Scott LaFaro

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Scott LaFaro
Birth name Rocco Scott LaFaro
Born (1936-04-03)April 3, 1936
Newark, New Jersey, U.S.
Died July 6, 1961(1961-07-06) (aged 25)
Geneva, New York
Genres Jazz, bebop, cool jazz, modal jazz, free jazz
Occupation(s) Musician
Instruments Double bass
Years active 1955–1961
Labels Riverside, Atlantic
Associated acts Bill Evans
Website www.scottlafaro.com

Rocco Scott LaFaro (April 3, 1936 – July 6, 1961) was an American jazz double bassist known for his work with the Bill Evans Trio.

Early life[edit]

Born in Irvington, New Jersey, the son of a big band musician, LaFaro was five when his family moved to Geneva, New York. He started playing piano in elementary school, bass clarinet in middle school, and tenor saxophone when he entered high school.[1] He took up double bass at 18 before entering college because learning a string instrument was required of music education majors. After three months at Ithaca College, he concentrated on bass. He played in groups at the College Spa and Joe's Restaurant[2] on State Street in downtown Ithaca.

Career[edit]

Beginning in 1955, he was a member of the Buddy Morrow big band.[3] He left that organization to work in Los Angeles. LaFaro spent most of his days practicing his instrument. He practiced with a clarinet book to improve his facility. Bassist Red Mitchell taught him how to pluck strings with both the index and middle fingers independently. For much of 1958 he was with Victor Feldman's band.

In 1959, after working with Chet Baker, Stan Kenton, Cal Tjader,[4] and Benny Goodman, LaFaro returned to the east and joined Bill Evans, who had recently left the Miles Davis Sextet. With Evans and drummer Paul Motian he developed the counter-melodic style that would come to characterize his playing. Evans, LaFaro, and Motian were committed to the idea of three equal voices in the trio, working together for a singular musical idea often without the time stated.

By late 1960, LaFaro was in demand as a bassist. He replaced Charlie Haden as Ornette Coleman's bassist in January 1961. For a time, Haden and LaFaro shared an apartment. He also played in Stan Getz's band between jobs with the Bill Evans trio. Around this time he received a greeting card from Miles Davis suggesting that Davis wanted to hire him.[5]

In June 1961, the Bill Evans trio began two weeks of performances at the Village Vanguard in New York City. The trio attracted attention for its style. The last day was recorded for two albums, Sunday at the Village Vanguard and Waltz for Debby.[6]

Death[edit]

LaFaro died in an automobile accident on July 6, 1961 in Flint, New York on U.S. Route 20 between Geneva and Canandaigua,[7] four days after accompanying Stan Getz at the Newport Jazz Festival.

According to Paul Motian, the death of Lafaro left Bill Evans "numb with grief", "in a state of shock", and "like a ghost".[8] Obsessively he played "I Loves You Porgy", a song which had become synonymous with him and LaFaro. Evans stopped performing for several months.

Instruments[edit]

LaFaro started his professional career playing a German-made Mittenwald double bass but it was stolen in the Spring of 1958.

Shortly after, he acquired a bass made in 1825 in Concord, New Hampshire by Abraham Prescott. The top of the instrument is a three-piece plate of slab-cut fir; the back is a two-piece plate of moderately flamed maple with an ebony inlay at the center joint; the sides are made of matching maple. It has rolled corners on the bottom and very sloped shoulders on the top, making it easier to get in and out of thumb position. LaFaro continued to play this bass until his death. The bass was badly damaged in the automobile accident that killed him, but was eventually restored and is sporadically used in performance to honor LaFaro.[9]

Bill Evans said of LaFaro's Prescott bass, "It had a marvelous sustaining and resonating quality. He would be playing in the hotel room and hit a quadruple stop that was a harmonious sound, and then set the bass on its side and it seemed the sound just rang and rang for so long."[10]

Posthumously released items[edit]

In 2009, the University of North Texas Press published Jade Visions, a biography of LaFaro by his sister Helene LaFaro-Fernandez with an extensive discography.

In 2009, Resonance released Pieces of Jade, the first album released with LaFaro as a bandleader. The album included five selections recorded in New York City during 1961 with pianist Don Friedman and drummer Pete LaRoca, and twenty-two minutes of LaFaro and Bill Evans practicing "My Foolish Heart" during a rehearsal in 1960.

Honors[edit]

On March 5, 2014, the Geneva (New York) City Council approved making April 3 Scott LaFaro Day.[11] On April 4, 2014 a ceremony to rename a downtown street Scott LaFaro Drive took place.[12] [13]

According to Joachim Berendt, LaFaro's innovative approach to the bass caused "emancipation", introducing "so many diverse possibilities as would have been thought impossible for the bass only a short time before".[14]

Bassist Charlie Haden recalled,

When I was in L.A., Scotty LaFaro and I roomed together. He would practice for hours: he had all these Sonny Rollins solos he had written out in bass clef! I remained close friends with Scotty in New York, and would go over there to see and admire them, and Scotty and Paul would come over to the Five Spot, too. When Scotty was killed at age 25 (I was 24), I was devastated — I couldn't play for months. I never knew how Scotty felt about my playing until Paul told me later that the first time Paul heard me it was because Scotty had dragged him out in a snowstorm, "You've got to hear this great bass player with Ornette!"[15]

— Charlie Haden, in Ethan Iverson, "Interview with Charlie Haden", Do The Math (Blog)

Discography[edit]

With Ornette Coleman

With Bill Evans

With Victor Feldman

With Stan Getz and Cal Tjader

With Hampton Hawes

With Booker Little

With Pat Moran McCoy

With Marty Paich

  • The Broadway Bit (1959)

With Gunther Schuller

With Tony Scott

References[edit]

  1. ^ Jazz Improv Magazine Archived December 24, 2005, at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ "Ralston". Archived from the original on 2009-10-28. Retrieved 2009-10-28.
  3. ^ Yanow, Scott. "Scott LaFaro". AllMusic. Retrieved 21 August 2018.
  4. ^ "Ralston". Archived from the original on 2009-10-28. Retrieved 2009-10-28.
  5. ^ "Scott LaFaro Chronology 1961". www.geocities.ws. 9 December 2005. Retrieved 9 September 2016.
  6. ^ Bailey, C. Michael. "Best Live Jazz Recordings (1953-65)". All About Jazz. Retrieved 2013-08-23.
  7. ^ "Scott LaFaro: Chronology 1961". Archived from the original on 2009-10-28. Retrieved 2013-08-23.
  8. ^ Gopnick, Adam. "It was just one afternoon in a jazz club forty years ago". Bill Evans Webpages. Retrieved 2013-08-23.
  9. ^ Marc Johnson's Homage to Bill Evans & Scott La Faro Archived September 16, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  10. ^ Pettinger, Peter (2002). Bill Evans: How My Heart Sings. Yale University Press. p. 113.
  11. ^ David L. Shaw, "It's official: April 3 will be Scott LaFaro Day in Geneva", The Finger Lakes Times, Friday, March 7, 2014
  12. ^ David L. Shaw, "Innovation and Inspiration: Geneva celebrates the life and legacy of renowned jazz musician Scott LaFaro", The Finger Lakes Times, Sunday, April 6, 2014
  13. ^ Jim Meaney, "Honoring Scott LaFaro in Geneva, NY: Scott LaFaro Day, street re-naming, and a special Geneva Night Out on April 4th", www.genevanightout.org, Tuesday, April 1, 2014
  14. ^ Berendt, Joachim E (1976). The Jazz Book. Paladin. p. 282.
  15. ^ Ethan Iverson (March 2008). "Interview with Charlie Haden". Do The Math. Retrieved 18 November 2016.

External links[edit]