Clarence "C" Sharpe bootleg unearthed

photo by Otto Flückiger
 When I was just sixteen years old a bassist named Ted Wald moved to Santa Cruz (were I grew up) from New York City. Ted had been in the trenches of the NYC Bop scene for 40 years before leaving the city to follow a young girlfriend out west, and to seek a healthier lifestyle. Ted was a true old school Be-Bopper who had played with a who's who list of Jazz greats, including Bird himself. I felt a little closer to the smokey clubs of NYC when ever I played with Ted. Ted always had a million stories of about all the cats he had played with. He was one of the few white musicians in the circle of players that he ran in. Ted was also the first white Muslims, maybe even the first Muslim,  that I had ever met. Ted never really spoke much about his faith and I didn't really know what to ask him since I hadn't been exposed to that culture, having been raised in a lilly white California beach town. Ted was also the first bassist I'd played with that refused to use an amplifier, which for him was also sort of a religious belief. Ted knew a ton of standards and he never cared what key anything was played in. He didn't read music and every solo he took was a walking solo, old school all the way.

photo by Otto Flückiger
  One name that constantly came up in Ted's stories was Clarence Sharpe, who he usually just referred to as "C" Sharpe. Ted had played with Sharpe for years and had the highest respect for him. He would always say that Sharpe was the baddest Bebop saxophonist in NYC, despite that fact that he had no teeth and played wildly out of tune. I could never fathom how a guy with no teeth could ever play the saxophone at a high level, let alone be the baddest cat on the scene. I guess I figured that Ted was exaggerating a bit, turns out that he wasn't. I had always asked Ted if there were any recordings of Sharpe and he had lost the only bootleg that he had. Sharpe had recorded on a Lee Morgan record called Indeed, but that apparently wasn't a good representation of his playing. Sharpe had struggle with heroin addiction for many years and that may have been a factor in his failure to get a recording career off the ground. Of course the fact that Sharpe had wildly erratic intonation, because of his lack of teeth,  couldn't have helped his mainstream marketability either.

I ran into a post on Face Book the other morning by saxophonist Alex Hoffman about Sharpe. Alex had posted a link to a blog called Crown Propeller that posted a bootlegged recording of Sharpe playing with Ted Wald, Walter David Jr., Lonnie Hillyar, and Jimmy Lovelace at a club called the Tin Palace. The recording is a bit rough and you can hear some clear conversations while the music is playing, which is actually quite interesting. The band is burning, but Sharpe stands out, despite the expect intonation issues he is a monster. I finally understand what Ted was raving about.

I sent Ted a link to the recording and he was very happy to finally hear this band that he he spent so much time time playing with. Here is is reply to me:
"Salaam Aqui,
First thank you, thank you, thank you.  I miss those guys.  I am the only one left.  Maybe Sharpe didn't know anybody was recording us because for a long time people were begging us to record and Sharp was not about doing it because he didn't have any teeth.  (He had portable ones which used to come flying past me in the second tune whenever we played.)  I spoke to a piano player, Tardo Hammer, who said to me, "Man, Bird Lore, (the C-Sharpe Qunitet) was bad.  Maybe the baddest in New York at the time."  I saw some blurb on the tube about some critic named Parsells who made it his business to hear that band in '79 or '80.  I do have a tape somewhere in my belongings.  I had others but someone swung with a tape of Sharpe, Walter Davis, Jimmy Lovelace and myself playing "Pennies from Heaven".  I do appreciate what you sent. 
Peaceful, peaceful. Blessings, thank you for living, Ted (Said Khalid)

P.S.  Also Thanks to Stanley Crouch for ever booking us.  Sharpe was mostly surviving tutoring and teaching at the University of the Streets.  Mostly he was a living legend and my friend."

105 Minutes with legendary Clarence "C" Sharpe

105 Minutes with Clarence "C" Sharpe.


crownpropeller said...

Dear David

Thanks for referencing my blog and thank you very much for sending me Ted Wald's reminiscences! Would you be so nice as to maybe add "photo by Otto Flückiger" to the photo of Clarence "C" Sharpe. That would be very nice.

Thank You.



saxsolos said...

I enjoyed that very much. Thanks

David Carlos Valdez said...

Hope you get some traffic. Just added photo credits. Thanks.

Unknown said...

Thanks, David. I've been bad about visiting my favorite blogs and that's why I miss out on your great "adventures" and just saw your entry on "C" Sharpe. I had the good fortune of hearing "C" Sharpe burning up Mikells in NYC with Steve Grossman one night - 800 beautiful choruses on "I Remember April," for example (slight exaggeration on number of choruses) ;-0). I badly wish I had brought my little cassette recorder in with me that night and I'm still hoping someday, a tape of that gig will show up! I believe he also occasionally performed with Clifford Jordan's big band and I think he is on the recording of Clifford's big band, though I do not believe he solos. Marla