Cellar Live


If you’re not already familiar with it, you need to take a look at Cellar Live, one of the freshest independent jazz labels out there.

Cellar Live was formed in 2001 by tenor saxophonist, impresario and club owner Cory Weeds, who began taping the performances of visiting artists in his Cellar Club in Vancouver, Canada.

By now, his label consists of Cellar Live, Cellar Music and ReelToReal, subsequently focusing on live records, studio projects and archival releases. The latest historical release was Johnny Griffin/Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis’s Ow. See review here.

Cellar Live’s aesthetic of honoring and extending the mainstream jazz tradition is expressed through recordings of, among others, Grant Stewart, Joe Magnarelli, Jeb Patton, Emmet Cohen, Scott Hamilton, Mike LeDonne, Adam Shulman, Louis Hayes, Cannonball Adderley and Cory Weeds himself, who among other endeavors lauds one of modern jazz’s greatest stylists, Hank Mobley, both in the studio and on stage. His record label’s organ combo roster features Ben Paterson, among others.

The newest release in Cellar Live’s ReelToReal division will be George Coleman’s In Baltimore – due November 27, Record Store Day Black Friday. The statement of Zev Feldman, producer and collaborator of Cory Weeds, reads as follows:

“The George Coleman Quintet “In Baltimore” was captured live at the Famous Ballroom on May 23, 1971, presented by the Left Bank Jazz Society, and featured a stellar band with trumpeter Danny Moore, pianist Albert Dailey, bassist Larry Ridley and drummer Harold White. The limited-edition 180g LP includes an elaborate insert with beautiful photos by Francis Wolff, intros by Cory and I, a main overview essay by the great jazz historian/archivist Michael Cuscuna, plus interviews with “the Big G” himself George Coleman, John Fowler from the Left Bank, and the self-described Coleman disciple, tenor man Eric Alexander.”

Top-notch jazz and the roots-y vibe of the label, which gives meticulous care to detail in the presentation of its hip record covers and includes a number of endearing references to classic sleeve art, makes rummaging through its recordings a very joyful experience.

Check out Cellar Live’s website here.

Johnny Griffin & Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis - Live At The Penthouse

Johnny Griffin & Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis Ow! Live At The Penthouse (Cellar/Reel To Real 2019)


Griff & Lock rock The Penthouse in Seattle on Ow!, a killer Record Story Day release by Cellar/Reel To Real.

Johnny Griffin & Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis - Live At The Penthouse


Johnny Griffin (tenor saxophone), Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis (tenor saxophone), Horace Parlan (piano), Buddy Catlett (bass), Art Taylor (drums)


on May 14 & June 6 at The Penthouse Jazz Club, Seattle


as RTR-LP-003 in 2019

Track listing

Side A:
Blues Up & Down
Side B:
Blue Lou
Side A:
Second Balcony Jump
How Am I To Know
Side B:
Sophisticated Lady
Tickle Toe

Nothing like a solid tenor battle. Starting out as a competitive ‘cutting contest’ in the swing era – the most famous being the alleged Kansas City battle in 1933 when Lester Young ‘cut’ Coleman Hawkins and thereby planted the seeds of the modern style – in the ensuing years the battle developed into a more mutually responsive festivity. Dexter Gordon/Wardell Gray set the standard. Prime examples of the 50s and 60s are Gene Ammons/Sonny Stitt and Al Cohn/Zoot Sims. A couple of epic recordings that come to mind are Sonny Rollins/Coleman Hawkins (Sonny Meets Hawk) and Clifford Jordan/John Gilmore (Blowing In From Chicago). To name but a few remarkable duo’s and records.

Arguably the most unique team is Johnny Griffin and Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis. It definitely was the most prolific duo. During their stint from 1960 to 1962, the duo recorded ten records on Jazzland/Riverside and Prestige, among them four live records of their Minton’s Playhouse performance and a superb, hard-driving record of Monk compositions – Lookin’ At Monk. The career of Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis went as far back as Louis Armstrong. He was a mainstay of the Count Basie band and, not that well-known, led the house band at Minton’s from 1946 to 1952. “Jaws” was the kind of soul tenor that also veered from honking r&b in the 50s to a successful organ combo stint with Shirley Scott in the late 50s. His work with Griffin solidified his reputation as a bonafide jazz player.

Griffin, fastest tenor bop gun in the West, came into his own in the late-50s on Blue Note and Riverside and established himself as a major force on the scene with his cooperations with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and Thelonious Monk in 1957/58. Fire meets fire. Griff is a hard-boiled egg flavored with chili pepper, Lock meat and potatoes, they burned the bop and swung till they dropped.

Up until 1962, the band further consisted of pianist Junior Mance, bassist Larry Gales and drummer Ben Riley. At the time of their Tough Tenor Favorites LP, pianist Horace Parlan and bassist Buddy Catlett had replaced Mance and Gales. Both Parlan and Catlett were present at the Penthouse gig. Art Taylor presumably subbed for Ben Riley. The band plays three tunes from the Tough Tenor Favorites album: Dizzy Gillespie’s Ow!, Ary Barrow’s exotic Bahia and the warhorse Blue Lou, which the quintet takes at blistering tempo.

Lester Young’s Tickle Toe, from the Basie band book, is a furious potboiler, while Sophisticated Lady, a feature for baritone saxophonist Harry Carney in the Ellington Orchestra, is the canvas for Griffin’s meaty lyricism and double-time strokes. Classic riffs like Second Balcony Jump alternate with the blues of Blues Up And Down, both of which are right up the alley of Art Taylor, who locks tight particularly well with Griffin. They’re hot, as if they are furiously devouring a birthday cake, or dancing a passionate paso doble.

Griff & Lock, two sides of the tenor coin, two distinct stylists. “Jaws”, scrabous and witty, slurring, barking, honking, works the magic, his bag of tricks an incorporation in a style that is simultaneously earthy and more complex than generally assumed at first hearing. The almost otherworldly quality of his playing – he often begins phrases where other might end them, and vice versa – lies at the heart of his sax poetry. The way that Griffin shoots from the hip on Tickle Toe is typical of “The Little Giant”. Griffin’s torrents of notes on fast burners, every one of the notes a sure shot, have always been somethin’ else. His storytelling on this gig, a well-paced development from breeze, gusty wind to rousing tornado, is striking.

A high-level, entertaining performance from Johnny Griffin and Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis.

Kudos to Cory Weeds, saxophonist and label owner of Cellar, and his companion on this job, Zev Feldman from Resonance Records. The superb re-mastering, lush packaging and thorough essays make Ow! one of the finest of RSD releases from the tail end of 2019. The Reel To Real subsidiary of Cellar also was responsible for 2018’s historical recordings of Cannonball Adderley’s Swinging In Seattle (also a Penthouse performance) and Etta Jones’s A Soulful Sunday: Live At The Left Bank.

Check out Cellar for contemporary recordings by the likes of Jeb Patton, Joe Magnarelli, Cory Weeds and a special section Hammond B3 organ combo music including Ben Patterson here.

Find Ow! Live At The Penthouse and samples here.

Johnny Griffin - Grab This!

Johnny Griffin Grab This! (Riverside 1962)

Who knows what Johnny Griffin meant by calling his tune and album Grab This!. It might be jazz slang we’re not familiar with. Sounds positively like the equivalent of Up Yours!. Signifying the front instead of the rear end, to be sure. Regardless, ‘grab this’ is the only possible advice to real jazz customers. The tenor saxophonist’s 1962 Riverside album, coupling him with organist Paul Bryant, is one of the grittiest in his book.

Johnny Griffin - Grab This!


Johnny Griffin (tenor saxophone), Paul Bryant (organ), Joe Pass (guitar), Jimmy Bond (bass), Doug Sides (drums)


on June 28, 1962 at Pacific Jazz Studio, Los Angeles


as RLP 437 in 1962

Track listing

Side A:
Grab This!
63rd Street Theme
Don’t Get Around Much Anymore
Side B:
Offering Time
These Foolish Things
Cherry Float

Label owner Orrin Keepnews liked Johnny Griffin very much. On the advice of Thelonious Monk, he had tried to sign “The Little Giant” in 1956, but Blue Note had been a step ahead. Griffin’s sparse but impressive stint at Blue Note consisted of three albums, A Blowing Session with John Coltrane, Hank Mobley, Lee Morgan, Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers and Art Blakey being the absolutely epic standout. In 1958, Keepnews finally got hold of Griffin and offered him plenty opportunity to excel, placing him in differing contexts, from quintet to big band, from straightforward repertoire to folk or gospel concepts. (The Kerry Dancers, Big Soul Band) Simultaneously, Griffin recorded a string of tough tenor albums on the Riverside subsidiary label Jazzland with fellow tenorist Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis. As a result of Riverside’s bankruptcy in 1963, Griffin’s stretch with the label came to an end. Griffin, who had started with Lionel Hampton in the 40s, cooperated with Thelonious Monk and Art Blakey in the 50s, recorded prolifically as a leader but, embittered about the underappreciation of mainstream jazz at the expense of free jazz, settled in Europe, where he stayed for the rest of his life, one of the icons of hard bop tenor.

It was hard to compete with Johnny Griffin, monster tenor saxophonist, who really could bop someone in the ground at the breakneckest of tempos, meanwhile keeping clarity of line, double-timing with the hellhound on his trail. But obviously he was not just a technician, but instead a melodist that sincerely interpreted a song. Most of all, he was full of Charlie Parker and full of blues, a lava burst of indelible, wailing notes. Griffin was a lively, entertaining personality on stage, especially later in his career onwards from the 70s, whose relentless bop fests and meaty ballads were of a consistently high level and wildly exciting.

Coming from Chicago, it was natural for Griffin to put groove to good use. There’s no shortage of it on his next to last Riverside session, Grab This!, which also featured organist Paul Bryant, guitarist Joe Pass, bassist Jimmy Bond and drummer Doug Sides, musicians who were working on the West Coast at the time. The album was recorded in Los Angeles and Griffin, veteran of the bands of Joe Morris, T-Bone Walker, Arnett Cobb, spreads an abundance of grease on the bright yellow soccer ball that was hanging above the shoreline of the Pacific Ocean. Likely, Griffin was in L.A. to perform, met a bunch of fine musicians, called Orrin Keepnews, ‘Say Keeps, want me to do a session with these cats? About time for a greasy affair, right!’

No complaints about the blues tunes that Griffin used for the occasion, particularly considering the meaty backing of drummer Doug Sides and the especially responsive accompaniment of organist Paul Bryant. Bryant is exceptional. He’s not just your run-of-the-mill-grinder, but instead accompanies responsively and uses a lot of space in his solos. The B3 sounds gutsy, in-your-face. Moreover, Bryant’s variation of sounds is striking. He contributes a gospel-tinged tune, Offering Time. In it, guitarist Joe Pass, who recorded on quite a number of soul jazz sessions before becoming a big name, and quite expertly and gritty too, quotes Things Ain’t What They Used To Be during his solo. Blues-based tunes are especially attractive breeding grounds for quotes and Paul Bryant had his say as well during Griffin’s flagwaver, Cherry Float, suavely embellishing his Hammond organ tale with a fragment of Thelonious Monk’s Rhythm-A-Ning.

Griffin breathes, quite literally too, life into the ballads Don’t Get Around Much Anymore and These Foolish Things. He’s having fun with the blues, juxtaposing bop clusters with belligerent shouts during his original tunes 63rd Street Theme and Grab This!. Grab This! is especially cool. Actually, it’s a definite ‘up yours’ to safe playing. Griffin’s phrases refreshingly pop out of the changes like the cork out of a champagne bottle, not once but over and over. Jazzy New Year. At the end of the party, Griffin somehow, a bit wobbly from the booze and dizzy from the firecrackers, lands on his feet. Bit of risk taking won’t hurt. Makes it all the more worthwhile. Got enough accountants already. There are no accountants on Grab This!, unless you count Orrin Keepnews, who counted the money and was finished awfully quick, having to file for a bankruptcy together with his associate Bill Grauer soon after. Nothing to be ashamed of. And lest we forget, Keepnews came back doggedly and successfully a couple of years later with Milestone records.

Full album on YouTube here

Clark Terry - Serenade To A Bus Seat

Clark Terry Serenade To A Bus Seat (Riverside 1957)

Clark Terry, who passed away in 2015 at the age of 95, was an authority with a discography of epic proportions. In 1957, already a veteran of swing who had mentored rising stars like Miles Davis in the 40s, the trumpeter made a superb hard bop album with Johnny Griffin, Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones, the Riverside label’s Serenade To A Bus Seat.

Clark Terry - Serenade To A Bus Seat


Clark Terry (trumpet), Johnny Griffin (tenor saxophone), Wynton Kelly (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), Philly Joe Jones (drums)


on April 27, 1957 at Reeves Sound Studio, New York


as RLP 12-237 in 1957

Track listing

Side A:
Donna Lee
Side B:
Serenade To A Bus Seat
That Old Black Magic

Before turning into an internationally renowned figure through his seat in the orchestra of NBC’s The Tonight Show in the 60s, his vocal hit Mumbles, lauded appearances around the globe and a distinguished position as youth educator and (co-)founder of Jazz Mobile and the Clark Terry Jazz Festivals for the rest of his life, Terry already had a timelessness about him that is striking. He encompassed the best traits of the past while being in sync with the conception of the modernists, using his technical brilliance and vast knowledge of what one can achieve with the trumpet to the telling of meaningful stories. Not a term usually associated with the abundant Terry, he actually set a limit to himself in this regard, displaying effects and humor when it was called for by Duke Ellington for a certain compositional story to tell, or when he expressed his feelings as a sideman (Oscar Peterson Trio + One is an outrageous ball, but a structured and hi-level festivity) and leading artist, mostly feelings of distinct joy.

His long stint in the Duke Ellington Orchestra in the 50s was preceded by years with Count Basie in the 40s, and Terry was a featured, singular soloist in both classic bands. Nice resume. In fact, in 1957 Terry had just left Ellington, with a number of classic recordings in his hip pocket, notably Ellington Uptown, Such Sweet Thunder and At Newport. His tenure with Riverside was interesting. Serenade, his debut as a leader on Riverside, was preceded by a feature on Thelonious Monk’s Brilliant Corners in 1956. It was followed by Duke With A Difference in July ’57, a gem of an album, featuring mates from the Duke Ellington band including Johnny Hodges, Paul Gonsalves and Billy Strayhorn and, as the title suggests ironically, without Duke Ellington. He would add a couple more guest roles on Riverside such as Jimmy Heath’s Really Big and Johnny Griffin’s White Gardenia, but the most notable album is his own 1958 album In Orbit with Thelonious Monk, which is the only album including Monk as a sideman and set the standard of the use of flugelhorn in jazz.

The late Orrin Keepnews, label boss of Riverside together with Bill Grauer, looked back on a number of favorite releases a number of years ago, as can be seen on YouTube here. Serenade, Clark Terry’s second foray in small ensemble jazz after EmArcy’s Swahili, was among them, representing a masterstroke of bringing together Terry with the small ensemble hot shots of the day: “I always refer to Terry as Mr. Pulled Together. He is so tremendously talented, a nice guy, and he had that big band discipline in his life. (…) It was a very relaxed, and therefore, creative atmosphere. If you bring together musicians who have in a sense been rehearsing for years by playing with each other at lots of opportunities, that’s a very good way to get around that problem (of short rehearsing time)…”.

With a distinctive tone like Terry’s, brassy, virile, tart and full-ringing, consisting of a festive, good-humored quality, the equilibrium between calling-the-children-home and chasing-the-kids-away neatly in check, contrast with the other horn is assured. In comes Johnny Griffin, maybe not such a fast gun as one always assumes, fast, yes, but on this session intent on subtle conversations. Their ensembles sparkle, lock tight during uptempo bop tunes like Charlie Parker’s Donna Lee, Terry’s Boomerang and Serenade To A Bus Seat. It would be obvious to assume that the latter’s title alludes to the bus seat Rosa Parks bravely took on December 1, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama. Her arrest led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott from Reverend Martin Luther King, a painful yet effective protest that eventually led to desegregation in the state’s public transport system. Clark Terry was from St. Louis, Missouri, where the NAACP protested against segregation in war factory jobs, a case it won through Shelly vs. Kraemer in the US Supreme Court, a feat Terry surely must’ve been conscious of, having been a bandsman in the Navy during WWII. That scenario sees Terry’s jubilant trumpet doing a good job of honoring Ms. Parks, Martin Luther King and the others who’d made the boycott possible. But it’s more prosaic. The liner notes explain that the title refers to the tiresome days Terry spent in the band bus of Basie and Ellington. Still no shortage of hardships along the road in The South though, as far as racism is concerned, lest we forget.

For Griffin and Kelly, Serenade represented their first appearances on the Riverside label.
The typical hard bop set of Serenade benefits from variation in the order of soloing, for instance during Donna Lee, when Griffin takes first cue and Terry follows trading fours with Philly Joe Jones. Not a pedestrian phrase in sight, the session cooks and runs remarkably smooth, courtesy of Griffin, the tasteful Paul Chambers, who had the kind of intuitive bass genius few possessed at that age, Philly Joe Jones (one rarely hears a session involving Philly Joe Jones that isn’t gutsy and fiery!) and Wynton Kelly, whose balanced, hip and barrelhouse-y lines of the title track are a treat. The leader, Clark Terry, enlivens the I-Got-Rhythm-changes of Boomerang with phrases that dance naughtily from mid-to upper register. It’s a virtuosic, happy tale and the originality is enhanced by the delicious, sustained notes in between. Terry stresses the cooperative spirit during the easy-flowing mid-tempo Digits, ad-libbing behind Griffin and calms the stormy weather that Griffin set in motion during Serenade with just a few peaceful stretch of notes, only to regain steam for the finale, getting into the fast lane with a spontaneous wail.

Gutsy calmness also during Stardust, a sign of the exciting style of Terry, diamond in the rough with a heart of gold. He’s a bluesman too, playing poker with notes veering from high to low and back. Boardwalk is the album’s blues line with a New Orleans feel and once again Clark Terry is like honey and mustard seeping through the walls of doom, no stopping it, the redeeming quality of Terry’s blues, a blues perhaps only mildly sardonic, always residing at the forefront. Down by the Riverside, his blues resembles that of his (and everybody’s) great ancestor, Louis Armstrong.

Eric Ineke Let There Be Life, Love And Laughter: Eric Ineke Meets The Tenor Players (Daybreak/Challenge 2017)

Crisp and alert drumming on Eric Ineke’s latest Challenge release, Let There Be Life, Love And Laughter: Eric Ineke Meets The Tenor Players. The album brings to life performances of the now seventy year old Ineke with legends like Dexter Gordon and Lucky Thompson, and contemporary colleagues like David Liebman and Grant Stewart.

Eric Ineke - Let There Be Life, Love And Laughter: Eric Ineke Meets The Tenor Players


Track 1: Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Rein de Graaff, Koos Serierse, Eric Ineke; Track 2: Dexter Gordon, Rob Agerbeek, Henk Haverhoek, Eric Ineke; Track 3: Johnny Griffin, Rein de Graaff, Koos Serierse, Eric Ineke; Track 4: Grant Stewart, Rob van Bavel, Marius Beets, Eric Ineke; Track 5: David Liebman, John Ruocco, Marius Beets, Eric Ineke; Track 6: Clifford Jordan, Rein de Graaff, Koos Serierse, Eric Ineke; Track 7: Lucky Thompson, Rob Madna, Ruud Jacobs, Eric Ineke; Track 8: George Coleman, Rob Agerbeek, Rob Langereis, Eric Ineke


Recorded on October 24, 1984 at De Spieghel, Groningen (track 1); November 2, 1972 at De Haagse Jazzclub, The Hague (track 2); September 16, 1990 at De Brouwershoek, Leeuwarden (track 3); May 17, 2014 at Bimhuis, Amsterdam (track 4); November 20, 2014 at De Singer, Rijkevorsel, Belgium (track 5); October 12, 1983 at NCRV Studio, Hilversum (track 6); November 22, 1968 at B14, Rotterdam (track 7) and April 18, 1974 at Hot House, Leiden (track 8)


as DBCHR 75226 in 2017

Track listing

Body And Soul
Bye Bye Blackbird
Let There Be Life, Love And Laughter
Prayer To The People
Lady Bird

It is an intriguing and a rewarding project, the combination of so many different styles of tenor playing. In his book co-written with Dave Liebman, The Ultimate Sideman, Ineke, premier European modern jazz drummer who played with numerous legends like Dizzy Gillespie, Hank Mobley and Freddie Hubbard, ruminates on the intrinsic bond between the tenor saxophone and drums: “The tenor saxophone is one of the instruments that is really made for jazz music, much like the trap drums. They are quite similar in that respect. It blends very well with the drums, particularly with the cymbal and with the tom tom sounds.” Ineke swings equally hard with tenorists, altoists or baritone players, yet the conversations of the drummer with Dexter Gordon, Johnny Griffin, et. al. eloquently prove his point. These conversations also are evidence of Ineke’s flexible approach to the manifold ways of phrasing and timing from the classic heroes and contemporary stunners of jazz.

A lot of crackerjack tenorism on Let There Be Life, Love And Laughter. George Coleman, a monster on tenor and perhaps still undervalued, sets fire to the Hothouse in Leiden with Walkin’. A tune that, incidentally, was so influentially performed in 1954 by Coleman’s band leader of 1963/64, Miles Davis, a session that included Lucky Thompson. On this version, Ineke acts accordingly, ‘bombing’ generously and answering Coleman’s staccato, recurring figures equally furiously. Fire and brimstone!

Dexter Gordon’s typically ‘lazy’ but forceful statements on Stablemates, taken from the sought-after LP All Souls: The Rob Agerbeek Trio Featuring Dexter Gordon, are kept in check by Ineke’s steady beat. Gordon wails one of his great solo’s of the seventies. Pushed to the max, another giant of tenor, Johnny Griffin, is flying home at breakneck speed on the bop standard by Denzil Best, Wee. It’s a propulsive high point of the Rein de Graaff Trio, which included bass player Koos Serierse and is marked by high-level bop drumming with a leading role of the ride cymbal. Rein de Graaff’s Bud Powell-influenced solo is ferocious, masterful, the tension is heightened by bold lines up and down the keys. Johnny Griffin is having serious fun. At the end, the Little Giant sardonically and playfully comments on the prolonged Ineke coda: “Shut up! You drummers playin’ so loud. Jazzzzzz music! Where am I, Leeuwarden? Dankjewel.”

On another side of the spectrum Ineke delicately accompanies Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, whose sensuously masculine, breathy take of Body And Soul is most arresting. There’s the clean, round and honestly emotional tone of Clifford Jordan, who plays his original composition Prayer For The People. Lucky Thompson also possessed a lithe, mesmerizing tone on the tenor saxophone. Thompson, an essential link between swing and bop, is heard on Lady Bird on a radio recording at club B14 in Rotterdam in 1968. 1968… where have all the flowers gone: the period in which the professional career of Eric Ineke, who celebrated his 70th birthday recently at The Bimhuis, really took off.

Also from that venerable venue in Amsterdam stems Ineke’s recording (including regulars from his hard bop outfit Eric Ineke’s JazzXpress, pianist Rob van Bavel and bassist Marius Beets, who also took excellent care of this album’s mixing and mastering) with Grant Stewart. His story of Bye Bye Blackbird is relaxed but driving, motivated by Ineke’s lilting rhythm. At forty-six, the Canadian Stewart is the youngest tenor player on the album. Considering Eric Ineke’s supportive attitude towards young Dutch hard bop guys as well as international students on the Conservatory Of The Hague, where he teaches, it would’ve been the cherry on top if a collaboration with a young lion could’ve been included.

On the title song, Ineke cooperates with long-time collaborator Dave Liebman and John Ruocco. During a rendition of the pretty Kurt Weill composition that alludes to the intrinsic Dixie-feel of early Ornette Coleman tunes, Liebman and Ruocco travel a similar avant-leaning path, Liebman with exuberant tinges, Ruocco more introspective. The beat seems to have time-traveled from Baby Dodds to Ed Blackwell to Eric Ineke. A noteworthy excursion to the woods from the hard bop aficionado, who, lest we forget, periodically traveled to modal landscapes with Rein de Graaff and far-out territory with Free Fair in the mid and late seventies.

Let There Be Life, Love And Laughter is a thoroughly enjoyable reminder of the swing and expertise that Eric Ineke has always brought to his gigs with incoming Americans. And I’m sure it will be a revelation for jazz fans who have heretofore been dependant on hearsay.

Find Let There Be Life, Love And Laughter: Eric Ineke Meets The Tenor Players here.

Mel Rhyne

Mel Rhyne Organ-izing (Jazzland 1960)

Like a jubilant child eager to play with its long-awaited Santa Claus presents, I gave my recent purchase, Melvin Rhyne’s sought-after solo album from 1960, Organ-Izing, an immediate spin. The organist, best known for his work with guitar legend Wes Montgomery, delivers a tasteful, laid-back blowing session.

Mel Rhyne


Melvin Rhyne (organ), Johnny Griffin (tenor saxophone), Blue Mitchell (trumpet), Gene Harris (piano), Andrew Simpkins (bass), Albert Heath (drums)


on March 31, 1960 in NYC


as as JLP 16 in 1960

Track listing

Side A:
Things Ain’t What They Used To Be
Blue Farouq
Side B:
Barefoot Sunday Blues
Shoo Shoo Baby

Rhyne was a native of Indianapolis, like Montgomery, who asked him to join his trio in 1959. The organist backed the groundbreaking guitarist on four splendid Riverside albums: Wes Montgomery Trio (1959), Boss Guitar (1963), Portrait Of Wes (1963) and Guitar On The Go (1959/1963). His articulate backing – Rhyne started out as a pianist – matched perfectly with Montgomery’s tasteful style, a coherent mix of melodic single lines, octaves and block chords. Rhyne’s sound on his solo album comes closest to that of the Wes Montgomery Trio album. It has that, as Dutch organist and Rhyne admirer, Arno Krijger, said to me in this interview, unique ‘plucky, percussive sound’. It’s a vibrato-less sound that enabled Rhyne to craft cleanly spun, logical, laid-back lines.

Organ-izing was released on Jazzland, a subsidiary of Riverside. The assembled crew includes two top-rate Riverside artists of the time, Johnny Griffin and Blue Mitchell: guys you can count on for a session of this kind. Griffin is his usual fast-fingered self, grounded in bebop and blues, and peppers his playing with humorous asides. Blue Mitchell stretches out ebulliently on, among others, his own attractive blues line, Blue Farouq.

The album consists of four tunes of the same medium tempo and four beat rhythm, which becomes a bit monotonous after a while. Then again, Rhyne is a mid-tempo maestro. He showed it with Montgomery, deepening considerably, for instance, the groove of Missile Blues on the Portrait Of Wes-album. Medium tempo suits his carefully crafted stories. Rhyne eschews uproaring climaxes and instead creates free-flowing endings, shying away from easy effects. He’s like a minimalist writer. But not just somebody. Rhyne’s the Raymond Carver of the Hammond B3. While reading (listening), one keeps contemplating on the enormously clever usage of deceptively simple language for maximum effect: words and sentences (notes, phrases) carved in stone for the ages.

The unusual combination of piano and organ is uncluttered, largely due to Rhyne’s understated style. Pianist Gene Harris of The Three Sounds trades choruses with Rhyne on all tunes except Shoo Shoo Baby, a feat which underscores the relaxed atmosphere of the proceedings. During such a spontaneous event, one (Harris) cutting short the evolving story of the other (Rhyne) in the mid-slow-draggin’ take on the classic riff Things Ain’t What They Used To Be is part of the charm. Unfazed, Rhyne supports a swinging Harris bit and continues with a solo that’s a lesson in soul and dynamics.

At the end of the decade, Rhyne quit the music business and moved to Wisconsin. He started recording again in the nineties and 00’s, mainly for Criss Cross. Rhyne passed away on March 5, 2013.

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.