- Hello and welcome Lynn.
I was very interested to read you on the great Max and wonder if you could
add to your comments especially if you have impressions or information
beyond the autobiography which I have.
Also did he ever discuss his records ? I'm especially interested in his
first substantial session, the 1933 Chocolate Dandies, on which he plays
marvellously but seems to disparage by ignoring in ' My Life In Jazz'.
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- To Dave and the List,
My conversations with Max Kaminsky generally revolved around the
late 1920s when he was briefly a part of Red Nichols' groups. He
cleared up some misinformation that had previously circulated about
exactly when and where the Chicagoans played with Red (he admitted
having been off a year in his autobiography, "My Life in Jazz," of
which I have an autographed copy). He would call me up at work at
odd times, remembering little things that were funny, though my boss
didn't appreciate it (and neither knew nor cared who Max Kaminsky
I clearly remember the first time I saw him play, in the early 1970s
at a little club in Passaic, NJ. I arrived early, and sat at a
table nursing a drink until the playing started. Max came in, took
off his coat, neatly hung it up, then asked the bartender where
there was a drug store nearby - he had to have a prescription
filled. He left and came back about fifteen minutes later. He
looked for all the world like those little old men you see arond the
garment district in NYC, also quite frail. I began to wonder if he
would be able to play. I shouldn't have worried. Once he picked
the horn up, he was transformed. It always amazed me. He went from
being Abe Vigoda to being Hot Max in a matter of moments. Simply
amazing. (I was reviewing the performance for a local paper. My
opening sentence was, "Max Kaminsky is not an imposing-looking man,
but when he puts his horn to his lips, pure gold comes out." My
literal-minded editor - who ALSO didn't know or care who Max
Kaminsky was - changed it to "gold APPEARS to come out." Talk about
killing a good metaphor!)
At the time I was conversing with him - the early 1990s - he was
pretty old and ill and no longer playing, but he kept his sense of
humor and was generous with his memories. The funniest story he
told me was how he and the Chicagoans started the set under Red's
direction, and the whole band was kind of stiff, but then Red left
for a couple of numbers. Eddie Condon passed the weed around, and
by the time Nichols came back, the band was swinging like mad. Red
was astonished, until he smelled the marijuana. Then he got mad -
dressed them down for unprofessional behavior, said they could have
easily killed his reputation by not waiting until intermission to
light up. Max admitted that Red was right. In his book, Max says
it was in early 1929, but it was really early 1930. From that point
on, the only Chicagoan Nichols would perform with was Bud Freeman.
Condon never forgave him for that.
Nice. Many thanks for sharing your memories and images of Max. I regret I
never heard him live as he never got a chance, in my time, to tour Europe.
What sort of group was he working with in the 70s and what sort of
repertoire ? I wonder if he was really so fond of the 'Dixie/Condon'
warhorses or whether it was in some way a treadmill for him ?
I always feel in him a player of wider ambition and taste.
Also, he did not play latterly with Condon, was superseded by Bill and
others. Did he give any indication as to why ? His decision or Condon's. Was
there a schism ?
Many thanks again
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- In the 50s Max was the trumpet and leader for some choice (i.e.,
well-paying) Jackie Gleason gigs, including the extravagant train
ride to Florida when the Gleason show transferred its home base to
Florida. If you recall the playboy character Reggie Van Gleason, an
aficiando of wine, women and Dixieland, there were several sketches
in which Reggie summoned his trailing band onstage - five men, I
believe, led by Max - blowing a manic "That's A Plenty" while Reggie
dipped and shuffled until Max was signaled to cut it, at which point
the band dashed offstage as hastily as they had run on.
During that decade Max also appeared at the Friday and Saturday
night jam sessions at Stuyvesant Casino, along with many other top
players who were not working (jazz) regularly. Stuyvesant was at
least noisy when it was not positively rowdy, and one night a
partying group in the audience that was feeling no pain force-fed
one of their own to Max, who was leading a pickup band at the
moment. Though visibly unsympathetic to their cause, Max could not
quiet them without giving in. A young lady climbed onto the stand
and, after a one bar piano intro, sang an accelerated chorus
of "Pretty Baby" before Max cut the number and escorted her safely
back to her wildly cheering ensemble. Every solo he played during
the rest of the set was responded to with enormous applause.
That's it. Just a few fond memories of a good guy.
--- In RedHotJazz@yahoogroups.com, "David Brown" <johnhaleysims@...>
> Nice. Many thanks for sharing your memories and images of Max. I
> never heard him live as he never got a chance, in my time, to tourEurope.
> What sort of group was he working with in the 70s and what sort of
> repertoire ? I wonder if he was really so fond of
> warhorses or whether it was in some way a treadmill for him ?and
> I always feel in him a player of wider ambition and taste.
> Also, he did not play latterly with Condon, was superseded by Bill
> others. Did he give any indication as to why ? His decision orCondon's. Was
> there a schism ?
> Many thanks again
> [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
- My impression was that he enjoyed swing and some of the advanced post-
war swing, and so wanted to play some of that, though as he mentioned
in his bio, he was personally unhappy playing the same charts over and
over and over again with Tommy Dorsey.
When I heard him, he was in the kind of post-swing Chicago-style group
that Pee Wee Russell played in 20 years earlier (the 1950s), but it was
very enjoyable, and he was naturally a real jazz musician in that he
was always looking for new improvisations. I doubt that he was capable
of playing something the same way twice, at least not consciously so.
- Max played what today's trumpet players only hint at...occasionally,
and that's the melody. Side men who have performed with him say that
playing ensembles was a pleasure because of that. This in contrast to
trumpet players playing eveyone else's notes but their own.