Teddy and Hal, R.I.P., Bay State Jazz Natives
We’ve lost two Massachusetts-born jazzmen in the past ten days. Hal McKusick, the saxophonist and clarinet player who died on April 10, was born in Medford on June 1, 1924. Vibraphonist Teddy Charles was born Theodore Cohen in Chicopee Falls on April 13, 1928. Both were affiliated with the efforts to merge jazz and classical music that took shape in the mid’50’s, and they were at the Brandeis University concert in 1957 that launched the movement as Third Stream Jazz.
Teddy Charles was associated with Charles Mingus, and reputedly changed his name in 1951 at Mingus’s suggestion. Among his recordings with the bassist were the 1955 Miles Davis session Blue Moods, produced by Mingus for Debut Records; and the seminal Mingus Dynasty, made for Columbia in 1959. Elsewhere, Charles was a ubiquitous figure on sessions he produced and/or played on for Jubilee, Atlantic, Prestige and Bethlehem with Buddy DeFranco, Gunther Schuller, Mal Waldron, Curtis Fuller, and many more. Like Mingus and other musicians inclined toward experimentation in the ‘50’s, Charles was equally effective playing both through-composed works and improvising on hard-swinging standards and originals.
The same applies to McKusick, whose most important mid-50’s affiliation was with George Russell. McKusick plays tenor saxophone on Russell’s “All About Rosie,” a Third Stream classic that brought Bill Evans some of his earliest attention. Evans also appears on McKusik’s 1957 session Now’s the Time., and the two are heard on Russell's Jazz Workshop, which includes such landmarks as "Ezz-thetic" and "Concerto for Billy the Kid." McKusick developed his cool virtuosity in several of the most demanding big bands of the 40’s, including outfits led by Boyd Raeburn, Woody Herman, and Claude Thornhill. His music offers some of the most intellectually satisfying jazz of the mid-50’s.
In addition to their Bay State backgrounds, Charles and McKusick shared the distinction of having pursued successful careers away from music, and both lived on Eastern Long Island. Charles was a renowned yachtsman who operated a charter boat service that sailed between Antigua and Martha’s Vineyard. Here’s the obit on Charles from the local Suffolk Times of Long Island.
McKusick wore many hats, including charter flight pilot, woodworker, photographer and teacher, all of which he did with distinction as you’ll read in this local obit from the East Hampton Press . Marc Myers, who blogs at JazzWax, posted a long series of interviews with his friend Hal in 2007. Get started here. Myers was also friendly with Teddy, and he posted this memorial yesterday.
McKusick was still playing well in his mid-80's as you'll hear on this solo performance of “Round Midnight.” And here he plays Manny Albam's arrangement of a Gershwin classic with two of his great collaborators, trumpeter Art Farmer and guitarist Barry Galbraith.