If you had the misfortune as a jazz musician to come up in the early 1960s, you were likely ill-prepared to cope with the seismic shift in the music landscape as rock and soul swept away an entire generation of potential listeners.
For many newcomers, opportunities to play and record jazz withered away as many struggling labels recorded only well-known artists. One of these victims was Eddie Diehl, a beautiful guitarist with gorgeous taste who found it increasingly difficult to earn a living playing the music he loved.
On his very first recording, Diehl had the distinction of replacing guitarist Grant Green in Jack McDuff’s group on his On With It album in November 1961. The other musicians with Diehl on the date were Harold Vick (ts) Brother Jack McDuff (org) and Joe Dukes (d). Diehl went on to record in the 1960s with McDuff, Sonny Stitt, Johnny “Hammond” Smith and George Braith. But recording work was thin and by the 1970s, recording and club work was even thinner.
So Diehl—who was born in Staten Island, N.Y. and relocated to Poughkeepsie, N.Y.—became an at-home guitar repairman to supplement his gig income. Amazingly, he made just one album as a leader. Recorded for Lineage Records in 2003, the album was Well, Here It Is and featured Diehl backed by Hank Jones (p) John Webber (b) and Mickey Roker (d). It wasn’t released until 2007.
The album is extraordinary for a couple of reasons. First, that’s a monster trio behind Diehl, and listening to Hank Jones accompany anyone is a delight. Second, Diehl was a pretty guitarist with a firm sense of swing, rich chord voicings and smart melody lines. After you listen to the album, you wonder how a talent like Diehl could have been ignored for so long by record labels. My guess is Diehl operated so far below the radar and without a network of friends and business contacts that no one knew he was out there. A shame and a tragedy for jazz, since Diehl clearly could have recorded another dozen like this one. His sideman albums in the 1960s and ’70s reveal a fabulous artist. Just listen to Hank Mobley’s Thinking About Home, recorded in 1970. Sady, it wasn’t released until 1980, further complicating Diehl’s visibility.
Eddie Diehl died June 20, 2017. He was 80.
JazzWax tracks: You’ll find Eddie Diehl’s Well, Here It Is (Lineage) here.
The album also is at Spotify.
JazzWax clips: Here’s Aquarian Melody…
Here’s Diehl on Hank Mobley’s Thinking of Home album in 1970 playing Justine with Woody Shaw (tp), Hank Mobley (ts), Cedar Walton (p) Mickey Bass (b) and Leroy Williams (d). Dig Diehl’s solo!…
And here’s an interview with Diehl…
A special thanks to Doug Paterson.