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)

Carlo de Wijs

Dutch Design

Carlo de Wijs is crazy. Not as a bat but as the fanatic organist that is dying to take the beloved Hammond B3 to the next level. “It’s a movement I’m concerned with.”

The 56-year old Dutch organist, who recently has found a home in the center of Dordrecht in a neatly-furnished house with a studio in the cellar, is also crazy about Rhoda Scott, a pivotal personality in the development of his career. “I had been playing the electronic organ from age 7. But then my father, who was a parttime amateur musician, brought home an album from Rhoda Scott. Her sound immediately grabbed me by the throat. I thought, this is what I want to do. From age 12, all I did was try to imitate the records of Rhoda, which were presented to me by my music teacher. I even went to Paris to buy a double album of hers! She is my first great love of the instrument. A beautiful woman too. I was madly in love with her! And you know what? Now she is a friend of mine. She kind of knew what I was up to with the Modular Hammond, did a little tour and came to the Codarts institute I’m associated with to do a workshop and talk with fans. Talkin’ she did. Rhoda is a very amiable lady of 79. We had long conversations night after night.”

De Wijs is a man with a plan, possessed with a distinct penchant for tickling the senses of the establishment, eager to seize opportunities and stretch limits. Certainly the musical challenges for the young De Wijs of the late 80s and early 90s, who apprenticed with accomplished Dutch mainstream jazz fellows like tenor saxophonist Harry Verbeke, bass player Hein van de Geyn and drummer John Engels, came from a rather surprising scene. “Hans Dulfer really was a gas. I had graduated from Conservatory with Swing Support, a funky jazz band with about three soccer teams on stage. That was a pretty grandiose affair, I was inexperienced and impulsive, but our subsequent tour worked out surprisingly well. (Swing Support is still the current name of the studio production company of De Wijs, FM) But Dulfer was something else. We formed a band with drummer Hans Eykenaar and guitarist Walter de Graaf. A jam band with hi-octane energy. We once did a marathon performance of 24 hours!”

“That is how I met his daughter, Candy Dulfer. She occasionally joined us on stage. She subsequently recruited me. Candy had just hit the big time. We traveled the globe like a major league act. That was really great. Then I started thinking that it wouldn’t last forever. Nothing lasts forever in the music business. So I started D’Wys, a monicker for my own soul and pop-jazz output. That was a really successful period, especially my cooperation with the ladies of Voices Of Soul. But instead of putting my Hammond playing at the service of a group identity, I wanted to have voices, harmony and concepts stimulating the development of my Hammond identity.”

Something was brewing in the back of his mind. The Hammond organ has been celebrating a resurgence once again. But the popular B3 series, brought to the fore by innovators like Jimmy Smith and Larry Young, fundamental to the reign of soul jazz in the sixties and, after a lull in the 70s and 80s, omnipresent in jazz and popular music, is an endangered species, much like the sable tooth tiger. It isn’t exactly clear how many were produced from 1955 till 1975 and how many are around today. And although De Wijs will find out one of these days – he has access to the original Hammond production administration in order to write his PhD on the Hammond organ – the number roughly resembles the amount of inhabitants of the Winesburg, Ohio that lies sleeping just below the brightly lighted big city you live in. Clones are superb, but digital imitations. So how can you update a vintage instrument for the 21st century? An intriguing question that De Wijs gladly grabs by the nuts. No, you won’t see the soft-spoken, slender organist chew on a cigar like the A-Team’s Hannibal and coolly state, ‘I love it when a plan comes together.’ He is pleased when something succeeds, rather jubilant, but instead of resting on his laurels, De Wijs is thinking of the next step. “Let’s just say that with everything I do, I’m presenting opportunities, offering solutions and ways to go.”

His PhD research for Codarts more or less points the way. “It’s called The Micro Dynamics Of Musical Innovation: history and the future of the Hammond organ. It’s about the stimulants of innovation and how to keep innovation going, centered around my core of interest, the Hammond organ. Now, Laurens Hammond was a brilliant fellow, an engineer and inventor who built a big company as a clockmaker in the thirties. But obviously, every innovator deals with the signs of the times. The signs of the times, regardless of the specific skills and special intellect of the innovator, are the actors of innovation. In this case, for instance, the Depression Era. Hammond was eager to find something else instead of the overflowing clock market and the government gladly granted Hammond’s application for a patent of the tone wheel organ, expecting many new jobs. Furthermore, new technical possibilities and ideas about marketing, the upbringing of Laurens Hammond, the role of his associate William Lahey and that of musicians of many creeds and fashions were fundamental stimulants of innovation.”

(Clockwise from left to right: Laurens Hammond; Rhoda Scott; Jimmy Smith)

“Does the thesis concretely include my beliefs regarding the future of the Hammond organ? Well, more of less. It’s scientific research about innovation, not a pamphlet. I have three more years to go! So I can’t reveal all of the content. But between the lines one may find suggestions as to how to update your product for the future. In this case, to stabilize and further develop the current positive Hammond climate. It may look as if Hammond is doing fine. Organ music is quite popular and the instrument is used in all genres. But the company definitely needs innovation in order to survive. When I introduced my ideas to Codarts, there was a lot of skepticism. Carlo’s that guy with a great hobby. Now I have supporters that acknowledge the merit of my research and the value of the concept and benchmarks.”

But De Wijs is not a professor. By his own account, a goodly professor gently led him through the desert of scientific research and thesis construction. De Wijs is a musician. And the demonstration of his philosophy on his Modular Hammond on the day of the interview is thoroughly instructive, if rather puzzling too. Seated on his bench, he looks less an organist than a pilot behind the dashboard of a Boeing 747. And he dashes from one knob to the other like he’s David Copperfield trying new tricks in his practice room. A staggering sight! Basically the Modular Hammond, developed with the help of, among others, Hammond technician Sjaak van Oosterhout, the ‘McGyver’ of De Wijs’s odyssee, is a hybrid of analogue and digital information. New technology is signaled through the unique tone wheel construction and routed back through the organ’s tube amplifier and Leslie speaker. The keyboards, keys and drawbars send MIDI data, separated from each other and thus creating a audio matrix that can be programmed at the operator’s will. The organ is connected with a modular synth, modifier system and computer software, which offers opportunities to sample, loop and manipulate sound while playing in real time. The system is underlined by separately amplified Moog bass technology in order to play independent bass lines.

It’s hard to believe that toying with his instrument once more or less started with implementing a Black & Decker drill in support of the organ’s transit system. Above the crunchy, creepy, sighing or booming sounds underscored by the funky runs or dense voicings he now plays off the cuff on his vintage and modified B3 in his studio, De Wijs will loudly say things like, ‘Listen, I’ve got the acoustic piano’s sustain pedal running through the Leslie speaker, that’s unique!’ or ‘Do you know of the Novacord? Hammond’s other invention built on tube amplification instead of tone wheels? We have programmed it in Ableton, which was really a bizarre experience for the guys of the Hammond company!’.

(Clockwise from left to right: Carlo de Wijs – New Hammond Sound; Harry Verbeke/Carlo de Wijs Quartet – Mo de Bo; D’Wys – First Moves)

The goal of all this seeming wizardry is not tech for tech’s sake. “Absolutely not. It is a complex, continuing experimental process, but it’s still all about the music. This is a Hammond organ that has left the cradle of convention. A stepping stone. And inspiration, hopefully, for the younger generation of musicians, not only in jazz, but in pop, hiphop, electro. It is an invitation to make fresh choices of sound, a gadget paradise designed for creativity. At least I hope it works out that way. I’m also concerned with adding a third component: image. I’m very busy working this out with my buddy, drummer Jordi Geuens. We’ve made video clips with Job van Nuenen, where images correspond with the music and concept. We’re going to take it a step further in live performances, running images through the organ as well, in real time. This way the image will be the third band member.”

That’s much more than 74 miles away from mainstream jazz, the groove and grease of lore. Even from the clean contemporary non-smoking venues that present jazz, theatre or comedy for the loaded babyboom generation. “Yes, I’m pretty much of on a wild tangent, have been experimenting extremely for the last few years. Generally, I have been rather invisible for jazz fans. My concept is jazz-friendly but ready-made too, especially perhaps, for other genres and audiences. For me as an artist, this fact makes for a relatively hazardous transition from a stable fan base to a more eclectic and younger audience. I’m traveling new ground here, it’s quite scary! I imagine me and Jordi playing more fashionable venues, like electronic music festivals. Quite a liberating prospect. But at the same time, looks and sounds deceive. This music and concept hasn’t appeared out of the blue. They’re grounded not only in my special interest in the Hammond machine, but in my experience as an artist as well. Above all, I would say. I was immensily stimulated by my musical heroes.”

Perhaps like all inspired, serious journeymen, the young De Wijs wanted to become ‘the best organist of the world.’ A healthy yet romantic outlook that soon developed into the more level-headed aspiration to form a distinct personality under the wings of ‘the gods’. In the case of De Wijs: Jimmy Smith, Rhoda Scott, Joe Zawinul, Eddy Louiss, Quincy Jones and Prince, among others. “You’ll always hear Jimmy Smith in my playing, even during the wildest experiments. No matter how excellent his followers were, he’s the boss of mainstream organ jazz. At the other side of the spectrum, there’s keyboard player Joe Zawinul. He’s my greatest inspiration in the search of a New Hammond Sound. Zawinul dedicated his life to this kind of experiment in a more complex era, since the technology was more primitive. It was amazing how he found his own voice with all that equipment on stage. His son was a wizzkid and had to solder more than one connection between Rhodes, Arp, pedal or mixer. Lest we forget, it required the original vision and endless creativity of master musician Joe Zawinul to squeeze viable artistic statements from the gear. He’s a unique musician that defies imitation.”

(Clockwise from left to right: Joe Zawinul; Stan Getz – Dynasty; Rhoda Scott – Take A Ladder)

Eddy Louiss is not the most obvious ‘hero’. “He is to me. Louiss also was an unconventional player who defied ready-made categorization. Born in Matinique, this Frenchman had a bit of Africa in him. He’s classically trained. His touch is amazing and he’s always looking for different colors. He made some excellent records with Kenny Clarke, the trio album with Clarke and guitarist Rene Thomas stands out. But the greatest records to me are the ones that stray away from orthodoxy. There’s one with Stan Getz that’s out of sight, Dynasty: Live At Ronny Scott’s. It reveals his sing-songy lines, unusual timing and sound.”

The unorthodox approach is what attracted De Wijs to Rhoda Scott as well. “Rhoda’s craft of execution, voicing, arranging is unmatched. Perhaps never more so than during her early career. She really developed a very personal style. Those early albums, like Take A Ladder, A ‘l Orgue Volume 2, Live At The Olympia, don’t have an exclusively straight-forward jazz conception. Her phrasing is a bit angular, but her orchestral approach is very striking. She really makes the organ sound ‘complete’. The sound is massive, voluptuous! That sound really turned me on.”

“Do I know of the Bennett Machine from organist Lou Bennett? Yes. Talkin’ about a pioneer. Bennett was a bass pedal virtuoso and his invention (Bennett added electronic special effects which allowed him to multiply the voices of his instrument and achieve a double bass sound as well, FM) was groundbreaking, if very unstable. It regularly broke down during performances. In general, his ideas weren’t picked up. Bennett wasn’t your best marketer, unlike Rhoda Scott. Interesting that you ask, cause, coincidentally, Rhoda is finishing her master thesis on the Hammond organ. Do you know what? Lou Bennett, who like Rhoda was based primarily in Europe, is a key figure throughout. Amazing, right! When I told her about and demonstrated my Modular Hammond, Rhoda gasped: ‘Oh, Lou would’ve been overjoyed! The things he was trying to work out with his raggedy construction, you are accomplishing here and now.’

Looks like Carlo de Wijs is slowly but surely becoming an actor of innovation himself.

Carlo de Wijs

Hammond organist, composer and producer Carlo de Wijs (56) recorded and performed with Harry Verbeke, John Engels, Candy Dulfer, Steve Lukather, Gary Brooker, Rhoda Scott, Red Holloway, Benjamin Herman and Jesse van Ruller. He has been leading several successful groups, notably D’Wys with Voices Of Soul. De Wijs was artistic manager of the pop and jazz department of Codarts in Rotterdam till 2014 and is the initiator of the Hammond bachelor and master.

Selected discography:

Harry Verbeke, Mo de Bo (Timeless 1985)
Swing Support, Avenue (Polygram 1990)
D’Wys, First Moves (Move 1999)
Trio Engels/Middelhof/De Wijs, Live At North Sea Jazz Festival (Munich 2001)
D’Wys, Turn Up The B! (Red Bullit 2002)
Benjamin Herman, Deal (Dox 2012)
Carlo de Wijs, New Hammond Sound (Rough Trade 2012)

Check out New Hammond Sound Project’s (Carlo de Wijs, Jordi Geuens, Job van Nuenen) brandnew clip Element Cm on YouTube here.

Go to the website of Carlo de Wijs here.

Roy Hard Groove

ROY HARGROVE (1969-2018) –

A shiver went through the jazz world with the passing of trumpeter Roy Hargrove on November 2. Hargrove, who suffered from kidney failure, died of cardiac arrest in the hospital. He was 49. Few carried on the torch of real jazz as brilliantly, fiery and sensitively as Hargrove. When touring in Europe, Hargrove regularly performed in jazz club Porgy & Bess in Terneuzen, The Netherlands, birthplace of yours truly. Hargrove and Porgy’s management had a special rapport since the early nineties. Like many, Porgy is saddened by the loss of the acclaimed trumpet and flugelhorn player. Read an overview of comments on Hargrove’s passing below.

Trumpeter Nicholas Payton on his website:

“Y’all don’t even understand. I lost my spirit brother today. I remember I first started hearing about this dude when I was around 12-years-old. When I would hang out and get lessons from Wynton Marsalis, he would tell me about this cat around my age from Texas by the name of Roy Hargrove who was a prodigy like me. I didn’t meet him face-to-face for another 4 years or so, but as you can imagine, the excitement built in my mind. Who is this little mothafucka playing as much horn as me? In my mind, I was the only one. When we first met, I felt like I had reunited with my long, lost soul brother. I felt so much love for him instantly. Much in the same way I locked eyes with my son for the first time, there was a kindred feeling of family present from the jump.

Years later, Wynton had this series he started at Lincoln Center called the Battle Royale. He pit Roy and I against each other on the old standard called “Just Friends.” How ironic. Haha… Anyway, if you can find that tape anywhere, you’ll hear perhaps the most heated trumpet battle you’ve ever heard in your life. We loved each other, but we were going for blood. The vibe in the room was electric and it was very clear who the next two trumpet stars on the scene were to be.

That event signaled the start of the music industry doing everything in its power to create of web of conflict between the two of us. And like brothers, we fought over everything: the same record company, the same gigs, the same women. We kept each other in check and made each other our best selves. I couldn’t go anywhere without him right there. Even my big Grammy night when I thought I would one up him, he won his first Grammy the same night. That little mothafucka! lol

There aren’t many relationships like ours in the world. The closest I can think of is that of Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas, or even better, Phife and Tip. The world got the best of the best because we both existed. And now he’s gone. It’s just me and it hurts beyond belief.

With every note, this brother dripped soul. In every phrase, he never let you forget you were listening to a Black man playing that horn. He inspires me to no end.”

Bassist Christian McBride on Instagram:

“I have no words over the loss of my dear brother of 31 years. We played on a lot of sessions together, laughed a lot together, bickered on occasion – and I wouldn’t change our relationship for anything in the world. Bless you, Roy Hargrove.”

(Parker’s Mood, 1995; Roy Hargrove’s Crisol, Habana, 1997; Earfood, 2008)

Photographer Nina D’Alessandro on Instagram:

“I remember being at Clark Terry’s house one night when Clark and Al Grey got home from the road. We were sitting around the kitchen table and Clark told us about a fourteen-year old trumpet player he’d just heard down in Texas. ‘Remember his name, Roy Hargrove,’ he said. ‘That young one is a Chosen One. He came into this world anointed.”

Wynton Marsalis on his website:

“We lost a true missionary and minister of our music this past week in Roy Hargrove.

Although he faced an uphill battle with his health over the years, it didn’t deter him or even slow him down from doing what he was undoubtedly born to do – minister through music. That he did until the end.

I first met Roy Hargrove in 1986 at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing Arts in Dallas, Texas. He was a 16 years old phenom playing lead trumpet parts with incredible accuracy and also improvising original solos with gleaming nuggets of melody swimming in harmonic sophistication with generous helpings of downhome blues and soul.

Roy played piano, wrote songs, sang and had a great sense of humor. To top it all off, he possessed an unerring sense of time, in the pocket at any tempo fast or slow. Kids in the school just loved him and were all excited about his great musicianship and about the magic they experienced everyday listening to him and playing with him.

He played with an unusual and infectious combination of fire, honesty and sweet innocence. The first time I heard him it was clear, he was an absolute natural with phenomenal ears, a great memory and tremendous dexterity on our instrument.

He was diligent about his playing technically and emotionally. Playing with an uncommon depth of feeling with a very developed internal sense of that which is unspeakable about the intimate. A Roy ballad was always exquisite.

Just as many in the continuum of our music poured information and aspirations into him, Roy gave selflessly to others, particularly to young musicians. He did everything he could to ensure that the circle would not be broken, at least not on his watch.

His participation on the scene in New York most reminded me of Woody Shaw. Roy continued Woody’s tradition of sitting in all around town and of playing, of encouraging everyone to play (not just with incredible solos), but with knowledge of songs and with advice and with just the feeling of “we are in this together and this is worth doing, and it’s valuable.”

While I am truly saddened as I write this, I am also encouraged by the life and the legacy that Roy left. He meant it.

Rest in Peace Baby.”

(Bobby Watson & Horizon, No Question About It, 1988 debut as sideman; Johnny Griffin, Chicago, New York, Paris, 1994; Johnny O’Neal, *In The Moment, 2017, last recording)

Guitarist Dan Nicholas on Facebook:

“Thoughts keep turning to Roy Hargrove and what we’ve lost.

Roy Hargrove made the scene. He showed up. As soon as his gig was over, he was out there at the next spot, hanging, playing, teaching, sharing, representing.

Roy Hargrove corrected other musicians when something was wrong or inappropriate to the music. He didn’t “vibe” them, he shared his knowledge and experience in an attempt to have the music better served. This is the furthest thing from hostility. It’s generosity. The few who take the effort and energy to do this make our music better.

Roy Hargrove dressed immaculately. Even if he was wearing jeans and Nikes, they were the right jeans and the right Nikes, and they complimented the rest of his outfit. He carried himself with grace and poise, and looked beautiful walking on stage before playing a single note. This helped draw audiences to him and made them more open to receiving his musical message.

Roy Hargrove led BANDS. His music was arranged. His sets had an arc, they had variety, they had drama, they went from one song right into the next, no bullshiting, no chance for the spell to be broken.

Roy Hargrove played standards. He loved the American Songbook and he dug deep into it.

Roy Hargrove played BALLADS. There’s a lot of them out there besides Body and Soul, many of the greatest songs ever written.

Roy Hargrove played MELODY. Sometimes just melody.

Roy Hargrove could play in any bag, any style, it was all just music to him. But when he spoke about learning, he continued to speak of Bird, Dizzy, Monk, Bud Powell, all of whom he felt were overlooked, and whose music he described as “the fabric of jazz.”

Roy Hargrove was all about the music. He didn’t seem to have much of an ego, at least as a musician. In a world of mercenaries out for themselves, he was a soldier in service to the kingdom of music. And music gave back to him unfailingly.”

(Roy Hargrove, 2017; Christian McBride & Roy Hargrove, late 80s; Roy Hargrove, Porgy & Bess, Terneuzen, early 90s)

The 3 Souls - Soul Sounds

The 3 Souls Soul Sounds (Argo 1965)

Soul sounds, r&b sounds, jazz sounds, and whatnot on The 3 Souls album Soul Sounds.

The 3 Souls - Soul Sounds

Personnel

Sonny Cox (alto saxophone), Ken Prince (organ), Robert Shy (drums), Louis Satterfield (electric bass A1, 2 & 4, B1), Gerald Sims (guitar A1, 2 & 4, B1)

Recorded

on Februari 12, 1965 at Ter Mar Studio, Chicago

Released

as Argo 4044 in 1965

Track listing

Side A:
You’re No Good
I Don’t Want To Hear No More
Dear Old Stockholm
Walk On By
Big Jim
Side B:
A House Is Not A Home
Black Nile
Chitlins Con Carne
Armageddon


It is a most gratifying experience to delve into the Argo catalogue. It includes modern jazz artists like James Moody, Ahmad Jamal, Sonny Stitt, Art Farmer, Benny Golson, Gene Ammons and Lou Donaldson. On the r&b market, the subsidiary of Chess Records from Chicago was a strong player with Etta James. Soul jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis secured a high profile and considerable revenues for the label, which changed its name to Cadet in 1965. The 3 Souls weren’t out of place in a roster that also, at one time, included Baby Face Willette and Bunky Greene. Chicago and the Midwest had a large, receptive audience for hip and groovy jazz.

As it happens, The 3 Souls had Chicago as a base of operations in 1965, enjoying a residency at the Hungry Eye. The 3 Souls consisted of organist Ken Price, drummer Robert Shy, both from Kentucky, and alto saxophonist Sonny Cox, a native of Cincinatti, Ohio. The group released three albums, The 3 Souls in 1963, Dangerous Dan Express in 1964, which spawned a minor hit with their version of Hi-Heel Sneakers, and Soul Sounds in 1965. On the 1966 Cadet album The Wailer by Sonny Cox, Ken Prince plays organ. On Soul Sounds, the trio is assisted on a number of tracks by bassist Louis Satterfield and guitarist Gerald Sims.

Cox is a peculiar player and Soul Sounds a quirky album. The alto saxophonist, born in 1938, backed Jackie Wilson, Solomon Burke, Jerry Butler and LaVern Baker in the 50s. He proved to be the sporty type as well. In the 70s Cox switched careers and became a successful baseball and basketball coach on Chicago high schools. Undoubtedly, coach Cox was aware that it’s essential for a team to have a number of capricious players, often the creative ones who pull the chestnuts out of the fire. Cox the alto player possesses creative unpredictability himself. That’s good. Yet, his playing isn’t wholly convincing, uneven at times, short on meaningful ideas, we’re not talking Cannonball Adderley here, or Frank Strozier, or Sonny Criss… But it’s edgy, animated. And his tone has something of the ‘singing’ sound of Hank Crawford, though more vulnerable, thin.

Soul Sounds is a hodgepodge of sorts that includes Randy Newman’s I Don’t Want To Hear Anymore, Stan Getz’ Dear Old Stockholm, Burt Bacharach’s Walk On By and, yep, Wayne Shorter’s Black Nile ánd Armageddon. During the r&b, pop and soul tunes, also including You’re No Good and Bacharach/David’s A House Is Not A Home, Cox focuses on the melody with slight variations of timing and bending of notes. The meaty Dear Old Stockholm is enlivened by a boppish whirlwind entrance and a spirited continuation of furious licks and belligerent twists and turns. Cox holds on, perhaps to dear life, to these procedures during Shorter’s Armageddon, coloring his emotional solo with lurid ‘out’ notes.

Albeit a bit stiff on Kenny Burrell’s Chitlins Con Carne, the organ/drums sound is gutsy, certainly on the Cox/Prince original composition Big Jim, a hefty, Brother Jack McDuff-style cooker. The outfit seems most comfortable cooking in this vein. However, the liner notes explain that the group liked to perform the music they like, be it jazz, soul or pop. Something of that attitude certainly rubbed off on the recording of Soul Sounds, coherence be damned, a frame of mind we should perhaps appreciate more than we’re initially inclined to.

Soul Sounds is not available on Spotify unfortunately, so hunt for a copy to hear the highlights, or listen on YouTube to Chitlins Con Carne and A House Is Not A Home.

Pinheiro, Ineke & Cavalli Triplicity (Daybreak/Challenge 2018)

NEW RELEASE – PINHEIRO, INEKE & CAVALLI

The Portuguese guitarist Ricardo Pinheiro gets inspiration from many sources, even Ennio Morricone. But it’s the way Pinheiro and his mates Massimo Cavalli and Eric Ineke treat standards that makes Triplicity remarkable.

Pinheiro, Ineke & Cavalli - Triplicity

Personnel

Ricardo Pinheiro (guitar), Massimo Cavalli (bass), Eric Ineke (drums)

Recorded

on November 25, 2017 at Estudio Vale De Lobos, Lisbon, Portugal

Released

as DBCHR 75227 in 2018

Track listing

Blues Just Because
Cinema Paradiso
If I Should Lose You
Along Came Betty
You’ve Changed
Conception
Retrato Em Branco E Preto
When You Wish Upon A Star


In a trio without piano, doing without the harmonic safety rings of the pianist, the jazz musician will have to dig deep into the well of his creativity. Sonny Rollins did a number of iconic recordings, notably Live At The Village Vanguard. Motion by Lee Konitz is a key album. There’s the output of Elvin Jones with Joe Farrell and Jimmy Garrison. The common denominator of these records is, of course, drummer Elvin Jones, one of Eric Ineke’s greatest inspirations. Switching to guitar players, Barney Kessel, Jimmy Raney, Jim Hall, Kenny Burrell, Ed Bickert and Bill Frisell released a number of challenging albums in their lifetime. Avant-gardists like Arthur Blythe had their say in the trio concept sans piano as well. Nowadays, even if not everybody is yelling ‘Stein go away!’, the practice is fairly common. But an affair that is interesting from start to finish, is, more or less, fairly unusual.

Perhaps their European roots are responsible for the fact that guitarist Pinheiro, drummer Ineke and bassist Cavalli find few obstacles during their search of still newer land, just like fellow travellers Toots Thielemans, Elek Bacsik or Enrico Rava. A coherent narrative runs through the whole 46 minutes of Triplicity, courtesy of a Portuguese, Dutchman and Italian who, in that order, are sincere and intriguing, sublime and responsive, strong and lyrical. They have been associated for a number of years now and have also recorded Is Seeing Believing? with Dave Liebman. The sound of Pinheiro has a metallic edge, is perhaps like John Scofield’s not the sweetest and warmest, but stands out. His playing is both angular and expressive, synonymous with Portuguese coffee, that gives one a solid kick before revealing its many exciting flavors. Cavalli is solid but he also likes to dance, placing frivolous and inspiring figures behind the stories of his company.

Ineke is grounded in the American tradition. He draws from his experience of playing with myriad American legends and a lifelong passion for heroes like Elvin Jones, Philly Joe Jones, Kenny Clarke, but is very hip and prolific, getting a kick out of cooperating with colleagues of all nationalities and ages and still eager to step out of his comfort zone. Perhaps his North-European background is most evident in the way he neatly puts all the ideas that flow around into context, meticulous like the tower controller at Schiphol Airport. Contrary to airport officials, however, Ineke allows himself a lot of freedom to color in the lines, is subtle or heated dependent on the situation, and always melodic.

Pinheiro carries the embellishments and understated passion from his Brazilian/Portuguese forebears, and also a bit of Django Reinhardt’s pace and clarity, over to his style, especially during Pinheiro’s Blues Just Because and Antonio Carlos Jobim’s Retrato Em Branco E Preto. Partly because of this, the tunes are more closely linked than one would generally assume. Retrato develops from a dark-hued bowed bass section into an angular folk romp with a cinematic character. It’s easy to imagine a little movie scene in the countryside, a tipsy old couple slowdancing in the moonlight, gyspy children playing with a cat’s tail, a woman with a tear in her eye that runs down through the gullies of her cheek… Blues Just Because is a Now The Time-ish melody, boprocked considerably by the group and soloist Pinheiro, whose integration of crunchy chords adds to his multiplex of animated lines. Pinheiro even found time to pay attention to the last chord. It’s a lurid one similar to the way Eric Clapton would, and did, end a Cream song! Endings seem to comprise something of a running gag by Pinheiro, who also finishes Along Came Betty and George Shearing’s Conception with quaint, if rather more soft-hued, chords.

Blues Just Because‘s construction allows a lot of freedom for the voice of each personality, a method that marks the complete set. Morricone’s Cinema Paradiso gets a spheric reading, the Sketches Of Spain-type tale from Pinheiro is underlined by effective counter-rhythm by Cavalli and Ineke. Cavalli makes the most of one of his many opportunities to solo on this album, speaking with gusto and emotion. Cinema Paradiso is song turned into meaningful improvisation.

Benny Golson’s Along Came Betty, the hard bop anthem best known in the classic version by Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers, is salsa-fied with, again, tasty bass and drum intermezzos and suspenseful counter-rhythm, which makes it simultaneously loose and swinging. The three voices of If I Should Lose You speak as a unit but also separately, a way of working that depends on the power of conversation, which Pinheiro, Ineke and Cavalli have in abundance. Pinheiro’s groove is contagious. His ability to stretch bars or leave turnarounds be seems in-built. Ineke’s subtle brush work is the foundation of the tune, surely an album highlight. Ineke is a master with brushes on this one, and also during You’ve Changed. Carl Fisher’s ballad is also marked by great Cavalli stuff, whose phrases during Pinheiro’s solo glance forward to his own following statements. Lithe, crystalline strumming from Pinheiro ends the ballad on a beautiful, bittersweet note.

Standards turned into meaningful alternatives, with a lot of motion. On the other hand, When You Wish Upon A Star, the Disney tune that has been performed by countless artists, Glenn Miller, Guy Lombardo, Louis Armstrong, Dave Brubeck, Joe Pass, Keith Jarrett and Wynton Marsalis among them, will never be the same again. It is not an alternative but a relentless deconstruction. A drone with shadows of melody evoking the Indian raga, it is marked by evocative Ineke/Cavalli interaction and hypnotic Pinheiro playing, which suggests a definite upbringing with late sixties psychedelica. To perfectly trim the trio’s outlandish Disney-interpretation, Pinheiro makes use of dubbed guitar and a slice of feedback. Not unlikely, upon hearing it, the guys of Radiohead would be transformed from paranoid androids to frenzied fans of Pinheiro, Ineke & Cavalli’s extravagant closer.

The rabbit in the hat of an already surprisingly original album.

Find the album here.

BLP 5066, USA 1955

Hank Mobley Quartet (Blue Note 1955)

With a little help from his Jazz Messengers pals, Hank Mobley turned in a top form performance on his debut as a leader, Hank Mobley Quartet.

BLP 5066, USA 1955
BLP 5066, USA 1955

Personnel

Hank Mobley (tenor saxophone), Horace Silver (piano), Doug Watkins (bass), Art Blakey (drums)

Recorded

on March 27, 1955 at Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, New Jersey

Released

as BLP 5066 in 1955

Track listing

Side A:
Hank’s Prank
My Sin
Avila And Tequila
Side B:
Walkin’ The Fence
Love For Sale
Just Coolin’


When Hank Mobley recorded his 10inch debut album as a leader in March 27, 1955, the tenor saxophonist had six albums as a sideman under his belt. Max Roach’ Featuring Hank Mobley (Debut 1953) was followed by Dizzy Gillespie’s Afro, Dizzy And Strings and Jazz Recital (Norgran 1954), French horn player Julius Watkins’ Julius Watkins Sextet (Blue Note, March 20, 1955) and Horace Silver’s Horace Silver And The Jazz Messengers (Blue Note, Feb. 6, 1955) The latter (essential) album found Mobley at the helm of the hard bop movement with pioneers Art Blakey and Horace Silver. Blakey and Silver, along with bassist Doug Watkins, assist Mobley on Quartet.

Quartet, 27 minutes of music released on 10inch, is not Soul Station, Roll Call or Workout, albums that signified Mobley as the epitome of hard bop tenor saxophone. It does already showcase a fully-formed style. The round, silken yet smoky tone, slightly behind-the-beat time, relaxed flowing stories, the tension being built up effortlessly, the inherent blues. That’s the sound and the style of a smooth operator. Women gravitate to him naturally like summer flies to a cocktail… See him sitting and chatting at the bar, a man of few words, a mix of authority and vulnerability, level-headedness and flamboyance, a far cry from machismo… a handsome cat but the anti-thesis of the placid, scrubbed clerk, instead walking around with a stub from Monday night at the Village Vanguard to Friday night at the Five Spot.

Mobley, a prolific writer of clever and catchy tunes, turns in five out of six original compositions on Quartet. The repertoire, albeit still largely grounded in bebop, benefits from the new possibilities for jazz that Silver, Blakey, Miles Davis, Lou Donaldson found in rhythm, pace, tempo and the roots of jazz. The steam of Blakey during Hank’s Prank must’ve filled up the little legendary Hackensack studio room of engineer Rudy van Gelder like the fog filling up a Tennessee back porch.

Few ride the waves of the Blakey beat with the unhurried drive of Hank Mobley. Mobley’s story is a vivacious package of phrases kickstarted by crisp, surprising entrances. The standard tune of the set, Love For Sale, has such a typically splendid entrance. Mobley’s ensuing solo swings effortlessly, resonant lines biting each other’s tales in perfectly logical fashion. The tight-knit, fiery ‘Messengers rhythm section’ flies through Walkin’ The Fence, a composition that resembles Charlie Parker’s Now’s The Time, which Horace Silver quotes in one of his tasty, sparse, down-home statements.

Why Quartet didn’t turn out to be Quintet with the logical inclusion of trumpeter Kenny Dorham, Mobley’s legendary frontline pal of the Messengers, is perhaps due to the simple fact that Dorham was out of town. Their ensemble playing was something special. But Mobley is doing ok by himself, carries his debut album with grace and authority.


Post scriptum: why did Francis Wolff, famed co-owner and photographer of Blue Note, place a pic of Hank Mobley on the sleeve with his face half-hidden in the shadow? And do it again on Horace Silver’s first epic Messengers album? (including Hank Mobley) Another BIG NERDY question: why did United Artists headquarters, which had taken over Blue Note in 1970, leave out the ‘curly smoke line-up’ coming out of Mobley’s mouthpiece on the sleeve of their 1975 pressing? It looked so awfully cool. A case, perhaps, for London Jazz Collector’s Vinyl Detective. The classic jazz and vinyl website, by the way, published a revealing article on the evolution of 10inch to 12inch in 2015, including Hank Mobley Quartet, see here.

PSII: Poor Mr. Silver’s face not only lurks in dark corners, the dog is about to chew him to pieces as well.

Leon Spencer Jr. - Sneak Preview

Leon Spencer Jr. Sneak Preview (Prestige 1970)

If you like your groove greasy as kidney stew and gritty as a walk with dinosaurs on a gravel path, Leon Spencer Jr.’s Sneak Preview is the way to go.

Leon Spencer Jr. - Sneak Preview

Personnel

Leon Spencer Jr. (organ), Grover Washington Jr. (tenor saxophone), Virgil Jones (trumpet), Melvin Sparks (guitar), Idris Muhammad (drums), Buddy Caldwell (conga)

Recorded

on December 7, 1970 at Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Released

as PR 10011 in 1971

Track listing

Side A:
The Slide
Someday My Prince Will Come
Message From The Meters
Side B:
First Gravy
5-10-15-20
Sneak Preview


The Slide will take you for a ride. Leon Spencer’s opening tune, just like his album on which it was presented early in 1971 on the Prestige label, Sneak Preview, is a vintage gritty Hammond B3 killer. Recorded at Rudy van Gelder’s studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Van Gelder not only shaped modern jazz with his engineering for Blue Note and other labels, he was also a fundamental force in making organ jazz an viable musical experience and an accessible, marketable product, initially through his cooperation with Jimmy Smith in 1956. Managing to tame the monster machine’s belligerent tendencies and bringing to the fore crisp, clear lines while retaining the church-rooted feeling, sonority and indomitable oscillating sounds, Van Gelder set the standard for future engineers to follow. In the late sixties and early seventies, RVG was still at it, taking care of virtually all the Prestige funk jazz releases.

Such as Sneak Preview, the sound of molasses, chili in a bowl and ham-on-rye on master tape, which is transferred to the black gold that is still to be enjoyed here and now, in 2018, preferably on original wax, though the OJC reissue is doing a job well done, thank you. Forget the screen of your iPhone for a minute, put the disc on the turntable, kick yourself into gear and slide into the world of sensual, chubby thighs exposed at the stools of sleazy, sweaty bars, of hallelujahs shouted from tiny BBQ joints, of the unstoppable toes that wear out the streets of Baltimore, Harlem’s Lenox Avenue, the wooden floors of Lenny’s-On-The-Turnpike until nothing’s left but dusty remains not unlike the bones of long-gone Victorian maidens… Chill. The Zen Of Turntable Maintenance.

Leon Spencer Jr. gets you to that place. Spencer’s discography is rather concise, but the level of excellence and deep groove is on par with contemporary colleagues like Lonnie Smith and Charles Earland. Spencer came into prominence a few years later. He was born in Houston, Texas in 1945, started out on piano and performed with his friend David “Fathead” Newman as a young man. Spencer studied engineering at Texas Southern University and the University Of Houston and subsequently toured with Army bands. Like many organists, he took up the organ after seeing Jimmy Smith and soon backed Peggy Lee and Lou Rawls. He made his debut in 1969 on guitarist Wilbert Longmire’s Revolution album on World Pacific while living in Los Angeles. Spencer played on guitarist Melvin Sparks’ Sparks and was featured on Lou Donaldson’s Pretty Things album on Blue Note in 1970, which made his reputation as a bonafide jazz funkateer. After Sneak Preview, Spencer would perform on another Donaldson album, Cosmos, another Sparks album, three Sonny Stitt albums and Rusty Bryant’s Fire Eater. As a leader, Spencer followed up Sneak Preview with Louisiana Slim, Bad Walking Woman and Where I’m Coming From.

Sneak Preview used the same line up as Sparks. And the group would work together on Stitt’s Turn It On as well. Some of the members had already cooperated here and there, like Muhammad, Virgil Jones, Melvin Sparks and Buddy Caldwell on Muhammad’s Black Rhythm Revolution on November 2, 1970, or Muhammad, Jones and Sparks on Rusty Bryant’s Soul Liberation on June 15, 1970. I’ve grown accustomed to your face… Standard Prestige procedure (and Blue Note, of course, for that matter): The more tight-knit a group of like-minded fellows and dames become, the smoother the session will develop. This group, consisting of Spencer, trumpeter Virgil Jones, tenor saxophonist Grover Washington Jr., guitarist Melvin Sparks, drummer Idris Muhammad and conga player Buddy Caldwell, has no trouble getting to the nitty-gritty before the lights go out. Idris Muhammad’s drive, as usual, is relentless. There really can be no end to the amazement for the listener of Muhammad’s snappy single snare strokes before-the-one and his firm accompaniment with bass pedal, hi-hat and cymbal. We hear Grover Washington before the saxophonist hit the big time with smooth jazz in the early seventies, and he’s keeping it real and rootsy. And small wonder that A&R man Bob Porter regularly called Virgil Jones for sessions like these, he’s virile, acute, excellent. Virgil Jones is a player who’s all but forgotten, undeservedly.

The group performs Spencer’s funky blues The Slide, shuffle groove First Gravy and the tacky, modal vamp Sneak Preview, Someday My Prince Will Come, the hit from The Presidents 5-10-15-20 and a funk groove from The Meters, Message From The Meters. The latter’s the highlight, a crazy funky affair with intense storytelling from Spencer. Spencer’s bass work (presumably a mix of left hand and a bit of feet) is striking, not only during Message, but also during the popsoul gem 5-10, weaving snappy lines in the middle register into the mix.

Leon Spencer passed away in 2012.

Listen to the full album on YouTube here