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DR. HERB WONG : JAZZ IS A HOMEGROWN AFFAIR

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It has taken me a while since Dr. Herb Wong‘s passing to compose my remembrances of the writer/producer.  He was among the first persons I met when I  decided to enter the jazz world as a journalist.  I was a Down Beat-reading fan and called Herb when I realized his depth.  Not only was he a journalist and professor approaching legendary status, but he also produced for the Bay Area’s Palo Alto Records.

After many years of correspondence and the occasional meeting when he came East we established a friendship.  It was many years therefrom that he broached a project to me.  It never came to pass but we talked about is constantly.  The working title was to be “Brothers In Jazz,” or a variant thereof,  and I was to be his Eastcoast interviewer.  He even offered a fifty-fifty deal.

As the title suggests we would trace siblings, brothers to be precise, who played, sang or composed jazz.  What we didn’t realize at the outset was the extent of the male, female and other bloodlines we would encounter.  Louis Armstrong reminded us of brothers whom he knew in his hometown of New Orleans and later in Chicago who wrote and played for him and others such as Dodds, Renée, DeParis and later Assunto.

Because of Armstrong’s strong input Herb and I decided we would go far afield, from Gershwin to Boswell, Clooney and Kral (Roy & Irene) any which way siblings passed the baton.  Some changed the spelling of their names so as to avoid misunderstanding among the public.  Others denied being relatives.  But we would dig deep.

Wouldn’t he have been pleased to find that in addition to the stalwart brothers epidemic from Philadelphia –Heath, Eubanks, Roney, Bryant, Barron, Brecker– and the Indianapolis Montgomery and (Slide) Hampton families, and the Detroit area Jones and Bridgewater, that it is still a happening thing with so many more being added to our list? To wit: Allen, Anderson, Lan Doky, and more Marsalis’s than you would care to count.

In short, the good Dr. –his PhD is in zoology would, you believe– did his research then called me in to extrapolate.  I was honored that he even thought about me let alone voice his curiosity as to my interest in the project.  I didn’t even give a thought that it hadn’t even been shopped let alone contracts let.

The discussions got serious when we were both panelists at a Frank Sinatra Conference at Hofstra University.  We met any number of times during that weekend to flesh out who would do which interviews when.  There would be no written agreement; a handshake would suffice.  We trusted each other that much.

Alas, it never came to fruition.  As a paean to Dr. Herb, and in addition to those already mentioned, I have compiled a list of some Jazz Bro’s.  Your input is welcome.

Adderley, Betters, Andrews Sisters, Mildred Bailey & Al Rinker, Brubeck (pere) et Brubeck (fils), Byrd, Callaway Sisters, Calloway, Clayton, Cohen, Cole, Crosby, Dorsey, Drewes, Eberle(y), Eldridge, Elgart, Farmer, Garner, Gonzales, Goodman, Gravine (Anita and Mickey), Green (Urbie and Jack), Hall (Edmond and Herb), Harper, Haymes, Haynes, Henderson, Hollyday, Hutton Sisters, Jacquet, Jensen Sisters, Johnson (Budd & Keg), King Sisters, LaBarbera, LaLama, Lombardo, Mangione, McFarland, Metheny, Midiri, Migliori, Mills Bros., Moffet, Most, Musiker, Nash, O’Farrill, Palmieri, Parrott Sisters, Pizzarelli, Powell, Redd, Sandke, Sims, Spaulding, Strickland, Teagarden, Tormé, Turré, Turrentine, Vaché, Weisskopf, Wilson (Teddy & Gus), Young.

[with contributions from & thanks to Joe Lang.]

With any kind of luck I’ll get another call.  It’s Dr. Herb Wong’s legacy.

© arnold jay smith May 2014


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