By CARL GLATZEL, Editor
Back in 2000 I was given the opportunity to head up art direction for Deer Mountain Records, a Houston-based startup jazz label. Houston’s own Paul English was artistic director and principal performer and I was freelancing full time, trying to find as many jazz-related design gigs as possible. These were great days, when live jazz performances were still a cause for celebration at the historic Warwick Hotel in Houston’s Museum District — a sophisticated venue for equally-sophisticated music. Jazz aficionados and novices alike would gather and hang on every note of Paul’s masterful improvisations and Brennan Nase’s intimate double bass solos.
After sitting down with Paul and his business partners I knew what was expected of me and soon my days (and nights) would be consumed with branding Deer Mountain Records. Most projects kept me in Houston, chasing down Paul and his collective group of artists with my friend and photographer, Ignacio Gonzalez, at different local venues. Other projects would take me on the road. One such project took me down the Texas Gulf Coast to direct a photo shoot at the Corpus Christi Jazz Festival, where chance would have me meet two sax greats. Paul was booked to play at the festival with his group, but he also planned on cutting some live material with Dave Liebman and Ed Calle at a hole-in-the-wall studio nearby. Liebman and Calle were performing at the festival with their own traveling bands. My wife and I were tasked with offering a ride to Ed Calle to and from the festival, giving us a chance to talk about music and life on the road with a giant on the international jazz scene. Once at the studio I finally met Dave Liebman, a true living legend and a gentleman. Being a longtime fan and having listened to Liebman grace Miles Davis’ electric recordings, among others, I felt as if I already knew him. Being in that studio was a rare chance to witness what it takes to cut a world-class jazz performance — a chance to see virtuosos with amazing chops warm up, get loose and get to know each other musically. Incredible blowing like I’ve never witnessed before — Liebman, Calle and Houston’s Dennis Dotson on trumpet. Dennis, who held his own magnificently, stole the show with jaw-dropping solos. Bright, brassy and note-perfect passages immediately eliciting comparisons to Hubbard’s finer moments by everybody in the engineering booth. And as we worked around performers and studio equipment to achieve each perfectly-framed shot, Ignacio and I couldn’t help but smile with the knowledge of how special this all was.
The night was capped off with a brisk walk down the street and a late dinner at a local dive, offering up even more conversation, laughter and camaraderie. And photos throughout all of this, capturing and preserving great memories for one art director’s all-too-quick brush with greatness.
All photography by Ignacio Gonzalez. Please visit the Jazz Sherpa store and support jazz wherever you are.