Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Interview:-->Jerry Hahn - Jazz Guitar Legend

"When I first came down to Wichita town...
Had a pocketful of Mexican smoke.
Well, I sold it to a man I did not know...
'Cause I was hungry and I was broke
Jerry Hahn Brotherhood

Recognized by Rolling Stone as one of the 3 or 4 best jazz guitarists, Jerry Hahn has enjoyed a full eclectic career.

What drew my attention, initially, to this ambassador of rock-blues-jazz fusion...was his fantastic, but almost forgotten, classic rock gem ..."The Jerry Hahn Brotherhood" (1970).

I'll describe the album in more detail later. But first...

Jerry Hahn was performing at Hotel Old Town in Wichita, KS recently (July 2008)...
Hotel Old Town - Wichita KS

...when he graciously sat down and allowed me to pick his memories. Jumping from one topic to another...Hahn shared his thoughts and opinions.

The following is an excerpt:

Casey: Well, back in the '60s...before you began teaching at Wichita State were out in San Francisco playing with the John Handy Quintet.
Jerry Hahn: Oh, yeah! I played with John Handy and then I was with the Gary Burton (vibraphone) Quartet when I was living out in San Francisco too. And those two groups were pretty big.
Country Roads and Other Places - Gary Burton (1968)
Traveled around the world with those groups actually. And then I had the Jerry Hahn Brotherhood out in San Francisco too which was big. And then after that...I moved back here.

Casey: Well, how did you get into the John Handy (alto sax) Quintet?
Jerry Hahn: Um...I had seen him at a gig...uh...I just got a hold of his number and called him up. And I just talked to him for a minute and told him I was a guitar player. And he had a thing called the Freedom Band which was a civil rights band doing civil rights benefits. And his regular guitar player didn't want to do the gig. So he had me do the gig. Then he had me take over his regular guitar player's gig. (laugh)

Casey: And you guys released an album... “Live at Monterey” (1965).

John Handy Live at Monterey (1965)
Jerry Hahn: Yeah, yeah...uh-huh. I did two albums with them. “Live at Monterey" was the first one and The 2nd John Handy Album was the second one.
The 2nd John Handy Album (1966)
Yeah, and that “Live at Monterey..." was four reader votes in Downbeat from being album of the year. And the 3rd place (album) was way down there. We were four votes away from an Ornette Coleman record and ours. Yeah. So it was definitely almost won Album of the Year.

Casey: That's strong. You were also invited to sit in on a Paul Simon album which is very cool.
Jerry Hahn: Yeah. His very first! His first solo album after Garfunkel. Yeah. I did. I was on a couple of tracks.
Paul Simon (1972)

Casey: That would have been Paul Simon's self-titled LP from '72. How did that all come about?
Jerry Hahn: Oh, I...I was still in the Bay (San Francisco) area and I got a call from ... I think it was his engineer...and uh...'so Paul wants you to be on his album.' And I told him, 'You know what...I'm too busy. I'm sorry.' And I turned him down. I said, 'I've got a lot of students. I'm too busy right now.' And I did have a lot of students but...they persisted in calling me back. Thank God that they persisted. But uh...that was a really stupid thing for me to do. Y'know...Paul Simon is...

Casey: Yeah. (laugh)
Jerry Hahn: So I went in and uh...the rhythm tracks were already laid down and...'okay I want you to take a solo here'. And so the next day Paul Simon calls me up and uh...'okay, I liked what you did Jerry. I want you to come in.'
And so the second day, I worked with Paul personally on...uh...recording what he wanted me to do.

Casey: You mentioned you were on a couple of songs...
Jerry Hahn: Right! Uh... “Run That Body Down” and “Armistice Day.” Those were the two tunes that I was on.

Casey: Yes! “Run That Body Down” is one of my favorite Paul Simon songs.

"Paul is at his best in a tune such as "Run That Body Down," taking a seriocomic detached tone about things, dipping periodically into a relaxed falsetto, clearly getting it off with some of the best musicians in the business, including Jerry Hahn (electric guitar) and Ron Carter (bass)." - Playboy, 6-72.

Jerry Hahn: I thought it was the best tune on the album myself! But “Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard”...that was the big hit off of that album. But do you know...was it the New Yorker? of those New York magazines...they actually wrote more about “Run That Body Down” than any other tune on the album.
And it was the first album where the sidemen...the instrumentalists...the sidemen got credit. Nobody ever got credit on the Simon and Garfunkel (albums). But on Paul Simon...on the had everybody listed who was on every track.

Casey: That's the way it ought to be. Now...jumping to the 90s, you went back into the studio, after a long hiatus to record another strongly recommended CD... "Time Changes" (1995). Good stuff.
Time Changes - Jerry Hahn (1995)
Jerry Hahn: Yeah, it was. I went to New York and did that. Yeah.

Casey: I think my favorite song from it is “Blues For Allyson”. In fact, three of the songs on the CD have girl's names in the title...
Jerry Hahn: Yeah, that was daughters. Step-daughters and daughters. Yeah. That'

Casey: Now you've recorded and toured with Ginger Baker. How did that happen?
Jerry Hahn: Well, Ginger was living outside of Denver and... I was living in Denver. So, he had...he's into polo ponies. He had a little polo pony ranch out about 30 miles from Denver. So he organized a jazz band and I was in that.

Casey: And you guys went out on the road.
Jerry Hahn: We went to New York and played. But we played mainly around Denver. And then I went to Seattle to record with him. And then Bill Frisell and Bela Fleck was on that record too. And Charlie Haden.

Casey: So, had you listened to any Cream?
Jerry Hahn: I had. I did. Actually, I saw Cream when I lived in San Francisco. I went to see them. That was the only band of that genre that I made a point to go see. I saw them and I saw The Band.
And all those bands were at...y'know (The) Fillmore, and I never cared that much...but when the Cream came, I did go see them. So, I actually went to see Ginger with Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce.

Casey: I bet that was a pretty good show.
Jerry Hahn: It was. It was. And then I ended up playing with the guy.
Jerry Hahn - "But Not For Me"

Casey: So, when did you first pick up the guitar?
Jerry Hahn: I started on lap steel when I was 7, and I picked up the regular guitar when I was 11.
And I joined my lap steel teacher...see, I didn't study guitar. I didn't take lessons on the regular guitar. There was one around. I just started playing it.
But, I started playing with the lap steel teacher's son and he had a band.
And when we were 11, 12, 13, we were on TV every day here in Wichita. On the first television station in Wichita. We didn't even own a TV. So, yeah I was on TV every day. I was like a rock star around here. (laugh) I was a little kid.
They'd show a western movie in the afternoon. And we had this little western swing band and we would play. And we were all kids. All except for the drummer. He was an older guy. But we were all young and we would play for 45 minutes after the movie. Every day.

Casey: That's flip. To be on TV, and not even have a TV...
Jerry Hahn: (laugh) Yeah, my mom would have to go next door to watch us. Yeah, we didn't even own a TV. And that was in the early '50s. '51, '52, '53'. Something like that. Yeah.

Jerry Hahn & His Quintet (1967) “ and distinctive and interesting now as it was in the 60's." Jazz critic Phil Elwood

Casey: Looking back, what are some of your favorite memories?
Jerry Hahn: Y'know...I suppose when I did the jazz festivals. I've done quite a few. I played Newport. I played Monterey three times. Twice with John Handy. Once with Gary Burton.
I've played a lot of other ones, too, but the jazz festivals are pretty cool because there's so many people and they all love jazz. Y'know if you're on TV, you don't see nobody. But at the jazz festivals you see all the thousands of people looking at you and listening to you. So it's pretty awesome.
Jerry Hahn

Casey: How was it different working back then?
Jerry Hahn: It was really good back in those days, 'cause like with Gary Burton...we would go some place and we'd be there for a week or two at the same venue. The same club.

And we wouldn't have to be packing up every night, y'know? That's what was good about those times.
That doesn't happen anymore. But I traveled around the country with Gary Burton doing that type of thing. And that was very cool. That was the last of those kinds of gigs.

We'd go down to Shelley's Manhole for two weeks. We'd play at The Tryden in Sausalito for two weeks. We'd be at The Colonial Tavern...I think it was called The Colonial Tavern...up in Toronto for two weeks. We'd be at the Top Of The Gate in New York City for two weeks. We'd be at Duffy's in Rochester for two weeks.

Casey: So, you had time to do some sightseeing...
Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club in London was founded in 1958.
Jerry Hahn: Yeah. Course we played at Ronnie Scotts in London for two weeks. And then the rest of the things we did over in Europe were one nighters. Concerts and things like that. But I went over there for six weeks with Gary Burton.

Casey: Who were some of your biggest influences?
Jerry Hahn: Howard Roberts and Barney Kessel. (Both jazz guitarists).

Casey: Do you remember the first album you ever bought?
Jerry Hahn: The first jazz album I ever bought was Barney Kessel... “To Swing Or Not To Swing” (1955). I still own it. I still have it.
Barney Kessell - "To Swing Or Not To Swing" (1955)

Casey: What are some of your favorite jazz albums?
Jerry Hahn: Well, I like the Miles Davis Quintet of the..y'know...the 60s and the 50s with John Coltrane. The best ones are the Miles Davis groups with Bill Evans, John Coltrane, and Cannonball Adderly. Those are the best albums in my opinion. And of course all the John Coltrane. Miles Davis. John Coltrane. That's it.
I saw John Coltrane play live in 1965 music I ever heard on the planet.

Casey: For those who may want to explore jazz a little further...what would you suggest?
Jerry Hahn: Get Milestones (Miles Davis - 1958). That's what I'd say.
"Milestones" - Miles Davis (1958)
Yeah...get “Milestones”. That's really a good one. Yeah. 'Cause you got all the great players all in one band. That's what's great about that. Y'know if you get Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Cannonball Adderley all on the front line, what do you got? You got the best players that ever was.

Casey: Well, speaking of best players...Rolling Stone Magazine once acknowledged that you were one of the top three or four jazz guitarists in the country...
Jerry Hahn: You don't really believe that do you? (laugh).

It was getting late so I thanked him. Shook his hand and Jerry turned to secure the rest of his gear.

NOW...about this Jerry Hahn Brotherhood album I was knocked out about.
In 1970...Jerry Hahn (guitar, banjo, vocals) Mike Finnegan (organ, piano, harmonica, vocals ), Clyde Graves (bass) and George Marsh (drums) got together and recorded a wrecking ball of wall crumbling tracks...filled with rock, blues and jazz jams.
All swirling together...effortlessly...creating a pool of ear-bliss that is farmer's market fresh.
Even more significant...this LP (not available on CD...yet) a wonderful and historical starting point for experiencing an early example of..."Fusion". The joining of various genres of music...creating a slamming blend of a new sound!!
Jerry Hahn circa 1970
Hahn makes his guitar drip and bark, one minute. Freeze and melt, the next. Filled with 10 solid tracks...a few absolutely must be rediscovered.
"Captain Bobby Stout" - a ballsy track about doing time courtesy of the Captain. Good stuff.
"Comin' Down" - a tasty guitar exercise penned by Hahn...that leaves no doubt guitar and body have become one.
"Early Bird Cafe" - is reminiscent of the Grateful Dead's best work.
"One Man Woman" - a fantastic Mike Finnigan organ intro and vocals with Jerry Hahn, again, sweeping the floor clean with his electric broomstick. A juicy bluesy number. Unbelievably good.
"Ramblin" - an Ornette Coleman cover...has a contagious confidence. Will surprise and delight. Convert as well, I expect.
"Martha's Madman" - opens side one of this lost gem...and begs for several repeats. Would have been something to behold in concert!
It's criminal..."The Jerry Hahn Brotherhood" has -never been released on CD- for his fans and new listeners.

(UPDATE..."The Jerry Hahn Brotherhood" is now available for purchase!) 

Good stuff!


Anonymous said...

I just gotta say, this is a very cool interview and it was very fun to read.

I have the CD of Paul Simon's self-titled album. It is probably my second favorite of his after "Still Crazy After All These Years."

"Run That Body Down" has been one of my longtime favorites too.

I'll have to keep my eyes open for them to put "Jerry Hahn Brotherhood" on CD.
"Captain Bobby Stout" sounds real good.

Anyway,this is pretty cool. Keep up the good work.

Jeff Bruntzel said...

Great interview.... Nicely done.

Casey said...

Jeff...Thanks a whole lot. I appreciate it. Don't be a stranger to my blog!

Anonymous said...

I bought "Arab-Be-In" on Arhoolie Records when I lived in Lawrence, Kansas in 1977. I played that record all the time and thought Hahn was incredible. Many years later I was with friends at a Portland, Oregon restaurant and I immediately recognized Hahn playing guitar in the next room. It really says something about an artist when the playing is so developed that it's unmistakably theirs. Wow,.....that was some meal.

Casey said...

Jerry Hahn And His Quintet is a great album...and Jerry's..."Ara-Be-In"...closes the disc out nice nicely. Wish I had it...(on my grab) list.
btw... I just heard "Ragahantar" on Pandora yesterday morning. Another tasty piece of JHAHQ.