Freddie McCoy - Lonely Avenue

Freddie McCoy Lonely Avenue (Prestige 1965)

Rousing cookers, balanced ballads and smoothly swinging popular songs: Freddie McCoy’s Lonely Avenue reflects the vibraphonist’s deep-rooted understanding of the blues and swing-based jazz tradition.

Freddie McCoy - Lonely Avenue

Personnel

Freddie McCoy (vibraphone), Gil Askey (trumpet, arranger), Tate Houston (baritone saxophone), Dickie Harris (trombone B1-4), James Thomas (organ), Napoleon Allen (guitar A1-4), Martin Rivera (bass), Ray Lucas (drums)

Recorded

on January 25 & February 16 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Released

as PRLP 7395 in 1965

Track listing

Side A:
Lonely Avenue
Roëll
Collard Greens
When Sunny Gets Blue
Side B:
Harlem Nocturne
Willow Weep For Me
Belly Full Of Greens
Feeling Good


Freddie McCoy, born in New York City in 1932, assembled a big crew to create the soulful canvas of his debut album on Prestige in 1965, Lonely Avenue. The coupling of vibes with trumpet, baritone sax, trombone, organ and guitar proved to be a remarkably flexible unit, both mean/funky and contemplative, which also, perhaps not entirely coincidentally, is a description of Freddie McCoy’s musical personality. The vibraphonist generates a lot heat but at the same time his playing is marked by a relaxed flow. Easygoing fellow but he’s not going to let you eat his lunch. One of few vibraphone players that focused on groove and grease. Yes, there’s a blues-drenched bit of Milt Jackson, without the dazzling technique of the God Of Vibes. And yes, there’s a bit of entertainment value that was inherent to the personality of pioneer Lionel Hampton, but the circus has left town before the roar of the lion. Freddie McCoy was more concerned with the kind of soul time that worked as a magnet for workers from all over the hood. Punch the clock, hurry home, slip into some shiny slacks and let’s hear it for the real mccoy’… Once settled in some upper Harlem joint, they shake their hips, shake their asses, shake their heads in amazement at the sight of this slick dude sweating it out behind that weird steel frame. Mallet boogie.

Plenty of warhorse and pop song for that kind of customer: When Sunny Gets Blue, Willow Weep For Me, Harlem Nocturne, Feeling Good. McCoy’s Roëll is a lovely ballad, his take on the Doc Pomus tune Lonely Avenue, best-known through the classic r&b version of Ray Charles, is super-soulful and the album’s crackerjack cookers, Collard Greens and Belly Full Of Greens, would serve well as background tracks for the volatile Ike & Tina Turner. Want some mean greens? Yes please, why not? Beats crème bruleé.

Freddie McCoy began to play the vibraphone in the Army in 1958 and subsequently played with Kenny Burrell, Johnny “Hammond” Smith, Philly Joe Jones and Doug Watkins. Following his debut, McCoy enjoyed a good stretch on Prestige, which released six albums between 1966 and 1968, focusing more and more on r&b and funk-ish ditties. Before he went off the radar, his last album Gimme Some was released by Cobblestone in 1971. Freddie McCoy was also a flight instructor who owned his own plane. No doubt he made some soulful maneuvers in that little booger.

Freddie McCoy passed away in 2009.

Ted Curson - Fire Down Below

Ted Curson Fire Down Below (Prestige 1963)

Ted Curson revealed himself as a breathtaking interpreter of rarely performed standards on his second album as a leader in 1963, Fire Down Below.

Ted Curson - Fire Down Below

Personnel

Ted Curson (trumpet), Ronnie Matthews (piano), George Tucker (bass), Roy Haynes (drums), Montego Joe (congas)

Recorded

on December 10, 1962 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Released

as PRLP 7263 in 1963

Track listing

Side A:
Fire Down Below
The Very Young
Baby Has Gone Bye Bye
Side B:
Show Me
Falling In Love With Love
Only Forever


Interesting species, the type that switches smoothly from mainstream to avant surroundings. Perhaps because the type realizes that avant is a hollow shell without a link to the roots? Trumpeter Ted Curson felt comfortable in both spheres. Curson, who was born in Philadelphia in 1935, matured during the period when hard bop was developed from bop, blues and gospel. In 1955, Miles Davis stimulated Curson to move to New York City. Curson, a thoroughly schooled modern jazz player, played with avant-gardist Cecil Taylor around the turn of the decade, appearing on Taylor’s 1959 album Love For Sale.

In 1960, Curson joined the group of Charles Mingus. He appeared on four Mingus albums: Mingus, Mingus Revisited, Mingus At Antibes and Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus. A lot of Mingus. Well, Mingus could never be accused of austerity. The experience of Curson of playing with Mingus and sharing the frontline with Eric Dolphy left an indelible impression. After the passing of Dolphy – the reed and woodwind giant died of a diabetic seizure in Berlin on June 29, 1964 – Curson wrote Tears For Dolphy, a beautiful melody and Curson’s masterwork. A big part of Curson’s career was spent in Europe to much acclaim. He passed away in 2012.

The title of Curson’s Atlantic album from 1963, The New Thing & The Blue Thing, speaks volumes about his jazz personality. Preceding it, Curson debuted with Plenty Of Horn on the Old Town label in 1958. The follow-up, Fire Down Below, is the LP that begs to be added to the ever-growing mainstream jazz collector’s record cabinet. Curson is assisted by pianist Gildo Mahones, bassist George Tucker, drummer Roy Haynes and percussionist Montego Joe. It is testimony to the enormous wealth of standards that Curson could pick a whole set of rarely performed songs, excluding the well-known Hart/Rodgers composition Falling In Love With Love. Of the lesser-known tunes, Fire Down Below, The Very Young and My Baby Has Gone Bye Bye are gems of the first order.

The Carribean rhythm of Lee/Washington’s Fire Down Below is sustained throughout, eschewing a 4/4 release, which is hypnotizing, you feel the splendid exotic groove in your body, soul, toes. And your ass will be wiggling before you know it! Haynes draws on his Afro-Bop legacy from the late 40s, Gildo Mahones chimes in with a lively, percussive story that pretty much comes natural, considering his upbringing by parents of Puerto-Rican descent. Montego Joe had roots in Jamaica. Curson sounds pretty Carribean too.

Little/Sacker’s The Very Young is a beautiful blues ballad. Curson plays it like a song, holding notes like he’s telling it like it is, the feeling is overwhelming and his tart sound elevates it to a bittersweet symphony. Perfect pitch, the duality of bended notes that refer to both the moan of the country blues performer and the yowl of the country singer, plus the striking clear lines Curson sustains, complete the architecture of this brilliant performance. Clearness of line and orderly placing of phrases also mark the mid-tempo Allen/Roberts tune Baby Has Gone Bye Bye. Trumpet as good as it gets, like someone breathing, without effort, no strain. Curson’s heart is big and soft and beckoning for everyone to come and dance, rejoice, and praying for his people to overcome, overcome. Cherish the album that runs a mere 31 minutes with three such performances. Length of time is not the essence!

Roy Haynes - Cracklin'

Roy Haynes Cracklin’ (New Jazz 1963)

Cracklin’ is as good a title as any for an album by drummer Roy Haynes, also known as ‘Snap Crackle’.

Roy Haynes - Cracklin'

Personnel

Roy Haynes (drums), Booker Ervin (tenor saxophone), Ronnie Matthews (piano), Larry Ridley (bass)

Recorded

on April 6, 1963 at Rudy van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Released

as NJLP 8286 in 1963

Track listing

Side A:
Scoochie
Dorian
Sketch Of Melba
Side B:
Honeydew
Under Paris Skies
Bad News Blues


You can’t miss Snap Crackle. Let us pick a ‘few’ groundbreaking and/or iconic albums on which the currently 93-year old drummer appeared: Bud Powell’s The Amazing Bud Powell, Sonny Rollins’s The Sound Of Sonny, Thelonious Monk’s Thelonious In Action and Misterioso, Eric Dolphy’s Outward Bound and Out There, Oliver Nelson’s Straight Ahead and Blues And The Abstract Truth, Andrew Hill’s Black Fire, John Coltrane’s Impressions and Newport ’63 and Jackie McLean’s Destination Out. This series spans fifteen years (1949-63) of the seven decades in which Haynes has been active.

Haynes was part of Charlie Parker’s regular group from 1949 till 1952. A different time and place. Flyin’ with Bird, The One, in angst-ridden post-war USA, which saw The Russians marching. Uncle Sam, great Allied Force that had liberated Europe, had at the same time dropped The Bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing thousands of innocent yellow-ish fellow human beings, and back home kept the black ‘citizen’ locked up in a cage. Astonishingly, lynchings were still not completely extinct below the Mason-Dixie line. Black men and women had to sit in the back of the bus. Job discrimination was commonplace, as were lower salaries. The elites feared a loss of the status quo and protected their privileges to the bitter end. Some said it was fear for and jealousy of abandon and sex that troubled them. That’s the old and worn paternalistic view that implies the only thing the black man and woman stand out with is swing. Instead, the elite felt discomfort with life as hollow men. The hollow man looks in the mirror and sees The Other, a free spirit! And suddenly is scared shitless.

Against the odds, Bird and his musical buddies, ibis birds, storm petrels and nightingales like Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk, rare birds indeed, preached Beauty, Communion, Understanding, Empathy, through the unique art of spontaneous improvisation. They were musical masters with the kind of intuitive intellect that stuck a finger in the bloody wound of racism and said ‘Dear Lady, how do you do?’. Moreover, they were on a daring enterprise that the average American still knows nothing of. That’s probably because in the ensuing years, TV send him up to the couch, where he could watch Johnny Carson hide the miserable truths about life on the other side of the track. Was it any better in Europe? Yes, for a while Europe was keener in its appreciation of the (black) jazz message. And it takes better care of its professionals – white or black – that immerse themselves in the art of improvisation. But here too, few see the whole picture, here too Starbucks has won over more fans than Charlie Shavers. Rather silly. A flat cup of coffee may still give you a buzz. But jazz feeds the soul: it stimulates independence and interaction. One has to be his own man/woman and at the same time listen closely to the other. The most democratic of arts that crosses racial, age and gender boundaries and is not about division but inclusion and unity!

So Haynes flew business class with Bird and, stimulated by the innovations of Kenny Clarke, strayed away from the 4/4 beat on the hi-hat, going for a ‘ride’ cymbal accompaniment in sync with the Parker/Gillespie-intervals, with hectic life under the White Umbrella. (Parker, obviously, never hectic or nervous, instead revealing remarkable clarity and order at outrageous tempos) They acted upon their growing sense of melodic swing, Haynes creating many intriguing drum patterns particularly, a package that is or should be a benchmark for aspiring drummers to this day. As a logical consequence of his authority, Haynes recorded prolifically as a leader. His first album, Busman’s Holiday, was released in 1954 on Emarcy. His 1960 album on Impulse, Out Of The Afternoon, featuring Roland Kirk, Tommy Flanagan and Henry Grimes, is a perennial favorite of jazz fans around the globe. The sizzle and responsiveness of his playing on the 1968 Chick Corea classic, Now He Sings, Now He Sobs, is so beautiful it, well, is liable to bring tears. Late in life, Haynes made not one but two Grammy-winning albums: Fountain Of Youth (2004) and Whereas (2006).

Cracklin’ was released on New Jazz in 1963. It featured tenor saxophonist Booker Ervin, pianist Ronnie Matthews and bassist Larry Ridley. The date of the session is April 6, 1963. It is interesting to note that in that period, Haynes played with John Coltrane on the Newport Jazz Festival, on July 7 to be precise. While Cracklin’ smoothly stears along the coasts of hard bop, post bop and modal jazz, Haynes was cookin’ on another planet with Coltrane, replacing Elvin Jones, who was out for a snack on Alphabet Street. Both sessions rely on the Haynes specialty of snare rolls, Newport ’63 more heavily, spirited and sharp as a tack, an interesting change of vibe in contrast with the broader scope of Elvin Jones.

The Haynes snare is a superhero, Cracklin’ the blockbuster movie. In the winter, the drummer uses up the firecrackers of the stock that was left from New Year’s Eve and on summer camp Haynes is the leader that produces a light from stone and wood. From the word go, the light sets Scoochie in motion, a composition by Booker Ervin. Ervin thrives on the hard swing of Haynes. Haynes responds to the growing fire of “Book”, dancing through it like a dervish. Booker Ervin is a stimulating presence on any session, Cracklin’ is no exception. Generally, Ervin has been compared with John Coltrane. This doesn’t make much sense. There are shades of Coltrane in Ervin, but Ervin’s style, albeit thoroughly modern and obviously not without a certain amount of harmonic prowess, is less complex and has an emotional directness that reminds us of the Tough Tenors from Texas. Ervin was born in Denison, Texas in 1935. His indelible blues wail lands in your gut like a saucy and hefty kidney stew.

Then there’s pianist Ronnie Matthews, adding nimble lines that parade through downtown Dorian like supple jumping horses. Dorian is a tune by Matthews. It might refer to a lady, it might refer to a scale, either way it makes use of a ‘Trane-ish drone kept up vigorously by Haynes. Haynes also makes something special of the lovely melody by Hubert Gireaud, Under Paris Skies. His beat behind the piano solo of Matthews is ‘jungle’ at its most sizzling and groovy. His breaks on one of the album’s blues tunes, Ronnie Matthews’s Honeydew, are the drum equivalent of the soul shout ‘sock it to me!’

The message is loud and clear.

Eddie Chamblee - The Rocking Tenor Sax Of Eddie Chamblee

Eddie Chamblee The Rocking Tenor Sax Of Eddie Chamblee (Prestige 1964)

Party time with Eddie Chamblee.

Eddie Chamblee - The Rocking Tenor Sax Of Eddie Chamblee

Personnel

Eddie Chamblee (tenor saxophone), Dayton Shelby (organ), Al Griffin (drums)

Recorded

on February 27, 1964 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Released

as PRLP 7321 in 1964

Track listing

Side A:
The Honeydripper
You’ll Never Walk Alone
Softly, As I Love You
Bye Bye Blackbird
Side B:
Champin’
Skang!
Soon
Little Things Mean A Lot


Eddie Chamblee was born in Atlanta in 1920. He was the featured tenorist on Sonny Thompson’s big hits Long Gone and Late Freight and played in the groups of Lionel Hampton, Cozy Cole, Amos Milburn, T-Bone Walker, Lowell Fulson, Machito and singer Dinah Washington, with whom Chamblee was married for a short period. While leading his own groups, the tenor saxophonist played on r&b and doowop tunes, notably by The Diamonds and The Drifters. The liner notes writer of The Rocking Tenor Sax mentions two funny details. Firstly, Chamblee is the tenor saxophonist that the viewer notices standing beside Brigitte Bardot in Roger Vadim’s movie And God Created Woman. Secondly, Chamblee performed at the Inaugaration Party of President Eisenhower in 1956. If you had to choose between one of these supporting roles, which one would it be? Rejoining Hampton in the eighties, Chamblee was further associated with Milt Buckner and Count Basie. Chamblee passed away in 1999.

Prior to his affiliation with Prestige, Chamblee recorded two albums for EmArcy, Chamblee Music and Doodlin’. The Rocking Tenor Sax is Chamblee’s only album as a leader in the sixties. The title is a great reflection of the kind of roaring live gigs one could experience in those days. It isn’t live-in-performance but it feels that way. Obviously, the legendary engineer Rudy van Gelder at work here, beware that no one took notice of his innovative recording methods, rarely invited neighbours, relatives or friends. Would’ve been one hell of a party.

Soul jazz grew out of swing, r&b and modern jazz. Generally speaking, it was an Afro-American phenomenon, a type of music that was enjoyed in clubs and bars around the country but particularly popular in the Mid-West. Though there’s no mistaking that most players had a solid background in modern jazz, (by the way, part of the work of giants of jazz like Cannonball Adderley or Sonny Stitt is also categorized as soul jazz – Adderley’s Jive Samba was a big hit) entertainment was key. Soul jazz was, first and foremost, accessible, finger-poppin’, foot-tappin’, hip-shakin’ music for a night out into town. The pioneering, relatively small independent record companies presented a catalogue of blues, ballads, American songbook and popular tunes – groove music. Prestige, Blue Note and Argo/Cadet possessed a good distribution network and carried their stock to radio stations and the jukebox circuit, hoping for a hit record or single. A hit didn’t necessarily have to be an original composition. There are many examples of interpretations of hits by artists which also turned into big sellers. The Honeydripper, the opening cut from Eddie Chamblee’s Prestige album is a case in point. It was a hit for the original writer, Joe Liggins. Soon after, Roosevelt Sykes made a successful version. The take on the contagious r&b melody by Eddie Chamblee didn’t lead to skyrocketing sales. But no doubt, his rousing version blows the roof off the joint.

Said Honeydripper has Chamblee climaxing early but not necessarily too soon, if you know what I mean. Chamblee’s got plenty of juice, honking his way through the choruses and the rocking 4/4 bottom that drummer Al Griffin provides. Chamblee alternates growls with screeching high notes, a specialty that Chamblee demonstrates on other tunes on the album as well. There goes Van Gelder’s Delft Blue tableware. Chamblee shows no signs of fatigue, providing effective swing riffs behind organist Dayton Shelby, who’s quite the musical rebel rouser himself.

It’s easy to imagine Chamblee’s trio perform at one of the dingier clubs on The Street. Some colorful cat offers a beauty a drink, the chatter of customers pierces little holes in the cigarette smoke clouds… And Chamblee bounces through his original tunes Champin’ and Skang!, the former a sleazy jump blues, the latter a slow, down-home blues. There’s the hard rock (like, hard rock) of Bye Bye Blackbird, courtesy of the bulldozer drum patterns by Al Griffin. And while Softly As I Leave You is a pretty sapless attempt to balladeer gent and dame into the French Kissin’ zone, embellished by lachrymose organ playing, Soon finds a soft spot in the heart. The Gershwin composition is gracefully marked by Chamblee’s velvet yet peppery lines and beautifully inflected notes. Here Chamblee has reached a synthesis between suppleness and groove. Soon is the highlight of The Rocking Tenor Sax Of Eddie Chamblee, but it can’t hurt to keep the remainder of the repertory in mind for a house party. Satisfaction guaranteed.

Listen to the full album on YouTube here. And to Eddie Chamblee on Spotify below:

Lee Morgan - The Cooker

Lee Morgan The Cooker (Blue Note 1957)

Just twenty-years of age, Lee Morgan came into his own as a leader on his 1957 album The Cooker.

Lee Morgan - The Cooker

Personnel

Lee Morgan (trumpet), Pepper Adams (baritone saxophone), Bobby Timmons (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), Philly Joe Jones (drums)

Recorded

on September 29, 1957 at Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, New Jersey

Released

as BLP 1578 in 1958

Track listing

Side A:
Night In Tunesia
Heavy Dipper
Side B:
Just One Of Those Things
Lover Man
New-Ma


To be sure, the young lion had already arrived as one of the hottest cats on the scene. Two weeks prior to the September 29 session of The Cooker, Morgan played on John Coltrane’s Blue Train session on September 15. Nice work if you can get it. That summer, Morgan had played his last gigs with the Dizzy Gillespie band, which he had been part of since the spring of 1956, appearing on Dizzy In Greece, Birks’ Works and Dizzy Gillespie At Newport. Around that time, tenor saxophonist Benny Golson recommended the Philadelphians Lee Morgan, pianist Bobby Timmons and bassist Jimmy Merritt to Art Blakey, whose career could use a boost. The rest is history. Morgan played with The Jazz Messengers from 1958 to ’61 and 1964 to ’65, contributing to landmark albums as Moanin’ and Meet You At The Jazz Corner Of The World. The Cooker already was Morgan’s sixth album as a leader, his fifth for Blue Note, preceded by City Lights and followed by Candy. On the preceding albums many of the tunes were written by expert tunesmith Benny Golson. The Cooker presents the first Morgan compositions on wax: Heavy Dipper, a long flowing melody which shows the influence of Golson, a very swinging tune. And New-Ma, a mid-tempo blues with a twist, a tune that begs to be played by Ray Charles, a feat that naturally values the song as highly recommended.

Make this one of those albums to put on if you, like Art Blakey so many years hence, need a boost. Leave that Red Bull be, sugar kills, jazz feeds. Morgan and baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams absolutely deliver food for the soul, the pairing of Morgan’s buoyant, hip and urgent style with Adams’s husky, dynamic baritone playing is a meeting of high and low registers in creamy, relaxed themes that’s very satisfying. Then there’s Philly Joe Jones, crips, dirty, probing. A fast take of Just One Of Those Things has Philly Joe nudging Morgan with propulsive ride cymbalism, sparse snare rolls and feathered bass, subsequently stoking up the fire and seducing Morgan to turn in blistering hot runs. Such a pleasant stay ensembles have in front of Philly Joe Jones’s kit. Like gliding above the Alps on the wings of a hawk.

Timmons’s crafty blues tale during the ballad Lover Man makes tasteful use of space and silence. Silence, it must be noted, is of equal importance in jazz than the notes. Paul Chambers sounds delighted, embellishing the loping tempo of the ballad’s middle section with fat, exquisite phrases. Pepper Adams bops hard, evoking Charlie Parker in Just One Of Those Things. Lee Morgan is thrilling throughout and killer bee during Night In Tunesia, the album’s highlight. Stimulated by the sparkling cross-rhythmic groove of Jones and Chambers, which only occasionally gives in to the release of a 4/4 section, Morgan’s entrance cracks nuts, whereupon Morgan joyfully excurses into a elongated section of double time. He ends with a honky-tonky coda that’s beautiful for its simplicity.

Morgan the ultimate cooker on trumpet? Convince me of the contrary. Regardless of some low points in his life due to his reckless drug abuse, he would keep burnin’ until that fateful day in 1972, when his common-law wife Helen Morgan fatally wounded the trumpeter by a gunshot at Slugs’ Saloon in New York City.

Julian Priester - Keep Swinging

Julian Priester Keep Swinging (Jazzland 1960)

No either/or for trombonist Julian Priester, who switches smoothly from avant-garde and fusion to hard bop, and back. His 1960 debut album on Riverside, Keep Swingin’, fits neatly in the latter category.

Julian Priester - Keep Swinging

Personnel

Julian Priester (trombone), Jimmy Heath (tenor saxophone), Tommy Flanagan (piano), Sam Jones (bass), Elvin Jones (drums)

Recorded

on January 11, 1960 at Plaza Sound Studio, New York City

Released

as RLP 12-316 in 1960

Track listing

Side A:
24-hour leave
The End
1239A
Just Friends
Side B:
Bob T’s Blues
Under The Surface
Once In A While
Julian’s Tune


Here’s an open-minded gentleman who isn’t satisfied to keep playing in the same bag for the rest of his days. In high demand by stalwarts of modern jazz, Priester played and recorded with Max Roach, Art Blakey, Johnny Griffin, Blue Mitchell, Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan, Booker Little, Clifford Jordan, Stanley Turrentine and McCoy Tyner. Then too he was part of Sun Ra’s orchestra on and off from 1956 to 1995. In the early 70s, Priester held the trombone chair in the Duke Ellington Orchestra. One year – 1969 – Priester was featured on organist Lonnie Smith’s The Turning Point, the other – 1970 – he joined the experimental Mwhandishi band of Herbie Hancock for three years. Priester cooperated with Charlie Haden, Eddie Henderson, Dave Holland and Anthony Braxton. Yet, his teenage years in Chicago, where Priester was born in 1935, were spent on stage with blues and r&b legends as Muddy Waters and Bo Diddley. Well, avant-garde doesn’t mean anything if it at least has a semblance of the roots, right? Right. Discussion forum’s open. Draft or bottle?

One can imagine what attracted Duke Ellington to Julian Priester. Priester is skilled in the modern approach of pioneer J.J. Johnson, not a specialist of certain techniques like the earlier Ellington trombonists, but his sound is tart and joyful. His fluent lines have sustained swing and his phrases have built-in blues feeling. In 1960, while he was part of Max Roach’s group, Priester set himself in the limelight with two releases. Generally, Spiritsville is the album that gets the attention on the world wide jazz web. It’s a fine album that boasts the challenging tune Excursion and a great ballad reading by Priester of It Might As Well Be Spring. However, it’s weird that Keep Swingin’ is largely ignored.

There’s swing and then there’s swing. Spiritsville, with McCoy Tyner, Sam Jones and Art Taylor in tow, has no lack of it. Yet I feel that, somehow, the juices aren’t really flowing, the spirit is held in check by God knows what. Something between the devil and the deep blue Hudson River. Keep Swingin’ may not be a classic session, but it has the edge on Spiritsville.

The line-up includes tenor saxophonist Jimmy Heath, pianist Tommy Flanagan, bassist Sam Jones and drummer Elvin Jones. The stars stood in the right spot, the time was right, the guys were in sync, in a happy mood, comfortable. The Detroit cats, Elvin Jones and Tommy Flanagan, were cracking jokes, is what one is liable to imagine. Because the mood is right. The session is relaxed yet urgent. There are a number of blues-based tunes like Heath’s 24-Hour Leave, Priester’s Bob T’s Blues, bop-inflected tunes like Priester’s The End, Under The Surface, Charles Davis’ 1239A, the standard Just Friends and the Edwards/Greene ballad Once In A While. Bob T’s Blues is a low-down mean slow blues.

Priester’s in-your-face handling of the Just Friends melody after the solos, coupled with his booming sound, is a gas. Jimmy Heath is fiery and gutsy. Flanagan is sprightly as spring water. His lines, full of ideas, move so effortlessly! Sam Jones and Elvin Jones are tight-knit and greasy, Elvin Jones is on top, teasing Sam like (although they’re not related) the older brother throwing curve balls to the kid brother with a bat that’s too big for comfort. They’re like a steam locomotive that, if asked for, could keep running from here to eternity, and back. Priester is at the wheel, smiling.

Julian Priester lives in New York City, where he plays and teaches.

Listen to Keep Swinging’ and Spiritsville back to back on Spotify below.

Eddie Baccus - Feel Real

Eddie Baccus Feel Real (Smash 1963)

Eddie Baccus is the Speedy Gonzales of the Hammond B3 organ. Still, Mr. Baccus keeps up a remarkable clarity of line, as can be heard on his 1963 album on Smash, Feel Real.

Eddie Baccus - Feel Real

Personnel

Eddie Baccus (organ), Mose Fowler (guitar), George Cook (drums), Charles Crosby (drums), Theoshis Tannis (flute B1)

Recorded

in October 1962 at Universal Recording Studios, Chicago

Released

as Smash 67029 in 1963

Track listing

Side A:
Feel Real
Out Of Nowhere
Stranger On The Shore
Blues At Dawn
Side B:
A Breath In The Wind
Flight 464
Phoebe
In A Minor Groove


For a long time now, it has been Eddie Baccus Sr. Until recently, the 81-year old, blind organist performed with his son, saxophonist Eddie Baccus Jr. Baccus was born in Lawnsdale, North Carolina in 1936. Soon after birth, the young Eddie turned blind. He grew up in Columbus and Cleveland, Ohio, where he came under the tutelage of Roland Kirk. Until then, Baccus was a pianist, but he took up the organ whilst in Kirk’s group. The group had a nine-month residency at the 100 Club in Cleveland. When Kirk went to New York to join Charles Mingus, Baccus remained in Ohio with drummer Charles Crosby. Kirk had recommended Baccus to Jack Tracy, label boss of Smash Records. And so Feel Real came about.

The only album by Eddie Baccus as a leader, Feel Real, features a tight-knit, cookin’ trio including guitarist Mose Fowler and drummer George Cook, who alternates with Baccus’s old pal Charles Crosby on a number of tunes. Baccus is a heated cat, functioning somewhat as the proverbial talented teenage organist that underlines the Baptist preacher’s fire-and-brimstone speeches in a church way down south. To be sure, it’s kind of a BOP church in a way. Plenty of greasy sermons are commented upon by quicksilver figures that very likely are grounded in Baccus’s past as a pianist who was influenced by Charlie Parker and Bud Powell. The bravura of Baccus is underlined by impeccable timing on top of the beat. The frenzied ‘more is more’ approach does, however, makes part of the congregation, not least the sinner at the desk of Flophouse Magazine, rather jittery. There’s a limit to stuffing multitudes of notes in a bar.

Fans of good old organ grooves will love Feel Real’s zest, expertise and diverse repertoire. Baccus provides a couple of catchy blues-based tunes that effectively make use of stop time. Feel Real is a delicious ditty, featuring Baccus as a NASCAR driver dangerously close to the boards, his tires practically burnt to pulp. His razor-sharp intro of Flight 464 is a gas. Blues At Dawn is a variation of Charles Brown’s Driftin’ Blues. It’s down-home stuff taken at a leisurely medium tempo, underscored by the in-your-face sound of the Baccus B3. The group puts a good groove into Out Of Nowhere. A lithe touch is added to the album in the guise of Roland Kirk’s A Breath In The Wind, a deconstruction of the traditional theme-solo-theme format that features lovely, breathy flute playing by one Theoshis Tannis. Obviously, Tannis is a pseudonym for Roland Kirk.

Baccus even takes a shot at Acker Bilk’s Stranger On The Shore. May sound like kitsch. But don’t worry, the waves washed plenty of sleaze and dirt to the coast line on this one too.

Listen to Feel Real, Blues At Dawn and A Breath In The Wind on YouTube.