Lloyd G. Mayers - A Taste Of Honey

Lloyd G. Mayers A Taste Of Honey (United Artists 1962)

It somehow slipped through the cracks. Lloyd G. Mayers’s A Taste Of Honey, major-league big band organ jazz record.

Lloyd G. Mayers - A Taste Of Honey

Personnel

Lloyd G. Mayers (organ), Clark Terry, Bernie Glow, Doc Severinsen & Snooky Young (trumpet), Britt Woodman, Paul Falise, Tommy Mitchell & Urbie Green (trombone), Don Butterfield (tuba), Barry Galbraith (guitar), George Duvivier (bass), Ed Shaugnessy (drums), Ray Barretto (bongos), Oliver Nelson (arranger)

Recorded

in 1962 in Los Angeles

Released

as UA 14018 in 1962

Track listing

Side A:
A Taste Of Honey
Desafinado
The Good Life
Going Up North
Side B:
The Golden Striker
For All We Know
Jacky-Ing
Alone Together


His name may sound like a movie tycoon but Lloyd G. Mayers was a jazz cat. A swinging cat that has decidedly performed under the radar. Presumably, Mayers was based on the West Coast. He was the pianist on tenor saxophonist Sam “The Man” Taylor’s Plays The Black And The Beautiful and organist on Lou Donaldson’s Rough House Blues in 1963. He also played piano on Oliver Nelson’s Impressions Of Phaedra, issued on United Artists in 1962. Coincidentally, A Taste Of Honey was also released by United Artists in 1962. Furthermore, the personnel is virtually similar. My guess is that, when CBS commissioned Nelson to record the soundtrack to the TV movie A Taste Of Honey, the credits somehow ended up with Mayers, perhaps at the instigation of Nelson. The playing of Mayers, who switched from piano to organ for this date, is a prominent feature.

Nelson is the arranger and the band includes trumpeter Clark Terry, trombonist Urbie Green, guitarist Barry Galbraith, bassist George Duvivier and drummer Ed Shaughnessy. It is a blast from start to finish on many levels. Every track is either intriguing or a stone-cold winner. The album features a refreshing diversity of tunes, some more challenging than usually included in organ groove records: the pop tune A Taste Of Honey, Latin standard Desafinado, blues tune Goin’ Up North, The Good Life, John Lewis’s The Golden Striker, Thelonious Monk’s Jacky-Ing and the ballads For All We Know and Alone Together.

Nelson squeezes every inch out of the orchestra. The sound is booming and made all the more interesting with robust calls and responses between brass and reed and inspiring off-beat accents. Nelson also makes the orchestra breathe by occasionally dividing leading roles between drums and bass and tuba. In this respect, the high drama of Alone Together, transformed from a ballad into an exotic medium-tempo tour de force, is exemplary of the outstanding talent of Nelson as arranger.

The crunchy organ of Mayers is embroiled in a playful dance with the orchestra, bursting out of it like splatters of lava from a volcano. Mayers limits himself to concise little stories, never cheap, always with meaningful simplicity and overwhelming temperament. He is matched by Ed Shaughnessy, whose precise and absolutely crazy amount of good punches lift the session to a higher level. The tension/release device is especially effective during Nelson/Mayers’s daring take of John Lewis’s The Golden Striker. Monk’s Jacky-Ing gradually builds up tension, via a sterling drum intro, fragmentary backdrops of brass and reed to the statements of Mayers and a lurid shuffle, coming to its conclusion with unadulterated orgasm.

Production – the orchestra sounds a bit far off – may not be top-notch. However, A Taste Of Honey is on par with (in some cases on the winning side of) the high-profile big band records of Jimmy Smith on Verve, which also were arranged mostly by Oliver Nelson. It is reminiscent of the way Ray Charles plays organ and of Brother Ray’s instrumental cuts of Genius + Soul Is Jazz. A feat that completely obviates the need for recommendation.

Oliver Nelson, King Curtis & Jimmy Forrest - Soul Battle

Oliver Nelson, King Curtis & Jimmy Forrest Soul Battle (Prestige 1960)

Oliver Nelson had a knack for interesting parings of horns and Soul Battle is a seriously entertaining combination of the differing tenor styles of Nelson, Jimmy Forrest and King Curtis.

Oliver Nelson, King Curtis & Jimmy Forrest - Soul Battle

Personnel

Oliver Nelson (tenor saxophone), Jimmy Forrest (tenor saxophone), King Curtis (tenor saxophone), Gene Casey (piano), George Duvivier (bass), Roy Haynes (drums)

Recorded

on September 8, 1960 at Rudy van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Released

as PRLP 7223 in 1960

Track listing

Side A:
Blues At The Five Spot
Blues For M.F. (Mort Fega)
Anacruses
Side B:
Perdido
In Passing


It is easy to overlook the beauty of a saxophonist’s voice and hi-level playing style when the player in question is also known, perhaps better-known, through his exceptional work as a writer and arranger. Benny Golson is a case in point. Oliver Nelson certainly qualifies. Evidently, he was a renowned arranger of his own work but mostly of other artists like Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins, Cannonball Adderley, Wes Montgomery and Jimmy Smith. His body of work as a writer is comprehensive and filled with gems, the achingly beautiful Stolen Moments serving as his undisputed masterpiece.

Obviously, Blues And The Abstract Truth, his album on Impulse from 1960 which included Stolen Moments and featured Eric Dolphy, Freddie Hubbard and Roy Haynes, is a stone-cold classic and a perennial favorite among teachers at conservatories around the world. Standard subject matter. Straight Ahead isn’t such an indelible part of the curriculum, undeservedly. It’s an essential date on par with Abstract. Strikingly, Nelson’s Prestige albums of this period, which began in 1959 with Meet Oliver Nelson, consist of a thoroughly convincing effort to interpret the blues. Oh boy, his gelling with Dolphy – Dolphy playing Charlie Parker backwards, flying out there, Nelson more modern in the conventional sense, plaintive yet forceful – is truly something else.

Soul Battle precedes Blues And The Abstract Truth and Straight Ahead, which were recorded in the winter of 1961. If the latter albums are blues-based recording sessions that are simultaneously spontaneous and proof of careful preparation, Soul Battle is best described as a relaxed but driving, good-old blowing session. Count your blessings, this is a tenor battle royale! We have Nelson, employing a tone that often touches the alto register, on the hunt for ideas all the time, finding them too, carefully placing them in orderly fashion yet eager to move on, light-footed like a deer in the wild…

Then there’s Jimmy Forrest. Forrest goes way back, played on the riverboats of Mississippi with Fate Marable, with Duke Ellington, became an overnight r&b one-day-fly with Night Train in 1952 (a tune that was based on Duke Ellington’s Happy-Go-Lucky-Local), played with St. Louis pals Miles Davis and Grant Green and spent a big part of the seventies in the band of Count Basie. He’s putting some serious jazz history in a session like this. Take a listen to Blues For M.F., an excellent jump blues that has Nelson taking first solo, expertly so. Then Forrest hits four B.I.G. archetypal notes straight from Coleman Hawkins and suddenly Roy Haynes falls into a pocket… and an even deeper groove that was already developed is a fact… We have King Curtis, the r&b-star. However, lest we forget, King Curtis was a solid jazz player. His hard-edged tone, sleazy phrasing and fervent wails present a nice contrast with Nelson and Forrest’s subsequent modern and rootsy concepts.

Nelson’s story of Anacuses, one of four Nelson originals on Soul Battle – Juan Tizol’s Perdido the exception – has the passion and intensity of Coltrane, the hard-boiled flexibility of Joe Henderson and the direct emotional impact of Booker Ervin. Take that! A thorough dive into Oliver Nelson’s discography will find many exceptional moments, he’s truly one of the greatest saxophonists of his generation.