[Post headline]: Guest blog: Author Paul Combs wishes Tadd Dameron a happy birthday
Paul Combs is the author of the recently published Dameronia: The Life and Music of Tadd Dameron, the first authoritative biography of the jazz great.
On the occasion of Tadd Dameron’s 96th birthday I thought I should write about the man’s presence in the jazz world today. But first, a little background: Dameron was born on February 21, 1917, and died March 8, 1965. In those 48 years he created a large and influential body of work and inspired, both directly and indirectly, a great number of musicians, among them Miles Davis, Frank Foster, Benny Golson, Quincy Jones, Charlie Rouse, and Horace Silver. Several of his compositions are considered an essential part of the jazz cannon.
In June of 2008 Dameron was honored, somewhat belatedly, by the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (of which he was a member), when he was added to the ASCAP Wall of Fame. As I wrote in my book, I viewed this as “a hopeful sign that Tadd Dameron’s spirit will remain with us for a long time to come.” While attending the Jazz Education Conference last month, I found evidence of Dameron’s continuing presence when a group of high school-aged young men came up to my table expressing interest in the book. They were from a jazz school in Israel founded by the late Arnie Lawrence, and they told me that when they start the program they have to pick a jazz master and write a paper about that person. One of the young men had written about Dameron and had become inspired by his music, so he had written an arrangement of “Flosey Lou,” first recorded in 1956 by both Dameron and the Max Roach/Clifford Brown Quintet, which I was invited to hear played, and played well, by these young musicians.
Others told me of concerts of Dameron’s music they had given, or were planning, at their schools. All were surprised to hear that there are many more Dameron tunes that they had never heard. Several people were happy to see Tadd getting his due, while others were surprised to learn of his true importance (despite recognizing his name).
Another sign that Dameron’s spirit lives on is the recent CD release from pianist Chick Corea and vibraphonist Gary Burton titled “Hot House,” on which they play the well-known Dameron tune of the same name. The CD was nominated for a Grammy award this year.
As I had hoped and expected, new information about Tadd Dameron is being shared with me now that the book is out. Some of it adds to the known record of Dameron’s activities, some confirms reasonable assumptions, and some presents new information. I will be posting this information at my own website, paulcombs.com, but I will make a brief announcement here when that information has been posted, probably six to eight weeks from now.
Finally, I would like to express my gratitude for all the warm and enthusiastic responses the book has received. Several people in various media have interviewed me and more are planning to. There will even be a piece on one of the NPR news programs later this month about Tadd Dameron that includes conversations with Ira Gitler and me.
Note: I’d like to take this opportunity to post a correction to something I wrote in Dameronia. On page 121 I identified Dr. Willis Kirk as past president of San Francisco State College. This is incorrect. Dr. Kirk was president of San Francisco City College. This will be corrected in the book sometime in the future when possible, and I apologize to Dr. Kirk and anyone else who may have been distressed by my error.