Jeff Zavac – Gratitude
1) Glory, Glory Hallelujah
2) These Foolish Things
3) How High the Moon
5) I’ll Never Stop Loving You
6) Night in Tunisia
7) Harlem Nocturne
8) Lady be Good
10) Body and Soul
Recorded live at Murphy’s Place, Toledo OH, Jan. 3, 2009
Video from WTVG TV interview in Toledo, OH
Gene Parker, my incredible teacher from the time I was nine years old. At Digby’s, I began to play with The Murphy’s, which included bassist Clifford Murphy, pianist Claude Black, and drummer Sean Dobbins.
When Clifford’s wife Joan Russell invited me to perform with The Murphy’s for the first time, I was anxious. Claude and Clifford have played together for 50 years. They are one mind, one spirit, not much discussion passes between them. I wondered how I would know what they were thinking. Nothing could have been easier or more fun than playing with The Murphy’s. We played everything I wanted to play. The next time I played with them, I got to choose one song. Through the years, playing with The Murphy’s has become one of my most enjoyable experiences. As Claude said, “You have a good time in Miami, but you come to Toledo to get your batteries recharged.”
I began to dream of recording with The Murphy’s. In January 2008, a performance at Murphy’s Place drew one of their biggest crowds ever. Later that year, I asked Joan if I could record with The Murphy’s. Thankfully, she agreed and on January 2, 2009, my dream became a reality.
The night of the session, Murphy’s Place was packed. Many were turned away at the door. When I saw the tremendous crowd, I realized there were many I wanted to thank. Foremost among these were my parents, Louis and Carol Zavac. It was thanks to their example; I have never missed my sight. They taught me that by commitment to faith and diligence I could continue to make not seeing my greatest blessing. They also made a tremendous effort to give me a great education without which I would not be living the life I enjoy today. They did this as they raised two girls, Regina and Rebecca and two sets of twin boys, Joe, Dave, Matt and Mike.
There is one other person without whose support and that of her family, this CD would never have been possible. She is my wife Nancy Zavac. It is to these three individuals I wish to dedicate this most special commemoration. There are many others whom I wished to thank including my relatives and neighbors who were the first to encourage me, as well as those who made it possible for me to receive a Catholic education in my home town, especially Sister Maura.
I remembered my teachers at St. John’s Jesuit High School, including my band director, teacher and friend, Robert J.Taptich, who helped me to advance to the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. There, my instructor, Mike Andrez, taught me his classical approach to woodwinds. I also had the valuable counsel of Dr. Simon Anderson who helped me negotiate the unfamiliar aspects of the Conservatory.
At the University of Miami, Whit Sidener, Ron Miller, and pianist Vince Maggio taught me an approach to jazz that serves me to this day. I also remembered special friends I have been playing with in Miami, Jeff Caldwell, guitarist, and Danny Montana, bassist.
At Murphy’s, no rehearsal was needed; I had the program in mind. Dave Yonke’s articles in the Toledo Blade convinced an enthusiastic crowd to come out and inspire The Murphy’s. Yonke’s column the day before the session mentioned I had written a special title piece for the recording called “Gratitude.” When I read it, I realized I needed to compose the bridge for the tune. The band had never heard the piece. I played it once on the piano and we played it for the record. I thank these wonderful musicians for being on my wavelength from the beginning, and we all hope this recording gives everyone the essence of an evening at Murphy’s.
The first song, Glory Glory Hallelujah, begins with a rubato introduction, featuring Claude at the piano and Jeff on the alto saxophone. The tone is set for the evening when everyone begins swinging at a brisk tempo and the crowd responds to the solos. After wonderful piano and drum solos, Jeff picks up the tenor saxophone to add a last touch of excitement.
These Foolish Things includes one of the nicest minutes of the evening as Claude begins playing the verse. Jeff enters with an old-fashioned sounding tenor solo. After Claude’s solo, Sean and Clifford keep this song swinging to the end when Jeff finishes with a cadenza.
In How High the Moon, which was recorded late in the evening, during the piano solo, someone drops a bottle on the ground and Claude responds with a musical comment. Jeff and Claude end by playing the melody to the jazz classic Ornithology, which is written over the chord changes to How High the Moon.
The Announcement gives Jeff a chance to thank his parents and his wife on record.
I’ll Never Stop Loving You is a swinging dedication to them featuring Jeff on tenor.
A Night in Tunisia is one of the fastest and most exciting numbers of the evening featuring Jeff on alto with Claude’s wonderfully intense piano solo and Sean’s incredible drum solo, which excited everyone!
Harlem Nocturne features Jeff again on alto and Claude on a beautiful piano solo. It is a song Jeff has enjoyed playing all his life.
Lady Be Good is one of the most exciting numbers on the CD. It features Jeff on tenor and Claude playing a stride piano solo.
Gratitude is the title song which features Jeff on alto and Clifford on bass. It is meant to thank all those who have been involved with Jeff and his music!
Body and Soul is one of Jeff’s favorite songs and a must for the tenor. Sean and Clifford keep it swinging to the end.
Cherokee is a fast paced jazz classic that features the tenor. Jeff’s alto concludes the CD the way it began.
Jeff Zavac was born and raised in Toledo, Ohio and, after graduating from the University of Cincinnati, came to Miami, Florida in 1977. Due to a circumstance at his premature birth, Jeff lost his eyesight, but his strong desire to excel and compete in all he chooses to do has been an inspiration to all who know him.
Jeff’s formal musical training began at the age of nine when he was given a saxophone. He studied with a well known Toledo based musician and teacher, Gene Parker. He attended St. John’s Jesuit High School in Toledo where he marched in the band. Jeff earned a bachelor’s degree with a double major in music education and performance of the saxophone at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. He graduated from the University of Miami with a master’s degree in jazz performance.
After graduation, Jeff began working with seniors in Liberty City, learning to play gospel and hymns. He also worked for the school board in adult education for 13 years in Little Havana, Miami’s Jewish Home and Hospital for the Aged, and many other senior centers where he became acquainted with music that influenced his jazz playing. From 1989 to 1991, Jeff worked as an artist in residence at Florida Memorial College. At the same time he played the saxophone at St. Paul’s AME Church in Coconut Grove.
Jeff was a jazz programmer at WDNA community public radio from 1981-2001. In 1998, Jeff and guitarist Jeff Caldwell recorded the CD “A Very Good Year” for Promise Recordings. Since 2001, Jeff has been teaching music appreciation classes at Miami Dade College, Homestead campus. In 2005 Jeff was asked to be featured on Instrumental Magic, a CD commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind, produced by Henry and Inez Stone. Jeff also recorded on the CD Gwen McCrae Sings TK on Stone’s Henry Stone Music USA label.
Jeff currently works as a freelance musician in the South Florida area, continues to play music at day care centers for the elderly, and is enrolled in computer classes at the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind. Jeff has performed at Heidi’s Gasthaus, a German restaurant in Miami, since their opening in April 2003.
Claude Black began his career in Detroit during the prolific Bebop era — one of a crop of great jazz musicians cradled in the Motor City. With a love of music kindled by his grandmother and uncle, Claude grew up in a household with not one, but two pianos, began official lessons before he was ten, continued during high school, and honed his mighty talent throughout his career.
Claude Black was only 15 years old when he made his first recording in 1947 with Detroit School of the Arts classmates, in a band that included Donald Byrd and Gene Taylor. All three were among the superb musicians nurtured in Detroit during the 40s and 50s. From his stint with the Army band, which he joined as a trombonist because jazz pianist wasn’t on the official roster, to touring with Aretha Franklin, Martin Luther King, and The Murphy’s, music has been Claude’s profession, and his lifetime has been dedicated to jazz.
Now a regular at Murphy’s Place jazz club in Toledo, Ohio, Black, alongside bassist Clifford “The Murphy” Claude, was the first local jazz artist to do a concert and live recording at the magnificent Toledo Museum of Art Peristyle Theater. His follow-up CD, Claude Black & The Detroit Connection, emphasizes his past and present ties to that city. Claude has toured and performed throughout the United States as well as in Europe, Canada, and the Islands. In addition to being one of The Murphy’s, he was featured with the Toledo Jazz Orchestra in its 2006-2007 series. Claude performs frequently with members of the University of Toledo Jazz Department, which includes internationally-famous Toledoan Jon Hendricks; recently performed at a tribute to legendary Toledo jazz pianist Art Tatum; and continues to make special guest appearances as guest artist at other venues, events, and jazz fests.
Clifford Murphy, bassist, was born in Toledo. He learned music in Church, playing various instruments and singing. Growing up he sat on Art Tatum’s porch and listened to him practice piano and discovered he loved jazz. In his teens, he heard great players such as Dizzy Gillespie. Murphy played in Army jazz bands in the fifties. With his severance pay, he bought his first bass. He played as a sideman in Toledo clubs during the bebop years and also was the leader of his own groups. On the road he played the Las Vegas circuit.
He came back to Toledo and played with the Candy Johnson Band backing many national jazz artists. He started another group of his own called The Murphy’s with pianist Claude Black and toured with this group for 12 years. In 1991, he opened Murphy’s Place with partner Joan Russell. He has presented and accompanied nationally known jazz artists such as Joe Henderson, Kenny Burrell, Jimmy Scott, Sonny Fortune, James Moody, David ‘Fathead’ Newman, Ray Brown, Winard Harper, and many others, as well as regional and local artists.
A product of the Ann Arbor Public Schools, drummer Sean Dobbins, has stayed devoted to education throughout his life. Early mentor Louis Smith, an Ann Arbor Public Schools band teacher, impressed the importance of a good education upon Sean at an early age. He received the Woody Herman Jazz Award, and the Louis Armstrong Scholarship. Sean’s influences include Art Blakey, Jeff Hamilton, Jeff “Tain” Watts, Ed Thigpen, Sonny Payne, and also Detroit area greats Gerald Cleaver and Elvin Jones.
He has performed/toured/recorded with Johnny Bassett, Benny Golson, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Frank Morgan, Joey DeFrancesco, George Cables, James “Blood” Ulmer, Marcus Belgrave, Larry Willis, Rodney Whittaker, Claude Black, Johnny O’Neal, Paul Keller, Tad Weed, Kurt Krahnke, Jon Hendricks, David “Fathead” Newman, Donald Walden, Cyrus Chesnut, Barry Harris, David Baker, Randy Johnston, Marion Hayden, Mose Allison, and a host of other great musicians.
As a father of three, Sean knows, understands, and accepts the challenge of continuing the art form. In 1999 Sean was asked to become the director of the Ann Arbor Public Schools Summer Jazz Program, which thrived under his leadership. Sean frequently plays at venues such as the Firefly Club (Ann Arbor), Baker’s Keyboard Lounge (Detroit), the Music Hall Jazz Cafe (Detroit), Murphy’s Place (Toledo) and Buddy Guy’s (Chicago).