DON PRESTON was born into a family of musicians in Detroit and began studying music at an early age. His father was the composer-in-residence for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.
Later Preston did a stint in the army, serving in Trieste, Italy. Upon his return to Detroit in the early '50s, Preston formed an association with pianist Tommy Flanagan, drummer Elvin Jones, and others at the city's West End Cafe jam sessions.
Don moved to Los Angeles in 1957 where he hooked up with pianist Paul Bley and bassist Charlie Haden.
Many will recognize Preston from his long collaboration with Frank Zappa as the keyboardist and one of the members of the original Mothers of Invention. Preston performed and recorded with Zappa until 1974.
He is a co-founder of the Grandmothers and still active with that band, completing an extensive tour in Summer-Fall 2000 and later tours through 2011.
He has scored more than 20 feature films and 14 plays. In addition, he has played on over 50 albums. Known to jazz and keyboard aficionados for his pioneering contributions in the use of synthesizers and keyboards, he has been dubbed the "father of modern synthesis."
Don has performed with artists such as: Frank Zappa, Lou Rawls, Al Jarreau, Nat King Cole, Billy Daniels, Johnnie Ray, Vaughn Monroe, Connie Francis, Herbie Mann, Elvin Jones, Charlie Haden, Art Davis, Paul Bley, Carla Bley, Joe Beck, Shorty Rogers, Leo Sayer, Charles Lloyd, Nelson Riddle, J.R. Monterose, Flo & Eddie (Howard Kaylan & Mark Volman of The Turtles) Yusef Lateef, Don Ellis, Meredith Monk, Bobby Bradford, Michael Mantler, John Lennon and Yoko Ono. (source: Wikipedia)
In the late 50s, I was fortunate enough to work a few "free" jazz gigs with Don in several Detroit clubs. In the summer of 1960 (I was 20), he asked me to play drums on some "straight ahead" tunes in his father's recording studio. There were no charts for drums and a simple chord chart for the bass player. We recorded four tunes and kept the first take of each. Don was in a hurry to leave— I believe he had a flight to catch. He gave me a reel-to-reel copy of the recording and indicated that it was all right to duplicate and distribute it. The tape remained boxed and in basements until a few months ago when I discovered it.
There are four tunes that I have named Tunes 1 through 4. I don't think they had titles. Don's writing and playing is innovative and imaginative. These recordings document how proficient he was at playing a jazz style closer to the more "straight ahead" style of the day. I urge you to check out his more recent projects as well.
All tunes here follow an AABA form:
Tune #1: Medium tempo:
Sound Clip #1
Tune #2: Ballad: Sound Clip #2
Tune #3: Up tempo: Sound Clip #3
Tune #4: 3/4 time: Sound Clip #4
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-- Tom Brown