The Other Side Of Benny Golson

Benny Golson The Other Side Of Benny Golson (Riverside 1958)

Benny Golson’s extraordinary writing skills often overshadow his gifts as a tenor saxophonist. As early as 1958, Riverside considered this fact and chose to highlight his tenor work naming Golson’s third album The Other Side Of Benny Golson. Not surprisingly though, the compositions are killer bee as well. Two birds killed by one stone.

The Other Side Of Benny Golson

Personnel

Benny Golson (tenor saxophone), Curtis Fuller (trombone), Barry Harris (piano), Jimmy Meritt (bass), Philly Joe Jones (drums)

Recorded

on November 12, 1958 at Nola’s Penthouse Sound Studio, NYC

Released

as RLP 12-290 in 1958

Track listing

Side A:
Strut Time
Jubilation
Symbols
Side B:
Are You Real?
Cry A Blue Tear
This Night


The significance of Golson, who turned 87 on January 27, can’t be overstated. Having learned the trade from pianist and renowned tunesmith Tadd Dameron in the early fifties, Golson developed into a striking composer. Many of Golson’s compositions became standards: I Remember Clifford, Stablemates, Killer Joe, Along Came Betty, Blues March. The latter two ended up on Art Blakey And The Jazz Messengers’ classic album Moanin’. Golson, beside playing tenor, organised that band, creating a line-up of Philadelphia pals including future trumpet star Lee Morgan. He streamlined Blakey’s profile and business and as such formed the blueprint of succes for the fledgling Art Blakey. Golson’ Jazztet (Personel varied apart from key member Art Farmer; the quintessential line-up included Curtis Fuller) broadened the jazz horizon with sophisticated yet swinging stuff. They re-united in 1982. By then, Golson had been off the jazz scene for nearly 15 years. Following the footsteps of Quincy Jones and J.J. Johnson, Golson spent the latter part of the sixties as well as the seventies in Hollywood, scoring films and series.

Elegant compositions, fascinating voicings, surging but also quaintly cerebral lines: pure Benny Golson. It’s all there on The Other Side Of Benny Golson, the first recorded collaboration between Golson and Curtis Fuller. Golson sounds simultaneously smooth and gutsy and has a way of choosing interesting, odd notes all the time, cooking in understated fashion. For all his inventive composing and blowing, both feet of Golson stand firmly in the soil of tradition. The breathy sound that Golson displays, notably in his original ballad Cry A Blue Tear, reflects his admiration for swing giants like Ben Webster. Golson’s phrasing would’ve been an asset in Ellington’s orchestra.

The beautiful, often dreamy colors that Golson creates with the intriguing tenor-trombone combination account for much of the enjoyment of this album. Fuller smoothly weaves in and out of the theme of Are You Real?, another instant classic of Golson. How Golson cooks in his own way is evident in Strut Time, a lively stop-time tune in which Golson continually stacks one canny idea upon the other. Original stuff. Symptoms is an equally alluring melody, the musical equivalent of fog that hangs over a lake at the dawn’s early light. It includes a poetic trombone solo by Curtis Fuller. Then Golson opts for a contrast, stoking up the fire with fast flurries of notes, elements that Golson incorporates matter-of-factly into his sophisticated style as a tenorist.

Red Garland - High Pressure

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

Personnel

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

Recorded

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

Released

as PRLP 7209 in 1962

Track listing

Side A:
Soft Winds
Solitude
Side B:
Undecided
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