Clifford Brown & Max Roach Quintet - Clifford Brown & Max Roach

Clifford Brown & Max Roach Quintet Clifford Brown & Max Roach (EmArcy 1954)

One of the must-haves. Clifford Brown & Max Roach is a brilliant, textbook example of balanced storytelling, responsive interplay and vital, fluent swing.

Clifford Brown & Max Roach Quintet - Clifford Brown & Max Roach

Personnel

Clifford Brown (trumpet), Harold Land (tenor saxophone), Richard Powell (piano), George Morrow (bass), Max Roach (drums)

Recorded

on August 2, 3 & 6, 1954 at Capitol Studios, Los Angeles

Released

as MC 26043 in 1954

Track listing

Side A:
Delilah
Parisian Thoroughfare
Side B:
Daahoud
Joy Spring
Jordu


Straight from the short-lived 10-inch era of the early/mid-fifties, Clifford Brown & Max Roach. Five tunes, two instant classics and standards, 30 minutes of sizzling, masterful modern jazz. What more could one ask for? If you can’t say it in a mere half hour, you better cut it out… To be sure, when EmArcy switched to the 12-inch format in the slipstream of bigger labels like Columbia, three tunes of the August 1954 session were added. Max Roach and rising trumpet star Clifford Brown initially formed a quintet with, respectively, Sonny Stitt and Teddy Edwards.

The quintet finally gelled into a subtle, driving cooperative unit with Harold Land, who was relatively unknown at that time but immediately made his name through his excellent work with Brown/Roach. Finally, Land was followed up by Sonny Rollins, who completed a notorious outfit that came to its abrupt end in 1956 when Clifford Brown and pianist Richard Powell were tragically killed in a car crash.

The stays of some jazz legends on planet Earth were cut short much too soon. Charlie Christian, Scott LaFaro and… Clifford Brown. But the impact of these searchers for new vistas has been penetrating and everlasting. Clifford Brown displayed a balanced vitality that is rarely if ever matched. He transformed tragedy into a smile. His music comes out cleanly and gaily through his horn. Bit of a heir to Louis Armstrong, if you ask me… A bittersweetly happy, completely authoritative virtuoso. The Crown Prince, if you will.

Max Roach was thirty years old at the time of recording Clifford Brown & Max Roach, veteran of bop that took the revolutionary rudiments of Kenny Clarke and fulfilled the quintet format with Charlie Parker, a blaze of new accents, motives, melodicism. He’s the glue of the quintet, which delivers an unusual brew of virility, balance and fluent swing. Once Delilah is underway for barely one minute, you know you’re in for a treat. As in a bee colony, proceedings go as planned, there’s a definite sense of order while all members dart this and that way frivolously and seemingly at random. Roach succinctly supports the movement of the changes, Morrow and Powell provide the solid framework for the soloists, a simultaneously smooth and driving flow and a paradise for Harold Land, who takes a wonderful first shot, simultaneously at ease and insistent.

Clifford Brown is the queen bee. Daahoud is his habitat. Daahoud was an instant classic. Uptempo bouncing ball… A wave of fresh air, springtime breeze accompanying the swarm of bees at the country farm… Clifford Brown is the frivolous bee, giving birth to lean flights in the upper register that serve as the apex of a brilliant package of honey notes, deceptively simple, fluent phrasing, relentless swing that makes us very… happy. His attack is ferocious yet smooth. The ideas keep coming. Brown plays a Socrates-que discours of question and answer with himself and talks shop with his partners, intuitively, a game of hi-level split seconds. Max Roach hits the pocket almost Blakey-style, a kick start to the soloist’s story on the one hand, a crash cymbal bash to signal the next in line on the other hand.

Talkin’ about Spring. Joy Spring cannot be left unmentioned. The other instant classic, the lovely melody that Clifford Brown wrote for his wife, nicknamed “Joy Spring”. Don’t you want to be called Joy Spring? Joy Spring, you’re the sweetest… Joy Spring, dinner is ready!… Joy Spring, I warmed your spot, please come on up… None of that seven-year itch with husband and Joy Spring! The mid-tempo, relaxed bounce underlines Brown’s affectionate, sweet but tart words of love.

Bud Powell’s Parisian Thoroughfare offers more vital features by Brown and Roach, whose effective simplicity as a soloist is admirable. Roach plays like a horn player. Richard Powell, brother of Bud, hooks up with the strikingly boogie-woogie-ish drive of the bop anthem. The quintet rounds off the 10inch platter with Duke Jordan’s contagious blues-based Jordu, a version as lovely and enticing as a Lotus flower. It is as if these men contaminated each other with the fever of nuanced storytelling, virile swing, fluidity, ideas… Clifford Brown And Max Roach is a very “ill” album indeed! Not to mention “dope” or “master” or whatever youngsters call spectacular these days. Something I’m not aware of I’m sure. I’m old-fashioned and I don’t mind it…

Jimmy Smith - Root Down

Jimmy Smith Root Down (Verve 1972)

Organist Jimmy Smith had been preoccupied with funk jazz before, but none of his releases matched Root Down, released on Verve in 1972.

Jimmy Smith - Root Down

Personnel

Jimmy Smith (organ), Arthur Adams (guitar), Steve Williams (harmonica A3), Wilton Felder (bass), Buck Clarke (congas), Paul Humphrey (drums)

Recorded

on February 8, 1972 at the Bombay Bicycle Club, Los Angeles.

Released

as V-8806 in 1972

Track listing

Side A:
Sagg Shootin’ His Arrow
For Everyone Under The Sun
After Hours
Side B:
Root Down (And Get It)
Let’s Stay Together
Slow Down Sagg


By 1972, Jimmy Smith, the modern organ jazz pioneer who had been the most popular Hammond B3 player from his explosive start on Blue Note in 1956, was still ridin’ high. He was the biggest seller among his colleagues and toured the European circuit to much acclaim, notably the Montreux Jazz Festival. But none of his late sixties albums contained the grit and grease that was so essential to the output of the rivaling company, the independent Prestige Records, a style that was developed by the special talents of groove monsters like Charles Earland, Charles Kynard, Rusty Bryant, Idris Muhammad and Bernard Purdie. The Champ was challenged and a good fight was on.

And Root Down, recorded live on February 8 at the Bombay Bicycle Club in Los Angeles, was devoid of sucker punches. There were no bicycle races that night either. It was more like a gathering of tonewheels on the outskirts of town. Burning metal, lightning fast drawbars, bass pedals crossing the finishing line with the street crowd going berserk… Arthur Adams was featured on guitar, Steve Williams on harmonica, Wilton Felder on bass, Paul Humphrey on drums and Buck Clarke on percussion. A rock-solid, charged group that pushed maestro Smith to the edge of the circuit, an inch away from the bales of hay, which is the place where the best works of arts are usually created.

Let’s jam, y’all, let’s jam. This is music that speaks to the gut and the groin. The uptempo funk blues of Sagg Shootin’ His Arrow, Root Down (famously – or infamously depending on your view – sampled by The Beastie Boys in 1994) and Slow Down Sagg stimulates Smith to travel beyond his trademark style. Here Smith, who stands on the shoulders of the blues pianists, Charlie Parker, Count Basie and Wild Bill Davis, allows his long lines to segue into stretches of dissonance. His pitch is unwavering, his attack ferocious. Smith’s lurid funk tales are commented upon by the blistering wah-wah guitar of Arthur Adams. Fire meets fire.

Smith hurls himself into the notes of the soul tunes For Everyone Under The Sun and Al Green’ Let’s Stay Together like a tiger on a deer. Adams’ spiky (non-wah-wah) stuff mirrors The Meters’ indelible New Orleans Funk picker, Leo Nocentelli, albeit less behind the beat, more speedy. The tandem of drummer Paul Humphrey and bassist Wilton Felder bounces but never wobbles, makes myriad U-turns but never gets lost. Felder, saxophonist and co-leader of the successful funk jazz and crossover group The Crusaders in everyday life, offers a solo that is well worthwhile.

A great show in the hip pocket of Jimmy Smith. The atmosphere is electric. Obviously, the music reaches out beyond the confines of the Bombay Bicycle Club. Smith and his relatively younger lions are talkin’ to the boyz in da hood, who loved and understood the messages of Curtis Mayfield, Sly Stone, Gil Scott-Heron. Root Down is ghetto music, it’s Watts on fire and wax, a victory of rhythm miles away from the tepid world of Ed Sullivan. The astounding grit that the group displayed crawled out of the womb of the asphalt jungle, over depressed tenement buildings, mingles with addicts that crowd around fire pits at night… Root Down’s a reflection of turmoil but at the same time a display of force, a celebration of survival, and offers redemption in the form of smooth and sweaty soul that pinned Marvin Gaye to the wall and forced him to say sorry for that sexual healing bit.

Victory is all over the sleeve as well. The stretched arm and pointed finger clearly signify who’s boss!

The original album cut down the longer tracks to the 12inch format. Spotify offers the CD version with the complete performances. Listen below.

Randy Weston - Jazz A La Bohemia

Randy Weston Jazz A La Bohemia (Riverside 1956)

As if you’re there. That’s the plain and simple first, but very important thing, that comes to mind when listening to Randy Weston’s live album from 1956, Jazz A La Bohemia.

Randy Weston - Jazz A La Bohemia

Personnel

Randy Weston (piano), Cecil Payne (baritone sax), Ahmed Abdul-Malik (bass), Al Dreares (drums)

Recorded

on October 14, 1956 at Café Bohemia, New York City

Released

as RLP 12-232 in 1956

Track listing

Side A:
Theme: Solemn Meditation
Just A Riff
You Go To My Head
Once In A While
Side B:
Hold ‘M Joe
It’s All Right With Me
Chessman’s Delight
Theme: Solemn Meditation


Names with a pleasant and catchy ring seep through the rubble and kibble of contemporary society, wastebasket of incontinent billionaires, hemorrhaging parliaments, promoting slices of life that fail to imitate even the best of the bad movies. Names like… “Bohemia”. You know what I’m talking about, Club Bohemia. One of the places that housed icons almost 24/7, that voiced eloquent and fiery statements of protest through the curled shreds of smoke, not by any forced attempt but by plainly being themselves, individually and as a group, still as a subculture and perhaps almost a sect, a gathering of astute Bohemians… non-conformists… by being masters of a unique American art form that the establishment would rather ignore but which by sheer force of beauty proved impossible to subdue. Club Bohemia, you know… where Cannonball Adderley burst on the scene in 1955, where one of Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers’ declarations of independence was recorded.

And Bohemia as in: Randy Weston’s Jazz A La Bohemia, recorded on October 14, 1956 in Greenwich Village, NYC. Weston himself was, and particularly would be as time progressed, a voice to be reckoned with. Instilled with a sense of the African heritage of American black people by his father at a young age, Weston thrust himself into African rhythm as early as 1960, releasing the eponymous Uhuru Africa and kept exploring this well for the rest of his life, to much acclaim.

In 1956, Randy Weston was a slightly Monkish pianist from Brooklyn, NYC, neighborhood that spawned Max Roach and Cecil Payne, among many others. By his own account, Weston would add that slightly Monkish, of course, means African by descent as well, notwithstanding the mingling with European harmony and such. By all means, Weston definitely was Monkish. Except for the hat wear and the height – Weston must be the tallest jazz man in jazz history, close to Scotty Pippen, and would’ve made a great match with Jack Teagarden, who was about the height of Larry Bird – Weston’s subversive timing, dissonant inklings and percussive attack is reminiscent of The High Priest.

Weston was part of the Riverside Records roster from April 27, 1954. Thelonious Monk signed a contract with Riverside in 1955, Plays Duke Ellington being the pianist’s first session in July 21. By then, Weston had recorded four records for Orrin Keepnews/Bill Grauer’s label. Perhaps, considering his indebtedness to Monk, Weston decided it would be best to seek new vistas. Anyway, Weston and Riverside went their separate ways and the pianist freelanced his way to the tail end of the decade on Dawn, Jubilee, United Artists, Roulette and Atlantic.

Club Bohemia… Weston and his men: Cecil Payne on baritone, Ahmed Abdul-Malik (born Jonathan Tim, Jr.) and Al Dreares on drums. You’re there. It’s a warm valley… a blanket thrust upon your shoulders when you have entered the perimeter soaking wet from the rain… Much of the album’s charming immediacy is, I think, on account of the mix of Payne’s sonorous baritone, Malik’s pumping, resonant bass and Weston’s focus on mid-register tones. Payne barks but is sing-song-y by nature as well. He has a lot of breathing room with the absence of trumpet or fellow sax. All by himself, at ease like a guy who pumps gas for a living and has a day off, working on the carburetor of his ’56 Packard…

Weston is a master of suspense. The mid-tempo groove Just A Riff, a simple but original riff by Weston, finds him in a playful mood. Weston’s strength lies in his ability to compose while playing, a coherent mingling and stacking of motives. He alternates between staccato fireworks and lingering romantic notes during his exercise of the wonderful ballad You Go To My Head, a pretty naughty affair. Hold ‘M Joe is pure Latin/Mex – sophisticated – party fare. Chessman’s Delight is another one of Weston’s delicious riffs with a hot, boppish bridge and simultaneous old-timey feel straight from Teddy Wilson’s era, complete with Weston’s deceptively simple shenanigans from one side to the keyboard to the other in split seconds.

It’s up there with Wes Montgomery’s Full House – also on Riverside – as one of those live albums full of great atmosphere and musicians that are clearly reveling in each other’s company, much to our delight.

The Pepper-Knepper Quintet - The Pepper-Knepper Quintet

The Pepper-Knepper Quintet The Pepper-Knepper Quintet (MetroJazz 1958)

The legacy of the short-lived group of baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams and trombonist Jimmy Knepper consists of one excellent hard bop album, The Pepper-Knepper Quintet.

The Pepper-Knepper Quintet - The Pepper-Knepper Quintet

Personnel

Pepper Adams (baritone saxophone), Jimmy Knepper (trombone), Wynton Kelly (piano, organ B2), Reggie Workman (bass), Elvin Jones (drums)

Recorded

on March 25, 1958 at Beltone Studios, New York City

Released

as MetroJazz E1004 in 1958

Track listing

Side A:
Minor Catastrophe
All Too Soon
Beaubien
Adams In The Apple
Side B:
Riverside Drive
I Didn’t Know About You
Primrose Path


First of all, the album title sounds great: The Pepper-Knepper Quintet. Doesn’t it? Let it roll on your tongue: The Pepper-Knepper Quintet….

Most importantly, this group, also consisting of pianist Wynton Kelly, bassist Reggie Workman and drummer Elvin Jones, swings its set of hard bop to the ground, adding to it a couple of fine original tunes. Adams and Knepper parted ways soon after they joined forces in 1958. However, Adams held on to the rhythm tandem of Doug Watkins and Elvin Jones, added pianist Bobby Timmons and formed a frontline with trumpeter Donald Byrd, the outfit that recorded the top-notch live album 10 To 4 At The Five Spot a month after this session in April, 1958.

Nobody like Pepper Adams, descendant of bop bari greats Leo Parker, Serge Chaloff, king of hard bop baritone sax playing. Little man with big lungs, Adams barks like a hounddog, wails with balanced fury and is a meaty and lyrical balladeer of note. The valves rattle, meat and potatoes is his favorite dish, backrooms laced with red velvet his natural habitat… Pepper Adams strikes a perfect balance between sleaze and purity.

Knepper is part of the same generation, class act trombonist that played with Woody Herman, Gil Evans, Dizzy Gillespie, Clark Terry, The Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra. Most notably, he was part of Charles Mingus’s group from 1957 to 1961 and was featured on classic albums such as Mingus Dynasty and Mingus Ah Um. Ample reason to ah um. Bad-tempered Mingus punched Knepper in the face while rehearsing in the bassist’s apartment in New York City and broke his teeth. As a result, the embouchure of Knepper was altered, he couldn’t reach the upper octave for two years straight.

It was not the only altercation between Mingus and band members. One wonders how in the world our brilliant but nasty composer Mingus succeeded in recruiting first-rate musical staff time and again. What’s more, Knepper even returned for a stint with Mingus in 1978 and was part of the posthumous Mingus Dynasty band from 1979 to 1988. His teeth ok and Mingus k.o., this attitude succinctly points out Knepper’s uncompromising love and devotion for their mutual form of art.

The minor-keyed Adams In The Apple by Jimmy Knepper and the thoughtful melody and interesting harmony of Riverside Drive by Leonard Feather (Feather was the producer of this session) is fertile ground for the vigorous blowing of Adams and Knepper. Beaubien by Pepper Adams is a catchy blues riff. The beat, wonderful old-school drumming by Elvin Jones, is derived from jump blues and similar to the traditional tune of Hastings Street Bounce from 10 To 4 At The Five Spot. Most impressive is Wynton Kelly, master of mixing elegance with the down-home aesthetic of the juke joint. Kelly furthermore embellishes the Ellington ballad I Didn’t Know About You with orchestral accompaniment on the organ.

Primrose Path by Jimmy Knepper is the ear-catching climax of the solid The Pepper-Knepper Quintet. Like paragliders in the Alps, Adams, Knepper and Kelly navigate expertly and with hot swing through the breeze of the elongated, pretty melody, which subsequently changes keys during the secondary theme. Knepper revisited the tune on his 1980 album on the Scottish Hep label, Primose Path. Best tunes are – ask Monk – the ones that deserve refreshing readings.

Junior Mance - Junior's Blues

Junior Mance Junior’s Blues (Riverside 1962)

Things do not always happen as they should. To be sure, they rarely if ever do! However, pianist Junior Mance, one of the greatest blues pianists in jazz, was destined to record an album of blues tunes. That album was Junior’s Blues, released by Riverside in 1962.

Junior Mance - Junior's Blues

Personnel

Junior Mance (piano), Bob Cranshaw (bass), Mickey Roker (drums)

Recorded

on February 14, 1962 in New York City

Released

as RLP 447 in 1962

Track listing

Side A:
Down The Line
Creole Love Call
Rainy Morning Blues
Yancey Special
Gravy Waltz
Side B:
Cracklin’
In The Evening
Blue Monk
The Jumpin’ Blues


As a blues man among modern jazz pianists, Mance is perhaps equaled only by Gene Harris and Ray Bryant. Les McCann is a favorite of personal assistants, runners and restroom ladies of Flophouse Corp. and, last but not least, yours truly, head honcho of the Flophouse Magazine headquarters, which some of you may consider plainly an attic, but for me is nothing short of the main boardroom, resplendent with everything the modern-day (or old-fashioned, depending upon your view) chief editor needs. Because it really is not plain. There’s a lovely wooden desk. A side table that carries glasses and a bottle of 12 year-old Red Breast pot still whiskey from Ireland. A weathered Chesterfield chair for comfortable listening purposes. And records of course, the weight of which threatens to destroy the town house’s construction, much to the dismay of two of its main occupants, my wife and kid daughter, undeniably the most kindred and faithful souls I have had the pleasure to encounter in this earthly existence. Three if you count the cat. Wife and child can’t help it and aren’t into jazz. Cat couldn’t care less. She’s a country girl. Mice and kibble is her main concern, notes and tones are phenomena from another dimension.

It goes without saying, we’re not running a blues competition. McCann’s earthy, driving style, Gene Harris’ subtle variations on a theme, Ray Bryant’s striking incorporation of the tradition are all contagious. I’m sure there are a number of pianists that you feel shouldn’t be left out. Oscar Peterson perhaps, or Mose Allison. And Junior Mance? Man, there’s just no end to the enjoyment of the long, clever and exciting lines that he spun!

Mance was born in Evanston, Illinois in 1928, learned to play stride and boogie-woogie from his father, spent his youth in Chicago. By the late forties, Mance had recorded with Gene Ammons on Alladin and Lester Young on Savoy. Cannonball Adderley, ever the keen organizer even at a young age, recruited Mance for his Army band in the early 50s. Mance was part of the house band of Chicago’s Beehive club and backed Charlie Parker and Coleman Hawkins. Trusting the advice of Bird, Mance moved to New York City in the mid-50s. He accompanied Dinah Washington for two years. Mance subsequently hooked up again with Cannonball Adderley and cooperated fruitfully with the recently arrived alto saxophonist on the New York scene on many albums on EmArcy. Mance’s features on the Riverside albums of the Johnny Griffin/Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis outfit in the early 60s are notable as well.

The debut of Junior Mance was on Verve in 1959. Mance was part of the Dizzy Gillespie group and producer Norman Granz granted Mance the opportunity to record a solo album: Junior. Mance subsequently recorded five albums for Riverside/Jazzland: The Soulful Piano Of Junior Mance, At The Village Vanguard, Big Chief, The Soul Of Hollywood, Junior’s Blues and Happy Time. Definitely the series that made his name and kick started his career, a very fruitful one at that. All of them contain a mixture of standards and lesser-known standards imbued with blues feeling as well as pure blues tunes. Great stuff. I decided to highlight Junior’s Blues. It is a set of relatively straightforward blues music. Because of its simple harmonic framework, there’s no place to hide for the performer thus takes some doing and daring.

Mance succeeds summa cum laude, no sweat. The set list contains Mance originals Down The Line, Rainy Morning Blues and Cracklin’, Duke Ellington’s Creole Love Call, Thelonious Monk’s Blue Monk, Leroy Carr’s In The Evening, Jay McShann/Charlie Parker’s The Jumpin’ Blues, Steve Allen/Ray Brown’s Gravy Waltz and Maede Lux Lewis’ Yancey Special. Mance treats us to layered stories punctuated by his unfailing beat, flawless articulation and confident attack. It is surprising how much ideas the pianist produces chorus after chorus. His phrases are skilled but not studied and his bold lines stretch bars and are underlined by witty, decisive bass figures. His playing is simultaneously from the gut, the heart and the brain!

The lithe groove of Down The Line and The Jumpin’ Blues and the roar of Yancey Special are standout moments of pleasure. I’m particularly enamored by the eloquent Gravy Waltz. Mance’s soft-hued lyricism equates to the growth of roses and dahlias from your chest. The crisp, unfettered backing by Bob Cranshaw and Mickey Roker solidifies Mance’s flamboyant and tasteful art of the blues. Not a note or accent is wasted.

Junior Mance suffered from a stroke in 2012, which led to Alzheimer’s Disease and gradual mental decline. There has been a documentary in the making about Mance and his wife Gloria for quite a while now, Sunset And The Mockingbird, produced by Jyllian Gunther and Adam Kahan. The project needs more funding for its completion. You can donate on Kickstarter here.

Eddy Louiss - Eddy Louiss Trio

Eddy Louiss Eddy Louiss Trio (Cy 1968/73)

Get ready for a post bop bomb by the powerhouse trio of organist Eddy Louiss, guitarist René Thomas and drummer Kenny Clarke.

Eddy Louiss - Eddy Louiss Trio

Personnel

Eddy Louiss (organ), René Thomas (guitar), Kenny Clarke (drums)

Recorded

in 1968 at Studio Davout, Paris

Released

as Cy 3004 in 1973

Track listing

Side A:
No Smoking
You’ve Changed
Don’t Want Nothin’
Side B:
Nardis
Blue Tempo
Groovin’ High


Eddy Louiss came up in the early sixties as a pianist in Paris, France, soaking up the music of American expatriate legends like Bud Powell, apprenticing in modern jazz like like-minded, passionate European jazz freaks as Daniel Humair, Rein de Graaff, Pierre Courbois, Gunther Hampel. Louiss mainly focused on playing the Hammond organ in the mid-sixties. His thorough grasp of the bebop language is evident. That, in itself, is notable. The great ones in the USA – pioneer Jimmy Smith, Don Patterson, Jimmy McGriff, Groove Holmes, Eddie Baccus, Lonnie Smith, Melvin Rhyne – mastered essential bop melodies. The average soul jazz organist would perhaps include a bit of bop in his song book, but would prefer to play a blues lick like Now’s The Time instead of Scrapple From The Apple. Nothing wrong with that, long live the groove. Just not bebop scales and the integration of upper intervals in the harmonic groundwork of standards.

Louiss was no stranger to the golden feathers of Bird. However, there’s more to Eddy Louiss, who was born in Paris in 1944 to a French mother and a father from the colony of Martinique. His father was a trumpet player and enrolled young Eddy in his band, who was exposed to all kinds of exotic rhythm that underlined the repertoire of his dad’s popular music outfit like the rumba, cha cha cha and paso doble. In Paris, melting pot of cultures, skin colors, scents, fashions… Louiss accompanied French chanteurs and chanteuses. In later life, Louiss played duets with such diverse personalities as pianist Michel Petrucciani and accordionist Richard Galliano. Undoubtedly, this colorful background contributed immensily to the multi-faceted, original playing style of Eddy Louiss.

The association of Louiss with tenor saxophonist Stan Getz in the early 70s put the French organist squarely in the limelight. Getz formed one of his finest but underrated groups of his career, also including drummer Bernard Lubat and the Belgian guitarist René Thomas. The group recorded the outstanding live album Dynasty in 1971. By then, Louiss had been cooperating with René Thomas for a number of years, a very fruitful bond, especially in combination with Kenny Clarke, expatriate drummer in Paris, France since the 50s, legendary inventor of bebop rhythm, major inspiration for European musicians to push their boundaries.

In 1968, Louiss, Thomas and Clarke recorded Eddy Louiss Trio at Studio Davout, Paris. It would enjoy a belated release in 1973. It’s a set of extraordinary, hard-driving organ jazz. No Smoking is a catchy bop line thriving on the stop-time device, Blue Tempo a modal burner that brings to mind John Coltrane’s Impressions. Both are compositions by Eddy Louiss. The trio performs Dizzy Gillespie’s Groovin’ High, Miles Davis’s Nardis, Kenny Clarke’s sleazy, mid-tempo blues line Don’t Want Nothin’ and the wonderful ballad by Bill Carey and Carl Fischer, You’ve Changed.

Louiss, whose bass figures are fat-bottomed and hi-level at any pace, fast or slow, and the group play a heavy Nardis. It definitely spells 1968 and one imagines Brian Auger scratching his chin, relieved he’s playing at another festival. Nardis features typical long, boppish Louiss lines, swirling in directions to the Near-East and Carribean Islands. Kenny Clarke, effortlessly and with abundant detail underpinning the driving force of the Louiss organ, is hors category. The way his concise solo segues back into the Spanish-tinged outro of Blue Tempo is so good it makes you laugh.

You’ve Changed features extraordinary playing by René Thomas, a guitarist of note who, let’s be honest, would be counted among the greats would he have been of American descent. His story of You’ve Changed is intense. No doubt in my mind that the guitarist from Liège, Belgium knew the lyrics by heart… You’ve changed.. that sparkle in your eyes is gone… your smile is just a careless yawn… you’re breaking my heart… you’ve changed… you’ve forgotten the words, I love you… each memory that we’ve shared, you ignore… every star above you, I can’t realize you’ve ever cared… you’ve changed… you’re not the angel that I once knew… no need to tell me that we’re through… it’s all over now, you’ve changed… Thomas reflects the lover’s resignation, but his double time, staccato and poetic phrases add a layer, they’re hitting the spot, bidding farewell but adding the afterthought that the lady is worse off without Monsieur Thomas.

Eddy Louiss is more level-headed. His explosive solo says: ok, so it’s over. Soit! Gotta move on! Period. Their stories comprise one of the nicest contrasts of this imposing set of organ jazz.

Billy Mitchell - This Is Billy Mitchell

Billy Mitchell This Is Billy Mitchell (Smash 1962)

It is, indeed, tenor saxophonist Billy Mitchell, delivering a mellow mainstream album with more than a few surprises.

Billy Mitchell - This Is Billy Mitchell

Personnel

Billy Mitchell (tenor saxophone), Dave Burns (trumpet A3, A4, B1, B2, B4), Billy Wallace (piano A3, A4, B1, B2, B4), Bobby Hutcherson (vibraphone), Clarence “Sleepy” Anderson (organ A3, B1, B2, B4), Herman Wright (bass), Otis “Candy” Finch (drums)

Recorded

on October 29 & 30, 1962 at Universal Studios, Chicago, Illinois

Released

as MGS 27027 in 1962

Track listing

Side A:
J&B
Sophisticated Lady
You Turned The Tables On Me
Passionova
Side B:
Tamra
Automation
Just Waiting
Siam


The tenor saxophone is a special cat. Essential jazz instrument since the introduction of its potential by Coleman Hawkins, extension of the body of popular honking men like Big Jay McNeely, fulfilling the attractive role that would later only be surpassed by the guitar in rock & roll. Very saxy… The tenor sax is the woman with guts, Lauren Bacall firing one-liners, high ball leaning in her lean fingers, it’s the woman with curves, Raquel Welch bursting from the screen, half-naked and whip in hand… It’s the boy in the hood, dunking day and night on the square, and it’s Killer Joe, stepping from the board of his Cadillac, right in front of Birdland… The burning of rubber on a dirt road. Biceps and beer belch all in one. And smoke, don’t forget the smoke…

The tenor saxophone gels particularly well with the toms and ride cymbal of the drums, the middle register of the piano. Its sound burst out of the big bands and plays a pivotal role in the small ensemble setting of the 50s and beyond. It was the chosen instrument for many of the burgeoning reed men that followed the bright light of alto saxophonist Charlie Parker. In the slipstream of the giants – Hawkins, Lester Young, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane – a slew of great stylists emerged. A sample of last year’s review pages of Flophouse Magazine reveals the names of tenor saxophonists Cannonball Adderley, Jerome Richardson, Hank Mobley, Johnny Griffin, Eddie Chamblee, Oliver Nelson, Jimmy Forrest, King Curtis, Clarence Wheeler, Buddy Terry, Harold Land, Wayne Shorter and Hank Bagby. Suits all mainstream jazz tastes!

And now Billy Mitchell: dark horse coming in from the stretch, a thoroughbred bound for a solid run on the racetrack of Flophouse, place your bets, keep your eye on the tote board, 9 to 2 shot, there he comes, there he comes… run! goddamit! run!… bingo. Born in Kansas City, Missouri, across the border line from Charlie Parker – who saw the light in Kansas City, Kansas – raised in Detroit, city of countless outstanding jazz artists, Mitchell apprenticed at the Blue Bird Inn, sharing the stage with incoming modernists like Miles Davis. He was a long-time member of the Dizzy Gillespie and Count Basie big bands. Mitchell maintained a special relationship with trombonist Al Grey, with whom the bop-oriented tenorist released a number of albums in the early 60s.

Bonafide leadership dates were scarce. Snap Your Fingers on Argo was the first in 1962, This Is Billy Mitchell followed soon after that year and A Little Juicy was the final solo album by Mitchell featuring Thad Jones in the sixties – 1964. Both albums were released on Smash, subsidiary of Mercury Records. His next record came out in 1977. For reasons unknown, Mitchell dropped out of the scene in the 80s, coming out of hiding only occasionally, for instance with singer Deborah Brown and Rein de Graaff Trio during Vervolg Cursus Bebop in The Netherlands in 1991, the legendary series of lectures and performances with American legends and unsung heroes that was organized by pianist Rein de Graaff. The face of death finally appeared in Mitchell’s rear view mirror in 2001.

And now This Is Billy Mitchell: epic sleeve, smoke, pockmarked face of ruminative jazz man, graceful lettering that says… Mitchell is the most exciting tenor sax in jazz… Well, hyperbole reared its ugly head… Nonetheless, Mitchell is a real good’n, offering mellow mainstream jazz, a warm, full-bodied tone and smooth phrasing that keeps us fairly hypnotized in our easy chair. Mitchell fluently embeds the weathered artistry of the great swing tenor men in his background of bebop. He carries his original composition J&B, a smooth, smoky song that bounces merrily behind Mitchell’s relaxed but imposing, big-sounding phrases, Buddy Tate-ish, Jimmy Forrest-ish, you name it. Simply wonderful.

A similar swing era-smoothness instills the mid-tempo You Turned The Tables On Me and the ballad Sophisticated Lady, once a showcase for Harry Carney’s pioneering, booming baritone sax and a demonstration of skilled artistry by Mitchell here, whose proficiency provides wholehearted support for understated drama and imaginative, fully articulated ideas: the mark of a great jazz man. Boppish swing infuses a surprising set of rarely performed compositions: Gene Kee’s Siam, Melba Liston’s Just Waiting, John Hines’s Passionova. Automation is an original composition by trumpeter Dave Burns, the album’s most furious affair.

Obviously, the unusual sound palette of This Is Billy Mitchell is a big part of the attraction. Piano by Billy Wallace, the Wild Bill Davis-type organ injections and unobtrusive background of Clarence “Sleepy” Anderson, the ringing, balanced notes and tones of early-career Bobby Hutcherson all together now for 1/3 part of the album. The sprightly and pesky trumpet of Dave Burns and husky tenor of Billy Mitchell tiptoeing on the easygoing bounce of bassist Herman Wright and drummer Otis “Candy” Finch. The variety of piano/vibraphone, vibraphone/piano. It somehow works, a meshing that serves as the backdrop to very enjoyable tenor playing by Billy Mitchell.