Archive for Saturday Night at the Village Vanguard

R.I.P. George Mraz (1944-2021)

Posted in Biographical, Jazz with tags , , , on September 19, 2021 by telescoper

I find myself doing yet another R.I.P. post. The great bassist George Mraz passed away on 16th September at the age of 77. When I heard the news I immediately thought of the famous live sessions he did as a member of Art Pepper’s Quartet at the Village Vanguard in New York in July 1977. The quartet featured Art Pepper (mainly on alto sax but also on clarinet and tenor saxophone), Elvin Jones on drums, George Cables on piano and George Mraz on bass. I think Art Pepper was very close to the peak of his prowess on these albums, having spent large parts of his earlier life in prison for narcotics offences. I had the privilege of seeing him play live on a couple of occasions, and he was great, but sadly he died in 1982 at the age of just 56.

The Art Pepper Quartet played on three consecutive nights and recordings were released on LP as Thursday Night at the Village Vanguard, Friday Night at the Village Vanguard and Saturday Night at the Village Vanguard; the latter being the source of this track. I bought all three albums and it’s worth quoting Art Pepper’s comment on Side 1 Track 1 of that album, the ballad You Go To My Head, on the sleeve of the LP

This is something I call a New York ballad. We played it a little faster that I usually play a ballad. Playing with George Mraz was great. When you play with a rhythm section, especially for the first time, sometimes everybody has their own ideas about the tune: the changes, the groove. But with George there’s a communication, he listens, and I can really feel what he’s doing.

Art Pepper, Sleeve Note for Saturday Night at the Village Vanguard

This is an object lesson for a bass player on how to provide a rich and swinging accompaniment at a relatively slow tempo:

Rest in peace, George Mraz (1944-2021).