Elmo Hope, Homecoming!

Elmo Hope Homecoming! (Riverside 1961)

Coming home to a group of hi-level colleagues as featured on Elmo Hope’s first Riverside album Homecoming must’ve been a thrill. It certainly is an exciting session of the unique, tragically underrated pianist.

Elmo Hope, Homecoming!

Personnel

Elmo Hope (piano), Blue Mitchell (trumpet A1, A3, B2), Jimmy Heath (tenor saxophone A1, A3, B2), Frank Foster (tenor saxophone A1, A3, B2), Percy Heath (bass), Philly Joe Jones (drums)

Recorded

on June 22 & 29, 1961 at Bell Sound Studio, NYC

Released

as RLP 381 in 1961

Track listing

Side A:
Moe Jr.
La Berthe
Eyes So Beautiful As Yours
Homecoming
Side B:
One Mo’ Blues
A Kiss For My Love
Imagination


You are Elmo Hope. Born in New York City in 1927. Childhood pal of Bud Powell, spinning records of Johann Sebastian Bach all day long with the future giant of bebop, when soon after Thelonious Monk joins to complete the illustrious, mutually responsive threesome. As a young man, you catch a bullit from a white police officer, (sounds familiar?) in a hideous, disgraceful turn of events being trialed but ultimately released. You marry, have a son, who dies tragically young. Highly talented, working towards identical musical conclusions as Powell, Monk, Parker, yet in your own peculiar way, you miss out on the burgeoning bebop scene when Uncle Sam calls: ooh ooh ooh, you’re in the army now, from 1943 to ‘46. The following Korean War is settled half-heartedly in 1953 when you’re featured on Lou Donaldson/Clifford Brown’s New Faces New Sounds 10inch LP on Blue Note, which benefits from your excellent writing. (you’ll prove to leave a legacy of brillant compositions) You become a leader in your own right, recording the unforgettable albums Informal Jazz (Prestige 1956, with John Coltrane, Hank Mobley and Donald Byrd) and Trio And Quintet (Blue Note 1957, recordings from ’54 to ‘57) but public recognition keeps eluding you.

Then there’s the needle. Has been there all the while. Having lost your cabaret card in New York City, without which a musician is practically unemployed, you move to the West Coast. Its scene doesn’t exactly seems to meet your standards but you nonetheless record the first-class Elmo Hope Trio (HiFi 1959) and partake in a classic session with fellow expat Harold Land and trumpet enigma Dupree Bolton, the unbeatable, stunning The Fox, filled with world-class Hope tunes. It’s back to NYC in 1961, the Homecoming album is not to be sneezed at. Following albums on Riverside bear puzzling titles as High Hope (you mean, like a lot of hope or Hope’s always high or what?) and Hope-Full, a duo album with Hope’s wife Berthe. Perhaps Riverside Riverside hoped (no pun intented) that it would outsell Ella & Louis? There’s Sounds From Rikers Island on Audio Fidelity, an intriguing album including John Gilmore and Philly Joe Jones, ironically, recorded at the jail Hope did time in. You are performing regularly in NYC with, among others, John Ore and Billy Higgins. But it doesn’t seem to happen. Monk (Man, did he have to struggle against the odds) will make the cover of Time Magazine in 1964. You’ve been interviewed by Downbeat Magazine just once during the course of your career. This, somehow, inexplicably, sometimes happens…

The story of Elmo Hope, extraordinary, unique pianist, ended tellingly in 1967, age 43, in a hospital that specialised in addicts. Supposedly very unprofessionally, according to Berthe, as something went wrong and Hope died of pneumonia. Slowly but surely, the wheels of appreciation have been turning in Hope’s favor, slightly lacking behind the other ‘unknown’ piano giant, Herbie Nichols. Much too late, but slowly and surely. It is said Hope’s unpredictable style, focusing on the architecture of the composition instead of virtuosity, prevented broad public recognition. Might be. (the above-mentioned concise life story offers some possible clues) However, Monk was a puzzling personality, yet finally made the grade.

All things considered: a brilliant pianist. In Hope’s playing, an underlying sense of foreboding is almost always there. He’s a nervous type of guy but also light-footed, a bittersweet personality. His touch ruthless or tender, his timing floating like a bottle on the ocean waves, Hope’s unusually structured compositions move with a surprisingly natural flow. Homecoming finds Hope re-united with like-minded firebrands, drummer Philly Joe Jones being the ultimate burner. At the core of the session is the conversation between Philly Joe and the fellows – Jimmy Heath, Frank Foster, Blue Mitchell, Percy Heath – and Hope in particular, with four tunes consisting of the trio format. The pushing of Jones of Moe Jr.’s hi-speed changes is a treat, the way he tickles the senses of Hope with a playful torrent of rimshots – a melodic answer to Hope’s preceding questions – is the cherry on the top. Hope is close to buddy Bud here, yet as a contrast lets notes hang suspended in the air, alternating the silence with tumbling tremelos.

The trio sends the title track to the stratosphere and Philly Joe Jones drives Hope to the rail. Come on, St. Elmo, be quick, be swift, hurry home, time may await but… Hope responds, so effortlessly stretching lines over the bars, a roaring run in the upper register here, a James P. Johnson-figure with the left hand there. Yes, Philly Joe, I’m almost there… But not quite and (consciously, like Mingus, embracing shift of tempo into the bag of new means of expression?) Hope, Jones and Heath fasten the pace considerably and subsequently end with a luscious sigh. Hope takes care of the coda on his own. Peace, quietude, the road always leads…

Elmo Hope plays lines you were unlikely to come across in 1961. They pry La Berthe’s fascinating melody, which would become messy in the hands of lesser talents, running smoothly somehow via Hope’s singular route from mind to fingers. The tune asks a lot from the horn men and keeps Foster, Heath and Mitchell on their toes. A restrained use of notes by Hope benefits the melancholic Eyes So Beautiful As Yours, definitely Hope’s Crepuscule With Nellie. A somber dedication to his wife, obviously the best thing happening in Hope’s troubled life besides jazz music.

Wes Montgomery Trio - A Dynamic New Sound

Wes Montgomery The Wes Montgomery Trio: A Dynamic New Sound (Riverside 1959)

Adding ‘Style’ to Wes Montgomery’s debut album on Riverside, The Wes Montgomery Trio: A Dynamic New Sound, is more to the point. It constitutes the arrival of a guitar giant.

Wes Montgomery Trio - A Dynamic New Sound

Personnel

Wes Montgomery (guitar), Melvin Rhyne (organ), Paul Parker (drums)

Recorded

on October 5 & 6 at Reeves Sound Studio, NYC

Released

as Riverside 1156 in 1959

Track listing

Side A:
‘Round Midnight
Yesterdays
The End Of A Love Affair
Whisper Not
Ecaroh
Side B:
Satin Doll
Missile Blues
Too Late Now
Jingles


Of this album, All Music says: ‘The only drawback is that the accompaniment, which though solid, doesn’t seem to perfectly match his guitar style… Montgomery’s performance was a revolution in technique and execution.’

That about sums it up. For readers of All Music and Ladies Home Journal. Nobody’s perfect and there must be more to the event of Montgomery’s marvelous recording debut on Riverside, released in the watershed year of 1959, which saw the release of three Ornette Coleman albums, Miles Davis’ Kind Of Blue and John Coltrane’s Giant Steps. Coincidentally, Wes Montgomery declined an offer from John Coltrane to join his group. Instead, he built on the promise The Wes Montgomery Trio held, securing a spot on the scene through his Riverside recordings as the greatest jazz guitar innovator since Django Reinhardt and Charlie Christian, a promise that was underlined first and foremost by Montgomery’s supple synthesis of single note lines, octave playing and block chords, effectively blown into studio and jazz club air by his distinctive, is-that-a-country-blues-picker’s?-thumb-touch, but certainly also by the subtle interaction of his group of childhood pals from Indianapolis, consisting of organist Melvin Rhyne and drummer Paul Parker, who’d grown into a tight-knit, mutually responsive outfit.

In his twenties, Montgomery landed a job with Lionel Hampton when the famed bandleader heard him copying Charlie Christian solo’s note by note, performed with his brothers Buddy and Monk regularly as the Montgomery Brothers and was featured on Kismet on Pacific, the LP of his brothers’ outfit The Mastersounds. Montgomery was noticed by a tongue-tied Cannonball Adderley in a Indy club, who introduced him to Riverside’s Orrin Keepnews, leading to a breakthrough at the ripe age of 36. The word that fits the impact of Wes Montgomery is: spellbound. Come on, from the moment Montgomery starts Monk’s ‘Round Midnight, the audience is melting, unable to resist the lure of Montgomery’s tasteful tale. In the confident hands of Wes, the micro-fragment of total silence marking the middle of Monk’s classic melody appears to be born for exactly that spot. The use of space, his timing, coming across especially enticing in his wonderful treatments of ballads, is one of Montgomery’s greatest talents.

In this sense, Rhyne is a perfect match to Montgomery’s classy style. His clear, logically developing lines and ‘plucky’ sound grace the bouncy, uptempo stop-time melody of the Montgomery composition Jingles, a swinging trio rendition. And to reciprocate Rhyne’s favor of charming, responsive backing, Montgomery smoothly accompanies the organist’s solo in The End Of A Love Affair, flowing from chord to chord like a pike-perch through the river weeds. The group’s take on Horace Silver’s Ecaroh is less spectacular, a medium-tempo groove that somehow doesn’t really gets into the groove, with, nonetheless, concise, excellent soloing.

Montgomery would reach the zenith of his recording career with the support of world-class guys like Johnny Griffin, Louis Hayes, Sam Jones, Wynton Kelly, Tommy Flanagan, Milt Jackson (Bags Meets Wes – wow – Full House – WOW) yet the total sum of The Montgomery Trio spells swing as well. At the core’s the style and sound of Montgomery, with a bite all his own. A fiery personality would be the incorrect way to describe Wes Montgomery- ringing through the articulate phrases is a man that didn’t want to be a nuisance to his neighbours, so he stopped playing with a plectrum and changed to the softer approach of his thumb – more apt is the assumption that the sparks fly (and they do fly high) almost solely on the strength of Montgomery’s dazzling brilliance and conception. His conviction, authority, is imposing. So much so that, once the driving Missile Blues, named after the club in Indianapolis, and the album is over, a new spin in order to fully enjoy and grasp the mastery of Wes Montgomery seems the best option to spend the next hour of the evening.

James Clay & David "Fathead" Newman - The Sound Of The Wide Open Spaces

James Clay & David “Fathead” Newman The Sound Of The Wide And Open Spaces!!!! (Riverside 1960)

Some sessions just seem to swing harder than others. The Sound Of The Wide Open Spaces!!!! by co-leaders James Clay and David “Fathead” Newman is such an album. A blast from start to finish.

James Clay & David "Fathead" Newman - The Sound Of The Wide Open Spaces

Personnel

James Clay (tenor saxophone, flute B2), David “Fathead” Newman (tenor saxophone, alto saxophone B2), Wynton Kelly (piano), Sam Jones (bass), Art Taylor (blues)

Recorded

on April 20, 1960 in NYC

Released

as RLP 327 in 1960

Track listing

Side A:
Wide Open Spaces
They Can’t Take That Away From Me
Side B:
Some Kinda Mean
What’s New
Figger-Ration


Think of the combi’s Johnny Griffin/Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Dexter Gordon/Wardell Gray, Arnett Cobb/Buddy Tate or of the Clifford Jordan/John Gilmore album Blowing In From Chicago. The Sound Of The Wide Open Spaces!!!! (the use of multiple exclamation marks is hyperbolic fancy, but I like the way it looks on the jacket) fits into that high calibre category. Clay and Fathead, two ‘tough’ Texan tenors (and alto’s, flutes) battle it out with the hard-driving support of Art Taylor, Sam Jones and Wynton Kelly. The album was supervised by Cannonball Adderley. Adderley, who had signed with Riverside in 1960 and recorded the highly succesful and influential live album In San Francisco, struck up a good rapport with label owner Orrin Keepnews, immediately getting into fruitful A&R territory.

James Clay is still a relatively unknown saxophonist and flute player. Born in Dallas, Texas in 1935, Clay played with fellow Texan tenorist Booker Ervin, but moved to the West Coast in the mid-fifties. By 1960, Clay had recorded with drummer Lawrence Marable (Tenorman, Jazz West 1956), bassist Red Mitchell (Presenting Red Mitchell, Contemporary 1957) and Wes Montgomery (Movin’ Along, Riverside 1960). As a leader, Clay followed up The Sound with A Double Dose Of Soul, which boasts a great line-up of Adderley alumni Nat Adderley, Victor Feldman, Louis Hayes and, again, Sam Jones. A concise but impressive discography. After contributing to Hank Crawford’s True Blue in 1964, Clay disappeared from the scene, only to enjoy a modest comeback in the late eighties.

Clay’s sound is edgy, his style is reminiscent of bop pioneers like Teddy Edwards. A great match with the better-known David “Fathead” Newman. Newman, the big-toned tenorist from Corsicana, Texas, put his highly attractive, blues-drenched style to good use in the Ray Charles band from 1954-64 and ’70-’71, starring on landmark tunes as The Right Time, Unchain My Heart and albums like Ray Charles In Person and At Newport. Newman was an Atlantic recording artist in his own right. On my deathbed, I’m damn sure I will be remembering Ray Charles Presents David “Fathead Newman (Atlantic 1958) as one of the most soulful albums in modern jazz.

Newman takes the first solo on the furiously swinging opener Wide Open Spaces, taking care of business from note one. He sings, spits, guffaws, presenting a lengthy, driving discourse of blues and bop. Meanwhile, Newman’s phrasing is articulate, fluent, and the full-bodied round tone is intact, and his flow is spurred on by clever, unisono figures of Kelly and Taylor. Clay’s tone is more edgy, thinner. Clay finds solace in darkblue, faraway corners, letting loose occasional gutsy, halve-valve sounds and spices a lively tale with labyrinthian clusters of bop phrases, in a sardonic mood, putting you on, enjoying himself. Then he emerges from the shadows with sudden, belligerent wails. Clay’s a more unpredictable player than Newman. Both take zillion choruses to have their say. Never a dull moment.

Wide Open Spaces is a tune written by the legendary bebop singer and poet, Babs Gonzalez. Figger-Ration, an uptempo, tacky bebop showstopper, is also by Gonzalez. The interpretation of Gershwin’s They Can’t Take That Away From Me is hard-swinging. Keter Betts’ blues-based tune Some Kinda Mean starts with the coda, a raucous figure of snare drums and piano, and develops into a mid-tempo, Ray Charles-type mover. Supported by the responsive, burning rhythm trio of Taylor, Jones and Kelly, the latter occasionally chiming in with ebullient bits on the slower tunes and frivolous strings of high notes on the uptempo tunes, Clay and Newman speak confidently on tenor throughout. For What’s New, Newman switches to alto, Clay to flute. It’s a solid rendition of the well-known ballad.

While a current of pivotal game-changing outings (Davis’ Kind Of Blue, Coltrane’s Giant Steps, Coleman’s Free Jazz) was released in ’59 and ‘60, gospel and blues-based hard bop/mainstream jazz, while not always liked by the critics, was at a peak and admired by audiences around the country and abroad. Hard bop albums rolled off the Blue Note, Prestige and Riverside assembly lines like fortune cookies. That turn of the decade was really something! Something of such all-round excellence which might easily cause such marvelous albums like The Sound Of The Wide Open Spaces!!!! to be lightly snowed under. But it aged well. To this day, Clay and Newman’s bopswinging sax festivities leave one breathless with every new turn on the table.

Keeping In The News

ORRIN KEEPNEWS – Rewarding footage of producer Orrin Keepnews on YouTube. Keepnews talks us through some of the legends and landmark albums that he produced for the Riverside label. Keepnews, who passed away on March 1, 2015, ran Riverside from 1953 to 1965 together with Bill Grauer. A curmudgeon of the old school of independent record producers, the streetwise, Bronx-born Keepnews personified the ‘just do it’ mentality long before a Greek God sold shoes to the new kids on the block. With impeccable taste and a responsive spirit, Keepnews boosted the career of Thelonious Monk, produced contemporary greats like Sonny Rollins and Bill Evans, as well as released celebrated albums by a host of soulful modern jazz luminaries like Cannonball Adderley, Bobby Timmons, Johnny Griffin and Blue Mitchell.

Following the passing of Bill Grauer in 1963, Riverside went bankrupt. After freelancing for a few years, Keepnews started the Milestone label in 1966, releasing albums by Joe Henderson, McCoy Tyner, Sonny Rollins and Ron Carter, among others.

Find a detailed obit in the New York Times here.

With the release of the Keepnews Collection in 2007, a series of re-issues of classic Riverside albums, Bret Primack of Concord Music Group presented a number of short features on Keepnews. Insightfully and with deadpan wit, the producer looks back upon a number of game-changing, fabled cooperations. A treat!

Here’s Thelonious Monk.
Here’s Sonny Rollins.
Here’s Bill Evans.
Here’s Cannonball Adderley.
Here’s Blue Mitchell.
Here’s Clark Terry.

The list of classic Riverside (and the Jazzland subsidiary) recordings is imposing. Here are my favorites:

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.

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Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis Afro-Jaws (Riverside 1960)

Blue Note is admired for immaculately organised sessions. In this respect, Riverside should also be granted a place under the sun. When founder Orrin Keepnews signed Thelonious Monk in 1958, he decided to dedicate the pianist’s label debut album to the work of Duke Ellington, revealing challenging conceptual thinking. Riverside also created new vistas for its roster. Eddie ‘Lockjaw’ Davis’ Afro-Jaws is a case in point. It’s a well-rehearsed session involving carefully chosen personel and repertoire.

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Personnel

Eddie ‘Lockjaw’ Davis (tenor saxophone), Clark Terry (trumpet, flugelhorn), Ernie Royal (trumpet), Phil Sunkel (trumpet), John Ballo (trumpet A3-4), Lloyd Mayers (piano), Larry Gales (bass), Ben Riley (drums), Ray Barretto (conga, bongo), Gil Lopez (arranger)

Recorded

on May 4 & 12, 1960 in NYC

Released

as RLP 343 in 1960

Track listing

Side A:
Wild Rice
Guanco Lament
Tin Tin Deo
Jazz-A-Samba
Side B:
Alma Alegre
Star Eyes
Afro-Jaws


Tough Tenor Eddie ‘Lockjaw’ Davis adapts well to the Afro-Cuban setting reminiscent of Dizzy Gillespie’s groups. Should we expect otherwise? Davis blew horn on stage at Minton’s Playhouse amidst the bop innovators in the late forties and early fifties, functioning as de facto jam session MC. He is known for his work in the classic organ combo format of, notably, Shirley Scott and extended cooperations with the equally hard blowing, fellow tenorist Johnny Griffin, but also had journeyed through the big bands of Cootie Williams and Count Basie. Experience abound.

Gil Lopez wrote four out of seven infectious tunes and his arrangements are in your face, perfect foil for the gutsy sound of Davis. A major part of the tight group sound is the rhythm tandem of drummer Ben Riley and bassist Larry Gales, who would go on to form a good team the following years for Griffin, Davis and, in the mid-to-late sixties, Thelonious Monk.

Wild Rice sets the album’s pace, opening with a mix of heavy percussion, tenor and brass before leading to the buoyant theme and four/four solo section. The rest of the album follows the same course more or less. Davis has a suave way of weaving through the themes and his solo outings are on the money, both displayed with a relentless beat.

Alma Alegre is the odd one out, a slow, grinding piece that has Davis beautifully riding the waves of an intricate, multiple bar theme. Ever since Dizzy Gillespie introduced Chano Pozo and Gil Fuller’s Tin Tin Deo into the jazz realm, musicians have been fond of playing it. ‘Jaws’ kickstarts himself into furtive action after a couple of curious, worn clichés and Clark Terry is his usual masterful self.

The tempo of ballad Star Eyes, the sole standard off the album, is taken up a few notches and graced with a honky ‘Jaws’-solo. Davis’ Ben Webster-like mindset works equally well in the jivy bop riff Jazz-A-Samba. The album ends with the title track Afro-Jaws, a relentless groove.

Special mention for the slightly surrealistic record cover. Very carefully ‘organized’ as well.

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Bobby Timmons This Here Is Bobby Timmons (Riverside 1960)

A working day that sucks the soul out of me. An argument with the woman that hangs suspended in the air like a radioactive snowflake on the leaf of a tree. Many of you know the drill. Or don’t. Me and my wife, we’ll catch up. But for the moment, what better cure than a good piece of music? Bobby Timmons’ classic cut This Here certainly qualifies. Lasting a mere 3:31 minutes, its forceful, gospel-driven beat and style is enough for at least a temporary driving out of demons. It comes upon me like a strong but gentle wave. I jump for joy. Am moved by its groove and feeling.

B00067RF4Q.01.LZZZZZZZ

Personnel

Bobby Timmons (piano), Sam Jones (bass), Jimmy Cobb (drums)

Recorded

on January 13 & 14 at Reeves Sound Studio, NYC

Released

as RLP 1164 in 1960

Track listing

Side A:
This Here
Moanin’
Lush Life
The Party’s Over
Prelude To A Kiss
Side B:
Dat Dere
My Funny Valentine
Prelude To A Kiss
Joy Ride


Cannonball Adderley used to introduce the tune, that became part of his set when Timmons joined his quintet in 1959, as ‘simultaneously a shout and a chant.’ Jazz waltzes often have a lithe, airy quality. Not This Here. It has relentless drive. Indeed, all tunes on Timmons’ solo debut on Riverside, This Here Is Bobby Timmons, swing from start to finish. Even ballads like My Funny Valentine. At the time, Timmons’ version of the tune, as Orrin Keepnews reveals in the liner notes of the album, was commonly referred to by Timmons’ colleagues as My Funky Valentine. Obviously, Timmons put a lot of church influence in his music. Timmons was raised in church, played church organ and his father was a minister.

Timmons had been part of major groups like those of Chet Baker, Sonny Stitt and Art Blakey, with whom he recorded his signature tune, Moanin’ in 1958. By the fall of 1959 Timmons had become part of the Cannonball Adderley Quintet. Their live album The Cannonball Adderley Quintet In San Francisco, recorded on October 18 & 20, 1959, was a smash (jazz) hit, largely due to their exciting rendition of This Here. Three months later, on January 13 and 14, Timmons recorded his first solo album with fellow Adderley member, bassist Sam Jones and drummer Jimmy Cobb. Cobb had been an Adderley member at various recordings from Winter 1957 to Spring 1959. By January 1960 Timmons had decided to return to Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. He would record Dat Dere with Blakey on March 6, 1960.

Dat Dere is longer than its ‘churchy’ cousin This Here, but the fire cracks almost as hard. Yet its playful, rollicking theme also has a moody quality. After Timmons states the theme in rootsy, Ray Charles-like fashion, the groove gets going. Then follows a Sam Jones intermezzo, whereafter the tune builds to a climax with a terrific shout chorus and a clever modulation that leads back to the theme. Timmons’ version has a rawer quality than ‘Blakey’s’ equally immaculate version. That version boasts Blakey’s inspiring accompaniment and great solo’s by Lee Morgan and Wayne Shorter. In ‘Cannonball Adderley’s’ version on Them Dirty Blues of February 1, 1960, Timmons jumps into locked four-hands playing almost immediately. It’s a great solo but different.

‘Art Blakey’s’ iconic version of Moanin’ is powerful at the core. Timmons’ take isn’t short on power either. Sam Jones’ deep sound and strong beat and Jimmy Cobb’s uplifting style coupled with Timmons’ tough yet playful left hand create an unmistakably groovy piece of hard bop. The piano sound of Timmons – tough, slightly feeble – ignites the atmosphere of a barrelhouse. The whole album benefits from this atmosphere. Intricate jazz loaded with feeling and a barrelhouse sound. It’s too good to miss.

This Here, Dat Dere and Moanin’ are iconic hard bop cuts that refreshed the jazz world of the late fifties and early sixties and inspired generation after generation thereafter. One thing they have in common is that they never wear me out. Should we consider Joy Ride a fourth classic of Timmons’ Riverside album? Not a bad idea. It’s a piece of blistering bebop soul. Jimmy Cobb opens the uptempo tune with a series of cocky firecrackers and Timmons’ solo is a spirited mix of blues, Art Tatum and Bud Powell.

The tender Prelude To A Kiss shows the delicate side of Timmons’ personality. Lush Life’s dramatic flourish is enticing. Yet even in these tunes Timmons sneaks in bold, accurate blues lines. They make complete Timmons’ quintessential album This Here Is Bobby Timmons: a gospel-tinged, extremely swinging and articulate affair that’s imbued with a joyful sense of discovery. It kills me time and again.