Just a short walk through the corridors of time will put you in touch with some of the most versatile musicians, vocalists, and composers who gave us what the music world is proud to call the birth of Jazz.
What you find is, if music is the language of the world, when it speaks from the soul..that's blues when it comes from the heart that's Jazz.
If a guy makes you pat your foot and you feel it down your back, you don't have to ask anybody if that's good music or not. You can always feel it.
BR: What inspired you to write this book?
DL: I don't know how interesting that's going to be (laughter) I've been around the music game for a long time since the late 50s .I've noticed the change in the younger guys and I thought that they were forgetting who the mainstream guys were. I wanted there to be some interest to the general public. As far as reminding the younger people that this is what I call "The Ladies and Gentlemen Of Jazz" and this is what they did. I spoke to quite a few people from San Francisco to Los Angeles and back to Philadelphia and many don't want to talk about a Lester Young or Coleman Hawkins. So when you asked what inspired me to write this book it's along those lines. I wanted to let the upcoming musicians and people in general know about jazz.
BR: Danny, You are a musician, a music promoter, TV and music producer, composer, educator and a writer. Who is Danny Luciano and what is next?
DL: This is a guy who grew up in South Philadelphia and came up through the ranks. Sitting in hundreds of bands from the late 50s on up and that was my way of paying dues. I went on the road with a lot of recording artist from the late 50s to the early 60s and recorded 45 records and a couple of albums of my own. Mainly along the rhythm and blues aspect of it. I played tenor sax in Atlantic city for about 2-3 years straight and also sat in with a lot of guys. That's when Atlantic City was a swinging town, that too has changed. I've gone behind the scenes and managed other players. In the commercial aspect of it I was involved in recording studios and progressed to TV production at station WKBS 48 in Philadelphia and got to know a person who became a really close friend of mine Guy Galante. Guy Galante was the production manager and director at WKBS channel 48 in Philadelphia .We put together 2 pilot shows about jazz, it was very involved . That's how it began.
BR: In a section of your book, called the Jazz Gazette a time to remember you took us from the 20's - 90's . It gave us a meaningful beginning, Has the transition of time change so drastically?
DL: I think so, back then I knew some old players who are not here any longer who I became acquainted with. They played for the enjoyment (this is my opinion) and today it seems like it's all about money, if it's not commercial. Back then it was an outlet.
BR: Let's look at the night life of Atlantic City, what was it like ? In your book you felt the excitement of jazz life.
DL: At that time in the late 50's -early 70's Atlantic City was situated with a beach and board walk and coming inland the beach, boardwalk, Pacific Ave. Atlantic Ave. These were the two main drags that were really happening at the time. There were clubs by the handful playing rhythm and blues, jazz and excitement. The doors were open during the months of May through October. And it went on all night and all day. This was the four corners . Each corner had a club and each club structured their performance from 9-3. But in between it was structured where if one club was on a break, like a 20 minute break the musician would come over to play at the corner club. A lot of things were happening then. There were times when you'd see Ella Fitzgerald come in and sit at a ringside table. I sat with her. ( that tells my age a little, but age is a number ). (Laughter) I've done a lot of workshops in Philadelphia and Baltimore and things were not done automatically that's what I tell the younger musicians coming up.
BR: "From where we were" another section of your book you spoke of the closing of many jazz venues. What would you say are the reasons so many night clubs, musical bars and other small venues that feature jazz on a regular basis have closed?
DL: It's the economics and the music that has changed.
BR: I have to ask you the question, you asked in your book .Is there ever going to be a resurgence of jazz?
DL: I hope so . I say I hope so to a resurgence of what I know it as and what you know it as. I don't see it as I travel these United States extensively . I don't see many of the innovators of jazz.
BR: The Journey-Route 66-excellent segment of your book. Let's talk about the journey, what was it?
DL: There's a jazz night club on the outskirts of Philadelphia, it inspired this area of the book. Where we've been is going to a night club hearing the music, a trio, a quartet and everyone is having a good time. Today, you go to a similar play it looks like the backroom of a hotel; nice places but not what you know or what I know.
BR: How do we keep the music of jazz alive? What is the future of jazz and to pose some of your questions to you...where are the Coleman Hawkins, the Lester Youngs, the Ella Fitzgeralds, the Billie Holidays, the Count Basies, the Louis Armstrongs, the Hershel Evans, the Clifford Barnes and the Danny Lucianos?
DL: I hate to say it looks grim. It is more commercial, the radios play smooth jazz. I am not saying there's anything wrong with it .I'm saying it's not what I know or you know as jazz. Do you remember the Metropole in NY?
BR: Yes, I do.
DL: I don't hear that, today they have the Kenny G's fine it's great but where is Louis Jackson, who was friend of mine, obviously he passed away. But the guy is not here anymore and that style of music is what see from the younger people as antiquated. When you see some people groovin', taping their foot to the music and I hear now that's not what you're suppose to do, that's a draw back. It's a technical thing ...fine..Lester Young wasn't technical, Count Basie wasn't technical. I did a show with Philly Joe Jones he once said, "It wasn't what Basie played, it was what he didn't play that was so important" That's what has to be understood.
BR: When I mentioned a few names in your book like Tony Torcasio, Sarge Weiss, Sonny Schwartz, Guy Galante, Paul "Skinny " D'Amato, Tony Patterson, Nikki Dee, Lew Entin, Explain your friendship with these guys? When I read each segment that you have written in about these guys you felt the personal emotions that you felt for them.
DL: We were very close obviously, These guys understood where I was coming from. For instance Lew Entin he knew me from way back. He was one of the guys I knew when I played in the late 50's. He said, "If you want to learn to play the sax I'll take you somewhere." We went to PEPS it was a top jazz club which has since closed. He introduced me to Eddie "Lockjaw " Davis. I didn't know Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis from a box of matches but I was impressed and he became a friend. Sarge Weiss was a very warm man . He did a few things with Frank Sinatra. He tried to put an album together with some original tunes. One of the tunes was to be a tribute to his audience. The album never got off the ground. There were a lot of legal issues. Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr. did a tribute to Sarge.
BR: With the new musicians of today, Can you name a few that have paid their dues ? The ones who have great futures in jazz, who are your favorites?
DL: They are a few I can think of, but one is Joe DeFrancisco, he started at age 9 years and played with the major players, Larry Mckinnen is another, a tenor player whatever he plays is right. Naturally folks like Coltrane came through the ranks he was originally a Rhythm and blues singer, he came through the school of Sonny Rollins. He lived in Philly did the club scenes and did some Barwalking.
BR: Barwalking, I found that topic to be interesting..what exactly is Barwalking?
DL: Barwalking is a topic that often arises in our round table discussion. Understandably so, there are mixed feelings by many musicians whether or not those who practice "barwalking" during an act, should be recognized for being serious minded professional musicians. Looking back at the early days of jazz, showmanship was a signature style for many pioneering Ladies and Gentlemen of jazz.
BR: Danny, What would you tell anyone who wants to be a part of jazz in any aspect as a vocalist, a musician, a music promoter, and in any walk of life.
DL: Pay Attention to the older guys. They did it! They did it! I don't know if it means anything. But that's what I tell them, grab those albums and CDs and listen to them.
About the author:
Danny Luciano came up from the ranks of performing with many small entertaining jazz and rhythm & blues bands that played major venues nationally for more than two decades. He graduated to become recognized as a leading producer, promoter, composer, agent and creative computer graphic artist who uses his improvisational experiences and skills of over 30 years in jazz, to educate younger musicians who are seeking their goals in the world of jazz.
For more information on Danny's book, check out the Jazzmill website.