Patti Bown - Plays Big Piano

Patti Bown Big Piano (Columbia 1959)

Fallen through the cracks, the great pianist Patti Bown.

Patti Bown - Plays Big Piano

Personnel

Patti Bown (piano), Joe Benjamin (bass), Ed Shaughnessy (drums)

Recorded

on September 27 and October 27 & 28, 1959 in New York City

Released

as CL 1379 in 1959

Track listing

Side A:
Nothin’ But The Truth
It Might As Well Be Spring
Waltz De Funk
I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair
Head Shakin’
Side B:
Gwon Train
Sunshine Cake
Give Me The Simple Life
I Didn’t Know What Time It Was
I Was Always True To You In My Fashion


HThat’s Bown, not Brown. Miss Bown to you. Slip of the tongue, is all. Understandable. At any rate, here’s an unknown pianist that could be described as the female counterpart of Ray Bryant.

Bown recorded only one album as a leader: Big Piano. But quite a few recordings as sidewoman reveal that Bown was well-respected and acclaimed among musicians and cognoscenti.

Born in Seattle in 1931, Bown aspired a future as concert pianist, an ambition that was thwarted by the simple and cruel fact that high-echelon cultural positions were generally denied to black citizens. She was raised on Ellington, Basie, Parker and Gillespie and while she worked as typist, stock clerk and window washer, Bown played blues, gospel and jazz. Her sister married Jerry Valente, who wrote arrangements for Miles Davis, Sarah Vaughan and Art Blakey.

Bown was involved in Billy Eckstine sessions in New York City in 1956. Again, in 1959, Bown resided in New York City, when Seattle-born Quincy Jones took her on the road with his Free And Easy band, intermittently touring in Europe. At the same time, a test record of her music ended up at the headquarters of Columbia Records via George Painkin, which led to the production of Big Piano.

Big piano, indeed. As in: voluptuous, vivacious and downright vunky. Bown, together with bassist Joe Benjamin and drummer Ed Shaughnessy, who occasionally adds tambourine for a lively gospel effect, has a no holds barred-approach to standards and originals, adding blues-drenched originals for the icing on the buttery cake. She transforms Give Me The Simple Life into an up-tempo Saturday night fish fry romp. Bown reimagines It Might As Well Be Spring by setting of her four beat drive against bouncy triplets. Bown’s Nothing But The Truth tells it like it is in Baptist fashion. Her Sunshine Cake oozes Basie swing as economy of lines and development from lithe to heavy swing is concerned. G’won Train reveals not only that Bown was knee-deep in groove river but makes canny use of space and flow. Terribly exciting and organic stuff.

In the 1960’s, Bown recorded with various jazz artists, notably Gene Ammons (six records), Oliver Nelson (four records) and Quincy Jones (four records). Taking a dive into her session work, you will hear that she usually came up with something spicy and worthwhile. Check The Five ‘O Clock Whistle from Ammons’s Uptight and Hobo Flats from Oliver Nelson’s Fantabulous here.

Apparently, Bown recorded with Aretha Franklin and James Brown in the 1960’s. Where and when? No idea. Bown definitely suited their aesthetic to a T.

Bown had made New York her home and worked on Broadway and in the film and tv industry. She regularly performed at the Village Gate. Bown passed away in 2008.

Jimmy Caravan - Look Into The Flower

Jimmy Caravan Look Into The Flower (Tower 1967)

West Coast organist takes us higher and higher.

Jimmy Caravan - Look Into The Flower

Personnel

Jimmy Caravan (organ), Personnel unknown

Recorded

in 1967 in Los Angeles

Released

as Tower 5103 in 1967

Track listing

Side A:
Holiday
Higher And Higher
Little Bird
How Can I Be Sure
Up, Up And Away
Side B:
Eleanor Rigby
I Say A Little Prayer
Rock And Roll Woman
A Day In The Life
Look Into The Flower


Every woman every man, join the caravan of love. Here’s Jimmy Caravan and his hippie Hammond happening. Elusive character, to say the least. Anybody got the goods on Mr. Caravan, please raise your hand. Only thing to go on are the liner notes of his debut album Look Into The Flower. Caravan was born in Pennsylvania in 1940, played accordion and oboe as a kid, performed in Pittsburgh clubs, was inspired to pick up the organ by Jimmy McGriff, went westward to Hollywood. Few bits on the internet highway to hell. According to the Captain Beefheart fan site Captain Beefheart Radio Station, Caravan supposedly played organ on Bluejeans And Moonbeams, albeit alongside two other keyboard players. Close listening required.

Contrary to his stint with Don van Vliet, the heavy organ sounds on Caravan’s debut album on Capitol’s subsidiary label Tower Look Into The Flower from 1967 can’t be ignored. (its follow-up Hey Jude was released in 1969) That also applies to a couple of nice tricks that Caravan’s got up his sleeve.

Flowers, strings of beads, sunglasses. Jazz pop funk all over the place. And a group of excellent ‘unknown’ musicians (strong bassist and striking drummer, who lays down some hefty grooves, his fills on Holiday are outtasight) that make Caravan’s songs sound like the soulified and muscular brothers of Big Brother & The Holding Company and Jefferson Airplane. There is no recorded evidence but, full of popular tunes as Eleanor Rigby, I Say A Little Prayer, Up, Up & Away, A Day In The Life and Rock And Roll Woman, Look Into The Flower (thank you, will give it a try) should’ve gone down well in Haight-Ashbury. Groovy stuff, man. Peace. And all that jazz.

None of that frumpy skate ring stuff. Caravan’s sound is voluptuous and meaty with the right amount of crunch and his forthright lines are precise and fluent, usually starting off with a hefty signal and hammering them home convincingly. Eerie and alienating sounds mark I Say A Little Prayer. Caravan ends Eleanor Rigby with something resembling ambulance sirens. Acid overdose? Hope she’s ok. The way that the organist underlines his story of Rock And Roll Woman with subtle left hand runs is pretty nifty. All this reveals a good ear for detail.

No need to further analyse a commercial record like Look Into The Flower, definitely a top-rate affair in the world of unpretentious groove music. (And, amazingly, available on Spotify)

Jimmy Caravan passed away in Santa Ana in 1990.

Donald Byrd - At The Half Note Volume 1

Donald Byrd At The Half Note Café Vol 1 & 2 (Blue Note 1961)

Byrd’s band flies high at the Half Note Café.

Donald Byrd - At The Half Note Volume 1

 

Donald Byrd - At The Half Note Volume 2

Personnel

Donald Byrd (trumpet), Pepper Adams (baritone saxophone), Duke Pearson (piano), Laymon Jackson (bass), Lex Humphries (drums)

Recorded

on November 11, 1960 at the Half Note Café, NYC

Released

as BLP 4046 and BLP 4061 in 1961

Track listing

Volume 1:
Side A:
My Girl Shirl
Soulful Kiddy
Side B:
A Portrait Of Jennie
Cecile
Volume 2:
Side A:
Jeannine
Pure D. Funk
Side B:
Kimyas
When Sunny Gets Blue


From A Night At Birdland by Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers to Live At The House Of Tribes by Wynton Marsalis, Blue Note has produced an iconic series of cookin’ live albums. Not counting the wide array of live performances that Blue Note had its hands in ever since, so far culminating in 8:Kindred Spirits, superb and poetical date from Charles Lloyd, former Cannonball Adderley Quintet band member.

Six years into Blue Note’s outstanding live recording streak, the company released Donald Byrd’s At The Half Note Café Volume 1 & 2 in 1961, essential live Blue Note, punchy as hell, clear and broad sound scape, plainly gorgeous.

How did Rudy van Gelder pull it off? Well, he set up some gear and let the tapes roll. Presumably, acoustics were fine. Ace mastering at Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey was the icing on the cake. I read somewhere that The Blackhawk in San Francisco was one of the dingiest and sleaziest clubs around. And that’s a statement. Yet, the Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis recordings sound superb. Don’t know where the Half Note Café at 298 Hudson Street in Greenwich Village in New York City stood as far as sleaze is concerned. However, its reputation among musicians was good. Nice atmosphere, hip crowd. Listen to Byrd’s band. Just one night out of many in the early 1960’s, hard bop the omnipresent style even if new concepts have importantly entered the equation, one week the club presents Lee Morgan, the other week Stanley Turrentine, Kenny Dorham, Cecil Payne, Barry Harris, Yusef Lateef, Jimmy Knepper or Dave Pike. Etc. And.

Byrd’s band’s cookin’ and if you want an aural definition of hard bop, it’s right there. That’s Donald Byrd, who came into his own in the mid-and late 1950’s as one of the bright and sassy trumpeters of his generation, notably as a member of Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers. By 1960, Byrd was into a run of excellent Blue Note albums. He played with monster baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams for a number of years, which led to a live LP on Riverside, From Ten To Four At The Five Spot (talkin’ about dingy and hip) and various excellent Blue Note LP’s from 1959 to 1962. The rhythm section consists of pianist and Blue Note A&R man Duke Pearson, bassist Laymon Jackson and drummer Lex Humphries, who already shared collaborations on records between them.

Since the double CD set and streaming, Donald Byrd’s show can be heard in its entirety, adding Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea, Theme From Mr. Lucky, Chant and Child’s Play. Potentially, this could’ve been a solid Vol. 3, which evidently speaks volumes about the quality of Byrd’s group. It’s hot, soulful, smooth and swinging. In the past, references about Byrd’s ‘manicured licks’ have been made on All Music which probably refer to Byrd’s repetitive blues phrases on Jeannine. Nonsense. Although hardly innovative, Byrd uses repetition in his game of tension and release, slightly variating with bending, stretching and timing notes.

Duke Pearson’s Jeannine is a winner and typical of Byrd’s Half Note sets, tight-knit and passionate. It’s also typical in that apart from When Sunny Gets Blue, all titles are original compositions by Donald Byrd and Duke Pearson. A couple of good ones, folks, featuring the up-tempo cooker My Girl Shirl, catchy mid-tempo blues line Soulful Kiddy, shimmering ballad A Portrait Of Jenny, happy-go-lucky and bouncy Cecile, down-home slow blues Pure D. Funk and rousing Latin-tinged Kimyas.

With time to stretch out, there’s plenty to enjoy in the way of soloing and all three participants come up with the goods. Byrd is mightily inspired by the powerful rhythmic stimulus of Kimyas, eagerly getting into the groove like a talented teenage bat man that can’t wait to get on the field. The architecture of the solos by the barking and booming Pepper Adams, who single-handedly raised playing of the baritone saxophone to the next level, is something else, notably demonstrated during Cecile.

By 1960, people finally had a chance to hear extended story telling by Duke Pearson, whose soulful and well-constructed variations on Jeannine should not go unnoticed. Just a few highlights, there are stand out moments throughout. Drummer Lex Humphries constantly stokes up the fire, alertly and richly accentuating shifts and changes. Above all, At The Half Note Café Vol. 1 & 2 testifies to the rapport between members of a well-oiled, hard-swinging machine.