Howard McGhee - The Return Of Howard McGhee

Howard McGhee The Return Of Howard McGhee (Bethlehem 1956)

Howard McGhee returned to Bethlehem. A glorious entrance.

Howard McGhee - The Return Of Howard McGhee

Personnel

Howard McGhee (trumpet), Sahib Shihab (baritone saxophone, alto saxophone), Duke Jordan (piano), Percy Heath (bass), Philly Joe Jones (drums)

Recorded

on October 22, 1956 in New York City

Released

as BCP 42 in 1956

Track listing

Side A:
Get Happy
Tahitian Lullaby
Lover Man
Lullaby Of The Leaves
You’re Teasing Me
Transpicious
Side B:
Rifftide
Oo-Wee But I Do
Don’t Blame Me
Tweedles
I’ll Remember April


By 1956, trumpeter Howard McGhee already was a veteran of bebop and one of the earliest collaborators of Charlie Parker, The One, The Kick Start of modern jazz. More than a colleague, he was a friend. Howard McGhee was born in 1918 and two years the senior of Charlie Parker. Now and then, the Tulsa, Oklahoma-born trumpet player helped out Parker, saxophoniste maudit, who continuously ran into trouble.

Sign of the (ominous) times: In 1946, Charlie Parker had completed his first recordings for Ross Russell’s Dial label in Los Angeles. McGhee lived in Los Angeles with his wife Dorothy. They were a mixed couple that was continually harassed by the L.A. police force. At one time, the vice squad planted drugs in their apartment and promptly arrested McGhee. Parker was in bad shape, living in a garage on McKinley Avenue, his daily diet solely consisting of port wine. The McGhee’s took him to their apartment. Howard and Dorothy, against the grain, opened a little jazz club on the premises of the defunct Finale club and booked Charlie Parker.

The first thing one notices is that The Return includes Lover Man and Don’t Blame Me, two standard ballads identified by influential renditions by Charlie Parker. Lover Man, Dial 1946, was an earthquake – notwithstanding the fact that Parker was completely out of it, sick and close to a nervous breakdown, which perhaps was one of the reasons Parker abhorred this version. McGhee, himself a trumpeter who inspired many of the up-and-coming players of the hard bop era, was the trumpeter on that recording and continued to perform Lover Man for the rest of his life.

Furthermore, McGhee’s group includes pianist Duke Jordan. Jordan was part of one of Parker’s most steady groups of 1947-48, which also included Miles Davis, Tommy Potter and Max Roach. The bop-oriented The Return Of Howard McGhee – McGhee had been off the scene a while as a consequence of his use of narcotics – also featured alto and baritone saxophonist Sahib Shihab, bassist Percy Heath and drummer Philly Joe Jones. Both Shihab and Jones had occasionally played with Parker.

The chemistry – no pun intented – is striking. The group performs as a bunch of buoyant teenage pals at play in the lake, two diving from the bridge, one showing his prowess as a crawler in clear sight of nearby feminine onlookers, another shouting crazy things to fly-over goose. Not a wild bunch of hooligans, but charged and charming. So Get Happy makes perfect sense. And the old warhorse is exemplary of a great album that is too easily overlooked. There’s the rare sparkle and bite of Philly Joe Jones. The smooth blend of McGhee’s exuberant, sinuous trumpet and Shihab’s pretty spectacular baritone sax. The spry and gracefully fashioned solo’s of Duke Jordan.

The group performs eleven tunes, including the soft-hued, hypnotic Lullaby Of The Leaves, the catchy, Latin-ish and uptempo I’ll Remember April and the sizzling flagwaver Rifftide. Lover Man is excellent, the coupling of McGhee’s sly variations on the melody and delicate bittersweet comments with the bright and full-bodied tone that’s reminiscent of Louis Armstrong is very attractive. The long life already lived, from his stints with Count Basie and Charlie Barnet, to the laboratory of Minton’s Playhouse and ‘carvin’ with the bird’ signifying a weathered and stellar jazz artist.

A set of eleven tunes that rarely stretch beyond four minutes – unfortunately – suggests that Bethlehem was aiming at radio airplay, perhaps inspired by the success of the Mulligan/Baker group of Pacific Jazz. Bethlehem wasn’t strictly a jazz label. Nonetheless, its jazz discography has slowly but surely turned into a special place for jazz freaks, like that little superb Juarez burrito joint for Texan lovers of hot Latin cuisine. The great engineering can compete with Rudy van Gelder as well as Roy DuNann from Contemporary, the label on which McGhee recorded two more successful albums in 1960. To boot: you ever seen such a beautiful sleeve? In the words of Babs Gonzales: exboopident!

The Cedar Walton Trio - A Night At Boomers Vol. 1

The Cedar Walton Trio featuring Clifford Jordan A Night At Boomers Vol. 1 & 2 (Muse 1973)

Mainstream jazz at its most fluent, refreshing and adventurous. That is A Night At Boomers Vol. 1 & 2 by The Cedar Walton Trio featuring Clifford Jordan.

The Cedar Walton Trio - A Night At Boomers Vol. 1

The Cedar Walton Trio - A Night At Boomers Vol. 2

Personnel

Cedar Walton (piano), Clifford Jordan (tenor saxophone Vol. 1 A1, A3, B1-4; Vol. 2 A2, B1-3), Sam Jones (bass), Louis Hayes (drums)

Recorded

on January 4, 1973 at Boomers, New York City

Released

as Muse 5010/5022 in 1974

Track listing

Volume 1
Side A:
Holy Land
This Guy’s In Love With You
Cheryl
Side B:
The Highest Mountain
Down In Brazil
St. Thomas
Bleecker Street Theme
Volume 2
Side A:
Naima
Stella By Starlight
All The Way
Side B:
I’ll Remember April
Blue Monk
Bleecker Street Theme


Gary Giddins: “Where is jazz going?”
Cedar Walton: “It’ll go wherever we take it. We’re the masters of it. And wherever my colleagues and I feel like going tomorrow.”

The time is January 4, 1973, the place is Boomers in Greenwich Village, NYC, the club that, by all accounts, overflows with knowledgeable jazz fans. The paranoiac and grumpy Republican, Richard Nixon, is in the Oval Office. The burglaries at the headquarters of the Democratic Party take place in May 1972. Reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein sink their teeth into the case. It’s a pressure cooker. The termination of the Vietnam War is long overdue. The number of casualties has been highest among blacks. The army is still segregated. Blacks here, whites there. And here means low in the hierarchy – straight from the assembly line of the Ford factory to the battlefields. Few if any black men wear stripes and play cards in the mess. It’s still, well, a mess.

James Brown is now singing that crack is ruining the hood. The seeds of gangsta rap are sown. White rock is fed to the general public, the corporate smile grows broader and broader by the minute. In jazz, fusion is the big thing, Miles Davis and Weather Report the big names. Living jazz giants are doing fine: Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz. Dave Brubeck is a star. In general, straight-ahead jazz is having a hard time. Regardless of the passionate promotional and educational efforts of Cannonball Adderley, John Lewis, critics, and the occasional write-up in Time Magazine, Average Joe has by and large been (kept?) ignorant of jazz, the beautiful musical art form that, though not exclusively of black origin, can’t be separated from the tormented past and lively culture of the black race and would have been void without it. Amidst the general turmoil, a group of outstanding innovators and stylists, either in the USA or as expatriates in jazz-minded Europe, keep the flame of classic jazz burning: Kenny Clarke, Dexter Gordon, Clark Terry, Gerry Mulligan, Johnny Griffin, Zoot Sims, Art Pepper, Benny Bailey, Phil Woods, Slide Hampton, Jim Hall, Joe Pass, Art Farmer.

And pianists like Tommy Flanagan, Ray Bryant, Kenny Barron. Cedar Walton. Walton, born in Dallas, Texas, was supposed to play on his friend John Coltrane’s landmark album Giant Steps. But while he was out of town, Tommy Flanagan got the call. Walton came into prominence as the pianist of Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers. A gifted writer, Walton penned future standards as Mosaic, Ugetsu, Bolivia, Mode For Joe and Holy Land. Now it’s 1973. Walton, already a very accomplished player in the 60s, matured into a commanding maestro – it has slowly but surely dawned on me that the work of the Flanagans, Bryants, Barrons and Waltons gained considerable depth in the second phase of their careers. Much to our delight.

Crew of Boomers: Walton, craftsman with amazing skills, skills subservient to flexible, rich lines, unceasing drive and phrases crusted with the grit of the honky-tonk floor. Bassist Sam Jones and drummer Louis Hayes. Extraordinary rhythm engine since The Cannonball Adderley Quintet. Hayes the former drummer of Horace Silver’s group, who elevated ‘small ensemble’ hard bop drumming to its ultimate level. Tenor saxophonist Clifford Jordan, who matured from Rollins-styled player to volatile Mingus associate and individual personality that delivered the remarkable Glass Bead Games eight months after the Boomers gig.

Glass Bead Games – extension of John Coltrane’s music – tapped into mankind’s subconscious longing for beauty and unity. It’s uniquely organic. A Night At Boomers, regardless of progressive tinges, is more concerned with redefining mainstream jazz. It does, however, possess a wholesome vibe, perhaps because everybody felt it, musicians and audience alike. If this was an exemplary performance of the Cedar Walton Trio featuring Clifford Jordan, and there is not much room for doubt, I envy those who were able to experience it night after night. The Baby Boomers comprised a lucky crowd.

Boomers bristles with invigorating interpretations of standards, All The Way, Down In Brazil and Charlie Parker’s Cheryl among them. Stella By Starlight and I’ll Remember April are souped-up Kreidlers suddenly taking swift turns like the slickest of Kawasakis. The first four minutes of April are reserved for Sam Jones’s meaty and lyrical bass story, the second part for Clifford Jordan’s fiery tenor playing. Clifford Jordan’s balanced but potent blues playing is the topping of Thelonious Monk’s Blue Monk’s leisurely pace. The archetypical juxtaposition of the Carribean rhythm and uptempo 4/4 sections of Sonny Rollins’s St. Thomas are handled just that extra specially, the Latin part boisterous, the 4/4 part lightning fast and crisp as crackers on Sunday morning. Walton reacts accordingly, switching smoothly from percussive variations to a quicksilver update of Bud Powell.

A joy. The best, however, is yet to come. At least, the tracks that I usually have been immediately drawn to are Holy Land, The Highest Mountain, This Guy’s In Love With You and Naima. The composition of Holy Land is a stroke of genius. The simple and lovely melody – you can hear a child humming it in the playground – is introduced and ended by Walton’s glamorous Bach-like outlay of the chords, which flows smoothly in and out of the tune’s mid-tempo bounce. Whatever the holy land means from Walton’s perspective – Israel for the chosen ones that fled from Egypt, the promised land of Dr. Martin Luther King – Walton obviously had good hopes of discovering it one day.

Perhaps he also longed to reach The Highest Mountain, an equally beautiful, modal-tinged composition. He’s assisted on his travels by Clifford Jordan (Led by Joshua, the tribes of Israel crossed the river Jordan…), who tells one of his all-time great stories. Jordan gives pleasures in measured doses. His tone doesn’t push you against the wall, it’s relatively thin, light as a day in early Spring. His phrasing is agile like the movements of the antelope and his smooth but forceful message is interspersed with sudden, emotionally charged grunts and growls. One hears him searching, investigating, wondering, smiling, pondering and, finally, finding something he deems worthy for a new search. A great artist.

Cedar Walton reaches new levels of trio playing. There’s an endless stream of long lines and ideas during This Guy’s In Love With You, which is started in a funky vein, developed into a crisp groove. Walton is exuberant and his superlative skills are balanced by commanding blues figures. John Coltrane’s Naima never fails to touch my heart, Walton’s voicing and lines a rare, heartbreaking thing of beauty. I have to go with Gary Giddins, who says in the liner notes that Walton is ‘meshing softness with command. It has the cumulative effect of a rose unfolding its pedals.’

This group with near-telepathic synergy effortlessly moulds contemporary jazz to its feelings and highly developed aesthetic.

The Hank Bagby Soultet - Opus One

The Hank Bagby Soultet Opus One (Protone 1964)

Lots of great Hanks out there. One of the lesser-know Hanks, tenor saxophonist Hank Bagby, delivered a first-rate hard bop album in 1964, Opus One.

The Hank Bagby Soultet - Opus One

Personnel

Hank Bagby (tenor saxophone), Chuck Foster (trumpet), Dave MacKay (piano), Al Hines (bass), Chiz Harris (drums)

Recorded

in 1964

Released

as Protone 133 in 1964

Track listing

Side A:
Dee Dee
The Great Wall
Soul Sonnet
Side B:
Kiss Me Quigley
Iborian
Algerian Suite


Thanks Matt Block from Chicago, major league hard and post-bop collector, for putting Flophouse on to The Hank Bagby Soultet’s Opus One through the grapevine of the evil but occasionally very pleasant world wide web. There’s always more hardbop out there than expected. Live and learn. Die and reincarnate as the insect from Kafka’s Die Verwandlung, crawl on the pavement of Sunset Boulevard and get squashed on the star tile of Hugh Hefner before, to cite Kinky Friedman, you were able to bug out for the dugout. Come back again as Mahatma Gandhi, slip into suit and tie and invest in big data. Be ashamed of yourself. Nothing to be ashamed of if you’re Hank Bagby. Hank Bagby is ok. But is Opus One an album we should be ashamed of having ignored for so long? No not exactly. It’s not a milestone of mainstream jazz. But then again it’s about time it gets the attention it very well deserves.

The pulse of the album is pretty contagious, Jazz Messengers-like in spots. Moreover, both Dee Dee and The Great Wall wouldn’t have been out of place on Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers albums. Perhaps most striking, the typical hard bop format of quintet line-up featuring sax and trumpet, blues-based repertoire and medium tempos is strengthened by a number of exotic flavors, the melodies of Soul Sonnet and Iborian (Nairobi spelled backwards) in particular.

Obviously, Bagby was a good writer. As a tenor saxophone player, his big hard tenor sound is exciting but his lines have a tendency to somehow pass by unnoticed. Trumpeter Chuck Foster is more impressive. His bright tone and sparkling lines lift up the fresh set of tunes. Even better is pianist Dave MacKay, who provides pulsating backing with a combination of strong-willed chords and pesky lines. As a soloist, without exactly imitating them, he’s somewhere between McCoy Tyner and Horace Silver. Not a bad place to hang around.

Bagby started as a singer in Denver in the 40s, then worked as a saxophonist on the West Coast in the 50s with Kenny Drew, Leo Wright, Joe Maini, Elmo Hope, Dexter Gordon and Harold Land. Opus One is his only album as a leader. Currently going for 400$ on Discogs. Mind if I pass? Luckily, there’s also a CD that was released by Jazzhus in 2012. And the full album is on YouTube. Listen here.

Clarence Henry Bagby passed away in 1993.

Jimmy McGriff - Honey

Jimmy McGriff Honey (Solid State 1968)

You can pick your favorite soul tune from Jimmy McGriff’s 1968 Honey album and dance, dance, dance.

Jimmy McGriff - Honey

Personnel

Jimmy McGriff (organ), Uncredited ‘Organ & Big Blues Band’

Recorded

in 1968 in New York City

Released

as SS-18036 in 1968

Track listing

Side A:
(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You’ve Been Gone
Respect
Chain Of Fools
We’re A Winner
Up, Up And Away
Side B:
Tell Mama
Honey
I Thank You
I Got The Feelin’
Baby, I Love You
(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay


It’s a blatantly commercial album by McGriff, who was quite popular ever since the organist from Philadelphia scored a hit on Sue Records in 1962 with Ray Charles’ I Got A Woman. Switching to Solid State in 1966, McGriff’s version of Cherry did very well on the charts. Producer Sonny Lester must’ve dreamt of making McGriff just as famous as his mentor and friend, Jimmy Smith, who was the most popular soul jazz artist of the era, more so after he switched from Blue Note to Verve, under the guidance of Creed Taylor. Sonny Lester used McGriff in a variety of settings, from blues, pop to big band, some more successful than others. Essentially, Honey presents a rather arbitrary choice of popular soul tunes. Just put ‘m all on one album, see which one picks up any airplay.

But. Big but. Although it would’ve been nice if McGriff had recorded more often in a modern jazz setting in the sixties, (McGriff’s albums on Milestone in the 80s and 90s are more jazz-oriented) McGriff’s clever voicing and modern approach have not altogether vanished from his chart-running songbook. Besides, McGriff is a blues master that rarely disappoints in the kind of setting Honey represents. He is, after all, a groove monster without peer!

The album is a mix of uptempo classics like Respect, Chain Of Fools, I Thank You, medium-tempo tunes as (Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay, James Brown’s funky I Got The Feelin’ and the odd pop tune, Jimmy Webb’s Up, Up And Away. Throughout, McGriff’s charming mix of screamin’ blues riffs and dazzling little bop lines keeps the listener on his toes. His timing is hip, floating around the beat. The band is seriously rocking, backing McGriff as if Otis, King Solomon or the Wicked Pickett is holding the mic. The sax player has no inkling to play ‘safe’ soul licks but instead – a pleasant surprise – injects cookers like Honey with tantalizing modern-jazzy phrases on what sounds like the electric Varitone saxophone. The group is uncredited. It might be saxophonist Fats Theus, who played on McGriff’s The Worm in 1968 as well.

Honey paid the bills. In later life, McGriff kept gigging steadily, making a living on the road. A while ago, the late flutist, saxophone player and educator Peter Guidi recounted his stint as a sideman with McGriff to Flophouse, describing the traveling organist’s classy van as a bonafide ‘mobile bordello, laced with red velvet’. It also carried the Hammond B3 and indispensable Leslie speaker. Guidi remembered the day McGriff offered him a gig, but Guidi, who almost once got killed carrying a B3 down the stairs of a club, said: “I love your work and I want the job. As long as I don’t have to carry the damn thing!” McGriff laughed. Guidi got the gig anyway.

It is a blessing that, in spite of the machine’s awkward shape and elephantine weight, there have been so many fine organists. Jimmy McGriff definitely was one of the leaders of the pack.

The full album is on YouTube. Listen here.

Wayne Shorter - Night Dreamer

Wayne Shorter Night Dreamer (Blue Note 1964)

After all these years, the dark-hued adventures of Wayne Shorter on Blue Note have lost nothing of their mysterious charm.

Wayne Shorter - Night Dreamer

Personnel

Wayne Shorter (tenor saxophone), Lee Morgan (trumpet), McCoy Tyner (piano), Reggie Workman (bass), Elvin Jones (drums)

Recorded

on April 29, 1964 at Rudy van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Released

as BLP 4173 in 1964

Track listing

Side A:
Night Dreamer
Oriental Folk Song
Virgo
Side B:
Black Nile
Charchoal Blues
Armageddon


Dutch bassist and jazz scholar Hans Mantel once asked Wayne Shorter if he was conscious of creating stone-cold classic albums on Blue Note in the sixties. The tenor and soprano saxophonist’s answer was: ‘What you young cats must realize is, is that we made our records to pay our rent!’

Gold coins from the Byzantine period fade into insignificance compared with the run of Blue Note platters by Wayne Shorter. The tenor and soprano saxophonist, best known by the general public for his role in the Second Great Quintet of Miles Davis and fusion group Weather Report, still going strong today as ‘the greatest living jazz composer’, started off his stretch on Blue Note as a leader with Night Dreamer in 1964. It preceded the perennial favorites and classic albums Juju and Speak No Evil.

Significantly, Shorter’s debuting run of albums on VeeJay in the late fifties and early sixties consisted almost solely of original compositions. As part of Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers from 1959-64, Shorter also contributed a slew of fresh, exciting tunes. Furthermore, the Newark, New Jersey-born saxophonist showed his prowess as an original tenor man. As the years went by in the acclaimed and propulsive Blakey outfit, Shorter’s solo’s grew more explorative and explosive. His roaring tale during the rousing modal Shorter composition Free For All is plain crazy. A raid of hand granates kicked back by Blakey in equally tempestuous fashion. Shorter carried over that vibe to Night Dreamer, drawing on the energy of another legendary drummer, Elvin Jones. He stretches his limits song-wise, presenting a set of haunting compositions that are unusually structured but nevertheless flow effortlessly like the meandering side branches of the Euphrates or Tigris.

Where to begin? Any song writer would’ve been happy to deliver the moody melodies of Oriental Folk Song and Virgo. However, the key pieces are Night Dreamer, Black Nile and Armageddon. The whole package – structure, mood, energy, interaction – is perfectly balanced, like an essential performance of a Mozart symphony, with the remarkable difference, the ultimate feat that distinguished jazz from any other music form, that the core of Night Dreamer is spontaneous improvisation.

The album features trumpeter Lee Morgan, Shorter’s frontline partner of The Jazz Messengers, bassist Reggie Workman and the powerhouse duo that was part of the epic John Coltrane Quartet, pianist McCoy Tyner and drummer Elvin Jones. Masterclass of depth and hard swing guaranteed. The pushing and pulling of the beat and wide open spaces of Elvin Jones and the extravagant and tasteful piano excursions of McCoy Tyner cannot fail to be a stimulus to original reed and brass players like Shorter and Morgan. Shorter is a dark prince lurking in the shadows, occasionally darting out of the corner, growling ominously, reciting ancient poetry, the stanzas streaming out of his mouth like wine from a bottle: enigma. Morgan is the florid touch, hard bop royalty, weaving in and out of modal spheres fluently, shooting multiple straight arrows, cocky and convincing: brilliant sleaze. He’s the uplifting opposite of Shorter, who is a demon driving away demons.

Shorter’s sound may not be as characteristic as the tone of great contemporaries or past masters but his compositions never cease to amaze. The nocturnal Night Dreamer hinges on the subtle balance of relative chordal simplicity and depth of feeling and the suave and surprising storytelling by Shorter. The relentless drive is one of many striking aspects of the modal cooker Black Nile. The long, beautiful lines of Armageddon contrast with the booming in-your-face rhythm, the furious rolls and switch of polyrhythm to explosive shuffle groove by Elvin Jones. Expressiveness is the focus of a composition with a minimum of subtly moving chords. Shorter and Morgan rise to the occasion.

The mood nocturnal, with a sense of foreboding and inner turmoil that’s crystallized in a curious state of serenity, Night Dreamer is akin to Herbie Hancock’s Empyrean Isles and Andrew Hill’s Judgement. The avant-leaning catalogue of Blue Note, that daring mid-sixties series of albums from Shorter, Hancock, Hill, McLean and Hutcherson that require repeated listening. Label boss Alfred Lion gave his roster of adventurous talents free reign, very insightful from the legendary independent record executive. To boot, Lion even paid for rehearsal time. And so, in a way, for the rent of the Shorter family’s apartment somewhere deep in the bowels of The Big Apple.

Harold Land - Jazz Impressions Of Folk Music

Harold Land Jazz Impressions Of Folk Music (Imperial 1963)

Get acquinted with Jazz Impressions Of Folk Music, the underappreciated gem in the discography of tenor saxophonist Harold Land.

Harold Land - Jazz Impressions Of Folk Music

Personnel

Harold Land (tenor saxophone), Carmell Jones (trumpet), John Houston (piano), Jimmy Bond (bass), Mel Lee (drums)

Recorded

on July 3 & 17 at Radio Recorders, Los Angeles

Released

as Imperial 12247 in 1963

Track listing

Side A:
Tom Dooley
Scarlet Ribbons
Foggy, Foggy Dew
Kisses Sweeter Than Wine
Side B:
On Top Of Old Smokey
Take This Hammer
Hava Nagila
Blue Tail Fly


We love Harold Land, one of the finest tenor saxophonists of his generation, who fills the void between Rollins and Mobley. He employs a hard but clean tone and is rarely short on ideas. His fluent playing makes it feel as if the changes do not exist. Taste written all over Mr. Land, who loves chili pepper, goes easy on salt. Land came into his own just before Charlie Parker passed away early in 1955, the era of the burgeoning hard bop style, when the tenorist from Houston, Texas was part of the Clifford Brown/Max Roach Quintet, partaking in the making of the group’s essential albums. His stint with the challenging, popular outfit sealed Land’s reputation as a major voice on the tenor saxophone.

Land spent a large part of his career on the West Coast, where he recorded the eponymous The Fox with trumpeter Dupree Bolton and pianist Elmo Hope. He enjoyed a fruitful cooperation with vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson on a string of Blue Note albums in the late 60s and early 70s. A number of albums by Land, who passed away in 2001, are popular items, particularly West Coast Blues – with guitarist Wes Montgomery – and The Peacemaker.

Jazz Impressions Of Folk Music owns its rightful place in that category. Folk music? Sure, why not. The folk boom was at its height in the mid-sixties, Pete Seeger a working class hero, Seeger’s former copycat Bob Dylan was making a big name for himself, folkies flocked the streets of Greenwich Village. Jazz jumped on the bandwagon. Even big names like Duke Ellington did Blowin’ In The Wind. The great Bud Shank dug in too, on his Folk Flute album, a forgettable commercial affair, by the way. But jazz interpretations of folk tunes weren’t always specifically designed to try to cash in. Sonny Rollins famously posed as an old cowhand and recorded Way Out West in 1957, one of the prime examples of the transformative potential of jazz. A couple of albums that were released during the era of Land’s album were Art Farmer’s To Sweden With Love, Clifford Jordan’s Plays Leadbelly and Shelly Manne’s My Son The Drummer, a set of Jewish and Hebrew songs. Good company.

Land chose a bit of everything, sneaking into the skin of cowboy, Hebrew cat and John Henry. The repertoire consists of Tom Dooley, Scarlet Ribbons, Foggy, Foggy Dew, Kisses Sweeter Than Wine, On Top Of Old Smokey, Take This Hammer, Hava Nagila and Blue Tail Fly. It’s consistently excellent. The frontline sparkles with warm unison melodies and spontaneous ad-libs. The underrated Carmell Jones, a trumpeter with a shiny full tone, delicately using slurs and bends, rides on the waves of a solid rhythm trio, that moves with ease and urgent swing and responds merrily to Land and Jones, who secretly pass canned heat to one another in a smoke-filled corner of the saloon. Pianist John Houston adds a number of nimble, lively lines.

The story of Land’s Tom Dooley is a rare thing of beauty. The warmth and fluidity of Land’s playing not only pervades that opening tune, but the entire program of his sincere jazz folk album.

Jazz Impressions Of Folk Music is unfortunately not released on CD or streamed as yet, but it is part of The Mosaic Select set of Carmell Jones. Find (here).

Listen to Kisses Sweeter Than Wine on YouTube (here).

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.