Eddie Harris The In Sound (Atlantic 1966)

Folk hero in his prime.

Eddie Harris - The In Sound


Eddie Harris (tenor saxophone), Ray Codrington (trumpet A1, B1, B2), Cedar Walton (piano), Ron Carter (bass), Billy Higgins (drums)


on August 9 & 25 in New York City


as Atlantic 1448 in 1966

Track listing

Side A:
Love Theme From “The Sandpiper” (The Shadow Of Your Smile)
Born To Be Blue
Love For Sale
Side B:
Cryin’ Blues
‘S Wonderful
Freedom Jazz Dance

“El Cheapo.” That’s how Eddie Harris apparently called himself in the mid-1980’s. The tenor saxophonist was recording in the studio of engineer Max Bolleman in Monster in The Netherlands and Max was thinking that this was kind of weird. Harris introduced and continued to define himself as “El Cheapo.” His toying with various electronical devices, especially when broken down due to faulty wiring, was accompanied by self-deprecating remarks. “Oh yeah that figures, I’m ‘El Cheapo’”.

It is weird. Perhaps best ranked in the realm of irony? Chicago-born Eddie Harris started out with a big bang and enjoyed a major hit with his version of the theme song from the movie Exodus in 1960. A beautiful, breezy tune that showcased Harris’s upper register sounds of the tenor saxophone. He changed course in the mid-1960’s and followed his own path on the Atlantic label, recording a series of gritty avant-soul jazz records featuring amplified saxophone. Another unlikely hit was scored with the live Swiss Movement LP with pianist Les McCann in 1971. Okay, but to get back to irony, Harris subsequently released various surprising albums with r&b and vocals, among those the comedy album The Reason Why I’m Talking Shit. His best-known tune from the period is Eddie Who? Seriously funny tune. And ambiguous, mentioning various contributions of Harris to jazz. I remember when you used to play with Count Basie / That was Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis / My name is Eddie Harris / I’ve got one of your videos jack / That was Eddie Murphy / My name is Eddie Harris.

We haven’t forgotten you, Eddie. On the contrary. Which jazz musician has enjoyed two major hits in his career? He may have been under the radar in the latter part of his life. But various people have sung praise during his lifetime and since his death in 1996. Just a few examples, staying close to the premises of Flophouse Magazine. Tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander considered Harris’s solo on You’ll See on Jimmy Smith’s All The Way as the ‘best blues solo in F ever’. Swiss drummer Florian Arbenz recorded a different version of Harris’s Freedom Jazz Dance on every issue of his twelve-LP saga Conversations. Finally, Dutch alto saxophonist Benjamin Herman praised Harris courageous crossover mentality, mentioning Mean Greens as one his favorite records.

Freedom Jazz Dance was featured on The In Sound, released in 1966. It was the first record after his mainstream period on VeeJay and Columbia that demonstrated a will to experiment, albeit not yet with ‘electric sax’ or various amplified instruments. It was the first album that put Harris’s thorough understanding of Coltrane’s playing in the limelight. The LP featured Cedar Walton, Ron Carter and Billy Higgins. Major-league company, in its prime.

Evidently, Freedom Jazz Dance is the album’s high-profile and lasting composition. It was famously covered by Miles Davis on Miles Smiles in 1967. It is still marvelous and fresh. If only for the tremendous groove, kickstarted by the gritty counter beats of Carter, Walton and Higgins, which is strengthened by the churchy pattern of the tambourine. Carter’s booming sound and long notes ring through the breaks like school bells. On top of all this is the playful, Ornette Coleman-ish melody. It’s hypnotic, it’s like being at a party that grows more cheerful and intense by the hour, like being among people with uncommonly good, uplifting vibes, merging in a trance in a dance in a buffalo stance.

Eddie blows a fuse. It’s the climax of a record that started with Harvey Mandel’s The Shadow Of Your Smile from The Sandpiper, Harris was asked to add another movie theme song and says in the liner notes that he said why not, making it his own with his typically punchy, no-nonsense tone and down-to-earth, well-paced phrasing. He blows a meaty ballad and a roaring blues and goes Gershwin, everything vivid and accessible. He’s pushing the envelope but giving people their money’s worth. A wild man, a kind of Rufus Thomas on sax.

He goes Porter with the hard-hitting Love For Sale, marked by an overwhelming tornado of notes, as if the sound of the heavy tread of the heavy feet from the lonesome cop that introduces the nocturnal endeavors of the tale’s world-wary prostitute in the red light district is washed away by the frenzied footsteps of a dozen violent gnomes.

Eventful transitional record by El Cheapo. Nothing cheap about it, mind you.

George Coleman Amsterdam After Dark (Timeless 1979)

Leadership came late to George Coleman but he seized the opportunity with both hands.

George Coleman - Amsterdam After Dark


George Coleman (tenor saxophone), Hilton Ruiz (piano), Sam Jones (bas), Billy Higgins (drums)


on December 11 1978 at Sound Ideas Studio, New York City


as SJP 129 in 1979

Track listing

Side A:
Amsterdam After Dark
New Arrival
Side B:
Autumn In New York
Apache Dance
Blondie’s Waltz

Amsterdam after dark, like many virus-ridden cities around the globe, has been looking pretty deserted these months. But it’s looking up these days as well, certainly by day, as life resumes a bit of its ‘normal’ course, at least for now, and people start roaming the streets again under the Spring sun. Well-deserved but our capital city looked stunningly beautiful without the crowd. One of the personal advantages in this general situation of misfortune has been that my fate – more precisely part of my work – has send me on the road, or better said, on the canals, which unfolded themselves in front of me like a painting of Jacob van Campen or the meandering miracle lines of Parker’s Ornitology. Even better still, Amsterdam seems to feel pretty swell. A short while ago it resembled a tiger in the zoo sauntering psychotically from one end to the other end of the cage, being gazed at enthusiastically by passersby but forgotten shortly after. Now it’s a sloth, idly hanging in a tree, scratching his armpits and taking a deep sigh of relief.

The beauty of nocturnal life in Holland’s capital city presumably was on the mind of tenor saxophonist George Coleman, who recorded his second LP as a leader, Amsterdam After Dark, in New York City – born New Amsterdam – but had been a respected guest of the Dutch scene in the late seventies. Like many of the great American modern jazz musicians such as Don Byas, Dexter Gordon, Johnny Griffin, Benny Bailey, you name ‘m, Coleman was enamored of The Netherlands, which at the time had a very extensive infrastructure of little towns and clubs and an appreciative jazz audience.

Amsterdam After Dark was recorded in 1978, your a-typical Flophouse review year, in fact a ‘first’ and most likely a ‘last’, but the exception had to be made for George Coleman, who should’ve recorded as a leader much earlier in his career, but rather inexplicably, considering his talent and reputation, enjoyed a belated debut release in 1977. The Timeless label from The Netherlands, responsible for Amsterdam After Dark, released ’77’s Meditation, a daring duet with the Spanish pianist Tete Montoliu, recorded while on tour in Europe.

Obviously, Coleman is best known for his association with Miles Davis, who recruited the tenor saxophonist in 1963 as part of his stellar band of young lions – Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams. Coleman appeared on Seven Steps To Heaven and a series of stellar live albums, notably Four & More. Allegedly, Coleman was driven away by Tony Williams, who expressed the opinion that Coleman’s style lacked edge. I wonder then why did Williams agree with the inclusion of Coleman in the first place? By the way, Coleman later said that he wasn’t aware of Williams’ grudge and that it was the meager salary of the Miles Davis band that accounted for his notice. Fact is Coleman certainly was able to rip and roar around the Ring of Saturn but more than anything is a player of balance, substance and controlled fury and evidently couldn’t be bothered with the frenzied revolutionary musical spark of the late sixties, which probably accounts for his lack of exposure.

He’s one of those supreme musician’s musicians like Hank Mobley or Warne Marsh, which perhaps for the musicians concerned is more a curse than a blessing. He’s “Big G”, a passionate weight lifter, 85 years old and a staple of the New York City scene, a big influence on contemporary top guns like Eric Alexander and our own Ben van den Dungen. The Memphis-born saxophonist, childhood friend of the late Harold Mabern, Booker Little, Frank Strozier, Charles Lloyd and Hank Crawford, quite a bunch, recorded as recently as 2019, The Quartet, with Mabern, bassist Jon Webber and drummer Joe Farnsworth.

Coleman, who apprenticed with Ray Charles and B.B. King, came into prominence with Slide Hampton and Max Roach in the late 50’s. Apart from his work with Miles Davis, Coleman is admired for his contribution to Herbie Hancock’s Maiden Voyage, which was recorded, by the way, with Miles Davis staples Ron Carter and, hmmm… Tony Williams. Coleman furthermore divided his time between cutting edge and roots music, appearing on records by organists Jimmy Smith, Reuben Wilson, Charles Earland, Don Patterson, Brother Jack McDuff, Shirley Scott and Brian Charette. That’s a lot of groove, buster.

There’s a good groove on Amsterdam After Dark, but it’s of a different nature. It’s layered. There’s the Latin-ish rhythm of the title track, a rhythm that goes back to the classic Blue Note sessions of the early 60s, in which the drummer on this record, Billy Higgins, was predominantly involved. Of course, the Latin influence has pervaded jazz from the start. Jelly Roll Morton stated that every jazz tune needed a Spanish tinge. There’s the Coltrane Quartet-drone of New Arrival, courtesy of Higgins and bassist Sam Jones. The melodies are fantastic and the organic mingling of melody and rhythm – breaks, stop-time, straight swing – of Coleman’s Apache Dance is particularly exciting. Pianist Hilton Ruiz, in top form, warms to the challenge.

Coleman’s Amsterdam After Dark tune is a crash course in storytelling but dangerous to try at home, a precisely articulated development from a gravely introduction, sly staccato stabs against the beat and whirling sentences that sustain momentum throughout, interspersed with pungent circular breathing. The introduction is notable. The sandpaper semi-tone, reflective of the intense and secretive whispers that lovers are prone to utter, makes you highly curious of things to come. Simple but effective and definitely a masterstroke.

Dutch young lion Gideon Tazelaar, 22-year old tenor saxophonist who resides in New York most of the time and is influenced by George Coleman, told me a little story recently during an interview for another publication that is so typical of the attitude and energy of the ‘old guard’. As it happens, Tazelaar was introduced to Coleman backstage at club Smoke and since then has followed weekly lessons at ‘Big G”s place, marathon sessions of playing, talking turkey and philosophizing. One day Tazelaar was gigging at a little place with his friend Felix Moseholm and the preceding afternoon had asked Coleman to join forces. Yeah why not. Coleman had to pass as a result of a pain in his back. However, when the lights had turned low downtown, the 85-year old saxophonist finally did turn up, cain in his right hand, case in his left hand. And, as per se, played as elegantly and balanced as ever. Taking care of business.

One of the big leaders in his own right.

Dave Pike It’s Time For Dave Pike (Riverside 1961)

It’s time for Dave Pike, Charlie Parker on vibes.

Dave Pike - It's Time For Dave Pike


Dave Pike (vibraphone), Barry Harris (piano), Doug Watkins (bass), Billy Higgins (drums)


on January 30 & April 9, 1961 at Plaza Sound Studio, New York City


as RLP 360 in 1960

Track listing

Side A:
On Green Dolphin Street
It’s Time
Hot House
Side B:
Little Girl Blue
Tendin’ To Business

Again, Flophouse is drawn towards the turn of that decade, a pivotal, transitional period of jazz. It’s January 1961, the past year and a half the jazz world has been shaken up by Kind Of Blue, Giant Steps and the first Ornette Coleman albums. The back-to-the-roots concept of Horace Silver and the blues-drenched organ style of Jimmy Smith are in full swing. In label-terminology: modal jazz, post-bop, free jazz, hard bop and soul jazz. To be sure, labeling is artificial, perhaps in equal measure an invention devised for explanation and marketing. But jazz is not a file that you put in a grey locker. It is a gelling of personalities and innovations.

Keyword: interconnection. However, by 1961, the label left out above, ye old bebop, was by no means exhausted, even if this was what some critics were prone to conclude at the time. You’re just a Parker-ite was a condemnation suitable for half-talents but too easily casted upon excellent players. It is not to be taken too badly. The critics had to drive through the tornado of change. We have the big picture. And in the hands of the major league, bebop was, five years after the passing of Charlie Parker, fresh as a daisy, sprightly as a little lamb in Spring. We have a number of major league personalities on It’s Time For Dave Pike. First and foremost, the leader of the date, Dave Pike. Influenced by Milt Jackson, equally virtuosic and a great interpreter of the blues, Pike went a long way to gain popularity with bossa albums and the odd psychedelic pie – The Doors Of Perception – in the sixties and experimented with other genres in the early seventies. However, Pike eventually returned to his straight-ahead roots for the remainder of his career.

Pre-eminently, Barry Harris. One would be hard-pressed to find a session where the Detroit-born pianist was involved in that didn’t quite work out. He’s like a weathered soccer player that functions as both coach and captain in the field, blessed with instinct for the perfect pass and the mental helicopter view to balance the team’s tactics. Then there’s Reggie Workman, already a strong personality on bass and drummer Billy Higgins, who was becoming an influential hard bop drummer while also being engaged in Ornette Coleman’s free extensions of the jazz language.

Well-executed bop is far from the stereotypical nerve-wracking abracadabra. Pike’s group serves well as ambassador of bop’s beauty on It’s Time For Dave Pike. Pike’s clarity of line and urgent swing do justice to Charlie Parker’s Cheryl, Tadd Dameron’s Hot House, Miles Davis’s Solar and the title tune by Pike, It’s Time. The breakneck speed of Pike’s Forward is acted upon brilliantly by Pike and Harris, On Green Dolphin Street‘s fluency and Workman’s fat, bouncy bass lines catch the ear, while Pike slows down proceedings with a lush solo reading of Little Girl Blue.

The enchantment of Cheryl remains present after repeating spins. It flows remarkably gently along, like calming waves that touch the Atlantic shore… A floating, natural rhythm. Pike takes a dive, brightly alternates front crawl with the butterfly. The chords and lines of Harris work like glue, keeping together the multi-faceted phrases of Pike, trading suggestions of harmonic direction with the receptive Workman and Higgins. Harris sneaks a wonderful, exuberant glissando in his typically thoughtful solo tale. If it weren’t for soccer, Harris would’ve become a maestro pattisiér, staying close to the recipe of his father while putting all kinds of detailed cherries on top. Perfect combination with the round, ringing sound of Pike, who audibly hums along with his crystal clear lines. A human voice wrung out of metal, the mallets harbingers of bebop soul with immaculate timing.

Dutch pianist Rein de Graaff regularly played with Dave Pike, who was discussed during his interview with Flophouse a couple of years ago. As far as De Graaff is concerned, It’s Time For Dave Pike was nothing short of “Charlie Parker on vibes!”. Bop master De Graaff, who semi-retired recently, pointed towards a vibraphone that stood beside the baby grand in his music room and said, “that’s the vibraphone Pike played on It’s Time. He gave it to me as a gift.” His friend had passed away six months before our interview.

You could hear a pin drop.

Teddy Edwards Teddy’s Ready! (Contemporary 1960)

And we’re ready for Teddy. By 1960, tenor saxophonist and bebop pioneer Teddy Edwards had settled firmly into his role as prime straightforward player and delivered the excellent Teddy’s Ready for the Contemporary label on the West Coast.

Teddy Edwards - Teddy's Ready!


Teddy Edwards (tenor saxophone), Joe Castro (piano), Leroy Vinegar (bass), Billy Higgins (drums)


on August 17, 1960 at Contemporary Studio, Los Angeles


as Contemporary 3583 in 1960

Track listing

Side A:
Blues In G
Scrapple From The Apple
What’s New
You Name It
Side B:
Take The “A” Train
The Sermon
Higgins’ Hideaway

The West Coast, Los Angeles to be precise, is where the Jackson, Mississippi-born Edwards had settled in the mid-40s. Edwards made his mark with the 1947 The Duel recordings with Dexter Gordon. Like Gordon, who also lived west at that time, and Hampton Hawes, Howard McGhee, Elmo Hope, Edwards stood out as the edgy, hard-driving player among the cool Californian musicians. Around 1960, Edwards was on a hot streak. Preceding Teddy’s Ready, which was recorded on August 17, 1960, Edwards released It’s About Time, a killer session with the greasy Les McCann trio, and Sunset Eyes, a fine date that boasts the title track, the Edwards composition that became somewhat of an instant standard. Both albums were released on Pacific Jazz. Subsequent recordings were Together Again, a reunion with bop mate, trumpeter Howard McGhee and Good Gravy, released in 1961, which also comes highly recommended.

Teddy’s Ready (Together Again and Good Gravy as well) was released on Contemporary. So in comes engineer Roy DuNann, lesser-known than Rudy van Gelder but equally revered by diehard classic jazz fans, with a crisp and clear sound canvas, punchy overall group sound, and precisely audible details. A kind of lightweight vibe that totally brings out the group’s swing, the way a master stylist makes prettier a pretty girl, not with theatrics but with subtle shadings of the beaut’s personality. This group is swinging subtly but driving. It consists of: Billy Higgins, equally at home in hard bop and – he was part of Ornette Coleman’s group – free jazz surroundings, Leroy Vinegar, in-demand all-rounder with an uncanny ability to walk and Joe Castro, relatively unknown, talented West Coast-based pianist who also made the sought-after Groove Funk Soul album on Atlantic with this Teddy Edwards group.

Who needs another horn? Not me. Not Teddy. It is, in fact, a blessing that Edwards carries Teddy’s Ready (and Good Gravy) on his own. No distractors, just Teddy Edwards, flying on the wings of the trio’s nightingale, focusing on the smoky story to tell. The voluptuous, slightly husky sound of Edwards is the tenor sax tone equivalent of the Montechristo #2 cigar, contraband from Cuba, fired up with a rusty Zip lighter. There is a minimum of strain between his lips, facial muscles, breathing, and the sound that emanates from his horn. Like every serious jazz musician, Edwards must’ve worked hard, I mean, hard, at ending up with a personal tone yet, like every great jazz musician, the completely natural flow suggests it was a cinch. Why do we rarely hear tones like these, these days? Perhaps because jazz has changed along the lines that the world has changed? It’s flophouse vs zero tolerance, Bull Durham vs e-cigs. Obviously, more to the point, the classic saxophonists acquired certain techniques that enabled them to override the buzz of the crowd in the dingy jazz club, which carried no amplification.

Edwards, the bop innovator, who has faultless timing, contagious pace and a relaxed fury that is apple pie for the ear, is a bluesman at heart. The blues oozes out of him during excellent renditions of his catchy, stop-time composition You Name It and the sumptuous, mid-tempo blues line of Hampton Hawes, The Sermon. That song conjures up the imagery of gin mills and moonshine passed on at Saturday night fish fries, miles and miles of cotton fields, the suffering and cathartic wailing of the black chain gang, and what surely was a reality to Edwards still in 1960, degrading redneck remarks that fill the heart with anger one does not really want to unleash except through blowing clean and hard.

His melancholic reading of What’s New suggests that Edwards knew by heart the lyrics to that song about a meeting of former lovers. Another Bull Durham vs e-cigs situation and a lesson for contemporary players: know your lyrics. And in the first place, get down those ‘standards’ anyway before exploring new vistas. Solid ground. So much for Prof. Durham’s class. Now get outta here and blow!

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


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)


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


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.

Jackie McLean A Fickle Sonance (Blue Note 1961)

If Jackie McLean’s career would’ve ended right after recording A Fickle Sonance, people would certainly have pointed out the alto saxophonist’s development from one of Charlie Parker’s most proficient disciples to an alto saxophonist that made his mark with a series of excellent Blue Note recordings from 1959 to 1961, employing his highly emotional, piercing sound: already a great legacy. However, McLean raised the bars considerably the following years, breaking and entering hard bop’s living quarters with a series of vanguard recordings in cooperation with avantgardists like Ornette Coleman.

Jackie McLean - A Fickle Sonance


Jackie McLean (alto saxophone), Tommy Turrentine (trumpet), Sonny Clark (piano), Butch Warren (bass), Billy Higgins (drums)


on October 26, 1961 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ


as BLP 4089 in 1961

Track listing

Side A:
Five Will Get You Ten
Side B:
A Fickle Sonance

Fickle means ‘liable to sudden unpredictable change’. Sonance is an archaic synonym of ‘sound’. By calling his album and title track thus, McLean reveals to be a conscious commentator of the dual nature of both his own sound and style and jazz in general, which is all about surprise.

All Music states that ‘the playing’ on A Fickle Sonance ‘remained in a swinging, blues-oriented style, showing no hints of the direction his music was about to take’. Not entirely accurate. The title track certainly foreshadows McLean’s modal jazz. McLean’s solo in A Fickle Sonance borders on the abstract.

The angular quality of McLean’s lines and his probing, biting tone set McLean apart from his contemporaries. He’s a passionate player with a dark-hued sound, involving macabre, if occasionally frivolous overtones. A fickle sonance for sure. The way McLean lends substance to ballads was striking as well. McLean’s powerful statements on his original composition Subdued suggest a passionate singing voice.

Tunes like Sonny Clark’s Sundu, Tommy Turrentine’s Enitnerrut (Turrentine spelt backwards) and Butch Warren’s Lost fit into the ‘codified’ Blue Note message: deceptively effortless hard bop tracks from a rhythm section that would work together two weeks later on Sonny Clark’s splendid swan song as a leader, Leapin’ And Lopin’ on November 13, 1961.

Sonny Clark’s Five Will Get You Ten is more unusual. It’s a rip-off from one of Thelonious Monk’s unreleased cuts, Two Timer, that Clark presumably overheard Monk play and plagiarized in order to raise quick cash for his increasingly alarmous drug habits. (Monk never found out, but undoubtly would’ve forgiven the younger Clark, who was taken under his wings by Monk for quite a while at the famous jazz mecenas Nica “Pannonica” de Koenigwarter’s residence) Clark’s title arguably alludes to the drug scene; ‘five’ would be cash, ‘ten’ would be a certain amount of dope.

Who wouldn’t kill for an unreleased Monk track? It’s an alluring tune with a bridge that resembles Bemsha Swing and McLean jumps at the opportunity, alternating note-bending wails that stretch the boundaries of the melody line with rapid glissandos. Monk’s tune is fitting, since in A Fickle Sonance’s set of tunes, air and spaceousness are dominant features. To create a relaxed atmosphere while operating on a strikingly emotional as well as a highly proficient level is no small feat of Jackie McLean’s outstanding quintet.

Sonny Clark Leapin’ And Lopin’ (Blue Note 1961)

Find me a bummer moment in Sonny Clark’s discography and I’ll buy you a drink. But I won’t because it’s a fruitless search. One of the essential hard bop pianists, Clark had taste written all over him. His swan song as a leader, Leapin’ And Lopin’, includes some of his most enduring tunes and classiest performances.

Sonny Clark - Leapin' And Lopin'


Sonny Clark (piano), Tommy Turrentine (trumpet), Charlie Rouse (tenor saxophone), Ike Quebec (tenor saxophone A2), Butch Warren (bass), Billy Higgins (drums)


on November 13, 1961 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey


as BLP 4091 in 1962

Track listing

Side A
Something Special
Deep In A Dream
Melody In C
Side B
Eric Walks
Midnight Mambo

Does it top 1958’s Cool Struttin’, Clark’s best known (and best-selling) album? A foolish question, perhaps. Brilliant Clark moments weren’t reserved for his leadership dates only but occured just as frequently when he appeared as a sideman for the myriad of fellow legends of the day, particularly for Blue Note, where Clark was a more than welcome pianist in his heyday of 1958-62.

Take his tremendously swinging and inspiring accompaniment and soloing on Dexter Gordon’s masterpieces Go and A Swingin’ Affair. Or that fabulous solo on Airegin from the sessions that would be released posthumously (for both of them) as Grant Green albums Nigeria (Airegin spelled backwards) and Oleo, wherein both musicians really get down with it. It’s a typical Clark mix of elegance and raw power.

I guess it’s this mix, steeped in the blues, that has kept luring musicians and incrowd into the Sonny Clark realm both during his lifetime and for decades thereafter. Clark, one of the most infamous jazz casualties, died from an overdose in New York City on January 13, 1963. To name but a few admirers, note that Bill Evans composed a touching tribute to Clark in 1963, the anagram NYC’S No Lark, and that John Zorn recorded Clark or ‘Clarkian’ tunes for years. 1985’s Voodoo is a well-known album of Zorn’s The Sonny Clark Memorial Quartet.

Also very attractive are Clark’s long, fluent lines that often stretch over bars extensively. Like those your hear in Leapin’ And Lopin’s third cut, Melody For C, a shuffle that swings both smoothly and intensely, all the while showing enough eccentricity to make you laugh and leap sideways.

In the uptempo Something Special, a very attractive melody that, not unlike a Horace Silver tune, benefits from effective use of stop time, Clark leaves plenty of space as an accompanist for Charlie Rouse and Tommy Turrentine to freely swing their way through the changes. The manner in which Rouse starts his solo, building on the melody, suggests the influence of Thelonious Monk, whose outfit Rouse had been part of since 1959. Voodoo is jazzified blues at its very best: intricate enhancements on the blues form coupled with heartfelt blowing. It’s the one track that would fit right in on Cool Struttin’.

The abovementioned tracks are accompanied by Deep Dream, a ballad that combines wry wit with pathos (including Ike Quebec’s breathy tenor), bassist Butch Warren’s quirky, intricate Eric Walks and Midnight Mambo, a buoyant Tommy Turrentine composition. They round off the most diverse album in the brilliant pianist’s book.