Gene Ludwig - This Is Gene Ludwig

Gene Ludwig This Is Gene Ludwig (GeLu Records 1965)

No doubt one of the finest disciples of Jimmy Smith, organist Gene Ludwig tried to make his mark with This Is Gene Ludwig in 1965.

 

Gene Ludwig - This Is Gene Ludwig

Personnel

Gene Ludwig (organ), Jerry Byrd (guitar), Randle Gelispie (drums)

Recorded

in 1965 in Pittsburgh

Released

as GL-1415 in 1965

Track listing

Side A:
Night In Tunesia
We’ll Be Together Again
Something Happens To Me
Side B:
Softly As In A Morning Sunrise
Summertime
No Blues


Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania had a large community of German descent. Immigrants from Germany entered the region at the start of the 20th century, where they often found work in the steel mills, competing with the flood of Afro-Americans from the rural South. Art Blakey is from Pittsburgh. Organist Gene Ludwig hails from Twin Rock, Pennsylvania and grew up in Steel City, which developed a strong base of black music clubs. At the Hurricane club, Ludwig saw a performance of the daddy of modern organ jazz, Jimmy Smith.

Gene Ludwig made no bones about it. He was hooked. In the liner notes to This Is Gene Ludwig, he says: “Jimmy Smith is my soul and my inspiration.” With evident zest, Ludwig pursued his instincts on his third album as a leader, recorded independently by Ludwig for “GeLu” Records in Pittsburgh in 1965 in the company of guitarist Jerry Byrd and drummer Randle Gelispie, at that point a cooperative unit for already six years.

This, indeed, is serious organ combo stuff. The trio gets into a relaxed groove on Something Happens To Me, Summertime and Miles Davis’ No Blues, while Ludwig balladeers nicely on We’ll Be Together Again. Undoubtedly, the hottest meal consists of Night In Tunesia and Softly As In A Morning Sunrise, bop tune and bop vehicle respectively, that has Ludwig burnin’ down the house with ever-growing intensity. Jerry Byrd, who also is featured on Don Patterson’s Satisfaction, finds a fiery balance between bop and blues. Randle Gelispie regularly adds some fuel to the fire.

Below par production, especially the distant sound of Byrd, is unfortunate. In hindsight, you would wish for Ludwig to have been recorded at least once in Rudy van Gelder’s Englewood Cliffs studio. Or Bell Sound. Or Ter-Mar. Surely, Ludwig would have made an even better impression.

Two albums preceded This Is Gene Ludwig: Organ Out Loud and The Educational Sounds Of Gene Ludwig. Ludwig played on Sonny Stitt’s Night Letter and cooperated with guitar wizard Pat Martino, as can be heard on the 2016 High Note release Young Guns 1968-70. Good company. Ludwig’s next stop was Now’s The Time on Muse in 1980. While settling as a respected performer in Pittsburgh and on the East Coast, Ludwig recorded for smaller independent labels in the ‘00s.

Again, from the liner notes, we have Ludwig answering matter-of-factly the question if there have been any financial rewards so far: “No.” Not enough room at the top. This however can’t hide the fact that Ludwig was an outstanding exponent of modern organ jazz.

Gene Ludwig passed away in 2010.

The Diamond Five - Brilliant

The Diamond Five Brilliant! (Fontana 1964)

The Diamond Five showed all the young Dutch aspiring cats, hey, there’s no limit to swingin’ the American Way.

The Diamond Five - Brilliant

Personnel

Cees Smal (trumpet, flugelhorn & valve trombone), Harry Verbeke (tenor saxophone), Cees Slinger (piano), Jacques Schols (bass), John Engels (drums)

Recorded

on May 12 & 30 in Hilversum

Released

as Fontana 650 520 TL in 1964

Track listing

Side A:
Johnny’s Birthday
Ruined Girl
Lutuli
Side B:
Lining Up
Newborn
Monosyl


In the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, European musicians started to get the hang of it as far as hard bop was concerned. The Jazz Couriers of Tubby Hayes and Ronnie Scott raised the bar in the Ol’ Country. Lars Gullin and Ake Persson pushed the Scandinavian envelope. Drummers Daniel Humair from France and Franco Manchezzi from Italy kicked many visiting Americans into action. And The Diamond Five was Holland’s finest, part of developments that deepened the feeling for jazz, which included landmark events like the Concertgebouw concerts of Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Gerry Mulligan, John Coltrane and Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers.

The Diamond Five formed in late 1958, when pianist Cees Slinger was asked by the management of Sheherazade (“De Zade”) to form a band. Slinger recruited trumpeter Cees Smal and tenor saxophonist Harry Verbeke from The Diamonds, bassist Dick van de Capelle – who soon suffered an injury that would throw him off the scene for a number of years and was replaced by Jacques Schols in 1959 – and drummer John Engels.

The band enjoyed a great run in Sheherazade, which it co-owned till 1962, for approximately four years. Many visiting Americans shared its stage, among others Stan Getz, Elvin Jones, Don Byas, J.J. Johnson and players from Quincy Jones’s Free & Easy touring band like Benny Bailey, Phil Woods and Jerome Richardson. “De Zade” was the place to be, virtual jazz center of The Netherlands, where like-minded spirits as Piet Noordijk, Nedly Elstak, Rob Pronk, Rob Madna and Cees Kranenburg also made their mark.

The Diamond Five toured extensively and made a series of EP’s preceding their full-length record Brilliant in 1964, the final year of the band’s existence. (Excluding its comeback period in 1973-75) First of all, isn’t that cover of Brilliant brilliant? Catchy, classy, unconventional, one that stares at you seductively from the bins. And once the needle has settled into the grooves, everyone will most likely have agreed that The Diamond Five was a seductive quintet that put just the right amount of sleaze in a polished set of hard bop. Three cooking tunes by Cees Smal – Johnny’s Birthday, Lining Up and Monosyl – alternate with the intriguing Lutuli and mellow Newborn by the hip arranger Ruud Bos and the ballad Ruined Girl by future avant-garde musician Theo Loevendie.

Smal and Verbeke move smoothly through their book of songs, Smal with vivid lyricism on trumpet, flugelhorn and the most welcome addition of valve trombone on Johnny’s Birthday, Verbeke with generous big tones and extended notes and wails that bring to mind Dexter Gordon. Verbeke is modern yet down to earth and witty in a swing-era kind of way. Like a rotund, frivolous uncle teaching his nephew to shoot pool or catch wild salmon. Slinger thoroughly swings, incited by Schols and Engels, who finally had put his fervent trademark kick starts and fiery and alert backing on a big platter of wax.

Not surprisingly, all members enjoyed fruitful careers. Smal and Schols alternated freelance work with solid engagements for radio and tv. Verbeke was a prime tenorist for many years, Slinger a dedicated modern jazz soloist who accompanied many visiting American legends. Schols was bandmate of Engels on popular recordings by Louis van Dijk and Wim Overgaauw. John Engels is the last man standing. Internationally acclaimed drummer who played with Chet Baker, Teddy Edwards, Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Stitt, you name it. Alive and kicking at the age of 85.

Hard to find LP of a legendary Dutch outfit. Great re-issue (as shown) out there.

Wilbert Longmire - Revolution

Wilbert Longmire Revolution (World Pacific 1970)

Buried in the excess of groove-oriented records in the late ‘60s and early ’70s: Wilbert Longmire’s Revolution, funk jazz gem of a promising and talented guitarist.

Wilbert Longmire - Revolution

Personnel

Wilbert Longmire (guitar), Wilton Felder (tenor sax), Anthony Ortega (sax), Greg Barone (trumpet), George Bohanon (trombone), Leon Spencer Jr. (organ, piano), Cal Green (guitar), Larry Gales (string bass), Ron Johnson (Fender Bass), Paul Humphrey (drums), Joe Sample (arranger, conductor)

Recorded

in 1970 at Liberty Studios, Los Angeles, California

Released

as WP-20161 in 1970

Track listing

Side A:
Scarborough Fair/Canticle
Galveston
This Guy’s In Love With You
Theme From “The Fox”
Revolution
Side B:
Movin’ On
Bewitched
Somebody Loves You
Give It Up Or Turnit A Loose


It might’ve been because World Pacific hardly backed up what little funk jazz the Californian label had in its roster, at least not the way Prestige or Blue Note put their stuff on the market place. It might’ve been because Longmire didn’t promote Revolution with a proper working band. Anyway, Longmire’s debut album has always been decidedly under the radar, a fact of funk jazz life that is too bad and in dire need of rectification. If hardly revolutionary, Revolution is a first-class soul jazz effort and should be high on reissuing lists. Anyone? Fresh Sound?

Born in Mobile, Alabama, raised in Cincinnatti, Ohio, Longmire played with Red Prysock and organists Brother Jack McDuff, Trudy Pitts and Hank Marr. Check out Longmire on Marr’s Live At The Club 502 here. Somehow World Pacific got a hold on him and the guitarist was West Coast bound, ending up in the company of two crackerjack Jazz Crusaders/Crusaders, Joe Sample and Wilton Felder. Extremely active as guest artists and producers outside the realm of their prolific hard bop and soul jazz collective, Joe Sample arranges and conducts the band and string section and Wilton Felder plays tenor sax on Revolution, which also features excellent drummer Paul Humphrey.

Chockfull of contemporary tunes and hits, Longmire selected Simon & Garfunkel’s Scarborough Fair, Jim Webb’s Galveston, David/Bacharach’s This Guy’s In Love With You, Lalo Schifrin’s Theme From “The Fox”, John Lennon/Beatles’ Revolution, The Delfonics’ Somebody Loves You and Carl Bobbitt’s Give It Up Or Turnit Loose, which was immortalized by James Brown. Revolution is completed by Lorenz Hart/Richard Rodgers’ Bewitched and his original composition, the sweeping blues Movin’ On.

Such an abundance of pop and soul might easily overwhelm and ultimately bore the jazz listener. However, Longmire succinctly wards off this threat with his flexible, original style. Fat, crystalline tone, fast fingers, gusty winds of varied triplets, thunderstorms of triplets, tsunamis of triplets… Subtle twists and turns, plenty of fire, bossy attitude. Longmire treads the ground between Grant Green and, similar relative unknown as our subject of funkiness, Freddie Robinson; between blues and jazz. Longmire is in the forefront of the mix, bursting from the speakers, embedded in the big sound of a band that includes the typically turbulent and soulful tenor of Felder, a number of wicked and greasy stories by organist Leon Spencer Jr. and a section of strings that, rather surprisingly, does nothing to diminish the record’s solid pocket.

Nothing wrong with the slick soul of Somebody Loves You, the added fuel to the fire of the smooth country-pop of Galveston and the tasty shuffle treatment of Revolution. Give It Up Or Turnit A Loose kills the dance floor crowd but Longmire’s rendition of Scarborough Fair is without a doubt the heaviest mother of his funk repertoire. No Spotify, no reissue to date, link on YouTube luckily, so here’s Scarborough Fair. Fair enough? Absolutely not, but make do and enjoy.

Kenny Dorham - Quiet Kenny

Kenny Dorham Quiet Kenny (New Jazz 1960)

Less is more on Kenny Dorham’s Quiet Kenny, more or less the trumpeter’s most beautiful record as a leader.

Kenny Dorham - Quiet Kenny

Personnel

Kenny Dorham (trumpet), Tommy Flanagan (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), Art Taylor (drums)

Recorded

on November 13, 1959 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Released

as NJ 8225 in 1960

Track listing

Side A:
Lotus Blossom
My Ideal
Blue Friday
Side B:
Alone Together
Blue Spring Shuffle
I Had The Craziest Dream
Old Folks


An anecdote that Rein de Graaff once told me concerned his first ever visit to New York City in 1967. The first thing that the burgeoning Dutch pianist and hard bop aficionado noticed when he stepped out of the subway station in the East Village was a fellow with a trumpet case that was the spitting image of Kenny Dorham. As a matter of fact, after politely inquiring, it turned out to be the one and only Kenny Dorham. Dorham invited the dumbfounded De Graaff to a gig the following night. The rest is history in the case of De Graaff, who stepped into a dream and subsequently met and played with Dorham, Hank Mobley, Barry Harris, Paul Chambers and Billy Higgins. Nice career boost.

Most people would not have recognized Dorham, one of the great modern trumpeters of a form of art whose geniuses like Parker and Monk eluded mass recognition for so long, let alone superb disciples as Kenny Dorham. Dorham is part of a great pack whose members were dubbed ‘musician’s musician’, which signifies esteem from colleagues and critics which equals poverty so must’ve been terminology that left the pack disgusted. Go to hell with your musician’ musician stuff, I need to pay my bloody rent! Dorham was a major league musician’s musician, a BADDASS musician’s musician, one of the iconic musician’s musicians. Too bad for Kenny. At least he was never described as ‘best kept secret’, which also spells disaster and a lavish portion of vomit.

Dorham was active in the bop era, colleague of Parker and Gillespie, a charter member of the first Jazz Messengers incarnation (Art Blakey introduced him nightly as the “the uncrowned king of the trumpet”) and enjoyed a particularly fruitful cooperation with tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson in the early ‘60s. Blue Bossa is his best-known composition. His discography is a hard bop playground and Afro-Cuban, Quiet Kenny, Whistle Stop, Round About Midnight At Cafe Bohemia, Una Mas and Trompetta Toccata are essential LP’s. They ooze with Dorham’s tasteful trumpet playing, the opposite of flashy bop, crystal clear weaving of lines anchored by a distinctive balancing act of bittersweetness and sleaze and a tone that I once overheard someone, I forgot whom, describe as ‘sweet-tart’. That it is.

Quiet Kenny is remarkable for the fact that Dorham is the sole horn. Plenty of space for Kenny’s cushion-soft but poignant lyricism. Dorham displays the gift of carrying one to a special zone, where the spine tingles and melancholia is barely suppressed by the bright side of life. Dorham strings together beautifully balanced phrases with apricot, peach and tangerine transformed into sound, all of this flowing on the flexible bedrock of Tommy Flanagan, Paul Chambers and Art Taylor.

All tunes flow with elegance and purposeful movement, whether warhorses like Old Folks or blues-based originals like Blue Friday and Blue Spring Shuffle. Lotus Flower, also known as Asiatic Raes as performed by Sonny Rollins on Newk’s Time in 1957, is an undeniable highlight; a lovely amalgam of the nursery rhyme-ish, Chinese-tinged melody and Dorham’s supple melodic variations. Dorham’s delightful reflection of desire of My Ideal is the other potential poll winner, signifying a trumpeter of compassion and restraint, the latter unique element described in the title as ‘quiet’.

The enjoyment of Quiet Kenny equals eating perfect sushi, savoring every bite of the little Japanese pieces of tuna, seaweed, rice. Dorham is master chef and Mr. Delicate, adding a dash of wasabi here and there. Beautiful record.

Lem Winchester - Lem's Beat

Lem Winchester Lem’s Beat (New Jazz 1960)

Lem Winchester’s career was cut short by tragedy but his concise discography showed plenty of promise. Lem’s Beat is one of his finest efforts, not least because of the presence of Oliver Nelson.

Lem Winchester - Lem's Beat

Personnel

Lem Winchester (vibraphone), Oliver Nelson (tenor sax), Curtis Peagler (alto saxophone), Billy Brown (piano A1, B1), Roy Johnson (piano A2, A3, B2, B3), Wendell Marshall (bass), Art Taylor (drums)

Recorded

on April 19, 1960 at Rudy van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Released

as NJLP 8239 in 1960

Track listing

Side A:
Eddie’s Dilemma
Lem & Aide
Friendly Persuasion
Side B:
Your Last Change
Lady Day
Just Friends


Aswinging vibraphonist in the tradition of Milt Jackson, Lem Winchester started playing professionally in the late 50’s after giving up his job as police officer in Wilmington, Delaware. The sleeve of his debut recording New Faces At Newport on Metro Jazz, split with pianist Randy Weston, showed Winchester wearing his police officer hat. Poor Lem. It’s a pity no one came up with the idea of coupling him with tenor saxophonist Buck “The Wailing Postman” Hill from Washington D.C.

On a musical level, the results of a partnership of these rather obscure but outstanding players would have been a boon. As a matter of fact, the short career of Winchester is marked by interesting and fruitful cooperations. Argo placed the Ramsey Lewis Trio by his side. On Prestige and its subsidiary label New Jazz, Winchester recorded with Benny Golson and Hank Jones as a leader and organists Brother Jack McDuff, Johnny “Hammond” Smith and Shirley Scott as a sideman.

As well as Oliver Nelson. In 1960, Winchester played on Nelson’s Taking Care Of Business (New Jazz) and Nocturne. (Moodsville, Prestige’s other subsidiary label) Likely, after the March session of Takin’ Care Of Business, Nelson returned the favor, appearing on the April session of Lem’s Beat. Another session in the pocket, another bill paid.

Typical and excellent quintet stuff from the early 60’s, Lem’s Beat has Oliver Nelson as arranger and on tenor saxophone, an underrated player and confident individual who crafts stucturally sound solo’s, rich with varied blues motives and a strong hard sound from the Dexter Gordon school. It has Curtis Peagler on alto saxophone – Who??? Anyone? – boppish and bouncy and occasionally phrasing against the grain; solid and fluent Wendell Marshall on bass, Art Taylor on drums and alternating pianists Billy Brown and Roy Johnson. Again, who, anyone?

And the leader, Lem Winchester, taking the vibraphone, curious mixture of melody and percussion, by the horns, swinging with effortless grace and wit, not much that will rattle the bones of dead Downbeat critics but entertaining and stylish. Lem’s beat was solid and whether he was beat (the hipster slang of the jazz-loving Beat Writers – “Man, I’m beat” was a way of saying one was down and out, which was uttered by middle-class boys turned greasy hipsters from Frisco to New York but was uttered initially by Herbert Huncke in the mid-40’s, the über-Beat that likely picked it up in Afro-American quarters and, by the way, was a big fan of Charlie Parker), who knows. Lem’s Beat is a funny title, but the title of the sole composition by Winchester, Lem & Aide, is even better.

Nelson was an outstanding arranger whose ensembles for small groups gave the impression of a bigger band than was the case and he does the trick on Lem’s Beat’s blues-based repertoire. Two tunes stand out: the seldom-played Tionkin/Webster composition Friendly Persuasion gets a MJQ-ish treatment. Lady Day is a sensitive homage to Billie Holiday by pianist Roy Johnson.

The tragedy of Lem Winchester’s life, former cop, was that he died from a hand gun accident, allegedly during a game of Russian Roulette. He passed away in 1961 at the age of thirty-three.

Buddy Tate - Tate-A-Tate

Buddy Tate Tate-A-Tate (Prestige/Swingville 1960)

Nobuddy, well at least few from the swing era, nurtured such a long career as tenor saxophonist Buddy Tate. Tate-A-Tate, smokin’ cooperation with young lions and Clark Terry, is one of his finest efforts.

Buddy Tate - Tate-A-Tate

Personnel

Buddy Tate (tenor saxophone), Clark Terry (trumpet, flugelhorn A1), Tommy Flanagan (piano), Larry Gales (bass), Art Taylor (drums)

Recorded

on October 18, 1960 at Rudy van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Released

as SVLP 2014 in 1960

Track listing

Side A:
Groundhog
Tate-A-Tate
Snatchin’ It Back
Side B
All Too Soon
Take The A-Train
#20 Ladbroke Square


Listening to Buddy Tate feels like watching a movie starring John Wayne. Wayne’s gruff, spitting, punch-you-in-the-gut cowboy characters hold no bars, they are a hybrid of horse sense gumption and primitive emotions shimmering under the surface, likely to explode any minute. His presence on the screen is lethal. Yet there’s something of the likeable teddy bear uncle in him as well. One of Wayne’s finest movies is True Grit and true grit – Wayne’s left lung was removed in 1964 but he managed to complete more than 175 movies in a career that spanned more than 50 years before succumbing to cancer in 1979 – was his middle name.

It is terminology well suited for Buddy Tate, perhaps not such a heavy smoker in a literal sense, but definitely figuratively speaking. And like Wayne, Tate enjoyed a long career. During his life most of the major innovations in jazz history had been developed. Born in Sherman, Texas, Tate played in the territory bands in the Southwest in the late 20s. He was the tenor saxophonist in the Count Basie band from 1939 to 1948, an impressive ten-year stint in the hardest swinging big band in the world, which partly coincided with the tenure of Lester Young. Tate was hired by Basie after the sudden death of Hershel Evans, one of Tate’s major influences alongside the father of jazz tenor, Coleman Hawkins. The following decades, Tate recorded prolifically with, among others, Buck Clayton and Illinois Jacquet. And who doesn’t fondly remember the exciting Very Saxy album with Coleman Hawkins, Arnett Cobb and Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis? Tate passed away in 2001.

Tate is a real blues man and a “tough tenor” as they say, an accessible player that blows honest stuff that comes deep from the gut, marked by smears and elongated mischievous utterings. The kind of player that devours a riff. He stands for entertaining stories and an architecture that is made up of sure-shot entrances, well-structured middle parts and sustained excitement to the end. In a sense, swing-based musicians like Tate are precursors to the soul jazz practitioners, playing music of the people for the people.

So by 1960, the year of his Tate-A-Tate record, Tate was already a veteran. Tate was part of a select club of swing players whose shop rarely closed down, not even during summer holidays. He had already enjoyed a 10-year residency at the Celebrity Club in Harlem, NYC and would continue to perform there until 1974. He also made a couple of solid records with a mixture of old pals and the new breed on Prestige, instigated cleverly by label boss Bob Weinstock and A&R man Esmond Edwards, who realized that jazz styles are by no means totally opposite entities but just different enough to put an edge to the results. The top-notch Tate’s Date with bop pianist Sadik Hakim preceded Tate-A-Tate, which featured trumpeter Clark Terry, his former colleague from the Basie band – Terry went with Ellington in the mid-40s – and the modernists Tommy Flanagan, Larry Gales and Art Taylor.

Tate-A-Tate – pun intended, don’t you love that good-old jazz word play? – is the kind of simultaneously relaxed and driving record that makes you all warm inside, as if cubicles of roasted marshmallows have just taken a rest at the bottom of your belly. It’s dedicated to fast, medium and slow-tempo blues. Tate and Terry do thorough workouts on two pieces from the Ellington book – swinging madly and gaily on (Billy Strayhorn’s) Take The A-Train. Tate reminds us of his delicious balladry on All Too Soon, all glowing coal on the BBQ and aromatic whiskey flavor.

It’s the little details of this spontaneous recording that reveal the greatness of old-school masters like Buddy Tate and Clark Terry. Tate’s sensuous vibrato and thunderous low-register honk put the dot on his perfectly developed sentences of the slow-medium blues tune #20 Ladbroke Square – a Tate composition. Terry’s wondrous out-of-time entrance of the frivolous blues line, Snatchin’ It Back, kick starts the kind of dynamic, ebullient solo the trumpeter had a patent on during his long and brilliant career – unbelievably, Terry played both trumpet and flugelhorn during the course of A-Train and the slow blues Groundhog, one in the left hand, other in the right hand. No use being a master if you don’t once in a while deliver the goods grandiosely, right.

Terry’s Tate-A-Tate builds on the pun of the title, a “jumpin’ blues” with solid breaks and lovely, interweaving tenor sax and trumpet lines. It’s a high-level conversation of smoky Tate and extravert Terry, underscored by rollicking rolls from Art Taylor, omnipresent drummer in the jazz scene of the late 50s and early 60s. The balanced but booming responses of Tate and Terry not only to pianist Tommy Flanagan’s elegant stories and sensible accompaniment but also to Taylor’s cracks from the hip constitute some of the biggest enjoyments of the thoroughly entertaining and sophisticated Tate-A-Tate session.

Listen below. Spotify wrongly credited the record to Tate & Claude Hopkins. Tate-A-Tate starts at number 8.

Hank Jones - The Trio

Hank Jones The Trio (Savoy 1955)

Hank Jones’s The Trio is one of the to-go-to albums as far as piano trio jazz from the 50s is concerned.

Hank Jones - The Trio

Personnel

Hank Jones (piano), Wendell Marshall (bass), Kenny Clarke (drums)

Recorded

on August 4, 1955 at Rudy van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, New Jersey

Released

as Savoy 12023 in 1955

Track listing

Side A:
We’re All Together
Odd Number
We Could Make Such Beautiful Music Together
When Hearts Are Young
Side B:
Cyrano
There’s A Small Hotel
My Funny Valentine


Hank Jones quickly latched on to Parker and Gillespie’s brand new and complex symbiosis of harmony, melody and rhythm in the mid-40s. Bud Powell exerted a strong influence. However, the Vicksburg, Mississippi-born and Pontiac, Michigan-raised oldest brother of the equally legendary Thad and Elvin Jones, born in 1918, integrated bebop into an already formed style, which owed a lot to pianists like Art Tatum and Teddy Wilson. Jones journeyed through the swing bands of Hot Lips Page and Andy Kirk in the early 40s. Subsequently, Jones studied classical theory with the renowned Jascha Zade in New York, one of countless instances in jazz biography that debunks the preposterous myth of the classic jazz man as a ‘noble savage’.

Jones went with the Jazz At The Philharmonic package show in 1947. The following year saw him starting an association with Ella Fitzgerald, which lasted until 1953. Meanwhile, Jones had finally recorded with Charlie Parker in 1952 on the sessions that spawned the Now’s The Time 10inch on Clef. His immense career further included recordings with Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, Cannonball Adderley, Chet Baker, Dizzy Gillespie, Dexter Gordon, Milt Jackson, Sonny Stitt, Art Pepper, Jimmy Raney, Emily Remler and Joe Lovano. Jones was the kind of player that fitted in effortlessly in every situation. One day he accompanied singer Dakota Staton, another day he participated in clarinetist Artie Shaw’s seminal Last Recordings.

In between Jones served as a staff pianist for the CBS broadcasting system from 1959 to ’74. After his return to jazz, Jones epitomized the piano trio format with his Great Piano Trio from 1976 till 2010 – the year he passed away; cooperations with the duos of Ron Carter/Tony Williams, Eddie Gomez/Al Foster or Jimmy Cobb, Mads Vinding/Billy Hart, Elvin Jones/Richard Davis and John Patitucci/Jack DeJohnette. Rhythm section paradise.

And the first major step of Jones as a piano trio player started, recording-wise, with The Trio in 1955. Jones is assisted by bassist Wendell Marshall and drummer Kenny Clarke, who is responsible for making it, in the words of Dutch master drummer Eric Ineke, ‘one of the greatest brush records ever.’ Better believe it. The Trio is a record of sublime interaction and solo spots are not reserved strictly to the leader. There is a lot of room for Marshall and Clarke, whose precision and drive with the brushes as an accompanist are remarkable. His solo’s are textbook examples of meaningful simplicity.

Jones shares with the giants of jazz piano – Teddy Wilson, Earl Hines, Nat Cole – a synchronicity of harmony and melody that is impeccable, to the point where one begins to feel weightless, drifting within a cloud dreamily and fulfilled. Among other things, Jones is elegant and an expert of the arc, essential feat for meaningful storytelling. These qualities run through the bebop of We’re All Together, Charlie Parker’s blues Now The Time and the jaunty Cyrano, credited, very likely unjustly, to producer Ozzie Cadena. They pervade the wonderful ballads We Could Make So Much Good Music Together and My Funny Valentine, the latter a cushion-soft gem. You gotta love Odd Number, which unusual meter and playful melody make your ears perk up, an element that is reminiscent of some of Horace Silver’s refreshing and smart early career tunes, like Horace-Scope.

Hank Jones was no ‘odd number’, but graceful and composed to the core, and to the end.