Red Rodney - Superbop

Red Rodney Superbop (Muse 1974)

Red alert.

Red Rodney - Superbop


Red Rodney (trumpet), Sam Noto (trumpet, flugelhorn), Jimmy Mulidore (alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, alto flute), Dolo Coker (piano), Ray Brown (bass), Shelly Mann (drums)


at Wally Heider Recording Studio in Los Angeles


as MR 5046

Track listing

Side A:
The Look Of Love
The Last Train Out
Side B:
Green Dolphin Street

The crook or the outlaw does everything that you and I don’t dear dream of. He roams the country with a bunch of thieves and gypsies. Beats up a guy that throws plastic baskets from McDonalds out the window of his SUV on the freeway. He’s down and out and sleeps off hangovers on the beach. Understanding everything and nothing at the same time, he’s liable to brooding between stretches of high action. It’s what you would call ADHD nowadays, but in his world, the realm of Attila the Hun and Mickey Spillane, ADHD is just another painkiller on the market.

His whole life is a statement about the illusion of freedom. He’s hard as a brick except when it comes to animals. He lives by his wits and the sorrow of the world hangs on his lapels as backpacks on the coat racks in school. His life is a crust of blood on the forehead. Honor is his middle name. To the point of madness. He sometimes travels with his stepson. He says he’s the happiest man on earth and that’s the one thing that bothers his stepson’s mother. What bothers hím is that the further away he is from reality, the better he understands it.

Red Rodney knew all this. He lived a life that transcends the absurd. It is a life story that is well-known by the serious jazz fan, written down unforgettably by Gene Lees in his seminal book Cats Of Any Colors. Born Robert Roland Chudnick in Philadelphia in 1927, Rodney played in the bands of Jimmy Dorsey and Benny Goodman before breaking through in the band of Charlie Parker. It was all bebop from that point on. As the only white member of the group, Rodney was billed as “Albino Red” during stints below the Mason Dixie line. Unfortunately, he also committed himself to the lifestyle of Bird and became a heavy user of heroin and assorted substances.

(Red Rodney; Charlie Parker & Red Rodney watching Dizzy play; Sam Noto, Rodney’s frontline partner on Superbop)

Beboppers were the cultural outlaws of the 1940’s. Often derided by conservative colleagues or critics, their music was not only an extreme jazz evolution, it also reflected the signs of the times, its seemingly frenzied but highly complex and structured sounds in sync with war and post-war upheaval and the acceleration of developments in American society. They were the underdog, people that were rock & roll before the term existed, people that, to paraphrase an evergreen, ‘couldn’t go home again’ although the one that formalized it, Dizzy Gillespie, ultimately was a dedicated family guy.

Rodney was far from home. Luckily, the trumpeter succeeded to survive while other boppers like Dick Twartzik, Serge Chaloff and Sonny Clark fatally overdosed, but after his long and successful stint with Parker, Rodney gradually dropped out of sight. He made a couple of records in the late 1950’s but generally took to theft to sustain his habits. Rodney immersed himself in swindling and fraudulent activities and took no half measures. At the height of his crookdom, Rodney conned various insurance companies for major sums of money and impersonated as a doctor in order to obtain and sell prescriptions. Grand schemes, as if the crew from Ocean Twelve was united in one person.

Rodney’s most outlandish adventure in the 1960’s was his impersonation as a USA Army general and robbing money and secret documents from the vault of an army base. It was only a matter of time before Rodney got caught, no matter how ingenious his games of hide and seek with the law. Rodney served several jail sentences, although his uncommonly special rapport with prison managers and other servants of the law stood him in good stead. Often, the disadvantaged institutions didn’t care for the publicity and confined to deals with the red-headed stranger. Note that the ‘gentle crook’ eschewed from robbing his fellow man/woman but instead focused on the anonymous establishment.

Rodney spent years in the pit bands in Las Vegas, while his teeth were in horrible condition, and this looked like the end of his jazz career, until he met a fine lady in the late 1970’s in New York City. She cleaned him up and Rodney obtained new dentures, enjoying a highly unexpected, minor comeback, functioning as an older and wiser mentor to many young lions and recording frequently until his death of cancer in 1994.

He apparently was in bad shape in the 1970’s. So, it’s quite surprising that Rodney did manage to make a couple of excellent records. His first album in 14 years in 1974, Bird Lives, was fine though had its share of weaker moments, but the follow-up from the same year, Superbop, was flawless from start to finish. Hi-octane, to boot. It coupled Rodney with fellow trumpeter Sam Noto, saxophonist Jimmy Mulidore, pianist Dolo Coker and the heavyweight rhythm section of bassist Ray Brown and drummer Shelly Manne.

Of course, it would be hard to find a weak session when Ray Brown is aboard, giant of the double bass and the Big Boss Mann of the studio. So, that might be one of the main reasons that Superbop worked out so well. Rodney and Noto work together on the sparkling ensembles as Siamese twins and hunt each other in the choruses as foxes and rabbits. Interestingly, Noto is the first soloist on five of six tunes, which reveals the generosity of the veteran to the underrated Kenton and Basie-ite. This is fish in a barrel for Brown and Manne. Brown particularly, and typically, is a forceful presence, now and then walking in duet with Rodney, and providing great suspense to boot.

Superbop, a line that’s derived from the solo by Clifford Brown from Daahoud, thrives on the vitality of Rodney and Noto’s trumpet stylings. The vibe of Burt Bacharach’s The Look Of Love, featuring muted Rodney, is pleasantly reminiscent of Miles Davis. Dolo Coker seizes his Bud Powell-ish opportunity on the fast-pased Last Train Out, a Sam Noto tune. Rodney and Noto’s Fire is a rapidly expanding forest fire and it’s a line that reminds of Salt Peanuts. Plenty salty but predominantly oozing with the sharpness of chili pepper. The Latin-tinged treatment of Green Dolphin Street is no slouch either.

This is superbop indeed, fusion and synths and odd meter be damned. Though the modal mid-tempo Hilton, written by Mulidor, points out that Rodney was not stuck in rigid traditionalism. He’s just doing what he does best, thrivin’ on an unbeatable and rather riveting riff.

Listen to Superbop on YouTube here.

Alvin Queen

King Queen pt. 2

Here’s part 2 for you and yours, Alvin Queen talking about his stint with Horace Silver, the European continent of opportunities, the way the legends nudged him to change his style of drumming and the way jazz was and will never be again if something isn’t done about it very soon. “I don’t play any music that the people can’t figure out. They paid and have first priority.”

Temperature is rising and there ain’t no place to go. Beet-red heads nod off in the subway train. Someone put our crotches in the oven. It’s the kind of sticky heat that leads to perennial complaints from the Dutch tribe. Alvin Queen flew over from Geneva to The Netherlands, Rotterdam to be exact. He’s here for the North Sea Jazz Festival and a performance with trumpeter and bandleader Charles Tolliver and the Rotterdam Youth Orchestra. His schedule reads like the itinerary of a foreign minister who is visiting a much-anticipated climate conference and wastes two pairs of shoes in a period of 36 hours. The soles of Mr. Queen’s footwear, not to mention his sticks and brushes, have to endure a lot. There isn’t any time to be wasted. Plane, hotel, rehearsal, hotel, soundcheck, performance, hotel and… plane.

Rehearsal with a capital R. It is scheduled from 2 to 9, which surpasses the 10 to 4 at the Five Spot extravaganzas of the classic era of jazz. An imaginary octet of jazz courts jesters overheard his remark that ‘I never heard of no rehearsal of seven hours’ and add an extra hour of Rehearsal. Tough luck. The immaculate professional takes it in stride. If anything, it’s a jazz family affair. A gift from King Queen to Prince Charles. “I usually don’t play in big bands. I’m not a good reader and have never really liked it. There is no opportunity to be a creative artist. I prefer the spontaneity of small ensembles.”

Alvin Queen is 74 years old, by no means an old-timer but an elder statesman beyond doubt. He’s the same age as some former fusion artists, who also wear the officious label of veterans, but comes from a totally different jazz planet. When fusion and electric jazz reigned supreme in the early 1970’s, Queen, student of mentor Elvin Jones, participant in the gospel scene of Scepter Records and the black organ jazz club circuit, drummer of the Horace Silver and George Benson bands, changed his course. Queen regularly toured in Europe with Charles Tolliver’s original installment of Music Incorporation and rejoined Horace Silver’s quintet. The continent of new opportunities continued to beckon and after a two-year stay in Montréal and many gigs in Europe, Queen settled permanently in Geneva, Switzerland in 1979, “Baby Queen” to the touring elder statesmen of jazz such as Ray Brown, Clark Terry, Harry “Sweets” Edison, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis and Milt Jackson. The halcyon days.

FM: When you were playing with Horace Silver again in the early and mid-1970’s, what was the repertoire?
AQ: “When you make a hit record, that’s what people want to hear. I was sick of Song Of My Father! Horace said that we had to play it and we sometimes played it two or three times a night. That was the way it went. Miles had to play So What, Coltrane My Favorite Things and Cannonball Adderley Mercy Mercy Mercy by Joe Zawinul. We also played Sēnor Blues and Filthy McNasty. But then Horace changed up and started going into spirituality and recorded the United State Of Mind records. One night I said, ‘Horace, all that Hare Krishna stuff, God, what is going on?’ He said, ‘Alvin, I haven’t changed my music, it’s just the lyrics’.”

(Horace Silver, Michael Brecker, Tom Harrell, AQ, bassist Anthony Jackson not pictured, Philadelphia 1973)

FM: I heard a story that while you were with Horace Silver, you also took care of business for Stan Kenton. Something to do with loose women.
AQ: “That’s right. We were playing the Jazz Showcase in Chicago around the time of In Pursuit Of The Seventh Man. We were staying in the Merlin hotel. Kenton was in the hotel and he had a whole lotta money in his hands. Whores were standing around and keeping an eye on him. I said, ‘Stan, come on, man, put the money away.’ I took him up, put him to bed, kept the money in envelopes. I left him a message to call me in the morning. It was right in time before they would stick him up, haha!”

FM: It tells me you were on the ball and dependable, two things you also need as a drummer.
AQ: That’s right. Apart from swing.

FM: You played a lot in Europe in the 1970’s and eventually settled there permanently in 1979. Why did you decide to go and live in Europe and why Geneva?
AQ: “Well, the American scene was electrified, the music had changed, you had big acts like Weather Report. I had a taste in the early seventies with Charles Tolliver and Stanley Cowell. I met my future wife in Geneva at a party and that is how I managed to stay there eventually. The location was perfect. I could go to France and Germany. I was in the center of things. Important guys like Francy Boland and Pierre Michelot asked for my services. Europe was good to me.”

“I worked with Duke’s bassist, Jimmy Woode in 1972. It’s a funny story. When I was twelve years old, I recorded in New York City. They hired Joe Newman as musical director and he hired Zoot Sims, Hank Jones and Art Davis. Harold Mabern substituted for Hank. I was 12! It was never released. So, when I came to Europe, Jimmy and Joe were arguing about me, Joe saying, ‘I did his record!’. From my association with Jimmy Woode, I ended up with the older generation of musicians, you see. Harry “Sweets” Edison, Clark Terry, Dolo Coker, Lockjaw Davis. At that time, all Count Basie’s men came as individuals to do gigs. A very important thing for me was that I became the house drummer of the festival in Nice in the South of France. You had Oliver Jackson, Gus Johnson, Panama Francis and me. Sometimes, you know, one of them got boozed up and drunk, that was fine because I would play two sets a day and get even more money that way! I played with people like Marian McPartland, Wild Bill Davis, Guy Lafitte, Michel Goudry, George Arvanitas, Michel Saraby and Pierre Boussaguet. I played all over France from then on.”

(Jimmy Woode & Harry “Sweets” Edison, Nice 1980s; Ray Brown & Milt Jackson; Charles Tolliver)

FM: A lot of the greats that you played with at that time, Milt Jackson, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Ray Brown, Dexter Gordon, they played with Charlie Parker. Did they talk about Charlie Parker?
AQ: “They always talked about Parker at the dinner table and such. It was between Parker and Billie Holiday. Later on, when I played with Oscar Peterson, he would talk about Billie Holiday all the time.”

FM: How did you got involved with the great Ray Brown?
AQ: He heard a lot about me long before we came into contact, about 15 years before that. Everybody was talkin’, Ray knew about me and he said, ‘Queen, I’m gonna get you someday!’ That was the way it went those days. So, I came to Europe and needed work. Jimmy Woode spread the news, ‘I saw this kid, he can play…’ Ray and I would bypass each other all the time. I was playing with Milt Jackson and John Clayton at the time. John also talked with Ray. So, when Ray did his 70th Birthday Party in Paris with Roy Hargrove, Art Farmer, Jacky Terrason and Pierre Boussaguet, Ray said, ‘Come on, Queen, only time we got a chance, let’s do this…’ We established a fine relationship. Ray was playing a lot in Zürich back then.”

FM: Speaking of Milt Jackson. You always hear that he didn’t enjoy playing in the Modern Jazz Quartet and that he wanted to get out there and swinging. Do you think that’s true?
AQ: “The Modern Jazz Quartet was a conservative group and John Lewis was a very classical type of person. The group was created company-wise, there was equal share for each musician and it was one of the most exclusive, highly-paid bands. The thing is, they did the Carnegie Hall, tuxedo and bow tie kind of thing but went to places áfter the gig to jam. Connie Kay went to Jimmy Ryan’s a lot. He played with guys like Major Holley and Roy Eldridge. Milt said to me, ‘I can make John Lewis swing, man!’ But if you heard Milt with the MJQ, he sounds different than with Ray Brown and Monty Alexander at Shelly’s Manne-Hole. (That’s The Way It Is and Just The Way It Had To Be – Impulse 1969/70, FM) I played with Milt and Sadik Hakim in Montréal at the time of his Olinga album. I knew where he came from and he was swinging. Anyway, we all did that, jamming after the gig, Coltrane, Stan Getz, everybody.”

FM: You also went to Africa in the early 1970’s. how did that come about and what you did do out there?
AQ: “That was something that came about through the National Endowment of the Arts. Randy Weston and Nina Simone signed up for me in support. I did performances and workshops in ten countries, from Ghana, Gabon, Burkina Faso and Cameroun to Benin, Togo and Zaire. Every African country had embassies in the USA and I played at the residencies of ambassadors in Africa.”

FM: Your album Ashanti is very African in nature. It’s one of your finest records. What was the idea behind that record?
AQ: Well, after we did the music in the studio, I got the idea of doing a drum battle. I played against each track and so, with two drummers going on, we got this special vibe. The name had nothing to do with the Ashanti people. My wife had an old custom mask that she had gotten many years ago in Africa on the marketplace. It’s not an Ashanti mask, by the way. But the first thing I said when we had recorded the album and I saw the mask was, ‘ashanti’. That record was very successful.”

FM: It was released on your record label Nilva. Why did you start your record label?
AQ: I started Nilva because no one was producing me. I made so much money in Europe, I didn’t know what to do with it. I had never made that kind of money. I watched what Charles Tolliver did with Strata-East. I had a radio tape and produced my own record. (Alvin Queen in Europe, FM) Then a friend told me, if you got an ice cream company, you gotta have all flavors… So I went to New York and did the Ashanti record. It took off and I did those records with Dusko Goykovich, Junior Mance. John Hicks was on most of the stuff. I was very close with John Hicks. I produced Ray Drummond’s record with Branford Marsalis.” (Susanita, 1984, FM)

FM: Why did you quit eventually?
AQ: “The business changed. I was a one-man operation. It was impossible for me to put all that stuff on CD.”

FM: As a drummer, you encapsulate both Elvin Jones-inspired playing and straight swing, it’s very interesting to hear.
AQ: “I was there with Tony Williams at the time. I saw the change from time keeping to free playing. I watched Elvin Jones and Roy Haynes, who had started that thing with Sarah Vaughan. He was low in the mix but you could hear it, the triplet style. Tony and Ron Carter played double with Miles. All drummers followed these guys. Later on, in Europe, the older guys would tell me, stop dropping them bombs… We couldn’t play free like that. It was tempo first. All drummers followed Tony and Elvin but no one turned back to Denzil Best or Shadow Wilson or J.C. Heard. But you need them tóo. There’s no background to a lot of players today, you see. If you say, let’s play the blues, they collapse. I’d be glad to teach them! If you pay respect, I’ll help you out.”

FM: You can’t do without the lessons from the elders.
AQ: “I sat around listening to all those stories from Ray Brown and Oscar Peterson. That already is one thing how you learn to play, that’s by keeping your ears open. These guys teach you how to be solid, not to move around. It’s good to play with all these different personalities. Nowadays, it’s technique. The time is weaker than the technique. That’s the problem.”

FM: Perhaps there should be more of those, but I do know young players here in Holland who soak up everything local and international old masters do and have to say 24/7. That’s the spirit.
AQ: “That’s good but the school and industrial system remains problematic. Bandleaders are not supported. The real masters are not supported. I’ve never been supported and I know a lot, you see? What I have to give don’t make money. What they’re giving us is a market of people that aren’t masters yet. In the history of jazz, all new leaders came out of working groups. They came from the bands of Coleman Hawkins, Max Roach, Art Blakey and not from school. I had no problem getting along with the older musicians because I had that type of training at home. Respect your elders. I was in the bands of Harry “Sweets” Edison, Arnett Cobb, Jay McShann, Buddy Tate. If you were with the elders, you stayed out of the conversation. You didn’t have that experience, so it was best to be quiet and learn.”

“Most professional teachers are not real bandstand players. They teach you the notes but not the experience of the bandstand. I tell younger musicians, who you wanna copy? Who you wanna be? I wanted to be Art Blakey, Elvin Jones. I found a sound for myself. I was in the bands of Horace Silver, George Braith, Larry Young. They said, ‘don’t do this, do that, pay attention, take the grime out of your ears, put your mind to it, use the brain, not the notes.’ That’s how I learned. We don’t have that connection between bands and new leaders and that’s a serious problem. Education is great but it’s totally different than the bandstand. I played with everybody on earth. I gave mine but I just watch where things could improve.”

(AQ, Oscar Peterson & Dave Young, North Sea Jazz Festival, 2005; photography Evert-Jan Hielema)

FM: In your definition, the last generation of masters probably is the one that came up in the 1990’s. You played with a lot of those, the Marsalis brothers, Nicholas Payton. Roy Hargrove.
AQ: “Roy Hargrove only played his gigs when he came in and sat in with granddaddies that were lightyears older than him. I was playing a gig with Dado Moroni and Walter Booker and young Roy was sitting on the side of the steps. He hit me in the leg, ‘hey, Mr. Queen, can I sit in?’. ‘Yeah man,’ I said, ‘that’s where the microphone is right there.’ I loved Roy Hargrove. He admired the elders and loved to play with them. He wanted to know where it was at before it was too late. His experience is sadly missed in New York. He had an every-night jam session going on, man.”

FM: So, we don’t have to expect to have any new young masters?
AQ: “Not if we don’t have bands and leaders, we won’t. A master is a guy who can hold a beautiful tone which blends in with everything. In the Basie band, all trumpeters went into a room and each held one note, so it would sound like one. The ‘one note school.’ I used to sit real close and watch the group of Thelonious Monk. I would hear the gut string of the bass. Wilbur Ware would play one note, no amplification, and it went like, BOOM. The bottles rattled behind the bar. They’re masters. One of the problems today is that 90 % of the musicians move around and don’t stay sturdy.”

FM: Are you going to release some new stuff in the near future?
AQ: “I’m working on a new record right now. It has Tommy Morimoto on saxophone. He’s been running around for twenty years but nobody ever gave him a break. Carlton Holmes is on piano and Danton Boller on bass. He was with Roy Hargrove. I met him through Benny Wallace. I don’t want any people with names. I don’t want four bandleaders on stage, there’s gonna be conflict. I’d rather be the only one there.”

“It will feature four-or-five minute tunes like The Night Has A Thousand Eyes and It Ain’t Necessarily So. I want people to listen to the radio and think, wow, where has that song been? The trick in music is to keep it simple. Let it happen, don’t try to make it happen. If your grow, the music is a part of you. With life, you grow. Music is like food. If you’re a chef in the kitchen, the food tastes better years from now than it does at the present because you learn how to cook the food right.”

“I paid my dues, I have a right to make a statement. I never said I was a mentor because I never reach my goal. When I die, I still haven’t reached it. I just go to another dimension. If I reach my goal, there’s no reason to create anymore. Too many people think that they are already there. That’s when you’re blocking your goal. I went to Oscar Peterson and asked him one time, ‘tell me something, how does it feel to be a genius?’ He said, ‘come into the room and shut the door and sit down!’ He said: ‘Look, people say I’m a genius. But I’m an ordinary piano player like you are an ordinary drummer.’ Great wisdom. And when I die, I die with the basics, with the wisdom.”

Alvin Queen


Harry “Sweets” Edison: “Alvin reminds me of the original drummers that I worked with in the 30’s and 40’s. He has it all. I have to play at 150% of my capacity. If not, he’ll put me out of stage. Alvin keeps me young every note I play with him. He’s fantastic.”

Clark Terry: “Alvin is one of the most swinging drummers of all time that I know and have played with.”

Ray Brown: “Alvin is not only one of the top drummers for sure but also one of the most swinging and crazy guys that I know.”

Frank Wess: There’s only one Alvin Queen in the jazz world. Period!”

Kenny Drew: “If Alvin leaves the trio, I’ll never hire another drummer.”

Selected Discography:

As a leader:
In Europe (Nilva 1980)
Ashanti (Nilva 1981)
Lenox & Seventh (with Lonnie Smith – Black & Blue 1985)
I’m Back (Nilva 1992)
Nishville (Moju 1998)
Hear Me Drummin’ To Ya! (Jazzette 2000)
This Is Uncle Al (with Jesper Thilo – Music Mecca 2001)
I Ain’t Looking At You (Justin Time 2005)
O.P. (Stunt 2018)
Night Train To Copenhagen (Stunt 2021)

As a sideman:
Charles Tolliver, Impact (Strata-East 1975)
Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Jaw’s Blues (Enja 1981)
John Patton, Soul Connection (Nilva 1983)
Guy Lafitte/Wild Bill Davis, Three Men On A Beat (Black & Blue 1983)
Pharaoh Sanders, A Prayer Before Dawn (Evidence 1987)
Tete Montoliu, Barcelona Meeting (Fresh Sound 1988)
Kenny Drew Trio, Standard Request: Live At Keystone Corner (Alfa 1991)
George Coleman, At Yoshi’s (Evidence 1992)
Pierre Boussaguet, Trio Charme (EmArcy 1998)
Cedric Caillaud Trio, Swinging The Count (Fresh Sound 2012)

Check out Alvin’s website here.

Dado Moroni There Is No Greater Love (Storyville 2022)


Moroni is swinging till the girls come home.

Dado Moroni - There Is No Greater Love


Dado Moroni (piano), Jesper Lundgaard (bass), Lee Pearson (drums)


on May 20 & 21, 2016 at Club Montmartre, Copenhagen


as Storyville 1018493 in 2022

Track listing

There Is No Greater Love
Just One Of Those Things
First Smile
My Foolish Heart
C Jam Blues

Sixty-year-old Dado Moroni entered the jazz realm as a striking young lion in 1980, made a big impression in New York the following decade and prowled the globe as accompanist of giants as Clark Terry and Ray Brown. He has been a notable recording artist with George Robert, Tom Harrell, Enrico Rava and Peter Washington/Lewis Nash and performed with a who’s who of jazz including Dizzy Gillespie, Ron Carter, Joe LaBarbera, Nicholas Payton and many others. Carrying a long list of albums in his hip pocket, the current professor of jazz piano in Turin, Italy has nothing to prove. Yet, Storyville saw fit to release a live performance from 2016 at the famed Club Montmartre in Copenhagen when the Danish bassist Jesper Lundgaard heard the tapes and concluded that the trio was on top of its form.

Absolutely right, sir. If anything has become clear, it’s that swinging jazz is here to stay, even when the set list consists of old warhorses. Moroni has no qualms about swinging standards to the ground. Just One Of Those Things is particularly furious, not least because of the precise and energetic accompaniment of Lundgaard and American drummer Lee Pearson. Perhaps, There Is No Greater Love reveals the ultimate synergy of the trio, moving from breeze to sweet thunder, the underpinnings of Pearson’s brushes smooth as velvet, his sticks stoking up the fire, Lundgaard steering the locomotive through the fog, Moroni showcasing his special talent of playing simultaneously subtly and fiery. Somewhere between the buoyancy of Oscar Peterson and the long-lined beauty of Cedar Walton, Moroni has found his spot from where he elaborates on the tradition with consistent excellence.

The challenge of Django, the beatific melody of John Lewis which characteristic movements potentially paralyze urges of original improvisation, is met succinctly by Moroni, who by the way got his nickname “Dado” because he continually tripped over his real name Edgardo as a child. Moroni packages the homage to Django Reinhardt in Latin rhythm and is involved in tidal waves of notes that threaten to ruin the coast but barely skirt by the tropical islands of its changes. Close call but mission accomplished.

My Foolish Heart is marked by a strong bass solo. C-jam Blues is a hard-driving tour de force by Moroni. The sole original composition First Smile reveals shades of As Time Goes By. As time went by, the infectious virtuosity of Moroni has been documented by various labels since 2016, solidifying his reputation as the to-go-to Italian piano stallion of his generation.

Here are some Moroni highlights.

Check out a gorgeous trio version of What’s New from What’s New (1992); Reportedly, Moroni is proud of his solo albums The Way I Am (1994) and With Duke In Mind (1994). Rightly so. Listen to I Can’t Get Started and Ellington’s There Was Nobody Looking.

George Robert and Moroni take on Stablemates on Youngbloods (1995); Young Moroni is the tie that binds Swinging Till The Girls Come Home on Ray Brown/Pierre Boussaguet’s Two Bass Hits (1988); Last but not least, John Coltrane’s Giant Steps from Ray Brown’s Some Of My Best Friends Are The Piano Players (1994), plainly brilliant, find it on the full album at 29:10.

Here’s The Nearness Of You with Tom Harrell (2007); Moroni’s exciting composition Ghanian Village Live At Beverly Hills with Marco Panascia and Peter Erskine (2010); Plus a feature on drummer Alex Riel’s Full House from 2012, collaborating strongly on Just Friends.

Check out a compilation of Dado Moroni solos with Clark Terry live in 1994 on YouTube, featuring Pierre Boussaguet on bass and Alvin Queen on drums, one of the hardest-swinging trios of the era here!

Dado Moroni

This is an elaboration on my review of There Is No Greater Love for Jazz Journal UK. Thanks for the musical references, Jean-Michel Reisser-Beethoven.

Final note: Sadly, Lundgaard suffered a stroke which has stopped him from playing bass. Veteran of performances with Dexter Gordon, Chet Baker and many others, he has put an exclamation point on his recording career with typically strong and responsive playing.

Find There Is No Greater Love here.

Pierre Boussaguet2

My Man With The Cassette

Nowadays Pierre Boussaguet writes arrangements for classical ballets and is finishing a record of songs and lyrics besides being a bassist steeped in mainstream jazz. He reflects on the many lessons that he has learned from giants and friends like Ray Brown, Jimmy Woode, Guy Lafitte and Tete Montoliu. “Thank you is not enough to express the feelings of gratitude that I’ve been having the last few years.”

Klook. Baron. Little Bird. Mr. Five by Five. Social intercourse among giants of jazz required nicknames that were invented with the typical playfulness and spontaneity of the jazz artist. When Americans were in Europe, they often made up aka’s for their European disciples. One such disciple, French bassist Pierre Boussaguet, was on tour with Monty Alexander in Japan in 1986. Harry “Sweets” Edison was the special guest. Boussaguet and Edison had never met before and said hello shortly before the start of the show. Suddenly, during the concert, Edison said to Pierre, “give me a B flat, please” and they went into I Wish I Knew. At the end of the tune, the trumpeter approached Boussaguet and said, “hey, by the way, I don’t remember your name, what’s your name again?” Boussaguet repeated it but Edison still didn’t understand. He said, “You French, right? Ok, I got it.” He took the microphone and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, on bass we have Mr. Charles de Gaulle” in that typical Americanized French tongue. Everybody cracked up. Since that day, Boussaguet went by the nickname of “Charles de Gaulle”.

When Boussaguet was born in Albi in 1960, “General” de Gaulle had just started his presidency of the Fifth Republic. Unlike De Gaulle, who was met with great distrust from the American liberators, Boussaguet turned into a dependable and exceptional colleague and friend of American jazz greats, which finally teached him everything he needed to know about jazz. A long journey, that started in that medium-sized town in the South of France, where Boussaguet played accordion as a kid in a family that was non-musical except as fans of music for dancing. One day, Boussaguet was invited to a jazz concert by a friend. A life-changing event. “It was a performance by Ray Bryant and it was a shock! I was enthralled by Jimmy Rowser. I grabbed the arm of my friend and said, “that’s it, that’s what I will be doing!”. It was the first time that I saw an upright bass. The first time I heard a walking bass line. I had no idea what the heck he was doing.”

Lots of great Jimmy’s out there. Another bassist, the great Jimmy Woode, turned out to be a game-changing mentor. After a cautious start with raggedy upright basses and bits of classical schooling, the talented Boussaguet finally came around to playing professionally with a local quintet. As fate would have it, he met Woode at a festival in his hometown Albi. “We were on the same bill. Woode played with Sweets, Dolo Coker, John Collins and Alvin Queen. I gathered courage to approach Woode with a cassette of our quintet and asked if he would accept it to take a listen and get back to me by letter. Unfortunately, there was no answer so I assumed that he had forgotten all about it. Then after four months I ran into him at another festival nearby. There were Sweets, Benny Carter, Oliver Jackson. I didn’t dare say hi to those guys! Suddenly, when I passed by, Woode said, “hey hold it, that’s my man with the cassette!” It turned out that his wallet had been stolen after the Albi gig on the train and that he was unable to get into contact. In fact, Woode had listened to the tape and he invited me to his home in Zürich, said I had potential but needed a teacher. I was in Zürich for ten days. It was marvelous. A great man.”

Paris. Darkness and light just that little bit more melancholic and vivacious than in other cities. Headstrong metropole. Post-war cross-pollination with the USA. Sartre and his turtleneck sweater philosophy. The ‘Parisienne look’ an international fashion phenomenon. Jazz town with a capital J. Miles Davis and Juliette Gréco strolling along the Seine. Home to many of the greatest. Sidney Bechet. Kenny Clarke at Le Chat Qui Pêche. Smoke mingling with Pierre Michelot’s warm-blooded bounce. Godard creating swinging movies. Talking turkey the essence on approximately three thousand inner city patios. Magnet for aspiring artists. Here, Pierre Boussaguet lives about six months per year. He went there in 1985, burgeoning bassist, trying to make a break. “Almost nowhere else to go. Juan-les-Pins and Nice? Yes, there were the festivals of course. But France is a very centralized country. That’s not a political opinion but just an observation. It’s different in Germany, for instance. There you have different jazz centers like Berlin, Frankfurt and Hamburg.”

“Paris has been my home jazz base for a lifetime where I played with all those great guys I had met, Ray Brown, Benny Carter, Roy Hargrove. It’s a great place to have as a springboard to the rest of Europe. Let me tell you how I met Ray Brown. He was friends with Marc Hemmeler, a great French pianist. That’s how we met. Later on, I had dared to call him on the phone when he was in Zürich for two weeks in 1985. So, here I am half a year later, on tour with Charlie Byrd in Zürich. I had to make do with a bass from over there but it was unplayable, a mess. Earlier on I had seen the program and the band from Monty Alexander, Ray Brown and Herb Ellis was playing before us. Charlie apparently was the big name over there. So, Charlie said to me to tell Ray about the bass. When I met Ray he said, “good to see you, now I have a chance to hear you, you have an axe?” I told him about my problem. Ray commented on ‘that piece of shit’ and said for me to take his bass. I played it backstage. Herb heard me and sent for Ray. Ray said, “ok, you play like me, I will listen to the gig” and afterward he said, “this was a great chance to hear how I sound up there!” Then in the hotel, we had drinks and he said, “ok, Pierre, second lesson tomorrow! 8:30 in the morning sharp! You’re talented and progressed since last year.” I was at his room the next morning. The rest is history. We created the Two Bass Hits group. We became very good friends, called each other all the time just to have a chat.”

(Jimmy Woode; Ray Brown; Guy Lafitte, Pierre Boussaguet & producer Jean-Michel Reisser “Beethoven”; About Guy Lafitte: To me Guy has one of the greatest sounds on tenor in the history of jazz. We are from the South, share the same sense of melancholy and feelings for nature. He was like a second father to me and regarded me as his son.”)

In the 1990s, Boussaguet made a name for himself in New York and sealed a solid international reputation. He played and recorded with Clark Terry, Ray Brown, Monty Alexander, Joe Pass, Guy Lafitte, Milt Jackson and Wynton Marsalis. Strikingly, duo and trio settings are omnipresent in his discography. Carefully planned career path? Boussaguet, in his charming French-American accent, to settle it once and for all remarking that once he starts talking he never stops, explains: “No, it’s not a consciously planned thing at all. After a while I realized that I had achieved a lot of duets especially. I love that setting. The element of risk is involved. You’re trained to cover up missing notes, but that’s totally wrong in that concept. What you need to do is use the space, accept it and find the soul notes. It’s about melodic playing. I learned a lesson from Jimmy Woode about playing in different settings. After a gig in 1989 he said to me, “I have a question for you, Pierre. I don’t get it, you’re in a quartet but play as if you’re in a trio.” I thought, oh shit, yeah? He made me realize that you need to be aware of the concept that you’re playing in, whether it’s duo, trio, quintet or big band.”

“I think I’m doing what the old jazz men did. I prefer to hear the music over and over again and not think about notes and details. Get an impression as deep as I can about the general feeling and meaning.”

The University of the Streets, as legends used to call it. Trusting your ears, trusting the elders, trusting the years on the road. Self-declared part of the last generation that had ample opportunity to play with the biggest names in classic jazz, Boussaguet reflects on some of his career-defining associations. He’ll never forget his meetings with Tete Montoliu. “Oh man, Tete surely was one of the top players in the world. For some reason I was scared to play with him. At some point he asked me to play in a TV studio. I said, “well, Tete, I have a problem, I don’t know why but I’m scared to play with you…” He cracked up laughing and said, “I’m so happy that you’ve told me. I will tell you something. Don’t try to play for me but play against me. Then you oblige me to react and be creative. Take my word.” I thought, shoot, let’s try. It turned out like he said. Tete was so excited and so was I, there was no fear anymore.”

“Johnny Griffin told me something similar once. More prosaic. He said, “Baby, I just have one thing to ask you. Don’t ever play for someone, play what the fuck you want.”

Those were the days. “I’m not conservative and I’m not avantgarde. If you want to do this music, the second you decide to be the hippest guy on the planet, it means the next stop someone is going to go further than you. Then suddenly you have become old-fashioned. I enjoy old cars, not because I’m conservative, but because I love it. I’ve got a car that is more than 50-years-old. Of course, the engine is not as good as contemporary motor technology but it has stood the test of time. A swinging car? Definitely!”

(Ray Brown/Pierre Boussaguet/Dado Moroni, Two Bass Hits 1992; Guy Lafitte & Pierre Boussaguet, Crossings 1998; Pierre Boussaguet, Pour Ou Contrabasse 2010)

“I’m not nostalgic or anything. Not at all. I’m like a sociologist. My point is not to express my ego. I’m just observing. There are certain things in life that I like from the past and certain things from today. As far as my generation is concerned, we were really involved. Maybe too much so. But when I met Monty Alexander, the excitement was enormous. To have a chance to play with that guy, be in the same room, was something else. Today, people are at home and listen to solos on YouTube and are less interested to have a coffee with the masters and make him talk. I didn’t go to jazz school. So many things that I learned were from being around the masters, listening to their anecdotes and jokes. I remember the scent of their eau de cologne, the smoke of their cigarettes. There was nothing like listening to the sound of Guy Lafitte in a club. I have friends that have seen Duke Ellington live. There’s always someone doing better, right! They tell me that the sound of his band was unbelievable. It’s different than listening to a record. I’m not criticizing the younger generation, same as I think all those guys like Griffin weren’t criticizing us. The world has changed. Most of the giants are dead and gone. It’s all records and videos now.”

That may be true. But now Boussaguet is part of the experienced tribe that has plenty of peas to pass. “That’s right. The door’s always open.”

Pierre Boussaguet

Pierre Boussaguet played and recorded with Guy Lafitte, Ray Brown, Monty Alexander, Alvin Queen, Clark Terry, Milt Jackson, Johnny Griffin, Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Carter, Harry “Sweets” Edison, Phil Woods, Joe Henderson, Joe Pass, Kenny Burrell, Lee Konitz, Jimmy Rowles, Kenny Drew, Plas Johnson, Daniel Humair, Jesper Lundgaard, Randy Brecker, Terri Lynn Carrington, Alain Jean Marie, Martial Solal, Jeff Hamilton, Wynton Marsalis and Diane Krall, among others. He worked closely with Lalo Schifrin and Michel Legrand. Boussaguet is an acclaimed composer who skirts the borders of jazz, classical and world music with Meeting Point.

Selected discography:

Ray Brown/Pierre Boussaguet/Dado Moroni, Two Bass Hits (1992)
Guy Lafitte/Pierre Bousssaguet, Charme (1998)
Pierre Boussaguet, From The Duke To The King (2007)
Benjamin Koppel/Bobby Watson, At Ease (2008)
Pierre Boussaguet/Alain Jean Marie, Still Dukish (2012)
Pierre Boussaguet, Mother Land Quartet (2014)
Pierre Boussaguet, Meeting Point (2017)

Here’s Pierre with Milt Jackson. And with the Clark Terry Band. Finally, here Pierre is performing with Randy Brecker, very hot session.

Plas & Jazz


“Everybody on this planet knows Plas Johnson, perhaps not his name, but they have heard his saxophone!”, says his long-time friend Jean-Michel Reisser-Beethoven.

(Listen to Too Close For Comfort from This Is The Plas, 1959)

It might be prototypes of Archie Bunker or Al Bundy. Slumped on the couch. Or it might be a teenage couple in the movie theater in the 1960’s. They’re staring at the screen. A woman slowly and seductively starts to undress herself in front of a man, accompanied by lurid sax sounds. Or a bronze-colored guy wildly rides the West Coast waves on his surf board. Honking tenor. That’s The Plas that Jean-Michel is talking about. Perhaps not everybody knows his name but the whole Western Hemisphere, and a big part of the East and South, is familiar with Johnson’s sax line and solo on Henry Mancini’s iconic Pink Panther Theme. Heck, I was behind the drum kit a million moons ago in my first (and last) blues band doing a noisy version of it and not yet even knowing about Plas Johnson’s existence. Nowadays, the epic melody is a perennial favorite of my daughter at the piano.

No doubt, Plas Johnson holds the world record as most recorded saxophonist in the modern culture of movies, tv and popular music. Johnson made a career in Hollywood and – often as part of the class act Wrecking Crew including drummer Earl Palmer and bassist Carol Kaye – recorded with Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, B.B. King, Ricky Nelson, Johnny Otis and The Beach Boys, among hundreds of others. He was also the long-time saxophonist on the Merv Griffin Show.

Random choices:

  • Ella Fitzgerald, Sings The Harold Arlen Songbook
  • Sam Cooke, Twistin’ The Night Away
  • Henry Cain, The Funky Organization Of Henry Cain
  • Dr. John, Gris-Gris
  • Steely Dan, The Royal Scam


Johnson was born in Donaldsonville, Louisiana in 1931 and moved to Los Angeles in the early 1950’s, never looking back. At the age of 90, Johnson, according to Jean-Michel, is keeping his saxophone chops up and to remain in touch with jazz reality teaches a couple of youngsters. Likely, teaching will be about finding a personal sound and about versatility. Johnson’s sound is juicy, solid, with a generous blues-drenched touch. His multi-faceted career has its roots in Louisiana’s musical melting pot, where he started out as a singer and saxophonist in the groups of his family and brother.

Having but a few jazz recordings of Plas Johnson, I wondered where to look and how many mainstream jazz things Johnson has done. This is when Jean-Michel, friend of the likes of Johnson, Harry “Sweets” Edison, Wild Bill Davis and former manager of Ray Brown, comes in. (See past posts in coop with Jean-Michel about Jimmy Rowles and Ray Brown here and here.) The floor is Jean-Michel’s:

“Plas was one of the very first black guys that worked in the studios in L.A. Those days, they unfortunately didn’t have a chance. Actually, the first was Buddy Colette, he could read and play all the horns. I think the second is Plas. He plays soprano, alto, baritone, trombone, flute! He’s a good reader. That’s why he was successful in L.A. And of course, he has that very special sound. You can go shopping, eat in a restaurant, sooner of later you will hear sax on a rock or pop record. That’s him! What’s great about him, he was able to adapt his style to many different situations and artists. Very few people are able to do that.”

“Plas also recorded as ‘Johnny Beecher’ and in different instrumental groups as B. Bumble & The Stingers. Him and Ray Brown told me that they did many more recordings that aren’t even known. Record companies didn’t mention the black guys and put the wrong names and pictures of white musicians on the sleeves, can you believe it? Terrible. It was the same story with ghost arrangers. It was hard for Plas but after a while he accepted it. He got paid.”

“He said to me that he did all this different music for the money. He said: ‘I played jazz… not to go totally crazy!’ Some people went nuts. Bud Shank played on hundreds of songs as well, he was everywhere. He became very depressed and tired because he didn’t play jazz anymore. One night Bud’s wife called Ray and said that Bud wasn’t doing well. So Ray visited him and decided to form the L.A. Four. This way Bud could play a bit more jazz. So Plas had two lives, by day he was in the studios and at night he played jazz. Crazy, right! On alto, Plas had four influences: Louis Jordan, Benny Carter, Eddie ‘Cleanhead’ Vinson and Johnny Hodges. His tenor heroes were Illinois Jacquet and Chu Berry.

“Ray was a big name on the Concord label. He called Plas and said, ‘hey man, I want you to do a real jazz album with me, you choose the guys. That became the successful album The Blues with Ray, Herb Ellis, Sweets, Jake Hanna and Mike Melvoin. A day before the recording session, Ray was driving with his wife and she said that she had to do some shopping. She said, ‘don’t go with me, it’ll only take five minutes, I’ll be back.’ After ninety minutes, his wife still wasn’t there. So Ray’s in the car, saying ‘shit…’, you know. That’s when he wrote that tune, Parking Lot Blues, waiting for his wife. The next day he came to the studio and said, ‘hey, Plas, I think I’ve got a new tune…’. Everybody loved it. It was a big hit for Plas.”

“I first met him at the festival in Nice in 1982. He played with Sweets and Jimmy Cobb, among others. What a band. After that, I saw him play with Wild Bill Davis many times. I did these tours with Ray and often Wild Bill and Plas were on the same bill. I like his record with Wild Bill a lot, That’s All, with drummer Butch Miles, a killer trio!

(Listen to Parking Lot Blues from The Blues, 1975; Fatty McSlatty from After You’re Gone, 1975 and I’ve Found A New Baby from Live At Concord, 1975)

(Listen to Good Bait from On The Trail, 1991 and Airmail Special from World Tour, 1990)

(Listen to Where Or When from That’s All, 1991; Keep That Groove Going from Keep That Groove Going, 2001 and From C To Shining C from *From C To Shining C, 2009)

Plas Johnson

Selected discography:

Plas Johnson:
This Must Be The Plas (Capitol 1959)
Mood For The Blues (Capitol 1960)
The Blues (Concord 1975)
Positively (Concord 1976)
On The Trail (with Totti Bergh, Gemini 1991)
Evening Delight (Carell 1999)
Keep That Groove Going (with Red Holloway, Milestone 2001)

Featuring Plas Johnson:
– Benny Carter, Aspects (United Artists 1959)
– Herb Ellis & Ray Brown, After You’re Gone (Concord 1975)
– The Hanna / Fontana Band, Live At Concord (Concord 1975)
– Wild Bill Davis Super Trio, That’s All (Jazz Connaisseur 1991)
– Gene Harris & The Philip Morris Superband, World Tour (Concord 1990)
– Rhoda Scott, From C To Shining C (Doodlin’ Records 2009)

On the road with Ray Brown


I received a message from Jean-Michel Reisser Beethoven, former manager of bassist Ray Brown, among others. Elsewhere in Flophouse Magazine, Jean-Michel contributed great, enlightening stories about Ray Brown’s Bass Hit and pianist Jimmy Rowles. Jean-Michel was producer and musical consultant of many documentaries on the Muzzik channel in the ’90s, nowadays Mezzo, and hipped me to Ray Brown: Súr la route.

It was uploaded on YouTube on May 14, watch it here.

The documentary by Patrick Savey follows Ray Brown, one of the all-time great bass players in jazz, during his European tour in 1996. Musings about his career alternate with footage from his trio with pianist Jacky Terrasson and drummer Alvin Queen in the New Morning club in Paris. The trio is joined by trumpeters Roy Hargrove and Art Farmer, while bassist Pierre Boussaguet duets with the master. It is particularly gratifying, a bit of melancholy is involved as well, to see the lamented Hargrove, who passed away on November 2, 2018 at the age of 49, shine brightly in the presence of Boss Brown. Hargrove was a young lion and destined to become one of the figureheads of contemporary mainstream jazz. Besides, this band cooked!

Jean-Michel reflects on the tour and documentary: “Ray chose Jacky and Roy for those gigs. He really loved them a lot. Ray, Jacky and Pierre Boussaguet constituted the Two Bass Hit trio from 1988 till 1996. We wanted to have Johnny Griffin but he cancelled at the last minute. Then we asked Benny Golson, who was in Europe, but he couldn’t make it. So finally we asked Art.”

“It was the beginning of HD video. We only had 2 camera’s and a couple of mikes to do those documentaries those days, that was it.”

Súr la route is a great reminder of the hypnotizing rhythm of Ray Brown from Pittsburg, jazz giant, who played and recorded with Count Basie, Lester Young, Billy Holiday, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Milt Jackson, Sonny Rollins and many, many more and is famous for his long stint with Oscar Peterson.

Ray Brown passed away in 2002 at the age of 75.

Ray Brown - Bass Hit

Ray Brown Bass Hit! (Verve 1956)

Ray Brown fronting an all-white band in 1956 was a major musical-social event. Bass Hit also happened to be a beautifully conceived hot date.

Ray Brown - Bass Hit


Ray Brown (bass), Pete Candoli, Conrad Gozzo, Ray Linn & Harry “Sweets” Edison (trumpet), Herbie Harper (trombone), Jack DuLong & Herb Geller (alto saxophone), Jimmy Giuffre (clarinet, tenor saxophone), Bill Holman (tenor saxophone), Jimmy Rowles (piano), Herb Ellis (guitar), Mel Lewis & Alvin Stoller (drums), Marty Paich (arranger)


on November 21 & 23, 1956 in Los Angeles


MG V-8022 in 1956

Track listing

Side A:
Bass Introduction/Blues For Sylvia
All Of You
Everything I Have Is Yours
Will You Still Be Mine
Side B:
Little Toe
Alone Together
Solo For Unaccompanied Bass
My Foolish Heart
Blues For Lorraine/Bass Conclusion

Ray Brown’s flawless technique, abundant swing and elegant interplay got him at the top of the heap, playing with Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Count Basie, Benny Carter, Illinois Jacquet, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Milt Jackson, Oscar Peterson, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Frank Sinatra. The list is endless. His work with the Ray Brown Trio in the 80s and 90s – Brown intermittently worked in the Hollywood studios – is peerless and his influence on subsequent generations is everlasting. Most of all, Brown, himself influenced by the legendary Jimmy Blanton, had a great, buttery tone and a unique gift for finding the right note at the right time. Ooh wee. How many times have I listened to an Oscar Peterson record and, for all Peterson’s commanding virtuosity and swing, have felt myself being inevitably drawn to Ray Brown, like a kid to the candy store? His enormous energy was overwhelming. I saw him perform just this once in my hometown’s legendary jazz club, Porgy & Bess. Brown’s giant groove, underscored by the radiant grin on his face, drove the band through the roof.

Brown, Pittsburgh-born, came on the scene in New York in 1946 and established himself from the word go. His alliance with Oscar Peterson in 1951 led to worldwide recognition and, by his own account, made him a considerably better player. By 1956, Brown had contributed his outstanding skills and groove to, among others, Johnny Hodges’ The Blues, Count Basie’s Basie Jazz, Roy Eldridge’s Rockin’ Chair, Benny Carter’s, Alone Together, Billie Holiday’s Lady Day, Lester Young’s Prez & Sweets, Charlie Parker’s Big Band, Illinois Jacquet’s Swing’s The Thing, Dizzy Gillespie’s Diz And Getz and Roy And Diz, Hank Jones’ Urbanity, Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong’s Ella & Louis and an ever-growing slew of Oscar Peterson records. Almost all of them were on the Clef and Verve labels of Norman Granz, for whom the dependable and brilliant Ray Brown was a godsend.

Come 1956. Times were rough. The Supreme Court decision of Brown vs Board Of Education was a landmark event in 1954. It established the unconstitutionality of segregation in public schools. However, the ruling, further recorded in BBE part 2, proved something of a Pyrrhus victory, as states could choose to desegregate with “all deliberate speed.” Then there was Rosa Parks, who courageously refused to give up her seat in the segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955. Some brave women, lest we forget – like Claudette Colvin – preceded the Montgomery Bus Boycott but it was Parks that turned into a symbol of rebellion and civil rights. Finally, the state court repealed bus segregation on November 16 – a week before the Ray Brown session. The protests nonetheless backfired considerably. Jim Crow wasn’t about to give in that easily.

The mid-50s was an era in which many black musicians still hesitated when the opportunity of touring the South arose. If they did travel south, they were not allowed in white-owned hotels and bunked at private places. Against this background, a jazz outing like Bass Hit – a black man leading a white orchestra – is significant. Jazz, like any great art form, may have been the battleground of plenty of cultural warfare but it never failed to contribute to progress and the growth of understanding, much in a fashion that Martin Luther King would have appreciated. Benny Goodman hired Teddy Wilson and Charlie Christian. Pearl Bailey was married to Louie Bellson. Miles Davis was, with sound reason, a motherfucker with an attitude, but Bill and Gil Evans were, for an eponymous time, his main men. The list of groundbreaking interracial mingling is impressive. Jazz, at its best, has no borders of any kind, is a game changer equal or arguably superior to the political process.

Bass Hit was recorded on November 21 and 23, 1956 in Los Angeles. It featured Pete Candoli on trumpet, Herbie Harper on trombone, Jack DuLong on alto saxophone, Jimmy Giuffre on clarinet and tenor saxophone, Bill Holman on tenor saxophone, Jimmy Rowles on piano, Herb Ellis on guitar and Mel Lewis on drums. Altoist Herb Geller and trumpeters Ray Gill, Conrad Gozzo and Harry “Sweets” Edison (black but a minor role) strengthen the reeds and brass. Drummer Alvin Stoller subbed for Mel Lewis on a few cuts. Marty Paich was the arranger.

I’ve always wondered how it came about that Brown fronted an all-white band, yet there’s not much in the way of recorded evidence or info. Therefore, I reached out to Jean-Michel Reisser-Beethoven from Lausanne, Switzerland, whom I came to know through the jazz forum Jazz Vinyl Lovers on Facebook. 56-year old Jean-Michel grew up with parents who were passionate lovers of jazz and befriended many visiting jazz legends. At age 3, Jean-Michel sat on the lap of Count Basie. When Jean-Michel was a young man, Ray Brown, having grown tired of managing himself, asked the young jazz buff to do his management. Jean-Michel managed Ray Brown for many years and, in the process, also worked for Harry “Sweets” Edison, J.J. Johnson, Joe Pass, Monty Alexander and many more.

Coincidentally, when we talked on the phone, it turned out that decades ago Jean-Michel had been visiting jazz club Porgy & Bess in Terneuzen regularly in his managerial role, at which time I, unbeknownst of his existence, was also present during performances of some of the jazz legends. A clear case of amazing serendipity, which warms my heart.

At any rate, here’s what Jean-Michel found out about Bass Hit through his conversations with Ray Brown and, to a lesser extent, Jimmy Rowles, Mel Lewis and Pete Candoli:

“It was Ray’s idea to do a big band album with him as a feature. Of course, a decade earlier Ray was featured on One Bass Hit and Two Bass Hit, which he wrote for Dizzy Gillespie. Ray told me that he had had in mind the idea of making a record with the bass as lead feature for many years. But his idea was too advanced for that time and in the late 40s you could hardly hear the bass. He always talked about it with Norman Granz, who approved of the concept. But the years went by, till Ray finally said it was the time to do it.

“Why did he record in Los Angeles? Well, in those days, the Oscar Peterson Trio did about 299 concerts in 300 days, it was crazy! The only way to do it was Los Angeles, because contrary to New York, they had long engagements on the West Coast, like two or three weeks at Zardy’s. So recording in Los Angeles was most convenient.

“Ray called his friends. Marty Paich. He loved the arrangements of Paich. Jimmy Rowles, Herb Ellis, Mel Lewis. Everybody was delighted to cooperate with Brown on such a special session. Ray wasn’t conscious of the fact that he was to lead an all-white band. He just called the friends that he wanted for the job. There weren’t many black people in the movie studios. Only a few, like Benny Carter. Now this record had a lot of impact. But Ray did not plan this in advance. He said: ‘Suddenly the producers and writers thought, man this guy leads, reads charts, does amazing solo’s, everything! It opened doors for black guys, they can do the job. A few months after the release, I got many offers, I couldn’t believe it! But I refused. I played jazz and wanted to travel.’ Of course, in 1966 Brown did eventually move to Los Angeles to play in the Hollywood studio bands. By then, he had cleared the path for Quincy Jones, J.J. Johnson, Benny Golson, who all made a career in the movie business.

“Oscar Pettiford had done bass-driven records but those were not arranged and organized as immaculately and not all-white. Bass Hit is the first record that showcases such an impressive lead role of the bass. At the same time, it works sublimely as accompanying force. Most of all, it is not just important on a musical level. It broke down social barriers. Jazz, like any great art form, is a force of change. Its great ambassadors definitely surpass the flawed ambitions of politicians.”

Bass Hit, the album: Brown firmly and authoritatively leads this band of top-notch contemporary white musicians. There is much to enjoy, not least the spicy muted trumpet of Pete Candoli, Herb Ellis’ earthy guitar, Bill Holman’s supple tenor saxophone and Jimmy Giuffre’s clarinet, which adds graceful coolness to Bass Hit’s essentially ‘hot’ program.

Ray Brown is boss, shading melodies, providing succinct interludes and concise melodious and strong solos, while the punchy arrangements cleverly underline Brown’s agile phrasing, as if he’s a singer, as if he’s, in a sense, Sinatra in front of the Count Basie band. Brown and the orchestra blend like strawberry and whipped cream, courtesy of Brown’s immaculate time feel, allowing him to fluently anticipate the brass and reed accents. Bass Hit is commonly called his record debut as a leader, while in fact Brown released New Sounds In Modern Music on Savoy in 1946. Bass Hit’s title alludes to that era, when Brown contributed One Bass Hit and Two Bass Hit to the Dizzy Gillespie orchestra. It presents a set of unabashed big band blues, poised balladry and mid-tempo standards.

You’ll hear a striking descending bass figure, taken from the potent Solo For Unaccompanied Bass, effectively and attractively introduce the record and segue into the opening tune, Blues For Sylvia. More blues, Blues For Lorraine and Brown’s Little Toe, firmly directed by Brown, penultimate blues groove master, ties together the threads that consist of well-known ballads of which Cole Porter’s All Of You is particularly notable. The detailed conversational level of the piece, especially the whispered staccato call and response of Brown and brass/reed, slyly heightens the tension. The booming release hits bull’s eye.

Bull’s eye, as a matter of fact, was second nature to the great Ray Brown.