Jaki Byard The Jaki Byard Experience (Prestige 1969)

The Jaki Byard Experience is not for the faint-hearted.

Jaki Byard - The Jaki Byard Experience


Jaki Byard (piano), Roland Kirk (tenor saxophone, clarinet, manzello), Richard Davis (bass), Alan Dawson (drums)


on September 17, 1968 at Rudy van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey


as PR 7615 in 1969

Track listing

Side A:
Parisian Thoroughfare
Hazy Eve
Shine On Me
Side B:
Memories Of You
Teach Me Tonight

No doubt, those that long for the continuous flow of the sounds of surprise go to Jaki Byard and Roland Kirk. In particular The Jaki Byard Experience, which most likely brings about shock, curiosity, delight and finally surrender. Two distinctly unconventional individuals for the price of one. The quartet of Byard’s eleventh album on Prestige is completed by bassist Richard Davis and drummer Alan Dawson, a sublime duo that bonded with Byard for the first time in 1963 and whose instincts are cooperative instead of merely supportive.

Although active in the Boston area since the late 40s, Byard made his mark in New York with Charles Mingus in the early 60’s, dazzling listeners and audiences with his eclectic style. Kirk burst on the same scene around that time; blind one-man-band playing tenor sax and exotic saxes that he found in shops like the stritch and manzello, adding whistles that hung on his chest, shoulder, hip or even ear, appearing to be a sideshow attraction to the general audience, a musician with exceptional declarations of independence to cogniscenti and colleagues.

Both shared the gift of mining the multi-faceted tradition and simultaneously pushing it to its outer limits, both were unique personalities that refused to take indiscriminately the innovations of Ornette Coleman, playing a kind of hide and seek with avant-garde instead of merely engaging in ersatz Free Jazz. Byard’s encyclopedic knowledge of early jazz forms is legendary. Kirk, who also landed a place in Charles Mingus’s band in the early 60’s, mixed blues with modernity and unusual virtuosity. Their music is a world unto its own. And it brims with enthusiasm. Like Thelonious Monk’s music.

An improviser should work with the fixed material in a piece to avoid hackneyed phrases.

That’s Monk, the Buddha of jazz, occasionally breaking silence with conceptions that are at once practical and enigmatic. Paradoxically, what seems to be a knockdown argument led him down the path of “rooted freedom” as opposed to freedom for freedom’s sake. Freedom for freedom’s sake is a dead end street. Free love is ok but mostly equates with detachement. The opportunities inherent to mass consumption suck: fast food and sugar are killers. Both conceptions ultimately exhaust themselves in the need to preserve meaning. The equilibrium of passion and reason cannot blossom in the absence of transcendence. Monk may have been a puzzling personality but he most likely had rooted freedom on his mind while teaching beautiful and original alternate chords to friends and journeymen, and writing Trinkle Tinkle and Criss Cross.

And Byard and Kirk understood. As a result, one gets served a dish of delicious music that while worked out within the textures of harmony and melody, sends mysterious scents out the backyard into the alley and teases the palate with an abundance of spicy flavors; implicit loyalty to unpredictability and deeds of gutsy passion that keeps any negative sensation of self-consciousness out the door.

One gets a rebellious version of Bud Powell’s Parisian Thoroughfare, which is introduced by a turbulent intro in the root key, segues crisply into the theme and is developed with the thunderous blasts of Kirk’s solo’s on, respectively, manzello and tenor saxophone. Manzello Kirk is a scudding jaguar. Tenor Kirk is the leader of the buffalo tribe, deceptively light on his feet and howling with fatherly authority. On both instruments, Kirk’s sense of old-fashioned swing is palpable and his timing is angular and agile throughout his long story, which ends with a roar on simultaneously played horns.

Byard throws himself into battle with hammering bass notes, shrewd combinations of distorted chords, endless staccato bop motives and a climax of tart Earl Hines-ish embellishments. His rubato interaction with Alan Dawson’s snare rolls is one of the examples of the quartet’s sublime and lively interaction. As is the high energy of bassist Richard Davis. Davis has his share of storytelling, mixing strong arco bass with mischievous dissonance and bended notes on multiple strings. This is jazz that rivals the archetypical rock bands of the late 60’s. Mind you, on acoustic instruments!

It makes sense that Byard included a composition of Monk, himself a master of dedication. Evidence is the session’s second example of controlled mayhem. Perhaps the curious balancing act of Kirk, a rollercoaster ride of phrases that are wrenched from his gut and purposefully evade the changes, may be hard to digest. Regardless, it is a rare feat. Kirk apparently only takes a breath twice. Cat with the lungs of a whale.

One gets the hefty boogaloo treatment of the traditional Shine On Me, romantic and sardonic piano-bass duet of Hazy Eve, twisted Fats Waller homage of Memories Of You. Coasting is absent in Byard’s case. He’s the guy that wears haute couture on top and shorts beneath, strollin’ on the snow-bound path. Kirk’s the man on the barstool whom everyone tells his stories too. And he’ll remark: “Never end your sentences on a vowel.” They are the proud underdog. One wonders if Byard’s recorded vocal that precedes the opening of Parisian Thoroughfare and the record – “Say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud” – is pride or pastiche.

Definitely the things they’re saying so loud are of the utmost excitement and authority.

Shirley Scott Hip Soul (Prestige 1961)

Hip couple, hip soul. Finding a hip crowd for the collaborations between wife and husband Shirley Scott and Stanley Turrentine was a cinch.

Shirley Scott - Hip Soul


Shirley Scott (organ), Stanley Turrentine (tenor saxophone), Herbie Lewis (bass), Roy Brooks (drums)


on June 2, 1961 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey


as PRLP 7205 in 1961

Track listing

Side A:
Hip Soul
411 West
By Myself
Side B:
Trane’s Blues
Stanley’s Time
Out Of This World

Organist Shirley Scott released no less than eighteen albums on Prestige from 1958-61, including the subsidiary label Moodsville. Excluding six albums that the company released from 1965-67, when Scott had already become part of the Impulse label roster. Tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine, married to Scott in 1961 and divorced in 1971, guest-starred on five albums by Scott on Prestige and Impulse. In turn, Scott was featured on four of her husband’s Blue Note albums.

They not only had grown accustomed to each other’s faces on daily bases, meshing musical styles hardly posed a problem. Scott had started her organ combo career with Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis and therefore had plenty experience of playing with a highly original tenor saxophonist. The collaboration of Scott and Turrentine is about the blues and a fair share of standards and modern jazz. It comes as no surprise that the prolific recording duo was a popular attraction in the circuit of clubs of the soul jazz era.

The beautiful Shirley Scott looked great on a record cover, and high-spirited. Don’t mess with Shirley. Music-wise, her tasteful, driving playing style demands attention. Largely ignoring the revolution of Jimmy Smith, Scott preserved an orchestral approach during her years on Prestige, the settings of her organ ‘old-fashioned’ almost like Wild Bill Davis, the style full of gospel and swing and with few tinges of bop. It is only during her tenure on Impulse that Scott expands her territory with more elaborate single lines and a more modern sound.

Hip Soul is as good an example as any of the Scott/Turrentine combinations on Prestige. The group, including bassist Herbie Lewis and drummer Roy Brooks, performs the mid-tempo, down-home blues of Hip Soul, the sophisticated melody of Benny Golson, 411 West, the pleasurable standard By Myself, John Coltrane’s (surprise pick) Trane’s Blues, the catchy blues line by Turrentine, Stanley’s Time and Arlen/Mercer’s Out Of This World. Sounds like an appropriate second set at, say, New Jersey’s Club Harlem or Chicago’s Theresa’s Lounge, the crowd in anticipation of another hour of lurid down-home jazz.

They take their time to stretch out during the course of the very enjoyable 11 minutes of Out Of This World. Scott’s solo consists almost strictly of chords, the suspense hinging on voicing, her meaty touch and gospel feeling. Turrentine, the Single Malt of tenor saxophonists, all peat, oak, berries, cutting the phlegm and leaving a layered taste in the palate, demonstrates his unique way of bending blues-infested notes, sometimes stretching them as little but imposing wails, a hypnotizing brew. He swiftly phrases through his finest story of the album.

Stanley Turrentine passed away in 2000. Shirley Scott in 2002.

Buddy Terry Natural Soul Natural Woman (Prestige 1968)

For Buddy Terry, natural soul is the music of the church, the street and John Coltrane.

Buddy Terry - Natural Soul Natural Woman


Buddy Terry (tenor saxophone, flute), Joe Thomas (tenor saxophone, flute), Robbie Porter (baritone saxophone), Woody Shaw (trumpet, flugelhorn), Larry Young (organ), Jiggs Chase (organ), Wally Richardson (guitar), Jimmy Lewis (Fender bass), Eddie Gladden (drums), the Terry Girls (vocals)


on November 15, 1967 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey


as PRLP 7541 in 1968

Track listing

Side A:
Natural Woman
Natural Soul (Sunday Go To Meetin’ Blues)
Pedro, The One Arm Bandit
Don’t Be So Mean
Side B:
The Revealing Time
Quiet Days And Lonely Nights

The legendary Prestige label had added soul jazz to its cutting-edge modern jazz catalogue in the early sixties. In fact, by putting numerous hi-profile advertisements of their stock in magazines like Downbeat, continuously stressing the ‘soul’ of Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Shirley Scott, Jimmy Forrest, Groove Holmes, Gene Ammons and many others, it was a deciding factor in the invention and popularization of soul jazz. By the late 60s, when interest in mainstream jazz dwindled, Prestige focused on funky, bluesy jazz in sync with contemporary popular music and its buying public. So you’d get the barroom organ blues of Sonny Philips or the mean, greasy tenor of Houston Person, who scored one of the last Prestige hits with Jamilah. And Prestige had signed tenor saxophonist Buddy Terry, who’d assisted organist Freddie Roach on Soul Book in 1966. Terry released his debut album as a leader, Electric Soul in 1968. You mean like, soul? In the late sixties, label boss and artists of Prestige still didn’t have to think twice about picking titles.

Buddy Terry had played in the organ groups of Rhoda Scott, Dee Dee Ford, Dayton Shelby and Larry Young and cooperated with Sonny Rollins and Johnny Coles. A couple of years were spent in the band of Lionel Hampton. For Natural Soul Natural Woman, the tough tenor with a ‘far out’ edge assembled his Newark, New Jersey pals – pleasant surprise! – Larry Young, Woody Shaw and Eddie Gladden, weathered cats like tenorist and flutist Joe Thomas, as well as the so-called Terry Girls on vocals – perhaps including the beautiful lady on the front cover? So then you get Don’t Be So Mean, a lurid boogaloo tune with a tacky twist, absolutely the album’s highlight. You get Pedro, The One Arm Bandit, obscure folk music jazzed up upliftingly, following the path Rollins famously paved.

You get Natural Woman, Aretha Franklin’s anthemic soul ballad, that features the Terry Girls and Buddy Terry hollering mercy, mercy; Quiet Days And Lonely Nights, a solid ballad. And finally, The Revealing Time, a mid-tempo blues that passes the 11-minute mark, ample opportunity to stretch out for Terry and Young. Woody Shaw only has short bits of solo space. Honestly, the brilliant, last great innovator of the trumpet’s worthwhile statements are overshadowed by rather lackluster, staccato ad-libs. Sleepy, perhaps.

Buddy Terry, on the other hand, is spry as the cow that line-dances onto the field in Spring. He’s a minister arousing the flock. And a captain of the Enterprise reaching out to the aliens around the Ring of Saturn. His dirty playing style and harmonic sophistication brings to mind Eddie Harris. Buddy Terry took matters in his own hands and also provided the liner notes to his album of raucous soul jazz. A curious mix of bio and exegesis. Terry states: “The entire album is my song of praise to God.”

Hallelujah time well-spent.

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


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


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


as PRLP 7223 in 1960

Track listing

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

Freddie McCoy Lonely Avenue (Prestige 1965)

Rousing cookers, balanced ballads and smoothly swinging popular songs: Freddie McCoy’s Lonely Avenue reflects the vibraphonist’s deep-rooted understanding of the blues and swing-based jazz tradition.

Freddie McCoy - Lonely Avenue


Freddie McCoy (vibraphone), Gil Askey (trumpet, arranger), Tate Houston (baritone saxophone), Dickie Harris (trombone B1-4), James Thomas (organ), Napoleon Allen (guitar A1-4), Martin Rivera (bass), Ray Lucas (drums)


on January 25 & February 16 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey


as PRLP 7395 in 1965

Track listing

Side A:
Lonely Avenue
Collard Greens
When Sunny Gets Blue
Side B:
Harlem Nocturne
Willow Weep For Me
Belly Full Of Greens
Feeling Good

Freddie McCoy, born in New York City in 1932, assembled a big crew to create the soulful canvas of his debut album on Prestige in 1965, Lonely Avenue. The coupling of vibes with trumpet, baritone sax, trombone, organ and guitar proved to be a remarkably flexible unit, both mean/funky and contemplative, which also, perhaps not entirely coincidentally, is a description of Freddie McCoy’s musical personality. The vibraphonist generates a lot heat but at the same time his playing is marked by a relaxed flow. Easygoing fellow but he’s not going to let you eat his lunch. One of few vibraphone players that focused on groove and grease. Yes, there’s a blues-drenched bit of Milt Jackson, without the dazzling technique of the God Of Vibes. And yes, there’s a bit of entertainment value that was inherent to the personality of pioneer Lionel Hampton, but the circus has left town before the roar of the lion. Freddie McCoy was more concerned with the kind of soul time that worked as a magnet for workers from all over the hood. Punch the clock, hurry home, slip into some shiny slacks and let’s hear it for the real mccoy’… Once settled in some upper Harlem joint, they shake their hips, shake their asses, shake their heads in amazement at the sight of this slick dude sweating it out behind that weird steel frame. Mallet boogie.

Plenty of warhorse and pop song for that kind of customer: When Sunny Gets Blue, Willow Weep For Me, Harlem Nocturne, Feeling Good. McCoy’s Roëll is a lovely ballad, his take on the Doc Pomus tune Lonely Avenue, best-known through the classic r&b version of Ray Charles, is super-soulful and the album’s crackerjack cookers, Collard Greens and Belly Full Of Greens, would serve well as background tracks for the volatile Ike & Tina Turner. Want some mean greens? Yes please, why not? Beats crème bruleé.

Freddie McCoy began to play the vibraphone in the Army in 1958 and subsequently played with Kenny Burrell, Johnny “Hammond” Smith, Philly Joe Jones and Doug Watkins. Following his debut, McCoy enjoyed a good stretch on Prestige, which released six albums between 1966 and 1968, focusing more and more on r&b and funk-ish ditties. Before he went off the radar, his last album Gimme Some was released by Cobblestone in 1971. Freddie McCoy was also a flight instructor who owned his own plane. No doubt he made some soulful maneuvers in that little booger.

Freddie McCoy passed away in 2009.

Ted Curson Fire Down Below (Prestige 1963)

Ted Curson revealed himself as a breathtaking interpreter of rarely performed standards on his second album as a leader in 1963, Fire Down Below.

Ted Curson - Fire Down Below


Ted Curson (trumpet), Ronnie Matthews (piano), George Tucker (bass), Roy Haynes (drums), Montego Joe (congas)


on December 10, 1962 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey


as PRLP 7263 in 1963

Track listing

Side A:
Fire Down Below
The Very Young
Baby Has Gone Bye Bye
Side B:
Show Me
Falling In Love With Love
Only Forever

Interesting species, the type that switches smoothly from mainstream to avant surroundings. Perhaps because the type realizes that avant is a hollow shell without a link to the roots? Trumpeter Ted Curson felt comfortable in both spheres. Curson, who was born in Philadelphia in 1935, matured during the period when hard bop was developed from bop, blues and gospel. In 1955, Miles Davis stimulated Curson to move to New York City. Curson, a thoroughly schooled modern jazz player, played with avant-gardist Cecil Taylor around the turn of the decade, appearing on Taylor’s 1959 album Love For Sale.

In 1960, Curson joined the group of Charles Mingus. He appeared on four Mingus albums: Mingus, Mingus Revisited, Mingus At Antibes and Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus. A lot of Mingus. Well, Mingus could never be accused of austerity. The experience of Curson of playing with Mingus and sharing the frontline with Eric Dolphy left an indelible impression. After the passing of Dolphy – the reed and woodwind giant died of a diabetic seizure in Berlin on June 29, 1964 – Curson wrote Tears For Dolphy, a beautiful melody and Curson’s masterwork. A big part of Curson’s career was spent in Europe to much acclaim. He passed away in 2012.

The title of Curson’s Atlantic album from 1963, The New Thing & The Blue Thing, speaks volumes about his jazz personality. Preceding it, Curson debuted with Plenty Of Horn on the Old Town label in 1958. The follow-up, Fire Down Below, is the LP that begs to be added to the ever-growing mainstream jazz collector’s record cabinet. Curson is assisted by pianist Gildo Mahones, bassist George Tucker, drummer Roy Haynes and percussionist Montego Joe. It is testimony to the enormous wealth of standards that Curson could pick a whole set of rarely performed songs, excluding the well-known Hart/Rodgers composition Falling In Love With Love. Of the lesser-known tunes, Fire Down Below, The Very Young and My Baby Has Gone Bye Bye are gems of the first order.

The Carribean rhythm of Lee/Washington’s Fire Down Below is sustained throughout, eschewing a 4/4 release, which is hypnotizing, you feel the splendid exotic groove in your body, soul, toes. And your ass will be wiggling before you know it! Haynes draws on his Afro-Bop legacy from the late 40s, Gildo Mahones chimes in with a lively, percussive story that pretty much comes natural, considering his upbringing by parents of Puerto-Rican descent. Montego Joe had roots in Jamaica. Curson sounds pretty Carribean too.

Little/Sacker’s The Very Young is a beautiful blues ballad. Curson plays it like a song, holding notes like he’s telling it like it is, the feeling is overwhelming and his tart sound elevates it to a bittersweet symphony. Perfect pitch, the duality of bended notes that refer to both the moan of the country blues performer and the yowl of the country singer, plus the striking clear lines Curson sustains, complete the architecture of this brilliant performance. Clearness of line and orderly placing of phrases also mark the mid-tempo Allen/Roberts tune Baby Has Gone Bye Bye. Trumpet as good as it gets, like someone breathing, without effort, no strain. Curson’s heart is big and soft and beckoning for everyone to come and dance, rejoice, and praying for his people to overcome, overcome. Cherish the album that runs a mere 31 minutes with three such performances. Length of time is not the essence!

Eddie Chamblee The Rocking Tenor Sax Of Eddie Chamblee (Prestige 1964)

Party time with Eddie Chamblee.

Eddie Chamblee - The Rocking Tenor Sax Of Eddie Chamblee


Eddie Chamblee (tenor saxophone), Dayton Shelby (organ), Al Griffin (drums)


on February 27, 1964 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey


as PRLP 7321 in 1964

Track listing

Side A:
The Honeydripper
You’ll Never Walk Alone
Softly, As I Love You
Bye Bye Blackbird
Side B:
Little Things Mean A Lot

Eddie Chamblee was born in Atlanta in 1920. He was the featured tenorist on Sonny Thompson’s big hits Long Gone and Late Freight and played in the groups of Lionel Hampton, Cozy Cole, Amos Milburn, T-Bone Walker, Lowell Fulson, Machito and singer Dinah Washington, with whom Chamblee was married for a short period. While leading his own groups, the tenor saxophonist played on r&b and doowop tunes, notably by The Diamonds and The Drifters. The liner notes writer of The Rocking Tenor Sax mentions two funny details. Firstly, Chamblee is the tenor saxophonist that the viewer notices standing beside Brigitte Bardot in Roger Vadim’s movie And God Created Woman. Secondly, Chamblee performed at the Inaugaration Party of President Eisenhower in 1956. If you had to choose between one of these supporting roles, which one would it be? Rejoining Hampton in the eighties, Chamblee was further associated with Milt Buckner and Count Basie. Chamblee passed away in 1999.

Prior to his affiliation with Prestige, Chamblee recorded two albums for EmArcy, Chamblee Music and Doodlin’. The Rocking Tenor Sax is Chamblee’s only album as a leader in the sixties. The title is a great reflection of the kind of roaring live gigs one could experience in those days. It isn’t live-in-performance but it feels that way. Obviously, the legendary engineer Rudy van Gelder at work here, beware that no one took notice of his innovative recording methods, rarely invited neighbours, relatives or friends. Would’ve been one hell of a party.

Soul jazz grew out of swing, r&b and modern jazz. Generally speaking, it was an Afro-American phenomenon, a type of music that was enjoyed in clubs and bars around the country but particularly popular in the Mid-West. Though there’s no mistaking that most players had a solid background in modern jazz, (by the way, part of the work of giants of jazz like Cannonball Adderley or Sonny Stitt is also categorized as soul jazz – Adderley’s Jive Samba was a big hit) entertainment was key. Soul jazz was, first and foremost, accessible, finger-poppin’, foot-tappin’, hip-shakin’ music for a night out into town. The pioneering, relatively small independent record companies presented a catalogue of blues, ballads, American songbook and popular tunes – groove music. Prestige, Blue Note and Argo/Cadet possessed a good distribution network and carried their stock to radio stations and the jukebox circuit, hoping for a hit record or single. A hit didn’t necessarily have to be an original composition. There are many examples of interpretations of hits by artists which also turned into big sellers. The Honeydripper, the opening cut from Eddie Chamblee’s Prestige album is a case in point. It was a hit for the original writer, Joe Liggins. Soon after, Roosevelt Sykes made a successful version. The take on the contagious r&b melody by Eddie Chamblee didn’t lead to skyrocketing sales. But no doubt, his rousing version blows the roof off the joint.

Said Honeydripper has Chamblee climaxing early but not necessarily too soon, if you know what I mean. Chamblee’s got plenty of juice, honking his way through the choruses and the rocking 4/4 bottom that drummer Al Griffin provides. Chamblee alternates growls with screeching high notes, a specialty that Chamblee demonstrates on other tunes on the album as well. There goes Van Gelder’s Delft Blue tableware. Chamblee shows no signs of fatigue, providing effective swing riffs behind organist Dayton Shelby, who’s quite the musical rebel rouser himself.

It’s easy to imagine Chamblee’s trio perform at one of the dingier clubs on The Street. Some colorful cat offers a beauty a drink, the chatter of customers pierces little holes in the cigarette smoke clouds… And Chamblee bounces through his original tunes Champin’ and Skang!, the former a sleazy jump blues, the latter a slow, down-home blues. There’s the hard rock (like, hard rock) of Bye Bye Blackbird, courtesy of the bulldozer drum patterns by Al Griffin. And while Softly As I Leave You is a pretty sapless attempt to balladeer gent and dame into the French Kissin’ zone, embellished by lachrymose organ playing, Soon finds a soft spot in the heart. The Gershwin composition is gracefully marked by Chamblee’s velvet yet peppery lines and beautifully inflected notes. Here Chamblee has reached a synthesis between suppleness and groove. Soon is the highlight of The Rocking Tenor Sax Of Eddie Chamblee, but it can’t hurt to keep the remainder of the repertory in mind for a house party. Satisfaction guaranteed.

Listen to the full album on YouTube here. And to Eddie Chamblee on Spotify below: