The 3 Sounds - Feelin' Good

The Three Sounds Feelin’ Good (Blue Note 1960)

Basic and bluesy mainstream jazz was the recipe of piano trio The Three Sounds, led by Gene Harris. Delicate group interplay was its forte.

The 3 Sounds - Feelin' Good

Personnel

Gene Harris (piano), Andrew Simpkins (bass), Bill Dowdy (drums)

Recorded

on June 28, 1960 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Released

as BLP 4072 in 1960

Track listing

Side A:
When I Fall In Love
Parker’s Pad
Blues After Dark
I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good)
Side B:
Straight No Chaser
I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart
It Could Happen To You
Two Bass Hit


The original line up of The Three Sounds of Gene Harris, bassist Andrew Simpkins and drummer Bill Dowdy recorded prolifically and very succesfully for Blue Note (and Limelight) between 1958 and 1965, until Dowdy dropped out to concentrate on teaching. The Three Sounds lasted till 1971 in various combinations, up to the Blue Note album The Three Sounds, which was essentially a Gene Harris album, as none of the original members were present. Highlights include the outfit’s debut Introducing The Three Sounds, their involvement with alto saxophonist Lou Donaldson, LD + 3, Black Orchid and Live At The Lighthouse. Their cooperation with Stanley Turrentine, Blue Hour, is a crowd favorite. Probably on account of Turrentine’s bluesjazz brilliance. The accompaniment is rather unremarkable.

Once pianists like Gene Harris had a song or album that did well on the charts, it was a logical step for both the label and artist to stay in that bag and see if a follow-up would sell equally well as well. Generally, soul jazz was music for Average Jimmy & Josie from the bowels of the black neighbourhood. Before having ribs at Hot Barbecue, the couple might go to the local record shop (or even barbershop or gas station) and fetch a record of their favorite artist, afterwards they might visit a bar and put a nickle in the jukebox. Jimmy & Josie musn’t be confused with the 21st century average couple, which listens to whatever Warner Bros puts on their plate. At that time, before the corporate world began to reign supreme and the inner cities desintegrated due to the introduction of crack and the subsequent criminality, couples like Jimmy & Josie not only dug r&b but also chose jukebox tunes from Gene Ammons, Willis Jackson, Jimmy Smith, Cannonball Adderley and pianists like Les McCann, Ray Bryant and Ramsey Lewis. Besides tapping their feet, they might even discuss the differences in styles. True, no jive.

Harris is not in the league of McCann, Bryant and Lewis. While they score goals, Harris warms the bench. Soul jazz at its best is brought with distinctive traits. Where, for instance, McCann brings the roar of a sermon, Bryant a brilliant left hand full of jazz tradition, Harris perseveres his blues clichés without adding anything suprising or peculiar. To be sure, Harris contributed suavely to trumpeter Nat Adderley’s Branching Out, tenorist and flutist James Clay’s Double Dose Of Soul and organist Melvin Rhyne’s Organ-Izing. In the eighties, Harris’ longest run was with the tasteful genius of the upright bass, Ray Brown, from 1984 to 1991. Once out of the soul jazz context, Harris fulfilled his potential as an excellent modern jazz pianist.

Feelin’ Good must be added to the list of top-rank Three Sounds albums. At its best, the trio responds to each other’s archetypical blues and r&b accents like trapeze artists that have practised their tricks longer than Nurejev did his ballet moves. Extremely tight-knit. This groove is most apparent in the mid-and uptempo tunes like Two Bass Hit, Thelonious Monk’s Straight No Chaser and Parker’s Pad, a Harris original that brings to mind Things Ain’t What They Used To Be. These tunes slowly but surely pick up steam and climax not so much with abandon but a confident bounce that suggests a longing to gently nudge the audience into the hands of the angels rather than the lap of God with fire and brimstone. Excellent trio interaction. At its worst, Harris placidly mumbles his way through a ballad, leaving one cold with series of forgettable, formulaic phrases. A bummer sandwiched between the songs that make up a set of flawlessly executed, unambitious, groovy soul jazz.

Walter Davis Jr. - Davis Cup

Walter Davis Jr. Davis Cup (Blue Note 1959)

A wide-ranging stunner, pianist Walter Davis Jr.’s debut as a leader in 1959, Davis Cup, deserves its rightful place among the classic hard bop albums on Blue Note at that time.

Walter Davis Jr. - Davis Cup

Personnel

Walter Davis Jr. (piano), Donald Byrd (trumpet), Jackie McLean (alto saxophone), Sam Jones (bass), Art Taylor (drums)

Recorded

on August 2, 1959 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Released

as BLP 4018 in 1959

Track listing

Side A:
’S Make It
Loodle-Lot
Sweetness
Side B:
Rhumba Nhumba
Minor Mind
Millie’s Delight


From the immaculate six Davis-penned compositions, the hi-powered energy, the stellar line-up, the singular style of Walter Davis Jr. and, last but not least, the wicked title, Davis Cup is an allround, pure-bred hard bop package easily taken for granted in the era of classic jazz albums. In 1959, the following albums, among others, were released on Blue Note along Davis Cup: Horace Silver’s Finger Poppin’ and Blowin’ The Blues Away, Sonny Clark’s My Conception, Art Blakey & The Jazz Messenger’s At The Jazz Corner Of The World and Africaine, Donald Byrd’s Byrd In Hand, Kenny Burrell’s On View At The Five Spot and Jackie McLean’s New Soil and Swing Swang Swingin’. Pleasant company.

Not just an innocent bystander either, Mr. Davis. The Richmond, Virginia-born pianist was featured on New Soil, (and, later on, McLean’s avant-leaning Let Freedom Ring) Byrd In Hand and Africaine. Obviously, Blue Note label bosses Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff were convinced of the abilities of Davis, who went as far back as playing alongside and recording with Charlie Parker at the turn of the previous decade and was known as a major interpreter of Bud Powell. By 1959, Walter Davis Jr. had cemented a position as a delicate juggler of traditional and adventurous styles, underlined by his composer’s sense of continuity, off-kilter twists and turns that pleasantly throw you off balance, a strong percussive touch and chubby, dense, driving clusters of chords. In the slipstream of Horace Silver in the late fifties, Davis is concerned not only with gritty yet elaborate compositions, but also with providing extra motives beside the melody line, creating simultaneously complex and easy-flowing tunes in the process.

Great tunes. Most of them are mid-tempo compositions, like ’S Make It (not to be confused with Lee Morgan’s ’S Make It, which was recorded by Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers in 1964) Loodle-Lot and Minor Mood, alternated with the ballad Sweetness and the uplifting exotica of Rhumba Nhumba. Medium tempo, minor moods, blues inflections, the lone ballad and an Afro-Cuban exercise: a typical hard bop bag. However, Davis passes his exam cum laude, not in the least as a consequence of Art Taylor and Sam Jones’ responsive, propulsive support, the swift, lyrical lines of Donald Byrd and acerbic, suspenceful contributions of Jackie McLean.

In the sixties, Davis dropped out for a while and worked as a (assumedly very skilled!) tailor before returning to the scene with a guest role on Sonny Rollins 1973 album Horn Culture. His second album as a leader was released as late as 1979, the first of a series until his passing in 1990 at the age of 57.

Louis Hayes Serenade For Horace (Blue Note 2017)

Coming full circle on Blue Note, Louis Hayes pays tribute to pianist and composer Horace Silver, whose legendary quintet the drummer was part of a long, long time ago.

Louis Hayes - Serenade For Horace

Personnel

Louis Hayes (drums), Abraham Burton (tenor saxophone), Josh Evans (trumpet), Steve Nelson (vibraphone), David Bryant (piano), Dezron Douglas (bass)

Recorded

in 2017 at Aum Studio Productions, Bakersfield and Systems Two Recording Studio, NYC

Released

as BN 06XXGSC14 on May 26, 2017

Track listing

Ecaroh
Senor Blues
Song For My Father
Hastings Street
Strollin’
Juicy Lucy
Silver’s Serenade
Lonely Woman
Summer In Central Park
St. Vitus Dance
Room 608


Once you’ve heard Louis Hayes furiously kickstart Kenny Drew into action on the pianist’s eponymous Blue Note album Undercurrent from 1960, you are under his spell. One of the hardest swinging drummers of the generation that came after pioneers Kenny Clarke and Max Roach, Louis Hayes, himself particularly influenced by Philly Joe Jones and now eighty years old, looks back on a miraculous career in the drummer’s seat behind Horace Silver, Cannonball Adderley, John Coltrane, Oscar Peterson, Dexter Gordon, Joe Henderson, Grant Green, Woody Shaw and many others. Fifty-seven years after his debut as a leader on VeeJay, Louis Hayes, Hayes dedicated his eighteenth album, Serenade To Horace, to his erstwhile bandleader Horace Silver, whom he joined in 1956 at the age on nineteen. Hayes performed on the classic albums Six Pieces Of Silver, Stylings Of Silver, Further Explorations, Finger Poppin’ and Blowin’ The Blues Away.

Silver’s unbeatable, intricate and eternally swinging tunes get a loving treatment by the sextet. No egomania on the part of Louis Hayes, propulsive support only. The Rudy van Gelder days may definitely be over, certainly as regards to the production of drums. Yet, for all the kit’s unspectacular sound, Hayes’ sparkling, delicate use of the ride cymbal effortlessly carries the group over the hill. Mid-tempo tunes like Ecaroh, Juicy Lucy, St. Vitus Dance, the uplifting top-notch Hayes original Hastings Street, slower ones like Strollin’, (the deliciously slow-dragging) Senor Blues, as well as uptempo, bop-inflected mover Room 608 are thoroughly injected with tasteful blues messages and exuberant strokes by tenor saxophonist Abraham Burton and trumpeter Josh Evans, while vibraphonist Steve Nelson’s airy sound and crisp phrases add depth to the repertoire. Pianist David Bryant’s sparse, carefully crafted lines act in accord with Lonely Woman’s wry sentiment.

The album spawned a single, a take on the iconic Song For My Father. It’s a cameo from singer Gregory Porter, whose sonorous, roasted marshmellow voice and suave phrasing perfectly match the endearing emotions of melody lines like ‘if there was ever a man who was generous, gracious and good, that was my dad, the man…’. A tasty intermezzo between the fine hard bop dishes of old master Hayes.

Read more about Serenade For Horace on the website of Blue Note.

Art Of Allen

TONY ALLEN – On May 19, Blue Note will release A Tribute To Art Blakey And The Jazz Messengers by drummer Tony Allen, a digital EP consisting of four Messengers classics including Moanin’. (see here) It’s a teaser for Allen’s forthcoming album dedicated to the indomitable Art Blakey or as he also came to be known, Buhaina. The legendary Nigerian drummer Tony Allen, who together with Fela Kuti is widely acknowledged as the pioneer of Afrobeat, was strongly influenced by American drummers such as Max Roach and Art Blakey. Which comes as no surprise, since Blakey is often seen as the most African of the modern jazz drummers. Although Blakey, who resided in West Africa in the late forties, always insisted that jazz was a purely American music, the similarities of Blakey’s style and African drums are striking. Seen in this light, percussion-heavy Blakey albums as Drum Suite, Orgy In Rhythm and Holiday For Skins might best be viewed as American interpretations of African rhythm. Allen, who has been living in Paris for twenty years, will be performing the music of Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers at Jazz Middelheim in Antwerp, Belgium on August 5, (see here).

Blue Note, 2017
Herbie Hancock - Takin' Off

Herbie Hancock Takin’ Off (Blue Note 1962)

With the authority of a seasoned jazz personality, Herbie Hancock delivered his Blue Note debut as a leader in 1962, Takin’ Off.

Herbie Hancock - Takin' Off

Personnel

Herbie Hancock (piano), Freddie Hubbard (trumpet), Dexter Gordon (tenor saxophone), Bob Cranshaw (bass), Billy Higgins (drums)

Recorded

on May 28, 1962 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Released

as BLP 4109 in 1962

Track listing

Side A:
Watermelon Man
Three Bags Full
Empty Pockets
Side B:
The Maze
Driftin’
Alone And I


Astunning hard bop debut that hinted at post bop things to come. Around 1962, front-line hard boppers, particularly at Blue Note headquarters, were steadfastly developing an ear-catching dialect to the language of jazz. In hindsight, it is beautiful proof of the all-inclusive nature of jazz that these developments, plus gospel-drenched hard bop, plus the major happenings of the day (the envelop-pushing of Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, McCoy Tyner, Bill Evans), ran a simultaneous course. The stakes were raised and young Hancock wasn’t about to perform below par. His confident playing and composing amidst a bunch of top-rate, contemporary players, including ‘comeback’ legend Dexter Gordon, is striking.

A year later, Miles Davis, another major jazz force, would ask Hancock to join his group, the stellar one which included Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter and Tony Williams. Jazz at a peak, not least because of Hancock’s innovative harmony, voicing and rhythm. During his period with Miles Davis, as is well documented, Hancock himself would deliver albums on Blue Note that defined the post bop style and remain influential to this day, notably Empyrian Isles in 1964 and Maiden Voyage in 1965. A succesful career path was laid out that would include the fusion of his Mwandishi group, the jazz funk of Headhunters and much, much, celebrated more up until the 21-st century’s schizoid present.

Clearly, an experimental spirit had fared into the bespectacled Hancock who peered at your open zipper on the cover of Takin’ Off. It depicts a gentleman whose attire oozed the impression of a kid that fills his evenings with chemistry tests in his granny’s attic. At the dawn of the sixties, the prodigy was taken under his wings by trumpeter Donald Byrd. Prior to Takin’ Off, Hancock debuted as a recording artist on Byrd’s Royal Flush, followed by the Donald Byrd/Pepper Adams Quintet’s Out Of This World and Byrd’s Free Form.

Takin’ Off’s opening cut, the gospel-tinged groover Watermelon Man (turned into a hit by Mongo Santamaria soon after Hancock’s release), sounds as fresh today as in 1962. Many highlights: for one, the infectious rhythm of Billy Higgins is unforgettable. A gritty vibe without the use of the backbeat. Could it be that the island blood in Higgins’ veins accounts for his inventive rhythm? (Other drummers had Carribean ancestors, among them Denzil Best and Mickey “Granville” Roker) Billy Hart (coincidentally, the drummer of Hancocks Mwandishi group) offers a welcome view in an interview with Ethan Iverson on his Do The Math blog. Hart remembers asking Billy Higgins repeatedly about the ‘Higgins island flavor’. Higgins always answered matter-of-factly: “I studied with Ed Blackwell, you know.”

Dexter Gordon’s carefully crafted, behind-the-beat blues story is also a big treat. It blends well with Hancock’s ready and able piano comping, while Hancock includes in his poised solo a number of gorgeous, rollicking cadenzas suggesting both Earl Hines and Maede Lux Lewis. The sound of the piano is round, transparent and upfront, as if Hancock’s playing beside you at the bar. Splendid acoustics at the high-roofed joint in Englewood Cliffs, courtesy of the recently deceased master of modern jazz engineering, Rudy van Gelder.

The inclusion of Dexter Gordon on Takin’ Off has been an obvious delight to many, yours truly included. Gordon, fresh in the act of an iconic comeback on Blue Note in the early sixties after a troubling, preceding decade that was largely wasted on stints in prison (with early May dates Doin’ Alright and Dexter Calling in the pocket) hits a homerun in The Maze, a tacky tune that swings while incorporating McCoy Tyner’s orchestral voicings. This period saw the influence of John Coltrane on Gordon, whose early sides, strikingly, had captivated Coltrane. Insidiously, Gordon’s resonant, fluent solo in The Maze reaches boiling point. Majestic. Trumpeter Freddie Hubbard is his usual sizzling self, raising the stakes with spirited, virtuoso playing. In the ensembles, the forward motion of Hubbard and the nonchalant beat of Gordon create a pleasant, edgy tension that blends well with Hancock’s old-timey yet sophisticated delivery.

Strong points of a flawless, immaculate debut. The chemistry kid had arrived.

Stanley Turrentine - Jubilee Shout

Stanley Turrentine Jubilee Shout!!! (Blue Note 1962/86)

Don’t let the marketing gimmick of exclamation marks scare you off. Stanley Turrentine’s Jubilee Shout!!! delivers. It’s a lively, down-home session. Sonny Clark’s aboard. Yet, it was shelved and wasn’t released until 1986.

Stanley Turrentine - Jubilee Shout

Personnel

Stanley Turrentine (tenor saxophone), Tommy Turrentine (trumpet), Kenny Burrell (guitar), Sonny Clark (piano), Butch Warren (bass), Al Harewood (drums)

Recorded

on October 18, 1962 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Released

as BST 84112 in 1986

Track listing

Side A:
Jubilee Shout
My Ship
You Said It
Side B:
Brother Tom
Cotton Walk
You Better Go Now (Little Girl Blue)


Stanley Turrentine. Mr. T. Fleshy, friendly face. A man you love to love. A Flophouse favorite. Adored by lovers of classic, smoky modern jazz. He’s got that thang. In 1962, the tenor saxophonist had hit his stride on the Blue Note label. Turrentine’s cooperation with pianist Les McCann, That’s Where It’s At, had been the last in a series of five albums that started in 1960 with Blue Hour, Turrentine’s association with The Three Sounds. His accessible, smart albums were good sellers.

Big, slightly breathy and warm-blooded, Turrentine’s tone renders a night out into town totally unnecessary. Save some money for a new vacuum cleaner. Stanley is party enough, blurs your head in drifting shreds of smoke, teleports the scent of soul food, the chatter of nocturnal Harlem nights right to the heart of your residence. Or flexible workspace. Or Club Med bungalow. He brings the blues. Not a hoarse kind, but stylized through the use of rich, resonant lines that are built from notes ending with a trademark, ever-so-slight vibrato and snappy bent note. Simultaneously, Turrentine displays modern jazz sensibility, but eschews excessive frills. A professor of tension and release.

Bonus: Sonny Clark! The maestro, three months short of his unfortunate passing, recorded erratically in 1962. But the dates he did were still top-notch: Jackie McLean’s Tippin’ The Scales, Grant Green’s posthumous Nigeria, Oleo and Born To Be Blue, and Dexter Gordon’s iconic A Swingin’ Affair. A couple of blues-drenched affairs: Don Wilkerson’s Preach Brother!, (just one exclamation mark!) Ike Quebec’s posthumous Easy Living. That’s it. Excluding Turrentine’s Jubilee Shout. Clark thinks out of the box, presenting hip blues voicings and eccentric asides in clusters of long, flowing lines that may not exactly stretch the boundaries of bars as frequently as in his heyday, but nevertheless comprise ample proof of a mind that still overflowed with ideas.

A bunch of top-rate guys to say the least, Stanley and Tommy Turrentine, Sonny Clark and Kenny Burrell have a lot of room to stretch out in a slow blues (Cotton Walk), uptempo cooker with a nifty line and stop-time rhythm (You Said It), lilting swingers (Brother Tom, My Ship) and a ballad (Little Girl Blue – wrongly credited on the vinyl release as You Better Go Now). The blast of the album is Jubilee Shout. A rousing gospel rhythm with pounding piano chords on the one and two sets the pace and is repeated between the 4/4 sections, which create room for the solo time of, subsequently, Stanley Turrentine, Tommy Turrentine, Sonny Clark and Kenny Burrell. It’s the musical equivalent of the archetypical lyric, ‘Sometimes I sing the blues, but I know I should be praying.’ Either way is right by me.

Why didn’t Blue Note release Jubilee Shout at the time? It’s a crackerjack session. Well, that was up to Alfred. The indomitable Lion also shelved, for instance, Lou Donaldson’s Lush Life, Lee Morgan’s Tom Cat, Wayne Shorter’s The Soothsayer and Grant Green’s Solid, which proved to be one of the guitarist’s crown achievements upon its release in 1979. However, Lion had many sessions to choose from in these instances and generally didn’t release more than three albums per artist per year. Market overflow wasn’t an obstacle in Turrentine’s case. That’s Where It’s At was the only album in 1962 to date. Maybe the title track and Cotton Walk were deemed too long. At any rate, the album was first released on a two-fer in 1978 and finally came out in 1986 with the originally intented cover art and catalogue number. CD release followed in 1988. It has also been included in the much-discussed, appreciated vinyl reissue series of Music Matters. The album was destined to bob up from the wealthy lake of Turrentine’s catalogue.

Tommy Flanagan - Overseas

Tommy Flanagan Overseas (Prestige 1957)

In it goes, smoothly, like the royal lemon pie of my favorite pattisier. The ingredients of pianist Tommy Flanagan’s debut album as a leader, Overseas, are the best of the best, farm-fresh and complement each other in all sorts of interesting ways.

Tommy Flanagan - Overseas

Personnel

Tommy Flanagan (piano), Wilbur Little (bass), Elvin Jones (drums)

Recorded

in Stockholm, Sweden in 1957

Released

as PRLP 7134 in 1957

Track listing

Side A:
Relaxin’ At Camarillo
Chelsea Bridge
Eclypso
Beat’s Up
Skal Brother
Side B:
Little Rock
Verdandi
Delarna
Willow Weep For Me


Listening to Flanagan follow up Charlie Parker’s speed devilish Relaxin’ At Camarillo with the elegiac, orchestral Billy Strayhorn classic Chelsea Bridge is a gift for the auditory senses. Abundant proof of the pianist’s class. A lot of Flanagan’s inventive and influential flair is present on these tunes and album: a striking penchant to alter melodies, often with the use of surprisingly chic dissonance, wonderful continuity of ideas, a snappy beat. Moreover, that triumvirate of talents – let’s make it a foursome adding a delicate yet determined touch – is put to use for creating, as Flanagan once put it succinctly, ‘an overall tonality’.

Ever since arriving in New York from his hometown Detroit in 1956, Flanagan had been in constant demand. Influenced by both the old masters Teddy Wilson, Art Tatum and Nat King Cole and bebop pioneer Bud Powell, Flanagan adapted easily to differing surroundings. For much of the sixties and seventies, Flanagan accompanied Ella Fitzgerald, which prevented him from recording many albums as a leader in the sixties. During the following decades, however, Flanagan sealed his reputation as a master of the trio format. As a sideman in the late fifties and sixties, the pianist not only recorded prolifically with a number of top-rate colleagues like Kenny Burrell, Kenny Dorham, Phil Woods, Dexter Gordon and Coleman Hawkins, but also partook in two undisputed all-time classic albums: Sonny Rollins’ Saxophone Colossus and John Coltrane’s Giant Steps.

How it came about that Flanagan got the lucky break to be involved in Coltrane’s complex masterpiece instead of first choice Cedar Walton is recounted here in a talk of Walton with journalist Marc “Jazzwax” Myers, jazz ambassador sui generis. Incidentally, one of Flanagan’s many Enja albums, 1982’s Giant Steps, is dedicated solely to Coltrane’s masterwork, and masterfully so. Did Flanagan feel the need to prove that his playing had improved since 1959?

Overseas, which was recorded in Stockholm, Sweden while Flanagan, drummer Elvin Jones and bassist Wilbur Little toured with trombonist J.J. Johnson, spawns immaculate, spirited trio work. You will cherish the Elvin Jones masterclass of drumming with brushes. Not only does Jones swing effortlessly, his brush work is probing and highly charged. Very unusual and an absolute gas! The pocket at breakneck speed that Jones and Little lay down in Verdandi – a title and composition that suggest the influence of John Lewis; think Milano or Vendôme – is a dream for a pianist of Flanagan’s capacities, who answers the call with a showcase of virtuosity for beauty’s sake. There are a number of blues-related tunes on Overseas, Flanagan explores the form like a geologist a cave, picking in crevices, drawing back in contemplation, moving on and (unlike many geologists), finding light at the end of the tunnel. The one-minute solo in Skal Brothers, a tune that has a Ray Bryant-feel, is awe-inspiring.

The rumble of Eclypso’s theme is reminiscent of Caravan. Flanagan would re-visit his original tune on the 1973 Enja album Eclypso. By then, the public was used to the release of a splendid Flanagan album. In 1957, the flawless, ambitious Overseas announced the arrival of a leading piano artist with tremendous abilities, charm and vision.