Art Blakey - Just Coolin'

Art Blakey Just Coolin’ (Blue Note 1959/2020)

NEW RELEASE – ART BLAKEY

Another one from the vault of Blue Note, hurray! The buoyant, invincible swing of Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers infuses Just Coolin’, a 1959 session with the classic frontline of Lee Morgan and Hank Mobley.

 

Art Blakey - Just Coolin'

Personnel

Art Blakey (drums), Lee Morgan (trumpet), Hank Mobley (tenor saxophone), Bobby Timmons (piano), Jimmy Merritt (bass)

Recorded

on March 8, 1959 at Rudy van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, New Jersey

Released

as BN 64201 in 2020

Track listing

Tracks:
Hipsippy Blues
Close Your Eyes
Jimerick
Quick Trick
M&M
Just Coolin’


Shelving excellent sessions was second nature to Blue Note boss Alfred Lion. He undoubtedly had his reasons for ignoring Art Blakey’s session of March 8, 1959. On the strength of Just Coolin’, unearthed by ace producer Zev Feldman, Lion’s reasons could hardly have come from a musical viewpoint. Just Coolin’ is top-notch Blakey: hip tunes, hard and fluent swing, fiery and tasteful contributions by Lee Morgan, Hank Mobley and Bobby Timmons.

What else then would’ve been Lion’s considerations? After the unexpected hit record of Moanin’ in early 1959 Lion shelved the drum-oriented Drums Around The World session of November 2, 1958 – released in 1999 – and instead released the equally percussion-heavy session of November 9 as Holiday For Skins Vol. 1 & 2 in June 1959. Skins, furthermore, consisted not of Blakey’s successful working band but featured Donald Byrd, Ray Bryant, Art Taylor, Philly Joe Jones and Ray Barretto, among others. Presumably, the “drum” sessions were specifically stimulated by Blakey. Presumably, Lion was looking for a follow-up to the popular Moanin’ album. He put the Messengers in the studio in March not long after they had returned from a tour in Europe.

But instead of releasing that session, Lion chose to go for a live recording of April at Birdland, released as At The Jazz Corner Of The World Vol. 1 & 2. Not a bad idea, Blakey’s preceding live records, Live At Birdland and At Club Bohemia, had been good sellers, capturing The Jazz Messengers at their spontaneous best. Perhaps Lion was challenged as well by French RCA, which released Au Club St. Germain Vol 1, 2 & 3 early in 1959, beating him to a punch. Most of all, I think Lion trusted on his intuition, looking for another good Blakey seller. And Jazz Corner, showcasing Blakey as genial jazz ambassador and his Messengers as exciting young bloods, did sell properly. Lion had to make choices for his complete roster of artists all year round. He shelved the excellent November ’59 session of Africaine (released in 1981) at the expense of Big Beat. Flooding the market is of no use.

Even if you’re prepared for Blakey’s big beat, hearing his band in full bloom is still an exhilarating experience. The session is restored beautifully, coming at you as if the Messengers are playing in your room. Four tunes, Close Your Eyes, Mobley’s Hipsippy Blues, M&M and Just Coolin’, would appear on At The Jqzz Corner Of The World. Timmons’s Quick Trick and Jimerick (unknown composer) are previously unreleased tunes. Jimerick is especially noteworthy, an uptempo cooker with a jump blues-feel and catchy stop-time theme that showcases bright, energetic solo’s by Timmons, Morgan and Blakey.

Just Coolin’ is vintage Messengers, Blakey pushing the band at paced mid to up-tempos with driving shuffles, typically driving his men through hard bop avenue with the Blakey Press Roll and various lush and greasy accents and rim shots. Perhaps the records lacks an epic tune and perhaps there’s one tenor sqeak too many, but how the elegant and classy Mobley has always maintained both drive and his cool in front of Blakey is one of the joys of this particular line-up. Morgan is all chutzpah, grease, fire. At times, his notes deliriously dance on the changes, solidly landing on their feet, which combined with Morgan’s bright and brazen tone is a very gratifying experience.

The Jazz Messengers were about honesty, blues and what Mobley alluded to in his quote of a famous, emblematic Ellington piece during Close Your Eyes. There’s plenty of that on Blue Note’s latest “vault” release.

The Facts About Fats

FATS THEUS –

Remember Fats Theus? Bet you do if you’re deeply into tenor/organ grooves. Otherwise, the tenor saxophonist has been largely under the radar. Even admirers of the CTI catalogue – his sole album Black Out was released on CTI in 1970 – often are not aware of this recording. I wrote a review of Black Out a couple of years ago. It’s a gritty record, definitely out of step with the crafty, smooth CTI approach of producer Creed Taylor.

I received a comment on the Theus review on our Instagram page from Mark Cathcart. Cathcart devotes a website – ctproduced – to the work of Creed Taylor and mentioned his latest post on Black Out. The post is made up entirely of a piece by guest writer and connoisseur Douglas Payne, who sheds light on the career of the elusive Theus and provides context to the origins of his sole leadership date which included funk jazz stalwarts of the period, guitarist Grant Green and drummer Idris Muhammad.

(From l. to r, clockwise: Fats Theus’s Black Out and his sideman dates on records by organists Billy Larkin and Jimmy McGriff)

While I highly esteem Creed Taylor for his many top-notch and important endeavors in jazz production and admire the high-level musical and unique visual concept of CTI, I have never been a big fan of the label, fatigued by its slick sound and fun package of instruments including synths, strings, bongos, triangles and what not. Different strokes for different folks.

Having said that, kudos to Cathcart for developing his document on CTI and Douglas Payne for the insightful piece on the enigmatic Fats Theus.

The White Blinds Brown Bag (F-Spot 2020)

NEW RELEASE – THE WHITE BLINDS

Brown Bag and Muddy Water represent the yin and yang of The White Blinds, organ groove outfit from Los Angeles, California.

The White Blinds - Brown Bag / Muddy Water

Personnel

Carey Frank (organ), Matt Hornbeck (guitar), Michael Duffy (drums)

Recorded

in 2020 at Rich Uncle Records, Los Angeles

Released

as FSPT 1015 in 2020

Track listing

Side A:
Brown Bag
Side B:
Muddy Water


Whatever aspect of soul and soul jazz The White Blinds have chosen to tackle, they never fail to deliver. The trio, consisting of drummer Michael Duffy, organist Carey Frank and guitarist Matt Hornbeck, is a mainstay on the West Coast. They previously released their debut album Get To Steppin’ in 2018 and 7inch homage to Sly Stone and Charles Earland, Sing A Simple Song, in 2019.

Their latest “Homage” 7inch, a black (or shine orange limited edition) disc packaged in a blank sleeve straight from the jukebox era of lore, courtesy of F-Spot Records, combines hard groove with meaty soul song. Brown Bag was originally recorded by guitarist Ivan “Boogaloo Joe” Jones on his Prestige album Right On in 1970. The showcase for guitarist Matt Hornbeck is underscored by the effective rolls and steam engine beat of Duffy and full-bodied accompaniment by Franks. Hornbeck’s angular phrases work towards a rousing climax in a suspenseful manner. Brown Bag is a very pleasant dance floor cooker. The band forcefully flies through the modulations of the tune, the typically speedy Boogaloo Joe Jones lines and its self-penned, dynamic interlude.

On the other side of the spectrum, the original White Blinds composition Muddy Water moves with sensuous, Philly soul-ish ease. It might serve as kickstart to an evening of hugs and kisses, and it might have served, in another time and place, as the background to the vocals of the late great Sharon Jones. There evidently lies a genuine passion for vintage soul jazz at the heart of The White Blinds.

The White Blinds

Find Brown Bag/Muddy Water on F-Spot Records here.

Great Scotties

SHIRLEY SCOTT –

I doubt if there is any artist in the history of jazz that released three similarly titled records in his or her career other than Shirley Scott. Miss Scott furthermore pulled the rip-tickling trick over the course of three decades.

Shirley Scott is one of the most beloved jazz organists who sustained a prolific career including recordings for Prestige, Blue Note, Impulse, Atlantic, Muse and Candid. Scott hailed from Philadelphia, quintessential organ jazz town. She was married with tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine in the 60s and also teamed up with him in the studio and clubs. The gelling of Scott’s soulful and church-rooted style and Turrentine’s blues-inflected phrasing is very appealing.

The first Great Scott record was Scott’s debut album in May, 1958 on Prestige. By then, Scott had been cooperating with tenor saxophonist Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis for some time, having recorded for King and Roulette. Their cooperation on Prestige climaxed with the jukebox blues hit In The Kitchen in the summer of 1958. Great Scott ’58 displays Scott’s versatility, ranging from blues to the modern jazz of Cherokee and Miles Davis/Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson’s Four. Her Prestige (and subsidiary Moodsville) records – a staggering total of 23 titles – are marked by the organ’s open, orchestral settings, an old-fashioned sound that I feel detracts from her playing but it locks tight with the alert and driving rhythm section of bassist George Duvivier and drummer Arthur Edgehill. She recorded prolifically with Duvivier and Edgehill.

Listen to Scott’s The Scott.

Great Scott ’64 is a different ballgame. Impulse coupled Scott with arranger Oliver Nelson, who created a lush, driving big band texture. Scott finally came around to a more modern, percussive setting of the Hammond B3 organ and her single lines weave in and out of Nelson’s swelling brass and reed harmonies. I personally prefer Scott’s Impulse period. It did not exclusively feature big band albums. Her live date at the Front Room in Newark, New Jersey with Turrentine, Queen Of The Organ, is a cooker.

Hear how Scott takes on Oliver Nelson’s Hoe Down.

Scott struggled through the 80s, which was a bad time for organ jazz, concentrating instead on piano and teaching. She was more active again in the 90s. Her solid Great Scott ’91 record featured tenor saxophonist Buck Hill, bassist Art Harper and drummer Mickey Roker. Nothing like the combination of Hammond organ, Leslie speaker and tenor saxophone, it’s like tequila, lemon and salt. Scott squeezed every inch out of the format for almost five decades.

Shirley Scott passed away in 2002.

Brotherhood Of Man (And Sisterhood Of Woman, but which?)

BROTHERHOOD OF MAN –

Way back when, during that period when most jazz musicians eventually gravitated towards New York, musicians from the same origins usually had a special rapport. Everyone more or less felt comfortable in the presence of a fellow Native from Detroit, Chicago, Baltimore or St. Louis, sharing the same memories and peculiar cultural sensibilities of their hometown or place where they had grown up. One of the textbook examples of this sensibility is the Philadelphia connection of the Jazz Messengers line-up that Benny Golson arranged for Art Blakey, consisting of the Philly cats of Golson himself, Lee Morgan, Bobby Timmons and Jimmy Merritt.

If citizenship is a bond, and to a lesser extent still is, imagine how close brothers and/or sisters that pursue careers always have been. In jazz, there are myriad examples of family ties, arguably more than in any other form of art. To a child, making music has always been more accessible than painting, sculpturing, cinema, photography. Households most of the time (and the church without exception) included a couple of instruments. And it was common practice for parents to direct their youngsters to the available bands – marching bands and the like.

Before the advent of the contraceptive pill, families were larger than today and thus held the promise of a bigger amount of interfamilial musicianship. Nonetheless the postmodern era spawned a number of sterling sibling configurations. Over the course of last week, a series of names popped into my head now and then, and some I found in books or liner notes I had coincidentally been reading. See below:

Hank, Thad and Elvin Jones. Wes, Monk and Buddy Montgomery. Conte and Pete Candoli. Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey. Cannonball and Nat Adderley. Bud and Richie Powell. Chuck and Gap Mangione. Lester and Lee Young. Jimmy, Percy and Albert Heath. Art and Addison Farmer. Johnny and Baby Dodds. Cecil and Ron Bridgewater. Michael and Randy Brecker. Kenny and Bill Barron. Ben and Gideon van Gelder. Wayne and Alan Shorter. Fletcher and Horace Henderson. George and Julia Lee. Kevin, Robin and Duane Eubanks. Roy and Joe Eldridge. Budd and Keg Johnson. I undoubtedly omitted a legion and I’m sad to say failed to bring in more than one woman into the equation. Help me out here.

To make matters more complicated and amusing, one need only point out the dynasty of father Ellis Marsalis and sons Wynton, Branford and Delfeayo. Indeed, the parent and sibling theme allows another round of pure jazz tidbit pleasure one may not perhaps view as pastime paradise but at any rate effectively kills time. There’s Albert and Gene Ammons. Jimmy and Doug Raney. You get the drift… Have fun!

Jazz In Times Of Corona Vol. 2

JAZZ IN TIMES OF CORONA Vol. 2 –

A couple of weeks gone by, the same insecurity and surreal everyday life still happening, slow-motion life but a speed course in disaster control… Most jazz musicians now expect that steady gigs will remain dried up at least till the end of summer. In Jazz In Times Of Corona Volume 1, Simon Spillett, Félix Lemerle and Ellister van der Molen talked about coping with the Covid-19 crisis. (See here) Today we have drummer Michael Duffy from Los Angeles, U.S.A., guitarist Ricardo Pinheiro from Lisbon, Portugal, tenor saxophonist Joan Benavent from Valencia, Spain and alto saxophonist Maarten Hogenhuis from Vinkeveen in the Amsterdam region of The Netherlands talk about their perspective on the situation. Where do they stand now that their professional career is in jeopardy? Which are their everyday endeavors now that gigs have dried up? How do they perceive the future for the jazz business? And, last but not least, is there a positive note to the shock that the crisis has brought about? Nothing like a warm live atmosphere, let’s hope for the best and the beat and the bass and the drums and all the rest…


Michael Duffy: “Well, we’ve never experienced anything like this in most of our lives, so the art of social distances is not being handled well. I love it cause I’m an introvert, so I’ve hunkered down and got some creative shit brewing, but for most people it’s really hard.”

Maarten Hogenhuis: “Not to be able to perform till June 1 (Dutch cautionary measures, FM) is a bitter pill to swallow. I expect that the period will be extended at least till summer. It is a financial loss, but the thing that bothers me most is the fact that I can’t play in a live setting, which is the thing that satisfies me most about being a musician! By day I spend time in the studio in my backyard, composing, practicing and elaborating on unfinished and new stuff. I also teach online. And for something completely different I developed a catering service with my wife. I love cooking and it’s a great way to help out friends and relatives. So I’m altogether keeping myself busy!”

Joan Benavent: “I miss the feedback from musicians and from audiences. Performing is a way of dealing with one’s fears and a necessity for me. But I certainly don’t feel like a bird in a cage. I accepted the situation and keep expressing my artistic identity through other paths more intensively than before, like writing music or practicing. And of course I keep in touch with my colleagues online. It’s very inspiring. I consider them my teachers. Being a teacher myself, I think the crisis is the same kind of nuisance than for others in the workforce of society. I teach between 15 and 20 hours a week and in order to do it online I have to design extra material, plus correct and assess more student’s works than usually, because most of the practical exercises have to be recorded to avoid connection problems.”

Ricardo Pinheiro: “The situation is dramatic, especially for many musicians who rely 100% on playing live. I had many concerts cancelled both in Portugal and abroad, including the official release concert of my CD. Here in Portugal, we didn’t see any clear and organised help from the Government, which is leading many musicians – and their families – to a very difficult situation. I teach at the Escola Superior de Música de Lisboa, which is our higher education Conservatory. We implemented online teaching, so our students can continue studying in the best possible conditions. In general, my days are occupied with teaching, studying and taking care of my children.”

(Clockwise from l. to r: Joan Benavent; Michael Duffy in between Jimmy James & Delvon Lamarr; Maarten Hogenhuis)

Michael Duffy: “Well, it’s a huge kick to the gut, so to speak, to our community, not only did this happen but we were fighting the local government who passed a measure called AB5 which in short makes it impossible for blue collar gigging musicians to make there money as an independent contractor. Now moving forward I’m unsure how the LA landscape looks, but I’m hopeful that we can turn it around, but it will be what I believe to be a bit of a reset. As far as government support, it’s on its way, but I’m unsure how it will sustain our community, to me it’s still a lot of unknown.”

Maarten Hogenhuis: “I’m an optimist by nature and not an apocalyptic kind of guy. I’m sure that this crisis will arouse an extraordinary gulf of creativity. That is what happened after the major subsidy cuts on the arts in The Netherlands a couple of years ago. All my musician friends are immersed in composing and studying, no doubt to the benefit of the audience in the future. Undeniably, a certain amount of musicians is threatened to go under. I hope they will be ok and that the backlash for our music won’t be too bad.”

Michael Duffy: “In 6 months I’ll have a shit ton of music to make, but will I have the space and finances to record and perform? I’ll be ready to work and ready to share this experience with the music world, coming from my isolation time. Well I’m still unsure of what will happen here with live music, if we will be able to sustain ourselves financially, but I remain optimistic.”

Ricardo Pinheiro: “No one can predict what will happen in the future. I’m worried and pessimistic about what is going to happen a few months from now. Firstly, I think that even when the public health issue is controlled, it will take a long time for culture to recover, especially music. Gigs will not appear again like magic. People will not start going out to concerts instantly, because they will still be scared to be in public places… So this snowball will not stop and reverse automatically. Secondly, we will have an economic problem that will take time to heal. Unemployment will grow, so a lot of families will see their income severely affected. All of this will have a negative and last-longing impact on culture. So, I see a dark future ahead, with a lot of musicians struggling for gigs and very few opportunities on the table. I really hope I’m wrong.”

Joan Benavent: “I can’t exactly imagine what the future will bring, but I think it is going to be like the crisis of 2008, due to the economic recession that Spain in particular – and the world in general – is already suffering. During those days a lot of venues had to close down, many gigs were cancelled, the administration did not support the sector properly so a lot of musicians were forced to look for other jobs. In any case, I’m pretty sure that the scene will survive. It is already getting re-organized and soon we will have a broadly supported syndicate to fight for our rights. But first and foremost, art has always been moved by two main principals as old as humanity, that don’t depend on administration support: the own artist’s necessity of creation and the need of society for sharing and being together.”

Michael Duffy: “Well, I can only speak for myself and say, this time has made me look at playing music and recording with a different lens. I really want to leave a bunch of original organ trio music for the next generation of diggers who love soul jazz as much as I do. I’m very motivated to get cracking. But I know that there is going to be some tough time ahead and we will have to look out for our friends and colleagues in the LA scene. There may be some mental health issues to help with and how to get things back on track financially for our gigging music community.”

Ricardo Pinheiro: “This crises brings out the urgency to question the paradigm of our existence. We need to reflect on the environment at a global level and question ourselves on the use – and abuse – of natural, human and economical resources. And take appropriate action. We need to establish priorities as a group and not as individuals. We need to understand we are all connected, whether we like it or not. We need to put greed and profit in second plan and look out for each other and future generations. And we need to stop being narcissistic and selfish and be more altruistic and aware of others. I also think that this crisis is forcing us to reinvent ourselves at a creative level. We are all adapting to new ways of experiencing art and the artistic process. Let’s hope we learn from our mistakes so we can build a better future for new generations to come.”

Joan Benavent: “I firmly believe that there’s a positive note to the current crisis. We are still at the beginning of this ‘new era’ and I think it brought a lot of good things along. Personally, I now have more time to spend with my family and I reactivated contact with old friends. On a musical level, it forced me to learn new tools for working, making music and communicating. I was quite outdated in all these subjects, but never again! I have the opportunity to study and practice more deeply the music of the great masters, almost as I had when I was in school. The time spent on thinking about my life and career is helping me to mature my personality. Generally, I see many people helping each other, in the media, in the streets, in the news, something I have never seen before to such an extent.”

Maarten Hogenhuis: “I navigate between a diverse section of projects as far as 2020 is concerned, making ends meet that way. My wife is involved in management and bookings. Her roster of artists is already receiving cancellations for August and September. This leads me to conclude that the trouble for musicians is not over by far. Regardless, I somehow feel that when people will again be allowed to get together, the relief will be massive. I foresee an enormous desire for the communal feeling of live music. Who knows?”

Jazz In Times Of Corona Vol. 2

Check out these websites:
Maarten Hogenhuis here.
Ricardo Pinheiro here.

Check Michael Duffy’s groove outfit The White Blinds here.
And the trailer of Joan Benavent’s new album here.

Jimmy McGriff

JIMMY MCGRIFF FOOTAGE –

I hope that whatever makes me happy makes you happy. While checking out music on YouTube during work, I stumbled upon live footage of organist Jimmy McGriff.

This seriously gave me a lift. Great footage. French voice-over, French concert poster of January/February 1969, The Apollo Club. Likely in Paris? McGriff clicks on the light for what looks like a pre-concert afternoon tv-special/announcement. Look at McGriff and his band’s driving exercise of the blues. McGriff performs Keep Loose, which was released on the Solid State album The Worm and the B-side of the single The Worm in 1968. See here.

His band here consists of tenor saxophonist Leo Johnson, guitarist Larry Frazier and drummer Jesse Kilpatrick. Frazier and Kilpatrick did not play on the recorded version but had joined McGriff’s band in ’69 and were featured on the heavy organ blues winner Step One. Johnson and Frazier are enigma’s (for me), Kilpatrick was the former drummer of organ group Billy Larkin & The Delegates.

Few played the blues with the grit, grease and controlled abandon of McGriff. Killer stuff!