Kenny Dorham - Quiet Kenny

Kenny Dorham Quiet Kenny (New Jazz 1960)

Less is more on Kenny Dorham’s Quiet Kenny, more or less the trumpeter’s most beautiful record as a leader.

Kenny Dorham - Quiet Kenny

Personnel

Kenny Dorham (trumpet), Tommy Flanagan (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), Art Taylor (drums)

Recorded

on November 13, 1959 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Released

as NJ 8225 in 1960

Track listing

Side A:
Lotus Blossom
My Ideal
Blue Friday
Side B:
Alone Together
Blue Spring Shuffle
I Had The Craziest Dream
Old Folks


An anecdote that Rein de Graaff once told me concerned his first ever visit to New York City in 1967. The first thing that the burgeoning Dutch pianist and hard bop aficionado noticed when he stepped out of the subway station in the East Village was a fellow with a trumpet case that was the spitting image of Kenny Dorham. As a matter of fact, after politely inquiring, it turned out to be the one and only Kenny Dorham. Dorham invited the dumbfounded De Graaff to a gig the following night. The rest is history in the case of De Graaff, who stepped into a dream and subsequently met and played with Dorham, Hank Mobley, Barry Harris, Paul Chambers and Billy Higgins. Nice career boost.

Most people would not have recognized Dorham, one of the great modern trumpeters of a form of art whose geniuses like Parker and Monk eluded mass recognition for so long, let alone superb disciples as Kenny Dorham. Dorham is part of a great pack whose members were dubbed ‘musician’s musician’, which signifies esteem from colleagues and critics which equals poverty so must’ve been terminology that left the pack disgusted. Go to hell with your musician’ musician stuff, I need to pay my bloody rent! Dorham was a major league musician’s musician, a BADDASS musician’s musician, one of the iconic musician’s musicians. Too bad for Kenny. At least he was never described as ‘best kept secret’, which also spells disaster and a lavish portion of vomit.

Dorham was active in the bop era, colleague of Parker and Gillespie, a charter member of the first Jazz Messengers incarnation (Art Blakey introduced him nightly as the “the uncrowned king of the trumpet”) and enjoyed a particularly fruitful cooperation with tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson in the early ‘60s. Blue Bossa is his best-known composition. His discography is a hard bop playground and Afro-Cuban, Quiet Kenny, Whistle Stop, Round About Midnight At Cafe Bohemia, Una Mas and Trompetta Toccata are essential LP’s. They ooze with Dorham’s tasteful trumpet playing, the opposite of flashy bop, crystal clear weaving of lines anchored by a distinctive balancing act of bittersweetness and sleaze and a tone that I once overheard someone, I forgot whom, describe as ‘sweet-tart’. That it is.

Quiet Kenny is remarkable for the fact that Dorham is the sole horn. Plenty of space for Kenny’s cushion-soft but poignant lyricism. Dorham displays the gift of carrying one to a special zone, where the spine tingles and melancholia is barely suppressed by the bright side of life. Dorham strings together beautifully balanced phrases with apricot, peach and tangerine transformed into sound, all of this flowing on the flexible bedrock of Tommy Flanagan, Paul Chambers and Art Taylor.

All tunes flow with elegance and purposeful movement, whether warhorses like Old Folks or blues-based originals like Blue Friday and Blue Spring Shuffle. Lotus Flower, also known as Asiatic Raes as performed by Sonny Rollins on Newk’s Time in 1957, is an undeniable highlight; a lovely amalgam of the nursery rhyme-ish, Chinese-tinged melody and Dorham’s supple melodic variations. Dorham’s delightful reflection of desire of My Ideal is the other potential poll winner, signifying a trumpeter of compassion and restraint, the latter unique element described in the title as ‘quiet’.

The enjoyment of Quiet Kenny equals eating perfect sushi, savoring every bite of the little Japanese pieces of tuna, seaweed, rice. Dorham is master chef and Mr. Delicate, adding a dash of wasabi here and there. Beautiful record.

Lem Winchester - Lem's Beat

Lem Winchester Lem’s Beat (New Jazz 1960)

Lem Winchester’s career was cut short by tragedy but his concise discography showed plenty of promise. Lem’s Beat is one of his finest efforts, not least because of the presence of Oliver Nelson.

Lem Winchester - Lem's Beat

Personnel

Lem Winchester (vibraphone), Oliver Nelson (tenor sax), Curtis Peagler (alto saxophone), Billy Brown (piano A1, B1), Roy Johnson (piano A2, A3, B2, B3), Wendell Marshall (bass), Art Taylor (drums)

Recorded

on April 19, 1960 at Rudy van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Released

as NJLP 8239 in 1960

Track listing

Side A:
Eddie’s Dilemma
Lem & Aide
Friendly Persuasion
Side B:
Your Last Change
Lady Day
Just Friends


Aswinging vibraphonist in the tradition of Milt Jackson, Lem Winchester started playing professionally in the late 50’s after giving up his job as police officer in Wilmington, Delaware. The sleeve of his debut recording New Faces At Newport on Metro Jazz, split with pianist Randy Weston, showed Winchester wearing his police officer hat. Poor Lem. It’s a pity no one came up with the idea of coupling him with tenor saxophonist Buck “The Wailing Postman” Hill from Washington D.C.

On a musical level, the results of a partnership of these rather obscure but outstanding players would have been a boon. As a matter of fact, the short career of Winchester is marked by interesting and fruitful cooperations. Argo placed the Ramsey Lewis Trio by his side. On Prestige and its subsidiary label New Jazz, Winchester recorded with Benny Golson and Hank Jones as a leader and organists Brother Jack McDuff, Johnny “Hammond” Smith and Shirley Scott as a sideman.

As well as Oliver Nelson. In 1960, Winchester played on Nelson’s Taking Care Of Business (New Jazz) and Nocturne. (Moodsville, Prestige’s other subsidiary label) Likely, after the March session of Takin’ Care Of Business, Nelson returned the favor, appearing on the April session of Lem’s Beat. Another session in the pocket, another bill paid.

Typical and excellent quintet stuff from the early 60’s, Lem’s Beat has Oliver Nelson as arranger and on tenor saxophone, an underrated player and confident individual who crafts stucturally sound solo’s, rich with varied blues motives and a strong hard sound from the Dexter Gordon school. It has Curtis Peagler on alto saxophone – Who??? Anyone? – boppish and bouncy and occasionally phrasing against the grain; solid and fluent Wendell Marshall on bass, Art Taylor on drums and alternating pianists Billy Brown and Roy Johnson. Again, who, anyone?

And the leader, Lem Winchester, taking the vibraphone, curious mixture of melody and percussion, by the horns, swinging with effortless grace and wit, not much that will rattle the bones of dead Downbeat critics but entertaining and stylish. Lem’s beat was solid and whether he was beat (the hipster slang of the jazz-loving Beat Writers – “Man, I’m beat” was a way of saying one was down and out, which was uttered by middle-class boys turned greasy hipsters from Frisco to New York but was uttered initially by Herbert Huncke in the mid-40’s, the über-Beat that likely picked it up in Afro-American quarters and, by the way, was a big fan of Charlie Parker), who knows. Lem’s Beat is a funny title, but the title of the sole composition by Winchester, Lem & Aide, is even better.

Nelson was an outstanding arranger whose ensembles for small groups gave the impression of a bigger band than was the case and he does the trick on Lem’s Beat’s blues-based repertoire. Two tunes stand out: the seldom-played Tionkin/Webster composition Friendly Persuasion gets a MJQ-ish treatment. Lady Day is a sensitive homage to Billie Holiday by pianist Roy Johnson.

The tragedy of Lem Winchester’s life, former cop, was that he died from a hand gun accident, allegedly during a game of Russian Roulette. He passed away in 1961 at the age of thirty-three.

Buddy Tate - Tate-A-Tate

Buddy Tate Tate-A-Tate (Prestige/Swingville 1960)

Nobuddy, well at least few from the swing era, nurtured such a long career as tenor saxophonist Buddy Tate. Tate-A-Tate, smokin’ cooperation with young lions and Clark Terry, is one of his finest efforts.

Buddy Tate - Tate-A-Tate

Personnel

Buddy Tate (tenor saxophone), Clark Terry (trumpet, flugelhorn A1), Tommy Flanagan (piano), Larry Gales (bass), Art Taylor (drums)

Recorded

on October 18, 1960 at Rudy van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Released

as SVLP 2014 in 1960

Track listing

Side A:
Groundhog
Tate-A-Tate
Snatchin’ It Back
Side B
All Too Soon
Take The A-Train
#20 Ladbroke Square


Listening to Buddy Tate feels like watching a movie starring John Wayne. Wayne’s gruff, spitting, punch-you-in-the-gut cowboy characters hold no bars, they are a hybrid of horse sense gumption and primitive emotions shimmering under the surface, likely to explode any minute. His presence on the screen is lethal. Yet there’s something of the likeable teddy bear uncle in him as well. One of Wayne’s finest movies is True Grit and true grit – Wayne’s left lung was removed in 1964 but he managed to complete more than 175 movies in a career that spanned more than 50 years before succumbing to cancer in 1979 – was his middle name.

It is terminology well suited for Buddy Tate, perhaps not such a heavy smoker in a literal sense, but definitely figuratively speaking. And like Wayne, Tate enjoyed a long career. During his life most of the major innovations in jazz history had been developed. Born in Sherman, Texas, Tate played in the territory bands in the Southwest in the late 20s. He was the tenor saxophonist in the Count Basie band from 1939 to 1948, an impressive ten-year stint in the hardest swinging big band in the world, which partly coincided with the tenure of Lester Young. Tate was hired by Basie after the sudden death of Hershel Evans, one of Tate’s major influences alongside the father of jazz tenor, Coleman Hawkins. The following decades, Tate recorded prolifically with, among others, Buck Clayton and Illinois Jacquet. And who doesn’t fondly remember the exciting Very Saxy album with Coleman Hawkins, Arnett Cobb and Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis? Tate passed away in 2001.

Tate is a real blues man and a “tough tenor” as they say, an accessible player that blows honest stuff that comes deep from the gut, marked by smears and elongated mischievous utterings. The kind of player that devours a riff. He stands for entertaining stories and an architecture that is made up of sure-shot entrances, well-structured middle parts and sustained excitement to the end. In a sense, swing-based musicians like Tate are precursors to the soul jazz practitioners, playing music of the people for the people.

So by 1960, the year of his Tate-A-Tate record, Tate was already a veteran. Tate was part of a select club of swing players whose shop rarely closed down, not even during summer holidays. He had already enjoyed a 10-year residency at the Celebrity Club in Harlem, NYC and would continue to perform there until 1974. He also made a couple of solid records with a mixture of old pals and the new breed on Prestige, instigated cleverly by label boss Bob Weinstock and A&R man Esmond Edwards, who realized that jazz styles are by no means totally opposite entities but just different enough to put an edge to the results. The top-notch Tate’s Date with bop pianist Sadik Hakim preceded Tate-A-Tate, which featured trumpeter Clark Terry, his former colleague from the Basie band – Terry went with Ellington in the mid-40s – and the modernists Tommy Flanagan, Larry Gales and Art Taylor.

Tate-A-Tate – pun intended, don’t you love that good-old jazz word play? – is the kind of simultaneously relaxed and driving record that makes you all warm inside, as if cubicles of roasted marshmallows have just taken a rest at the bottom of your belly. It’s dedicated to fast, medium and slow-tempo blues. Tate and Terry do thorough workouts on two pieces from the Ellington book – swinging madly and gaily on (Billy Strayhorn’s) Take The A-Train. Tate reminds us of his delicious balladry on All Too Soon, all glowing coal on the BBQ and aromatic whiskey flavor.

It’s the little details of this spontaneous recording that reveal the greatness of old-school masters like Buddy Tate and Clark Terry. Tate’s sensuous vibrato and thunderous low-register honk put the dot on his perfectly developed sentences of the slow-medium blues tune #20 Ladbroke Square – a Tate composition. Terry’s wondrous out-of-time entrance of the frivolous blues line, Snatchin’ It Back, kick starts the kind of dynamic, ebullient solo the trumpeter had a patent on during his long and brilliant career – unbelievably, Terry played both trumpet and flugelhorn during the course of A-Train and the slow blues Groundhog, one in the left hand, other in the right hand. No use being a master if you don’t once in a while deliver the goods grandiosely, right.

Terry’s Tate-A-Tate builds on the pun of the title, a “jumpin’ blues” with solid breaks and lovely, interweaving tenor sax and trumpet lines. It’s a high-level conversation of smoky Tate and extravert Terry, underscored by rollicking rolls from Art Taylor, omnipresent drummer in the jazz scene of the late 50s and early 60s. The balanced but booming responses of Tate and Terry not only to pianist Tommy Flanagan’s elegant stories and sensible accompaniment but also to Taylor’s cracks from the hip constitute some of the biggest enjoyments of the thoroughly entertaining and sophisticated Tate-A-Tate session.

Listen below. Spotify wrongly credited the record to Tate & Claude Hopkins. Tate-A-Tate starts at number 8.

Hank Jones - The Trio

Hank Jones The Trio (Savoy 1955)

Hank Jones’s The Trio is one of the to-go-to albums as far as piano trio jazz from the 50s is concerned.

Hank Jones - The Trio

Personnel

Hank Jones (piano), Wendell Marshall (bass), Kenny Clarke (drums)

Recorded

on August 4, 1955 at Rudy van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, New Jersey

Released

as Savoy 12023 in 1955

Track listing

Side A:
We’re All Together
Odd Number
We Could Make Such Beautiful Music Together
When Hearts Are Young
Side B:
Cyrano
There’s A Small Hotel
My Funny Valentine


Hank Jones quickly latched on to Parker and Gillespie’s brand new and complex symbiosis of harmony, melody and rhythm in the mid-40s. Bud Powell exerted a strong influence. However, the Vicksburg, Mississippi-born and Pontiac, Michigan-raised oldest brother of the equally legendary Thad and Elvin Jones, born in 1918, integrated bebop into an already formed style, which owed a lot to pianists like Art Tatum and Teddy Wilson. Jones journeyed through the swing bands of Hot Lips Page and Andy Kirk in the early 40s. Subsequently, Jones studied classical theory with the renowned Jascha Zade in New York, one of countless instances in jazz biography that debunks the preposterous myth of the classic jazz man as a ‘noble savage’.

Jones went with the Jazz At The Philharmonic package show in 1947. The following year saw him starting an association with Ella Fitzgerald, which lasted until 1953. Meanwhile, Jones had finally recorded with Charlie Parker in 1952 on the sessions that spawned the Now’s The Time 10inch on Clef. His immense career further included recordings with Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, Cannonball Adderley, Chet Baker, Dizzy Gillespie, Dexter Gordon, Milt Jackson, Sonny Stitt, Art Pepper, Jimmy Raney, Emily Remler and Joe Lovano. Jones was the kind of player that fitted in effortlessly in every situation. One day he accompanied singer Dakota Staton, another day he participated in clarinetist Artie Shaw’s seminal Last Recordings.

In between Jones served as a staff pianist for the CBS broadcasting system from 1959 to ’74. After his return to jazz, Jones epitomized the piano trio format with his Great Piano Trio from 1976 till 2010 – the year he passed away; cooperations with the duos of Ron Carter/Tony Williams, Eddie Gomez/Al Foster or Jimmy Cobb, Mads Vinding/Billy Hart, Elvin Jones/Richard Davis and John Patitucci/Jack DeJohnette. Rhythm section paradise.

And the first major step of Jones as a piano trio player started, recording-wise, with The Trio in 1955. Jones is assisted by bassist Wendell Marshall and drummer Kenny Clarke, who is responsible for making it, in the words of Dutch master drummer Eric Ineke, ‘one of the greatest brush records ever.’ Better believe it. The Trio is a record of sublime interaction and solo spots are not reserved strictly to the leader. There is a lot of room for Marshall and Clarke, whose precision and drive with the brushes as an accompanist are remarkable. His solo’s are textbook examples of meaningful simplicity.

Jones shares with the giants of jazz piano – Teddy Wilson, Earl Hines, Nat Cole – a synchronicity of harmony and melody that is impeccable, to the point where one begins to feel weightless, drifting within a cloud dreamily and fulfilled. Among other things, Jones is elegant and an expert of the arc, essential feat for meaningful storytelling. These qualities run through the bebop of We’re All Together, Charlie Parker’s blues Now The Time and the jaunty Cyrano, credited, very likely unjustly, to producer Ozzie Cadena. They pervade the wonderful ballads We Could Make So Much Good Music Together and My Funny Valentine, the latter a cushion-soft gem. You gotta love Odd Number, which unusual meter and playful melody make your ears perk up, an element that is reminiscent of some of Horace Silver’s refreshing and smart early career tunes, like Horace-Scope.

Hank Jones was no ‘odd number’, but graceful and composed to the core, and to the end.

Jaki Byard - The Jaki Byard Experience

Jaki Byard The Jaki Byard Experience (Prestige 1969)

The Jaki Byard Experience is not for the faint-hearted.

Jaki Byard - The Jaki Byard Experience

Personnel

Jaki Byard (piano), Roland Kirk (tenor saxophone, clarinet, manzello), Richard Davis (bass), Alan Dawson (drums)

Recorded

on September 17, 1968 at Rudy van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Released

as PR 7615 in 1969

Track listing

Side A:
Parisian Thoroughfare
Hazy Eve
Shine On Me
Side B:
Evidence
Memories Of You
Teach Me Tonight


No doubt, those that long for the continuous flow of the sounds of surprise go to Jaki Byard and Roland Kirk. In particular The Jaki Byard Experience, which most likely brings about shock, curiosity, delight and finally surrender. Two distinctly unconventional individuals for the price of one. The quartet of Byard’s eleventh album on Prestige is completed by bassist Richard Davis and drummer Alan Dawson, a sublime duo that bonded with Byard for the first time in 1963 and whose instincts are cooperative instead of merely supportive.

Although active in the Boston area since the late 40s, Byard made his mark in New York with Charles Mingus in the early 60’s, dazzling listeners and audiences with his eclectic style. Kirk burst on the same scene around that time; blind one-man-band playing tenor sax and exotic saxes that he found in shops like the stritch and manzello, adding whistles that hung on his chest, shoulder, hip or even ear, appearing to be a sideshow attraction to the general audience, a musician with exceptional declarations of independence to cogniscenti and colleagues.

Both shared the gift of mining the multi-faceted tradition and simultaneously pushing it to its outer limits, both were unique personalities that refused to take indiscriminately the innovations of Ornette Coleman, playing a kind of hide and seek with avant-garde instead of merely engaging in ersatz Free Jazz. Byard’s encyclopedic knowledge of early jazz forms is legendary. Kirk, who also landed a place in Charles Mingus’s band in the early 60’s, mixed blues with modernity and unusual virtuosity. Their music is a world unto its own. And it brims with enthusiasm. Like Thelonious Monk’s music.

An improviser should work with the fixed material in a piece to avoid hackneyed phrases.

That’s Monk, the Buddha of jazz, occasionally breaking silence with conceptions that are at once practical and enigmatic. Paradoxically, what seems to be a knockdown argument led him down the path of “rooted freedom” as opposed to freedom for freedom’s sake. Freedom for freedom’s sake is a dead end street. Free love is ok but mostly equates with detachement. The opportunities inherent to mass consumption suck: fast food and sugar are killers. Both conceptions ultimately exhaust themselves in the need to preserve meaning. The equilibrium of passion and reason cannot blossom in the absence of transcendence. Monk may have been a puzzling personality but he most likely had rooted freedom on his mind while teaching beautiful and original alternate chords to friends and journeymen, and writing Trinkle Tinkle and Criss Cross.

And Byard and Kirk understood. As a result, one gets served a dish of delicious music that while worked out within the textures of harmony and melody, sends mysterious scents out the backyard into the alley and teases the palate with an abundance of spicy flavors; implicit loyalty to unpredictability and deeds of gutsy passion that keeps any negative sensation of self-consciousness out the door.

One gets a rebellious version of Bud Powell’s Parisian Thoroughfare, which is introduced by a turbulent intro in the root key, segues crisply into the theme and is developed with the thunderous blasts of Kirk’s solo’s on, respectively, manzello and tenor saxophone. Manzello Kirk is a scudding jaguar. Tenor Kirk is the leader of the buffalo tribe, deceptively light on his feet and howling with fatherly authority. On both instruments, Kirk’s sense of old-fashioned swing is palpable and his timing is angular and agile throughout his long story, which ends with a roar on simultaneously played horns.

Byard throws himself into battle with hammering bass notes, shrewd combinations of distorted chords, endless staccato bop motives and a climax of tart Earl Hines-ish embellishments. His rubato interaction with Alan Dawson’s snare rolls is one of the examples of the quartet’s sublime and lively interaction. As is the high energy of bassist Richard Davis. Davis has his share of storytelling, mixing strong arco bass with mischievous dissonance and bended notes on multiple strings. This is jazz that rivals the archetypical rock bands of the late 60’s. Mind you, on acoustic instruments!

It makes sense that Byard included a composition of Monk, himself a master of dedication. Evidence is the session’s second example of controlled mayhem. Perhaps the curious balancing act of Kirk, a rollercoaster ride of phrases that are wrenched from his gut and purposefully evade the changes, may be hard to digest. Regardless, it is a rare feat. Kirk apparently only takes a breath twice. Cat with the lungs of a whale.

One gets the hefty boogaloo treatment of the traditional Shine On Me, romantic and sardonic piano-bass duet of Hazy Eve, twisted Fats Waller homage of Memories Of You. Coasting is absent in Byard’s case. He’s the guy that wears haute couture on top and shorts beneath, strollin’ on the snow-bound path. Kirk’s the man on the barstool whom everyone tells his stories too. And he’ll remark: “Never end your sentences on a vowel.” They are the proud underdog. One wonders if Byard’s recorded vocal that precedes the opening of Parisian Thoroughfare and the record – “Say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud” – is pride or pastiche.

Definitely the things they’re saying so loud are of the utmost excitement and authority.

Shirley Scott - Hip Soul

Shirley Scott Hip Soul (Prestige 1961)

Hip couple, hip soul. Finding a hip crowd for the collaborations between wife and husband Shirley Scott and Stanley Turrentine was a cinch.

Shirley Scott - Hip Soul

Personnel

Shirley Scott (organ), Stanley Turrentine (tenor saxophone), Herbie Lewis (bass), Roy Brooks (drums)

Recorded

on June 2, 1961 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Released

as PRLP 7205 in 1961

Track listing

Side A:
Hip Soul
411 West
By Myself
Side B:
Trane’s Blues
Stanley’s Time
Out Of This World


Organist Shirley Scott released no less than eighteen albums on Prestige from 1958-61, including the subsidiary label Moodsville. Excluding six albums that the company released from 1965-67, when Scott had already become part of the Impulse label roster. Tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine, married to Scott in 1961 and divorced in 1971, guest-starred on five albums by Scott on Prestige and Impulse. In turn, Scott was featured on four of her husband’s Blue Note albums.

They not only had grown accustomed to each other’s faces on daily bases, meshing musical styles hardly posed a problem. Scott had started her organ combo career with Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis and therefore had plenty experience of playing with a highly original tenor saxophonist. The collaboration of Scott and Turrentine is about the blues and a fair share of standards and modern jazz. It comes as no surprise that the prolific recording duo was a popular attraction in the circuit of clubs of the soul jazz era.

The beautiful Shirley Scott looked great on a record cover, and high-spirited. Don’t mess with Shirley. Music-wise, her tasteful, driving playing style demands attention. Largely ignoring the revolution of Jimmy Smith, Scott preserved an orchestral approach during her years on Prestige, the settings of her organ ‘old-fashioned’ almost like Wild Bill Davis, the style full of gospel and swing and with few tinges of bop. It is only during her tenure on Impulse that Scott expands her territory with more elaborate single lines and a more modern sound.

Hip Soul is as good an example as any of the Scott/Turrentine combinations on Prestige. The group, including bassist Herbie Lewis and drummer Roy Brooks, performs the mid-tempo, down-home blues of Hip Soul, the sophisticated melody of Benny Golson, 411 West, the pleasurable standard By Myself, John Coltrane’s (surprise pick) Trane’s Blues, the catchy blues line by Turrentine, Stanley’s Time and Arlen/Mercer’s Out Of This World. Sounds like an appropriate second set at, say, New Jersey’s Club Harlem or Chicago’s Theresa’s Lounge, the crowd in anticipation of another hour of lurid down-home jazz.

They take their time to stretch out during the course of the very enjoyable 11 minutes of Out Of This World. Scott’s solo consists almost strictly of chords, the suspense hinging on voicing, her meaty touch and gospel feeling. Turrentine, the Single Malt of tenor saxophonists, all peat, oak, berries, cutting the phlegm and leaving a layered taste in the palate, demonstrates his unique way of bending blues-infested notes, sometimes stretching them as little but imposing wails, a hypnotizing brew. He swiftly phrases through his finest story of the album.

Stanley Turrentine passed away in 2000. Shirley Scott in 2002.

Stan Levey - Grand Stan

Stan Levey Grand Stan (Bethlehem 1957)

Stan Levey’s Grand Stan is a crackerjack example of West Coast hard bop.

Stan Levey - Grand Stan

Personnel

Stan Levey (drums), Conte Candoli (trumpet), Richie Kamuca (tenor saxophone), Frank Rosolino (trombone), Leroy Vinegar (bass)

Recorded

in November 1956 in Los Angeles, California

Released

as Bethlehem 71 in 1957

Track listing

Side A:
Yesterdays
Angel Cake
Why Do I Love You
Grand Stan
Side B:
Hit That Thing
Blues At Sunrise
A Gal In Calico
Tiny’s Tune


Steam came out of Gerry Mulligan’s ears. It took a couple of years to evaporate. On account of his popular piano-less quartet with Chet Baker, the baritone saxophonist became synonymous with West Coast Jazz. But, assuming that West Coast Jazz was, opposed to the edgy and hot East Coast Jazz, polished, arranged and cool, it dealt Mulligan, regardless of his contributions to ‘cool’ music, very short. To say that West Coast was white and East Coast black isn’t entirely accurate. To say that it is laid-back and relaxed as a result of the sunny climate, as Shelly Manne suggested, is open for debate. Ever heard that argument in a discussion of West and East Coast rap music in the 90’s? Momentarily, who knows, until that fateful day everybody killed everybody in a battle royale.

Music that relied heavily on arrangement and composition instead of individual expression may have been predominant, largely created by musicians that came from the bands of Claude Thornhill, Woody Herman and Stan Kenton and mostly on Capitol, Contemporary and Pacific. But the Brooklyn-born, extraordinary drummer and club owner Shelly Manne is responsible for one of the greatest series of live hard bop recordings – Live At The Blackhawk Vol. 1-5 – in jazz. Les McCann released his gospel truths on Pacific Jazz. Shorty Rogers was in fact a smokin’ trumpeter, Bud Shank turned out to be a gritty saxophone player in his later years. L.A.’s Central Avenue was a hotbed of bebop in the late 40’s and of great influence on the next generation. The City of Angels was a place where Eastern expatriates Harold Land and Elmo Hope recorded some of their best work. Labeling, part human impulse, part sales ploy, has the tendency to confuse rather than clarify.

And Stan Levey? Stan Levey was hot! Born in Philadelphia in 1926, the drummer made his first important mark in the mid-40’s as a collaborator of Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Oscar Pettiford, one of the earliest white colleagues of the fathers of bebop, expanding on the rhythmic example set by Kenny Clarke. Levey moved to the West Coast in 1954 after a stint with Stan Kenton, joining the Howard Rumsey All-Stars and building one of the most prolific West Coast careers in jazz and the Hollywood studios. In a career that spanned approximately thirty years – Levey retired in 1974 to become a professional photographer – Levey performed and recorded with an iconic who’s who of jazz, from Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, Stan Getz, Art Pepper, Oscar Peterson to Frank Sinatra and Billie Holiday.

Levey recorded a couple of cookin’ solo albums as well, among those Grand Stan, released on Bethlehem in 1957. Bethlehem: odd but great-sounding name for a record label. Founded, by the way, in New York City by Swiss émigre Gus Wildi in 1953. Interesting label. Would’ve been appropriate if it had recorded Charlie “Yardbird” Parker, the Jesus Christ of Jazz, part rebel rouser, part Messiah, at least once before he stepped on a rainbow or, more appropriately, flew the coop. Bethlehem presented great sleeves and Grand Stan, designed by the widely admired Burt Goldblatt, is no exception. It furthermore offers a lovely in-joke title and a cast that features trumpeter Conte Candoli, tenor saxophonist Richie Kamuca, trombonist Frank Rosolino, pianist Sonny Clarke and bassist Leroy Vinegar – all of them, excluding Sonny Clarke, California-based at that time, all of them warm-blooded swingers.

Like so many records from the 50’s, Grand Stan should be considered excellent material for young students of the drums. Levey’s firecracker introductions are worked out in the melodic spirit of the compositions. The crisp drive of his hi-hat, combined with sparse, spot-on accents, is alternated with tension-heightening ride cymbal, developed into a package that is both supportive and possessed with a steam all its own. Punch, spirited teamwork and a keen melodic ear. So many post-war European drummers have benefited from the likes of Levey: Daniel Humair, Alex Riel, et al. Listening to Grand Stan, I’m practically hearing veteran Dutch drummer Eric Ineke play. Ineke’s individual and highly propulsive re-enactment of ‘American drumming’ has enchanted us for many years now. Great teacher, by the way.

Levey tackles a book of songs that by way of standards, riffs, bop and the blues is short on ambition to travel beyond common mainstream practice but pleasantly surprises with the ease and depth of its execution. It is of particular interest that four tunes feature strictly one soloist, which gives each a chance to thoroughly stretch out, and lively to boot. Few trombonists move through Yesterdays with the bounce, purposeful pace and clarity of line and sound than Frank Rosolino, whose tragic life – the troubled Rosolino killed himself after shooting both sons in their sleep, one died, one survived but remained blind – overshadowed his brilliance as one of the unheralded modern giants of jazz trombone.

The momentum of the riff-based Angel Cake is sustained throughout by Richie Kamuca, whose semi-breathy lines are underscored by Basie-like shout choruses. Sonny Clark devoures Why Do I Love You at breakneck speed and flavors his Bud Powell-influenced bop phrases with hard blues licks and sparse dissonance. The down-home Blues At Sunrise is a showcase for Conte Candoli, who bookends a long but not long-winded solo with bright and penetrating open horn with the melody statement and conclusive ad-libs on muted trumpet.

Levey steers along his men with authority. No way some sunny climate was suddenly going to be responsible for the evaporation of Levey & Co’s hard-core jazz aesthetic.