Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis - Cookbook

Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis Cookbook (Prestige 1958)

Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis and Shirley Scott pass the peas back and forth on their soul jazz hit album Cookbook.

Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis - Cookbook

Personnel

Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis (tenor saxophone), Shirley Scott (organ), Jerome Richardson (flute A1-3, B1, B3, tenor saxophone B2), George Duvivier (bass), Arthur Edgehill (drums)

Recorded

on June 20, 1958 at Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, New Jersey

Released

as PRLP 7141 in 1958

Track listing

Side A:
Have Horn, Will Blow
The Chef
But Beautiful
Side B:
In The Kitchen
Three Deuces
Avalon


Before DJ and promoter Alan Freed coined the term ‘rhythm & blues’ in the advertisements for his groundbreaking package shows in 1947, rendering it commonplace almost immediately, ‘race’ music was the general term for black popular music. Most likely, black musicians like Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis weren’t very focused on labels as ‘race’, swing and r&b, as long as their efforts led to the required financial rewards to pay their bills and put bread on the table. Davis played with Cootie Williams, Louis Armstrong and Count Basie in the early forties (throughout his career, Davis would have extended stints with Basie) and churned out jump-and-jivin’ honk-fests for labels like Savoy and Apollo for the rest of the decade. Meanwhile, the ‘new’ jazz created by Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell and Kenny Clarke was labeled ‘bebop’. It is usually overlooked, but Davis mingled smoothly with the pioneering crew, functioning as MC on the bandstand of Minton’s Playhouse, not without adding his brand of tough tenorism, lest we forget. He also cooperated extensively with Sonny Stitt during the fifties.

In the mid-fifties, Davis recorded a number of albums with organist Shirley Scott on King, Roulette and Roost that were well-received by the small circle of admirers of the hard-working group on the ‘chitlin’ circuit’, the network of clubs in the nation’s black neighbourhoods. Few could foresee the succes of their subsequent recording on Prestige. The fact that Prestige, securing better distribution deals and more airplay, immediately re-issued Cookbook as Cookbook Vol.1 and subsequently also released Vol.2 and Vol.3 gives a good idea of the group’s popularity at that time. Their attraction, nonetheless, also faded fairly quickly and soon after Davis formed a more ‘hard bopping’ partnership with fellow combative tenor saxophonist Johnny Griffin on the Riverside label from 1960 to 1962.

It is rather amazing, in hindsight, that a long slow blues like their take on Johnny Hodges’ In The Kitchen (12:53 minutes, although obviously, Jerome Richardson’s solo was deleted for the purpose of the length of a 7inch) turned out to be the group’s big jukebox hit. There’s no use getting trapped in the web of nostalgia and romanticizing. But one can easily imagine black folks tapping their feet and slightly shaking their hips while the sounds of In The Kitchen reverberate against the wall of a BBQ joint at the corner of 110th Street and Lexington Avenue. As Charles Bukowski wrote: Style is a way of doing, a way of being done. You might want to let this sink in while opening another bottle of Chateau de Catpiss.

It means that the Afro-American citizens of the post-war years possessed a hip musical taste. As people who’ve lived to tell occasionally have revealed, it wasn’t uncommon to comment among themselves on music of both Jackie Wilson and Ramsey Lewis, both Louis Jordan and Gene Ammons. Although soul jazz wasn’t complex jazz, it also wasn’t as ‘primitive’ as sometimes assumed. Moreover, it had a social function, as people shared their enthusiasm on nights out into town, eager for solid, funky entertainment. With the introduction of crack and the subsequent disintegration of the neighborhoods in the early seventies, the cohesive force of music received a big blow.

Shirley Scott’s solo on In The Kitchen seems filled with her memories of the sermons she attented in her youth. More like her forefathers Milt Buckner and Wild Bill Davis than modernist Jimmy Smith, Scott focuses on riffs and a theatre/accordion-type sound. Then it’s Lockjaw’s turn. Initially, Davis noodles age-old blues licks with a low-volume, breathy sound, but he progressively speaks up more forcefully and finally his howls take over the recording studio of Rudy van Gelder in Hackensack, New Jersey. One of the pleasures of playing with “Lockjaw” must’ve been that his imposing sound and scabrous style effectively pushes a group forward. Stimulated considerably, Jerome Richardson delivers a blues-drenched flute solo with a remarkable ‘singing’ tone and some rugged tongue-effects.

It may not be surprising, considering the regular working schedule of the Davis/Scott outfit at the time, that there are more tunes on Cookbook that are full of delicate interaction and rock-solid swing. The fast-paced Avalon runs smoothly, both “Lockjaw” and Richardson’s balladry of But Beautiful is tender as well as meaty and the three uptempo songs The Chef, Have Horn, Will Blow and Three Deuces (presumably titled after the club on ‘The Street’ – 52nd Street, NYC – and with a rousing feature of Jerome Richardson on tenor) are first-class potboilers. Davis unites the terse swing of Ben Webster and a bit of Webster’s vibrato with deceptively nonchalant phrasing, freely and playfully making use of slurs, barks and husky honks. His way of stringing together lines sometimes has a peculiar, otherwordly quality. Like someone is spinning backwards a sax solo on the turntable. At the same time, Lockjaw sounds as if he has to scrub the dirt of his shoes every time he returns home from a gig. Mutually stimulating contrasts, resulting in an unforgettable kind of sax poetry.

Benny Green - Soul Stirrin'

Benny Green Soul Stirrin’ (Blue Note 1599)

Of the invariably soulful albums from trombonist Benny Green, Soul Stirrin’, with the heavyweight line up of Gene Ammons, Billy Root, Sonny Clark and Elvin Jones, is arguably his finest effort.

Benny Green - Soul Stirrin'

Personnel

Benny Green (trombone), Gene Ammons (tenor saxophone), Billy Root (tenor saxophone), Sonny Clark (piano), Ike Isaacs (bass), Elvin Jones (drums), Babs Gonzalez (vocals A1, A2,)

Recorded

on April 28, 1958 at Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, New Jersey

Released

as BLP 1599 in 1958

Track listing

Side A:
The Cooker
Benny’s Back
Bossa Rocka
All Of Me
Big Fat Lady
Side B:
Benson’s Rider
Ready And Able
The Borgia Stick
Return Of The Prodigal Son
Jumpin’ With Symphony Sid


Benny Green is like that friendly uncle who always takes you aside at a family gathering, stuffing a couple of bucks into your pocket, ‘here kid, go buy yourself some candy.’ Green’s playing is accessible, uplifting, his phrases smack of smoke-filled back rooms, where burly whisky drinkers throw dirty jokes to the other end of the card table. His altogether very deft, modern style retains a lurid sense of old-timey swing, which places him at the other end of the spectrum opposite pioneer J.J. Johnson. His tone is tart, a lovely blast of fresh air.

By 1958, Green’s experience consisted of a decade spent in the bands of Earl Hines and Charlie Ventura. He had worked and recorded with Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Sonny Criss, Hank Mobley and Randy Weston. Green was up for his second Blue Note album, following Back On The Scene and a slew of releases on Prestige onwards from 1951.

Not only did Green have aboard Ammons, Root, Clark, bassist Ike Isaacs and Jones, the bop poet and songwriter Babs Gonzalez also put his best foot forward, providing two melodies. Throughout the album, there are ample examples that justify the title. It’s a spirited, blues-drenched affair. There’s the sparse, precise riffing behind the soloists in We Wanna Cook, an uptempo, twelve-bar blues swinger, reminiscent of the Count Basie cookers, and also marked by Papa Jo Jones-style drumming by Elvin Jones. The same procedures – saxes spurring on trombone – mark the title track, absolutely the best tune of the album, a heated Blues March-type groove, albeit a bit slower. Babs Gonzalez hums the melody, the soloists take off, Gene Ammons especially commanding, on top of his game, blowing long wailing notes, coupled with sparse, melodic bop figures, a wall of sound from The Boss.

Gonzalez’ Lullaby Of The Doomed, Round Midnight-ish, is a breather. B.G. Mambo’s fat-bottomed theme jumps and jives, but turns into a rather pedestrian, straightforward 4/4 rhythm. Sonny Clark’s introspective side comes to the fore in Lullaby, his accompaniment on the album is spicy, he turns a beat here, injects a persuasive bass note further away from the sequence there, continuing to hold momentum all the way. Perhaps the mutual understanding of Green, Ammons and Root, who played together earlier in their careers, contribute to the album’s coherent soul groove. Billy Root, rather the mystery man of this set, a great, hard-swinging player, had a more imposing career than most people probably realize, most of the time spent as a sideman. He played with John Coltrane, Clifford Brown, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Stan Kenton, Lucky Thompson, Hank Mobley, Lee Morgan, Dizzy Gillespie and many others. Check out an enlightening interview of the candid Root with guest writer Gordon Jack on the great Jazz Profiles website of Steven Cerra here.

When listening to Black Pearl, you will notice that it closely resembles Black Pearls – with the added ‘s’ – from John Coltrane’s album Black Pearls. Soul Stirrin’ was recorded on April 28, 1958. Black Pearls – released as a profitable afterthought by Prestige in 1964 when Coltrane had long since moved to Atlantic and Impulse – is recorded on May 23, 1958. So Bennie beat ‘Trane to a month. The liner notes to Soul Stirrin’ say: ‘The program is completed with Black Pearl penned by sax man Bill Graham.’ However, Coltrane’s album credits not Graham but John Coltrane as composer. Did Coltrane nick a tune? Aficionados on the in-depth Organissimo website suggested that Graham’s credit got lost, it was then registered as unknown, and subsequently assigned to Coltrane. Apparently, Coltrane remembered the nice melody, picking it for that wonderful session with Donald Byrd, Red Garland, Paul Chambers and Art Taylor. Organissimo adds the fact that the tune is registered to Graham in The Coltrane Reference, the Bible of Coltrane facts. Recognition after all for Bill Graham, born 1918, a relatively unknown saxophonist who warrants more than a few words in another time and place. To be sure, Black Pearl is another one of the tunes making sure Soul Stirrin’s a keeper.

The George Benson Quartet - Cookbook

The George Benson Quartet Cookbook (Columbia 1966)

There are two, maybe three or four George Bensons. However, for straightforward jazz fans, there’s only one: the cat that made gritty, in-your-face soul jazz albums like 1966’s Cookbook.

The George Benson Quartet - Cookbook

Personnel

George Benson (guitar), Ronnie Cuber (baritone saxophone), Lonnie Smith (organ), Jimmy Lovelace (drums), Marion Booker (drums)

Recorded

From August 1 – October 19, 1966 at Columbia Studio, NYC

Released

as CS 9413 in 1967

Track listing

Side A:
The Cooker
Benny’s Back
Bossa Rocka
All Of Me
Big Fat Lady
Side B:
Benson’s Rider
Ready And Able
The Borgia Stick
Return Of The Prodigal Son
Jumpin’ With Symphony Sid


For those fans, listening to George Benson after 1966 is like the obligatory New Years Drink from your employer. Damn, is guessing who’s been under the sheets with whom the only game around here?. Ok, one might answer the demure jazz buff, next time bring your turntable, light things up a bit, you crank. And the fifty-something who grew up on a diet of Average White Band and Santana might add, hey pal, George Benson did record some awesome stuff after ’66.

Sure he did. Except most of it is drowned in an overstuffed sound soup of strings, harp, flute, synth and, yuk, strings from the synth. A&M and CTI albums like The Other Side Of Abbey Road (1970) and White Rabbit (1972) are, notwithstanding the heavyweight line-ups of, among others, Herbie Hancock and Ron Carter, technically exceptional elevator muzak affairs, no less. If it wasn’t for the greasy, steamroller beat of drummer Idris Muhammad, 1968’s The Shape Of Things To Come would’ve been nothing more than schlock for the building constructors working on the streets where you live. Then again, few are prepared for My Latin Brother from Bad Benson (1974), a smoking, exotic and sizzling Latin tune with a quintet line up from the matured guitar player. And the highlights of Benson’s big break as a smooth jazz star in 1976, collected on Breezin’, are, despite their schmaltzy coating of synth, pretty darn good courtesy of the experienced, first-class session players – take So This Is Love. The only thing it needs is the voice of Barry White. Next thing you know one of sixteen vestal virgins appears from out of the blue, ready to sign up for Procol Harum’s harem.

As early as early 1968, when Benson was still a soul jazz guitarist, there were hints of radio-friendly formatting. His album Giblet Gravy has both the low-down dirty blues, injected with typical lightning-bolt fingering, of Groovin’ as the saccharine take of the ultimate crowd pleaser, Bobby Hebb’s Sunny. In fact, he’s singing an r&b-type version of All Of Me on Cookbook that could’ve done well on the jukebox market. George Benson has always been the kind of performer that succeeds in recording bubblegum ditties in the afternoon and play steamin’ r&b at night. Organist Greg Lewis told Flophouse that he regularly tried to sit in as a woodshedding Hammond B3 player in the early nineties in a Manhattan club, sometimes succeeding to replace one of the accomplished organists for a tune or so. Occasionally, Benson, at the height of his fame, would drive his limousine up the sidewalk, park, get in and join the band on stage. Nobody cut George.

Cocksure at heart. Benson was like that when he first hit the scene as a sideman with organist Brother Jack McDuff in late 1963. By no means arrogant, instead playing with a joy of discovery that is contagious. In McDuff’s band, the youngster, who sang professionally as a kid, still played the kind of r&b guitar style from his teenage years, although the influence of his heroes Charlie Christian and Grant Green (interpreted in fast forward motion) were readily discernible. Displaying quicksilver runs, a biting attack, torrents of foul-mouthed but impeccably placed blues phrases, Benson heated up both studio and stage to temperatures uncommon even in New Jersey or New York City summer season. Dig Benson’s fireworks on YouTube, footage of the McDuff Quartet’s 1964 performance at Antibes, France, here.

After a string of albums with McDuff and his debut album on Prestige, The New Boss Guitar Of George Benson, the guitarist had signed to Columbia, releasing It’s Uptown in 1966, with one of those grandiose subtitles I’m sure musicians weren’t too fond of, The Most Exciting New Jazz Guitarist On The Scene Today. It was a thoroughly exciting group that Benson had assembled and baritone saxophonist Ronnie Cuber, organist Lonnie Smith and drummer Jimmy Lovelace (alternating with Marion Booker) also gathered for the Cookbook session, still more tight-knit as a unit, delivering a hot barbecue of spicy ribs and saucy side dishes. There’s the opening tune, The Cooker, a strike of stop-time thunder, evidence of the group’s effortless breakneck speed swing and Benson’s fast-fingered blues wizardry. Perhaps already the highlight of the album, which yet doesn’t take anything away from the remainder of the repertory, including other Benson originals like the gentle Bossa Rocka and Big Fat Lady, a perky r&b tune that could easily pass for the background to Jimmy Hughes on Fame or Hank Ballard on King.

Benson gets his kicks with licks on Benson’s Rider, a boogaloo-ish rhythm perfectly suitable for the deeply groovy Lonnie Smith. Benson wrote the The Borgia Stick for a mafia television series, a lush greenery for the mutually responsive soul jazz cultivators, who are effectively aroused by sections of tension and release. The nifty Jimmy Smith tune Ready And Able presents the burgeoning talent of baritone saxophonist Ronnie Cuber to full effect. He’s like the cookie monster that’s gotten a shot of rhythm&blues, soulfully eating up the breaks off the I Got Rhythm changes.

The other horn player on the date, Benny Green, happened to walk into his friend George Benson on the street prior to Benson’s session. Benson invited Green over to the studio to join the proceedings. Such is the unique nature of jazz and its practitioners, that sheer coincidence may be turned into a musical advantage. Green’s uplifting, swinging style is an asset on Benny’s Back (which was written on the spot by Benson and refers to the fact that Green was also present on Benson’s first Columbia LP) and the swing-styled jam Jumpin’ With Symphony Sid, the longest track on an album that keeps warming the hearts of ‘early-Benson-fans’ around the globe.

Gene Ammons - Brother Jug!

Gene Ammons Brother Jug (Prestige 1970)

As if nothing had happened, Gene Ammons resumed his place in the Prestige roster after his seven-year long stint in jail and delivered four consecutive big-selling albums in 1969/70. Brother Jug is the second in line.

Gene Ammons - Brother Jug!

Personnel

Gene Ammons (tenor saxophone), Sonny Philips (organ), Junior Mance (piano), Billy Butler (guitar), Bob Bushnell (bass), Bernard Purdie (drums), Frankie Jones (drums), Candido (congas)

Recorded

on November 10 & 11, 1969 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Released

as PR 7792 in 1969

Track listing

Side A:
Son Of A Preacher Man
Didn’t We
He’s A Real Gone Guy
Side B:
Jungle Strut
Blue Velvet
Ger-Ru


“Jug” was a nickname cast upon Ammons by singer and bandleader Billy Eckstine, whose band Ammons was part of in the mid forties, like so many future modern jazz giants as Charlie Parker, Dexter Gordon and Sonny Stitt. One day the band checked out new hats in a store. When Eckstine found out the enormous hat size of Ammons, he blurted out: ‘You jug-head motherfucker!’ The name, shortened to “Jug”, stuck. Shortly after, Ammons had his first big-selling song with 1947’s Red Top. The ballad My Foolish Heart, which had been in the book of Eckstine’s band, was next, a smash hit in 1951. The Prestige albums of Ammons sold well, especially 1960’s Boss Tenor, which spawned the popular Canadian Sunset, and 1962’s Bad! Bossa Nova. At that time, Ammons had become a heroin addict. Already having done stints in jail in the fifties, now the law put him away not only for possession but also selling narcotics, a sure sign that Ammons was abused as a symbol of ‘the degenerate, black musician’. He had to put up with a staggering seven-year sentence.

During those years of 1962-69, Prestige kept his name in the spotlight as best as it possibly could, releasing a number of albums with material from the vaults. Nevertheless, upon the release of Ammons from jail in 1969, the label was curious if the big-toned melodist could still deliver. The answer was affirmative with a capital A. Ammons had honed his chops in prison. The homecoming concert at Chicago’s Plucked Nickel in the fall of ’69 (the liner notes say) was a succes, the following gigs in Detroit, Baltimore and Philadelphia likewise. New York? No, Ammons wasn’t allowed to play in the Big Apple. A bunch of bureaucrats from the liquor board kept “Jug” out of town. Except for the studio of Rudy van Gelder, where Ammons recorded the well-received The Boss Is Back! and, subsequently, Brother Jug! and The Black Cat!. In between, Prestige released a live album with Dexter Gordon, The Chase!.

Meanwhile, the health of Ammons had detoriated considerably. Ammons passed away in 1974 at the age of forty-nine. They had to dug for “Jug”. At his funeral Sonny Stitt, whom Ammons had been associated with regularly throughout his career, played My Buddy. One of the best friends of Ammons, tenor saxophonist Prince James, also performed. James is featured on Brother Jug as well, on the last track of the album, Ger-Ru, which also includes Junior Mance, the pianist who’d been part of an early Ammons group.

The rest, however, consists of an organ combo including organist Sonny Philips and one of Prestige’s house rhythm sections of bassist Bob Bushnell and drummer Bernard Purdie. Solid groove music assured. The loose, tough-as-nails version of Son Of A Preacher Man is a ringer, while the flagwaving shuffle blues He’s A Real Gone Guy, a song from r&b singer Nellie Lutcher, conjures up images of loved ones leaning against the wall, drowning each other with drunken, smeary kisses. Every Gene Ammons album of the late sixties and early seventies has a stand-out track. On Brother Jug, it’s Jimmy Webb’s Didn’t We, a ballad that finds Ammons at the top of his unsurpassed, unique game of level-headed drama. Soon, as Ammons would grow more ill, his form would understandably falter. But for the moment, “Jug” was back at the forefront of entertaining and hi-level soul jazz.

Scroll down on the Spotify link to listen to most of the Brother Jug album. Well, The Boss Is Back is also pretty swell.

Jack Wilson - Easterly Winds

Jack Wilson Easterly Winds (Blue Note 1967)

In the epic menu of classic Blue Note albums, Jack Wilson’s Easterly Winds is easily overlooked. It’s an all-round gem including the frontline of trumpeter Lee Morgan, alto saxophonist Jackie McLean and trombonist Garnett Brown.

Jack Wilson - Easterly Winds

Personnel

Jack Wilson (piano), Lee Morgan (trumpet), Jackie McLean (alto saxophone), Garnett Brown (trombone), Bob Cranshaw (bass), Billy Higgins (drums)

Recorded

on September 22, 1967 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Released

as BST 84270 in 1967

Track listing

Side A:
Do It
On Children
A Time For Love
Side B:
Easterly Winds
Nirvanna
Frank’s Tune


Perhaps the times were such as to be overlooked, 1967 being the year John Coltrane died, exactly a day after Wilson’s session, jazz temporarily in a state of paralysis. The superb but straightforward hard bop album was in the ring with the avant-garde outing, a darling of many critics, with an edge as, well… new. Everybody was waiting for Miles Davis to fabricate a fresh piece of inventive jazz cake. But why not simultaneously enjoy ‘old’ and ‘new’? Easy for me to say, fifty years after the fact. Thanks to Michael Cuscuna, Mosaic Records boss and remastering executive of the Blue Note catalogue, modern jazzy mankind has been giving the opportunity to enjoy remastered albums for many years now, with Cuscuna providing, while the ageless prima donna Blue Note hardly needed plastic surgery, a healthy shot of botox nevertheless.

Jack Wilson, born in Chicago in 1936, enjoyed a long stint with Dinah Washington from 1957 till ’62. Moving around quite a bit, from Chicago to Atlantic City and Los Angeles to New York City, Wilson played with Gene Ammons, Sonny Stitt, Eddie Harris, Jackie McLean, Johnny Griffin, Lou Donaldson and Gerald Wilson, featured on six of the latter’s Pacific Jazz albums. Charmingly ambidextrous, Wilson recorded, among others, his avant-leaning debut album Ramblin’ Featuring Roy Ayers (Atlantic, 1963, total winner!), The Jazz Organs (Vault, 1964, organ porn! Hammond B3 threesome with Henry Cain and Genghis Kyle! Wilson played organ as early as 1955 in Atlantic City, around the time Jimmy Smith kicked up a storm) and Easterly Winds, hard bop Blue Note magic for the ages.

Always the crafty sound sculptures and well-chosen variety of repertoire at the legendary record company. The big frontline, Morgan, McLean and the added thickness of Garnett Brown’s trombone. Wilson knows how to let it flow smoothly, as during the lovely melody of Frank’s Tune, styled in ensemble precisely and soulfully. McLean plays as if he’s eligible for parole, a touch of bitterness and acid still in his sound, which is nonetheless marked mostly by sardonism, relief, gladness to finally wave the warden goodbye. His lines are fluent, and air’s in between them also. Garnett Brown is not only an asset during the ensembles, but a terribly swift and funky soloist. Lee Morgan, one of Alfred Lion’s dream candidates, in possession of abundant versatility, funkiness and a hip and modern approach to make any Blue Note session a success, injects tart tenderness into the date’s mood piece, the haunting Nirvanna. He also travels along Funky Broadway during the album’s opening tune, Do It, a boogaloo groove set up by Billy Higgins. Yes, Billy Higgins, the one who provided an identical, tacky beat to Lee Morgan’s hit The Sidewinder from 1964. Three years after the fact, Do It is just as grittily swinging as that tune, deserving equal praise.

The title track is the album’s uptempo winner, another gem added to the long list of hard bop jewelry in the Blue Note vaults. Wilson, a man who just as easily conjures up the understated drama of Nirvanna through a series of arpeggios, tremolos and bold chord clusters, during Easterly Winds displays legato pureness and kilometers of fecund lines, somehow finding a way out of the stormy labyrinth. It always remains very special to hear the coupling of gifted musicians with the amazing production standards of the Blue Note label.

Hank Marr Quartette - Live At The Club 502

Hank Marr Quartette Live At The Club 502 (King 1964)

Hank Marr’s Live At The Club 502 is as gritty and greasy as live organ music comes. But Marr is also a refined player and his set consists of pleasantly diverse repertoire.

Hank Marr Quartette - Live At The Club 502

Personnel

Hank Marr (organ), Rusty Bryant (tenor, alto saxophone), Wilbert Longmire (guitar), Taylor Orr (drums)

Recorded

in January 1964 at Club 502, Columbus, Ohio

Released

as King 899 in 1964

Track listing

Side A:
Greasy Spoon
One O’Clock Jump
Easy Talk
Freedom March
Side B:
Just Friends
Hank’s Idea
I Remember New York
Up And Down


In the slipstream of organist Jimmy Smith’s popularity in the late fifties, a lot of organ players came up and throughout the sixties the burgeoning organ combo club scene was quite the thing in the USA’s big cities, particularly in the Mid-West. Organ combos, often consisting of only organ and drums, or expanded by a third element of sax or guitar, were cheap for club owners and tended to a black population that favored hot, entertaining music by accomplished players. Though not all organists could handle the big Hammond B3 machine in a viable artistic way, relying instead on cheap tricks and volumes that drowned out both colleagues and audiences. The men (as opposed to these ‘boys’) who further developed the art of B3 after the innovative Jimmy Smith were, among others, Don Patterson, John Patton, Richard ‘Groove’ Holmes, Jimmy McGriff, Brother Jack McDuff and Larry Young. Lest we forget, there were also a couple of dames (as opposed to the ‘girls’) who played ball, like Shirley Scott, Trudy Pitts and Gloria Coleman.

Hank Marr, who hailed from Columbus, Ohio, (like Don Patterson) is certainly part of that pack. Not really a pioneer (but who really is, besides Jimmy Smith, Larry Young and the innovator of bass pedal playing, Lou Bennett?) but instead a prototypical ‘burner’: blues oozes out of his pores like raindrops in monsoon season. But at the same time refinement shows up in the guise of an interesting use of the B3’s stops and drawbars, which creates a big ensemble sound and ‘plucky’ and screamin’ lines. No doubt, he’s up there with McGriff and McDuff as the Hammond B3’s prime burners.

Basie classic One O’Clock Jump and Up And Down swing mighty hard, while the catchy Easy Talk has a gentler flow. Marr’s minor hit single Greasy Spoon is a basic blues line, driven by Marr’s warm, atmospheric bass lines and a medium-slow, dragging tempo, decidedly capable of raising the stiffest stiff from the grave. The tension is heightened by Marr’s greasy right-hand lines. Guitarist Wilbert Longmire’s canny blues tune Freedom March includes Marr’s hottest solo. I remember New York showcases fine Marr balladry.

It also includes fine saxophone playing by Rusty Bryant. Bryant, a fellow native from Columbus, Ohio, alternates between alto and tenor saxophone. His alto work is in a ‘cleaner’ yet fiery bag (Just Friends) and his tenor work is more funky and hard-edged. He’d been in Marr’s group for years and they come together very well at the crossroads of blues and modern jazz.

Hank Marr albums are pretty rare and Live At The Club 502 is no exception. No vinyl reissue or remastered CD. Such a shame, Marr’s performance gives us an enlightening and rousing view of organ music in the swinging American sixties.

Clark Terry - Serenade To A Bus Seat

Clark Terry Serenade To A Bus Seat (Riverside 1957)

Clark Terry, who passed away in 2015 at the age of 95, was an authority with a discography of epic proportions. In 1957, already a veteran of swing who had mentored rising stars like Miles Davis in the 40s, the trumpeter made a superb hard bop album with Johnny Griffin, Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones, the Riverside label’s Serenade To A Bus Seat.

Clark Terry - Serenade To A Bus Seat

Personnel

Clark Terry (trumpet), Johnny Griffin (tenor saxophone), Wynton Kelly (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), Philly Joe Jones (drums)

Recorded

on April 27, 1957 at Reeves Sound Studio, New York

Released

as RLP 12-237 in 1957

Track listing

Side A:
Donna Lee
Boardwalk
Boomerang
Digits
Side B:
Serenade To A Bus Seat
Stardust
Cruising
That Old Black Magic


Before turning into an internationally renowned figure through his seat in the orchestra of NBC’s The Tonight Show in the 60s, his vocal hit Mumbles, lauded appearances around the globe and a distinguished position as youth educator and (co-)founder of Jazz Mobile and the Clark Terry Jazz Festivals for the rest of his life, Terry already had a timelessness about him that is striking. He encompassed the best traits of the past while being in sync with the conception of the modernists, using his technical brilliance and vast knowledge of what one can achieve with the trumpet to the telling of meaningful stories. Not a term usually associated with the abundant Terry, he actually set a limit to himself in this regard, displaying effects and humor when it was called for by Duke Ellington for a certain compositional story to tell, or when he expressed his feelings as a sideman (Oscar Peterson Trio + One is an outrageous ball, but a structured and hi-level festivity) and leading artist, mostly feelings of distinct joy.

His long stint in the Duke Ellington Orchestra in the 50s was preceded by years with Count Basie in the 40s, and Terry was a featured, singular soloist in both classic bands. Nice resume. In fact, in 1957 Terry had just left Ellington, with a number of classic recordings in his hip pocket, notably Ellington Uptown, Such Sweet Thunder and At Newport. His tenure with Riverside was interesting. Serenade, his debut as a leader on Riverside, was preceded by a feature on Thelonious Monk’s Brilliant Corners in 1956. It was followed by Duke With A Difference in July ’57, a gem of an album, featuring mates from the Duke Ellington band including Johnny Hodges, Paul Gonsalves and Billy Strayhorn and, as the title suggests ironically, without Duke Ellington. He would add a couple more guest roles on Riverside such as Jimmy Heath’s Really Big and Johnny Griffin’s White Gardenia, but the most notable album is his own 1958 album In Orbit with Thelonious Monk, which is the only album including Monk as a sideman and set the standard of the use of flugelhorn in jazz.

The late Orrin Keepnews, label boss of Riverside together with Bill Grauer, looked back on a number of favorite releases a number of years ago, as can be seen on YouTube here. Serenade, Clark Terry’s second foray in small ensemble jazz after EmArcy’s Swahili, was among them, representing a masterstroke of bringing together Terry with the small ensemble hot shots of the day: “I always refer to Terry as Mr. Pulled Together. He is so tremendously talented, a nice guy, and he had that big band discipline in his life. (…) It was a very relaxed, and therefore, creative atmosphere. If you bring together musicians who have in a sense been rehearsing for years by playing with each other at lots of opportunities, that’s a very good way to get around that problem (of short rehearsing time)…”.

With a distinctive tone like Terry’s, brassy, virile, tart and full-ringing, consisting of a festive, good-humored quality, the equilibrium between calling-the-children-home and chasing-the-kids-away neatly in check, contrast with the other horn is assured. In comes Johnny Griffin, maybe not such a fast gun as one always assumes, fast, yes, but on this session intent on subtle conversations. Their ensembles sparkle, lock tight during uptempo bop tunes like Charlie Parker’s Donna Lee, Terry’s Boomerang and Serenade To A Bus Seat. It would be obvious to assume that the latter’s title alludes to the bus seat Rosa Parks bravely took on December 1, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama. Her arrest led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott from Reverend Martin Luther King, a painful yet effective protest that eventually led to desegregation in the state’s public transport system. Clark Terry was from St. Louis, Missouri, where the NAACP protested against segregation in war factory jobs, a case it won through Shelly vs. Kraemer in the US Supreme Court, a feat Terry surely must’ve been conscious of, having been a bandsman in the Navy during WWII. That scenario sees Terry’s jubilant trumpet doing a good job of honoring Ms. Parks, Martin Luther King and the others who’d made the boycott possible. But it’s more prosaic. The liner notes explain that the title refers to the tiresome days Terry spent in the band bus of Basie and Ellington. Still no shortage of hardships along the road in The South though, as far as racism is concerned, lest we forget.

For Griffin and Kelly, Serenade represented their first appearances on the Riverside label.
The typical hard bop set of Serenade benefits from variation in the order of soloing, for instance during Donna Lee, when Griffin takes first cue and Terry follows trading fours with Philly Joe Jones. Not a pedestrian phrase in sight, the session cooks and runs remarkably smooth, courtesy of Griffin, the tasteful Paul Chambers, who had the kind of intuitive bass genius few possessed at that age, Philly Joe Jones (one rarely hears a session involving Philly Joe Jones that isn’t gutsy and fiery!) and Wynton Kelly, whose balanced, hip and barrelhouse-y lines of the title track are a treat. The leader, Clark Terry, enlivens the I-Got-Rhythm-changes of Boomerang with phrases that dance naughtily from mid-to upper register. It’s a virtuosic, happy tale and the originality is enhanced by the delicious, sustained notes in between. Terry stresses the cooperative spirit during the easy-flowing mid-tempo Digits, ad-libbing behind Griffin and calms the stormy weather that Griffin set in motion during Serenade with just a few peaceful stretch of notes, only to regain steam for the finale, getting into the fast lane with a spontaneous wail.

Gutsy calmness also during Stardust, a sign of the exciting style of Terry, diamond in the rough with a heart of gold. He’s a bluesman too, playing poker with notes veering from high to low and back. Boardwalk is the album’s blues line with a New Orleans feel and once again Clark Terry is like honey and mustard seeping through the walls of doom, no stopping it, the redeeming quality of Terry’s blues, a blues perhaps only mildly sardonic, always residing at the forefront. Down by the Riverside, his blues resembles that of his (and everybody’s) great ancestor, Louis Armstrong.