Lieb & The Ultimate Sideman


In 2012, Dutch drummer Eric Ineke and saxophonist and flautist David Liebman compiled The Ultimate Sideman, a historical narrative and a discussion of Ineke’s experiences with jazz giants and unsung heroes and Dutch luminaries since the late 1960’s. It was published by Pincio and has come up for sale again at the Dutch Jazz Archive.

A sought-after accompanist, Ineke played with hundreds of visiting jazz artists and fellow Dutchmen including Dexter Gordon, Johnny Griffin, Hank Mobley, Clifford Jordan, Lucky Thompson, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Frank Foster, Joe Henderson, Harold Land, Dizzy Gillespie, Woody Shaw, Clark Terry, Harry “Sweets” Edison, Red Rodney, Jimmy Raney, René Thomas, Piet Noordijk, Charles McPherson, Frank Morgan, Barry Harris, Duke Jordan, Tete Montoliu, Rein de Graaff, Rob Agerbeek, Dave Pike, Ronnie Cuber, Pepper Adams, Curtis Fuller, Buddy DeFranco, Toots Thielemans, Eddie Daniels, Sam Most, Doug Webb, Wynton Marsalis, Jarmo Hoogendijk, Eric Alexander, Grant Stewart, Gaël Horellou, Tineke Postma and Jesse Davis. Etcetera.

In the 1960’s and 1970’s, visiting Americans looked for the closest thing to real jazz around Europe and most of the time were coupled with Ineke, who has natural swing and amazing historical knowledge of drums and the history of jazz. He’s the ultimate sideman. On many occasions, until recently, he accompanied legends and contemporary jazz artists as part of the trio of semi-retired pianist Rein de Graaff featuring bassists Henk Haverhoek/Koos Serierse/Marius Beets. At the age of 76, he is alive and kicking, mentor to myriad young local and international lions and tireless and beloved ambassador of classic/mainstream jazz. He leads the hard bop group Eric Ineke JazzXpress.

In a way, The Ultimate Sideman is autobiography, the story of a jazz musician who, from the passion for Max Roach, Elvin Jones, Philly Joe Jones, Shelly Manne, Billy Higgins, among others, developed a style that suited his personality and who grew into a master drummer from adapting to various styles. He’s a cat that one evening played with Phil Woods, the other with Lee Konitz, George Coleman and Ben Webster, Freddie Hubbard and Chet Baker. A great challenge to meet.

During the course of his story and discussion, Ineke recurrently says, “As a drummer, you have to take care of that, otherwise…” He knew all about the time of the players, the sound, the timbre, the dynamics. And if necessary, Ineke did a lot of homework before the gig. True professional.

Though Ineke and Liebman had jammed together in Pescara, Italy in 1973, they finally befriended in the early 1990’s, when they met through The International Association of Schools of Jazz, which was founded by Liebman in 1987. They played together on albums on the Daybreak subsidiary of Challenge Records. As the website of the famous Miles Davis and Elvin Jones-alumnus states, “Eric was and still is THE man for putting a great straightahead rhythm section together for visiting artists in that part of Europe.” Very true. What’s more, the records with Liebman demonstrate that he is an exceptional and spontaneous interactor in a challenging environment. It shouldn’t be surprising, since he also worked with avant-leaning groups as the Rein de Graaff/Dick Vennik Quartet and Free Fair in the 1970s and 1980s. (Note: Ineke also flawlessly connects with the other extreme, occasionally sitting in with dixie and swing bands in café Murphy’s Law in his hometown The Hague)

The “Lieb” albums also feature bassist Marius Beets and, on separate albums, saxophonist and clarinetist John Ruocco, guitarist Jesse van Ruller and pianist Marc van Roon. Is Seeing Believing features guitarist Ricardo Pinheiro, among others. Top-rate, expressive albums. About time for another musical meeting between Lieb and The Ultimate Sideman, don’t you think?

Eric Ineke & David Liebman

Find The Ultimate Sideman at Nederlands Jazz Archief here.

Eric Ineke - The Ultimate Sideman

Thomas Jaspar Quintet

Thomas / Jaspar Quintet Thomas / Jaspar Quintet (RCA Italiana 1962)

Theme for René.

Thomas Jaspar Quintet


René Thomas (guitar), Bobby Jaspar (tenor saxophone, flute), Amedeo Tommasi (piano), Maurizio Majorana (bass), Franco Mondini (drums A1-3, B1, B2 & B4), Francesco Lobianco (drums A4)


in October 1961 in Rome


as RCA Italiana 10324 in 1962

Track listing

Side A:
Theme For Freddie
Half Nelson
But Not For Me
Side B:
Hannie’s Dream
Bernie’s Taste
Smoke Gets In Your Eyes
I Remember Sonny

It was a little town close to the border of Belgium and approximately fifteen kilometers from my birthplace in Zeeuws-Vlaanderen in The Netherlands. There was a gypsy trailer camp. Me and a buddy, we must’ve been about 18 years old, I was a blues band drummer in my spare time, he was a talented guitar player already much better at his craft than I would ever be at mine, for some reason visited a gypsy family. There was a guy that played fabulous gypsy jazz. I believe that he was a nephew of Fapy Lafertin.

Typically, almost everybody at the camp played one instrument or another, from the cradle-young to the Methusalem-old. The camp was situated a stones’ throw away from the little town. About twelve trailers, made from brick, plastic and corrugated plate, were hidden from view by grey skies, silent back ways and fields of waving corn.

Whenever I think about or am listening to René Thomas, my mind is cast back to this afternoon. Thomas was neither gypsy nor gypsy jazz guitarist, but he had plenty, unmistakable gypsy feeling. For the gypsies, for Thomas, music is like eating a grape. Like tying shoelaces.

The soul of René Thomas lighted up in Liège, Belgium in 1926. Thomas loved the music of his fellow countryman, Django Reinhardt (there you have it) and besides swing jazz played ‘manouche’ in his youth. Around 1947, Thomas and friends like saxophonist and flautist Bobby Jaspar, saxophonists Jacques Pelzer and Jack Sels, bassist Benoit Guersin and drummer Rudy Frankel were obsessed with bebop and grew into one of the first European bebop units. Thomas thrived in Paris in the early 1950’s, mate among young lions as pianist Francy Boland and saxophonist Barney Wilen.

As soon as Thomas landed in New York City in 1956, he made a big impression. Until 1961, Thomas played with Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Jimmy Raney, Tal Farlow, Jim Hall, Zoot Sims, Freddie Hubbard, Herbie Hancock, Hank Mobley, Jackie McLean, Joe Henderson and Wayne Shorter. Everybody was crazy about his playing. Rollins, who featured the guitarist on Sonny Rollins And The Big Brass, said: “I know a Belgian guitar player that I like better than any of the Americans I’ve heard.”

Fruitful years in Belgium and Europe, marked by associations with Kenny Clarke and organist Lou Bennett, preceded a period of depression in the late 1960’s. Thomas stepped back into the limelight in 1970, again with Clarke and another organist, the fabulous Eddy Louiss from the island of Martinique. Then Stan Getz asked for his services. Enter a stellar band, featuring Louiss and drummer Bernard Lubat. Their legacy is preserved on a fantastic live album, Dynasty.

Sadly, Thomas overdosed and passed away in 1974 in Santander, Spain.

René lives! By God, a fabulous guitar player. Put on any of his albums or features as sideman, whether it’s early work as René Thomas Et Son Quintette, mid-career Riverside recording Guitar Groove, stints with Chet Baker on Chet Is Back or Lou Bennett on Echoes Of My Church or Ingried Hoffmann on Hammond Tales, Dynasty and his last recording, Thomas/Pelzer Limited with Dutch pianist Rein de Graaff, and notice his unmistakable solid sound and ringing notes. Not to mention, when he’s at his very best and stretches out, and here you need to check out some of the stuff on the fantastic CD-set Remembering René Thomas on Fresh Sound, which provides his best biographical sketch so far, seemingly endless strings of ideas, an originality that bustles with vitality and oozes a desire to break away from harmonic resolutions.

He seems exceptionally involved with his playing, really into it, digging in, peeking from the dark through the curtains, sun rays slipping in… Dark thoughts, cigarette smoke curling to the brown-skinned ceiling. Clean, electrifying lines seem to come so easily to him, and you see him hunched over his Gibson ES 150, hiding behind Coke-bottle glasses, modestly pouring out the sweat drops of his soul. He came from Charlie Christian and Charlie Parker and most of all was a disciple of Jimmy Raney, who was God for so many guitarists, and mind you, even influenced John Coltrane, but what sets him apart from the maestro, in my mind, is abundance of feeling. Emotive sparks.

Plenty sparks fly on the before-mentioned Guitar Groove, his best-known album, quite logically because it was recorded on Riverside and in the USA, but Thomas Jaspar Quintet definitely holds it own. It demonstrates the agility of the finest European jazz musicians and a gift for original songwriting. The band, consisting of another European giant, tenor saxophonist and flautist Bobby Jaspar, who contrary to Thomas built a solid career in the USA, pianist Amedeo Tommasi, bassist Maurizio Majorana and drummer Franco Mondini, performs the usual suspects that Thomas had played for years, Sonny Rollins’s Oleo, Miles Davis’s Half Nelson, But Not For Me, but also original tunes as Thomas’s Theme For Freddie, I Remember Sonny and Tommasi’s Hannie’s Dream.

Highlights? Every tune’s got something going for it. The way Thomas kickstarts his story of Oleo, lingering on a note, and using plenty of repetition, is daring and spontaneous and the way he constructs his solo in the process is even more exciting. Theme For Freddie is sweet and lovely, what with Jaspar’s flute playing, brimming with life in the sultry summer afternoons of Brussels, a tune oozing with the age-old culture of the good life. Hannie’s Dream is another very “European” ballad. There is hard swing and the hard tenor of Jaspar to be heard, while Cole Porter’s Bernie’s Taste is taken at brisk, sprightly pace. For good measure, Thomas tackles another lovely standard, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, and him doing it solo, quite brilliantly I might add, adds to the variety of the program.

Although Thomas was still not a household name in the early seventies, his energy seemed undimmed. At that time, he was regularly coupled with the masterful Dutch drummer Eric Ineke, who played with Thomas between 1972 and 1974 in Dutch places like Utrecht, Zwolle and Laren and German cities such as Bremen and Wilhemshaven. (cuts from Utrecht and Wilhelmshaven ended up on Guitar Genius Vol. 1, good stuff regardless of the reverb-less mix) In his book The Ultimate Sideman and a big article that he himself wrote for the great Dutch jazz magazine Jazzbulletin, Ineke says:

“René was a very adventurous player who was not afraid to take some dangerous risks on the spot. His playing had an urgency which gave the music a forward motion, combined with a great swinging time feel and a lot of old-fashioned emotion. (…) I miss his playing, he was really responding to the drums, sometimes we were almost getting over the top.”

“René and his daughter Florence stayed at my place in The Hague. We had the night off and sat playing scrabble like a couple of good little church workers. René was very good at the game. Early next morning, guitarist Eef Aalbers was standing at the front door. He was dying to chat and play with René. René took his guitar and showed just how difficult that cadenza was that John Coltrane played at the end of the ballad I Want To Talk About You. He played it note by note from the top of his head. (..) The last time that we played together was in November 1974 in Café 19/20 in Amersfoort. Eef Aalbers had initiated this gig. Wim Essed was on bass. It was a night to remember. Emotions were running high and René and Eef played as if their lives depended on it. I would love to have a recording of this because it was unique: Eef Aalbers, young and hip super talent, together with René Thomas, a legend during his lifetime.”

“René Thomas was a humble personality and a unique guitar player, whose every note came from the depths of his soul. Belgium has put all but a couple of jazz stars on the map and René is unquestionably one of those.”

He remembers René. Giant of jazz guitar.

Alvin Queen

King Queen pt. 2

Here’s part 2 for you and yours, Alvin Queen talking about his stint with Horace Silver, the European continent of opportunities, the way the legends nudged him to change his style of drumming and the way jazz was and will never be again if something isn’t done about it very soon. “I don’t play any music that the people can’t figure out. They paid and have first priority.”

Temperature is rising and there ain’t no place to go. Beet-red heads nod off in the subway train. Someone put our crotches in the oven. It’s the kind of sticky heat that leads to perennial complaints from the Dutch tribe. Alvin Queen flew over from Geneva to The Netherlands, Rotterdam to be exact. He’s here for the North Sea Jazz Festival and a performance with trumpeter and bandleader Charles Tolliver and the Rotterdam Youth Orchestra. His schedule reads like the itinerary of a foreign minister who is visiting a much-anticipated climate conference and wastes two pairs of shoes in a period of 36 hours. The soles of Mr. Queen’s footwear, not to mention his sticks and brushes, have to endure a lot. There isn’t any time to be wasted. Plane, hotel, rehearsal, hotel, soundcheck, performance, hotel and… plane.

Rehearsal with a capital R. It is scheduled from 2 to 9, which surpasses the 10 to 4 at the Five Spot extravaganzas of the classic era of jazz. An imaginary octet of jazz courts jesters overheard his remark that ‘I never heard of no rehearsal of seven hours’ and add an extra hour of Rehearsal. Tough luck. The immaculate professional takes it in stride. If anything, it’s a jazz family affair. A gift from King Queen to Prince Charles. “I usually don’t play in big bands. I’m not a good reader and have never really liked it. There is no opportunity to be a creative artist. I prefer the spontaneity of small ensembles.”

Alvin Queen is 74 years old, by no means an old-timer but an elder statesman beyond doubt. He’s the same age as some former fusion artists, who also wear the officious label of veterans, but comes from a totally different jazz planet. When fusion and electric jazz reigned supreme in the early 1970’s, Queen, student of mentor Elvin Jones, participant in the gospel scene of Scepter Records and the black organ jazz club circuit, drummer of the Horace Silver and George Benson bands, changed his course. Queen regularly toured in Europe with Charles Tolliver’s original installment of Music Incorporation and rejoined Horace Silver’s quintet. The continent of new opportunities continued to beckon and after a two-year stay in Montréal and many gigs in Europe, Queen settled permanently in Geneva, Switzerland in 1979, “Baby Queen” to the touring elder statesmen of jazz such as Ray Brown, Clark Terry, Harry “Sweets” Edison, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis and Milt Jackson. The halcyon days.

FM: When you were playing with Horace Silver again in the early and mid-1970’s, what was the repertoire?
AQ: “When you make a hit record, that’s what people want to hear. I was sick of Song Of My Father! Horace said that we had to play it and we sometimes played it two or three times a night. That was the way it went. Miles had to play So What, Coltrane My Favorite Things and Cannonball Adderley Mercy Mercy Mercy by Joe Zawinul. We also played Sēnor Blues and Filthy McNasty. But then Horace changed up and started going into spirituality and recorded the United State Of Mind records. One night I said, ‘Horace, all that Hare Krishna stuff, God, what is going on?’ He said, ‘Alvin, I haven’t changed my music, it’s just the lyrics’.”

(Horace Silver, Michael Brecker, Tom Harrell, AQ, bassist Anthony Jackson not pictured, Philadelphia 1973)

FM: I heard a story that while you were with Horace Silver, you also took care of business for Stan Kenton. Something to do with loose women.
AQ: “That’s right. We were playing the Jazz Showcase in Chicago around the time of In Pursuit Of The Seventh Man. We were staying in the Merlin hotel. Kenton was in the hotel and he had a whole lotta money in his hands. Whores were standing around and keeping an eye on him. I said, ‘Stan, come on, man, put the money away.’ I took him up, put him to bed, kept the money in envelopes. I left him a message to call me in the morning. It was right in time before they would stick him up, haha!”

FM: It tells me you were on the ball and dependable, two things you also need as a drummer.
AQ: That’s right. Apart from swing.

FM: You played a lot in Europe in the 1970’s and eventually settled there permanently in 1979. Why did you decide to go and live in Europe and why Geneva?
AQ: “Well, the American scene was electrified, the music had changed, you had big acts like Weather Report. I had a taste in the early seventies with Charles Tolliver and Stanley Cowell. I met my future wife in Geneva at a party and that is how I managed to stay there eventually. The location was perfect. I could go to France and Germany. I was in the center of things. Important guys like Francy Boland and Pierre Michelot asked for my services. Europe was good to me.”

“I worked with Duke’s bassist, Jimmy Woode in 1972. It’s a funny story. When I was twelve years old, I recorded in New York City. They hired Joe Newman as musical director and he hired Zoot Sims, Hank Jones and Art Davis. Harold Mabern substituted for Hank. I was 12! It was never released. So, when I came to Europe, Jimmy and Joe were arguing about me, Joe saying, ‘I did his record!’. From my association with Jimmy Woode, I ended up with the older generation of musicians, you see. Harry “Sweets” Edison, Clark Terry, Dolo Coker, Lockjaw Davis. At that time, all Count Basie’s men came as individuals to do gigs. A very important thing for me was that I became the house drummer of the festival in Nice in the South of France. You had Oliver Jackson, Gus Johnson, Panama Francis and me. Sometimes, you know, one of them got boozed up and drunk, that was fine because I would play two sets a day and get even more money that way! I played with people like Marian McPartland, Wild Bill Davis, Guy Lafitte, Michel Goudry, George Arvanitas, Michel Saraby and Pierre Boussaguet. I played all over France from then on.”

(Jimmy Woode & Harry “Sweets” Edison, Nice 1980s; Ray Brown & Milt Jackson; Charles Tolliver)

FM: A lot of the greats that you played with at that time, Milt Jackson, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Ray Brown, Dexter Gordon, they played with Charlie Parker. Did they talk about Charlie Parker?
AQ: “They always talked about Parker at the dinner table and such. It was between Parker and Billie Holiday. Later on, when I played with Oscar Peterson, he would talk about Billie Holiday all the time.”

FM: How did you got involved with the great Ray Brown?
AQ: He heard a lot about me long before we came into contact, about 15 years before that. Everybody was talkin’, Ray knew about me and he said, ‘Queen, I’m gonna get you someday!’ That was the way it went those days. So, I came to Europe and needed work. Jimmy Woode spread the news, ‘I saw this kid, he can play…’ Ray and I would bypass each other all the time. I was playing with Milt Jackson and John Clayton at the time. John also talked with Ray. So, when Ray did his 70th Birthday Party in Paris with Roy Hargrove, Art Farmer, Jacky Terrason and Pierre Boussaguet, Ray said, ‘Come on, Queen, only time we got a chance, let’s do this…’ We established a fine relationship. Ray was playing a lot in Zürich back then.”

FM: Speaking of Milt Jackson. You always hear that he didn’t enjoy playing in the Modern Jazz Quartet and that he wanted to get out there and swinging. Do you think that’s true?
AQ: “The Modern Jazz Quartet was a conservative group and John Lewis was a very classical type of person. The group was created company-wise, there was equal share for each musician and it was one of the most exclusive, highly-paid bands. The thing is, they did the Carnegie Hall, tuxedo and bow tie kind of thing but went to places áfter the gig to jam. Connie Kay went to Jimmy Ryan’s a lot. He played with guys like Major Holley and Roy Eldridge. Milt said to me, ‘I can make John Lewis swing, man!’ But if you heard Milt with the MJQ, he sounds different than with Ray Brown and Monty Alexander at Shelly’s Manne-Hole. (That’s The Way It Is and Just The Way It Had To Be – Impulse 1969/70, FM) I played with Milt and Sadik Hakim in Montréal at the time of his Olinga album. I knew where he came from and he was swinging. Anyway, we all did that, jamming after the gig, Coltrane, Stan Getz, everybody.”

FM: You also went to Africa in the early 1970’s. how did that come about and what you did do out there?
AQ: “That was something that came about through the National Endowment of the Arts. Randy Weston and Nina Simone signed up for me in support. I did performances and workshops in ten countries, from Ghana, Gabon, Burkina Faso and Cameroun to Benin, Togo and Zaire. Every African country had embassies in the USA and I played at the residencies of ambassadors in Africa.”

FM: Your album Ashanti is very African in nature. It’s one of your finest records. What was the idea behind that record?
AQ: Well, after we did the music in the studio, I got the idea of doing a drum battle. I played against each track and so, with two drummers going on, we got this special vibe. The name had nothing to do with the Ashanti people. My wife had an old custom mask that she had gotten many years ago in Africa on the marketplace. It’s not an Ashanti mask, by the way. But the first thing I said when we had recorded the album and I saw the mask was, ‘ashanti’. That record was very successful.”

FM: It was released on your record label Nilva. Why did you start your record label?
AQ: I started Nilva because no one was producing me. I made so much money in Europe, I didn’t know what to do with it. I had never made that kind of money. I watched what Charles Tolliver did with Strata-East. I had a radio tape and produced my own record. (Alvin Queen in Europe, FM) Then a friend told me, if you got an ice cream company, you gotta have all flavors… So I went to New York and did the Ashanti record. It took off and I did those records with Dusko Goykovich, Junior Mance. John Hicks was on most of the stuff. I was very close with John Hicks. I produced Ray Drummond’s record with Branford Marsalis.” (Susanita, 1984, FM)

FM: Why did you quit eventually?
AQ: “The business changed. I was a one-man operation. It was impossible for me to put all that stuff on CD.”

FM: As a drummer, you encapsulate both Elvin Jones-inspired playing and straight swing, it’s very interesting to hear.
AQ: “I was there with Tony Williams at the time. I saw the change from time keeping to free playing. I watched Elvin Jones and Roy Haynes, who had started that thing with Sarah Vaughan. He was low in the mix but you could hear it, the triplet style. Tony and Ron Carter played double with Miles. All drummers followed these guys. Later on, in Europe, the older guys would tell me, stop dropping them bombs… We couldn’t play free like that. It was tempo first. All drummers followed Tony and Elvin but no one turned back to Denzil Best or Shadow Wilson or J.C. Heard. But you need them tóo. There’s no background to a lot of players today, you see. If you say, let’s play the blues, they collapse. I’d be glad to teach them! If you pay respect, I’ll help you out.”

FM: You can’t do without the lessons from the elders.
AQ: “I sat around listening to all those stories from Ray Brown and Oscar Peterson. That already is one thing how you learn to play, that’s by keeping your ears open. These guys teach you how to be solid, not to move around. It’s good to play with all these different personalities. Nowadays, it’s technique. The time is weaker than the technique. That’s the problem.”

FM: Perhaps there should be more of those, but I do know young players here in Holland who soak up everything local and international old masters do and have to say 24/7. That’s the spirit.
AQ: “That’s good but the school and industrial system remains problematic. Bandleaders are not supported. The real masters are not supported. I’ve never been supported and I know a lot, you see? What I have to give don’t make money. What they’re giving us is a market of people that aren’t masters yet. In the history of jazz, all new leaders came out of working groups. They came from the bands of Coleman Hawkins, Max Roach, Art Blakey and not from school. I had no problem getting along with the older musicians because I had that type of training at home. Respect your elders. I was in the bands of Harry “Sweets” Edison, Arnett Cobb, Jay McShann, Buddy Tate. If you were with the elders, you stayed out of the conversation. You didn’t have that experience, so it was best to be quiet and learn.”

“Most professional teachers are not real bandstand players. They teach you the notes but not the experience of the bandstand. I tell younger musicians, who you wanna copy? Who you wanna be? I wanted to be Art Blakey, Elvin Jones. I found a sound for myself. I was in the bands of Horace Silver, George Braith, Larry Young. They said, ‘don’t do this, do that, pay attention, take the grime out of your ears, put your mind to it, use the brain, not the notes.’ That’s how I learned. We don’t have that connection between bands and new leaders and that’s a serious problem. Education is great but it’s totally different than the bandstand. I played with everybody on earth. I gave mine but I just watch where things could improve.”

(AQ, Oscar Peterson & Dave Young, North Sea Jazz Festival, 2005; photography Evert-Jan Hielema)

FM: In your definition, the last generation of masters probably is the one that came up in the 1990’s. You played with a lot of those, the Marsalis brothers, Nicholas Payton. Roy Hargrove.
AQ: “Roy Hargrove only played his gigs when he came in and sat in with granddaddies that were lightyears older than him. I was playing a gig with Dado Moroni and Walter Booker and young Roy was sitting on the side of the steps. He hit me in the leg, ‘hey, Mr. Queen, can I sit in?’. ‘Yeah man,’ I said, ‘that’s where the microphone is right there.’ I loved Roy Hargrove. He admired the elders and loved to play with them. He wanted to know where it was at before it was too late. His experience is sadly missed in New York. He had an every-night jam session going on, man.”

FM: So, we don’t have to expect to have any new young masters?
AQ: “Not if we don’t have bands and leaders, we won’t. A master is a guy who can hold a beautiful tone which blends in with everything. In the Basie band, all trumpeters went into a room and each held one note, so it would sound like one. The ‘one note school.’ I used to sit real close and watch the group of Thelonious Monk. I would hear the gut string of the bass. Wilbur Ware would play one note, no amplification, and it went like, BOOM. The bottles rattled behind the bar. They’re masters. One of the problems today is that 90 % of the musicians move around and don’t stay sturdy.”

FM: Are you going to release some new stuff in the near future?
AQ: “I’m working on a new record right now. It has Tommy Morimoto on saxophone. He’s been running around for twenty years but nobody ever gave him a break. Carlton Holmes is on piano and Danton Boller on bass. He was with Roy Hargrove. I met him through Benny Wallace. I don’t want any people with names. I don’t want four bandleaders on stage, there’s gonna be conflict. I’d rather be the only one there.”

“It will feature four-or-five minute tunes like The Night Has A Thousand Eyes and It Ain’t Necessarily So. I want people to listen to the radio and think, wow, where has that song been? The trick in music is to keep it simple. Let it happen, don’t try to make it happen. If your grow, the music is a part of you. With life, you grow. Music is like food. If you’re a chef in the kitchen, the food tastes better years from now than it does at the present because you learn how to cook the food right.”

“I paid my dues, I have a right to make a statement. I never said I was a mentor because I never reach my goal. When I die, I still haven’t reached it. I just go to another dimension. If I reach my goal, there’s no reason to create anymore. Too many people think that they are already there. That’s when you’re blocking your goal. I went to Oscar Peterson and asked him one time, ‘tell me something, how does it feel to be a genius?’ He said, ‘come into the room and shut the door and sit down!’ He said: ‘Look, people say I’m a genius. But I’m an ordinary piano player like you are an ordinary drummer.’ Great wisdom. And when I die, I die with the basics, with the wisdom.”

Alvin Queen


Harry “Sweets” Edison: “Alvin reminds me of the original drummers that I worked with in the 30’s and 40’s. He has it all. I have to play at 150% of my capacity. If not, he’ll put me out of stage. Alvin keeps me young every note I play with him. He’s fantastic.”

Clark Terry: “Alvin is one of the most swinging drummers of all time that I know and have played with.”

Ray Brown: “Alvin is not only one of the top drummers for sure but also one of the most swinging and crazy guys that I know.”

Frank Wess: There’s only one Alvin Queen in the jazz world. Period!”

Kenny Drew: “If Alvin leaves the trio, I’ll never hire another drummer.”

Selected Discography:

As a leader:
In Europe (Nilva 1980)
Ashanti (Nilva 1981)
Lenox & Seventh (with Lonnie Smith – Black & Blue 1985)
I’m Back (Nilva 1992)
Nishville (Moju 1998)
Hear Me Drummin’ To Ya! (Jazzette 2000)
This Is Uncle Al (with Jesper Thilo – Music Mecca 2001)
I Ain’t Looking At You (Justin Time 2005)
O.P. (Stunt 2018)
Night Train To Copenhagen (Stunt 2021)

As a sideman:
Charles Tolliver, Impact (Strata-East 1975)
Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Jaw’s Blues (Enja 1981)
John Patton, Soul Connection (Nilva 1983)
Guy Lafitte/Wild Bill Davis, Three Men On A Beat (Black & Blue 1983)
Pharaoh Sanders, A Prayer Before Dawn (Evidence 1987)
Tete Montoliu, Barcelona Meeting (Fresh Sound 1988)
Kenny Drew Trio, Standard Request: Live At Keystone Corner (Alfa 1991)
George Coleman, At Yoshi’s (Evidence 1992)
Pierre Boussaguet, Trio Charme (EmArcy 1998)
Cedric Caillaud Trio, Swinging The Count (Fresh Sound 2012)

Check out Alvin’s website here.

Chris Hazelton After Dark (Cellar Music 2023)


We can face the music together. Dancing in the dark.



Chris Hazelton (organ), Brett Jackson (baritone saxophone), Jamie Anderson (guitar), John Kizilarmut (drums), Pat Conway (congas)


on Feb 19 & 20 at Weights & Measures Soundlab, Kansas City, Missouri


as Cellar Music in 2023

Track listing

Amsterdam After Dark
Easy Talk
Jammin’ At The Kirk
Night Lights
So Tired
The Groove Merchant
Watch What Happens

If anything fulfills the promise of acting as the number one night life jazz instrument, it’s the Hammond B3 organ. Preferably in combination with a saxophone. Nothing as bluesy and smoky and perfectly able to wash away the burdens of everyday life. Organist Chris Hazelton has plenty experience on this terrain and takes the wee wee hours as a loose theme on After Dark. Hazelton and his Kansas City crew are on the roster of the inimitable Cellar Music label, whose hip art work typically magnifies the emotional response its artists are aiming for.

Hazelton chose the baritone saxophone of Brett Jackson as partner-in-groove-crime, which gives the format a more heavy and gritty vibe than with the usual suspect, the tenor saxophone. In this respect, his most famous forebear no doubt is the George Benson/Lonnie Smith band of the mid-late-sixties featuring bari God, the lamented Ronnie Cuber. The groovinest giants! Less imposing, but interesting no less, is the session that maestro Jimmy Smith did in 1958 with Cecil Payne, which was released as Six Views Of The Blues by Blue Note in 1999. Over the years, James Carter has regularly used the baritone to full effect in his organ groups with Gerard Gibbs. A fabulous example of contemporary killer B3/bari-ism is Adam Scone’s Low & Slow featuring Ian Hendrickson-Smith, also a Cellar Music release.

These are the kind of tunes that you wanna hear when you’re out on the town. Toe-tapping stuff like Bobby Timmons’s So Tired, Jerome Richardson’s The Groove Merchant and – congratulations for dragging it our of obscurity – Easy Talk by Columbus, Ohio legend Hank Marr. Not to mention George Coleman’s Amsterdam After Dark, one of the songs where organ and baritone gel like burning rubber and gravel.

Nothing elicits that nocturnal vibe as good as Gerry Mulligan’s Night Lights, which speaks of someone in the wee-est of the wee wee hours at a table in a club, all the gin gone, cigarette dangling in his hand, staring into space and wondering what all this wandering in the asphalt desert is about, and about what not. Surprise pick: Michel Legrand’s Watch What Happens. We’re listening what happens, which is the whole band in full and tasteful swing, relishing Legrand’s stimulating harmonic movements.

Hazelton builds strong solo’s, sometimes ending them with a full-register climax, Wild Bill Davis-style. As in Kerry Strayer’s Jammin’ At The Kirk, which oozes swing jazz feeling, not surprisingly considering Hazelton’s roots in Kansas City. Heartening that, in a year of Hammond casualties, what with the passings of the sadly missed Joey DeFrancesco, Lonnie Smith and Reuben Wilson, there are solid guys like Chris Hazelton keeping the flame of the B3 burning.

Chris Hazelton

Find After Dark on Bandcamp here.

J.J. Johnson - A Touch Of Satin

J.J. Johnson A Touch Of Satin (Columbia 1962)

J.J. Johnson and Cannonball’s rhythm section. Ergo: hard bop bone-ology of the highest order.

J.J. Johnson - A Touch Of Satin


J.J. Johnson (trombone), Victor Feldman (piano), Sam Jones (bass), Louis Hayes (drums)


on December 15 & 21, 1960 and January 12, 1961


as CL 1737 in 1962

Track listing

Side A:
Satin Doll
Flat Black
Side B:
Full Moon And Empty Arms
Sophisticated Lady
When The Saints Go Marching In

Though hardly the greatest recording by J.J. Johnson, it couldn’t go wrong. Simply and curtly stated by Johnson in the liner notes of A Touch Of Satin: “Last year while touring in Europe I had the pleasure of appearing as soloist with accompaniment by Julian “Cannonball” Adderley’s rhythm section. To say the least, I enjoyed the experience the most. So much so that with Cannonball’s approval, we recorded this LP immediately upon returning from Europe.”

By 1960/61, the date of these recordings, the leading modern trombone player, born in 1924 in Indianapolis, had been on the scene for almost twenty years. He went through the bands of Benny Carter and Count Basie and the famous Jazz At The Philharmonic tours from Norman Granz before turning into the pioneer of trombone playing in bebop, an up-until-then unmatched virtuoso that set the template for future modern trombonists. Johnson was a pivotal presence on historic recordings: Charlie Parker’s On Dial in 1947, Stitt/Powell/Johnson in 1949, Miles Davis’s Birth Of The Cool in 1949 and Walkin’ in 1954, Dizzy Gillespie’s Afro in 1954, Kenny Dorham’s Afro-Cuban in 1954 and Sonny Rollins’s Volume 2 in 1957. Meanwhile, Johnson struck up a co-leadership with fellow bone boss Kai Winding, a much-acclaimed duo that recorded successfully from 1954-60 and 1968/69.

A series of Johnson compositions became instant standards, notably Wee Dot and Lament. Among his records as a leader, The Eminent Jay Jay Johnson Volume 1-3 on Blue Note from 1953-55 are unbeatable, coupling the best of the best as Clifford Brown, Kenny Clarke, Wynton Kelly, Charles Mingus, Hank Mobley and Horace Silver. Johnson found a home at Columbia Records in the mid-fifties and turned out a lot of excellent records for a period of seven years, notably First Place with Tommy Flanagan, Paul Chambers and Max Roach.

A Touch Of Satin isn’t a satin affair at all, nor velvet and neither flannel, but named so because Duke Ellington’s Satin Doll is part of the repertoire. It’s more like a sturdy cotton shirt and a thick wool sweater. He’s certainly reveling in the company and though Johnson maintains his trademark clean and bright tone and would never sound as gritty and greasy as Ellington trombonists or Al Grey, his sound is unusually big and broad and his style features plenty ‘blooziness’, perhaps that the reason why Johnson named one of the tunes on this album Bloozineff.

He adds fresh melodic ideas to Monk’s Jackie-ing, riding the waves of Feldman’s hip and deceptively loose-jointed bundle of chords. Feldman lets notes ring like Christmas bells. Satin Doll is a great group effort, a jolly, big-sounding festivity and Johnson’s slyly timed accents and fabulously structured solo are the icing on the cake. Johnson’s Flat Black, the most “Adderley Quintet-ish” cut, finds him on fire and supple and fast like a leopard on the savannah. Bop and hard bop alternates with a couple of nice ballads, featuring Feldman on celeste, and the party goers are waved goodbye with a sassy and hard-swinging version of jazz anthem When The Saints Go Marching In. Party’s over but we don’t mind the headache, it’s been serious fun.

Johnson also turned his attention to Third Stream music, rather successfully one might add, onwards from the early 1960’s, a contender to John Lewis and Gunther Schuller. In the 1970’s and early 1980’s, Johnson worked almost exclusively for cinema and television in Hollywood. Although he returned to jazz performance thereafter and earned several Grammy nominations during the last part of his career, it seems Johnson was not entirely fulfilled. He had his share of bad luck. His first wife suffered a stroke and Johnson cared for her until her death three and a half years later. Johnson was diagnosed with prostate cancer in the late 1990’s.

Apparently, Johnson died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in 2001. A tragedy that is mentioned in all available sources online. Is it true or just conjecture after some kind of ill-fated event? Old friend and former manager of Ray Brown, Jean-Michel Reisser-Beethoven, says: “I first met him in 1980 when he was touring in Europe with Nat Adderley. I saw him many times in L.A. He was very joyous but at the end of his life he became very negative. He was not the same anymore, I think he was not very happy about his career in general. He wanted to do things in other ways, but he didn’t. I don’t know why exactly he was not happy, because he had a great career. He was a fabulous musician. He lived in Hollywood for almost forty years but went back to Indianapolis a couple of years before the end of his life. He stopped playing and writing and giving news to people around him.”

“It is true. He killed himself. He couldn’t handle the fact that there was nothing that could be done after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He asked his wife to go and buy some books for him. When she came back, she found him. A very sad way to leave this earth and a very sad story.”

Too bad. Still, only one occurrence in an exceptional life lived in the jazz realm.

Listen to A Touch Of Satin on YouTube here

King Queen

King Queen (pt.1)

Survivor. Last of the Mohicans. Royalty. Alvin Queen signed, sealed and delivered his statements in classic jazz. In part 1 of our interview, the veteran drummer talks about growing up in Mount Vernon, NY, the roots of the black beat, sitting front row at Coltrane’s epic Birdland performance besides ‘mentor’ Elvin Jones at age 13 and finding his way as a young professional with Wild Bill Davis, George Benson and Horace Silver. “We were set up during one of the most beautiful times in music.”

The camera reveals a strong man. Pronounced jaw lines. Plenty muscle. The type that was like a leopard on the court in the hood, dunking methodically and swiftly. The type that carries nephews on his shoulders at the fairground. His body is like his beat. And his beat is very strong. It’s like an unbreakable wheelbarrow. To put extra weight into his words, Alvin Queen regularly bends forward, adding a resolute “okay?!” or “you see?!” He’ll tell you where it’s at, where it’s been and where it should go. A preacher, beyond any doubt. A very generous one, at that. It is impossible to avoid the legendary drummer’s twinkling eyes. They speak of love for his art and trade. They speak of the serious fun of endlessly discussing those. They speak of the giants of jazz of lore.

Alvin Queen oozes classic jazz. At age 73, he looks back upon a spectacular career that gained momentum when he was taken under the wings by Elvin Jones and developed into the to-go-to rhythm pal of Wild Bill Davis, George Benson, Horace Silver, Ray Brown, Harry Sweets Edison, Eddie Lockjaw Davis, Kenny Drew and Oscar Peterson, among many others. Queen migrated to Geneva in Switzerland in the 1970’s and started the record label Nilva. A figurehead of the European scene and a middle-aged class act with truckloads of experience, he adopted the new breed and played with the Marsalis Bros, Roy Hargrove, Nicholas Payton, Mike LeDonne, Eric Alexander, Christian McBride and Jesse Davis.

Those were the days when hand-written letters were something to cherish. Now we have the avatar of Elvis Presley putting another gig in his hip pocket in Las Vegas. People adjusting their blinds with their smart phones while they’re drinking cocktails at a sidewalk café in Malaga, Spain. A world of difference. But no mistaking, Queen has both feet on the ground of the 21st century. Although he is critical of the system that breeds well-intentioned but ignorant young players, he still likes to play with talented young lions, preferably those that deserve wider attention. His latest tribute to Oscar Peterson, Night Train To Copenhagen, features a couple of fine young Danish fellows that fly by the digital highway from the word go. Queen: “My Oscar Peterson tributes did very well. The first one from 2018, O.P., went BOOM to the charts, then Night Train To Copenhagen went BOOM up the charts as well, up to number 3 out of 100 best albums in the USA last year. I am not doing anything out of the ordinary. I’m playing normal music. I can’t change music. Most of the best composers in the world, they’re dead and gone. I’m playing the kind of melodies that people can understand.”

(Tobias Dall, AQ and Calle Brinkman, the Night Train To Copenhagen trio.)

FM: You grew up in Mount Vernon, New York. What was it like?
AQ: “Great. We had after-school programs those days. Every kid had something to join, like a band or a swimming team. I followed the roots of my brother, who played drums. Kids had drumsticks and banged on the sidewalk. I lived in a black neighborhood and there was a lot of exposure to music. You had these little cafés that sold hot sausages and had a jukebox. We would bang on the side of the jukebox. Everybody had some kind of rhythm going on. There was music all up and down the streets. All cafés opened the doors because there was no such thing as air-conditioning. I would sit on the stoop, eat ice cream and listen to the music. Billy Eckstine, Arthur Prysock. My brother didn’t keep the drums going and I joined the school band. We would do parades. This was about 1958/59. My mother went Christmas shopping down the avenue. There was this store window, Woolworth’s dime store I think it was, and up there was a little kid and a guy who was teaching him drums. I kept looking, thinking, how in the hell can I get up to this guy… one day when my mom is not around… So, one day I did. I was a shoeshine kid with a little box. I went to the illegal skin joints, got a quarter or fifty cents. I went up Fourth Avenue, the guy was Andy Lalino, he had worked with Neil Sedaka. I said, ‘you want a shoe shine?’ Just a nosey kid, you know. ‘No, no, no,’ he said. ‘You play drums?’ ‘Yeah’, I said, ‘I’m in the school marching band’. He said: ‘Tell your mother to call me.’ She did and I got lessons for two months. But it was 5 dollars an hour. And my mom was on social service. She was on welfare. I had two brothers and sisters. Money didn’t stretch that far. Lalino said, ‘Miss Queen, he’s a nice kid, I don’t wanna see him go bad in the street. He can stay here, run coffee errands, sweep the floors, I give him his lessons.’

“I grew up with Denzel Washington, the actor. His father was a minister at the church where I went. My grandmother played piano and directed the choir. My father was working the bars as a bar manager. There were about six jazz clubs in one square mile. We weren’t allowed in white areas so much, we had everything in our own neighborhood. One day, in one of those clubs, Jimmy Hill had a gig but something happened to the drummer. Jimmy went to the bar where my father was manager. My father’s nickname was Dead Eye and Jimmy said, ‘Dead Eye, the drummer didn’t show, could we use the kid?’ I was eleven years old! My father said, ‘can you do this, Alvin?’ I said, ‘Dad, if there’s any music that they play that is in your record collection, I can help!’ ‘Ok’, he said, ‘put your suit and necktie on.’ My dad was chaperone. That was the first gig that I played. I knew all the music. At drum school we played along with records of Dinah Washington. Dance music.”

FM: What music did you play that night? Swing?
AQ: No, no. Art Blakey. Chicken ‘n’ Dumplins. The Blue Note stuff. Shuffles were very popular. Jimmy Smith’s The Sermon. We knew all those records by heart because we heard ‘m all the time. All those tunes that guys like Symphony Sid put on air.

FM: How much influence did church and gospel have on you?
AQ: “In the first place, the thing about the black churches was, if you didn’t go to church on Sunday, you couldn’t go out and play on Saturday. Inside the church we had big mamas. Everybody watched each other’s kids. If you played hookie, somebody told your mother or father and they would say, where were you!

“I would see grandmothers play tambourines and how they beat the rhythms. You would see upright basses and a piano player that played on a piano that had broken keys and was out of tune. There was the organ, that was a black thing. All great organ players came out of church. When you see exactly what was happening from gospel, blues, the shuffle rhythm to rock and roll and Little Richard, Tina Turner, The Beatles, you see one pattern. This is the gospel root. The whole thing about it, it’s 6/8 or 12/8, counted in triplets. That is what makes it swing. In school they teach them to play in sixteenth notes but that’s not swinging. I always try to explain to students and everybody, count in triplets and play the ¾. Listen to Gene Harris & The Three Sounds and Lil’ Darlin’ for instance, you’ll hear it. All triplets going on. See where all the accents are falling. It’s how you interpret it. I play all rhythms in one beat. A lot of people want to play with me because they think, that guy has got an ‘older’ right hand. I care about the definition of the beat. That’s what the musicians need. I believe in a solid, sturdy beat.”

FM: Your father regularly took you up to Harlem and the Apollo Theatre. That’s very generous.
AQ: “At that time, black people had process hair. They mixed lye and potato and straightened their hair. Look at Oscar Peterson, Nat King Cole, Erroll Garner. They had to do this once a week or every two weeks. The famous boxer, Sugar Ray Robinson, opened a barbershop in Harlem. My father frequented his shop and always said, ‘Alvin, after I have my hair done, we’ll get you a hot dog and see the show’. I saw Stevie Wonder, The Jackson Five, The Supremes, Count Basie, John Coltrane, entertainers as Pigmeat Markum and actors like Red Foxx. They had a Gospel Caravan. Afterwards, we would buy the records across the street at Teddy McRae’s record store. Music was like food.”

FM: You mentioned that you were a shoeshine boy. I read that you shined the shoes of Thelonious Monk. Pretty crazy! How did something like that come about?
AQ: “Yeah, they had Beefsteak Charlie’s at 50th Street and Broadway. I was a kid and listening where these guys hung out. I’d use the shoeshine box again, just like I did in Mount Vernon. Coleman Hawkins hung out there when he was doing studio work in New York. I’d say, ‘you want a shine?’ to Hawkins, Monk, Buck Clayton, Cozy Cole… All those guys worked at the Metropole, which was close by. They would say, ‘hey, young boy, gimme a shine!’. They never pushed you away, they always behaved like decent adults.”

(Birdland, Elvin & Alvin and anonymous shoe shine boy)

FM: You also went to something like the Gretsch Drum Night, right?
AQ: What happened was, the guy that taught me drums in Mount Vernon, he got permission from my mother to take me to a drum show downtown at the Roseland. Elvin Jones was the guest and we got very close. That was in 1962. Then the teacher chaperoned me to the Gretsch Drum Night. They had Red Garland on piano and I think Paul Chambers on bass. Elvin Jones, Art Blakey, Max Roach, Mel Lewis and Charli Persip took turns. For some reason, Elvin said, ‘get him up there’… I played and it was the biggest thing they’ve seen, man this kid is playing! Birdland was just across the street. I hung out there and saw Eric Dolphy, Wes Montgomery.”

FM: At Birdland, you saw John Coltrane perform what would be recorded as part of the famous Live At Birdland album in 1963. At the tender age of 13! Please tell me how that came about.
AQ: Yeah, it was my teacher that took me out again. That was the night that Coltrane met his future wife, Alice. There were always two bands playing at Birdland and she was playing with Terry Gibbs. Of course, she was still Alice McLeod then. Anyway, I was sitting at the table with Elvin. He said, with that deep, gritty voice of his, ‘the kid’s got to learn, the kid’s got to learn’. He picked me up and put me up there with Coltrane. I’m making all these sounds. I remember John Coltrane turning around and saying, ‘Elvin, get the kid, man!’ Haha!”

FM: Do you remember what tune you played?
AQ: I don’t remember the tune! I was in a state of shock. It lasted for maybe five or ten minutes. I was young, my hands weren’t that strong as Elvin’s. Elvin put me back at the table. One thing Elvin and Art Blakey always did, they took you right under them, you could watch their feet and see what they were doing.”

FM: So, you were mentored by Elvin after that?
AQ: Off and on. I would follow Elvin around, me and guys like Reginald Golson, that’s Benny’s son, who also was a drummer and died. We stayed at The Peanut Gallery at Birdland. We were allowed to sit there because we were kids. We weren’t allowed at the bar. During breaks musicians would come over. All of them talked with the kids.

FM: Your first professional gigs were with singer Ruth Brown and organist Wild Bill Davis.
AQ: Yes, I don’t even know how I got that gig with Wild Bill. We went to Atlantic City and played at Grace’s Little Belmont club. It was a chicken ‘n’ waffles bar. After that I joined the organ circuit. Everything was organ at the time. They needed drummers all the time. So, you go and hang out in a bar in Harlem. That was how I got in touch with Grant Green and people like that. He would say ‘hey young boy, what are you doing next week?’ ‘Oh, Sir,’ I would say, ‘I’m not doing anything.’ ‘Okay, have your drums ready on Monday at 7:30, we’re going out of town…’. That probably was with John Patton. All organ players had a trailer. I started working with Don Pullen. He is best-known through his work as pianist with Mingus and George Adams but he also played the Hammond organ. I played with him and Ruth Brown. Then I played with guitarist Tiny Grimes at Sue’s Rendezvous at 115th Street. You don’t even know who they really are, you’re just making gigs.”

(Elvin Jones, George Benson and Horace Silver)

FM: You also played with George Benson around that time.
AQ: Yes, he was with Ronnie Cuber and Lonnie Smith. George sang a lot in the car, but he wasn’t a singer yet. I remember that we went to Buffalo one time. There was a snowstorm and so we were snowed in. We were playing the Beemose club but there weren’t any people. Nobody. ‘Who you’re playing for?’ said the owner. ‘Man,’ I said, ‘I want my money.’ ‘Okay,’ he said, ‘cool it, have a drink…’. Then B.B. King came in with two young ladies. He also had a gig and was snowed in as well. He said to George, ‘George, if you change up your style a little bit, you’ll probably be successful.’ That’s when he came up with Breezin’, the big hit.’

FM: At the same time, you joined Horace Silver. How did that come about?
AQ: I auditioned and got a call from Horace Silver in September 1969. I had to have a suit, went to a pawnshop on 8th Avenue, purchased two cases for the drums and joined the union. I had to have a cabaret license. Me and Tony Williams, we were young and always had trouble with police cards and fingerprints. Union delegates would come and check, we couldn’t play with any name bands a lot of the time. At that time, Horace had Bennie Maupin on saxophone, Randy Brecker on trumpet and John Williams on bass. Silver would take a vacation each year, I was with him for nine months and would do the other three months with George Benson. That’s how it worked.”

Next time, part 2, Alvin Queen talks about his reconnecting with Silver in the 1970’s, his migration to Switzerland and pivotal role as drummer with the elderly jazz legends and explains the difference between classic and contemporary jazz…

Alvin Queen


Oscar Peterson: “Alvin is one of the best drummers that I ever shared the stage with. He has a great sound and time feel. He plays with fire and I really love it.”

Elvin Jones: “Alvin has something that I don’t have and will never have: precision. I love him!”

Pierre Boussaguet: “Alvin’s backbeat is unique in this world and when he plays a ballad, you hear each time clear and wide. Amazing.”

Benny Carter: “Alvin knows exactly what to give to every musician in the band to play at their best. I love him.”

Butch Miles: “I wish I could have Alvin’s chops! He’s so fabulous!”

Calle Brickman: “Apart from his amazing musicianship that I listened to on records throughout my life, Alvin is also a great person. He is happy to share his views on music and life, which is the way jazz tradition has been brought through the generations. A true friend and a historic figure in jazz.”

Selected Discography:

As a leader:
In Europe (Nilva 1980)
Ashanti (Nilva 1981)
Lenox & Seventh (with Lonnie Smith – Black & Blue 1985)
I’m Back (Nilva 1992)
Nishville (Moju 1998)
Hear Me Drummin’ To Ya! (Jazzette 2000)
This Is Uncle Al (with Jesper Thilo – Music Mecca 2001)
I Ain’t Looking At You (Justin Time 2005)
O.P. (Stunt 2018)
Night Train To Copenhagen (Stunt 2021)

As a sideman:
Charles Tolliver, Impact (Strata-East 1975)
Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Jaw’s Blues (Enja 1981)
John Patton, Soul Connection (Nilva 1983)
Guy Lafitte/Wild Bill Davis, Three Men On A Beat (Black & Blue 1983)
Pharaoh Sanders, A Prayer Before Dawn (Evidence 1987)
Tete Montoliu, Barcelona Meeting (Fresh Sound 1988)
Kenny Drew Trio, Standard Request: Live At Keystone Corner (Alfa 1991)
George Coleman, At Yoshi’s (Evidence 1992)
Pierre Boussaguet, Trio Charme (EmArcy 1998)
Cedric Caillaud Trio, Swinging The Count (Fresh Sound 2012)

Check out Alvin’s website here.

Freddie Robinson - Hot Fun In The Summertime

Freddie Robinson Hot Fun In The Summertime (Liberty 1970)

Typically versatile exponent of black music got on the good foot in the early 1970’s.

Freddie Robinson - Hot Fun In The Summertime


Freddie Robinson (guitar), Bobby Bryant & Freddie Hill (trumpet), Bill Green (tenor saxophone), Tom Scott (alto saxophone), Unknown (piano), Al Vascovo (guitar), Wilton Felder (bass), Paul Humphrey (drums), Sid Garp’s String Section (strings), Clydie King, Darlene Love & Edna Wright (vocals)


in 1970


as LST-11007 in 1970

Track listing

Side A:
Caprice’s Green Grass
I Want To Hold Your Hand
I’m In Love
Side B:
Hot Fun In The Summertime
Someday We’ll Be Together
Becky’s Rainbow
The Creeper

All you mouse folk, take heed. Special cat sneaked into the Flophouse domain. I remember thinking many moons ago, this guy is way cool! A friend of mine shared the sentiment. We were 17 years old and had just listened to a fellow play hip and funky guitar on a 1972 live record by John Mayall: Blues Fusion. My talented friend copied some of his phrases. The guitarist was Freddie Robinson.

Now here I am writing about Freddie. Freddie’s dead. He passed away in 2009. Seventy years before, Robinson was born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1939, growing into a musician that traveled the roundabout of black music, any other path in a town that spawned as diverse a lot as B.B. King, Ike Turner, Booker T. Jones and George Coleman was highly unlikely. You can hear Mr. Robinson play on Chicago blues classics by Howlin’ Wolf as Spoonful, Back Door Man and Wang Dang Doodle. He was part of the Ray Charles band in Los Angeles. Furthermore, Robinson worked with jazz funk stalwarts The Crusaders and tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine. His is a tantalizing blues and funk style with plenty jazz feeling.

Along the way, in 1975, Freddie got religion, muslim faith to be exact, not uncommon in the jazz fraternity, and changed his name to Abu Talib. Still sporting the initials of F.R. in 1970, Robinson recorded his finest solo album Hot Fun In The Summertime, a delicious slice of deep and smooth pop and funk jazz. Both Robinson’s Caprice’s Green Grass and The Creeper bear the mark of the era’s recordings by The Meters, while his Becky’s Rainbow builds on the example of Curtis Mayfield, just so you know what you’re in for.

You’re in for a soulful and crafty album that preeminently ties together good groove, horns, female vocals and strings and highlights a distinctive guitar style, bossy without being arrogant, marked by repetitive blues licks that stoke up the fire, not to mention the sly wah wah and overdrive sound of Sly & The Family Stone’s vivacious pop-funk classic Hot Fun In The Summertime and the sharply articulated licks of The Beatles’ I Want To Hold Your Hold Your Hand. Both covers surpass evergreen Moonglow, which is fine though veers towards easy listening. The fat-bottomed bass of (Jazz) Crusaders saxophonist Wilton Felder deserves special mention.

Not much left to be desired after a working week, standing at the kitchen counter on a Friday evening, pouring a drink, this sophisticated and bluesy axe man’s silky and down-home sounds spilling from the speaker cabinet, you dig…

Listening to Hot Fun In The Summertime on YouTube here and 1972’s At The Drive-In on Spotify below.