The Cedar Walton Trio - A Night At Boomers Vol. 1

The Cedar Walton Trio featuring Clifford Jordan A Night At Boomers Vol. 1 & 2 (Muse 1973)

Mainstream jazz at its most fluent, refreshing and adventurous. That is A Night At Boomers Vol. 1 & 2 by The Cedar Walton Trio featuring Clifford Jordan.

The Cedar Walton Trio - A Night At Boomers Vol. 1

The Cedar Walton Trio - A Night At Boomers Vol. 2

Personnel

Cedar Walton (piano), Clifford Jordan (tenor saxophone Vol. 1 A1, A3, B1-4; Vol. 2 A2, B1-3), Sam Jones (bass), Louis Hayes (drums)

Recorded

on January 4, 1973 at Boomers, New York City

Released

as Muse 5010/5022 in 1974

Track listing

Volume 1
Side A:
Holy Land
This Guy’s In Love With You
Cheryl
Side B:
The Highest Mountain
Down In Brazil
St. Thomas
Bleecker Street Theme
Volume 2
Side A:
Naima
Stella By Starlight
All The Way
Side B:
I’ll Remember April
Blue Monk
Bleecker Street Theme


Gary Giddins: “Where is jazz going?”
Cedar Walton: “It’ll go wherever we take it. We’re the masters of it. And wherever my colleagues and I feel like going tomorrow.”

The time is January 4, 1973, the place is Boomers in Greenwich Village, NYC, the club that, by all accounts, overflows with knowledgeable jazz fans. The paranoiac and grumpy Republican, Richard Nixon, is in the Oval Office. The burglaries at the headquarters of the Democratic Party take place in May 1972. Reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein sink their teeth into the case. It’s a pressure cooker. The termination of the Vietnam War is long overdue. The number of casualties has been highest among blacks. The army is still segregated. Blacks here, whites there. And here means low in the hierarchy – straight from the assembly line of the Ford factory to the battlefields. Few if any black men wear stripes and play cards in the mess. It’s still, well, a mess.

James Brown is now singing that crack is ruining the hood. The seeds of gangsta rap are sown. White rock is fed to the general public, the corporate smile grows broader and broader by the minute. In jazz, fusion is the big thing, Miles Davis and Weather Report the big names. Living jazz giants are doing fine: Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz. Dave Brubeck is a star. In general, straight-ahead jazz is having a hard time. Regardless of the passionate promotional and educational efforts of Cannonball Adderley, John Lewis, critics, and the occasional write-up in Time Magazine, Average Joe has by and large been (kept?) ignorant of jazz, the beautiful musical art form that, though not exclusively of black origin, can’t be separated from the tormented past and lively culture of the black race and would have been void without it. Amidst the general turmoil, a group of outstanding innovators and stylists, either in the USA or as expatriates in jazz-minded Europe, keep the flame of classic jazz burning: Kenny Clarke, Dexter Gordon, Clark Terry, Gerry Mulligan, Johnny Griffin, Zoot Sims, Art Pepper, Benny Bailey, Phil Woods, Slide Hampton, Jim Hall, Joe Pass, Art Farmer.

And pianists like Tommy Flanagan, Ray Bryant, Kenny Barron. Cedar Walton. Walton, born in Dallas, Texas, was supposed to play on his friend John Coltrane’s landmark album Giant Steps. But while he was out of town, Tommy Flanagan got the call. Walton came into prominence as the pianist of Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers. A gifted writer, Walton penned future standards as Mosaic, Ugetsu, Bolivia, Mode For Joe and Holy Land. Now it’s 1973. Walton, already a very accomplished player in the 60s, matured into a commanding maestro – it has slowly but surely dawned on me that the work of the Flanagans, Bryants, Barrons and Waltons gained considerable depth in the second phase of their careers. Much to our delight.

Crew of Boomers: Walton, craftsman with amazing skills, skills subservient to flexible, rich lines, unceasing drive and phrases crusted with the grit of the honky-tonk floor. Bassist Sam Jones and drummer Louis Hayes. Extraordinary rhythm engine since The Cannonball Adderley Quintet. Hayes the former drummer of Horace Silver’s group, who elevated ‘small ensemble’ hard bop drumming to its ultimate level. Tenor saxophonist Clifford Jordan, who matured from Rollins-styled player to volatile Mingus associate and individual personality that delivered the remarkable Glass Bead Games eight months after the Boomers gig.

Glass Bead Games – extension of John Coltrane’s music – tapped into mankind’s subconscious longing for beauty and unity. It’s uniquely organic. A Night At Boomers, regardless of progressive tinges, is more concerned with redefining mainstream jazz. It does, however, possess a wholesome vibe, perhaps because everybody felt it, musicians and audience alike. If this was an exemplary performance of the Cedar Walton Trio featuring Clifford Jordan, and there is not much room for doubt, I envy those who were able to experience it night after night. The Baby Boomers comprised a lucky crowd.

Boomers bristles with invigorating interpretations of standards, All The Way, Down In Brazil and Charlie Parker’s Cheryl among them. Stella By Starlight and I’ll Remember April are souped-up Kreidlers suddenly taking swift turns like the slickest of Kawasakis. The first four minutes of April are reserved for Sam Jones’s meaty and lyrical bass story, the second part for Clifford Jordan’s fiery tenor playing. Clifford Jordan’s balanced but potent blues playing is the topping of Thelonious Monk’s Blue Monk’s leisurely pace. The archetypical juxtaposition of the Carribean rhythm and uptempo 4/4 sections of Sonny Rollins’s St. Thomas are handled just that extra specially, the Latin part boisterous, the 4/4 part lightning fast and crisp as crackers on Sunday morning. Walton reacts accordingly, switching smoothly from percussive variations to a quicksilver update of Bud Powell.

A joy. The best, however, is yet to come. At least, the tracks that I usually have been immediately drawn to are Holy Land, The Highest Mountain, This Guy’s In Love With You and Naima. The composition of Holy Land is a stroke of genius. The simple and lovely melody – you can hear a child humming it in the playground – is introduced and ended by Walton’s glamorous Bach-like outlay of the chords, which flows smoothly in and out of the tune’s mid-tempo bounce. Whatever the holy land means from Walton’s perspective – Israel for the chosen ones that fled from Egypt, the promised land of Dr. Martin Luther King – Walton obviously had good hopes of discovering it one day.

Perhaps he also longed to reach The Highest Mountain, an equally beautiful, modal-tinged composition. He’s assisted on his travels by Clifford Jordan (Led by Joshua, the tribes of Israel crossed the river Jordan…), who tells one of his all-time great stories. Jordan gives pleasures in measured doses. His tone doesn’t push you against the wall, it’s relatively thin, light as a day in early Spring. His phrasing is agile like the movements of the antelope and his smooth but forceful message is interspersed with sudden, emotionally charged grunts and growls. One hears him searching, investigating, wondering, smiling, pondering and, finally, finding something he deems worthy for a new search. A great artist.

Cedar Walton reaches new levels of trio playing. There’s an endless stream of long lines and ideas during This Guy’s In Love With You, which is started in a funky vein, developed into a crisp groove. Walton is exuberant and his superlative skills are balanced by commanding blues figures. John Coltrane’s Naima never fails to touch my heart, Walton’s voicing and lines a rare, heartbreaking thing of beauty. I have to go with Gary Giddins, who says in the liner notes that Walton is ‘meshing softness with command. It has the cumulative effect of a rose unfolding its pedals.’

This group with near-telepathic synergy effortlessly moulds contemporary jazz to its feelings and highly developed aesthetic.

Roosevelt Wardell Trio - The Revelation

Roosevelt Wardell Trio The Revelation (Riverside 1960)

It really comes close to a revelation, the obscure Roosevelt Wardell’s only album as a leader, The Revelation. The work of a very original pianist which has been neglected for much too long.

Roosevelt Wardell Trio - The Revelation

Personnel

Roosevelt Wardell (piano), Sam Jones (bass), Louis Hayes (drums)

Recorded

on October 5, 1960 at United Recording Studios, Los Angeles

Released

as RLP 350 in 1960

Track listing

Side A:
Like Someone In Love
Lazarus
Autumn In New York
Max The Maximum
Side B:
Elijah Is Here
Willow Weep For Me
Cherokee
The Revelation


The mystery remains. Info on the net close to nada. With the liner notes from Chris Albertson to go on, the following story is revealed: While Baltimore-born Roosevelt Wardell (1933 –1999) was playing jazz piano from an early age, he initially pursued a career as an r&b pianist and singer, accompanying others as well as recording a couple of singles as a leader. Wardell spent the first part of the fifties in the Army. As early as 1953, alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderley, while in the Army at Fort Knox, saw him play in Louisville, Kentucky, and occasionally thereafter. Said Cannonball: “He was more than adequate even then (…) and I sympathized with him as I did with all those who were basically jazzmen but were forced to play that way to make a living.” Cannonball got Wardell a place in the Army Band. Once out of service in 1955, Wardell subsequently played with Bull Moose Jackson, Max Roach and Joe Turner in 1957 and occasionally sat in with Cannonball’s group.

In 1960, Wardell played with Dexter Gordon in the on-stage band of the (in-)famous play The Connection. The Cannonball Adderley Quintet was in L.A. as well. (the Wardell date of October 5 preceded the quintet’s At The Lighthouse gig and album recording session of October 16) Adderley, who by then was not only recording artist but also A&R man for Orrin Keepnews and Bill Grauer’s Riverside label, responsible for a series of ‘Cannonball Adderley Presentation’-albums, seized the opportunity to record Roosevelt Wardell at United Recording Studio, engineered by Wally Heider. For the occasion, Roosevelt Wardell picked Cannonball’s tight-knit rhythm section of bassist Sam Jones and drummer Louis Hayes, a now legendary team that proved perfectly suitable for this job of blues-infested bop.

Mr. Wardell’s not the type of kid that lurks in the background. No fly on the wall. More like a stinging bee. Quite the attack! Like one of his greatest influences, Bud Powell, his touch is relentless. While the keys threaten to jump off the balcony, he continues to bring clarity of line, dashing off one dazzling run after the other. The pianist’s not to be overshadowed by the rumble of the crowd at the bar and loves to entertain as well, following up jolly tremolos with mean, stuttering blues riffs. Perhaps a residu from his chitlin’ circuit days. Yet, for all his swagger, Wardell’s modern jazz conception is a textbook example of intelligence and finesse.

Reminiscent of the diverse lot of Bud Powell, Carl Perkins, Ray Bryant, perhaps influenced by the orchestral brilliance of Art Tatum, Wardell nonetheless resides in a universe totally his own. While the pianist’s tasteful, muscular takes on a ballad – the Vernon Duke tune Autumn In New York – and a blues – Willow Weep For Me – satisfy the customer, the bop-inflected tunes are most arresting. The romantic opening cadenzas of Like Someone In Love are followed by a whirlwind of phrases that together comprise a staggering wall of sound, accompanied by meaty, stride-like bass lines. Cherokee’s percussive, chant-like beginning by the trio is very cool, the speedy, powerful story of Wardell leaves nothing to be desired. The Revelation, a tune written by his childhood friend Yusef Salim, is fast-paced badaaas bop.

Roosevelt Wardell wrote some nifty, blues and gospel-drenched tunes, based on familiar changes. Three were featured on The Revelation. Max The Maximum’s a funky little tune, a fast-paced chord progression interspersed with a tacky stop-time section. The notes that Wardell plays in the loping, mid-tempo Elijah Is Here tumble over one another like chipmunks over a little heap of chestnuts. Roosevelt Wardell could be likened to the original cats of modern literature, those singular personalities and stylists like Frederick Exley or Maarten Biesheuvel, whose deceptively messy, long and winding paragraphs always somehow land on their feet. Looks easy, isn’t. Wardell’s tale of Lazarus is high drama, a Speedy Gonzalez-exercise of I Got Rhythm-changes, the total sum of his solo seemingly consisting of one long, furious line. A kind of invention of a new genre perhaps best labeled as BEBOP ROCK.

The comments of Roosevelt Wardell comprise the anti-thesis of drama. About the session, the pianist level-headedly remarked: “Nice, very nice.” Too bad that Wardell disappeared into obscurity soon after and The Revelation remained the only album release the characteristic pianist commented on.

(The album is on Spotify on a twofer including Evans Bradshaw, scroll down for Roosevelt Wardell)

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.