Friday, November 24, 2017

Listening to Prestige 288: Jerome Richardson

The fullness and power of orchestral music, with its sections and soloists, is undeniable, as is the energy and vitality of big band music. But there's something uniquely entrancing about music made by a small ensemble, where each instrument has its own kind of clarity, and the melds are shifting and subtle. This is true of chamber music, but it's perhaps especially true of small group jazz, for all kinds of reasons, some of them obvious, some less so.

I've talked before about getting my first hi-fi, and suddenly realizing that there was more going on than just Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker. I could suddenly hear Larry Bunker, and especially Chico Hamilton, and I suddenly had a whole new appreciation of the complexity of the music I was starting to love.

In a jazz ensemble, the instruments are so different from each other, and they have so many ways of interacting. Improvisation opens up the possibilities exponentially, and because the different members of the group are given space to improvise, the time it takes to play a given piece is variable, as Miles Davis found out when John Coltrane started playing his extended solos. This makes it strikingly different from a composed piece. Terry Riley's In C plays with that boundary. It is entirely composed. There are 53 separate musical phrases, and each instrument--it's written for an indeterminate number of instruments--is instructed to play each figure, in order, from beginning to end, but they don't have to start together, and each one can repeat each figure as many times as he or she chooses before going on to the next one. Still, duration is not much of a variable in most composed pieces. Even John Cage's 4'33", which involves silence, is written to last four minutes and 33 seconds.

So I'm in the car alone, my favorite way of listening to Prestige, and I've lined up the Jerome Richardson session, and "Caravan" comes on, the Duke Ellington-Juan Tizol warhorse, which has been recorded over 350 times, not always by jazz groups--sometimes just for its exotic melody. That makes it, like "Taboo" which we've recently heard recorded by both Yusef Lateef and Dorothy Ashby, just a little bit suspect: will it fall into the clichés of exotica? Which makes me particularly interested in listening to it. And this being the car, with me driving, I can't refer to the session notes, and I haven't really looked at them. I know that Richardson has Jimmy Cleveland on trombone, since brass always comes first in the personnel listing, but that's all.

It starts with a faint, exotic but not at all clichéd rhythm on the ride cymbal, but then the bass enters with the first strong voice, and it's a repeated but unnerving figure, no less unnerving when the piano joins in. Richardson enters, playing the melody, but he's distant, behind the bass and piano. So the first all-out solo goes to Jimmy Cleveland, improvising, and then it's Richardson again, out front this time, playing the melody again, sort of haunting, sort of mocking, sort of appreciative, and then they're off into uncharted territory, with Richardson beginning an extended solo, and now we're about three minutes into the piece, and we're just getting started, so this will be, yes, of indeterminate length, and the melody will be left in the desert dust. A lengthy Cleveland solo is next, followed by...what's this? Kenny Burrell? He's on this session too?

Well, yeah, since this is the Jerome Richardson Sextet, I should have remembered that there would be a third front line instrument. So we have flute, trombone guitar. not your everyday lineup, which brings me back to what I was saying about the different permutations of sound in a small jazz ensemble. The standard Bird-and-Diz quintet lineup of trumpet and saxophone is endlessly varied enough in the hands of jazz masters, but this group is very hip, and it's an instrumental lineup you don't hear that often--and it's varied even more when Richardson switches to tenor sax.. Which brings me back to duration as a unique function of jazz's uniqueness, especially in the LP era. With room for six different soloists to stretch out and create their own take on not only the melody and chord structure, but also the solos that have come before them, this version runs close to eleven minutes. A 1950s rock and roll version by steel guitar duo Santo and Johnny basically plays the melody, and clocks in and two and a half minutes. A pop instrumental by Gordon Jenkins, strictly playing the melody, is even shorter.

The rest of the group is Hank Jones on piano, Joe Benjamin on bass, and Charlie Persip on drums. Benjamin, never very far from the front, comes back after Kenny Burrell, and then there's an extended drum solo that captures the exotica of...well, of exotica, the complexity of bebop, and the excitement of a great drummer doing an extended drum solo.

We've heard Jimmy Cleveland before, with  Art Farmer septets a couple of times, and as part of Gil Evans' tentet. Here he gets a more featured role, which is all to the good, particularly on "Way In Blues." Which reminds me to give a tip of the hat to another Prestige alumnus, Bennie Green, a great trombone bluesman, who would record through the 1960s on various labels, then settle in Las Vegas and hotel bands. Cleveland was one of those guys who could play with everyone, from blues (Ruth Brown) to soul (James Brown) to soul jazz (Cannonball Adderley) to big bands to bop.

Hank Jones accompanied vocalist Earl Coleman on a couple of Prestige albums, and played with Curtis Fuller on another. He'd be back for several more appearances on the label, but that was a tiny part of his prodigious output as leader and sideman over seven decades, with multiple honors including the National Medal of Arts two years before his death in 2010. He also has a unique credit for a jazzman: he accompanied Marilyn Monroe on her legendary performance of "Happy Birthday, Mr. President."

Joe Benjamin makes his Prestige debut, but his name is forever imprinted on my brain because he's one of the musicians Sarah Vaughan introduces in her live recording of "Shulie-a-Bop," arguably the greatest bebop vocal ever, made for Mercury Records in 1954, the same year that Mercury had her record "Make Yourself Comfortable," with a syrupy orchestra led by Hugo Peretti. This was the beginning of Mercury's project to make Vaughan into a commercial success by recording insipid pop songs with insipid arrangements. "Make Yourself Comfortable" is a clever song, and she sings it wonderfully, but come on. Is this really the best way to utilize Sarah Vaughan? It worked, for what they were trying to do. "Broken Hearted Melody," in 1959, which Vaughan regarded as the worst record she had ever made, was her biggest seller.

Fortunately, they did also let her record for EmArcy, their jazz subsidiary, where she did the great Clifford Brown sessions, and the ones with Joe Benjamin. But I digress.

This is actually the second member of Sarah's trio to appear on a Prestige session in the fall  of 1958. Roy (drumroll) Haynes (drumroll) had been on the Dorothy Ashby date just three weeks earlier. I wonder when John Malachi will show up? But I continue to digress.

Artie Shaw's "Lyric" joins Ellington's "Caravan," and the other three tunes are Richardson originals. I've commented before that I miss the bad puns and other plays on words in the early bebop recordings, like "Ice Cream Konitz" and "Flight of the Bopple Bee." Richardson brings the word play back with rather more sophistication on "Minorally" and "Delirious Trimmings," which I hope is not a reference to anything that anyone in the band is going through.

The album was released on New Jazz as Midnight Oil.



Order Listening to Prestige Vol 2







Listening to Prestige Vol. 2, 1954-1956 is here! You can order your signed copy or copies through the link above.


Tad Richards will strike a nerve with all of us who were privileged to have lived thru the beginnings of bebop, and with those who have since fallen under the spell of this American phenomenon…a one-of-a-kind reference book, that will surely take its place in the history of this music.

                                                                                                                                                --Dave Grusin

An important reference book of all the Prestige recordings during the time period. Furthermore, Each song chosen is a brilliant representation of the artist which leaves the listener free to explore further. The stories behind the making of each track are incredibly informative and give a glimpse deeper into the artists at work.
                                                                                                                --Murali Coryell

Monday, November 20, 2017

Listening to Prestige 287: Mal Waldron

This is the fourth Prestige session Mal Waldron presided over as leader, and he'd appeared on a whole bunch more as a sideman (I have 28 different references to him in this blog), so I've listened to a lot of his music, with growing admiration of his musicianship, his technical and emotive range, and with growing awe at his abilities as a composer. Looking back on those years, in a 2000 interview (he died in 2002) with jazz writer Ted Panken, Waldron did see himself in exactly the same light (all the quotes from Waldron in this essay are from Panken's interview). To Panken's suggestion, "Your music certainly had its own sound by 1960.  You’re recognizably Mal Waldron ...no one could mistake you for anybody else, Waldron demurred.
Well, I’m not quite sure about that, because I was still learning and putting it together.  I was halfway through the tree.  In other words, I started out with a big tree and I tried shaving and shaving and shaving try to find the perfect toothpick, but I wasn’t there in 1960 — definitely.  I was nowhere near the toothpick at that moment.
This is a startling and original metaphor for an artist trying to find his or her own voice. I've really never read anything like it, and it rings deeply true. Michelangelo may or may not have said (almost certainly did not say) that he took a block of marble and chipped away everything that didn't look like "David." Many teachers of writing, myself among them, have counseled that the most important part of revision is cutting. But this different, and I will be thinking about it for quite a while.

A large part of Waldron's goal of shaving that tree down came from Charles Mingus, who caught him trying to play like Bud Powell and gave him a tongue-lashing, telling him never to try to sound like anyone except himself.

But the first clumsy strokes at that tree are always going be taken with borrowed axes, and one of Waldron's first--he had grown up being forced to practice the piano, and hating it--was Coleman Hawkins. It was "Body and Soul" that first made him fall in love with music, and he immediately went out and bought a saxophone:
...An alto.  I couldn’t afford a tenor.  I got a big, hard reed and an open lay on the mouthpiece so it would sound like a tenor, and I got the music for “Body and Soul” from “Downbeat” and I read it, and for 5 minutes I was Coleman Hawkins!
And after that, of course, with an alto:
I was trying to emulate Charlie Parker!  But I couldn’t arrive, so I hocked the horn and went back to the piano.  Because I found my basis on piano was strong enough at least to enable me to play the changes right.
His enforced training on the piano as a child had been classical, which he found too constraining--"I had to do it the same way every time, otherwise I got my knuckles rapped"--nevertheless remained a part of his musical awareness, as did studying composition at Queens College with the eminent German émigré composer Karol Rathhaus. He discussed the importance of the classical influence with Panken:
TP: Did those lessons stay with you in your composition?

MW: Definitely.

TP: Your classical background never left you, your sense of harmony and shading…

MW: And form and development, how to develop themes, sure.

TP: I think people aren’t aware of how deeply classical music studies permeated musicians of your generation, who then created a lot of home-grown resolutions and utilizations of it.  Can you address that a bit.  I guess the G.I. Bill helped a lot of people.

MW: Sure.  Well, it had to do with the concepts of Bach.  Bach is very basic.  The way he moves from V to I, that concept is very instrumental in how the musicians grew.  They moved from V to I, and they made it with a flat fifth and putting in stuff like extra notes in the chords and changes like that.

TP: In your circle of friends with Randy Weston and Herbie Nichols, etc., were you talking a lot about classical music and listening to…

MW:Yes, we discussed things like “Rite of Spring” and the sounds and things like that.
Waldron is very much of a generation I've discussed a lot. The early beboppers grew up on swing, on Kansas City blues, on the territorial bands, on Basie and Ellington and Lunceford and Erskine Hawkins as well as Goodman and Shaw; Waldron's generation grew up on bebop. But Panken and Waldron make an important point here about this generation that came of age post-World War II, with college and conservatory studies thanks to the G.I. Bill. We know that Charlie Parker listened to everything, and responded strongly to the compositions of Bartok. The fictional Dale Turner, in Round Midnight, speaks for many of his generation when he acknowledges his debt to Debussy.

The last Waldron session I wrote about was one with Gene Ammons, for which Waldron composed all of the tunes, and I began by imagining a conversation with Bob Weinstock:
"Mal, you're playing a gig with Gene Ammons this Friday. Come up with some tunes that'll suit him."

"On it."
And this is probably pretty close to how it went down (including the Friday part: that was Prestige's day in Hackensack).
MW: The way the setup was in those days, they’d tell me who was on the set and then they’d tell me to write six or seven compositions for the date.  So I had to stay up all night long and write the changes, and next morning I’d come in to Hackensack, N.J., and make the records, then I’d go home and write some more music for the next date.

The way I’d write the tunes, the first important thing was to be able to solo on it.  So I’d make my  changes first, nice blowable changes that you could solo on beautifully, and then I’d write a tune over the changes.

TP: Write your melody…

MW: Over the changes, yes...my life was consisting of thinking about the melodies in the daytime, writing them at night, and then recording them the next day.

TP: You’d get a phone call, you’d write some music, a bunch of charts or tunes…

MW: Right, and bring them in.  We’d run them through maybe for ten minutes, or just talk about them, and then we’d make the record.  They were usually all first takes, too.

TP: If you had a date with Gene Ammons and composed “Ammon Joy,” was that based on his…
MW: Yes, on his sound.  They’re all connected.

TP: Or writing for Thad Jones or Frank Wess or John Coltrane.  In each case you had their sound in  mind.

MW: Their sound in mind, sure.  That’s the way you write. 
On many of these dates, like May 2 with Ammons, Waldron was called upon to write the entire session. Here, he only contributes three of eight, the rest being standards. But that's another part of the Waldron story. He was already working as Billie Holiday's accompanist, and he would go on to work with Abbey Lincoln, Jeanne Lee, and other vocalists, so he was spending a lot of time with standards, and that, too, relates over to his work in an instrumental jazz context. As he told Panken:
[Internalizing the lyrics] really helps me to improvise, because the words give it a completely different atmosphere to improvise on.  You can improvise the words alone, instead of just improvising on the changes and the harmony and the melody.
In a way, this is exactly what Eddie Jefferson did with "I'm In the Mood For Love."

Waldron takes four songs from what we now call the Golden Age of American song, and the fifth from the era that surrounded him. Sammy Davis Jr., or his spirit, must have been tap dancing through Hackensack in the summer of 1958, because this is the second "Too Close For Comfort" we've had (Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis/Shirley Scott providing the first), along with one "Mr. Wonderful" (per Red Garland).

Kenny Dennis is new to Prestige with this recording. He broke into the jazz scene with junior high classmate Ray Bryant, played with many of the greats, and is still active as the assistant director of the Lab Band at the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts. Among his numerous recording credits is a session with Langston Hughes.

This came out from New Jazz, with Prestige following its pattern of numbering Waldron's albums. This one was Mal/4--Trio.


Order Listening to Prestige Vol 2




Listening to Prestige Vol. 2, 1954-1956 is here! You can order your signed copy or copies through the link above.


Tad Richards will strike a nerve with all of us who were privileged to have lived thru the beginnings of bebop, and with those who have since fallen under the spell of this American phenomenon…a one-of-a-kind reference book, that will surely take its place in the history of this music.

                                                                                                                                                --Dave Grusin

An important reference book of all the Prestige recordings during the time period. Furthermore, Each song chosen is a brilliant representation of the artist which leaves the listener free to explore further. The stories behind the making of each track are incredibly informative and give a glimpse deeper into the artists at work.
                                                                                                                --Murali Coryell

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Listening to Prestige 286: Dorothy Ashby-Frank Wess


There's a moment during "Bohemia After Dark" when Dorothy Ashby and Herman Wright are doing a harp-bass dialog, and then it's Wright and Frank Wess doing a flute-bass dialog, and you're not quite sure when the crossover occurred. That's how well these musicians play together.

This is the second and last Ashby recording session for Prestige. She would pack a lot of music into it, and she would pack a lot of music, art, writing and performance into her short 58 years on this earth. She was from the jazz hotbed of Detroit, and she would continue to make Detroit her home, although she toured and recorded widely. For five years in the 1960s, she and her husband, John Ashby, had a jazz radio show in Detroit, where they "talked about the new jazz releases, about the problems of jazz, and about the performers" (from an interview with her and Cannonball Adderley). She reviewed jazz records for the Detroit Free Press.

And she and her husband founded a theater company in Detroit, the Ashby Players. John wrote the scripts and Dorothy the songs, music and lyrics. She even performed in at least one of the plays. Unfortunately, none of this work has been released to the public, although it's said to exist on reel-to-reel tapes.


But plenty of her other work survives. She recorded eleven albums as leader of her own group, including one with Terry Pollard, another Detroit woman who broke through jazz's glass ceiling. And she wasn't just a specialty act, either--"Hey, let's build an album around this chick who plays the harp." She was in serious demand as sidewoman, recording with jazz groups (Bobbi Humphrey, Wade Marcus, Stanley Turrentine, Sonny Criss, Gene Harris, Freddie Hubbard) and vocalists (Bill Withers, Minnie Riperton, Stevie Wonder, Billy Preston, Bobby Womack). She recorded with Japanese new age musician Osamu Kitajima. She's been sampled by hip-hop artists.

And if the harp wasn't enough, she brought another unusual sound into jazz: the koto, a Japanese multi-stringed instrument which she played on The Rubaiyat of Dorothy Ashby, a remarkable album released in 1970 on Cadet, a Chess Records subsidiary, an album which also featured an electric harp, and Ashby's vocals.

Ashby was active up until shortly before her death in 1986, but she had some interesting things to say about the era we're looking at now, also in the joint interview with Adderley:
I speak often of the decade of 1950-1960 as being the best for the Black jazzman. The economy of the country was in pretty fair shape. What we missed out on in the way of post-war adjustments, we "made up for" with the Korean venture. The United States was becoming aware of jazz's role in international goodwill. The jazz festivals were born, giving jazz some of its greatest and most diverse audiences. Jazz was used in the films, like Odds Against Tomorrow, No Sun in Venice, and Miles' The Elevator to the Hangman.
Another nail in the coffin of the myth of the 1930s being the golden era of jazz's popularity.

This album features standards, and two compositions by Ashby, "It's a Minor Thing" and "Rascality." One sort of expects a minor thing to be moody and subdued, but this one is rowdy, rambunctious and bursting at the seams. "Rascality" is a hell of a piece of music. It's hard to say what makes one jazz tune into a widely recorded standard, while another doesn't make it beyond its first recording session. Oscar Pettiford's "Bohemia After Dark," which Ashby and Co. start off the day with, is one such standard. "Rascality" is not, perhaps because nobody thinks a melody written by a harpist can translate into other instrumentations. Ashby discussed that in an interview with jazz historian Sally Placksin:


Even arrangers admit that often they don’t know how to write what they’d like to write. What they would be willing to write for harp often doesn’t work, because they’re writing from a pianistic point of view, or maybe another instrumental point of view, and that doesn’t work on a harp, because you can only change two pedals at a time, and various other technicalities…. The harp has complexities that a person has to be able to work out in their head while they’re spontaneously creating jazz on it.


The only other version I've been able to find is one by contemporary jazz harpist Destiny Muhammad, in a concert tribute to Dorothy Ashby. But a great tune is a great tune, and jazz musicians have made a mistake by not picking up on this one.

Detroiter Herman Wright, who often worked with Ashby, contributes, as does drummer Roy Haynes, who is always one to make his presence felt, and who ain't gonna play no chamber music. There's a terrific interplay between Haynes and Wess at the beginning of "Taboo," which is a number one plays only at the risk of slipping into the clichés of exotica. There's no slippage here.
The album was released on New Jazz as In a Minor Groove, and much later (1969) on Prestige as Dorothy Ashby Plays for Beautiful People.



Order Listening to Prestige Vol 2





Listening to Prestige Vol. 2, 1954-1956 is here! You can order your signed copy or copies through the link above.


Tad Richards will strike a nerve with all of us who were privileged to have lived thru the beginnings of bebop, and with those who have since fallen under the spell of this American phenomenon…a one-of-a-kind reference book, that will surely take its place in the history of this music.

                                                                                                                                   --Dave Grusin

An important reference book of all the Prestige recordings during the time period. Furthermore, Each song chosen is a brilliant representation of the artist which leaves the listener free to explore further. The stories behind the making of each track are incredibly informative and give a glimpse deeper into the artists at work.
                                                                                                                --Murali Coryell

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Listening to Prestige 285: Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis - Shirley Scott

If the tenor sax-Hammond organ combination sounded a bit like a novelty the first time, it surely doesn't by this time. And Scott and Davis are so attuned to each other that they sound like an old married couple (which they aren't, although the later pairing of Scott and Turrentine will be). They can finish each other's thoughts, they can anticipate each other's moods. And they were getting people to listen, on the jukeboxes as well as in the clubs. Four different 45s were released out of this session.

Esmond Edwards is back as producer, as he was for their first session. The songs are standards for the most part. Since they recorded 16 tunes on this one recording date, they had enough for two albums, with a few left over to go onto one of their later Cookbook albums and a Prestige compilation album. The first release, Jaws, was all standards, plus a recent hit, "Too Close for Comfort," from the Sammy Davis. Jr., Broadway vehicle, Mr. Wonderful. It was on the shelves at Sam Goody's and on the jukeboxes around town before the year was out. The title tune of the album was a Davis original, and it wasn't the title tune of the album--"Jaws" was held off until the second release. Smokin', in 1964, which mixed standards with three by Davis and a Randy Weston tune, "Hi-Fly," which would become a jazz standard and was from a later recording session. Steven Spielberg probably did not know about the Davis title, and he was probably happy enough with John Williams, but it would have made an interesting addition to the movie.

It's just the four of them this time. They continue to work with George Duvivier and Arthur Edgehill, and a good thing, too. Duvivier, in particular, makes some striking contributions. This is music that's catchy and soulful and audience-pleasing...just like rhythm and blues, which as we know, is an equally important jazz genre.

The 45s, in order of release, were "Tangerine" / "I'll Never Be The Same," "Old Devil Moon" / "Body And Soul," "I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart" / "You Stepped Out Of A Dream," "Willow Weep For Me" / "Stardust." I'm a little surprised they didn't release "Too Close for Comfort" as a single.

Order Listening to Prestige Vol 2


Listening to Prestige Vol. 2, 1954-1956 is here! You can order your signed copy or copies through the link above.


Tad Richards will strike a nerve with all of us who were privileged to have lived thru the beginnings of bebop, and with those who have since fallen under the spell of this American phenomenon…a one-of-a-kind reference book, that will surely take its place in the history of this music.

                                                                                                                                                --Dave Grusin

An important reference book of all the Prestige recordings during the time period. Furthermore, Each song chosen is a brilliant representation of the artist which leaves the listener free to explore further. The stories behind the making of each track are incredibly informative and give a glimpse deeper into the artists at work.
                                                                                                                --Murali Coryell

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Listening to Prestige 284: Basie Reunion

You could say that Weinstock and co. are still marking time, but that would be wrong. Bringing a collection of some of Count Basie's greatest sidemen together, along with pianist Nat Pierce, who did Basie better than anyone except Basie, in a group led by Paul Quinichette, who did Lester better than anyone except Lester, and what you've got is a recipe for nothing less than a soufflé of great music.

And this is one soufflé that doesn't collapse as you're taking it out of the oven.

But...if you're offered a recording of Basie musicians paying Basie's tunes, why not just pass it up and buy a Basie record?

Well, for one thing, you can never have enough good music. And if the musicians are this good, it's always going to be different. Nat Pierce can be Basie the piano player, but he can't be Basie the bandleader, so that role seems to fall to Paul Quinichette, who may not have seniority as a Basie-ite, but who has Prestige seniority as an on-and-off regular. And it's all worth having, and it's all worth listening to, and I am a better, more fulfilled person for having listened to it.

And besides, while this may be a Basie dream band (or dream small group), it isn't the current Basie band, or even precisely any one Basie aggregation.

Jo Jones goes back the farthest. He was already with the band when Basie took it over on the death of Bennie Moten, and remained behind the drums until 1948. Jack Washington, not so well known as the others but with the reputation of a jazzman's jazzman on baritone sax, was with Basie from the beginning, and stayed till 1950. Freddie Green came along just a little later, in 1937, and never left. He anchored the Basie rhythm section for five decades.

Buck Clayton spent some great years with Basie, from 1936 until he was drafted into the army in 1943. Earlier in the 1930s, he had a rather remarkable expatriate career, not in France or Sweden, but in China, where he led a group called the Harlem Gentlemen, and mentored the Chinese composer Li Jinhui, who revolutionized Chinese music before the revolution. After the revolution, Li's music was banned in China as decadent and western, and he became an enemy of the people.

So none of these guys played with Eddie Jones, who joined in 1953 and was the only active Basie-ite when this session was cut, remaining with the band until 1962, after which he went to work for IBM, which means he probably overlapped with me at IBM, though not in the same city. As a Basie-ite, he overlapped with Quinichette (1952-56).

When they get together, latecomers, early-leavers and lifers alike, they all know what to do. As ex-Marines are fond of saying, you're never an ex-Marine, and it seems you're never really an ex-Basie man either. The tunes are Basie classics. With a smaller group, there's more room for soloists, especially compared to the late 1950s version of Basie's group, where the emphasis was more on arrangements and ensemble play. It's hardly necessary to say how good Buck Clayton and Paul Quinichette are. Nat Pierce has some very nice solo moments, where he does more than just play the Count note for note. He has a musical persona of his own. There's just a great drum solo by Papa Jo Jones on "John's Idea."

I'm not exactly sure what qualifies this is a Prestige All Stars session. More like a Prestige Guest Stars session. But they are all stars, and I'm glad to have them.

The album was released on Prestige as Basie Reunion, and was later rereleased on Swingville when Weinstock started branching out into those subsidiary labels that appealed to diverse specialized tastes.


Order Listening to Prestige Vol 2


Listening to Prestige Vol. 2, 1954-1956 is here! You can order your signed copy or copies through the link above.


Tad Richards will strike a nerve with all of us who were privileged to have lived thru the beginnings of bebop, and with those who have since fallen under the spell of this American phenomenon…a one-of-a-kind reference book, that will surely take its place in the history of this music.

                                                                                                                                                --Dave Grusin

An important reference book of all the Prestige recordings during the time period. Furthermore, Each song chosen is a brilliant representation of the artist which leaves the listener free to explore further. The stories behind the making of each track are incredibly informative and give a glimpse deeper into the artists at work.
                                                                                                                --Murali Coryell

Monday, November 13, 2017

Listening to Prestige 283: The Prestige Blues-Swingers

It's those lazy hazy crazy days of summer in 1958, and we're coming close to wrapping up our first decade of recording music for a new label that's come along at the right time, and made its mark in jazz. Look at the musicians who've passed through our door. We brought Miles back to New York and restarted his career. We were the first to record the Modern Jazz Quartet (well, after one tentative start on Savoy). Sonny Rollins and Stan Getz and Lenny Tristano and Thelonious Monk have all made significant recordings with us. John Coltrane is soon to move on--he'll be gone as we start our tenth anniversary--but he's still doing some great stuff for us. We've been an important part of the jazz of the fifties, and that's an era that's giving way to change. What will the new jazz of the sixties be? How are we going to prepare for it, to position ourselves in it?

Meanwhile, who cares? Let's have some fun!

Let's get a bunch of the finest modernists around, and let them loose on some classic trad jazz tunes, and just blow, blow, blow. In fact, that's a good idea for a tune.

Of course, when the dust has settled, and you have six horns, plus a guitar and a rhythm section, you've got a pretty good sized aggregation, and you can't just blow, blow, blow. You're going to need an arranger.

Bob Weinstock brought in a new addition to the Prestige catalog, Jerry Valentine, who had been a trombonist in the Billy Eckstine band, and had arranged for Earl Hines. Valentine's credentials were a bit scattered, but he turned out to be the right man for the job, writing several of the tunes for the session, and finding a sound that was trad and modern at the same time.

The classic tunes were by Andy Razaf (Fats Waller's longtime collaborator) and Will Weston ("I'm Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town"). Billy Eckstine and Earl Hines ("Jelly, Jelly") and Count Basie with Eddie Durham and Jimmy Rushing ("Sent for You Yesterday"). The ensemble has a Basie feel, except that it doesn't. The musicians are virtuoso modern jazz players, and Valentine has given them a solid ensemble footing and room to wail.

The other newcomer is trombonist George "Buster" Cooper, who generally went just by "Buster,," who knew how to entertain and knew how to swim with the big fish. He had been in the house band at the Apollo Theater, had accompanied Josephine Baker in Paris, and had played with Lionel Hampton (he was with him for the legendary 1953 European tour) and Benny Goodman. He also contributed to jazz history when a friend from the younger days in Florida  arrived in New York, and Cooper took him down to sit in with the house band at the Café Bohemia. The friend was Julian "Cannonball" Adderley.

Later, in the 1960s, he would join the Duke Ellington orchestra, where he would be a featured soloist.

Jimmy Forrest was another one of those guys who played the style of jazz known as bebop and the
style of jazz known as rhythm and blues. He brought the two together when he turned a Duke Ellington riff into "Night Train." He was also the leader of a group which was recorded live in a small club in 1952, with Miles Davis sitting in: to my mind, a significant recording, He gets some solo space on "I'm Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town," and shows that he knows what to do with it.

Outskirts of Town was the name of the album, and the tune also became the A side of a 45 RPM release, b/w a Valentine original, "Blue Flute."





Order Listening to Prestige Vol 2


Listening to Prestige Vol. 2, 1954-1956 is here! You can order your signed copy or copies through the link above.


Tad Richards will strike a nerve with all of us who were privileged to have lived thru the beginnings of bebop, and with those who have since fallen under the spell of this American phenomenon…a one-of-a-kind reference book, that will surely take its place in the history of this music.

                                                                                                                                                --Dave Grusin

An important reference book of all the Prestige recordings during the time period. Furthermore, Each song chosen is a brilliant representation of the artist which leaves the listener free to explore further. The stories behind the making of each track are incredibly informative and give a glimpse deeper into the artists at work.
                                                                                                                --Murali Coryell

Friday, November 10, 2017

Listening to Prestige 282: Red Garland

Not much available from this album from any of my usual sources, and it's too bad, because from the couple of cuts I was able to listen to, Red Garland and Ray Barretto together just keep getting better and better.

Maybe the folks who select things for streaming gave this a lower priority because Paul Chambers and Art Taylor gave it a pass, but that hardly seems reason enough. George Joyner and Charlie Persip are more than up to the job of giving these guys the rhythmic support they need, and "Ralph J. Gleason Blues" shows that Persip and especially Joyner can deliver original and inventive solos.

"Ralph J. Gleason Blues" and "Mr. Wonderful" were the two cuts I was able to listen to, and I've put up "Ralph J. Gleason Blues" as my "Listen to One" selection because...because, well, everything. The Joyner and Persip contributions I mentioned above, and the ways that Garland and Barretto play off each other -- as always, perfectly balanced by Rudy Van Gelder's sound engineering.

Ralph J. Gleason, the dedicatee of Garland's blues, was one of the leading jazz critics of the 1950s, an associate editor of Down Beat. And as I've mentioned, another term for "leading jazz critic of the 1950s" was "snob."

Gleason, perhaps, less than most. While he might not have been so open as to recognize rhythm and blues as a legitimate form of jazz, because no one was, he was open to the new music that was being created by hippies and rockers of the 1960s, to the extent when in 1967, Jann Wenner started Rolling Stone, Gleason was one of its first editors.

"Mr. Wonderful" was the title song from a Broadway musical of 1956, which starred the Will Mastin Trio. In case you're not quite sure you remember the name, this was an act put together by vaudevillian Will Mastin, featuring his brother, Sammy Davis, and his nephew, who had been given the same name as his father. Yes, mega-star though he was already, Sammy Davis. Jr., continued to perform with, and feature, the vaudevillians who had nurtured them. Family acts from the Everly Brothers to Creedence Clearwater Revival have festered grievances to the point of coming to blows onstage, but Sammy stayed faithful to his two mentors until they retired, and today they are buried alongside each other. I saw Mr. Wonderful on Broadway, and yes, it wasn't much of a show, but yes, Sammy lit up the theater. The song wasn't the hit from the show, because it was sung about Sammy, not by him -- "Too Close For Comfort" got that honor. But it had a sweet melody, and Garland and his group get a lot out of it.


The session log has this as the Red Garland Quartet, but it was actually released under Red Garland Trio plus Ray Barretto (or con Ray Barretto to the Latin market). To either market, it was Rojo.

Order Listening to Prestige Vol 2


Listening to Prestige Vol. 2, 1954-1956 is here! You can order your signed copy or copies through the link above.


Tad Richards will strike a nerve with all of us who were privileged to have lived thru the beginnings of bebop, and with those who have since fallen under the spell of this American phenomenon…a one-of-a-kind reference book, that will surely take its place in the history of this music.

                                                                                                                                                --Dave Grusin

An important reference book of all the Prestige recordings during the time period. Furthermore, Each song chosen is a brilliant representation of the artist which leaves the listener free to explore further. The stories behind the making of each track are incredibly informative and give a glimpse deeper into the artists at work.
                                                                                                                --Murali Coryell