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Alaadeen book


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Les Paul

October 2009
Feature Articles

Music news, interviews, opinion


Alaadeen book tells "The Rest of the Story" 


By Grace Sankey-Berman


KANSAS CITY, Mo.—Ahmad Alaadeen has written a jazz instruction manual called “The Rest of The Story,” which the Berman Music Foundation helped to publish. It is a collection of music and lessons the Kansas City saxophonist compiled over many years, with fascinating stories about his music career. On Aug. 2, I attended a book-signing event at the Musician Mutual Institute.


Ahmad Alaadeen and Fanny [Photo by Grace Sankey-Berman]It was also a celebration of Alaadeen’s 75th birthday. A cross section of the Kansas City arts community was in attendance, including Stan Kessler of the Sons of Brasil and Sharon Valleau of Kansas City Barbeque and All That Jazz, which provides hospitality services for visitors who want to combine the food and the music that have made this city famous.  


As I walked into the room, Alaadeen was sitting at the back of the music room with his saxophone sitting on a stand next to him. He was dressed to the nines—black suit, gold tie and handkerchief and a fedora hat. His appearance was very distinguished and the whole atmosphere of the room reminded me an old jazz club.


Alaadeen credits his family for pushing him to write and practice music from an early age, but said that he could not have published this book without the persistence of his long-time partner and manager, Fanny. His face lit up when he spoke of Fanny, whom he refers to in his book as “the heartbeat next to mine.”


He also credits her for saving his life. He had met Fanny after a gig when she asked him if he could introduce her to someone who could teach her how to play the saxophone. He volunteered to be her teacher and they’ve been together ever since. At that time he was sick and wouldn’t go to the doctor, but Fanny insisted that he go. The news was not good. When he finally got to the doctor, he found out he had bladder cancer. She helped to nurse him back to health.


His goal for writing a jazz manual is to encourage upcoming jazz musicians to play from the heart and to be more creative. Most of them train at “jazz factories” where they learn to play technically well but, he asked, “Where is the beef?” The music usually lacks feeling, he said. Yet, he remains excited about the future of jazz because of the many young musicians—like former Alaadeen apprentice Logan Richard, a senior at the Paseo Academy of Visual and performing Arts—who are producing great jazz.


His earlier influences include Charlie “Bird” Parker, John Coltrane and Miles Davis. He first met Bird in 1951 at a night club in Kansas City. He said the alto saxophone master was a big guy who could play any song with any band without practice. That night Bird played with Woody Herman and when Woody asked Bird about what songs they should play he replied, “Whatever you want to play.” And they went on to play great music.


Alaadeen plays tenor and soprano saxophones, but alto mastered the flute, clarinet and oboe. He was overjoyed to play with old-timers like Ella Fitzgerald, Billy Holiday, Rufus, and Jay McShann in Kansas City. Over the years he played in Chicago, Houston, New York, Denver and San Antonio. While living in Chicago he became a Muslim, which he credits for changing his life for the better. He even had a chance to play with Miles but turned it down because of his new-found religion.


A great band consisting of some of Alaadeen’s students and Roger Wilder on piano played throughout the evening. Alaadeen sat in with the band and played two songs from his 2005 “New Africa Suite” CD. The band continued to play with various KC musicians sitting in while Alaadeen autographed books.



Alaadeen book combines instruction, history


By Tom Ineck


Ahmad Alaadeen’s skill as an educator has been acknowledged by the Berman Music Foundation at least since December 1998, when the BMF brought the renowned saxophonist from his home in Kansas City to conduct a "The Rest of the Story," by Ahmad Alaadeenseries of workshops at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln School of Music.


You can read my account of that appearance in the January 1999 issue of the BMF newsletter. It was part personal jazz history and part demonstration of jazz style, with pianist Tom Larson and bassist Rusty White accompanying Alaadeen. The saxophonist also proved a witty storyteller.


Noting that “jazz has been elevated to America's classical music,” he told students of his own less dignified introduction to the music. He said his parents and their generation thought you would go to hell if you listened to jazz.


"Well, welcome to hell," Alaadeen deadpanned.


His new book, “The Rest of the Story: Jazz Improvisation and History,” combines instruction for advanced students and a fascinating view of Kansas City jazz in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. Like his lectures, it includes personal philosophy and an insider’s glimpse of some of the greats. He modestly claims to be a “street musician or one who learned from the oral tradition by listening to the musicians on the street, asking questions, going to jam sessions, and experimenting through trial and error,” but he also received formal training at R.T. Coles High School, where he studied music four hours a day.


Alaadeen [Courtesy Photo]Alaadeen continually stresses the importance of an individual sound, a sound that is impossible to achieve by acquiring academic technique alone. The book offers many tips on how to reach that unique sound, that personal identity.


“I’m a firm believer in the rule of discovery,” he writes. “I never give my serious students a complete outline of what they should be playing as a soloist. I only give examples of what I was taught or other harmonies or chord formations that I discovered by extending my mind past what was given to me.”


The book ends with a series of vignettes and historic photographs featuring Jay McShann, Miss Brown’s after-hours club, R.T. Coles High School, Musicians Union Local 627, the Orchid Room, and Miles Davis.


As fellow Kansas City saxophonist and educator Bobby Watson writes in his testimonial back-cover blurb: “With this book, Alaadeen has opened the door to the complex mind of the jazz musician. The information inside this book is extremely personal and informative at the same time. It is very specific but still leaves room for the user to discover for themselves their own paths to self expression using the information provided.”


For more information or to obtain a copy of "The Rest of the Story," contact Fandeen Publishing Company at 6610 W. 67th St., Overland Park, KS 66202 or visit www.alaadeen.com.


Recommended listening:

  • "And the Beauty of It All: Ballads," by Alaadeen, ASR Records (2007)

  • "New Africa Suite," by Alaadeen, ASR Records (2005)

  • "Time Through the Ages," by Ahmad Alaadeen, ASR Records (1997)

  • "Plays Blues for R.C. and Josephine, Too" by Alaadeen and the Deans of Swing (1995)


Complete BMF history documented online


“No negative thinking can be allowed, if our jazz garden is going to continue to bloom. If everyone is aware of how cool this really can be, it will be a gasser.”


--- Butch Berman, Berman Music Foundation newsletter, November 1995


By Tom Ineck


Thus wrote Butch Berman in his first contribution to the BMF newsletter. He was addressing the need for community support of live music, especially jazz, but he also was expressing the hope that this publication would make a difference. With the latest developments, we are trying to ensure that his vision for the BMF remains alive.


The first Berman Music Foundation newsletter was published in October 1995 [File Photo]All available issues of the BMF newsletter—65, at last count—are now online in PDF format. For the first time since the foundation was formed in the spring of 1995, website visitors can peruse its entire documented history. Artist interviews, features on recording sessions, concert and CD reviews, travel stories, original photographs and commentary of every sort are included, creating a panoramic view of a whole era of jazz and other American roots music, not only in Lincoln and Omaha, but in Kansas City, Mo., Topeka, Kan., Chicago, San Francisco, New York City and beyond.


Originally, the newsletter was published in a hard-copy edition only, and then mailed to hundreds of jazz fans nationwide. As it grew in size—often exceeding 20 pages—the cost of printing and postage became prohibitive, so in January 2003 it became an online-only publication. Since then every issue has been archived on the BMF website, but earlier issues remained rare and unavailable to the general reader.  


July 2009 edition of the BMF newsletter [File Photo]Since its ragged but righteous, four-page debut in October 1995, the newsletter has gone through many changes. It quickly grew to eight, 10 and 12 pages monthly, primarily as a listing of upcoming local performances, brief CD reviews and editorial columns. The design became more attractive, going from two columns to three and adding more original photos, eventually in full color. Most recently, we adopted a new BMF logo for the newsletter, designed by a longtime friend of the foundation, Lincoln graphic artist Reynold Peterson. A more generic symbol, it affirms the BMF mission to protect and promote all forms of American music. It will soon be adapted to the website, as well.


My association with the Berman Music Foundation began with the newsletter’s July 1996 edition, for which I wrote a couple of CD reviews, an overview of that summer’s Jazz in June concert series and a review of a recent performance by the Dave Stryker Quintet in Omaha. From the perspective of more than 13 years later, it was an inauspicious beginning to a very important part of my life. It is very satisfying that—finally—readers, friends and fans of the Berman Music Foundation have the complete BMF opus at their fingertips. Read on!




Trip includes Chicago, Toronto, Falls, friends


By Tom Ineck


ON THE ROAD—By the time Mary Jane and I left Lincoln, Neb., for a two-week road trip in July, our long-term plans to visit friends in rural Pennsylvania had morphed to include stops in Chicago, Niagara Falls and Toronto, with a return jog through Cleveland to see the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.


Jazz club experiences in Chicago and Toronto are chronicled elsewhere in this newsletter, but travel is never ALL about jazz, is it? Here are just a few none-jazz highlights.


Hanover House B&B in Niagara Fall, N.Y. [Photo by Tom Ineck]We had just two nights in Chicago, with full-day drives before and after, so our visit there was limited to a few good meals, a walk to the downtown shopping district, a visit to the Art Institute and a pleasant stay at the Congress Plaza Hotel on Michigan Avenue, which is a short stroll from Grant Park and the lake.


Knowing that we would cover a lot of unfamiliar territory, we had purchased a GPS system in an attempt to avoid getting lost, failing to acknowledge that some of the most interesting and memorable experiences happen while trying to figure out where the heck you are and how you will get to where you want to go. After the sweet, female-voiced GPS (which we dubbed Candy Kane) sent us on a wild-goose chase across Michigan and through Canada to Niagara Falls at twilight from the observation deck [Photo by Tom Ineck]get to Niagara Falls, N.Y., we learned to take everything she said with a healthy dose of skepticism. Interstate 90 along Lake Erie would have gotten us to our destination with less grief, in less time, but we wouldn’t have seen as much of the Canadian countryside.


Niagara Falls is everything it’s cracked up to be in the guide books and brochures. Despite its tourist trappings, the roaring cataract still inspires awe at first sight. The U.S. side of the falls is less developed and more pristine, saved from most of the commercial glitz by the fact that it was named a state park in 1885, making it America’s oldest. From the Hanover House bed and breakfast, it was a five-minute walk to the Niagara River and another 10 minutes downstream to the A scary view through the glass floor of the CN Tower in Toronto [Photo by Tom Ineck]falls itself. Like most first-time visitors, we purchased the all-in-one admission, which covers the Maid of the Mist boat ride, the Cave of the Winds walk under the falls, the Discovery Center and other attractions. Still, it was the primordial power of nature as we stared transfixed above American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls that continued to amaze.


Crossing the border—again—we made our way to Toronto for three nights at the centrally located Bond Place Hotel, where we simply parked our car and relied on the excellent mass-transit system and our legs to get us around the city. On a rainy day, we were able to catch the subway near the hotel and ride uptown to the door of the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), where a special The cast of "0% Down, 100% Screwed" [Photo by Tom Ineck]exhibition of the Dead Sea Scrolls had just opened.


During our stay in Toronto, we enjoyed several excellent meals, including dinner at the Baton Rouge restaurant and two breakfast stops at Eggspectation, both near the hotel. One afternoon we road the elevator to the observation deck of the 1,800-foot CN Tower (even for the world's tallest building, a rip-off at $24 each), then dined at a quaint East Indian bistro nearby before heading to The Second City for a hilarious performance of the new recession-inspired comedy “O% Down, 100% Screwed.”


After three hectic days in the city, it was nice to head south across the border—again—this time bound for Kane, Pa., a borough of about 4,000 Tom and Mary Jane at the Kinzua Bridge [Photo by Greg Page]people with charming Victorian homes, one of which is owned by our friends Greg and Suzy. Much time was spent simply relaxing over eats, drinks and conversation, but one of the highlights of our weekend visit was a day trip to see the remains of the historic Kinzua Bridge, which at the time of its construction in 1882 was the tallest and longest railway bridge in the world. In 2003, a tornado collapsed much of the span as it was being restored. We narrowly missed a stop at the Zippo/Case Museum, a 15,000-square-foot building housing rare Zippo lighters and Case knives. Maybe next time.


Saying farewell to Greg and Suzy and their gracious hospitality, we began our westward return home, but not without a side trip to Cleveland. Arriving mid-afternoon, we got a room about a mile from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum [Photo by Tom Ineck]and Museum. After a brisk walk, I had just 2½ hours to spend at the museum before closing time. It was even more entertaining and educational than I had anticipated, containing hundreds of historic instruments, outrageous stage costumes, rare photographs and other definitive rock ‘n’ roll memorabilia. It’s an experience that should be shared with a fellow rock fan, and I couldn’t help thinking how much fun it would have been with Butch Berman along. He never made it to the museum, but I know he would have loved it. 


There is no better way to reconnect with America—and Canada—and experience the rare joy of travel than a long road trip with no deadlines and only a rough itinerary. Our reinvigorating sojourn encompassed 11 nights and 12 days, with overnight stays in six cities and a round-trip journey of 2,600 miles. But such bare statistics don’t fully reflect the value of the open road. I heartily recommend it.



Colorado Correspondent

Growing up with Les Paul (kind of)


By Dan DeMuth


PUEBLO, Colo.—It’s a very small farm community in east central Nebraska during that idyllic time between the end of WWII and the Korean conflict. My only access to hearing music is coming from some old 78s and radio. Available radio music fare includes some Polish and Czech ethnic stations in the region, with a handful from Lincoln and Omaha offering occasional programs on the popular hits of the day and, perhaps, hillbilly and western.


"Galloping Guitars," by Les Paul and His TrioThe closest thing to jazz would be finding a network feed of Martin Block's “Make Believe Ballroom.” Songs dominating the various "hit parades" bore such innocuous titles (with lyrics to match) as “Cruising Down the River,” “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo,” and “Dear Hearts and Gentle People.” These "hit parades" were loosely compiled stats from requests to disc jockeys, band leaders and from plays on juke boxes. In Omaha, Todd Storz of the brewery family would not initiate the nation’s first "top 40" radio format on KOWH until 1955.


On radio in 1948, a definitive sound separate from all others could occasionally be heard, and the pop charts confirmed that the listening public was taking notice. Lester Polfuss, better known as Les Paul, had charted with The sheet music for "Mockin' Bird Hill," by Les Paul and Mary Ford “Lover” and “Brazil.” We didn't hear much the next year but by 1950 he had teamed up with Colleen Summers, aka Mary Ford, and the hits started coming. A pioneer in multiple-track recordings, Les' fantastic guitar runs and Mary's dubbed harmonizing literally created a sound like no other. Mary was no slouch on guitar, either.


With their respective backgrounds of country corn to jazz for Les, and Mary's western-tinged pop, they achieved a unique sound. Most records would feature a Les instrumental on one side with Les backing a Mary vocal on the other. At times, both sides were getting significant airplay and they were masters at having one hit on the way up as the one preceding had maxed out. As an example, “Mockin' Bird Hill” entered Billboard's charts at No. 9 the week of March 17, 1951, reaching No. 1 five weeks later and remaining in the top 10 through the week of July 21. Meanwhile, “How High the Moon” was in the top 10 from May 12 through July 21. By the first week of October they were back with “The World Is Waiting for the Sunrise.”


"How High the Moon," by Les Paul and Mary FordAnd so it went, throughout the early 1950s—“Josephine,” “Whispering,” “Tiger Rag,” “Carioca,” “Just One More Chance,” “Meet Mr. Callaghan,” “Bye Bye Blues,” “Sitting On Top Of The World,” “I Really Don't Want to Know,” “I'm A Fool To Care” and perhaps the most memorable of all, “Vaya con Dios.” Actual recording dates are not known as they recorded virtually everything at home.


Generational tastes and buying habits change, as did my listening preferences. Came the rock and roll juggernaut of the mid 1950s and the duo's popularity waned. In a rather cruel twist of fate, Les' pioneering guitar work would later be hailed as a major influence ushering in rock and roll which in turn ushered them out to the pasture of has-beens. They were not alone there—names such as Johnnie Ray, Ella Mae Morse and Guy Mitchell come to mind. Ultimately the rigors of touring and attempting to please the fickle tastes of the listening public took its toll on their personal life. They divorced in 1964 and Mary died in 1977 at the too-young age of 53.


"Jazz Me Blues," by Les PaulFor me, it wasn't until later years in searching out jazz that I ran across some of Les' earlier works, which included backing such diverse artists as blues singer Georgia White in the 1930s (over 80 years ago!), Bing Crosby, Dick Haymes, and performing with numerous jazz masters, particularly on Norman Granz' JATP recordings. A serious collector might want to find the four sides issued on the Montgomery Ward label from 1936 on 78 rpm under the name of "Rhubarb Red," which are Les’ first solo records. (If you've got 'em, let’s talk!) My last vinyl purchase was the "Chester (Atkins) & Lester" LP issued in 1976. Though I lost track of them over the years, Les (and Mary) were certainly a large part of my listening and learning experience.


Les kept performing up until the end, which came on Aug. 13, at the age of 94.




Editor’s Note: At your request, we will mail a printed version of the newsletter. The online newsletter also is available at this website in PDF format for printing. Just click here: Newsletter