Tubby Hayes - Tubbs In NY

Tubby Hayes Tubbs In N.Y. (Fontana 1961)

Tenor saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist Tubby Hayes took a jump across the great pond in 1961 and fitted right in. Tubbs In NY is the smash result of a gig with hi-level American colleagues Clark Terry, Horace Parlan and Eddie Costa.

Tubby Hayes - Tubbs In NY

Personnel

Tubby Hayes (tenor saxophone), Clark Terry (trumpet), Eddie Costa (vibraphone), Horace Parlan (piano), George Duvivier (bass), Dave Bailey (drums)

Recorded

in 1961 in New York City

Released

as STFL 595 in 1961

Track listing

Side A:
You For Me
A Pint Of Bitter
Airegin
Side B:
Opus Ocean
Soon
Doxy


Although hardly a diaspora, more than a few Europeans visited the promised land of that thing called jazz in the fifties and sixties. Particularly the Jerusalem of jazz, New York City. For example, the Swedish Rolf Ericsson, Belgian Bobby Jaspar, German Jutta Hipp and Dutch Nico Bunnink preceded Hayes in their thirst for improving their art of improvising amongst the prime players of the day. Tubby Hayes was the first Englishman to try his hand in the USA, according to his biographer, the saxophonist Simon Spillett. He should know. Surely the American musicians, sharp in their assessment of a player’s qualities, recognized Tubby Hayes as a saxophonist who ‘got it’, indeed, could scare the shit out of anybody.

Tubbs, English icon. The North-Irish revere George Best, the English and Londoners in-the-know worship Tubby Hayes, perhaps not the greatest striker but certainly the prime tenor saxophonist in British classic jazz history. Bloke with a thirst for life, vice and freedom music, which as a logical consequence meant becoming one of the liberating forces for England’s post-war youth that eagerly tried to find its voice in the conservative, don’t-spill-from-y’r-cup-a-tea-type British society. From Raynes Park in South-London, Hayes demonstrated a natural talent for playing a variety of instruments including vibes at a young age, but mostly focused on tenor saxophone. The short Hayes, dubbed ‘The Little Giant’ by saxophonist Benny Green (Johnny Griffin: ‘Hey, Benny, I’m the Little Giant, remember? Down here, man, down here!’) ran the beloved English (hard) bop quintet The Jazz Couriers with fellow Londoner, the illustrious English saxophonist and club owner Ronnie Scott during the years 1957-59.

After Tubbs In NY, Hayes was invited over again, resulting in Return Visit (Fontana, 1963) and a number of US appearances in ’64 and ’65, yet Hayes didn’t quite get a foothold in the US. Instead, he remained busy in the UK, expanding his territory into the radio, tv and film world, although the lull that had set in in the jazz business as a result of pop music’s reign also affected Hayes. His later years were marked by a deteriorating health. Hayes passed away in 1973.

Somehow the solo’s of Tubby Hayes roll on like steam trains, he laughs hearthily and makes swift, surprising U-turns while the intermittent plethora of notes serves as the glue between chapters of fascinating tales. He has a big sound and a fiery style influenced by Coltrane, Rollins, Mobley and, by his own account, Zoot Sims. A swinger. Working with a set of familiar tunes and changes, the presidential style of Hayes blends neatly with the solid rhythm section of veteran bass player George Duvivier and drummer Dave Bailey, pianist Horace Parlan’s mix of angular bop and percussive gospel tinges, the buoyant, masterful Clark Terry and suavely swinging Eddie Costa.

Hayes takes on two Rollins originals, Airegin and Doxy, showing he’s the kind of player that’s present from note one, no bullshit. The Clark Terry composition A Pint Of Bitter’s loping tempo suggests that, in spite of his reputation, Tubbs doesn’t wash it away in a few swallows but at least parks it a few secs at the bar while lighting a cig, always keeping the flame slightly under the tip. How unlike the hooligans that wobble down the alleys of Amsterdam’s Red Light District, throwing up on the sidewalk in between gulps.

Highlights? Certainly Gershwin’s Soon qualifies, Hayes rollercoasting through it with the panache of an Olympic slalom ski champion. Lean in the hips, no doubt.

Lee Morgan - Live At The Lighthouse

Lee Morgan Live At The Lighthouse (Blue Note 1970)

The titles of Lee Morgan’s Live At The Lighthouse, such as Nommo and Neophilia, perfectly match the woolly times. Sounds like books by Madame Blavatsky read by a wicker man under the sole tree in Greenwich Village, while runaway girls in gingham dresses rattle their gypsy earrings and recite luney banjo tunes with feverish enthusiasm… Indeed, Morgan’s notes sometimes are close to hitting a falling star but underneath his ‘pretty far out’ project shimmers the trumpeter’s trademark hard bop blowing.

Lee Morgan - Live At The Lighthouse

Personnel

Lee Morgan (trumpet), Bennie Maupin (tenor saxophone, bass clarinet), Harold Mabern (piano), Jimmy Merritt (bass), Mickey Roker (drums)

Recorded

on July 10-12, 1970 at The Lighthouse, Hermosa Beach, California

Released

as BST-89906 in 1971

Track listing

Side 1:
Absolutions
Side 2:
The Beehive
Side 3:
Neophilia
Side 4:
Nommo


The prince of hard bop’s more adventurous side occasionally came out of hiding, less than Lee Morgan wished, I guess. Sure, as early as 1963, Morgan was featured on Grachan Monchur III’s avantgarde outing Evolution and the trumpeter’s follow-up of hit album The Sidewinder, 1964’s Search For The New Land never lost anything of its frontline charm. He appeared on Wayne Shorter’s Night Dreamer, Joe Henderson’s Mode For Joe and Andrew Hill’s Grass Roots and Lift Every Voice. But as far as leadership dates were concerned, Morgan’s label, Blue Note, still favored straightforward jazz releases in the late sixties over envelope-pushing affairs, some of which were released posthumously, such as The Sixth Sense and The Rajah. Then there was Live At The Lighthouse, subconscious-Lee in the limelight at last. By that time, of course, Alfred Lion was taking pictures in Mexico and Blue Note, though Francis Wolff and Duke Pearson shared production responsibilities, was swallowed by United Artists.

Scene of the spectacle: the legendary Lighthouse, hurled into prominence in 1952 by Howard Rumsey but, as Dutch journalist Jeroen de Valk revealed in his 1989 mythbusting biography of Chet Baker, in reality put on the map initially by Baker just before Rumsey came into the picture. A rather unspectacular club that hosted legends like Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Gerry Mulligan, Cannonball Adderley and many others. Situated close by the beach, where Lee Morgan sat beneath the poles of the pier some time between July 10 and 12, 1970, a time sequence in which the wind blew a hodgepodge of moody and explosive trumpet and sax sounds outwards from the bowels of The Lighthouse over the sweaty, salty Hermosa shore. Lots of seagulls, their obnoxious squawks momentarily stunned.

The stress is on vamp, modality, mood. Music that challenges you to surrender to its spiritual cry and moan. It’s tenorist, bass clarinetist and flutist Bennie Maupin that ‘moans’ most convincingly. No doubt, Lee Morgan blows spirited trumpet and builds crafty stories, but while Morgan focuses on recurring figures and effects like the halve valve trick, Maupin sends us unpredictable weather from his throne above the clouds, alternating deadpan turns, bluesy phrasing and torrents of edgy Coltrane’s sheets of sound preceding the release of dark-hued calm-after-the-storm notes. His feature on bass clarinet on Neophilia, a lullaby-ish, concise and plainly beautiful, slow-moving melody, goes from sweetness to drama, climaxing with violin-like cries. Maupin, nowadays going strong at the age of 76, came into prominence with Horace Silver in ‘68/’69, Lee Morgan in ‘68/’70, Woody Shaw in ’70/’72, played on Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew and was a long-time part of Herbie Hancock’s Mwandishi band in the late sixties and early seventies. His 1974 album on ECM, The Jewel In The Lotus, is a treasured album for avant-leaning jazz fans. Cutting edge cat.

A great band with writers Morgan could benefit from. Harold Mabern’s The Beehive’s a short, quirky theme, like a fragment from a Charlie Parker solo, alternating between the fragment and Mickey Roker’s ferocious drums breaks. Jimmy Merritt’s strangely beguiling Nommo switches between a soulful line and elegiac intermezzo, building on a twisted boogaloo vibe and Roker and Merrit’s hefty cross-rhythm. The a capella sections of Morgan and Maupin before returning to the theme are thoroughly enjoyable. Another Jimmy Merritt tune, Absolutions, showcases the group’s dynamic prowess, squeezing every bit out of the modal vamp, pushing and pulling at time’s rear end until it, like time seems to have been doing eternally, bends. Morgan is terrific, translating the military-rolls of a snare drum to the trumpet, and charmingly experimenting with the various shades of softness and loudness.

Strictly vinyl on Flophouse’s smoky Monte Christo #2 premisses. But just this once, an exception, since the Compact Dick not only offers more avant-leaning, uptempo jazz that for the most part would easily have stood the test of LP release, but also brings a version of The Sidewinder, the hit that Morgan almost hated more than Trump fans hate reason. Table three was requesting a tune, perhaps. The group’s turning in a solid take.

Jimmy McGriff - Live Where The Action's At!

Jimmy McGriff Live Where The Action’s At! (Veep 1966)

Live Where The Action’s At! is a typical album of organist Jimmy McGriff: ultimate groove, smart modern jazz ingredients.

Jimmy McGriff - Live Where The Action's At!

Personnel

Jimmy McGriff (organ), Thornell Schwartz (guitar), Willie Jenkins (drums)

Recorded

in 1966 at The Front Bar, New Jersey

Released

as Veep 13515 in 1966

Track listing

Side A:
Where It’s At
When Johnny Comes Marching Home
Uptight
Frugal Bugle
Side B:
Georgia On My Mind
Goin’ Out Of My Head
Robbins Nest


Philadelphian Jimmy McGriff, (1936-2008) was an enormously popular organist who recorded in a variety of settings, from r&b, soul, pop, funk to big band. Late in life McGriff said that he felt forced to continue to record commercial stuff once he started scoring good-selling singles and albums. Glad to be able to pay them bills but… Presumably, McGriff referred to his work with Sue Records, where he scored his first hit in 1962 with I’ve Got A Woman and, particularly, Solid State. Solid State was the company of Sonny Lester, who tried to mold McGriff in the same popular vein as Jimmy Smith, one of McGriff’s mentors, who reached soul jazz stardom in the smart hands of Verve’s producer Creed Taylor.

Nevertheless, McGriff’s blues-drenched style almost always shone through. Lest we forget, McGriff’s records like Groove Grease (on Groove Merchant, also produced by Sonny Lester) are legendary funk jazz artifacts. And, once the soul jazz era had largely come to its conclusion in the late seventies, McGriff recorded his share of straight-ahead jazz albums, particularly on Milestone in the eighties and nineties during cooperations with Hank Crawford, Red Holloway and David “Fathead” Newman and, later on, the awesome contemporary tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander.

I think Jimmy really enjoyed what he was doing on the night that was recorded for the album Live Where The Action’s At!. The action’s at The Front Bar in Newark. One of the places – both bar and city – where they ate soul jazz like the cookie monster devoured biscuits. McGriff is accompanied by guitarist Thornel Schwartz, who played and recorded with Jimmy Smith in 1956 before hooking up first with Johnny “Hammond” Smith, then with McGriff – staying in the same territory! – and drummer Willie Jenkins during the early and mid-sixties. A tight-knit, prolific working and recording band. Production-wise, the album may be so-so, the drums sounding muffled, but as far as the standard of playing is concerned, it’s a gem! Somehow, the organist adapts diverse tunes as Stevie Wonder’s Uptight, old warhorses as Georgia On My Mind and Robbins Nest to that very special (and sweaty) climate region of planet McGriff. For one thing, his unforgettable sound, gritty, and straight from the baptist church, never fails to raise the hairs on your arms.

After building up momentum with bluesy phrasing and sparse flurries of notes, McGriff generally keeps up the groove beyond belief, working around short, screamin’ recurring figures, his touch percussive, his occassional ‘drone’ (the coupling of right hand lines with a sustained left hand chord) both hard-swinging and tasteful. He’s getting down to the nitty-gritty with bluesy McGriff originals like Where It’s At and Frugal Bugle. Raw McGriff blues is usually underlined by hip voicings, revealing a genuine taste and capacity for modern jazz playing. Traveling the hard road with Jimmy McGriff, Eric Alexander once said, while it means being provided with subtle accompaniment, is also a lesson in the skills of entertainment. Obviously, Live Where The Action’s At! is exceptional in both departments, and then some.

Check out Uptight on YouTube here.

And Robbins Nest here.

Horace Silver - Finger Poppin'

Horace Silver Finger Poppin’ (Blue Note 1959)

Horace Silver’s first album with his most celebrated line-up, Finger Poppin’, still stands tall after all these years as a penultimate example of hipness and swing.

Horace Silver - Finger Poppin'

Personnel

Horace Silver (piano), Blue Mitchell (trumpet), Junior Cook (tenor saxophone), Gene Taylor (bass), Louis Hayes (drums)

Recorded

on January 31, 1959 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Released

as BLP 4008 in 1959

Track listing

Side A:
Finger Poppin’
Juicy Lucy
Swingin’ The Samba
Sweet Stuff
Side B:
Cookin’ At The Continental
Come On Home
You Happened My Way
Mellow D.


What else? Everybody obviously knows that feeling. I’m not talking about George Clooney’s cup of espresso but of the series of Blue Note albums that Horace Silver made in the late fifties and early sixties. Desert island stuff of such a unique blend of blues and sophistication that effortlessly produces the feeling that all other music besides Silver’s might be redundant. It’s damn perfect. Meaning, not near-perfect. Hard bop heaven. Finger Poppin’ is classic Silver. For the first time, trumpeter Blue Mitchell, tenor saxophonist Junior Cook and bassist Gene Taylor are aboard. The quite unique ensemble playing of Mitchell and Cook, who took with them a lot of experience in r&b groups, gave the already impressive compositions of Silver a buzz, especially noticable in the uptempo cooker Cookin’ In The Continental. Silver was quick to capitalise on their talents, injecting nifty shout-choruses in the tune, that effectively catapult the soloists into action.

Lots of other crafty devices set Silver’s music in full bloom, elaborate compositions which nevertheless flow naturally like mountain streams. Silver penned eight major league tunes, ranging from catchy swingers like Finger Poppin’ to the lyrical ballad Sweet Stuff. Juicy Lucy is one of the most irresistable songs around. Bluesy as hell, it features the amazing sense of taste and clarity that runs through the whole set, clarity of both song structure and solo’s. Not only the master himself tells a well-balanced tale with slightly behind-the-beat, swinging lines, dense, probing chords, a delicate use of space, Cook and Mitchell, relatively unknown musicians at that time, strike the listener as remarkable storytellers.

All this soulful comping and blowing is underscored by drummer Louis Hayes, who is one of the great masters of the hard bop era, certainly as far as reinforcing a band is concerned. Practically on his own, Hayes sets fire to Silver’s trademark Latin tune for this set, Swingin’ The Samba. The propulsive time of his ride cymbal and crisp, spot-on snare rolls hit the cookin’ tunes right out of the ballpark. Hayes had been aboard the Silver train from 1956, a remarkable stretch for the drummer, who would go on to write hard bop drum history with Cannonball Adderley and on Blue Note albums as Kenny Drew’s Undercurrent. Among many other endeavors. After 1959’s Blowin’ The Blues Away, Hayes would be followed up by Roy Brooks.

The best line-up? Every group has its assets. Cast your mind back to the original Mobley/Dorham frontline and Art Blakey groove. Or the daring, lively Henderson/Shaw contributions to Cape Verdean Blues. At any rate, as far as coherent group sound and effortless, blues-drenched swing is concerned, Silver’s group with Cook/Mitchell is unparalleled. Enough to drive you out of your mind. And if you’re not careful, your body.

Arnett Cobb - Blow Arnett, Blow

Arnett Cobb Blow Arnett, Blow (Prestige 1959)

Tough tenors Arnett Cobb and Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis team up for a thoroughly swinging session. Blow Arnett, Blow confirmed Cobb’s return to the scene after the tenor saxophonist’s long recovery of his car accident in 1956.

Arnett Cobb - Blow Arnett, Blow

Personnel

Arnett Cobb (tenor saxophone), Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis (tenor saxophone), Wild Bill Davis (organ), George Duvivier (bass), Arthur Edgehill (drums)

Recorded

on January 9, 1959 at Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, New Jersey

Released

as PRLP 7151 in 1959

Track listing

Side A:
When I Grow To Old To Dream
Go Power
Side B:
Go Red Go
The Eely One
The Fluke


Everybody who was present at Arnett Cobb’s performance at club Porgy & Bess in my hometown of Terneuzen, The Netherlands in 1986 is still talking about it. I’m told that many are walking around with goosebumps even now. It was an emotional evening. It was well-known that Cobb, on crutches, had been enduring severe pains throughout his life. Nonetheless, the good-natured Cobb blew the roof of the building. The club badly needed a renovation anyway.

Surely this was typical for clubs and audiences around the world. Cobb is always smiling broadly on album covers. And he was always ready to blow. Highly unlikely that the big-toned tenor saxophonist needed encouragement. So the title of the album may be superfluous, but it definitely was a bright idea from Prestige producer Esmond Edwards to couple Cobb with fellow tough tenorist Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis. Bright and anybody’s guess, since Cobb hadn’t played for a few years, but it turned out to be a sparkling affair.

Arnett Cobb, from Houston, Texas, first gained recognition in Milt Larkin’s orchestra. Also in the reed chair were fellow Texans Illinois Jacquet and Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson. Following up Illinois Jacquet in Lionel Hampton’s orchestra, with Jacquet having provided a spectacular, successful and iconic solo in Flying Home, was quite a challenge but Cobb was a mainstay and the succes of the years between 1942 and 1947 of the Hampton band was unprecedented. Cobb’s career as a leader after leaving Hampton was unfortunately hampered by spinal pains and surgery in 1950. Cobb did write the music and lyrics of Smooth Sailin’ in 1951, which became a big hit for Ella Fitzgerald and which would be the title and title song of the follow-up album to Blow Arnett Blow. Despite the setback, Cobb’s group became very popular, particularly in the Mid-Western ‘chitlin’ circuit’ of clubs in the black community. Like other saxophonists who had come up through the swing bands, Cobb had formed a seven-piece band with a four-piece rhythm section including guitar, modeled after the groups of r&b pioneer Louis Jordan, Bull Moose Jackson and Wynonie Harris.

In 1956, Cobb was involved in a car accident. His legs were crushed. He was in and out of the hospital for nearly three years and needed crutches for the rest of his life. Regardless of his shortcomings, Cobb toured extensively in Europe in the seventies and eighties, to much acclaim. Cobb passed away in 1989.

Ever heard a bigger sound than that of Arnett Cobb? It’s huge. His stomping, meaty style lifts up from the ground When I Grow To Old To Dream and mid-tempo blues riffs like Go Red Go and The Fluke. The uptempo showstopper Go Power is the standout track. Cobb puts your back against the wall, barking, swinging, wailing with short, rotund notes. He’s a tireless boxer hitting the sack. His old buddy from the Milt Larkin band, influential organist Wild Bill Davis, chimes in with his typical orchestral voicings and lines, seemingly unaffected by the modern organ revolution of Jimmy Smith. The unique phrasing, the continuity of surprising ideas and wit of Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis never fails to arouse spirits. More than a battle, the two commanding tenor saxophonists are involved in a playful wrestle match.

During the years of 1959/60, Cobb recorded seven albums for Prestige, some of which contained interesting pairings with pianists Bobby Timmons and Red Garland. It was the most fruitful period of Cobb’s career.

Cecil Payne - Zodiac

Cecil Payne Zodiac (Strata-East 1968/73)

No idea what celestial spheres or horoscopes have to do with Martin Luther King and flying fish. But that puzzle doesn’t take anything away from the enjoyment of Cecil Payne’s Zodiac album from 1968. Immaculate, robust baritone playing. And the cream of the hard bop crop in tow.

Cecil Payne - Zodiac

Personnel

Cecil Payne (baritone saxophone, alto saxophone), Kenny Dorham (trumpet), Wynton Kelly (piano, organ), Wilbur Ware (bass), Albert Kuumba Heath (drums)

Recorded

on December 16, 1968 at TownSound Studios, Englewood, New Jersey

Released

as SES-19734 in 1973

Track listing

Side A:
Martin Luther King
I Know Love
Girl, You Got A Home
Side B:
Slide Hampton
Follow Me
Flying Fish


Ask a layman to name a baritone saxophonist, 9 times out of 10 he or she will mention the late great famous Gerry Mulligan. But of course the instrument has a grand tradition that started with pioneer Harry Carney from the Duke Ellington Orchestra and was further developed not only by Mulligan but also by, among others, Serge Chaloff, Pepper Adams, Ronnie Cuber and Nick Brignola, while Hammiet Bluiett and John Surman secured its rank in avantgarde jazz. Players like Gary Smulyan have taken the tradition to the 21st Century or experimented with new concepts like Mats Gustaffson.

Let’s not forget Cecil Payne, who never achieved fame but was a household name among musicians and fans in-the-know. Payne held the bari chair in Dizzy Gillespie’s groundbreaking bebop orchestra of the late forties and early fifties, playing on iconic tunes as Cubano Bop and Ow!. The longest association of Payne’s career is with his childhood friend from Brooklyn, New York, pianist Randy Weston. Payne is featured prominently on first-class albums as Jazz A La Bohemia and Uhuru Afrika. Other features include Kenny Dorham’s Afro-Cuban and Tadd Dameron’s The Magic Touch. Like pianist Freddie Redd before him, Payne made a superb soundtrack to the provocative off-Broadway play The Connection on Charlie Parker Records in 1962. Payne recorded well into the 90s, 2000’s Chic Boom with the top-rate, hard boppin’ tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander being the last. Payne passed away in 2007.

Strata-East, founded in 1971, was an early attempt to sustain a black-owned jazz record company by pianist Stanley Cowell and trumpeter Charles Tolliver. The session that ended up at the Zodiac album was produced by tenor saxophonist Clifford Jordan. Payne is assisted by Kenny Dorham, Wynton Kelly, Wilbur Ware and Albert Heath, also known as “Tootie”, also known as “Kuumba”. Stellar line-up! Dorham? Kelly? By the late sixties, the careers of these brilliant gentlemen were effectively over. It’s 1969 ok, war across the USA, another year from me and you, another year with nothing to do… The Stooges. No late period hard bop, but kicking ass nevertheless. To say the least. Mildly tragic last years for Dorham and Kelly. Dorham’s last recorded output was Clifford Jordan’s 1969 session for the 1972 Strata-East album In The World, (which also included Kelly) five years after his last album as a leader, Trompeta Toccata. Kelly’s last session was Dexter Gordon’s The Jumpin’ Blues in 1970. At this time, Payne wasn’t very prolific either in the recording studio. Many of the musicians who came out of the bop period and lived to tell had a hard time once rock music had swept the country, guns blazing.

But what they recorded leaves nothing to be desired. The breathtaking tone of Kenny Dorham lifts the ballad Martin Luther King off the ground, his sustained ice-tea-with-a-drop-of-lemon notes securing feelings of nostalgia not for Times Square but rather a view of the Monterey sunset. Dorham’s playing is peaceful yet intriguingly intense. The fluid artistry of Dorham is all over the place, not least in Slide Hampton, another ode, this time to their masterful trombone playing brother Slide Hampton, a playful bop riff that has Wynton Kelly burnin’ the bushes in Bud Powell fashion. However, Kelly imbues every line with his typical catchy bounce. The funky Latin theme of Girl, You Got A Home guides us to the era of blaxploit flics, inner city buzz, the parallel developments of black pride and the sense of foreboding in a country at war. The alternation of Latin and 4/4 sections is emphasized by Wynton Kelly’s electric piano playing, frenzied noodling which honestly is best labeled as superfluous. Cecil Payne stretches out, telling a relaxed, warm-blooded story.

Payne also makes good use of space in Flying Fish, the highlight of the album. A hard bop bossa tune on fire. The relentless Albert Heath stays firmly in the pocket, Dorham’s in familiar early sixties Blue Note territory and making the most of it, Wynton Kelly bubbles with joy in the fast lane, thoroughly investigating archetypical Latin figures, dashing off shiny tremolos and blue-in-green notes while adding crisp, descending chords on the bass keys. The ending is ad-libbed by Payne, who’s quoting You And The Night And The Music in the process. Cross-referencing. A unmistakable part of jazz which for these gentlemen, like individual tones and splendid storytelling, also came natural.

Walter Bishop Jr. - Speak Low

Walter Bishop Jr. Speak Low (Jazztime 1961)

Prove me wrong, but it’s hard to find a better album in the career of pianist Walter Bishop Jr. than his debut as a leader from 1961, Speak Low.

Walter Bishop Jr. - Speak Low

Personnel

Walter Bishop Jr. (piano), Jimmy Garrison (bass), C.T. Hogan (drums)

Recorded

on March 14, 1961 at Bell Sound Studios, New York City

Released

as JT 002 in 1961

Track listing

Side A:
Please Send Me Someone To Love
Easy Living
Playmates
What A Difference A Day Makes
Side B:
Me And My Baby
Lorelei’s Lament
Blue Stone


It sure is rated as a classic. The Popsike website lists triple-digit transactions, climaxing in a 2016 eBay transaction of a wopping 2000 US $. Prices presumably are high because of the obscure label, early catalogue nr, (002) and scarcity of supply. May be so. The vinyl world has gone berserk. Money is what makes the world go ‘round. I do hope the buyer keeps his scraggly Chihuahua in a standing and not a sitting-and-shitting position. Might just ruin a solid investment. Speaks for itself, neither a Chihuahua, nor the vinyl copy of this album is in my possession. I’m a cat man in jazz cat’s world.

Bishop Jr, born in Sugar Hill, Harlem NYC, home to his childhood pals Sonny Rollins, Art Taylor and Kenny Drew, bebop colleague of Charlie Parker and Miles Davis from 1951 to ’54, without a cabaret card in the late fifties due to a drug bust and as a consequence banned from New York clubs, resurfaced in the early sixties with a regular trio including Jimmy Garrison and C.T. Hogan. Whilst dedicating a lot of his time to teaching in the seventies and beyond, Bishop turned in a record every year in the seventies and kept recording and performing in the New York area until his demise in 1998. Perhaps best known as a sideman, and a brilliant one at that, Bishop Jr. appeared on, among other, Charlie Parker’s With Strings, Miles Davis’ Dig and Collector’s Items, Kenny Dorham’s Quintet and Inta Something, Blakey’s Blakey and Big Band, Milt Jackson’s Meets Milt, Hank Mobley’s 2nd Message, Jackie McLean’s Capuchin Swing and Swing Swang Swingin’.

In this set of traditionals, the assets of Walter Bishop Jr. are laid out for our thorough enjoyment. Though firmly rooted in bebop, Bishop Jr. doesn’t strictly think in changes, but focuses on classy harmony as well. Throughout his carefully crafted solo’s, Bishop Jr. throws in charged cadenzas high up on the keys, sudden dissonant notes and tasteful bits of double time, occasionally ending with intricate chordal runs. It’s all there in the title track, Speak Low, listen here as well as the fast-paced Milestones (the Miles Davis composition), which also boasts Bishop’s Jr.’s precise, propulsive phrasing. Rollicking tremolos, recurring blues and stride figures reveal a genuine passion for the past. Every tune, especially the medium-tempo Alone Together, listen here tells a surprising story. He’s got a firm attack, like his mentor Bud Powell, in such a way that one often expects a key to jump merrily out of the keyboard. That’s another alluring asset of the masterful Walter Bishop Jr., who delivered a debut album that has gloriously stood the test of time.