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Filipino Jazz: North American :: The Forgotten Asians of Jazz
by Ron Sagye La Rue

When one thinks of Jazz Asian musicians rarely come to mind;usually
a Japanese from Japan is mentioned if discussed at all. Although Filipinos were some of the earliest and best, if not the first Asians to play Jazz. They have not been given proper credit by academia for their profound influence and nurturing Jazz in Japan.

Hattori Ryoichi(1907-1993) a saxophonist said:"they were weak readers,but their musical sense and performance technique were amazing. It could be said that they were the parents who raised Japanese Jazzman". Ryoichi was in a band with Filipinos in the mid
1920s,Manila Red Hot Stompers.

Japanese critic Masahisa Segawa remarked that two Filipinos, pianist
Francisco "Kiko" Reyes and Clarinetist Raymond Conde taught Sleepy
Matsumoto(saxophonist) and George Kawaguchi(drums). This was after World War two, both are famous in Japan. In America Filipinos were less visible,but they did participate in the Jazz scene.Joseph Nunez
better known as "Flip" was born in Stockton,California and from the late 1940s through 1960s era worked with bassist Leroy Vinegar,bluesman(guitarist-singer) Aaron "T Bone" Walker,saxophonists Teddy Edwards, Eric Dolphy,the Montgomery Brothers(Monk,Buddy,guitar great Wes)vibist Dave Pike and vocalist Jon Hendricks(of Lambert,Hendricks,Ross vocal group). Nunez also led the house band @ Bop City in San francisco in March of 1962.

He was included in the Jazz Ensemble with bassist Fred Marshall and drummer Jerry Granelli, this group backed Jon Hendricks at the
Trident in Sausalito in 1965. Furthermore he's on the album "Bev
Kelly in Person" recorded live at The Coffee Gallery,San Francisco.
Just so happens that recording is the date (I'm writing this) Oct-
ober 14, 50 years ago! In the band backing the vocalist is Pony
Poindexter(alto sax); Johnny allen bass;tony Johnson drums.

The album is on Riverside records. Nunez own album is 'My Own Time And Space" on the Catalyst label. Multi reedman Gabe Baltazar is the
most well-known of the first generation Filipino with Stan Kenton of the early sixties before that time he recorded with drummer Paul Togawa 1957 Mode records now VSOP records
Baltazar from Hawaii did a lot of playing in Los Angeles in the '50s
and attended Los Angeles City College.

Baltazar was also a member of Gil Fuller's Monterey Jazz Festival Orchestra that included Dizzy Gillespie and on the album of the same name and he does take solos. Oliver Nelson to has sought the
services of Baltzar on "Sound Pieces" an Impulse recording from 1966. He's in the company of people like Shelly Mann, Plaz Johnson and Red Callendar etc. Onzy Matthews(piano) is another big band
man whose employed the talents of Gabe he plays flute on "White
Gardenia". The albums called "Sounds for The '60s! Capital records.

But of course the best way to hear Gabe Baltazar is leading his own record date. And this he does on "San Kenton presents Gabe Baltazar"
Creative World Records recorded in 1977,a very large orchestra with violins,cellos,harp,reeds, and brass section. There's no compositions by Baltazar,but another Filipino Angel Pena,composed
and arranged a piece called simply "Gabe" very nice indeed!

Baltazar did another album two years later and this writer believes
this is where he really shows what he can do he composes and plays alto,tenor,soprano saxophone,flute,piccolo and the rarely heard bass clarinet. I'd call this his masterpiece! The accompanying musicias are: Doug MacDonald guitar;Ben Rietveld acoustic& electric bass and toere;Noel Okimoto drums;Carl Wakeland Keyboards. The label is Gabe's own(Gee Bee records) and unfortunately its long out-of-print. But its surely worth looking for!

Another talent and grossly overlooked is the great pianist George Muribus. This man was SOMETHING ELSE!!!!! during his lifetime he made three(3) recording to my knowledge "Jazz From San Francisco"
The Pat Britt Quintet recorded in October 12,1966, but not released
until 1971. This album is a "sleeper" who knows where Muribus career
would have gone if the record had been put on the market sooner?

It was originally recorded for "Mainstream records" they had artists like Harold Land,blue Mitchell and Carmen McRae. But came out on Crestview label. True it wasn't Muribus record date,but his playing is so strong, he contributes so much.

Muribus did make a trio date on Catalyst label in 1977, this was also released in Japan in the '70's. they(Len Lasher bass;Lee Charlton drums) play John Coltranes' "Giant Steps", and there is an original by Muribus,AugmentedInvestments" a "free"piece seven compositions in total. Again this recording is out-of-print this too, is worth your efforts trying to locate this gold on vinyl.
There is an album of Brazilian songs he did and I've seen it advertised on the internet sometime ago. He had a small discography but worth looking into.He worked with the group Azteca Coke Escovedo's unit.What's interesting is Muribus and Nunez worked as a duo playing bass lines for each other--they couldn't afford a bass player.
The late Rudy Tenio was a very articulate,sensitive electric pianist
from an older generation made me want to listen to HIM though I've never cared for that instrument! With the advent of Filipino Jazz Festivals in Los Angeles,San Francisco and Paul Im's Asian American
Music Festival also in Los Angeles, Filipinos are finally getting the opportunities and exposure their talents deserve. This includes
more recording dates. Artists like the tremendously,creative pianist
Victor Noriega who has three CDs currently on the market. And of course vocalist Charmaine Clamor,the voice and face of Filipino Jazz
and the most original since Abbey Lincoln and Ginny Lee. There are other Pinoys(a) these are just some of the talented ones from the Filipino Community. If this article stirs your brain to something old and new continuing in Jazz its served its purpose.

published 15.10.2010 2005 jazz news :: home page