Greg Lewis

Organin’ In

Gregory Lewis is Organ Monk, a passionate champion of the dazzling catalogue of Thelonious Monk. “I hummed his melodies by heart as a kid and played them for the girls in high school.”

Ever since the organist and pianist’s first album, 2011’s Organ Monk, the beginning of what seems to have become a lifelong dedication to interpreting the music of Thelonious Monk with the Hammond B3 and C3, Lewis has gained plenty attention. Few have tread this path since Larry Young, a major inspiration for Lewis, recorded the epic Monk’s Dream in 1964. No one has transposed the work of Monk to the organ with the distorted twist of the 48-year old fixture on the New York jazz, blues and funk scene, whose grasp of the wonderful compositions of the modern jazz genius is spot on and whose gritty, dynamic approach updates them excitingly for the 21st century. The hi-octane energy of Lewis works through in his live performances, where the audience is certain to witness Lewis hanging over his keyboard like a tiger over his prey. But the organist tries a little tenderness as well, occasionally caressing the organ like a vet stroking a wounded kitten.

Lewis is currently preparing the release of his fifth Organ Monk album. His latest album, The Breathe Suite, still lingers in the mind. A tour de force, it’s a mix of elaborate tunes, colorful organ playing and a twisted, groove-meets-fusion-type edge. The provoking set of Lewis compositions, including titles as The Chronicles Of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, boldly addresses the ongoing troubles of African-Americans in American society. Understandably, it’s been the grimmest theme during the telephone conversation Flophouse Magazine had with the candid, both serious and cheerful New York Native about his career and inspirations.

FM: ‘You were born in New York City. Which borough?’
GL: ‘I was born in Queens. And grew up there.’

FM: ‘I heard that you were into hiphop as a teenager, even prowled the streets as a human beatbox. Did you also play piano around that time? At what point did jazz and the piano come into your life?’
GL: ‘My father was a pianist, on the side. He had a lot of records of Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane and Bud Powell. As kids, we grew up to the sounds of Coltrane every Saturday morning and danced and ran around.’

‘In my teens, I liked the music that was on the radio, like Sugarhill Gang. I was playing piano, but nothing crazy serious, it was more like something to do. Then I got into the human beatbox thing in high school. But I got seriously into music because I noticed that the girls used to like it when I played the piano. I had many interests, the first album I bought, for instance, was by Funkadelic. But simultaneously, I was always listening to Monk and I was able to sing all these melodies, because my father played them all the time. Unfortunately, he died when he was 49, when I was 9. My mother says that he lives through me, because I’m doing what he always wanted to do.’

FM: ‘What was your father’s occupation?’
GL: ‘He did a lot of odd and end jobs. He played music and performed in his spare time. There were always friends who came by and they would go into the other room, listen to music, have a ball.’

FM: ‘So you liked hiphop, funk, and at the same Monk and Coltrane were everywhere at your quarters.’
GL: ‘Yes, it was part of our culture. We would go to my uncle and he would put on jazz and learn us to play chess.’

FM: ‘What triggered you to play jazz? Was hearing Thelonious Monk the event that essentially convinced you to become a musician?’
GL: ‘I got to thinking when people started to ask me how I knew all those melodies. They always asked, “hey, where did you learn that Monk stuff?” For some reason, back in the eighties, people knew who Monk was, but it seemed like they weren’t into him like today. Being a teenager that knew those tunes by heart, it got me into the New School Jazz Program. I didn’t know many other tunes. I was playing Monk’s music for the girls in school. “Oh, you know Thelonious Monk, you’re like a different kind of guy!” (laughs, FM) They would say: “Well, Greg’s a jazz guy, you know.” Playing Monk kind of came natural to me. Certainly his rhythm. Even to this day, when I arrange someone to sub for me, he might trip over these rhythms that Monk threw down.”

FM: ‘What kind of gigs did you do initially?’
GL: ‘When I was 16, I performed Prince songs. I loved Prince. Of course! We all wanted to be Prince after seeing Purple Rain. I did funk gigs in the neighborhood. My first professional gig in jazz was at age 18 with a group called The Family. It was founded by an artist who’d been in jail for doing heroin. Cleaned-up, he wanted to do something nice for the inmates. So we played in prisons. That was quite an experience. Then I started taking lessons from Gil Goggins. (Goggins played, among others, on the session that spawned the Miles Davis Vol. 1 & 2 albums, FM) Goggins was a really great pianist. He showed me how Monk actually played compositions like Trinkle Tinkle, which blew my mind. I had the right rhythm but a few wrong notes! He taught me a lot and also sent me to gigs.’

FM: ‘It was through Goggins that you got into organ playing, right?’
GL: ‘Yes, that’s a funny story. Goggins didn’t tell you what kind of gig it was, you just had to obey and show up! (chuckles, FM) Goggins sent me to a gig as a substitute. However, it turned out to be an organ performance. There was no piano, which presented a problem. I had never touched an organ in my life. Nevertheless, I fulfilled the obligation. I didn’t know how to handle the machine and fell flat on my face! But I was intrigued. From that day on, I puzzled out the functioning of the organ: the touch, bass pedal lines, drawbars. It took me approximately six months to fully master the Hammond organ.’

FM: ‘Did you got tips from other organists?’
GL: ‘Well, there was a real selfish thing going on in New York back then. I would go to a session where George Benson always went when he was in town. He’d park his Bentley on the curb and nobody, not the police anyway, would bother because it was George Benson! He would play, the organist would get up and notice that me or someone else wanted to sit in. The organist would push all the stops, so that you couldn’t figure out his secret. I would sneak behind, check out the stops and drawbars, memorize and then try at home!’

FM: ‘That’s pretty ludicrous! Then what did you do, study records?’
GL: ‘Yes, I studied practically everyone, from Jimmy Smith to John Patton. I checked out a lot of Chester Thompson, the funky stuff he did with Tower Of Power. Squib Cakes, whoa! And I loved Powerhouse, his solo album. Those grooves were crazy. I also loved the older cats, the r&b-drenched cookers, like Bill Doggett. But the one that blew me away, and I guess helped creating Organ Monk, was Larry Young. Monk’s Dream from Unity, where he played the duet with Elvin Jones, (Lewis hums the melody, then proceeds to play it at the organ in his practicing room, FM) hit me like a lightning bolt. I purchased all his albums. Well, mostly CD’s, the records were hard to find!’

FM: ‘How would you define your style?’
GL: ‘One thing, I was never good at copying. I was always taught that copying is no good, rightly so. As far as playing Monk is concerned, it was self-evident that my style went quite the other way. Perhaps because of the ingrained funk and groove. I met Donald Byrd and he told me: “That ain’t what Monk did!” I was like, “So what did he do?” Byrd answered: “I don’t know but that ain’t it!” Haha! I always felt, if I can get the rhythm, I don’t have to worry about the notes.’

‘To be honest, I just try to have fun with sound, dynamics. My style really developed after I started believing in myself more at a certain point. During the embryonic stages of Organ Monk, some people were still questioning my obsession with Monk. But some favorable reviews of my first album gave me a little boost. The feeling that I was on to something.’

FM: ‘How much time do you strictly devote to jazz?’
GL: ‘As much as I can. I practice a lot and perform regularly. I have also always played a lot of spirituals, gospel. I play at church meetings or tour with gospel groups. Then I try to incorporate it in my playing. A no-brainer, of course. When you throw that stuff out at the audience after you’ve played Monk, their minds get blown away!’

FM: ‘You mean, it’s a logical switch from one to the other?’
GL: ‘It’s intertwined. Playing spirituals grabs people. I play Testifyin’ by Larry Young in church. The signature line, the descending four measures at the end of the tune, it’s very churchy. That’s why he called it Testifyin’, of course. I repeat that line, build up tension and every time the audience goes berserk!’

FM: ‘There were a few self-penned tunes on your Monk albums, but The Breathe Suite is your first album that consists entirely of original compositions. It was a step forward, stylistically and conceptually. I wouldn’t say the vibe is exactly angry, but upsetting, to say the least.’
GL: ‘Being African-American, I can relate to the horrific stuff that has been going on. I also had cops pointing guns at me. My father and mother instilled in us from when we were little that when a cop pulls you over, you freeze, because he will shoot you and will kill you. You do not move, you do not say anything, you do as he says, so you can go home safe. That’s the way I was raised. The cold-blooded killings of the last few years are crazy. It upsets me as an African-American citizen. As a human being. It should upset anybody. Unfortunately, America is still not my friend yet. Yes, I can make money here, play my music and travel the world. But it’s still not fair. There remains a lot of sabotage, like in getting regular stuff such as bank loans. I tell my kids that there’s a big world out there, we don’t have to stay here.’

FM: ‘Your bewilderment rings through on the album.’
GL: ‘Classic works like Coltrane’s Alabama and Mingus’ Fables Of Faubus have had their influence one way or another, on a subliminal level. Once I started writing with these provoking works of art in mind, the songs just poured out of me. I can at least put my discomfort in my music and I guess that’s what you’re hearing. I can’t protest because then I will be fired from my teaching job at university, go to jail and won’t be able to feed my kids. So I can’t offer a solution but I hope that the album sustains the ongoing discussions and creates awareness.’

FM: ‘There’s a new album coming up, right?’
GL: ‘I just finished the album with Marc Ribot, who also played on The Breathe Suite. The new album will be released at the end of the year and called Organ Monk Blue, including more blues-based tunes like Raise Four, Misterioso. We put a twist on those tunes, because, you know, Ribot likes the funk, the groove. And he’s a crazy guitar player. I had a lot of fun playing with him because he’s nuts!’

Greg Lewis

Organist and pianist Greg Lewis is a mainstay in New York City’s jazz, blues and funk scene and tours abroad with gospel groups. As accompanist of several blues artists, his cooperation with singer Sweet Georgia Brown is striking. His thorough background in modern jazz – Lewis was teached by past masters Gil Goggins, Walter Davis Jr. and Jaki Byard – and love for groove music has resulted in a distinctive identity as an organist. As Organ Monk, Lewis has recorded a number of albums containing Hammond organ interpretations of Thelonious Monk’s music. His fifth album, Organ Monk Blue, will be released in December, 2017.

Selected discography:

Sam Newsome’s Groove Project, 24/7 (2004)
Organ Monk (2011)
Uwo In The Black (2012)
American Standard (2013)
The Breathe Suite (2017)

Check out YouTube clips of Greg Lewis, drummer Jeremy “Bean” Clemons and guitarist Ron Jackson playing roaring versions of Monk’s We See and Trinkle Tinkle.

Go to the website of Greg Lewis here.

Thornel Schwartz - Soul Cookin'

Thornel Schwartz Soul Cookin’ (Argo 1962)

Guitarist Thornel Schwartz was in the frontline of the organ combo scene. A typical sideman, he only recorded one album as a leader, the 1962 Argo album Soul Cookin’, which presents a bonus in the guise of Hammond organ giant Larry Young, who performs under the pseudonym Lawrence Olds.

Thornel Schwartz - Soul Cookin'

Personnel

Thornel Schwartz (guitar), Bill Leslie (tenor saxophone), Lawrence Olds (Larry Young, organ), Jerome Thomas (drums A2-A3, B1, B2, B4), Donald Bailey (drums A1, B3)

Recorded

on September 4, 1962 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Released

as Argo 704 in 1962

Track listing

Side A:
Soul Cookin’
Brazil
You Won’t Let Me Go
Side B:
Theme From Mutiny On The Bounty
Blue And Dues
I’m Getting Sentimental Over You
Don’t You Know I Care


Isuppose Thornel Schwartz realised soon enough that his path wasn’t going to resemble that of Grant Green, George Benson, Pat Martino or Joe Pass, amazing guitarists that also woodshedded in r&b and soul jazz but, unlike Schwartz, became leaders in their own right. Nevertheless, Schwartz, born in Philadelphia on May 29, 1927, and no doubt a solid, characteristic guitarist, could look back at the end of his life (he died prematurely at the age of 50 in 1977) on a career in the frontline of the popular soul jazz genre. Schwartz was a sideman to many leading organists of the day, beginning with the pioneering master of the Hammond B3, Jimmy Smith.

Schwartz, who was associated with Philadelphian singer Don Gardner (at the same time as Jimmy Smith) and singer/pianist Freddie Cole from 1952 to 1955, hooked up with Jimmy Smith in 1956. Bullseye. Schwartz found himself featured on Smith’s albums that made the organ a viable modern jazz instrument and were extremely popular to boot. Schwartz appeared on Smith’s A New Sound A New Star – Jimmy Smith At The Organ Vol. 1 & 2, The Incredible Jimmy Smith At The Organ Vol. 3 and At Club Baby Grand Vol. 1 & 2. After a stint with Johnny “Hammond” Smith in the late fifties, Schwartz joined the group of another revolutionary organist, Larry Young, in 1960. Still working as a soul jazz musician, Young nonetheless showed potential as an innovator on the sessions Schwartz partook in, Testifyin’, Young Blues and Groove Street. Subsequently, Schwartz worked with Jimmy McGriff, Reuben Wilson’s early career group Wildare Express and Charles Earland in the sixties and Richard “Groove” Holmes in the seventies. Schwartz from Philly. With Smith, McGriff and Earland from Philly, organ jazz city without parallel. To say the least, Mr. Schwartz knew where the action was at!

Solely responsible for the modern organ jazz revolution, Jimmy Smith did have an expert companion in Thornel Schwartz. The uptempo tunes in Smith’s book (The Way You Look Tonight and The Champ from A New Sound A New Star, Sweet Georgia Brown and Get Happy from At Club Baby Grand) show that Schwartz played his role in setting the standard for future organ combo’s. His boppy comping, supported by deft accents on the bass string, clipped notes and the propulsive, relentless groove Schwartz and Smith generate, which suggests a liking for Django Reinhardt’s tight-knit gypsy swing, set the standard for playing in the organ combo. The method is commented upon by Babs Gonzalez in the liner notes of A New Sound A New Star, which further illustrates the relevance of Schwartz: ‘They were always singing new arrangements in the car while traveling.’ That is, when Babs wasn’t intervening with some lengthy, expoobident recitations of bopswing poetry.

A proficient blues player who talks the bop language without really, like better guitar players, stretching long lines over the familiar changes, Schwartz accompanies his short clusters of prickly, staccato notes with driving octave playing. The blues tunes on Soul Cookin’ benefit from Schwartz’ more crude than refined approach, although the entrance in the title track, lame as a duck with the flu, nearly kills the tune, but he regains his posture with simultaneously down-home and boppish statements. His peculiar, overdriven tone might get on your sleeve, yet gives that extra edge and is instantly recognizable. Soul Cookin’ was released six years after Schwartz’ stint with Jimmy Smith and Thornel’s sound hadn’t changed one bit. A jazzy creature of habit!

Soul Cookin’ presents not only blues but exotic grooves like Brazil and standards and popular song like Theme From Mutiny On The Bounty. Bill Leslie, a lively, original tenor saxophonist whom Schwartz cooperated with on Leslie’s Diggin’ The Chicks, lures The Bounty to the shore of Rio with some hot and quixotic blowing. Larry Young, or Lawrence Olds (the off-beat pseudonym that precedes the wordplay of Young’s 1973 Lawrence Of Newark album) comps tastefully and makes the most of his few solo spots, elevating You Won’t Let Me Go to a song you wouldn’t want to let go, spicing his excellent blues lick bag with frivolous runs up the scale. Schwartz is duly stimulated, sends his car into the grind, only to regain speed for a commoving ride around the track. A moment that’s reminiscent of the chemistry between Jimmy and Thornel in 1956.

Listen to the Soul Cookin’ album here.

Flophouse Favorites 2016

FLOPHOUSE FAVORITES 2016: Heaven abides, a year without ‘epic’ hypes. Let’s just go about our business and check out the real deal of the past, and present. In Cannonball’s words: ‘I mean soul, you know what I mean, soul.’ Read all about Flophouse Magazine’s favorite releases of 2016 below:

Cannonball Adderley, One For Daddy-O – Jazz At The Concertgebouw (Dutch Jazz Archive Series)

The Dutch Jazz Archive has been releasing the Jazz At The Concertgebouw series since 2007. From the mid-fifties to the early sixties, the concerts presented the first opportunity for Dutch jazz fans to see and hear legends of jazz perform in person. Over the years, the Concertgebouw concerts have acquired a near-mythic status, much like the Kralingen Pop Festival gained a reputation as the Dutch equivalent of Woodstock for the babyboom hippies. Among other CD’s, the Dutch Jazz Archive released Concertgebouw performances by Chet Baker, The Miles Davis Quintet featuring John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers featuring Lee Morgan and Wayne Shorter, Count Basie, J.J. Johnson, Gerry Mulligan and Lee Konitz/Zoot Sims. The latest addition highlights Cannonball Adderley, who played at Amsterdam’s prime concert hall on November 19, 1960. 1960 was a pivotal year for Adderley. The heavy-set, amiable alto saxophonist, who had made such an indelible impression upon his arrival in New York City in 1955, had really gotten his act together now, having signed with Orrin Keepnews’ Riverside label, which released the highly succesful and influential live album The Cannonball Adderley Quintet In San Francisco at the tail end of 1959. Adderley brings the quintet with him, minus pianist Bobby Timmons, who’d returned to Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and was replaced by the English pianist Victor Feldman. Feldman’s Exodus is performed, as well as This Here, One For Daddy-O and Bohemia After Dark. Feldman makes his simultaneously sophisticated and bluesy mark in the Bobby Timmons chart hit, This Here, Nat Adderley is ebullient and the rhythm section of Louis Hayes and Sam Jones makes abundantly clear why it was regarded as one of the hardest swinging outfits around. Cannonball is in top form, tackling the tunes like a lion grabbing the neck of a lion cub. Added to these four tunes is a guest performance of Cannonball Adderley with the local crew of pianist Pim Jacobs, guitarist Wim Overgaauw, bassist Ruud Jacobs and drummer Cees See at Theater Bellevue in Amsterdam on June 3, 1966. It was recorded for Dutch radio broadcast. The group, albeit in excellent command of the material, is a bit timid in contrast with Cannonball, who fires on all cylinders, occasionally flying off the rails with great zest. While jubilant, it seems Cannonball also had to drive out some demons that particular day in the nation’s capital. One For Daddy-O – Jazz At The Concertgebouw comes with insightful liner notes by journalist Bert Vuijsje.

Cannonball Adderley - One For Daddy-O

Find One For Daddy-O – Jazz At The Concertgebouw here.

Tom Harrell, Something Gold, Something Blue (HighNote)

At the age of 70, trumpet and flugelhorn player Tom Harrell is not about to slow down. Harrell, a supreme lyrical player and sophisticated composer, started out his professional career with Stan Kenton and Woody Herman in the late sixties and early seventies, had extended performance and recording stints with Horace Silver (1973-77) and Phil Woods (1983-89) and cooperated with numerous greats of jazz like Bill Evans, Dizzy Gillespie, Lee Konitz and Art Farmer. Since the late eighties, Harrell has broadened his horizon by writing for large ensembles, big bands and orchestra, both jazz and classical, including his own Chamber Ensemble. His work has been recorded by luminaries as Ron Carter, Kenny Barron, Hank Jones and Charlie Haden. For over ten years, Harrell has kept a quintet going, occasionally switching sidemen. For his latest release, Something Gold, Something Blue, the line-up consists of drummer Jonathan Blake, bass player Ugonna Okegwo, fellow trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and guitarist Charles Altura. Forefronting his trademark, marshmellow sound, a sound that embraces you like a blanket on a cold winter’s day, Harrell’s set switches from the intelligent, lithe groove of View, the world music of Delta Of The Nile, modal tendencies of Trances to the ethereal Travelin’, which showcases Harrell’s gift for exploring every corner of a melody. An enigmatic, intriguing performer on stage, Harrell’s time in the studio is also still well spent.

Tom Harrell - Something Gold, Something Blue

Find Something Gold, Something Blue here.

Liebman, Ineke, Laghina, Cavalli & Pinheiro, Is Seeing Believing? (Challenge)

Saxophist and flautist Dave Liebman, the musical equivalent of Sesame Street’s cookie monster, has done about everything from being part of the Miles Davis group in the early seventies to writing chamber music. Liebman has also been an expert educational writer and organiser. Among other endeavors, he founded the International Association Of Schools Of Jazz, stressing educational cooperation without borders. It’s this responsive spirit that’s at the heart of Is Seeing Believing, a collaboration between the five IASS colleagues Liebman, veteran Dutch drummer Eric Ineke (a longtime Liebman associate who also played on, among others, Lieb Plays The Beatles and Lieb Plays Blues à la Trane), pianist Mário Laghina, bassist Massimo Cavalli and guitarist Ricardo Pinheiro. An international cast that cooks a varied brew. Excepting a robust interpretation of Old Folks, marked by the vibes of John Coltrane’s Impulse output, courtesy of Liebman’s freewheeling, uplifting phrases and Ineke’s lush, pulled-and-pushed rhythm, and the Post Bop-meets-Gypsy-meets-Dixie-meets-Prog Pinheiro tune Ditto, the repertoire is soft-hued, introspective, a gentle but stirring lake of intricate, fine-tuned jazz. A conversation between Liebman’s sensual soprano and Pinheiro’s spicy acoustic guitar is the centre of the warm-blooded piece of folk jazz, Coração Vagabundo. On the other tunes, Pinheiro plays electric guitar, employing a prickly, Jim Hall-ish sound, and daring to turn into eccentric pathways during his concise stories. Like in the sprightly take of Skylark, wherein Liebman and Pinheiro improvise simultaneously. With the wisdom of the elder master, Liebman’s tenor work is spirited without excessive frills. The highlight is the title track, a composition of slow-moving voicings that meander on the sensitive, resonant sound carpet of Ineke, which nicely lets the personalities of the soloists ring through. Pianist Mário Laghina’s embrace of the melody is enamouring, sometimes following the steps of Liebman, sometimes going against the grain teasingly. Part of an album of moving and intelligently crafted modern jazz.

Liebman, Ineke, Laghina, Cavalli & Pinheiro - Is Seeing Believing?

Find Is Seeing Believing? here.

Woody Shaw & Louis Hayes, The Tour Volume One (HighNote)

Nowadays, trumpeter Woody Shaw is revered as the last great trumpet innovator. Following a low ebb at the turn of the decade, Shaw was at a creative peak in the mid-seventies. On a collision course with fusion and free jazz, the virtuoso Shaw candidly expressed the need to restore faith in straightforward, acoustic jazz, a need that equally passionate classic (hard) boppers such as Cedar Walton, Jimmy Heath, Joe Henderson, Barry Harris and Bobby Hutcherson undoubtly agreed with: “I blame the musicians for nearly killing the music. I mean, some of the rubbish they call jazz in The States is not jazz.” And about the new group he founded with Louis Hayes in 1976: “We said: ‘Wait a minute – we gotta change this a little bit. By no means is jazz dead – that’s essentially why Louis Hayes and I formed this band.” Boy, did Shaw deliver on his promise! In the past, High Note released a series of live recordings by Woody Shaw. This year, the label released The Tour Volume 1, a live recording of his group in Stuttgart, Germany on March 22, 1976. It’s a cutting edge set that shouldn’t be missed. According to the famed jazz producer, writer and co-founder of Mosaic, Michael Cuscuna, who visited countless Woody Shaw shows in the seventies, the trumpeter was a constant crackerjack. Indeed, all the assets that make Shaw such a unique jazz artist are in check: his dark, rich tone, clean attack, facility in all registers, surprising effects and suave modulation through keys. And on the experimental side, the use of the (Coltrane-influenced) pentatonic scale and wider intervals. The kind of stuff that was difficult to pull off with the three-valved trumpet. The group’s no-holds-barred attitude shines through on all cuts: avant-leaning, burnin’ originals by Shaw, (The Moontrane) Matthews, (Ichi-Ban) and Larry Young (Obsequious), a boiled-over bossa of Walter Booker/Cedar Walton (Book’s Bossa) and a greasy semi-ballad of Peggy Stern (Sun Bath). The ever-hard swinging Louis Hayes is relentless, Junior Cook holds his own with a bluesy, big-toned sound and ‘Trane-tinged, edgy phrasing and Ronnie Matthews contributes deft, ringing statements. The somewhat slower Invitation, a Bronislaw Kaper composition, is a gas. Shaw is fluent like a slithering snake in the grass and his technical prowess isn’t executed for virtuosity’s sake, but instead facilitates a beautifully constructed, quietly thunderous storyline. A cat who was truly revealing the full potential of the trumpet.

Woody Shaw & Louis Hayes - The Tour Volume One

Find The Tour Volume One here.

Larry Young, In Paris: The ORTF Recordings (Resonance)

Woody Shaw is present as well on the outstanding 2016 release by Resonance Records, Larry Young – In Paris: The ORTF Recordings. It features sessions that were recorded for radio broadcasting during Young’s periodical 1964/65 sojourns in Paris. Larry Young took Hammond organ jazz beyond its churchy soul jazz roots and the bop ethos of Jimmy Smith, adding whole tone scales and the intervallic inventions of John Coltrane and McCoy Tyner to a clean, crisp sound and restrained, resonant phrasing. The result was a fresh and amazingly free-flowing kind of organ jazz. The organist, well-known for his role on Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew, returned to the USA at the end of 1965, where he released his acclaimed masterpiece Unity. In Paris, Young was also joined by tenor saxophonist Nathan Davis and drummer Billy Brooks as well as an international parade of players, including tenor saxophonist Jean-Claude Forenbach. At a purposeful crossroads in his career, Young’s style alternates between the layered, wayward runs of Trane Of Thought and ferocious, pentatonic variations on melodies of Wayne Shorter’s Black Nile. The 19-year old Woody Shaw is a jubilant asset to tunes such as his original composition Zoltan (that would be featured on Unity), nicely contrasting with Nathan Davis’ earthy, edgy tenor. In Paris, which was released on both CD and limited edition vinyl, is the kind of release of unearthed classic jazz material that makes your heart skip a bee: the sound quality is excellent, the package is top-notch and includes previously unreleased photographs and a vast collection of insightful, meticulous liner notes by, among others, Nathan Davis, organist Lonnie Smith, Woody Shaw III, Larry Young III and Resonance producer Zev Feldman. A rare treat for classic jazz fans and a mouth-watering dish for Hammond B3 geeks.

Larry Young - In Paris

Find In Paris: The ORTF Recordings here.

Willie Jones III, Groundwork (WJ3)

Afusion of tradition and innovation, keeping it fresh, energetic, real. The versatile drummer Willie Jones III, who worked with Horace Silver, Hank Jones, Herbie Hancock, Roy Hargrove and Arturo Sandoval, reserves his self-owned independent label, WJ3, for his hardest boppin’ efforts. Groundwork, the seventh album of Jones on WJ3, is dedicated to his mentor, Cedar Walton, who passed away in 2013, and other deceased colleagues Ralph Penland, Mulgrew Miller and Dwayne Burno. It has the vibe of both the mid-sixties hard bop Blue Note albums and the early seventies catalogue of Muse and Mainstream, created by a mutually responsive outfit that includes veteran bassist Buster Williams (former Walton associate) and the outstanding pianist Eric Reed, who deceptively easily marries intricate modalities with lively blues bits. Post bop gems like the moody Cedar Walton tune Hindsight and the uptempo cooker Gitcha Shout On are alternated with a frolic Buster Williams blues, Toku Do, and Latin-flavored tunes like Ralph Penland’s Jamar and Reed’s New Boundary. Repertoire that’s uplifted also by the pristine, quicksilver phrases of vibe player Warren Wolf and lively blowing of trumpeter Eddie Henderson and saxophonist Stacy Dillard. The propulsive drumming of Jones, just a pulse away from both Billy Higgins and Joe Chambers, is crucial to the proceedings, favoring sympatico support over solo time. Dear Blue, a melancholy ballad written by the Dutch saxophonist Floriaan Wempe, ignites strong emotions. Stacy Dillard creeps into the crevices of the crepuscular melody, evoking memories of Chet Baker singing ballads later in life. Do you hear that pin drop?

Willlie Jones III - Groundwork

Find Groundwork here.

Larry Young – In Paris

Great news! On March 11, Resonance Records released a goldmine for fans of organist Larry Young. Larry Young – In Paris: The ORTF Recordings features live material and studio sessions that were recorded for radio broadcasting during the periods that Young lived in Paris in 1964/65. Larry Young took Hammond organ jazz beyond its church roots and the bop ethos of Jimmy Smith, adding whole tone scales and the modal inventions of John Coltrane and McCoy Tyner to a clean, articulate sound and restrained, meaningful phrasing. The result was a new and amazingly free-flowing kind of organ jazz. Young’s Blue Note albums and cooperations with guitarist Grant Green and drummer Elvin Jones are classic. The organist is best-known for his role on Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew. Back in the USA at the end of 1965, Young released his masterpiece Unity.

Read about Larry Young in Paris on Resonance’s website here.
And check out the trailer here.

Larry Young - In Paris

Grant Green - Street Of Dreams

Grant Green Street Of Dreams (Blue Note 1964)

I can’t get enough of Grant Green’s opening tune I Wish You Love from the guitarist’s mid-career album Street Of Dreams. It’s the epitome of Green’s ethereal qualities and works on an emotionally soothing level only true masters can bring about.

Grant Green - Street Of Dreams

Personnel

Grant Green (guitar), Larry Young (organ), Bobby Hutcherson (vibes), Elvin Jones (drums)

Recorded

on November 16, 1964 at Van Gelder Studios in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Released

as BLP 4253 in 1965

Track listing

Side A:
I Wish You Love
Lazy Afternoon
Side B:
Street Of Dreams
Somewhere In The Night


Mid-career? Indeed, I define the album as such. Although Green recorded until his death in 1979, it’s fair to say that the seventies were disappointing for Green and that the relevant part of his career runs from his start in 1960 to the beginning of the following decade. Moreover, Green practically lived in the studio in the early sixties, mostly as solo and staff guitarist for Blue Note. Nobody did so much sessions for the famous label as Green, and certainly not between 1960 and 1965. Hence said stipulation that Street Of Dreams is a mid-career effort.

During that period, Green had struck up a fruitful recording relationship with organist Larry Young and drummer Elvin Jones. Elvin Jones is on a string of Grant Green albums, among them Matador. Naturally, Jones took part in recording Larry Young’s masterpiece Unity. The trio furthermore cooperate on a couple of ace Blue Note albums: Grant Green’s Talkin’ About and I Want To Hold Your Hand and Larry Young’s Into Something.

Street Of Dreams certainly is an ace album as well and evidence of how well the famed members of this group – augmented to a quartet by vibrafonist Bobby Hutcherson, who played on essential Green album Idle Moments – respond to eachother. Street Of Dreams and Somewhere In The Night are easygoing swingers including fluid solo’s by Green and Young, but the standout tracks are to be found on side A. Lazy Afternoon is a slow, mellow standard which charm lies in the combination between its harmonic subtleties and Green’s blues-infused playing style.

Both Lazy Afternoon and I Wish You Love benefit from the polyrhythmic finesse and tension-building of one-man band Elvin Jones, Larry Young’s economical, full-bodied backing and adventurous phrases and Hutcherson’s moody embellishments. In front of this crackerjack trio, Grant Green reaches bittersweet heights in I Wish You Love, which originally was a chanson from French singer Charles Trenet. There is so much to enjoy: a deceptively simple, patiently executed, beautiful melody and a memorable solo that constitutes nearly five minutes of sheer beauty. Then there’s that delicious sustain of Green’s Gibson guitar that must surely do an ‘embraceable you’ to you too. Green’s stately delivery of I Wish You Love never fails to bring me into a sweet and sour, ephemereal state of mind.

Street Of Dreams is a carefully constructed affair. From the front cover – an apt picture and illustration by Reid Miles of the intersection Grant Avenue & Green Street in San Francisco – via repertoire and titles to Green’s performance, it’s obvious that the album’s target is a soft spot in the heart. It certainly hits home. As one of many top class albums in Green’s book, I think Street Of Dreams will satisfy jazz fans that are charmed by the guitarist’s better known Idle Moments.

Larry Young - Into Something!

Larry Young Into Something! (Blue Note 1965)

The four personalities on organist Larry Young’s first album on Blue Note Into Something! are really into something very good. Individually, they are on top of their form and, moreover, build on eachother’s strenghts and as such deliver a tight, cutting-edge organ jazz album.

Larry Young - Into Something!

Personnel

Larry Young (organ), Sam Rivers (tenor saxophone A1-2, B1-2), Grant Green (guitar), Elvin Jones (drums)

Recorded

on November 12, 1964 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Released

as BLP 4187 in 1965

Track listing

Side A:
Tyrone
Plaza De Toros
Side B:
Paris Eyes
Backup
Ritha


It would be a year until Young would turn in follow-up Unity, the organist’s unequivocal masterpiece. Into Something! is less challenging harmonically, but far from plain. Young was an extraordinary Hammond organist if ever there was one. His fresh solo’s, turning around the axes of the compositions’ blue prints, are top-notch throughout the album. Listening to them, the uncommon and fantastic image arises of a reed that is somehow attached to the Hammond B3’s keyboard. Cause that’s the impression Young’s lines give: of statements from front-line horn men of that period such as Joe Henderson and Booker Ervin. That Larry Young has been dubbed the ‘John Coltrane of the Hammond organ’ is a bit cockeyed, it nevertheless says a lot about Larry Young’s standing and innovative legacy.

Young’s artful Hammond approach is particularly noticable on Tyrone. Once the relatively simple blues theme is ended, Young throws himself headlong into a solo that is a demonstration of emotional directness, coherence and subtle musical intellect. Moreover, it’s cooking.

Tyrone is a standout track. The other one is Plaza De Toros, an alluring, groovy Spanish-type composition by guitarist Grant Green, who shows his remarkable depth as a soloist, which is complemented by a canny, sharp attack. It also includes (as does the whole album) delightful work from tenorist Sam Rivers; dark-toned, idiosyncratic passion play from a reedman adding touches of Ornette Coleman, Roland Kirk and Archie Shepp to his own distinct personality. It’s refreshing to hear such an original type of tenor saxophonist on an organ jazz recording.

Aside from the fine rapport between these four top-class musicians, the key to the album is the typical polyrhythmic spree of drummer Elvin Jones. It lifts the compositions well above their already solid standard and inspires his colleagues to put their best foot forward; especially on the two standout tracks, but also on the three remaining, more laid-back (Elvin Jones-style ‘laid-back’) tunes of the album. Prior to Into Something!, Jones, Green and Young played on Grant Green’s Talkin’ About and their alchemy on Larry Young’s November 12, 1964 session for Into Something! is striking.

Four days later, on November 16, 1964, and half a year later, on March 15, 1965, they would continue their genial rapport on, respectively, Grant Green’s Street Of Dreams and I Want To Hold Your Hand. Blue Note headquarters, generally, and wisely, kept the advance guard of jazz as close together as possible.