Hank Crawford - The Soul Clinic

Hank Crawford The Soul Clinic (Atlantic 1962)

Hank Crawford’s landmark 1962 album The Soul Clinic boasts the saxophonist’s unique, ‘singing’ tone, the swinginest (Ray Charles) band in the land and a mind-boggling trumpet solo by the unknown Philip Gilbeau to boot. Bingo.

Hank Crawford - The Soul Clinic

Personnel

Hank Crawford (alto saxophone, piano), David “Fathead” Newman (tenor saxophone), Phil Gilbeau (trumpet), John Hunt (trumpet), Leroy “Hog” Cooper (baritone saxophone), Edgar Willis (bass), Bruno Carr (drums), Milt Turner (drums)

Recorded

on October 7, 1960, February 24 & May 2, 1961 at Atlantic Recording Studio, NYC

Released

as SD 1372 in 1962

Track listing

Side A:
Please Send Me Someone To Love
Easy Living
Playmates
What A Difference A Day Makes
Side B:
Me And My Baby
Lorelei’s Lament
Blue Stone


Pick a winner: Crawford’s More Soul, The Soul Clinic or From The Heart. Good luck. Not that it matters, saxophonist Hank Crawford’s first three albums for Atlantic are equally impressive. It depends on your mood. Bennie “Hank” Crawford, who played alto and baritone saxophone in the Ray Charles band and served as its musical director from 1958 to 1963, went on and recorded more excellent albums for Atlantic in the sixties like True Blue and Mr. Blues Plays Lady Soul and churned out hip, down-home tunes as Skunky Green and Whispering Grass. Between his Atlantic period and the latter stages of his career spent at the Milestone label with the likes of Houston Person and organist Jimmy McGriff, Crawford switched to a more polished approach on the CTI imprint Kudu. Kudu highlights are We Got A Good Thing Going On and Wildflower.

Well, highlights… Sales-and-solo-wise for sure. Wildflower climbed the charts. Crawford’s highly personal style remained largely intact. But production-wise, get a break. His Kudu albums might be your cup of tea but it’s a bottle of snake piss for the Flophouse Floor Manager. Producer Creed Taylor devised a smart formula, which he should be given credit for, but those albums lack exactly what makes the Atlantic albums jewels to be treasured for the ages: the sound of Crawford’s seven-piece band which did much to steer Ray Charles to unforgettable heights.

That sound wasn’t devised out of thin air. The albums feature steady members of the Ray Charles band, a tight-knit group if ever there was one. Crawford coming aboard in 1958 gave the Ray Charles group a big boost, first by his indelible sax playing, soon after by his arranging skills. Consequently, the indirect impact of Crawford on popular music cannot be overstated. The sound of two trumpets, alto, tenor and baritone that Crawford arranged has lingered on in the memories of music lovers as the Ray Charles period to-go-to and became the trademark Crawford sound in the sixties. Effectively, the sound of a modern blues band, one of the last in a line that had been developed onwards from the forties by Illinois Jacquet, Louis Jordan, Arnett Cobb and Bull Moose Jackson. Irresistable outfits.

Up until the 1960 and 1961 sessions of The Soul Clinic, Crawford had appeared on iconic Ray Charles hit singles on Atlantic such as What I’d Say and LP’s as the illustrious Ray Charles At Newport. Crawford shared many duties with David “Fathead” Newman, who went a bit further back with Ray Charles to 1957’s recordings like Doodlin’. Crawford, Newman, trumpeter John Hunt, drummer Milt Turner and bassist Edgar Willis cooperated on the What I’d Say LP, as well as the live album In Person. (minus Turner) Genius Hits The Road includes Crawford, Newman, baritone saxophonist Leroy “Hog” Cooper, Hunt and Turner. Thus, these guys had played, lived and breathed together both in the studio and on the road.

Trumpeter Philip Gilbeau was a newbie in this bunch, who would get his chance to stretch out on Ray Charles’ Impulse album Genius + Soul = Jazz. Drummer Bruno Carr would be part of Ray Charles’ working band on and off in the early sixties. The career of the unknown Carr reveals some interesting associations with, among others, Crawford, Newman, Nat Adderley, Herbie Mann, Dave Pike and Roy Ayers. Finally, Crawford and other members of this line up are also featured on David “Fathead” Newman’s Atlantic albums Fathead: Ray Charles Presents David “Fathead” Newman and Fathead Comes On. The reason why I go at length to explain the various connections between these musicians is because I feel that the colleagues of Crawford, Newman and Ray Charles are unsung heroes of r&b and soul jazz. Take a deep breath, look at the titles of the before-mentioned albums and singles and let it sink in for a while… Got it?

The way the group builds up a tune is extraordinary. Perhaps by shaking their hips, drummer Bruno Carr and bassist Edgar Willis faultlessly guess the exact amount of small change residing in each other’s side pockets. Locked tight. Fish, hook and line. Ever so slightly, like for instance in the Crawford composition Blue Stone, Carr and Willis stoke up the fire once Crawford’s tenor is getting ready to gain momentum. Much of the album’s charm is brought about by the sonorous arrangements of Crawford. The warm-blooded, transparant production of Tom Dowd chips in magnificently. Except Please Send Me Someone To Love, that includes piano comping by Crawford, the album’s repertoire is piano-less. That worked out beautifully, creating room for the lucid voices of the group’s hard-working gentlemen from the South.

Where can I find a contemporary saxophonist with the kind of one-of-a-kind sound as Hank Crawford? You tell me. Wish me luck. I’d have to take off my pince nez and borrow the looking glass of Sherlock Holmes. Highly unlikely that Hank Crawford is part of the curriculum of the contemporary conservatories. Should be elemental, Hank presents a how-to-find-your-voice course without peer. Off course, not everybody is born in Memphis, main cradle of blues and r&b. But background only doesn’t account for Crawford’s peculiar style. With every repeated listen, awe, hearthy laughter and joy builds up and builds up, until the balloon bursts and tears of joy spray all over the floor. He’s such a stubborn man, doggedly making his point! So convinced of his method and message! Crawford, heard on alto on The Soul Clinic, generally stays close to the melody, points out the bare essentials of the tune, puts it through the wringer until the last drop. Assumingly, Crawford is conscious of every word of the tunes. He tackles the themes with his probing tone and delicate vibrato. A sparse use of fluid bop runs, spicy asides, enhance the bigger picture of his blues-drenched message. Because, essentially, Crawford’s voice is the voice of a blues singer. Not exactly hollering on the fields, Crawford nevertheless unburdens his heart, slightly sweating, sensuously. The sense of hurt is there, he’s been assisting Brother Ray, which obviously must’ve had its effect. But while Brother Ray, when singing the blues, chops out his liver to bleed on the table in front of us, Crawford passes his troubles on a rusty copper plate.

Charlie Parker, the greatest alto saxophonist in the history of jazz, did a thousand things with the blues. The ambidextrous monster musician Steve Coleman, reportedly, dubbed it ‘space blues’. On the other side of the spectrum, Hank Crawford focuses on the core of the blues. But how!

The repertoire is evenly divided between merrily bouncing swingers like the Crawford original Playmates and Horace Silver’s Me And My Baby, gorgeous ballads like Robin/Grainger’s Easy Living and the popular tune What A Difference A Day Makes, which was a hit for Dinah Washington in 1959. The latter is a vehicle for trumpeter Philip Gilbeau. As if Hank isn’t enough to drive you wild, the angels of swing sent down brother Phil Gilbeau. Brash, jubilant, linking Satchmo to crisp modern jazz, Gilbeau’s tale reveals the feelings of a man who loves his woman, which nevertheless left him stranded at a roadside diner after a heated argument. You see him standing outside at the parking lot, one heel on the springboard of his 1958 Packard, swinging a fist, a sudden act of mad laughter that can hardly conceal the yearning, the tenderness, the joy of life. This couple is bound to make up, will be back soon in a barbecue joint, ribs and fries, chili in a bowl, hashbrowns over easy, the whole shebang except candlelight… You hear him think, ‘might be steppin’ into that phonebooth, be callin’ Hank in a minute, just to say I keep-a-rollin’ with my baby…’ Hank understands. The band understands. The guys all sing that song. Not only seperately, but also as the entity that made those albums like The Soul Clinic beautiful, essential, deep blue as the ocean.

Shirley Scott - Shirley Scott & The Soul Saxes

Shirley Scott Shirley Scott & The Soul Saxes (Atlantic 1969)

Shirley Scott’s dressed up for the rock age. The musical garments don’t really suit the experienced, tasteful organist.

Shirley Scott - Shirley Scott & The Soul Saxes

Personnel

Shirley Scott (organ), Ernie Royal (trumpet A1 & A2 & B1-B4), King Curtis (tenor saxophone A1 & A2 & B1-B4), Hank Crawford (alto and baritone saxophone A1 & A2 & B1-B4), David Newman (tenor saxophone, flute A1 & A2 & B1-B4), Richard Tee (piano A1 & A2 & B1-B4), Eric Gale (guitar), Chuck Rainey (bass A1 & A2 & B1-B4), Jerry Jemmott (bass A3), Bernard Purdie (drums A1, A3 & B1, B2), Jimmy Johnson (drums A2 & B3, B4)

Recorded

on September 10, 1968 in Atlantic Studios, NYC and July 9 & 10, 1969 in Regent Sound Studios, NYC

Released

as SD 1532 in 1969

Track listing

Side A:
It’s Your Thing
(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman
I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free
You
Side B:
Stand By Me
Get Back
More Today Than Yesterday


From the mid-fifties to the early seventies Shirley Scott was one of the most successful and prolific organ jazz players around, presenting a cocktail of standards and bluesy jazz either with her trio or with the addition of Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis and Scott’s husband, tenorist Stanley Turrentine. Her fairly traditional work, perhaps more in the mould of Milt Buckner than Jimmy Smith, is recorded on King, Prestige, Impulse and (with Turrentine) Blue Note. Near the end of the decade Scott signed with Atlantic. Let’s try for something hip, Scott presumably must’ve thought. Her soul-heavy album Shirley Scott And The Soul Saxes sold reasonably well and is sandwiched between her Atlantic debut Soul Song and final release, the less succesful Something. In 1971 Scott switched to Chicago’s Cadet label, adding some challenging originals to her sets of evergreens and contemporary pop and soul. Shirley Scott And The Soul Saxes is not only soul-heavy, but rock-heavy as well. That’s the bad part.

But first the good part. Scott turns in tasty performances, she really ‘sings’ on (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman – the Goffin/King classic written for Aretha Franklin – and her gospel intro on I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free is enticing foreplay to a vibrant solo. This bouncy, medium-tempo tune is the album’s highlight. Coincidentally, it’s the only song on the album without horn parts. More Today Than Yesterday – a 1969 hit by The Spiral Staircase – is also one of the better performances. The vibe is relaxed and understatement is the main objective.

The album benefits from a tight-knit group of gifted sidemen. However, there are a couple of downsides. Despite the non-pareil funk qualities of drummers Bernard Purdie and Jimmy Johnson, the beat remains mechanic. Moreover, the promising repertoire suffers from bombastic production and arrangements. The sax section does its fair share of harmony, but sax solo’s are few and concise. Ain’t that peculiar? After all, King Curtis, Hank Crawford and David “Fathead” Newman – some heavy artillery there! – are prominently billed on the front cover. It’s a waste of talent. The bits they do contribute are excellent, especially Curtis’ solo on The Isley Brothers hit It’s Your Thing.

Guitarist Eric Gale had talent in abundance, but it seems he ended up at the wrong session. Considering Gale’s overdrive guitar sound and distorted licks, a sparring date with Jimmy Page of label mates Led Zeppelin would be more on target. The low point of the album is The Beatles’ Get Back. Its ridiculously fast tempo and over-excited ambience overshadows the solid statements by Shirley Scott.

That Atlantic Records lay heavy stress on a rock sound is unfortunate. A more sparse, earthy and less frenzied approach such as the label used for soul stars like Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett would’ve benefited Shirley Scott much more. Sometimes dressing up an artist for the new age can only go that far.

Eddie Harris' Mean Greens

Eddie Harris Mean Greens (Atlantic 1966)

Eddie Harris, free bird. Doesn’t let anyone tell him what to play, tears his shirt off his tenor body and delivers Mean Greens. A bubbling mix of innovative Latin rhythm, inherently groovy, soft-hued modern jazz and spirited chitlin’ circuit r&b.

Eddie Harris' Mean Greens

Personnel

Eddie Harris (tenor saxophone A1-4, B2, electric piano B1-3), Ray Codrington (trumpet, tambourine A1), Cedar Walton (piano A1-4), Sonny Philips (organ B1-3), Ron Carter (bass A1-4), Billy Higgins (drums A1-4), Melvin Jackson (bass B1-3), Bucky Taylor (drums B1-3), Ray Codrington, Ray Barretto & Bucky Taylor (percussion A1)

Recorded

on March 8 & 9 and June 7, 1966 in NYC

Released

as Atlantic 1453 in 1966

Track listing

Side A:
Mean Greens
It Was A Very Good Year
Without You
Yeah Yeah Yeah
Side B:
Listen Here
Blues In The Basement
Goin’ Home


It’s easily one of Harris’ best efforts. During his career, the tenor saxophonist’s albums met with a lot of suspicion that almost ran equal with their popularity. Albeit unfair, it was only human that ‘serious’ jazz buffs raised their eyebrows when the instant star Eddie Harris followed up his best-selling 1961 single Exodus To Jazz with a series of like-minded, smooth jazz albums on the VeeJay label. Who could blame Eddie? After playing for years in relative obscurity in his hometown Chicago, Harris finally made his (money) mark. Besides, even if the VeeJay (and subsequent Columbia-) albums leaned heavily on standards and popular concepts such as bossa nova and movie soundtracks, they were high caliber affairs and the style and tone of Harris was unmistakably individual. ‘Sell’ was appropriate, ‘out’ wasn’t.

That Eddie Harris was an upright musician who relished incorporating all sorts of influences into his modern jazz bag, became evident in his Atlantic years. Atlantic, where Harris recorded from 1965 till 1976, proved to be a well-suited canvas for the multi-instrumentalist’s bold strokes. Besides popular music, the label had been in the thick of avant-garde jazz since the late fifties and put a lot of weight into progressive rock in the late sixties, so it isn’t surprising that the label was happy to try for a successful mix of high and low brow. Yes, Harris’ strokes may have been too bold at times. Experimenting with the electric (Varitone) saxophone is a reasonable idea, toying with the ‘guitorgan’, the ‘saxobone’ and electric bongos indicates a lack of direction; his tongue-in-cheek r&b albums of the mid-seventies also were liable to scare off more than a few listeners. On the other hand, Harris’ wildly exciting r&b-drenched live cooperation with Les McCann in 1969, Swiss Movement and the follow-up, 1972’s Second Movement, proved to be two of the saxophonist’s most successful efforts.

Arguably, the Harris synthesis comes full circle on his late sixties output. Interestingly enough, Harris’ debut on Atlantic, the sizzling hard bop album The In Crowd (boasting the classic Freedom Jazz Dance, which was recorded just half a year later by Miles Davis on Miles Smiles), is Harris’ best album. His group of the time, including Billy Higgins and Ron Carter is out of sight. Less coherent, Mean Greens takes the silver medal. But wasn’t that the point? Taking a little risk, seeing where it leads to. At least that’s what the cover, portraying a saxy Jekyll and organistic Mr. Hyde, suggests.

Higgins and Carter are present on Mean Greens as well, on side A. The versatility of these modern jazz monsters (At the time, Carter was part of the legendary Miles Davis quintet, Higgins recorded with about everybody, both ‘in’ and ‘out’, including Ornette Coleman) is amazing. They adapt beautifully to the basically groovy Eddie Harris norms. Not only that, Higgins created the unusual beat of the title track Mean Greens. It does the trick, just like the rhythm he invented for Lee Morgan’s The Sidewinder and Herbie Hancock’s Watermelon Man was the major push for the artistic succes and commercial appeal of those classic tunes.

Mean Greens, the exotic blues. Cedar Walton hits percussive, staccato piano chords. Harris and trumpeter Ray Codrington blow a playful minor theme over the solid bottom of Higgins and Carter. Obviously, Harris was eagerly awaiting for an entrance, as he’s immediately going into a furious free bag with the Eddie Harris touch: whether Harris is playing advanced or soft-hued, like in It Was A Very Good Year (one part of the proof that Exodus To Jazz wasn’t a tune from a one-trick-pony), the upper register sounds that Harris gets from his tenor, if not for everybody’s ears, are remarkable. When Exodus To Jazz was released, people thought Harris played the soprano. Utter control, phenomenal range.

Then side B, which has been the cause of an occasional spontaneous (combustive) party. Thank you Eddie Harris, for a friggin’ wonderful Saturday night! Listen Here’s irresistible charme lies within the Latin/New Orleans, loose-jointed, slow-draggin’ rhythm and the effective counterpoint of bass and organ. Meanwhile the lines of Eddie Harris’ electric piano slither like snakes, weaving in and out of the percussion-heavy, basic song structure. It’s rough-hewn, speaks to the loins, the body, speaks of Eros. It’s the first version Harris recorded of Listen Here. The second – slightly cleaner – rendition, released on The Electrifying Eddie Harris the following year in 1967, reached nr.11 on the Billboard r&b charts.

Via Blues In The Basement, a big-sounding 12-bar blues in which Harris mixes powerful Arnett Cobb-like barks with quicksilver bop runs and witty, second line guffaws, Harris takes the album out the way he would in a club, with the wild and woolly shuffle of Goin’ Home. Not your usual basic blues theme. A nifty, tricky stop-time theme catapults the B3 of Sonny Philips and the electric piano of Harris into action. There you are, transported to the sawdust-covered floors of a juke joint, or the Chicago South Side, or the chitlin’ circuit’s burgeoning bar life of lore… Goin’ Home fades out with a drum thunderstorm.

What went on in the mind of Eddie Harris? Let’s just do it, let’s just put together the Hammond organ and the electric piano. Let’s just burn the place down with some fat-bottomed blues, why not, yes we can! They can, they do, tear the grooves out of the mono vinyl. However, for all Harris’ swagger, it would be preposterous to define Harris’ electric organ/B3 feast as primitive music. Eddie Harris has advanced, killer chops and years of severe studying reveal the influence of Stan Getz, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, yet reveal above all a fresh, individual take on jazz which is 100% Harris: the tireless enthusiast.

I don’t think there was very much thought behind the dual concept of Mean Greens. It seems it was just a matter of putting to wax different facets of Eddie Harris. Whatever the processes behind the release may be, Harris was definitely bringing it back home.

Art Farmer

The Art Farmer Quartet To Sweden With Love (Atlantic 1964)

In 1964, Art Farmer and his group toured in Europe. In Sweden, a record official brought up the idea of recording Swedish folk songs. Subsequently, Farmer recorded To Sweden With Love. It’s a splendid example of the way a great jazz musician seemingly effortless brings an alien music form into the jazz realm.

Art Farmer

Personnel

Art Farmer (flugelhorn), Jim Hall (guitar), Steve Swallow (bass), Pete LaRoca (drums)

Recorded

on April 28 & 30 in Stockholm, Sweden

Released

as SD 1430 in 1964

Track listing

Side A:
Va Da Du? (Was It You?)
De Salde Sina Hemman (They Sold Their Homestead)
Den Motstravige Brudgummen (The Reluctant Groom)
Side B:
Och Hor Du Unga Dora (And Listen Young Dora)
Kristallen Den Fina (The Fine Crystal)
Visa Vid Midsommartid (Midsummer Song)


“Iheard Freddie Webster, and I loved his sound. I decided to work on sound because it seemed like most of the guys my age were just working on speed.” (Jazz Times, 1994)

That worked out nicely for Art Farmer. Coupling a bittersweet, velvet sound to a swift, lyrical style, Art Farmer is able to let your heart melt with just a few notes. The trumpeter, born in Council Bluffs, Iowa, grew up in Phoenix, Arizona and Los Angeles, where he started his career in the late fourties, simultaneously with his twin brother, bassist Addison Farmer. Addison Farmer died of sudden unexpected death at the young age of 34 in 1963. Farmer recorded his original tune Farmer’s Market under the leadership of tenor saxophonist Wardell Gray in 1952. It was his first break. Once relocated to New York, Art Farmer quickly gained recognition as a gifted bebop trumpeter with a distinctive style. Farmer recorded with, among others, Horace Silver, Sonny Rollins, Gigi Gryce and, in the mid-fifties, experimental modernists George Russell and Teddy Charles. During the following decades, Farmer recorded prolifically as a leader for, among others, Prestige, United Artists, Argo, Atlantic, Columbia and Mainstream.

Without a doubt, Farmer’s best known contribution as a sideman occured on January 5, 1958, when Farmer and Jackie McLean served as the horn line for pianist Sonny Clark’s iconic hard bop album Cool Struttin’. Equally renowned is Farmer’s cooperation with Benny Golson in The Jazztet. The group recorded a series of elegant and inventive albums of pure, understated swing like Meet The Jazztet and The Jazztet Meets John Lewis. The Jazztet re-united in 1982. Farmer recorded and performed steadily and succesfully in the latter stages of his career, mostly in Europe, where he found a new home (Vienna, Austria) in the late sixties. Farmer passed away in 1999.

The switch from trumpet to flugelhorn in the early sixties made Farmer’s playing even more uniquely sensitive, cushion-soft. Farmer’s piano-less group of Hall, Swallow and either LaRoca or Walter Perkins on drums recorded three albums for Atlantic: Interaction, Live At The Half Note and To Sweden With Love, which is my particular favorite. (Farmer’s fourth and last Atlantic recording, 1965’s Sing Me Softly Of The Blues included pianist Steve Kuhn instead of Jim Hall)

Something’s missing in the Swedish studio. Indeed, a piano. But it’s not sorely missed. On the contrary, the breathtaking, pretty melodies of To Sweden With Love inspire Farmer’s group to laid-back but dynamic, inventive interplay and the group has an alluring, airy and dreamy sound. To Sweden With Love is a splendid production by producer Anders Burman and engineer Rune Persson from Metronome Records, who are worthy overseas replacements for Atlantic’s distinguished team of chief producer Tom Dowd.

An intriguing dialogue between Art Farmer and Jim Hall is at the centre of the album. Farmer’s lines brim with yearning, joy, tenderness and a shade of tristesse. He throws fragments of love letters to the crystalline, whispered chords of Jim Hall. And Hall, when Farmer lays out, caresses the melodies like a little girl hugging her teddy bear and thereupon fills the empty spaces of the blowing sections with delicate, short notes, much like a pointillist painter treats his canvas. Hall is part prickly pear, part romantic balladeer.

To Sweden With Love is a clear case of puppy love between two uniquely gifted and responsive jazz men.

Slide Hampton Octet - Sister Salvation

The Slide Hampton Octet Sister Salvation (Atlantic 1960)

Sister Salvation is trombonist and arranger Slide Hampton’s breakthrough album as a leader. It’s another one of those typically soulful, warm-sounding, big ensemble productions of the Atlantic catalogue of the early sixties – like the albums of Hank Crawford, David Newman and Milt Jackson. Too good to miss.

Slide Hampton Octet - Sister Salvation

Personnel

Slide Hampton (trombone, arranger), Freddie Hubbard (trumpet), Ernie Royal (trumpet A2, B1-3), Richard Williams (trumpet A1, A3), Bob Zottola (trumpet), George Coleman (tenor saxophone, arranger), Jay Cameron (baritone saxophone), Kiane Zawadi (euphonium), Bill Barber (tuba), Nabil Totah (bass), Pete LaRoca (drums), Billy Frazier (arranger)

Recorded

on February 11 & 15, 1960 at Bell Sound Studio, NYC

Released

as Atlantic 1339 in 1960

Track listing

Side A:
Sister Salvation
Just Squeeze Me
Hi-Fli
Side B:
Asservation
Conversation Piece
A Little Night Music


Nowadays it’s hard to fathom the kind of incredible jazz life Slide Hampton led. Already playing trombone by the age of three, Hampton toured the US with the (XL) family band of his father, providing music at carnivals, circuses and fairs. As a young man, Hampton’s stature grew by playing with Lionel Hampton (no family relation), Dizzy Gillespie and Maynard Ferguson, displaying both his fluent trombone playing and superb arrangements. By 1960, a recording as a leader by the cutting-edge Atlantic label was more than appropriate. (The release of Slide Hampton And His Horn Of Plenty a year earlier on the obscure Strand label had gone relatively unnoticed) In 1960 Hampton also played on Charles Mingus’ Mingus Revisited and Randy Weston’s Uhuru Afrika.

Asservation is a succesful blend of small combo flexibility and big band muscle. One constantly imagines a singing voice prying for attention and I think that kind of vibe is one of the tune’s and album’s greatest qualities. Sister Salvation assuredly has that ‘singing voice’ quality, you’d expect the voice of “Brother” Ray Charles to chime in any minute now. It’s churchy, r&b-type jazz at its best.

A Little Night Music, a more lithe, bouncy tune with a pronounced descending bass line, is contagious as well. Hampton also picked interesting tunes of other composers like Randy Weston’s Hi-Fli and Gigi Gryce’s Conversation Piece, that include concise, top-notch solo’s by Freddie Hubbard and George Coleman. In short, the album is a happy marriage between tunes, arranging and soloing.

The jazz life of Slide Hampton would continue, bringing many more recordings in the sixties, a job as arranger at pop soul-kingdom Motown and fruitful years as a jazz expatriate in Europe in the seventies and beyond. Hampton has been especially prolific as a recording artist in the new millenium. Twin Records released Hampton’s latest album, Inclusion, in 2014.

Clifford Jordan - Leadbelly

Clifford Jordan These Are My Roots: Clifford Jordan Plays Leadbelly (Atlantic 1965)

The Mosaic label, whose policy of re-issueing and uncovering vaults has been so essential in keeping the flame of classic jazz burning, shed a welcome light last year on tenor saxophonist Clifford Jordan, releasing a box set of six adventurous albums Jordan produced and recorded in the late sixties and early seventies on Strata-East, among them Jordan’s career-defining 1973 album Glass Bead Games. Jordan’s career included other rewarding efforts, like These Are My Roots: Clifford Jordan Plays Leadbelly, Jordan’s sole album on Atlantic. It’s a surprise act, a wicked dedication to the roots of black musical culture.

Clifford Jordan - Leadbelly

Personnel

Clifford Jordan (tenor saxophone), Roy Burrowes (trumpet), Julian Priester (trombone), Cedar Walton (piano), Chuck Wayne (banjo), Richard Davis (bass), Albert Heath (drums), Sandra Douglas (vocals A3, B3)

Recorded

on February 1 & 17, 1965 in NYC

Released

as SD 1444 in 1965

Track listing

Side A
Dick’s Holler
Silver City Bound
Take This Hammer
Black Betty
The Highest Mountain
Side B
Good Night Irene
De Gray Goose
Jolly ‘O The Ransom
Yellow Gal


Jordan hailed from Chicago, hometown of hard-driving, so-called ‘tough tenorists’ like Gene Ammons and Eddie ‘Lockjaw’ Davis. While Jordan shared their unnerving bravado, his tone is different, an alluring tone, simultaneously rough around the edges and ephemeral. A sought-after sideman, Jordan recorded with stalwarts as Lee Morgan and Max Roach in the late fifties and early sixties, as well as a series of high standard solo albums. Much acclaimed hard bop favorites are Blowing In From Chicago (Blue Note, 1957, with John Gilmore) and Cliff Craft (Blue Note, 1957) Like age matures wine, Jordan’s style ripened in the early seventies, his lines becoming fluent like ripples of lake water. Jordan kept recording and performing steadily until his death in 1993.

Maybe this album, filled with interpretations of such classic tunes as Take This Hammer and Goodnight Irene, is not such a surprise act after all. The preceding year, Jordan had been part of Charles Mingus’ outfit (appearing on the hi-voltage live album Right Now: Live At The Jazz Workshop) Musical gobbler Mingus’ unfazed search for new vistas while retaining an all-embracing sense of the past’s relevance and blend of harmonic finesse with unbridled juke joint tumult surely rubbed off on Jordan.

Da Gray Goose is one of the cases in point. Tasteful harmony over the stop-time theme kicks it into action, strongly plucked bass and fiery drums inspire the soloists, creating an atmosphere of abandon. Lusty shout choruses stoke up the fire as the tune progresses. There are also some, yes, virtuoso banjo parts.

The gloomy folk blues music of Huddie ‘Leadbelly’ Ledbetter, whose life story reads like a combined effort of Shakespeare and James Baldwin, including oppression, hardship, addiction, treachery, murder and prison life, is excellently cast in a jazz frame. But not too jazzy, often the sound of Jordan’s top-notch group is as tough-as-nails as the sound of any one group that enlivened the back alley bars way back when. Jordan’s unpredictable phrasing overcomes the restrictions of the rigid folk blues form.

Craftily uncrafted, These Are My Roots is a spirited album of earnest, raw and ebullient swing.

Milt Jackson

Milt Jackson Plenty, Plenty Soul (Atlantic 1957)

At the time of Milt Jackson’ recording of Plenty, Plenty Soul, the group that he was part of, The Modern Jazz Quartet, was a major force in the jazz world. It had recorded their blend of modern jazz and chamber music on albums as Concorde, Fontessa and Django, which included the famous title track. With more time on his hands for the blues away from MJQ, Plenty, Plenty Soul showcases a freewheelin’ Milt Jackson.

Milt Jackson

Personnel

Milt Jackson (vibes), Joe Newman (trumpet), Jimmy Cleveland (trombone A1-A3), (Cannonball Adderley credited as Ronnie Peters, alto A1-A3), Frank Foster (tenor saxophone A1-A3), Lucky Thompson (tenor saxophone B1-B4), Sahib Shehab (baritone saxophone A1-A3), Horace Silver (piano), Percy Heath (bass A1-A3), Oscar Pettiford (bass B1-B4), Art Blakey (drums A1-A3), Connie Kay (drums B1-B4)

Recorded

on January 5 & 7, 1975 at Atlantic Studio in New York City

Released

as SD 1269 in 1957

Track listing

Side A:
Plenty, Plenty Soul
Boogity Boogity
Heartstrings
Side B:
Sermonette
The Spirit-Feel
Ignunt Oil
Blues At Twilight


Side A has the upper hand. The opener and title track is a long blues that includes an abundance of funky and virtuoso Milt Jackson phrases. The rhythym section of Art Blakey, Horace Silver (Silver had parted ways with Blakey’s Jazz Messengers half a year prior to this session) and Milt Jackson’s colleague form the MJQ, bassist Percy Heath, is especially exciting on the joyful Boogity Boogity. Jackson is stimulated considerably by Blakey’s amalgam of press rolls, tom attacks and nifty use of the snare drum’s metal ring. Ending side A, Jackson’s radiant sound and lyrical twists and turns are at the core of the ballad Heartstrings.

The uplifting arrangements of the first three tracks are by Quincy Jones. The solo’s by Jackson’s sidemen are excellent. Part of the all-star cast is altoist Cannonball Adderley, (credited as ‘Ronnie Peters’ for legal reasons) whose solo on Boogity Boogity is one of the album’s highlights.

In comparison to this session, the one that culminated in side B is less spiritedlacks. Milt Jackson’s other colleague from the MJQ, drummer Connie Kay, is much less energetic than Art Blakey. It’s why tunes like Nat Adderley’s pretty, infectious melody Sermonette, don’t really take off. Less exceptional than side A, side B nevertheless presents a couple of highlights. Firstly, the abundant church feeling Milt Jackson brings to his performances, especially in The Spirit Feel, makes the heart skip a beat. Secondly, Jackson demonstrates both outstanding technique (utilising the four mallet-approach) and a feeling for the blues in the slow blues Blues At Twilight. Finally, tenorist Lucky Thompson’s round tone and articulate style are responsible for the session’s merry atmosphere.

In my opinion, both sides of Milt Jackson – the ‘blowing’ kind and the MJQ-kind – deserve equal attention. The downgrading of John Lewis has been a favourite sport of Milt Jackson fans. Reportedly, Jackson hated his guts and in spite of being fed up with the quartet periodically, stayed in it for the money. Yet, Jackson fans tend to forget that Lewis’s writing and arranging skills and understated (quietly swinging) piano backing brought masterful play out of Jackson.

Obviously, we should be very glad that Milt Jackson also kept recording in his own right. As his second solo foray on Atlantic using a top-notch all-star cast, Plenty, Plenty Soul foreshadowed other exciting collaborations with Ray Charles (Soul Brothers, Soul Meeting), Coleman Hawkins (Bean Bags) and John Coltrane. (Bags & Trane)