Bobby Pierce - Introducing Bobby Pierce

Bobby Pierce Introducing Bobby Pierce (Cobblestone 1972)

He should have been better known but he should have known better than to sing on his debut album.

Bobby Pierce - Introducing Bobby Pierce


Bobby Pierce (organ), Bobby Jones (tenor saxophone), Pat Martino (guitar), Bob Cranshaw (electric bass, A2, B2), Roy Brooks (drums)


in New York City in 1972


as Cobblestone 9016 in 1972

Track listing

Side A:
Here, There And Everywhere
I Remember Ray
Side B:
Mr. PC
Wichita Lineman
To Newport With Love

TIt was rather late to introduce a Hammond organist in 1972. The glory days of the organ jazz circuit in the 1960’s were over and electronic organs and synthesizers surpassed the Hammond organ as a beacon in popular music. Of course, Bobby Pierce couldn’t be blamed for not being in the right place at the right time. Growing up in the late 1960’s, he had woodshedded in New York City, California and Chicago with the likes of Sonny Stitt, James Moody and Gene Ammons. Born in Columbus, Ohio, Pierce was influenced by local giant and perennial Flophouse favorite, Don Patterson. All this indicates that Pierce was ready and able.

According to the liner notes of Introducing Bobby Pierce, the obscure gentleman was part of the soul jazz group Clarence Wheeler & The Enforcers from Chicago at the time of his recording. The session was set up by Cobblestone’s label boss Don Schlitten and included tenor saxophonist Bobby Jones, guitarist Pat Martino and drummer Roy Brooks. Class acts. Pierce’s debut album is a weird stew with a couple of superb highlights. Obviously an accomplished player and writer, Pierce presents I Remember Ray, based on a thing that he heard from John Coltrane. It feels like a chord-heavy outtake from the Giant Steps-sessions, good news, all the more so because of Pierce’s fluent and fierce phrasing.

More Coltrane. The band swings Mr. PC to the ground, particularly Pat Martino, whose attack and single line runs hit you in the eye like Sugar Ray Robinson’s fists, crushes trees like lightning bolts. Too bad Pierce (or Schlitten) didn’t come up with the sane idea of completing his introduction with similar modern jazz compositions. That would’ve really sealed his reputation. Instead, the repertoire further consists of so-so funk jazz (Aretha Franklin’s Think) that lacks the excitement of the Idris Muhammad-driven funk jazz of the Prestige and Blue Note catalogue and a stab at great pop songs as McCartney’s Here, There And Everywhere and Glen Campbell’s Wichita Lineman that demonstrate that Pierce is just not a really good singer.

One of the joys of collecting, though, is picking some exceptional stuff from an uneven oddity. Two years later, Pierce recorded New York on the Muse label. Pete Fallico, the great organ jazz ambassador from the West Coast, brought Pierce back on the scene in 2008 and released The Long Road Back on his Doodlin’ label.

Listen to Introducing Bobby Pierce on YouTube here.

Phil Woods - Rights Of Swing

Phil Woods Rights Of Swing (Candid 1961)

Admirable adherence to a major Amendment of the Jazz Constitution ends the first part of bop alto maestro Phil Woods’s career on an adventurous note.

Phil Woods - Rights Of Swing


Phil Woods (alto saxophone), Benny Bailey (trumpet), Sahib Shihab (baritone saxophone), Curtis Fuller (trombone A1-3, B1), Willie Dennis (trombone B2), Julius Watkins (French horn), Tommy Flanagan (piano), Buddy Catlett (bass), Osie Johnson (drums A1-3, B1), Mickey Roker (drums B2)


on January 26 & February 10, 1961 at Nola Penthouse Studios, NY


as Candid 9016 in 1961

Track listing

Side A:
Prelude And Part I
Part II (Ballad)
Part III (Waltz)
Side B:
Part IV (Scherzo)
Part V (Presto)

Phil Woods, baby. Yeah. Major voice on the alto saxophone. Woods started out as one of many disciples of Charlie Parker. Like the finest of ‘m such as Jackie McLean and Cannonball Adderley, he shook off imitation and developed his own sound and style. His conception was fierce, charged, but melodic and tasteful at the same time. He married Chan Parker, former common-law wife of Charlie Parker, and became stepfather to her daughter Kim. Wonderful twist of fate.

He wasn’t one to burn out or fade away. Withstanding trends and fashions, Woods remained true to the source while carefully building on the tradition, stretching it to the limits of his exceptional skills. One such stretching is Musique de Bois, mid-career masterpiece with Jaki Byard, Richard Davis and Alan Dawson from 1974. The furthest that Woods traveled out there was with his avant-leaning collective of Phil Woods & The European Rhythm Machine, when he lived in Europe for four years, not to mention its Asian counterpart Phil Woods & The Japanese Rhythm Machine in the mid-seventies. Woods was consistently excellent throughout his career, a poll-and prizewinning jazz artist with an enormous output, check out the discography on his website here.

In 1961, Candid released Woods’s most ambitious album to date after his string of bop-oriented releases on Prestige from the mid to late 1950s. Candid was the brainchild of bandleader Archie Bleyer, founder of Cadence Records. Bleyer recruited jazz writer Nat Hentoff as A&R executive. Charles Mingus was its big-name draw. The idea of Hentoff was to give well-known artists opportunities to release stuff that wouldn’t necessarily be welcomed by other labels and limelight artists who deserved to be better-known. This year, a slew of albums from the Candid catalogue has been reissued, including Max Roach’s We Insist!, while other records are slated for release in the future.

One of the latest installments of the reissue program is Rights Of Swing. At the time, Woods was part of the big band of Quincy Jones. In total, he would be featured on eight Quincy Jones albums from 1959 to ’65. (Woods scarcely recorded as a leader in the 1960’s, took all the work that he could get as sideman in various bands and commercial projects) In 1961, the Quincy Jones band was back from Europe and its ill-fated tour as backing of the musical show Free And Easy. The show, based on the music of Harold Arlen, was a financial fiasco and the band had to hustle its way through the continent. A disastrous affair, which Jones blamed on the Algerian crisis in 1960. It was noted by several band members that Jones left out the fact that he had invested a considerable amount of money in the Free And Easy show, greenbacks that disappeared in thin air. In his autobiography, Jones admitted that his efforts to keep the band together left him in a serious state of depression.

It seems that Jones and Woods remained on good terms though. Jones has a lot of good things to say about Woods in the liner notes of Rights Of Swing, functioned as musical adviser and conducted the ensemble, which also included other Free And Easy-cats such as trumpeter Benny Bailey, baritone saxophonist and flautist Sahib Shihab, French horn player Julius Watkins and bassist Buddy Catlett. The thing with liner notes is that, how valuable they may be, once you’ve read them it is hard to get them out of your system and enjoy an open-minded listening experience. That’s why there will always be people spreading the opinion that liner notes are superfluous. Understandable, but, for what it’s worth, I am not one of them. Liner notes have always been part of the serious fun of record collecting. Expertise and information can’t hurt. Back in the day, as old-timers regularly explain, it was all the information you could get. As far as liner notes go, digest them like eggs and sausage but keep using your own ears is my advice.

At any rate, it is explained on the back cover of Rights Of Swing that Woods loves Stravinksy (and the Rite Of Spring, of course, which accounts for the witty title; note that Stravinsky’s title for his ballet work is singular, not plural) and there’s a lot of fanfare about chords and chord progressions, which made me think about the scholarly notes of some MJQ albums by Gunther Schuller. With all due respect, reading those notes was like being struck by nausea from recurring, unsolicited visits of an obnoxious neighbor.

As Woods explains: “I tried for a sense of movement uniting the whole framework although each section was meant to be self-sufficient.”

Woods wasn’t going to stay in the blowing session bag. Brave attempt. It was 1961, okay, new developments across the USA, Coleman had worked his way up from the Left Coast, Coltrane blasted through the stratosphere on the Right Coast. You had guys like Teddy Charles, Bob Brookmeyer and Jimmy Giuffre doing all sorts of interesting things. Just to name a few. Add Phil Woods to the list, whose brave attempt at new jazz is not a masterpiece but an intriguing piece of music, no doubt about it. No love at first sight. No butterflies in your belly. It’s like someone that you had doubts about but turned into a good friend. Regular get-togethers, good talks, bottles of wine.

Continuous ebb and flow, rides with a surfboard on solid gulfs, refreshing cold showers on a hot day, these are the sensations of Rights Of Swing. Woods provides surprising twists and turns, crafty compositions and his preludes, prestos, scherzos segue into one another like honey into a cup of tea.

The up-tempo Part I (Prelude) and Part IV (Presto) are uplifting pieces, the latter sparkling with a classy entrance of Tommy Flanagan after the tune’s various shifts in key, rhythm and colors, which oozes natural swing and says: here I am. That’s the way to do it, on top from note one. Benny Bailey – Candid had released his top-notch Big Brass album a couple of months before Rights Of Swing, featuring Woods, Flanagan, Watkins and Catlett, among others – is a fine trumpeter. He succinctly leads the melody of Part II (Ballad) and is an excellent and jubilant contributor to the album’s most conservative tune Part IV (Scherzo). It seems to be the case though, with so many soloists fighting for a spot in Woods’s scored program, that most participants lack the time to develop continuously spontaneous ideas. That’s the downside to Woods’s anti-blowing session program.

Woods had created an enticing mélange of voicing, making the most of the off-beat combination of alto, trumpet, baritone, trombone (Curtis Fuller) and French horn. Julius Watkins is something else. Making the most of a cumbersome jazz instrument, he’s the velvet and satin touch among his section mates and, when he takes solos, it sounds so sweet and natural, it’s like watching a baby sucking the breast. Mother’s milk and all that jazz. Nice contrast to Woods, who takes the longest solos and is on top of his game and scares off the fire brigade. For all his zest though, he lets his flowing lines breathe, often tagging them with a moan and a cry.

He would moan and cry beautifully to the end of his life in 2015 at the venerable age of 83.

Thomas Jaspar Quintet

Thomas / Jaspar Quintet Thomas / Jaspar Quintet (RCA Italiana 1962)

Theme for René.

Thomas Jaspar Quintet


René Thomas (guitar), Bobby Jaspar (tenor saxophone, flute), Amedeo Tommasi (piano), Maurizio Majorana (bass), Franco Mondini (drums A1-3, B1, B2 & B4), Francesco Lobianco (drums A4)


in October 1961 in Rome


as RCA Italiana 10324 in 1962

Track listing

Side A:
Theme For Freddie
Half Nelson
But Not For Me
Side B:
Hannie’s Dream
Bernie’s Taste
Smoke Gets In Your Eyes
I Remember Sonny

It was a little town close to the border of Belgium and approximately fifteen kilometers from my birthplace in Zeeuws-Vlaanderen in The Netherlands. There was a gypsy trailer camp. Me and a buddy, we must’ve been about 18 years old, I was a blues band drummer in my spare time, he was a talented guitar player already much better at his craft than I would ever be at mine, for some reason visited a gypsy family. There was a guy that played fabulous gypsy jazz. I believe that he was a nephew of Fapy Lafertin.

Typically, almost everybody at the camp played one instrument or another, from the cradle-young to the Methusalem-old. The camp was situated a stones’ throw away from the little town. About twelve trailers, made from brick, plastic and corrugated plate, were hidden from view by grey skies, silent back ways and fields of waving corn.

Whenever I think about or am listening to René Thomas, my mind is cast back to this afternoon. Thomas was neither gypsy nor gypsy jazz guitarist, but he had plenty, unmistakable gypsy feeling. For the gypsies, for Thomas, music is like eating a grape. Like tying shoelaces.

The soul of René Thomas lighted up in Liège, Belgium in 1926. Thomas loved the music of his fellow countryman, Django Reinhardt (there you have it) and besides swing jazz played ‘manouche’ in his youth. Around 1947, Thomas and friends like saxophonist and flautist Bobby Jaspar, saxophonists Jacques Pelzer and Jack Sels, bassist Benoit Guersin and drummer Rudy Frankel were obsessed with bebop and grew into one of the first European bebop units. Thomas thrived in Paris in the early 1950’s, mate among young lions as pianist Francy Boland and saxophonist Barney Wilen.

As soon as Thomas landed in New York City in 1956, he made a big impression. Until 1961, Thomas played with Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Jimmy Raney, Tal Farlow, Jim Hall, Zoot Sims, Freddie Hubbard, Herbie Hancock, Hank Mobley, Jackie McLean, Joe Henderson and Wayne Shorter. Everybody was crazy about his playing. Rollins, who featured the guitarist on Sonny Rollins And The Big Brass, said: “I know a Belgian guitar player that I like better than any of the Americans I’ve heard.”

Fruitful years in Belgium and Europe, marked by associations with Kenny Clarke and organist Lou Bennett, preceded a period of depression in the late 1960’s. Thomas stepped back into the limelight in 1970, again with Clarke and another organist, the fabulous Eddy Louiss from the island of Martinique. Then Stan Getz asked for his services. Enter a stellar band, featuring Louiss and drummer Bernard Lubat. Their legacy is preserved on a fantastic live album, Dynasty.

Sadly, Thomas overdosed and passed away in 1974 in Santander, Spain.

René lives! By God, a fabulous guitar player. Put on any of his albums or features as sideman, whether it’s early work as René Thomas Et Son Quintette, mid-career Riverside recording Guitar Groove, stints with Chet Baker on Chet Is Back or Lou Bennett on Echoes Of My Church or Ingried Hoffmann on Hammond Tales, Dynasty and his last recording, Thomas/Pelzer Limited with Dutch pianist Rein de Graaff, and notice his unmistakable solid sound and ringing notes. Not to mention, when he’s at his very best and stretches out, and here you need to check out some of the stuff on the fantastic CD-set Remembering René Thomas on Fresh Sound, which provides his best biographical sketch so far, seemingly endless strings of ideas, an originality that bustles with vitality and oozes a desire to break away from harmonic resolutions.

He seems exceptionally involved with his playing, really into it, digging in, peeking from the dark through the curtains, sun rays slipping in… Dark thoughts, cigarette smoke curling to the brown-skinned ceiling. Clean, electrifying lines seem to come so easily to him, and you see him hunched over his Gibson ES 150, hiding behind Coke-bottle glasses, modestly pouring out the sweat drops of his soul. He came from Charlie Christian and Charlie Parker and most of all was a disciple of Jimmy Raney, who was God for so many guitarists, and mind you, even influenced John Coltrane, but what sets him apart from the maestro, in my mind, is abundance of feeling. Emotive sparks.

Plenty sparks fly on the before-mentioned Guitar Groove, his best-known album, quite logically because it was recorded on Riverside and in the USA, but Thomas Jaspar Quintet definitely holds it own. It demonstrates the agility of the finest European jazz musicians and a gift for original songwriting. The band, consisting of another European giant, tenor saxophonist and flautist Bobby Jaspar, who contrary to Thomas built a solid career in the USA, pianist Amedeo Tommasi, bassist Maurizio Majorana and drummer Franco Mondini, performs the usual suspects that Thomas had played for years, Sonny Rollins’s Oleo, Miles Davis’s Half Nelson, But Not For Me, but also original tunes as Thomas’s Theme For Freddie, I Remember Sonny and Tommasi’s Hannie’s Dream.

Highlights? Every tune’s got something going for it. The way Thomas kickstarts his story of Oleo, lingering on a note, and using plenty of repetition, is daring and spontaneous and the way he constructs his solo in the process is even more exciting. Theme For Freddie is sweet and lovely, what with Jaspar’s flute playing, brimming with life in the sultry summer afternoons of Brussels, a tune oozing with the age-old culture of the good life. Hannie’s Dream is another very “European” ballad. There is hard swing and the hard tenor of Jaspar to be heard, while Cole Porter’s Bernie’s Taste is taken at brisk, sprightly pace. For good measure, Thomas tackles another lovely standard, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, and him doing it solo, quite brilliantly I might add, adds to the variety of the program.

Although Thomas was still not a household name in the early seventies, his energy seemed undimmed. At that time, he was regularly coupled with the masterful Dutch drummer Eric Ineke, who played with Thomas between 1972 and 1974 in Dutch places like Utrecht, Zwolle and Laren and German cities such as Bremen and Wilhemshaven. (cuts from Utrecht and Wilhelmshaven ended up on Guitar Genius Vol. 1, good stuff regardless of the reverb-less mix) In his book The Ultimate Sideman and a big article that he himself wrote for the great Dutch jazz magazine Jazzbulletin, Ineke says:

“René was a very adventurous player who was not afraid to take some dangerous risks on the spot. His playing had an urgency which gave the music a forward motion, combined with a great swinging time feel and a lot of old-fashioned emotion. (…) I miss his playing, he was really responding to the drums, sometimes we were almost getting over the top.”

“René and his daughter Florence stayed at my place in The Hague. We had the night off and sat playing scrabble like a couple of good little church workers. René was very good at the game. Early next morning, guitarist Eef Aalbers was standing at the front door. He was dying to chat and play with René. René took his guitar and showed just how difficult that cadenza was that John Coltrane played at the end of the ballad I Want To Talk About You. He played it note by note from the top of his head. (..) The last time that we played together was in November 1974 in Café 19/20 in Amersfoort. Eef Aalbers had initiated this gig. Wim Essed was on bass. It was a night to remember. Emotions were running high and René and Eef played as if their lives depended on it. I would love to have a recording of this because it was unique: Eef Aalbers, young and hip super talent, together with René Thomas, a legend during his lifetime.”

“René Thomas was a humble personality and a unique guitar player, whose every note came from the depths of his soul. Belgium has put all but a couple of jazz stars on the map and René is unquestionably one of those.”

He remembers René. Giant of jazz guitar.

J.J. Johnson - A Touch Of Satin

J.J. Johnson A Touch Of Satin (Columbia 1962)

J.J. Johnson and Cannonball’s rhythm section. Ergo: hard bop bone-ology of the highest order.

J.J. Johnson - A Touch Of Satin


J.J. Johnson (trombone), Victor Feldman (piano), Sam Jones (bass), Louis Hayes (drums)


on December 15 & 21, 1960 and January 12, 1961


as CL 1737 in 1962

Track listing

Side A:
Satin Doll
Flat Black
Side B:
Full Moon And Empty Arms
Sophisticated Lady
When The Saints Go Marching In

Though hardly the greatest recording by J.J. Johnson, it couldn’t go wrong. Simply and curtly stated by Johnson in the liner notes of A Touch Of Satin: “Last year while touring in Europe I had the pleasure of appearing as soloist with accompaniment by Julian “Cannonball” Adderley’s rhythm section. To say the least, I enjoyed the experience the most. So much so that with Cannonball’s approval, we recorded this LP immediately upon returning from Europe.”

By 1960/61, the date of these recordings, the leading modern trombone player, born in 1924 in Indianapolis, had been on the scene for almost twenty years. He went through the bands of Benny Carter and Count Basie and the famous Jazz At The Philharmonic tours from Norman Granz before turning into the pioneer of trombone playing in bebop, an up-until-then unmatched virtuoso that set the template for future modern trombonists. Johnson was a pivotal presence on historic recordings: Charlie Parker’s On Dial in 1947, Stitt/Powell/Johnson in 1949, Miles Davis’s Birth Of The Cool in 1949 and Walkin’ in 1954, Dizzy Gillespie’s Afro in 1954, Kenny Dorham’s Afro-Cuban in 1954 and Sonny Rollins’s Volume 2 in 1957. Meanwhile, Johnson struck up a co-leadership with fellow bone boss Kai Winding, a much-acclaimed duo that recorded successfully from 1954-60 and 1968/69.

A series of Johnson compositions became instant standards, notably Wee Dot and Lament. Among his records as a leader, The Eminent Jay Jay Johnson Volume 1-3 on Blue Note from 1953-55 are unbeatable, coupling the best of the best as Clifford Brown, Kenny Clarke, Wynton Kelly, Charles Mingus, Hank Mobley and Horace Silver. Johnson found a home at Columbia Records in the mid-fifties and turned out a lot of excellent records for a period of seven years, notably First Place with Tommy Flanagan, Paul Chambers and Max Roach.

A Touch Of Satin isn’t a satin affair at all, nor velvet and neither flannel, but named so because Duke Ellington’s Satin Doll is part of the repertoire. It’s more like a sturdy cotton shirt and a thick wool sweater. He’s certainly reveling in the company and though Johnson maintains his trademark clean and bright tone and would never sound as gritty and greasy as Ellington trombonists or Al Grey, his sound is unusually big and broad and his style features plenty ‘blooziness’, perhaps that the reason why Johnson named one of the tunes on this album Bloozineff.

He adds fresh melodic ideas to Monk’s Jackie-ing, riding the waves of Feldman’s hip and deceptively loose-jointed bundle of chords. Feldman lets notes ring like Christmas bells. Satin Doll is a great group effort, a jolly, big-sounding festivity and Johnson’s slyly timed accents and fabulously structured solo are the icing on the cake. Johnson’s Flat Black, the most “Adderley Quintet-ish” cut, finds him on fire and supple and fast like a leopard on the savannah. Bop and hard bop alternates with a couple of nice ballads, featuring Feldman on celeste, and the party goers are waved goodbye with a sassy and hard-swinging version of jazz anthem When The Saints Go Marching In. Party’s over but we don’t mind the headache, it’s been serious fun.

Johnson also turned his attention to Third Stream music, rather successfully one might add, onwards from the early 1960’s, a contender to John Lewis and Gunther Schuller. In the 1970’s and early 1980’s, Johnson worked almost exclusively for cinema and television in Hollywood. Although he returned to jazz performance thereafter and earned several Grammy nominations during the last part of his career, it seems Johnson was not entirely fulfilled. He had his share of bad luck. His first wife suffered a stroke and Johnson cared for her until her death three and a half years later. Johnson was diagnosed with prostate cancer in the late 1990’s.

Apparently, Johnson died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in 2001. A tragedy that is mentioned in all available sources online. Is it true or just conjecture after some kind of ill-fated event? Old friend and former manager of Ray Brown, Jean-Michel Reisser-Beethoven, says: “I first met him in 1980 when he was touring in Europe with Nat Adderley. I saw him many times in L.A. He was very joyous but at the end of his life he became very negative. He was not the same anymore, I think he was not very happy about his career in general. He wanted to do things in other ways, but he didn’t. I don’t know why exactly he was not happy, because he had a great career. He was a fabulous musician. He lived in Hollywood for almost forty years but went back to Indianapolis a couple of years before the end of his life. He stopped playing and writing and giving news to people around him.”

“It is true. He killed himself. He couldn’t handle the fact that there was nothing that could be done after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He asked his wife to go and buy some books for him. When she came back, she found him. A very sad way to leave this earth and a very sad story.”

Too bad. Still, only one occurrence in an exceptional life lived in the jazz realm.

Listen to A Touch Of Satin on YouTube here

Freddie Robinson - Hot Fun In The Summertime

Freddie Robinson Hot Fun In The Summertime (Liberty 1970)

Typically versatile exponent of black music got on the good foot in the early 1970’s.

Freddie Robinson - Hot Fun In The Summertime


Freddie Robinson (guitar), Bobby Bryant & Freddie Hill (trumpet), Bill Green (tenor saxophone), Tom Scott (alto saxophone), Unknown (piano), Al Vascovo (guitar), Wilton Felder (bass), Paul Humphrey (drums), Sid Garp’s String Section (strings), Clydie King, Darlene Love & Edna Wright (vocals)


in 1970


as LST-11007 in 1970

Track listing

Side A:
Caprice’s Green Grass
I Want To Hold Your Hand
I’m In Love
Side B:
Hot Fun In The Summertime
Someday We’ll Be Together
Becky’s Rainbow
The Creeper

All you mouse folk, take heed. Special cat sneaked into the Flophouse domain. I remember thinking many moons ago, this guy is way cool! A friend of mine shared the sentiment. We were 17 years old and had just listened to a fellow play hip and funky guitar on a 1972 live record by John Mayall: Blues Fusion. My talented friend copied some of his phrases. The guitarist was Freddie Robinson.

Now here I am writing about Freddie. Freddie’s dead. He passed away in 2009. Seventy years before, Robinson was born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1939, growing into a musician that traveled the roundabout of black music, any other path in a town that spawned as diverse a lot as B.B. King, Ike Turner, Booker T. Jones and George Coleman was highly unlikely. You can hear Mr. Robinson play on Chicago blues classics by Howlin’ Wolf as Spoonful, Back Door Man and Wang Dang Doodle. He was part of the Ray Charles band in Los Angeles. Furthermore, Robinson worked with jazz funk stalwarts The Crusaders and tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine. His is a tantalizing blues and funk style with plenty jazz feeling.

Along the way, in 1975, Freddie got religion, muslim faith to be exact, not uncommon in the jazz fraternity, and changed his name to Abu Talib. Still sporting the initials of F.R. in 1970, Robinson recorded his finest solo album Hot Fun In The Summertime, a delicious slice of deep and smooth pop and funk jazz. Both Robinson’s Caprice’s Green Grass and The Creeper bear the mark of the era’s recordings by The Meters, while his Becky’s Rainbow builds on the example of Curtis Mayfield, just so you know what you’re in for.

You’re in for a soulful and crafty album that preeminently ties together good groove, horns, female vocals and strings and highlights a distinctive guitar style, bossy without being arrogant, marked by repetitive blues licks that stoke up the fire, not to mention the sly wah wah and overdrive sound of Sly & The Family Stone’s vivacious pop-funk classic Hot Fun In The Summertime and the sharply articulated licks of The Beatles’ I Want To Hold Your Hold Your Hand. Both covers surpass evergreen Moonglow, which is fine though veers towards easy listening. The fat-bottomed bass of (Jazz) Crusaders saxophonist Wilton Felder deserves special mention.

Not much left to be desired after a working week, standing at the kitchen counter on a Friday evening, pouring a drink, this sophisticated and bluesy axe man’s silky and down-home sounds spilling from the speaker cabinet, you dig…

Listening to Hot Fun In The Summertime on YouTube here and 1972’s At The Drive-In on Spotify below.

Sahib Shihab - And The Danish Radio Group

Sahib Shihab And The Danish Radio Group (Oktav 1965)

Da-da di-da-da-da, the crosseyed cat sang.

Sahib Shihab - And The Danish Radio Group


Sahib Shihab (baritone saxophone, flute, cowbell), big band featuring a.o: Palle Mikkelborg (trumpet, flugelhorn), Bent Jædig (tenor saxophone, flute), Niels Husum (soprano saxophone, bass clarinet), Bent Nielsen (baritone saxophone, flute, clarinet), Bent Axen (piano), Louis Hjulmand (vibraphone), Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen (bass), Alex Riel (drums)


in 1965 at Danmarks Radio


as Oktav 111 in 1965

Track listing

Side A:
Dance Of The Fakowees
Not Yet
Tenth Lament
Side B:
Mai Ding
Harvey’s Tune
No Time For Cries
The Crosseyed Cat

It’s about time to spotlight Sahib Shihab, who creeped in the Flophouse premises as a sideman on Philly Joe Jones’s Drums Around The World, Milt Jackson’s Plenty Plenty Soul, Curtis Fuller/Hampton Hawes’s With French Horns and Howard McGhee’s The Return Of Howard McGhee. Plenty sizzling sidemen jobs. He played on records by Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane, Art Blakey and Thelonious Monk and spent a decade in the Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland Big Band.

Relatively unknown in his homeland probably because of his move to the European continent in 1965, Shihab nonetheless managed to make some slaps of vinyl as a leader in his own right. Jazz Sahib on Savoy in 1957, Sahib’s Jazz Party on Debut in 1963 and Seeds on Vogue Schallplatten in 1970 are, well… Sahib Highlights. Shihab lived in Denmark for ten years. A lot of recognition, a lot of work, a lot of good food and great women. And (almost) no discrimination and hostility. Hampton Hawes agreed but in his poignant autobiography Raise Up Off Me also expresses his doubts: “What are beautiful cats like this doing in European capitals? They should be back blowing at Shelly’s and the Half Note close to the source where the music was changing and evolving – things happening that might not reach Europe for years. If they stayed over here much longer they were in danger of becoming local.”

Sahib Shihab went back to the States in 1973 for three years, where he was born as Edmund Gregory in Savannah, Georgia and turned into one of the early boppers on baritone, alto and soprano saxophones and flute. Among those that comprised the source where the music was changing and evolving, Mr. Gregory was one of the first black artists to convert to Islam faith, an act that served as the most politically outright manifestation of the inherently progressive music that was bebop. Though we should be careful to address it as mere protest.

That was in 1947. Post-war frenzy. Commies the new enemies. Two decades later, with JFK shot through the head, Lyndon Johnson the new B-boy battling the Vietcong, The Beatles breaking through across the pond, Shihab was living in Copenhagen. That was the year of 1965. The year of, yes… another Sahib Highlight. Thé highlight? We’re talking Sahib Shihab And The Danish Radio Group, one American, a big bunch of Danish cats. Hell yeah, can’t get any better.

Tremendously swinging stuff. Without any reservation, a blast that oozes Ellington and Mingus, consisting of eight sassy compositions by Shehab. It kicks off with a solid walking bass and staccato horns, it’s Di-Da and a tenor saxophone says da-da-di-da-da. A vibraphone is added, someone plays a killer trumpet solo, someone quotes St. James Infirmary Blues. First thing one might notice is that this Danish platter sounds crazy good.

Second thing one might notice when we’re waltzing in Dance Of The Fakowees is that Sahib recruited a group of Denmark’s finest: Palle Mikkelborg on trumpet and flugelhorn, Bent Jædig on tenor saxophone and flute, Bent Axen on piano. Not to mention the greatest Danish bass player of all time, Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen and superb drummer Alex Riel. The clarinet player is a first-class snake charmer. Someone plays killer trombone, a muted three-trumpet team returns to the Fakowees theme after a superb display of soft/loud horn section dynamics. Sophisticated but sleazy. Here’s one of the references to Ellington/Mingus. Did Sahib play with Mingus? Not on wax. He listened. Better said, heard. No doubt.

We have the breakneck speed of Not Yet, built around sparkling and booming drum melodizing. We have the balladry of Tenth Lament, vaguely resembling, ahum… Goodbye Porkpie Hat, showcasing a bold and terribly hot baritone story. Leader Sahib at work. More splendid and husky baritone in No Time For Cries and the polyrhythm party of Mai Ding, which links Africa, Cuba, Dizzy’s big band of the late 1940’s and the blues. Pandemonium.

Vocalized breathy flute plays the leading role of the lithe Harvey’s Tune. Finally, the big band goes modal and finishes off the session with The Crosseyed Cat in good spirits. Nineteen fellows dangling like puppets on the magical string of Sahib Shihab. Lasting a mere 37 minutes, And The Danish Radio Group is as short as they came in the LP market, but nobody is dealt short here. One only wishes contemporary artists in the CD/download era would limit themselves to half hours of coherent programs instead of hour-long expressions of the ego.

This little big band platter’s on fire.

Check out Shihab’s masterpiece on YouTube here.

The Mangione Brothers Sextet - The Jazz Brothers

The Mangione Brothers Sextet The Jazz Brothers (Riverside 1960)

Young lions rip and roar.

The Mangione Brothers Sextet - The Jazz Brothers


Chuck Mangione (trumpet), Sal Nistico (tenor saxophone), Larry Combs (alto saxophone), Gap Mangione (piano), Bill Saunders (bass), Roy McCurdy (drums)


on August 8, 1960 at Bell Sound Studios, NYC


as RLP-335 in 1960

Track listing

Side A:
Something Different
Secret Love
Side B:
Struttin’ With Sandra
The Gap
The Girl Of My Dreams

Literally, the debut album by the sextet of Chuck and Gap Mangione is a family affair. But considering the enormous drive and zest of their band, it seems as if all six young guns have strong family ties. Their Cannonball Adderley-produced record showcases a tight-knit unit comfortably shifting gears in the lanes of its blues-drenched hard bop highway, while all concerned deliver strong, buoyant solos.

All concerned meaning: trumpeter Chuck Mangione, pianist Gap Mangione, tenor saxophonist Sal Nistico, alto saxophonist Larry Combs, bassist Bill Saunders and drummer Roy McCurdy, Chuck being the youngest at age 19, Gap two years older, Roy McCurdy the oldest at age 23. There’s nothing new under the sun, these gentlemen operate in the omnipresent mainstream format of the late 1950’s and early 1960’s but like Cannonball tackle blues, ballads and Songbook-based changes with gusto.

The Cannonball Adderley Quintet-coincidence is rather striking. It’s in the way that you use it and, in the slipstream of CAQ, hard bop is like a sparkling and shiny Ford Mustang in the hands of the Mangione outfit. Let me remind you as well that Cannonball would recruit the terribly swinging drummer Roy McCurdy in 1965, who would be a member of the quintet till the passing of his bandleader in 1975.

The Jazz Brothers doesn’t let up, maintaining high energy from the long bop line and fat shuffle of Nemesis, delicious and uplifting swingers Girl Of My Dream and Alice, ballad Secret Love and uptempo burner The Gap to the r&b-drenched stop-time affair Something Different. As we can see on the cover photo, The Mangione Sextet is an enthusiastic bunch. Take a good look at Gap, short-cropped hair, boyish grin, and Chuck, wider grin and the set of eyes of the sextet that mesmerized the photographer. The spikiest of crew-cuts. Back home in Rochester, New York, Chuck was taught by his mother to treat women with respect and he has learned with trial and error, having had plenty of flings already, that the core business of girls isn’t plain penetration. He plays sweetly and adds a tad of lemon, his lines of youth crack jokes to one another and reminisce about illegal entries into local jazz clubs, the overwhelming magic of brass, reed and pigskin bombs.

Sal Nistico is more heavy-set. Dark brows, South-Italian rugged aura, playful gaze. Could it be that The Jazz Brothers contains some of Nistico’s best statements on wax? He’s a solid-sounding boss, risk-taker and fire-eater. Him and the band clearly enjoyed an afternoon at Bell Sound Studios in New York City. Session in the pocket, picture taken, where to? Place to go, says McCurdy, is Jim & Andy’s. That’s where the big boys are. Might give Cannonball a ring. Stay put, I’ll hail a cab.