Podcast: Montclair-Born Saxman Gers Yowell

Gers Yowell with his first clarinet. Source: Palm Coast Jazz Blog

Gers Yowell, an 88-year-old saxophonist and clarinetist whose New York City apartment jams wound up as a Charlie Parker LP called “Apartment Sessions,” grew up in Montclair. In a podcast just out from Palm Coast Jazz, Yowell, who now lives in Ormond Beach, talks about his humble musical beginnings — 50-cent-an-hour piano lessons that he deemed worthless, finding an old clarinet in the apartment of his uncle, a New York Philharmonic violinist, and ultimately sneaking out the window of parents’ house, at age 14, to play in black Montclair clubs with a band called the Sultans of Swing. Listen to the podcast here, look at more pictures here and tell us about your jazz faves — or your children piano lessons.

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  1. Just pulled out a Charlie Parker CD for or car ride to the pumpkin patch this weekend. My girls loved it and were be-bopping the entire ride.

  2. Charlie Parker would be high on my list as would Coltrane,Hawkins,Adderley and Stan Getz. I am partial to saxophone!

  3. “Ken Burns JAZZ Collection: Charlie Parker”

    Their favorite was “Salt Peanuts.” Imagine two cute kids snapping their fingers and singing, “Salt peanuts, salt peanuts!”

  4. Don’t know the Burns selection. If it was a live recording, it probably was from the Jazz at Massey Hall album with Dizzie Gillespie. The best! Isn’t Parker incredible–so fluent.

  5. I would like to know more about his stint with The Sultons of Swing. A band that is profiled in Barbara Kukla’s book Newark Nightlife 1925 to 1950. This band was played a lot of places back in the day. A ton of Montclair Jazz Musicians are featured in that book. It would be nice to get an interview with him to discuss his playing with that band. Also, the late William Bynum, a now deceased funeral director was believed to have played with that band back in the very late 30s to early 40s. I would love for somebody to put me in touch with him!

  6. In reference to the prior post! My name is Bruce Tyler and I am the co-founder of the Montclair Jazz Project and developer of the Montclair Jazz Archives and Jazz Month In Montclair. He can reach me through the Montclair Public Library of my facebook page or e-mail me @ alienbruce1@yahoo.com.

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