Saturday, January 15, 2022

Listening to Clifford Jarvis

Clifford Jarvis was always best known to me as Sun Ra's drummer, and as the drummer on a number of records I saw in the store, but never bought. A hard bopper turned free guy. I spent all my money on records with Tony Williams, Elvin Jones, Art Blakey, Roy Haynes, Philly Joe Jones... on and on. All my attention was on those guys, and probably fifteen others, and I never really got around listening to Jarvis closely. 

He was killing— as good as anybody. Here he is on Jackie McClean's 1965 record Right Now!. I would transcribe this, but I would have to do the whole thing. Very inventive playing all the way through. He was from Boston, and according to Alvin Fielder, Tony Williams listened to him a lot when he was young, which makes a lot of sense, hearing this recording: 

...I got a chance to meet Tony, before I had a chance to really hear him play. He didn't talk very much then—he was like fifteen or sixteen, very young—and every spare dollar he got, he bought a drum book. He was studying Kenny Clarke, Philly Joe Jones, Max, and he was listening to a lot of Clifford Jarvis. Clifford Jarvis was the hottest drummer in New York—better to put it this way, he was one of the swingingest drummers in New York, along with Philly Joe Jones.


He kills it on this whole record— to me it's real similar to what we hear Tony doing on Four & More. By this point it's not totally clear who's influencing who, but he and Tony seem very connected. Jarvis certainly more bass drum chops than anyone before Jack Dejohnette, and is more bass drum centric, if you listen to his solo here:   

There was a funny moment just pre-COVID, in a master class with Billy Hart— Hart mentioned the Freddie Hubbard record Hub Tones, and for a moment couldn't remember who the drummer was. Nobody in the room, the very accomplished instructors/professors included, knew it was Jarvis. I didn't remember either. Mute embarrassment all around until Hart remembered. We're supposed to know this stuff. This was recorded in 1962: 

One more, from Hubbard's 1960 record Open Sesame— Hubbard was 20, Jarvis was 19. Jarvis plays straighter, but still very active, very aggressive at times. There's a lot of air between the timing of the bass, drums, and Hubbard— the first couple of listens through I thought Jarvis was way in back of the beat. I think the bass is holding it down, Jarvis is actually way ahead, and Hubbard is even more ahead than that. When he's trading with Hubbard, he's using mostly his hands— there's none of that dense bass drum stuff we hear on the Jackie McLean record. 


Ted Warren said...

Jarvis is super under appreciated. Apparently both he and Tony studied with Alan Dawson, so there's that connection as well……...

Anonymous said...

Finally, someone talks about Clifford Jarvis! Another drummer you may appreciate and who rarely gets talked about was a guy who played a lot in the 70's-90's with Ira Sullivan/Red Rodney and also Joe Diorio, that guy was Steve Bagby. Bagby, Tony, and Clifford Jarvis all seemed to have exceptional BD control when it comes to playing straight-ahead jazz, and interestingly all studied under Alan Dawson. At any rate, thanks for mentioning the great Clifford Jarvis, an artist that certainly deserves far more recognition.

Todd Bishop said...

Fascinating player, suddenly. He never seemed to get a lot of press in drummer-land. I'm just surprised to hear someone doing something that similar to Tony, basically contemporaneously. I always assumed that Dawson didn't have that big an influence on their mature playing-- like he didn't have is teaching program fully worked out in the 50s?-- but maybe that's wrong...

Anon, I'll look up Bagby. Those Red Rodney records weren't totally off my radar-- I think I had a record of his with Joey Baron on it.

Michael Griener said...

As I already wrote when you posted something about Clifford Jarvis in September 2020:
Cllfford Jarvis and Tony Williams were Alan Dawson's first students.
"One day, Tillmon Williams came to me and said, „I want you to hear something.“ He took me to his house, and there was this little ten-year-old kid sitting behind what looked like a 28″ bass drum. Tillmon said, „I want you to teach him.“ A couple of months later, Malcolm Jarvis came by and had his son play something on the pad for me. That’s actually how I got my first two students: Tony Williams and Clifford Jarvis. Clifford had great chops, but knew nothing. Tony had good instincts about time and meter, but no chops. Neither one of them could read. I worked on giving them the fundamentals of chops, reading, and rudiments.“
So that must have been around 1954.
Dawson started teaching at Berklee 1957, developing his systems there.

Michael Griener said...

From his obituary in the Independent:
Clifford Jarvis was in at the beginning of jazz education as far as the drums were concerned.
His father and his grandfather were both trumpeters and they persuaded him to take up the drums when he was 10.
After Jarvis had won a diploma in electronics in 1954, his father persuaded Alan Dawson, a fine jazz drummer, to give Jarvis lessons.
He became Dawson's first pupil, and, when Dawson went on to become an "educator" at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Jarvis followed.

Michael Griener said...

And also Mark Griffith mentioned in a post on
"Never ignore the "peer to peer" education. An important peer of Tony's was Clifford Jarvis. Herbie told me about how much Tony told him (Herbie) that he (Tony) learned a lot from Clifford. I believe that Bobby Ward was also a peer of Tony's around Boston, and quite possibly also a student of Dawson's."

Todd Bishop said...

Thanks Michael-- it's funny that I don't remember Tony talking about him! In that 80s MD interview he mentioned Max and Blakey and Philly Joe. I don't know if he was deliberately covering his tracks, or what...

I need to go back and listen to those Booker Ervin records with Dawson and see if I can hear any common thread...

Michael Griener said...

Listen to the ones that Dawson did with Jaki Byard; they’re wild:

Jaki Byard Quartet Live! (Prestige, 1965)
The Last from Lennie's (Prestige, 1965)
Freedom Together! (Prestige, 1966)
Jaki Byard with Strings! (Prestige, 1968)
The Jaki Byard Experience (Prestige, 1968)

Todd Bishop said...

Excellent, thanks! I never knew ANY of these records-- at the time I was looking for Jaki Byard records, none of the the stores ever had them.