Stan Levey - Grand Stan

Stan Levey Grand Stan (Bethlehem 1957)

Stan Levey’s Grand Stan is a crackerjack example of West Coast hard bop.

Stan Levey - Grand Stan


Stan Levey (drums), Conte Candoli (trumpet), Richie Kamuca (tenor saxophone), Frank Rosolino (trombone), Leroy Vinegar (bass)


in November 1956 in Los Angeles, California


as Bethlehem 71 in 1957

Track listing

Side A:
Angel Cake
Why Do I Love You
Grand Stan
Side B:
Hit That Thing
Blues At Sunrise
A Gal In Calico
Tiny’s Tune

Steam came out of Gerry Mulligan’s ears. It took a couple of years to evaporate. On account of his popular piano-less quartet with Chet Baker, the baritone saxophonist became synonymous with West Coast Jazz. But, assuming that West Coast Jazz was, opposed to the edgy and hot East Coast Jazz, polished, arranged and cool, it dealt Mulligan, regardless of his contributions to ‘cool’ music, very short. To say that West Coast was white and East Coast black isn’t entirely accurate. To say that it is laid-back and relaxed as a result of the sunny climate, as Shelly Manne suggested, is open for debate. Ever heard that argument in a discussion of West and East Coast rap music in the 90’s? Momentarily, who knows, until that fateful day everybody killed everybody in a battle royale.

Music that relied heavily on arrangement and composition instead of individual expression may have been predominant, largely created by musicians that came from the bands of Claude Thornhill, Woody Herman and Stan Kenton and mostly on Capitol, Contemporary and Pacific. But the Brooklyn-born, extraordinary drummer and club owner Shelly Manne is responsible for one of the greatest series of live hard bop recordings – Live At The Blackhawk Vol. 1-5 – in jazz. Les McCann released his gospel truths on Pacific Jazz. Shorty Rogers was in fact a smokin’ trumpeter, Bud Shank turned out to be a gritty saxophone player in his later years. L.A.’s Central Avenue was a hotbed of bebop in the late 40’s and of great influence on the next generation. The City of Angels was a place where Eastern expatriates Harold Land and Elmo Hope recorded some of their best work. Labeling, part human impulse, part sales ploy, has the tendency to confuse rather than clarify.

And Stan Levey? Stan Levey was hot! Born in Philadelphia in 1926, the drummer made his first important mark in the mid-40’s as a collaborator of Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Oscar Pettiford, one of the earliest white colleagues of the fathers of bebop, expanding on the rhythmic example set by Kenny Clarke. Levey moved to the West Coast in 1954 after a stint with Stan Kenton, joining the Howard Rumsey All-Stars and building one of the most prolific West Coast careers in jazz and the Hollywood studios. In a career that spanned approximately thirty years – Levey retired in 1974 to become a professional photographer – Levey performed and recorded with an iconic who’s who of jazz, from Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, Stan Getz, Art Pepper, Oscar Peterson to Frank Sinatra and Billie Holiday.

Levey recorded a couple of cookin’ solo albums as well, among those Grand Stan, released on Bethlehem in 1957. Bethlehem: odd but great-sounding name for a record label. Founded, by the way, in New York City by Swiss émigre Gus Wildi in 1953. Interesting label. Would’ve been appropriate if it had recorded Charlie “Yardbird” Parker, the Jesus Christ of Jazz, part rebel rouser, part Messiah, at least once before he stepped on a rainbow or, more appropriately, flew the coop. Bethlehem presented great sleeves and Grand Stan, designed by the widely admired Burt Goldblatt, is no exception. It furthermore offers a lovely in-joke title and a cast that features trumpeter Conte Candoli, tenor saxophonist Richie Kamuca, trombonist Frank Rosolino, pianist Sonny Clarke and bassist Leroy Vinegar – all of them, excluding Sonny Clarke, California-based at that time, all of them warm-blooded swingers.

Like so many records from the 50’s, Grand Stan should be considered excellent material for young students of the drums. Levey’s firecracker introductions are worked out in the melodic spirit of the compositions. The crisp drive of his hi-hat, combined with sparse, spot-on accents, is alternated with tension-heightening ride cymbal, developed into a package that is both supportive and possessed with a steam all its own. Punch, spirited teamwork and a keen melodic ear. So many post-war European drummers have benefited from the likes of Levey: Daniel Humair, Alex Riel, et al. Listening to Grand Stan, I’m practically hearing veteran Dutch drummer Eric Ineke play. Ineke’s individual and highly propulsive re-enactment of ‘American drumming’ has enchanted us for many years now. Great teacher, by the way.

Levey tackles a book of songs that by way of standards, riffs, bop and the blues is short on ambition to travel beyond common mainstream practice but pleasantly surprises with the ease and depth of its execution. It is of particular interest that four tunes feature strictly one soloist, which gives each a chance to thoroughly stretch out, and lively to boot. Few trombonists move through Yesterdays with the bounce, purposeful pace and clarity of line and sound than Frank Rosolino, whose tragic life – the troubled Rosolino killed himself after shooting both sons in their sleep, one died, one survived but remained blind – overshadowed his brilliance as one of the unheralded modern giants of jazz trombone.

The momentum of the riff-based Angel Cake is sustained throughout by Richie Kamuca, whose semi-breathy lines are underscored by Basie-like shout choruses. Sonny Clark devoures Why Do I Love You at breakneck speed and flavors his Bud Powell-influenced bop phrases with hard blues licks and sparse dissonance. The down-home Blues At Sunrise is a showcase for Conte Candoli, who bookends a long but not long-winded solo with bright and penetrating open horn with the melody statement and conclusive ad-libs on muted trumpet.

Levey steers along his men with authority. No way some sunny climate was suddenly going to be responsible for the evaporation of Levey & Co’s hard-core jazz aesthetic.

Yusef Lateef - Jazz Round The World

Yusef Lateef Jazz Round The World Impulse 1964

Everybody passionate about the fusion of jazz and world rhythm owes big time to Yusef Lateef.

Yusef Lateef - Jazz Round The World


Yusef Lateef (tenor saxophone, flute, bassoon, oboe, shenai), Richard Williams (trumpet), Hugh Lawson (tenor saxophone), Ernie Farrow (bass), Lex Humphries (drums)


on December 19 & 20 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey


as Impulse A-56 in 1964

Track listing

Side A:
You, So Tender And Wistful
Yusef’s French Brother
The Volga Rhythm Song
Side B:
Trouble In Mind
The Good Old Roast Beef Of England
Raisins And Almonds
Ringo Oiwake

In the late 50s and early 60s Lateef, a Detroit cat that counted among his collaborators fellow natives Elvin Jones, Kenny Burrell and Paul Chambers and came into prominence with the band of Dizzy Gillespie, boasted his post-bop records on Savoy and Prestige with tunes like Rasheed and Meditation. Interested in foreign cultures from an early age, Lateef developed into a multi-instrumentalist, adding koto, shenai, shofar and argull to his Western instrumentarium of tenor saxophone, flute, oboe and bassoon. As a prime pioneer of jazz world music, Lateef is perhaps equaled only by pianist Randy Weston. As journalist Peter Keepnews said, Lateef “played world music before world music had a name.”

Lateef, born William Huddleston in 1920, a couple of months after the birth of Charlie Parker, also was early in adopting a Muslim name and converting to the Islamic faith of Ahmadiyya, front-running the development of black artists that turned for guidance to Eastern religion which among numerous others included Ahmed Abdul-Malik and Sahib Shihab. In the view of Cannonball Adderley, who never changed his name but eventually did delve into spiritual matters, turning to astrology, wearing colorful Eastern garb and releasing The Black Messiah in the early 70s, Brother Lateef was an exotic player whose style nonetheless, Cannonball never failed to stress, was firmly based in the blues. Lateef was part of Cannonball’s group in 1962/63. In 1963, Lateef signed with Impulse, a label that, considering its affiliation with the cosmic captain of spiritual matters John Coltrane, suited him to a T.

Lateef brought to his debut album on Impulse, Jazz Round The World, the traditional blues Trouble In Mind, which the Cannonball Adderley Sextet performed as well. It fits right in. Strikingly, whether Lateef explores Africa, India, the Mediteranean African region, England or the Balkan, the result is coherent and organic, not forced at all.

The fun’s in concise tunes with concise statements and in the details. The calypso rhythm of Yusef’s French Brother is structured with pleasantly “out” piano phrases, a tenor/trumpet interlude, a six-note descending flurry of tenor notes as a means of introducing the trumpet and a few booming circular riffs by Lateef as climactic ending, all within the time frame of one minute.

The hallucinatory drone of Abana has a Bolero-feel that benefits from a lovely ensemble of bassoon and trumpet, India is marked by a cunning tenor/trumpet chase. There are fragments of polyphony during the Volga Rhythm Song. The Good Old Roast Beef Of England is a witty and eventful handling of a obscure folk melody, bringing to mind the original folk interpretations of Sonny Rollins. Lateef takes the transmogrification of folk music one step further, moulding the transnational Frère Jacques into the jolly You So Tender, Wistful. Lateef’s swinging tenor wails and is marked by elliptical transitional phrases, staccato segments and circular riffs.

Lateef’s vital tenor playing is matched by the bright and resourceful trumpet of Richard Williams (reconnecting with Lateef after 1960’s The Centaur And The Phoenix on Riverside) and acute piano of longtime Lateef associate Hugh Lawson. Lawson would continue to appear on a number of Lateef’s Impulse records well into the late 60s. Both are surprisingly comfortable in the outlandish surroundings.

Detroit may have been a long way off but listen well and notice that, how far away Lateef may have traveled, Motor City remained vital to his identity.

Find the songs of Jazz Round The World on YouTube, listen to the random choice of Yusef’s French Brother and go from there. Jazz Round The World is not on Spotify, listen to more of Yusef Lateef below.

The Eric Ineke JazzXPress - What Kinda Bird Is This?

The Eric Ineke JazzXpress What Kinda Bird Is This? (Challenge 2020)


As usual, The Eric Ineke JazzXpress goes full steam ahead, bringing home the music of Charlie Parker in refreshing manner on What Kinda Bird Is This?

The Eric Ineke JazzXPress - What Kinda Bird Is This?


Eric Ineke (drums), Ian Cleaver (trumpet), Sjoerd Dijkhuizen (tenor saxophone), Tineke Postma (alto saxophone), Peter Beets, Rein de Graaff & Rob Agerbeek (piano), Marius Beets (bass)


on June 22 & 23 and July 6, 2020 at Studio De Smederij, Zeist, The Netherlands


as CR 73512 in 2020

Track listing

Relaxin’ At Camarillo
Lover Man
Birdie Num Num
Parker’s Mood
What Kinda Bird Is This?
Just Friends
Merry Go Round
Bongo Beep
Au Privave

IIf the sign of true genius is the spontaneous response to catastrophic circumstances, Charlie Parker’s Dial recording of Lover Man in 1947 is number one with a bullet. It gave rise to a confusing mix of shock and adulation from the start. In the middle of a bad trip and on the verge of a nervous breakdown, Parker shaped an emotionally charged story with instinctive revisions of his faltering phrases. Parker was horrified by the release of the record. Shortly afterwards, Parker was admitted to Camarillo Mental State Hospital in California. His release from the asylum inspired a new original composition, Relaxin’ At Camarillo.

Both Lover Man and Relaxin’ At Camarillo are interpreted (quite impressively) on What Kinda Bird Is This? by The Eric Ineke JazzXpress, one of the most swinging contemporary tributes to Charlie “Yardbird” Parker, inventor of bebop, genius of modern music, whose 100th Birthday was celebrated worldwide on August 29. Ineke, veteran Dutch drummer who played with Dexter Gordon, Dizzy Gillespie, Johnny Griffin and Jimmy Raney, amongst many others, and is an acclaimed teacher at European conservatories and inexaustible (hard) bop ambassador on and off-stage, has released eight records as leader of The JazzXpress since 2006. On What Kinda Bird Is This?, Ineke is joined by his regular bassist Marius Beets, pianists Peter Beets, Rein de Graaff and Rob Agerbeek – all of whom substituted for the (temporarily) ailing Rob van Bavel – trumpeter Ian Cleaver, tenor saxophonist Sjoerd van Dijkhuizen and alto saxophonist Tineke Postma.

The band’s refurbishment of Parker in its own image is underlined by nifty arrangements by Marius Beets, Dijkhuizen and Van Bavel. Relaxin’ At Camarillo (Van Bavel) sounds like the sort of tune that would not have been out of place on Blakey’s Ugetsu or one of John Coltrane’s Atlantic records. It uncoils mischieviously, like a snake, through firm choruses of modality and various shadings of the melody, climaxing with Parker’s indelible long line. An intriguing version that furthermore swings like mad.

At the other end of the spectrum, Lover Man is a playground for Tineke Postma in the trio format. Her long, constantly lively story is a balancing act of tuneful phrases and clusters of notes that burst out of the changes en route to the outskirts of the Milky Way. Wordly wisdom seems to have increasingly pervaded her style, to the point where sour grapes are transformed into a splendid bottle of Chateau du Charles Lloyd. The wine manages to call a definite feeling of melancholy. Postma, highly engaging throughout the record, devours the other trio cut, Au Privave, a concise progressive reworking of Parker’s blues line that reflects the rapport she has built up the last few years with Ineke, whose matchless timing and alert interplay stems from decades of experience. At age 73, the pater familias of The Hague’s mainstream jazz scene is at the top of his game.

Sjoerd Dijkhuizen, always willing to share his penchant for Dexter Gordon-type phrasing, nails Birdie Num Num, Marius Beets’s variation on Parker’s Confirmation. Beets’s What Kinda Bird Is This? features witty lines by young lion Ian Cleaver, who impresses with bright, fearless notes in the upper register, and a virtuoso exercise by “Brother” Peter Beets, whose ability to swing a band into the ground is one of the virtues that won him international acclaim. Parker’s Mood is perfect foil for Rein de Graaff, long-time companion of Ineke and comfortable in a slow blues vein.

Affinity with lesser-known Parker compositions – Stupendous, Bongo Beep, Merry Go Round; the dizzying effect of the latter’s variation on I Got Rhythm is in sync with the title – is yet another interesting aspect of What Kinda Bird Is This? This ‘Bird’ is a triumphant continuation of form by the Eric Ineke JazzXpress, which for this occasion is a configuration of individuals that assert themselves with authority in the setting of Parkeriana.

Blue Mitchell - The Thing To Do

Blue Mitchell The Thing To Do (Blue Note 1965)

Approximately seven years into his recording career, Blue Mitchell hit his stride on Blue Note with one of his greatest efforts, The Thing To Do.

Blue Mitchell - The Thing To Do



Blue Mitchell (trumpet), Junior Cook (tenor saxophone), Chick Corea (piano), Gene Taylor (bass), Aloysius Foster (drums)


on July 30, 1964 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey


as BST-84178 in 1965

Track listing

Side A:
Fungii Mama
Mona’s Mood
The Thing To Do
Side B:
Step Lightly
Chick’s Tune

Can’t go wrong with Blue Mitchell. Among the young and spectacular trumpeters of his generation – Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard and Donald Byrd – Mitchell held his own employing supple phrasing and a bright tone, adhering to the motto’s of less is more and what you see is what you get, his stories back flipping in a bowl of soul. He made his first string of records for Riverside, introduced by, who else, Cannonball Adderley. He subsequently switched to Blue Note in 1963, a perfect fit. The accessible Mitchell, cast in the warm and transparant Blue Note mould by Rudy van Gelder, went down well in the black community, a successful addition to Blue Note’s mainstream roster till the end of the decade, well into the “United Artists” period of Blue Note after the retirement of Alfred Lion. Mitchell furthermore recorded mostly for Mainstream and found a home in the band of British blues star John Mayall in the early 70’s, who was a devoted fan of Mitchell’s work with Horace Silver. Mitchell died prematurely in 1979.

Ain’t everyone of us crazy about that particular edition of the Horace Silver Quintet. Between 1959 and ’63, Mitchell appeared on, among others, Finger Poppin’, Blowin’ The Blues Away and Doin’ The Thing, all of those with tenor saxophonist Junior Cook and all of those Silver classics. A sought-after trumpeter, Mitchell cooperated with Cannonball Adderley, Jackie McLean, Elmo Hope, Stanley Turrentine, Hank Mobley and Dexter Gordon, as well as Hammond organists Jimmy Smith, Don Patterson, Freddie Roach and Big John Patton.

Jazz is a music of sidemen figuring out a new strategy. Basie ran with the Moten band. Former Miles Davis associates Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul and Miroslav Vitous formed Weather Report. And Mitchell hooked up with Cook and bassist Gene Taylor from the Silver band, rounding out his new quintet with the promising pianist Chick Corea. In the comfort zone of his pals and confronted with the fresh voice of Corea, Mitchell delivered a sprightly gem.

The Thing To Do has always struck me as an excellent starter for burgeoning jazz fans, very well capable of sharing that virtue with The Sidewinder or Moanin’. It’s joyful, smooth, relaxed but energetic and features a classic opening tune, Fungii Mama, underlined by a calypso rhythm that never fails to ignite a broad smile and occasionally – one easily imagines – a bit of buoyant shaking of the hips. Corea’s catchy The Thing To Do is marked by the composer’s suspenseful alternate chords and poignant, Monk-like comping. He cuts the meandering lines of an invigorating solo in half with two brash chords. The combination of the typical Blue Note line-up – bright trumpet, smoky tenor – with Corea’s mix of blues stylings and slightly edgy shenanigans is this session’s extra treat. Also, shout choruses and the alternation of riffs behind the soloists keep things zestfully movin’ and signify the influence of Mitchell/Cook’s former boss, Horace Silver, who himself in this respect was influenced by Count Basie.

The Thing To Do was Mitchell’s debut record on Blue Note. Step Lightly, his first session on Blue Note in 1963 featuring Joe Henderson, Leo Wright and Herbie Hancock, wasn’t released until 1980. A different and very good ballgame, but arguably The Thing To Do, which also included Joe Henderson’s great blues tune Step Lightly, was the best choice for Mitchell’s start on the legendary label. Lovely, soulful stuff.

Cellar Live


If you’re not already familiar with it, you need to take a look at Cellar Live, one of the freshest independent jazz labels out there.

Cellar Live was formed in 2001 by tenor saxophonist, impresario and club owner Cory Weeds, who began taping the performances of visiting artists in his Cellar Club in Vancouver, Canada.

By now, his label consists of Cellar Live, Cellar Music and ReelToReal, subsequently focusing on live records, studio projects and archival releases. The latest historical release was Johnny Griffin/Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis’s Ow. See review here.

Cellar Live’s aesthetic of honoring and extending the mainstream jazz tradition is expressed through recordings of, among others, Grant Stewart, Joe Magnarelli, Jeb Patton, Emmet Cohen, Scott Hamilton, Mike LeDonne, Adam Shulman, Louis Hayes, Cannonball Adderley and Cory Weeds himself, who among other endeavors lauds one of modern jazz’s greatest stylists, Hank Mobley, both in the studio and on stage. His record label’s organ combo roster features Ben Paterson, among others.

The newest release in Cellar Live’s ReelToReal division will be George Coleman’s In Baltimore – due November 27, Record Store Day Black Friday. The statement of Zev Feldman, producer and collaborator of Cory Weeds, reads as follows:

“The George Coleman Quintet “In Baltimore” was captured live at the Famous Ballroom on May 23, 1971, presented by the Left Bank Jazz Society, and featured a stellar band with trumpeter Danny Moore, pianist Albert Dailey, bassist Larry Ridley and drummer Harold White. The limited-edition 180g LP includes an elaborate insert with beautiful photos by Francis Wolff, intros by Cory and I, a main overview essay by the great jazz historian/archivist Michael Cuscuna, plus interviews with “the Big G” himself George Coleman, John Fowler from the Left Bank, and the self-described Coleman disciple, tenor man Eric Alexander.”

Top-notch jazz and the roots-y vibe of the label, which gives meticulous care to detail in the presentation of its hip record covers and includes a number of endearing references to classic sleeve art, makes rummaging through its recordings a very joyful experience.

Check out Cellar Live’s website here.

Clifford Scott - Out Front

Clifford Scott Out Front (Pacific Jazz 1963)

Check out this readily ignored but seriously hip and crafty piece of soul jazz and hard bop: tenor saxophonist Clifford Scott’s Out Front.

Clifford Scott - Out Front


Clifford Scott (tenor and alto saxophone), Joe Pass (guitar), Les McCann (piano), Herbie Lewis (bass), Paul Humphrey (drums)


in 1963 at Pacific Jazz Studio in Los Angeles, California


as PJ-66 in 1963

Track listing

Side A:
Samba De Bamba
Over And Over
As Rosie And Ellen Dance
Side B:
Why Don’t You Do Right
Just Tomorrow
Out Front

As rhythm and blues developed into the most popular black music in the late forties and early fifties, a lot of jazz-oriented musicians jumped the bandwagon in order to make a decent living. Perhaps decent isn’t the appropriate term. Regularly, players switched from swing bands to r&b outfits, which usually meant a change from one grueling touring schedule to another. One bows in awe to them in hindsight, the way guys like Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson, Red Holloway, Don Wilkerson or Sam “The Man” Taylor, survived. Tenor saxophonist Clifford Scott, born in San Antonio, Texas in 1928, deceased in 1993, traveled a similar route.

Scott worked with Amos Milburn, Jay McShann, Lionel Hampton, Roy Brown and Roy Milton in the early fifties. Scott provided the groundbreaking honking tenor solo on organist Bill Doggett’s jukebox hit in 1955, Honky Tonk. He stayed with Doggett for a number of years. Subsequently, Scott acted as a leader, trying to capitalize on the honking hype with singles bearing gimmicky titles like Bushy Tail and The Kangaroo, and recorded as a prominent session musician in the r&b and pop field. His last big stint, before settling down as a local hero in San Antonio, was with the Ray Charles band, intermittently, from 1966 to 1970.

Based on the West Coast in the sixties, Scott was featured on a number of Pacific Jazz albums by the organ combo Billy Larkin & The Delegates. Scott recorded Plays The Big Ones on Pacific Jazz in 1963, a gritty soul jazz date featuring Hammond organ. It’s a nice enough date but incomparable with Scott’s subsequent album, Out Front!. During that session, Scott expanded his scope, holding on to the fried-bacon notes and the occasional crowd-pleasing climaxes, while displaying distinct suppleness and double-time fluency. Coming with the slightest vibrato, Scott’s style is sensual as hell, and hot as hell as well.

Sensual also applies to the Les McCann Trio, which consists of McCann, bassist Herbie Lewis, drummer Paul Humphrey, plus Joe Pass, as in: attractive, uplifting, rousing. McCann had cooperated with Joe Pass on Richard “Groove” Holmes’ Something Special, Les McCann’s Featuring Joe Pass, On Time and Soul Hits. The gospel-drenched vigor and probing accompaniment of McCann, the group’s abundant swing and the subtle and peppery phrases of Pass provide a stimulating canvas for the lurid, lean strokes of Scott, whom one imagines must’ve been elated with the possibility of working with such an immaculate quartet.

And as is usual with the presence of McCann on a recording date, the pianist contributes a couple of catchy tunes, like the driving Out Front and the crisp stop-time cooker Over And Over, which is marked by the typical McCann device of a shift in key. McCann also wrote Crosstalk, killer greasy tune that is pure Bo Diddley’s Not Fade Away, thriving on the rousing beat and statements of McCann and Pass and the rubato wail of Scott that takes one by surprise like a tornado in New Mexico: a soul jazz gem stopping at a mere 2.45 minutes.

Samba De Bamba is a different ball game, an equally swinging, Latin hard bop tune. Developing his story from sophisticated, fluent phrasing to the kind of terse blowing of Ben Webster, Scott reveals himself as a singular stylist. This, perhaps, comes as no surprise considering his past in the swing era. It is surprising, though, that the saxophonist wasn’t granted the opportunity to record more extensively throughout his career, except for a couple of albums in the early 90’s. More than that, it is a shame.

Listen to the full album here.

Philly Joe Jones - Big Band Sounds

Philly Joe Jones Big Band Sounds (Riverside 1959)

Whether you decide to call it Drums Around The World or Big Band Sounds, the star-studded second record of Philly Joe Jones on Riverside is a blast from start to finish.

Philly Joe Jones - Big Band Sounds





Philly Joe Jones (drums), Lee Morgan (trumpet), Blue Mitchell (trumpet), Benny Golson (tenor saxophone), Cannonball Adderley (alto saxophone), Sahib Shihab (baritone saxophone), Curtis Fuller (trombone), Herbie Mann (flute, piccolo), Wynton Kelly (piano), Jimmy Garrison (bass), Sam Jones (bass)


on May 4, 11 & 28, 1959 in NYC


as RLP 12-302 in 1959

Track listing

Side A:
Blue Gwynn
El Tambores (Carioca)
Tribal Message
Side B:
Land Of The Blue Veils
Philly J.J.

Get in the driver’s seat and take a listen to Philly Joe Jones and his sparring partners of May 1959, a who’s who of the hard bop era: Lee Morgan, Blue Mitchell, Benny Golson, Cannonball Adderley, Sahib Shihab, Curtis Fuller, Herbie Mann, Wynton Kelly, Sam Jones and/or Jimmy Garrison. Perfect foil for Philly Joe Jones’s vision of showcasing varying rhythms of the world. In the process, Jones made a record that sustains momentum throughout.

All Music, with the devoted indifference of the call center employee, says: “There is some strong playing but this set is primarily recommended to fans of Philly Joe Jones’s drum solo’s.”

There is but one punishment for people who keep uttering the word ‘recommended’. And that is to look at the cover of Herbie Mann’s Push Push for 24 hours straight.

Big Band Sounds is not an ego trip. Philly Joe Jones is part of the pack, who indeed briefly displays his prowess as a soloist, but most of all takes care to lead his buddies through a sublimely paced set of songs with a sterling variation of interludes. He’s driving force and snappy accompanist in-one. Danger hi-voltage! You gotta watch out with Philly Joe, he’s like the professional oven I recently bought, it heats much quicker than the consumer type oven and is hazardous to the health of your hands but it is, most of all, state of the art. The roasted chicken is killer bee.

Take Philly Joe Jones’s Blue Gwynn. Afro-Cuban powerhouse performance. A couple of uppercuts and a sparse cluster of notes from Philly Joe launches the band into the stratosphere. It’s a crafty piece, largely through the balanced variety of the roles of reed, brass and woodwind during theme and intermezzos. However, the performance is far from contrived, indeed strikingly organic. Morgan, Golson and Fuller have their fiery say. Morgan’s entrance is typically cocksure. You’re gonna love this one.

The Eastern-tinged Land Of The Blue Veils by Benny Golson, ensemble playing sans solo’s, is like a Brussel bonbon that melts on your tongue. Philly Joe’s adaptation of Vincent Youman’s CariocaEl Tambores – is an exciting trip to Brazil quoting evergreen Tico Tico in the process. Ray Noble’s Cherokee gets a wooping treatment, including witty Indian war cries. The Tribal Message is Jones in African mood, a great display of varying pitch, echo and effects, which involved a careful placement of the parts of Philly Joe’s kit all over the studio.

And the American rhythm and harmony, sedimentation of a different array of African minerals and European metals and turned into a very special brew, is represented by Golson’s Stablemates and Philly Joe Jones/J.J. Johnson’s Philly J.J, both hard-swinging cookers. Brass and reed figures stimulate the soloists of Stablemates, of which Golson is particularly heated. Philly Joe sets fire to Philly J.J.. The introduction (this is a record of introductions) by Jones is as filthy as they come, the language of a hustler taking care of business at the corner of Lexington and 110th Street. His rolls and snappy hi-hat crushes may be interpreted as having their origins in tribal communication and prefiguring rap music and at the end of the furious performance, no doubt it’s a wrap. Now you remember why Miles Davis wanted no one but Philly Joe for his First Great Quintet in 1956. Another Davis associate of that period, Cannonball Adderley, also excites considerably during Philly J.J. with his sole solo performance of the session. Philly J.J. is not blowing session fare. There’s a switch from breakneck speed to mid-tempo bounce and a reference to the intro during the dramatic climax that suggests careful planning by the then 36-year old drummer from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Did I tell you that Philly Joe sounds out of sight? Drums were meant to sound like this!

The way music sounds affects our evaluation of it. We can experience the pure sound of a musician in a live setting – although purity is a relative concept. At any rate, the musician has to wait and see how he or she sounds on record. Studio sessions involve the manipulation of sound. Whom manipulates sounds most expertly and tastefully gets the best results. That’s why the acclaimed Dutch engineer Max Bolleman pointed out that the engineer is a member of the band. His instrument is his console.

Drums, the heartbeat of the band, make or break a record. In the 20’s and early 30’s, primitive equipment did not allow the drummer to play as he did during performance, since it was at risk of exploding if the drummer pounded on a complete drum kit. Consequently, the drummer stuck to woodblocks and such, which is why we have to rely on oral history to imagine how, for instance, Baby Dodds sounded in the early part of his career.

This hardly bothered modern drumming. The 50’s and 60’s are sublime drum decades. By then, engineering had developed rapidly and considerably. Wouldn’t we nowadays hold Baby Dodds in even higher regard if he would have had “his” Rudy van Gelder or Roy DuNann?

I’ve always had the distinct passionate feeling that drums never sounded better than approximately from 1955 to 1965. The updated analog equipment was nifty but its track limitations forced the engineer to be creative, unlike swing and bop, which was an improvement of the early years of jazz but still suffered from the occasional cardboard box sound. And unlike the 70s and beyond, when multi-tracking, a limitless array of mics and digital technology more often than not has led to visionless mediocrity. The 50’s/60’s sound may not be as detailed compared to the thoroughly improved contemporary sound, but the overall sound is killer and the impact unforgettable. Call me a purist but the way to go as far as contemporary mainstream jazz recording is concerned is to at least strive for that 50/60’s sound.

There are countless examples of great-sounding drum records from that era. Big Band Sounds is but one example but a damn great one – notice, the (sub-) title says ‘sounds’. The synthesis of sound and high-level modern jazz playing is sublime. Man, not only does Philly Joe Jones display his unsurpassed fiery style, his sound is absolutely stunning! And big – notice, the (sub-) title says ‘big’. Booming. Snappy. The engineer is Jack Higgins. A round of applause for Jack.

And on your hands and knees, seated in the direction of the Mecca of jazz, for Philly Joe.