Wes Montgomery Trio - A Dynamic New Sound

Wes Montgomery The Wes Montgomery Trio: A Dynamic New Sound (Riverside 1959)

Adding ‘Style’ to Wes Montgomery’s debut album on Riverside, The Wes Montgomery Trio: A Dynamic New Sound, is more to the point. It constitutes the arrival of a guitar giant.

Wes Montgomery Trio - A Dynamic New Sound

Personnel

Wes Montgomery (guitar), Melvin Rhyne (organ), Paul Parker (drums)

Recorded

on October 5 & 6 at Reeves Sound Studio, NYC

Released

as Riverside 1156 in 1959

Track listing

Side A:
‘Round Midnight
Yesterdays
The End Of A Love Affair
Whisper Not
Ecaroh
Side B:
Satin Doll
Missile Blues
Too Late Now
Jingles


Of this album, All Music says: ‘The only drawback is that the accompaniment, which though solid, doesn’t seem to perfectly match his guitar style… Montgomery’s performance was a revolution in technique and execution.’

That about sums it up. For readers of All Music and Ladies Home Journal. Nobody’s perfect and there must be more to the event of Montgomery’s marvelous recording debut on Riverside, released in the watershed year of 1959, which saw the release of three Ornette Coleman albums, Miles Davis’ Kind Of Blue and John Coltrane’s Giant Steps. Coincidentally, Wes Montgomery declined an offer from John Coltrane to join his group. Instead, he built on the promise The Wes Montgomery Trio held, securing a spot on the scene through his Riverside recordings as the greatest jazz guitar innovator since Django Reinhardt and Charlie Christian, a promise that was underlined first and foremost by Montgomery’s supple synthesis of single note lines, octave playing and block chords, effectively blown into studio and jazz club air by his distinctive, is-that-a-country-blues-picker’s?-thumb-touch, but certainly also by the subtle interaction of his group of childhood pals from Indianapolis, consisting of organist Melvin Rhyne and drummer Paul Parker, who’d grown into a tight-knit, mutually responsive outfit.

In his twenties, Montgomery landed a job with Lionel Hampton when the famed bandleader heard him copying Charlie Christian solo’s note by note, performed with his brothers Buddy and Monk regularly as the Montgomery Brothers and was featured on Kismet on Pacific, the LP of his brothers’ outfit The Mastersounds. Montgomery was noticed by a tongue-tied Cannonball Adderley in a Indy club, who introduced him to Riverside’s Orrin Keepnews, leading to a breakthrough at the ripe age of 36. The word that fits the impact of Wes Montgomery is: spellbound. Come on, from the moment Montgomery starts Monk’s ‘Round Midnight, the audience is melting, unable to resist the lure of Montgomery’s tasteful tale. In the confident hands of Wes, the micro-fragment of total silence marking the middle of Monk’s classic melody appears to be born for exactly that spot. The use of space, his timing, coming across especially enticing in his wonderful treatments of ballads, is one of Montgomery’s greatest talents.

In this sense, Rhyne is a perfect match to Montgomery’s classy style. His clear, logically developing lines and ‘plucky’ sound grace the bouncy, uptempo stop-time melody of the Montgomery composition Jingles, a swinging trio rendition. And to reciprocate Rhyne’s favor of charming, responsive backing, Montgomery smoothly accompanies the organist’s solo in The End Of A Love Affair, flowing from chord to chord like a pike-perch through the river weeds. The group’s take on Horace Silver’s Ecaroh is less spectacular, a medium-tempo groove that somehow doesn’t really gets into the groove, with, nonetheless, concise, excellent soloing.

Montgomery would reach the zenith of his recording career with the support of world-class guys like Johnny Griffin, Louis Hayes, Sam Jones, Wynton Kelly, Tommy Flanagan, Milt Jackson (Bags Meets Wes – wow – Full House – WOW) yet the total sum of The Montgomery Trio spells swing as well. At the core’s the style and sound of Montgomery, with a bite all his own. A fiery personality would be the incorrect way to describe Wes Montgomery- ringing through the articulate phrases is a man that didn’t want to be a nuisance to his neighbours, so he stopped playing with a plectrum and changed to the softer approach of his thumb – more apt is the assumption that the sparks fly (and they do fly high) almost solely on the strength of Montgomery’s dazzling brilliance and conception. His conviction, authority, is imposing. So much so that, once the driving Missile Blues, named after the club in Indianapolis, and the album is over, a new spin in order to fully enjoy and grasp the mastery of Wes Montgomery seems the best option to spend the next hour of the evening.

Thornel Schwartz - Soul Cookin'

Thornel Schwartz Soul Cookin’ (Argo 1962)

Guitarist Thornel Schwartz was in the frontline of the organ combo scene. A typical sideman, he only recorded one album as a leader, the 1962 Argo album Soul Cookin’, which presents a bonus in the guise of Hammond organ giant Larry Young, who performs under the pseudonym Lawrence Olds.

Thornel Schwartz - Soul Cookin'

Personnel

Thornel Schwartz (guitar), Bill Leslie (tenor saxophone), Lawrence Olds (Larry Young, organ), Jerome Thomas (drums A2-A3, B1, B2, B4), Donald Bailey (drums A1, B3)

Recorded

on September 4, 1962 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Released

as Argo 704 in 1962

Track listing

Side A:
Soul Cookin’
Brazil
You Won’t Let Me Go
Side B:
Theme From Mutiny On The Bounty
Blue And Dues
I’m Getting Sentimental Over You
Don’t You Know I Care


Isuppose Thornel Schwartz realised soon enough that his path wasn’t going to resemble that of Grant Green, George Benson, Pat Martino or Joe Pass, amazing guitarists that also woodshedded in r&b and soul jazz but, unlike Schwartz, became leaders in their own right. Nevertheless, Schwartz, born in Philadelphia on May 29, 1927, and no doubt a solid, characteristic guitarist, could look back at the end of his life (he died prematurely at the age of 50 in 1977) on a career in the frontline of the popular soul jazz genre. Schwartz was a sideman to many leading organists of the day, beginning with the pioneering master of the Hammond B3, Jimmy Smith.

Schwartz, who was associated with Philadelphian singer Don Gardner (at the same time as Jimmy Smith) and singer/pianist Freddie Cole from 1952 to 1955, hooked up with Jimmy Smith in 1956. Bullseye. Schwartz found himself featured on Smith’s albums that made the organ a viable modern jazz instrument and were extremely popular to boot. Schwartz appeared on Smith’s A New Sound A New Star – Jimmy Smith At The Organ Vol. 1 & 2, The Incredible Jimmy Smith At The Organ Vol. 3 and At Club Baby Grand Vol. 1 & 2. After a stint with Johnny “Hammond” Smith in the late fifties, Schwartz joined the group of another revolutionary organist, Larry Young, in 1960. Still working as a soul jazz musician, Young nonetheless showed potential as an innovator on the sessions Schwartz partook in, Testifyin’, Young Blues and Groove Street. Subsequently, Schwartz worked with Jimmy McGriff, Reuben Wilson’s early career group Wildare Express and Charles Earland in the sixties and Richard “Groove” Holmes in the seventies. Schwartz from Philly. With Smith, McGriff and Earland from Philly, organ jazz city without parallel. To say the least, Mr. Schwartz knew where the action was at!

Solely responsible for the modern organ jazz revolution, Jimmy Smith did have an expert companion in Thornel Schwartz. The uptempo tunes in Smith’s book (The Way You Look Tonight and The Champ from A New Sound A New Star, Sweet Georgia Brown and Get Happy from At Club Baby Grand) show that Schwartz played his role in setting the standard for future organ combo’s. His boppy comping, supported by deft accents on the bass string, clipped notes and the propulsive, relentless groove Schwartz and Smith generate, which suggests a liking for Django Reinhardt’s tight-knit gypsy swing, set the standard for playing in the organ combo. The method is commented upon by Babs Gonzalez in the liner notes of A New Sound A New Star, which further illustrates the relevance of Schwartz: ‘They were always singing new arrangements in the car while traveling.’ That is, when Babs wasn’t intervening with some lengthy, expoobident recitations of bopswing poetry.

A proficient blues player who talks the bop language without really, like better guitar players, stretching long lines over the familiar changes, Schwartz accompanies his short clusters of prickly, staccato notes with driving octave playing. The blues tunes on Soul Cookin’ benefit from Schwartz’ more crude than refined approach, although the entrance in the title track, lame as a duck with the flu, nearly kills the tune, but he regains his posture with simultaneously down-home and boppish statements. His peculiar, overdriven tone might get on your sleeve, yet gives that extra edge and is instantly recognizable. Soul Cookin’ was released six years after Schwartz’ stint with Jimmy Smith and Thornel’s sound hadn’t changed one bit. A jazzy creature of habit!

Soul Cookin’ presents not only blues but exotic grooves like Brazil and standards and popular song like Theme From Mutiny On The Bounty. Bill Leslie, a lively, original tenor saxophonist whom Schwartz cooperated with on Leslie’s Diggin’ The Chicks, lures The Bounty to the shore of Rio with some hot and quixotic blowing. Larry Young, or Lawrence Olds (the off-beat pseudonym that precedes the wordplay of Young’s 1973 Lawrence Of Newark album) comps tastefully and makes the most of his few solo spots, elevating You Won’t Let Me Go to a song you wouldn’t want to let go, spicing his excellent blues lick bag with frivolous runs up the scale. Schwartz is duly stimulated, sends his car into the grind, only to regain speed for a commoving ride around the track. A moment that’s reminiscent of the chemistry between Jimmy and Thornel in 1956.

Listen to the Soul Cookin’ album here.

Tubby Hayes - Tubbs In NY

Tubby Hayes Tubbs In N.Y. (Fontana 1961)

Tenor saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist Tubby Hayes took a jump across the great pond in 1961 and fitted right in. Tubbs In NY is the smash result of a gig with hi-level American colleagues Clark Terry, Horace Parlan and Eddie Costa.

Tubby Hayes - Tubbs In NY

Personnel

Tubby Hayes (tenor saxophone), Clark Terry (trumpet), Eddie Costa (vibraphone), Horace Parlan (piano), George Duvivier (bass), Dave Bailey (drums)

Recorded

in 1961 in New York City

Released

as STFL 595 in 1961

Track listing

Side A:
You For Me
A Pint Of Bitter
Airegin
Side B:
Opus Ocean
Soon
Doxy


Although hardly a diaspora, more than a few Europeans visited the promised land of that thing called jazz in the fifties and sixties. Particularly the Jerusalem of jazz, New York City. For example, the Swedish Rolf Ericsson, Belgian Bobby Jaspar, German Jutta Hipp and Dutch Nico Bunnink preceded Hayes in their thirst for improving their art of improvising amongst the prime players of the day. Tubby Hayes was the first Englishman to try his hand in the USA, according to his biographer, the saxophonist Simon Spillett. He should know. Surely the American musicians, sharp in their assessment of a player’s qualities, recognized Tubby Hayes as a saxophonist who ‘got it’, indeed, could scare the shit out of anybody.

Tubbs, English icon. The North-Irish revere George Best, the English and Londoners in-the-know worship Tubby Hayes, perhaps not the greatest striker but certainly the prime tenor saxophonist in British classic jazz history. Bloke with a thirst for life, vice and freedom music, which as a logical consequence meant becoming one of the liberating forces for England’s post-war youth that eagerly tried to find its voice in the conservative, don’t-spill-from-y’r-cup-a-tea-type British society. From Raynes Park in South-London, Hayes demonstrated a natural talent for playing a variety of instruments including vibes at a young age, but mostly focused on tenor saxophone. The short Hayes, dubbed ‘The Little Giant’ by saxophonist Benny Green (Johnny Griffin: ‘Hey, Benny, I’m the Little Giant, remember? Down here, man, down here!’) ran the beloved English (hard) bop quintet The Jazz Couriers with fellow Londoner, the illustrious English saxophonist and club owner Ronnie Scott during the years 1957-59.

After Tubbs In NY, Hayes was invited over again, resulting in Return Visit (Fontana, 1963) and a number of US appearances in ’64 and ’65, yet Hayes didn’t quite get a foothold in the US. Instead, he remained busy in the UK, expanding his territory into the radio, tv and film world, although the lull that had set in in the jazz business as a result of pop music’s reign also affected Hayes. His later years were marked by a deteriorating health. Hayes passed away in 1973.

Somehow the solo’s of Tubby Hayes roll on like steam trains, he laughs hearthily and makes swift, surprising U-turns while the intermittent plethora of notes serves as the glue between chapters of fascinating tales. He has a big sound and a fiery style influenced by Coltrane, Rollins, Mobley and, by his own account, Zoot Sims. A swinger. Working with a set of familiar tunes and changes, the presidential style of Hayes blends neatly with the solid rhythm section of veteran bass player George Duvivier and drummer Dave Bailey, pianist Horace Parlan’s mix of angular bop and percussive gospel tinges, the buoyant, masterful Clark Terry and suavely swinging Eddie Costa.

Hayes takes on two Rollins originals, Airegin and Doxy, showing he’s the kind of player that’s present from note one, no bullshit. The Clark Terry composition A Pint Of Bitter’s loping tempo suggests that, in spite of his reputation, Tubbs doesn’t wash it away in a few swallows but at least parks it a few secs at the bar while lighting a cig, always keeping the flame slightly under the tip. How unlike the hooligans that wobble down the alleys of Amsterdam’s Red Light District, throwing up on the sidewalk in between gulps.

Highlights? Certainly Gershwin’s Soon qualifies, Hayes rollercoasting through it with the panache of an Olympic slalom ski champion. Lean in the hips, no doubt.

Lee Morgan - Live At The Lighthouse

Lee Morgan Live At The Lighthouse (Blue Note 1970)

The titles of Lee Morgan’s Live At The Lighthouse, such as Nommo and Neophilia, perfectly match the woolly times. Sounds like books by Madame Blavatsky read by a wicker man under the sole tree in Greenwich Village, while runaway girls in gingham dresses rattle their gypsy earrings and recite luney banjo tunes with feverish enthusiasm… Indeed, Morgan’s notes sometimes are close to hitting a falling star but underneath his ‘pretty far out’ project shimmers the trumpeter’s trademark hard bop blowing.

Lee Morgan - Live At The Lighthouse

Personnel

Lee Morgan (trumpet), Bennie Maupin (tenor saxophone, bass clarinet), Harold Mabern (piano), Jimmy Merritt (bass), Mickey Roker (drums)

Recorded

on July 10-12, 1970 at The Lighthouse, Hermosa Beach, California

Released

as BST-89906 in 1971

Track listing

Side 1:
Absolutions
Side 2:
The Beehive
Side 3:
Neophilia
Side 4:
Nommo


The prince of hard bop’s more adventurous side occasionally came out of hiding, less than Lee Morgan wished, I guess. Sure, as early as 1963, Morgan was featured on Grachan Monchur III’s avantgarde outing Evolution and the trumpeter’s follow-up of hit album The Sidewinder, 1964’s Search For The New Land never lost anything of its frontline charm. He appeared on Wayne Shorter’s Night Dreamer, Joe Henderson’s Mode For Joe and Andrew Hill’s Grass Roots and Lift Every Voice. But as far as leadership dates were concerned, Morgan’s label, Blue Note, still favored straightforward jazz releases in the late sixties over envelope-pushing affairs, some of which were released posthumously, such as The Sixth Sense and The Rajah. Then there was Live At The Lighthouse, subconscious-Lee in the limelight at last. By that time, of course, Alfred Lion was taking pictures in Mexico and Blue Note, though Francis Wolff and Duke Pearson shared production responsibilities, was swallowed by United Artists.

Scene of the spectacle: the legendary Lighthouse, hurled into prominence in 1952 by Howard Rumsey but, as Dutch journalist Jeroen de Valk revealed in his 1989 mythbusting biography of Chet Baker, in reality put on the map initially by Baker just before Rumsey came into the picture. A rather unspectacular club that hosted legends like Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Gerry Mulligan, Cannonball Adderley and many others. Situated close by the beach, where Lee Morgan sat beneath the poles of the pier some time between July 10 and 12, 1970, a time sequence in which the wind blew a hodgepodge of moody and explosive trumpet and sax sounds outwards from the bowels of The Lighthouse over the sweaty, salty Hermosa shore. Lots of seagulls, their obnoxious squawks momentarily stunned.

The stress is on vamp, modality, mood. Music that challenges you to surrender to its spiritual cry and moan. It’s tenorist, bass clarinetist and flutist Bennie Maupin that ‘moans’ most convincingly. No doubt, Lee Morgan blows spirited trumpet and builds crafty stories, but while Morgan focuses on recurring figures and effects like the halve valve trick, Maupin sends us unpredictable weather from his throne above the clouds, alternating deadpan turns, bluesy phrasing and torrents of edgy Coltrane’s sheets of sound preceding the release of dark-hued calm-after-the-storm notes. His feature on bass clarinet on Neophilia, a lullaby-ish, concise and plainly beautiful, slow-moving melody, goes from sweetness to drama, climaxing with violin-like cries. Maupin, nowadays going strong at the age of 76, came into prominence with Horace Silver in ‘68/’69, Lee Morgan in ‘68/’70, Woody Shaw in ’70/’72, played on Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew and was a long-time part of Herbie Hancock’s Mwandishi band in the late sixties and early seventies. His 1974 album on ECM, The Jewel In The Lotus, is a treasured album for avant-leaning jazz fans. Cutting edge cat.

A great band with writers Morgan could benefit from. Harold Mabern’s The Beehive’s a short, quirky theme, like a fragment from a Charlie Parker solo, alternating between the fragment and Mickey Roker’s ferocious drums breaks. Jimmy Merritt’s strangely beguiling Nommo switches between a soulful line and elegiac intermezzo, building on a twisted boogaloo vibe and Roker and Merrit’s hefty cross-rhythm. The a capella sections of Morgan and Maupin before returning to the theme are thoroughly enjoyable. Another Jimmy Merritt tune, Absolutions, showcases the group’s dynamic prowess, squeezing every bit out of the modal vamp, pushing and pulling at time’s rear end until it, like time seems to have been doing eternally, bends. Morgan is terrific, translating the military-rolls of a snare drum to the trumpet, and charmingly experimenting with the various shades of softness and loudness.

Strictly vinyl on Flophouse’s smoky Monte Christo #2 premisses. But just this once, an exception, since the Compact Dick not only offers more avant-leaning, uptempo jazz that for the most part would easily have stood the test of LP release, but also brings a version of The Sidewinder, the hit that Morgan almost hated more than Trump fans hate reason. Table three was requesting a tune, perhaps. The group’s turning in a solid take.

Jimmy McGriff - Live Where The Action's At!

Jimmy McGriff Live Where The Action’s At! (Veep 1966)

Live Where The Action’s At! is a typical album of organist Jimmy McGriff: ultimate groove, smart modern jazz ingredients.

Jimmy McGriff - Live Where The Action's At!

Personnel

Jimmy McGriff (organ), Thornell Schwartz (guitar), Willie Jenkins (drums)

Recorded

in 1966 at The Front Bar, New Jersey

Released

as Veep 13515 in 1966

Track listing

Side A:
Where It’s At
When Johnny Comes Marching Home
Uptight
Frugal Bugle
Side B:
Georgia On My Mind
Goin’ Out Of My Head
Robbins Nest


Philadelphian Jimmy McGriff, (1936-2008) was an enormously popular organist who recorded in a variety of settings, from r&b, soul, pop, funk to big band. Late in life McGriff said that he felt forced to continue to record commercial stuff once he started scoring good-selling singles and albums. Glad to be able to pay them bills but… Presumably, McGriff referred to his work with Sue Records, where he scored his first hit in 1962 with I’ve Got A Woman and, particularly, Solid State. Solid State was the company of Sonny Lester, who tried to mold McGriff in the same popular vein as Jimmy Smith, one of McGriff’s mentors, who reached soul jazz stardom in the smart hands of Verve’s producer Creed Taylor.

Nevertheless, McGriff’s blues-drenched style almost always shone through. Lest we forget, McGriff’s records like Groove Grease (on Groove Merchant, also produced by Sonny Lester) are legendary funk jazz artifacts. And, once the soul jazz era had largely come to its conclusion in the late seventies, McGriff recorded his share of straight-ahead jazz albums, particularly on Milestone in the eighties and nineties during cooperations with Hank Crawford, Red Holloway and David “Fathead” Newman and, later on, the awesome contemporary tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander.

I think Jimmy really enjoyed what he was doing on the night that was recorded for the album Live Where The Action’s At!. The action’s at The Front Bar in Newark. One of the places – both bar and city – where they ate soul jazz like the cookie monster devoured biscuits. McGriff is accompanied by guitarist Thornel Schwartz, who played and recorded with Jimmy Smith in 1956 before hooking up first with Johnny “Hammond” Smith, then with McGriff – staying in the same territory! – and drummer Willie Jenkins during the early and mid-sixties. A tight-knit, prolific working and recording band. Production-wise, the album may be so-so, the drums sounding muffled, but as far as the standard of playing is concerned, it’s a gem! Somehow, the organist adapts diverse tunes as Stevie Wonder’s Uptight, old warhorses as Georgia On My Mind and Robbins Nest to that very special (and sweaty) climate region of planet McGriff. For one thing, his unforgettable sound, gritty, and straight from the baptist church, never fails to raise the hairs on your arms.

After building up momentum with bluesy phrasing and sparse flurries of notes, McGriff generally keeps up the groove beyond belief, working around short, screamin’ recurring figures, his touch percussive, his occassional ‘drone’ (the coupling of right hand lines with a sustained left hand chord) both hard-swinging and tasteful. He’s getting down to the nitty-gritty with bluesy McGriff originals like Where It’s At and Frugal Bugle. Raw McGriff blues is usually underlined by hip voicings, revealing a genuine taste and capacity for modern jazz playing. Traveling the hard road with Jimmy McGriff, Eric Alexander once said, while it means being provided with subtle accompaniment, is also a lesson in the skills of entertainment. Obviously, Live Where The Action’s At! is exceptional in both departments, and then some.

Check out Uptight on YouTube here.

And Robbins Nest here.

This Was Buck Hill

RIP BUCK HILL – Like most of tenor saxophonist Buck Hill’s fine accomplishments, the news of his passing also slipped through the cracks. Hill, born in Washington D.C. on February 13, 1927, passed away on March 20 at the age of 90 in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Roger Wendell “Buck” Hill was active from the late forties and played with Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis and Max Roach. Masters like Sonny Stitt, Milt Jackson and Gene Ammons, when visiting D.C., always asked for Hill to share the stage. At the same time, Hill worked at the US Postal Office and often was referred to as ‘the swinging postman’. He also worked as a cabdriver. A focus on taking care of his family and a strong dislike for traveling kept Hill’s career firmly under the radar. Nevertheless, Hill recorded a number of albums for Steeplechase, Muse and other labels from the late seventies to the ’00s. Hill was an acclaimed sideman with Charlie Byrd in the mid and late fifties (featured on the ’58 and ’59 Riverside albums Byrd’s Word and Byrd In The Wind) and singer Shirley Horn in the eighties and nineties.

From left to right, clockwise: This Is Buck Hill (Steeplechase 1978); Scope (Steeplechase 1979) and Capital Hill (Muse 1989)

His initial albums for Steeplechase, This Is Buck Hill (’78) and Scope (’79), are treasured artifacts for serious mainstream jazz aficionados and typical of Hill’s superb musical vision. On these albums, you’ll find a candid tenorist who tops off his fluent bop phrasing, commanding attack and resonant, clear (Clifford Jordan-ish) sound with edgy, post-boppish lines. Drummer Billy Hart, D.C. native, mentored by Hill and present on both recordings, introduced Hill to Steeplechase’s boss Nils Winther. Bassist Buster Williams and pianist Kenny Barron reflect on Hill’s personality and style in the liner notes of Scope. Williams: ‘A timeless phenomenon. His ideas always sound ageless and his sound is so big and warm.’ Kenny Barron: ‘He is a fantastic horn player. His playing is very steeped in tradition and yet very contemporary. His writing is so fresh that it’s hard to play cliches.’

In the early nineties, Dutch pianist Rein de Graaff, who arranged countless gigs with American legends and contemporary players for his legendary bop lectures and performances throughout the 80’s, 90’s and 00’s, toured and recorded as ‘Tenor Conclave’ with Teddy Edwards, Von Freeman and Buck Hill. De Graaff remembers a tour in 1992 with this stellar line-up as if it was yesterday. ‘Hill was a very accomplished player. Didn’t miss a note. He was still known as ‘the swinging postman’ which was only partly true. By then, he had a job at the office. Hill was a fanatic vegetarian and was constantly commenting on the tastes of Freeman, whose favorite meal was large portions of T-bone steak and cola. He was very down-to-earth and introverted.’

From left to right, clockwise: Tenor Conclave (Sesjun 1992); Uh Huh! Buck Hill Live At Montpellier (Jazzmont 2000) and Relax (Severn 2006)

Drummer Eric Ineke was part of those swinging proceedings. He also played with Hill in 1981 and 1982, when Hill supported Shirley Horn: ‘Shirley Horn called me in ’81 to replace Billy Hart in Loosdrecht. I was immediately impressed by Hill. He swung like mad, had great timing and a big sound. A year later, I did two nice gigs with Hill again in Loosdrecht, the first with Cees Slinger and Fred Pronk, the second with Shirley Horn, on the same evening. Hill was a very nice guy, no-nonsense.’

In short, a highly recommended player in that already very imposing landscape of tenor saxophonists.

Find Hill’s informative obit in The Washington Post here.

Horace Silver - Finger Poppin'

Horace Silver Finger Poppin’ (Blue Note 1959)

Horace Silver’s first album with his most celebrated line-up, Finger Poppin’, still stands tall after all these years as a penultimate example of hipness and swing.

Horace Silver - Finger Poppin'

Personnel

Horace Silver (piano), Blue Mitchell (trumpet), Junior Cook (tenor saxophone), Gene Taylor (bass), Louis Hayes (drums)

Recorded

on January 31, 1959 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Released

as BLP 4008 in 1959

Track listing

Side A:
Finger Poppin’
Juicy Lucy
Swingin’ The Samba
Sweet Stuff
Side B:
Cookin’ At The Continental
Come On Home
You Happened My Way
Mellow D.


What else? Everybody obviously knows that feeling. I’m not talking about George Clooney’s cup of espresso but of the series of Blue Note albums that Horace Silver made in the late fifties and early sixties. Desert island stuff of such a unique blend of blues and sophistication that effortlessly produces the feeling that all other music besides Silver’s might be redundant. It’s damn perfect. Meaning, not near-perfect. Hard bop heaven. Finger Poppin’ is classic Silver. For the first time, trumpeter Blue Mitchell, tenor saxophonist Junior Cook and bassist Gene Taylor are aboard. The quite unique ensemble playing of Mitchell and Cook, who took with them a lot of experience in r&b groups, gave the already impressive compositions of Silver a buzz, especially noticable in the uptempo cooker Cookin’ In The Continental. Silver was quick to capitalise on their talents, injecting nifty shout-choruses in the tune, that effectively catapult the soloists into action.

Lots of other crafty devices set Silver’s music in full bloom, elaborate compositions which nevertheless flow naturally like mountain streams. Silver penned eight major league tunes, ranging from catchy swingers like Finger Poppin’ to the lyrical ballad Sweet Stuff. Juicy Lucy is one of the most irresistable songs around. Bluesy as hell, it features the amazing sense of taste and clarity that runs through the whole set, clarity of both song structure and solo’s. Not only the master himself tells a well-balanced tale with slightly behind-the-beat, swinging lines, dense, probing chords, a delicate use of space, Cook and Mitchell, relatively unknown musicians at that time, strike the listener as remarkable storytellers.

All this soulful comping and blowing is underscored by drummer Louis Hayes, who is one of the great masters of the hard bop era, certainly as far as reinforcing a band is concerned. Practically on his own, Hayes sets fire to Silver’s trademark Latin tune for this set, Swingin’ The Samba. The propulsive time of his ride cymbal and crisp, spot-on snare rolls hit the cookin’ tunes right out of the ballpark. Hayes had been aboard the Silver train from 1956, a remarkable stretch for the drummer, who would go on to write hard bop drum history with Cannonball Adderley and on Blue Note albums as Kenny Drew’s Undercurrent. Among many other endeavors. After 1959’s Blowin’ The Blues Away, Hayes would be followed up by Roy Brooks.

The best line-up? Every group has its assets. Cast your mind back to the original Mobley/Dorham frontline and Art Blakey groove. Or the daring, lively Henderson/Shaw contributions to Cape Verdean Blues. At any rate, as far as coherent group sound and effortless, blues-drenched swing is concerned, Silver’s group with Cook/Mitchell is unparalleled. Enough to drive you out of your mind. And if you’re not careful, your body.