Freddie Roach - Good Move

Freddie Roach Good Move (Blue Note 1964)

Checkmate: there’s no escaping the dynamic and tasteful organ playing of Freddie Roach.

Freddie Roach - Good Move


Freddie Roach (organ), Blue Mitchell (trumpet A2, A4, B1 & B3), Hank Mobley (tenor saxophone (A2, A4, B1 & B3), Eddie Wright (guitar), Clarence Johnston (drums)


on November 29 & December 9, 1963 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey


as BST 84158 in 1964

Track listing

Side A:
It Ain’t Necessarily So
When Malinda Sings
Wine, Wine, Wine
Side B:
On Our Way Up
‘T Ain’t What You Do (It’s The Way You Do It)
Lots Of Lovely Love
I.Q. Blues

Freddie Roach is remembered primarily by his run of LP’s on Blue Note. It was a fruitful period for the New York City-born organist. His stint of leadership dates in the early and mid-sixties, five in all, was bookended by guest appearances on Ike Quebec records in 1960 and Donald Byrd’s I’m Trying To Get Home in 1965. Jimmy Smith’s popularity was impossible to beat – The Boss had traded Blue Note for Verve in 1963 – but the Afro-American community was enamored by Roach and his singles did well on the jukebox charts, especially Mo’ Greens Please. His albums Down To Earth, Mo’ Greens Please, Good Move, Brown Sugar are perennial favorites.

Pure B3 ‘artiste’, Roach handled his gritty and greasy repertory with care, peppering it with unmistakable gospel feeling while moving his lines with elegance and a canny sense of dynamics. Although Blue Note Roach is the apex of his career, Prestige Roach – he recorded three albums for Bob Weinstock’s label in 1966/67 – is a noteworthy hodgepodge of soul jazz and Latin-tinged jazz, finished off with quirky spiritual desserts. The title of Avatar from The Soul Book speaks volumes.

Attracted to philosophy and esoterica all along, Roach was widely known among colleagues as an intellectual and playwright, even going as far as presenting plays in his garage at home in Newark. In fact, the sleeve of The Soul Book shows Roach holding one of his plays in his hands. He did bit parts in movies and relocated to Los Angeles towards the end of his life, reportedly pursuing a career in theatre. Good move? Well, Roach passed away in California in 1980 at the age of 49. But you only live once and Mr. Roach was the opposite of 9 to 5, living creative life to the full.

Speaking about good moves, Good Move is prime Roach (considering the sleeve, likely prime Roach as a chess player as well), a subtle shift away from the chitlin’ jazz of Mo’ Greens Please and stepping stone to the burned rubber of Brown Sugar. Accompanied by drummer Clarence Johnston, guitarist Eddie Wright and major-league label mates, trumpeter Blue Mitchell and tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley, Roach is in his element. The tunes flow elegantly, the band keeps a solid groove and there’s a unity of sound and purpose that makes these Blue Note’s Hammond heart food of the highest order, Grandma’s unforgettable apple pie putting the corner bakery to shame.

It is the second appearance of Mobley on an organ record, the first being Jimmy Smith’s A Date With Jimmy Smith Vol 1 & 2, the last being Grant Green’s I Want To Hold Your Hand with Larry Young, great company and why not merging with the hot tamales of the B3, Hank Mobley cooks and his sophisticated lines blend nicely with the artful grease of giants as Smith, Young and Roach, even if they hardly represent a Mobley career high. The other hard bop champion, Blue Mitchell, snappy here as a fox, buoyant and bluesy, was an organ combo regular. He recorded with Jimmy Smith, Jimmy McGriff, Richard “Groove” Holmes, Big John Patton and preceding Good Move flexed his muscles with Brother Jack McDuff on Harold Vick’s Steppin’ Out. Such a great bunch and, eventually, such a sad loss, Mitchell perishing in 1979 at age 49, Roach passing away in 1980 at age 49 and Mobley steppin’ on a rainbow in 1986 at the age of 55, destitute, burned out, sick and tired. But for many decades now living like a torch light in the hearts of jazz fans around the globe.

The beauty is in the approach of Roach, who commands the diverse components of the organ – generally acknowledged as an “awkward” instrument at heart, a beast that’s hard to tame – like a puppeteer, shifting sounds ever so slightly, tapping the pedals and the bass keyboard notes with effortless swing and letting ideas flow with logic. This man’s got class. He loves to swing on the shuffle beat, as is evidenced by Roach originals as On Our Way Up, Lots Of Lovely Love and Wine, Wine, Wine, which alludes as much to the party songs of Wynonie Harris, Floyd Dixon or Smiley Lewis than to the sermons of the preacher at the downtown church. All of them use smashed grapes to great effect one way or the other.

Varied tonal colors mark the jaunty ‘T Ain’t What You Do (It’s The Way That You Do It) and his succinct ballad reading of Erroll Garner’s Pastel. Roach’s workout of It Ain’t Necessarily So moves from waltz to 4/4 and finds Roach at the zenith of his ability to tell a short story. We’re just pawns in his hip and tasteful game.

Julius Watkins Sextet Vol. 2

Julius Watkins Julius Watkins Sextet (Blue Note 1954/55)

Nobody swung on the French horn like Julius Watkins.

Julius Watkins Sextet - Vol 1

Julius Watkins Sextet Vol. 2


Julius Watkins (French horn), Frank Foster (tenor saxophone 1-4), Hank Mobley (tenor saxophone (5, 7-9), George Butcher (piano 1, 2 & 4), Duke Jordan (5-9), Perry Lopez (guitar 1-4, 6, 8 & 9), Oscar Pettiford (bass), Kenny Clarke (drums 1-4), Art Blakey (5-9)


on August 8, 1954 and March 20, 1955 at Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, New Jersey


as BLP 5053 in 1954 and BLP 5064 in 1955

Track listing

Linda Delia
I Have Known
Garden Delights
Julie Ann
Sparkling Burgundy
B And B

Jazz soloists on the ‘awkward’ French horn are scarcer than the four-leaf clover. The two biggies and pioneers of modern jazz are Julius Watkins and David Amram. Amram came on the scene at the legendary Five Spot Café in The Bowery in New York City in the mid-fifties and at 90-years old looks back on a career as indigenous player and composer in jazz and popular music. Julius Watkins, born in 1921, unfortunately only went as far as 1977. Regardless, the Detroit-born French horn player must’ve looked back with pride. His legacy is impressive.

Need a French horn? Call Julius. He’s omnipresent as soloist and part of big ensembles. To give you an idea, Watkins was associated with Milt Jackson, Oscar Pettiford, Thelonious Monk (Monk, Thelonious Monk & Sonny Rollins), Donald Byrd, Quincy Jones, Miles Davis (Porgy & Bess), Gil Evans, Dizzy Gillespie, Clark Terry, Randy Weston, John Coltrane (Africa/Brass), Johnny Griffin, Tadd Dameron, Art Blakey, Charles Mingus, The Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra and McCoy Tyner. Watkins co-led The Jazz Modes with tenor saxophonist Charles Rouse from 1956 till ’59.

Isn’t it wonderful how jazz musicians managed to incorporate such oblique European instruments as French horn? I love the sound of the instrument, bittersweet, silk and satin, like thin air, like the voices of angels that have slept off their wining and dining. The horn is lovely supportive to big ensembles, providing a soft landing for the crackling brass of trumpet and trombone. It was like wax in the hands of Julius Watkins. His fluidity on the instrument was virtually unparalleled. His sound is rich and flexible, varying from cushion-soft reveries to tart calls to arms. You hear those stories about how classical music pros from the big symphonic orchestras were stunned to hear what kind of unbelievable stuff legends like Louis Armstrong coaxed from their instruments and imagine many will have been fascinated by the efforts of Julius Watkins. See what Julius was able to do with the horn in this YouTube excerpt of his hand-muted solo with Quincy Jones in 1960. Fantastic.

Watkins recorded his leadership debut on Blue Note in 1954 and ’55, two 10 inch records that were belatedly repackaged on CD in 1995. At least to my knowledge Blue Note did not re-release the sessions on the new 12 inch format soon afterwards, as it usually did with their 10inch platters like the New Stars New Sounds LP’s. Am I right? Anyway, the sessions consisted of top-notch hard bop with the cream of the crop, the first session featuring tenor saxophonist Frank Foster and drummer Kenny Clarke, the second session featuring Hank Mobley, pianist Duke Jordan and drummer Art Blakey, all of them underlined by bassist Oscar Pettiford. Pleasant surprises are provided by guitarist Perry Lopez and pianist George Butcher.

The highlight of the first session is Linda Delia, which takes us down to Mexico on a beat that’s as lively and fulfilling as the smile of a baby, engendered by Kenny Clarke’s masterful finger strokes and rolls, and includes a brilliant, clattering entrance by Watkins, who sustains the jubilant feeling with a diversity of sunny colors. Guitarist Perry Lopez, a kind of mix between Kenny Burrell and Jimmy Raney throughout the two sessions, is especially cool. All-rounder Frank Foster is another asset of this top-notch BLP 5053 record.

BLP 5064 beats this to the punch, though, Blakey unusually forceful with the brushes, Mobley’s smooth sound blending particularly well with Watkins’s sweet and sour stories, Duke Jordan laying down some of his most urgent and pleasantly bouncy lines of that era. Here, amongst the sultry Garden Delight and an early version of Jordan’s instant classic Jordu, the sprightly boppish Sparkling Burgundy stands out, a title that couldn’t have been more appropriate. This band pops the cork with some bubbly, captured beautifully by the legendary Rudy van Gelder, at that time still working from the living room of his parents in Hackensack, New Jersey.

Killer sleeve of Vol.2 as well.

The Triumph Of Dehumanisation


Blogger Richard Capeless a.k.a. Deep Groove Mono adds an exciting chapter to the book of publications on the legendary engineer Rudy van Gelder. Capeless recently launched the website RVG Legacy, preserving the work of Van Gelder with background stories, equipment analysis and (previously unreleased) pictures in cooperation with the Van Gelder Estate and Van Gelder Studio. See here.

Dubbed ‘an equally important band member’ by the famed Dutch engineer Max Bolleman, it pays to look at the role of the sound engineer in jazz, since it is his work that shapes our appreciation of the artist. Who wants to listen if Freddie Hubbard is buried in a mix of loud cymbals and muffled piano? That’s like eating chili con carne and discovering that the beans have been substituted by gumballs.

A pioneer in close miking and reverberation technique, “The RVG Sound” is synonymous with immediacy, space and a distinctive ‘thick’ piano sound. He made the musicians sound as if they were playing live in your room. In cooperation with Blue Note’s Alfred Lion, Van Gelder created a unique level of authenticity and in effect – almost all of the Blue Note musicians were black – a hard-core and unsurpassed black aesthetic in the world of modern music. Lest we forget, Van Gelder was the engineer on many more labels, including CTI, Impulse, Prestige, Savoy, Regent and Verve and recorded Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Hank Mobley, Lee Morgan, Art Blakey and Sonny Rollins among many, many others.

Van Gelder, as it goes with ‘artists’, met with critique, notably from Charles Mingus, who said that his uniform sound deprived the musicians of their particular character. But if “The RVG Sound” is indeed considered uniform, it is a triumph of dehumanisation that meets with worldwide enjoyment to this day, and many days to come. Now and then, one hears the quibble that too much attention is focused on Van Gelder at the expense of his contemporaries. Indeed, there have been equally extraordinary engineers, for instance Roy DuNann and Val Valentin, but the truly innovative genius of Van Gelder is beyond dispute.


Horace Silver Quintet/Sextet The Jody Grind (Blue Note 1967)

The Jody Grind is the last great record of Horace Silver on Blue Note.



Horace Silver (piano), Woody Shaw (trumpet), Tyrone Washington (tenor saxophone), James Spaulding (alto saxophone A2, B1 & B2, flute A2), Larry Ridley (bass), Roger Humphries (drums)


on November 2 & 23, 1966 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey


as BST 84250 in 1967

Track listing

Side A:
The Jody Grind
Mary Lou
Mexican Hip Dance
Side B:
Blue Silver
Grease Piece

It’s so damn hard to choose between favorite records and bands of the Horace Silver Quintet. His pioneering hard bop group “The Jazz Messengers” of the Horace Silver Quintet featuring Kenny Dorham, Hank Mobley, Doug Watkins and Art Blakey is high on top of the list. Thumps up too for Silver’s group including Blue Mitchell, Junior Cook, Eugene Taylor and Louis Hayes/Roy Brooks. Blowin’ The Blues Away, Horace-Scope, Doin’ The Thing and Song For My Father are generally considered perfect showcases of a leader and band at the top of its game. But what about Further Explorations with Art Farmer and Clifford Jordan… That record may represent the complete synthesis of Silver’s soulful style and clever writing.

Then there’s The Jody Grind. The sleeve, always a principal factor of the charm of Blue Note albums, isn’t very promising. I’m not sure what Horace is thinking, chin resting on his hand, smiling mildly. Hey baby, what’s up with your hands? Headache? Swallowed a blue note? And what’s with the lady on the right? Looking with overrated expertise at an overrated modern painting? I’m not sure what label boss Alfred Lion was thinking. Obviously, designer Reid Miles was out to lunch. And two white birds on one sleeve was a rarity. Up until then, Blue Note had presented the blackest of black jazz, from the music, art work to the market place. Obviously, Blue Note wanted a little bite from the big white cake as well. Anyhow, The Grind cover is square, a far cry from the hip designs with the sassy ladies on Freddie Roach’s Brown Sugar, John Patton’s Oh Baby and Jimmy McGriff’s Electric Funk. Presumably, covers depicting attractive women were good sellers in general, regardless of color, but these swinging sleeves were unsurpassable!


To be sure, by the tail end of 1966, Lion was about the leave the company, heading for Mexico and a career as a ‘pensionado’ photographer. In 1967, Blue Note was taken over by Liberty. However, Silver and co-boss Francis Wolff were loyal to each other. The pianist recorded for Blue Note until 1980.

Other than the sleeve, The Jody Grind is a killer. The tunes may not always possess the typical intricate devices of the Silver Stew such as secondary motives and extended chord progressions. But the tunes are infectious and plainly irresistible. The Jody Grind may be a perspicuous attempt at a new Sidewinder hit, but it is a lively boogaloo, Dimples is a smooth and soulful waltz, Blue Silver a tacky and deep-rooted slow blues, Mary Lou a Latin-tinged beauty, Mexican Hip Dance a first-class hip shaker and Grease Piece an overwhelming romp.

Furthermore, the band is crazy. 21-year old Woody Shaw, three years in the major league game since his contribution to Eric Dolphy’s Iron Man and Larry Young’s eponymous Unity, is as mature as few 40-somethings will ever be, his linear development excellent, richness of ideas striking, hotness of his delivery upsetting. Tenor saxophonist Tyrone Washington has similar fire, he’s an edgy player one might place somewhere between Joe Henderson and Booker Ervin and, if perhaps not of equal repute, whose bended, wailin’ notes add considerable flavor to his storytelling. James Spaulding contributes flute, but his moment of glory is a belligerent Coltrane-esque solo on alto sax during Grease Piece.

The secret of The Jody Grind’s succes, to me, is drummer Roger Humphries. Kudos to Humphries, who was also on Song For My Father, and who is a fantastic extension of Louis Hayes, demonstrating a similar mix of accompanying tricks and punch. Punch? Mayhem! During Grease Piece, it is as if Humphries has swallowed two Art Blakey pills and drank one glass of Elvin Jones.

Silver added a number of trademark shout choruses that considerably heighten the tension. His solo of Blue Silver is a marvel of economy and soul.

As you may have noticed, The Jody Grind goes to my head. Winner!

Pete La Roca - Basra

Pete La Roca Basra (Blue Note 1965)

Drummer Pete La Roca delved into exotic modality on his much-admired 1965 record on Blue Note, Basra.

Pete La Roca - Basra


Pete La Roca (drums), Joe Henderson (tenor saxophone), Steve Kuhn (piano), Steve Swallow (bass)


on May 19, 1965 at Rudy van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey


as RLP 12-232 in 1956

Track listing

Side A:
Tears Come From Heaven
Side B:
Lazy Afternoon

If I say Pete La Roca you will most likely answer with: Sonny Rollins, Live At The Village Vanguard. Small wonder, since it is his feature on Rollins’ game-changing LP that put him squarely in the vision of the night binoculars of serious jazz fans. Bird watchers may constitute a fanatical breed, blessed with encyclopedic knowledge, waiting patiently in their cabin in the woods. But serious jazz fans are a passionate lot as well. They spot a gem from miles away and will discuss the merit of the “birds” that play on the disc much in the manner of monks pondering over the words of Saint Augustine.

La Roca shared sideman duties on Village Vanguard with the developing genius of Elvin Jones. As the sole accompanist, however, there are plenty of top-notch features that serious jazz fans cough up effortlessy. He played on, for instance, George Russell’s cutting-edge The Outer View, Joe Henderson’s hard bop winner Page One, Jaki Byard’s far-out Hi-Fly, Slide Hampton’s soulful Sister Salvation and Art Farmer’s folk song gem To Sweden With Love.

La Roca recorded only three albums as a leader: Basra, Turkish Women At The Bath (Douglas 1967) and Swingtime (Blue Note 1997). La Roca – born Pete Sims, the pseudonym was made up after years of playing in Latin bands in his birthplace of New York City – was a taxi driver in the 70s. It’s a disgrace that fine black artists as La Roca had to resort to day (or night) jobs, however honorable the menial activity may be. But it must’ve been one swinging cab. La Roca subsequently attended law school at New York University and returned to jazz in 1979. He passed away in 2012 at age 74.

Basra and Turkish Women At The Bath are highly collectible artifacts, acclaimed albums for the wildly ecstatic ‘bird watchers’. With sound reason, it’s a hell of a couple of albums. Turkish Women is impressive experiment, terse complex groove and abstract painting, as much colored perhaps by Chick Corea than LaRoca, though, it must be said, La Roca wrote all originals. (It was released by Muse under Corea’s name as Bliss, which La Roca successfully fought in court) Basra is progressive mid-sixties Blue Note, on par with the records of Bobby Hutcherson, Herbie Hancock, Jackie McLean, adventurous with a keen sense of the past. It’s a sleeper for the general audience, a winner for the birdwatchers. And it features a number of interesting feathered creatures: tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson, pianist Steve Kuhn and bassist Steve Swallow.

Both Malaguena and Basra are one-chord (Spanish and Eastern-flavored) drones resting on the fantastic, loose-but-solid drumming from La Roca. Either the man’s got a hip approach to the snare drum or his engineers were in continuous top form, but I’ve heard a lot a awesome drums sounds from La Roca. His snare drum is the Crisp of Crispiness, a healthy slap in the face, cocky like a 42nd Street hustler and wide like the open spaces of East Texas. Joe Henderson is comfortable with the exotic groove, his patiently timed clusters of grunts, growls and bellows on the drone admirable. Henderson whirls lines around the chord like the way a snake charmer directs the movement of the reptile on the streets of Manila or Punjab. He really creeps deep into the vessels of the groove. Candu is loose-jointed blues, Tears Come From Heaven a crisp modal romp, Eiderdown a dark-hued Wayne Shorter-ish melody, Lazy Afternoon a piece of slow-moving ambience with a leading role for the impressionistic Steve Kuhn.

Sometimes the rebellious La Roca hits his polyrhythm as hard and wide as Elvin. Can you imagine?! It’s that kind of excellence and power driving Basra, coupled with the Rudy van Gelder touch, that has for many years now caused the bird watchers to drop their binoculars in awe.

Wayne Shorter - Night Dreamer

Wayne Shorter Night Dreamer (Blue Note 1964)

After all these years, the dark-hued adventures of Wayne Shorter on Blue Note have lost nothing of their mysterious charm.

Wayne Shorter - Night Dreamer


Wayne Shorter (tenor saxophone), Lee Morgan (trumpet), McCoy Tyner (piano), Reggie Workman (bass), Elvin Jones (drums)


on April 29, 1964 at Rudy van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey


as BLP 4173 in 1964

Track listing

Side A:
Night Dreamer
Oriental Folk Song
Side B:
Black Nile
Charchoal Blues

Dutch bassist and jazz scholar Hans Mantel once asked Wayne Shorter if he was conscious of creating stone-cold classic albums on Blue Note in the sixties. The tenor and soprano saxophonist’s answer was: ‘What you young cats must realize is, is that we made our records to pay our rent!’

Gold coins from the Byzantine period fade into insignificance compared with the run of Blue Note platters by Wayne Shorter. The tenor and soprano saxophonist, best known by the general public for his role in the Second Great Quintet of Miles Davis and fusion group Weather Report, still going strong today as ‘the greatest living jazz composer’, started off his stretch on Blue Note as a leader with Night Dreamer in 1964. It preceded the perennial favorites and classic albums Juju and Speak No Evil.

Significantly, Shorter’s debuting run of albums on VeeJay in the late fifties and early sixties consisted almost solely of original compositions. As part of Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers from 1959-64, Shorter also contributed a slew of fresh, exciting tunes. Furthermore, the Newark, New Jersey-born saxophonist showed his prowess as an original tenor man. As the years went by in the acclaimed and propulsive Blakey outfit, Shorter’s solo’s grew more explorative and explosive. His roaring tale during the rousing modal Shorter composition Free For All is plain crazy. A raid of hand granates kicked back by Blakey in equally tempestuous fashion. Shorter carried over that vibe to Night Dreamer, drawing on the energy of another legendary drummer, Elvin Jones. He stretches his limits song-wise, presenting a set of haunting compositions that are unusually structured but nevertheless flow effortlessly like the meandering side branches of the Euphrates or Tigris.

Where to begin? Any song writer would’ve been happy to deliver the moody melodies of Oriental Folk Song and Virgo. However, the key pieces are Night Dreamer, Black Nile and Armageddon. The whole package – structure, mood, energy, interaction – is perfectly balanced, like an essential performance of a Mozart symphony, with the remarkable difference, the ultimate feat that distinguished jazz from any other music form, that the core of Night Dreamer is spontaneous improvisation.

The album features trumpeter Lee Morgan, Shorter’s frontline partner of The Jazz Messengers, bassist Reggie Workman and the powerhouse duo that was part of the epic John Coltrane Quartet, pianist McCoy Tyner and drummer Elvin Jones. Masterclass of depth and hard swing guaranteed. The pushing and pulling of the beat and wide open spaces of Elvin Jones and the extravagant and tasteful piano excursions of McCoy Tyner cannot fail to be a stimulus to original reed and brass players like Shorter and Morgan. Shorter is a dark prince lurking in the shadows, occasionally darting out of the corner, growling ominously, reciting ancient poetry, the stanzas streaming out of his mouth like wine from a bottle: enigma. Morgan is the florid touch, hard bop royalty, weaving in and out of modal spheres fluently, shooting multiple straight arrows, cocky and convincing: brilliant sleaze. He’s the uplifting opposite of Shorter, who is a demon driving away demons.

Shorter’s sound may not be as characteristic as the tone of great contemporaries or past masters but his compositions never cease to amaze. The nocturnal Night Dreamer hinges on the subtle balance of relative chordal simplicity and depth of feeling and the suave and surprising storytelling by Shorter. The relentless drive is one of many striking aspects of the modal cooker Black Nile. The long, beautiful lines of Armageddon contrast with the booming in-your-face rhythm, the furious rolls and switch of polyrhythm to explosive shuffle groove by Elvin Jones. Expressiveness is the focus of a composition with a minimum of subtly moving chords. Shorter and Morgan rise to the occasion.

The mood nocturnal, with a sense of foreboding and inner turmoil that’s crystallized in a curious state of serenity, Night Dreamer is akin to Herbie Hancock’s Empyrean Isles and Andrew Hill’s Judgement. The avant-leaning catalogue of Blue Note, that daring mid-sixties series of albums from Shorter, Hancock, Hill, McLean and Hutcherson that require repeated listening. Label boss Alfred Lion gave his roster of adventurous talents free reign, very insightful from the legendary independent record executive. To boot, Lion even paid for rehearsal time. And so, in a way, for the rent of the Shorter family’s apartment somewhere deep in the bowels of The Big Apple.

Dizzy Reece - Soundin' Off

Dizzy Reece Soundin’ Off (Blue Note 1960)

The pieces of the puzzle fell into place for trumpeter Dizzy Reece on his third Blue Note album Soundin’ Off from 1960.

Dizzy Reece - Soundin' Off


Dizzy Reece (trumpet), Walter Bishop Jr. (piano), Doug Watkins (bass), Art Taylor (drums)


on May 12, 1960 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey


as BLP 4033 in 1960

Track listing

Side A:
Ghost Of A Chance
Once In A While
Eb Pob
Side B:
Our Love Is Here To Stay
Blue Streak

Mr. Reece is still active these days at the ripe old age of 88. What’s more, performances of Dizzy Reece’s music, Routes In Jazz, have been held last January under the leadership of Trevor Watkins in the United Kingdom to much acclaim. 2019, Cool Britannia caught in the stereotypical web of contemporary polarization, a world away from 1948, when the young Kingston, Jamaica-born Reece set foot first in liberated Paris then the rebuilding war victor, the U.K., where fish and chips was everyone’s requested Last Meal and Stoke-On-Trent a place that played hide and seek with Sheffield under clouds of factory smoke. The talented Reece somehow caught the attention of Blue Note and recorded his debut as a leader, Blues In Trinity, with Donald Byrd, Art Taylor and a British crew including powerhouse tenorist Tubby “Tubbs” Hayes.

Reece moved to New York City in 1959 and, winning fans like Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins, soon found himself in the studio of Rudy van Gelder at Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Initially, Reece recorded with a quintet including Hank Mobley, a session that spawned Star Bright. Then Blakey was behind the kit, Stanley Turrentine on tenor saxophone, Bobby Timmons on piano and Jimmy Merritt on bass. The result: Comin’ On, recorded in 1960 but not released until 1999. Great album. Great line-up. In fact – in case you haven’t figured it out yet – Reece and Turrentine fronted a bonafide Jazz Messengers rhythm section. The explosive Blakey regularly pushes the guys to the brink, Reece holding his own pretty darn well.

However, I have warmer feelings for Soundin’ Off. The relaxed but probing rhythmic flow of drummer Art Taylor, bassist Doug Watkins and pianist Walter Bishop Jr. and the fact that Reece is the sole horn gives the trumpeter ample opportunity to let his true voice ring. A voice gay here, mournful there, tender, witty, sexy. Sexy enough to seduce audiences in the Big Apple, yet because of lack of opportunities Reece re-settled in jazz-minded Europe eventually. In a 2004 Jazz Times interview Reece said that he also got negative feedback on his integrated marriage.

Reece favors expressive statements over speed trials, wrapping his loving arms around ballads like Ghost Of A Chance, ridin’ on the blue notes of Once In A While with sleazy slurs, swinging smoothly on medium-tempo tunes like the Monk-ish Reece original Eb PobEcaroh, Airegin, Eb Pob… Those modern jazz guys knew their way with wordplay. The nimble and occasionally locked-hands-lines of Bishop Jr. and the jubilant Reece make Yesterdays absolutely irresistible.

Sweet but with a lot of spunk. The way we like our hard bop artists from the Blue Note roster.

The album is part of a compilation package on Spotify, starts with track 13, up to 18. Listen below.