Kenny Dorham Quiet Kenny (New Jazz 1960)

Less is more on Kenny Dorham’s Quiet Kenny, more or less the trumpeter’s most beautiful record as a leader.

Kenny Dorham - Quiet Kenny


Kenny Dorham (trumpet), Tommy Flanagan (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), Art Taylor (drums)


on November 13, 1959 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey


as NJ 8225 in 1960

Track listing

Side A:
Lotus Blossom
My Ideal
Blue Friday
Side B:
Alone Together
Blue Spring Shuffle
I Had The Craziest Dream
Old Folks

An anecdote that Rein de Graaff once told me concerned his first ever visit to New York City in 1967. The first thing that the burgeoning Dutch pianist and hard bop aficionado noticed when he stepped out of the subway station in the East Village was a fellow with a trumpet case that was the spitting image of Kenny Dorham. As a matter of fact, after politely inquiring, it turned out to be the one and only Kenny Dorham. Dorham invited the dumbfounded De Graaff to a gig the following night. The rest is history in the case of De Graaff, who stepped into a dream and subsequently met and played with Dorham, Hank Mobley, Barry Harris, Paul Chambers and Billy Higgins. Nice career boost.

Most people would not have recognized Dorham, one of the great modern trumpeters of a form of art whose geniuses like Parker and Monk eluded mass recognition for so long, let alone superb disciples as Kenny Dorham. Dorham is part of a great pack whose members were dubbed ‘musician’s musician’, which signifies esteem from colleagues and critics which equals poverty so must’ve been terminology that left the pack disgusted. Go to hell with your musician’ musician stuff, I need to pay my bloody rent! Dorham was a major league musician’s musician, a BADDASS musician’s musician, one of the iconic musician’s musicians. Too bad for Kenny. At least he was never described as ‘best kept secret’, which also spells disaster and a lavish portion of vomit.

Dorham was active in the bop era, colleague of Parker and Gillespie, a charter member of the first Jazz Messengers incarnation (Art Blakey introduced him nightly as the “the uncrowned king of the trumpet”) and enjoyed a particularly fruitful cooperation with tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson in the early ‘60s. Blue Bossa is his best-known composition. His discography is a hard bop playground and Afro-Cuban, Quiet Kenny, Whistle Stop, Round About Midnight At Cafe Bohemia, Una Mas and Trompetta Toccata are essential LP’s. They ooze with Dorham’s tasteful trumpet playing, the opposite of flashy bop, crystal clear weaving of lines anchored by a distinctive balancing act of bittersweetness and sleaze and a tone that I once overheard someone, I forgot whom, describe as ‘sweet-tart’. That it is.

Quiet Kenny is remarkable for the fact that Dorham is the sole horn. Plenty of space for Kenny’s cushion-soft but poignant lyricism. Dorham displays the gift of carrying one to a special zone, where the spine tingles and melancholia is barely suppressed by the bright side of life. Dorham strings together beautifully balanced phrases with apricot, peach and tangerine transformed into sound, all of this flowing on the flexible bedrock of Tommy Flanagan, Paul Chambers and Art Taylor.

All tunes flow with elegance and purposeful movement, whether warhorses like Old Folks or blues-based originals like Blue Friday and Blue Spring Shuffle. Lotus Flower, also known as Asiatic Raes as performed by Sonny Rollins on Newk’s Time in 1957, is an undeniable highlight; a lovely amalgam of the nursery rhyme-ish, Chinese-tinged melody and Dorham’s supple melodic variations. Dorham’s delightful reflection of desire of My Ideal is the other potential poll winner, signifying a trumpeter of compassion and restraint, the latter unique element described in the title as ‘quiet’.

The enjoyment of Quiet Kenny equals eating perfect sushi, savoring every bite of the little Japanese pieces of tuna, seaweed, rice. Dorham is master chef and Mr. Delicate, adding a dash of wasabi here and there. Beautiful record.

Clark Terry Serenade To A Bus Seat (Riverside 1957)

Clark Terry, who passed away in 2015 at the age of 95, was an authority with a discography of epic proportions. In 1957, already a veteran of swing who had mentored rising stars like Miles Davis in the 40s, the trumpeter made a superb hard bop album with Johnny Griffin, Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones, the Riverside label’s Serenade To A Bus Seat.

Clark Terry - Serenade To A Bus Seat


Clark Terry (trumpet), Johnny Griffin (tenor saxophone), Wynton Kelly (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), Philly Joe Jones (drums)


on April 27, 1957 at Reeves Sound Studio, New York


as RLP 12-237 in 1957

Track listing

Side A:
Donna Lee
Side B:
Serenade To A Bus Seat
That Old Black Magic

Before turning into an internationally renowned figure through his seat in the orchestra of NBC’s The Tonight Show in the 60s, his vocal hit Mumbles, lauded appearances around the globe and a distinguished position as youth educator and (co-)founder of Jazz Mobile and the Clark Terry Jazz Festivals for the rest of his life, Terry already had a timelessness about him that is striking. He encompassed the best traits of the past while being in sync with the conception of the modernists, using his technical brilliance and vast knowledge of what one can achieve with the trumpet to the telling of meaningful stories. Not a term usually associated with the abundant Terry, he actually set a limit to himself in this regard, displaying effects and humor when it was called for by Duke Ellington for a certain compositional story to tell, or when he expressed his feelings as a sideman (Oscar Peterson Trio + One is an outrageous ball, but a structured and hi-level festivity) and leading artist, mostly feelings of distinct joy.

His long stint in the Duke Ellington Orchestra in the 50s was preceded by years with Count Basie in the 40s, and Terry was a featured, singular soloist in both classic bands. Nice resume. In fact, in 1957 Terry had just left Ellington, with a number of classic recordings in his hip pocket, notably Ellington Uptown, Such Sweet Thunder and At Newport. His tenure with Riverside was interesting. Serenade, his debut as a leader on Riverside, was preceded by a feature on Thelonious Monk’s Brilliant Corners in 1956. It was followed by Duke With A Difference in July ’57, a gem of an album, featuring mates from the Duke Ellington band including Johnny Hodges, Paul Gonsalves and Billy Strayhorn and, as the title suggests ironically, without Duke Ellington. He would add a couple more guest roles on Riverside such as Jimmy Heath’s Really Big and Johnny Griffin’s White Gardenia, but the most notable album is his own 1958 album In Orbit with Thelonious Monk, which is the only album including Monk as a sideman and set the standard of the use of flugelhorn in jazz.

The late Orrin Keepnews, label boss of Riverside together with Bill Grauer, looked back on a number of favorite releases a number of years ago, as can be seen on YouTube here. Serenade, Clark Terry’s second foray in small ensemble jazz after EmArcy’s Swahili, was among them, representing a masterstroke of bringing together Terry with the small ensemble hot shots of the day: “I always refer to Terry as Mr. Pulled Together. He is so tremendously talented, a nice guy, and he had that big band discipline in his life. (…) It was a very relaxed, and therefore, creative atmosphere. If you bring together musicians who have in a sense been rehearsing for years by playing with each other at lots of opportunities, that’s a very good way to get around that problem (of short rehearsing time)…”.

With a distinctive tone like Terry’s, brassy, virile, tart and full-ringing, consisting of a festive, good-humored quality, the equilibrium between calling-the-children-home and chasing-the-kids-away neatly in check, contrast with the other horn is assured. In comes Johnny Griffin, maybe not such a fast gun as one always assumes, fast, yes, but on this session intent on subtle conversations. Their ensembles sparkle, lock tight during uptempo bop tunes like Charlie Parker’s Donna Lee, Terry’s Boomerang and Serenade To A Bus Seat. It would be obvious to assume that the latter’s title alludes to the bus seat Rosa Parks bravely took on December 1, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama. Her arrest led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott from Reverend Martin Luther King, a painful yet effective protest that eventually led to desegregation in the state’s public transport system. Clark Terry was from St. Louis, Missouri, where the NAACP protested against segregation in war factory jobs, a case it won through Shelly vs. Kraemer in the US Supreme Court, a feat Terry surely must’ve been conscious of, having been a bandsman in the Navy during WWII. That scenario sees Terry’s jubilant trumpet doing a good job of honoring Ms. Parks, Martin Luther King and the others who’d made the boycott possible. But it’s more prosaic. The liner notes explain that the title refers to the tiresome days Terry spent in the band bus of Basie and Ellington. Still no shortage of hardships along the road in The South though, as far as racism is concerned, lest we forget.

For Griffin and Kelly, Serenade represented their first appearances on the Riverside label.
The typical hard bop set of Serenade benefits from variation in the order of soloing, for instance during Donna Lee, when Griffin takes first cue and Terry follows trading fours with Philly Joe Jones. Not a pedestrian phrase in sight, the session cooks and runs remarkably smooth, courtesy of Griffin, the tasteful Paul Chambers, who had the kind of intuitive bass genius few possessed at that age, Philly Joe Jones (one rarely hears a session involving Philly Joe Jones that isn’t gutsy and fiery!) and Wynton Kelly, whose balanced, hip and barrelhouse-y lines of the title track are a treat. The leader, Clark Terry, enlivens the I-Got-Rhythm-changes of Boomerang with phrases that dance naughtily from mid-to upper register. It’s a virtuosic, happy tale and the originality is enhanced by the delicious, sustained notes in between. Terry stresses the cooperative spirit during the easy-flowing mid-tempo Digits, ad-libbing behind Griffin and calms the stormy weather that Griffin set in motion during Serenade with just a few peaceful stretch of notes, only to regain steam for the finale, getting into the fast lane with a spontaneous wail.

Gutsy calmness also during Stardust, a sign of the exciting style of Terry, diamond in the rough with a heart of gold. He’s a bluesman too, playing poker with notes veering from high to low and back. Boardwalk is the album’s blues line with a New Orleans feel and once again Clark Terry is like honey and mustard seeping through the walls of doom, no stopping it, the redeeming quality of Terry’s blues, a blues perhaps only mildly sardonic, always residing at the forefront. Down by the Riverside, his blues resembles that of his (and everybody’s) great ancestor, Louis Armstrong.

Wynton Kelly Kelly At Midnite (VeeJay 1960)

When thinking about Wynton Kelly, midnight is not the first allusion that comes to mind. The pianist’s style, however bluesy, predominantly brings about images of sunshine, broad daylight, wafts of salty sea air traveling through the seams of your Hawaiian shirt… But of course, the supple blue noted set of Kelly At Midnite justifies the title. Besides, it’s a perfect hang-up for a great sleeve.

Wynton Kelly - Kelly At Midnite


Wynton Kelly (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), Philly Joe Jones (drums)


on April 27, 1960 in NYC


as VJLP 3011 in 1960

Track listing

Side A:
Weird Lullaby
Side B:
On Stage
Pot Luck

1960, Hard bop in full flight, most of the musicians had embraced the rejuvenated kind of jazz that grew out of bebop, blues and gospel. However, at the same time, it functioned as an umbrella for a startling diversity of styles. Take pianists. The angular, kinetic Elmo Hope, long flowing line-specialist Sonny Clark, gently boppin’ Barry Harris and gospel-drenched, percussive Horace Parlan all blossomed on the same tree. Then there was Wynton Kelly, who possessed a conspicuous, generous bounce and a delicate sense of time, built driving stories with chapters of fragmented blues licks, boppish runs and pungent block chords. Never short on ideas. Above all, Kelly swings, swang, swung abundantly. The pianist is also hailed as one of the greatest accompanists in jazz history, who, said Philly Joe Jones, ‘puts down flowers behind a soloist.’

Jamaica, Marley territory, land of hot breeze, rowdy clubs, shady hoodlums, ganja and tax shelter and probably much more than the stereotypes that yours truly the Flophouse Floor Manager conjures up, birthplace also of Dizzy Reece and Monty Alexander, is where Kelly was born in 1931, yet his family moved to Brooklyn, New York after a few years, which found the talented youngster in the capital of jazz. A look at the career path of Kelly takes your breath away: two extended stints in the Dizzy Gillespie band. Accompanist of Dinah Washington and Billie Holiday. Part of the Miles Davis group from 1959 to ’63. An amazing discography as a sideman that includes: Johnny Griffin’s A Blowin’ Session, Sonny Rollins’ Newk’s Time, Dizzy Gillespie’s Birks’ Works, Cannonball Adderley’s Cannonball Adderley Quintet in Chicago, Blue Mitchell’s Big Six, Clark Terry’s Serenade To A Bus Seat, Miles Davis’ Kind Of Blue (on Freddie Freeloader) and Friday Night At The Blackhawk I & II, John Coltrane’s Giant Steps, James Clay & David “Fathead” Newman’s The Sound Of The Wide Open Spaces, Hank Mobley’s Soul Station and Workout, Wes Montgomery’s Full House, Cecil Payne’s Zodiac. And so on. During his tenures with Miles Davis and Wes Montgomery in the sixties, Kelly recorded as a leader for VeeJay and Riverside, mostly with the guys he knew (inside out) from those groups, Jimmy Cobb and Paul Chambers.

Kelly never hit big as a leading artist. But history has been kind, as Kelly, who perhaps grew more out of Teddy Wilson and Erroll Garner than Art Tatum and Earl Hines, is seen as a very influential player. Being influential, alas, hardly pays for a mortgage, at least not in those dark jazz ages. By 1967, ultimate sideman Kelly’s career was effectively over. Paradoxically, that year’s album Full View on Milestone is one of his best albums. Kelly passed away in 1971 following an epileptic seizure.

Here, the drum chair is held by Philly Joe Jones. Jones, who before Kelly At Midnite was featured on Kelly’s Riverside album Piano in 1958, supplies the pianist with a trademark dose of fireworks, heat and taste. His drive is matched by Paul Chambers, the young bass master, who also contributes high-level solo’s throughout. On Stage is especially enticing, the uptempo mover crackles, sizzles, boils, with Kelly’s leaping, crisp lines the icing on the cake. A typical hard bop set of blues-based, largely medium-tempo tunes and a sole ballad, Kelly At Midnite is a collection of deceptively simple snappy tales from one of those pianists that has been copied frequently but seldom matched.

Ike Quebec Blue & Sentimental (Blue Note 1961)

Ike Quebec’s resonant, breathy tone, deep as if coming from a velvet cave, is plainly irresistable. It’s in full bloom on Blue & Sentimental, one of Quebec’s 1961 comeback albums on Blue Note, a set of moving ballads and gutsy blues performances.

Ike Quebec - Blue & Sentimental


Ike Quebec (tenor saxophone, piano A2, A4), Grant Green (guitar), Sonny Clark (piano B3), Paul Chambers (bass), Sam Jones (bass B3) Philly Joe Jones (drums), Louis Hayes (drums B3)


on December 16 & 23, 1961 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey


as BLP 4098 in 1962

Track listing

Side A:
Blue And Sentimental
Minor Impulse
Don’t Take Your Love From Me
Blues For Charlie
Count Every Star

Quebec was a veteran of the swing era who recorded with Benny Carter, Coleman Hawkins, Hot Lips Page, Trummy Young, Ella Fitzgerald and Cab Calloway. In the late forties, Quebec recorded for Blue Note while also serving as an arranger and talent scout, stimulating the careers of Thelonious Monk and Bud Powell in the process. Both the decline of big bands and the struggle with a drug addiction kept Quebec under the radar in the fifties. At the end of the decade, Alfred Lion issued a series of Ike Quebec singles for the jukebox market, checking out if Quebec would gain audience attention after years of low visibility. The singles were well-received. Subsequently, the albums that Blue Note released in 1961 and ‘62, Heavy Soul, It Might As Well Be Spring, (with organist Freddie Roach) Blue & Sentimental and Bossa Nova Soul Samba (the latter with Kenny Burrell) were good sellers. Easy Living was released posthumously in 1987. Quebec’s comeback was cut short by lung cancer. He passed away in 1963.

Ike Quebec’s style is accesible but not plain, his sound imposing but not theatrical. A lusty mix of elegant phrasing and a tone with a slight vibrato that switches suavely from breathy whispers to solid honks. Ben Webster-ish, containing that same blend of tenderness and hot swing, with a whiff of romance borrowed from Coleman Hawkins. Do you ever put on Blue & Sentimental on a bright sunny morning? Of course not. It’s a full-blooded after-midnight album. Can’t you see yourself sunk into a battered old chesterfield chair with a 10 year-old single malt and Hajenius cigar in hand? Smoke billows upwards to the ceiling. Ponderings of the incompatible natures of Venus and Mars billow upwards to the ceiling as well, as Quebec delivers an achingly romantic version of Don’t Take Your Love From Me. The demons of a grinding working day and a general mood of nausea are driven out by the lithe, jumpin’ blues of Minor Impulse. Can’t you see? Well, I can. Battered Old Chesterfield is my middle name.

As far as ballads go, they rarely come as smoky as Blue & Sentimental. Quebec’s husky tenor carries the tune, with just the right punch to add steam. Guitarist Grant Green, finishing his first – prolific – year at Blue Note headquarters, is a perfect companion to Quebec’s warm-blooded blowing. Just slightly dragging the beat with his fat-toned, sustained Gibson licks and spicy excursions into bluesland, Green’s balladry is delightful. On the faster tunes, Green’s propulsive lines sparkle. Chambers and Philly Joe Jones also comprise an outstanding match with the veteran tenorist. No need to introduce Mr. PC. From his magnificent, allround package, Chambers chooses tasteful, chubby, blues-drenched notes for the ballads and fat-bottomed, lively walkin’ bass lines for the uptempo tunes. Philly Joe Jones provides sensitive and sprightly support, presenting a bonafide Papa Jo Jones beat in Quebec’s original tune, the lurid cooker Like.

The album ends with Count Every Star, a take from the December 23 session including Green, Sonny Clark, Sam Jones and Louis Hayes. Excellent stuff, but one wonders why Alfred Lion thought the inclusion necessary. The CD re-issue (also available on Spotify) reveals a spirited uptempo take of Cole Porter’s That Old Black Magic. Another sparse, piano-less gem that shows the fine rapport between the underrated master of the tenor saxophone and his illustrious supporting crew.

The Miles Davis Quintet Workin’ (Prestige 1956/59)

The first two cuts on Workin’ immediately show the impact of Miles Davis (and his First Great Quintet) on the evolution of jazz in the mid-fifties. Davis put the showtune It Never Entered My Mind in a moody package by way of his subdued, husky trumpet. The instant classic Four swings effortlessly but insistently. With a focus on expression, Davis distinctly shaped the kind of jazz labeled as mainstream or hard bop.

Miles Davis Quintet - Workin'


Miles Davis (trumpet), John Coltrane (tenor saxophone), Red Garland (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), Philly Joe Jones (drums)


on May 11 and October 26, 1956 at Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, New Jersey


as PR 7166 in 1959

Track listing

Side A:
It Never Entered My Mind
In Your Own Sweet Way
The Theme (take 1)
Side B:
Trane’s Blues
Ahmad’s Blues
Half Nelson
The Theme (take 2)

When I was young, stupid, sloppy drunk and just about to metamorphose into a giant insect, I used to propagate the opinion that Miles Davis sounded like a door who had trouble creaking. I wasn’t quite fond of his (Harmon) mute sound. In hindsight, I’m sure it was also my cheeky, cynical way of questioning the overdone worship of the ‘Miles’ disciples. Guys in front of the stage begging for the styrofoam cup that Miles Davis drank from after finishing his take on Cindy Lauper’s Time After Time. Guys that wouldn’t have minded if Miles Davis’d filled it with some of his urinal artistry.

Regardless of the swagger, that door obviously did make a tentative attempt at showing off its creaking prowess. Arguably, the term ‘ugly beauty’, like the title of the Thelonious Monk tune, appropriately defines the muted Miles Davis sound as opposed to his open horn sound. Sometimes it hurts the ear. But that, perhaps, was the inevitable consequence of the goals that Davis set for himself. His acerbic, thin trumpet voice brings about a distinctive feeling. There’s more than a touch of hurt in the playing of Miles Davis, mingling with a distinct soft spot. Understated drama. Simultaneously, his sound has the utmost seductive quality as if it’s the voice of a loose woman peeping from behind a red velvet curtain… A slightly shabby woman, streetwise like any one con man on the corner. So there’s hurt, tenderness and a touch of seediness. More than anything else, listening to Miles Davis at his husky best is like being involved in a conversation of the utmost intimate level. Davis at his thinnest still annoys me from time to time. I wonder if anyone else has been having a beef with the nasal Miles Davis sound? At any rate, I do pretty well today as far as the muted Miles Davis is concerned. (Someday My Prince Will Come!) Times-a-changin’, people-a-changin’ and opinions and feelings seem to change by the minute nowadays. About the only thing that doesn’t change is the quality of Italian espresso.

Not being taken in immediately by the muted sound of Miles Davis, when Clark Terry, Donald Byrd or Lee Morgan were somehow more accesible, the admiration for the notes and vision consequently took some time coming. There’s something to be said for a slowly developing admiration, ripening year after year, like the timbre of a grand piano. The clarity of his ‘voice’ and the way Miles Davis shaped phrases and usually concentrated on fewer, expressive notes, thereby cleverly making use of his strong, individual points, is enough to make one look back in awed wonder. In the mid fifties, starting off with 1954’s recording of Walkin’, Miles Davis breathed musical life into the motto of ‘less is more’ (which was first posed by modernist architect Mies van der Rohe in the 1930s), opening up jazz in an original, interesting direction for the second time in his career. Davis later claimed that he changed the course of jazz five or six times. Which makes sense but wasn’t entirely accurate.

The first milestone would be the Birth Of The Cool-session of 1949. Thereafter, the modal Kind Of Blue, the albums of his Second Great Quintet in the mid-sixties, the fusion of Bitches Brew, jazz rock of Jack Johnson and eighties crossover album Tutu are influential classics. They’re also cases in point that Miles Davis didn’t shake all this innovative stuff out of his sleeve as the sole master for all those years, but instead also relied on such brilliant vanguard colleagues like Gil Evans, Gerry Mulligan, Teddy Charles, Bill Evans, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea and Marcus Miller. It’s a notion that matches well with the theory that jazz innovations usually don’t come out of the blue, but are the result of a gelling of jazz spirits influencing one another with their simultaneous experiments. Furthermore, often some of these musicians got their ideas from cats they had never even met in (or outside) the studio, like for instance George Russell, or (modernist) classical composers. A valid theory. Superimposing his one-of-a-kind style over the contemporary developments, Miles Davis was crucial to let such profound changes in jazz come to full fruition. He was a catalyst with guts and vision. At the same time, due to his stardom, Davis became the face of that change for the general public.

Long before these kind of elaborate and almost stupefying discussions, in 1956, the one major upset was the signing of Miles Davis to major label Columbia. A big deal not only for Miles Davis but for the Afro-American community in general. Davis, under contract to Prestige, had the agreement that he could record for Columbia and get albums released once his Prestige contract expired. (The first Columbia release would be the Quintet’s 1957 album ‘Round About Midnight) To fulfill his obligations, Davis and Prestige label boss Bob Weinstock agreed to get it over with and record a couple of spontaneous cuts. The sessions of May 11 & October 26, 1956 led to the release of Cookin’, Relaxin’, Workin’ and Steamin’. Great blowing sessions that showcased the exceptional abilities of everyone involved.

Although an easy way out, Bob Weinstock did took care of structuring the hodgepodge of tunes into a logical order of tracks. He included studio chatter, which was symbolic of the loose atmosphere. (the usage of the two short ‘Themes’, a common jazz practice to start and finish live performance sets, also contribute to that atmosphere) It’s impossible to subdue a smile when Miles Davis announces Trane’s Blues with his gruff, raspy voice. Davis and Coltrane have different ways of dealing with the blues. I feel that Coltrane’s confidence in this tune overshadows the tentative steps of Davis. Nevertheless, Davis’ blend of stacked blue notes and deadpan off-center turns is intriguing.

Davis had recorded Four for the first time two years earlier. It was released on the 10-inch Miles Davis Quartet (Prestige, 1954) and the 12-inch Blue Haze. (Prestige, 1956) The solo on that version is the one people have been crazy about ever since, and small wonder! (Listen Here) Miles Davis is also in very good form on the Workin’-version. Coltrane blows tough tenor, eschewing fast flurries of notes in favor of a more relaxed approach, undoubtly under the influence of Davis. Davis re-visits another tune, Half Nelson. It was initially recorded in 1947 under the guidance of Charlie Parker by the Miles Davis All Stars on a 78rpm Savoy single. (and subsequently under Charlie Parker’s name) The group suavely and swinging flies through the infectious uptempo bop tune.

Ahmad’s Blues – a tune by pianist Ahmad Jamal, who was a big influence on Davis at the time – is a showcase for the rhythm trio. Red Garland stretches out ebulliently on the 32-bar blues with his singular long lines and innovative block chord playing. Miles Davis was enamoured of the tune of another pianist, Dave Brubeck, and seized the opportunity to record In Your Own Sweet Way. Davis initially recorded the tune in March 1956. (Collector’s Items, Prestige) Brubeck recorded it in April, a month after Davis, a solo take on Brubeck Plays Brubeck (Columbia 1956) and a live quartet version appeared on Jay & Kay And Dave Brubeck At Newport. (Columbia 1956) Davis recorded the Workin’-version on May 11. He favored a minor mood over Brubeck’s classical approach and delivered an introspective, smoothly flowing take.

Of the sessions that were released as the Workin’/Relaxin’/Steamin’/Cookin’-albums Miles Davis coolly said: ‘We just came in a blew.’ That’s watertight. It wouldn’t be too much to add, however, that Miles Davis came in and blew in fresh, unique fashion.

Red Garland High Pressure (Prestige 1957/62)

The Red Garland sessions of November 15 and December 13, 1957 spawned a number of Prestige releases. Initially, only All Mornin’ Long was released. Soul Junction came out in 1963 and High Pressure a year earlier, in 1962. High Pressure is a top-notch blowing session, memorable for Red Garland’s influential piano playing and our understanding of the rapid, exciting evolution of John Coltrane.

Red Garland - High Pressure


Red Garland (piano), John Coltrane (tenor saxophone), Donald Byrd (trumpet), George Joyner (bass), Art Taylor (drums)


on November 15 and December 13, 1957 at Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, New Jersey


as PRLP 7209 in 1962

Track listing

Side A:
Soft Winds
Side B:
What Is There To Say
Two Bass Hit

At the time, Red Garland and John Coltrane were colleagues in Miles Davis’ group, which included Philly Joe Jones and Paul Chambers. It was Davis’ first great quintet that recorded the landmark hardbop albums Miles, Workin’, Cookin’, Relaxin’ and Steamin’. These albums were scheduled to let Davis fullfill his contract with Prestige, whereafter the group could record Davis’ Columbia album ‘Round About Midnight. Red Garland was fired by Davis, who alledgedly had enough of Garland’s narcotics abuse and erratic behavior, but Garland returned for the session of Milestones. There was a musical conflict during the recording of Straight, No Chaser and Garland walked out for good.

Soft Winds, taken at a brisk medium tempo, is essential Red Garland. Garland’s solo is a sumptuous blend of bop and blues, distinctive for Garland’s trademark block chord technique and extended, imaginative right hand lines. Never a dull moment in a five minute solo, of which the groove that Garland sustains through locked-hands playing on the three minute mark is especially enticing. Coltrane fires off phrases that attack the mind like lightning bolts hit a roof top antennae. His famous (and back then, infamous) ‘sheets of sound’ are backed powerfully by five note bombs of Garland and Art Taylor. Donald Byrd contributes a nicely contrasting, buoyant bit. The band trades fours before returning to the robustly swinging theme.

Of the two ballads Solitude and What is There To Say, Solitude stands out. The tempo remains slow throughout this rendition, double timing is avoided. It is the hardest way to play a ballad and, arguably, the greatest way. One has to show what he’s got, naked, no trickery. The band does a badass job, both interactively and solo-wise.

Garland stays close to the swing feeling of Robin & Shavers’ 1938 tune Undecided while adorning it with intricate, rollicking phrases. The group blasts through it like a quintet of Joint Strike Fighters.

Two Bass Hit, the Gillespie/Lewis composition, is also the opposite of lame, including a fiery opening (the theme is stated by the trio only) and contributions from the soloists that are evidence of mutual understanding and suggest that there was a relaxed studio atmosphere.

Two and a half months later, Two Bass Hit was recorded for the beforementioned Columbia album of Miles Davis, Milestones. That band (including Cannonball Adderley alongside a no less imposing, more subdued and structured Coltrane) delivers a crispy, coherent and slightly amended take. In which, lest we forget, the wayward leader didn’t contribute a solo.

The association of Red Garland with Miles Davis ended on a sour note. However, sessions like High Pressure make abundantly clear why Davis wanted to play with Garland in the first place.

YouTube: Soft Winds

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


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)


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


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.