The Junior Cook Quintet - Junior's Cookin'

The Junior Cook Quintet Junior’s Cookin’ (Jazzland 1962)

Junior’s Cookin’ is the only album as a leader in the sixties from tenor saxophonist Junior Cook. Superb hard bop date.

The Junior Cook Quintet - Junior's Cookin'

Personnel

Junior Cook (tenor saxophone), Blue Mitchell (trumpet), Dolo Coker (piano), Gene Taylor (bass), Roy Brooks (drums)

Recorded

on April 10 & December 4, 1961 at Gold Star Studios, Long Beach, California and New York City

Released

as JLP 58 in 1962

Track listing

Side A:
Myzar
Turbo Village
Easy Living
Side B:
Blue Farouq
Sweet Cakes
Field Day
Pleasure Bent


How many references to cookin’ can you handle? Following his debut as a leader, Junior’s Cookin’ from 1962, the 70s and 80s saw the release of Pressure Cooker, Good Cookin’ and Something’s Cookin’. Of course, there’s a close relationship between jazz and food, depending on how far you want to take it. If you don’t mind me traveling a couple miles from home base, I won’t hesitate to state that more often than not, you can just smell jambalaya, kidney stew or ribs in the juicy notes of Louis Armstrong, Brother Jack McDuff, Lee Morgan, to name a few… I’m pretty sure this can’t be applied to classical music, which as a principle is non-spontaneous. (Though it once was common practice, as brilliant composers and pianists like Franz Liszt reportedly did, to partly improvise) But perhaps you disagree and feel very strongly the taste of Sachertorte in the waltzes of Johann “Fledermaus” Strauss.

What’s cookin’? Well, the group of Junior Cook, sous chef of the Horace Silver Gourmet Restaurant. (Just one last cheesy culinary reference to end all matters) Junior Cook, born in Pensacola, Florida in 1934, deceased in NYC in 1992, came into prominence with the hard bop pioneer’s group, blending particularly well in the ensembles with Blue Mitchell, who’s his superb and lively mate on this album as well. As a matter of fact, also present on Junior’s Cookin’ are bassist Gene Taylor and drummer Roy Brooks, who were part of the Silver line-up including Cook and Mitchell as well, a group that existed from 1958 to 1964 and is by many regarded as the essential Silver band. After his stint with Silver, Cook was in Mitchell’s band from 1964 to 1969. He also played in trumpeter Freddie Hubbard’s group from 1971 to 1974. Notable albums on which Cook is featured are Horace Silver classics as Finger Poppin’, The Tokyo Blues and Doin’ The Thing, Kenny Burrell’s Blue Lights Volume 1 & 2, Barry Harris’ Luminiscence and Cedar Walton’s Cedar.

With this line-up involved, effortless swing and crisp group interplay are guaranteed. Myzar, one of four Cook original compositions, is a splendid example of Cook and his group’s hi-quality hard bop. An Eastern-tinged brass and reed melody underscored by a repetitive Senor Blues-type piano figure, which moves smoothly forth and back to the crisp, straightforward swing section. Cook’s cookin’, yes. Not to be mistaken with cookin’ in the sense of riffin’, stringing together exciting but loose-jointed blues phrases. Far from it. Albeit graced with an abundance of blues feeling, Cook’s playing is remarkably balanced. Taste written all over it. A heir to Hank Mobley, in this respect. Also a Silver alumnus, from the pioneering line-up of The Messengers of late ’54 and early ’55 to late ‘56, to be precise. His mates in the frontline were Kenny Dorham and Donald Byrd. Mr. Silver had an ear for exquisite and smokin’ tenorists and trumpeters.

It’s interesting to take a listen to Cook’s late career period. It could be argued that it is evidence of the man’s patient, dedicated, disciplined intensification of his hard bop tenor art. Take a listen to the Cook/Louis Hayes LP Ichi Ban, Louis Smith’s Prancin’, Bill Hardman’s What’s Up or Clifford Jordan’s Two Tenor Winner. To be sure, I do not intend to assume that Cook’s work with Silver was immature. On the contrary! However, would it be a farfetched line of thinking that Cook was balancing his act with Silver, not really a driving force of that group but instead precisely tying the knots of Silver’s intricate, blues and gospel-infested compositions? Later in life, evidently, Cook’s work gained depth and, though still very composed, is characterized by more edgy twists and turns and a delivery that hints at a heart that has been burning from all sorts of sweet or sour experiences.

I don’t think Cook is alone in this. Plenty of saxophonists that shone brightly in the classic age of hard bop but matured further into their careers. Like Clifford Jordan, Charles McPherson, Jimmy Heath, Harold Land… Wisdom comes with age. Wrinkles too, although, and perhaps you know that feeling, they’re the least of my troubles.

The Eddie Fisher Quintet - The Third Cup

The Eddie Fisher Quintet The Third Cup (Cadet 1969)

Eddie Fisher’s guitar sound is quite irresistible. Small wonder, then, that his jazzy and soulful 1969 debut on Cadet, The Third Cup, was a good seller.

The Eddie Fisher Quintet - The Third Cup

Personnel

Eddie Fisher (guitar), Phil Westmoreland (rhythm guitar), Bobby Selby (organ), Paul Jackson (bass), Kenny Rice (drums)

Recorded

in February 1969 at Saico Studio, St. Louis

Released

as Cadet 828 in 1969

Track listing

Side A:
Scorched Earth
A Dude Called Zeke
Shut Up
The Third Cup
Side B:
Two By Two
Shoo-Be-Doo-Be-Doo-Be-Do-Da-Day
The Shadow Of Your Smile


Eddie Fisher was born in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1943. The teenage guitarist caught the traveling bug in the late fifties, touring first with Solomon Burke and subsequently stopping by Memphis, Tennessee. There Fisher mingled with Memphis stalwarts Isaac Hayes, Willie Mitchell, Booker T. Jones and Steve Cropper, receiving ample education. Settling in St. Louis in the mid-sixties, Fisher further delved into popular black urban music as guitarist and bandleader with blues master Albert King. Simultaneously, Fisher had honed his skills as a jazz player. In an interview with the Riverfront Times in 2002, Fisher says: ‘I really wanted to play jazz. (…) Albert let me do jazz instrumentals before he came onstage – tunes like Milestones and So What – so I was happy.’

In St. Louis, Fisher got associated with Leo Gooden, the 400-pound club owner, singer and politician and/or hustler who’d been a supporter of guitarist Grant Green a couple of years earlier. (According to Lou Donaldson, Leo Gooden assisted Donaldson and Green to Blue Note headquarter in New York in 1960, to recommend St. Louis resident Grant Green to Alfred Lion; the rest, as they say, is history) Fisher played in Leo’s Five, a group fronted by Gooden in his Blue Note club just out of East St. Louis in Alorton, Missouri. Also in that band were, at different times, saxophonists Fred Jackson and Hammiet Bluiett. Prominent visitors like Sonny Stitt, Miles Davis and Yusef Lateef sat in.

Fisher recorded the 45rpm single The Third Cup on Oliver Sain’s Vanessa label. The considerable airplay of Fisher’s debut on wax as a leader – it sold more than 5000 copies – prompted Cadet, the subsidiary label of Chess Records in Chicago, to release an entire album, also produced by Sain. The Third Cup was a good seller and Fisher’s follow up, The Next One Hundred Years, a big success. Fisher made another album for All Platinum in 1973, Hot Lunch, but then settled down in Centerfield, focusing primarily on social welfare projects with his wife.

On the surface, one may notice the influences of Fisher’s apprenticeship. The horn-like lines, integrated, repetitive blues riffs and blend of relaxation and bite point to fellow St. Louis cat Grant Green. There’s a bit of Kenny Burrell as well, the ease of the warm-blooded blues groove A Dude Called Zeke definitely brings to mind the work of the revered mainstream jazz guitarist. Big city blues, moreover, is in his veins. But, much like blues/jazz guitarists as Freddie Robinson, (although a bit more relaxed) it’s twisted to accommodate a definite, personal style. Fisher’s a fusion cook of note, combining lurid r&b swingers like the uptempo Shut Up and Shoo-Be-Doo-Be-Do-Da-Day, the cookin’ boogaloo tune Two By Two (written, by the way, by fellow St. Louis resident, the future avant-gardist Oliver Lake) with the sick, rock jazz vamp of Scorched Earth.

The group’s take on Harvey Mandel’s The Shadow Of Your Smile is a stiff affair, since subtle swing isn’t the rhythm section’s strong point. The title track is better. The Third Cup travels along the borderland route of soul jazz and CTI-type smooth stuff. It’s also one of the examples of the quintet’s intricate, hi-quality interplay, the contrasting rhythm of drums and bass providing the clever and meaty bottom for Fisher and the excellent organist Bobby Selby to work with. Up front the group’s lively and tasteful accompaniment is Fisher’s unmistakable, plucky, ringing tone. Very alluring.

Eddie Fisher died of prostate cancer in 2007. The Third Cup was finally re-issued properly on vinyl in 2017.

McCoy Tyner - Today And Tomorrow

McCoy Tyner Today And Tomorrow (Blue Note 1964)

McCoy Tyner picked Brother Elvin and a bunch of interesting, first-class colleagues for his fourth album as a leader, Today And Tomorrow, arguably his most varied Impulse recording.

McCoy Tyner - Today And Tomorrow

Personnel

McCoy Tyner (piano), Thad Jones (trumpet A1, A3, B2), John Gilmore (tenor saxophone A1, A3, B2), Frank Strozier (alto saxophone A1, A3, B2), Butch Warren (bass A1, A3, B2), Jimmy Garrison (A2, B1, B3), Elvin Jones (drums A1, A3, B2), Albert Heath (drums A2, B1, B3)

Recorded

on June 3, 1963 (A2, B1, B3) and Februari 4, 1964 (A1, A3, B2) at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Released

as Impulse A-63 in 1964

Track listing

Side A:
Contemporary Focus
Night In Tunesia
T ‘N’ A Blues
Side B:
Autumn Leaves
Three Flowers
When Sunny Gets Blue


Perhaps The Real McCoy is pianist McCoy Tyner’s greatest achievement as a leader. The Blue Note album, released in 1967, certainly is a perennial favorite for many fans and musicians alike. On a series of inventive and ‘meaningfully simple’ modal pieces, Tyner’s whirlwind style was totally synced with the interaction between Joe Henderson, Ron Carter and Elvin Jones. The album’s emotional directness goes straight to the gut. It’s got that something. However, the discography of Tyner is filled with hi-level gems. For all their boisterous dips into scales and dynamic voicings, most of them in fact have a conservative touch, as if the pianist took a breather from the intense wrestling match with Coltrane, whose famous quartet Tyner was part of from 1960 to 1965. Titles like Plays Ellington and Nights Of Ballads And Blues offer evident clues. Obviously, Today And Tomorrow, Tyner’s fourth album on Impulse, also finds Tyner realizing his indebtedness to the tradition. At the same time, the pianist revels in his ongoing search for new lands.

The album is divided between tunes with a trio and sextet line-up. The trio includes drummer Albert Heath, the sextet Elvin Jones, his friend from the Coltrane group. Tyner and Jones lock tight, the interaction of Tyner’s hefty voicings and the pushing-and-pulling rhythm of Jones on the modal blast Contemporay Focus is unbelievable. Contemporary Focus comes close to the energy of, say, Coltrane’s Crescent or Art Blakey’s Free For All. How’s that for spirit? The sidemen on Contemporary Focus, T ‘N’ A Blues and Three Flowers, the latter a beautiful melody that dances like a surfer on the waves of Butch Warren’s waltz figure and the contrasting polyrhythm of Elvin Jones, are Thad Jones, John Gilmore and Frank Strozier. Differing textures mingle, each one, Thad Jones’ snappy, balanced trumpet playing, John Gilmore’s soothing and refreshing mix of blues and space oddities, and Frank Strozier’s fervent twists and turns on the alto, equally distinct.

Whether in small or larger ensembles, McCoy is McCoy, all colorful strokes like Van Gogh high on absinthe. Underlined by a dense chordal labyrinth, his rather otherworldly technique creates patterns resembling the running of water, his right hand lines high on the keyboard flowing like cool water that splashes and gurgles its way through the narrow channels of a rocky river, and develops into cascading waterfalls before you can say ‘awesome’. Too much? Can’t breathe? Not taking away anything from Tyner’s unmatched gift, I can imagine. It may just be me. Regardless, there’s a balance of flamboyance and romance in McCoy Tyner’s playing that will intrigue listeners till kingdom come.

Of the trio recordings, Night In Tunesia stands out. Albert Heath’s brush playing is meaty, swift, rivaling the unforgettable mastery that Elvin Jones regularly displayed, notably on Tommy Flanagan’s Overseas. You can see Tootie sitting behind the kit, body erect, arms slightly moving along with the swift wrist that is doing the job so expertly. Today And Tomorrow is a masterclass in musical excellence, intense stuff. A rather indistinct title but a major league McCoy Tyner album.

Kenny Burrell - Blue Lights Volume 1

Kenny Burrell Blue Lights Volume 1 & 2 (Blue Note 1958)

Kenny Burrell’s Blue Lights Vol. 1 & 2 consist of a bunch of tasteful, blues-infested tunes. A lively, relaxed jam session.

Kenny Burrell - Blue Lights Volume 1

Kenny Burrell - Blue Lights Volume 2

Personnel

Kenny Burrell (guitar), Louis Smith (trumpet), Junior Cook (tenor saxophone A1, A2 & B1 on Vol. 1, A1, A2 & B1 on Vol. 2), Tina Brooks (tenor saxophone A2, A3 on Vol. 1, A1, A2 & B1 on Vol. 2), Duke Jordan (piano, Vol.1), Bobby Timmons (piano, Vol. 2), Sam Jones (bass), Art Blakey (drums)

Recorded

on May 14, 1958 at Manhattan Towers, NYC

Released

as BLP 1596 and BLP 1597 in 1958

Track listing

Blue Lights Vol. 1
Side A:
Phinupi
Yes Baby
Side B:
Scotch Blues
The Man I Love
Blue Lights Vol. 2
Side A:
Caravan
Chuckin’
Side B:
Rock Salt
Autumn In New York


Kenny Burrell, 86 years old, is one of the great mainstream jazz guitarists, who has been consistently successful ever since he made his debut with Dizzy Gillespie in the early fifties and hit his stride on the Blue Note label in 1956. On the Blue Lights albums, recorded in 1958, Burrell is coupled with other major league players. Drummer Art Blakey, bassist Sam Jones, pianists Duke Jordan/Bobby Timmons, trumpeter Louis Smith and tenor saxophonists Junior Cook and Tina Brooks provide plenty of sparks and a meaty hard bop bottom for Burrell to work with. Fleet, snappy lines, a lot of fresh ideas, articulation best likened to the pop of a champagne bottle, are all in evidence in a set that is comprised of blues-based affairs like Burrell’s r&b groove Rock Salt, the uptempo cooker Phinupi, slow blues Yes Baby, Duke Jordan’s lively riff Scotch Blues, Sam Jones’ choo-choo-boogie-type Chucklin’ and the standards The Man I Love, Caravan and Autumn In New York.

Burrell’s capacity to set the atmosphere, which feels as if he’s wrapping you in velvet drapes, and sustain it consistently, is one of his greatest gifts. His playing is relaxed, but rooted in the blues and not without a topping of sizzle. Vintage Burrell. Perhaps inevitably considering his extremely long discography, I feel Burrell also delivered less inspired affairs that showed a tendency to run through the repertory with safe cliché patterns of phrases. However, especially in the company of hi-level colleagues, like John Coltrane, Sonny Clark or Kenny Dorham, Burrell is at his best. His playing, in those cases, has that extra bit of flair and bite.

Burrell was no stranger to Art Blakey, who drives everybody to the edge of the cliff. Blakey’s ride, it goes without saying, is roaring, a hard drive, a lurid mélange of bombs, cymbal crashes and tom rolls either meant to stimulate the soloist or introduce the subsequent storyteller. Besides Blakey’s boss accompaniment, the drummer’s plush tom variations on the theme of Caravan are striking. The fat texture of brass and reed combines well with Blakey’s forceful style. Smith, Brooks and Cook have ample room to stretch out, and Smith’s gait is sprightly, and he sprinkles his happy blues juices with drops of vinegar.

Perhaps more tenor contrast would make Blue Lights more exciting. Both Brooks and Cook are intent on swinging clean, flowing, tasteful, much like master Mobley, Brooks with a tidbit of wear on his notes, Cook somewhat more soft-hued. But who’s to complain? Brooks, who faded into obscurity after a concise stretch of Blue Note appearances, demonstrates the cliché-free, resonant, swinging storytelling that has made him a legend among hard bop aficionados around the world. Junior Cook, who would join Horace Silver late in 1958, provides the tenor sax highlight of the set during Phinupi, the steamy tale and unhurried flow a real treat.

Care to purchase original first pressings of these twin beauties? Good luck. They’re not only at the tail end of the famed and collectable 1500 series of Blue Note, but the covers were illustrated by Andy Warhol, who not only created postmodern mayhem by churning out his screen printings of Campbell Tomato Soup and Marilyn Monroe on the assembly line, but also did his fair yet modest share of record sleeve design. Without a doubt, the Warhol/Blue Lights LP’s are unattainable artifacts for the average collector. Unless, of course, that average collector decides to skip his family trip to Rome and put up a figure of about 1750. A piece. Don’t get any ideas, now.

Greg Hatza - Organized Jazz

Greg Hatza Organized Jazz (Coral 1968)

Plenty of sincere and spirited playing on organist Greg Hatza’s 1968 album Organized Jazz.

Greg Hatza - Organized Jazz

Personnel

Greg Hatza (organ), Eric Gale (guitar), Grady Tate (drums)

Recorded

in 1968 in New York City

Released

as CRL 757495 in 1968

Track listing

Side A:
John Brown’s Body
That’s All
Tate Worm
Side B:
My Favorite Things
Softly As In A Morning Sunrise
Blues For Charlie


Born in Reading, Pennsylvania in 1948, Hatza’s instrument of choice as a kid was the piano. He switched to the Hammond organ in 1963 under the influence of Jimmy Smith, like so many of his contemporaries. Relocated to Baltimore, at the time one of many Eastern cities with a thriving organ music scene, Hatza enjoyed a four-year residency at Lenny Moore’s and played with, among others, Jimmy Smith, Kenny Burrell, Richard “Groove” Holmes, Philly Joe Jones, Roland Kirk, Les McCann and Sonny Stitt. Coral, a subsidiary of Decca and later on, MCA, released two albums by Hatza in ’67 and ’68, The Wizadry Of Greg Hatza and Organized Jazz. On both albums, Hatza is accompanied by the seasoned drummer Grady Tate and the promising guitarist Eric Gale.

Undeservedly, the albums went largely unnoticed. Surely, Coral, with its roster of Al Hirt, Pete Fountain and Buddy Greco, wasn’t exactly tailor-made for a modern jazz organist. In general, Hatza came up in a period when most organ seats at the larger independent labels were taken by the accomplished players and the popularity of organ jazz slowly but surely started to decline. In the early seventies, Hatza took up bebop piano playing again and switched to the electronic keyboard, performing and releasing albums with his fusion outfit Moon August in the late eighties and early nineties.

Meanwhile, Hatza held raga piano concerts, had been schooled as a sitar, tabla (Indian percussion instrument) and erhu (two-stringed Chinese fiddle) player and developed as a martial arts master, notably in Tai Chi, Shotokan, Pa Kua Chang, Hsing-I and Shaolin Kung Fu. Jimmy Smith’s dabbling in karate pales in comparison. In the mid-nineties, Hatza met organist Joey Francesco, who pointed out to him the resurgence of the Hammond organ’s popularity in a jazz context, and subsequently Hatza resurfaced as a recording and performing Hammond organist with his group Greg Hatza ORGANization, which is active to this day. Hatza also performs with the jazz/gospel group Sanctuary.

Organized Jazz offers an excellent reading of popular song, standards and blues. Hatza’s continuous flow of John Brown’s Body is striking. He’s spicing his solo with lurid, fast-paced bebop figures and makes controlled use of the so-called ‘drone’, which involves the simultaneous climactic use of a sustained chord or note played with one hand and lines dancing through it with the other hand. The trio stretches out on three tunes. My Favorite Things, paramount in the continuous development of John Coltrane and never the same again since, is a surprising pick. The trio succeeds in keeping up a good groove. One of Hatza’s talents is to take his colleagues on a furious drive on the freeway with his pithy statements. It comes to the fore particularly well on My Favorite Things.

Hatza wrote two original blues lines for the album. Showstopper Blues For Charlie possesses some of Hatza’s most passionate phrases. Hatza’s mix of age-old blues licks is peppered with dissonant notes and his timing, precise and varied, is quite out of the ordinary. The tune is also a playground for the upcoming guitar player Eric Gale. Throughout the album, Gale contributes funky, fecund lines.

The title of Tate Worm is a witty reference to the recently deceased drummer Grady Tate. Hatza attacks his mid-tempo r&b-ish line like a young bull storming into the arena. The torrents of notes are like the quick, unpredictable movements of the bull’s horns. To be sure, the bull is possessed with the abandoned desperation of a creature that wants to show who’s boss. Alas, he isn’t. The bull is a victim of the crowd. Perhaps the brazen Hatza doesn’t present the most mature of jazz statements at this stage of his career. However, Hatza’s discography offers abundant proof of his growth as a jazz musician. In 1968, he was a promising, exceptional organist and his second album, Organized Jazz, an effective example of his skills and love of the Hammond organ tradition.

Both The Wizadry Of Greg Hatza and Organized Jazz are out of print, unfortunately. Listen to the Greg Hatza ORGANization on Spotify below.

Bobby Hutcherson - The Kicker

Bobby Hutcherson The Kicker (Blue Note 1963/99)

It can only be attributed to the risk of market overflow that Blue Note didn’t release vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson’s de jure debut album The Kicker in 1964, a superb date including Joe Henderson, Duke Pearson and Grant Green.

Bobby Hutcherson - The Kicker

Personnel

Bobby Hutcherson (vibraphone), Joe Henderson (tenor saxophone), Grant Green (guitar B1-3), Duke Pearson (piano), Bob Cranshaw (bass), Joe Chambers (drums)

Recorded

on December 29, 1963 at Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Released

BST 21437 in 1999

Track listing

Side A:
If Ever I Would Leave You
Mirrors
For Duke P.
Side B:
The Kicker
Step Lightly
Bedouin


HHutcherson & Henderson. Sounds like the misfits of the insurance business have joined forces in a run-down office on the outskirts of town. But the late Bobby Hutcherson and Joe Henderson are regarded as towering figures of mainstream and avant-leaning jazz now, and as burgeoning class acts back then at the tail end of 1963, when they were really hitting their stride. Hutcherson had built a reputation first on the West Coast, subsequently in NYC, he had played on front-line beauties as Jackie McLean’s One Step Beyond and Grachan Monchur’s Evolution. Henderson had recorded two albums as a leader, Page One and Our Thing. The Kicker was left on the shelves, seeing release as late as 1999. It is puzzling why Lion and the Wolff decided against release. They probably figured they had enough quality sessions to promote. Perhaps Joe Henderson was the kind of perfectionist disgruntled by the rough edges around a phrase or two. It doesn’t have to perfect, Joe. Coming with your package of supple, soaring post bop, we just might come to like that extra bite.

Regardless, there’s a pairing of talent attuned to each other’s needs and shining brightly during a set of original compositions and one standard, a sprightly mid-tempo take of Lerner and Loewe’s If Ever I Would Leave You. The crystalline, ringing vibes of the versatile modernist Bobby Hutcherson. Joe Henderson, already a strong-willed counterpart of a yes-man. Duke Pearson, inspiring accompanist, weaver of mellifluous lines. Grant Green, featured on side B’s three tracks, the prolific in-house guitarist of the Blue Note label, a class act in both hardboppin’ and modal contexts. Around that time, November 4 and 15 to be exact, 1963, Green, Henderson, Pearson and bassist Bob Cranshaw had cooperated on one of Grant Green’s career highs, Idle Moments. The mutual understanding is evident.

Hutcherson was a major contributor to Eric Dolphy’s free jazz classic Out To Lunch on February 5, 1964. He would venture into more front-line territories soon, recording his de facto debut Dialogue, and subsequently, the avant-garde LP side of Joe Chambers tunes on Components and the Happenings album with Herbie Hancock in 1965. A travel into uncharted territory. A balancing act of simplicity of expression and complex context. New vistas for vibraphonists ever since, the guys spellbound by Hutcherson’s siren-like cadenzas, the move into dark-hued corners of the mind, the zing of his angelic sound.

Already apparent on The Kicker is Hutcherson’s alert ear for group dynamics and controlled, conversationalist approach to the development of his expertly meandering lines. The great mood piece by Joe Chambers, Mirrors, suits Hutcherson to a tee. Throughout the set, which also consists of Henderson’s The Kicker and Step Lightly, Hutcherson’s For Duke P. and Pearson’s Bedouin, the rhythm section flawlessly and in uplifting fashion underscores Hutcherson’s vibe abacadabra and Henderson’s playful imagery. Henderson’s notes form fine-tuned blue and odd clusters, placed with a keen, floating sense of timing.

Though the title track, The Kicker, doesn’t thrive on the background riffs that propel the soloists into action as convincing as the classic take of Horace Silver on the Song For My Father album (including Henderson) and Henderson’s own version in 1967, it is a smokin’ affair, benefiting from the addition of Green in the ensemble and the guitarist’s propulsive, vivacious statements. Perhaps the moving, succulent phrases of Hutcherson and Henderson during Step Lightly should be attributed to the presence of Green, blues master at heart.

Surely Dialogue made up for a more distinct debut. But The Kicker remains a winner, having earned its rightful place among the hard bop cookies that rolled off the assembly line of the Blue Note label in the early sixties.

The Freedom Sounds featuring Wayne Henderson - People Get Ready

The Freedom Sounds Featuring Wayne Henderson People Get Ready (Atlantic 1967)

Soul power and gargantuan trombonism on People Get Ready, the 1967 Atlantic album from The Freedom Sounds Featuring Wayne Henderson.

The Freedom Sounds featuring Wayne Henderson - People Get Ready

Personnel

Wayne Henderson (trombone), Al Abreu (tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone), Jimmy Benson (baritone saxophone, flute), Harold Land Jr. (piano), Pancho Bristol (bass), Paul Humphrey (drums), Max Gardano (Bells, bongos), Moises Oblagacion (congas), Ricky Chemelis (timbales)

Recorded

on July 7 & 10, 1967 at Gold Star Studio, Los Angeles

Released

as SD 1492 in 1967

Track listing

Side A:
Respect
People Get Ready
Cucamonga
Things Go Better
Side B:
Fa Fa Fa Fa Fa (Sad Song)
Brother John Henry
Orbital Velocity
Cathy The Cooker


Like his friends from the Jazz Crusaders, pianist Joe Sample and tenor saxophonist Wilton Felder, Wayne Henderson was an active participant in other projects, even more so during the years when the group transformed into a more funk and pop-oriented outfit under the guise of The Crusaders. As early as 1967, Henderson founded The Freedom Sounds, which released two LP’s, People Get Ready (1967) and Soul Sound System (1968), vibrating, jazz-coated hodgepodges of soul and Latin music.

Sandbags in front of the door won’t stay the tsunami of sound emerging from The Freedom Sounds. Certainly an outcome of Henderson’s robust trombone style leading the way to the shore and the multi-layered percussion blend of drums, congas, bongos and timbales beneath it like a thick carpet of pebbles and seaweed. But definitely it must also be attributed to the engineering excellence of Atlantic Records, which by 1967 had gathered a wealth of recording experience with jazz, soul, pop and r&b, producing giants like Otis Redding, Solomon Burke, Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin and Joe Tex and therefore was perfectly attuned to the kind of superjazz Henderson envisioned would add to his and the label’s already imposing reputation. Preceding People Get Ready, a few of the sessions with big ensembles that Atlantic recorded were Freddie Hubbard’s High Blues Pressure, King Curtis’ Plays The Great Memphis Hits, Aretha Franklin’s Aretha Arrives, Herbie Mann’s The Beat Goes On and Eddie Harris’ The Electrifying Eddie Harris.

Usually the major-league engineer Tom Dowd turned the knobs at Atlantic Studio in NYC, unless the recordings in the soul field were at Rick Hall’s famed Fame Studio in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. But by the absence of Dowd an array of engineers took care of business. Here we have Doc Siegel and Stan Ross, this time at Gold Star Studio in Los Angeles. Anybody who is familiar with these guys, raise a finger. Assumingly, the duo was based in California. For sure, they are freelancing providers of soundalicious excellence. The sound quality is a kick in the butt, punchy resonance enhanced by the virtue of mono density that retains the force of stereo spaciousness.

Like the engineers, the group members are largely unknown. Al Abreu? Splendid tenor and soprano saxophonist with a penchant to joyfully move to the outer fringes of the mainstream atmosphere. Pancho Bristol? Seldom heard a better-sounding name for a Latin jazz bassist. Moises Oblagacion? Seldom heard a better-sounding name for an Afro-Latin conga player who, authorities of Latin music will point out, played on the obscure gem Introducing The Afro-Blues Quintet Plus One in 1965. Harold Land Jr. on piano? Like, I hear customers of a dimly-lit, teeny-weeny jazz bar in Osaka whisper in each other’s ears to the music of the Clifford Brown/Max Roach Quintet, the son of the great saxophonist Harold Land? Sure ‘nuff. People Get Ready is Land Jr.’s debut and throughout a fulfilling career, Land Jr. played with, among others, Gerald Wilson, Roy Ayers and, no surprises there, his father. Drummer Paul Humhprey, on the other hand, does ring a bell. I’m surprised to find he’s the featured drummer on a number of albums at the Flophouse headquarters, notably by Les McCann, Charles Kynard and Gerald Wilson. West Coast cat, obviously. Humphries has also been working successfully in r&b, funk and pop music.

The renditions of Otis Redding’s Respect and Fa Fa Fa Fa Fa (Sad Song) are juicy oranges, concise, crafty gems. Henderson wrote a number of fresh, energetic tunes: Cathy The Cooker has a lithe Latin groove, while Orbital Velocity, in the same vein, spells danger hi-voltage, sends the listener to a dance on the ceiling, somewhere in the vicinity of Havana, Cuba. The hefty soul groove of Brother John Henry is marked by a stupendous transition from the end of the melody to the following chord sequence. It’s like watching Lionel Messi step up a gear, avoid a tackle, sneak between three players and place the ball into the net over the dumbfounded keeper with a gracious movement of his instep. The crowd goes berserk.

Seriously, Sly Stone would’ve freaked out if he’d heard Cucamonga. Perhaps the burgeoning genius of psychedelic popsoulfunk really did. Henderson, like Sly, is able to put a lot of stuff in a tune without sacrificing its energy and coherence. Cucamonga has uptempo groove, slow groove, rousing breaks, probing reed riffs, furious soprano sax and the rotund r&b figures and outerspacy voicings of Harold Land Jr. A piece of lurid, roaring soul jazz ill-suited for the morose neckties gathered at the yearly convention of insurance companies in San Diego. Maybe if they do listen, their lives just might have changed irrevocably, like the crowd that watches Messi.

The wall of sound and rhythm and the tacky infusions of modern jazz phrasing of the title track, Curtis Mayfield’s/The Impressions’ People Get Ready, leaves one gasping for breath, only to send one movin’ and groovin’ on the floor, like just about the total repertory on the waxed offering from the 28-year old trombonist and his freedom sound fighters. Two albums, People Get Ready and Soul Sound System comprise a most concise discography. But of course a short, exciting career is to be preferred over generic swan songs. Arguably, Wayne Henderson and his gang of 8 had wrung out every drop from their soulful mindset, like tough old maidens wrenching bathing suits, the job done, the catharsis complete. We’re a winner.