Horace Silver - Finger Poppin'

Horace Silver Finger Poppin’ (Blue Note 1959)

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

Horace Silver - Finger Poppin'

Personnel

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

Recorded

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

Released

as BLP 4008 in 1959

Track listing

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


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

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

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

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

Louis Hayes Serenade For Horace (Blue Note 2017)

NEW RELEASE LOUIS HAYES –

Coming full circle on Blue Note, Louis Hayes pays tribute to pianist and composer Horace Silver, whose legendary quintet the drummer was part of a long, long time ago.

Louis Hayes - Serenade For Horace

Personnel

Louis Hayes (drums), Abraham Burton (tenor saxophone), Josh Evans (trumpet), Steve Nelson (vibraphone), David Bryant (piano), Dezron Douglas (bass)

Recorded

in 2017 at Aum Studio Productions, Bakersfield and Systems Two Recording Studio, NYC

Released

as BN 06XXGSC14 on May 26, 2017

Track listing

Ecaroh
Senor Blues
Song For My Father
Hastings Street
Strollin’
Juicy Lucy
Silver’s Serenade
Lonely Woman
Summer In Central Park
St. Vitus Dance
Room 608


Once you’ve heard Louis Hayes furiously kickstart Kenny Drew into action on the pianist’s eponymous Blue Note album Undercurrent from 1960, you are under his spell. One of the hardest swinging drummers of the generation that came after pioneers Kenny Clarke and Max Roach, Louis Hayes, himself particularly influenced by Philly Joe Jones and now eighty years old, looks back on a miraculous career in the drummer’s seat behind Horace Silver, Cannonball Adderley, John Coltrane, Oscar Peterson, Dexter Gordon, Joe Henderson, Grant Green, Woody Shaw and many others. Fifty-seven years after his debut as a leader on VeeJay, Louis Hayes, Hayes dedicated his eighteenth album, Serenade To Horace, to his erstwhile bandleader Horace Silver, whom he joined in 1956 at the age on nineteen. Hayes performed on the classic albums Six Pieces Of Silver, Stylings Of Silver, Further Explorations, Finger Poppin’ and Blowin’ The Blues Away.

Silver’s unbeatable, intricate and eternally swinging tunes get a loving treatment by the sextet. No egomania on the part of Louis Hayes, propulsive support only. The Rudy van Gelder days may definitely be over, certainly as regards to the production of drums. Yet, for all the kit’s unspectacular sound, Hayes’ sparkling, delicate use of the ride cymbal effortlessly carries the group over the hill. Mid-tempo tunes like Ecaroh, Juicy Lucy, St. Vitus Dance, the uplifting top-notch Hayes original Hastings Street, slower ones like Strollin’, (the deliciously slow-dragging) Senor Blues, as well as uptempo, bop-inflected mover Room 608 are thoroughly injected with tasteful blues messages and exuberant strokes by tenor saxophonist Abraham Burton and trumpeter Josh Evans, while vibraphonist Steve Nelson’s airy sound and crisp phrases add depth to the repertoire. Pianist David Bryant’s sparse, carefully crafted lines act in accord with Lonely Woman’s wry sentiment.

The album spawned a single, a take on the iconic Song For My Father. It’s a cameo from singer Gregory Porter, whose sonorous, roasted marshmellow voice and suave phrasing perfectly match the endearing emotions of melody lines like ‘if there was ever a man who was generous, gracious and good, that was my dad, the man…’. A tasty intermezzo between the fine hard bop dishes of old master Hayes.

Read more about Serenade For Horace on the website of Blue Note.

Joe Henderson - The Kicker

Joe Henderson The Kicker (Milestone 1967)

After a series of vanguard jazz releases and collaborations on Blue Note in the mid-sixties, Joe Henderson switched to Orrin Keepnews’ Milestone label and delivered the more straightforward, hard-swinging album The Kicker. Relatively more straightforward. Henderson’s characteristic, adventurous playing style has remained intact. An absolutely sizzling album.

Joe Henderson - The Kicker

Personnel

Joe Henderson (tenor saxophone), Mike Lawrence (trumpet), Grachan Monchur (trombone), Kenny Barron (piano), Ron Carter (bass), Louis Hayes (drums)

Recorded

on August 10 & September 27, 1967 at Plaza Sound Studios, New York City

Released

as Milestone 9008 in 1968

Track listing

Side A:
Mamacita
The Kicker
Chelsea Bridge
If
Side B:
Nardis
Without A Song
O Amor Em Paz
Mo’ Joe


Henderson must be about the most perfect saxophonist in modern jazz. Exceptional chops, a powerful tone and supurb execution. He’s a tenor sax innovator that has explored the outermost regions of the instrument as well as a great storyteller who keeps constant focus on one of mainstream jazz’ most important axioma, meaningful simplicity. A flexible tenorist that moved just as easily ‘in’ and ‘out’. Henderson might not instill cathartic listening experiences like John Coltrane. Nevertheless, a sensitive and fiery personality rings through Henderson’s strong, probing, eccentric lines, lines that suck one into a thrilling tale, including the added bonus of refreshing wit. One cannot possibly subdue feelings of awe for Henderson’s crafty, passionate game. Keeping blues phrasing to a minimum, Henderson’s lines instead slyly suggest the blues.

Henderson was in the thick of mid-sixties hard bop as well as vanguard jazz, recording acclaimed albums as Mode For Joe, In & Out and Inner Urge. Henderson recorded with Kenny Dorham, Grant Green and Horace Silver and appeared on avant-leaning Blue Note albums, among them Andrew Hill’s Point Of Departure, Pete LaRoca’s Basra and Larry Young’s Unity. One wonders why Henderson, during such a prolific period, traded Blue Note for Milestone. Perhaps Henderson regretted the fact that label boss Alfred Lion retired in 1967. (Lion moved to Mexico, his partner Francis Wolff took over production duties, assisted by pianist Duke Pearson, until his death in 1971) In the guise of Orrin Keepnews, Henderson certainly met a like-minded, equally perceptive label boss.

The septet of The Kicker, including young lions Mike Lawrence and Kenny Barron, cuts loose on three classic Henderson compositions. The Latin tune Mamacita swings hard and Henderson embellishes it with confident legato and dead-pan asides. Henderson initially recorded Mamacita with Kenny Dorham, on the trumpeter’s swan song as a leader in 1964, Trompeta Toccata (read review here). The Kicker and Mo’ Joe, both of which were recorded by Horace Silver while Henderson was part of the hard bop pioneer’s quintet in 1964, are explosive, stunning versions of Henderson’s intricate hard bop anthems.

The apparent ease with which Henderson personalizes standards that were carved in stone for posterity by legendary forebearers, is impressive. Billy Strayhorn’s Chelsea Bridge, which showcased Duke Ellington’s prime tenorist Ben Webster in the forties, gets a vital treatment, tender, endearing yet driving. Saxophonist Benny Green typified Chelsea Bridge as the most ethereal composition in jazz history (in his liner notes for Tommy Flanagan’s 1975’s album Tokyo Recital.) Henderson’s breathy excursion certainly does justice to that eternal charm. Henderson fastens the pace of Without A Song, which was performed beautifully, for instance, by Sonny Rollins on the tenorist’s eponymous The Bridge in 1961. Louis Hayes’ and Ron Carter’s free-flowing accompaniment is a big part of the take’s artistic succes. Speaking about Hayes, Louis Hayes’ swift, furious drumming lifts the whole proceedings to an entirely different level. He’s outrageous!

Henderson also wrote the idiosyncratic blues If, taking it at a fast pace, starting with staccato notes, then exploring the low and high register, sprinkling his ‘out’ phrases with a myriad of slurs, while remaining continuous flow and swing. Riveting stuff.

Kenny Drew - Undercurrent

Kenny Drew Undercurrent (Blue Note 1961)

Kenny Drew’s Undercurrent isn’t called Undercurrent for nothing. The opener and title track is the pièce de résistance of the album in which every member of the band is on fire. Following it up with a set of excellent hard bop is quite an achievement.

Kenny Drew - Undercurrent

Personnel

Kenny Drew (piano), Hank Mobley (tenor saxophone), Freddie Hubbard (trumpet), Sam Jones (bass), Louis Hayes (drums)

Recorded

on December 11, 1960 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Released

as BLP 4059 in 1961

Track listing

Side A:
Undercurrent
Funk-Cosity
Lion’s Den
Side B:
The Pot’s On
Groovin’ The Blues
Ballade


That hard bop was a development from bebop to more expressive playing of the down-home kind is true, but there was more to it. Near the end of the fifties, there were many different tastes. Pianist Kenny Drew, who played with Charlie Parker, Coleman Hawkins and Howard McGhee, among others, possessed his share of ‘funk’, but his touch was light as a feather, as opposed to the more common percussionist approach. Drew spun precise, logical but animated lines and was a fine accompanist, who worked extensively for Dinah Washington.

Drew’s blues tunes – Funk-Cosity and Groovin’ The Blues – are medium tempo groovers, distinctive for articulate, swinging Drew solo’s. The Pot’s On is a Horace Silver-type tune with an attractive old timey feeling. Lion’s Den (Obviously, Blue Note boss Alfred Lion’s pad) is a happy swinger that makes use of trademark hard bop interludes of suspended rhythm that boost the soloists considerably.

Ballade is a-typical for the period, eschewing double time or louder four/four-sections, instead opting for balanced, sweet and sour balladry. It’s charming.

Not only Kenny Drew, who wrote all six tunes, is in top form, Hank Mobley and Freddie Hubbard are spot-on as well. At the time, Hank Mobley, a young veteran of classic Art Blakey groups, had completed future classic albums Soul Station, Roll Call (including Hubbard) and Workout. Freddie Hubbard was a young, versatile lion who’d made a big impression on colleagues, recording his first two Blue Note albums in 1960 (Goin’ Up including Mobley) and appearing on dates of Tina Brooks and Eric Dolphy. He would appear on Ornette Coleman’s Free Jazz ten days later on December 21 and join Art Blakey in 1961 for a stunning stretch of Blue Note and Riverside albums.

To complete the Blakey pedigree in this respect, Kenny Drew also played with the famed drummer and band leader, albeit for the shorter time of two months in 1957. However, Drew’s most renowned effort in that year is his work on John Coltrane’s imposing Blue Train album. Drew was part of many other sessions of the period, among them those of Sonny Rollins, Jackie McLean and Kenny Dorham. Drew struck up a long association with Dexter Gordon onwards from the early fifties (Daddy Plays The Horn, Dexter Callin’, One Flight Up) and, like Gordon, became a longtime, widely acknowledged expatriate in Paris and, especially, Copenhagen. In a weird twist of fate Drew and Gordon even appeared in a Swedish, hippy-ish soft porn movie called Pornografi!

By then, about a decade had passed since Drew recorded the title track of this album. The partly modal theme includes the swirling arpeggios that aptly explain the sea-image title, which give an otherwise noteworthy composition even greater distinction. Best of all, the band is inspired almost beyond belief, with the essential inclusion of drummer Louis Hayes and bassist Sam Jones. Their experience as a rhythm tandem of many sessions of the day and Cannonball Adderley’s Quintet in particular stands them in good stead. They’re red hot, with a controlled intensity that would keep many a devil at bay. Louis Hayes’s temperature especially surpasses that of Lucifer with more than a few degrees!

The title tune is not only crisp and driving, it’s also full of immaculate solo work. Kenny Drew’s ideas keep flowing, his lines stretching over bars extensively. Mobley and Hubbard, triggered by Drew, Hayes and Jones, work up a sweat, and there are no parttime choruses. Mobley’s smoky sound and Hubbard’s buoyant style contrast pleasantly.

Undercurrent was Drew’s last album in the United States before he went to Paris in 1961 and settled in Copenhagen in 1963. Not a bad way to say goodbye to the American jazz life.

John Coltrane - Lush Life

John Coltrane Lush Life (Prestige 1957/58/1961)

When Prestige released the mid ‘57/early ’58 sessions that comprise Lush Life in 1961, John Coltrane, ever the restless seeker, had already moved into very different directions. But that doesn’t take anything away from the great material contained within these sides.

John Coltrane - Lush Life

Personnel

John Coltrane (tenor saxophone), Donald Byrd (trumpet B1), Red Garland (piano B1-2), Earl May (bass A1-3), Art Taylor A1-3), Paul Chambers (bass B1-2), Louis Hayes (drums B1), Albert Heath (B2)

Recorded

on May 31 & August 16, 1957 and January 10, 1958 at Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, New Jersey

Released

as PR 7188

Track listing

Side A:
Like Someone In Love
I Love You
Trane’s Slo Blues
Side B:
Lush Life
I Hear A Rhapsody


Coltrane had gained recognition and notoriety with his second stint with the Miles Davis Quintet and the recordings of Giant Steps and My Favorite Things on Atlantic. Prestige, eager to capitalise on Coltrane’s fame, released a string of LP’s up to 1965 containing material from the vaults. (Other tracks of the May/August ’57 and January ’58-sessions were released on Coltrane and The Last Trane) At the time of the Lush Life-sessions, people were still catching their breath after Coltrane’s tenures with Miles Davis (the first tenure) and Thelonious Monk, and after the recording of the classic hard bop album Blue Train.

Regardless of Lush Life’s haphazard nature, it includes a number of interesting and exciting moments, as one might expect from someone of Coltrane’s calibre. A great moment is the way Coltrane imaginatively deals with the straightforward chord sequence of Trane’s Slow Blues, wringing notes out of his tenor the way wrestlers tend to do with each other’s torso. Art Taylor’s insistent beat and Earl May’s big-sounding bass constitute a perfect vehicle for Coltrane’s forceful style. Included as well is a spirited stop-time section.

The other two trio tunes on side A lack dynamic rhythm work and Earl May’s bass sounds a bit muddy. But Coltrane turns Like Someone In Love inside out, utilizing melodic inversions (opening the tune with the bridge, in true bebop fashion, is just the starter) and cluster bombs of notes typical of early Coltrane. Furthermore, I Love You is a tale with beautiful lines and firmly placed blue notes. There wasn’t a particular artistic strategy to leave out the piano for this date, as Joe Goldberg states in the liner notes. The reality was prosaic: the piano player didn’t show up. The absentee probably was either Red Garland or Mal Waldron, frequent early Coltrane collaborators.

Red Garland is part of the other session, which resulted in a haunting rendition of Lush Life, in which the rhythm section of Paul Chambers and Louis Hayes responds well to Coltrane’s changes of mood, and a hard-swinging version of I Hear A Rhapsody. Young lion Donald Byrd, Coltrane’s sideman on this session, feels at home in the charged atmosphere of the reworked standard and his phrases have a floating quality not unlike the trumpeter that influenced many of the modern young trumpeters, Fats Navarro.

Prestige didn’t have the decency to consult Coltrane in the matters of organising a record release. However, as both a longtime Coltrane fan and vinyl freak, I’m glad those ‘crumbs’ of Coltrane saw the light of day in 1961. I’m not disputing the merit of listening to remastered jazz albums on that tiny, horrible absurdity they call the compact disc. Moreover, vinyl re-issues are pleasant commodities. But the vintage vinyl experience is priceless. The chills and feelings of surprise aroused by the crackling mono LP sounds of Trane’s Slow Blues still reverberate after all these years. Imagine what groundbreaking cuts like My Favorite Things (from My Favorite Things) and Dahomey’s Dance (from Ole) do to one’s nervous system. I guess you can.

adderley_bluesf

The Cannonball Adderley Quintet Them Dirty Blues (Riverside 1960)

As a soloist in the Parker tradition, Cannonball Adderley took New York by storm in 1955, releasing solid albums for various labels in the following years. After a succesful stint of fourteen months with Miles Davis, contributing to quintessential albums such as Milestones and Kind Of Blue, at the end of 1959 Julian “Cannonball” Adderley really had got his act together band-wise. Brother Nat rejoined Cannonball after a variety of jobs, (J.J. Johnson, Woody Herman) landing safely in front of the red hot rhythm section of drummer Louis Hayes and bassist Sam Jones. The fruits of this renewed Adderley labor – The Cannonball Adderley Quintet In San Francisco and Them Dirty Blues – created quite a buzz through a succesful marriage between bebop and the soulful, funky side of jazz.

adderley_bluesf

Personnel

Cannonball Adderley (alto saxophone), Nat Adderley (trumpet), Bobby Timmons (piano A2, A4, B2), Barry Harris (piano A1, A3, B1, B3), Sam Jones (bass), Louis Hayes (drums)

Recorded

on February 1, 1960 at Reeves Sound Studio, NYC and March 29 at Ter-Mar Recording Studio, Chicago

Released

as RLP 1170 in 1960

Track listing

Side A:
Work Song
Dat Dere
Easy Living
Del Sasser
Side B:
Jeannine
Soon
Them Dirty Blues


The title track is indeed a low down and dirty blues, yet in spite of its juke joint charisma, as far as excitement is concerned stays a mile or so behind the three well-known classic cuts of the album, Work Song, Dat Dere and Duke Pearson’s Jeannine. Nat Adderley’s Work Song is one of the modern jazz gems. It still sounds fresh and fiery after all these years and through its imaginative theme and on-target breaks keeps reminding us of the Southern chain gang and the way it used song for dearly needed discipline and comfort.

Nat Adderley recorded his signature tune just a couple of weeks earlier, on January 27, 1960, on his Riverside album Work Song. It’s an unusual take including pizzicato cello and although Hayes and pianist Bobby Timmons are also present, as well as master guitar player Wes Montgomery, it lacks the fire and urgency of the Cannonball Adderley Quintet’s effort.

Bobby Timmons’ Dat Dere, a gospel-tinged beauty, has an interesting bridge after the stand-out solo’s of the brothers Adderley and Timmons, consisting of a few jumpin’ choruses and a return to the sassy melody via a variation on that melody; simultaneously soulful and intelligent. During the recording of Them Dirty Blues, Timmons returned to Art Blakey’s group. They recorded a typically swinging and robust Dat Dere for the album The Big Beat a couple of months later in 1960. And Bobby Timmons’ trio take on his first album as a leader, This Here Is Bobby Timmons, recorded in the time span between Adderley’s en Blakey’s sessions, conceivably is injected with even a bigger shot of gospel feeling.

Timmons’ replacement in Adderley’s group, Barry Harris, brings his bag of trademark, Bud Powell-influenced bop piano playing. He’s excellent. Timmons’ style, though, adds more colour to the group.

The swinging Jeannine by Duke Pearson possesses a relentless drive. Cannonball wraps original phrases around the theme and the build-up of his solo is immaculate. Nat Adderley plays fluently and ends his turn on a note of exuberant joy. Louis Hayes and Sam Jones are responsible for a big part for the smoothly running train that is Jeannine. Three years of experience for Hayes as drummer in Horace Silver’s outfit indelibly left its mark. Sam Jones shows that he is one of the foremost executioners of the walking bass. Jeannine ends on a bass chorus, which is only appropriate, bearing in mind Sam Jones’ down-home, solid bass sound.

Jones also contributes a composition. The melody of Del Sasser sounds like one of those instantly recognizable Gerry Mulligan tunes, but inserted with much heavier swing.

Amidst upheaval in the jazz world at the end of 1959 – Ornette Coleman and his melodic and harmonic inventions inspiring unheard of controversy, and as the title of his third release somewhat hyperbolically stated, shaping the jazz to come, John Coltrane breaking serious ground with landmark recording Giant Steps – the joyful, funky and smart Them Dirty Blues nestled in the hearts and minds of audiences and musicians, firmly reminding them of the roots of jazz. Arguably, this particular (brand-new brand of funky jazz from The Cannonball Adderley Quintet laid down an evenly valid groundwork for the future.

Sonny Stitt - 12!

Sonny Stitt 12! (Muse 1972)

Nowadays, to define jazz is a Gargantuan task. It could mean such a hell of a lot. (and therefore, arguably, a lot of the time nothing at all) Nowadays, Charlie Parker and Miles Davis have become figures of mythic proportions. But in 1972, when Sonny Stitt’s 12! was recorded, jazz was at a low ebb after two decades wherein it had been a face with two odd sides. On the one hand, jazz – de facto still an affair of the in-crowd, had experienced a relatively meagre amount of attention in the US and Europe (certainly as compared to other, more traditional art forms) On the other hand, jazz did certainly not suffer from a shortage of clubs and record labels, and therefore a steady supply of work for musicians, however marked by hardship those conditions might’ve been. Speaking of 1972, those ‘relative’ days of wine and roses were over. And Sonny Stitt, who’d been there all the way and one of the great American jazz men who defined the era, still wasn’t a household name. Probably because he didn’t generate copy because of o.d’ing in a back alley or having hanged himself on the nearest shower rod.

Sonny Stitt - 12!

Personnel

Sonny Stitt (tenor saxophone, alto saxophone), Barry Harris (piano), Sam Jones (bass), Louis Hayes (drums)

Recorded

on December 12, 1972 in NYC

Released

as MR 5006 in 1972

Track listing

Side A:
12!
I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good)
I Never Knew
Our Delight
Side B:
The Night Has A Thousand Eyes
Blues At The Tempo
Every Tub


Instead Sonny Stitt kept on playing, prolifically, relentlessly. In fact, 12! finds Stitt – 48 years old – in true form, fresh and energetic. Stitt may have been out of sight for a while and may have made a mediocre album here and there in the sixties, yet had a great run of recordings in the early seventies, delivering the outstanding works Tune Up, Constellation and 12!. People again had to pay attention.

The opener and title track immediately makes clear where Stitt’s been at. In a twelve-bar blues (hence the title) the experienced rhythm tandem of Louis Hayes and Sam Jones vigorously crank out the chord scheme and Stitt alternates between outrageously fast and cleanly executed bop runs and tasteful and shouting blues statements. He’s on alto saxophone here and is heard quoting See See Rider, a gesture pianist Barry Harris picks up on in his turn, playfully making a reference to the same classic blues song at the start of his well-balanced solo.

I Got It Bad, virtually synonymous to Johnny Hodges, is a fine ballad. The rest of 12! consists of another dose of blues and bebop. A highlight is I Never Knew; it starts with a jumpy vamp and thereafter, up-tempo and in 4/4 time, Stitt wraps up the story he’s been telling ever since battling with Gene Ammons in the forties. Barry Harris solidly flies through the changes. Harris’ declaration of independence has long since been sealed, yet, at the same time, on this tune and album, Harris throws in more than a bit of Bud Powell.

That should be enough to satisfy the customer, but there’s more where that came from. In the ultra-fast Every Tub, a piece that suggests that in bop there was injected more than a dose of jump ‘n’ jive, Stitt is stimulated to the core by the red hot rhythm section and launches into a high-voltage solo that remains interesting because of Stitt’s unlimited imagination. Stitt pulls out all the stops, ending a three minute immaculate bop course on a wailing note. He’s mean. This is the Sonny Stitt young lions were hesitant to stand shoulder to shoulder with on stage, the Sonny Stitt that on those occasions seemed to deliver the delirious, yet despite its madness utterly coherent message: Here comes Sonny!

On 12! Stitt is assisted by an almost equally experienced set of cats. Sam Jones played with about all of them; and one of his solo albums on Riverside being named Down Home gives you an idea of the bassist’s intentions. Jones and drummer Louis Hayes have been one of the most prominent and exciting rhythm sections in Cannonball Adderley’s Quintet from 1959 to 1964. (Jones played on more recordings of the quintet, notably on the classic Something Else) Barry Harris was a sought-after pianist and is well-known for contributing his soulful, robust style to Lee Morgan’s famous hit record The Sidewinder.

Sonny Stitt’s style pretty much stayed the same over the years, he wasn’t the ‘searching’-type. Stitt is what he is, an authority, an institution. In the fifties and sixties many set Stitt aside as a mere copyist and disciple of Charlie Parker, which was ridiculous. Of course, undeniably, more than in others, in Stitt one could easily hear Parker, sometimes as much as one could hear Parker in Parker. That is, on a superficial level. Stitt learned from that bunch of brilliant innovators that created the new music labeled ‘bebop’, which permeated jazz for years to come, and he played his part in it as well – influencing the likes of John Coltrane along the way. What Stitt was doing in the sixties and seventies was keeping the flame of bebop alive and in the process attributing to the sense that it still was alive, not only in Stitt, but also in the minds and works of the younger generation.

This is what Stitt was doing, year after year, mostly in classic quartet or quintet settings but other settings as well, authoritatively, occasionally a bit half-heartedly, but more often than not by blowing everybody’s brains out. In the manner that is immortalized, for instance, in the grooves of 12!.

You may or may not know all this or you may or may not have heard something along these lines before. It wouldn’t be surprising, since a batch of renowned critics such as Dan Morgenstern have been more than eager to praise or defend Stitt. I take it for granted because Sonny Stitt deserves it that the tale of his frequently unrecognised importance to the jazz heritage keeps being told; that the records are being kept straight.

YouTube: The Night Has A Thousand Eyes