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!

RIP Wallace Roney

WALLACE RONEY –

Trumpeter Wallace Roney sadly passed away on March 31 at the age of 59. Roney succumbed to the Covid-19 virus.

A Young Lion that burst on the scene in the mid-eighties as the protegé of Miles Davis, and ex-husband of the late great pianist Geri Allen, Roney was one of the great trumpeters of his generation, enjoying stints with Art Blakey and Tony Williams and sustaining a fruitful career ever after. I coincidentally reviewed his last album, Blue Dawn Blue Nights for Jazz Journal UK, read here. Blue Dawn Blue Lights featured Roney’s nephew, Kojo Odu, on drums. Thoughts go to Roney’s wife and children.

(Clockwise from l. to r: Verses (Verve 1987); Tribute To Miles (Warner Bros 1994); Blue Dawn Blue Nights, HighNote 2019)

Read obit NY Times here.

Roney lives!

Jazz In Times Of Corona Vol. 1

JAZZ IN TIMES OF CORONA VOL. 1 –

Terribly unfortunate events are going on day by day, especially somewhere else… in other parts of the world than our Western world. But the Covid-19 crisis is universal and without borders and the fact that other countries often are less stable doesn’t make the impact on our civilization less penetrating. The Covid-19 crisis creeps in the pores of society, and is a worrisome and occasionally fatal development especially for the health of the elderly and vulnerable. We’re in the thick of it and the outcome is unsure. Life has become substantially more surreal by the day… the melting watches and distorted landscapes of Dali and the flying cello ships of Richard “Prophet” Jennings don’t come close. Perhaps our lives have always been surreal and we have been unable to perceive it, until now.

We’re subjected to a strange mix of level-headedness and bewilderment, of thinking that time will heal or feeling that confusion will be our epitaph. Perhaps, as the weeks go by, puzzlement will gradually subside. In the meantime many of us need all the charity, determination and good humor that we are able to muster, and fortunately there hasn’t been a shortage of that of late. Yours truly, the Flophouse Floor Manager, while perhaps more jittery and nervous than he cares to admit, is ok. Amongst loved ones and wallowing in his usual mad laughter and subterranean detachement. Helping out the old folks of Amsterdam by day, jivin’ with jazz at night…

A bit of good-time live music would be a major upper for us aficionados. But that is the trouble at the heart of the interviews below. Records (and a good glass of single malt whiskey) are still within reach. But the curtains are drawn and club owners and jazz musicians are at a loss. Like all artists that work freelance for most of the time, jazz musicians are caught between a rock and a hard place, and the wound is open, and the bandages are out of stock… Typically competent in struggling their way out of a mess, considering their skill for improvisation and uncommon discipline, you can see them finding a way out of the labyrinth. However, looming fate is hard to suppress… So I was wondering how jazz musicians personally feel, where they stand now that their professional career is in jeopardy, how they fill their gig-less days and nights, perceive the future for the jazz business and, last but not least, if there is a positive note to the shock that the crisis has brought about.

So the floor is theirs. In part 1, tenor saxophonist Simon Spillett from London, U.K., French guitarist Félix Lemerle from New York City, U.S.A. and trumpeter Ellister van der Molen from The Hague, The Netherlands, whom I kindly thank for their insights and a glimpse into their way of dealing with the Covid-19 crisis.


Simon Spillett: “My father, who is aged 80 and terminally ill with cancer, is in a nursing home which has, in line with government advice, been placed in lockdown. I have been unable to see him for a number of days but am in regular touch with those charged with his care. Of the various impacts the Covid-19 crisis has made upon my life, this is indisputably the hardest to bear. It’s heartbreaking to not see my father.

Although I also teach privately, run a youth big band at a music centre and write sleeve notes and record reviews, the main bulk of my income is as a performing jazz musician. Therefore to have perhaps 95% of your monthly cash-flow disappear overnight is both unprecedented and extremely worrying.

At present I am continuing to write and have been offered several small commissions from record labels and magazines which will help keep some income coming in but it will be insufficient to cover my outgoings. On March 26 the UK government announced a financial help package for those who are in self-employment like myself but as yet we are unsure about exactly how this will be implemented. And, with the timeline indicating payment no earlier than June, the following two months are likely to be extremely tough indeed for myself and many of my colleagues.

Like many musicians I know, I live in rented property and am hoping that the landlords will be sympathetic to these challenging circumstances. However, if not – despite the official deferment of legal evictions until at least three months time – I will almost certainly eventually lose my flat. Whichever way this current crisis plays out its impact on myself – and many fellow musicians -will be serious and have longer term ramifications.”

Félix Lemerle: “A regular day nowadays is pretty similar to a day without a gig, meaning I would stay home and practice. I’m in the Artist Diploma at Juilliard, so all classes have been moved online. Some classes work well remotely. However, we are still figuring out what to do to make the best use of our ensemble rehearsals, since we cannot play together. Days feel pretty similar so I’m glad school is still on so that it gives me something to differentiate them.

There’s a lot of people doing videos of themselves playing or collaborating with others with apps like Acapella or the like, but I didn’t jump on the bandwagon yet. I feel like social media are saturated with it, and I don’t think the spirit of our music is conveyed when there is none of the interaction that happens when playing together live. Musicians — those that don’t have to immediately put themselves at risk by taking another job because they need money right now, that is — will have more time to practice, but nothing substitutes playing with other people.”

Ellister van der Molen: “In spite of everything I try to spend my time as useful as possible and I keep my hand on the purse. My survival more or less depends on how many of my dates will be cancelled. I’m really in trouble when my summer projects – a concert tour in institutions for the elderly and workshops in Switzerland – will be cancelled. Otherwise, depending on what the outcome will be of the Tozo agreement, (governmental support, FM) I will just about manage to get by.

I sleep pretty late, but comparatively less late than usual, since the late night gigs have been cancelled! I keep in shape. I’m on the phone all the time with my father. Furthermore, I’m studying trumpet and planning the new season: a new record, arranging, online workshops, website updating, acquisition. It’s still a bit of a jumble but it’s no time to take a holiday.”

(Clockwise from l. to r: Simon Spillett; Félix Lemerle; Ellister van der Molen)

Simon Spillett: “After years of travelling across the UK to and from gigs my days now look and feel very different. Jazz musicians are famously supposed to be late risers in the morning, although few I’ve met actually are. Well, I’m now having fun making that cliché ring true! Seriously though, as soon as I could see the disruptive pattern that this pandemic was likely to bring, I made a resolution not to panic – self-isolation and considerable time alone are, after all, things that working musicians are very familiar with through years of study and practice. We’re also mostly very happy with our own company, despite the gregarious nature of our job.

My days so far have followed a pattern of writing during the morning and early afternoon, followed by a walk for exercise or, if absolutely necessary, a trip to a supermarket. I’m in daily contact with my friends within the jazz business. My girlfriend is also a jazz performer who has faced exactly the same overnight cancellations of her work and we speak each day, a conversation that keeps us both sane and focused.

Jazz musicians are extremely sensitive, most often with incredibly encompassing world views. They’re also experts in the unexpected, dealing with it on a daily basis. And they have an amazing capacity to see humour in the bleakest of circumstance; I’m very happy that I have friends like this right now. They do feel like a genuine community!

I keep myself busy writing. Although I haven’t touched my instrument in around a week, I am still thinking of music. I listen each day, choosing a different album to hear each morning as I get ready for the day, by no means all of them jazz. And I am thinking of how my work and attitude to it will change after we are again able to play in public. It’s a huge opportunity to refresh and rethink one’s approach.

I am also using the considerable time to reflect on what music means to me, not only as my livelihood but as a way of life. I am like a great many people, both those who play and those who listen, in that I’ve taken for granted the luxury of live music. If anything has proved definitively the binding power than music has on society it’s this current crisis.”

Félix Lemerle: “Hopefully this won’t last too long, but I’m pretty pessimistic. The economic impact on small businesses like clubs and restaurants will result in them closing or stopping live music even after the quarantine is over. I hope the scene will recover, but I’m sure this will be a major blow to an already struggling sector.

I don’t feel like there is much positivity about it. I can’t afford to romanticize the situation. I am lucky enough to have some money put aside, so my fiancee and I will be able to survive a couple months without income and no federal help, both of us being foreigners. But I’m thinking of all the working class people that lost their jobs, especially in times of absurd economic disparity, when 40% of people in the US can’t afford a $400 emergency and have no social safety net, the health care system is in crisis, and the government’s answers are so inadequate.”

Simon Spillett: “If, as predicted by many in the UK, our social distancing policy continues on into the summer months, then I feel deeply worried for the British jazz community. Some performers will be unable to bounce immediately back from this unexpected ‘pause’ as very few promoters are planning ahead, quite understandably. I’m not sure how I’ll continue at present.

I also fear that the grass roots venues – which are my ‘bread and butter’ – are truly in jeopardy. Many of their promoters, and almost all of their audience, fall into the ‘vulnerable’ category as defined by the UK government. It’s difficult not to see the current crisis as a potential death knell for this way of presenting and promoting jazz here in Great Britain and I truly fear that some of these lovely little clubs will just fade away from sight altogether in the wake of Covid-19.

It’s strange: there has been reams and reams of debate about the health, future and viability of jazz over the past few years, all of which, in light of Coronavirus, now seem altogether academic. There were lots of naysayers out there saying jazz was dead, it was no longer growing, it had no wider social relevance and that it wouldn’t take much to kill it off completely. Nobody could’ve predicted that a pandemic would enter the equation. I don’t think jazz will die through this – either here in the UK or anywhere else – but I do think we may have to look at it in a new way when all the dust settles. I think it was Roy Haynes who once said ‘jazz is like a cockroach – you try and stamp it out and it keeps on going’. That’s my belief now: it’ll survive this, and as the past has shown – think Prohibition, the Second World War, the Civil Rights battles of the 1960s – it’ll use circumstance to strengthen its relevance.”

Ellister van der Molen: “Everybody in the jazz scene is pretty concerned about one another, that’s cool. Surprisingly, we somehow have swapped the quick text message for the old-school phone call! Anyway, I need to be creative and find alternative ways to gain the audience and mine the digital world through YouTube, social media streams, newsletters, DIY recording, podcasting etcetera. I have to peddle arrangements and am thinking about performing for the elderly through the phone via Stichting Muziek Aan Huis. These are things that I have been neglecting because of a lack of will or time.”

Félix Lemerle: “On a personal note, I appreciate the time with my fiancee. I’m using my time to practice and she has school online. I really hope this will make people realize the need for a strong health care system, and more globally the importance of commons vs. neoliberal individualism. Again, I’m pretty pessimistic.”

Simon Spillett: “You can’t separate a musician from humanity so I’m also thinking of those I love, where I want to be when all this is over and, ultimately, what lessons we’ll have learned from this historic global event. Sometimes, although it can seem like life or death, you realise that jazz is just part of what you do, not all of who you are; a saxophone is just a saxophone; the search for the ‘perfect’ reed is just something you have to do; you can always take another crack at playing that chorus. All this is now firmly in perspective for me and, I hope, it’ll make me a better person as a result, whatever I do in the future.”

Jazz In Times Of Corona Vol. 1

Check out these websites:
Simon Spillett here.
Félix Lemerle here.
Ellister van der Molen here.

Photography Ellister van der Molen: Karin van Gilst

Saxophonist and writer Simon Spillett keeps a daily diary on Facebook which I urge everyone to check out.

Note: 3 days after this publication, Simon Spillett’s father Richard sadly passed away.

Almost Complete Antibes

BROTHER JACK MCDUFF AT ANTIBES –

There were a couple of tracks from organist Brother Jack McDuff’s performance at Antibes on YouTube, and now Jazz3+ uploaded 36 solid minutes of McDuff’s quartet on the Côte d’Azur in France. See here. Unforgettable stuff!

McDuff’s quartet consisted of tenor saxophonist Red Holloway, guitarist George Benson and drummer Joe Dukes. None of McDuff’s groups, in my opinion, matched this quartet in drive and fire, few if any of the other organ combo’s of that period in fact. Definitely his hottest band. At times, Brother Jack McDuff seemed possessed, effortlessly incorporating the fire and brimstone of the black church in his modern style. He had been a popular recording artist on Prestige since 1960.

The chemistry between McDuff and drummer Joe Dukes was unbelievable, soul jazz drum pioneer Joe Dukes anticipated every move of McDuff and the tune changes with an assault of continuous accents and rolls, adapting big band style to the blues. Red Holloway did time on the r&b circuit and was a strong-sounding swinger. Young Benson joined McDuff in 1963. It was his first break. Benson was a flashy lightning bolt of a guitarist, also drenched in r&b, and quickly developed into an exciting jazz player. McDuff’s quartet was on the road for two straight years on the East Coast and in the Mid-West.

Here’s a fragment from Benson’s biography, Benson recounting his journeyman years with “bad” boss McDuff:

McDuff and Joe Dukes were excellent teachers but tough customers. McDuff regularly shouted obscenities to Benson on stage, ‘if he had just the right (or wrong) amount of booze or weed.’ Joe Dukes, ‘such a magnificent drummer that there were times I thought he was one of the greatest things that ever happened to mankind’ was especially hard on the 19-year old prodigy, who alledgedly picked up too many girls for the taste of the envious drummer.

“Finally, after a particularly nasty rant, I snapped: ‘If y’all don’t lay off, I’m gonna take y’all outside and beat y’all old men up! I’m nineteen years old! Y’all can’t take me! We’re going out in the alley, right now! McDuff and Dukes just stared at me for a second, then they both pulled out switchblades. But that didn’t stop me: “I don’t care! Y’all don’t scare me! Bring your switchblades into the alley! I’ll beat y’all up anyhow!” Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed: nobody went into the alley, and nobody got beaten up. But it got them off my back.”

“In retrospect, I’m glad they stayed on my back; granted, their methods were barbaric, but for the most part, it was about making me a better musician so we’d be a better band.”

Great story. One of the better bands indeed. The McDuff Quartet fired on all cylinders, as you can see on the Antibes footage. Enjoy!

(Thanks, The London Jazz Organ)

Hammond Happening

CONCERT – HAMMOND HAPPENING

(Boye Ingwersen)

Different strokes for different folks. The audience of Hammond Happening, mini-festival of organ music, freely wandered in and out of the downstairs and upstairs halls, a very relaxed way to take in the oscillated grooves of a variety of Hammond organ-based groups, including the cream of the Dutch crop.

Real jazz heads arrived early. Although Belgian saxophonist Toine Thys guesses, probably right, that most customers were not familiar with his music. “So, you can discover some new stuff,” says the charming causeur from Brussels, who inherited the ugly task of entertaining a half-filled house. His trio, including organist Arno Krijger and drummer Karl Jannuska, nonetheless goes about its business unfazed, delivering a hypnotic set of African-flavored jazz, smooth exotic rhythms that, surprisingly, eventually even segue into a twisted take on dub reggae. Thys, a regular visitor of the African continent, is a bonafide poet whose lines move with measured pace on both tenor sax and bass clarinet. Krijger is a tasteful avant player and responsive accompanist, expert in creating a warm-blooded ambience. He finishes a Tony William’s Lifetime-ish groove with a piece of gritty and intense storytelling.

(Clockwise from l. to r: Arno Krijger; Toine Thys)

Though the corniest of MC’s, akin to the kind of wise guy that hardened inmates love to slap around, the boundless energy and kinetic shenanigans of Cyril Directie, drummer of the funk jazz outfit Montis, Goudsmit & Directie, does, it must be said, charm the Melkweg crowd. He lights the cubes, Montis and Goudsmit drop a couple of biggies on the grill and a big part of the audience certainly seems ready for a lavish BBQ, smiling broadly or shaking hips the old-fashioned crude Whitey-way. Unashamedly over the top, let’s get loud is the trio’s motto. But its performance simultaneously includes sizzling and delicate organ and guitar stuff. Montis is a passionate blues-drenched player equally comfortable with slick soul and classics like Funky Mama. The idiosyncratic and versatile Goudsmit spends his time of Stevie Wonder’s Living In The City half-timing classical lines which must be inspired by some master like Segovia. Cute.

(Clockwise from l. to r: Anton Goudsmit, Cyril Directie; Frank Montis)

Like Montis, Goudsmit & Directie, Orgel Vreten is a crowd favorite. Orgel Vreten, which translates as McHammond, is a band with two front men on Hammond organ: Thijs Schrijnemakers and Darius Timmers. Its patchwork of wacky New Wave and space rock is rough-hewn and the organ playing hardly of repute, excepting Timmers’ unpredictable rhythmic patterns on the added synth. Strong on stage antics, the highlight of Orgel Vreten’s performance is the presence of Arno Bakker, a big, bearded man on sousaphone – like in BIG and BEARD – who climbs on the set of organs, pounding, twisting and turning and, finally, being engaged in a bass battle with the electric bassist, who had followed suit. Jolly giant. Cousin of Z.Z. Top’s Dusty Hill and Billy Gibbons. Fantastic force of nature. It’s a fair spectacle! And lest we forget, this Dusty Gibbons plays the hell out of the sousaphone.

(Clockwise from l. to r: Arno Bakker; Darius Timmers; Carlo de Wijs & Kypski)

The psychedelic pie of Herbie Hancock, Lauren Hill’s Everything Is Everything and instantly created loops by Boye Ingwersen kicks off the festival in the upstairs hall. Some of the fractured beat patterns would work well as background to the rhymes of underground hip-hop svengalis like MF Doom.

Carlo de Wijs, somewhat the Dutch pater familias of the evening’s crew of organists, developed from straight-ahead player, pop-soul artist to the most extreme innovator around. His custom-made Modular Hammond is a hybrid of the vintage B3 tone wheel system, synths and contemporary digital technology. The whole package is presented on stage, including the effective turntable-ism of Kypski and interconnected visual media. De Wijs introduced his performance with a lecture on his instrument and research of the innovative genius Laurens Hammond.

Like Ingwersen, De Wijs aims for outer space. His spun-out solo’s work to a climax on the dance rhythms of Belgian drummer Jordi Geuens, which are performed with incredible metronomic precision and the aloofness of the Kraftwerk cats. De Wijs takes a different tack with his oldie original composition Mr. Feet, working off a frolic, Stevie Wonder-ish bounce. Throughout, for all the set’s futuristic tendencies, the creative past of De Wijs and the warm and greasy essence of the Hammond organ rings through. There’s an abundance of Jimmy Smith-inspired licks, a Keith Emerson-like energy and, in the form of an intro, pure gospel, evidently a result of De Wijs’s lifelong admiration of the deeply rooted art of Rhoda Scott.

The documentary Killer B3 was furthermore featured in the cinema room. A lovely intermezzo of a quite enjoyable festival of Killer B3 combo’s.

Hammond Happening

Melkweg, Amsterdam, February 2, 2020.

Toine Thys Trio
Montis, Goudsmit & Directie
Boye Ingwersen
New Hammond Sound Project
Orgel Vreten

Photography: Filip Mertens

Johnny Griffin & Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis - Live At The Penthouse

Johnny Griffin & Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis Ow! Live At The Penthouse (Cellar/Reel To Real 2019)

NEW RELEASE – JOHNNY GRIFFIN & EDDIE “LOCKJAW” DAVIS

Griff & Lock rock The Penthouse in Seattle on Ow!, a killer Record Story Day release by Cellar/Reel To Real.

Johnny Griffin & Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis - Live At The Penthouse

Personnel

Johnny Griffin (tenor saxophone), Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis (tenor saxophone), Horace Parlan (piano), Buddy Catlett (bass), Art Taylor (drums)

Recorded

on May 14 & June 6 at The Penthouse Jazz Club, Seattle

Released

as RTR-LP-003 in 2019

Track listing

LP1
Side A:
Blues Up & Down
Ow!
Side B:
Bahia
Blue Lou
LP2
Side A:
Second Balcony Jump
How Am I To Know
Side B:
Sophisticated Lady
Tickle Toe


Nothing like a solid tenor battle. Starting out as a competitive ‘cutting contest’ in the swing era – the most famous being the alleged Kansas City battle in 1933 when Lester Young ‘cut’ Coleman Hawkins and thereby planted the seeds of the modern style – in the ensuing years the battle developed into a more mutually responsive festivity. Dexter Gordon/Wardell Gray set the standard. Prime examples of the 50s and 60s are Gene Ammons/Sonny Stitt and Al Cohn/Zoot Sims. A couple of epic recordings that come to mind are Sonny Rollins/Coleman Hawkins (Sonny Meets Hawk) and Clifford Jordan/John Gilmore (Blowing In From Chicago). To name but a few remarkable duo’s and records.

Arguably the most unique team is Johnny Griffin and Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis. It definitely was the most prolific duo. During their stint from 1960 to 1962, the duo recorded ten records on Jazzland/Riverside and Prestige, among them four live records of their Minton’s Playhouse performance and a superb, hard-driving record of Monk compositions – Lookin’ At Monk. The career of Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis went as far back as Louis Armstrong. He was a mainstay of the Count Basie band and, not that well-known, led the house band at Minton’s from 1946 to 1952. “Jaws” was the kind of soul tenor that also veered from honking r&b in the 50s to a successful organ combo stint with Shirley Scott in the late 50s. His work with Griffin solidified his reputation as a bonafide jazz player.

Griffin, fastest tenor bop gun in the West, came into his own in the late-50s on Blue Note and Riverside and established himself as a major force on the scene with his cooperations with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and Thelonious Monk in 1957/58. Fire meets fire. Griff is a hard-boiled egg flavored with chili pepper, Lock meat and potatoes, they burned the bop and swung till they dropped.

Up until 1962, the band further consisted of pianist Junior Mance, bassist Larry Gales and drummer Ben Riley. At the time of their Tough Tenor Favorites LP, pianist Horace Parlan and bassist Buddy Catlett had replaced Mance and Gales. Both Parlan and Catlett were present at the Penthouse gig. Art Taylor presumably subbed for Ben Riley. The band plays three tunes from the Tough Tenor Favorites album: Dizzy Gillespie’s Ow!, Ary Barrow’s exotic Bahia and the warhorse Blue Lou, which the quintet takes at blistering tempo.

Lester Young’s Tickle Toe, from the Basie band book, is a furious potboiler, while Sophisticated Lady, a feature for baritone saxophonist Harry Carney in the Ellington Orchestra, is the canvas for Griffin’s meaty lyricism and double-time strokes. Classic riffs like Second Balcony Jump alternate with the blues of Blues Up And Down, both of which are right up the alley of Art Taylor, who locks tight particularly well with Griffin. They’re hot, as if they are furiously devouring a birthday cake, or dancing a passionate paso doble.

Griff & Lock, two sides of the tenor coin, two distinct stylists. “Jaws”, scrabous and witty, slurring, barking, honking, works the magic, his bag of tricks an incorporation in a style that is simultaneously earthy and more complex than generally assumed at first hearing. The almost otherworldly quality of his playing – he often begins phrases where other might end them, and vice versa – lies at the heart of his sax poetry. The way that Griffin shoots from the hip on Tickle Toe is typical of “The Little Giant”. Griffin’s torrents of notes on fast burners, every one of the notes a sure shot, have always been somethin’ else. His storytelling on this gig, a well-paced development from breeze, gusty wind to rousing tornado, is striking.

A high-level, entertaining performance from Johnny Griffin and Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis.

Kudos to Cory Weeds, saxophonist and label owner of Cellar, and his companion on this job, Zev Feldman from Resonance Records. The superb re-mastering, lush packaging and thorough essays make Ow! one of the finest of RSD releases from the tail end of 2019. The Reel To Real subsidiary of Cellar also was responsible for 2018’s historical recordings of Cannonball Adderley’s Swinging In Seattle (also a Penthouse performance) and Etta Jones’s A Soulful Sunday: Live At The Left Bank.

Check out Cellar for contemporary recordings by the likes of Jeb Patton, Joe Magnarelli, Cory Weeds and a special section Hammond B3 organ combo music including Ben Patterson here.

Find Ow! Live At The Penthouse and samples here.