Horace Silver - Finger Poppin'

Horace Silver Finger Poppin’ (Blue Note 1959)

Horace Silver’s first album with his most celebrated line-up, Finger Poppin’, still stands tall after all these years as a penultimate example of hipness and swing.

Horace Silver - Finger Poppin'

Personnel

Horace Silver (piano), Blue Mitchell (trumpet), Junior Cook (tenor saxophone), Gene Taylor (bass), Louis Hayes (drums)

Recorded

on January 31, 1959 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Released

as BLP 4008 in 1959

Track listing

Side A:
Finger Poppin’
Juicy Lucy
Swingin’ The Samba
Sweet Stuff
Side B:
Cookin’ At The Continental
Come On Home
You Happened My Way
Mellow D.


What else? Everybody obviously knows that feeling. I’m not talking about George Clooney’s cup of espresso but of the series of Blue Note albums that Horace Silver made in the late fifties and early sixties. Desert island stuff of such a unique blend of blues and sophistication that effortlessly produces the feeling that all other music besides Silver’s might be redundant. It’s damn perfect. Meaning, not near-perfect. Hard bop heaven. Finger Poppin’ is classic Silver. For the first time, trumpeter Blue Mitchell, tenor saxophonist Junior Cook and bassist Gene Taylor are aboard. The quite unique ensemble playing of Mitchell and Cook, who took with them a lot of experience in r&b groups, gave the already impressive compositions of Silver a buzz, especially noticable in the uptempo cooker Cookin’ In The Continental. Silver was quick to capitalise on their talents, injecting nifty shout-choruses in the tune, that effectively catapult the soloists into action.

Lots of other crafty devices set Silver’s music in full bloom, elaborate compositions which nevertheless flow naturally like mountain streams. Silver penned eight major league tunes, ranging from catchy swingers like Finger Poppin’ to the lyrical ballad Sweet Stuff. Juicy Lucy is one of the most irresistable songs around. Bluesy as hell, it features the amazing sense of taste and clarity that runs through the whole set, clarity of both song structure and solo’s. Not only the master himself tells a well-balanced tale with slightly behind-the-beat, swinging lines, dense, probing chords, a delicate use of space, Cook and Mitchell, relatively unknown musicians at that time, strike the listener as remarkable storytellers.

All this soulful comping and blowing is underscored by drummer Louis Hayes, who is one of the great masters of the hard bop era, certainly as far as reinforcing a band is concerned. Practically on his own, Hayes sets fire to Silver’s trademark Latin tune for this set, Swingin’ The Samba. The propulsive time of his ride cymbal and crisp, spot-on snare rolls hit the cookin’ tunes right out of the ballpark. Hayes had been aboard the Silver train from 1956, a remarkable stretch for the drummer, who would go on to write hard bop drum history with Cannonball Adderley and on Blue Note albums as Kenny Drew’s Undercurrent. Among many other endeavors. After 1959’s Blowin’ The Blues Away, Hayes would be followed up by Roy Brooks.

The best line-up? Every group has its assets. Cast your mind back to the original Mobley/Dorham frontline and Art Blakey groove. Or the daring, lively Henderson/Shaw contributions to Cape Verdean Blues. At any rate, as far as coherent group sound and effortless, blues-drenched swing is concerned, Silver’s group with Cook/Mitchell is unparalleled. Enough to drive you out of your mind. And if you’re not careful, your body.

Louis Hayes Serenade For Horace (Blue Note 2017)

NEW RELEASE LOUIS HAYES –

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.

Rein de Graaff 2

Rein’s Dream

At the distinguished age of 73, pianist Rein de Graaff preserves a childlike enthousiasm for his trade, which he typifies matter-of-factly as ‘bebop, ballads and blues’. As a boy of 15, De Graaff entrusted his equally jazz-crazed pals with the wish to one day play with his heroes Hank Mobley, Dizzy Gillespie and Dexter Gordon. “I never would have thought that dream to come true. But, amazingly, it did.”

They told me De Graaff had long since decorated one of his rooms in his countryside bungalow as a jazz museum. Well, make it two rooms. De Graaff has led me from one room, filled with the monumental archive of his career and hundreds of jazz magazines (e.g. all Downbeat Magazine issues up to 1970, which speaks for itself if you’ve learned to know anything about De Graaff’s tastes) to another that hosts a grand piano, walls adorned with vintage photographs, concert posters and a vast collection of original classic bebop and hardbop albums on labels as Blue Note, Prestige, Clef/Norgran, Savoy, Bethlehem and Argo. I’m the drooling kid in the candy store. Come to think of it, if it comes to collecting vinyl, Rein de Graaff transforms into a boy that has entered the Efteling amusement park as well. Collecting has been a lifelong passion. “I just got back from a Los Angeles festival. There was a record fair just outside the Capitol building. It was great!”

For De Graaff, the classic jazz of the late fourties to the late sixties that his speaker system churns out has always remained the real deal. “Jazz shouldn’t be too clean, it has to have an edge, something dirty and smoky. The music I play comes from the smoke-filled clubs, where sex often was cheap, and the blues was heard… I started out at the end of the era when New York clubs had music from 10 to 4. And then there was Slugs’. I usually went to bed at 8 in the morning. Nowadays, I’m having breakfast at 8! Naturally, there was something going on. I mean, who’s sitting at the bar? Hustlers, for instance. It was partly a criminal environment. All these things somehow ring through in the music.“

No reason for Sam Spade to stake out De Graaff’s Veendam residence, though. Just the music. A gentlemen from peat country, the north-eastern region of Groningen in The Netherlands. A man for whom a bargain is a bargain. This man has been a boy, frail and white as whipping cream, who happened to land in classic jazz paradise. That, indeed, is Rein de Graaff’s unusual, arresting story.

Partly anyway. It was clear from the outset that the young man from an upper middle-class family had a natural talent for music and playing piano that could bring him places. The boy had soaked up the sounds of Charlie Barnett, Winifred Atwell and played ragtime when one day the radio broadcasted Charlie Parker’s Shaw ‘Nuff and Stupendous. He heard Bud Powell play Tempus Fugue-It, Clifford Brown blast through All Chillun Got Rhythm. The kid was hooked, caught in ‘Webb City’. Getting involved into bebop with a cultish zeal reminiscent of its inventors, Rein de Graaff’s self-taught playing matured, under further influence of albums as Interpretations By The Stan Getz Quintet, The Jazz Messengers At The Cafe Bohemia and Griffin/Coltrane/Mobley’s A Blowing Session.

“People usually stay true to the music that makes an impression on them when they’re 15 or 16. It’s ingrained. That certainly holds true for me. Introducing Lee Morgan was and still is an all-time favorite. Hank Mobley is stunning, and the rhythm section is extremely lively. Of course, Blakey backed Mobley on some wonderful classics, like Soul Station, but the Art Taylor/Doug Watkins combi is dear to me.”

“I have most of the classic West Coast albums now, but I didn’t like West Coast jazz when I was young. The only record I liked was Shorty Rogers’ Modern Sounds. Take a listen here, that’s not cool, right, it’s hot! Great arrangements too. A bebop album that blew my mind was It’s Time For Dave Pike. Yeah man, that’s great, it’s Charlie Parker on vibes. I took it to his gig at a club in Groningen in 1967 and asked Dave Pike to sign it. I wasn’t a kid anymore but thought to give it one more go as far as signatures were concerned! I felt that our thought processes were alike. And it proved they were. Later on, when we became friends, it totally clicked. By the way, that vibraphone over there is the one that Dave used for the It’s Time For Dave Pike album.”

(From left, clockwise: Lee Morgan – Introducing Lee Morgan, Savoy 1956; Shorty Rogers – Modern Sounds, Capitol 1952; Dave Pike – It’s Time For Dave Pike, Riverside 1961)

By the early sixties, De Graaff, who didn’t fancy getting into Chopin and the like at Conservatory, gigged steadily, had won a prize at the Loosdrecht Jazz Festival, toured Germany with a swing orchestra, and even shared the stage with Sonny Stitt at the Blue Note in Paris. Back in The Netherlands, De Graaff scoured Amsterdam clubs, particularly the Sheherezade, where the expatriate tenor saxophonist Don Byas mentored young lions like De Graaff and his friends and colleagues such as saxophonist Dick Vennik, drummers Eric Ineke and John Engels and trumpeter Nedley Elstak.

But the big year for De Graaff turned out to be 1967. The pianist rises from his chair and beckons me to come up close to the photo wall. “So you’ve seen the big picture of me and Hank Mobley on stage over there, right. But look here, this one you have never seen. Hank, Evelyn Blakey (Art Blakey’s daughter) and me, we’re watching tv.”

In 1967 the 24-year old De Graaff traveled to New York. He said to his friends that he wanted to experience the jazz life of his heroes and, jokingly, added that his main goal was to play with Hank Mobley. For De Graaff, Hank Mobley was and has always remained the personification of jazz. “I got out of the subway in the Lower East Side and the first man I saw was walking with a trumpet case at the other end of the sidewalk. He looked familiar. He looked like Kenny Dorham, one of my all-time heroes. I followed him for a while and then had collected enough nerve to ask if he really was Kenny Dorham. Indeed he was! Subsequently, Dorham invited me to come up to the East Village Inn at night.” The following week, De Graaff hung out with musicians like Walter Davis Jr., Barry Harris and Evelyn Blakey, at whose place De Graaff had dinner one night. Evelyn knew of Rein’s wish to see Mobley and invited Mobley as a surprise guest for the astonished, skinny piano player from Holland. “She asked me to open the door. I obeyed. My heart burst out of my chest. There was Hank Mobley. ‘Hi, I’m Hank’, he said.”

In New York, De Graaff played with Hank Mobley, Lee Morgan, Elvin Jones and Joe Farrell. It was a dream come true. It was pretty devastating, however, regardless of their brilliant, swinging game, to see his heroes play sleazy bars for a nickle, while he opinioned that their stature should be of concert hall level, and to see some of them, like bassist Paul Chambers, succumb to a dreary, destructive alcoholic life style. “I saw some of that as well in Germany and The Sheherazade, it was a bit scary. I decided to follow a different path.”

The following decades would see the pianist lead a prolific but most unusual jazz life. Working by day in the electro ware wholesale company of his father (which De Graaff continued in later life and sold at the age of 56), De Graaff played at night and during days or weeks off. His popular De Graaff/Vennik quartet ventured more and more into modal jazz territories, while De Graaff also supported Americans such as Johnny Griffin, Dexter Gordon, Clark Terry, Arnett Cobb, Dizzy Reece, Carmell Jones and Red Rodney on their Dutch and European gigs. Great experiences, with lessons to be learned as well, like those from Griffin and Art Taylor, who played either at furious breakneck speed or extra slowly, getting into a distinctive ‘groove’, something De Graaff called ‘American Tempos’.

It was an outrageously busy lifestyle. Better to burn out than to fade away? “I didn’t drink. That helps. And I was young, able to get along without much sleep. Sometimes I got home at 4 in the morning and was at the office at 8! And for instance, when I had a business meeting far away, I would combine it with a gig the night before! Most of all, playing jazz was my high, gave me a lot of adrenaline. My work gave me a kick as well. All that keeps you on your toes!”

De Graaff’s skin has that antique porcelain quality. Aged but still quite smooth. Strands of yellow-ish hair embellish a white crop, like sheep wool. Slightly wavy hair, and always that broad curl at the back of his neck. Not too neatly trimmed. An edge. “But yes, I lived three lives. My wife and children are proficient in music and they were understanding.” Then, dryly: “I wouldn’t have married her otherwise. But indeed, I was away a lot and didn’t see enough of my little daughter. I decided to do it differently when my son was born. The kids loved it as well, though, having those Americans around. Instead of hotels, they stayed at our place. Teddy Edwards and Babs Gonzalez were housefriends. Babs always played checkers with my kid daughter,” laughs De Graaff. More laughs erupt when De Graaff recounts the extended sleepovers of Johnny Griffin and Art Taylor, who always slept in a bunk, ‘can you imagine?!’

A white boy amidst Afro-American legends, many of whom were desperate, troubled, grappling with racism, dissapointed in American society, and, like Art Taylor, quite militant about it. “You’ve read Taylor’s book Notes and Tones, right? (Ed., Art Taylor’s controversial 1982 book of interviews with fellow musicians) The thing is, these guys transformed into Europeans in a way. Don Byas spoke Dutch, Art Taylor spoke French. Life in Europe wasn’t so stressed, they were more relaxed in general. In The States, the cops were on their backs all the time and they were ripped off regularly. It wasn’t like that over here.”

“Musically, I just gave my best. At the start of my career in New York, and later in Detroit with trumpeter Louis Smith, I was sometimes the only white musician in the group. Oh, I’ve had a bassist say to me once, (De Graaff puts on a deep, gritty voice) ‘Show me how good you are’. I made sure I did. The thing is, jazz is the shared language. You communicate on that level. I remember what the emcee said when I was on stage with Hank Mobley. He said: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, how about a big hand for Hank Mobley, Herbie Lewis and Billy Higgins, and the young man from Europe. You heard the man, he’s preaching the same message as we do.’

(From left, clockwise: Dexter Gordon & Rein de Graaff; Rein de Graaff, Herbie Lewis, Hank Mobley & Billy Higgins; Art Taylor, Henk Haverhoek, Johnny Griffin & Rein de Graaff)

I mention De Graaff’s version of Gil Fuller’s I Waited For You (from Drifting On A Reed, Timeless, 1977), a classic De Graaff cut of long, flowing lines, spare blue notes, tumbling and rollicking lyrical modes and some ‘out’ phrases. “That was inspired by Joachim Kuhn, who although he didn’t really swing, was outrageously good. I was into McCoy Tyner as well, our quartet developed more of a ‘new thing’. Musicians advised me to quit bebop, start something new. It was kind of a breather for me, a liberation, really. And the quartet was so propulsive! That avantgarde stuff didn’t sit too well with the legends, though. I remember Dexter Gordon saying one night, ‘Rein, stop that Chick Corea shit, will you!’

The quartet existed until 1989, but in the late seventies De Graaff again took some advise to heart. “Now audiences said, ‘Hey Rein, you used to play such beautiful bebop, why don’t you get back into that? Of course that’s when I went to New York to record New York Jazz (Timeless/Muse, 1979) with Tom Harrell, Ronnie Cuber and the classic rhythm section Sam Jones and Louis Hayes. I used to play along with all those Cannonball Adderley albums at home, you know!”

A combination of Horace Silver, Bud Powell, Sonny Clark, Hampton Hawes and a touch of Lennie Tristano, De Graaff has made his mark as one of the premier European bebop/hardbop pianists. An ‘unpianistic’ pianist, relishing long, flowing lines that he tries to construct as horn men do. A more gentle touch, like his friend Barry Harris, in contrast to Powell’s hammering lightning bolts. “Someone in The States once said to me, ‘hey man, you blow a nice piano!’ Horns have fringes. Playing piano like Oscar Peterson is not my ambition. He was the best in the world, but I couldn’t care less. All over the keyboard, flurries of arpeggio’s, brilliant, perfect playing, but constant brilliance and perfection becomes boring after a while.”

“I think I was a fanatic. That’s crucial, you gotta have that dedication and obsession. Let me tell you a story guitarist Peter Leitch told me. He teached a class at Conservatory, there was a talented guitar player. Leitch said, ‘okay, I’ll see you at the workshop on Friday.’ The young man said, ‘No, I can’t make it, I have to hang wallpaper at my grandma’s’. You know, that’s not the right mentality. Small wonder, we’ve never heard from the gentlemen since.”

Like Barry Harris, De Graaff has been a true ambassador for bebop and hardbop. From 1986 till his 70th birthday in 2012, De Graaff gave four lecture/tours a year, playing and explaining the music that grew out of Charlie Parker et al. Essential jazz history, embellished by an endless list of acclaimed and underrated Americans: Teddy Edwards, Clifford Jordan, Johnny Griffin, James Moody, Ronnie Cuber, Charles McPherson, Harold Land, Houston Person, Frank Foster, David “Fathead” Newman, James Clay, Barry Harris, Webster Young, Bud Shank, Billy Root, Herb Geller, Al Cohn, Louis Smith, Art Farmer, Eddie Daniels, Lew Tabakin, James Spaulding, Bob Cooper, Gary Foster, Pete Christlieb, Gary Smulyan… That’s when people started nicknaming De Graaff ‘Professor Bop’. “That was the source. Guys like Johnny Griffin, he could tell how it was to play with Monk, Harold Land what Clifford Brown was about. And Teddy Edwards, come on, he invented bebop!”

Fortune’s favorite? A fullfilled man, certainly. But where have all the flowers gone? At 73, De Graaff concedes that he’s starting to become a regular visitor of the crematorium. De Graaff puts his arm in the air and moves a closed hand back and forth slowly. “It’s the Big Hand working. Here it goes, ‘swoosh’, takes a bunch of us, draws back again, only to resume its relentless work… Dave Pike passed away last year.” You can hear a pin drop. Says De Graaff, his face now a brittle mask that hides sorrow. Only human: “That really made me kind of sad. We were like bloodbrothers. But ok, we performed, made a record. Fine. At least, that’s consigned to posterity.”

“I’ve got nothing but nice memories. My favorites? The first time that I played with Hank Mobley is really dear to me. Also, my tour with Dexter Gordon, Sonny Stitt and Philly Joe Jones was fantastic. I knew these guys inside out from their records, but to sit beside them on stage really is something else. They play familiar phrases and licks, but the licks are theirs, original. The impact is enormous.”

His blue-grey eyes, mostly hidden behind wrinkled eyelids like ladybugs in the cracks of cobblestones, suddenly grow: clarity, earthiness, a little tenderness. “I carefully pick my recording projects, it has to be something fresh. That’s why I did duet albums and performed with two baritones, for instance. It’s still possible to be creative in bebop and hardbop, or what you’d call mainstream jazz. I will be doing my Chasin’ The Bird tour in the near future. That would give you an idea of what that tour is about, right?”

Rein de Graaff

Pianist Rein de Graaff (Groningen, 1942) recorded more than 40 albums, both as a leader and in cooperation with numerous Americans and fellow Europeans. He won the Boy Edgar Prijs in 1980 and the Bird Award at North Sea Jazz Festival in 1986. From 1986 to 2012, De Graaff organised Stoomcursus and Vervolgcursus Bebop: lectures about bebop, which included performances by a host of American and Dutch luminaries, as well as upcoming youngsters. De Graaff’s career is chronicled in Coen de Jonge’s Belevenissen In Bebop. (Passage, 1997)

Selected discography:

Body And Soul (with J.R. Monterose, Munich 1970)
The Jamfs Are Coming (with Johnny Griffin & Art Taylor, Timeless/Muse 1975)
Modal Soul (Timeless 1977)
New York Jazz (Timeless/Muse 1979)
Good Gravy (with Teddy Edwards, Timeless 1981)
Live (with Arnett Cobb, Timeless 1982)
Rifftide (with Al Cohn, Timeless 1987)
Blue Bird (with Dave Pike & Charles McPherson, Timeless 1988)
Nostalgia (Timeless 1991)
Blue Beans & Greens (with David “Fathead” Newman & Marcel Ivery, Timeless 1991)
Baritone Explosion (with Ronnie Cuber & Nick Brignola, Timeless 1994)
Alone Together (with Bud Shank, Timeless 2000)
Blue Lights The Music Of Gigi Cryce (Timeless 2005)
Indian Summer (with Sam Most, Timeless 2012)

Fried Bananas, the vinyl release of a 1972 Dexter Gordon performance with the Rein de Graaff Trio by Gearbox Records is due in November.

Hank Mobley Quintet

Hank Mobley Hank Mobley Quintet (Blue Note 1957)

Pick anyone of Hank Mobley’s extended string of Blue Note albums of the late fifties and the early sixties and you’re in for a treat. Soul Station (1960) is widely regarded as the tenor saxophonist’s masterpiece. It’s hard to disagree! However, 1957’s Hank Mobley Quintet also ranks among’s Hank Mobley’s finest efforts. At its centre is Mobley’s unique silky sound.

Hank Mobley Quintet

Personnel

Hank Mobley (tenor saxophone), Art Farmer (trumpet), Horace Silver (piano), Doug Watkins (bass), Art Blakey (drums)

Recorded

on March 8, 1957 at Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, New Jersey

Released

as BLP 1550 in 1957

Track listing

Side A:
Funk In Deep Freeze
Wham And They’re Off
Fin De l’Affaire
Side B:
Startin’ From Scratch
Stella-Wise
Base On Balls


Mobley once described his tone as ‘round’. Veteran Dutch pianist Rob Agerbeek, who toured Europe with Mobley in 1968-69 and whom I talked to a year ago for Flophouse Magazine, succinctly put it like this: “It came out naturel, like breath, ‘whooosh!’”

Tone wasn’t Mobley’s sole asset. The man possessed first-rate chops and a gift for writing unconventional, smoky tunes. The way Mobley embraced a melody and spun lyrical, flowing lines is exceptional. What more could one ask for?

There’s the famous remark of legendary critic Leonard Feather, who dubbed Mobley ‘the middleweight champion of the tenor saxophone’ in the liner notes of 1961’s Workout. Feather believed, in terms of both fame and style, that Mobley belonged neither to the heavyweight category of Coleman Hawkins, John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins, nor to the lightweight school of Stan Getz. Feather suggested that Mobley’s uncommon, relaxed but driving phrasing unjustly kept him under the radar.

But among musicians and label bosses Mobley was indisputed and in constant demand. The tenorist from Philadelphia recorded with, among others, Max Roach, Dizzy Gillespie, Lee Morgan, Cedar Walton, Kenny Dorham, Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard, Donald Byrd, Kenny Drew, Elvin Jones, Grant Green… The list is endless. His well-known cooperation with fellow original Jazz Messengers Art Blakey and Horace Silver is of the utmost historic value. Mobley’s subtle methods gelled surprisingly well with the explosive approach of Blakey. It’s a rather mysterious but inspiring blend that’s showcased on the landmark albums that were quintessential in spawning hard bop, Horace Silver And The Jazz Messengers and At The Bohemia I and II. The line-up of Hank Mobley Quintet constitutes the original Messengers line-up of the above-mentioned albums minus Kenny Dorham.

Mobley’s Soul Station is remarkable for the fact that the relaxed but insistent swing of Mobley seems to nurture a gentler Blakey attack: a quiet storm. Blakey places more pushy accents, press rolls and cymbal crashes on Hank Mobley Quintet. That’s pretty swell too. Wham And They’re Gone sizzles, boils and, like a jolly giant, threatens to tear out of its turtleneck sweater. Mobley goes about his business of stacking breathy flurries of notes while retaining a sense of elegance and sophistication. Cuts like Funk In Deep Freeze, a twisty-turny melody taken at medium tempo, are gems of a group of players that know each other inside out.

Mobley knew how to handle ballads. His original ballad, Fin De l’Affaire, is a gorgeous melody that leans heavily on the dark-hued bass of Doug Watkins, and which Mobley graces with understated pathos. Horace Silver plays ‘full of silence’, a beautific way of giving substance to a solo that’s both romantic and bluesy. Art Farmer is an authoritative presence on the album, alternating between open horn and mute. These guys are pioneers of hard bop that lift more average material like Stella-Wise and 12-bar blues Base On Balls to a higher level. Hank Mobley functions as suave leader of the pack.

What a refined player, nary a corny phrase around.

Milt Jackson

Milt Jackson Plenty, Plenty Soul (Atlantic 1957)

At the time of Milt Jackson’ recording of Plenty, Plenty Soul, the group that he was part of, The Modern Jazz Quartet, was a major force in the jazz world. It had recorded their blend of modern jazz and chamber music on albums as Concorde, Fontessa and Django, which included the famous title track. With more time on his hands for the blues away from MJQ, Plenty, Plenty Soul showcases a freewheelin’ Milt Jackson.

Milt Jackson

Personnel

Milt Jackson (vibes), Joe Newman (trumpet), Jimmy Cleveland (trombone A1-A3), (Cannonball Adderley credited as Ronnie Peters, alto A1-A3), Frank Foster (tenor saxophone A1-A3), Lucky Thompson (tenor saxophone B1-B4), Sahib Shehab (baritone saxophone A1-A3), Horace Silver (piano), Percy Heath (bass A1-A3), Oscar Pettiford (bass B1-B4), Art Blakey (drums A1-A3), Connie Kay (drums B1-B4)

Recorded

on January 5 & 7, 1975 at Atlantic Studio in New York City

Released

as SD 1269 in 1957

Track listing

Side A:
Plenty, Plenty Soul
Boogity Boogity
Heartstrings
Side B:
Sermonette
The Spirit-Feel
Ignunt Oil
Blues At Twilight


Side A has the upper hand. The opener and title track is a long blues that includes an abundance of funky and virtuoso Milt Jackson phrases. The rhythym section of Art Blakey, Horace Silver (Silver had parted ways with Blakey’s Jazz Messengers half a year prior to this session) and Milt Jackson’s colleague form the MJQ, bassist Percy Heath, is especially exciting on the joyful Boogity Boogity. Jackson is stimulated considerably by Blakey’s amalgam of press rolls, tom attacks and nifty use of the snare drum’s metal ring. Ending side A, Jackson’s radiant sound and lyrical twists and turns are at the core of the ballad Heartstrings.

The uplifting arrangements of the first three tracks are by Quincy Jones. The solo’s by Jackson’s sidemen are excellent. Part of the all-star cast is altoist Cannonball Adderley, (credited as ‘Ronnie Peters’ for legal reasons) whose solo on Boogity Boogity is one of the album’s highlights.

In comparison to this session, the one that culminated in side B is less spiritedlacks. Milt Jackson’s other colleague from the MJQ, drummer Connie Kay, is much less energetic than Art Blakey. It’s why tunes like Nat Adderley’s pretty, infectious melody Sermonette, don’t really take off. Less exceptional than side A, side B nevertheless presents a couple of highlights. Firstly, the abundant church feeling Milt Jackson brings to his performances, especially in The Spirit Feel, makes the heart skip a beat. Secondly, Jackson demonstrates both outstanding technique (utilising the four mallet-approach) and a feeling for the blues in the slow blues Blues At Twilight. Finally, tenorist Lucky Thompson’s round tone and articulate style are responsible for the session’s merry atmosphere.

In my opinion, both sides of Milt Jackson – the ‘blowing’ kind and the MJQ-kind – deserve equal attention. The downgrading of John Lewis has been a favourite sport of Milt Jackson fans. Reportedly, Jackson hated his guts and in spite of being fed up with the quartet periodically, stayed in it for the money. Yet, Jackson fans tend to forget that Lewis’s writing and arranging skills and understated (quietly swinging) piano backing brought masterful play out of Jackson.

Obviously, we should be very glad that Milt Jackson also kept recording in his own right. As his second solo foray on Atlantic using a top-notch all-star cast, Plenty, Plenty Soul foreshadowed other exciting collaborations with Ray Charles (Soul Brothers, Soul Meeting), Coleman Hawkins (Bean Bags) and John Coltrane. (Bags & Trane)

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Horace Silver Further Explorations (Blue Note 1958)

Further Explorations, pianist Horace Silver’s sixth release on Blue Note, is a revealing album in his catalogue. Silver branches out beyond his idiom, further developing tunes with Latin rhythm, the minor key and unusual bar lenghts. Carefully crafted but uncluttered, the album doesn’t stress the down-home feeling Horace Silver incorporated into modern jazz. But Silver’s innovative writing and supreme piano concept make it an extremely rewarding listening experience.

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Personnel

Horace Silver (piano), Clifford Jordan (tenor saxophone), Art Farmer (trumpet), Teddy Kotick (bass), Louis Hayes (drums)

Recorded

on January 13 at Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, New Jersey

Released

as BLP 1589 in 1958

Track listing

Side A:
The Outlaw
Melancholy Mood
Pyramid
Side B:
Moon Rays
Safari
Ill Wind


The album sits between Stylings Of Silver, which had the same line-up except Hank Mobley instead of Clifford Jordan, and the albums Silver made with his longstanding group from 1959 to 1964, consisting of Blue Mitchell, Junior Cook, Gene Taylor and Roy Brooks. The ensemble playing of the group on Further Explorations is outstanding. Art Farmer contributes elegant solos and his sound is crystalline. Clifford Jordan’s playing, albeit a bit guarded at times, is excellent.

The first two cuts make it clear that although Further Explorations is an appropriate title, More Stylings Of Silver would be on the money as well. The Outlaw has unusual bar lenghts, a Latin beat alternating with 4/4 time and labyrinthine stop-time sections, yet moves along swiftly in the manner of early Silver gems such as Room 608. (from Horace Silver And The Jazz Messengers) It’s intricate, but at the same time would still be a credible juke box tune.

The second composition, the ballad Melancholy Mood, is a change of mood indeed. It’s a ballad that starts as a warm-hearted duet between Silver and Teddy Kotick, (one of Charlie Parker’s favorite bass players) who plays bowed bass on the Thelonious Monkish-theme. Louis Hayes chimes in with smooth, elevating brushwork. Silver’s solo is a gem, mixing long stretches of brooding minor chords and notes with sensuous phrases and repeated funky licks.

Both Pyramid and Moon Rays have perplexing, yet swinging themes. Pyramid is a mix of a catchy melody, Latin tinges and stop-time choruses, wherein Art Farmer finds his way with lyrical, long flowing lines. Moon Rays is the eleven-minute long centre-piece of the album. As counts for all tunes, the melody, again partly Latin, is exasperatingly beautiful. The manner in which Silver’s occasional old-timey lines travel in twisted ways again proofs the influence of Thelonious Monk. The parts of Clifford Jordan and Art Farmer are proficient, but somehow fail to get on the magic bus of Silver’s inventive tune.

Jordan and Farmer are much better on Safari, a re-visit of the trio take Silver did with Art Blakey and Gene Ramey on his Blue Note debut Introducing The Horace Silver Trio in 1952. At breakneck speed, Clifford Jordan finally has gotten the real hot blues. Arlen and Koehler’s Ill Wind, the only non-Silver composition on the album, refers to Things Ain’t What They Used To Be with a couple of notes that Silver also uses in his interesting solo. Ill Wind is not the distinctive melody you’d dream up as an ending to the carefully prepared, wonderful set of Silver inventions that comprise Further Explorations.