Saxman Bud Shank has always been a little ahead of popular trends. He made his first of several recordings with Brazilian guitarist Laurindo Almeida in 1953, a good 10 years before collaborations between Brazilians and U.S. jazz figures such as Stan Getz became popular in the 1960s. Shank teamed with Indian sitarist Ravi Shankar during the early 1960s, before the Beatles ever went to India. He has also recorded with Japanese kotoist Kimio Eto.
Shank, who plays the Jazz Note (above Diego's restaurant) in Pacific Beach on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, remains as adventurous as ever. His latest pair of recordings, released last year, expand his repertoire even further.
"Drifting Timelessly" is his moody collaboration with the Roumanis String Quartet on music written by Shank's longtime acquaintance, composer George Roumanis.
"Tales of the Pilot" features Shank, who lives in Port Townsend, Wash., with a band of fellow Washingtonians on a set of tunes composed by the group's pianist, Dave Peck. Peck, who loves science fiction, named the collection in honor of a book of short stories titled "Tales of Pirx the Pilot" by Polish author and mathematician Stanislaw Lem.
Shank, 65, was a co-founder (with Chet Baker, Gerry Mulligan, Shelley Manne and others) of the laid-back West Coast jazz movement of the 1950s, but has since forged his own sensuous, slippery sound, retaining some of his early California cool sensibilities.
Once an avid flute player, Shank has focused his attentions solely on alto sax for five years now.
"All I ever wanted to do was be an alto sax player," he said, naming Charlie Parker and Lee Konitz as longtime influences, along with classical composers Stravinsky, Debussy, Ravel, Prokofiev and Bartok.
Last week, Shank was in Los Angeles making a new recording with the Lighthouse All Stars, including trumpeters Shorty Rogers and Conte Condoli, and saxophonists Bill Perkins and Bob Cooper.
At the Jazz Note, Shank will be joined by San Diegans Mike Wofford on piano, Bob Magnusson on bass and Jim Plank on drums. Shank's next release is due in March and features this same lineup, but with Sherman Ferguson on drums.
A biography of big-band trombonist Dicky Wells, co-authored by Wells and Vista-based jazz historian Stanley Dance, has been reprinted by the Smithsonian Institution.
"The Night People: The Jazz Life of Dicky Wells," first published in 1971, gives a colorful account of Wells' life, capturing the day-to-day existence of a working big-band musician.
With Dance's help, Wells, who died in 1985, recalls appearing on stage with Charlie Johnson's big band inside a giant chocolate box, jiving about women ("He asked for four bars, and she composed a whole tune") and partying up a storm. Wells had a longstanding battle with alcohol, and one chapter, "Man's Best Friend," is a warning about the dangers of drinking and drugging, a chronicle of the many ways in which substances seduced Wells.
Several revisions were made to the book for its reissue late last year, including introductions by Dance for each chapter, a complete Wells discography covering more than 50 years of recordings, and a critical appreciation of Wells by jazz critic Andre Hodeir.
Dance first met Wells in 1937 in England and eventually produced two of Wells' albums, "Bones for the King" (1958) and "Trombone Four-In-Hand" (1959), along with a number of recordings featuring Wells with other bands.
"He had quite a reputation," Dance said of Wells' musicianship. "I guess the most famous band he worked with early on was Fletcher Henderson's. Then he was with Teddy Hill's band, which is not often spoken of except in connection with Dizzy Gillespie. But, before Dizzy was in it, Dicky and Roy Eldridge were in it. Then Dicky joined Basie when Lester Young was in the band as one of the major soloists, along with Buck Clayton."
Dance, whose many writing credits include books about Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Earl Hines, isn't now working on a book. But he is considering gathering a few of his many interviews into a new volume, including conversations with B.B. King, Tommy Flanagan, McCoy Tyner, Charles Mingus and a young George Benson.
Tonight, KSDS-FM (88.3) celebrates 15 years of "Jazz Live" concert simulcasts with a show in the City College Theater featuring an all-star cast from past broadcasts.
Joe Marillo, Carl Evans Jr., Hollis Gentry, Peter Sprague, Bill Andrews, Gary Nieves, Ronnie Stewart and Mitch Manker will be featured. Veteran KSDS deejay Scott Harrison, who founded the series with fellow jock Jackson Ratliff in 1977, will be host.
"I was developing an interest in jazz in the early stages of my education at City, and I started listening to local groups in the clubs," Harrison said. "I found such an abundance of talent that I was wondering how to bring this to listeners, as opposed to just playing records by nationally known artists."