Dave Pike - It's Time For Dave Pike

Dave Pike It’s Time For Dave Pike (Riverside 1961)

It’s time for Dave Pike, Charlie Parker on vibes.

Dave Pike - It's Time For Dave Pike

Personnel

Dave Pike (vibraphone), Barry Harris (piano), Doug Watkins (bass), Billy Higgins (drums)

Recorded

on January 30 & April 9, 1961 at Plaza Sound Studio, New York City

Released

as RLP 360 in 1960

Track listing

Side A:
Cheryl
On Green Dolphin Street
It’s Time
Hot House
Side B:
Forward
Solar
Little Girl Blue
Tendin’ To Business


Again, Flophouse is drawn towards the turn of that decade, a pivotal, transitional period of jazz. It’s January 1961, the past year and a half the jazz world has been shaken up by Kind Of Blue, Giant Steps and the first Ornette Coleman albums. The back-to-the-roots concept of Horace Silver and the blues-drenched organ style of Jimmy Smith are in full swing. In label-terminology: modal jazz, post-bop, free jazz, hard bop and soul jazz. To be sure, labeling is artificial, perhaps in equal measure an invention devised for explanation and marketing. But jazz is not a file that you put in a grey locker. It is a gelling of personalities and innovations.

Keyword: interconnection. However, by 1961, the label left out above, ye old bebop, was by no means exhausted, even if this was what some critics were prone to conclude at the time. You’re just a Parker-ite was a condemnation suitable for half-talents but too easily casted upon excellent players. It is not to be taken too badly. The critics had to drive through the tornado of change. We have the big picture. And in the hands of the major league, bebop was, five years after the passing of Charlie Parker, fresh as a daisy, sprightly as a little lamb in Spring. We have a number of major league personalities on It’s Time For Dave Pike. First and foremost, the leader of the date, Dave Pike. Influenced by Milt Jackson, equally virtuosic and a great interpreter of the blues, Pike went a long way to gain popularity with bossa albums and the odd psychedelic pie – The Doors Of Perception – in the sixties and experimented with other genres in the early seventies. However, Pike eventually returned to his straight-ahead roots for the remainder of his career.

Pre-eminently, Barry Harris. One would be hard-pressed to find a session where the Detroit-born pianist was involved in that didn’t quite work out. He’s like a weathered soccer player that functions as both coach and captain in the field, blessed with instinct for the perfect pass and the mental helicopter view to balance the team’s tactics. Then there’s Reggie Workman, already a strong personality on bass and drummer Billy Higgins, who was becoming an influential hard bop drummer while also being engaged in Ornette Coleman’s free extensions of the jazz language.

Well-executed bop is far from the stereotypical nerve-wracking abracadabra. Pike’s group serves well as ambassador of bop’s beauty on It’s Time For Dave Pike. Pike’s clarity of line and urgent swing do justice to Charlie Parker’s Cheryl, Tadd Dameron’s Hot House, Miles Davis’s Solar and the title tune by Pike, It’s Time. The breakneck speed of Pike’s Forward is acted upon brilliantly by Pike and Harris, On Green Dolphin Street‘s fluency and Workman’s fat, bouncy bass lines catch the ear, while Pike slows down proceedings with a lush solo reading of Little Girl Blue.

The enchantment of Cheryl remains present after repeating spins. It flows remarkably gently along, like calming waves that touch the Atlantic shore… A floating, natural rhythm. Pike takes a dive, brightly alternates front crawl with the butterfly. The chords and lines of Harris work like glue, keeping together the multi-faceted phrases of Pike, trading suggestions of harmonic direction with the receptive Workman and Higgins. Harris sneaks a wonderful, exuberant glissando in his typically thoughtful solo tale. If it weren’t for soccer, Harris would’ve become a maestro pattisiér, staying close to the recipe of his father while putting all kinds of detailed cherries on top. Perfect combination with the round, ringing sound of Pike, who audibly hums along with his crystal clear lines. A human voice wrung out of metal, the mallets harbingers of bebop soul with immaculate timing.

Dutch pianist Rein de Graaff regularly played with Dave Pike, who was discussed during his interview with Flophouse a couple of years ago. As far as De Graaff is concerned, It’s Time For Dave Pike was nothing short of “Charlie Parker on vibes!”. Bop master De Graaff, who semi-retired recently, pointed towards a vibraphone that stood beside the baby grand in his music room and said, “that’s the vibraphone Pike played on It’s Time. He gave it to me as a gift.” His friend had passed away six months before our interview.

You could hear a pin drop.

Buddy Terry - Natural Soul Natural Woman

Buddy Terry Natural Soul Natural Woman (Prestige 1968)

For Buddy Terry, natural soul is the music of the church, the street and John Coltrane.

Buddy Terry - Natural Soul Natural Woman

Personnel

Buddy Terry (tenor saxophone, flute), Joe Thomas (tenor saxophone, flute), Robbie Porter (baritone saxophone), Woody Shaw (trumpet, flugelhorn), Larry Young (organ), Jiggs Chase (organ), Wally Richardson (guitar), Jimmy Lewis (Fender bass), Eddie Gladden (drums), the Terry Girls (vocals)

Recorded

on November 15, 1967 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Released

as PRLP 7541 in 1968

Track listing

Side A:
Natural Woman
Natural Soul (Sunday Go To Meetin’ Blues)
Pedro, The One Arm Bandit
Don’t Be So Mean
Side B:
The Revealing Time
Quiet Days And Lonely Nights


The legendary Prestige label had added soul jazz to its cutting-edge modern jazz catalogue in the early sixties. In fact, by putting numerous hi-profile advertisements of their stock in magazines like Downbeat, continuously stressing the ‘soul’ of Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Shirley Scott, Jimmy Forrest, Groove Holmes, Gene Ammons and many others, it was a deciding factor in the invention and popularization of soul jazz. By the late 60s, when interest in mainstream jazz dwindled, Prestige focused on funky, bluesy jazz in sync with contemporary popular music and its buying public. So you’d get the barroom organ blues of Sonny Philips or the mean, greasy tenor of Houston Person, who scored one of the last Prestige hits with Jamilah. And Prestige had signed tenor saxophonist Buddy Terry, who’d assisted organist Freddie Roach on Soul Book in 1966. Terry released his debut album as a leader, Electric Soul in 1968. You mean like, soul? In the late sixties, label boss and artists of Prestige still didn’t have to think twice about picking titles.

Buddy Terry had played in the organ groups of Rhoda Scott, Dee Dee Ford, Dayton Shelby and Larry Young and cooperated with Sonny Rollins and Johnny Coles. A couple of years were spent in the band of Lionel Hampton. For Natural Soul Natural Woman, the tough tenor with a ‘far out’ edge assembled his Newark, New Jersey pals – pleasant surprise! – Larry Young, Woody Shaw and Eddie Gladden, weathered cats like tenorist and flutist Joe Thomas, as well as the so-called Terry Girls on vocals – perhaps including the beautiful lady on the front cover? So then you get Don’t Be So Mean, a lurid boogaloo tune with a tacky twist, absolutely the album’s highlight. You get Pedro, The One Arm Bandit, obscure folk music jazzed up upliftingly, following the path Rollins famously paved.

You get Natural Woman, Aretha Franklin’s anthemic soul ballad, that features the Terry Girls and Buddy Terry hollering mercy, mercy; Quiet Days And Lonely Nights, a solid ballad. And finally, The Revealing Time, a mid-tempo blues that passes the 11-minute mark, ample opportunity to stretch out for Terry and Young. Woody Shaw only has short bits of solo space. Honestly, the brilliant, last great innovator of the trumpet’s worthwhile statements are overshadowed by rather lackluster, staccato ad-libs. Sleepy, perhaps.

Buddy Terry, on the other hand, is spry as the cow that line-dances onto the field in Spring. He’s a minister arousing the flock. And a captain of the Enterprise reaching out to the aliens around the Ring of Saturn. His dirty playing style and harmonic sophistication brings to mind Eddie Harris. Buddy Terry took matters in his own hands and also provided the liner notes to his album of raucous soul jazz. A curious mix of bio and exegesis. Terry states: “The entire album is my song of praise to God.”

Hallelujah time well-spent.

Dizzy Reece - Soundin' Off

Dizzy Reece Soundin’ Off (Blue Note 1960)

The pieces of the puzzle fell into place for trumpeter Dizzy Reece on his third Blue Note album Soundin’ Off from 1960.

Dizzy Reece - Soundin' Off

Personnel

Dizzy Reece (trumpet), Walter Bishop Jr. (piano), Doug Watkins (bass), Art Taylor (drums)

Recorded

on May 12, 1960 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Released

as BLP 4033 in 1960

Track listing

Side A:
Ghost Of A Chance
Once In A While
Eb Pob
Side B:
Yesterdays
Our Love Is Here To Stay
Blue Streak


Mr. Reece is still active these days at the ripe old age of 88. What’s more, performances of Dizzy Reece’s music, Routes In Jazz, have been held last January under the leadership of Trevor Watkins in the United Kingdom to much acclaim. 2019, Cool Britannia caught in the stereotypical web of contemporary polarization, a world away from 1948, when the young Kingston, Jamaica-born Reece set foot first in liberated Paris then the rebuilding war victor, the U.K., where fish and chips was everyone’s requested Last Meal and Stoke-On-Trent a place that played hide and seek with Sheffield under clouds of factory smoke. The talented Reece somehow caught the attention of Blue Note and recorded his debut as a leader, Blues In Trinity, with Donald Byrd, Art Taylor and a British crew including powerhouse tenorist Tubby “Tubbs” Hayes.

Reece moved to New York City in 1959 and, winning fans like Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins, soon found himself in the studio of Rudy van Gelder at Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Initially, Reece recorded with a quintet including Hank Mobley, a session that spawned Star Bright. Then Blakey was behind the kit, Stanley Turrentine on tenor saxophone, Bobby Timmons on piano and Jimmy Merritt on bass. The result: Comin’ On, recorded in 1960 but not released until 1999. Great album. Great line-up. In fact – in case you haven’t figured it out yet – Reece and Turrentine fronted a bonafide Jazz Messengers rhythm section. The explosive Blakey regularly pushes the guys to the brink, Reece holding his own pretty darn well.

However, I have warmer feelings for Soundin’ Off. The relaxed but probing rhythmic flow of drummer Art Taylor, bassist Doug Watkins and pianist Walter Bishop Jr. and the fact that Reece is the sole horn gives the trumpeter ample opportunity to let his true voice ring. A voice gay here, mournful there, tender, witty, sexy. Sexy enough to seduce audiences in the Big Apple, yet because of lack of opportunities Reece re-settled in jazz-minded Europe eventually. In a 2004 Jazz Times interview Reece said that he also got negative feedback on his integrated marriage.

Reece favors expressive statements over speed trials, wrapping his loving arms around ballads like Ghost Of A Chance, ridin’ on the blue notes of Once In A While with sleazy slurs, swinging smoothly on medium-tempo tunes like the Monk-ish Reece original Eb PobEcaroh, Airegin, Eb Pob… Those modern jazz guys knew their way with wordplay. The nimble and occasionally locked-hands-lines of Bishop Jr. and the jubilant Reece make Yesterdays absolutely irresistible.

Sweet but with a lot of spunk. The way we like our hard bop artists from the Blue Note roster.

The album is part of a compilation package on Spotify, starts with track 13, up to 18. Listen below.

Clarence Wheeler & The Enforcers - Doin' What We Wanna

Clarence Wheeler & The Enforcers Doin’ What We Wanna (Atlantic 1970)

Clarence Wheeler & The Enforcers’s Doin’ What We Wanna is a bonafide funk jazz classic.

Clarence Wheeler & The Enforcers - Doin' What We Wanna

Personnel

Clarence Wheeler (tenor saxophone), Sonny Covington (trumpet), Sonny Burke (organ), George Hughes (drums), Cissy Houston, Judy Clay & Jackie Verdell (vocals B1)

Recorded

on November 18, 1969 at Universal Studios, Chicago

Released

as Atlantic 1551 in 1970

Track listing

Side A:
Hey Jude
Sham Time
Theme From Electric Surfboard
Side B:
Right On
Dream Bossa Nova
Doin’ What I Wanna
C.W.


Clarence Wheeler & The Enforcers was a Chicago-based outfit that consisted of tenor saxophonist Clarence Wheeler, trumpeter Sonny Covington, organist Sonny Burke and drummer George Hughes. Wheeler was formerly associated with organists Jack McDuff and Don Patterson, Covington with organist Eddie Buster, Burke with Odell Brown & The Organizers and Mahalia Jackson, Hughes with Sonny Criss and Sonny Stitt. The story of the group’s heavy-hitting and uplifting debut album from 1970, Doin’ What We Wanna, as collected from DJ Merri Lee’s liner notes (about the only information available on the obscure group), is, paradoxically, rather tragic. Wheeler called in on Dee to ask him to announce the funeral of his young wife on the radio station. On a subsequent visit to the studio, Wheeler discussed his current project, The Enforcers, information that Dee passed to Atlantic’s A&R man, Joel Dorn. Dorn visited a performance by the band and, duly impressed, signed The Enforcers. It wasn’t long before they recorded Doin’ What We Wanna on November 18, 1969.

Subsequently, the group recorded two albums for Atlantic, The Love I’ve Been Looking For in 1971 and New Chicago Blues in 1973. Good albums but Doin’ What We Wanna is the one, bingo, touchdown, or in terms of darts, one-hundred-and-eeeiiighttyyyyy! There’s no end to the joyful surprise of discovering their thunderous uptempo version of Eddie Harris’s Sham Time, vigorous take on Brother Jack McDuff’s Theme From Electric Surfboard, bashful groove of Doin’ What I Wanna and joyful funk of Lee Roland’s Right On, which has, helped along by singers Cissy Houston, Judy Clay and Jackie Verdell, a Mardi Gras-ish feel to it. The fusion of New Orleans Funk and the South Side is a fact!

Recording engineer Jerry DeClerque perfectly encapsulated the meaty sound that The Enforcers presumably entertained club crowds with in the Midwest. Furthermore, the spicy solo’s of Wheeler, Covington and Burke should be pointed out, funk and modern jazz functioning as indelible parts of the meaty sum. And Wheeler is a clever arranger, allowing himself funky poetic license, adding a groovy interlude and heavy breaks to their soaring interpretation of The Beatles/McCartney’s Hey Jude. The bass pedal sound and playing of organist Sonny Burke is the rabbit in the hat. Relatively simple lines with plenty of resonance and warmth serve as the indispensable undercurrent of the band’s muscular style throughout the album but especially during Hey Jude. The bass even constitutes the concise start of the album, an ear-catching commencement of Clarence Wheeler & The Enforcers’s splendid soul jazz fest.

Dizzy Gillespie - The Greatest Trumpeter Of Them All

The Dizzy Gillespie Octet The Greatest Trumpet Of Them All (Verve 1957)

The Greatest Trumpet Of Them All finds Dizzy Gillespie in hard bop mode, assisted by two great talents of the period, Benny Golson and Gigi Gryce.

Dizzy Gillespie - The Greatest Trumpeter Of Them All

Personnel

Dizzy Gillespie (trumpet), Benny Golson (tenor saxophone, arrangements), Gigi Gryce (alto saxophone (arrangements), Pee Wee More (baritone saxophone), Henry Coker (trombone), Ray Bryant (piano), Tommy Bryant (bass), Charlie Persip (drums)

Recorded

on December 17, 1957 in New York City

Released

as Verve 8352 in 1959

Track listing

Side A:
Blues After Dark
Sea Breeze
Out Of The Past
Shabozz
Side B:
Reminiscing
A Night At Tony’s
Smoke Signals
Just By Myself


Perhaps we should not take the title – Verve’s uninspired effort to attract customers – too badly. To be sure, Dizzy Gillespie once remarked that Clark Terry was the greatest trumpet player he ever heard. By 1957, Gillespie had developed into one of the great ambassadors of jazz, still playing at a level most trumpeters could only dream of, yet behind him were the feats that had such a pervasive influence on America’s most original art form: Gillespie developed the modern jazz language with Charlie Parker, successfully introduced it to a wider audience, demonstrated unprecedented virtuosity on the trumpet (as direct heir to Louis Armstrong) and made a number of stunning, influential recordings with his Afro-Cuban big bands. A feat lesser-known, but not to be ignored, is his effort to sustain a black-owned record company, DeeGee Records, which was into business from 1951 to 1953.

Inevitably, Gillespie brings a smile to your face. His are happy sounds, vivid, playful, phrases that bubble with life, stories that are varnished with gladness, the promise of progress, an outlook that’s striking in a society prone to suppress the potential of his people, intent on sustaining the status quo. Sure he’s got the blues, his bends and slurs and piercing cadenzas evidently spell it out for you. Still, Dizzy Gillespie seems content. Likely, his life-long marriage to Lorraine has contributed to his well-being. But Gillespie may have been satisfied, he wasn’t complacent. His poignant, playful take on politics and discrimination speaks volumes. In 1964, Gillespie ran as an independent candidate for the Presidential Office, planning to rename The White House as The Blues House and appoint, among others, Duke Ellington as Secretary of State, Miles Davis as Director of the C.I.A. and Thelonious Monk as Traveling Ambassador!

Neither did Gillespie let anyone eat his lunch, white or black. In 1941, Gillespie sat in the trumpet chair of Cab Calloway’s band. The two didn’t get along very well, mostly on account of Calloway blaming Gillespie for his mischievous behavior and complex playing style, infamously dubbed ‘Chinese music’ by the famed singer and bandleader. During rehearsal, someone threw a spitball. Calloway blamed the innocent Gillespie, whereupon the trumpeter pulled a knife, a few minor cuts in Calloway’s leg the result. You can call it what you want, I call it messin’ with the kid

The Greatest Trumpet Of Them All was recorded on December 17, 1957. On December 11 and 19, Gillespie recorded with Sonny Stitt and Sonny Rollins, two sessions of powerful bebop that would be released as Duets in 1958 and Sonny Side Up in 1959, the opposite of the more mellow and restrained The Greatest. That album bears the mark of Golson and Gryce, who contribute Blues After Dark, Out Of The Past and Just By Myself (Golson) and Shabozz, A Night At Tony’s and Smoke Signals (Gryce). It is completed with Sea Breeze, a Latin-ish mood piece reminding us of ‘commercial’ Cal Tjader. Golson and Gryce were upcoming jazz men, swingin’, smokin’, but more soft-hued than Stitt and Rollins, Golson’s tenor velvet-y, the glow of warm marshmellows adding to a vibrant, comforting style, Gryce’s alto not without bite but suave, favoring fluent lines.

Fire and brimstone is not this album’s core business, instead a mellow vibe set by a responsive rhythm section soothes the soul, with Ray Bryant chiming in with rootsy, eloquent piano playing and the arrangements of Golson and Gryce adding tart harmony and precise, soulful stimulation of the soloists. Gillespie sets the pace, alternating between muted and open horn, sometimes even during the course of one tune – the truly unique composition of Benny Golson, Out Of The Past, practically impossible to fuck up, so beautiful and full of innate lyricism… Golson would record it magnificently, by the way, as a leader two days later, on December 19. So while Golson delivered it on the excellent The Modern Touch album, Gillespie was blowing hard with Sonny & Sonny… Gillespie’s playing moves so effortlessly, a marvel still, even if there is nothing to write up as ‘epic’. To be sure, for Gillespie, a driver at Le Mans, intervals are cinches like hairpins for Steve McQueen – check Smoke Signals. He dives into the abyss courageously, like an eagle in a tornado. The slurred exclamation point puts an end to meandering, meaningfully simple sentences…

Not essential, but fine Gillespie, no doubt.

Oliver Nelson, King Curtis & Jimmy Forrest - Soul Battle

Oliver Nelson, King Curtis & Jimmy Forrest Soul Battle (Prestige 1960)

Oliver Nelson had a knack for interesting parings of horns and Soul Battle is a seriously entertaining combination of the differing tenor styles of Nelson, Jimmy Forrest and King Curtis.

Oliver Nelson, King Curtis & Jimmy Forrest - Soul Battle

Personnel

Oliver Nelson (tenor saxophone), Jimmy Forrest (tenor saxophone), King Curtis (tenor saxophone), Gene Casey (piano), George Duvivier (bass), Roy Haynes (drums)

Recorded

on September 8, 1960 at Rudy van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Released

as PRLP 7223 in 1960

Track listing

Side A:
Blues At The Five Spot
Blues For M.F. (Mort Fega)
Anacruses
Side B:
Perdido
In Passing


It is easy to overlook the beauty of a saxophonist’s voice and hi-level playing style when the player in question is also known, perhaps better-known, through his exceptional work as a writer and arranger. Benny Golson is a case in point. Oliver Nelson certainly qualifies. Evidently, he was a renowned arranger of his own work but mostly of other artists like Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins, Cannonball Adderley, Wes Montgomery and Jimmy Smith. His body of work as a writer is comprehensive and filled with gems, the achingly beautiful Stolen Moments serving as his undisputed masterpiece.

Obviously, Blues And The Abstract Truth, his album on Impulse from 1960 which included Stolen Moments and featured Eric Dolphy, Freddie Hubbard and Roy Haynes, is a stone-cold classic and a perennial favorite among teachers at conservatories around the world. Standard subject matter. Straight Ahead isn’t such an indelible part of the curriculum, undeservedly. It’s an essential date on par with Abstract. Strikingly, Nelson’s Prestige albums of this period, which began in 1959 with Meet Oliver Nelson, consist of a thoroughly convincing effort to interpret the blues. Oh boy, his gelling with Dolphy – Dolphy playing Charlie Parker backwards, flying out there, Nelson more modern in the conventional sense, plaintive yet forceful – is truly something else.

Soul Battle precedes Blues And The Abstract Truth and Straight Ahead, which were recorded in the winter of 1961. If the latter albums are blues-based recording sessions that are simultaneously spontaneous and proof of careful preparation, Soul Battle is best described as a relaxed but driving, good-old blowing session. Count your blessings, this is a tenor battle royale! We have Nelson, employing a tone that often touches the alto register, on the hunt for ideas all the time, finding them too, carefully placing them in orderly fashion yet eager to move on, light-footed like a deer in the wild…

Then there’s Jimmy Forrest. Forrest goes way back, played on the riverboats of Mississippi with Fate Marable, with Duke Ellington, became an overnight r&b one-day-fly with Night Train in 1952 (a tune that was based on Duke Ellington’s Happy-Go-Lucky-Local), played with St. Louis pals Miles Davis and Grant Green and spent a big part of the seventies in the band of Count Basie. He’s putting some serious jazz history in a session like this. Take a listen to Blues For M.F., an excellent jump blues that has Nelson taking first solo, expertly so. Then Forrest hits four B.I.G. archetypal notes straight from Coleman Hawkins and suddenly Roy Haynes falls into a pocket… and an even deeper groove that was already developed is a fact… We have King Curtis, the r&b-star. However, lest we forget, King Curtis was a solid jazz player. His hard-edged tone, sleazy phrasing and fervent wails present a nice contrast with Nelson and Forrest’s subsequent modern and rootsy concepts.

Nelson’s story of Anacuses, one of four Nelson originals on Soul Battle – Juan Tizol’s Perdido the exception – has the passion and intensity of Coltrane, the hard-boiled flexibility of Joe Henderson and the direct emotional impact of Booker Ervin. Take that! A thorough dive into Oliver Nelson’s discography will find many exceptional moments, he’s truly one of the greatest saxophonists of his generation.

Lou Bennett - Enfin!

Lou Bennett Enfin! (RCA Victor 1963)

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

Lou Bennett - Enfin!

Personnel

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

Recorded

in 1963 in Paris, France

Released

RCA Victor 430.115 in 1963

Track listing

Side A:
Moment’s Notice
I Remember Sonny
Loin Du Brésil
Indicatif
Side B:
Jayne
Enfin
J.J.
Indicatif


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.