Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Eddie Diehl (2013)

Rarely does much time pass these days, before I find myself mourning the loss of yet another musical hero. We are truly witnessing the end of an era, as the last members of jazz music's great generation set exeunt for their big sleep. It's part of life, for sure, and certainly one of the pitfalls for those of us who admire so much the achievements of the 20th Century. Case in point: as I was sitting down to write this piece, I learned of the death of drummer Donald "Duck" Bailey. There isn't even an obituary posted, as I type these words, for the man who designed the template for modern jazz organ combo drumming and accompanied the master Jimmy Smith for years in clubs and on Blue Note LPs. Another one gone. May he rest in peace.

Donald Bailey (R.I.P.), photo c.1958 by Francis Wolff, Van Gelder Recording, Hackensack, NJ

And yet. And yet, I find myself actively (desperately?) looking these days for living, breathing, and thriving threads that connect back to where much of this begins for me. And in this spirit, I present Eddie Diehl. Who is Eddie Diehl? Well, for me that was just a name on a few random early-'60s Prestige jazz LPs by Brother Jack McDuff, Sonny Stitt, and Gene Ammons. Frankly, I never paid him much mind. I just figured he was another one of the cats like fellow guitarists Thornell Schwartz and Eddie McFadden. Forces to be reckoned with back in the day, for sure, but background voices perhaps somewhat doomed to obscurity, who may or may not have been given the proper respect of an obituary when that bell tolled.

Well, Here It Is... Eddie Diehl with Hank Jones, CD, 2006

But Eddie Diehl is alive and well and living in Poughkeepsie! Well, close enough at least. It turns out Eddie lived quite a storied life. Back when I was making music on the Hammond organ (1996-2007), I spent a lot of time absorbing the lessons to be learned in groves of those Smith Blue Notes and McDuff Prestige sides. But somehow I never quite grasped that Eddie was a regular member of McDuff's working group, arguably the finest jazz organ combo of its day, second only to Jimmy Smith's trio. Yes indeed, Diehl was Grant Green's replacement in late 1961 and stayed with McDuff (as the only white member of the combo, I should add) for nearly two years. His replacement? George Benson. Re-listening to Eddie's contributions to a disc like 1962's Brother Jack Meets The Boss, it is clear that Eddie was heavily influenced by bebop, but a working musician follows the money and Diehl spent much of the 1960s and 1970s working the organ rooms. By the end of the 1960s his discography all but sputtered out. 

Mr. Clean by Jack McDuff and Gene Ammons, January 23, 1962, Eddie Diehl on guitar 

Diehl moved upstate and re-focused his talents on luthiery, something that he now has a tremendous amount of notoriety for. But he never stopped playing. Occasional sessions would come up such as Al Haig's 1983 Manhattan Memories, but it was not until 2006 that Eddie had the opportunity to cut his first disc as a leader. Well, Here It Is gives you some indication of Eddie's self-effacing attitude, but it gives a better indication of what a lyrical, beautiful guitarist he is who obviously has spent more than a little time not only with his Charlie Christian and Charlie Parker records, but also with his George Van Eps books. 

Eddie Diehl by Bart Thrall, 2010

Fortunately, Bart Thrall took it upon himself to film an extended interview with Eddie and share it with us all up on YouTube. Granted, it's not the most professional "movie" and could probably use the guiding hand of a good editor, but it is a soulful little piece that means a lot to those of us who dig hearing stories of what it was like to be on the road with Jack McDuff in the early 1960s. It also adds a lot to the legacy of Diehl and celebrates a living, breathing, and musically vibrant exponent of this music that is all but vanishing before our very eyes. 

Duke Ellington's Prelude To A Kiss performed by Eddie Diehl, 2010

Eddie talks about his 1934 D'Angelico Model A guitar


Anonymous said...

d'angelco for 85$!!!

two please!!

haha..what times


Joel Fass said...

Eddie is one of my best friends, and a great player. (I am also a jazz guitarist). One thing: Manhattan Memories, the tune on the LP of the same name, is in actuality a minor blues by Eddie called Be Bu (written for organist Bu Pleasant. Somehow, probably because the tune wasn't registered by Eddie at the LOC, it was appropriated and composer credit given to Al Haig. Just thought I'd mention that. Eddie will be appearing in celebration of his 80th birthday at Smalls on June 18,7:30-10. The band will be Eddie and myself on guitars, John Beal, bass, and Taro Okamoto, drums. Every guitarist and jazz fan within listening distance to Smalls ought to come to this rare appearance---or at least listen on the webstream. It's going to be a special night...

Nick Rossi said...

Thank a lot for the post and the information Joel. I am on the wrong coast for this event, but truly hope that I can see Eddie play some time soon. My sincere best wishes to you both.

Joel Fass said...

Thank you, Nick. I think you can listen at Smalls webstream for a very modest fee. Just go to www.smallsjazzclub.com and follow the prompts. Thank you for your interest in our gig.



Anonymous said...

Thank you so very much to both Joel and Nick for their commentary on my dad. He's a wonderful father, a great listener, consummate musician and repairer of cherished instruments.
80 is an impressive number. Hope to be there.
I should see if he can get an honorable mention at the Grammy's, since he's played on so many albums? :)

The Eddie Diehl Movie


Vanessa Diehl (There's a song)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for information. Eddie's playing is beautiful. I really want to see he play . Where can I get the performance date?
I only know Eddie played on Jack MacDuff and Hank Mobley , could anyone help me get more dig into it.
Sincerely thanks to you !

Chris Davis said...

Ed left the planet this morning as spring turned to summer, 20 June 2017, just past his 81st birthday. Gonna miss him, terrific player, also a talented repair & setup tech.

wjs said...

R.I.P. Eddie. We're all going to miss you at your local watering hole, and your fantastic playing at several Hudson Valley venues.

Bill Spencer

Nick Rossi said...

Thank you for sharing the information Chris. May this wonderful musician rest in peace.