Jimmy McGriff - Honey

Jimmy McGriff Honey (Solid State 1968)

You can pick your favorite soul tune from Jimmy McGriff’s 1968 Honey album and dance, dance, dance.

Jimmy McGriff - Honey

Personnel

Jimmy McGriff (organ), Uncredited ‘Organ & Big Blues Band’

Recorded

in 1968 in New York City

Released

as SS-18036 in 1968

Track listing

Side A:
(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You’ve Been Gone
Respect
Chain Of Fools
We’re A Winner
Up, Up And Away
Side B:
Tell Mama
Honey
I Thank You
I Got The Feelin’
Baby, I Love You
(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay


It’s a blatantly commercial album by McGriff, who was quite popular ever since the organist from Philadelphia scored a hit on Sue Records in 1962 with Ray Charles’ I Got A Woman. Switching to Solid State in 1966, McGriff’s version of Cherry did very well on the charts. Producer Sonny Lester must’ve dreamt of making McGriff just as famous as his mentor and friend, Jimmy Smith, who was the most popular soul jazz artist of the era, more so after he switched from Blue Note to Verve, under the guidance of Creed Taylor. Sonny Lester used McGriff in a variety of settings, from blues, pop to big band, some more successful than others. Essentially, Honey presents a rather arbitrary choice of popular soul tunes. Just put ‘m all on one album, see which one picks up any airplay.

But. Big but. Although it would’ve been nice if McGriff had recorded more often in a modern jazz setting in the sixties, (McGriff’s albums on Milestone in the 80s and 90s are more jazz-oriented) McGriff’s clever voicing and modern approach have not altogether vanished from his chart-running songbook. Besides, McGriff is a blues master that rarely disappoints in the kind of setting Honey represents. He is, after all, a groove monster without peer!

The album is a mix of uptempo classics like Respect, Chain Of Fools, I Thank You, medium-tempo tunes as (Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay, James Brown’s funky I Got The Feelin’ and the odd pop tune, Jimmy Webb’s Up, Up And Away. Throughout, McGriff’s charming mix of screamin’ blues riffs and dazzling little bop lines keeps the listener on his toes. His timing is hip, floating around the beat. The band is seriously rocking, backing McGriff as if Otis, King Solomon or the Wicked Pickett is holding the mic. The sax player has no inkling to play ‘safe’ soul licks but instead – a pleasant surprise – injects cookers like Honey with tantalizing modern-jazzy phrases on what sounds like the electric Varitone saxophone. The group is uncredited. It might be saxophonist Fats Theus, who played on McGriff’s The Worm in 1968 as well.

Honey paid the bills. In later life, McGriff kept gigging steadily, making a living on the road. A while ago, the late flutist, saxophone player and educator Peter Guidi recounted his stint as a sideman with McGriff to Flophouse, describing the traveling organist’s classy van as a bonafide ‘mobile bordello, laced with red velvet’. It also carried the Hammond B3 and indispensable Leslie speaker. Guidi remembered the day McGriff offered him a gig, but Guidi, who almost once got killed carrying a B3 down the stairs of a club, said: “I love your work and I want the job. As long as I don’t have to carry the damn thing!” McGriff laughed. Guidi got the gig anyway.

It is a blessing that, in spite of the machine’s awkward shape and elephantine weight, there have been so many fine organists. Jimmy McGriff definitely was one of the leaders of the pack.

The full album is on YouTube. Listen here.

Scone Cash Players As The Screw Turns (Flamingo Time 2019)

NEW RELEASE – SCONE CASH PLAYERS

Organist Adam Scone guarantees hot, dynamic and hi-level funk and soul jazz.

Scone Cash Players - As The Screw Turns

Personnel

Adam Scone (organ), Dave Guy (trumpet), Ian Hendrickson-Smith (tenor saxophone), Alex Chakour (guitar), Caito Sanchez (drums), Naomi Shelton (vocals #3), Jason Joshua (vocals #2, 5 & 6), John Dokes (vocals #7)

Recorded

in 2015 at Galaxy Smith Studio, New York City

Released

as Flamingo Time 105 in 2019

Track listing

As The Screw Turns
Bokum Hi
My House Is Small (But I Dream Big)
Dr. Red Teeth
The Opportunist
Canned Champagne
They Say It’s Christmas Time
Smoke And Nails
Brass Tacks
The Crown Divide


Adam Scone came up in the late 90s and has been much in demand since. He played with Lou Donaldson, George Braith, Ben Dixon, Melvin Sparks, Lee Fields, Charles Bradley and Naomi Shelton. A specialist of gritty organ grooves, Scone assisted the front-running funk jazz outfit Sugerman Three as well as Hot Pants, The Macktet and J.J. Grey & Mofro.

Scone released five albums, partly under the monicker Scone Cash Players. His latest offering (also on wax) involves a sly funk groove with myriad treats: fantastic vocal cameos by singers Naomi Shelton, Jason Joshua and John Dokes, meaty and sharp arrangements and, foremost, the no-holds-barred organ playing of Adam Scone, who possesses the trance-inducing storytelling ability that we’ve come to appreciate so much in masters like Lonnie Smith and the late Charles Earland. Furthermore, Scone tastefully carries a song with different tonal directions and various degrees of tension and release.

Care to produce a neo-blaxploitation flic? Here’s your soundtrack. That’s an obvious reference. But to be sure, the calibre of musicianship on the best of the classic blaxploit albums couldn’t be overestimated. Bokum Hi, featuring the raw gutbucket voice of Jason Joshua, is the heaviest of the album’s JB’s-type grooves. They Say It’s Christmas Time may be out of season but John Dokes delivers it with zest and sophistication, the lyrics about Brooklyn are in sync with the album’s New York City vibe. Scone vehemently stamps his layered, percussive mark on the boogaloo-ish Brass Tacks. The Q&A between Scone and saxophonist Ian Hendrickson-Smith during the show stopping ballad The Crown Divide is deft and charming.

Then there’s the deep soul of My House Is Small (But I Dream Big), a melancholy song of hard-won hope and togetherness, with the brittle and sagacious voice of Naomi Shelton drifting through the cracks of the back room. If the song is a carriage, the organ of Adam Scone is the horse pulling it to its destination. On the dirty side of the street.

Scone Cash Players

Find As The Screw Turns here.

Check out Scone Cash Players featuring Naomi Shelton with My House Is Small (But I Dream Big) on YouTube here.

Sal Nistico

SPOTLIGHT ON SAL NISTICO –

In the early sixties the line-up of The Herd, Woody Herman’s big band that had spawned such groundbreaking editions as the First Herd with Bill Harris, Pete Candoli and Flip Philips and The Second Herd with the famous Four Brothers section of Zoot Sims, Herbie Steward, Serge Chaloff and Stan Getz, was one of the most exciting to date. It included trumpeter Bill Chase, trombonist Phil Wilson and drummer Jake Hanna. As well as a thickset fellow from Italian ancestry who regularly jumped off the blocks to deliver a hot explosive story. That was Sal Nistico.

See some of Nistico’s lively playing on The Herd’s rendition of Horace Silver’s Sister Sadie on YouTube here.

Nistico was an outstanding straightforward tenor saxophonist who was born in Syracuse, New York on April 2, 1941. He played in the Jazz Brothers band of Chuck and Gap Mangione from 1959 to 1961 and came into prominence in the big band of Woody Herman. He was part of The Herd from 1962 to 1965 and would have regular stints with the bandleader throughout his career. Nistico also played and recorded with Count Basie, Buddy Rich, Curtis Fuller, Dusko Goykovich, Stan Tracey and Chet Baker, spending a big part of his career in Europe.

Fiery in the big band context, Nistico had no shortage of fire as a leader of small group dates, yet leaned towards a more balanced, bop-oriented approach, most likely the environment he enjoyed most. With his strong tone, fluency and slightly-behind-the-beat timing, Nistico fronted straight ahead groups on records with Nat Adderley, Barry Harris, Benny Bailey, Roy Haynes, Frank Strazzeri and Hod ‘O Brien.

From left to right: Heavyweights, Jazzland 1962; Neo/Nistico, Beehive 1978; Hod ‘O Brien & Sal Nistico, Live In The Netherlands, Porgy & Bess, Terneuzen 1986, HodStef Music 2017

Nistico sheds a light on his approach and feelings about modern jazz in a conversation with English saxophonist Tubby Hayes that was published in Cresendo Magazine’s Anglo-American Exchange in 1966 by Les Tompkins. See here.

Tubby Hayes: “there seem to be a lot of younger musicians here (in New York, FM) who are trying to be different for the sake of being different, without actually knowing the roots.”

Sal Nistico: “It’s like — I talked to Coltrane. He used to dig Arnette Cobb, Illinois Jacquet. Those guys have a firm foundation for what they’re doing. A lot of cats put down bebop, and they say it’s old and it’s dated, but that music’s not easy — it’s a challenge to play.”

Nistico was married to singer Rachel Gould. One of five children, their daughter Miriam – theatre maker and musician – shares memories of her background and artistic goals here.

She says: “Sal (…) looked like a gladiator, with a stocky Southern Italian physique, thick curly black hair and a crumpled forehead. People judge books by their covers and most people assumed that Sal was a man with a thick skin, a tough guy. In fact, as is so often the case, he was incredibly sensitive. He had a child’s hatred of cruelty and injustice (…) and he struggled with the machismo and bravado of men on tour.”

Sal Nistico passed away on March 3, 1991 in Bern, Switzerland.

New West Quartet - East & West

New West Quartet East & West (Fresh Sound New Talent)

NEW RELEASE – NEW WEST QUARTET

Quirky rhythm is the business of the New West Quartet.

New West Quartet - East & West

Personnel

John Gunther (tenor saxophone), Ricardo Pinheiro (guitar), Mike del Ferro (piano on 1, 3, 5, 7 & 8), Massimo Cavalli (bass), Bruno Pedroso (drums)

Recorded

on June 8, 2017 at Estúdio Vale de Lobos in Lisbon, Portugal

Released

as FSNT 576 in 2019

Track listing

Bye-Ya
The New West
Pó Dos Dias
Boulder Blues
Don’t Forget Ornette
Moment’s Notice
Que Falta
Poka Blues


The New West Quartet consists of tenor saxophonist John Gunther, guitarist Ricardo Pinheiro, bassist Massimo Cavalli and drummer Bruno Pedroso, featuring pianist Mike del Ferro on a number of tracks. Pinheiro and Pedroso are from Portugal, Cavalli from Italy. They met the American saxophonist and woodwind player Gunther in 2003 in Denmark and Dutchman Del Ferro in South Africa in 2014 through their work for the International Association of Schools Of Jazz. East & West is their debut album.

An unconventional but unmistakable groove runs level with impassioned musical conversations and a rapacious concern with melodic rhythm. Gunther’s The New West, for instance, is reminiscent of, just to give you an idea, John Scofield’s A Go Go, without the Hammond organ. Except Pinheiro and Gunther break out of the grease, in fact travel out there in space, two alien creatures absorbed by a lively evaluation of that peculiar animal, the earthling.

Four fellows (indeed five, counting Del Ferro) speak both individually and as a unit. The group’s edgy interpretations of the blues – Cavalli’s Boulder Blues and Pinheiro’s Poka Blues – leave plenty of room for the lyrical Cavalli, who evidently, and to our great pleasure, highly esteems the value of the upright bass not only as a time-keeper but also as an independent voice. Simultaneous improvisation pops up here and there and is at the core of Cavalli’s Don’t Forget Ornette, obviously a reference to the late Mr. Coleman. The bassist’s humorous quote of Deep Purple’s Smoke On The Water is at the tail end of the challenging, captivating tune of sparse harmonic movement and shifting tempo. Pinheiro’s Pó Dos Dias and Gunther’s Que Falta are sensuous slow and medium-slow songs, dripping with hot Mediterranean sunlight and humid nights, the web of twisty alleys barely noticeable through the fog… Enjoyable side dishes to the grand improvisational boeuf of East & West.

The melody of John Coltrane’s Moment’s Notice is a funky kind of polka, the remaining changes are taken in gritty 4/4. Gunther – on tenor saxophone – is an archeologist who patiently looks for ancient clues in a cave. He develops a story with measured grace, injecting a husky bended note here, a vivid U-turn there. Gunther’s got a lithe tone and a fluidity reminiscent of Clifford Jordan. Del Ferro expresses similar elasticity. Thelonious Monk’s Bye-Ya has been more of less cha cha cha-fied. Pinheiro works around the beat with much aplomb. He has found a fascinating balance between angular phrasing, sinuous, exotic lines and crunchy, repetitive licks.

Weirdly, The New West Quartet wouldn’t be out of place in a little bar in Havana, Cuba or Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Without a doubt, the rowdy and thoroughly entertained crowd would intuitively grasp the group’s excellent and refreshing re-evaluation of mainstream jazz.

New West Quartet

Find East & West on Fresh Sound Records here.

Wayne Shorter - Night Dreamer

Wayne Shorter Night Dreamer (Blue Note 1964)

After all these years, the dark-hued adventures of Wayne Shorter on Blue Note have lost nothing of their mysterious charm.

Wayne Shorter - Night Dreamer

Personnel

Wayne Shorter (tenor saxophone), Lee Morgan (trumpet), McCoy Tyner (piano), Reggie Workman (bass), Elvin Jones (drums)

Recorded

on April 29, 1964 at Rudy van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Released

as BLP 4173 in 1964

Track listing

Side A:
Night Dreamer
Oriental Folk Song
Virgo
Side B:
Black Nile
Charchoal Blues
Armageddon


Dutch bassist and jazz scholar Hans Mantel once asked Wayne Shorter if he was conscious of creating stone-cold classic albums on Blue Note in the sixties. The tenor and soprano saxophonist’s answer was: ‘What you young cats must realize is, is that we made our records to pay our rent!’

Gold coins from the Byzantine period fade into insignificance compared with the run of Blue Note platters by Wayne Shorter. The tenor and soprano saxophonist, best known by the general public for his role in the Second Great Quintet of Miles Davis and fusion group Weather Report, still going strong today as ‘the greatest living jazz composer’, started off his stretch on Blue Note as a leader with Night Dreamer in 1964. It preceded the perennial favorites and classic albums Juju and Speak No Evil.

Significantly, Shorter’s debuting run of albums on VeeJay in the late fifties and early sixties consisted almost solely of original compositions. As part of Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers from 1959-64, Shorter also contributed a slew of fresh, exciting tunes. Furthermore, the Newark, New Jersey-born saxophonist showed his prowess as an original tenor man. As the years went by in the acclaimed and propulsive Blakey outfit, Shorter’s solo’s grew more explorative and explosive. His roaring tale during the rousing modal Shorter composition Free For All is plain crazy. A raid of hand granates kicked back by Blakey in equally tempestuous fashion. Shorter carried over that vibe to Night Dreamer, drawing on the energy of another legendary drummer, Elvin Jones. He stretches his limits song-wise, presenting a set of haunting compositions that are unusually structured but nevertheless flow effortlessly like the meandering side branches of the Euphrates or Tigris.

Where to begin? Any song writer would’ve been happy to deliver the moody melodies of Oriental Folk Song and Virgo. However, the key pieces are Night Dreamer, Black Nile and Armageddon. The whole package – structure, mood, energy, interaction – is perfectly balanced, like an essential performance of a Mozart symphony, with the remarkable difference, the ultimate feat that distinguished jazz from any other music form, that the core of Night Dreamer is spontaneous improvisation.

The album features trumpeter Lee Morgan, Shorter’s frontline partner of The Jazz Messengers, bassist Reggie Workman and the powerhouse duo that was part of the epic John Coltrane Quartet, pianist McCoy Tyner and drummer Elvin Jones. Masterclass of depth and hard swing guaranteed. The pushing and pulling of the beat and wide open spaces of Elvin Jones and the extravagant and tasteful piano excursions of McCoy Tyner cannot fail to be a stimulus to original reed and brass players like Shorter and Morgan. Shorter is a dark prince lurking in the shadows, occasionally darting out of the corner, growling ominously, reciting ancient poetry, the stanzas streaming out of his mouth like wine from a bottle: enigma. Morgan is the florid touch, hard bop royalty, weaving in and out of modal spheres fluently, shooting multiple straight arrows, cocky and convincing: brilliant sleaze. He’s the uplifting opposite of Shorter, who is a demon driving away demons.

Shorter’s sound may not be as characteristic as the tone of great contemporaries or past masters but his compositions never cease to amaze. The nocturnal Night Dreamer hinges on the subtle balance of relative chordal simplicity and depth of feeling and the suave and surprising storytelling by Shorter. The relentless drive is one of many striking aspects of the modal cooker Black Nile. The long, beautiful lines of Armageddon contrast with the booming in-your-face rhythm, the furious rolls and switch of polyrhythm to explosive shuffle groove by Elvin Jones. Expressiveness is the focus of a composition with a minimum of subtly moving chords. Shorter and Morgan rise to the occasion.

The mood nocturnal, with a sense of foreboding and inner turmoil that’s crystallized in a curious state of serenity, Night Dreamer is akin to Herbie Hancock’s Empyrean Isles and Andrew Hill’s Judgement. The avant-leaning catalogue of Blue Note, that daring mid-sixties series of albums from Shorter, Hancock, Hill, McLean and Hutcherson that require repeated listening. Label boss Alfred Lion gave his roster of adventurous talents free reign, very insightful from the legendary independent record executive. To boot, Lion even paid for rehearsal time. And so, in a way, for the rent of the Shorter family’s apartment somewhere deep in the bowels of The Big Apple.

Harold Land - Jazz Impressions Of Folk Music

Harold Land Jazz Impressions Of Folk Music (Imperial 1963)

Get acquinted with Jazz Impressions Of Folk Music, the underappreciated gem in the discography of tenor saxophonist Harold Land.

Harold Land - Jazz Impressions Of Folk Music

Personnel

Harold Land (tenor saxophone), Carmell Jones (trumpet), John Houston (piano), Jimmy Bond (bass), Mel Lee (drums)

Recorded

on July 3 & 17 at Radio Recorders, Los Angeles

Released

as Imperial 12247 in 1963

Track listing

Side A:
Tom Dooley
Scarlet Ribbons
Foggy, Foggy Dew
Kisses Sweeter Than Wine
Side B:
On Top Of Old Smokey
Take This Hammer
Hava Nagila
Blue Tail Fly


We love Harold Land, one of the finest tenor saxophonists of his generation, who fills the void between Rollins and Mobley. He employs a hard but clean tone and is rarely short on ideas. His fluent playing makes it feel as if the changes do not exist. Taste written all over Mr. Land, who loves chili pepper, goes easy on salt. Land came into his own just before Charlie Parker passed away early in 1955, the era of the burgeoning hard bop style, when the tenorist from Houston, Texas was part of the Clifford Brown/Max Roach Quintet, partaking in the making of the group’s essential albums. His stint with the challenging, popular outfit sealed Land’s reputation as a major voice on the tenor saxophone.

Land spent a large part of his career on the West Coast, where he recorded the eponymous The Fox with trumpeter Dupree Bolton and pianist Elmo Hope. He enjoyed a fruitful cooperation with vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson on a string of Blue Note albums in the late 60s and early 70s. A number of albums by Land, who passed away in 2001, are popular items, particularly West Coast Blues – with guitarist Wes Montgomery – and The Peacemaker.

Jazz Impressions Of Folk Music owns its rightful place in that category. Folk music? Sure, why not. The folk boom was at its height in the mid-sixties, Pete Seeger a working class hero, Seeger’s former copycat Bob Dylan was making a big name for himself, folkies flocked the streets of Greenwich Village. Jazz jumped on the bandwagon. Even big names like Duke Ellington did Blowin’ In The Wind. The great Bud Shank dug in too, on his Folk Flute album, a forgettable commercial affair, by the way. But jazz interpretations of folk tunes weren’t always specifically designed to try to cash in. Sonny Rollins famously posed as an old cowhand and recorded Way Out West in 1957, one of the prime examples of the transformative potential of jazz. A couple of albums that were released during the era of Land’s album were Art Farmer’s To Sweden With Love, Clifford Jordan’s Plays Leadbelly and Shelly Manne’s My Son The Drummer, a set of Jewish and Hebrew songs. Good company.

Land chose a bit of everything, sneaking into the skin of cowboy, Hebrew cat and John Henry. The repertoire consists of Tom Dooley, Scarlet Ribbons, Foggy, Foggy Dew, Kisses Sweeter Than Wine, On Top Of Old Smokey, Take This Hammer, Hava Nagila and Blue Tail Fly. It’s consistently excellent. The frontline sparkles with warm unison melodies and spontaneous ad-libs. The underrated Carmell Jones, a trumpeter with a shiny full tone, delicately using slurs and bends, rides on the waves of a solid rhythm trio, that moves with ease and urgent swing and responds merrily to Land and Jones, who secretly pass canned heat to one another in a smoke-filled corner of the saloon. Pianist John Houston adds a number of nimble, lively lines.

The story of Land’s Tom Dooley is a rare thing of beauty. The warmth and fluidity of Land’s playing not only pervades that opening tune, but the entire program of his sincere jazz folk album.

Jazz Impressions Of Folk Music is unfortunately not released on CD or streamed as yet, but it is part of The Mosaic Select set of Carmell Jones. Find (here).

Listen to Kisses Sweeter Than Wine on YouTube (here).

Winetone

Radio Ga Ga. For the generation of post-war jazz fans, radio was the predominant means of discovering jazz artists, besides the odd purchase of a record or dive into the collection of a parent or relative.

Few radio shows were as enchanting as The Voice Of America’s Jazz Hour, hosted by Willis Conover. It wasn’t strictly on air in the United States. The waves went as far as Western Europe, where music lovers added the show to their favorite diet, that also included shows of the legendary Radio Luxembourg station.

No one who recounts the enjoyment of the show leaves out the recollection of Conover’s stately delivery. His warm baritone voice would, for instance, introduce Freddie Freeloader from Kind Of Blue . The speed of the voice slow as a turtle walk: “On trumpet, Miles Davis, on tenor saxophone, John Coltrane, on alto saxophone, Cannonball Adderley, on piano… Winetone Kelly.

(From left to right: Wynton Kelly; Willis Conover; The Cannonball Adderley Quintet, Plus)

You can see the smile on Kelly’s face. Ergo the title of one of Kelly’s tunes: Winetone. (here) It’s a medium-tempo blues tune that appeared on The Cannonball Adderley Quintet’s Plus album from 1961. That’s plus Wynton Kelly. Well, Winetone.