George Wallington Quintet - Jazz For The Carriage Trade

George Wallington Quintet Jazz For The Carriage Trade (Prestige 1956)

Pushing down stuff down the throats of the well-to-do is all fine and dandy but the true elite of course is Wallington & Co themselves.

George Wallington Quintet - Jazz For The Carriage Trade


George Wallington (piano), Donald Byrd (trumpet), Phil Woods (alto saxophone), Teddy Kotick (bass), Art Taylor (drums)


on January 20, 1956 at Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, New Jersey


as PLP 7032 in 1956

Track listing

Side A:
Our Delight
Our Love Is Here To Stay
Foster Dulles
Side B:
Together We Wail
What’s New
But George

Here’s a rare bird, try to catch him and off he goes… What with the overwhelming presence of Bud Powell and Oscar Peterson and the constant introduction of sassy newcomers as Horace Silver and Sonny Clark, it isn’t particularly weird, if unfortunate, that George Wallington is rarely mentioned. He’s an interesting pianist, born Giacinto Figlia in Sicily in 1924, raised in New York City from 1925, a flashy dresser as a kid, which is why kids in the hood would shout, “hey, look at Wallington!”. Hence the switch from Figlia to Wallington.

An important contributor to the development of bebop in the mid-1940’s, Wallington played with Dizzy, Bird, Serge Chaloff, Allen Eager, Al Cohn and Gerry Mulligan. Wallington is noteworthy not just because he was a plainly exceptional pianist, but because the development of his style is contrary to that of most of his colleagues. Most everybody, of course, was hit by thunderbolt Bud Powell. It seems that the style of precursors as Earl Hines greatly influenced Wallington’s playing. Strong left hand bass lines, cross-rhythm and chunky and brittle phrases are dominant. While Powell is thunder and lightning, a kite surfer riding the waves, not falling once (when in top form and not marred by mental issues) with gusts up to force 8, Wallington is blue skies and fat cumulus clouds and a sneaky breeze that blows the hat from your head.

His interaction with the proto-typical ‘bombs’ from the drummer showcase a penchant for the percussive qualities of the 88 keys. Check out, for instance, his feature on Brew Moore’s Mud Bug from 1949 and Escalatin’ with Charles Mingus and Max Roach in 1952 (wild ride on down, bell boy’s going crazy). Lest we forget, Wallington was an excellent writer. Godchild, initially recorded on the eponymous Birth Of The Cool record by Miles Davis & Co, is his best-known composition, followed closely by Lemon Drop, which had a spot in the book of Woody Herman.

Paradoxically, when many colleagues started to look for an escape from the constraints of the bop changes, Wallington delivered some Powellesque records in the mid-1950’s. Here’s Busman’s Holiday from 1954’s Variations. Thereafter, Wallington peaked with a couple of original performances, suggesting the influence of Thelonious Monk and Herbie Nichols. This while still generally playing in a bop context, check out Ornitology from Leonard Feather Presents Bop from 1957, featuring Idrees Suliman, Phil Woods, Curley Russell and Denzil Best.

One of his best albums, Jazz At The Carriage Trade, features Wallington’s working quintet of newcomers Donald Byrd and Phil Woods, pal from the early bop days Teddy Kotick and Art Taylor. Lord Wallington put his sword on the shoulders of his bandmates, tapping each shoulder twice, to indicate that they had collaborated on a superb hard bop date. It’s smooth, it’s hot, it’s relaxed and propulsive.

Wallington’s use of space is striking, his hanging on a note like a kid on momma’s sleeve is rather enchanting and the occasional focus on black keys hypnotic. Subtle left hand lines crawl into the fabric of the quintet’s program. Whatever the pace, whatever the tune – Dameronia, Fosteronia, Gershwin and a couple of boppish originals make up for satisfying repertoire – there is something definitely ego-less about the way Wallington accompanies his men. Smart and stimulating.

Some of the best work of Woods, young Woods still, is to be found on Carriage Trade. Parker-ish and supple as honey dripping from a spoon. Donald Byrd is a bright and sassy teammate. A Prestige date that reveals good preparation. Excellent RVG soundscape.

A couple of years later, Wallington flew the coop. Apparently tired from the biz, the pianist got into air-conditioning, a family affair. Wallington eventually returned to the scene shortly in the mid-1980’s and recorded three solo piano records for Interface and VSOP.

Wallington passed away in 1993.

Donald Byrd - At The Half Note Volume 1

Donald Byrd At The Half Note Café Vol 1 & 2 (Blue Note 1961)

Byrd’s band flies high at the Half Note Café.

Donald Byrd - At The Half Note Volume 1


Donald Byrd - At The Half Note Volume 2


Donald Byrd (trumpet), Pepper Adams (baritone saxophone), Duke Pearson (piano), Laymon Jackson (bass), Lex Humphries (drums)


on November 11, 1960 at the Half Note Café, NYC


as BLP 4046 and BLP 4061 in 1961

Track listing

Volume 1:
Side A:
My Girl Shirl
Soulful Kiddy
Side B:
A Portrait Of Jennie
Volume 2:
Side A:
Pure D. Funk
Side B:
When Sunny Gets Blue

From A Night At Birdland by Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers to Live At The House Of Tribes by Wynton Marsalis, Blue Note has produced an iconic series of cookin’ live albums. Not counting the wide array of live performances that Blue Note had its hands in ever since, so far culminating in 8:Kindred Spirits, superb and poetical date from Charles Lloyd, former Cannonball Adderley Quintet band member.

Six years into Blue Note’s outstanding live recording streak, the company released Donald Byrd’s At The Half Note Café Volume 1 & 2 in 1961, essential live Blue Note, punchy as hell, clear and broad sound scape, plainly gorgeous.

How did Rudy van Gelder pull it off? Well, he set up some gear and let the tapes roll. Presumably, acoustics were fine. Ace mastering at Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey was the icing on the cake. I read somewhere that The Blackhawk in San Francisco was one of the dingiest and sleaziest clubs around. And that’s a statement. Yet, the Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis recordings sound superb. Don’t know where the Half Note Café at 298 Hudson Street in Greenwich Village in New York City stood as far as sleaze is concerned. However, its reputation among musicians was good. Nice atmosphere, hip crowd. Listen to Byrd’s band. Just one night out of many in the early 1960’s, hard bop the omnipresent style even if new concepts have importantly entered the equation, one week the club presents Lee Morgan, the other week Stanley Turrentine, Kenny Dorham, Cecil Payne, Barry Harris, Yusef Lateef, Jimmy Knepper or Dave Pike. Etc. And.

Byrd’s band’s cookin’ and if you want an aural definition of hard bop, it’s right there. That’s Donald Byrd, who came into his own in the mid-and late 1950’s as one of the bright and sassy trumpeters of his generation, notably as a member of Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers. By 1960, Byrd was into a run of excellent Blue Note albums. He played with monster baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams for a number of years, which led to a live LP on Riverside, From Ten To Four At The Five Spot (talkin’ about dingy and hip) and various excellent Blue Note LP’s from 1959 to 1962. The rhythm section consists of pianist and Blue Note A&R man Duke Pearson, bassist Laymon Jackson and drummer Lex Humphries, who already shared collaborations on records between them.

Since the double CD set and streaming, Donald Byrd’s show can be heard in its entirety, adding Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea, Theme From Mr. Lucky, Chant and Child’s Play. Potentially, this could’ve been a solid Vol. 3, which evidently speaks volumes about the quality of Byrd’s group. It’s hot, soulful, smooth and swinging. In the past, references about Byrd’s ‘manicured licks’ have been made on All Music which probably refer to Byrd’s repetitive blues phrases on Jeannine. Nonsense. Although hardly innovative, Byrd uses repetition in his game of tension and release, slightly variating with bending, stretching and timing notes.

Duke Pearson’s Jeannine is a winner and typical of Byrd’s Half Note sets, tight-knit and passionate. It’s also typical in that apart from When Sunny Gets Blue, all titles are original compositions by Donald Byrd and Duke Pearson. A couple of good ones, folks, featuring the up-tempo cooker My Girl Shirl, catchy mid-tempo blues line Soulful Kiddy, shimmering ballad A Portrait Of Jenny, happy-go-lucky and bouncy Cecile, down-home slow blues Pure D. Funk and rousing Latin-tinged Kimyas.

With time to stretch out, there’s plenty to enjoy in the way of soloing and all three participants come up with the goods. Byrd is mightily inspired by the powerful rhythmic stimulus of Kimyas, eagerly getting into the groove like a talented teenage bat man that can’t wait to get on the field. The architecture of the solos by the barking and booming Pepper Adams, who single-handedly raised playing of the baritone saxophone to the next level, is something else, notably demonstrated during Cecile.

By 1960, people finally had a chance to hear extended story telling by Duke Pearson, whose soulful and well-constructed variations on Jeannine should not go unnoticed. Just a few highlights, there are stand out moments throughout. Drummer Lex Humphries constantly stokes up the fire, alertly and richly accentuating shifts and changes. Above all, At The Half Note Café Vol. 1 & 2 testifies to the rapport between members of a well-oiled, hard-swinging machine.