The Other Side Of Benny Golson

Benny Golson The Other Side Of Benny Golson (Riverside 1958)

Benny Golson’s extraordinary writing skills often overshadow his gifts as a tenor saxophonist. As early as 1958, Riverside considered this fact and chose to highlight his tenor work naming Golson’s third album The Other Side Of Benny Golson. Not surprisingly though, the compositions are killer bee as well. Two birds killed by one stone.

The Other Side Of Benny Golson

Personnel

Benny Golson (tenor saxophone), Curtis Fuller (trombone), Barry Harris (piano), Jimmy Meritt (bass), Philly Joe Jones (drums)

Recorded

on November 12, 1958 at Nola’s Penthouse Sound Studio, NYC

Released

as RLP 12-290 in 1958

Track listing

Side A:
Strut Time
Jubilation
Symbols
Side B:
Are You Real?
Cry A Blue Tear
This Night


The significance of Golson, who turned 87 on January 27, can’t be overstated. Having learned the trade from pianist and renowned tunesmith Tadd Dameron in the early fifties, Golson developed into a striking composer. Many of Golson’s compositions became standards: I Remember Clifford, Stablemates, Killer Joe, Along Came Betty, Blues March. The latter two ended up on Art Blakey And The Jazz Messengers’ classic album Moanin’. Golson, beside playing tenor, organised that band, creating a line-up of Philadelphia pals including future trumpet star Lee Morgan. He streamlined Blakey’s profile and business and as such formed the blueprint of succes for the fledgling Art Blakey. Golson’ Jazztet (Personel varied apart from key member Art Farmer; the quintessential line-up included Curtis Fuller) broadened the jazz horizon with sophisticated yet swinging stuff. They re-united in 1982. By then, Golson had been off the jazz scene for nearly 15 years. Following the footsteps of Quincy Jones and J.J. Johnson, Golson spent the latter part of the sixties as well as the seventies in Hollywood, scoring films and series.

Elegant compositions, fascinating voicings, surging but also quaintly cerebral lines: pure Benny Golson. It’s all there on The Other Side Of Benny Golson, the first recorded collaboration between Golson and Curtis Fuller. Golson sounds simultaneously smooth and gutsy and has a way of choosing interesting, odd notes all the time, cooking in understated fashion. For all his inventive composing and blowing, both feet of Golson stand firmly in the soil of tradition. The breathy sound that Golson displays, notably in his original ballad Cry A Blue Tear, reflects his admiration for swing giants like Ben Webster. Golson’s phrasing would’ve been an asset in Ellington’s orchestra.

The beautiful, often dreamy colors that Golson creates with the intriguing tenor-trombone combination account for much of the enjoyment of this album. Fuller smoothly weaves in and out of the theme of Are You Real?, another instant classic of Golson. How Golson cooks in his own way is evident in Strut Time, a lively stop-time tune in which Golson continually stacks one canny idea upon the other. Original stuff. Symptoms is an equally alluring melody, the musical equivalent of fog that hangs over a lake at the dawn’s early light. It includes a poetic trombone solo by Curtis Fuller. Then Golson opts for a contrast, stoking up the fire with fast flurries of notes, elements that Golson incorporates matter-of-factly into his sophisticated style as a tenorist.

Chasin’ The Barry

Barry Harris, grand seigneur of bebop and one of the last direct links to the music of Bud Powell, Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk, turns 86 years old today. Conviction and dedication, I guess, are words specifically designed for the personality of pianist and teacher Barry Harris.

Check the footage below. Harris, at 85, played the Detroit festival in 2014 and as you can see, is still going very strong. The interview bits by Brian Pace are both revealing and amusing. I also included my review of Harris’ 1962 album Chasin’ The Bird and some stunning footage of Barry Harris with the Cannonball Adderley Quintet at Newport, 1960.

See Pace Report
Read Review
See Cannonball

Charles McPherson - The Quintet/Live!

Charles McPherson The Quintet/Live! (Prestige 1967)

Altoist Gene Quill once walked off the stage, when a malignant member of the audience quipped: “All you do is play like Parker!” Whereupon Quill pushed his horn forward and replied: “You try to play like Charlie Parker!”* Discussions on Charles McPherson usually ran along the same lines. In the sixties, McPherson was often set aside by critics as a mere imitator of Bird. Too bad. Quills’ perky remark suggested it was far from easy to play Parker’s complex and spirited music. Yet, cats like McPherson carried on the flag of the Parker legacy eloquently and with great pride. For that, it would’ve been more than reasonable to be thankful.

Charles McPherson - The Quintet/Live!

Personnel

Charles McPherson (alto saxophone), Lonnie Hillyer (trumpet), Barry Harris (piano), Ray McKinney (bass), Billy Higgins (drums)

Recorded

on October 13, 1966 at the Five Spot, NYC

Released

as PR 7480 in 1967

Track listing

Side A:
The Viper
I Can’t Get Started
Shaw ‘Nuff
Side B:
Here’s That Rainy Day
Never Let Me Go
Suddenly


Undeniably, the influence from Bird on McPherson is evident throughout his career. Certainly on his live album The Quintet/Live!. But for all McPherson’s (articulate and furious) bebop sparks, as heard on the album’s highlight, Bird’s Shaw ‘Nuff, McPherson had grown into an alto saxophonist with a singular, vibrant style. A style appreciated by giant of jazz Charles Mingus, in whose group McPherson intermittingly played from 1960 to 1974, notably on Live At Town Hall and Music Written For Monterey 1965.

Beside being a first-class player in the bop and hard bop vein, McPherson proofs to be an outstanding balladeer as well. The attraction of Never Let Me Go lies in the combination of the altoist’s darkly lyrical mood, husky delivery and long lines alternating with swift phrasing. He also tells a sweet and sour story on Gershwin’s I Can’t Get Started, on which his interaction with pianist Barry Harris is particularly responsive. Harris nudges fellow Detroit-native McPherson into interesting directions and turns in an exquisite solo. Foremost bop interpreter Harris had mentored McPherson in the late fifties. Harris obviously pulls a lot of strings on this date, displaying sympathetic accompaniment, confident command of harmony and melodic finesse.

Drummer Billy Higgins, tasteful and propulsive, is a strong force as well. Crowd-mover The Viper has a similar vibe as Lee Morgan’s The Sidewinder, a hit that thanked its success for a big part to Higgins’ indomitable, fresh beat. (Barry Harris played on The Sidewinder as well) Greasy statements by McPherson and trumpeter Lonnie Hillyer (another Detroit friend and a colleague from the groups of Mingus and Barry Harris) are followed up by a percussive Barry Harris solo, who makes use of Monk-like delayed time.

The ‘Latinised’ Here’s That Rainy Day includes intriguing variations on the melody by McPherson. On the driving hard bop waltz Suddenly Lonnie Hillyer is in a Don Cherry mood. Both are fine performances. Shaw ‘Nuff, however, is of another order. McPerson cum suis set up an appropriate breakneck speed for Charlie Parker’s madly beautiful tune. It’s a lightning bolt. So fast Hillyer has trouble keeping up, both melody and solo-wise. McPherson’s solo is full of fire. Barry Harris seemingly effortlessly displays his vast knowledge of Bud Powell, brilliantly and suavely running through the complex changes. Both soloists thrive on the fierce, articulate backing of Billy Higgins and bassist Ray McKinney.

The Quintet/Live! contains varying repertoire, dynamic group interplay, a warm live atmosphere and immaculate improvisation by both leader and ‘consiglieri’ Barry Harris. An essential McPherson album.

*The little piece of jazz lore involving Gene Quill is chronicled in bassist and jazz writer Bill Crow’s wonderful and insightful book Jazz Anecdotes.

YouTube: Here’s That Rainy Day

Chasin'the_Bird_(Barry_Harris_album)

Barry Harris Chasin’ The Bird (Riverside 1962)

An important part of the spirit of jazz, writer and critic Nat Hentoff once wrote, is the independent character of the jazz musician. Improvising involves taking risks while simultaneously holding on to one’s particular style and ideas. It, ideally, takes a seizable amount of stubbornness and discipline many laymen cannot help but find admirable. A classic example of such endurance is Thelonious Monk. It took the great pianist about fifteen years of struggle, poverty, misunderstanding and denunciation before Monk’s ‘brilliant corners’ were finally part of jazz’ main route. A lesser known example of stubborn dedication is pianist Barry Harris.

Chasin'the_Bird_(Barry_Harris_album)

Personnel

Barry Harris (piano), Bob Cranshaw (bass), Clifford Jarvis (drums)

Recorded

on May 31 and August 23, 1962 at Plaza Sound Studios, NYC

Released

as RLP 345

Track listing

Side A:
Chasin’ The Bird
The Breeze And I
Around The Corner
Just As Though You Were Here
(Back Home Again In) Indiana
side B:
Stay Right With It
‘Round Midnight
Bish Bash Bosh
The Way You Look Tonight


Nowadays, the elderly Harris is an authority on the works of Monk and Bud Powell. In the seventies Harris lived alongside Monk at the residence of the legendary jazz mecenas, baroness “Pannonica” de Koenigswarter in New York and from the mid-fifties onwards fervently studied and interpreted Monk, Powell and Charlie Parker. It says a lot about his background. Believing bebop to be synonymous with jazz more than any other development, Harris made it his mission over the years to talk about its meaning and teach its theory to new generations in universities and music colleges around the world and in the Jazz Cultural Theatre Harris has founded in the eighties. It took some perseverance, and little financial rewards. But as friend and tenor saxophonist Jimmy Heath said a couple of years ago in The Guardian: “We started because we loved this music. Harris’ students pay very little because Barry is more concerned about spreading the music around than financial gain.”

Harmonically, Harris keeps in line with his examples Monk, Powell and Parker. His solo’s sound a lot like Powell, but are less frenzied and angered. Instead, Harris concentrated on a lithe yet occasional gutsy swing. An unusual bebop approach seldom found among second-generation colleagues. (Tommy Flanagan comes to mind) Chasin’ The Bird is Barry Harris’ sixth solo album and his fifth for Riverside. Furthermore, in 1962 Harris had built up an excellent resume as sideman with Cannonball Adderley, Donald Byrd, Johnny Griffin and Sonny Stitt. Nothwithstanding Harris’ faithful bebop tactics, there are touches in his style, notably his firm, bluesy left-hand accompanying of soloists, that he would use to effect thereafter in a number of hardbop sessions, chief among them Lee Morgan’s smash hit recording of The Sidewinder.

Chasin’ The Bird sports, among others, one Parker composition (Chasin’ The Bird), two standards famously injected with bebop logic by Parker (Indiana, The Way You Look Tonight), one classic Monk tune (‘Round Midnight) and a couple of bop originals by Harris himself.

On the title track Harris shows remarkable technique on the theme, creating elaborate voicings with both right and left hand running along swiftly. It sounds like Bach and it sounds like Bach-influenced Bud Powell. Harris’ solo has a great flow and is cleanly executed; he doesn’t play fast for fast’s-sake. Ballad Just As Though You Were Here is constructed of dizzying, cascading runs mixed with sweetly romantic statements. It’s followed up by Indiana. It goes at breakneck speed and Harris puts a lot of juice in a coherent solo.

Harris’ approach is controlled and is proof of a lot of thought. The Breeze And I, for instance, was constructed around a Latin rhythm without the common release into 4/4 time. It gives Harris the possibility to concentrate on and dig deeper into the percussive piano style he utilizes. Its percussive effect and relaxed but effective use of space reminds me of Duke Ellington’s combo work with Max Roach and Charles Mingus on the rare gem Money Jungle.

Harris uses a lot of Monkisms – rollicking scales and dissonance – on Monk’s ‘Round Midnight, but also creates mellow harmony. The Harris originals come off nicely. Bish Bash Bosh, particularly, is a contagious tune including a smart stop-time theme and repetitive, fiery sparks. The supporting group – bassist Bob Cranshaw and drummer Clifford Jarvis – really get into the groove here. They create a solid bottom as well as place sureshot accents throughout the album.

Bebop is not an easy music to perform meaningfully, let alone correctly. Barry Harris was well capable of handling bop’s legacy, and in the process embraced it with his own gentle and swinging flavour.

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The Cannonball Adderley Quintet Them Dirty Blues (Riverside 1960)

As a soloist in the Parker tradition, Cannonball Adderley took New York by storm in 1955, releasing solid albums for various labels in the following years. After a succesful stint of fourteen months with Miles Davis, contributing to quintessential albums such as Milestones and Kind Of Blue, at the end of 1959 Julian “Cannonball” Adderley really had got his act together band-wise. Brother Nat rejoined Cannonball after a variety of jobs, (J.J. Johnson, Woody Herman) landing safely in front of the red hot rhythm section of drummer Louis Hayes and bassist Sam Jones. The fruits of this renewed Adderley labor – The Cannonball Adderley Quintet In San Francisco and Them Dirty Blues – created quite a buzz through a succesful marriage between bebop and the soulful, funky side of jazz.

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Personnel

Cannonball Adderley (alto saxophone), Nat Adderley (trumpet), Bobby Timmons (piano A2, A4, B2), Barry Harris (piano A1, A3, B1, B3), Sam Jones (bass), Louis Hayes (drums)

Recorded

on February 1, 1960 at Reeves Sound Studio, NYC and March 29 at Ter-Mar Recording Studio, Chicago

Released

as RLP 1170 in 1960

Track listing

Side A:
Work Song
Dat Dere
Easy Living
Del Sasser
Side B:
Jeannine
Soon
Them Dirty Blues


The title track is indeed a low down and dirty blues, yet in spite of its juke joint charisma, as far as excitement is concerned stays a mile or so behind the three well-known classic cuts of the album, Work Song, Dat Dere and Duke Pearson’s Jeannine. Nat Adderley’s Work Song is one of the modern jazz gems. It still sounds fresh and fiery after all these years and through its imaginative theme and on-target breaks keeps reminding us of the Southern chain gang and the way it used song for dearly needed discipline and comfort.

Nat Adderley recorded his signature tune just a couple of weeks earlier, on January 27, 1960, on his Riverside album Work Song. It’s an unusual take including pizzicato cello and although Hayes and pianist Bobby Timmons are also present, as well as master guitar player Wes Montgomery, it lacks the fire and urgency of the Cannonball Adderley Quintet’s effort.

Bobby Timmons’ Dat Dere, a gospel-tinged beauty, has an interesting bridge after the stand-out solo’s of the brothers Adderley and Timmons, consisting of a few jumpin’ choruses and a return to the sassy melody via a variation on that melody; simultaneously soulful and intelligent. During the recording of Them Dirty Blues, Timmons returned to Art Blakey’s group. They recorded a typically swinging and robust Dat Dere for the album The Big Beat a couple of months later in 1960. And Bobby Timmons’ trio take on his first album as a leader, This Here Is Bobby Timmons, recorded in the time span between Adderley’s en Blakey’s sessions, conceivably is injected with even a bigger shot of gospel feeling.

Timmons’ replacement in Adderley’s group, Barry Harris, brings his bag of trademark, Bud Powell-influenced bop piano playing. He’s excellent. Timmons’ style, though, adds more colour to the group.

The swinging Jeannine by Duke Pearson possesses a relentless drive. Cannonball wraps original phrases around the theme and the build-up of his solo is immaculate. Nat Adderley plays fluently and ends his turn on a note of exuberant joy. Louis Hayes and Sam Jones are responsible for a big part for the smoothly running train that is Jeannine. Three years of experience for Hayes as drummer in Horace Silver’s outfit indelibly left its mark. Sam Jones shows that he is one of the foremost executioners of the walking bass. Jeannine ends on a bass chorus, which is only appropriate, bearing in mind Sam Jones’ down-home, solid bass sound.

Jones also contributes a composition. The melody of Del Sasser sounds like one of those instantly recognizable Gerry Mulligan tunes, but inserted with much heavier swing.

Amidst upheaval in the jazz world at the end of 1959 – Ornette Coleman and his melodic and harmonic inventions inspiring unheard of controversy, and as the title of his third release somewhat hyperbolically stated, shaping the jazz to come, John Coltrane breaking serious ground with landmark recording Giant Steps – the joyful, funky and smart Them Dirty Blues nestled in the hearts and minds of audiences and musicians, firmly reminding them of the roots of jazz. Arguably, this particular (brand-new brand of funky jazz from The Cannonball Adderley Quintet laid down an evenly valid groundwork for the future.

Sonny Stitt - 12!

Sonny Stitt 12! (Muse 1972)

Nowadays, to define jazz is a Gargantuan task. It could mean such a hell of a lot. (and therefore, arguably, a lot of the time nothing at all) Nowadays, Charlie Parker and Miles Davis have become figures of mythic proportions. But in 1972, when Sonny Stitt’s 12! was recorded, jazz was at a low ebb after two decades wherein it had been a face with two odd sides. On the one hand, jazz – de facto still an affair of the in-crowd, had experienced a relatively meagre amount of attention in the US and Europe (certainly as compared to other, more traditional art forms) On the other hand, jazz did certainly not suffer from a shortage of clubs and record labels, and therefore a steady supply of work for musicians, however marked by hardship those conditions might’ve been. Speaking of 1972, those ‘relative’ days of wine and roses were over. And Sonny Stitt, who’d been there all the way and one of the great American jazz men who defined the era, still wasn’t a household name. Probably because he didn’t generate copy because of o.d’ing in a back alley or having hanged himself on the nearest shower rod.

Sonny Stitt - 12!

Personnel

Sonny Stitt (tenor saxophone, alto saxophone), Barry Harris (piano), Sam Jones (bass), Louis Hayes (drums)

Recorded

on December 12, 1972 in NYC

Released

as MR 5006 in 1972

Track listing

Side A:
12!
I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good)
I Never Knew
Our Delight
Side B:
The Night Has A Thousand Eyes
Blues At The Tempo
Every Tub


Instead Sonny Stitt kept on playing, prolifically, relentlessly. In fact, 12! finds Stitt – 48 years old – in true form, fresh and energetic. Stitt may have been out of sight for a while and may have made a mediocre album here and there in the sixties, yet had a great run of recordings in the early seventies, delivering the outstanding works Tune Up, Constellation and 12!. People again had to pay attention.

The opener and title track immediately makes clear where Stitt’s been at. In a twelve-bar blues (hence the title) the experienced rhythm tandem of Louis Hayes and Sam Jones vigorously crank out the chord scheme and Stitt alternates between outrageously fast and cleanly executed bop runs and tasteful and shouting blues statements. He’s on alto saxophone here and is heard quoting See See Rider, a gesture pianist Barry Harris picks up on in his turn, playfully making a reference to the same classic blues song at the start of his well-balanced solo.

I Got It Bad, virtually synonymous to Johnny Hodges, is a fine ballad. The rest of 12! consists of another dose of blues and bebop. A highlight is I Never Knew; it starts with a jumpy vamp and thereafter, up-tempo and in 4/4 time, Stitt wraps up the story he’s been telling ever since battling with Gene Ammons in the forties. Barry Harris solidly flies through the changes. Harris’ declaration of independence has long since been sealed, yet, at the same time, on this tune and album, Harris throws in more than a bit of Bud Powell.

That should be enough to satisfy the customer, but there’s more where that came from. In the ultra-fast Every Tub, a piece that suggests that in bop there was injected more than a dose of jump ‘n’ jive, Stitt is stimulated to the core by the red hot rhythm section and launches into a high-voltage solo that remains interesting because of Stitt’s unlimited imagination. Stitt pulls out all the stops, ending a three minute immaculate bop course on a wailing note. He’s mean. This is the Sonny Stitt young lions were hesitant to stand shoulder to shoulder with on stage, the Sonny Stitt that on those occasions seemed to deliver the delirious, yet despite its madness utterly coherent message: Here comes Sonny!

On 12! Stitt is assisted by an almost equally experienced set of cats. Sam Jones played with about all of them; and one of his solo albums on Riverside being named Down Home gives you an idea of the bassist’s intentions. Jones and drummer Louis Hayes have been one of the most prominent and exciting rhythm sections in Cannonball Adderley’s Quintet from 1959 to 1964. (Jones played on more recordings of the quintet, notably on the classic Something Else) Barry Harris was a sought-after pianist and is well-known for contributing his soulful, robust style to Lee Morgan’s famous hit record The Sidewinder.

Sonny Stitt’s style pretty much stayed the same over the years, he wasn’t the ‘searching’-type. Stitt is what he is, an authority, an institution. In the fifties and sixties many set Stitt aside as a mere copyist and disciple of Charlie Parker, which was ridiculous. Of course, undeniably, more than in others, in Stitt one could easily hear Parker, sometimes as much as one could hear Parker in Parker. That is, on a superficial level. Stitt learned from that bunch of brilliant innovators that created the new music labeled ‘bebop’, which permeated jazz for years to come, and he played his part in it as well – influencing the likes of John Coltrane along the way. What Stitt was doing in the sixties and seventies was keeping the flame of bebop alive and in the process attributing to the sense that it still was alive, not only in Stitt, but also in the minds and works of the younger generation.

This is what Stitt was doing, year after year, mostly in classic quartet or quintet settings but other settings as well, authoritatively, occasionally a bit half-heartedly, but more often than not by blowing everybody’s brains out. In the manner that is immortalized, for instance, in the grooves of 12!.

You may or may not know all this or you may or may not have heard something along these lines before. It wouldn’t be surprising, since a batch of renowned critics such as Dan Morgenstern have been more than eager to praise or defend Stitt. I take it for granted because Sonny Stitt deserves it that the tale of his frequently unrecognised importance to the jazz heritage keeps being told; that the records are being kept straight.

YouTube: The Night Has A Thousand Eyes

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Carmell Jones Jay Hawk Talk (Prestige 1965)

At the time of recording his best solo effort, Jay Hawk Talk, trumpeter Carmell Jones was a member of Horace Silver’s group and as a consequence partook in creating Silver’s landmark recording Song For My Father. From that outfit he chose drummer Roger Humphries, whose solid beat underlines a splendid hard bop session.

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Personnel

Carmell Jones (trumpet), Jimmy Heath (tenor sax), Barry Harris (piano), George Tucker (bass), Roger Humphries (drums)

Recorded

on May 8, 1965 at RLA Sound Studio, NYC*

Released

as Prestige 7401 in 1965

Track listing

Side A:
Jay Hawk Talk
Willow Weep For Me
What Is This Thing Called Love
Side B:
Just In Time
Dance Of The Night Child
Beepdurple


Title track Jay Hawk Talk (penned by Jones, who hailed from Kansas, the Jayhawk State) is a stunner; an infectious vamp on par with such classics as Lee Morgan’s The Sidewinder (featuring, incidentally, Barry Harris) or Herbie Hancocks Watermelon Man. Jones’ hard swinging, staccato lines set the tone and Barry Harris showcases the merit of spaciousness in blues soloing. Jimmy Heath is at the top of his form, stacking one energetic run upon another, squeaking and honking in Tranesque fashion.

Other selections include uptempo warhorse What’s This Thing Called Love and ballad Willow Weep For Me; it might best be described as ‘robust lyricism’. I would pick Dance Of The Night Child, one of three Jones originals on this album, as another stand out tune.

Carmell Jones is not a name that regularly popped up in lists of top trumpet players. Mildly disappointing; Jay Hawk Talk proves he could compete with the best of them.

• There is some confusion as to whether Jay Hawk Talk is recorded in either Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs in New Jersey or Richard Alderson’s RLA Sound Studio on West 65th Street, Manhattan in New York City.

Sometimes Van Gelder Studio, where the main part of Prestige’s catalogue is recorded, was unavailable; Prestige then habitually turned to, among others, RLA Sound Studio. Most sources credit Rudy van Gelder; on the record cover, however, it is stated that recordings took place at RLA. Therefore, Flophouse Magazine sticks to that version.

YouTube: Jay Hawk Talk