Scene From A Dream ~The Dale Fielder/Geri Allen Session

NOTE: This is a work in progress and will be continually updated!  ETA for project completion, January 2018!

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SCENE FROM A DREAM

The Dale Fielder/Geri Allen Session

Dale Fielder – alto sax /  Geri Allen – piano & vocals* / Michael Logan – bass / Gregory Bufford – drums / Rob White – congas & percussion                 

Recorded February 23, 1983

A young man with a horn. Me at age 26 with the 1983 Manhattan skyline and World Trade Center in the background; a young saxophonist from Pittsburgh in NYC having the time of his life! This was the actual photo taken to be an LP cover for my very first recording: “Scene From A Dream” featuring at the time, the completely unknown and future jazz legend, Geri Allen. Big thanks to my friend vocalist Dee Watkins for recovering this long lost photo taken by Glenn Saffo for the LP release.  This session features the late, Geri Allen on piano (still can’t wrap my mind around the fact she is no longer among us), Michael Logan-bass, Gregory Bufford-drums and Rob White-percussion. The recent loss of my dear friend and former roommate back in the day, Ms. Geri Allen, has finally given me the impetus to get going on this project and get it done. It’s been delayed too long and of course, and with Geri’s presence, it’s great stuff! Big thanks to engineer-extraordinaire, Bob Wayne of Sunburst Archiving and Restoration and Len Horowitz of HRS (Historical Recording Studios) who restored, remastered and transferred all the original analog audio to digital.

Hard to believe this was all 35 years ago . . . !  When I look at that photo, I vividly remember the heady emotions of the time.  We had already recorded the session and knew we had something very special.  Through Geri promoting and talking about it, it seemed like everybody in the NYC jazz community at that time knew about it.  Remember, Geri had yet to record her first recording which was not until the following year 1984 when she recorded “Printmakers”.  Also through both Geri and my efforts, selected cassette tapes of it were already circulating throughout the closely-knit jazz community in NYC.  Responses and feedback were exhilaratingly positive.  George Butler, vice-president of Columbia Records had recently signed young Wynton Marsalis, heard the tape and expressed his interest and asked where could he hear the band!  Everybody wanted to know who we were and especially who was that pianist!  I remember such a feeling that anything was possible and that the sky was truly the limit. I remember feeling so gratified because all this happened because I overcame my own self-doubts and found the courage to take the initiative, and made it possible.  This was a big deal to me at the time, because I, to borrow a phrase from Sonny Rollins, “was full of question marks” at age 26, as well as suffering from severe shyness and lack of confidence in my abilities as a jazz artist.  Also being in NYC in 1983 was challenging enough being around and hanging out with all the great musicians on my instrument.  At that time, few if any young black New York jazz artists were financing and producing their own recording session.  But with the encouragement of my sister and roommate, Geri Allen who pushed me as well as the rest of the members of the band who were my friends and family, we produced this amazing piece of work, that we all felt was a most profound statement of who we all were, as young artists at that point in time, and felt it would stand the test of time.  I’m sure we didn’t realize how prophetic we were as it took 35 years to finally be released and our music finally sees the light of day.

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Dale Fielder, Pittsburgh 1976 Photo by Frank B. Greenlee.

BACK STORY 

I first met Geri Allen in November of 1978.  I’ve long since realized meeting her was a great turning point in my life.  I’ve always told Geri, that she single-handedly saved my music career for at that point, I had comfortably made the decision to quit music and hadn’t touched my horn in about 4 months by the time we met.  In the spring of 1978, I had saved up some money and struck out for NYC to try to make the transition to living there.  After four or five weeks of endless job interviews, not picking up any gigs, sleeping on friends’ sofas and finally draining my money paying for a hotel room, I scurried back to Pittsburgh to my parent’s house broke and dejected.  Since 1975 I had co-led a very successful quintet in Pittsburgh with my older brother, Guy Fielder and had seen the music business up close and personal.    But after experiencing the back-stabbing, black-balling, and our band payments constantly being stiffed in favor of club-owners’ drug habits, I made the decision that I didn’t need this.  It didn’t help that finally meeting all the great jazz artists that I idolized first-hand, I found that the great majority of them were not really balanced nor kind people.  I felt the jazz world I imagined when met with the reality of it, was definitely a child’s fantasy.

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The Fielder Brother’s Quintet circa 1976, L-R: Mark Taylor, Chuck Butler, Greg Bey, Guy Fielder and Dale Fielder.

And now I’m back in my parent’s house broke with no prospects!  I went back to working in the steel mills and began making crazy dough for a 23-year-old.  Soon, I felt no longer dejected about myself being a “failure” as a jazz artist and being able to buy my own car etc., made me immediately feel better about myself.  My parents were relieved and I was even planning on buying my first house about the time I met Geri.  One day in November I believe, my dear friend, the late, great trumpeter and composer Jothan Callins called me and begged me to come up to Pittsburgh to hear his band at the Portfolio club who had this incredible young sister on piano.  In hindsight, I think Jothan knew what he was doing because I had been absent from the scene for over 4 months.  So he probably knew I was depressed about music.  I hadn’t listened to jazz at all during those 4 months and had turned my heart cold to it.  I really didn’t want to hear it nor go, but I had a young lady I was crazy about at the time and it made a good excuse for taking her there for a night out.  The Portfolio had a long window along the side of the street and as I walked around the corner I looked up into the window and saw this young lady putting together her Fender Rhodes piano.  She looked up at me and we just stared at each other for a few moments until we both got a little embarrassed for staring at each other.  I could feel the electricity coming from her.  When we got in, Jothan very graciously introduced us to each other saying, “I want two great musicians to meet each other, for I know you two should be playing with one another!”  My date and I sat down for the whole evening and Geri’s playing just blew me away!  For the first time in months, I felt excited about jazz music inspired by the way she played.  She was a revelation!  Afterwards, she spoke to me saying she’s new in town, had heard about me and had this standing gig at a new club called The Pink Poodle. (No, I’m not making this up!)  She said she needed a saxophone player for the gig and wasn’t satisfied with the ones she was using.  She said, “everybody keeps telling me I need to get you! Can you do the gig?”  I leaped at the chance to play with this genius!  I didn’t have the heart to tell her I hadn’t been playing and knew I had some serious shedding to do to get ready to play with her.  But I did make the gig. I also rehearsed with her almost daily and learned all her tunes and have never looked back since.  I had quit jazz, but Geri inspired me to go back!  I’ve told her this story many times too.  She always brushed it off saying, “Aww, you would’ve been back to playing.  I didn’t do nothing except give you a gig!”

Geri and I became fast friends, talking and hanging out daily.  When she went home for Christmas for a little over a month, she gave me the keys to her apartment to give me respite from my small hometown of Midland, PA (30 miles west of Pittsburgh) and to get out of my parent’s house as well as to just be in the city.  I continued to play gigs with her as well as resurrecting the Fielder Brothers’ Quintet, this time with Geri in the piano chair and resumed doing festivals and clubs.  We did a club called The Black Magic Lounge in the Hill District where the local FM station WYEP-FM ran a live wire to the club for our gigs on Saturday nights.  We also performed at the legendary Pittsburgh club, Crawford Grill as well many other gigs.  One day in December 1979, New York-based tenor saxophonist Dwayne Armstrong came to visit Geri and befriended me as well.  He had worked with Elvin Jones and just came off a European tour with Max Roach.  He said to me, “I hear you want to come to New York and if you do, I have a gig for you!  It’s with The Mighty Sparrow! He tours all over the country!  Do you know Steve Coleman?”  I answered, “No, never heard of him.”  He looked at me questioningly as if I should know who he was and continued, “Well, he’s left the band and we need an alto player!”  The Mighty Sparrow was the legendary Calypso singer and I had never heard of him.  Doubtful, I asked him what kind of gigs they were and he said, “Well, the first gig is at Madison Square Garden!”  That did it for me!  Rehearsals started in late March 1980 and the Madison Square Garden show was on April 26, 1980.  After that, we were headed to Boston, Montreal, Toronto! Finally, after fighting and waiting for 2 weeks to get the bread from the last Black Magic weekend gig, on March 16, 1980, I arrived in NYC at the brownstone of guitarist Eric Johnson with $20.00 left in my pocket!

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Geri Allen with Robert “Bop” White at Glen Saffo photo shoot at the World Trade Center NYC 1983.

In 1982, after Geri received her Master’s degree from Pitt, she came to NYC and contacted me.  She told me she had acquired this huge 2 bedroom apartment in Brooklyn with a large front studio that she put her grand piano in, and that we should be roommates!  My brother with his wife and daughter had moved in with me, so I thought it was good timing and gave them my apartment.  I roomed with Geri for four years!  That apartment quickly became a hotbed for young jazz artists in New York at that time.  A who’s who of some of the most important jazz musicians of our time came through there and played or rehearsed in our studio.  It was in this studio on Geri’s piano, where I began composing the compositions for this album.  Geri used to encourage me to step out more.  As I said, I was a ‘wallflower supreme’!  Her only complaint about me was that I was ‘too nice’, too laid back and should assert myself more.  She even wrote a tune to help to remind me of this entitled, “No More Mr. Nice Guy”, which she later recorded with Charlie Haden and Paul Motion as well as solo.  As I mentioned, in those days I was severely shy and unconfident.  I realized doing an album would be a good way to break out of it and get out there and let folks know what I’m capable of.  Around this time, my brother’s wife started working for a Bulgarian lady by the name of Svetlana Gilbertz.  Svetlana was the niece of a high government official of the People’s Republic of Bulgaria and was sent to the US to promote trade.  Svetlana was looking for projects to invest in and my sister-in-law told her about me and my aspirations and Svetlana provided the financing for recording the LP and setting up my record label, Clarion Jazz!  She called me over and listened to my presentation, noting that I was setting up the business through Address America, which provided a Wall Street mailing address, phone number, answering service and telex number.  All she asked in return for the financing is the use of the telex number from time to time.  And use it she did!  Remember this was BEFORE the internet: a telex is a network of teleprinters similar to a telephone network, for the purposes of sending text-based messages, sort of like your own personal telegram system.  That’s how you did business in 1982!  In fact, Address America would call me to complain about how frequently she was using it for international calls and because of that, please pony up more cash, Mr. Fielder! I could have been a means of laundering her money or something, but I didn’t ask why or what. I was too busy looking at the wad of greenbacks she laid on me and dreaming and thinking about booking the recording session!

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Dale Fielder, niece Ronnie Fielder and brother Guy Fielder riding the A-Train NYC circa 1982.

I decided to record at the famous Sound Heights Recording Studio in Brooklyn Heights which at the time was state of the art.  The quality of these tracks testifies to that being a great decision, for they have held up well for 35 years.  They still sound fresh.  At that time, in the early 1980s, a lot of great jazz recordings were being done there.  In particular, Black Saint Records, an Italian-based jazz label was very hot at the time and exclusively recorded their US sessions there.  I was impressed by their latest Oliver Lake LP, “The Prophet”, which was Oliver’s dedication to the music of Eric Dolphy recorded at Sound Heights.  I liked the sound which to my ears sounded ‘live in the studio’, -very natural and organic.  Like they just ran the tapes and let the musicians play and be captured by state of the art recording equipment.  This style of recording is what I call “studio/live” recording format, and was championed by the great Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff of Blue Note Records.  It has proven so successful for recording an improvisatory music like jazz.  This has always been my preference for recording.  I agree with Sonny Rollins, who says the only true authentic jazz performance is the in-the-moment live performance as opposed to planned and structured studio recording performances with multiple takes and multi-tracking.  To my mind, if recording in the studio, it is better to record ‘as if performing live.’ No multiple takes where IMHO, the performance degrades with each subsequent take.  I’m also of the opinion that the first take is usually the best if the musicians are focused.  And they are usually focused if playing in a live performance situation.  This was my plan for the LP.  And yes, it was strictly planned to be recorded in an LP format, as vinyl LPs were still the main recording medium in 1982, followed by cassettes and to a lesser extent CDs.  CDs were still a new format and hadn’t yet become the dominant format in 1982.

For a studio/live recording to be successful, with the goal of capturing it all in one take, the musicians must be well-rehearsed and extremely familiar with the material.  That meant I would have to start rehearsals and do as many as required until I felt we were all comfortable with the music.  Also, when I was finished composing my originals for the session, I thought it would be a good idea to ask Geri, Mike and Greg each to contribute a tune since they each were fine composers in their own right, Geri being an exceptional composer. That way they would feel more invested in the project and that it would be a true collaboration among equals and they were not merely sidemen.  So we started holding rehearsals at our place on 60 New York Avenue in the Bed-Stuy district of Brooklyn.  The initial rehearsals were very targeted and focused and we quickly nailed down my 3 tunes and the 2 tunes penned by Mike and Greg.  So that was the plan for all of the material we would record.  I had never done a recording session in a major professional studio, and since I had the funds, I thought it would be a good idea to have a final rehearsal somewhere to spread out and play everything the way we will do it in the studio, since we were going to record in the studio/live format as I mentioned.  So I scheduled a final rehearsal at the famous Air Studios in the Village.  Air was named after the owners, the legendary  AACM free jazz trio, “Air” featuring the great Henry Threadgill, Fred Hopkins, and Steve McCall.  Geri had already befriended them and they were all aware that she was destined for great things.  Geri and I hung out with the members of Air, Lester Bowie, Warren Smith, Craig Harris, Jean-Paul Bourelly and others a few days prior to the rehearsal when I went down to book and pay for the studio.   Everybody was buzzing about Geri, especially when she sat down and played the studio’s piano. That girl was absolute magic at the piano!  So there was great interest in my upcoming rehearsal session which was scheduled a few days later.

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Rehearsal at Air Studios February 1983 L-R: Robert “Bop” White, Greg Bufford, Michael Logan, Geri Allen and Dale Fielder.  Photo by Glenn Saffo.

So a lot of ‘the cats’ were hanging out when we showed up for the final rehearsal and were listening, impressed with what we were laying down.  I remember receiving kind words from Henry Threadgill regarding my playing. Henry is one of our great composers and conceptionalists. In 2016, Henry won a Pulitzer Prize for music. So these guys were founding members of the great AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Music) and are innovators associated with free jazz and the avant-garde.  Henry was impressed with me because like Geri, I was really all in with free jazz, but played straight-ahead jazz well and incorporated both in my playing.

So on February 23, 1982, we all arrived at Sound Heights recording studio in downtown Brooklyn for the session.  Joining the four of us, was my nephew Rob “Bop” White, whom I always call my nephew/brother.  Even though Bop and I were uncle and nephew, we were only six months apart in age and grew up like brothers being that we lived only twelve miles from each other back in western Pennsylvania.  He is a percussionist and has grown into now being one of the most sought-after, first-call conguero and percussionist in the Washington DC/Baltimore area.  Bop is very immersed and informed in the Cuban percussion tradition and traveled up from Baltimore to do the session with us.  Perhaps my closest friend at the time was our drummer Greg Bufford.  A protege of the drum master Philly Joe Jones, whom he also studied with, Greg worked with visionary saxophonist Frank Wright, Randy Weston, Dionne Warwick, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Della Reese and Sonny Stitt.  Greg and I often jokingly shared a belief that there should be no time that money is not coming in, or else we’d find ourselves in Jersey City looking over at NYC!  So we were always hustling putting numerous bands together for all types of various gigs.  When there weren’t any gigs to play, Greg came up with the idea of starting “Good To Go Moving Van Service”.  He restored an old truck and we would go all over Manhattan moving people.  It always kept dollars in our pockets!  My last months in NYC were spent staying in Greg’s Brooklyn brownstone as he renovated it.  I earned my keep by babysitting his two beautiful daughters.  Our bassist Michael Logan came to NYC from Chicago where he worked with the now late Muhal Richard Abrams and performed and recorded with his orchestra.  He also worked with Walter Bishop Jr. and Clifford Jordan, whom he was very close to.  Mike and I met as members of trombonist Artie Simmons’ Jazz Samaritans with whom we also recorded with back in 1981.  That actually was my very first recording and I even contributed an original entitled “Visage”.  Mike was always my first bassist of choice during my years in New York.  He is a brilliant guy who is very easy to work and get along with.

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Dale Fielder with photographer Glen Saffo outside of the World Trade Center in NYC for the official album photoshoot February 1983.  Photo by Robert White.

The other person involved in the creation of the project was Glenn Saffo, our photographer.  Saffo, as we called him was a close friend of Geri’s.  He was actually the boyfriend of Geri’s girlfriend Kabuya from whom Geri inherited our apartment from when Kabuya moved to Florida if my memory serves me correctly.  Saffo took that wonderful cover shot.  When he came up with the idea, and he and I went to the Brooklyn Promenade to take that photo with the Manhattan skyline in the background.  He also came to the Air rehearsal and took those color photos and many others shots.  After the recording session, he had us all meet at the World Trade Center in our best attire for the official album photo shoot.  I can’t remember if he came to the actual recording date at Sound Heights or not.  I’m a little foggy about that, but I think he may have.  It pains me that I lost all of those photos after I left NYC in 1988 and the ones that survived and included here were salvaged by my friend Dee Watkins, who inherited our apartment after Geri left and found them.  The other shots were taken by Rob White.  I am grateful for that.  And if anybody knows where Saffo relocated please contact me at dale@clarionjazz.com!

THE MUSIC

The most challenging tune of the date was my opening composition, “Night In Turquoise/Dance Over The Edge”.  The story of that tune is about an evening Geri and I had where we were both moping around at home feeling really bored.  My friend guitarist Eric Johnson called and said he was performing down in the Village with George Benson’s rhythm section led by bassist Stanley Banks.  He said for us to come down and he’d leave our names at the door.  So we got up and dressed, Geri in turquoise, and we went down to the Village to check Eric.  We ended up having such a ball that night!  We partied and danced all night long, and I mean all night; something we had never done before.  Just about every tune (because they WERE funky!), we were up on the dance floor working it!  We kept saying to each other, “why don’t we do this more often?” And I was very impressed with Geri’s dance stylings.  The girl had some moves!  So the next day, I wrote this tune.  It has a recurring interlude section in 7/4 time, followed by a verse in 11/4 with the main section of the tune in 4/4.  Not a difficult tune, the challenge was getting all the sections to flow seamlessly, which was masterfully accomplished by our drummer Greg Bufford.  Right away, I think the band establishes its own sound and style; as well as the fact that this isn’t your usual jazz session.  With his use of bells and chimes along with his percussion instruments, I think Bop’s role was a major factor in accomplishing our unique sound.  It sounds like jazz, yet something different and new.

Next up is my composition, “Fugue 1978”.  This is a tune in 5/4 time with a prelude in 4/4 time.  This was one of my earliest compositions written back in my Pittsburgh days for the Fielder Brothers Quintet.  Fugue, in this case, does not refer to the classical music definition.  It refers to the other definition of being in a state of consciousness between awake and asleep.   Obviously, I had a profound morning back in 1978 upon awakening!  Geri is just FIRE on this!  I also recorded this tune again with my current band, the DFQ with Jane Getz on the CD entitled: “Short Forms” on the BluePort label in 1998.

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Michael Logan, Dale Fielder, and Geri Allen at Air Studios rehearsal NYC February 1983.  Photo by Glenn Saffo.

The title cut of our CD, “Scene From A Dream” was written by our bassist Michael Logan.  Mike is an excellent composer and collaborated with the Italian singer-songwriter and musician Giuni Russo, in writing her first album, “Love Is A Woman” (1975) contributing an original composition, “Every Time You Leave”.  In 1990 he recorded for Muse Records the CD “Night Out” as a leader with jazz greats Benny Green, Joe Ford and Houston Person.  His latest CD was released in 2017 and is entitled: “Spirit Keeper.”  I remember Mike telling me the composition was inspired by Stanley Cowell’s “Effi” recorded by Bobby Hutcherson.  After an unaccompanied solo introduction, Mike really lays the foundation down on this tune.  It is the most straight-ahead tune on the session, yet it is in 3/4 time, what I like to call ‘power 3/4!”  Geri just burns and lights up her solo with strong blues attributes.  I try to maintain her groove before Mike solos and takes us out.  Truly a performance worthy to be our title song.

“Les Mots Flottant” is French for ‘The Floating Words’ or more concisely “Words Afloat”.  It is a title from one of the diaries of the French writer Anais Nin, whom I was reading at the time.  I tried to capture the sound and essence of her early morning walks along the Seine River in the melody.  I also later wrote lyrics to this tune.  Of note here are Geri’s burning solo and Bop’s percussion coloring throughout the tune and him moving to the conga during the later part of Geri’s solo when they double-time.  Again, Bop’s percussion contributions as in here and throughout the album gave it something very special and contemporary-sounding.  I remember him listening and studying closely during the 70s and 80s to the work of master percussionists, Airto Moreira,  Guilherme Franco, Mtume as well as many others.  I like how he “colors” the music by constantly moving to different instruments within the same tune. This tune was originally meant to be and now can be dedicated to my beloved sister-in-law, Silver Melton who is the greatest writer I’ve ever known and is like a modern day Anais Nin.  It was also through her efforts to bring in Svetlana as I have previously mentioned, that made this session possible.

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Rehearsal at Air Studios February 1983 L-R: Robert “Bop” White, Greg Bufford, Michael Logan, Dale Fielder and Geri Allen.  Photo by Glenn Saffo

Geri Allen’s The Rain” is the most auspicious tune on the date.  I remember the day Geri wrote this and called me into her room to play it with her.  I loved it immediately.  I don’t know why she never recorded or played it again.  She’s got a lot of tunes she does like that.  I remember a tune she wrote called  “In Search Of The Ocean” that I’d sure like to find the music to! Years later as I matured as a composer, I understood why she discarded so many tunes as I find myself doing the same thing!  As I’ve mentioned, I had asked Geri, Mike and Greg to contribute an original composition because they each were such great writers.  However during the rehearsals, when we got to Geri’s selected tune for the session, “No More Mr. Nice Guy”; after an hour of trying, we just could not play it!  We set up another rehearsal to try again, and failed! She was compositionally so far ahead of us!  We had trouble executing conceptionally where she was coming from.  It took us a while to first even understand where she was coming from conceptionally; but even after understanding it, we were still unable to execute it.  Time was upon us and we had to prepare for the recording session.  So I said, “Geri, what about that tune you wrote called “The Rain”?  Why don’t you and I do that as a duo since we’ve already been playing it together here (at home)?” So that is how this tune was chosen.  I think it’s among the most beautiful tunes written by Geri.  Thirty-five years later, after we painstakingly restored this tune, I popped it in the player and was taken aback by the voice singing the melody along with the alto sax!  I had totally forgotten that Geri actually sang this on the session!  I remember her asking in the studio would I mind if she sang the melody along with me.  Would I mind?  She was always so considerate!  But she really wanted to do it and was excited as a vocal mic was set up for her.  The beauty of what she does, both vocally and on the piano speaks for itself.  Sublime, ethereal and meditative beauty!

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Geri Allen at Vanguard Studios 1984. Photo by Alan Nahigian.

Greg Bufford’s “In My Youth” was our six and final tune.  As I mentioned, when we originally planned and recorded this project, it was to be for a vinyl LP.  So there would have been 3 tracks roughly adding up to 20 plus minutes on each side of the LP.  This would be the final tune of the session and we knew immediately, that it would be a great closer, -going out on an upbeat, positive note.  Greg is an exceptional writer.  He had been working with Vaughn Mason & Crew opening up for the Prince/Rick James 1980 tour.  Greg had just received a Classic Gold Record for writing “Bounce, Rock, Skate, Roll” for Vaughn Mason & Crew.  Greg and I would write constantly for the R&B/Jazz band we formed, Masterstroke featuring the legendary vocalist Jessica Cleaves that performed many local college and club gigs in the NYC area.  This tune was a ‘tour de force’ for both Greg and Bop, as you can hear from the very beginning as it starts out with percussion only.  When we had finished, the engineer, Vince Traina who had been listening closely to us, (you could tell he really liked what we were laying down) asked Bop if he wanted to multi-track a couple of percussion parts on this tune to which Bop happily obliged.  As always, Geri was just FIRE! on this; and I had to come behind her throwing flame all over the place!  In fact, everyone was really laying into this tune.  It truly displays the full passion and power of our then present-time youth that we all were feeling, relishing in our glory of playing with each other!  Objective accomplished!  There is nothing quite like all the musicians of a band giving themselves completely to the music.  As the music herein tells, we did this!  To know this was an experience each of us never forgot and created a bond that has bound us together to this very day!

THE BONUS TRACKS 

7. “Leopard In The Night”

Recorded April 27, 1991, by Jim Mooney @ Sage & Sound Studios, Hollywood, CA

Dale Fielder – alto sax / Dave Robbins – piano / David Marr – bass / Chuck McPherson – drums.  

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Since we now are in the digital CD era, where 60 to 80 minutes total time is the norm, I, of course, felt that the forty-plus minutes or so that was perfect for the 1983 LP era, would not be enough for a 2018 release.  So I decided to add 2 bonus tracks.  “Leopard In The Night” was from my first session once I moved to LA.  It features Chuck McPherson’s “Modern Jazz Disciples” which was a quartet he led that enjoyed a residency every Friday and Saturday night at the Embassy Suites in San Diego from 1989 thru 1991 of which I was a member.  This recording has the distinction of being the first Clarion Jazz release.  It was released as a full-production cassette that Chuck and I used as a demo recording to get gigs.  Even though I was living in LA since the latter part of 1988, nobody knew me in LA as I was primarily playing every weekend in San Diego until 1991.  I would work my day job at Lehman Brothers in downtown LA and after work, every Friday for 2 years would head down to LaJolla to Chuck’s house to do our gigs every Friday and Saturday night.  Besides hanging out with Chuck who besides being a phenomenal drummer was an even greater human being (and kept me laughing every minute), I enjoyed the added bonus of also meeting and developing a musical relationship with his father, the legendary jazz saxophonist Charles McPherson who took me under his wing and mentored me.  The McPherson’s owned prime virtual beachfront property in exclusive LaJolla, CA since the 1920s.  They had several houses on the property including the bungalow where Chuck lived that was also his Dad’s studio.  I fondly remember countless nights of hanging out with Chuck after our gigs, usually until 3 or 4 AM and sleeping on his living room couch.  Without fail, at about 11 AM every Saturday morning, no matter how late we went to bed; -many times at 6 AM, Chuck would wake me and say, “Man, we gotta get up!  Dad’ll be here soon and you don’t want him to catch you still in bed!”  When in town, Charles like clockwork around 11 AM to Noon, would spend the afternoon in his studio.  You KNOW I was loving that!

After time with Charles every Saturday afternoon, I would be so pumped up to play those Saturday nights!  He even gave me the Meyer alto mouthpiece that I use to this day!  Charles took an interest in me and trusted me to the point to contract a 9 piece string section, rehearse them with his rhythm section and be the conductor at his performance of “Charlie Parker With Strings” at the Charles Drew University Jazz Festival.  He had performed this body of work with a few symphony orchestras like the Cleveland Chamber Symphony, but after our concert, he pulled me aside and told me by far this was the best performance and situation of those tunes because I hired string players who also played jazz.  When Chuck and I decided to record, it was Charles who recommended I go to Sage And Sound up in LA to have Jim Mooney record us.  He said that Jim is a legendary engineer, sort of like the ‘Rudy Van Gelder of the west coast’.  He was the favorite engineer of greats like Ella Fitzgerald, Sara Vaughn, and Sonny Stitt.  Thus began my relationship with Jim Mooney through the first six Clarion Jazz CDs before he retired, including my big seller top ten CD, “Dear Sir: Tribute To Wayne Shorter”  in 1996.  For the “Modern Jazz Disciples” session we had the band that enjoyed the 2-year residency at San Diego’s Embassy Suites with our regular bassist David Marr.  For this session, however, we had Dave Robbins in the piano chair subbing for our regular pianist Alan Eicher who was out of town at the time. Dave had been playing with Freddie Hubbard, Stanley Turrentine, and Roy Ayers as well as having a connection with Geri Allen from their days at Howard University.  I had sent the cassette of this session to Geri back then.  She called me some time afterward to tell me how proud she was and how she liked my tunes.  I remember her saying over and over, “Dave Robbins!” and told me how they used to hang out at Howard. She also mentioned how particularly fond she was of “Leopard In The Night.” She asked me about the title and what it meant, and I told her it conveys the way I am always feeling.  And she said, “Yep! That’s one of those autobiographical tunes, I understand.” 

 

 

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Members of the Group/Force that played “Thunderbirds” L-R: Trevor Ware, Thomas White, Danny Grissett and Dale Fielder standing in front of the Howling Monk Jazz Club in Inglewood, CA 2002.

8. “Thunderbirds”

Recorded August 12, 2001, by David Cousins @ Spectrum Studios, Van Nuys, CA  

Dale Fielder – alto sax / Danny Grissett – piano / Trevor Ware-bass

Thomas White – drums / Rob White – percussion

The second bonus tune I chose was “Thunderbirds” from an overlooked 2001 Clarion Jazz release entitled, “The Hipster”.  I chose this tune because it is the most recent recorded example of what I started out doing with these tunes from my first recording in 1983, excluding the 2004 jazz suite “Suite: Clarity”, which is a direct descendant of those tunes.   I wrote a whole suite utilizing the ideas I learned from Geri.  Writing in this way seems to keep my music relevant and up to date.  I was looking to write in a way that bridges the past (traditional jazz) with the future.  I started by creating a type of jazz composition that used “pulse” rather than swing for rhythm, with interesting, challenging chord modulations to make it harmonically sophisticated, while at the same time enabling the improviser to extemporize on it in a ‘traditional’ jazz manner. All this while making the overarching impact of the tune accessible to the average listener of today.  My rule in writing these crazy things is that no matter how unusual or far out the structure is, I want to still be able to play like Bird (Charlie Parker) on it.  With the changes in our society and culture over the last 25-30 years with advancements in technology etc., I’ve noticed that audiences feel more akin to the pulse rhythm than they do to a swing rhythm with a walking bass line.  My music still “swings” but more in the melodic content when soloing rather than built into the structure of the music.  Nobody would confuse my soloing with Kenny G on these things!  Also “Thunderbirds” includes Rob “Bop” White as the last time I played with any of the original members of the group, even though Mike Logan drove down from Las Vegas once and sat in with my band back in 2014 during an LA Arts Commission concert.  Also, I wanted to include something that showed me as a more mature and assured player then I was in the 1980s, something closer to how I play now.  This track includes a very young Danny Grissett making one of his first recordings.  Danny has gone on to become internationally acclaimed as one of the great new pianists in jazz through his work with Tom Harrell and now on his own.  The same goes for bassist Trevor Ware who is the bassist with the Count Basie Orchestra and numerous others and is one of the most in-demand bassists currently in jazz.  On drums, is my regular drummer Thomas White.  Thomas is an original member of the DFQ~Dale Fielder Quartet since 1995.  I don’t leave home without him!  He understands me so well that when I write a new composition, I don’t even waste time explaining what I want from him.  He is so in sync with me that he just knows!  He has a natural ability to play odd-metered time very fluently, which of course makes him perfect for playing the pulse rhythm tunes that I write.  “Thunderbirds” is one of the few tunes I have written that I actually like very much.  And it represents very well the ideas I learned during my years with Geri Allen and displays everything I want to say about jazz in the new millennium.

 

SCENE FROM A DREAM

The Dale Fielder/Geri Allen Session

Dale Fielder – alto sax / Geri Allen – piano & vocals* / Michael Logan – bass

Gregory Bufford – drums / Rob White – congas & percussion

  1. Night In Turquoise/Dance Over The Edge (Dale Fielder)
  2. Fugue 1978 (Dale Fielder)
  3. Scene From A Dream (Michael Logan)
  4. Les Mots Flottant [The Floating Words] (Dale Fielder)
  5. The Rain (Geri Allen) *
  6. In My Youth (Gregory Bufford)
  7. Leopard In The Night (Dale Fielder) **
  8. Thunderbirds (Dale Fielder) ***

All compositions by Dale Fielder & Greg Bufford published by Clarion Jazz/SESAC

“The Rain” by Geri Allen published by Antoinette Music/SESAC

“Scene From A Dream” by Michael Logan published by EM-CEE-EL Music/SESAC

** Dale Fielder – alto sax / Dave Robbins – piano / David Marr – bass / Chuck McPherson – drums

*** Dale Fielder – alto sax / Danny Grissett – piano / Trevor Ware – bass

Thomas White – drums / Rob White – percussion

Recorded February 23, 1983 by Vince Traina @ Sound Heights Studios, Brooklyn, NY

**Recorded April 27, 1991 by Jim Mooney @ Sage & Sound Studios, Hollywood, CA

***Recorded August 12, 2001 by David Cousins @ Spectrum Studios, Van Nuys, CA

Produced by Dale Fielder and Paul F. Cohen

Graphic Design by Craig Johnson

Photography by Glen Saffo

Liner Notes by Scott Yanow

 

Special Thanks To: Patricia Jordan Fielder, Kafi Patrice Williams & Dee Watkins

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