Friday, February 5, 2010

Kenneth Caldwell Blanchard Sr. 1923-2010

My father passed away on January 27th.  As a practitioner of  Zen Buddhism, I suppose I will have to begin celebrating that day in the future, as that is what Buddhists generally do.  There is a kind of appealing symmetry in replacing the birthday with the day of passing.  

My father had enormous reserves of good humor, love, and devotion.  He served in the Pacific in World War II, along with three of his brothers.  One of these heroes of the Republic, my Uncle Bill, did not make it back.  Dad lived life on his own terms.  He was one of those people who genuinely liked nearly everyone he met, and as a result everyone who knew him was better off for it.  Dad was not a jazz fan.  In fact, he had a tin ear.  But he would have been amused to know that I am eulogizing him on this blog.  

It only occurred to me tonight that Dad was born a couple of months after the great bop piano player Red Garland.  So I decided to offer this post on Garland and John Coltrane in my father's honor.  Garland was part of one of the most famous rhythm sections in modern jazz, playing behind Miles Davis and John Coltrane in Miles' first great quintet.  He recorded a number of fine albums as leader, including four with Coltrane: High Pressure, Dig It!, Soul Junction, and All Morning Long

Here is a sample from the last in the list.  Donald Byrd plays trumpet, George Joyner bass, and Art Taylor drums.  It is a bit longer than the samples I usually include, but this is a special post. This recording was made, as it happens, a few months after yours truly arrived on the scene. 
Red Garland Quintet/All Morning Long
My readers will know that I offer these samples to illustrate my criticism and to encourage them to obtain the recordings.  My old file sharing service,, expired without warning and I have switched to a new one, dropbox.  Unfortunately, all the older links are now useless.  

But here is a very useful tip: the above recordings are part of a box set of Coltrane recordings, Side Steps.  You can get this collection of Trane's work as a sideman very cheaply from two sources.  One is eMusic.  The other is Hastings, which is letting it go for $19.99.  That is a steal. Pick it up at Hastings.  You get the booklet and photos. 

And here is another offering from a Coltrane box set: The Classic Quartet: The Complete Impulse! Studio Recordings.   It is from the album First Meditations, recorded in 1965 (John Coltrane (ss, ts) McCoy Tyner (p) Jimmy Garrison (b) Elvin Jones (d)).  Again, in my Father's honor:
So the Zen patriarch was watching a flock of ducks fly overhead.  After they were gone he turned to a monk and asked: "What happened to the flippin' ducks?"  The monk answered "they have flown away."  The patriarch reached over and twisted the monk's nose good and hard.  "Shit!," he cried, "why did you do that?"  The old man replied: "how could they possibly have flown away?"  

Commentary: the only ducks that there ever are are the ducks that are here.  There is no such thing as a duck that has flown away. 


  1. Sorry to hear about your father passing on, but two great tracks to honour his life with.
    I located the Red Garland track on my I-Pod, and enjoyed the full recording (20 minutes) I had forgotten what a pleasure it was to listen to the playing of Donald Byrd. Many thanks


  2. Ken, very sad to hear of the passing of your father. We have both written to each other in the past on the love of our Dad's. I know how close you were to him. The music helps to ease the pain in these situations, and listening to these tunes this morning provided a great environment to meditate on life and death. Thank you for all you do. Peace brother.

  3. Thanks and you're welcome, MrD. Byrd is indeed celebrating the beauty of life in that number. I also have a special fondness for Trane's solo.

    Ken: thank you, my friend. Everyone we love, apparently, comes in a box set: one session after another until the last session. But the box is what it is. I am getting carried away by the metaphor. Let the music speak for itself.

    Peace to you.

  4. And thanks to Ken Laster for the kind mention of my father on his wonderful show, Jazz & Beyond. Any reader of this blog should be a fan of that show.