Boss Guitarist

WES MONTGOMERY – Following the review of Wes Montgomery’s debut album on Riverside, Wes Montgomery Trio: A Dynamic New Sound, reader Toine Metselaar sent YouTube footage of an interview that the late great guitarist gave with Jim Rockwell of People In Jazz. It’s a delight to hear the laid-back, good-natured Montgomery talk candidly about his career, unique style and talented, unknown colleagues, among other things. The self-effacing Montgomery is overruled persistently by the talkative Rockwell, but it’s a revealing little interview nonetheless. Montgomery also performs with his brothers Monk and Buddy. The interview took place in 1968, meaning shortly before Montgomery’s tragic, premature death by a heart attack on June 15.

See Part 1 here.

And Part 2 here.

Wonderful additions to the familiar footage with Pim Jacobs Trio in The Netherlands and Montgomery’s delicious Full House on British television. British, thus as a logical consequence including a typically humorous intro.

Gidon Nunes Vaz Sextet Carry It On! (Tritone 2017)

NEW RELEASE – GIDON NUNES VAZ 6-TET

Dutch dynamite, or better said, such sweet thunder, on the third album of trumpeter Gidon Nunes Vaz as a leader, Carry It On!.

Gidon Nunes Vaz Sextet - Carry It On!

Personnel

Gidon Nunes Vaz (trumpet, flugelhorn), Caspar van Wijk (tenor saxophone), Jasper van Damme (alto saxophone), Floris Kappeyne (piano), Tijs Klaassen (bass), Jean-Clair de Ruwe (drums)

Recorded

on March 24, 2017 at Bolleman Studio, Bilzen, Belgium

Released

on Tritone in 2017

Track listing

Tracks:
Night Train Nostalgia
Carry It On!
On A Clear Day
Fifth Image
Honeybee’s Lament
Renkon
Scrapple From The Apple


Keepers of the flame. Cubs and lions that devote as much time as possible to their beloved mainstream jazz of the 50s and 60s. Endangered species? Not in The Netherlands, where now and then the scene throws a number of young gentlemen and ladies out of its womb that pride themselves for being inspired to the full by Dexter Gordon, Cannonball Adderley, Horace Silver, Lee Morgan, Hank Mobley and Dutch elders like Cees Smal, Ferdinand Povel, John Engels, Rein de Graaff, Eric Ineke, Benjamin Herman, Jarmo Hoogendijk et. al. Trumpeter Gidon Nunes Vaz has, while working steadily at his own identity, carved a niche as an excellent and passionate messenger of the art of trumpet playing which heroes like Kenny Dorham (The 26 year-old, Amsterdam-based trumpeter wrote his thesis on Dorham at Conservatory) brought to the fore so many moons ago.

The title of the third album of the Gidon Nunes Vaz group, Carry It On!, states the intentions of Nunes Vaz in no uncertain terms. Terms which his peers that make up his group, tenor saxophonist Caspar van Wijk, alto saxophonist Jasper van Damme, pianist Floris Kappeyne, bassist Tijs Klaassen and drummer Jean-Clair de Ruwe, agree with utterly. As far as they are concerned, hard bop lives. It does, and should become even more vital as these gentlemen gain more life experience. They have developed into a tight-knit outfit over the years, being featured on Nunes Vaz’ preceding albums Tribute To KD and Night Life. (Kappeyne was absent on the latter) Sound-wise, veteran engineer Max Bolleman – of Criss Cross-fame – has been sensitive to the group’s needs, providing a punchy, transparant and warm-blooded analog sound perfectly attuned to the required hipness of hard bop. Then there’s the tone of Nunes Vaz: sweet-tart, sparkling, voluptuous. A good-natured tone with a whiff of melancholy. Sound is what grabs the listener by the sleeve before style comes into the equation and the sugar-meets-lemon-one Nunes Vaz has been demonstrating so thoroughly is a winner.

Besides a couple of standards – the altered melody line and swing-y beat of Charlie Parker’s Scrapple From The Apple suggests a longing to be included as a bonus track on the next re-issue of Benny Carter’s Further Definitions – Nunes Vaz contributed a number of classy compositions. The title track’s a hip, swinging tune, effectively making use of stop-time. Time doesn’t stop, though, instead it follows the tappin’ of the fingers, the stompin’ of the feet, the shakin’ off the hips, the shakin’ of everything else you got with ya, cause it’s a first-class mover. Caspar van Wijk and Jasper van Damme think alike, their blues is sublimated in sentences that strive for melodic purity, suggesting a shared enthusiasm for the great Lee Konitz.

Fifth Image is a more haunting, dramatic theme – Wayne Shorter-ish. The tremendous flow of the rhythm section is especially striking. Night Train Nostalgia’s lively shuffle is contagious, the melody aptly evokes the image of a nightly train ride in one of those old-fashioned film-noir movies of the forties. Nunes Vaz brings clarity of line, elegance and a fast and loose flow perhaps best likened to the mindset of a surf dude riding the waves on intuition and a peculiar blend of audacity and a laid-back mindset.

Floris Kappeyne, simultaneously sophisticated and driving throughout the set, adds romance to the slow-moving, moody piece Honeybee’s Lament, another Nunes Vaz original, the trumpeter’s lyrical lines providing the cherry on top. But the liveliest tune of the album might just be Renkon, a cooker that sees both the luscious Nunes Vaz and subtle and fiery Van Wijk duly stimulated by Jasper van Damme’s opening solo, which stands out for its intriguing timing and placing of notes and gutsy twists and turns. Hi-level stuff. Carrying the tradition without sounding overcooked is quite the task. Nunes Vaz has been pulling it off rather magnificently.

Find Carry It On! here.

Check out the website of Gidon Nunes Vaz here.

This Was Buck Hill

RIP BUCK HILL – Like most of tenor saxophonist Buck Hill’s fine accomplishments, the news of his passing also slipped through the cracks. Hill, born in Washington D.C. on February 13, 1927, passed away on March 20 at the age of 90 in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Roger Wendell “Buck” Hill was active from the late forties and played with Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis and Max Roach. Masters like Sonny Stitt, Milt Jackson and Gene Ammons, when visiting D.C., always asked for Hill to share the stage. At the same time, Hill worked at the US Postal Office and often was referred to as ‘the swinging postman’. He also worked as a cabdriver. A focus on taking care of his family and a strong dislike for traveling kept Hill’s career firmly under the radar. Nevertheless, Hill recorded a number of albums for Steeplechase, Muse and other labels from the late seventies to the ’00s. Hill was an acclaimed sideman with Charlie Byrd in the mid and late fifties (featured on the ’58 and ’59 Riverside albums Byrd’s Word and Byrd In The Wind) and singer Shirley Horn in the eighties and nineties.

From left to right, clockwise: This Is Buck Hill (Steeplechase 1978); Scope (Steeplechase 1979) and Capital Hill (Muse 1989)

His initial albums for Steeplechase, This Is Buck Hill (’78) and Scope (’79), are treasured artifacts for serious mainstream jazz aficionados and typical of Hill’s superb musical vision. On these albums, you’ll find a candid tenorist who tops off his fluent bop phrasing, commanding attack and resonant, clear (Clifford Jordan-ish) sound with edgy, post-boppish lines. Drummer Billy Hart, D.C. native, mentored by Hill and present on both recordings, introduced Hill to Steeplechase’s boss Nils Winther. Bassist Buster Williams and pianist Kenny Barron reflect on Hill’s personality and style in the liner notes of Scope. Williams: ‘A timeless phenomenon. His ideas always sound ageless and his sound is so big and warm.’ Kenny Barron: ‘He is a fantastic horn player. His playing is very steeped in tradition and yet very contemporary. His writing is so fresh that it’s hard to play cliches.’

In the early nineties, Dutch pianist Rein de Graaff, who arranged countless gigs with American legends and contemporary players for his legendary bop lectures and performances throughout the 80’s, 90’s and 00’s, toured and recorded as ‘Tenor Conclave’ with Teddy Edwards, Von Freeman and Buck Hill. De Graaff remembers a tour in 1992 with this stellar line-up as if it was yesterday. ‘Hill was a very accomplished player. Didn’t miss a note. He was still known as ‘the swinging postman’ which was only partly true. By then, he had a job at the office. Hill was a fanatic vegetarian and was constantly commenting on the tastes of Freeman, whose favorite meal was large portions of T-bone steak and cola. He was very down-to-earth and introverted.’

From left to right, clockwise: Tenor Conclave (Sesjun 1992); Uh Huh! Buck Hill Live At Montpellier (Jazzmont 2000) and Relax (Severn 2006)

Drummer Eric Ineke was part of those swinging proceedings. He also played with Hill in 1981 and 1982, when Hill supported Shirley Horn: ‘Shirley Horn called me in ’81 to replace Billy Hart in Loosdrecht. I was immediately impressed by Hill. He swung like mad, had great timing and a big sound. A year later, I did two nice gigs with Hill again in Loosdrecht, the first with Cees Slinger and Fred Pronk, the second with Shirley Horn, on the same evening. Hill was a very nice guy, no-nonsense.’

In short, a highly recommended player in that already very imposing landscape of tenor saxophonists.

Find Hill’s informative obit in The Washington Post here.

Louis Hayes Serenade For Horace (Blue Note 2017)

NEW RELEASE – LOUIS HAYES

Coming full circle on Blue Note, Louis Hayes pays tribute to pianist and composer Horace Silver, whose legendary quintet the drummer was part of a long, long time ago.

Louis Hayes - Serenade For Horace

Personnel

Louis Hayes (drums), Abraham Burton (tenor saxophone), Josh Evans (trumpet), Steve Nelson (vibraphone), David Bryant (piano), Dezron Douglas (bass)

Recorded

in 2017 at Aum Studio Productions, Bakersfield and Systems Two Recording Studio, NYC

Released

as BN 06XXGSC14 on May 26, 2017

Track listing

Ecaroh
Senor Blues
Song For My Father
Hastings Street
Strollin’
Juicy Lucy
Silver’s Serenade
Lonely Woman
Summer In Central Park
St. Vitus Dance
Room 608


Once you’ve heard Louis Hayes furiously kickstart Kenny Drew into action on the pianist’s eponymous Blue Note album Undercurrent from 1960, you are under his spell. One of the hardest swinging drummers of the generation that came after pioneers Kenny Clarke and Max Roach, Louis Hayes, himself particularly influenced by Philly Joe Jones and now eighty years old, looks back on a miraculous career in the drummer’s seat behind Horace Silver, Cannonball Adderley, John Coltrane, Oscar Peterson, Dexter Gordon, Joe Henderson, Grant Green, Woody Shaw and many others. Fifty-seven years after his debut as a leader on VeeJay, Louis Hayes, Hayes dedicated his eighteenth album, Serenade To Horace, to his erstwhile bandleader Horace Silver, whom he joined in 1956 at the age on nineteen. Hayes performed on the classic albums Six Pieces Of Silver, Stylings Of Silver, Further Explorations, Finger Poppin’ and Blowin’ The Blues Away.

Silver’s unbeatable, intricate and eternally swinging tunes get a loving treatment by the sextet. No egomania on the part of Louis Hayes, propulsive support only. The Rudy van Gelder days may definitely be over, certainly as regards to the production of drums. Yet, for all the kit’s unspectacular sound, Hayes’ sparkling, delicate use of the ride cymbal effortlessly carries the group over the hill. Mid-tempo tunes like Ecaroh, Juicy Lucy, St. Vitus Dance, the uplifting top-notch Hayes original Hastings Street, slower ones like Strollin’, (the deliciously slow-dragging) Senor Blues, as well as uptempo, bop-inflected mover Room 608 are thoroughly injected with tasteful blues messages and exuberant strokes by tenor saxophonist Abraham Burton and trumpeter Josh Evans, while vibraphonist Steve Nelson’s airy sound and crisp phrases add depth to the repertoire. Pianist David Bryant’s sparse, carefully crafted lines act in accord with Lonely Woman’s wry sentiment.

The album spawned a single, a take on the iconic Song For My Father. It’s a cameo from singer Gregory Porter, whose sonorous, roasted marshmellow voice and suave phrasing perfectly match the endearing emotions of melody lines like ‘if there was ever a man who was generous, gracious and good, that was my dad, the man…’. A tasty intermezzo between the fine hard bop dishes of old master Hayes.

Read more about Serenade For Horace on the website of Blue Note.

The Stroker

MICKEY ROKER – In honor to Mickey Roker, who passed away on May 22 at the age of eighty-four in his hometown of Philadelphia, I picked a few tunes that showcase the drummer’s exceptional style. During a long-standing career, Roker performed and recorded with Gigi Gryce, Duke Pearson, Sonny Rollins, Milt Jackson, Horace Silver, Dizzy Gillespie, The Modern Jazz Quartet and many others. In his own words, Roker, also known as The Stroker because he knew his way not only with sticks but also around the pool table, was ‘just a swinger, from the old school you know, just a time-keeper.’ He was that, but more. Propulsive most of all, and versatile, comfortable with both Stanley Turrentine and McCoy Tyner. Roker was also blessed with a unique feeling for exotic rhythm.

Gil Fuller and Chano Pozo’s Afro-Cuban classic Tin Tin Deo with Junior Mance (Happy Time, Jazzland 1961):

With Sonny Rollins, the indelible Three Little Words (On Impulse 1965):

Three Little Words.

As vintage hard bop as it can get with Duke Pearson, Sudel (Sweet Honey Bee, Blue Note 1966):

Sudel.

Avant-leaning cooperation with Herbie Hancock, First Child (Speak Like A Child, Blue Note 1968):

First Child.

Roker is an irreplaceable part of Frank Foster’s Manhattan Fever supplying the groove and finesse that makes it such a fine late-period hard bop album: Little Miss No Nose (Manhattan Fever, Blue Note 1968):

Little Miss No Nose.

And swinging hard in old-fashioned bop mode with Dizzy Gillespie and Milt Jackson at Montreux, Cherokee (The Dizzy Gillespie Big 7, Pablo 1975):

Cherokee.

For the most informative of obits, read Nate Chinen’s piece in WBGO.

Pianist Ethan Iverson did one of his great marathon interviews with Mickey Roker in 2011 for his blog Do The Math.

New Cool Collective Big Band Featuring Thierno Koité (Dox Records 2017)

Sensuous African and Latin soul jazz on New Cool Collective’s eleventh album New Cool Collective Big Band Featuring Thierno Koité.

New Cool Collective Big Band Featuring Thierno Koite

Personnel

Thierno Koité, Benjamin Herman, Miquel Martinez, Efraim Trujillo, Wouter Schueler & Tini Thomsen (saxophone), Jelle Schouten, Joe Rivera, David Rockefeller & Randall Heye (trumpet), Bart Lust, Frans Cornelissen, Kees Adolfsen & Andre Pet (trombone), Rory Ronde (guitar), Willem Friede (electric piano), Leslie Lopez (bass), Joost Kroon (drums), Jos de Haas & Frank van Dok (percussion)

Recorded

in 2016 at Wisseloord Studio, Hilversum

Released

Dox 273 in 2017

Track listing

Myster Tier
Chega
Moussa Caravelle
Padee
Pambiche
Yassa
Thierno
Afrosur
Rantanplan
Rumbon


Eclecticism is a main ingredient in the career of New Cool Collective and Benjamin Herman, the alto saxophonist who founded the octet/big band nearly 25 years ago. So it doesn’t come as a surprise that after the trademark exotica set of Electric Monkey Sessions (2014) and collaboration with pop act Matt Bianco’s Mark Reilly The Things You Love (2016), the group releases an album with the Senegalese saxophonist Thierno Koité. In between, New Cool Collective also supported the popular Dutch singer, Gentleman-Next-Door Guus Meeuwis on his album Hollandse Meesters. Which undoubtly was a bridge too far for part of the public. It kept my eyelashes blinking 24/7 for 247 days on end, but, actually, it was a most excellent affair in that popular genre, courtesy of New Cool Collective’s nimble and buoyant accompaniment. Love for all things outlandish, with no distinction between high or low-brow, is also a feature of New Cool Collective and Benjamin Herman. In this respect, the altoist has always been gladly following the footsteps of one of his heroes, the recently deceased pianist Misha Mengelberg.

Above all, the dance groove has been essential for the welfare and recognition of New Cool Collective. The prize-winning band turns many a hall and audience upside down and has been touring the globe for years. In the department of lively, both hip-shaking and intelligent music, Featuring Thierno Koité is no exception. The seeds of the album were sown in 2012, when New Cool Collective toured in Senegal and met Koité, who has been a key figure in West African music since the seventies and the leader of the acclaimed Orchestra Baobab. In December 2016, New Cool Collective performed with Koite and recorded this album of Koité originals, co-compositions and NCC tunes.

Koité is a humble altoist, never pushes a message down the throat but instead, like a grandaddy telling a story to his grandson, playfully weaves together lines. A hypnotic style with indelible timing and a dusty, small tone. Not timid by all means, but forceful in its own sweet way. Myster Tier, a lovely tune with a catchy stop-time theme and tricky rhythmic layout, finds the unpredictable Koité slithering through the melody like a rattlesnake. Squiggly lines abound also in Thierno. Koité’s alluring mix of staccato and sing-songy phrases contrast nicely with Benjamin Herman’s sweet-sour solo of lingering, liquid silver notes. If a couple of tunes navigate closely to the all-too spotless shores of basic Latin rhythm, Koité and the other outstanding contributors always add enough spicy statements to save the day. And unfazed, the soft-hued Koité rides the waves of New Cool Collective’s heavier tunes like Chega and Pambiche.

Spinning the disc alongside Calexico, Fela Kuti or, say, Ry Cooder’s Talking Timbuktu would be a far from odd listening choice for a sizzling sunny afternoon. Most of all, the indomitable conversation of Koité’s alto sax with the big band’s smart West-Afro-Groove turns Featuring Thierno Koité into another significant addition to the catalogue of New Cool Collective.

Find New Cool Collective Big Band Featuring Thierno Koité on Dox Records here.

Check out the website of New Cool Collective here.

Play Myster Tier on Spotify below.

Laurence Fish Quintet Sen’s Fortress (O.A.P. Records 2017)

With obvious delight, pianist Laurence Fish guides his quintet through a lively market place of standards and originals on his debut album as a leader, Sen’s Fortress.

Laurence Fish - Sen's Fortress

Personnel

Laurence Fish (piano), Caspar van Wijk (tenor saxophone), Tom van der Zaal (alto saxophone), Nanouk Brassers (trumpet track 4 & 10), Matheus Nicolaiewsky (bass), Eric Ineke (drums)

Recorded

on December 16 & 20 at O.A.P. Studio, The Hague

Released

as OAPR1702 on May 14, 2017

Track listing

Things Ain’t What They Used To Be
Roam
Second Time Lucky
Mariposa
Close Enough For Love
Ghost Of A Change
Sen’s Fortress
Ligia
Eshu’s Hat
Dust
Love Is A Many Splendored Thing


The Hague has been the premier Dutch bop and hard bop city since the fifties and the town is still littered with places where musically gifted young and older cats meet. Such is the case with the musicians on this disc, who either have been associated with the Royal Conservatory or living in The Hague. The Laurence Fish Quintet, which includes the veteran Dutch drum hero Eric Ineke, delivers an excellent set of mainstream jazz.

Assumingly in sync with a gentle personality, the London-born, thirty-two years old Fish employs a lithe touch and works around the melodies with carefully crafted steps, adding creamy voicings and happy-go-lucky tremolos. A versatile stylist, Fish alternates a thoroughly swinging after hours rendition of Mercer Ellington’s old warhorse Things Ain’t What They Used To Be and the standard Love Is A Many Splendored Thing, which is marked by a sweet-tart conversation between altoist Tom van der Zaal and tenorist Caspar van Wijk, with moody ballads such as Mariposa, one of five compositions by Fish. The tune includes a lyrical contribution by trumpeter Nanouk Brassers, whose tone and delivery brings back memories of Art Farmer. And, as an astute marriage counselor, in his solo Laurence Fish seals a happy marriage between romance and ringing blue notes. Fish tastefully stretches out in Ghost Of A Change, another standard of this 59 minute set. A maximum of 45 minutes (the LP-format, I’m old-fashioned and I don’t mind it…) would, arguably, have more impact than the hour that fills the album, which, by the way, sounds remarkably transparent, spacious and warm.

Eric Ineke’s experience and expertise provides the glue that sticks together the various parts, providing spot-on accents and delicacy and fire proper for the occasion. His propulsive approach, which blends well with bassist Matheus Nicolaiewsky’s swift and firm bass playing, comes in handy during the uptempo original compositions by Fish that bring to mind the adventurous Blue Note recordings of the mid-sixties. Without a doubt, Fish writes a killer tune! Both the modal jazz-tinged Roam and Sen’s Fortress are complex but catchy themes, alluring riddles of tension, release and quixotic twists and turns, that offer a challenging canvas for the sidemen’s strokes. The outgoing Caspar van Wijk, occasionally attacking in the manner of Joe Henderson, tells a coherent story. Mildly contrasting, Tom van der Zaal’s statements are balanced but forceful. Both young saxophonists conjure up delicious phrases from the rich well of hard bop saxophone art. Besides presenting fine statements by Van der Zaal, Van Wijk and Fish, Second Time Lucky is a beautiful song that ignites a smile like cheerful classics such as Shiny Stockings.

Sen’s Fortress is a location in a computer game. Laurence Fish might play it as fanatically as your average high school kid, the pianist’s core business is making music with an enthusiastic nod to the tradition. It’s good news for fans of mainstream jazz if Fish would continue his path down the straight-ahead road, hopefully writing more avant-leaning compositions in the process.

Find Sen’s Fortress here. The album will be available on May 14.

Find the website of Laurence Fish here.