When I heard that Larance Marable had passed, I called Charlie Haden and asked him to say a few words.
I first met Larance Marable in the late fifties when I was playing with Paul Bley at the Hillcrest Club in L.A. and Larance was playing gigs around town. We soon started playing together with Art Pepper, Hampton Hawes, Sonny Clark, Paul Bley, and would often drive up to San Francisco to play with different musicians including Chet Baker. I still remember the stories he told on that drive, about Bird and other great musicians. In fact, on our Quartet West album Now Is the Hour there's a picture of him at a birthday party for Bird in Watts, sharing ice cream and cake.
He was a beautiful person that loved to laugh. My daughter Tanya once played him several games of ping pong when we were in Paris. When she missed a point, she'd say, "I'm going to get you, Wabbit" like she was talking to Bugs Bunny, and Larance would crack up.
This guy had something that was magical. I experienced it from the first time we started to play. The thrust of his cymbal was so strong. Strength is not the right word. Maybe power is right. It would happen anytime, anywhere. You could always rely on him. He had a lot of dynamics in his playing. You can’t explain it, but he had it. He functioned in my Quartet West like Jimmy Cobb functioned for Miles Davis, especially on Kind of Blue.
In 1986 or thereabouts, in Hollywood, there was some kind of benefit or reception for the movie Round Midnight. Billy Higgins was there, and he and I were talking and Higgins said, "Look over there, it's Larance Marable." Way across the room! Larance Marable! I went over to him, and we hugged. We had't seen each other in many years. I said, "Man! Are you playing?"
He said, "I always loved playing with you!" and I said, "Now that I found you, we have to play together!"
First Larance subbed with Quartet when Higgins couldn't make it, but then, when Billy started touring with the Round Midnight band a lot, Larance joined my band full time. His cymbal beat was perfect: It was earthshaking when he came in with the time.
In Quartet West he was the other part of my heartbeat.
Partial Larance Marable discography, according to Tom Lord
1951-52 live tracks with Charlie Parker, Frank Morgan, Wardell Gray, Chet Baker, Hampton Hawes, and others
1953 The Modernity Of Kenny Drew — Teddy Charles, West Coasters
1954 Lorraine Geller, At The Piano – Herb Geller Plays
1955 Frank Morgan On GNP – Jack Sheldon Quintet — A Recital By Tal Farlow — Sincerely Conte Candoli — Dexter Gordon Daddy Plays The Horn — Kenny Drew Talkin' And Walkin'
1956 Introducing… Carl Perkins — Hampton Hawes Bird Song — Milt Jackson Ballads and Blues — Sonny Criss Go Man! — The Lawrence Marable Quartet Featuring James Clay Tenorman — Sonny Criss Plays Cole Porter — Chet Baker Big Band — Chet Baker/Art Pepper Sextet Picture Of Heath
1957 Herb Geller Sextet Fire In The West
1959 Jimmy Giuffre Quartet Ad Lib — Sonny Stitt Plays Jimmy Giuffre Arrangements — Anita O'Day Sings Jimmy Giuffre Arrangements: Cool Heat – George Shearing And His Orchestra Satin Brass
1960 George Shearing Quintet Acc By Billy May's Orchestra The Shearing Touch — George Shearing Quintet San Francisco Scene — George Shearing/Nancy Wilson The Swingin's Mutual — The Montgomery Brothers — The Resurgence Of Dexter Gordon
1961 Teddy Edwards Octet Back To Avalon
1962 Richard "Groove" Holmes After Hours — Victor Feldman Stop The World I Want To Get Off
After this long run of great West Coast jazz, Marable's discography thins out. Joe Farrell's Skateboard Park from 1979 seems to be the next date. There's also Milt Jackson's Night Mist from 1980.
Marable became more visible again when he joined Charlie Haden's Quartet West. The studio albums are all classics: In Angel City (1988), Haunted Heart (1991), Always Say Goodbye (1993), Now Is the Hour (1995), and The Art of Song (1999).
In addition to the essential work with Haden, Marable is heard on post-1988 records with Charlie Shoemake/Harold Land, The Herbie Harper/Bill Perkins Quintet, Paul Moer, Frank Strazzeri, Shorty Rogers/Bud Shank & The Lighthouse All Stars, Walter Norris, Bruce Eskovitz, Dianne Schurr, Robert Stewart, Eden Atwood, and Ruth Cameron. Speaking of which, thanks to Ruth for her help with this post!
A little bit of sterling 50's-era Marable on YouTube:
Kenny Drew, Joe Maini, Leroy Vinnegar, Larance Marable play "Minor Blues." Incredible piano solo!