Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Thank You Larance Marable

I just received word that the great West Coast Jazz drummer Larance Marable passed away earlier this July. Marable was not a household name by any means but certainly played an important role in the West Coast scene and, notably, as the drummer in Charlie Haden's Quartet West group for many years.

In fact, when I was in grade 12 my high school Jazz band travelled to the IAJE conference in Anaheim, California in 1995 and I heard Larance playing drums with Haden's iconic group. His drumming really spoke to me and I was really influenced and moved by his clear and swinging cymbal beat and some very tasteful accompaniment on the drums. His style and approach fit that band perfectly. 

I distinctly remember Larance taking an extended drum solo with mallets that, for me, was the highlight of the concert and really brought the house down. Charlie was going NUTS on the bass afterwards, he was so excited. That was the first time I'd ever heard a drummer play a solo with mallets and ever since it's been one of my favorite things to do during a drum solo.

Thank you Larance.

Here's a clip of Marable in a 50s trio date with West Coast pianist Carl Perkins and the underrated Leroy Vinnegar on bass:

With great thanks to Ethan Iverson over at his very fine blog Do The Math here are some words from Charlie Haden on his relationship with the great drummer, Larance Marable:

"I first met Larance Marable in the late fifties when I was playing with Paul Bley at the Hillcrest Club in L.A. and Larance was playing gigs around town. We soon started playing together with Art Pepper, Hampton Hawes, Sonny Clark, Paul Bley, and would often drive up to San Francisco to play with different musicians including Chet Baker. I still remember the stories he told on that drive, about Bird and other great musicians. In fact, on our Quartet West album Now Is the Hour there's a picture of him at a birthday party for Bird in Watts, sharing ice cream and cake.

He was a beautiful person that loved to laugh. My daughter Tanya once played him several games of ping pong when we were in Paris. When she missed a point, she'd say, "I'm going to get you, Wabbit" like she was talking to Bugs Bunny, and Larance would crack up.

This guy had something that was magical. I experienced it from the first time we started to play. The thrust of his cymbal was so strong. Strength is not the right word. Maybe power is right. It would happen anytime, anywhere. You could always rely on him. He had a lot of dynamics in his playing. You can’t explain it, but he had it. He functioned in my Quartet West like Jimmy Cobb functioned for Miles Davis, especially on Kind of Blue.

In 1986 or thereabouts, in Hollywood, there was some kind of benefit or reception for the movie Round Midnight. Billy Higgins was there, and he and I were talking and Higgins said, "Look over there, it's Larance Marable." Way across the room! Larance Marable! I went over to him, and we hugged. We had't seen each other in many years. I said, "Man! Are you playing?" He said, "I always loved playing with you!" and I said, "Now that I found you, we have to play together!"

First Larance subbed with Quartet when Higgins couldn't make it, but then, when Billy started touring with the Round Midnight band a lot, Larance joined my band full time.  His cymbal beat was perfect: It was earthshaking when he came in with the time.

In Quartet West he was the other part of my heartbeat."

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