SONNY CLARK – Great news, the independent Tompkins Square label has put out a 2LP, yes, vinyl, of Sonny Clark music. Sonny Clark Trio: The 1960 Time Sessions With George Duvivier And Max Roach is due out on November 24. It boasts several outtakes of Clark’s session at Bell Sound Studios in NYC in January, 1960, a session that would lead to the first album of compositions written solely by Clark. It preceded Blue Note’s Leapin’ And Lopin’, Clark’s swan song as a leader, also a recording that showed the fulfillment of Sonny Clark as a composer. The story of how this new release came about on Josh Rosenthal’s Tompkins Square label is surprising and has something to do with comedian Judd Apatow… Read an illuminating article on Sonny Clark and the new release by Nate Chinen of WBGO here.
Don’t let the marketing gimmick of exclamation marks scare you off. Stanley Turrentine’s Jubilee Shout!!! delivers. It’s a lively, down-home session. Sonny Clark’s aboard. Yet, it was shelved and wasn’t released until 1986.
Stanley Turrentine (tenor saxophone), Tommy Turrentine (trumpet), Kenny Burrell (guitar), Sonny Clark (piano), Butch Warren (bass), Al Harewood (drums)
on October 18, 1962 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey
as BST 84112 in 1986
You Said It
You Better Go Now (Little Girl Blue)
Stanley Turrentine. Mr. T. Fleshy, friendly face. A man you love to love. A Flophouse favorite. Adored by lovers of classic, smoky modern jazz. He’s got that thang. In 1962, the tenor saxophonist had hit his stride on the Blue Note label. Turrentine’s cooperation with pianist Les McCann, That’s Where It’s At, had been the last in a series of five albums that started in 1960 with Blue Hour, Turrentine’s association with The Three Sounds. His accessible, smart albums were good sellers.
Big, slightly breathy and warm-blooded, Turrentine’s tone renders a night out into town totally unnecessary. Save some money for a new vacuum cleaner. Stanley is party enough, blurs your head in drifting shreds of smoke, teleports the scent of soul food, the chatter of nocturnal Harlem nights right to the heart of your residence. Or flexible workspace. Or Club Med bungalow. He brings the blues. Not a hoarse kind, but stylized through the use of rich, resonant lines that are built from notes ending with a trademark, ever-so-slight vibrato and snappy bent note. Simultaneously, Turrentine displays modern jazz sensibility, but eschews excessive frills. A professor of tension and release.
Bonus: Sonny Clark! The maestro, three months short of his unfortunate passing, recorded erratically in 1962. But the dates he did were still top-notch: Jackie McLean’s Tippin’ The Scales, Grant Green’s posthumous Nigeria, Oleo and Born To Be Blue, and Dexter Gordon’s iconic A Swingin’ Affair. A couple of blues-drenched affairs: Don Wilkerson’s Preach Brother!, (just one exclamation mark!) Ike Quebec’s posthumous Easy Living. That’s it. Excluding Turrentine’s Jubilee Shout. Clark thinks out of the box, presenting hip blues voicings and eccentric asides in clusters of long, flowing lines that may not exactly stretch the boundaries of bars as frequently as in his heyday, but nevertheless comprise ample proof of a mind that still overflowed with ideas.
A bunch of top-rate guys to say the least, Stanley and Tommy Turrentine, Sonny Clark and Kenny Burrell have a lot of room to stretch out in a slow blues (Cotton Walk), uptempo cooker with a nifty line and stop-time rhythm (You Said It), lilting swingers (Brother Tom, My Ship) and a ballad (Little Girl Blue – wrongly credited on the vinyl release as You Better Go Now). The blast of the album is Jubilee Shout. A rousing gospel rhythm with pounding piano chords on the one and two sets the pace and is repeated between the 4/4 sections, which create room for the solo time of, subsequently, Stanley Turrentine, Tommy Turrentine, Sonny Clark and Kenny Burrell. It’s the musical equivalent of the archetypical lyric, ‘Sometimes I sing the blues, but I know I should be praying.’ Either way is right by me.
Why didn’t Blue Note release Jubilee Shout at the time? It’s a crackerjack session. Well, that was up to Alfred. The indomitable Lion also shelved, for instance, Lou Donaldson’s Lush Life, Lee Morgan’s Tom Cat, Wayne Shorter’s The Soothsayer and Grant Green’s Solid, which proved to be one of the guitarist’s crown achievements upon its release in 1979. However, Lion had many sessions to choose from in these instances and generally didn’t release more than three albums per artist per year. Market overflow wasn’t an obstacle in Turrentine’s case. That’s Where It’s At was the only album in 1962 to date. Maybe the title track and Cotton Walk were deemed too long. At any rate, the album was first released on a two-fer in 1978 and finally came out in 1986 with the originally intented cover art and catalogue number. CD release followed in 1988. It has also been included in the much-discussed, appreciated vinyl reissue series of Music Matters. The album was destined to bob up from the wealthy lake of Turrentine’s catalogue.
If Jackie McLean’s career would’ve ended right after recording A Fickle Sonance, people would certainly have pointed out the alto saxophonist’s development from one of Charlie Parker’s most proficient disciples to an alto saxophonist that made his mark with a series of excellent Blue Note recordings from 1959 to 1961, employing his highly emotional, piercing sound: already a great legacy. However, McLean raised the bars considerably the following years, breaking and entering hard bop’s living quarters with a series of vanguard recordings in cooperation with avantgardists like Ornette Coleman.
Jackie McLean (alto saxophone), Tommy Turrentine (trumpet), Sonny Clark (piano), Butch Warren (bass), Billy Higgins (drums)
on October 26, 1961 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ
as BLP 4089 in 1961
Five Will Get You Ten
A Fickle Sonance
Fickle means ‘liable to sudden unpredictable change’. Sonance is an archaic synonym of ‘sound’. By calling his album and title track thus, McLean reveals to be a conscious commentator of the dual nature of both his own sound and style and jazz in general, which is all about surprise.
All Music states that ‘the playing’ on A Fickle Sonance ‘remained in a swinging, blues-oriented style, showing no hints of the direction his music was about to take’. Not entirely accurate. The title track certainly foreshadows McLean’s modal jazz. McLean’s solo in A Fickle Sonance borders on the abstract.
The angular quality of McLean’s lines and his probing, biting tone set McLean apart from his contemporaries. He’s a passionate player with a dark-hued sound, involving macabre, if occasionally frivolous overtones. A fickle sonance for sure. The way McLean lends substance to ballads was striking as well. McLean’s powerful statements on his original composition Subdued suggest a passionate singing voice.
Tunes like Sonny Clark’s Sundu, Tommy Turrentine’s Enitnerrut (Turrentine spelt backwards) and Butch Warren’s Lost fit into the ‘codified’ Blue Note message: deceptively effortless hard bop tracks from a rhythm section that would work together two weeks later on Sonny Clark’s splendid swan song as a leader, Leapin’ And Lopin’ on November 13, 1961.
Sonny Clark’s Five Will Get You Ten is more unusual. It’s a rip-off from one of Thelonious Monk’s unreleased cuts, Two Timer, that Clark presumably overheard Monk play and plagiarized in order to raise quick cash for his increasingly alarmous drug habits. (Monk never found out, but undoubtly would’ve forgiven the younger Clark, who was taken under his wings by Monk for quite a while at the famous jazz mecenas Nica “Pannonica” de Koenigwarter’s residence) Clark’s title arguably alludes to the drug scene; ‘five’ would be cash, ‘ten’ would be a certain amount of dope.
Who wouldn’t kill for an unreleased Monk track? It’s an alluring tune with a bridge that resembles Bemsha Swing and McLean jumps at the opportunity, alternating note-bending wails that stretch the boundaries of the melody line with rapid glissandos. Monk’s tune is fitting, since in A Fickle Sonance’s set of tunes, air and spaceousness are dominant features. To create a relaxed atmosphere while operating on a strikingly emotional as well as a highly proficient level is no small feat of Jackie McLean’s outstanding quintet.
Find me a bummer moment in Sonny Clark’s discography and I’ll buy you a drink. But I won’t because it’s a fruitless search. One of the essential hard bop pianists, Clark had taste written all over him. His swan song as a leader, Leapin’ And Lopin’, includes some of his most enduring tunes and classiest performances.
Sonny Clark (piano), Tommy Turrentine (trumpet), Charlie Rouse (tenor saxophone), Ike Quebec (tenor saxophone A2), Butch Warren (bass), Billy Higgins (drums)
on November 13, 1961 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey
as BLP 4091 in 1962
Deep In A Dream
Melody In C
Does it top 1958’s Cool Struttin’, Clark’s best known (and best-selling) album? A foolish question, perhaps. Brilliant Clark moments weren’t reserved for his leadership dates only but occured just as frequently when he appeared as a sideman for the myriad of fellow legends of the day, particularly for Blue Note, where Clark was a more than welcome pianist in his heyday of 1958-62.
Take his tremendously swinging and inspiring accompaniment and soloing on Dexter Gordon’s masterpieces Go and A Swingin’ Affair. Or that fabulous solo on Airegin from the sessions that would be released posthumously (for both of them) as Grant Green albums Nigeria (Airegin spelled backwards) and Oleo, wherein both musicians really get down with it. It’s a typical Clark mix of elegance and raw power.
I guess it’s this mix, steeped in the blues, that has kept luring musicians and incrowd into the Sonny Clark realm both during his lifetime and for decades thereafter. Clark, one of the most infamous jazz casualties, died from an overdose in New York City on January 13, 1963. To name but a few admirers, note that Bill Evans composed a touching tribute to Clark in 1963, the anagram NYC’S No Lark, and that John Zorn recorded Clark or ‘Clarkian’ tunes for years. 1985’s Voodoo is a well-known album of Zorn’s The Sonny Clark Memorial Quartet.
Also very attractive are Clark’s long, fluent lines that often stretch over bars extensively. Like those your hear in Leapin’ And Lopin’s third cut, Melody For C, a shuffle that swings both smoothly and intensely, all the while showing enough eccentricity to make you laugh and leap sideways.
In the uptempo Something Special, a very attractive melody that, not unlike a Horace Silver tune, benefits from effective use of stop time, Clark leaves plenty of space as an accompanist for Charlie Rouse and Tommy Turrentine to freely swing their way through the changes. The manner in which Rouse starts his solo, building on the melody, suggests the influence of Thelonious Monk, whose outfit Rouse had been part of since 1959. Voodoo is jazzified blues at its very best: intricate enhancements on the blues form coupled with heartfelt blowing. It’s the one track that would fit right in on Cool Struttin’.
The abovementioned tracks are accompanied by Deep Dream, a ballad that combines wry wit with pathos (including Ike Quebec’s breathy tenor), bassist Butch Warren’s quirky, intricate Eric Walks and Midnight Mambo, a buoyant Tommy Turrentine composition. They round off the most diverse album in the brilliant pianist’s book.
What strikes the listener of Lee Morgan’s Candy is the incredible production of producer Rudy van Gelder. Both group and leader sound big, fresh and in-your-face. And what especially triggers the heart and mind of jazz lovers is the amazing, facile agility and feeling for the core of a composition that the then twenty-year old trumpeter Lee Morgan demonstrates. Moreover, despite his age Morgan showed he was capable of carrying an album as the sole horn player.
Lee Morgan (trumpet), Sonny Clark (piano), Doug Watkins (bass), Art Taylor (drums)
on November 18, 1957 and February 2, 1958 at Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, New Jersey
BLP 1590 in 1958
Since I Fell For You
All The Way
Who Do You Love
Lee Morgan’s freshman years in the recording studio were very prolific. Candy, recorded at the end of 1957 and the start of 1958, was his seventh album and it only took roughly one year to record those seven albums. This period represented a rapid evolution of Morgan’s style. It’s delightful to hear Morgan incorporate his influences into his bag in such an eloquent way on Candy. 1958 would be busy as well. At the end of that year Morgan had joined Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. One might safely say that in his years with Blakey (1958-61) Morgan was not only putting the finishing touches to his style, but rapidly evolving into a full-fledged trumpet superstar.
The overall mood of Candy is relatively lighthearted, joyful and swinging. Morgan didn’t contribute any writing for this album; his focal point was to interpret a set of standards. The title track, fired up by some stimulating press rolls by drummer Art Taylor, is a catchy tune in which Morgan shows what a storyteller he already is. The sound of the horn that Van Gelder creates at his studio in Hackensack, New Jersey is ‘spacey’ and simply majestic and makes Morgan’s statements all the more imposing. Give it a listen with headphones on and it’ll be pointed out to you what Van Gelder was capable of. It succeeds to arouse my spirits even after nearly two decades of listening to the recording.
Morgan’s lyrical capabilities are in order and he injects vigorous blowing into two ballads – Since I Fell For You and All The Way. The former comes out so confidently and au naturel, it is by far the best of the two.
For faster tempos one can turn to C.T.A., Jimmy Heath’s bop standard. It was put on the map by Miles Davis on his Blue Note release from 1953, Miles Davis Vol. 2. (that included Jimmy Heath and Art Blakey). Incidentally, Davis claimed to possess the knowledge of what the title was about and said it had as its subject the better parts of a woman’s body. The rest of the decidedly less deadpan universe sticks to Chicago Transit Authority, which ran through Jimmy Heath’s hometown of Philadelphia.
There’s a high quality version of Red Garland featuring John Coltrane, released on Dig It!. Lee Morgan’s cockier-than-cocksure rendition, however, beats them if not by armlength, surely by more than an inch; it contains multiple interesting ideas, fluid phrasing and above all, a sizeable dose of soul. The group is groovin’ high and Sonny Clark puts in a string of coherent, charged remarks.
Morgan’s profusion of ad-lib phrases in Personality make his statements cheaper than they should be. Yet, how aptly chosen a title can be. It puts the finger on the road Lee Morgan was traveling on around the recording period of Candy. The sweet side of this session adds to Morgan’s already extraordinary and virtuoso character.
Stanley Turrentine swings impeccably on his 1960 debut as leader Stan ‘The Man’ Turrentine, but his style isn’t as fully formed as on his later albums for Blue Note.
Stanley Turrentine (tenor saxophone), Tommy Flanagan (piano A1, A3, B2-3), Sonny Clark (piano A2, B1, B4), George Duvivier (bass), Max Roach (drums)
in January 1960
as Time 52086 in 1960
Mild Is The Mood
Time After Time
My Girl Is Just Enough Woman For Me
High quality sidemen Sonny Clark, Max Roach and George Duvivier recorded Sonny Clark Trio for Time Records in the same year. They bring a natural flow to Turrentine’s session, that also saw the more lighthearted Tommy Flanagan replace Sonny Clark; the latter adds Bud Powellesque twists and turns to Sheri. Stolen Sweets, a pretty Wild Bill Davis shuffle, is a highlight on this album.
This date is also issued by the same label as Let’s groove under leadership of legendary drummer Max Roach. (Picture sleeve addicts will undoubtly prefer this French copy to Stan ‘The Man’ Turrentine.) Exploitative practices of this kind are not uncommon. One wouldn’t expect chief of Time Records, Bob Shad, (best known for the Mainstream label’s polished 300 series) to go for a fast buck. However, it looks ‘shady’, to say the least.