Blue Mitchell - The Thing To Do

Blue Mitchell The Thing To Do (Blue Note 1965)

Approximately seven years into his recording career, Blue Mitchell hit his stride on Blue Note with one of his greatest efforts, The Thing To Do.

Blue Mitchell - The Thing To Do

 

Personnel

Blue Mitchell (trumpet), Junior Cook (tenor saxophone), Chick Corea (piano), Gene Taylor (bass), Aloysius Foster (drums)

Recorded

on July 30, 1964 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Released

as BST-84178 in 1965

Track listing

Side A:
Fungii Mama
Mona’s Mood
The Thing To Do
Side B:
Step Lightly
Chick’s Tune


Can’t go wrong with Blue Mitchell. Among the young and spectacular trumpeters of his generation – Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard and Donald Byrd – Mitchell held his own employing supple phrasing and a bright tone, adhering to the motto’s of less is more and what you see is what you get, his stories back flipping in a bowl of soul. He made his first string of records for Riverside, introduced by, who else, Cannonball Adderley. He subsequently switched to Blue Note in 1963, a perfect fit. The accessible Mitchell, cast in the warm and transparant Blue Note mould by Rudy van Gelder, went down well in the black community, a successful addition to Blue Note’s mainstream roster till the end of the decade, well into the “United Artists” period of Blue Note after the retirement of Alfred Lion. Mitchell furthermore recorded mostly for Mainstream and found a home in the band of British blues star John Mayall in the early 70’s, who was a devoted fan of Mitchell’s work with Horace Silver. Mitchell died prematurely in 1979.

Ain’t everyone of us crazy about that particular edition of the Horace Silver Quintet. Between 1959 and ’63, Mitchell appeared on, among others, Finger Poppin’, Blowin’ The Blues Away and Doin’ The Thing, all of those with tenor saxophonist Junior Cook and all of those Silver classics. A sought-after trumpeter, Mitchell cooperated with Cannonball Adderley, Jackie McLean, Elmo Hope, Stanley Turrentine, Hank Mobley and Dexter Gordon, as well as Hammond organists Jimmy Smith, Don Patterson, Freddie Roach and Big John Patton.

Jazz is a music of sidemen figuring out a new strategy. Basie ran with the Moten band. Former Miles Davis associates Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul and Miroslav Vitous formed Weather Report. And Mitchell hooked up with Cook and bassist Gene Taylor from the Silver band, rounding out his new quintet with the promising pianist Chick Corea. In the comfort zone of his pals and confronted with the fresh voice of Corea, Mitchell delivered a sprightly gem.

The Thing To Do has always struck me as an excellent starter for burgeoning jazz fans, very well capable of sharing that virtue with The Sidewinder or Moanin’. It’s joyful, smooth, relaxed but energetic and features a classic opening tune, Fungii Mama, underlined by a calypso rhythm that never fails to ignite a broad smile and occasionally – one easily imagines – a bit of buoyant shaking of the hips. Corea’s catchy The Thing To Do is marked by the composer’s suspenseful alternate chords and poignant, Monk-like comping. He cuts the meandering lines of an invigorating solo in half with two brash chords. The combination of the typical Blue Note line-up – bright trumpet, smoky tenor – with Corea’s mix of blues stylings and slightly edgy shenanigans is this session’s extra treat. Also, shout choruses and the alternation of riffs behind the soloists keep things zestfully movin’ and signify the influence of Mitchell/Cook’s former boss, Horace Silver, who himself in this respect was influenced by Count Basie.

The Thing To Do was Mitchell’s debut record on Blue Note. Step Lightly, his first session on Blue Note in 1963 featuring Joe Henderson, Leo Wright and Herbie Hancock, wasn’t released until 1980. A different and very good ballgame, but arguably The Thing To Do, which also included Joe Henderson’s great blues tune Step Lightly, was the best choice for Mitchell’s start on the legendary label. Lovely, soulful stuff.

Clifford Scott - Out Front

Clifford Scott Out Front (Pacific Jazz 1963)

Check out this readily ignored but seriously hip and crafty piece of soul jazz and hard bop: tenor saxophonist Clifford Scott’s Out Front.

Clifford Scott - Out Front

Personnel

Clifford Scott (tenor and alto saxophone), Joe Pass (guitar), Les McCann (piano), Herbie Lewis (bass), Paul Humphrey (drums)

Recorded

in 1963 at Pacific Jazz Studio in Los Angeles, California

Released

as PJ-66 in 1963

Track listing

Side A:
Samba De Bamba
Over And Over
As Rosie And Ellen Dance
Crosstalk
Side B:
Why Don’t You Do Right
Just Tomorrow
Out Front


As rhythm and blues developed into the most popular black music in the late forties and early fifties, a lot of jazz-oriented musicians jumped the bandwagon in order to make a decent living. Perhaps decent isn’t the appropriate term. Regularly, players switched from swing bands to r&b outfits, which usually meant a change from one grueling touring schedule to another. One bows in awe to them in hindsight, the way guys like Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson, Red Holloway, Don Wilkerson or Sam “The Man” Taylor, survived. Tenor saxophonist Clifford Scott, born in San Antonio, Texas in 1928, deceased in 1993, traveled a similar route.

Scott worked with Amos Milburn, Jay McShann, Lionel Hampton, Roy Brown and Roy Milton in the early fifties. Scott provided the groundbreaking honking tenor solo on organist Bill Doggett’s jukebox hit in 1955, Honky Tonk. He stayed with Doggett for a number of years. Subsequently, Scott acted as a leader, trying to capitalize on the honking hype with singles bearing gimmicky titles like Bushy Tail and The Kangaroo, and recorded as a prominent session musician in the r&b and pop field. His last big stint, before settling down as a local hero in San Antonio, was with the Ray Charles band, intermittently, from 1966 to 1970.

Based on the West Coast in the sixties, Scott was featured on a number of Pacific Jazz albums by the organ combo Billy Larkin & The Delegates. Scott recorded Plays The Big Ones on Pacific Jazz in 1963, a gritty soul jazz date featuring Hammond organ. It’s a nice enough date but incomparable with Scott’s subsequent album, Out Front!. During that session, Scott expanded his scope, holding on to the fried-bacon notes and the occasional crowd-pleasing climaxes, while displaying distinct suppleness and double-time fluency. Coming with the slightest vibrato, Scott’s style is sensual as hell, and hot as hell as well.

Sensual also applies to the Les McCann Trio, which consists of McCann, bassist Herbie Lewis, drummer Paul Humphrey, plus Joe Pass, as in: attractive, uplifting, rousing. McCann had cooperated with Joe Pass on Richard “Groove” Holmes’ Something Special, Les McCann’s Featuring Joe Pass, On Time and Soul Hits. The gospel-drenched vigor and probing accompaniment of McCann, the group’s abundant swing and the subtle and peppery phrases of Pass provide a stimulating canvas for the lurid, lean strokes of Scott, whom one imagines must’ve been elated with the possibility of working with such an immaculate quartet.

And as is usual with the presence of McCann on a recording date, the pianist contributes a couple of catchy tunes, like the driving Out Front and the crisp stop-time cooker Over And Over, which is marked by the typical McCann device of a shift in key. McCann also wrote Crosstalk, killer greasy tune that is pure Bo Diddley’s Not Fade Away, thriving on the rousing beat and statements of McCann and Pass and the rubato wail of Scott that takes one by surprise like a tornado in New Mexico: a soul jazz gem stopping at a mere 2.45 minutes.

Samba De Bamba is a different ball game, an equally swinging, Latin hard bop tune. Developing his story from sophisticated, fluent phrasing to the kind of terse blowing of Ben Webster, Scott reveals himself as a singular stylist. This, perhaps, comes as no surprise considering his past in the swing era. It is surprising, though, that the saxophonist wasn’t granted the opportunity to record more extensively throughout his career, except for a couple of albums in the early 90’s. More than that, it is a shame.

Listen to the full album here.

Philly Joe Jones - Big Band Sounds

Philly Joe Jones Big Band Sounds (Riverside 1959)

Whether you decide to call it Drums Around The World or Big Band Sounds, the star-studded second record of Philly Joe Jones on Riverside is a blast from start to finish.

Philly Joe Jones - Big Band Sounds

 

 

 

Personnel

Philly Joe Jones (drums), Lee Morgan (trumpet), Blue Mitchell (trumpet), Benny Golson (tenor saxophone), Cannonball Adderley (alto saxophone), Sahib Shihab (baritone saxophone), Curtis Fuller (trombone), Herbie Mann (flute, piccolo), Wynton Kelly (piano), Jimmy Garrison (bass), Sam Jones (bass)

Recorded

on May 4, 11 & 28, 1959 in NYC

Released

as RLP 12-302 in 1959

Track listing

Side A:
Blue Gwynn
Stablemates
El Tambores (Carioca)
Tribal Message
Side B:
Cherokee
Land Of The Blue Veils
Philly J.J.


Get in the driver’s seat and take a listen to Philly Joe Jones and his sparring partners of May 1959, a who’s who of the hard bop era: Lee Morgan, Blue Mitchell, Benny Golson, Cannonball Adderley, Sahib Shihab, Curtis Fuller, Herbie Mann, Wynton Kelly, Sam Jones and/or Jimmy Garrison. Perfect foil for Philly Joe Jones’s vision of showcasing varying rhythms of the world. In the process, Jones made a record that sustains momentum throughout.

All Music, with the devoted indifference of the call center employee, says: “There is some strong playing but this set is primarily recommended to fans of Philly Joe Jones’s drum solo’s.”

There is but one punishment for people who keep uttering the word ‘recommended’. And that is to look at the cover of Herbie Mann’s Push Push for 24 hours straight.

Big Band Sounds is not an ego trip. Philly Joe Jones is part of the pack, who indeed briefly displays his prowess as a soloist, but most of all takes care to lead his buddies through a sublimely paced set of songs with a sterling variation of interludes. He’s driving force and snappy accompanist in-one. Danger hi-voltage! You gotta watch out with Philly Joe, he’s like the professional oven I recently bought, it heats much quicker than the consumer type oven and is hazardous to the health of your hands but it is, most of all, state of the art. The roasted chicken is killer bee.

Take Philly Joe Jones’s Blue Gwynn. Afro-Cuban powerhouse performance. A couple of uppercuts and a sparse cluster of notes from Philly Joe launches the band into the stratosphere. It’s a crafty piece, largely through the balanced variety of the roles of reed, brass and woodwind during theme and intermezzos. However, the performance is far from contrived, indeed strikingly organic. Morgan, Golson and Fuller have their fiery say. Morgan’s entrance is typically cocksure. You’re gonna love this one.

The Eastern-tinged Land Of The Blue Veils by Benny Golson, ensemble playing sans solo’s, is like a Brussel bonbon that melts on your tongue. Philly Joe’s adaptation of Vincent Youman’s CariocaEl Tambores – is an exciting trip to Brazil quoting evergreen Tico Tico in the process. Ray Noble’s Cherokee gets a wooping treatment, including witty Indian war cries. The Tribal Message is Jones in African mood, a great display of varying pitch, echo and effects, which involved a careful placement of the parts of Philly Joe’s kit all over the studio.

And the American rhythm and harmony, sedimentation of a different array of African minerals and European metals and turned into a very special brew, is represented by Golson’s Stablemates and Philly Joe Jones/J.J. Johnson’s Philly J.J, both hard-swinging cookers. Brass and reed figures stimulate the soloists of Stablemates, of which Golson is particularly heated. Philly Joe sets fire to Philly J.J.. The introduction (this is a record of introductions) by Jones is as filthy as they come, the language of a hustler taking care of business at the corner of Lexington and 110th Street. His rolls and snappy hi-hat crushes may be interpreted as having their origins in tribal communication and prefiguring rap music and at the end of the furious performance, no doubt it’s a wrap. Now you remember why Miles Davis wanted no one but Philly Joe for his First Great Quintet in 1956. Another Davis associate of that period, Cannonball Adderley, also excites considerably during Philly J.J. with his sole solo performance of the session. Philly J.J. is not blowing session fare. There’s a switch from breakneck speed to mid-tempo bounce and a reference to the intro during the dramatic climax that suggests careful planning by the then 36-year old drummer from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Did I tell you that Philly Joe sounds out of sight? Drums were meant to sound like this!

The way music sounds affects our evaluation of it. We can experience the pure sound of a musician in a live setting – although purity is a relative concept. At any rate, the musician has to wait and see how he or she sounds on record. Studio sessions involve the manipulation of sound. Whom manipulates sounds most expertly and tastefully gets the best results. That’s why the acclaimed Dutch engineer Max Bolleman pointed out that the engineer is a member of the band. His instrument is his console.

Drums, the heartbeat of the band, make or break a record. In the 20’s and early 30’s, primitive equipment did not allow the drummer to play as he did during performance, since it was at risk of exploding if the drummer pounded on a complete drum kit. Consequently, the drummer stuck to woodblocks and such, which is why we have to rely on oral history to imagine how, for instance, Baby Dodds sounded in the early part of his career.

This hardly bothered modern drumming. The 50’s and 60’s are sublime drum decades. By then, engineering had developed rapidly and considerably. Wouldn’t we nowadays hold Baby Dodds in even higher regard if he would have had “his” Rudy van Gelder or Roy DuNann?

I’ve always had the distinct passionate feeling that drums never sounded better than approximately from 1955 to 1965. The updated analog equipment was nifty but its track limitations forced the engineer to be creative, unlike swing and bop, which was an improvement of the early years of jazz but still suffered from the occasional cardboard box sound. And unlike the 70s and beyond, when multi-tracking, a limitless array of mics and digital technology more often than not has led to visionless mediocrity. The 50’s/60’s sound may not be as detailed compared to the thoroughly improved contemporary sound, but the overall sound is killer and the impact unforgettable. Call me a purist but the way to go as far as contemporary mainstream jazz recording is concerned is to at least strive for that 50/60’s sound.

There are countless examples of great-sounding drum records from that era. Big Band Sounds is but one example but a damn great one – notice, the (sub-) title says ‘sounds’. The synthesis of sound and high-level modern jazz playing is sublime. Man, not only does Philly Joe Jones display his unsurpassed fiery style, his sound is absolutely stunning! And big – notice, the (sub-) title says ‘big’. Booming. Snappy. The engineer is Jack Higgins. A round of applause for Jack.

And on your hands and knees, seated in the direction of the Mecca of jazz, for Philly Joe.

Bobby Forrester - Organist

Bobby Forrester Organist (Dobre 1971)

Funk – with a capital F – is the heartbeat of Bobby Forrester’s obscure debut record from the early seventies, Organist.

Bobby Forrester - Organist

Personnel

Bobby Forrester (organ), Elijah Williams Jr. (guitar), Johnny Kirkwood (drums)

Recorded

in 1971 at Gold Star Studio in Los Angeles

Released

as Dobre 1012 in 1971

Track listing

Side A:
Something
Sandford And Son Theme
Blues For Razz
Funky Fly
Side B:
The Next Time You See Me
Don’t Misunderstand
Uncle Funky
On Broadway


PPrestige and Blue Note were the big suppliers of organ jazz. Other independents like Impulse, Atlantic, Sue, Solid State, Groove Merchant all had their star organists at one time or other, with organists freely switching between them. Verve signed Jimmy Smith in 1963, a million-seller crossover to the white market. Then there were the obscure one-offs, labels that released only a few organ titles. Dobre is such a company, which released a hodgepodge of jazz in the seventies including titles by George Russell, Bobby Hackett and Mundell Lowe. And, weird but true, one organ record: Bobby Forrester’s Organist. How lovely when life is weird but true. How great it would be if life would strictly be weird but true.

Forrester played with Stanley Turrentine, Harold Ousley, George Coleman and was a longtime accompanist of r&b singer Ruth Brown. The organist was a mainstay at East Coast clubs as Minton’s, Baby Grand, Club Baron and recorded Organist on the West Coast, in Los Angeles in 1971. He’s got Elijah Williams Jr. on guitar and Johnny Kirkwood on drums. They conjure up a meaty, hot background to Forrester’s organ groove. A good, snappy band that knows how to lock in with the B3 beast – hi-hat and upright bass in sync with the B3 bass – is a prerequisite for meaningful organ jazz. Williams and Kirkwood kick ass.

Forrester’s slow and stilted take on George Harrison’s Something may not be a promising start but he subsequently makes good with soulful balladry (Don’t Misunderstand from the Shaft movie), soul and blues (On Broadway, Blues For Razz, The Next Time You See Me) and a couple of lascivious funk jazz bombs (Funky Fly, Uncle Funky, Sandford And Son Theme) that make organ, guitar and drums the equivalent of machinist, locomotive and engine, steamrolling a hot Amtrak train over the tracks of America’s tears.

Uncle Funky (by Harold Ousley) has the X-factor. But Forrester’s take on Quincy Jones’s Sandford And Son Theme is the definite highlight. Spurred on by the big beat and well-placed punches of Kirkwood, Forrester’s plethora of blues and funk patterns is reminiscent of the likes of John Patton, Groove Holmes, Jimmy McGriff, steadily working towards a climax in the Gold Star Studio in the City of Angels, California.

As Ruth Brown, self-proclaimed discoverer of Forrester, put it in her liner notes of Organist:

“Perhaps the ‘brother’ I overheard leaving the club the other night should be writing this because he said it all when he said, ‘Man that little white dude sure can play his ass off’.”

Ray Brown - Bass Hit

Ray Brown Bass Hit! (Verve 1956)

Ray Brown fronting an all-white band in 1956 was a major musical-social event. Bass Hit also happened to be a beautifully conceived hot date.

Ray Brown - Bass Hit

Personnel

Ray Brown (bass), Pete Candoli, Conrad Gozzo, Ray Linn & Harry “Sweets” Edison (trumpet), Herbie Harper (trombone), Jack DuLong & Herb Geller (alto saxophone), Jimmy Giuffre (clarinet, tenor saxophone), Bill Holman (tenor saxophone), Jimmy Rowles (piano), Herb Ellis (guitar), Mel Lewis & Alvin Stoller (drums), Marty Paich (arranger)

Recorded

on November 21 & 23, 1956 in Los Angeles

Released

MG V-8022 in 1956

Track listing

Side A:
Bass Introduction/Blues For Sylvia
All Of You
Everything I Have Is Yours
Will You Still Be Mine
Side B:
Little Toe
Alone Together
Solo For Unaccompanied Bass
My Foolish Heart
Blues For Lorraine/Bass Conclusion


Ray Brown’s flawless technique, abundant swing and elegant interplay got him at the top of the heap, playing with Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Count Basie, Benny Carter, Illinois Jacquet, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Milt Jackson, Oscar Peterson, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Frank Sinatra. The list is endless. His work with the Ray Brown Trio in the 80s and 90s – Brown intermittently worked in the Hollywood studios – is peerless and his influence on subsequent generations is everlasting. Most of all, Brown, himself influenced by the legendary Jimmy Blanton, had a great, buttery tone and a unique gift for finding the right note at the right time. Ooh wee. How many times have I listened to an Oscar Peterson record and, for all Peterson’s commanding virtuosity and swing, have felt myself being inevitably drawn to Ray Brown, like a kid to the candy store? His enormous energy was overwhelming. I saw him perform just this once in my hometown’s legendary jazz club, Porgy & Bess. Brown’s giant groove, underscored by the radiant grin on his face, drove the band through the roof.

Brown, Pittsburgh-born, came on the scene in New York in 1946 and established himself from the word go. His alliance with Oscar Peterson in 1951 led to worldwide recognition and, by his own account, made him a considerably better player. By 1956, Brown had contributed his outstanding skills and groove to, among others, Johnny Hodges’ The Blues, Count Basie’s Basie Jazz, Roy Eldridge’s Rockin’ Chair, Benny Carter’s, Alone Together, Billie Holiday’s Lady Day, Lester Young’s Prez & Sweets, Charlie Parker’s Big Band, Illinois Jacquet’s Swing’s The Thing, Dizzy Gillespie’s Diz And Getz and Roy And Diz, Hank Jones’ Urbanity, Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong’s Ella & Louis and an ever-growing slew of Oscar Peterson records. Almost all of them were on the Clef and Verve labels of Norman Granz, for whom the dependable and brilliant Ray Brown was a godsend.

Come 1956. Times were rough. The Supreme Court decision of Brown vs Board Of Education was a landmark event in 1954. It established the unconstitutionality of segregation in public schools. However, the ruling, further recorded in BBE part 2, proved something of a Pyrrhus victory, as states could choose to desegregate with “all deliberate speed.” Then there was Rosa Parks, who courageously refused to give up her seat in the segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955. Some brave women, lest we forget – like Claudette Colvin – preceded the Montgomery Bus Boycott but it was Parks that turned into a symbol of rebellion and civil rights. Finally, the state court repealed bus segregation on November 16 – a week before the Ray Brown session. The protests nonetheless backfired considerably. Jim Crow wasn’t about to give in that easily.

The mid-50s was an era in which many black musicians still hesitated when the opportunity of touring the South arose. If they did travel south, they were not allowed in white-owned hotels and bunked at private places. Against this background, a jazz outing like Bass Hit – a black man leading a white orchestra – is significant. Jazz, like any great art form, may have been the battleground of plenty of cultural warfare but it never failed to contribute to progress and the growth of understanding, much in a fashion that Martin Luther King would have appreciated. Benny Goodman hired Teddy Wilson and Charlie Christian. Pearl Bailey was married to Louie Bellson. Miles Davis was, with sound reason, a motherfucker with an attitude, but Bill and Gil Evans were, for an eponymous time, his main men. The list of groundbreaking interracial mingling is impressive. Jazz, at its best, has no borders of any kind, is a game changer equal or arguably superior to the political process.

Bass Hit was recorded on November 21 and 23, 1956 in Los Angeles. It featured Pete Candoli on trumpet, Herbie Harper on trombone, Jack DuLong on alto saxophone, Jimmy Giuffre on clarinet and tenor saxophone, Bill Holman on tenor saxophone, Jimmy Rowles on piano, Herb Ellis on guitar and Mel Lewis on drums. Altoist Herb Geller and trumpeters Ray Gill, Conrad Gozzo and Harry “Sweets” Edison (black but a minor role) strengthen the reeds and brass. Drummer Alvin Stoller subbed for Mel Lewis on a few cuts. Marty Paich was the arranger.

I’ve always wondered how it came about that Brown fronted an all-white band, yet there’s not much in the way of recorded evidence or info. Therefore, I reached out to Jean-Michel Reisser-Beethoven from Lausanne, Switzerland, whom I came to know through the jazz forum Jazz Vinyl Lovers on Facebook. 56-year old Jean-Michel grew up with parents who were passionate lovers of jazz and befriended many visiting jazz legends. At age 3, Jean-Michel sat on the lap of Count Basie. When Jean-Michel was a young man, Ray Brown, having grown tired of managing himself, asked the young jazz buff to do his management. Jean-Michel managed Ray Brown for many years and, in the process, also worked for Harry “Sweets” Edison, J.J. Johnson, Joe Pass, Monty Alexander and many more.

Coincidentally, when we talked on the phone, it turned out that decades ago Jean-Michel had been visiting jazz club Porgy & Bess in Terneuzen regularly in his managerial role, at which time I, unbeknownst of his existence, was also present during performances of some of the jazz legends. A clear case of amazing serendipity, which warms my heart.

At any rate, here’s what Jean-Michel found out about Bass Hit through his conversations with Ray Brown and, to a lesser extent, Jimmy Rowles, Mel Lewis and Pete Candoli:

“It was Ray’s idea to do a big band album with him as a feature. Of course, a decade earlier Ray was featured on One Bass Hit and Two Bass Hit, which he wrote for Dizzy Gillespie. Ray told me that he had had in mind the idea of making a record with the bass as lead feature for many years. But his idea was too advanced for that time and in the late 40s you could hardly hear the bass. He always talked about it with Norman Granz, who approved of the concept. But the years went by, till Ray finally said it was the time to do it.

“Why did he record in Los Angeles? Well, in those days, the Oscar Peterson Trio did about 299 concerts in 300 days, it was crazy! The only way to do it was Los Angeles, because contrary to New York, they had long engagements on the West Coast, like two or three weeks at Zardy’s. So recording in Los Angeles was most convenient.

“Ray called his friends. Marty Paich. He loved the arrangements of Paich. Jimmy Rowles, Herb Ellis, Mel Lewis. Everybody was delighted to cooperate with Brown on such a special session. Ray wasn’t conscious of the fact that he was to lead an all-white band. He just called the friends that he wanted for the job. There weren’t many black people in the movie studios. Only a few, like Benny Carter. Now this record had a lot of impact. But Ray did not plan this in advance. He said: ‘Suddenly the producers and writers thought, man this guy leads, reads charts, does amazing solo’s, everything! It opened doors for black guys, they can do the job. A few months after the release, I got many offers, I couldn’t believe it! But I refused. I played jazz and wanted to travel.’ Of course, in 1966 Brown did eventually move to Los Angeles to play in the Hollywood studio bands. By then, he had cleared the path for Quincy Jones, J.J. Johnson, Benny Golson, who all made a career in the movie business.

“Oscar Pettiford had done bass-driven records but those were not arranged and organized as immaculately and not all-white. Bass Hit is the first record that showcases such an impressive lead role of the bass. At the same time, it works sublimely as accompanying force. Most of all, it is not just important on a musical level. It broke down social barriers. Jazz, like any great art form, is a force of change. Its great ambassadors definitely surpass the flawed ambitions of politicians.”

Bass Hit, the album: Brown firmly and authoritatively leads this band of top-notch contemporary white musicians. There is much to enjoy, not least the spicy muted trumpet of Pete Candoli, Herb Ellis’ earthy guitar, Bill Holman’s supple tenor saxophone and Jimmy Giuffre’s clarinet, which adds graceful coolness to Bass Hit’s essentially ‘hot’ program.

Ray Brown is boss, shading melodies, providing succinct interludes and concise melodious and strong solos, while the punchy arrangements cleverly underline Brown’s agile phrasing, as if he’s a singer, as if he’s, in a sense, Sinatra in front of the Count Basie band. Brown and the orchestra blend like strawberry and whipped cream, courtesy of Brown’s immaculate time feel, allowing him to fluently anticipate the brass and reed accents. Bass Hit is commonly called his record debut as a leader, while in fact Brown released New Sounds In Modern Music on Savoy in 1946. Bass Hit’s title alludes to that era, when Brown contributed One Bass Hit and Two Bass Hit to the Dizzy Gillespie orchestra. It presents a set of unabashed big band blues, poised balladry and mid-tempo standards.

You’ll hear a striking descending bass figure, taken from the potent Solo For Unaccompanied Bass, effectively and attractively introduce the record and segue into the opening tune, Blues For Sylvia. More blues, Blues For Lorraine and Brown’s Little Toe, firmly directed by Brown, penultimate blues groove master, ties together the threads that consist of well-known ballads of which Cole Porter’s All Of You is particularly notable. The detailed conversational level of the piece, especially the whispered staccato call and response of Brown and brass/reed, slyly heightens the tension. The booming release hits bull’s eye.

Bull’s eye, as a matter of fact, was second nature to the great Ray Brown.

Lloyd G. Mayers - A Taste Of Honey

Lloyd G. Mayers A Taste Of Honey (United Artists 1962)

It somehow slipped through the cracks. Lloyd G. Mayers’s A Taste Of Honey, major-league big band organ jazz record.

Lloyd G. Mayers - A Taste Of Honey

Personnel

Lloyd G. Mayers (organ), Clark Terry, Bernie Glow, Doc Severinsen & Snooky Young (trumpet), Britt Woodman, Paul Falise, Tommy Mitchell & Urbie Green (trombone), Don Butterfield (tuba), Barry Galbraith (guitar), George Duvivier (bass), Ed Shaugnessy (drums), Ray Barretto (bongos), Oliver Nelson (arranger)

Recorded

in 1962 in Los Angeles

Released

as UA 14018 in 1962

Track listing

Side A:
A Taste Of Honey
Desafinado
The Good Life
Going Up North
Side B:
The Golden Striker
For All We Know
Jacky-Ing
Alone Together


His name may sound like a movie tycoon but Lloyd G. Mayers was a jazz cat. A swinging cat that has decidedly performed under the radar. Presumably, Mayers was based on the West Coast. He was the pianist on tenor saxophonist Sam “The Man” Taylor’s Plays The Black And The Beautiful and organist on Lou Donaldson’s Rough House Blues in 1963. He also played piano on Oliver Nelson’s Impressions Of Phaedra, issued on United Artists in 1962. Coincidentally, A Taste Of Honey was also released by United Artists in 1962. Furthermore, the personnel is virtually similar. My guess is that, when CBS commissioned Nelson to record the soundtrack to the TV movie A Taste Of Honey, the credits somehow ended up with Mayers, perhaps at the instigation of Nelson. The playing of Mayers, who switched from piano to organ for this date, is a prominent feature.

Nelson is the arranger and the band includes trumpeter Clark Terry, trombonist Urbie Green, guitarist Barry Galbraith, bassist George Duvivier and drummer Ed Shaughnessy. It is a blast from start to finish on many levels. Every track is either intriguing or a stone-cold winner. The album features a refreshing diversity of tunes, some more challenging than usually included in organ groove records: the pop tune A Taste Of Honey, Latin standard Desafinado, blues tune Goin’ Up North, The Good Life, John Lewis’s The Golden Striker, Thelonious Monk’s Jacky-Ing and the ballads For All We Know and Alone Together.

Nelson squeezes every inch out of the orchestra. The sound is booming and made all the more interesting with robust calls and responses between brass and reed and inspiring off-beat accents. Nelson also makes the orchestra breathe by occasionally dividing leading roles between drums and bass and tuba. In this respect, the high drama of Alone Together, transformed from a ballad into an exotic medium-tempo tour de force, is exemplary of the outstanding talent of Nelson as arranger.

The crunchy organ of Mayers is embroiled in a playful dance with the orchestra, bursting out of it like splatters of lava from a volcano. Mayers limits himself to concise little stories, never cheap, always with meaningful simplicity and overwhelming temperament. He is matched by Ed Shaughnessy, whose precise and absolutely crazy amount of good punches lift the session to a higher level. The tension/release device is especially effective during Nelson/Mayers’s daring take of John Lewis’s The Golden Striker. Monk’s Jacky-Ing gradually builds up tension, via a sterling drum intro, fragmentary backdrops of brass and reed to the statements of Mayers and a lurid shuffle, coming to its conclusion with unadulterated orgasm.

Production – the orchestra sounds a bit far off – may not be top-notch. However, A Taste Of Honey is on par with (in some cases on the winning side of) the high-profile big band records of Jimmy Smith on Verve, which also were arranged mostly by Oliver Nelson. It is reminiscent of the way Ray Charles plays organ and of Brother Ray’s instrumental cuts of Genius + Soul Is Jazz. A feat that completely obviates the need for recommendation.

Charlie Rouse - Takin' Care Of Business

Charlie Rouse Takin’ Care Of Business (Jazzland 1960)

Monk’s long-running sideman takes care of business on his own.

Charlie Rouse - Takin' Care Of Business

Personnel

Charlie Rouse (tenor saxophone), Blue Mitchell (trumpet), Walter Bishop Jr. (piano), Earl May (bass), Art Taylor (drums)

Recorded

on May 11, 1959 at Plaza Sound Studios, New York City

Released

as JLP-19 in 1960

Track listing

Side A:
Blue Farouq
“204”
Upptankt
Side B:
Weirdo
Pretty Strange
They Didn’t Believe Me


Aten-year stint in the group of Thelonious Monk ain’t chicken feed. This was the accomplishment of tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse and it speaks volumes about his skills, artistry and personality. Rouse was asked to join Monk at the start of 1959, the successor to the stint of Johnny Griffin and two short engagements of Sonny Rollins and former Monk associate John Coltrane. That’s a lot of tenor madness and a hell of a challenge. Nobody would’ve argued that Rouse is in the league of Coltrane and Rollins, nor would it have been easy to match the fire of The Little Giant. Indeed, for a lot of people, Charlie Rouse was a surprise pick, not least for a slew of young lions soliciting for the job, Wayne Shorter among them.

Rouse was already a veteran of sorts with a great track record, who had played in the bands of Billy Eckstine, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie and Tadd Dameron and was a prolific sideman in the 50s. Preceding the Monk period, Rouse co-led the sophisticated group The Jazz Modes with French horn player Julius Watkins. After a nervous start, he got off well with The High Priest. It is said that Monk was particularly enamored by the genial, relaxed Rouse, which surely was, apart from his abilities, one of the reasons they gelled so well for such a long time. Rouse quickly adjusted to Monk’s focus on melodic improvisation.

Rouse’s contribution on Monk’s 5 By 5 record, sharing the frontline with Thad Jones, is especially spicy and belies the rigorous opinion that Rouse’s solo’s better be casually accepted, criticism ventured from his start with Monk and the kind that inclines to become myth and survive for numerous decades. It would be interesting as well to take a listen to Rouse the balladeer, predominantly his lush interpretation of When Sunny Gets Blue on We Paid Our Dues on Epic from 1961, a record that is equally divided between the groups of Rouse and Seldon Powell.

Takin’ Care Of Business may not be the most inspired of titles. Who didn’t take care of it? However, it’s a strong effort from a top-notch group that further includes trumpeter Blue Mitchell, pianist Walter Bishop Jr., bassist Earl May and drummer Art Taylor. Mitchell contributed Blue Farouq, a hip blues line that also is featured on organist Melvin Rhyne’s Organ-izing and Junior Cook’s Junior’s Cookin’. Interestingly, “204” in fact is Randy Weston’s wonderful waltz Hi-Fly, the initial version with a slightly differing melody. Rouse’s Upptankt (meaning what?) and Kenny Drew’s Weirdo provide the saucy bop contrast to the jaunty take on Jerome Kern composition They Didn’t Believe Me and Randy Weston ballad Pretty Strange – which indeed is pretty strange, certainly not your usual melody with a sequence that is somehow unresolved, moving in front of the bedroom window like a thin fog and rather intriguing in its own weird way.

Solid mainstream from a punchy band, Rouse flowing and with sustained, logical ideas and slightly edgy tones opposite Blue Mitchell’s sinuous, exuberant lines and Walter Bishop Jr.’s charged bop style. Turn-of-that-decade quintet stuff that merits plenty of attention.