March 2010

Bud Shank

5.27.26 – 4.2.09

I was privileged to have known Bud Shank since the early ’70s. He was a real Renaissance man. I first met him in the Hollywood studios where we both spent a lot of time. He was a first-call flutist and saxophonist and worked constantly. When he left the studios he gave up the flute, choosing to concentrate solely on alto sax. I was disappointed. His flute sound and approach were totally unique and he had a real voice on the instrument. In the late ’70s, Claude Bolling was writing many “jazz suites”; Bud wasn’t a big fan of Bolling’s and said, “Let’s do one of our own.”

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Bud Shank
By Elizabeth Becker
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So he commissioned my Suite for Flute & Piano and played the hell out of it! Bud was also one of those rare studio musicians who, while doing much commercial work, kept the jazz side of his musical personality alive and active. He was a charter member of the L.A. Four, a member of the Lighthouse All-Stars, one of the early proponents of Brazilian music and led many fine ensembles. He wrote and recorded many lovely compositions and also scored two surfing movies!

A dedicated educator, Bud was the artistic director for many years of the jazz camp that bore his name in Port Townsend, Wash. He was also one of the only people (along with Shelly Manne) who understood and encouraged my decision to leave a lucrative career in the studios and move to New York to pursue more creative musical endeavors. We shared many great times on and off the bandstand. We both loved sailing, and I remember being on his Morgan 42-footer in the Pacific during a raging storm. I jumped at the chance when he smiled and said, “Want to take the tiller?” He once sailed the ocean from L.A. to Hawaii! Bud also loved fast cars. He once took me in one of his racing Porsches up curvy Mount Lemon, outside of Tucson, Ariz., for the ride of my life! He was a gentle, fun-loving guy who was easy to travel and be with.

Memorable musical moments include Heritage (my first recording with him), a flute and two-piano LP (Crystal Comments, with Alan Broadbent), the “two-altos band” with Phil Woods and our 2005 duo, Beyond the Red Door. Our last work together, and his last recording sessions as a leader, was in January 2009: four nights at L.A.’s Jazz Bakery with drummer Joe La Barbera and bassist Bob Magnusson. Though suffering from advanced emphysema, in a wheel chair and on oxygen (!), Bud played some searching and very memorable solos that week, and the project was recently released as Fascinating Rhythms.

Bud was always willing to let the music “go where it wants” and set minimum controls on the players. His enthusiasm, optimism, laugh and sense of humor were a delight. (After moving to Arizona he bought a truck and installed his no-more-used clarinet in the rifle rack!) I miss the man very much.

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