Walt Dickerson - This Is Walt Dickerson

Walt Dickerson This Is Walt Dickerson! (New Jazz 1961)

This Is Walt Dickerson signaled the arrival of a new and original voice on the vibraphone.

Walt Dickerson - This Is Walt Dickerson

Personnel

Walt Dickerson (vibraphone), Austin Crow (piano), Bob Lewis (bass), Andrew Cyrille (drums)

Recorded

on March 7, 1961 at Rudy van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Released

as NJLP 8254 in 1961

Track listing

Side A:
Time
Elizabeth
The Cry
Side B:
Death And Taxes
Evelyn
Infinite You


The New Jazz label merits plenty of attention. The starting point for Bob Weinstock’s recording endeavors in 1949, Weinstock dropped the name in favor of Prestige in 1951, only to reinvent the name as the imprint for a hodgepodge of records in the late 50s and early 60s ranging from Johnny “Hammond” Smith to John Coltrane. The bulk consisted of avant-leaning sessions and served somewhat as the mirror image of Blue Note’s cutting-edge department, which offered challenging records by Herbie Hancock, Jackie McLean and Bobby Hutcherson. New Jazz is lesser known to the general audience but equally exciting. After all these years, the energy of New Jazz albums by Steve Lacy, Yusef Lateef, Jaki Byard, Roy Haynes, Mal Waldron, Eric Dolphy and Oliver Nelson is still palpable. All of these records, both Blue Note and New Jazz, were engineered by Rudy van Gelder. Busy bee, Rudy. Seven days a week. Didn’t go on vacation, mostly stayed inside. Turned more pale by the minute. Sun shone not on his face but in the grooves of the great jazz men’s waxed offerings.

Dickerson is of the post-bop variety, concerned with the expansion of the vocabulary of the vibraphone, an expressive player that prefers the broad range of the modal sound palette. Dickerson’s four albums on New Jazz, recorded in 1961 and ’62, present the kind of seductive, tentative hybrids of mainstream and avant-garde that are just close enough to the tradition and not really too far out for me to enjoy. I feel that it’s the tension between tradition and experiment that gives records like Dickerson’s on New Jazz their particular charm.

The attraction of This Is Walt Dickerson’s set, my favorite of his foursome of New Jazz records that was concluded with Relativity, A Sense Of Direction and To My Queen, lies in the particular handling of a minimum of motives, which are played out, considering Dickerson’s abundant double-timing, remarkably unhurriedly. It’s a transient experience, soothing, hypnotic. Dickerson and his companion on the piano, Austin Crow, feel their way in a landscape without the customary chord changes and reach for a like-minded path through the dusk, their thoughts fanning out to the far reaches of the keyboard. Passionately, but not overtly dramatic, they express their emotions in no uncertain terms. This is stuff that goes from the gut to the heart. The base, consisting of bassist Bob Lewis and drummer Andrew Cyrille, future avant heavy, is solid and responsive. Young Cyrille’s accents and loose but solid feel perfectly bring out the qualities of Dickerson’s charged style.

No inconsiderate words should be said about a record that includes a crackerjack title like Death And Taxes. Pretty mean tune, too, with a quirky waltz feel and a couple of motives played out to full effect. The Cry, on the other hand, is a one-chord mambo romp, Time a sly medium-tempo take on the blues, Infinite You a relentless modal swinger. The tempo of Dickerson’s ballads, Elizabeth and Evelyn, is unusually slow, and is contrasted with torrents of sizzling and boiling notes by Dickerson, which never sound superfluous. I’m sure that Elizabeth and Evelyn, whoever they may have been, were touched considerably by Dickerson, who is singing his heart out below the balcony.

After the more avant Plays Unity on Audio Fidelity and an album with Sun Ra, Dickerson took a 10-year sabbatical in the mid-sixties and recorded mostly for Steeplechase in the late 70s. Dickerson passed away in 2008.

Roy Haynes - Cracklin'

Roy Haynes Cracklin’ (New Jazz 1963)

Cracklin’ is as good a title as any for an album by drummer Roy Haynes, also known as ‘Snap Crackle’.

Roy Haynes - Cracklin'

Personnel

Roy Haynes (drums), Booker Ervin (tenor saxophone), Ronnie Matthews (piano), Larry Ridley (bass)

Recorded

on April 6, 1963 at Rudy van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Released

as NJLP 8286 in 1963

Track listing

Side A:
Scoochie
Dorian
Sketch Of Melba
Side B:
Honeydew
Under Paris Skies
Bad News Blues


You can’t miss Snap Crackle. Let us pick a ‘few’ groundbreaking and/or iconic albums on which the currently 93-year old drummer appeared: Bud Powell’s The Amazing Bud Powell, Sonny Rollins’s The Sound Of Sonny, Thelonious Monk’s Thelonious In Action and Misterioso, Eric Dolphy’s Outward Bound and Out There, Oliver Nelson’s Straight Ahead and Blues And The Abstract Truth, Andrew Hill’s Black Fire, John Coltrane’s Impressions and Newport ’63 and Jackie McLean’s Destination Out. This series spans fifteen years (1949-63) of the seven decades in which Haynes has been active.

Haynes was part of Charlie Parker’s regular group from 1949 till 1952. A different time and place. Flyin’ with Bird, The One, in angst-ridden post-war USA, which saw The Russians marching. Uncle Sam, great Allied Force that had liberated Europe, had at the same time dropped The Bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing thousands of innocent yellow-ish fellow human beings, and back home kept the black ‘citizen’ locked up in a cage. Astonishingly, lynchings were still not completely extinct below the Mason-Dixie line. Black men and women had to sit in the back of the bus. Job discrimination was commonplace, as were lower salaries. The elites feared a loss of the status quo and protected their privileges to the bitter end. Some said it was fear for and jealousy of abandon and sex that troubled them. That’s the old and worn paternalistic view that implies the only thing the black man and woman stand out with is swing. Instead, the elite felt discomfort with life as hollow men. The hollow man looks in the mirror and sees The Other, a free spirit! And suddenly is scared shitless.

Against the odds, Bird and his musical buddies, ibis birds, storm petrels and nightingales like Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk, rare birds indeed, preached Beauty, Communion, Understanding, Empathy, through the unique art of spontaneous improvisation. They were musical masters with the kind of intuitive intellect that stuck a finger in the bloody wound of racism and said ‘Dear Lady, how do you do?’. Moreover, they were on a daring enterprise that the average American still knows nothing of. That’s probably because in the ensuing years, TV send him up to the couch, where he could watch Johnny Carson hide the miserable truths about life on the other side of the track. Was it any better in Europe? Yes, for a while Europe was keener in its appreciation of the (black) jazz message. And it takes better care of its professionals – white or black – that immerse themselves in the art of improvisation. But here too, few see the whole picture, here too Starbucks has won over more fans than Charlie Shavers. Rather silly. A flat cup of coffee may still give you a buzz. But jazz feeds the soul: it stimulates independence and interaction. One has to be his own man/woman and at the same time listen closely to the other. The most democratic of arts that crosses racial, age and gender boundaries and is not about division but inclusion and unity!

So Haynes flew business class with Bird and, stimulated by the innovations of Kenny Clarke, strayed away from the 4/4 beat on the hi-hat, going for a ‘ride’ cymbal accompaniment in sync with the Parker/Gillespie-intervals, with hectic life under the White Umbrella. (Parker, obviously, never hectic or nervous, instead revealing remarkable clarity and order at outrageous tempos) They acted upon their growing sense of melodic swing, Haynes creating many intriguing drum patterns particularly, a package that is or should be a benchmark for aspiring drummers to this day. As a logical consequence of his authority, Haynes recorded prolifically as a leader. His first album, Busman’s Holiday, was released in 1954 on Emarcy. His 1960 album on Impulse, Out Of The Afternoon, featuring Roland Kirk, Tommy Flanagan and Henry Grimes, is a perennial favorite of jazz fans around the globe. The sizzle and responsiveness of his playing on the 1968 Chick Corea classic, Now He Sings, Now He Sobs, is so beautiful it, well, is liable to bring tears. Late in life, Haynes made not one but two Grammy-winning albums: Fountain Of Youth (2004) and Whereas (2006).

Cracklin’ was released on New Jazz in 1963. It featured tenor saxophonist Booker Ervin, pianist Ronnie Matthews and bassist Larry Ridley. The date of the session is April 6, 1963. It is interesting to note that in that period, Haynes played with John Coltrane on the Newport Jazz Festival, on July 7 to be precise. While Cracklin’ smoothly stears along the coasts of hard bop, post bop and modal jazz, Haynes was cookin’ on another planet with Coltrane, replacing Elvin Jones, who was out for a snack on Alphabet Street. Both sessions rely on the Haynes specialty of snare rolls, Newport ’63 more heavily, spirited and sharp as a tack, an interesting change of vibe in contrast with the broader scope of Elvin Jones.

The Haynes snare is a superhero, Cracklin’ the blockbuster movie. In the winter, the drummer uses up the firecrackers of the stock that was left from New Year’s Eve and on summer camp Haynes is the leader that produces a light from stone and wood. From the word go, the light sets Scoochie in motion, a composition by Booker Ervin. Ervin thrives on the hard swing of Haynes. Haynes responds to the growing fire of “Book”, dancing through it like a dervish. Booker Ervin is a stimulating presence on any session, Cracklin’ is no exception. Generally, Ervin has been compared with John Coltrane. This doesn’t make much sense. There are shades of Coltrane in Ervin, but Ervin’s style, albeit thoroughly modern and obviously not without a certain amount of harmonic prowess, is less complex and has an emotional directness that reminds us of the Tough Tenors from Texas. Ervin was born in Denison, Texas in 1935. His indelible blues wail lands in your gut like a saucy and hefty kidney stew.

Then there’s pianist Ronnie Matthews, adding nimble lines that parade through downtown Dorian like supple jumping horses. Dorian is a tune by Matthews. It might refer to a lady, it might refer to a scale, either way it makes use of a ‘Trane-ish drone kept up vigorously by Haynes. Haynes also makes something special of the lovely melody by Hubert Gireaud, Under Paris Skies. His beat behind the piano solo of Matthews is ‘jungle’ at its most sizzling and groovy. His breaks on one of the album’s blues tunes, Ronnie Matthews’s Honeydew, are the drum equivalent of the soul shout ‘sock it to me!’

The message is loud and clear.

Jerome Richardson - Midnight Oil

Jerome Richardson Midnight Oil (New Jazz 1958)

Perhaps Jerome Richardson ‘burnt the midnight oil’ at the Hackensack, New Jersey studio of Rudy van Gelder and hence came up with the title for his excellent debut as a leader on the New Jazz label.

Jerome Richardson - Midnight Oil

Personnel

Jerome Richardson (flute, tenor saxophone), Jimmy Cleveland (trombone), Kenny Burrell (guitar), Hank Jones (piano), Joe Benjamin (bass), Charlie Persip (drums)

Recorded

in 1958 at Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, New Jersey

Released

as NJLP 8205 in 1959

Track listing

Side A:
Minorally
Way In Blues
Delirious Trimmings
Side B:
Caravan
Lyric


Acursory look at the recordings made during the classic age of hard bop and mainstream jazz cannot but reveal the name of Jerome Richardson. The Oakland, California-born flutist and saxophone player (1920-2000), who was in the bands of Lionel Hampton from 1949-51 and Earl Hines from 1954-55, is on plenty hi-profile albums by Kenny Clarke, Cannonball Adderley, Gene Ammons, Randy Weston, Sonny Stitt, Milt Jackson, Kenny Burrell, Quincy Jones, Jimmy Smith, Johnny Hodges, Dizzy Gillespie, George Benson and Oliver Nelson. Richardson was featured on Charles Mingus’ Town Hall Concert, Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus and Black Saint And The Sinner Lady. A sought-after, versatile gentleman, who was accomplished on flute, alto flute, piccolo, clarinet and bass clarinet, tenor, soprano, alto and baritone sax. Perhaps his striking versatility is the reason why Richardson was occasionally bereft of a solo spot. However, once Richardson had a go, everyone obviously knew what was the score.

Unfortunately, recordings as a leader by Richardson were few and far between. Midnight Oil was followed by the equally impressive Roamin’ With Richardson in 1959. In the sixties, Richardson made two albums, the concept album Goin’ To The Movies and the groovy soul jazz album on Verve, Groove Merchant. His final release in 1996, Jazz Station Runaway, saw Richardson cooperating with Russell Malone, George Mraz, Lewis Nash and David Hazeltine. His two albums from the late fifties are hi-calibre affairs. Perhaps Midnight Oil has the edge on Roamin’. Immediately obvious is its excellent writing. Side A is filled with three Richardson originals, the uptempo hard bop gem Minorally, sly blues line Way In Blues and Delirious Trimmings, a fluent piece reminiscent of the crafty Mulligan tunes that he wrote for his celebrated Mulligan/Baker outfit.

Few dig the blues on flute as convincing as Jerome Richardson. This has become evident on, for instance, his contributions to Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis’ Cookbook Volume 1-3 albums. Moreover, the effects that Richardson creates with his abundant technique, guttural or breathy sounds, expand his natural blues feeling. On tenor, he’s a diamond in the rough, blowing hard and gutsy, a combination founded on excellent skills. At the time – 1958 – Richardson seems clearly impressed by John Coltrane and also possesses a bit of the urgency and bare, honest emotions of Booker Ervin.

Side B contains Caravan, marked by a hefty treatment of the rhythm during the melody and a fluently swinging B-section, and a bouncy, lithely swinging take on the frolic Artie Shaw melody Lyric. During the biggest part of the session, the combination of flute, trombone and guitar provides a pleasant, dense and cushion-soft texture, underscored by the elegant, ever-so-right phrases of Hank Jones, tasteful, spicy licks of Kenny Burrell and the tight-knit rhythm section of Joe Benjamin and Charlie Persip. Special mention of Persip, whose concise work on the New Jazz label is strikingly crisp, clever and energetic. Midnight Oil is fine Persip, but one hasn’t lived the jazz fan’s life without hearing his drumming on Mal Waldron’s The Quest!