Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers - 'S Make It

Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers ‘S Make It (Limelight 1964)

After his cutting edge group of the early sixties including Freddie Hubbard and Wayne Shorter disbanded, Art Blakey returned to a more old-timey approach with the Limelight LP ’S Make It.

Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers - 'S Make It

Personnel

Art Blakey (drums), Lee Morgan (trumpet), John Gilmore (tenor saxophone), Curtis Fuller (trombone), John Hicks (piano), Victor Sproles (bass)

Recorded

on November 15 & 16, 1964 in Los Angeles

Released

as Limelight 86001 in 1964

Track listing

Side A:
Faith
’S Make It
Waltz For Ruth
One For Gamal
Side B:
Little Hughie
Olympia
Lament For Stacey


The end of the year 1964: the preceding half decade of Blakey’s career had resulted in a series of now legendary albums on Blue Note and Riverside with one of his classic line-ups consisting of Freddie Hubbard, Wayne Shorter, Curtis Fuller, Cedar Walton and either Jimmy Merritt or Reggie Workman on bass: Mosaic, Ugetsu, Free For All. At the time, Blakey also moved around quite a bit, recording for Impulse, Colpix and (four albums for) Limelight in the mid-sixties.

A bit of jazz genealogy: ’S Make It features Blakey alumni Lee Morgan (1958-61) and trombonist Curtis Fuller, who is the only surviving member of the preceding line-up (1961-64). Tenor saxophonist John Gilmore, consiglieri of the eccentric pianist and band leader Sun Ra, had been assisted by Blakey on the unforgettable Clifford Jordan/John Gilmore album Blowin’ In From Chicago in 1957. Bassist Victor Sproles was a former bandmate of Gilmore in Sun Ra’s Arkestra. Finally, there’s pianist John Hicks, the least known of the bunch. Shaped by Horace Silver, Thelonious Monk, McCoy Tyner, infested with blues and the American Songbook, the 23-year old Hicks developed into a versatile player during his stint with Blakey in the mid-sixties. In his lifetime, Hicks played with Betty Carter, Woody Herman, Hank Mobley, Lee Morgan, Lester Bowie, Arthur Blythe, among many others. Too easily overlooked, he lead many bands as a leader and was a fixture on the American and New York scene until his passing in 2006. Hicks contributed to two other Blakey albums on Limelight, Soul Finger and Hold On, I’m Coming. You still with me? A lot of crosscurrents in the jazz family. Undercurrents too. The currency of the dollar was about the only current not too prevalent among the Beethovens and Mozarts of classic American jazz. Even if he would’ve decided to be that generous, Art Blakey hardly could’ve put up the dough to let the rearview mirror fixed of one of Barbara Streisand’s Mercedes Benz automobiles.

’S Make It is slang for ‘let’s go’. Suitable title. Symbolic for the art of Blakey : Let’s just go, bopping hard with a heavy beat. ’S Make It is a Lee Morgan tune, one of three tunes that the reluctant Sidewinder (the trumpeter allegedly wasn’t too happy with his boogaloo hit The Sidewinder of July, 1964, as it threatened to cloud his more artistically viable, advanced direction, which came to fruition in his album Search For The New Land) provided for the session. The horns play a nifty, brassy blues line, while John Hicks puts in a hefty figure on the lower keys. Blakey pushes his men forward with this trademark bombs, rolls and cymbal signals, igniting hot bits by Morgan. Fuller is fluent, more calm and collected. The other Morgan tunes, One For Gamal and Lament For Stacey, are equally bluesy, straightforward cookers. Fine fair from the still only 26-year old, handsome Morgan, three years earlier introduced by the dryly comic Blakey in Tokyo’s Sanyei Hall as ‘the world critic award winner of the Downbeat Magazine, of the New Yorker Magazine, of the Jet Magazine, of the Look Magazine and of the Ladies Home Journal Magazine…’ O yeah, and not to mention, of the Flophouse Magazine.

With slight variations, the album follows these soulful procedures. The rousing Faith, driven by a solid Blakey shuffle, has an especially charming Dixie edge. John Gilmore’s smoky tenor contrasts nicely with Morgan’s sprightly trumpet in blues-based cuts like One For Hughie. A bit more sophisticated, the ballads of John Hicks and Lee Morgan, Olympia and Lament For Stacey respectively, focus on Morgan’s melancholic phrases and Hicks’ delicate runs. The John Hicks tune Waltz For Ruth harks back to the Wayne Shorter days, adding a modal section to the elongated, pretty melody. Blakey underscores the tune with the kind of hi-voltage drumming familiar from albums as Ugetsu.

’S Make It’ is a very enjoyable, undervalued Blakey album, with a line up that didn’t make it to the next record. A pity.

Curtis Fuller and Hampton Hawes

Curtis Fuller And Hampton Hawes With French Horns (Status 1964)

Credited to trombonist Curtis Fuller and pianist Hampton Hawes, With French Horns really hasn’t a definite leader. It shouldn’t bother anyone. In fact, the French horn pioneers Julius Watkins and David Amram play an important and equally fulfilling role as Fuller, Hawes and altoist Sahib Shihab, not only delivering first-rate solo’s but also adding a unique texture to the group’s harmony.

Curtis Fuller and Hampton Hawes

Personnel

Curtis Fuller (trombone), Sahib Shihab (alto saxophone), Julius Watkins (French horn), David Amram (French horn), Hampton Hawes (piano A1-3, B2, B3), Teddy Charles (piano B1), Addison Farmer (bass), Jerry Segal (drums)

Recorded

on May 18, 1957 at Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, New Jersey

Released

as ST 8305 in 1964

Track listing

Side A:
Ronnie’s Tune
Roc And Troll
A-Drift
Side B:
Lyriste
Five Spot
No Crooks


If something like it exists, the session is a ‘prepared’ blowing session, the result of a studio afternoon of relaxed but carefully crafted, intelligent and bluesy playing. (Teddy Charles’s Lyriste is the elegiac, moody exception on the rule) It was recorded as part of the 1957 16inch record Baritones And French Horns, which credited Watkins and Amram as leaders, but was re-released in 1964 by Status, a subsidiary label of Prestige. By then, Fuller and Hawes were better known than Watkins and Amram, which, marketing-wise, explains their co-leadership on this album. (The A-side consisted of a Pepper Adams date including John Coltrane. It was reissued, for obvious but not necessarily honorable reasons, under Coltrane’s name as Dakar in 1963)

All members contribute equally concise statements. Bookended by tasteful, sometimes witty themes, they craft fine-tuned vignettes, remarkably devoid of clichés. Amram’s Five Spot is the most frivolous theme, sure to engender a smile from any kid in the crib, yet very intricate under the surface; a total of a suave, langurous blues line, interpersed with clever, descending and quirky, multi-note alto lines and short-note, claxon-type figures divided between all horns. Even drummer Jerry Segal joins the harmonic party with a snappy snare roll contribution. A question and answer extravaganza which Amram wrote as the outro-theme for a gig he’d had at the legendary Five Spot Café at 5 Cooper Square in the Bowery, NYC.

There are wonderful Sahib Shihab moments, like the elegantly constructed story in Ronnie’s Tune. Shihab, a Parker-influenced player with a distinctive, slight vibrato and alluring, sing-songy lines, also proves to be a master of the entrance; the wail that slowly rises in volume in Ronnie’s Tune and the forward and backward flips of Five Spot are delightful. Hampton Hawes contributes a flawless blend of sparse, well-placed blue notes and interval-filled, fluent bop runs.

From the trombonists that emerged in the slipstream of modern jazz trombone pioneer J.J. Johnson, Curtis Fuller was one of the major talents in 1957 and already a very sought-after player. He would appear on Coltrane’s instant classic Blue Train a few months later, on September 15. Fuller’s swift double-timing on both Roc & Troll and Five Spot is one aspect of his indisputable craftsmanship.

Watkins is the relatively more outgoing player who delights in edgy little bursts of pleasure; Amram a more cerebral hornist who favors the middle register. Considering the difficulty in adapting French horn to jazz surroundings, both men play exceptionally fluid French horn. Watkins was much in demand, appearing regularly on a variety of labels, notably on Thelonious Monk’s 1954 Prestige recording Thelonious Monk & Sonny Rollins. Watkins’ debut as a leader on Blue Note in 1955, The Julius Watkins Sextet, is an immaculate cooperation with Art Blakey, Kenny Clarke, Frank Foster and Hank Mobley. Honestly, I’m less enamoured of The Jazz Modes, the Watkins/Charlie Rouse outfit which recorded for Dawn and Atlantic from 1956 to ’59, which has always sounded too formal to me. David Amram recorded with Kenny Dorham as early as 1953, among others, and developed into a more classical-oriented composer in the early sixties. Composing and conducting has been his much admired trade ever since.

The soft-hued, silky yet husky sound, occasionally sweet-sour as if flavoured with drops of citrus and a tad of cane sugar, is a great asset of Curtis Fuller And Hampton Hawes With French Horns. An intriguing date which deserves wider attention.

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.

Paul Chambers - 1st Bassman

Paul Chambers 1st Bassman (Vee-Jay 1960)

It’s not so unusual that Paul Chambers, one of the foremost bass players of modern jazz, made a string of five solo albums between 1956 and ’60. It is unusual, considering Chambers’ standing and the dawning of an equally promising next decade, that 1st Bassman is his last. Another distinctive feature of 1st Bassman is that Yusef Lateef wrote all of the tunes of this enjoyable blowing session, with the exception of a Cannonball Adderley blues, Who’s Blues. Lateef displays unique horn chops as well.

Paul Chambers - 1st Bassman

Personnel

Paul Chambers (bass), Yusef Lateef (tenor sax), Tommy Turrentine (trumpet), Curtis Fuller (trombone), Wynton Kelly (piano), Lex Humphries (drums)

Recorded

on May 12, 1960 at Bell Sound Studios, NYC

Released

as VJLP 3012 in 1960

Track listing

Side A:
Melody
Bass Region
Side B:
Retrogress
Mopp Shoe Blues
Blessed


The session contains an interesting line-up. Paul Chambers and Wynton Kelly made up an elite rhythm unit with drummer Jimmy Cobb, that recorded with John Coltrane and Wes Montgomery. Yusef Lateef was in between his formative years as a recording artist and the period wherein he started to incorporate Eastern influences into his style and had a great stint in The Cannonball Adderley Quintet. Drummer Lex Humphries recorded two albums with Lateef during the 1st Bassman-period. Curtis Fuller had been making a name for himself as an astute and soulful trombonist. Trumpeter Tommy Turrentine, finally, had just left Max Roach’s group, where he’d followed in the footsteps of the legendary Clifford Brown.

Not only the line-up is an asset, the impressive drive of Chambers’ walkin’ bass and his outstanding solo abilities contribute to the relevance of this album as well. Lateef graces many tunes with simultanuously idiosyncratic and bluesy tenor and Turrentine’s trumpet style works well within the loose proceedings. However, the straightforward vehicles for blowing in four/four time that Lateef wrote, do tend to get tiresome. Mainly, they’re started off with intricate bass figures and thereafter possess intelligent bass interludes from Chambers and extended horn and piano solos. Ballad Blessed is the black sheep among the herd, containing bowed bass and the muted, lyrical trumpet style of Tommy Turrentine.

Paul Chambers, as is well documented, contributed to a stunning amount of recordings, among them many legendary albums. To name but a few: John Coltrane’s Blue Train and Giant Steps, Thelonious Monk’s Brilliant Corners, Sonny Clark’s Cool Struttin’, Oliver Nelson’s The Blues And The Abstract Truth, Lee Morgan’s Leeway, Miles Davis’ Milestones and Kind of Blue, Sonny Rollins’ Tenor Madness and Hank Mobley’s Workout. Being in constant demand probably prevented Chambers from recording more solo albums from 1960 to his untimely passing in 1969. 1st Bassman doesn’t rank among his prime performances, but it still is well above average.