Johnny Griffin - Grab This!

Johnny Griffin Grab This! (Riverside 1962)

Who knows what Johnny Griffin meant by calling his tune and album Grab This!. It might be jazz slang we’re not familiar with. Sounds positively like the equivalent of Up Yours!. Signifying the front instead of the rear end, to be sure. Regardless, ‘grab this’ is the only possible advice to real jazz customers. The tenor saxophonist’s 1962 Riverside album, coupling him with organist Paul Bryant, is one of the grittiest in his book.

Johnny Griffin - Grab This!

Personnel

Johnny Griffin (tenor saxophone), Paul Bryant (organ), Joe Pass (guitar), Jimmy Bond (bass), Doug Sides (drums)

Recorded

on June 28, 1962 at Pacific Jazz Studio, Los Angeles

Released

as RLP 437 in 1962

Track listing

Side A:
Grab This!
63rd Street Theme
Don’t Get Around Much Anymore
Side B:
Offering Time
These Foolish Things
Cherry Float


Label owner Orrin Keepnews liked Johnny Griffin very much. On the advice of Thelonious Monk, he had tried to sign “The Little Giant” in 1956, but Blue Note had been a step ahead. Griffin’s sparse but impressive stint at Blue Note consisted of three albums, A Blowing Session with John Coltrane, Hank Mobley, Lee Morgan, Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers and Art Blakey being the absolutely epic standout. In 1958, Keepnews finally got hold of Griffin and offered him plenty opportunity to excel, placing him in differing contexts, from quintet to big band, from straightforward repertoire to folk or gospel concepts. (The Kerry Dancers, Big Soul Band) Simultaneously, Griffin recorded a string of tough tenor albums on the Riverside subsidiary label Jazzland with fellow tenorist Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis. As a result of Riverside’s bankruptcy in 1963, Griffin’s stretch with the label came to an end. Griffin, who had started with Lionel Hampton in the 40s, cooperated with Thelonious Monk and Art Blakey in the 50s, recorded prolifically as a leader but, embittered about the underappreciation of mainstream jazz at the expense of free jazz, settled in Europe, where he stayed for the rest of his life, one of the icons of hard bop tenor.

It was hard to compete with Johnny Griffin, monster tenor saxophonist, who really could bop someone in the ground at the breakneckest of tempos, meanwhile keeping clarity of line, double-timing with the hellhound on his trail. But obviously he was not just a technician, but instead a melodist that sincerely interpreted a song. Most of all, he was full of Charlie Parker and full of blues, a lava burst of indelible, wailing notes. Griffin was a lively, entertaining personality on stage, especially later in his career onwards from the 70s, whose relentless bop fests and meaty ballads were of a consistently high level and wildly exciting.

Coming from Chicago, it was natural for Griffin to put groove to good use. There’s no shortage of it on his next to last Riverside session, Grab This!, which also featured organist Paul Bryant, guitarist Joe Pass, bassist Jimmy Bond and drummer Doug Sides, musicians who were working on the West Coast at the time. The album was recorded in Los Angeles and Griffin, veteran of the bands of Joe Morris, T-Bone Walker, Arnett Cobb, spreads an abundance of grease on the bright yellow soccer ball that was hanging above the shoreline of the Pacific Ocean. Likely, Griffin was in L.A. to perform, met a bunch of fine musicians, called Orrin Keepnews, ‘Say Keeps, want me to do a session with these cats? About time for a greasy affair, right!’

No complaints about the blues tunes that Griffin used for the occasion, particularly considering the meaty backing of drummer Doug Sides and the especially responsive accompaniment of organist Paul Bryant. Bryant is exceptional. He’s not just your run-of-the-mill-grinder, but instead accompanies responsively and uses a lot of space in his solos. The B3 sounds gutsy, in-your-face. Moreover, Bryant’s variation of sounds is striking. He contributes a gospel-tinged tune, Offering Time. In it, guitarist Joe Pass, who recorded on quite a number of soul jazz sessions before becoming a big name, and quite expertly and gritty too, quotes Things Ain’t What They Used To Be during his solo. Blues-based tunes are especially attractive breeding grounds for quotes and Paul Bryant had his say as well during Griffin’s flagwaver, Cherry Float, suavely embellishing his Hammond organ tale with a fragment of Thelonious Monk’s Rhythm-A-Ning.

Griffin breathes, quite literally too, life into the ballads Don’t Get Around Much Anymore and These Foolish Things. He’s having fun with the blues, juxtaposing bop clusters with belligerent shouts during his original tunes 63rd Street Theme and Grab This!. Grab This! is especially cool. Actually, it’s a definite ‘up yours’ to safe playing. Griffin’s phrases refreshingly pop out of the changes like the cork out of a champagne bottle, not once but over and over. Jazzy New Year. At the end of the party, Griffin somehow, a bit wobbly from the booze and dizzy from the firecrackers, lands on his feet. Bit of risk taking won’t hurt. Makes it all the more worthwhile. Got enough accountants already. There are no accountants on Grab This!, unless you count Orrin Keepnews, who counted the money and was finished awfully quick, having to file for a bankruptcy together with his associate Bill Grauer soon after. Nothing to be ashamed of. And lest we forget, Keepnews came back doggedly and successfully a couple of years later with Milestone records.

Full album on YouTube here

In The Spirit Of Rashied Ali

RECOMMENDATION – JORIS TEEPE

Bassist Joris Teepe has been living and working simultaneously in New York and Amsterdam since the 90s. As the only Dutch jazz musician of his generation, Teepe has enjoyed a fruitful career on the American scene. He has performed and recorded with, among others, Benny Golson, Slide Hampton, Charles McPherson, Harold Mabern, Billy Hart, Eric Alexander, Tom Harrell, Peter Bernstein, Mulgrew Miller and Randy Brecker. More and more, Teepe leaned to avant-garde jazz, particularly under the influence of drummer Rashied Ali. Rashied Ali was one of the big free jazz drummers. He is perhaps best known for his cooperation with John Coltrane on Interstellar Space. Teepe was part of Ali’s group from 2001 till 2009, when Ali passed away. His robust yet silken tone and fluid style keeps Teepe in high demand.

Now the bassist and composer has released the booklet and album In The Spirit Of Rashied Ali, a dedication to his mentor that also features saxophone players Wayne Escoffery, Johannes Enders and Michael Moore, guitarist Freddie Bryant and drummer John Betsch. The thoroughly instructive and well-designed booklet is written by John Weijers.

(Clockwise from left to right: Joris Teepe – In The Spirit Of Rashied Ali; Benny Golson & Joris Teepe; Rashied Ali & John Coltrane)

Teepe says: “You could say for me there is the period before Rashied and the period after Rashied.”

One rather cruel anecdote from Patricia Ali during her interview with Teepe and drummer George Schuller about the period during which Ali ran a club in New York City speaks volumes about the maverick spirit of the late avant-garde drummer (and Patricia!), who refused to be dictated by the whims of corporate labels:

“Rashied was into doing his own thing. He had his own recording company called Survival Records. He had his own publishing company, Ali Music. And then he wanted a club because there was no place for this type of music to be played at the time. You know, the Village Vanguard wasn’t really presenting that. So there was a lot of jazz, but no place for the Avant Garde. Rashied actually got a liquor license and so there was food and liquor. His partner Benny Wilson was wonderful. He did double-duty as Rashied’s bassist and part-time cook in the club.”
George: “And the club was exactly where the studio was?”
Patricia: “No…the club was on the first floor. There was the front door and then there was a ticket window, and that’s where the recording booth was. And then you went through another door, you couldn’t actually get into the club until you paid.”
George: “So the storefront, with the fashion boutique, is where the club was?”
Patricia: “Yes…that whole space. And in the back was the kitchen and also an area for musicians to hang out.”
George: “What came first, the club or the studio?”
Patricia: “The club, the studio wasn’t built until the 1980’s.”
Joris: “First, he was renting, right?”
Patricia: “Well, he rented both floors.”
Joris: “And then he wanted to buy the place, he got tired of the Mafia coming around…”
Patricia: “See, the Mafia kept track of local businesses by cigarette machines and by garbage collection.”
This was the common practice of a kind of neighborhood extortion by the Ma a in New York City at the time.
“So Rashied refused to have a cigarette machine in the place, and then he would take his own garbage to wherever you take garbage. And they did not like that. They broke his jaw at one point and they rammed his fingers, but luckily, he could still play. Then one day he sent me over there with one of the kids. I wanted them to see that we were a family. We had to pay $50 to someone over there. I went down there, looking very pathetic of course, because $50 was a lot for us at that time. So, we bought an ad in the local ‘neighborhood’ newspaper. And that seemed to settle the problems with the Mafia for us, because they could tell there wasn’t a huge amount of business going on here. They wanted their payment based on things like garbage and cigarette machines.”

In The Spirit Of Rashied Ali is released by Jazz Tribes. It is available on Amazon.

Check out the website of Joris Teepe here.

Bruut! V (Dox 2018)

NEW RELEASE – BRUUT!

Just when you think how in the hell are the guys from Bruut! going to keep it fresh after all these years, they turn in V. Their fifth album, and their grittiest.

Bruut!

Personnel

Maarten Hogenhuis (alto & tenor saxophone), Folkert Oosterbeek (Hammond, Farfisa, Korg, Vox, Mellotron, piano, harmonium), Thomas Rolff (bass), Felix Schlarmann (drums)

Recorded

on June 1-3, 2018 at Moon Music Studio, Maasbracht, The Netherlands

Released

as Dox 372 in 2018

Track listing

Lopez
Maestro
Phteven
Bud
Watkins
Vox
Klets
Les
Hemiola
Peewee


These guys may not look like a couple of greasy workers diggin’ potatoes. Instead, they are some of the sharpest dressers on the scene. But if not dirty on first sight, saxophonist Maarten Hogenhuis, organist Folkert Oosterbeek, bassist Thomas Rolff and drummer Felix Schlarmann got soul of a strangely twisted kind. In their universe, marriages are celebrated between boogaloo and power pop, post-punk and mood music, perhaps even Link Wray and P.J. Harvey. If a pop band would try its hand on this kind of crossover music, it would most likely be unconvincing. But Bruut! consists of accomplished jazz musicians and each member adds his particular talent and vibe to the palette of entertaining NU-soul jazz.

The wedding party likely takes place in one of those seedy East Hollywood strip clubs frequented by a dozen or so Tom Waits impersonators and the lady that makes a rather charming impression despite the blue bags under her eyes, Botox breasts and stale perfume dating back to the era during which E.T. was in the pre-production phase. Or it might be held at one of the trashy jetset places one always reads about in the tabloids and is never able to attend.

Whatever spot it might be, the fat, resonant bottom of drums and double bass is perfect foil for Hogenhuis and Oosterbeek. The alto and tenor sax of Hogenhuis sounds raw, like a distorted Varitone sax, and Hogenhuis regularly hams it up like a disgruntled hooligan on ketamine. His timing is immaculate and he allows himself a number of solo spots and ad-libs that demonstrate an apparent admiration for Eddie Harris. Oosterbeek provides crunch and edge with all kinds of keyboards like the Hammond, Korg, Vox, even Harmonium. Angular hooks that are groovy and jazzy but also part Queens Of The Stone Age part Pogues part B52’s are enlivened with frivolous bridges and underscored by varying, hefty beats from Schlarmann. As a breather, Hogenhuis contributes his customary mood pieces that showcase his liquid silver tone and melodious lines.

As usual, Bruut!’s song titles consist of only one word. Lopez. Bud. Maestro. Klets. Peewee. Part of the group’s identity that is crystal clear and hasn’t worn.

Find the album here.
And check out their new single Lopez here

Dave Bailey Sextet - One Foot In The Gutter

The Dave Bailey Sextet One Foot In The Gutter (Epic 1960)

Solid, swinging drumming and great line-ups marked the albums drummer Dave Bailey made as a leader in 1960-61: a sudden burst of activity set off by One Foot In The Gutter.

Dave Bailey Sextet - One Foot In The Gutter

Personnel

Dave Bailey (drums), Clark Terry (trumpet), Junior Cook (tenor saxophone), Curtis Fuller (trombone), Horace Parlan (piano), Peck Morrison (bass)

Recorded

on July 19 & 20, 1960

Released

as Epic LA 16008 in 1960

Track listing

Side A:
One Foot In The Gutter
Well, You Needn’t
Side B:
Sandu


Cogniscenti and colleagues were in for a surprise when Dave Bailey quit the jazz life to become a flight instructor from 1969 to ’74. He somewhat returned to the scene when he picked up educational work for Jazzmobile in New York City after his stint on the airport. However, Bailey is remembered most of all as a top-rate drummer of the hard bop period, present on plenty fine albums from Art Farmer, Curtis Fuller, Stan Getz, Grant Green and Jimmy Smith. Three long-time associations stand out: Gerry Mulligan (1955-66), Lou Donaldson (1957-61) and Clark Terry (1962-67).

In 1960/61, Bailey recorded five albums as a leader for Epic, Jazztime and Jazzline with a number of illustrious contemporaries as Clark Terry, Kenny Dorham, Tommy Flanagan and Grant Green. Inevitably, some of those LP’s were re-issued under the names of his better-known colleagues. Reaching Out! was repackaged as Grant Green’s Green Blues, Bash! as Kenny Dorham’s Osmosis. One Foot In The Gutter met no such fate, regardless of Clark Terry, the obvious choice for companies eager to cash in.

Perhaps inspired by the success of The Cannonball Adderley Quintet’s Live In San Francisco album, recorded for a standing-room crowd in the relaxed atmosphere of the Jazz Workshop, Epic invited an audience to the Columbia 30th Street Studio in NYC (Epic was a subsidiary of Columbia Records) for the One Foot In The Gutter session. Uncertain as to which foot and gutter Bailey is talking about, it could well be, in subsequent order, his and one of those dingy clubs the jazz men of the classic age had to work in more often than not. It could also refer, of course, to the gutter of life in the USA, in which case the foot is a symbol of Uncle Sam’s snake-leather boot desperate to keep the black man lying on the ground. Any which way, the atmosphere is relaxed and the album is particularly well-recorded, sounding crisp, fresh and resonant.

Swing is the thing. And it’s immediately clear from note one that, if not spectacular on other fronts, Dave Bailey is a swinger. Cats instantly smell that kind of species. They want to play with swinging drummers only, and Bailey’s ride cymbal is stirring along proceedings rather nicely. There’s plenty of room to stretch out for Clark Terry, Curtis Fuller, Junior Cook and Horace Parlan on three mid-tempo tunes – the Bailey blues One Foot In The Gutter, Thelonious Monk’s Well, You Needn’t and Clifford Brown’s Sandu. The swift, tart and witty Terry, subdued, fecund and playful Fuller and angular Parlan succeed to raise more than a dozen smiles.

But if anyone shines brightly in the face of humiliation and constant threat of life in the muddy waters, it’s tenor saxophonist Junior Cook. The tone of Cook, at the time part of the classic Horace Silver line-up including Blue Mitchell, Gene Taylor and Louis Hayes, is a soul grabber: round, clean, medium-big, with a sly, sleazy edge, much akin to Hank Mobley or Tina Brooks. He’s finding the corners one didn’t anticipate were there in the labyrinth of bluesy, stylish phrases, spellbound by the innocence he’s discovering deep within himself of the child that’s thoroughly enjoying rides on the roller rink. Perhaps the organ grinds in his mind. Obviously, Cook is the cherry on top of a solid and laid-back blowing session.

Persson To Persson

Jan Persson (1943-2018) –

Danish photographer Jan Persson passed away on November 15. He worked for Downbeat, Melody Maker and various Danish papers since 1962. His work mainly centered around visiting jazz musicians in Copenhagen, one of the most jazz-minded cities in Europe where numerous legendary American artists came to perform or live. Persson photographed pretty much everyone from Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Dexter Gordon to Chet Baker, Michael Brecker and Roy Hargrove. In the late sixties, Persson also focused on visiting rock artists and groups like Bob Dylan, The Beatles and Cream.

Persson’s photos are collected on the website of the Center For Danish Jazz History. Persson’s photos, instead of the more stylish pictures of Francis Wolff, have a kind of rugged quality, catching the artists in performance but also in ordinary, off-stage situations. Find the website here. It’s fantastic to browse through the collection.

See a couple of pictures below:

Clockwise from left to right: Oscar Peterson; Hank Mobley; Bill Evans

Clockwise from left to right: Charles Mingus & Ben Webster; Elvin Jones Trio with Joe Farrell & Jimmy Garrison; Don Cherry

The Ramsey Lewis Trio - In Chicago

The Ramsey Lewis Trio In Chicago (Argo 1960)

Before he hit big nationwide with 1965’s The In-Crowd, pianist Ramsey Lewis had delivered a string of Argo albums to an already notable fan base in the Mid-West. Among those albums is In Chicago, a typically dynamic and entertaining performance of the Ramsey Lewis Trio.

The Ramsey Lewis Trio - In Chicago

Personnel

Ramsey Lewis (piano), Eldee Young (bass), Red Holt (drums)

Recorded

on April 30, 1960 at the Blue Note club, Chicago

Released

as Argo 671 in 1960

Track listing

Side A:
Old Devil Moon
What’s New
Carmen
Bei Mir Bist Du Schön
I’ll Remember April
Side B:
Delilah
Folk Ballad
But Not For Me
C.C. Rider


There’s soul jazz and soul jazz. In the late 50s and early 60s, artists like Jimmy Smith and Gene Ammons spearheaded a movement of artists that presented both excellent and entertaining blues-based jazz to a largely Afro-American audience. Then Ramsey Lewis covered Billy Page’s The In-Crowd, which was a hit for Dobie Gray in 1963. His version, recorded at Bohemian Caverns in Washington D.C. in 1964, climbed the Billboard charts to #5 in 1965. From then on, coming immediately and in droves, colleagues followed his footsteps and interpreted a variety of contemporary soul songs and hits. Suddenly soul jazz, having taken ‘soul’ quite literally, also appealed to the white market place, with Ramsey Lewis at the helm. The pianist scored subsequent hits with Hang On Sloopy and Dancing In The Street.

With the exception of his early seventies output and mingling with the electric piano – Lewis focused on electric piano-driven fusion of smooth funk and jazz, releasing the Grammy Award-winning Sun Goddess featuring Stevie Wonder in 1974 – the style of Lewis more or less stayed the same throughout his career. And he cherished the foundation of long-running rhythm sections – first Eldee Young and Red Holt (1956-65), then Cleveland Eaton and Maurice White (1965-75). Never change a winning team and/or format. These duos, a bunch of steam locomotives, in constant motion, either holding back responsively or driving the tune through a brick wall, perfectly underlined the trademark style of Lewis. It’s a dynamic style imbued with gospel and blues feeling, propulsive but rarely if ever overcooked. It’s filled with lithe, rippling teasers that slowly but surely develop into Sunday sermon storms. Groove but with a bit of sensitivity that Lewis borrowed from influences like Ahmad Jamal. Lightweight? Yes, if one unjustly compares Lewis with Jaki Byard or Herbie Nichols. No, because when Lewis plays, the floor threatens to sag under the heavy toe-tapping of the audience.

In the late 50s and early 60s, the audience was also bound to go home with a smile after an evening of Ramsey Lewis music. Smiles abound, surely, on April 30, 1960, at the Blue Note club in Chicago. The Ramsey Lewis Trio played Old Devil Moon, What’s New, Carmen, Bei Mir Bist Du Schön, I’ll Remember April, Delilah, Folk Ballad, But Not For Me and C.C. Rider. A mix of standards, popular music and original blues-based compositions, practically each one of them marked by tension and release, effective devices from r&b and a lot of quiet thunder. Old Devil Moon is a lesson in how to begin a set. The piano introduction is lavish, then the band kicks in, pang! Such a tight-knit, urgent groove. That’s how to state your intentions! The trio’s version switches regularly between keys, which perhaps is a bit cheap but definitely keeps the listener on its toes. You think the gent and dame at the table noticed the changes of keys? Don’t underestimate the Afro-American jazz lover of the 50s and 60s, they knew their stuff, but they wouldn’t have cared less, as long as the stuff swings.

This was Chicago, hometown of Ramsey Lewis, and obviously the pianist would’ve had to strain to fuck up, in the city that up until that time had spawned the careers of Jimmy Yancey, Roosevelt Sykes, Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters, Pinetop Perkins, J.P. Leary, Otis Spann, Walter Shakey Horton, Kokomo Arnold, Eddie Boyd, Willie Dixon, Jazz Gillum, Earl Hooker, Little Walter, Fred Below, Syl Johnson, Howlin’ Wolf, Big Bill Broonzy, Blind John Davis, Magic Same, Otis Rush, Elmore James, Sunnyland Slim, Buddy Guy, Willie Mabon, James Cotton, Koko Taylor, Dinah Washington, Jerry Butler, Gene Chandler, Otis Clay, Etta James, Sam Cooke and many others. Most of them had migrated from the South, just like the audience, that was working hard by day in the big city factories, enjoying their night out as hard as they could. A tune like C.C. Rider, generating a lot of heat pretty much equivalent to the temperature that is developed from the blow of a hammer on a steel girder, sits well with such an audience. It probably was a request. At the end of the set, Ramsey Lewis humbly says that the trio, unfortunately, wasn’t able to play all of the requested tunes.

The In-Crowd was something else, a roaring, sure-shot mender of Ramsey Lewis’s destiny. But as In Chicago reveals, the particular Lewis swing during live performance was there from the beginning.

PS: Any doubt that this is the essential Ramsey Lewis record cover? It’s beautiful. Argo art is either beautiful, solid or plain silly. Look at those Johann Sebastian Bach sweaters. Only thing one can say is, they picked the right dude.

Mister Ben’s Tempo

BEN DIXON (1934-2018) –

Drummer Ben Dixon sadly passed away on November 8. Flophouse reached out to Pete “Doodlin’ Lounge’ Fallico, who posted a RIP on Facebook. Through the grapevine, Fallico heard about someone who attended the funeral: ‘Apparently muslims bury or cremate a body the next day after death. Ben was a quiet person who did not have a web presence, hence the lack of information.’

Dixon was one of the great organ jazz specialists. He was born in Gaffney, South Carolina and grew up in Washington D.C. and Buffalo, NY. Early in his career, Dixon played with Buck Hill, Shirley Horn and Webster Young. During Dixon’s three-year stint with the popular r&b singer Lloyd Price, Dixon met John Patton, whom he persuaded to take up the Hammond. Introduced by Lou Donaldson to Blue Note’s Alfred Lion, Dixon and Patton (plus guitarist Grant Green) went on to form a prolific tandem on many of the label’s now-classic soul jazz albums of the early and mid-sixties. He quit the music business in 1967 but resurfaced in 1997 with The Real Jazz Quartet. His only album as a leader, Say Yes To Your Best including organist Adam Scone was released in 2000. Dixon’s discography as a sideman includes a series of albums with Lou Donaldson, Grant Green and John Patton, George Braith’s Laughing Soul, Ray Draper’s Tuba Sounds, Stanley Turrentine’s A Chip Off The Old Block and Baby Face Willette’s Face To Face.

The work of Ben Dixon is textbook material for aspiring soul jazz drummers. Playing in an organ group requires some adjustments and a whole lotta groove. Ben Dixon’s meaty hi-hat on the 2 and 4 constituted a tight pocket. His bass and ride cymbal locked tight with the organist’s bass lines. He accented changes, turnarounds, bridges and shout choruses with press rolls, but not excessively, so as not to disturb the flow and uses lively snare and tom figures to inspire the soloists. This way his accompaniment is an arc of tension, more tension, heat, release… Throughout, Dixon swings, grooves, makes sure those toes keep-a-tappin’. His shuffle was rock-solid. Dixon also wrote a number of catchy tunes like Cantaloupe Woman, Pig Foot and Fat Judy.

Check out Ben Dixon’s style on Brother Jack McDuff’s Whap!, Grant Green’s Miss Ann’s Tempo and Lou Donaldson’s Funky Mama.

Harold Vick’s Our Miss Brooks and John Patton’s Fat Judy. Picture of Ben Dixon.

Ben Dixon was 84 years old.

(Thanks Pete Fallico of The Doodlin’ Lounge and Jazz Organ Fellowship)