Cannonball Adderley - Somethin' Else

Cannonball Adderley Somethin’ Else (Blue Note 1958)

Can’t you hear those rustling autumn leaves?

Cannonball Adderley - Somethin' Else

Personnel

Cannonball Adderley (alto saxophone), Miles Davis (trumpet), Hank Jones (piano), Sam Jones (bass), Art Blakey (drums)

Recorded

on March 9, 1958 at Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, New Jersey

Released

as BLP 1595 in 1958

Track listing

Side A:
Autumn Leaves
Love For Sale
Side B:
Somethin’ Else
One For Daddy-O
Dancing In The Dark


Hyperbole may not be a strictly postmodern disease – as a matter of fact it all kind of started with the headlines in the Hearst papers in the 1930’s – but it is prevalent in the contemporary media-saturated society, excepting serious journalism. Perhaps I’m not entirely free from guilt. Most of us have our personal favorites that are in dire need of canonization. We live in a world of so-called ‘classic’ records. However, few records were instant classics in their lifetime. For instance and for various reasons, Duke Ellington’s Ellington At Newport (on the strength of the stellar 27 choruses of Paul Gonsalves during Diminuendo In Blue), Miles Davis’s Kind Of Blue, Dave Brubeck’s Time Out, Ornette Coleman’s Free Jazz, Lee Morgan’s The Sidewinder, Herbie Hancock’s Head Hunters and Pat Metheny’s Still Life (Talking) are regarded as bonafide classics nowadays and though they were recognized as special back then, there was some lag time involved. Usually, as far as game-changing art goes, the dust needs to settle down. No doubt, it needed to settle down in Ornette Coleman’s case.

Cannonball Adderley’s Somethin’ Else is a classic record, one of those “100 must-hear records”. It also arguably is, like Ellington’s Newport and Morgan’s The Sidewinder, a classic on the strength of one tune, Autumn Leaves. In its time, it was regarded as exceptional. A.B. Spellman typified it as “near perfect”, a record with “not a wrong note nor throwaway song in its grooves.” That, regardless of the sublime highlight Autumn Leaves, is very true. One of the great things about Somethin’ Else, which paired Cannonball Adderley with Miles Davis, Hank Jones, Sam Jones and Art Blakey, is the consistent high quality of playing and a vibe all of its own. Hard to describe, easy to feel. Organic.

Big boost for Cannonball. The alto saxophonist from Tampa, Florida had joined Miles Davis in 1957, favoring the request of the Dark Prince over the invitation from Dizzy Gillespie. He had disbanded his quintet with Nat Adderley, who did not begrudge his big brother’s decision. After all, their stint in the roster of EmArcy had not been a financial pleasure. Cannonball was frustrated by EmArcy’s lack of support.

Not only was financial security and musical interaction with Miles Davis a boost, the pairing with John Coltrane, who had returned to Davis’ group after kicking the habit, proved influential for Cannonball. Following a series of performances that enabled Cannonball and Coltrane to perfect their ensembles and indulge in spirited battles, the band record the eponymous Milestones in February and March – March 4 saw Cannonball contributing to Dr. Jekyll and Sid’s Ahead. Afterwards, Cannonball hurried to Bell Sound Studio to fulfill his obligations to EmArcy and record Cannonball’s Sharpshooters. Busy day. Then came March 9 and Somethin’ Else. Busy week. This period eventually was a stepping stone to the Miles Davis masterpiece Kind Of Blue in 1959. And 1959 was the year that Cannonball signed with Riverside. His association with the emphatic label boss Orrin Keepnews reunited the Adderley brothers and gave the genial alto saxophonist the widespread recognition that he so well deserved.

So yeah, Somethin’ Else. Somethin’ else… Ain’t that the truth. Lovely vibe. It seems Cannonball was thoroughly affected by Miles Davis, maestro of economy and restraint, sideman on this date but omnipresent and the one that allegedly turned on Alfred Lion to the idea of recording Cannonball – “Is this what you wanted, Alfred?” is the raspy voice of Davis coming through the mic at the end of the title track. Davis had found a good mate in Hank Jones, Mr. Elegance, who hadn’t recorded with the trumpeter since a 1947 Aladdin session of Coleman Hawkins. And Blakey’s adjustment to Davis is sensitive, while not without steadily increased intensity. Balance and propulsion.

It was a great idea to contrast Davis’s handling of some of the melodies – muted lyricism – with the ebullient and unrestrained variations of Cannonball – delicious side streets and blues-drenched note-bending. How everyone is focused on the big picture, all nuance, delicacy and seemingly casual, lightly spicy swing, is marvelous. This is the overriding asset of the title track, which boasts swell interplay between Davis and Cannonball, the Nat Adderley 12-bar blues One For Daddy-O and the ballad Dancing In The Dark, which puts the leader in the limelight.

Autumn Leaves is every jazz musician’s wet dream. Everybody had a hard year. Everybody had a good time. Everybody had a wet dream. Everybody saw the sunshine. And everybody with an ounce of feeling in his gut feels the autumn leaves falling. This tune is the essence of the feeling that you want to present as a gift to the listener. You want the invited to succumb to a dream state and these guys are the combined epitome of transmogrification. They make sure that you softly land on a cloud. No, not even land. You are weightless, float in space.

Autumn Leaves hadn’t been interpreted in this way before and the idea of weightlessness is likely what was intuitively brought in by Miles Davis, who at the time was inspired by Ahmad Jamal, harbinger of seemingly ephemeral but meaningful harmonies. A five-note piano-bass intro is the bedrock for a dramatic Spanish-tinged brass and reed introduction, starting point for the plaintive melody by Miles Davis, underscored by Blakey’s subtle brushes. You feel satin cloth. Hear mice nibble. Then there’s Cannonball’s sermon, a merging of sleaze and clarity. Wonderfully dynamic. Of many colors, in the slipstream of Davis. Blakey switches to snappy sticks, till the return of Davis, who makes his mark with an extreme minimum of notes, one magenta, one pigeon grey, one slightly left from crimson. Hank Jones is last in line, and Mr. Elegance also prefigures the recurrent five-note figure with a stately a-capella bit. Lastly, the tune ends on a steadily slower tempo, Jones jingling modestly, Davis putting in a few cautious notes. Briefly, you savor the mystery of nature, are at peace with mortality… the autumn leaves gently fall on moss, fungi, kipple.

You don’t want it to end.

Max On Wax

BOOK REVIEW – MAX BOLLEMAN

At the start of Max Bolleman’s career as studio engineer in the early ‘80s, impresario Wim Wigt requested him to bring 30.000 dollars to Rudy van Gelder in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. A stupendous amount of cash for the Timeless All-Stars of Cedar Walton and Bobby Hutcherson, among others, which Bolleman had to smuggle through customs and airport security stacked in his socks and underwear. The dumbfounded one-off runner eventually made the delivery and could not resist to “accidentally” take a peek under the piano, curious for the answer to the burning question of how the legendary RVG recorded the sound of the piano. RVG saw what happened and, to put it mildly, was not amused.

It is one of many entertaining anecdotes in I’m The Beat – De korte beentjes van Art Blakey (Art Blakey’s short legs, FM), Bolleman’s memoirs of his career as studio engineer from 1981 to 2009. Finally came around to reading Bolleman’s book from 2015. Well worth it.

Max Bolleman (1944) started as a drummer in the early ‘60s. He played with Louis van Dijk and Harry Verbeke and led his own groups Suite Four and Soul Max. Bolleman made notable appearances with Don Byas, Dexter Gordon, Clark Terry and René Thomas.

Running a business as optometrist – a profession he coincidentally shared with Van Gelder – Bolleman started working as engineer in his hometown of Monster, South-Holland in his home Studio 44. He eventually was engineer on more than 1500 sessions, mostly for Timeless and Criss Cross, the label of the late Gerry Teekens, another passionate self-made man with whom Bolleman developed a close relationship. “These guys from Holland” earned an outstanding reputation in New York, where Bolleman also regularly worked.

(From l. to r: I’m The Beat; Rudy van Gelder and Max Bolleman; Art Blakey & Freddie Hubbard at Studio 44)

I’m The Beat expresses the viewpoint that being a studio sound engineer is a grossly underrated tightrope walk with circumstances that not only requires skills and exceptional ‘ears’ but also a fair amount of psychological and social adroitness. Blood, sweat and tears. Generally, jazz musicians are a sensitive and headstrong lot – sometimes under the influence or, in the case of black musicians – awkward but with sound reason – anti-white. Perhaps it is the typically level-headed nature of the Dutch that makes them meet these demands exceptionally well. Furthermore, Bolleman does not hide his love for good-old fashioned analogue production, which requires risk-taking and improvisation, as opposed to the ‘fix and polish it with Pro Tools’ mentality of digital engineering. The Bolleman Sound equated with high-quality production, an acclaimed sound that induced many a musician to gasp that “everybody talks about the sound instead of my album.”

Bolleman’s tale reads like that of a kid in a candy store. He recounts many satisfying sessions with Dizzy Gillespie, Clark Terry, Chet Baker, McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Raney, Joe Henderson, Woody Shaw, Phil Woods, Tommy Flanagan, Kenny Burrell, Eddie Harris, Kenny Barron, Willem Breuker, Brad Meldhau, Chris Potter and many more. At times, his memories are dryly comical: panicky chain-smoking Japanese producers, Al Cohn making crossword puzzles between tunes ánd solo’s. At times they’re downright hilarious: Freddie Hubbard being chased out of the studio with a knife by percussionist and wannabe trumpeter Jerry Gonsales, brass player Malte Burba recording three-feet long alphorn plus the sound of his well-balanced farts. And endearing: Bolleman being carried on the shoulders by one of his greatest heroes, the 64-year old Elvin Jones, happy with how the session turned out.

Then there are the short legs of his other big hero, Art Blakey. Good story. Great book.


Plenty of good places to start listening to Bolleman records, if you’re not already familiar with them. I, for one, am not done yet. I always loved the Chet Baker records on Timeless. Pure late career Baker, not always consistent but captured by Bolleman at his most intimate. Also the way Bolleman recorded piano trios is excellent. And I remember being surprised by the underrated Dutch tenor player Joe VanEnkhuizen – currently a top-notch accordion player – and former bandmate of Bolleman. Scroll through the Timeless and Criss Cross catalogue and feel your way from there.

Max Bolleman & Herbert Noord

I’m The Beat – of De Korte Beentjes van Art Blakey; Mijn Bestseller.nl, 2015.

Max Bolleman - I'm The Beat

Pictures: Bolleman archive.

Buy Sounds, the English translation of I’m The Beat, here.
And the original Dutch version on Bol.com here.

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.

BLP 5066, USA 1955

Hank Mobley Quartet (Blue Note 1955)

With a little help from his Jazz Messengers pals, Hank Mobley turned in a top form performance on his debut as a leader, Hank Mobley Quartet.

BLP 5066, USA 1955
BLP 5066, USA 1955

Personnel

Hank Mobley (tenor saxophone), Horace Silver (piano), Doug Watkins (bass), Art Blakey (drums)

Recorded

on March 27, 1955 at Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, New Jersey

Released

as BLP 5066 in 1955

Track listing

Side A:
Hank’s Prank
My Sin
Avila And Tequila
Side B:
Walkin’ The Fence
Love For Sale
Just Coolin’


When Hank Mobley recorded his 10inch debut album as a leader in March 27, 1955, the tenor saxophonist had six albums as a sideman under his belt. Max Roach’ Featuring Hank Mobley (Debut 1953) was followed by Dizzy Gillespie’s Afro, Dizzy And Strings and Jazz Recital (Norgran 1954), French horn player Julius Watkins’ Julius Watkins Sextet (Blue Note, March 20, 1955) and Horace Silver’s Horace Silver And The Jazz Messengers (Blue Note, Feb. 6, 1955) The latter (essential) album found Mobley at the helm of the hard bop movement with pioneers Art Blakey and Horace Silver. Blakey and Silver, along with bassist Doug Watkins, assist Mobley on Quartet.

Quartet, 27 minutes of music released on 10inch, is not Soul Station, Roll Call or Workout, albums that signified Mobley as the epitome of hard bop tenor saxophone. It does already showcase a fully-formed style. The round, silken yet smoky tone, slightly behind-the-beat time, relaxed flowing stories, the tension being built up effortlessly, the inherent blues. That’s the sound and the style of a smooth operator. Women gravitate to him naturally like summer flies to a cocktail… See him sitting and chatting at the bar, a man of few words, a mix of authority and vulnerability, level-headedness and flamboyance, a far cry from machismo… a handsome cat but the anti-thesis of the placid, scrubbed clerk, instead walking around with a stub from Monday night at the Village Vanguard to Friday night at the Five Spot.

Mobley, a prolific writer of clever and catchy tunes, turns in five out of six original compositions on Quartet. The repertoire, albeit still largely grounded in bebop, benefits from the new possibilities for jazz that Silver, Blakey, Miles Davis, Lou Donaldson found in rhythm, pace, tempo and the roots of jazz. The steam of Blakey during Hank’s Prank must’ve filled up the little legendary Hackensack studio room of engineer Rudy van Gelder like the fog filling up a Tennessee back porch.

Few ride the waves of the Blakey beat with the unhurried drive of Hank Mobley. Mobley’s story is a vivacious package of phrases kickstarted by crisp, surprising entrances. The standard tune of the set, Love For Sale, has such a typically splendid entrance. Mobley’s ensuing solo swings effortlessly, resonant lines biting each other’s tales in perfectly logical fashion. The tight-knit, fiery ‘Messengers rhythm section’ flies through Walkin’ The Fence, a composition that resembles Charlie Parker’s Now’s The Time, which Horace Silver quotes in one of his tasty, sparse, down-home statements.

Why Quartet didn’t turn out to be Quintet with the logical inclusion of trumpeter Kenny Dorham, Mobley’s legendary frontline pal of the Messengers, is perhaps due to the simple fact that Dorham was out of town. Their ensemble playing was something special. But Mobley is doing ok by himself, carries his debut album with grace and authority.


Post scriptum: why did Francis Wolff, famed co-owner and photographer of Blue Note, place a pic of Hank Mobley on the sleeve with his face half-hidden in the shadow? And do it again on Horace Silver’s first epic Messengers album? (including Hank Mobley) Another BIG NERDY question: why did United Artists headquarters, which had taken over Blue Note in 1970, leave out the ‘curly smoke line-up’ coming out of Mobley’s mouthpiece on the sleeve of their 1975 pressing? It looked so awfully cool. A case, perhaps, for London Jazz Collector’s Vinyl Detective. The classic jazz and vinyl website, by the way, published a revealing article on the evolution of 10inch to 12inch in 2015, including Hank Mobley Quartet, see here.

PSII: Poor Mr. Silver’s face not only lurks in dark corners, the dog is about to chew him to pieces as well.

Kenny Burrell - Blue Lights Volume 1

Kenny Burrell Blue Lights Volume 1 & 2 (Blue Note 1958)

Kenny Burrell’s Blue Lights Vol. 1 & 2 consist of a bunch of tasteful, blues-infested tunes. A lively, relaxed jam session.

Kenny Burrell - Blue Lights Volume 1

Kenny Burrell - Blue Lights Volume 2

Personnel

Kenny Burrell (guitar), Louis Smith (trumpet), Junior Cook (tenor saxophone A1, A2 & B1 on Vol. 1, A1, A2 & B1 on Vol. 2), Tina Brooks (tenor saxophone A2, A3 on Vol. 1, A1, A2 & B1 on Vol. 2), Duke Jordan (piano, Vol.1), Bobby Timmons (piano, Vol. 2), Sam Jones (bass), Art Blakey (drums)

Recorded

on May 14, 1958 at Manhattan Towers, NYC

Released

as BLP 1596 and BLP 1597 in 1958

Track listing

Blue Lights Vol. 1
Side A:
Phinupi
Yes Baby
Side B:
Scotch Blues
The Man I Love
Blue Lights Vol. 2
Side A:
Caravan
Chuckin’
Side B:
Rock Salt
Autumn In New York


Kenny Burrell, 86 years old, is one of the great mainstream jazz guitarists, who has been consistently successful ever since he made his debut with Dizzy Gillespie in the early fifties and hit his stride on the Blue Note label in 1956. On the Blue Lights albums, recorded in 1958, Burrell is coupled with other major league players. Drummer Art Blakey, bassist Sam Jones, pianists Duke Jordan/Bobby Timmons, trumpeter Louis Smith and tenor saxophonists Junior Cook and Tina Brooks provide plenty of sparks and a meaty hard bop bottom for Burrell to work with. Fleet, snappy lines, a lot of fresh ideas, articulation best likened to the pop of a champagne bottle, are all in evidence in a set that is comprised of blues-based affairs like Burrell’s r&b groove Rock Salt, the uptempo cooker Phinupi, slow blues Yes Baby, Duke Jordan’s lively riff Scotch Blues, Sam Jones’ choo-choo-boogie-type Chucklin’ and the standards The Man I Love, Caravan and Autumn In New York.

Burrell’s capacity to set the atmosphere, which feels as if he’s wrapping you in velvet drapes, and sustain it consistently, is one of his greatest gifts. His playing is relaxed, but rooted in the blues and not without a topping of sizzle. Vintage Burrell. Perhaps inevitably considering his extremely long discography, I feel Burrell also delivered less inspired affairs that showed a tendency to run through the repertory with safe cliché patterns of phrases. However, especially in the company of hi-level colleagues, like John Coltrane, Sonny Clark or Kenny Dorham, Burrell is at his best. His playing, in those cases, has that extra bit of flair and bite.

Burrell was no stranger to Art Blakey, who drives everybody to the edge of the cliff. Blakey’s ride, it goes without saying, is roaring, a hard drive, a lurid mélange of bombs, cymbal crashes and tom rolls either meant to stimulate the soloist or introduce the subsequent storyteller. Besides Blakey’s boss accompaniment, the drummer’s plush tom variations on the theme of Caravan are striking. The fat texture of brass and reed combines well with Blakey’s forceful style. Smith, Brooks and Cook have ample room to stretch out, and Smith’s gait is sprightly, and he sprinkles his happy blues juices with drops of vinegar.

Perhaps more tenor contrast would make Blue Lights more exciting. Both Brooks and Cook are intent on swinging clean, flowing, tasteful, much like master Mobley, Brooks with a tidbit of wear on his notes, Cook somewhat more soft-hued. But who’s to complain? Brooks, who faded into obscurity after a concise stretch of Blue Note appearances, demonstrates the cliché-free, resonant, swinging storytelling that has made him a legend among hard bop aficionados around the world. Junior Cook, who would join Horace Silver late in 1958, provides the tenor sax highlight of the set during Phinupi, the steamy tale and unhurried flow a real treat.

Care to purchase original first pressings of these twin beauties? Good luck. They’re not only at the tail end of the famed and collectable 1500 series of Blue Note, but the covers were illustrated by Andy Warhol, who not only created postmodern mayhem by churning out his screen printings of Campbell Tomato Soup and Marilyn Monroe on the assembly line, but also did his fair yet modest share of record sleeve design. Without a doubt, the Warhol/Blue Lights LP’s are unattainable artifacts for the average collector. Unless, of course, that average collector decides to skip his family trip to Rome and put up a figure of about 1750. A piece. Don’t get any ideas, now.

Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers - 'S Make It

Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers ‘S Make It (Limelight 1964)

After his cutting edge group of the early sixties including Freddie Hubbard and Wayne Shorter disbanded, Art Blakey returned to a more old-timey approach with the Limelight LP ’S Make It.

Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers - 'S Make It

Personnel

Art Blakey (drums), Lee Morgan (trumpet), John Gilmore (tenor saxophone), Curtis Fuller (trombone), John Hicks (piano), Victor Sproles (bass)

Recorded

on November 15 & 16, 1964 in Los Angeles

Released

as Limelight 86001 in 1964

Track listing

Side A:
Faith
’S Make It
Waltz For Ruth
One For Gamal
Side B:
Little Hughie
Olympia
Lament For Stacey


The end of the year 1964: the preceding half decade of Blakey’s career had resulted in a series of now legendary albums on Blue Note and Riverside with one of his classic line-ups consisting of Freddie Hubbard, Wayne Shorter, Curtis Fuller, Cedar Walton and either Jimmy Merritt or Reggie Workman on bass: Mosaic, Ugetsu, Free For All. At the time, Blakey also moved around quite a bit, recording for Impulse, Colpix and (four albums for) Limelight in the mid-sixties.

A bit of jazz genealogy: ’S Make It features Blakey alumni Lee Morgan (1958-61) and trombonist Curtis Fuller, who is the only surviving member of the preceding line-up (1961-64). Tenor saxophonist John Gilmore, consiglieri of the eccentric pianist and band leader Sun Ra, had been assisted by Blakey on the unforgettable Clifford Jordan/John Gilmore album Blowin’ In From Chicago in 1957. Bassist Victor Sproles was a former bandmate of Gilmore in Sun Ra’s Arkestra. Finally, there’s pianist John Hicks, the least known of the bunch. Shaped by Horace Silver, Thelonious Monk, McCoy Tyner, infested with blues and the American Songbook, the 23-year old Hicks developed into a versatile player during his stint with Blakey in the mid-sixties. In his lifetime, Hicks played with Betty Carter, Woody Herman, Hank Mobley, Lee Morgan, Lester Bowie, Arthur Blythe, among many others. Too easily overlooked, he lead many bands as a leader and was a fixture on the American and New York scene until his passing in 2006. Hicks contributed to two other Blakey albums on Limelight, Soul Finger and Hold On, I’m Coming. You still with me? A lot of crosscurrents in the jazz family. Undercurrents too. The currency of the dollar was about the only current not too prevalent among the Beethovens and Mozarts of classic American jazz. Even if he would’ve decided to be that generous, Art Blakey hardly could’ve put up the dough to let the rearview mirror fixed of one of Barbara Streisand’s Mercedes Benz automobiles.

’S Make It is slang for ‘let’s go’. Suitable title. Symbolic for the art of Blakey : Let’s just go, bopping hard with a heavy beat. ’S Make It is a Lee Morgan tune, one of three tunes that the reluctant Sidewinder (the trumpeter allegedly wasn’t too happy with his boogaloo hit The Sidewinder of July, 1964, as it threatened to cloud his more artistically viable, advanced direction, which came to fruition in his album Search For The New Land) provided for the session. The horns play a nifty, brassy blues line, while John Hicks puts in a hefty figure on the lower keys. Blakey pushes his men forward with this trademark bombs, rolls and cymbal signals, igniting hot bits by Morgan. Fuller is fluent, more calm and collected. The other Morgan tunes, One For Gamal and Lament For Stacey, are equally bluesy, straightforward cookers. Fine fair from the still only 26-year old, handsome Morgan, three years earlier introduced by the dryly comic Blakey in Tokyo’s Sanyei Hall as ‘the world critic award winner of the Downbeat Magazine, of the New Yorker Magazine, of the Jet Magazine, of the Look Magazine and of the Ladies Home Journal Magazine…’ O yeah, and not to mention, of the Flophouse Magazine.

With slight variations, the album follows these soulful procedures. The rousing Faith, driven by a solid Blakey shuffle, has an especially charming Dixie edge. John Gilmore’s smoky tenor contrasts nicely with Morgan’s sprightly trumpet in blues-based cuts like One For Hughie. A bit more sophisticated, the ballads of John Hicks and Lee Morgan, Olympia and Lament For Stacey respectively, focus on Morgan’s melancholic phrases and Hicks’ delicate runs. The John Hicks tune Waltz For Ruth harks back to the Wayne Shorter days, adding a modal section to the elongated, pretty melody. Blakey underscores the tune with the kind of hi-voltage drumming familiar from albums as Ugetsu.

’S Make It’ is a very enjoyable, undervalued Blakey album, with a line up that didn’t make it to the next record. A pity.

Art Of Allen

TONY ALLEN – On May 19, Blue Note will release A Tribute To Art Blakey And The Jazz Messengers by drummer Tony Allen, a digital EP consisting of four Messengers classics including Moanin’. (see here) It’s a teaser for Allen’s forthcoming album dedicated to the indomitable Art Blakey or as he also came to be known, Buhaina. The legendary Nigerian drummer Tony Allen, who together with Fela Kuti is widely acknowledged as the pioneer of Afrobeat, was strongly influenced by American drummers such as Max Roach and Art Blakey. Which comes as no surprise, since Blakey is often seen as the most African of the modern jazz drummers. Although Blakey, who resided in West Africa in the late forties, always insisted that jazz was a purely American music, the similarities of Blakey’s style and African drums are striking. Seen in this light, percussion-heavy Blakey albums as Drum Suite, Orgy In Rhythm and Holiday For Skins might best be viewed as American interpretations of African rhythm. Allen, who has been living in Paris for twenty years, will be performing the music of Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers at Jazz Middelheim in Antwerp, Belgium on August 5, (see here).

Blue Note, 2017