Matheny's Sanford Josephson moonlights as jazz author
Sanford Josephson, director of development at Matheny School who moonlights as a jazz author and impresario, has published his latest book, a biography of saxophone great Gerry Mulligan
Some folks know him as the spokesman and development director for the Peapack-Gladstone based Matheny Medical and Educational Center, a special hospital and school for children and adults with medically complex developmental disabilities.
Others know him as a longtime board member of the New Jersey Jazz Society and curator of the Flemington portion of the Central Jersey Jazz Festival, as well as the Sunday night concert series at the Luna Stage in his hometown of West Orange.
But Sanford Josephson also has been a jazz music writer since the 1970s and recently published his second book on the subject, “Jeru’s Journey: The Life & Music of Gerry Mulligan,” a follow-up to 2009's “Jazz Notes: Interviews Across the Generations.”
Josephson will celebrate the publication of the pioneering cool jazz baritone saxophonist’s biography with signings on Nov. 15 at the monthly New Jersey Jazz Society Social featuring bassist Bill Crow, a frequent bandmate of Mulligan’s. On Dec. 13 at the Music in the Moonlight jazz series that Sanford curates at Luna Stage near his residence in West Orange, “Mulligan and More” will present Mulligan Quartet pianist Ted Rosenthal and baritone saxophonist Scott Robinson. When the Gerry Mulligan Collection was donated to the Library of Congress in the 1990s, Robinson played Mulligan’s bari sax during the dedication ceremony.
Josephson recently chatted about his books and his career-spanning fascination with Mulligan’s often unsung brilliance as a saxophonist, composer and arranger.
In addition to writing books and articles about jazz, Sanford Josephson also produces and promotes concerts, including the Flemington portion of the Central Jersey Jazz Festival each September. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Sanford Josephson)
MyCJ: What made you want to write about Gerry Mulligan and what about him warranted your and your readers’ attention?
Josephson: I have always been a big fan of Gerry Mulligan. I first saw him perform in the early ’70s, but I was familiar with his records before that. In 1981, I interviewed him for a newspaper called ‘ElectriCity,’ which was distributed on college campuses and in music and bookstores in the Philadelphia area. That article was the basis for a chapter in my first book, ‘Jazz Notes: Interviews Across the Generations.’
I have always felt Mulligan never received the recognition he deserved, and when I realized there had never been a definitive biography written about him, I contacted his widow, Franca. We first got together in late 2011, and she eventually lent me the tapes of his recorded oral autobiography and introduced me to the publisher, Hal Leonard Books.
MyCJ: What did you enjoy learning most about Mulligan?
Josephson: Mulligan was a fascinating individual. He was a high school dropout but really a genius. Incredible arranger, composer, bandleader and musician. And could talk on practically any subject. One of his pianists told me he would breeze through The New York Times crossword puzzle in ink.
MyCJ: Was ‘Jazz Notes’ written for the Hal Leonard Series or Hal Leonard Books?
Josephson: The (Mulligan) book is part of the Hal Leonard Jazz Biography Series published by Hal Leonard Books. ('Jazz Notes') was published by Praeger/ABC-Clio. In the '70s and '80s, I did a lot of freelance writing about jazz in a variety of publications. ‘ElectriCity’ was one. Most of the articles appeared in out-of-town newspapers: Louisville Courier-Journal, Toledo Blade, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, about musicians who were originally from those cities. I did do an article on Dave Brubeck for the New York Daily News and an article on Count Basie alumni for American Way magazine. Eighteen of the 20 chapters in Jazz Notes were based on those articles, but they were all updated. In a few cases, the original subject was still alive, and I re-interviewed him (Brubeck, Jon Hendricks, Dick Hyman, David Sanborn, Stanley Cowell). In other cases, I interviewed people who were influenced by or played with the original subjects.
In the early '80s, I had an idea for a book about older African-American jazz musicians and what it was like traveling on the road in the days before civil rights. That book never materialized, but I had done three sample chapters. They became a chapter in Jazz Notes called ‘Road Warriors.’ The other new chapter was based on a 2008 interview with pianist Billy Taylor, who had been previously interviewed for articles on Fats Waller and Art Tatum.
MyCJ: Out of all the interviews you’ve done, which subject was your favorite?
Josephson: Gerry Mulligan was clearly my favorite subject, but Hoagy Carmichael, Dave Brubeck, and Jon Hendricks were also among the favorites.
MyCJ: Why and how did you first get into jazz?
Josephson: I became passionate about jazz when I was living in Japan in the mid-1960s, working in the public information office of the American Red Cross' Far Eastern Area headquarters.
MyCJ: Tell me about the book signings you have coming up on Nov. 15 at a New Jersey Jazz Society Social with Bill Crow at Shanghai Jazz and Dec. 13 at one of your Music in the Moonlight concerts at Luna Stage.
Josephson: Bill Crow is fascinating. He's 87 years old and still performing regularly. He played in various Gerry Mulligan bands and was interviewed extensively in ‘Jeru's Journey.’ He's a great storyteller. He talked about the Gerry Mulligan Concert Jazz Band of the early 1960s. ‘We couldn't believe how good the band was,’ he said. ‘We were at the (Village) Vanguard for a week. We'd get off the stage at the end of a set, go into the kitchen and talk about the band, and couldn't wait to get back on. If somebody got a call for a record date, they'd turn it down because they didn't want to miss being there.’
The Luna concert, ‘Mulligan and More,’ is a concert by baritone saxophonist Scott Robinson and pianist Ted Rosenthal. Scott Robinson played Gerry Mulligan's baritone saxophone at the dedication ceremony when the Gerry Mulligan Collection was donated to the Library of Congress. Ted Rosenthal was the pianist in Gerry Mulligan's last quartet, playing with him for four years. It should be a great concert.
MyCJ: At Matheny, do you still work with Holiday Express, the all-star holiday charity ensemble founded and led by Jersey Shore restaurateur Tim McCloone? If so, will they be performing on behalf of Matheny this year and will you be working with them in any other capacity?
Josephson: Holiday Express will be coming to Matheny on Nov. 22. Also, on Dec. 10, members of the Matheny Choir will be appearing with Holiday Express at their benefit concert at New Jersey Performing Arts Center (in Newark). Incidentally, a couple of Somerset County musicians who are part of Holiday Express are Alan Grant of Bridgewater and Byron Smith of Bedminster.
MyCJ: Do you plan to present any concerts in 2016?
Josephson: I curate the Sunday night jazz series at the Luna Stage, so there are two more concerts in 2015. I am also now the producer of the Flemington segment of the Central Jersey Jazz Festival in September. Next September will be the third Flemington concert.
I hope to have some other events/concerts in connection with ‘Jeru's Journey.’ Words, a bookstore in Maplewood, is planning an event sometime in January. On March 8, Bill Crow and I will be appearing at the New City Public Library in New York.
MyCJ: Do you have another books in the works or idea stage?
Josephson: At this point, I do not have another book in the works. I want to concentrate on promoting ‘Jeru's Journey’ for the foreseeable future. But I'm sure I will come up with something eventually.
I feel very fortunate to have seen Gerry Mulligan perform as often as I did, and I hope this book might introduce him to those who were not as fortunate. It may also rekindle some memories for those, like me, who wish we could see him again, one more time.
Also, as I am not a musician, this book is not filled with technical music jargon. I like to think of it as Gerry's life and music told in a series of stories and that it will appeal to the casual jazz and music fan, not just the aficionados.
Staff Writer Bob Makin: 732-565-7319; bmakin@MyCentralJersey.com
Buy and sign copies of Sanford Josephson’s “Jeru’s Journey: The Life & Music of Gerry Mulligan” from 3 to 5:30 p.m. Nov. 15 with the New Jersey Jazz Society Social with longtime Mulligan bassist Bill Crow at Shanghai Jazz, 24 Main St., Madison. Admission is free for Jazz Society members and $10 for others. There also is a $10 food/beverage minimum. For more, visit http://www.njjs.org/p/jazz_socials.php.
Josephson also will sign copies of his book at one of the concerts in the Music in the Moonlight jazz series he curates for Luna Stage, 555 Valley Road, West Orange. From 7 to 8:30 p.m. on Dec. 13, Mulligan-associated pianist Ted Rosenthal and baritone saxophonist Scott Robinson will perform. Tickets are $18, $20 at the door. For more info, visit lunastage.org.
For more information on Matheny Medical and Educational Center in Peapack-Gladstone, visit www.matheny.org.