Monday, May 2, 2011

Introducing: Mad and Eddie Duran

In 1982, veteran guitarist Eddie Duran and saxophonist Madaline met and formed a lasting musical and personal partnership that continues strong to this day. Their collaborations have resulted in a great deal of warm and rewarding music with their most recent recording being Simply Mad.

Eddie Duran has been a major guitarist since he had his first gig when he was 15 in the late 1940s. He actually began on the piano. “However one of my older brothers started playing guitar and I gravitated towards it. Once I found the guitar, that was it. Phil Woods once said that he was placed on this earth to make music and that’s the way I feel. I have no regrets.”

Mostly self-taught, Eddie listened to Django Reinhardt records (studying some of his solos), loved George Van Eps’ chordal playing, and was inspired by Charlie Christian and the other great guitarists to follow, including Barney Kessel, Jimmy Raney and Tal Farlow. When he was 15, his career got underway when he accompanied one of his sisters who was a professional singer and dancer. He has been busy ever since and is one of the fixture of the San Francisco jazz scene. Through the years, Eddie worked with Vince Guaraldi, Red Norvo, Earl Hines, Cal Tjader (including an album with Stan Getz), George Shearing, Jon Hendricks, Tania Maria, Barbara Streisand, Pearl Bailey, and Benny Goodman (1976-80). He led albums of his own for Fantasy (1957’s Jazz Guitarist) and three for Concord. The first call guitarist in San Francisco, Eddie never lacked for work. He did not travel much despite getting many offers because he was married and raising a family; his first wife passed away in 1977.

For two memorable weeks in the early 1950s, Eddie worked with Charlie Parker. “We had a quartet with a bassist and Larance Marable. During the second week Chet Baker joined us. Bird might have had trouble with his habits and been nodding out at the bar but, when he got on the stand, it was a complete transformation. He really amazed me because in the dressing room before we went on, he made sandwiches out of Ritz crackers and sardines. Horn players can’t eat crackers before going on stage but he would play perfectly minutes later!”

While Eddie is primarily an ear player, Madaline (who is from a younger generation) has a very different background, being classically trained. She grew up south of San Francisco in Belmont. Mad remembers early on being very intrigued by a dixieland band that she heard at an amusement park, seeing Boots Randolph and Pete Fountain on television, and listening to Broadway musicals on the radio with her father. “There was a neighbor boy across the street who played clarinet. I liked the way it looked and loved the way it sounded. I was able to get a really good sound on it when I was ten, setting me up for the saxophone.” She took private lessons through college, started playing alto when she was twelve, and soon added tenor, flute and soprano. Although she was primarily a classical player, Mad played in her school jazz bands and, while a senior in high school, was selected as a member of the Monterey Jazz Festival’s High School All Star Band. “I remember hearing a Charlie Parker record when I was in college and I could not believe that he was playing off the top of his head, so creative, so fast and with such spontaneity. I was a classical musician so I did not attempt to even try to play like Charlie Parker until I met Eddie.”

Mad played in local big bands for society dances in San Jose, earned a degree in classical music at the University of Miami, and performed with Broadway musicals that came to town. “I read music very well and played five instruments. During that era, I would never refuse any musical job.” After moving to the Napa Valley, she had a catering business, pairing wine with food. But she ultimately chose music over food.

“In 1984 I went to the Cotati Jazz Festival to try to get inspiration to get back into playing music,” remembers Mad. “I got totally what I wanted! It was a festival where the musicians perform at various clubs. I walked into the club that Eddie was playing at and there just happened to be a high school friend of mine in the audience who I hadn’t seen in ten years. She was with the drummer on the gig and asked if I’d like to meet Eddie. I had heard his name but had never seen him before.”

“When I met Mad,” recalls Eddie, “she mentioned that she played. I said that I’d love to hear her sometime. We soon did some rehearsing, and at one point she asked if I thought she could be a jazz player. I said yes but she would have to really work at it. Well, she did.” “When I first played with Eddie,” adds Mad, “I could not get on the bandstand without music being in front of me. I was actually heading off into an avant-garde direction. But he knew every standard and I’ve learned so much from him, so many songs. I don’t think I would have gone in this direction if it were not for him; I wouldn’t have had the knowledge. What I’ve done for him is maybe give him more of a desire to explore more dissonance. I hear that in his playing much more since we’ve been together. He takes more chances while he has simmered me down from taking too many chances at one time.”

Mad and Eddie Duran, who soon married, have worked together on a regular basis ever since, in settings ranging from a duo up to a quintet. They have performed at the key Bay area clubs, the Monterey, San Jose, Russian River and Telluride Jazz Festivals, Sonoma Jazz Plus, and on several very enjoyable recordings.

From Here To The Moon features the Durans in a straightahead quartet with pianist Al Plank, bassist Scott Steed and drummer Vince Lateano and with a Latin jazz group that also includes pianist Mark Levine, bassist Mark Van Wageningen and percussionist Raul Ramirez. Mad is featured on five instruments (soprano, alto, tenor, alto flute and C-flute), Eddie provided the arrangements and two originals (including the “Symphony Sid Samba”), and the co-leaders collaborated on “Quesadillas.” The music is comprised of superior bop and Latin jazz tunes with one of the highlights being a combination of George Shearing’s “Conception” and Miles Davis’ “Deception.”

Eddie Rides Again was the next project. “Madaline suggested that I record a solo album,” says the guitarist. “Since I know a lot of music, I just went into the studio, thought of tunes that I loved to play, and went for it. The engineer did a great job of miking the guitar so it has a nice acoustic sound even though I was playing electric.” The unaccompanied set gave Eddie an opportunity to play pianistically on 11 of his favorite standards plus his own “Sueno” and “Blues.” The result is beautiful music infused with Eddie Duran’s own brand of soul.

Three CDs, Brazilian Passion, Samba Cocktail and That Bossa Nova Thing, are each tributes to Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto. In fact, these tenor-guitar duets were all recorded at the same sessions. “In a duo, you get to hear each instrument much more clearly,” says Eddie. “By then I was tuning my guitar a whole step lower so it becomes a B flat instrument and I can play more basslines.” With Mad often sounding a bit like Getz and Eddie paying homageto Gilberto, these 33 performances are prime bossa-nova. One never misses the other instruments.

The most recent CD, Simply Mad, features Eddie, bassist Ray Drummond, drummer Akira Tana and Mad who exclusively plays alto except for a bit of alto flute on “Begin The Beguine.” She displays a distinctive style on alto that is a logical extension of the bop tradition without copying the past. A special treat of this set is getting to hear some particularly rare verses. Among the many highpoints are Eddie’s “Everybody Digs Barney Kessel,” Fools Rush In,” “The Song Is You” and “Violets For Your Furs,” but there are no slow moments or throwaway tracks to be heard on this delightful and swinging set.

For the future, the Durans hope to perform and record with a string quartet, in addition to taking their music on the road much more extensively. Mad and Eddie Duran are doing exactly what they love to do, creating music together while letting the audience into their musical and personal love affair.

Mad and Eddie Duran will be playing at:
12pm Han Schiller Plaza, Visitacion Valley Greenway Garden on May 21st

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