Julius Watkins Sextet Vol. 2

Julius Watkins Julius Watkins Sextet (Blue Note 1954/55)

Nobody swung on the French horn like Julius Watkins.

Julius Watkins Sextet - Vol 1

Julius Watkins Sextet Vol. 2


Julius Watkins (French horn), Frank Foster (tenor saxophone 1-4), Hank Mobley (tenor saxophone (5, 7-9), George Butcher (piano 1, 2 & 4), Duke Jordan (5-9), Perry Lopez (guitar 1-4, 6, 8 & 9), Oscar Pettiford (bass), Kenny Clarke (drums 1-4), Art Blakey (5-9)


on August 8, 1954 and March 20, 1955 at Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, New Jersey


as BLP 5053 in 1954 and BLP 5064 in 1955

Track listing

Linda Delia
I Have Known
Garden Delights
Julie Ann
Sparkling Burgundy
B And B

Jazz soloists on the ‘awkward’ French horn are scarcer than the four-leaf clover. The two biggies and pioneers of modern jazz are Julius Watkins and David Amram. Amram came on the scene at the legendary Five Spot Café in The Bowery in New York City in the mid-fifties and at 90-years old looks back on a career as indigenous player and composer in jazz and popular music. Julius Watkins, born in 1921, unfortunately only went as far as 1977. Regardless, the Detroit-born French horn player must’ve looked back with pride. His legacy is impressive.

Need a French horn? Call Julius. He’s omnipresent as soloist and part of big ensembles. To give you an idea, Watkins was associated with Milt Jackson, Oscar Pettiford, Thelonious Monk (Monk, Thelonious Monk & Sonny Rollins), Donald Byrd, Quincy Jones, Miles Davis (Porgy & Bess), Gil Evans, Dizzy Gillespie, Clark Terry, Randy Weston, John Coltrane (Africa/Brass), Johnny Griffin, Tadd Dameron, Art Blakey, Charles Mingus, The Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra and McCoy Tyner. Watkins co-led The Jazz Modes with tenor saxophonist Charles Rouse from 1956 till ’59.

Isn’t it wonderful how jazz musicians managed to incorporate such oblique European instruments as French horn? I love the sound of the instrument, bittersweet, silk and satin, like thin air, like the voices of angels that have slept off their wining and dining. The horn is lovely supportive to big ensembles, providing a soft landing for the crackling brass of trumpet and trombone. It was like wax in the hands of Julius Watkins. His fluidity on the instrument was virtually unparalleled. His sound is rich and flexible, varying from cushion-soft reveries to tart calls to arms. You hear those stories about how classical music pros from the big symphonic orchestras were stunned to hear what kind of unbelievable stuff legends like Louis Armstrong coaxed from their instruments and imagine many will have been fascinated by the efforts of Julius Watkins. See what Julius was able to do with the horn in this YouTube excerpt of his hand-muted solo with Quincy Jones in 1960. Fantastic.

Watkins recorded his leadership debut on Blue Note in 1954 and ’55, two 10 inch records that were belatedly repackaged on CD in 1995. At least to my knowledge Blue Note did not re-release the sessions on the new 12 inch format soon afterwards, as it usually did with their 10inch platters like the New Stars New Sounds LP’s. Am I right? Anyway, the sessions consisted of top-notch hard bop with the cream of the crop, the first session featuring tenor saxophonist Frank Foster and drummer Kenny Clarke, the second session featuring Hank Mobley, pianist Duke Jordan and drummer Art Blakey, all of them underlined by bassist Oscar Pettiford. Pleasant surprises are provided by guitarist Perry Lopez and pianist George Butcher.

The highlight of the first session is Linda Delia, which takes us down to Mexico on a beat that’s as lively and fulfilling as the smile of a baby, engendered by Kenny Clarke’s masterful finger strokes and rolls, and includes a brilliant, clattering entrance by Watkins, who sustains the jubilant feeling with a diversity of sunny colors. Guitarist Perry Lopez, a kind of mix between Kenny Burrell and Jimmy Raney throughout the two sessions, is especially cool. All-rounder Frank Foster is another asset of this top-notch BLP 5053 record.

BLP 5064 beats this to the punch, though, Blakey unusually forceful with the brushes, Mobley’s smooth sound blending particularly well with Watkins’s sweet and sour stories, Duke Jordan laying down some of his most urgent and pleasantly bouncy lines of that era. Here, amongst the sultry Garden Delight and an early version of Jordan’s instant classic Jordu, the sprightly boppish Sparkling Burgundy stands out, a title that couldn’t have been more appropriate. This band pops the cork with some bubbly, captured beautifully by the legendary Rudy van Gelder, at that time still working from the living room of his parents in Hackensack, New Jersey.

Killer sleeve of Vol.2 as well.

Hank Jones - The Trio

Hank Jones The Trio (Savoy 1955)

Hank Jones’s The Trio is one of the to-go-to albums as far as piano trio jazz from the 50s is concerned.

Hank Jones - The Trio


Hank Jones (piano), Wendell Marshall (bass), Kenny Clarke (drums)


on August 4, 1955 at Rudy van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, New Jersey


as Savoy 12023 in 1955

Track listing

Side A:
We’re All Together
Odd Number
We Could Make Such Beautiful Music Together
When Hearts Are Young
Side B:
There’s A Small Hotel
My Funny Valentine

Hank Jones quickly latched on to Parker and Gillespie’s brand new and complex symbiosis of harmony, melody and rhythm in the mid-40s. Bud Powell exerted a strong influence. However, the Vicksburg, Mississippi-born and Pontiac, Michigan-raised oldest brother of the equally legendary Thad and Elvin Jones, born in 1918, integrated bebop into an already formed style, which owed a lot to pianists like Art Tatum and Teddy Wilson. Jones journeyed through the swing bands of Hot Lips Page and Andy Kirk in the early 40s. Subsequently, Jones studied classical theory with the renowned Jascha Zade in New York, one of countless instances in jazz biography that debunks the preposterous myth of the classic jazz man as a ‘noble savage’.

Jones went with the Jazz At The Philharmonic package show in 1947. The following year saw him starting an association with Ella Fitzgerald, which lasted until 1953. Meanwhile, Jones had finally recorded with Charlie Parker in 1952 on the sessions that spawned the Now’s The Time 10inch on Clef. His immense career further included recordings with Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, Cannonball Adderley, Chet Baker, Dizzy Gillespie, Dexter Gordon, Milt Jackson, Sonny Stitt, Art Pepper, Jimmy Raney, Emily Remler and Joe Lovano. Jones was the kind of player that fitted in effortlessly in every situation. One day he accompanied singer Dakota Staton, another day he participated in clarinetist Artie Shaw’s seminal Last Recordings.

In between Jones served as a staff pianist for the CBS broadcasting system from 1959 to ’74. After his return to jazz, Jones epitomized the piano trio format with his Great Piano Trio from 1976 till 2010 – the year he passed away; cooperations with the duos of Ron Carter/Tony Williams, Eddie Gomez/Al Foster or Jimmy Cobb, Mads Vinding/Billy Hart, Elvin Jones/Richard Davis and John Patitucci/Jack DeJohnette. Rhythm section paradise.

And the first major step of Jones as a piano trio player started, recording-wise, with The Trio in 1955. Jones is assisted by bassist Wendell Marshall and drummer Kenny Clarke, who is responsible for making it, in the words of Dutch master drummer Eric Ineke, ‘one of the greatest brush records ever.’ Better believe it. The Trio is a record of sublime interaction and solo spots are not reserved strictly to the leader. There is a lot of room for Marshall and Clarke, whose precision and drive with the brushes as an accompanist are remarkable. His solo’s are textbook examples of meaningful simplicity.

Jones shares with the giants of jazz piano – Teddy Wilson, Earl Hines, Nat Cole – a synchronicity of harmony and melody that is impeccable, to the point where one begins to feel weightless, drifting within a cloud dreamily and fulfilled. Among other things, Jones is elegant and an expert of the arc, essential feat for meaningful storytelling. These qualities run through the bebop of We’re All Together, Charlie Parker’s blues Now The Time and the jaunty Cyrano, credited, very likely unjustly, to producer Ozzie Cadena. They pervade the wonderful ballads We Could Make So Much Good Music Together and My Funny Valentine, the latter a cushion-soft gem. You gotta love Odd Number, which unusual meter and playful melody make your ears perk up, an element that is reminiscent of some of Horace Silver’s refreshing and smart early career tunes, like Horace-Scope.

Hank Jones was no ‘odd number’, but graceful and composed to the core, and to the end.

Eddy Louiss - Eddy Louiss Trio

Eddy Louiss Eddy Louiss Trio (Cy 1968/73)

Get ready for a post bop bomb by the powerhouse trio of organist Eddy Louiss, guitarist René Thomas and drummer Kenny Clarke.

Eddy Louiss - Eddy Louiss Trio


Eddy Louiss (organ), René Thomas (guitar), Kenny Clarke (drums)


in 1968 at Studio Davout, Paris


as Cy 3004 in 1973

Track listing

Side A:
No Smoking
You’ve Changed
Don’t Want Nothin’
Side B:
Blue Tempo
Groovin’ High

Eddy Louiss came up in the early sixties as a pianist in Paris, France, soaking up the music of American expatriate legends like Bud Powell, apprenticing in modern jazz like like-minded, passionate European jazz freaks as Daniel Humair, Rein de Graaff, Pierre Courbois, Gunther Hampel. Louiss mainly focused on playing the Hammond organ in the mid-sixties. His thorough grasp of the bebop language is evident. That, in itself, is notable. The great ones in the USA – pioneer Jimmy Smith, Don Patterson, Jimmy McGriff, Groove Holmes, Eddie Baccus, Lonnie Smith, Melvin Rhyne – mastered essential bop melodies. The average soul jazz organist would perhaps include a bit of bop in his song book, but would prefer to play a blues lick like Now’s The Time instead of Scrapple From The Apple. Nothing wrong with that, long live the groove. Just not bebop scales and the integration of upper intervals in the harmonic groundwork of standards.

Louiss was no stranger to the golden feathers of Bird. However, there’s more to Eddy Louiss, who was born in Paris in 1944 to a French mother and a father from the colony of Martinique. His father was a trumpet player and enrolled young Eddy in his band, who was exposed to all kinds of exotic rhythm that underlined the repertoire of his dad’s popular music outfit like the rumba, cha cha cha and paso doble. In Paris, melting pot of cultures, skin colors, scents, fashions… Louiss accompanied French chanteurs and chanteuses. In later life, Louiss played duets with such diverse personalities as pianist Michel Petrucciani and accordionist Richard Galliano. Undoubtedly, this colorful background contributed immensily to the multi-faceted, original playing style of Eddy Louiss.

The association of Louiss with tenor saxophonist Stan Getz in the early 70s put the French organist squarely in the limelight. Getz formed one of his finest but underrated groups of his career, also including drummer Bernard Lubat and the Belgian guitarist René Thomas. The group recorded the outstanding live album Dynasty in 1971. By then, Louiss had been cooperating with René Thomas for a number of years, a very fruitful bond, especially in combination with Kenny Clarke, expatriate drummer in Paris, France since the 50s, legendary inventor of bebop rhythm, major inspiration for European musicians to push their boundaries.

In 1968, Louiss, Thomas and Clarke recorded Eddy Louiss Trio at Studio Davout, Paris. It would enjoy a belated release in 1973. It’s a set of extraordinary, hard-driving organ jazz. No Smoking is a catchy bop line thriving on the stop-time device, Blue Tempo a modal burner that brings to mind John Coltrane’s Impressions. Both are compositions by Eddy Louiss. The trio performs Dizzy Gillespie’s Groovin’ High, Miles Davis’s Nardis, Kenny Clarke’s sleazy, mid-tempo blues line Don’t Want Nothin’ and the wonderful ballad by Bill Carey and Carl Fischer, You’ve Changed.

Louiss, whose bass figures are fat-bottomed and hi-level at any pace, fast or slow, and the group play a heavy Nardis. It definitely spells 1968 and one imagines Brian Auger scratching his chin, relieved he’s playing at another festival. Nardis features typical long, boppish Louiss lines, swirling in directions to the Near-East and Carribean Islands. Kenny Clarke, effortlessly and with abundant detail underpinning the driving force of the Louiss organ, is hors category. The way his concise solo segues back into the Spanish-tinged outro of Blue Tempo is so good it makes you laugh.

You’ve Changed features extraordinary playing by René Thomas, a guitarist of note who, let’s be honest, would be counted among the greats would he have been of American descent. His story of You’ve Changed is intense. No doubt in my mind that the guitarist from Liège, Belgium knew the lyrics by heart… You’ve changed.. that sparkle in your eyes is gone… your smile is just a careless yawn… you’re breaking my heart… you’ve changed… you’ve forgotten the words, I love you… each memory that we’ve shared, you ignore… every star above you, I can’t realize you’ve ever cared… you’ve changed… you’re not the angel that I once knew… no need to tell me that we’re through… it’s all over now, you’ve changed… Thomas reflects the lover’s resignation, but his double time, staccato and poetic phrases add a layer, they’re hitting the spot, bidding farewell but adding the afterthought that the lady is worse off without Monsieur Thomas.

Eddy Louiss is more level-headed. His explosive solo says: ok, so it’s over. Soit! Gotta move on! Period. Their stories comprise one of the nicest contrasts of this imposing set of organ jazz.

Brother Bennett


Organist Lou Bennett’s popularity in Europe has always been much bigger than in the United States. Bennett was born in Philadelphia in 1926, a pianist who took up the organ after seeing Jimmy Smith in 1956. Before he was able to gain a foothold in the USA, Bennett migrated to Europe in 1960. His first album, Amen!, a cooperation with fellow expat and drummer Kenny Clarke, got him off to a good start. Bennett gained a large following in France, recording and performing regularly. He lived in Paris and Spain and passed away in 1997 in the little town of Le Chesnay just outside Paris, France.

Bennett smoothly mixed a thorough bebop proficiency with his gospel roots. He is also recognized as one of the greatest players of the bass pedals and of the inventor of the Bennett Machine, a pioneering hybrid of electronic devices and the Hammond organ’s construction.

During one of those half hours in between surfing on YouTube that all fans of music are familiar with, I stumbled upon interesting footage of Lou Bennett on YouTube.

Hear Bennett in Paris with guitarist Elek Bacsik and drummer Franco Manchetti, performing Brother Daniel.

With drummer Kenny Clarke performing Tadd Dameron’s Lady Bird.

And performing Zonky, Satin Doll and Broadway with Kenny Clarke, guitarist Jimmy Gourley and the incomparable Brew Moore at the Blue Note Club in Paris, France in 1961 here.

More on Bennett coming up this month in Flophouse Magazine. Stay tuned!

Nat Adderley - That's Nat

Nat Adderley That’s Nat (Savoy 1955)

Only twelve days after locking arms with brother Cannonball on Presenting Cannonball Adderley, (Savoy, July 14, 1955) That’s Nat marked Nat Adderley’s recording debut as a leader. Conforming to the standard repertoire of the day – of those albums that might as well be called ‘Bop, Blues & Ballads’ – Nat Adderley stands out as a suburb player with a sharp style and soulful tone.

Nat Adderley - That's Nat


Nat Adderley (cornet), Jerome Richardson (tenor), Hank Jones (piano), Wendell Marsh (bass), Kenny Clarke (drums)


on July 26, 1955 in NYC


as Savoy MG 12021 in 1955

Track listing

Side A:
I Married An Angel
Big E
Side B:
Kuzzin’s Buzzin’
Ann Springs
You Better Go Now

Like contemporaries Art Farmer and Chet Baker, trumpeter Nat Adderley does a swell job of handling the cornet, from which comes a warm and soothing sound. Confidently, in sync with Clifford Brown and in possession of a rich sound, Adderley’s walloping runs in Big E bring about vistas of a New Orleans parade with Nat leading the parade and blowing sirens over Treme rooftops in honor of life and the deceased.

The That’s Nat-session also features bop innovator Kenny “Klook” Clarke and pianist Hank Jones, in typically lighthearted mood, soloing elegantly and coherently and exuding rows of cascading triplets. Listening to Hank Jones is analogue to feeling a soft breeze blowing through your hair. Combined with the growing artistry of Nat Adderley, that would come into full bloom the following years in his brother’s group, That’s Nat is a solid solo career opening statement.

YouTube: Big E