The White Blinds Sing A Simple Song (F-Spot 2019)

NEW RELEASE – THE WHITE BLINDS

Drop the needle on the brand-new 45rpm platter by The White Blinds, a cover of Sly Stone’s Sing A Simple Song.

The White Blinds - Sing A Simple Song

Personnel

Carey Frank (organ), Matt Hornbeck (guitar), Michael Duffy (drums)

Recorded

in 2018 at Rich Uncle Records, Los Angeles

Released

as FSPT 1011 in 2019

Track listing

Side A:
Sing A Simple Song
Side B:
Klapp Back


We love those 7inch babies, a format tailor-made for a powerhouse trio like The White Blinds, which while thoroughly up-to-date, harks back to the halcyon soul jazz days, when every joint had a jukebox and Curtis Mayfield, James Brown and a slew of hip and funky organists were the saints that soothed the souls of folks in the hood. The release of Sing A Simple Song/Klapp Back is part of the Homage Series of Los Angeles-based F-Spot Records.

The White Blinds are drummer Michael Duffy, organist Carey Frank and guitarist Matt Hornbeck. The Hammond groove outfit, one of the most prolific organ combos on the West Coast, is a greasy, well-oiled rhythm machine whose version of the flower power funk classic Sing A Simple Song does justice to both Sly & The Family Stone and Charles Earland, the organist known as The Mighty Burner, who presented his killer version on the 1970 Prestige album Black Drops.

The trio’s heavy groove is sustained by precise and powerful drum patterns and breaks, tantalizing New Orleans Funk guitar licks and full-bodied chords and hypnotizing organ lines, which add a drop of acid in a refreshing glass of lemonade.

Side B’s Klapp Back is penned by The White Blinds and marked by a similar tight pocket, as well as a streetwise conversation between Frank and Hornbeck that works well as the introduction to Frank’s solo, which is all crunchy and screaming Hammond B3. Both tunes would work well as the introduction to The White Blinds.

The White Blinds

Find Sing A Simple Song/Klapp Back on F-Spot Records here.

Oliver Nelson, King Curtis & Jimmy Forrest - Soul Battle

Oliver Nelson, King Curtis & Jimmy Forrest Soul Battle (Prestige 1960)

Oliver Nelson had a knack for interesting parings of horns and Soul Battle is a seriously entertaining combination of the differing tenor styles of Nelson, Jimmy Forrest and King Curtis.

Oliver Nelson, King Curtis & Jimmy Forrest - Soul Battle

Personnel

Oliver Nelson (tenor saxophone), Jimmy Forrest (tenor saxophone), King Curtis (tenor saxophone), Gene Casey (piano), George Duvivier (bass), Roy Haynes (drums)

Recorded

on September 8, 1960 at Rudy van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Released

as PRLP 7223 in 1960

Track listing

Side A:
Blues At The Five Spot
Blues For M.F. (Mort Fega)
Anacruses
Side B:
Perdido
In Passing


It is easy to overlook the beauty of a saxophonist’s voice and hi-level playing style when the player in question is also known, perhaps better-known, through his exceptional work as a writer and arranger. Benny Golson is a case in point. Oliver Nelson certainly qualifies. Evidently, he was a renowned arranger of his own work but mostly of other artists like Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins, Cannonball Adderley, Wes Montgomery and Jimmy Smith. His body of work as a writer is comprehensive and filled with gems, the achingly beautiful Stolen Moments serving as his undisputed masterpiece.

Obviously, Blues And The Abstract Truth, his album on Impulse from 1960 which included Stolen Moments and featured Eric Dolphy, Freddie Hubbard and Roy Haynes, is a stone-cold classic and a perennial favorite among teachers at conservatories around the world. Standard subject matter. Straight Ahead isn’t such an indelible part of the curriculum, undeservedly. It’s an essential date on par with Abstract. Strikingly, Nelson’s Prestige albums of this period, which began in 1959 with Meet Oliver Nelson, consist of a thoroughly convincing effort to interpret the blues. Oh boy, his gelling with Dolphy – Dolphy playing Charlie Parker backwards, flying out there, Nelson more modern in the conventional sense, plaintive yet forceful – is truly something else.

Soul Battle precedes Blues And The Abstract Truth and Straight Ahead, which were recorded in the winter of 1961. If the latter albums are blues-based recording sessions that are simultaneously spontaneous and proof of careful preparation, Soul Battle is best described as a relaxed but driving, good-old blowing session. Count your blessings, this is a tenor battle royale! We have Nelson, employing a tone that often touches the alto register, on the hunt for ideas all the time, finding them too, carefully placing them in orderly fashion yet eager to move on, light-footed like a deer in the wild…

Then there’s Jimmy Forrest. Forrest goes way back, played on the riverboats of Mississippi with Fate Marable, with Duke Ellington, became an overnight r&b one-day-fly with Night Train in 1952 (a tune that was based on Duke Ellington’s Happy-Go-Lucky-Local), played with St. Louis pals Miles Davis and Grant Green and spent a big part of the seventies in the band of Count Basie. He’s putting some serious jazz history in a session like this. Take a listen to Blues For M.F., an excellent jump blues that has Nelson taking first solo, expertly so. Then Forrest hits four B.I.G. archetypal notes straight from Coleman Hawkins and suddenly Roy Haynes falls into a pocket… and an even deeper groove that was already developed is a fact… We have King Curtis, the r&b-star. However, lest we forget, King Curtis was a solid jazz player. His hard-edged tone, sleazy phrasing and fervent wails present a nice contrast with Nelson and Forrest’s subsequent modern and rootsy concepts.

Nelson’s story of Anacuses, one of four Nelson originals on Soul Battle – Juan Tizol’s Perdido the exception – has the passion and intensity of Coltrane, the hard-boiled flexibility of Joe Henderson and the direct emotional impact of Booker Ervin. Take that! A thorough dive into Oliver Nelson’s discography will find many exceptional moments, he’s truly one of the greatest saxophonists of his generation.

Nick Hempton - Night Owl

Nick Hempton Night Owl (Triple-Distilled 2019)

NEW RELEASE – NICK HEMPTON

Gritty, entertaining and thoroughly modern. Saxophonist Nick Hempton’s Night Owl keeps the flame of organ combo jazz burning brightly.

Nick Hempton - Night Owl

Personnel

Nick Hempton (tenor & alto saxophone), Peter Bernstein (guitar), Kyle Koehler (organ), Fukushi Tainaka (drums)

Recorded

at G.B’s Juke Joint Night Club, New York City

Released

on Triple-Distilled in 2019

Track listing

Night Owl
I Remember Milady
After You’ve Gone
I’m A Fool To Want You
10th Street Turnaround
Corner Bistro
It Shouldn’t Happen In Dreams
Listen Hard, Speak Easy
Macao Mood


Nick Hempton has been a fixture on the New York scene since 2004. Besides notable cooperations with Roy Hargrove, Joe Magnarelli and Peter Bernstein, the Australia-born tenor and alto saxophonist has released five albums as a leader, four of which were recorded with the Nick Hempton Band, a group that brought him to venues and festivals around the globe. Cherishing a particular passion for classic 60’s organ jazz, Hempton has finally come around to produce a full-blown session of the archetypical format of sax, Hammond organ, guitar and drums. Assisted by guitar maestro Peter Bernstein, organist Kyle Koehler and drummer Fukushi Tainaka, Hempton presents a set of blues-based original tunes like the shuffle grooves Night Owl and Macao Mood, boogaloo-ish Corner Bistro, the Latin-tinged tune I Remember Milady, the greasy backbeat-driven Listen Hard, Speak Easy and ballads I’m A Fool To Want You and It Shouldn’t Happen In Dreams.

Night Owl is a hot barbecue, its smells mingling with chatter and claxons on the corner of Lexington & 110th Street, neon signs keeping an eye on the hustlers, smoke rings swirling around the customers of the dingiest bar uptown, sax wailing… The nightlife, it ain’t no good life, but it’s my life… The album combines barroom excitement with modern jazz finesse, the blend that is the prerequisite for first-rate soul jazz. The sax playing of Hempton is firmly on the forefront and shades of Stanley Turrentine, Dexter Gordon, Lou Donaldson and a sleazy and husky bite complete the accessible style that is all Hempton’s own.

Bernstein is his customary crystalline, slightly angular yet melodic self, Koehler is a lively, tasteful player and Tainaka’s accompaniment is meaty and swinging – Tainaka’s resume includes stints with Lou Donaldson, Lonnie Smith and Melvin Rhyne. At one time, during After You’ve Gone, the band’s flow might remind you of the fluent bop groove of Sonny Stitt’s organ group with Don Patterson. Stitt, by the way, followed a long line of interpreters of the composition like Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker. Like his forefather, Hempton is the kind of guy that devours the harmonically active changes. A moment later the quartet delivers a slice of touching balladry. Hempton’s sweet-tart take on It Shouldn’t Happen In Dreams, subtle shifts of the beat underlining heartbreak and a sense of foreboding, is the mark of a thoroughly mature jazz musician. Night Owl is highly entertaining evidence of Hempton’s flexible and passionate approach of organ jazz.

Nick Hempton

Find Night Owl on Amazon here.

Check out Nick Hempton’s website here.

Smalls Live

SMALLS LIVE –

If you haven’t already, do sign up with SmallsLive.

The jazz club is vital to the fabric of jazz, decent and passionate owners integral to its survival as a spontaneous art form. Smalls in New York City is a good’n. Smalls was founded in 1994 by Mitchell Borden and has been a breeding ground of many figureheads and talents of modern jazz as Peter Bernstein, Ari Hoenig, Mark Turner, Norah Jones, Brad Meldhau and Chris Potter. Since 2007, the jazz club at 183 W 10th Street in Greenwich Village, New York City, has documented all performances at the club, audio since 2007 and video since 2011. The performances are up for view through live streaming and past gigs can be searched in the archive on the website. Free streaming is available but there are different options for sponsorship as well. SmallsLive is a unique concept that preserves first-class performances for posterity, directly benefits performing artists through royalties and stimulates the contemporary jazz landscape in New York City.

Check the history of Smalls here.

Lou Bennett - Enfin!

Lou Bennett Enfin! (RCA Victor 1963)

Get into the bopgospel groove with organist Lou Bennett’s Enfin!.

Lou Bennett - Enfin!

Personnel

Lou Bennett (organ), René Thomas (guitar), Gilbert Rovere (bass), Charles Bellonzi (drums)

Recorded

in 1963 in Paris, France

Released

RCA Victor 430.115 in 1963

Track listing

Side A:
Moment’s Notice
I Remember Sonny
Loin Du Brésil
Indicatif
Side B:
Jayne
Enfin
J.J.
Indicatif


An American In Paris, Lou Bennett never really gained recognition in the United States. Born in 1926 in Philadelphia (city of organ greats that also spawned, among others, Jimmy Smith, Jimmy McGriff and Joey DeFrancesco) Bennett was a modern jazz pianist who took up the organ under the influence of Jimmy Smith in 1956. In 1960 he left the USA for France and, intermittingly, Spain. Bennett was quite popular in Europe and developed a solid body of work up until his death in 1997 in Le Chesnay, just outside of Paris. The recording start of his career in 1960, Amen, a cooperation with fellow expat, legendary drummer and bop innovator Kenny Clarke, set him off to a good start.

Ever heard of The Bennett Machine? No, it’s not one of Philip K. Dick’s long lost SF novels. On the contrary, The Bennett Machine was an invention by Lou Bennett that strived to make life easier and more interesting for the Hammond organist. In 1978, Bennett was tired of carrying around the heavy organ and did away with the lower keyboard, fixing electronic orchestral devices in the higher keyboard instead. Notably, Bennett, one of the greatest bass pedal players of organ jazz, coupled synths to the pedals and created a distinct double bass sound. Unfortunately, the Bennett Machine occasionally broke down due to faulty wiring.

By 1963, the Machine was perhaps already brewing in the back of Bennett’s mind, but the bass patterns that the organist played – the root notes of the feet pedals accompanying left hand bass playing – still sounded like any other first-rate modernist of the day. On Enfin!, Bennett’s group consists of guitarist René Thomas, bassist Gilbert Rovere and drummer Charles Bellonzi. Rovere and Bellonzi are Frenchmen, Thomas was born in Liege, Belgium, a guitar player of note, not that well-known but a musician’s musician who receives douze points from modern jazz freaks all over the world. His 1960 Jazzland album Guitar Groove is particularly admired.

Sound and style-wise, the church roots of Bennett mix smoothly with his bop experience. Hollers, screams and the fatherly, alternating whispering and booming voice of the minister that sooths and arouses the flock function as the cherries on top of his tacit bop runs. Bennett’s organ bop discourse is mirrored almost exactly by René Thomas, whose single-line approach – he’s one of many sons of Charlie Christian in this respect – gives the session a sophisticated and occasionally fiery glow. Thomas contributes nifty bop melodies like I Remember Sonny and Indicatif, the latter merely a theme that ends both sides of the LP. Bennett wrote the blues line Enfin with a mid-tempo, attractive bounce. The group also performs J.J. Johnson’s J.J., John Coltrane’s Moment’s Notice and Ornette Coleman’s (misspelled as Arnet) Jayne. (misspelled as Jane!) A trio of songs one rarely if ever encounters on organ jazz records, interesting repertory that is tackled immaculately and with a good groove.

Misspelling is not so bad. Poor sound quality is. It is as if the tape was handled with sandpaper. Perhaps there was no tape, just sandpaper. Perhaps the French Machine had trouble with faulty wiring too. If only Rudy van Gelder could’ve come to the rescue. But Rudy was across the great pond, busy defining brilliant sounds for posterity from Jimmy Smith, John Patton, Baby Face Willette and the like. With or without RVG, the striking mix of soul jazz and bebop that Lou Bennett brought forth on the organ was an experience to behold.

Listen to the full album on YouTube here.

For more on Lou Bennett, take a look at his extensive bio written by French guitarist André Condouant, who played with Bennett in the 80s. See here.

Rein de Graaff - Early Morning Blues

Rein de Graaff with Marius Beets & Eric Ineke Early Morning Blues (Timeless 2019)

NEW RELEASE – REIN DE GRAAFF

Legendary Dutch bop pianist Rein de Graaff combines his forthcoming farewell tour with the release of a brand-new album, Early Morning Blues.

Rein de Graaff - Early Morning Blues

Personnel

Rein de Graaff (piano), Marius Beets (bass), Eric Ineke (drums)

Recorded

on June 27 & 28, 2018 at De Smederij, Zeist

Released

as TI 487 in 2019

Track listing

Avalon
These Are The Things
Early Morning Blues
Dear Old Stockholm
Don’t Blame Me
Godchild
Little Girl Blue
Fly Me To The Moon
Lover Man
Moonology
If I Had You
Early Morning Blues (alt. take)
Wahoo


Yes, that’s the bad news: De Graaff is retiring as a professional jazz musician. The good news: fifty years after his recording debut, the Groningen-born De Graaff delivers a jazz album that serves as but one example in his discography of the man’s masterly involvement in bebop and straight-ahead jazz. Self-acknowledged part of a small coterie of Last Of The Mohicans, De Graaff is of the opinion that straightforward jazz is hard to come by these days. No doubt, the fruitful, pre-crossover mainstream jazz landscape of the seventies and eighties, including countless playing venues and American legends carrying the flame, is by and large a thing of the past. Yet, considering the crowds that De Graaff has still drawn post-00, perhaps mostly consisting of elderly fans but also of a fair amount of youngsters, evidently the bop master has still inspired jazz aficionados and passed the peas to aspiring musicians one way or another. I was present at a rare jazz café appearance of De Graaff recently in The Hague – the 77-year old pianist usually appears strictly in jazz clubs and theatres – and noticed more than a few young lions eager to soak in everything De Graaff conjured up from the upright piano. To be sure, De Graaff has always made it his business to feature exceptional young talents on his tour schedules.

At said café Pavlov, De Graaff’s playing was remarkably fresh and energetic. Few human beings are as composed and level-headed as Rein de Graaff, who during a remarkable career as a leader and accompanist of countless legends like Dexter Gordon, Dizzy Gillespie, Hank Mobley and Johnny Griffin also was the owner of an electro ware wholesale company. His straightforward personality is reflected in logical phrases and musical stories. However, the blues and a certain edge are consistently present. Most likely, De Graaff has always reserved the fiery and sleazy side of the soul for his horn-like piano style, which was inspired so long ago by the work of Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Hank Mobley, Lee Morgan, Hampton Hawes, among others.

Plenty of fire in the set of Early Morning Blues, which typically consists of standards and a couple of originals and contrafacts that are tailor-made for the tasteful, long-lined stories of De Graaff. It ranges from evergreens as Dear Old Stockholm, Avalon, Fly Me To The Moon and the unaccompanied Little Girl Blue, ballads that were transformed into bop anthems by Charlie Parker like Don’t Blame Me and Lover Man, bebop compositions as George Wallington’s Godchild and Benny Harris’s Wahoo and, finally, the De Graaff compositions These Are The Things, Early Morning Blues (The album features two takes of the down-home, supple slow blues) and Moonology.

The trio interaction is marvelous. European master drummer Eric Ineke has been De Graaff’s partner-in-swing for nearly fifty years, bassist Marius Beets is a versatile modern jazz man whose pocket and immaculate choice of notes reveal a passion for Ray Brown and has been with De Graaff since 1999. Multiple examples of the group’s striking flexibility are available, Avalon and Dear Old Stockholm being particularly enchanting. Nowadays one would be hard-pressed to find the kind of cocksure and authoritative introduction of a tune like the trio’s uptempo version of Avalon. The concise combination of drum rolls, bass patterns and quicksilver piano lines is like a shot of classic jazz, like hearing for instance, filtered through their distinct personalities, bits of Sonny Clark’s Trio LP with Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones. De Graaff’s sophisticated harmony and Ineke’s flexible approach of the beat considerably refreshes Dear Old Stockholm. It allows De Graaff the kind of freedom within a fixed set of changes that the pianist has always been comfortable with.

In this respect, De Graaff’s daring variations on the melody of Lover Man speak volumes. Right until the very end, the Rein de Graaff Trio is seriously takin’ care of business.

Rein de Graaff

Find Early Morning Blues at your local music store and De Graaff concerts. Liner notes by Steven A. Cerra.

Check out the schedule of Rein de Graaff’s Farewell Tour below. His regular trio of Marius Beets and Eric Ineke will be augmented with saxophonists Benjamin Herman, Maarten Hoogenhuis, Marco Kegel and Tineke Postma. Special guest: baritone saxophonist Ronnie Cuber.

Fri March 1: De Tor, Enschede
Sat March 2: Mahogany Hall, Edam
Sun March 3: Tivoli/Vredenburg, Utrecht 16:00 (feat. Ronnie Cuber)
Wed March 6: Brouwerij Martinus, Groningen
Fri March 8: De Harmonie, Leeuwarden
Sat March 10:Theater van Beresteyn, Veendam 15:00
Fri March 15:Bimhuis, Amsterdam (feat. Ronnie Cuber)

Freddie McCoy - Lonely Avenue

Freddie McCoy Lonely Avenue (Prestige 1965)

Rousing cookers, balanced ballads and smoothly swinging popular songs: Freddie McCoy’s Lonely Avenue reflects the vibraphonist’s deep-rooted understanding of the blues and swing-based jazz tradition.

Freddie McCoy - Lonely Avenue

Personnel

Freddie McCoy (vibraphone), Gil Askey (trumpet, arranger), Tate Houston (baritone saxophone), Dickie Harris (trombone B1-4), James Thomas (organ), Napoleon Allen (guitar A1-4), Martin Rivera (bass), Ray Lucas (drums)

Recorded

on January 25 & February 16 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Released

as PRLP 7395 in 1965

Track listing

Side A:
Lonely Avenue
Roëll
Collard Greens
When Sunny Gets Blue
Side B:
Harlem Nocturne
Willow Weep For Me
Belly Full Of Greens
Feeling Good


Freddie McCoy, born in New York City in 1932, assembled a big crew to create the soulful canvas of his debut album on Prestige in 1965, Lonely Avenue. The coupling of vibes with trumpet, baritone sax, trombone, organ and guitar proved to be a remarkably flexible unit, both mean/funky and contemplative, which also, perhaps not entirely coincidentally, is a description of Freddie McCoy’s musical personality. The vibraphonist generates a lot heat but at the same time his playing is marked by a relaxed flow. Easygoing fellow but he’s not going to let you eat his lunch. One of few vibraphone players that focused on groove and grease. Yes, there’s a blues-drenched bit of Milt Jackson, without the dazzling technique of the God Of Vibes. And yes, there’s a bit of entertainment value that was inherent to the personality of pioneer Lionel Hampton, but the circus has left town before the roar of the lion. Freddie McCoy was more concerned with the kind of soul time that worked as a magnet for workers from all over the hood. Punch the clock, hurry home, slip into some shiny slacks and let’s hear it for the real mccoy’… Once settled in some upper Harlem joint, they shake their hips, shake their asses, shake their heads in amazement at the sight of this slick dude sweating it out behind that weird steel frame. Mallet boogie.

Plenty of warhorse and pop song for that kind of customer: When Sunny Gets Blue, Willow Weep For Me, Harlem Nocturne, Feeling Good. McCoy’s Roëll is a lovely ballad, his take on the Doc Pomus tune Lonely Avenue, best-known through the classic r&b version of Ray Charles, is super-soulful and the album’s crackerjack cookers, Collard Greens and Belly Full Of Greens, would serve well as background tracks for the volatile Ike & Tina Turner. Want some mean greens? Yes please, why not? Beats crème bruleé.

Freddie McCoy began to play the vibraphone in the Army in 1958 and subsequently played with Kenny Burrell, Johnny “Hammond” Smith, Philly Joe Jones and Doug Watkins. Following his debut, McCoy enjoyed a good stretch on Prestige, which released six albums between 1966 and 1968, focusing more and more on r&b and funk-ish ditties. Before he went off the radar, his last album Gimme Some was released by Cobblestone in 1971. Freddie McCoy was also a flight instructor who owned his own plane. No doubt he made some soulful maneuvers in that little booger.

Freddie McCoy passed away in 2009.