With Regrets to Donald Bailey

Donald Bailey

SKF NOTE – Last week, in the mood for jazz organ, I bought Volumes 1 and 2 of Blue Note Records’ Jimmy Smith Live at the Club Baby Grand. Recorded and released in 1956. These are trio dates with Jimmy Smith (organ), Thornel Schwartz (guitar), and Donald Bailey (drums).

This was such a great trio. Club Baby Grand is gone. How big it was I don’t know. Based on the background noise – customer conversations, cash registers ringing, glasses clinking – it sounds as if the three musicians were right on top of each other.

Donald Bailey plays very well on these albums. I listen and think of a phone conversation in my Modern Drummer office with Jim Keltner, when Jim was urging me or another MD writer to interview Donald Bailey.

It never happened.

At the time, the early 1980s, it’s true I was a little familiar with Donald Bailey’s drumming. But in my mind I wasn’t familiar enough to conduct an MD Donald Bailey feature interview. Getting up-to-speed was expensive. Listening to new Donald Bailey music meant buying LP’s. There was no YouTube. Plus, there was a healthy time commitment listening to new music in preparation for interviews. Or buying and reading books, magazines, and/or newspapers.

Listening to Donald Bailey live at the Club Baby Grand, my conversation with Jim Keltner and my excuses for not interviewing Bailey haunt me.

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