Selection 1: The Girl From Greenland (Twardzik) with Chet Baker, recorded in Paris 5:19
Selection 2: Yellow Tango (Twardzik) 5:28
Selection 3: ‘Round about Midnight (Monk) 3:52
Selection 4: I’ll remember April (Raye – de Paul – Johnston) 4:09
Selection 5: A Crutch For The Crab (Twardzik) 3:21
Richard Twardzik (piano) Carson Smith (bass) Peter Littman (drums)
recorded Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, N.J. October 27, 1954. The Girl From Greenland, add Chet Baker (trumpet) substitute Jimmy Bond (bass) recorded at Studio Pathé-Magellan, Paris, October 11,1955.
Fairly short tracks as was the practice in the mid Fifties world before microgroove LPs, so I have thrown in a few more selections than usual to compensate Slightly Monk-like, slightly Herbie Nichols-like, slightly Powell-ish, probably a few other influences, but an individual voice is there, though never given the opportunity to develop. His take on ‘Round About Midnight is poignant and tender, and I’ll Remember April is a joyous mischievous helter-skelter.
Allmusic artist overview for Twardzik:
Pianist Richard Twardzik remains one of the most tragic cautionary tales in the annals of jazz — a gifted and original bop pianist on the precipice of international renown, he died of a heroin overdose at the age of just 24. Twardzik was a classically trained child prodigy who studied under Madame Chaloff, the mother of the famed baritone saxophonist Serge Chaloff; he began his professional career at 14 playing the Boston nightclub circuit, and later attended the New England Conservatory. While still in his teens, he also acquired the heroin addiction that would ultimately end his life.
According to his biographer Jack Chambers (day job, Toronto U Professor of Linguistics), Twardzik’s first recording was one track with Charlie Mariano in 1951, and he was soon accompanying Charlie Parker during Parker’s Hi-Hat Club Boston sessions 1951-2: bop super-group line up: Charlie Parker (as) Joe Gordon (tp) Bill Wellington (ts) Dick Twardzik (p) Charles Mingus (b) Roy Haynes (d). He also played extensively with Serge Chaloff in the early 50’s, recording on the Chaloff album Fable of Mabel ( LJC post December 6, 2011 – seems a long time ago!)
The young Twardzik was brought to the attention of Richard Bock, of Pacific Jazz Records, by pianist Russ Freeman. According to Chambers, Freeman recounts: “I told him (Bock) about this fantastic piano player I had heard. And Dick said ‘Why don’t you do a recording?’ So we went up to New Jersey to Rudy Van Gelder’s studio and did the album. I’m glad we did it, because it’s one of the few things Dick ever recorded.” The recording location and engineer is not credited on the liner notes, merely that the recording was “Produced by Russ Freeman”. Why so shy? It seems to have been Van Gelder, at Hackensack. A strange omission from the credits, but it explains the high quality recording by 1954 standards. Those cymbals, outstanding!
Twardzik never got to hear this record. Baker took Twardzik on his 1955 European tour, which was recorded extensively in Holland, Germany and France, the last to be Twardzik’s final set. He died of a heroin overdose in his Paris hotel on October 21, 1955. According to Chambers:
He (Twardzik) was expected at a recording session with Baker, and when he didn’t show, someone was sent to his hotel room. No one answered at the locked door, and when it was finally broken, Twardzik was found, already dead, with the spike still in his arm.
The Pacific Jazz liner notes describe Twardzik’s departure more tactfully – “died suddenly and unexpectedly”. Add: and too soon. Perhaps heroin in Paris was less adulterated than that supplied in Boston. Some have pointed out that, as ruinous as heroin is, its lethal property is usually a consequence of its degree of purity, unregulated other than by criminals. Moral issues aside, I prefer certain modern jazz players in their junkie phase, less so after they cleaned up. Just sayin’ .
Vinyl: Pacific Jazz PJ37 1962 mono – 146gm vinyl.
Hackensack recordings first issued on Pacific Jazz 1212 – Russ Freeman/Richard Twardzik Trio (right) one side of Twardzik, topped up with Freeman tracks. Subsequently the session was issued as PJ37 The Final Set, with additional Twardzik tracks, including one with Chet Baker which was recorded two weeks before Twardzik’s death.
Audiophile tasting notes: After a recent slew of records with missing or rolled-off top end, it’s a delight to hear early Van Gelder engineering in fine form pressed I assume on the West Coast by Pacific Jazz – those cymbals! If he could do it in 1954…why not other engineers? (It’s just hearsay but I have read that it was efforts to reduce tape hiss that resulted in cut high frequencies)
Central London record store, where in conversation with the jazz buyer about this record the word “rare” cropped up several times. This record is apparently quite rare, and for once, being rare does not equate with being expensive: Twardzik is relatively unknown.
Full Twardzik Discography is found here. It is quite short, but offers an interesting insight into the Boston jazz scene of the very early Fifties.
Can labelling jazz as West Coast or East Coast help understand or anticipate anything better? Taking my lead from some of the comments below, I have had a go at a classic two-dimension XY venn diagram.
My conclusion after trying to do it is “no” . Where the hell do you put Thelonious Monk, let alone Sun Ra? Neither geography not “coolness” captures what is going on in jazz.