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
715uxs-p7rl-_sl1200_

Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers Drum Suite (Columbia 1957)

Who else than the indomitable Art Blakey was qualified to present an African drum extravaganza? Maybe not so shocking today, Drum Suite was a progressive album in the late fifties.

715uxs-p7rl-_sl1200_

Personnel

Art Blakey (drums), Jo Jones (drums A1-3), Charles ‘Specs’ Wright (drums, timpani, gong A1-3), Oscar Pettiford (bass, cello A1-3), Candido & Sabu Martinez (bongo A1-3), Ray Bryant (piano A1-3), Sam Dockery (piano B1-3), Jackie McLean (alto saxophone B1-3), Bill Hardman (trumpet B1-3), Spanky DeBrest (bass B1-3)

Recorded

on June 25, 1956 and February 22, 1957 at Columbia 30th Street Studio, New York

Released

as CL1002 in 1957

Track listing

Side A:
The Sacrifice
Cubano Chant
Oscalypso
Side B:
Nica’s Tempo
D’s Dilemma
Just For Marty


The album is made up of two sessions. Side A consists of exotic, Afro-Cuban rhythms and the flipside is a swell session of Blakey’s working band of the period consisting of alto saxophonist Jackie McLean, trumpeter Bill Hardman, pianist Sam Dockery and bassist Spanky DeBrest. The first part (as well as the classy album cover) suggests that Art Blakey was eager to put Africa back into jazz. Yet, in drummer Art Taylor’s book of interviews Notes And Tones, (Da Capo, 1982) Blakey insisted that he has always felt that ‘our music has nothing to do with Africa. (…) No America, no jazz. (…) African music is entirely different, and the Africans are much more advanced than we are rhythmically, though we’re more advanced harmonically.’ In this view, which perhaps unintentionally ignores the impact of both Afro(-Cuban) rhythm and imported European musical standards on the cradle of jazz, New Orleans, Drum Suite isn’t jazz but African music. Or better said, African music played by American men of jazz. But Blakey would know. The Pittsburgh-born drummer traveled in Africa for almost a year in 1949. By his own account, just listening, not drumming.

Tossing two sessions together on an album was a not uncommon practice in the classic jazz era. It could have a number of reasons. Sometimes, studio time ran out. And occasionally, musicians weren’t available anymore due to other obligations. Companies also might go for the easy way (and/or a fast buck), rounding out albums with sessions from the vault. Such albums usually lack coherence, an encompassing idea. Drum Suite is incoherent. But it’s a high quality affair, so who cares?

Beat happening! The Afro-Cuban tunes, wherein Blakey is assisted by drummers Jo Jones and Charles “Specs” Wright, the bongo’s of Candido and Sabu Martinez, bassist Oscar Pettiford and pianist Ray Bryant, sans horns, get you into the groove, no doubt. The aptly-titled The Sacrifice starts off with an indelible African backwoods chant, slowly but surely developing into a multi-layered rumble of toms, flavored with chubby chords and staccato lines by Ray Bryant. The tom-figure from the opening is repeated at the end. Interestingly, it’s reminiscent of the drum part in Richard Strauss’ Also Sprach Zaratustra, which was used to such imposing effect in Stanley Kubrick’s epic 1968 science-fiction movie 2001 A Space Odyssee.

Ray Bryant will undoubtly have been thrilled by the re-visit of his original tune Cubano Chant. Initially, Bryant had recorded it in 1956 on the Epic LP Ray Bryant Trio, including, coincidentally, Jo Jones and Candido. The broadened palette of instruments results in a piece of tough swing, highlighting Bryant’s inventive left hand, which generally puts emphasis on the low register and down-home fills that reach back to the era of swing, blues and stride. Staccato, swinging right hand lines weave in and out of Bryant’s left hand bottom. Bryant would revisit the uplifting Cubano Chant a number of times during his career. Finally, Oscar Pettiford’s Oscalypso ends the Afro-Cuban side on a groovy note. But three tunes in, the pounding percussion sounds of the basic calypso riff might start to get up one’s sleeve.

Part of an elite jazz family that brought Afro-Cuban music to the jazz realm, including Duke Ellington, Juan Tizol, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and Kenny Dorham, the Drum Suite-section is a convincing, spirited affair, and one of the first percussion-oriented jazz album sides. It’s a February 22, 1957 session. Just a while later, Blakey would expand on his percussion fetish on the Blue Note label, releasing Orgy In Rhythm, a date that was recorded in May and October, 1957, as well as Drums Around The Corner and Holiday For Skins in 1958.

Obviously, despite Blakey’s assesment of his own, ‘American’ style, Blakey’s drumming incorporated some African devices, such as the altering of pitch with the elbow, tangible rim shots, and multiple rolls on the toms: an armoury of effects to stimulate the soloists. Some of these assets, embellishing the signature Blakey style of a propulsive beat and thunderous polyrhythm, are present on the other session of Drum Suite, a date of December 13, 1956. They especially fill Bill Hardman’s fast-paced, swinging tune Just For Marty to the brim. It’s a top-rate session with vigorous blowing by Jackie McLean and a number of jubilant, fluent statements by Bill Hardman, an underestimated player with a delicious, sweet-sour tone.

Before Blakey gained widespread recognition with the Blue Note album Moanin’ in 1958, it was hard to make head or tail out of the drummer’s recording career, as Blakey recorded albums for a varying string of labels, including Vik, Jubilee, Bethlehem, Atlantic and Columbia. Yet, however disparate Blakey’s catalogue of that period between the early classic Jazz Messenger sides on Blue Note and successful comeback on the famous label in 1958 may be, it was of a continuous high level. The singular Drum Suite album is no exception.

Maja Lemmen, background portrait of Porgy founder Frank Koulen

Family Affair

Manager Maja Lemmen (70) has been taking care of business at the Dutch jazz club and cultural theatre Porgy & Bess ever since Eve bit the apple. She started out in 1960, when she had moved in with the family of Porgy founder, Frank “De Neger” Koulen. “But when I was 17, I wanted out. I was going crazy, you know how it goes, puberty! But Frank said, ‘you? You’ll never get out of this place!’ He was right. I was holding on to dear life, working hard and getting involved with the beautiful music called jazz.”

Early summer sun. Saturday’s shopping crowd is leisurely strolling in De Noordstraat, which, like many streets of our brave new civilisation, puts best foot forward to guard off the gulf of retail stores in favor of small enterprises. Clothing, shoes, household appliances, books, delicatessen… And, right in the middle, Porgy & Bess. The vintage bar, self-made floor, the painting of exotic black girls, pictures of jazz legends and the portrait of Frank Koulen on the wall. A jukebox underneath, tables in front of it. Terracota walls, various brass instruments hanging on the ceiling. The dark nightclub interior at the back of the club, the performance area, where the Steinway grand piano is hidden under a black sail cloth. Right in the middle of that area, Maja, Miss Porgy & Bess.

In 2017, the club will celebrate its 60th Anniversary. Quite a feat for a jazz club, to say the least. A cult hero of mythic proportions ever since he passed away in 1985, the Suriname-born Frank Koulen arrived in Dutch Flanders with the Allied Forces in 1944, married Vera van den Bruele and transformed their tearoom into a jazz cafe. With it, Koulen, the only dark-skinned person in town, hence “De Neger”, forever changed the cultural life of the medium-sized harbour city Terneuzen and the Benelux jazz landscape. Koulen, eternally short of cash but always brimming with ideas and socially conscious visions, introduced streetparades, staged Dixieland and modern jazz, as well as various cultural festivities. Lively entertainment for the youngsters of the day. After his passing, a dedicated army of volunteers and passionate sponsors rebuilt Porgy & Bess (also literally) from scratch and made Porgy & Bess what it is today, a world-wide known, highly acclaimed jazz club.

But what if Maja’s mother hadn’t taken a cab to fetch a ball of wool at Van den Bruele’s wool and linnen shop? One can only guess. “That shop was right in front of future tearoom and jazz club Porgy & Bess. We had recently arrived from Rijswijk. My mother had heart problems so she took a cab. Frank was working in the store and, curious as he was by nature, asked about her un-Flemish, big city accent. A friendly talk. Then, in that charming, pleading tone of his, Frank asked, couldn’t her daughter help out on Friday nights? That’s where I get into the picture.”

When did jazz come into the picture? Maja, adding a stirring touch to the story in the way old sailors recount a legendary shipwreck, explains: “Well, the Koulen family, including seven kids, was great, but it was quite a transistion of course. Then Santa Claus gave me a transistor radio. I had this sparsely furnished room, just a bed and a table, a footstool. So I took the little radio under my blanket, couldn’t sleep, it was about three in the morning and suddenly, I heard something…. Afterwards the announcer said it was John Coltrane. Dizzy spells, heart beating! That beat of Coltrane, and the inherent blues, amazing. It was Radio Brussel. The man said, ‘dear listeners, until next week.’ Yes! From that moment on, I was hooked. In an odd turn of events, I seemed to be taken by an invisible hand. And a voice that said, ‘come, come with me, you’re not alone anymore…’”

“When I got older, I started thinking about the background of jazz. About, for instance, Strange Fruit. I’ve heard it being performed countless times here, by Lillian Boutte for instance, but I never really thought about it, until one day it clicked. The hanging, the drama… It was a protest song at heart. An eyeopener for me. I think it also took Frank a while until he realised where he came from. From black men who’d had a hard time in a white world, essentially. That’s why he felt close to the black performers who came over. Initially, Frank was a straight New Orleans Jazz guy. One day Piet Noordijk played in Porgy. He had a row of saxes lined up on stage. Frank said, ‘Hey, you’re not going to experiment, right?!’” Maja laughs. “But when people like Hans Zuiderbaan and Frans de Ruyter programmed modern jazz, Frank also veered towards that style eventually. Improvisation, melody, but still recognisable mainstream jazz. The emotion of it, Frank dug that.”

Practically every musician I’ve met celebrates Porgy’s striking hospitality. Many compliments are written down in Porgy’s monumental series of guestbooks. Not a hint of hesitation on Maja’s part when she’s asked about its origins. Clearly, the good-natured, creative, fanatic import Terneuzen fellow, Frank Koulen, instilled a sense of pride and joy that remains in the minds of Porgy’s people to this day. “O yeah, that comes out of Frank. That’s an un-Dutch thing, you know. Frank is notorious for shaking the hands of every incoming customer. Talking about a welcome! As far as food and lodging go, it wasn’t a case of plainly setting up a table of cheese sandwiches. No, Frank cooked exotic meals for the guys, took them out and invented all kinds of ways to make them feel comfortable. It’s a matter of ‘giving’, you know. He raised and trained us in this respect, definitely.”

A good student, Maja, cum laude for sure. But it takes a responsive, giving soul as well, to keep it up for so many years. Lemmen turned into a true jazz ambassador, a temperamental host to both musician and audiences. At heart, it’s a family affair. “You may be right. Porgy, and the group of people attached to it, is like having a family. A sense of pride is involved. I keep meeting people who say that they’ve discovered the jazz life at our place. That’s wonderful! You know, a man named Joop van Tatenhove walked in here years ago. He had a father who was a regular visitor in the sixties and seventies. Joop, a seaman, had moved to Terneuzen, came in and said, ‘I would like to offer my services as a volunteer as a way to offer my gratitude for the fact that Porgy & Bess enriched the life of my father.’ Now, if that ain’t the power of music, right?!”

To say that Roy Hargrove would settle for an apartment near the Westerschelde sea is overstating, but the trumpeter’s kinship with the Porgy family is evident. He performed in Terneuzen as a young lion in the mid-nineties. Since then, Hargrove has made sixteen appearances at Porgy & Bess. “The European tours of Roy, and of other Americans as well, usually start or started in Terneuzen. It is a way for them to start off in a relaxed matter, settle down for a few days. Take bicycle tours along de Schelde. It reminds them of the Hudson, I think. Then they rehearse in the afternoon. That’s cool, here I’m tending business, filling fridges, making phone calls, and meanwhile listening to their music. That’s why I’m so rich!”

And, as an afterthought: “There might be a jam on Saturday before the official gig on Sunday afternoon.”

That’s a fact. Yours truly once attended an unforgettable jam, with Hargrove and Gregory Hutchinson leading a pack of local young heroes till the dawn’s surly light. It’s one of many great Porgy experiences. As a Terneuzen native, I spent many hours in Porgy & Bess and although up north for years now, drop in regularly. I’m grateful that the generous Maja and crew provided me and my friends with a great, warm-blooded place to hang out; with a stage for jam sessions, performances as a singer and the release party of a novel. Moreover, I have fond memories of performances of, to name but a few, Benny Golson, Rein de Graaff with David “Fathead” Newman and Houston Person, and Chicago blues outfit The Red Devils.

Indeed, the list of performers at Porgy & Bess is impressive and ranges from legends like Arnett Cobb, Freddie Hubbard and Archie Shepp to modern luminaries as Danilo Perez, Christian McBride, Joe Lovano and European top musicians as Toots Thielemans, Philip Catherine and Jesse van Ruller. And, of course, Art Blakey in 1982 and Chet Baker in 1985. “To hear Chet play and sing was like being in heaven. Otherwise, Chet was on his own, soft-spoken and, you know, classy in a sleazy way. There was this regular customer, a strong-willed fellow, who came back from the toilet. He said (raspy voice), ‘Hey Maja, you gotta take a look in the john, there’s this junkie fellow, I wonder did this guy buy a ticket?’ It was Chet, of course. Slender, greasy hair, his woodchopper’s shirt…”

Art Blakey was another lasting experience. Maja: “Before his show, Art Blakey was sitting behind the drum kit for a long time. The group, (including the young Terenche Blanchard and Donald Harrison, ed.), was upstairs. There were two little girls milling about the stage, giggling, humming, having fun. Blakey had a broad smile on his face, sat enjoying that scene the whole time. Then, when the band came on, Blakey set off a long sermon about the merits of jazz, it was exciting. You know that deep voice… And he and the band swung like mad, of course. That groove was out of sight!”

Warm-hearted memories. Decades ago. We’re writing 2016 on the wall of the world now. Terra could use some uplifting jazz vibes. Will Maja ever retire? “Ah, they don’t put musicians in nursery homes from the moment they’ve turned 65, right? As long as I’m not too feeble, I’ll go on. Excluding local events, programming is not on my plate anymore, I’m tending daily business, dividing tasks between Pascal and me. I’m, as I often say, the ‘multi-functional household tissue’. The prospect of continuous household activities means I’m keeping close to where it’s at!”

Maja Lemmen

Maja Lemmen (Lexmond, 1945) is the manager of jazz club and cultural venue Porgy & Bess. Porgy & Bess celebrates its 60th anniversary in 2017. It has been host to Nat Adderley, Rob Agerbeek, Monty Alexander, Chet Baker, Art Blakey, Paul Bley, Ray Brown, Ray Bryant, Don Byas, Betty Carter, Philip Catherine, Jimmy Cobb, Al Cohn, George Coleman, Johnny Copeland, Ronnie Cuber, Lou Donaldson, Dr. John, John Engels, Fapy Lafertin, Hein van de Geyn, Astrid Gilberto, Wolfgang Haffner, Slide Hampton, John Handy, Benjamin Herman, Jimmy Knepper, Lee Konitz, Diana Krall, Lazy Lester, Harold Mabern, Charles McPherson, James Moody, The Paladins, Horace Parlan, Cecil Payne, Nicholas Payton, The Red Devils, Rod Piazza, Dave Pike, Art Porter, Rita Reys, Arturo Sandoval, James Spaulding, Lew Tabackin, Rene Thomas, Cedar Walton, Kenny Werner, Mark Whitfield, Nils Wogram, Phil Woods and many others. Porgy & Bess also stages classical music matinees, roots music, and much acclaimed literary evenings.

Hank Mobley Quintet

Hank Mobley Hank Mobley Quintet (Blue Note 1957)

Pick anyone of Hank Mobley’s extended string of Blue Note albums of the late fifties and the early sixties and you’re in for a treat. Soul Station (1960) is widely regarded as the tenor saxophonist’s masterpiece. It’s hard to disagree! However, 1957’s Hank Mobley Quintet also ranks among’s Hank Mobley’s finest efforts. At its centre is Mobley’s unique silky sound.

Hank Mobley Quintet

Personnel

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

Recorded

on March 8, 1957 at Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, New Jersey

Released

as BLP 1550 in 1957

Track listing

Side A:
Funk In Deep Freeze
Wham And They’re Off
Fin De l’Affaire
Side B:
Startin’ From Scratch
Stella-Wise
Base On Balls


Mobley once described his tone as ‘round’. Veteran Dutch pianist Rob Agerbeek, who toured Europe with Mobley in 1968-69 and whom I talked to a year ago for Flophouse Magazine, succinctly put it like this: “It came out naturel, like breath, ‘whooosh!’”

Tone wasn’t Mobley’s sole asset. The man possessed first-rate chops and a gift for writing unconventional, smoky tunes. The way Mobley embraced a melody and spun lyrical, flowing lines is exceptional. What more could one ask for?

There’s the famous remark of legendary critic Leonard Feather, who dubbed Mobley ‘the middleweight champion of the tenor saxophone’ in the liner notes of 1961’s Workout. Feather believed, in terms of both fame and style, that Mobley belonged neither to the heavyweight category of Coleman Hawkins, John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins, nor to the lightweight school of Stan Getz. Feather suggested that Mobley’s uncommon, relaxed but driving phrasing unjustly kept him under the radar.

But among musicians and label bosses Mobley was indisputed and in constant demand. The tenorist from Philadelphia recorded with, among others, Max Roach, Dizzy Gillespie, Lee Morgan, Cedar Walton, Kenny Dorham, Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard, Donald Byrd, Kenny Drew, Elvin Jones, Grant Green… The list is endless. His well-known cooperation with fellow original Jazz Messengers Art Blakey and Horace Silver is of the utmost historic value. Mobley’s subtle methods gelled surprisingly well with the explosive approach of Blakey. It’s a rather mysterious but inspiring blend that’s showcased on the landmark albums that were quintessential in spawning hard bop, Horace Silver And The Jazz Messengers and At The Bohemia I and II. The line-up of Hank Mobley Quintet constitutes the original Messengers line-up of the above-mentioned albums minus Kenny Dorham.

Mobley’s Soul Station is remarkable for the fact that the relaxed but insistent swing of Mobley seems to nurture a gentler Blakey attack: a quiet storm. Blakey places more pushy accents, press rolls and cymbal crashes on Hank Mobley Quintet. That’s pretty swell too. Wham And They’re Gone sizzles, boils and, like a jolly giant, threatens to tear out of its turtleneck sweater. Mobley goes about his business of stacking breathy flurries of notes while retaining a sense of elegance and sophistication. Cuts like Funk In Deep Freeze, a twisty-turny melody taken at medium tempo, are gems of a group of players that know each other inside out.

Mobley knew how to handle ballads. His original ballad, Fin De l’Affaire, is a gorgeous melody that leans heavily on the dark-hued bass of Doug Watkins, and which Mobley graces with understated pathos. Horace Silver plays ‘full of silence’, a beautific way of giving substance to a solo that’s both romantic and bluesy. Art Farmer is an authoritative presence on the album, alternating between open horn and mute. These guys are pioneers of hard bop that lift more average material like Stella-Wise and 12-bar blues Base On Balls to a higher level. Hank Mobley functions as suave leader of the pack.

What a refined player, nary a corny phrase around.