The DeVore Four

20Aug05

My dad’s very old friend, fellow Kansas City avant-jazz musician Noah Young (formerly Richard Youngstein), has sent me several late-60s articles from the Kansas City Star and the St. Louis Dispatch regarding my dad’s career as a jazz musician in the Kansas City area. These are real rarities and I thought I would reproduce the sections of these articles dealing with my father, and the milieu that he played in.

(Please note, these articles are excerpted and paragraph structure has been altered.)

From a 1966 Kansas City Star article on the Kansas City Jazz Festival:

The Darrell DeVore trio, although it did not cause heads to bob vigorously injected the most intellectually stimulating, experimental music of the night. Most exciting was an original jazz waltz by DeVore, the pianist, called “Peaceful Traffic.” They followed with “Syndrome,” a piece that ranges from quiet and swinging to choppy with rhythm that flows in waves, rather than beats. The sidemen, Richard Youngstein, bass, and Chuck McFarlan, drums, improvised with freshness and vigor.

From a 1966 Kansas City Star article titled “DeVore Quartet at New Jazz Spot”:

A place with an unusual name and location has hired a combo of unusual musicians. The place is Mother’s, at 5600 Prospect avenue, way off the beaten track of night clubs along Troost avenue, Main street and Broadway. And the group is the Darrell DeVore quartet, a combo of unusual inventiveness, even on familiar dance tunes. The leader and piano player, DeVore, had a trio at the jazz festival three weeks ago that included his present bassist, Richard Youngstein. A regular drummer for the quartet has not been found, although there have been capable fill-ins the two weekends they have had the job.

Then there is Travis Jenkins, considered by many to be the top young tenor saxophone player in Kansas City capable of challenging the old order. Jenkins often employs unusual phrasing. Sometimes he causes his sax to emit sounds it was not designed to make, yet keeps them with the context of the music. He varies his tone from soft and sweet to harsh and biting, depending on what he is trying to convey. “As far as I’m concerned,” said a trombone player who appeared with Jenkins at the jazz festival, “Travis is playing with the big boys.”

The musicians are young, and all have new musical ideas. Much of what they do is experimental, although they offer a wide range of tunes and styles in an effort to keep everyone happy. But even on the standards, their inventiveness shows through. DeVore also writes music. One of the most interesting parts of the jazz festival was a tune of his, “Peaceful Traffic.” His aloof piano style is wide enough to include the cool and the funky, the simple and the complex. All of it is articulate. Youngstein, the bassist, puts great energy into his playing, and it pays off in tone and volume. He sometimes plays chords by strumming the instrument, and shows remarkable agility on the fingerboard. The group’s music draws musicians, and that’s a good endorsement. A week ago tonight, Ray Rabon and Bill Hargraves, trumpeters; Dave Zoller, pianist, Tommy Ruskin, drummer, and Bob Scagliotti, the bassist with the philharmonic, showed up and sat in for a few numbers.

From a 1967 St. Louis Dispatch article on the Kansas City Jazz Festival:

Today, several persons who should know think Kansas City is moving into a new jazz era. In less than five years the number of jazz spots has rebounded from five to more than 20 while the number in most other cities has decreased. The musicians who play in the new spots are drawn from the men who played here in the ‘20s and ’30s and a new generation that has grown up under their influence. Other young men brought other influences with them when they came to study at the Conservatory of Music at the University of Missouri at Kansas City. And the new ideas and regular playing have helped them make the festival better. Most observers thought that the festival this year was the best yet. Some who had been to Newport or Monterey thought Kansas City was as good if not better. Stan Kenton and Herb Ellis, the guitarist who made the “Gravy Waltz” popular, were among them.

After the first surge of the faithful, the crowd trickled in until after dinner all of the sections of the 10,400-seat auditorium that have a clear view of the three bandstands were almost full. The bandstands were at one end, flanked by two towers with $20,000 worth of loudspeakers on top. They were part of a huge high-fidelity sound system that helped correct the poor acoustics of the huge room, which resemble those of Convention Hall in Kiel Auditorium in St. Louis. Each group, with the exception of Stan Kenton and Lou Rawls, the headliners, had 20 minutes to get its message across. There was no intermission. While one group was playing, the next on the schedule was setting up on another bandstand.

A standout among the local groups was the Darrell DeVore Quartet with Travis Jenkins, which played avant-garde jazz without social protest. Richard Youngstein, the bassist, played one of the most exciting solos of the night.

From a 1967 Kansas City Star article:

The earth-shakers in the late afternoon were the Darrell DeVore quartet with Travis Jenkins. For the Kansas City festival this was your avant-garde, what with Lennie Tristano-Charlie Mingus sounds, and nicely done, too. The bass player seemed engaged in a wrestling match with the instrument and at one point appeared ready to raise it over his head and hurl it into the front row. Yet when you closed your eyes to histrionics and listened, the bassiest [sic] and all the others were making some remarkably interesting sounds — a new music that is seldom heard at the festival, and which ought to be heard more.

The entry listed on the program as The Big Surprise was exactly that: Warren Kime and the Brass Impact from Chicago. These people probably were the hit of the early evening. Kime uses five fluegelhorns, all doubling on trumpet; two trombones; four rhythm; a single reed and two young ladies who sing wordless, unison soprano along with the gentlemen. The arrangements were intricate and well-crafted and if it develops along present lines, the Brass Impact will be considerably more than a novelty.

From an unknown source — also about the Kansas City Jazz Festival:

But never let it be said that new compositions aren’t introduced at the jazz marathon. Some of the most inventive musicians around, Travis Jenkins and the Darrell DeVore quartet literally brought the house down with one of DeVore’s originals, “The Omen.” And they did it again with a Jenkins composition, “Festival Peace.”



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