audio recording of Krupa on the “Dave Garroway at Large” radio program of the 1950s. There’s some comedy, some drum instruction, and as Paul has said, is likely the only example we have of Gene playing on a practice pad. To order, just other anything else we have, and in the messages section, type in “Garroway.”

As hard as I try, it is impossible to satisfy all of the people all of the time. Although complaints have been few and far between in the 10 or so years JazzLegends has been on the air, one of the things I hear from time to time is that some customers have expected a factory sealed, commercial issue of a CD or a DVD complete with artwork and booklet. Let me stress this again: Nothing we have is available commercially. If a CD or DVD that we carry is newly issued commercially and domestically—and I don’t see that happening soon—I immediately pull it from the site. Our material, some of it going back to the 1920s, is, by and large, either non-commercial, private footage from concerts, television and films; or is in the public domain, long out-of-print or out-of-copyright. Much of the material comes from overseas. The DVDs and CDs are packaged in a white, paper sleeve, with the title hand-printed on the CD. I found out long ago that those stick-on labels I used for so long caused a lot of problems in the playback process. CDs come with art. DVDs do not. In that we have, and will continue to offer, free shipping all over the world, no matter how large or small the order, and that tracking down this vintage stuff has not happened cheaply, “bells and whistles” packaging is not an option. If that’s what you’re after, go to Tower Records. Oops. There is no more Tower Records. I hope this makes things clear.

Some tidbits since the last time we spoke: As far as I know, the famed, Academy Award-winning documentary on Artie Shaw is still not available commercially. The one on Anita O’Day is, but because of lack of funds and support, almost no one knows about it, which is terribly sad but not surprising. I wish someone like Hudson Music, Alfred Publishing or V.I.E.W. Video would pick it up to distribute it properly. You may want to check about its availability.

There is a great new book out for anyone interested in drums or drumming. The legendary Lennie DiMuzio, the go-to artist relations guy at Zildjian for years who now serves in a similar capacity at Sabian, has written a funny, touching, eye-opening and comprehensive book about his life in the industry: “Tales from the Cymbal Bag,” published by Jump Back Baby Productions, is the title, and it’s a must have. For details, check out the review on “Tales from the Cymbal Bag” is available at dozens of web sites worldwide.

Finally, and this isn’t big news to anyone, but the “officially sanctioned” Gene Krupa model drumsticks are out of production. At times, the process of getting this off the ground was simultaneously joyous and frustrating, but the bottom line is, that unless a company has the wherewithal to spend mega-bucks in advertising, promotion and PR, success will be difficult. Like everything Chris Bennett did and does at Bopworks—and Chris really did all the work—the product was superior. But, as someone once said, “Maybe it ain’t over yet.”

Also reviewed on is a new book about Louis Prima, Keely Smith and the heyday of Las Vegas, written by Tom Clavin and called “Louis Prima, Keely Smith and the Golden Age of Las Vegas” (Chicago Review Press). It’s received a lot of ink lately, and I don’t know why. It relies, for the most part on material that was previously published, with the only really original stuff coming from the likes of Connie Stevens, Shecky Greene, Debbie Reynolds, and one or two others who hardly knew Louis or Keely. The story that the self-serving Reynolds tells about “impersonating” Keely for a week because Smith was ill—and that know one ever knew about it—is beyond ridiculous. And more inaccuracies abound.

The great Gia Maione, the final Mrs. Prima, and most dedicted to his legacy—she is the keeper of the Louis Prima flame via the website and other activities–should have been a journalist. She’s getting there! Like a precious few in the business, she will not tolerate false information, inaccuracy and/or those who lack integrity, whatever their field. For a number of reasons, Gia is deservedly not happy with this work, and some of her comments, I hope, show up in the print version of Jazz Times and/or on the web site.

If you want to read about Louis Prima, try and get a copy of the book written by Garry Boulard in 1986. Another edition came out in 2002. The official title is “Just a Gigolo: The Life and Times of Louis Prima. The original publisher was The Center for Louisiana Studies, a relatively small outfit, which is possibly the reason that few have heard of this essential work. Boulard conducted a bunch of first-person interviews with people who were essential to the lives and careers of Louis, Keely, and Gia as well. Better yet, go to the site. It’s no surprise that Clavin’s new book cribs liberally from Boulard’s work. It’s a cut-and-paste job from top to bottom, but if it inspires more interest in the music of the principals, then it has served some valuable purpose.

You won’t find a lot of quotes in any book, or in the documentary films on Louis, from the man himself. From what little I know, his personal thoughts and feelings were not for broadcast or publication. That is how gentlemen used to behave, and had there been an “Oprah Winfrey Show” on television during the lifetime of Louis Prima, I doubt whether he would ever consent to appear as a guest. I think that only two things were really important to him: family and music. And that’s how it should have been.

I had, at one-time, a vested interest in the music of Louis, Keely and Gia, too. I sang and played his music in clubs for years, with varying results. In 1978, I recorded a note-for-note remake of Louis’ legendary “Just a Gigolo,” which was going to be released on the record label owned by Robert Stigwood of “Grease” and “Saturday Night Fever” fame. The timeless Sam Butera arrangement was produced for me by industry hit-maker Andy Kahn, best known for composing, producing and engineering the number one disco record of 1978, “Hot Shot.” Due to the almost overnight bust of the disco bubble, my version was never released. Rocker David Lee Roth did it six years later and sold millions. Those in the business tell me he didn’t copy from Louis’ version, but from ours! Believe me, had he heard the original, his version would have been much better.

Keely Smith, as of this writing, is said to be still recording and making public appearances from time to time. I wish Gia Maione would do the same.

The loss of drummer Jake Hanna was a blow to the world of percussion. If you want to hear how drums should be played in a big band, listen to Hanna’s work with the early 1960s Woody Herman Herd. No one played like him, and as the story goes, other than Dave Tough, Hanna was the only drummer in Herman history to be accorded complete freedom—to play in any way he saw fit—by the leader himself. And talk about a character! There was only one, and I do owe him a debt of thanks for introducing me to drinking a “Black and Tan” at The Irish Pub in Atlantic City, at 6 a.m., circa 1986.

We’ve lost a host of others recently as well, including the irreplaceable James Moody, Philadelphia piano icon Sid Simmons and organist/pianist Trudy Pitts. Trudy was a friend—she was friends to dozens of us here in Philadelphia—and she never really got the credit she deserved. Guitarist Pat Martino, among others, started his recording career with her, and her sidemen on some early dates included names like Roland Kirk and John Coltrane. Ultimately, family was more important to her, and she gave up the road life. Fortunately, she had a bunch of long-running playing and teaching gigs locally, and was always supported by her loving husband and drummer “Mr. C.”, aka Bill Carney. An essential part of the Philadelphia music scene is now gone. Trudy Pitts was loved by all of us.

My dear colleague from the UK, Peter Brightman, who has been so helpful and encouraging to me through the years—and by way of his is encouragement, has helped keep afloat– came up with a nifty and rather generous idea some months ago. If you visit our “Community” pages, and I hope you do, Peter has helped institute a “Donations” icon, whereby those who click on it can donate to the cause.

As far as I can determine, everyone—in some way, shape or form—has felt the effect of the economic downturn. Even the wealthy have lost tons of bread, though I don’t stay up nights worrying about them. In times like this, music and almost everything entertainment-related are the first jobs to get cut. Advertising dollars have been slashed to the minimum, resulting in magazines and newspapers fighting for survival. All the free stuff on the net has taken a bite out of those who play music, record music or write and produce DVDs. Six-piece bands have been cut to duos. Duos have been replaced by disc jockeys. In Philadelphia, we now have only one, full-time jazz club, with the decades-old Ortleib’s closing last year and Zanzibar Blue the year before. I cannot tell you the number of people I know in the industry who have been laid off or simply let go.

Human beings, however, have proven to be remarkably adaptable and resilient people. That’s why we’re still here. I’m still here as well and I intend in continue in my attempt to make a contribution to music history and jazz scholarship with and other projects.

Keep swingin’
Bruce Klauber