Featured Musician - May 2009

Name : Jim Beatty

Jim Beatty

Instrument: clarinet, soprano saxophone.

Early Years/Education: I used to drive to New York City a lot with my Dad from Jamestown (in upstate New York near Buffalo), where I grew up. My Dad gave me a clarinet on my eighth birthday; he was a professional clarinetist. My parents put me in private lessons right away. My Mom taught herself house organ and loved music. On those trips to the big city, Dad would go to a Yankees game and join me later at Eddie Condon's, Jimmy Ryan's and The Metropole to hear music. Edmond Hall, Eddie Condon, Pee Wee Russell, Sidney Bechet, Charlie Parker, and Henry “Red” Allen were among the greats I got to see. During this time, my late teens, I met Omer Simion (Jelly Roll Morton's clarinetist), and he became my mentor and teacher. In 1956 the army drafted me and they put me in the Army's School of Music at Fort Dix, New Jersey. That was the sum of my musical training. Soon after that I was invited to join the Wolverine Jazz Band for a season in Nassau, The Bahamas. This is where I met my wife, Pauline. She's from Vancouver, Canada.
When we came out here to get married, I fell in love with the area and thought I'd like to live here, so in 1967 we moved to Portland. When I first moved here I started in Monte Ballou's Castle Jazz Band but soon after formed my own Jim Beatty Jazz Band. My first big gig here was a four-year stint playing six nights a week at Portland's Hoyt Hotel. In the seventies and eighties there were many more clubs than there are now, and we'd play much later, like 'til 2 am. I played the Jazz Quarry for years with Eddie Wied on piano and Dave Elliott on drums. Eddie used to come to the house to teach my son, Jamie. One Halloween Jamie made the mistake of leaving his candy bag on the piano. After the lesson, he came crying to us, “Eddie Wied ate my candy!”
My sound is probably derived a little bit from my dad and those old New Orleans clarinet players I used to listen to. I love the low register, I always have. In all the years that I've lived here, I've only had four piano players: Norm Domreis, Harold Koster, Jim Goodwin and now Reece Marshburn. My drummer, Jack Dawes, has been with me for over twenty years, and my bass player is Bill Athens. My music is swing, I don't like to use the word “Dixieland.” If you had a clarinet, trombone, and trumpet in the band, people would call it “Dixieland,” it was just a popular term. Now I think it scares people away.
My advice for today's musician is get a degree. It's not like in my day when you could get out of high school and start playing. Learn as much as you can about music. Like my piano player, Reece Marshburn. He writes, arranges, conducts -- you have to be able to do a lot of different things. I just specialized in clarinet; that's impossible today.

Musical Influences: My greatest influence was my teacher Omer Simion. Another has to be Sidney Bechet -- he was simply the best! When he went to Paris with Bird for a jazz festival during the height of the Bop era, everybody thought the French would go crazy for Bird, but Sidney was the one to blow them away! More influences include Edmond Hall, “Wild Bill” Davison, Eddie Condon, Pee Wee Russell, Henry “Red” Allen, Sidney De Paris, Wilbur De Paris, Vick Dickenson, and my dad.

Most Satisfying Experience: Some of my trips ... most interesting was playing in China in 1995 with Ernie Carson's band. We played for a month at the Kempinski Hotel in Beijing, it was packed every night. For fifteen years I toured Europe as a soloist: England, all the UK countries, Germany, etc. It was really thrilling playing in a different town every night. Currently, in the winter season I play down in Palm Springs for their Classic Jazz Festival, which just happened in March. As you get older it gets harder to travel.  

Discography: Over the years I've released fourteen recordings I've self-produced. If the fans buy them you can go onto the next. Jan Scobey's “Hot Jazz” publication has a mail order record company, and she has sold a lot of recordings for me. We sell quite a bit at the festivals and off the bandstand.
Some of the titles include: “Holly Jolly Christmas,” “The Premier Ball,” “Unforgettable,” “Jim Beatty Jam Session,” “That's a Plenty,” “Just Jazz w/Wild Bill Davison and Jim Goodwin,” “Song of Songs” (all soprano sax), “Strictly Dixie and Blues,” “Christmas Clarinet,” “Together Live” (w/the Big Bear Stompers recorded live in England), “Clarinet and Rhythm,” and “The West Coast Years 1968 to 1993 25th Anniversary.”

Favorite Recordings: Louis Armstrong and the Hot Five – “Muskat Ramble,” 1925;  Jelly Roll Morton and His Red Hot Peppers, 1926, “Black Bottom Stomp”;  George Lewis - “Bugle Boy March,” 1950; Sidney Bechet - “Paris Concert,” 1952; Sidney Bechet/Wild Bill Davison - “I Found A New Baby,” 1949; Wild Bill Davison – “That's A Plenty,” 1943;  Wilbur De Paris - “Wrought Iron Rag,” 1956; “Pretty Wild” - Wild Bill Davison with Strings,” 1956; Sidney Bechet - “Grand Master” and “Just One of Those Things”;  Bechet/Spanier “Big Four,” 1955. I love good music in general, I like to hear melody and rhythm and good vocals like Sinatra and Bennett and even singers like Billy Joel and Elton John. I'm also a fan of Mahalia Jackson.

Gigs: May 3 and the first Sunday of each month, The Jim Beatty Quartet plays Hayden's Lakefront Grill (8187 SW Tualatin-Sherwood Rd., Tualatin (503) 885-9292), 5:00-8:30 pm. No cover, dance floor, full bar and dinner menu. For some gigs I'll add guitarist Dave Johnson and trombonist Pat O'Neal. We currently play a lot of festivals,  do a lot of casuals, summer parks concert series, etc. I like to add Shirley Nanette for vocals, she fits right in.
Future Plans: We bought a home in Kansas City where my son lives. Hopefully, I'll be playing around there a little. I'd like to meet some musicians there, and our plan is to go back and forth.

Other Comments: In the early days of the Jazz Society, we'd pick a club and all meet there. Sometimes the group would come in to see me at Harvey's. It's a comedy club now. In 1981 I was on the cover of Jazzscene. It was written by Steve Blackburn. I slipped between the cracks for twenty-eight years!

-- by Rita Rega


Copyright 2009, Jazz Society of Oregon