By Bret Primack c. 2002 Zort Music (Official Tribute Biography Approved by
Trombonist Eddie Bert's career spans nearly seven decades of Jazz, from big
bands to bebop and beyond. In addition to being a Jazz musician who's played
with one and all, he's been a regular in Broadway show bands, and a first
call studio player. Yet no matter what the musical setting, Eddie has always
played his uniquely personal, warm and melodic style of Jazz.
When renowned Jazz leaders needed a dependable, original trombonist for a
significant recording or event in the second half of the twentieth century,
they turned to Eddie Bert. In fact, his resume reads like a Who's Who of modern
Jazz, including musical relationships with Thelonious Monk, Charles
Mingus, Coleman Hawkins, Woody Herman, Stan Kenton,
Machito, Tito Puente, Benny Goodman, Thad Jones and
There's a reason Eddie Bert has played with the Jazz masters--he's a truly
gifted musician, a trombonist who has easily traversed eras and genres, from
bop to swing, Mingus to Hampton, and Kenton to Herman. Eddie straddled the
racial divide as well. He played in one of the first integrated big bands,
Charlie Barnet's 1943 aggregation, which included Howard McGhee,
Buddy DeFranco and Oscar Pettiford.
In addition to being one of the most dependable players in Jazz history, always
in demand because of his sight-reading skills and his ability to lend a passionate
and individual approach to all music, Eddie is a soloist and arranger with
a distinctive musical voice. In 1955, when he stopped playing only to sleep,
he won Metronome's Musician of the Year award. He followed that with a top
rated album of the same name for Savoy. He has led a number of other recordings
during his distinguished career, featuring such sidemen as Duke Jordan,
Joe Morello, Hank Jones and Kenny Clarke.
Interestingly, Eddie Bert reports that his major musical influences are saxophone
players: "Lester Young was very important to me, as were Willie Smith,
who taught me a lot about phrasing, and Budd Johnson. I worked with
Budd and we used to hang around a lot. He had a great knowledge of music.
My early influences on trombone were Trummy Young, Vic Dickenson
and Benny Morton."
A participant in numerous Jazz history moments, Eddie is also a chronicler
as well. Since his first days as a musician, he has kept a meticulous diary
of everything he's done, including details of every gig and recording session,
with the names of the other musicians and what they were paid for the gig.
These notebooks have proven to be invaluable to Jazz historians, record producers
Eddie reveals that he started keeping notebooks after the death of Herman
Rosenberg, who wrote a column for Down Beat that contained details of recording
sessions. "I just started writing, and kept it up. Over the years, I've
been able to look up a lot of things. Guys call me for information. Last week,
somebody wanted to know about a Jackie Gleason date from '67, where
there were two brass sections. I was able to give him all the personnel."
When Eddie returns to Town Hall this May, he will have come full circle.
One of his first recordings was with Red Norvo at a June 9, 1945 Town
Hall concert later issued by the Commodore label. Eddie was also a participant
at two other major Town Hall events: Thelonious Monk's triumphant 1959
concert, and Charles Mingus' calamitous, self-presented event in 1962.
Today, on the eve of his 80th birthday, Eddie remains active, playing regularly
with Bobby Short, The Duke Ellington Band, George Gee,
and Loren Schoenberg, among others. "I love to play and travel,"
Eddie explains, "and I'm still doing them both."
Eddie Bert was born in Yonkers, New York on May 16, 1922. When he was ten,
his family moved to nearby Mount Vernon. The school band beckoned and "they
gave me a trumpet to try. When I played a few notes," he recalls, "they
said, 'tell your father to get you a trumpet,' which he didn't. The only thing
they had for me was an Eb alto horn. You know how that goes, when the tuba
goes 'oom,' you go 'pah.' It was kind of boring."
Eddie quickly moved over to the rhythm section, playing the bass drum. "The
trombones were right in front us," he explains. "They used to play
the counter melodies on marches and I liked that sound. I had a broken umbrella
at home, with the part that slid up and down, and I had a razzer I would blow
with it. My father asked what I was doing and I said I was imitating a trombone
so. So he bought me one, a Wurlitzer. It was like a peashooter. It had no
chrome on the slide. But I played it for three or four months until he bought
me a real one, a Martin."
In addition to the trombone, Eddie also experimented with the tenor sax, thanks
to Lester Young--he heard a radio broadcast of the Basie band in the late
1930's and was seized with wonder of Pres' solos. "Pres is the reason
I try to play tenor style on the trombone," he believes. "I love
that feeling he had, which sax players seem to achieve better than anyone.
I particularly liked his playing on those 1936 Jones-Smith Incorporated recordings,
the group that featured Pres along with Count Basie, Walter Page and Jo Jones."
During Eddie's teenage years, 52nd Street was a hotbed of musical activity.
At fifteen, he began frequenting "The Street," where musicians of
all generations played and gathered nightly. Being too young to get into the
clubs at night, Eddie hung around during the afternoon when he knew the bands
would be rehearsing.
Accordingly, it was on 52nd Street, that Eddie met Lester Young, in
1938, when the Basie band first opened at the Famous Door. A knowledgeable
Jazz fan, he knew that the band had a record date coming up, he went to a
rehearsal one afternoon and caught trombonist Benny Morton coming out
of the club.
"I asked Benny for lessons and he said, 'come to the rehearsals and afterwards
I'll give you a lesson.'" Jumping at the chance of a lifetime, Eddie
gleefully attended the rehearsals and got to meet Lester Young and
the other members of the Basie band. "I was there when Jimmy Rushing
rehearsed 'London Bridge Is Falling Down,' 'Stop Beating Around The Mulberry
Bush' and 'Jumpin' At The Woodside' for their 1938 recording." Eddie
began studying with Morton after the band rehearsed.
Although Basie's group was a big band, it "had the feel of a small group,"
Eddie remembers. "They were great, very loose, playing a lot of head
arrangements that weren't written down. And the band had had so many good
soloists. I became friends with all those guys, until they passed. They're
all gone now."
"The Basie band," he explains, "was different than Duke.
And then there was Jimmy Lunceford, who was about precision. Three very different
kinds of bands, all great in their own way."
Armed with enthusiasm and an increasing knowledge of Jazz, Eddie was eager
to play. But "in those days they wouldn't let you play Jazz in school.
I was playing in a kid's band led by Hal Gill with Shorty Rogers
and Manny Albam who played baritone; they were neighbors. I lived in
Mount Vernon and they lived in the Bronx. Shorty would come up and we'd rehearse
in the basement of this record store. We had a group playing Savoy Sultan
arrangements but no one would hire us because we didn't have saxophones."
Through a musician he met in that basement, Eddie found a steady gig in nearby
Larchmont. "I was the only white guy on the band," he remembers.
"We played stocks [arrangements] but at rehearsals, the lead trumpet
player would say, 'play your first note but play this rhythm'. He'd sing what
we were supposed to play. So we'd be looking at parts but not playing what
was really written. And the band had style because of that. I thought that
was the way you read."
It was during that gig that Eddie and his wife Molly were married. "I
said, 'I'm making $17 a week, we can get married!'" Over six decades
later, they're still together.
A year and a half later, while on tour in Boston, big band leader Sam Donahue
needed a trombonist. Eddie learned of the gig but found out he'd have to join
the musicians' union. Thankfully, his father knew a violinist in the Mount
Vernon local who served as his mentor. Eddie remembers he "had to take
I had the second trombone part to 'Tiger Rag' and somehow got
through it and into the union."
Eddie joined Donohue's band in Boston but as soon as he played, Donohue knew
that Eddie couldn't read music. Eddie recalls that "he had a band like
Jimmy Luncefords and a record date coming up that week. Sam told me, 'I like
the way you play solos, but I have to have a guy who can read.' So he got
Tak Takvorian to take my place."
Realizing that to become a professional he had to learn to read music, Eddie
began formal studies with Maurice Grupp. Then fate intervened. "On
my way to my third or fourth lesson, I ran into Trummy Young. He said,
'Let me send you to a teacher!' and I started studying with Miff Mole
and finally learned to read."
Like all young Jazz players, Eddie supplemented his studies with jam sessions
and frequented a Greenwich Village club, George's. "Everybody used to
go in there to blow," he remembers. "Red Norvo and Mildred
Bailey came in one night, and Red told me he was starting a band and needed
a Jazz trombone player. We rehearsed for two or three months in Oddfellows'
Hall on 48th street. He had Eddie Sauter's arrangements and some by Johnny
Thompson, who was studying with Eddie. Red had a regular sax section, but
they all doubled on flute, oboes, bassoon, and things like that. Duke's band
would come in and listen to us play
Red knew all those guys."
Norvo's group opened at the Blue Gardens in Armonk, about thirty miles north
of New York, on Saturday night, December 6th. Although the attack on Pearl
Harbor happened the next day, Eddie had his first steady job. Norvo's group
worked a twelve week tour with Jimmy Durante, traveling by train because
of gas rationing. The draft further complicated Norvo's situation, and unable
to get musicians, he slimmed the band down. When he needed a Jazz trumpeter,
Eddie recommended his old friend Shorty Rogers. "We worked all
around, including two twenty week engagements at the Famous Door, six years
after I first went there for lessons with Benny Morton!"
It was during his tenure with Red Norvo that Eddie's first recorded
solo was issued, Jersey Bounce, done with Norvo for Columbia on March 5, 1942.
The group was also "broadcasting over a radio wire all this time. I had
a Wilcox-Gay acetate recorder and used to record bands like Jimmy Lunceford
off the air. I showed my wife how to work the machine and she recorded all
our broadcasts. In 1990 I took copies of those recordings to Music Masters
and they put them out on a CD, 'Red Norvo Live at the Blue Gardens.'"
The Norvo years were the foundation of a lasting friendship between Red and
Eddie and the trombonist treasures those playing memories, particularly their
1945 Town Hall concert, and, an infamous all night jam session with Norvo's
group at the home of critic and drummer George T. Simon.
But before he joined Woody, Eddie played with Charlie Barnett. By this
time, Eddie's reputation as a dependable section man and soloist quickly spread
and he "was getting all sorts of offer from different bandleaders,"
including Harry James. The trumpeter "offered me a lot of money, but
I turned it down because I thought his band was too schmaltzy."
He joined Charlie Barnet instead "because Trummy Young was in
the band and he had been favorite of mine since I had heard him with Jimmy
Lunceford." The Barnett band also included Howard McGhee, Buddy DeFranco
and Dodo Marmarosa and not one, but two bassists, Chubby Jackson and Oscar
Pettiford. Then one night, "Chubby told Oscar that they were going down
front to do a feature at a dance and 'Oscar said I'm a bass player, bye!'"
Then it was on to Woody' Herman's band. The group was in transition,
evolving from "The Band that Plays the Blues" into "The
First Herd," but the 1943 ensemble had more than its share of brilliant
soloists including trumpeters Ray Wetzel and Nick Travis, as
well as the great Ben Webster in the saxophone section. Bassist Chubby
Jackson was aboard on well, with his notorious sense of humor. Sadly,
Eddie Bert's year with Woody coincided with American Federation of Musicians
ban on recording, so little documentation of the band exists.
Eddie's gig with Herman came to a premature end when he was called to serve
his country. "Nick Travis and I got drafted on the same day," he
remembers. "Woody didn't think they'd take us, but they did. In the army,
after a lot of moving around, I ended up with Bill Finnegan's band
at Camp Shanks in Orangeburg, N.Y. Actually, Bill may have saved my life.
I was down in Alabama about to be shipped out to the South Pacific, and I
ran into Bill, who had orders to take a band to Camp Shanks. He was just a
private but he went in and scratched somebody's name off the orders and wrote
my name in."
After his military discharge, in 1946, Eddie joined Herbie Fields.
However, when Kai Winding told him he was leaving the Stan Kenton
band, Eddie applied for the job because "that was the only group at the
time that featured trombones. I knew the band was coming to New York to play
the Commodore Hotel and the Paramount Theatre so in 1947, I wrote to Stan,
who heard me with Red's group in 1942, and said, 'how about a gig?' I stayed
with Stan for about nine months while he worked the East but when he was headed
back to California, I dropped out in Chicago because my wife was expecting
our second child. The band was like one big family though, and when the baby
was born in March of 1948, I got a card signed by everyone in the band congratulating
Eddie recorded regularly with the Kenton band and his solos on 'Unison Riff,'
'Harlem Holiday,' and 'How High the Moon,' have more than stood the test of
time. Unfortunately, some of the best documentation of Kenton's brand of "Progressive
Jazz" is a concert they played in the Midwest, which Eddie has on tape,
but has never been publicly issued.
A Kenton band mate later to find his own fame, served as the unknowing catalyst
for Eddie's first recording date as a leader. 'While I was with Stan,"
he explains, "I roomed with Art Pepper, who very studious because
he wanted to be the world's greatest saxophone player. A few years later,
when he got his recording contract with Discovery Records I thought that maybe
I could get a contract too. So I went to the label and I said 'hey, I used
to room with Art Pepper!' They gave me a contract and my first date as a leader
was in 1952."
After Kenton, Eddie joined Benny Goodman -- a transition that once
again demonstrated his ability to play with leaders who were at opposite ends
of the musical spectrum. This was his first gig with the "King of Swing,"
and there were to be many over the next forty years. Goodman's "Bop"
band featured tenor saxophonist Wardell Gray and pianist-singer Buddy
Greco, playing Chico O'Farrill arrangements. Eddie's maiden voyage
with Goodman lasted from November 1948 to September 1949, as confirmed by
the meticulous diary he kept throughout his career.
Sandwiched in between his turns with Kenton and Goodman was a short New England
road trip with Boyd Raeburn's orchestra in June of 1948. It was during
an engagement in Shelbourne, New Hampshire, that Eddie was witness to another
Jazz history moment. A new lead trumpeter, Al Killian, and drummer,
Mel Lewis, had just joined the band. On that night, a supporting sextet
of Canadian musicians led by a very young trumpeter caused quite a stir. So
much so that Killian urged Raeburn to hire the trumpeter. The Canadian was
Maynard Ferguson and thanks to Eddie Bert's diary, we know the origins
of Ferguson entry into the American big band scene. After Raeburn, Ferguson
played with Charlie Barnett, became a star in the Kenton band, and went on
to lead his own big bands.
Back in New York, Eddie began making all kinds of gigs. At Nola Studios, he
rehearsed four times with Miles Davis' ten-piece Birth of the Cool
ensemble. But when he "went there for the fifth time, Kai Winding
was the trombone player. Twenty years later I ran into Junior Collins,
the french horn player on Miles' band. He said he had told Miles that I had
said the band was out of tune. So, twenty years later, I found out why I was
replaced! I hadn't said that but Junior always liked to stir things up. Miles
though, was always friendly with me after that and never mentioned it."
In 1950, he returned to the Herman Herd, then Gene Krupa, and
Lionel Hampton, but although he was tagged a road musician, he preferred
working in New York, to be with his family. Eddie's wife had a solution. She
"suggested I use my GI Bill benefits," he remembers, "and I
went to Manhattan School of Music. A t the time, it was almost like a Jazz
school; my fellow students were Joe Wilder, John Lewis, Max
Roach and John LaPorta. While I was at the school, I did some one-nighters
with the Sauter-Finegan orchestra and I sometimes went out of town
with Charlie Barnet. When I was on the road, the school would send
me homework to complete. Because I working, I couldn't go full time, but I
finally graduated in 1958."
Also in 1950, Eddie rehearsed with another band at Nola's, assembled by arranger
Gene Roland as a feature for Charlie Parker. "It was an
enormous band," Eddie recalls, "with eight saxes, five trombones,
eight trumpets and four rhythm but Gene was like that--he liked to be different.
It became known as 'The Band That Never Was' because it never worked,
In the early 50s, Eddie worked at the Paramount Theatre with Buddy Rich's
band backing Frank Sinatra. Eddie remembers that the engagement was
"just before 'From Here To Eternity,' in 1953, when Frank's career had
taken a big dive, so the audiences were small. His voice was sometimes hoarse.
We didn't always know if he was going to show up; it was weird. Harry Edison,
Zoot Sims and Davey Schildkraut were in the band and Ava
Gardner was there too; I used to ride up in the elevator with her and
even without make-up she looked fantastic."
It was during this period that Eddie began to work in the thriving studio
scene, doing two or three sessions a day in addition to gigs at night. He
remembers, "The session contractors knew that I was established in town
and unlikely to be going on the road with every band that came to New York,
so I started to do a lot of commercial work."
The camaraderie of musicians during the 52nd Street era, and during the hyperactive
studio scene of the 50s and 60s, engendered a spirit of brotherhood that enhanced
the music significantly. Eddie Bert was one of a group of a hundred players
whose creativity, and professionalism, made their music special. These remarkable
individuals hung out, in between studio dates and gigs, at a bar called Jim
and Andy's. Eddie remembers it was the "place to congregate. Everybody
would stop by there. There's no place like that now in town. Guys are just
not around now, everybody lives out of town. Plus there's not as much work.
It's different, you don't see the guys. It was a great era, and at the time,
it seemed like it would go on forever. Then electronics came along and it
became a whole different scene.
Eddie also worked regularly with his own Jazz group, and began recording as
a leader. "We played at the Café Bohemia," he recalls, "and
on Mondays, the off night, at Birdland. I had a set group with Vinnie Dean
on alto, Clyde Lombardi on bass, Duke Jordan on piano, and a
variety of drummers, including Eddie Shaugnessy, Gus Johnson and Osie Johnson.
Osie of course was a great drummer and for a while he, Milt Hinton and Hank
Jones were known as the New York rhythm section. My group did an album for
Savoy called 'Musician of the Year,' after Metronome magazine nominated me
as one of the musicians of the year in 1955, along with John LaPorta, Bud
Shank and Barry Kessell. The recording at Hank Jones on piano and Kenny Clarke
on drums, with Joe Morello on some tracks, in fact, and it may be Joe's first
Another Jazz legend entered Eddie's life at that time, Charles Mingus.
He first met the fiery bassist in "San Francisco when I was with Benny
Goodman; I remember Clyde Lombardi saying that we just had to see this bass
player who was at the International Quarter in a group with four basses and
drums. We went and there was Charlie playing lead bass! When we both got back
to New York I started rehearsing and working with Mingus' Jazz Workshop
along with Art Farmer, John LaPorta, Teo Macero and Teddy Charles
and I found that as long as you did the right thing, you could get along with
In 1955, he recorded with Mingus at "the Cafe Bohemia when he was starting
to formulate his ideas. George Barrow, Mal Waldron, Willie
Jones and I would go to his house where he would play something on the
piano, which we had to learn by rote because he wouldn't write it down. He
felt that instead of just reading the music, you could get more feeling into
a piece when you have it in your head. The funny thing is when Fantasy included
the Bohemia material on a twelve CD box set it released a few years, there
were eleven previously unissued titles, so I called them and asked for a cassette
to be made of the unissued material for me, because I played on it. But they
wouldn't do it; they wanted me to buy the whole set for one hundred and seventy
five dollars, which I really did not want to do. Eventually they agreed to
sell me the box set for sixty dollars. When I checked in my notebook, I realized
that's what I was paid for the original date, sixty dollars!"
Eddie also hired Mingus to play with his own group. "One night at Birdland,"
he recalls, "Clyde couldn't make it so I hired Charlie Mingus. I was
giving Oscar Goodstein the list of musicians and when I told him Charlie Mingus
would be on bass, he said, 'No, you can't use him. He just knocked a the cop
down the stairs and he's barred from Birdland.' I called Mingus and told him
I couldn't use him because of what had happened. He asked, 'You want me to
play with you?' 'Of course!' So he called Morris Levy, the owner, and got
permission to work. On the gig, after the first set, Mingus came over and
said, 'What's the matter with this band? Nobody argues!'"
In 1954, Eddie recorded with the father of the modern Jazz saxophone, Coleman
Hawkins. He remembers the date: "Hawk had just flown in to New York with
his horn stored in the luggage compartment where it gets very cold. At the
date he was oiling his tenor and I remember the producer complaining that
we had been in the studio for forty-five minutes without recording anything
because he was fooling around with his sax. I only mention this because there
is a good picture of Coleman and I taken at the session by bassist Milt
Hinton, who was also a great photographer, and you can see it in Milt's
Of course there were also the sessions he almost made, including one with
fellow trombonist J.J. Johnson. Eddie explains "he wanted to make
a two trombone album for Savoy with Benny Green who was unavailable
so he called me but I was contracted with Discovery who wouldn't let me do
the date. J.J. then called Kai Winding and that is when they made their
first album and although the name Jay and Kai sounds better it could have
been Jay and Eddie."
Eddie own recordings continued on the Savoy label. "A month after Discovery
refused to let me record with Jay Jay they went bankrupt so Ozzie Cadena of
Savoy called and asked if I would do a two trombone album myself, only I would
be the only horn because they were going to overdub. Remember that this was
1955 so I didn't know what overdub meant but I went to Rudy Van Gelder' s
studio and put down the basic track with the blowing and added another part
later, when Rudy figured how to do it. On 'Stompin' At The Savoy,' I played
open and with a solo tone mute which was the type of mute used by Tommy Dorsey
for that commercial sound, and when Jimmy Cleveland heard it on a Leonard
Feather Blindfold Test he said that it sounded like Jay and Kai at their best
and gave it five stars. I did get to record with Jay and Kai later when they
did their octet album."
Eddie first met Thelonious Monk when he was hired for a Steve Allen
show on which Monk also played in the mid'50s. "When I was packing up,"
he recalls, "I heard Monk say to Steve, 'Whaddya mean, scale?' That's
when I left." But in 1959 Monk remembered Eddie from that show and hired
him for a ten-piece band Monk assembled for his historic Town Hall concert,
as well for his 1963 Philharmonic Hall Concert, four years later. Eddie fondly
remembers the Town Hall rehearsals, which took place "at Hall Overton's
apartment on Sixth Avenue. Monk would be in the other room, dancing; Hall
would say 'Are you ever going to play the piano?' And he'd say, 'When the
Another legendary entertainer who crossed Eddie's path was Lena Horne.
"During the fifties and sixties," Eddie fondly recalls, "I
worked a lot with Lena. I was on her album 'Lena At The Waldorf,' which won
an award. We had first met back in 1941 at the Cafe Society because she was
there one night when my friend J. C. Higginbotham persuaded me to sit in with
Red Allen's band. Lena was truly amazing but she was always just one of the
In the 50s and 60s, during the hectic days of the studio scene, in addition
to jingles, recording dates and gigs, Eddie worked on Broadway. His entrée
into legitimate theatre happened because "I was working weekends with
Elliot Lawrence and he decided to take the band into the Broadway theatres
to play in the pits. We did a whole series of hit shows like 'How To Succeed
in Business,' with Rudy Vallee, 'Golden Boy' with Sammy Davis and 'Golden
Rainbow' with Steve and Eydie. Elliot had a fine band with people like Aaron
Bell, Jimmy Crawford, Kenny Burrell, Art Farmer and Frank
"In those days nobody wanted a pit job," Eddie recalls, "because
you couldn't take off to do other things. But we went into 'Bye Bye Birdie'
in 1960, and Elliot told the contractor 'these guys are going to be taking
off.' He asked, 'Don't they like the job?' The show was a big hit and we just
went from show to show. So even though I was working regularly on Broadway
shows, I was also playing Jazz gigs. I stayed in the theatre for 22 years.
I also did the Dick Cavett television show along the way, for four
years, with Bob Rosengarden."
At the end of '65, Eddie became one of the original members of the Thad
Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, a group comprised of New York's finest players.
"On Monday nights I worked with Thad and Mel at the Village Vanguard,"
he remembers, "which I would do after my theatre gig. I did their European
tour, as well, in 1969. That was a really great band but one night Thad had
a meeting in the Vanguard kitchen and told us that we had to go on the road
if the band was going to function properly, which was when a lot of guys like
Snooky Young, Eddie Daniels and I left because we had commitments in
. Eddie believes the band was particularly strong because "Thad was writing
for a certain personnel, who stayed more or less consistent. When you write
for certain guys, you can write a certain way, like Duke did for his band.
Thad's style of writing was like the way he played, and he was a great trumpet
player. When Thad was out in front of the band, he was painting a picture.
He would change things on the spot, telling the trumpets to lay out, or when
somebody would be really blowing, he'd let them play. He made the arrangements
different every night."
Eddie's globetrotting continued in '75, when he toured Russia with the New
York Jazz Repertory Band under Dick Hyman's direction: "We
were playing Louis Armstrong music. We had five trumpets, Jimmy Maxwell,
Ernie Royal, Doc Cheatham, Bernie Privin, and Joe Newman. And Bernie
Privin said, 'See, it takes five guys to play what Louis played!'"
Another treasured road memory occurred in 1989, when Eddie toured with Gene
Harris and the Phillip Morris Superband, with an itinerary that included
Morocco, Hungary, Egypt, France, Turkey, Russia, Switzerland, Germany, Italy,
Korea, the Philippines. Australia, Taiwan and the U.S.A. The all-star ensemble
included Frank Wess, James Moody, Urbie Green, Harry
"Sweets" Edison, Ray Brown, Herb Ellis and many
others. Eddie sums it up: "What a band and what a trip!"
Eddie still gets the same kick from playing with a big band, and the revival
of swing bands that happened in the 90s has helped introduced larger groups
to a new generation of listeners and dancers, something he's seen in his gigs
for the George Gee Big Band, and the Duke Ellington Orchestra.
As for his own recordings, Eddie feels that he "must mention Duke
Jordan, who I have worked a lot with over the years, because he is my
favorite pianist. He plays great solos that sound like a horn and when he
accompanies you it is like an arrangement, never getting in the way, just
'goosing' you. He played on my last Fresh Sound album along with Jerry
Dodgion, Carmen Leggio, Ray Drummond and Mel Lewis and it was one of Mel's
last recordings. Mel and I had first worked together years ago in Boyd Raeburn's
band and his playing might have seemed laid-back, but the time was always
going on underneath like a drone-it was fantastic. We called the album 'The
Human Factor' because there were no electronic tricks or splices and we did
the entire CD in one day, from 10 in the morning until five in the afternoon."
Although he's played with everyone, he still wishes he had the chance to work
with Duke Ellington. It almost happened, three times he explains: "The
first time was when Lawrence Brown was sick, and they were working down in
Washington at the Howard Theatre, but I got the message too late. The second
time, Oscar Pettiford tried to get me on the band, but I was too busy with
the recording scene, and didn't want to leave town. The third time, I had
just been called for the Dick Cavett Show band with Bobby Rosengarden.
That afternoon, Ruth Ellington called. Duke wanted me for a tour of the Far
East, Australia and all that. But the Dick Cavett show was four year's work."
In the 90s, Eddie started working with drummer T.S. Monk's group. "We
did a European tour in 1997 and an album that featured a lot of Thelonious'
new material that T. S. had found around the house. He hired me because I
had played with his father-if you hang around long enough, you find that you
have played with everyone's father!"
About to begin his eighth decade, Eddie Bert is still playing the trombone,
still traveling, and still married to Mollie. With three daughters and four
grandchildren, he enjoys spending time with his family and when not playing,
also likes photography.
With all the changes he's seen in his lifetime, he remains an optimist: "There's
still some music around, some good bands still playing. I get big band gigs,
as well as gigs with duos and trios, just guitar and bass and me, so I have
to keep practicing, every day, because you have to be prepared for the musical
situations you're in. Last week I had a gig where we played the music of Mingus,
Monk and Miles. I played with all three of those guys, but never on the same
gig. So I have to keep playing. It's a physical thing."
copyright 2002 Zort Music