Homecomings are a time of celebration and reflection, and the July 5, 1994 Bay Area return of multi-instrumentalist Peck Allmond provided a good bit of both.
Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Peck is an alumni of the renowned Berkeley High School Jazz program directed by Phil Hardymon which includes luminaries such as Craig Handy, Peter Apfelbaum, Benny Green and Joshua Redman. His apprenticeship was served under the tutelage and mentorship of many of the premier Jazz musicians residing in the Bay Area: Smiley Winters, Johnny Coppola, Donald Bailey, Faye Carol, Mark Levine and Eddie Marshall were a few who provided immeasurable on the gig training.
Continued studies with other notable masters helped Peck develop into a musician who can shift from a hot swinging blues to a cozy ballad - on tenor saxophone and equally on trumpet.
He lists his primary instruments as trumpet, saxophone and flute and he’s also in demand for valve trombone, clarinet and bass clarinet. In 1993, a year prior to this concert, Peck made the move to Brooklyn, New York and with his multiple skills established himself as a band leader, composer and highly sought-after sideman.
Making his return to the Bay Area for this 1994 summer gig at Yoshi’s Nitespot in Oakland, Peck was accompanied by a few of his friends and mentors including bassist John Wiitala, drummer Bud Spangler and pianist Ed Kelly. The trio formed a rhythm section that felt like they shared plenty of time together, and although Wiitala and Spangler had teamed up to form a robust foundation in the Jessica Williams Trio a few years before, this performance marked their first and possibly only time with Kelly on piano.
Bassist John Wiitala was a member of Peck’s regular working band for years and has played and/or recorded with many prominent musicians including Joe Henderson, Arturo Sandoval, James Moody and Jessica Williams just to name a few. On this night he shines brightly with a beautiful and lighthearted solo on LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE, while he also collaborates with Spangler’s drumming to provide the guiding pulse throughout the set.
Bud Spangler, an extremely spirited drummer, made his mark first in Detroit, Michigan as a radio personality and also as a music producer and musician for such labels as Strata Records and Tribe Records. After moving to the Bay Area Bud continued his radio career at KJAZ and later KCSM radio as an on air dj, and served as producer and engineer of the weekly show See’s Sunday Nights (later, Sunday Night Sweets) which spotlighted live performances from various performance spots around the Bay Area. He would also further his producing career on several notable and grammy-nominated recordings featuring Shirley Horn, Denise Perrier, Mimi Fox, Ed Reed, Mary Stallings, Kitty Margolis and Cedar Walton amongst the many, and he would also co-lead the popular Tom Peron/Bud Spangler Quartet.
Peck describes Bud’s playing as “fiery, swinging and responsive” and that’s on full display on SOFTLY AS IN A MORNING SUNRISE as puts the song in motion with an opening solo that propels the band into hyperdrive. While conducting the tempo, Bud also lays out a rhythmic canvas for each soloist to boldly create on, leading up to his own venturesome solo.
Heralded musician and educator Ed Kelly was a highly respected staple of the Bay Area music scene for years. An amazing and all encompassing pianist/organist who would seamlessly flow from Blues, Gospel and spirituals to Bop, Swing and the many branches of the “Jazz” tree. With a career that included recording and/or performing with Pharoah Sanders, Bobby Hutcherson, John Handy and others, he could have easily achieved wider acclaim if he’d followed the path of the many who’d moved to New York. Instead Mr. Kelly opted to stay in Oakland to educate and nurture the many musicians who’d come up after him.
Of Kelly’s involvement Peck states “I have to say how important Ed Kelly was to me as a mentor. He of course is one of the giants of Bay Area jazz, true royalty, and I had been listening to him intently since high school. When he began hiring me a lot around 1987 I felt unready to play with him! But he was patient. Playing with him, and just hearing him each of those nights was a masterclass for me.” He continues, “This gig in ‘94 was one of the few chances I had to hire him and show him some love and gratitude.”
Ed’s amazing presence is felt throughout the entire performance whether he’s providing tastefully melodic accompaniment or a masterful solo such as the unaccompanied moment of beauty on LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE. An occurrence that took place a week before the gig inspired Peck to ask Ed if he’d like the spotlight to himself during the show. As he explains “The two solo piano tracks on the CD happened like this: the week before, Ed & I had been teaching together at the wonderful Jazz Camp West. He had been mesmerizing everyone with his beautiful “solo send-offs” at the end of the faculty concerts each night. What a lovely way to end a night of music! A few days after Camp, when I asked him at Yoshi’s if he’d care to do a solo send-off to end each set that night, he smiled and said yes. The beautiful, serene versions of MOMENT’S NOTICE and ALL BLUES are the result - they’ve always had a special place in my heart.”
Saxophonist Kenny Brooks was a member of Peck’s group of the early 90’s and their cohesion is displayed when the group expands to a quintet with his guest appearance on SOFTLY AS IN A MORNING SUNRISE. Providing a blazing tenor solo that’s complemented by the soaring trumpet of Peck, Brooks sounds energized reuniting with his former bandmate.
The night’s performance begins with a very earthy tenor saxophone solo featuring Peck Allmond with the post-bop favorite TENOR MADNESS. Throughout the night Peck’s tenor playing is highlighted by clever and engaging solos, and generous accommodation.
Peck also reveals himself to be a gifted and sensitive soloist on trumpet on I’M CONFESSIN’ (THAT I LOVE YOU), which begins with his tender saxophone solo. Following a beautiful piano solo from Ed Kelly, he switches to trumpet for a lyrical solo acknowledging his affection.