Roosevelt Wardell Trio - The Revelation

Roosevelt Wardell Trio The Revelation (Riverside 1960)

It really comes close to a revelation, the obscure Roosevelt Wardell’s only album as a leader, The Revelation. The work of a very original pianist which has been neglected for much too long.

Roosevelt Wardell Trio - The Revelation


Roosevelt Wardell (piano), Sam Jones (bass), Louis Hayes (drums)


on October 5, 1960 at United Recording Studios, Los Angeles


as RLP 350 in 1960

Track listing

Side A:
Like Someone In Love
Autumn In New York
Max The Maximum
Side B:
Elijah Is Here
Willow Weep For Me
The Revelation

The mystery remains. Info on the net close to nada. With the liner notes from Chris Albertson to go on, the following story is revealed: While Baltimore-born Roosevelt Wardell (1933 –1999) was playing jazz piano from an early age, he initially pursued a career as an r&b pianist and singer, accompanying others as well as recording a couple of singles as a leader. Wardell spent the first part of the fifties in the Army. As early as 1953, alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderley, while in the Army at Fort Knox, saw him play in Louisville, Kentucky, and occasionally thereafter. Said Cannonball: “He was more than adequate even then (…) and I sympathized with him as I did with all those who were basically jazzmen but were forced to play that way to make a living.” Cannonball got Wardell a place in the Army Band. Once out of service in 1955, Wardell subsequently played with Bull Moose Jackson, Max Roach and Joe Turner in 1957 and occasionally sat in with Cannonball’s group.

In 1960, Wardell played with Dexter Gordon in the on-stage band of the (in-)famous play The Connection. The Cannonball Adderley Quintet was in L.A. as well. (the Wardell date of October 5 preceded the quintet’s At The Lighthouse gig and album recording session of October 16) Adderley, who by then was not only recording artist but also A&R man for Orrin Keepnews and Bill Grauer’s Riverside label, responsible for a series of ‘Cannonball Adderley Presentation’-albums, seized the opportunity to record Roosevelt Wardell at United Recording Studio, engineered by Wally Heider. For the occasion, Roosevelt Wardell picked Cannonball’s tight-knit rhythm section of bassist Sam Jones and drummer Louis Hayes, a now legendary team that proved perfectly suitable for this job of blues-infested bop.

Mr. Wardell’s not the type of kid that lurks in the background. No fly on the wall. More like a stinging bee. Quite the attack! Like one of his greatest influences, Bud Powell, his touch is relentless. While the keys threaten to jump off the balcony, he continues to bring clarity of line, dashing off one dazzling run after the other. The pianist’s not to be overshadowed by the rumble of the crowd at the bar and loves to entertain as well, following up jolly tremolos with mean, stuttering blues riffs. Perhaps a residu from his chitlin’ circuit days. Yet, for all his swagger, Wardell’s modern jazz conception is a textbook example of intelligence and finesse.

Reminiscent of the diverse lot of Bud Powell, Carl Perkins, Ray Bryant, perhaps influenced by the orchestral brilliance of Art Tatum, Wardell nonetheless resides in a universe totally his own. While the pianist’s tasteful, muscular takes on a ballad – the Vernon Duke tune Autumn In New York – and a blues – Willow Weep For Me – satisfy the customer, the bop-inflected tunes are most arresting. The romantic opening cadenzas of Like Someone In Love are followed by a whirlwind of phrases that together comprise a staggering wall of sound, accompanied by meaty, stride-like bass lines. Cherokee’s percussive, chant-like beginning by the trio is very cool, the speedy, powerful story of Wardell leaves nothing to be desired. The Revelation, a tune written by his childhood friend Yusef Salim, is fast-paced badaaas bop.

Roosevelt Wardell wrote some nifty, blues and gospel-drenched tunes, based on familiar changes. Three were featured on The Revelation. Max The Maximum’s a funky little tune, a fast-paced chord progression interspersed with a tacky stop-time section. The notes that Wardell plays in the loping, mid-tempo Elijah Is Here tumble over one another like chipmunks over a little heap of chestnuts. Roosevelt Wardell could be likened to the original cats of modern literature, those singular personalities and stylists like Frederick Exley or Maarten Biesheuvel, whose deceptively messy, long and winding paragraphs always somehow land on their feet. Looks easy, isn’t. Wardell’s tale of Lazarus is high drama, a Speedy Gonzalez-exercise of I Got Rhythm-changes, the total sum of his solo seemingly consisting of one long, furious line. A kind of invention of a new genre perhaps best labeled as BEBOP ROCK.

The comments of Roosevelt Wardell comprise the anti-thesis of drama. About the session, the pianist level-headedly remarked: “Nice, very nice.” Too bad that Wardell disappeared into obscurity soon after and The Revelation remained the only album release the characteristic pianist commented on.

(The album is on Spotify on a twofer including Evans Bradshaw, scroll down for Roosevelt Wardell)

The Jimmy Heath Orchestra - Really Big!

The Jimmy Heath Orchestra Really Big! (Riverside 1960)

‘Little Bird’ was a nickname that soon wore off as Jimmy Heath developed into a saxophonist, composer and arranger with a singular style. By 1960, Heath had recorded his second album for Riverside, the bright and muscular Really Big!, including, yes, Clark Terry, yes, Cannonball Adderley and, yes, Tommy Flanagan.

The Jimmy Heath Orchestra - Really Big!


Jimmy Heath (tenor saxophone), Clark Terry (flugelhorn, trumpet), Nat Adderley (trumpet), Cannonball Adderley (alto saxophone), Pat Patrick (baritone saxophone), Tom McIntosh (trombone), Dick Berg (French horn), Tommy Flanagan (piano), Cedar Walton (piano), Percy Heath (bass), Albert Heath (drums)


on June 24 & 28, 1960 in NYC


as RLP 333 in 1960

Track listing

Side A:
Big P.
Old Fashioned Fun
Mona’s Mood
Dat Dere
Side B:
On Green Dolphin Street
My Ideal
Picture Of Heath

Awhile ago I was observing pianist Barry Harris, 87, who sat listening to drummer Eric Ineke and colleagues play in a cozy club in The Hague, The Netherlands. I realised that I wasn’t only looking at Barry Harris, but also at Charlie Parker, Dexter Gordon, Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk. A giant among GIANTS. The same applies for Jimmy Heath, 90, who titled his memoirs I Walked With Giants and, lest we forget, recorded with Harris on a number of occasions, notably on Carmell Jones’ Jay Hawk Talk (Prestige 1965) and Jimmy Heath’s Picture Of Heath (Xanadu 1975).

Heath has been active since the late forties, when he led his first big band, which included fellow Philadelphians John Coltrane, Benny Golson, Ray Bryant, Cal Massey and Johnny Coles. Subsequently, he joined Dizzy Gillespie’s Orchestra and worked briefly with Miles Davis after Coltrane’s departure from the trumpeter’s quintet. During an impressive career, Heath worked extensively with Milt Jackson, Art Farmer and his illustrious brothers Percy and Albert in the sixties. He worked to a greater extent with them from the late seventies as the exciting recording and working band The Heath Brothers. To his composer’s credit, C.T.A., Gingerbread Boy and Gemini have become standards. The number of features is lengthy. Titles as J.J. Johnson’s The Eminent J.J. Johnson Vol. 1, Miles Davis’ Miles Davis Vol. 2, Nat Adderley’s That’s Right!, Freddie Hubbard’s Hub Cap, Red Garland’s The Quota and Albert “Tootie” Heath’s Kwanza serve as a reminder of the continous high level Jimmy Heath was operating on. Hammond B3 geek info: Heath also appeared on Charles Earland’s Black Drops and Don Patterson’s masterpiece These Are Soulful Days.

Fortunately, quite a few of Heath’s generation are still alive, not only playing but teaching as well. Like Barry Harris, Charles Persip, Harold Mabern and Julian Priester, Jimmy Heath is a teacher. He’s a conductor as well. Heath conducted the renowned German WDR Orchestra a year and a half ago. Reportedly, his methods revealed the sensitivity of an elder statesman for which notation is important but a secondary aspect. For Heath, the motion of rhythm and melody is paramount. He’s funny and points the way with charmingly oblique remarks. Rest assured the band will swing. Truly irreplacable jewels of jazz, these old-school musicians who were close to The Source of Bird and Coltrane and pushed some fat envelopes themselves.

56 years before the event of the WDR appearance, Heath led a band for his Really Big! Riverside date consisting of trumpeters Clark Terry and Nat Adderley, alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderley, baritone saxophonist Pat Patrick, trombonist Tom McIntosh, French horn player Dick Berg, either Tommy Flanagan or Cedar Walton on piano, bassist Percy Heath and drummer Albert “Tootie” Heath. In a thoroughly blasting sound scape, brass and reed do an ongoing paso doble. The sophisticated use of the French horn in the ballad Mona’s Mood and the Bobby Timmons gem Dat Dere is an extra treat. Trumpeter Clark Terry’s another treat, supplying hi-level fun. He soars joyfully and fluently through the changes, demonstrating that his playing in the high-register is nonpareil. Cannonball’s got short spots, yet is his uplifting self and chimes in with some meaty little stories.

Highlights include the band’s mellow but driving take on Dat Dere, the way Clark Terry nails the buoyant theme bookended by swinging 4/4 sections of Nails, Tommy Flanagan’s sizzling bopology (quoting Now’s The Time/The Hucklebuck) of Picture Of Heath and the leader’s gentle but probing reading of My Ideal and driving uptempo tale of Old Fashioned Fun. Much like early Coltrane, Heath favors a multi-note approach. Soaring bop figures segue into wails and flow back to wonderfully constructed lines. Pretty hypnotic. Like Benny Golson, Heath’s ambidexterity is imposing, the blowing deparment equally impressive as his talent for arranging and composing. Really Big’s a superb case in point.

Grant Green, Grantstand

Grant Green Grantstand (Blue Note 1961)

Grantstand ranks among guitarist Grant Green’s finest dates. A gathering of aroused spirits in Rudy van Gelder’s famed Englewood Cliffs studio.

Grant Green, Grantstand


Grant Green (guitar), Yusef Lateef (tenor saxophone A1, B1, B2, flute A2), Brother Jack McDuff (organ), Ben Tucker (bass), Al Harewood (drums)


on August 1, 1961 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey


as BLP 4086 in 1962

Track listing

Side A:
My Funny Valentine
Side B:
Blues In Maude’s Flat
Old Folks

Green, the most prolific Blue Note artist of the early and mid-sixties, was just shy of his second year as a new guitar man on the NYC block. He was in great company. Tenor saxophonist and multi-horn player Yusef Lateef would join Cannonball Adderley’s group in late december of 1961, staying till 1964. Green is further assisted by organist Brother Jack McDuff, the second time they cooperated, the first being McDuff’s The Honeydripper, recorded half a year earlier on February 1 on Prestige. Drummer Al Harewood was regularly featured on straightforward Blue Note recordings, notably as a member of the in-house trio Us Three which further consisted of pianist Horace Parlan and bassist George Tucker.

Good vibrations. Sparkling shreds of fire shooting upwards, curling around the beams of the RVG Studio’s high-domed, temple-like ceiling. A set of smokin’ blues tunes alternated with a melancholy ballad and a sprightly standard. Wrap it in shiny paper, lace it up and send it to your closest jazz pal with best wishes. Grantstand, the title track, bubbles, sizzles like a copious amount of ribs on a Saturday night BBQ. Hungry men. They tackle the uptempo, catchy blues riff like wolves jumping the lamb. The band catapults Green into action and stimulates the blues-drenched, former St. Louis citizen to fire off razor-sharp lines, adding slightly slurred, repeated phrases for dramatic effect. Green provides crunchy chords and plucky bass lines behind Yusef Lateef, who excels with a relaxed, down-home and layered tale, the chapters are recited without hurry, slowly but surely gathering momentum.

And the sound of these guys! Green: sustained, shimmering, fluid gold. Lateef: resonant, full-bodied, grandaddy-puffs-on-a-cigar-sound. McDuff chimes in with the roar of the minister, spitting a sermon into the faces of the flabbergasted flock. Intriguingly, McDuff succeeds to marry the gospel with the spirit of pure-bred rock&roll.

A bouncy version of Old Folks and a classy take on My Funny Valentine add variety to Green’s repertory, while Blues For Maude’s Flat continues the dip into bluesland. After hours vibes. The juices are flowing, the bottle of moonshine’s nearly empty. It could very well be that Green, Lateef, and McDuff arrived in New Jersey fresh from a gig in one of those dingy clubs the giants of jazz made their money in back then, like Chicago’s Theresa’s Lounge, Newark’s Front Room or Lennie’s On The Turnpike in Peabody, Massachussets. Blues In Maude’s Flat is a slow walk with a canny intermezzo of tension and release that serves as a springing board for the vibrant bunch of Lateef, Green and McDuff. Tenor/organ combo stuff of the grittiest and highest order, with the propulsive, already very authoritative leader on top of his game.

Sonny Clark Trio: The 1960 Time Sessions

SONNY CLARK – Great news, the independent Tompkins Square label has put out a 2LP, yes, vinyl, of Sonny Clark music. Sonny Clark Trio: The 1960 Time Sessions With George Duvivier And Max Roach is due out on November 24. It boasts several outtakes of Clark’s session at Bell Sound Studios in NYC in January, 1960, a session that would lead to the first album of compositions written solely by Clark. It preceded Blue Note’s Leapin’ And Lopin’, Clark’s swan song as a leader, also a recording that showed the fulfillment of Sonny Clark as a composer. The story of how this new release came about on Josh Rosenthal’s Tompkins Square label is surprising and has something to do with comedian Judd Apatow… Read an illuminating article on Sonny Clark and the new release by Nate Chinen of WBGO here.

Rein de Graaff 75

HURRAY – Pianist Rein de Graaff turns 75 years old today on October 24. During a career of 55 years, De Graaff has recorded more than 40 albums. Although the pianist recorded his share of outstanding avant-leaning jazz during the seventies and early eighties with the Rein de Graaff/Dick Vennik Quartet, he’s basically a champion of bebop and hardbop, playing in a style close to Barry Harris, Hampton Hawes, Horace Silver and Sonny Clark. With his Rein de Graaff Trio, the winner of the Boy Edgar Prize and Bird Award accompanied countless American legends like Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, Dexter Gordon, Sonny Stitt and Johnny Griffin. Many Dutch jazz fans fondly remember De Graaff’s Stoomcursus and Vervolgcursus Bebop from 1986 till 2012. As ‘Professor Bop’, De Graaff organized performances of American legends and unsung heroes as well as contemporary musicians all over The Netherlands, lecturing about the history of bebop and hardbop along the way. Musicians included Teddy Edwards, Lee Konitz, Al Cohn, Jimmy Raney, Charles McPherson, Houston Person, Harold Land, Clifford Jordan, Webster Young, Buck Hill, James Clay, Rene Thomas, Pete Christlieb, Eric Alexander, Vincent Herring, Jarmo Hoogendijk, Benjamin Herman and many, many others.

It’s not for nothing that the American legends and unsung heroes liked the accompaniment of Rein de Graaff. His comprehension of their language is unmatched and he adds typically fluent, sax-like phrasing, laid-back timing and responsive rhythmic variation. Besides, De Graaff is a thorough professional and organizer, which stands him in good stead during cooperations with contemporary colleagues to this day. A talent that might be explained by the fact that, for a big part of his career, De Graaff was also a businessman, running an electro ware wholesale company during the day.

De Graaff holds strong views about his beloved art form, dubbed ‘real’ jazz as opposed to ‘impro’, which may bear beautiful fruit but has nothing to do with the blues-drenched, swinging music that was created by black artists for black audiences, under dubious circumstances that somehow ring through. Circumstances De Graaff has been all too familiar with, sharing the stage of dingy NYC clubs with Hank Mobley, Lee Morgan and Elvin Jones as early as 1967 or sitting in with trumpeter Louis Smith in a rowdy all-black club in Detroit in the early eighties. In the view of the passionate torchbearer of mainstream jazz, this has become an endangered species, virtually extinct, yet the pianist remains on the look out for young lions whose playing retains a sense of the tradition and occasionally performs with the pool of talent still available in The Netherlands. Perhaps the ‘incurable romantic’, in the words of Lee Konitz, secretly hopes ‘real’ jazz will live to see the 22nd century.

Rein de Graaff: ‘Swing has become a dirty word.’ (Flophouse Magazine)

Rein de Graaff: ‘I approach the piano as if it’s a horn.’ (Jazz Journal UK)

Rein de Graaff: ‘The music I play comes from the smoke-filled clubs, where sex often was cheap, and the blues was heard…’ (Flophouse Magazine)

Rein de Graaff: ‘Oscar Peterson is the greatest pianist in the world, but he’s too bloody perfect for me. Boring.’ (Jazz Bulletin)

Rein de Graaff: ‘Evelyn Blakey asked me to open the door. My heart burst out of my chest. There was Hank Mobley. ‘Hi, I’m Hank,’ he said.’ (Flophouse Magazine)

See YouTube footage of Rein de Graaf below:

On fire with Clark Terry in 1975 also including Rogier Vanhaverbeke and Freddie Rottier here.

Boppin’ and burnin’ with his household friend, the bop poet and songwriter Babs Gonzalez in Paris in 1979 here.

Appearing on the Dutch tv show Gedane Zaken with Teddy Edwards in 1986 including Harry Emmery and Eric Ineke here.

An unforgettable performance of Charles McPherson in 1990 also including bassist Koos Serierse and drummer Eric Ineke here.

THE Dutch bop trio accompanying the great clarinet and saxophone player Eddie Daniels in Vrije Geluiden in 1995 here.

Playing Blue Bossa with David “Fathead” Newman and Houston Person in 1998 here.

Rein, Marius Beets, Eric Ineke and Grant Stewart do the wonderful ballad You Go To My Head in 2010 here.

The Rein de Graaff Trio with Gary Smulyan, John Marshall and Benjamin Herman, Charlie Parker’s Ornitology in 2017 here.

For Rein de Graaff’s interview with Flophouse Magazine, go here.

Elmo Hope, Homecoming!

Elmo Hope Homecoming! (Riverside 1961)

Coming home to a group of hi-level colleagues as featured on Elmo Hope’s first Riverside album Homecoming must’ve been a thrill. It certainly is an exciting session of the unique, tragically underrated pianist.

Elmo Hope, Homecoming!


Elmo Hope (piano), Blue Mitchell (trumpet A1, A3, B2), Jimmy Heath (tenor saxophone A1, A3, B2), Frank Foster (tenor saxophone A1, A3, B2), Percy Heath (bass), Philly Joe Jones (drums)


on June 22 & 29, 1961 at Bell Sound Studio, NYC


as RLP 381 in 1961

Track listing

Side A:
Moe Jr.
La Berthe
Eyes So Beautiful As Yours
Side B:
One Mo’ Blues
A Kiss For My Love

You are Elmo Hope. Born in New York City in 1927. Childhood pal of Bud Powell, spinning records of Johann Sebastian Bach all day long with the future giant of bebop, when soon after Thelonious Monk joins to complete the illustrious, mutually responsive threesome. As a young man, you catch a bullit from a white police officer, (sounds familiar?) in a hideous, disgraceful turn of events being trialed but ultimately released. You marry, have a son, who dies tragically young. Highly talented, working towards identical musical conclusions as Powell, Monk, Parker, yet in your own peculiar way, you miss out on the burgeoning bebop scene when Uncle Sam calls: ooh ooh ooh, you’re in the army now, from 1943 to ‘46. The following Korean War is settled half-heartedly in 1953 when you’re featured on Lou Donaldson/Clifford Brown’s New Faces New Sounds 10inch LP on Blue Note, which benefits from your excellent writing. (you’ll prove to leave a legacy of brillant compositions) You become a leader in your own right, recording the unforgettable albums Informal Jazz (Prestige 1956, with John Coltrane, Hank Mobley and Donald Byrd) and Trio And Quintet (Blue Note 1957, recordings from ’54 to ‘57) but public recognition keeps eluding you.

Then there’s the needle. Has been there all the while. Having lost your cabaret card in New York City, without which a musician is practically unemployed, you move to the West Coast. Its scene doesn’t exactly seems to meet your standards but you nonetheless record the first-class Elmo Hope Trio (HiFi 1959) and partake in a classic session with fellow expat Harold Land and trumpet enigma Dupree Bolton, the unbeatable, stunning The Fox, filled with world-class Hope tunes. It’s back to NYC in 1961, the Homecoming album is not to be sneezed at. Following albums on Riverside bear puzzling titles as High Hope (you mean, like a lot of hope or Hope’s always high or what?) and Hope-Full, a duo album with Hope’s wife Berthe. Perhaps Riverside Riverside hoped (no pun intented) that it would outsell Ella & Louis? There’s Sounds From Rikers Island on Audio Fidelity, an intriguing album including John Gilmore and Philly Joe Jones, ironically, recorded at the jail Hope did time in. You are performing regularly in NYC with, among others, John Ore and Billy Higgins. But it doesn’t seem to happen. Monk (Man, did he have to struggle against the odds) will make the cover of Time Magazine in 1964. You’ve been interviewed by Downbeat Magazine just once during the course of your career. This, somehow, inexplicably, sometimes happens…

The story of Elmo Hope, extraordinary, unique pianist, ended tellingly in 1967, age 43, in a hospital that specialised in addicts. Supposedly very unprofessionally, according to Berthe, as something went wrong and Hope died of pneumonia. Slowly but surely, the wheels of appreciation have been turning in Hope’s favor, slightly lacking behind the other ‘unknown’ piano giant, Herbie Nichols. Much too late, but slowly and surely. It is said Hope’s unpredictable style, focusing on the architecture of the composition instead of virtuosity, prevented broad public recognition. Might be. (the above-mentioned concise life story offers some possible clues) However, Monk was a puzzling personality, yet finally made the grade.

All things considered: a brilliant pianist. In Hope’s playing, an underlying sense of foreboding is almost always there. He’s a nervous type of guy but also light-footed, a bittersweet personality. His touch ruthless or tender, his timing floating like a bottle on the ocean waves, Hope’s unusually structured compositions move with a surprisingly natural flow. Homecoming finds Hope re-united with like-minded firebrands, drummer Philly Joe Jones being the ultimate burner. At the core of the session is the conversation between Philly Joe and the fellows – Jimmy Heath, Frank Foster, Blue Mitchell, Percy Heath – and Hope in particular, with four tunes consisting of the trio format. The pushing of Jones of Moe Jr.’s hi-speed changes is a treat, the way he tickles the senses of Hope with a playful torrent of rimshots – a melodic answer to Hope’s preceding questions – is the cherry on the top. Hope is close to buddy Bud here, yet as a contrast lets notes hang suspended in the air, alternating the silence with tumbling tremelos.

The trio sends the title track to the stratosphere and Philly Joe Jones drives Hope to the rail. Come on, St. Elmo, be quick, be swift, hurry home, time may await but… Hope responds, so effortlessly stretching lines over the bars, a roaring run in the upper register here, a James P. Johnson-figure with the left hand there. Yes, Philly Joe, I’m almost there… But not quite and (consciously, like Mingus, embracing shift of tempo into the bag of new means of expression?) Hope, Jones and Heath fasten the pace considerably and subsequently end with a luscious sigh. Hope takes care of the coda on his own. Peace, quietude, the road always leads…

Elmo Hope plays lines you were unlikely to come across in 1961. They pry La Berthe’s fascinating melody, which would become messy in the hands of lesser talents, running smoothly somehow via Hope’s singular route from mind to fingers. The tune asks a lot from the horn men and keeps Foster, Heath and Mitchell on their toes. A restrained use of notes by Hope benefits the melancholic Eyes So Beautiful As Yours, definitely Hope’s Crepuscule With Nellie. A somber dedication to his wife, obviously the best thing happening in Hope’s troubled life besides jazz music.

They Got Rhythm

REIN DE GRAAFF TRIO & GIDEON TAZELAAR IN CONCERT – Throughout the 50s and 60s, Haarlem in The Netherlands boasted one of the liveliest jazz scenes in the Dutch jazz landscape, churning out distinctive mainstream jazz players as Cees Smal, Harry Verbeke, Ruud Brink, Fred Leeflang, Ray and Dick Kaart. Drummer Eric Ineke, albeit a prototypical The Hague-ian hardbop cat for decades now, was born and raised in the city that gave its name to the famous cradle of jazz on the north side of Manhattan, New York. Authentic jazz gradually left the grounds of Haarlem, but now the Philharmonie strives to breathe life into the patient, organizing a series of diverse performances at the prestigious hall nearby the Grote Markt in the center of Haarlem. The monicker: Jazz At The Phil. The producer: saxophonist Yuri Honing.

The Rein de Graaff Trio plus a young lion on tenor saxophone, the 21-year old Gideon Tazelaar, kickstart the season into gear. During the season, Yuri Honing will provide short interviews on stage, but the highly acclaimed saxophonist is touring abroad so instead recorded the interview with De Graaff shortly before the event to be shown on the video screen that lights up the venue with a giant portrait of Rein de Graaff and the evening’s theme of ‘Boppin’ And Burnin’. Classy view! Unfortunately, bad sound quality prevents the audience from hearing the bulk of the interview.

No worries, pianist De Graaff, who turns 75 this month, is a seasoned master of ceremonies who introduces each tune in his own sweet, informative and level-headed way: the respectful way a jazz musician should treat its audience. De Graaff, elder European statesman of mainstream jazz who played with myriad legends like Dizzy Gillespie, Teddy Edwards, Hank Mobley, Johnny Griffin and Dexter Gordon, and his two companions, including the equally distinguished Eric Ineke, are crackerjack providers of their customary recipe of ‘bebop, ballads and blues’.

This is the way it goes: beforehand De Graaff and the other gentlemen take a quarter of an hour to pick the tunes they feel inclined to play, easy does it, since the American Songbook has been in their bones for ages, and then some. A deceptively nonchalant method that makes a night of the Rein de Graaff Trio not so much a preservation of the jazz tradition, but more a passing on to the next generation, provided it’s receptive for the challenge. Innovative? Not really, but world-class and always blues-based and swinging. Besides, as De Graaff mentions during one of the audible fragments of the interview, how are you going to develop avant-leaning playing without a secure knowledge of the roots?

It’s the details that reveal the band’s cachet. So then you notice the melodic Q&A’s of Eric Ineke with De Graaff’s long-lined, Hampton Hawes-type story of My Melancholy Baby. And Ineke’s appreciative nods in response to Tazelaar’s high register, edgy wail and quote of Coltrane’s Blue Train during Dexter Gordon’s blues tune Stanley The Steamer. You realize that tenor, bass drum and toms are like brothers and sisters, share a frequency that tonight renders the usual second horn in the classic hard bop format obsolete.

There’s bassist Marius Beets to pay attention to. The successor to Henk Haverhoek and the recently deceased Koos Serierse for almost two decades now, a groover who strives, and most of the time succeeds, to find the right notes to play, the asset that one of his heroes, Ray Brown, is so famous for. And there’s the combined, hard-swinging effort from note one during the opening tune Topsy that must be a warm bath for the young Tazelaar. De Graaff’s poised statements, spiced by risky twists and turns high up the keys, cannot leave Tazelaar unperturbed. Oh, you hear him think, it’s gonna be such a night!

Tazelaar, the outstanding, rapidly developing talent who is currently studying at Juillard in New York City, charms the audience with a full-bodied, smoky sound and an alluring, slightly-behind-the-beat timing, particularly during the quartet’s mellow but driving medium-tempo groove of I Thought About You. He’s been turning into a mature structural improviser and sets fire to Cotton Tail, eating up the I Got Rhythm-changes, unfazed, perhaps stimulated, by the fact that, in 1940, Ben Webster graced the Duke Ellington tune with a stellar, genre-defining solo. Tazelaar’s relaxed posture and sly grin are infectious.

Topsy, Cotton Tail, Embraceable You. And My Melancholy Baby, which, De Graaff remarks, was already played during the ill-fated trip of the Titanic. The Rein de Graaff Trio and Gideon Tazelaar really went way back this evening. The repertory was boppified and burned expertly.

Rein de Graaff Trio & Gideon Tazelaar

Place and date: Philharmonie, Haarlem, October 14, 2017
Line-up: Gideon Tazelaar (tenor saxophone), Rein de Graaff (piano), Marius Beets (bass), Eric Ineke (drums)
Website: Eric Ineke.
Website: Marius Beets.