Apparently, they are solitary souls who, when they pass on, draw so many mourners that it stuffs a performance space like the Jazz Bakery's back room to capacity. That was the unsurprising case of David E. Carpenter, whose memorial concert yesterday at the Bakery in Culver City was stuffed to the proverbial rafters with distinguished collaborators, admirers and colleagues. "Dave Carpenter played with a lot of musicians," Peter Erskine and Bob Sheppard wrote in the programme. "If you're reading this, the chances are pretty good that he played with you."
"Oh, how I love to say ciao! Ciao, ciao, CIAO!" (11/4/59 - 6/24/08)
There was John Beasley checking out Alan Pasqua's piano solo; there was the great Putter Smith checking out the free buffet (but not indulging); there was Jeff Gauthier sitting cross-legged on the floor watching Mike Lang's performance; and there was 80 years young Clare Fischer sitting next to his son Brent checking out the supple lines of surprise guest Billy Childs. And here's your humble dumbass blogger, sweatily running around trying to get the lineups for each song before realizing someone has posted the entire performance list on the wall. Ahem. Yes.
Drummer Peter Erskine made the appropriate opening remarks, apologizing for the lack of chairs and noting the "fantastic array of CostCo cheeses" laid out in the main foyer. Then came a brief video remembrance of Mr. Carpenter, a linear narrative from his first baby photo to the last picture taken of him in the recording studio on the last day of his life -- June 24, 2008. The show -- run by "Carp's Rules" ("no speech to last more than THREE minutes; no more than THREE chrouses per solo") -- kicked off with a rambunctious Clare Fischer being helped to the piano bench. "I may look old and decrepit," he told us, "but that's only because I am" -- to accompany his bassist son Brent Fisher, clarinetist Don Shelton and drummer Steve Barnes on one of Carpenter's favorite tunes, the elder Fischer's Latin-flavored "Pensativa," which the younger Fischer recalled Carpenter could solo "playing the harmony, the melody, accompanying himself, and even adding some inner lines between it all. Just the most amazing thing I've ever seen." Mr. Erskine and saxophonist Bob Sheppard followed with a fractured, street-corner take on "Young At Heart" sans bass -- intentionally leaving one to imagine what wonderful lines Carpenter would have added.
The next jam saw Erskine and Sheppard joined by pianist John Beasley (whom Jesse Sharps says I resemble but frankly I don't see it -- he's much better looking), guitarist Larry Koonse and bassist Chuck Berghofer. Unfortunately, we wrestled our way out to the food tables and could not wrestle our way back in until they were finished, but we did make it back in to catch pianist Bill Cunliffe, bassist Tom Warrington and drummer Joe La Barbera run through a trumpet-less take on Miles Davis' "All Blues." This was followed by a sublime and mournful version of "Love Lost" from bassist Kenny Wild, trumpeter Larry Williams and drummer Aaron Serfaty. (If it sounds like a bummer, believe me, it wasn't.) A brief speech by Head Baker Ruth Price led into a short jam by bassist Mitch Foreman and saxophonist Brandon Fields (with special surprise guest Walt Fowler on flugelhorn) on the Foreman original "Gorgeous." The show was rounded out nicely by a pianist Mike Lang, Joe LaBarbera and bassist Mike Valerio.
Quote of the day: "Dave Carpenter could complete ANY band."