Hank Marr Quartette - Live At The Club 502

Hank Marr Quartette Live At The Club 502 (King 1964)

Hank Marr’s Live At The Club 502 is as gritty and greasy as live organ music comes. But Marr is also a refined player and his set consists of pleasantly diverse repertoire.

Hank Marr Quartette - Live At The Club 502

Personnel

Hank Marr (organ), Rusty Bryant (tenor, alto saxophone), Wilbert Longmire (guitar), Taylor Orr (drums)

Recorded

in January 1964 at Club 502, Columbus, Ohio

Released

as King 899 in 1964

Track listing

Side A:
Greasy Spoon
One O’Clock Jump
Easy Talk
Freedom March
Side B:
Just Friends
Hank’s Idea
I Remember New York
Up And Down


In the slipstream of organist Jimmy Smith’s popularity in the late fifties, a lot of organ players came up and throughout the sixties the burgeoning organ combo club scene was quite the thing in the USA’s big cities, particularly in the Mid-West. Organ combos, often consisting of only organ and drums, or expanded by a third element of sax or guitar, were cheap for club owners and tended to a black population that favored hot, entertaining music by accomplished players. Though not all organists could handle the big Hammond B3 machine in a viable artistic way, relying instead on cheap tricks and volumes that drowned out both colleagues and audiences. The men (as opposed to these ‘boys’) who further developed the art of B3 after the innovative Jimmy Smith were, among others, Don Patterson, John Patton, Richard ‘Groove’ Holmes, Jimmy McGriff, Brother Jack McDuff and Larry Young. Lest we forget, there were also a couple of dames (as opposed to the ‘girls’) who played ball, like Shirley Scott, Trudy Pitts and Gloria Coleman.

Hank Marr, who hailed from Columbus, Ohio, (like Don Patterson) is certainly part of that pack. Not really a pioneer (but who really is, besides Jimmy Smith, Larry Young and the innovator of bass pedal playing, Lou Bennett?) but instead a prototypical ‘burner’: blues oozes out of his pores like raindrops in monsoon season. But at the same time refinement shows up in the guise of an interesting use of the B3’s stops and drawbars, which creates a big ensemble sound and ‘plucky’ and screamin’ lines. No doubt, he’s up there with McGriff and McDuff as the Hammond B3’s prime burners.

Basie classic One O’Clock Jump and Up And Down swing mighty hard, while the catchy Easy Talk has a gentler flow. Marr’s minor hit single Greasy Spoon is a basic blues line, driven by Marr’s warm, atmospheric bass lines and a medium-slow, dragging tempo, decidedly capable of raising the stiffest stiff from the grave. The tension is heightened by Marr’s greasy right-hand lines. Guitarist Wilbert Longmire’s canny blues tune Freedom March includes Marr’s hottest solo. I remember New York showcases fine Marr balladry.

It also includes fine saxophone playing by Rusty Bryant. Bryant, a fellow native from Columbus, Ohio, alternates between alto and tenor saxophone. His alto work is in a ‘cleaner’ yet fiery bag (Just Friends) and his tenor work is more funky and hard-edged. He’d been in Marr’s group for years and they come together very well at the crossroads of blues and modern jazz.

Hank Marr albums are pretty rare and Live At The Club 502 is no exception. No vinyl reissue or remastered CD. Such a shame, Marr’s performance gives us an enlightening and rousing view of organ music in the swinging American sixties.

Clark Terry - Serenade To A Bus Seat

Clark Terry Serenade To A Bus Seat (Riverside 1957)

Clark Terry, who passed away in 2015 at the age of 95, was an authority with a discography of epic proportions. In 1957, already a veteran of swing who had mentored rising stars like Miles Davis in the 40s, the trumpeter made a superb hard bop album with Johnny Griffin, Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones, the Riverside label’s Serenade To A Bus Seat.

Clark Terry - Serenade To A Bus Seat

Personnel

Clark Terry (trumpet), Johnny Griffin (tenor saxophone), Wynton Kelly (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), Philly Joe Jones (drums)

Recorded

on April 27, 1957 at Reeves Sound Studio, New York

Released

as RLP 12-237 in 1957

Track listing

Side A:
Donna Lee
Boardwalk
Boomerang
Digits
Side B:
Serenade To A Bus Seat
Stardust
Cruising
That Old Black Magic


Before turning into an internationally renowned figure through his seat in the orchestra of NBC’s The Tonight Show in the 60s, his vocal hit Mumbles, lauded appearances around the globe and a distinguished position as youth educator and (co-)founder of Jazz Mobile and the Clark Terry Jazz Festivals for the rest of his life, Terry already had a timelessness about him that is striking. He encompassed the best traits of the past while being in sync with the conception of the modernists, using his technical brilliance and vast knowledge of what one can achieve with the trumpet to the telling of meaningful stories. Not a term usually associated with the abundant Terry, he actually set a limit to himself in this regard, displaying effects and humor when it was called for by Duke Ellington for a certain compositional story to tell, or when he expressed his feelings as a sideman (Oscar Peterson Trio + One is an outrageous ball, but a structured and hi-level festivity) and leading artist, mostly feelings of distinct joy.

His long stint in the Duke Ellington Orchestra in the 50s was preceded by years with Count Basie in the 40s, and Terry was a featured, singular soloist in both classic bands. Nice resume. In fact, in 1957 Terry had just left Ellington, with a number of classic recordings in his hip pocket, notably Ellington Uptown, Such Sweet Thunder and At Newport. His tenure with Riverside was interesting. Serenade, his debut as a leader on Riverside, was preceded by a feature on Thelonious Monk’s Brilliant Corners in 1956. It was followed by Duke With A Difference in July ’57, a gem of an album, featuring mates from the Duke Ellington band including Johnny Hodges, Paul Gonsalves and Billy Strayhorn and, as the title suggests ironically, without Duke Ellington. He would add a couple more guest roles on Riverside such as Jimmy Heath’s Really Big and Johnny Griffin’s White Gardenia, but the most notable album is his own 1958 album In Orbit with Thelonious Monk, which is the only album including Monk as a sideman and set the standard of the use of flugelhorn in jazz.

The late Orrin Keepnews, label boss of Riverside together with Bill Grauer, looked back on a number of favorite releases a number of years ago, as can be seen on YouTube here. Serenade, Clark Terry’s second foray in small ensemble jazz after EmArcy’s Swahili, was among them, representing a masterstroke of bringing together Terry with the small ensemble hot shots of the day: “I always refer to Terry as Mr. Pulled Together. He is so tremendously talented, a nice guy, and he had that big band discipline in his life. (…) It was a very relaxed, and therefore, creative atmosphere. If you bring together musicians who have in a sense been rehearsing for years by playing with each other at lots of opportunities, that’s a very good way to get around that problem (of short rehearsing time)…”.

With a distinctive tone like Terry’s, brassy, virile, tart and full-ringing, consisting of a festive, good-humored quality, the equilibrium between calling-the-children-home and chasing-the-kids-away neatly in check, contrast with the other horn is assured. In comes Johnny Griffin, maybe not such a fast gun as one always assumes, fast, yes, but on this session intent on subtle conversations. Their ensembles sparkle, lock tight during uptempo bop tunes like Charlie Parker’s Donna Lee, Terry’s Boomerang and Serenade To A Bus Seat. The latter’s title and mildly jubilant atmosphere perhaps alludes to the bus seat Rosa Parks bravely took on December 1, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama. Her arrest led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott from Reverend Martin Luther King, a painful yet effective protest that eventually led to desegregation in the state’s public transport system. Clark Terry was from St. Louis, Missouri, where the NAACP protested against segregation in war factory jobs, a case it won through Shelly vs. Kraemer in the US Supreme Court, a feat Terry surely must’ve been conscious of, having been a bandsman in the Navy during WWII. Terry’s jubilant trumpet does a good job of honoring Ms. Parks, Martin Luther King and the others who’d made the boycott possible. Then again it might be more prosaic and better to stick to the assumption that the title refers to the tiresome days Terry spent in the band bus of Basie and Ellington.

For Griffin and Kelly, Serenade represented their first appearances on the Riverside label.
The typical hard bop set of Serenade benefits from variation in the order of soloing, for instance during Donna Lee, when Griffin takes first cue and Terry follows trading fours with Philly Joe Jones. Not a pedestrian phrase in sight, the session cooks and runs remarkably smooth, courtesy of Griffin, the tasteful Paul Chambers, who had the kind of intuitive bass genius few possessed at that age, Philly Joe Jones (one rarely hears a session involving Philly Joe Jones that isn’t gutsy and fiery!) and Wynton Kelly, whose balanced, hip and barrelhouse-y lines of the title track are a treat. The leader, Clark Terry, enlivens the I-Got-Rhythm-changes of Boomerang with phrases that dance naughtily from mid-to upper register. It’s a virtuosic, happy tale and the originality is enhanced by the delicious, sustained notes in between. Terry stresses the cooperative spirit during the easy-flowing mid-tempo Digits, ad-libbing behind Griffin and calms the stormy weather that Griffin set in motion during Serenade with just a few peaceful stretch of notes, only to regain steam for the finale, getting into the fast lane with a spontaneous wail.

Gutsy calmness also during Stardust, a sign of the exciting style of Terry, diamond in the rough with a heart of gold. He’s a bluesman too, playing poker with notes veering from high to low and back. Boardwalk is the album’s blues line with a New Orleans feel and once again Clark Terry is like honey and mustard seeping through the walls of doom, no stopping it, the redeeming quality of Terry’s blues, a blues perhaps only mildly sardonic, always residing at the forefront. Down by the Riverside, his blues resembles that of his (and everybody’s) great ancestor, Louis Armstrong.

Dexter Gordon - All Souls'

Dexter Gordon All Souls’: The Rob Agerbeek Trio Featuring Dexter Gordon (Dexterity 1972)

The Dutch audience caught Dexter at one of those nights, in top form. The fortunate event in the fall of 1972 is documented on the 2LP All Souls’.

Dexter Gordon - All Souls'

Personnel

Dexter Gordon (tenor saxophone), Rob Agerbeek (piano), Henk Haverhoek (bass), Eric Ineke (drums)

Recorded

on November 2, 1972 at the Haagse Jazz Club, The Hague, The Netherlands

Released

as Dexterity ST 1-001 in 1972

Track listing

LP 1
Side A:
Some Other Blues
Side B:
Stablemates
LP 2
Side B:
The Shadow Of Your Smile
Jelly Jelly
Side B:
You Stepped Out Of A Dream


In a letter to his friends in Copenhagen from October 12, 1972, Dexter Gordon expressed his joy of touring the Continent with a regular Dutch trio: ‘Dear Folks, this is ‘den gamle rejsemusiker (the old traveling musician) letting the folks back home know that I’m ok and am defending the colors! This tour is quite fantastic; we are traveling through Holland, Germany, Luxembourg, Belge and France! It’s six weeks no, seven weeks and I’m getting rich! Anyway, it’s very well organized and seems to be a success. For the most part I’m working with the same group… Hope everything is in order. Love, Absalon (Gordonson).’ (from: liner notes Fried Bananas, Gearbox 2017) Gordon referred to pianist Rein de Graaff, bassist Henk Haverhoek and drummer Eric Ineke, a superb trio that had been rapidly developing into one of Europe’s finest mainstream jazz units.

Another excellent pianist, Rob Agerbeek, also played regularly with the Sophisticated Giant. It is Agerbeek, together with Haverhoek and Ineke, who’s present at the Haagse Jazz Club on November 2, 1972, the Roman-Catholic All Souls, a night, the pianist describes in the liner notes to the album, he was unlikely to forget: ‘Why Dexter was at the top of his game that Thursday evening in November… I don’t know. But he was! Dexter was a bit languid from the Indonesian meal when we arrived at the club. I was afraid that it would turn out to be a routine job. But Dexter helped us out of the dream once he’d set in You Stepped Out Of A Dream! He was very inspiring. And the repertoire was diverse and a bit out of the ordinary. I had never played Stablemates up to then, although I kind of knew the chord sequence’. Dead honest Agerbeek. Indeed, on the recording one can just barely hear Agerbeek answer ‘I don’t know that one’ to Gordon’s call of the tune. The accomplished Agerbeek knew enough of it to deliver a fine performance. Before signing off with the quartet’s signatures, the Indonesia-born pianist proceeded to map out the chord progression matter-of-factly. (see below) Perhaps for passionate future stablemates to study.

It would be four years before Long Tall Dex made a great comeback in The United States. In Europe, where Gordon had been living since the early sixties, the tenor sax giant, largely responsible for translating the bebop language to the tenor saxophone two decades ago, having acquired the appropriately legendary status through his Blue Note albums of the early and mid-sixties, was highly acclaimed and in demand. His output of the last few years had been either stunning (1970’s The Panther) or excellent (1970’s The Jumpin’ Blues, 1972’s Ca’Purange and Generation). On stage, provided Gordon was relatively sober, he got going like few could. Unparalleled momentum.

What’s the secret of Dexter Gordon’s strong jazz personality? There always a certain mystique as to how jazz men and women transform their particular emotions and ideas from their instrument into the sounds for the audiences to enjoy. It’s part of the charm of that particular form of art and entertainment we call jazz. Evidently, Gordon’s sound is incredibly big and clear. He favors fat, sustained notes and builds long-flowing sentences, with only the occasional fast bop flurry of notes. He’s a terrific storyteller. I like to think of his stories as an ongoing rush of waves in the sea, new sensations seemingly coming from nowhere again and again, sensations that follow the preceding ones with natural ease. Moreover, Gordon plays lazily behind the beat, creating much tension. Dexter Gordon is also a humorous player who slyly and intelligently sprinkles his stories with quotes. Not to mention an unequaled giant of ballad interpretation. Gordon’s regular ride on the tonic, a tool that weakens the impact of solos by more inexperienced players, functions as the glue between his sentences in combination with his authentic sound, storytelling and time.

Obviously, both Stablemates and Some Other Blues, which fill the first LP of the album, offer abundant proof of Gordon’s unique attractiveness. Between them, arguably the former consists of Gordon’s greatest tale, while the latter sustains the most luscious hotbed of blues phrases. Stablemates is introduced comically by Gordon as ‘Benny Golson’s Stablemates… Stablemates… Stable Mable, keep your elbow off my table…’. Gordon, firing on all cylinders, is duly stimulated by the rhythm section. Henk Haverhoek is grooving relentlessly, Eric Ineke peppers Gordon’s strong-muscled tales with well-placed, propulsive bass drum and cymbal accents. During the trio’s hard-swinging moment of truth, Rob Agerbeek’s solo bears the mark of Horace Silver’s wise motto of meaningful simplicity, as he swings with clear, percussive lines, mostly in the middle register.

The way Gordon grabs a tune by the throat, in this instance John Coltrane’s Some Other Blues, is rather amazing. He dives headlong into a solo marked by constantly interesting combinations of blues phrases and poignant rhythmic variation, definitely an auditory hieroglyph for future generations to dissect and enjoy. Ineke’s probing and resourceful demonstration of cymbal crashes and press rolls and Rob Agerbeek’s surprising mélange of funky blues licks and sneaky dissonant cadenzas, add charm to the group’s take on Some Other Blues. Interesting choice of repertory, presenting further evidence to the well-known fact that, while Dexter Gordon influenced the young John Coltrane, he was also in turn inspired by Coltrane.

Supposedly, Gordon’s vocal performance of Billy Eckstine’s Jelly Jelly was meant as a breather, part hokum, part loose blues exercise. Johnny Mandel’s ballad The Shadow Of Your Smile brings the band back to serious business. At times heartbreaking, Gordon’s melancholic sentences stay close to the tune’s story of doomed love, which was written by Mandel for the movie The Sandpiper. It’s plainly superb. Last but not least, You Stepped Out Of A Dream is hard-driving, the immediate playful variation on the theme by Gordon suave and swinging. Again, Gordon stretches out, crossing the ten minute line, and never a dull moment. Indeed, All Souls captures Long Tall Dex at ease and in top form, and the Dexterity label’s one and only album release is a priceless document.

All Souls is only available on vintage vinyl. It’s about time for a CD and/or vinyl reissue of this important slice of Dexter Gordon and Dutch jazz, 45 years after the fact. Below is the link to Stablemates, released on drummer Eric Ineke’s album from 2017, Let There Be Life, Love And Laughter: Eric Ineke Meets The Tenor Players.

Henry Cain - The Funky Organ-ization Of Henry Cain

Henry Cain The Funky Organ-ization Of Henry Cain (Capitol 1967)

Hardly getting into the deep groove the title promises, organist Henry Cain’s The Funky Organ-ization Of Henry Cain instead is a carefully crafted soul jazz album produced by the legendary David Axelrod.

Henry Cain - The Funky Organ-ization Of Henry Cain

Personnel

Henry Cain (organ), Tony Terran (trumpet), Fred Hill (trumpet), Plas Johnson (sax), H.B. Barnum (sax, arrangements), John Kelson (sax), Howard Roberts (guitar), Arthur Wright (guitar), Jerry Williams (vibes, percussion), Gary Coleman (vibes, percussion), James Bond (bass), Earl Palmer (drums), Oliver Nelson (arrangements)

Recorded

in 1967 at Capitol Studio, Los Angeles

Released

Capitol 2688 in 1968

Track listing

Side A:
The Way I Feel
Respect
Sunny
Why? (Am I Treated So Bad)
Lonely Avenue
Dead End Street
Side B:
Shake A Lady
Precious Memories
Critic’s Choice
I’m On My Way
Horror Scope


Not only did engineer Rudy van Gelder shaped the sound of modern jazz, he also created the canvas for the gritty, groovy strokes of the organists in the sixties. Starting with Jimmy Smith in 1956, subsequently with a slew of others, Van Gelder succeeded to tame the overpowering Hammond B3 beast, bringing to the fore clear lines and a crisp and crunchy overall sound. As regards to small ensembles, it became the blueprint for other engineers and producers, provided they figured out how the wizard of Englewood Cliffs came to his surprising results. By all means, larger RVG-led productions weren’t less challenging. Jimmy Smith’s Verve LP The Cat, produced by Creed Taylor, engineered by Van Gelder, is but one example of Van Gelder’s flexible attitude towards larger bands that visited the famed studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.

Henry Cain, a gospel-drenched bluesy player, would certainly have been a proper candidate for a Blue Note session in the early sixties. However, The Funky Organ-ization Of Henry Cain-session from 1967 is the organist’s only album as a leader in the sixties and beyond, up to his albums Cain’s Able and Something Another from the nineties. Cain, native of Indianapolis, Indiana (although there’s no recorded evidence, it seems likely that Cain has met fellow Indy citizen Wes Montgomery somewhere along the city’s illustrious strip of clubs, Indiana Avenue) performed with his trio The Three Souls for five decades. He moved to Los Angeles in the sixties, quickly turning into a seasoned accompanist. Cain performed and recorded with Della Reese, Bobby Bryant, Dinah Washington, Oliver Nelson and Howard Roberts. (Both Nelson and Roberts are featured on Cain’s album, the former providing arrangements, the latter guitar accompaniment) Cain is a notable, bop-bluesin’ contributor to pianist Jack Wilson’s outlandish album on Vault, The Jazz Organs. Henry Cain passed away in Las Vegas in 2005.

The musical equivalent of an armored brick mansion that could use some fresh air but nevertheless fails to hide a series of charming ornaments, the densely orchestrated, richly detailed The Funky Organ-ization Of Henry Cain seems perfectly suited for the sun-tanned, happy-go-lucky Californian audience: the Axelrod treatment, markedly different than Van Gelder’s. Marked by expert musicianship, Axelrod benefited from hiring part of the Wrecking Crew, the legendary, loose-knitted group of studio musicians, many of which had a jazz background, that provided the background for countless hits and albums of the classic pop and soul era, including Sonny & Cher, Frank and Nancy Sinatra and The Beach Boys. The VIP’s of the Crew (or how the group was called initially, The Clique or First Call Gang) are drummer Earl Palmer, bassist Jimmy Bond, saxophonist Plas Johnson and guitarist Howard Roberts. Jimmy Bond’s plucky, cocksure bass (credited officially as James Bond, no gun intended…) is best likened to another L.A. studio legend, Carol Kaye.

Soul (Otis Redding’s Respect), soul jazz (John Patton’s The Way I Feel, two tunes known from the Cannonball Adderley Quintet, Why? (Am I Treated So Bad)) and Nat Adderley Jr.’s I’m On My Way; not a coincidence, both tunes were featured on the quintet’s album Why? (Am I Treated So Bad), produced by Axelrod in March, 1967), r&b (Doc Pomus’ Lonely Avenue) and pop (Bobby Hebb’s Sunny) and a couple of original compositions: all tastes are catered for. But a hit wasn’t in the stars. So what, you can’t have it all, it’s 2017, fifty years after the fact, LSD is a long-forgotten pastime like the lost art of letter writing, thus why bother about the fact that Henry Cain didn’t score a hit? He did make an interesting album, so the best option might be to let the wicked winds of the world fly by your turntable and to settle down in your easiest chair, relax and put on a newly acquired copy of The Funky Organ-ization. Best option, no streaming equivalent yet. YouTube comes to the rescue, click above and below on the examples.

The fast take of Sunny reveals careful preparation, from the hot interlude that signals a modulation to the slightly dissonant sax and trumpet voicings. While Precious Moments and the Oliver Nelson tune Critic’s Choice are pedestrian, Axelrod’s Dead End Street is a tacky tune with a good, probing groove. It includes crisp breaks, as does Ray Bryant’s Shake A Lady. Double time rhythm splices the soulful line of Cain’s Horror Scope in half. The Way I Feel is Cain’s natural habitat. The division between sections of ensemble, brass/reed and guitar/bass/drums by the other arranger of the album, H.B. Barnum, is very effective. All the while, Henry Cain’s fleet, churchy lines scream for attention. Because for all The Funky Organ-ization’s radio-friendly message to Muscle Beach, it’s evident that you may take the maid from the village but you can’t take the village from the maid.

Frank Strozier Quartet - March Of The Siamese Children

Frank Strozier Quartet March Of The Siamese Children (Jazzland 1962)

Frank Strozier’s March Of The Siamese Children makes abundantly clear that the overlooked alto saxophonist and flute player was an advanced hard bop force to reckon with.

Frank Strozier Quartet - March Of The Siamese Children

Personnel

Frank Strozier (alto sax A2-4, B1, B3, B4, flute A1, B2), Harold Mabern (piano), Bill Lee (bass), Al Dreares (drums)

Recorded

on March 28, 1962 at Plaza Sound Studios, NYC

Released

as JLP 70 in 1962

Track listing

Side A:
March Of The Siamese Children
Extension 27
Something I Dreamed Last Night
Don’t Follow The Crowd
Side B:
Our Waltz
Will I Forget?
Lap
Hey, Lee!


Considering the wealth of great saxophonists in the sixties, evidently Frank Strozier found a way to stand out. Strozier, now 80 and inactive for decades, has worked towards a hard bop style with alluring, adventurous touches, delivered with an irresistible combination of fury and sweetness. Born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1937, Strozier was teenage buddy with Phineas Newborn Jr., Booker Little, Harold Mabern and George Coleman. His career was off to a promising start. Relocated to the Chicago in the late fifties, Strozier struck up a fruitful cooperation with MJT, the group of drummer Walter Perkins, resulting in a number of albums on the VeeJay label, notably MJT + 3 in 1959. Strozier also played on The Young Lions, the 1960 VeeJay session of rising stars Lee Morgan and Wayne Shorter. As if that wasn’t enough, Strozier’s first album as a leader that same year, The Fantastic Frank Strozier, also on VeeJay, included Booker Little and the rhythm section of Miles Davis’ epic Kind Of Blue, Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb.

His subsequent years in New York City in the early 60s and on the West Coast for the rest of the decade kept Strozier in high demand. He played briefly in the Miles Davis Quintet in 1963, between the tenures of Hank Mobley and George Coleman. In Los Angeles, Strozier had extensive stints in the bands of drummer Shelly Manne and trumpeter Don Ellis. Strozier recorded sporadically in the seventies, when an alledged disappointment with the music business caused Strozier to quit playing altogether. Other notable albums and features are Long Night (Jazzland, 1962), What’s Goin’ On (Steeplechase, 1977), Booker Ervin’s Exulation! (Prestige, 1963), Roy Haynes’ Cymbalism (New Jazz, 1963), McCoy Tyner’s Today And Tomorrow (Impulse, 1964), Chet Baker’s Baby Breeze (Limelight, 1965), Shelly Manne’s Boss Sounds (Atlantic, 1966), Oliver Nelson’s Live From L.A. (Impulse, 1967), Sonny Stitt’s Dumpy Mama and Woody Shaw’s Little Red Fantasy (Muse, 1976). A review of Strozier’s Cool And Cloudy and an insightful appraisal of his jazz personality can be found on Steven Cerra’s excellent Jazz Profiles blog here.

The urgent, lean alto of Strozier is featured on four tunes: the free-flowing Strozier composition Extension 27, Harold Mabern’s Hey, Lee!, Bill Lee’s Lap, a nifty blues melody consisting of the archetypical 12 bars, which are, to be sure, far from a straightjacket for Strozier, a storyteller revealing abundant quizzical, masterful sounds of surprise. Last but not least, Strozier takes to heart the title of the album’s ballad, Don’t Follow The Crowd, his alto ripping hypnotically through the classy take, much like the great Jackie McLean, with a tone that’s less acerbic, but still a bit edgy. Strozier likes to gamble and isn’t afraid of emotions, switches naturally from soft-hued, soothing phrases to dramatic, rousing sentences. Besides, he’s got the blues. A combination of assets that lifts the Fain, Magidson and Yellen ballad to a higher plain.

Strozier is excellent on flute as well. March Of The Siamese Children stands out, his flute weaving sprightly and authoritatively through the pretty melody and the appealing interplay of exotic and straightforward rhythm. The beautiful composition was written by the legendary team of music theatre writers Rodgers and Hammerstein II for the musical The King And I in 1951. It was revived for the movie version in 1956 starring Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr. See here and compare it with Strozier’s version, the opening tune of the album. A great example of the jazz musician’s ability to re-envision material in accordance with his own feelings and ideas and the importance of the show tune writers as suppliers of intelligent blueprints for jazz improvisation.

Strozier’s March Of The Siamese Children is simultaneously mellow and probing. Intriguing, like Strozier himself, a distinct personality deserving much more attention than he has until now received.

Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers - 'S Make It

Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers ‘S Make It (Limelight 1964)

After his cutting edge group of the early sixties including Freddie Hubbard and Wayne Shorter disbanded, Art Blakey returned to a more old-timey approach with the Limelight LP ’S Make It.

Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers - 'S Make It

Personnel

Art Blakey (drums), Lee Morgan (trumpet), John Gilmore (tenor saxophone), Curtis Fuller (trombone), John Hicks (piano), Victor Sproles (bass)

Recorded

on November 15 & 16, 1964 in Los Angeles

Released

as Limelight 86001 in 1964

Track listing

Side A:
Faith
’S Make It
Waltz For Ruth
One For Gamal
Side B:
Little Hughie
Olympia
Lament For Stacey


The end of the year 1964: the preceding half decade of Blakey’s career had resulted in a series of now legendary albums on Blue Note and Riverside with one of his classic line-ups consisting of Freddie Hubbard, Wayne Shorter, Curtis Fuller, Cedar Walton and either Jimmy Merritt or Reggie Workman on bass: Mosaic, Ugetsu, Free For All. At the time, Blakey also moved around quite a bit, recording for Impulse, Colpix and (four albums for) Limelight in the mid-sixties.

A bit of jazz genealogy: ’S Make It features Blakey alumni Lee Morgan (1958-61) and trombonist Curtis Fuller, who is the only surviving member of the preceding line-up (1961-64). Tenor saxophonist John Gilmore, consiglieri of the eccentric pianist and band leader Sun Ra, had been assisted by Blakey on the unforgettable Clifford Jordan/John Gilmore album Blowin’ In From Chicago in 1957. Bassist Victor Sproles was a former bandmate of Gilmore in Sun Ra’s Arkestra. Finally, there’s pianist John Hicks, the least known of the bunch. Shaped by Horace Silver, Thelonious Monk, McCoy Tyner, infested with blues and the American Songbook, the 23-year old Hicks developed into a versatile player during his stint with Blakey in the mid-sixties. In his lifetime, Hicks played with Betty Carter, Woody Herman, Hank Mobley, Lee Morgan, Lester Bowie, Arthur Blythe, among many others. Too easily overlooked, he lead many bands as a leader and was a fixture on the American and New York scene until his passing in 2006. Hicks contributed to two other Blakey albums on Limelight, Soul Finger and Hold On, I’m Coming. You still with me? A lot of crosscurrents in the jazz family. Undercurrents too. The currency of the dollar was about the only current not too prevalent among the Beethovens and Mozarts of classic American jazz. Even if he would’ve decided to be that generous, Art Blakey hardly could’ve put up the dough to let the rearview mirror fixed of one of Barbara Streisand’s Mercedes Benz automobiles.

’S Make It is slang for ‘let’s go’. Suitable title. Symbolic for the art of Blakey : Let’s just go, bopping hard with a heavy beat. ’S Make It is a Lee Morgan tune, one of three tunes that the reluctant Sidewinder (the trumpeter allegedly wasn’t too happy with his boogaloo hit The Sidewinder of July, 1964, as it threatened to cloud his more artistically viable, advanced direction, which came to fruition in his album Search For The New Land) provided for the session. The horns play a nifty, brassy blues line, while John Hicks puts in a hefty figure on the lower keys. Blakey pushes his men forward with this trademark bombs, rolls and cymbal signals, igniting hot bits by Morgan. Fuller is fluent, more calm and collected. The other Morgan tunes, One For Gamal and Lament For Stacey, are equally bluesy, straightforward cookers. Fine fair from the still only 26-year old, handsome Morgan, three years earlier introduced by the dryly comic Blakey in Tokyo’s Sanyei Hall as ‘the world critic award winner of the Downbeat Magazine, of the New Yorker Magazine, of the Jet Magazine, of the Look Magazine and of the Ladies Home Journal Magazine…’ O yeah, and not to mention, of the Flophouse Magazine.

With slight variations, the album follows these soulful procedures. The rousing Faith, driven by a solid Blakey shuffle, has an especially charming Dixie edge. John Gilmore’s smoky tenor contrasts nicely with Morgan’s sprightly trumpet in blues-based cuts like One For Hughie. A bit more sophisticated, the ballads of John Hicks and Lee Morgan, Olympia and Lament For Stacey respectively, focus on Morgan’s melancholic phrases and Hicks’ delicate runs. The John Hicks tune Waltz For Ruth harks back to the Wayne Shorter days, adding a modal section to the elongated, pretty melody. Blakey underscores the tune with the kind of hi-voltage drumming familiar from albums as Ugetsu.

’S Make It’ is a very enjoyable, undervalued Blakey album, with a line up that didn’t make it to the next record. A pity.

Roosevelt Wardell Trio - The Revelation

Roosevelt Wardell Trio The Revelation (Riverside 1960)

It really comes close to a revelation, the obscure Roosevelt Wardell’s only album as a leader, The Revelation. The work of a very original pianist which has been neglected for much too long.

Roosevelt Wardell Trio - The Revelation

Personnel

Roosevelt Wardell (piano), Sam Jones (bass), Louis Hayes (drums)

Recorded

on October 5, 1960 at United Recording Studios, Los Angeles

Released

as RLP 350 in 1960

Track listing

Side A:
Like Someone In Love
Lazarus
Autumn In New York
Max The Maximum
Side B:
Elijah Is Here
Willow Weep For Me
Cherokee
The Revelation


The mystery remains. Info on the net close to nada. With the liner notes from Chris Albertson to go on, the following story is revealed: While Baltimore-born Roosevelt Wardell (1933 –1999) was playing jazz piano from an early age, he initially pursued a career as an r&b pianist and singer, accompanying others as well as recording a couple of singles as a leader. Wardell spent the first part of the fifties in the Army. As early as 1953, alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderley, while in the Army at Fort Knox, saw him play in Louisville, Kentucky, and occasionally thereafter. Said Cannonball: “He was more than adequate even then (…) and I sympathized with him as I did with all those who were basically jazzmen but were forced to play that way to make a living.” Cannonball got Wardell a place in the Army Band. Once out of service in 1955, Wardell subsequently played with Bull Moose Jackson, Max Roach and Joe Turner in 1957 and occasionally sat in with Cannonball’s group.

In 1960, Wardell played with Dexter Gordon in the on-stage band of the (in-)famous play The Connection. The Cannonball Adderley Quintet was in L.A. as well. (the Wardell date of October 5 preceded the quintet’s At The Lighthouse gig and album recording session of October 16) Adderley, who by then was not only recording artist but also A&R man for Orrin Keepnews and Bill Grauer’s Riverside label, responsible for a series of ‘Cannonball Adderley Presentation’-albums, seized the opportunity to record Roosevelt Wardell at United Recording Studio, engineered by Wally Heider. For the occasion, Roosevelt Wardell picked Cannonball’s tight-knit rhythm section of bassist Sam Jones and drummer Louis Hayes, a now legendary team that proved perfectly suitable for this job of blues-infested bop.

Mr. Wardell’s not the type of kid that lurks in the background. No fly on the wall. More like a stinging bee. Quite the attack! Like one of his greatest influences, Bud Powell, his touch is relentless. While the keys threaten to jump off the balcony, he continues to bring clarity of line, dashing off one dazzling run after the other. The pianist’s not to be overshadowed by the rumble of the crowd at the bar and loves to entertain as well, following up jolly tremolos with mean, stuttering blues riffs. Perhaps a residu from his chitlin’ circuit days. Yet, for all his swagger, Wardell’s modern jazz conception is a textbook example of intelligence and finesse.

Reminiscent of the diverse lot of Bud Powell, Carl Perkins, Ray Bryant, perhaps influenced by the orchestral brilliance of Art Tatum, Wardell nonetheless resides in a universe totally his own. While the pianist’s tasteful, muscular takes on a ballad – the Vernon Duke tune Autumn In New York – and a blues – Willow Weep For Me – satisfy the customer, the bop-inflected tunes are most arresting. The romantic opening cadenzas of Like Someone In Love are followed by a whirlwind of phrases that together comprise a staggering wall of sound, accompanied by meaty, stride-like bass lines. Cherokee’s percussive, chant-like beginning by the trio is very cool, the speedy, powerful story of Wardell leaves nothing to be desired. The Revelation, a tune written by his childhood friend Yusef Salim, is fast-paced badaaas bop.

Roosevelt Wardell wrote some nifty, blues and gospel-drenched tunes, based on familiar changes. Three were featured on The Revelation. Max The Maximum’s a funky little tune, a fast-paced chord progression interspersed with a tacky stop-time section. The notes that Wardell plays in the loping, mid-tempo Elijah Is Here tumble over one another like chipmunks over a little heap of chestnuts. Roosevelt Wardell could be likened to the original cats of modern literature, those singular personalities and stylists like Frederick Exley or Maarten Biesheuvel, whose deceptively messy, long and winding paragraphs always somehow land on their feet. Looks easy, isn’t. Wardell’s tale of Lazarus is high drama, a Speedy Gonzalez-exercise of I Got Rhythm-changes, the total sum of his solo seemingly consisting of one long, furious line. A kind of invention of a new genre perhaps best labeled as BEBOP ROCK.

The comments of Roosevelt Wardell comprise the anti-thesis of drama. About the session, the pianist level-headedly remarked: “Nice, very nice.” Too bad that Wardell disappeared into obscurity soon after and The Revelation remained the only album release the characteristic pianist commented on.

(The album is on Spotify on a twofer including Evans Bradshaw, scroll down for Roosevelt Wardell)