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.

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

Don Patterson - The Return Of

Don Patterson The Return Of Don Patterson (Muse 1972/1974)

The Return Of Don Patterson was a return to the recording studio for the Columbus, Ohio born organist. Patterson had a steady run of solo recordings for Prestige in the sixties, until drug problems sent his career off on a wild tangent. During the interval of 1969-71 Patterson was decidedly under the radar, gigging exclusively in and around Gary, Indiana. The session for The Return Of Don Patterson found Patterson in excellent form, cooperating well with a remarkably proficient group of players he was heretofore unacquainted with.

Don Patterson - The Return Of

Personnel

Don Patterson (organ), Eddie Daniels (tenor, soprano & alto saxophone), Ted Dunbar (guitar), Freddie Waits (drums)

Recorded

on October 30, 1972 at RCA Studios, NYC

Released

as Muse 5005 in 1974

Track listing

Side A:
Jesse Jackson
Theme From The Odd Couple
Lori
Side B:
Theme From Love Story
The Lamp Is Low


It opens with Jesse Jackson, a blues with a lithe but dynamic back beat, dedicated to the ‘Country Preacher’. It’s evident from the start that this is not going to be a generic soul jazz record. First in line, Ted Dunbar immediately makes this clear. He employs a dry, ‘plucky’ sound and an authoritative attack and just when you think he shall go left he turns to the right; in short, he plays very interesting guitar devoid of clichés. Patterson lays down funky single note lines, using his right hand almost exclusively, which keeps your attention focused.

For the remainder of the album – that sounds crisp and fresh after forty years, indeed to the extent that it could convincingly disguise as a contemporary record – the band proves to be capable of handling varied repertoire. I’m particularly enamoured of the way saxophonist Eddie Daniels sweetly states the theme (no pun intended) of Theme From The Odd Couple and of the sense of dynamics and swing he employs in his solo in Theme From Love Story – a subtle march that evolves into a driving shuffle. Soulful and intelligent blowing, both on alto and soprano. A treat! The latter is but one example of the propulsive rhythm that drummer Freddie Waits provides; using tasteful and spontaneous accents throughout, Waits is volatile at the song’s climax, kicking his bandmates’ butts with crazy, amazing press rolls.

Master of ceremony Don Patterson is in fine form himself, concluding his solo in bassist Jimmy Garrison’s bebop figure Lori with an organist’s take on Wes Montgomery-style octaves and transforming Maurice Ravel’s The Lamp Is Low into a typically coherent and endearing ballad.

Don Patterson was known as a melodically creative organist and bandmates Freddie Waits and Ted Dunbar could be described as young veterans with a bag full of diverse experience. But at the time many people must’ve been surprised by the confident and unorthodox work of Eddie Daniels. A versatile reedman, he recorded one album for Prestige in 1967 – First Prize – and held an underrated tenor chair in the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra; thereafter Daniels has evolved into a renowned innovator of the clarinet, jazz and classical. Considering Daniels’ excellent technique on this album, in hindsight this seems quite logical.

Why not conclude with one of Ira Gitlers’ apt and sensible statements in his sleevenotes of The Return Of Don Patterson?

There are a lot of people who turn up their noses at the cliche that the tenor-organ combination has been for some time now. This set is for them. And it will also open the noses of the freaks who can’t get enough of saxophone and organ. Don Patterson doesn’t overwhelm you. He’s got so many other things going, he doesn’t have to do it that way.

Indeed, he doesn’t. I’d like to add that one of the many other things Patterson’s got going is an outstanding bunch of sidemen.

YouTube: Theme From The Odd Couple