Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Listening to Prestige Records Part 64: Joe Holiday

1952 seems to have been a slow year for Bob Weinstock, which is a little odd, given that Prestige was enjoying its biggest hit to date with King Pleasure's "Moody's Mood." He did Sonny Stitt the week after King Pleasure (and it's quite likely he was expecting more from the Stitt session than from King Pleasure), and then very little else for the first half of the year. The Jimmy Forrest/Miles Davis session, which may or may not have been in the spring of 1952, wasn't a New York production or a Weinstock production.

Sometime in April there was a session with rhythm and blues vocalist John Bennings. There's no information at all about who played on the session, which is very rare for Prestige. Four songs were recorded, two released on Prestige, two on Par Presentation. I don't think Weinstock produced the Par Presentation sessions, so I'm guessing he didn't involve himself much here. Par was run by a guy named Sam Green, which is much too common a name for me to track down.It lasted until 1953.

These recordings have catalog numbers, so they must have been released, but they aren't on Spotify or YouTube. I've found mention of Bennings recording for several of the best independent R&B labels, including Savoy and Apollo, but I can't find any of those recordings either, so I don't know what he sounds like. I did find a source that says he lived till 1995, so I hope he sang and was appreciated.

I know what Bennie Green sounds like, and I would love to hear more of what he sounded like with strings, but this recording is also not on Spotify or YouTube. I was able to find it on Slacker, but without a subscription I couldn't listen to more than one cut. Bennie sounded in fine form.

I'm really starting to feel a visceral sense of loss every time I hit a session I can't lsten to.

The Green session was in May, so no recording of jazz in March or April. And then nothing until the end of July, when Joe Holiday is back, and back with a vengeance. If  anything, this is even hotter than the first session. Mambo was the thing, and Holiday has some powerful percussionists here who dominate the session -- and in a good way.

I can't find anything on Ulysses Hampton beyond this session, but he's on fire here. There must have been so many talented percussionists around New York back then. This era, and this music, and the Cuban immigrant experience are brilliantly portrayed in Oscar Hijuelos' great novel, The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love. The movie that was made from it isn't great, but the mambo sequences are.

This was three years before Sam Woodyard joined the Ellington orchestra, but he could play anything on the drums -- his background was R&B with Paul Gayten, traditional jazz with Roy Eldridge, and here the mambo bebop hybrid of Joe Holiday. There's some very nice solo work by Holiday, and some good organ-sax stuff, but it's the percussion that really drew me. All in all, makes me even more glad to have been introduced to Joe Holiday and his mambo jazz.

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