Lou Bennett - Enfin!

Lou Bennett Enfin! (RCA Victor 1963)

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

Lou Bennett - Enfin!


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


in 1963 in Paris, France


RCA Victor 430.115 in 1963

Track listing

Side A:
Moment’s Notice
I Remember Sonny
Loin Du Brésil
Side B:

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

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

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

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

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

Listen to the full album on YouTube here.

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

Rein de Graaff - Early Morning Blues

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


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

Rein de Graaff - Early Morning Blues


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


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


as TI 487 in 2019

Track listing

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rein de Graaff

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

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

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

Freddie McCoy - Lonely Avenue

Freddie McCoy Lonely Avenue (Prestige 1965)

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

Freddie McCoy - Lonely Avenue


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


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


as PRLP 7395 in 1965

Track listing

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

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

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

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

Freddie McCoy passed away in 2009.

Ted Curson - Fire Down Below

Ted Curson Fire Down Below (Prestige 1963)

Ted Curson revealed himself as a breathtaking interpreter of rarely performed standards on his second album as a leader in 1963, Fire Down Below.

Ted Curson - Fire Down Below


Ted Curson (trumpet), Ronnie Matthews (piano), George Tucker (bass), Roy Haynes (drums), Montego Joe (congas)


on December 10, 1962 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey


as PRLP 7263 in 1963

Track listing

Side A:
Fire Down Below
The Very Young
Baby Has Gone Bye Bye
Side B:
Show Me
Falling In Love With Love
Only Forever

Interesting species, the type that switches smoothly from mainstream to avant surroundings. Perhaps because the type realizes that avant is a hollow shell without a link to the roots? Trumpeter Ted Curson felt comfortable in both spheres. Curson, who was born in Philadelphia in 1935, matured during the period when hard bop was developed from bop, blues and gospel. In 1955, Miles Davis stimulated Curson to move to New York City. Curson, a thoroughly schooled modern jazz player, played with avant-gardist Cecil Taylor around the turn of the decade, appearing on Taylor’s 1959 album Love For Sale.

In 1960, Curson joined the group of Charles Mingus. He appeared on four Mingus albums: Mingus, Mingus Revisited, Mingus At Antibes and Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus. A lot of Mingus. Well, Mingus could never be accused of austerity. The experience of Curson of playing with Mingus and sharing the frontline with Eric Dolphy left an indelible impression. After the passing of Dolphy – the reed and woodwind giant died of a diabetic seizure in Berlin on June 29, 1964 – Curson wrote Tears For Dolphy, a beautiful melody and Curson’s masterwork. A big part of Curson’s career was spent in Europe to much acclaim. He passed away in 2012.

The title of Curson’s Atlantic album from 1963, The New Thing & The Blue Thing, speaks volumes about his jazz personality. Preceding it, Curson debuted with Plenty Of Horn on the Old Town label in 1958. The follow-up, Fire Down Below, is the LP that begs to be added to the ever-growing mainstream jazz collector’s record cabinet. Curson is assisted by pianist Gildo Mahones, bassist George Tucker, drummer Roy Haynes and percussionist Montego Joe. It is testimony to the enormous wealth of standards that Curson could pick a whole set of rarely performed songs, excluding the well-known Hart/Rodgers composition Falling In Love With Love. Of the lesser-known tunes, Fire Down Below, The Very Young and My Baby Has Gone Bye Bye are gems of the first order.

The Carribean rhythm of Lee/Washington’s Fire Down Below is sustained throughout, eschewing a 4/4 release, which is hypnotizing, you feel the splendid exotic groove in your body, soul, toes. And your ass will be wiggling before you know it! Haynes draws on his Afro-Bop legacy from the late 40s, Gildo Mahones chimes in with a lively, percussive story that pretty much comes natural, considering his upbringing by parents of Puerto-Rican descent. Montego Joe had roots in Jamaica. Curson sounds pretty Carribean too.

Little/Sacker’s The Very Young is a beautiful blues ballad. Curson plays it like a song, holding notes like he’s telling it like it is, the feeling is overwhelming and his tart sound elevates it to a bittersweet symphony. Perfect pitch, the duality of bended notes that refer to both the moan of the country blues performer and the yowl of the country singer, plus the striking clear lines Curson sustains, complete the architecture of this brilliant performance. Clearness of line and orderly placing of phrases also mark the mid-tempo Allen/Roberts tune Baby Has Gone Bye Bye. Trumpet as good as it gets, like someone breathing, without effort, no strain. Curson’s heart is big and soft and beckoning for everyone to come and dance, rejoice, and praying for his people to overcome, overcome. Cherish the album that runs a mere 31 minutes with three such performances. Length of time is not the essence!

Roy Haynes - Cracklin'

Roy Haynes Cracklin’ (New Jazz 1963)

Cracklin’ is as good a title as any for an album by drummer Roy Haynes, also known as ‘Snap Crackle’.

Roy Haynes - Cracklin'


Roy Haynes (drums), Booker Ervin (tenor saxophone), Ronnie Matthews (piano), Larry Ridley (bass)


on April 6, 1963 at Rudy van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey


as NJLP 8286 in 1963

Track listing

Side A:
Sketch Of Melba
Side B:
Under Paris Skies
Bad News Blues

You can’t miss Snap Crackle. Let us pick a ‘few’ groundbreaking and/or iconic albums on which the currently 93-year old drummer appeared: Bud Powell’s The Amazing Bud Powell, Sonny Rollins’s The Sound Of Sonny, Thelonious Monk’s Thelonious In Action and Misterioso, Eric Dolphy’s Outward Bound and Out There, Oliver Nelson’s Straight Ahead and Blues And The Abstract Truth, Andrew Hill’s Black Fire, John Coltrane’s Impressions and Newport ’63 and Jackie McLean’s Destination Out. This series spans fifteen years (1949-63) of the seven decades in which Haynes has been active.

Haynes was part of Charlie Parker’s regular group from 1949 till 1952. A different time and place. Flyin’ with Bird, The One, in angst-ridden post-war USA, which saw The Russians marching. Uncle Sam, great Allied Force that had liberated Europe, had at the same time dropped The Bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing thousands of innocent yellow-ish fellow human beings, and back home kept the black ‘citizen’ locked up in a cage. Astonishingly, lynchings were still not completely extinct below the Mason-Dixie line. Black men and women had to sit in the back of the bus. Job discrimination was commonplace, as were lower salaries. The elites feared a loss of the status quo and protected their privileges to the bitter end. Some said it was fear for and jealousy of abandon and sex that troubled them. That’s the old and worn paternalistic view that implies the only thing the black man and woman stand out with is swing. Instead, the elite felt discomfort with life as hollow men. The hollow man looks in the mirror and sees The Other, a free spirit! And suddenly is scared shitless.

Against the odds, Bird and his musical buddies, ibis birds, storm petrels and nightingales like Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk, rare birds indeed, preached Beauty, Communion, Understanding, Empathy, through the unique art of spontaneous improvisation. They were musical masters with the kind of intuitive intellect that stuck a finger in the bloody wound of racism and said ‘Dear Lady, how do you do?’. Moreover, they were on a daring enterprise that the average American still knows nothing of. That’s probably because in the ensuing years, TV send him up to the couch, where he could watch Johnny Carson hide the miserable truths about life on the other side of the track. Was it any better in Europe? Yes, for a while Europe was keener in its appreciation of the (black) jazz message. And it takes better care of its professionals – white or black – that immerse themselves in the art of improvisation. But here too, few see the whole picture, here too Starbucks has won over more fans than Charlie Shavers. Rather silly. A flat cup of coffee may still give you a buzz. But jazz feeds the soul: it stimulates independence and interaction. One has to be his own man/woman and at the same time listen closely to the other. The most democratic of arts that crosses racial, age and gender boundaries and is not about division but inclusion and unity!

So Haynes flew business class with Bird and, stimulated by the innovations of Kenny Clarke, strayed away from the 4/4 beat on the hi-hat, going for a ‘ride’ cymbal accompaniment in sync with the Parker/Gillespie-intervals, with hectic life under the White Umbrella. (Parker, obviously, never hectic or nervous, instead revealing remarkable clarity and order at outrageous tempos) They acted upon their growing sense of melodic swing, Haynes creating many intriguing drum patterns particularly, a package that is or should be a benchmark for aspiring drummers to this day. As a logical consequence of his authority, Haynes recorded prolifically as a leader. His first album, Busman’s Holiday, was released in 1954 on Emarcy. His 1960 album on Impulse, Out Of The Afternoon, featuring Roland Kirk, Tommy Flanagan and Henry Grimes, is a perennial favorite of jazz fans around the globe. The sizzle and responsiveness of his playing on the 1968 Chick Corea classic, Now He Sings, Now He Sobs, is so beautiful it, well, is liable to bring tears. Late in life, Haynes made not one but two Grammy-winning albums: Fountain Of Youth (2004) and Whereas (2006).

Cracklin’ was released on New Jazz in 1963. It featured tenor saxophonist Booker Ervin, pianist Ronnie Matthews and bassist Larry Ridley. The date of the session is April 6, 1963. It is interesting to note that in that period, Haynes played with John Coltrane on the Newport Jazz Festival, on July 7 to be precise. While Cracklin’ smoothly stears along the coasts of hard bop, post bop and modal jazz, Haynes was cookin’ on another planet with Coltrane, replacing Elvin Jones, who was out for a snack on Alphabet Street. Both sessions rely on the Haynes specialty of snare rolls, Newport ’63 more heavily, spirited and sharp as a tack, an interesting change of vibe in contrast with the broader scope of Elvin Jones.

The Haynes snare is a superhero, Cracklin’ the blockbuster movie. In the winter, the drummer uses up the firecrackers of the stock that was left from New Year’s Eve and on summer camp Haynes is the leader that produces a light from stone and wood. From the word go, the light sets Scoochie in motion, a composition by Booker Ervin. Ervin thrives on the hard swing of Haynes. Haynes responds to the growing fire of “Book”, dancing through it like a dervish. Booker Ervin is a stimulating presence on any session, Cracklin’ is no exception. Generally, Ervin has been compared with John Coltrane. This doesn’t make much sense. There are shades of Coltrane in Ervin, but Ervin’s style, albeit thoroughly modern and obviously not without a certain amount of harmonic prowess, is less complex and has an emotional directness that reminds us of the Tough Tenors from Texas. Ervin was born in Denison, Texas in 1935. His indelible blues wail lands in your gut like a saucy and hefty kidney stew.

Then there’s pianist Ronnie Matthews, adding nimble lines that parade through downtown Dorian like supple jumping horses. Dorian is a tune by Matthews. It might refer to a lady, it might refer to a scale, either way it makes use of a ‘Trane-ish drone kept up vigorously by Haynes. Haynes also makes something special of the lovely melody by Hubert Gireaud, Under Paris Skies. His beat behind the piano solo of Matthews is ‘jungle’ at its most sizzling and groovy. His breaks on one of the album’s blues tunes, Ronnie Matthews’s Honeydew, are the drum equivalent of the soul shout ‘sock it to me!’

The message is loud and clear.

Brother Bennett


Organist Lou Bennett’s popularity in Europe has always been much bigger than in the United States. Bennett was born in Philadelphia in 1926, a pianist who took up the organ after seeing Jimmy Smith in 1956. Before he was able to gain a foothold in the USA, Bennett migrated to Europe in 1960. His first album, Amen!, a cooperation with fellow expat and drummer Kenny Clarke, got him off to a good start. Bennett gained a large following in France, recording and performing regularly. He lived in Paris and Spain and passed away in 1997 in the little town of Le Chesnay just outside Paris, France.

Bennett smoothly mixed a thorough bebop proficiency with his gospel roots. He is also recognized as one of the greatest players of the bass pedals and of the inventor of the Bennett Machine, a pioneering hybrid of electronic devices and the Hammond organ’s construction.

During one of those half hours in between surfing on YouTube that all fans of music are familiar with, I stumbled upon interesting footage of Lou Bennett on YouTube.

Hear Bennett in Paris with guitarist Elek Bacsik and drummer Franco Manchetti, performing Brother Daniel.

With drummer Kenny Clarke performing Tadd Dameron’s Lady Bird.

And performing Zonky, Satin Doll and Broadway with Kenny Clarke, guitarist Jimmy Gourley and the incomparable Brew Moore at the Blue Note Club in Paris, France in 1961 here.

More on Bennett coming up this month in Flophouse Magazine. Stay tuned!

Eddie Chamblee - The Rocking Tenor Sax Of Eddie Chamblee

Eddie Chamblee The Rocking Tenor Sax Of Eddie Chamblee (Prestige 1964)

Party time with Eddie Chamblee.

Eddie Chamblee - The Rocking Tenor Sax Of Eddie Chamblee


Eddie Chamblee (tenor saxophone), Dayton Shelby (organ), Al Griffin (drums)


on February 27, 1964 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey


as PRLP 7321 in 1964

Track listing

Side A:
The Honeydripper
You’ll Never Walk Alone
Softly, As I Love You
Bye Bye Blackbird
Side B:
Little Things Mean A Lot

Eddie Chamblee was born in Atlanta in 1920. He was the featured tenorist on Sonny Thompson’s big hits Long Gone and Late Freight and played in the groups of Lionel Hampton, Cozy Cole, Amos Milburn, T-Bone Walker, Lowell Fulson, Machito and singer Dinah Washington, with whom Chamblee was married for a short period. While leading his own groups, the tenor saxophonist played on r&b and doowop tunes, notably by The Diamonds and The Drifters. The liner notes writer of The Rocking Tenor Sax mentions two funny details. Firstly, Chamblee is the tenor saxophonist that the viewer notices standing beside Brigitte Bardot in Roger Vadim’s movie And God Created Woman. Secondly, Chamblee performed at the Inaugaration Party of President Eisenhower in 1956. If you had to choose between one of these supporting roles, which one would it be? Rejoining Hampton in the eighties, Chamblee was further associated with Milt Buckner and Count Basie. Chamblee passed away in 1999.

Prior to his affiliation with Prestige, Chamblee recorded two albums for EmArcy, Chamblee Music and Doodlin’. The Rocking Tenor Sax is Chamblee’s only album as a leader in the sixties. The title is a great reflection of the kind of roaring live gigs one could experience in those days. It isn’t live-in-performance but it feels that way. Obviously, the legendary engineer Rudy van Gelder at work here, beware that no one took notice of his innovative recording methods, rarely invited neighbours, relatives or friends. Would’ve been one hell of a party.

Soul jazz grew out of swing, r&b and modern jazz. Generally speaking, it was an Afro-American phenomenon, a type of music that was enjoyed in clubs and bars around the country but particularly popular in the Mid-West. Though there’s no mistaking that most players had a solid background in modern jazz, (by the way, part of the work of giants of jazz like Cannonball Adderley or Sonny Stitt is also categorized as soul jazz – Adderley’s Jive Samba was a big hit) entertainment was key. Soul jazz was, first and foremost, accessible, finger-poppin’, foot-tappin’, hip-shakin’ music for a night out into town. The pioneering, relatively small independent record companies presented a catalogue of blues, ballads, American songbook and popular tunes – groove music. Prestige, Blue Note and Argo/Cadet possessed a good distribution network and carried their stock to radio stations and the jukebox circuit, hoping for a hit record or single. A hit didn’t necessarily have to be an original composition. There are many examples of interpretations of hits by artists which also turned into big sellers. The Honeydripper, the opening cut from Eddie Chamblee’s Prestige album is a case in point. It was a hit for the original writer, Joe Liggins. Soon after, Roosevelt Sykes made a successful version. The take on the contagious r&b melody by Eddie Chamblee didn’t lead to skyrocketing sales. But no doubt, his rousing version blows the roof off the joint.

Said Honeydripper has Chamblee climaxing early but not necessarily too soon, if you know what I mean. Chamblee’s got plenty of juice, honking his way through the choruses and the rocking 4/4 bottom that drummer Al Griffin provides. Chamblee alternates growls with screeching high notes, a specialty that Chamblee demonstrates on other tunes on the album as well. There goes Van Gelder’s Delft Blue tableware. Chamblee shows no signs of fatigue, providing effective swing riffs behind organist Dayton Shelby, who’s quite the musical rebel rouser himself.

It’s easy to imagine Chamblee’s trio perform at one of the dingier clubs on The Street. Some colorful cat offers a beauty a drink, the chatter of customers pierces little holes in the cigarette smoke clouds… And Chamblee bounces through his original tunes Champin’ and Skang!, the former a sleazy jump blues, the latter a slow, down-home blues. There’s the hard rock (like, hard rock) of Bye Bye Blackbird, courtesy of the bulldozer drum patterns by Al Griffin. And while Softly As I Leave You is a pretty sapless attempt to balladeer gent and dame into the French Kissin’ zone, embellished by lachrymose organ playing, Soon finds a soft spot in the heart. The Gershwin composition is gracefully marked by Chamblee’s velvet yet peppery lines and beautifully inflected notes. Here Chamblee has reached a synthesis between suppleness and groove. Soon is the highlight of The Rocking Tenor Sax Of Eddie Chamblee, but it can’t hurt to keep the remainder of the repertory in mind for a house party. Satisfaction guaranteed.

Listen to the full album on YouTube here. And to Eddie Chamblee on Spotify below: