jazz in the bookshop Every Friday!
August 1st – 5:30-8:00 pm
Don Prell’s Seabop Ensemble

Bassist Don Prell is the epitome of West Coast jazz… learning the trade in L.A. in the early 1950s and performing for years as a core member of saxophonist Bud Shank’s quartet.  Along with pianist Claude Williamson and drummer Chuck Flores, the Quartet recorded two albums for wide commercial release by Pacific Jazz: The Bud Shank Quartet Featuring Claude Williamson from 1956, and Bud Shank Plays Tenor from 1957.   Bud Shank featuring Claude WilliamsonOf the first album, allaboutjazz.com notes that “‘Bag of Blues’ … has a memorable melody over a set of chord changes that provides Shank and Williamson with a platform for all sorts of appealing lines. Shank…switches to flute for a haunting rendition of “Nature Boy”—slow and melancholy. Many saxophonists doubled on flute, but none seemed as dedicated as Shank to exploring the tonal possibilities available with the extra instrument… “Walkin'” pulls a more recent tune from the East Coast and is nothing short of remarkable in how the quartet finds arresting ways to work through the simplest of changes. A bouncy “Carioca” closes out the record.

“Bud Shank On Tenor from 1957 features the same group and is exactly what it promises… “Over the Rainbow” is a nicely done version of a song with a difficult-to-locate sweet spot; “Body and Soul” is a standby that always brings out the best in everyone.”

Don traveled the world with Bud’s quartet, and eventually put in four decades or so in the classical symphony world (first Utah, and then 30 years with the San Francisco Symphony) all the while keeping the jazz flag waving.

Among the tours with Shank, one took them with June Christie as vocal star and Jimmy Pratt playing drums in place of Chuck Flores first to Scandinavia (where a recording eventually released by an English label as “Live at the Haig” was made) and then to South Africa,

Bud Shank in Africa bwhere at one point they found themselves in a recording studio.  “They produced a thumb piano for Williamson, gave Pratt a native drum and Prell a Nigerian bamboo harp. The result was A TRIBUTE TO THE AFRICAN PENNYWHISTLERS.

“I just made up something,” Shank said. “It was a blues. The stupid pennywhistle ended up, as I remember, in the key of A-flat, by accident, because nobody down there ever played a pennywhistle with anything other than just a rhythm section, not another keyed instrument. I learned how to play the damn thing while I was making this record. When I first start playing it, I’m squeaking and very tentative and as it goes along, after about 20 choruses, I begin to figure it out.”

Keeping the jazz flag waving is what Don continues to do, with an ensemble that, for our Bird & Beckett dates, typically features sax player Jerry Logas, pianist Michael Parsons and drummer Vinnie Rodriguez.  When he’s not here, you can find him cookin’ at the Bayview Boat Club, down in the shadow of the UCSF China Basin behemoth.  Sign in as his guest on Tuesday nights and get to know him.  You’ll be richer for it!

Wherever Don plays, it’s a full-on bop date– always a good time for the musicians and the audience alike.  He’s the real McCoy!  We wouldn’t be able to claim twelve solid years of Friday jazz sessions at Bird & Beckett without Don.  He’s been on the gig since the beginning, and many a time has made sure the music rang out, no matter what!