Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Listening to Prestige Part 138: Gene Ammons

This is Gene Ammons's second recording session with this new group, so time to take a look at some of them. I can't find any information on Nat Howard, except to say that he sounds good here.

Henderson Chambers is one of those guys who straddled the fence between jazz and rhythm and blues, not that there was ever really much of a fence. He played with Al Sears and Tiny Bradshaw in the 30s, then Chris Columbus at the Savoy Ballroom in 1939-40, and then a few years with Louis Armstrong in the early 40s, followed by gigs with Don Redman, Sy Oliver, Lucky Millinder, and Count Basie. In the 50s, he played with Cab Calloway, Doc Cheatham, Duke Ellington, and Mercer Ellington. In the 60s, Ray Charles and Basie again. This was a cat who never lacked for work. He died in 1967.

I can't find much on Gene Easton, but he played with Duke Ellington, Dinah Washington, Sun Ra and Muhal Richard Abrams, so he had some range.

Earl Coleman was a singer in the Billy Eckstine mode, which as I've said, was going out of fashion by this time, although it had its adherents, including Mr. B. himself, who was still going strong into the 1980s, when he made a Grammy-winning recording with Benny Carter. Probably the most successful post-1940s work by a rich-toned baritone in the Eckstine tradition was Johnny Hartman's 1963 collaboration with John Coltrane.

Coleman recorded two tunes on this session with Ammons. One of them, "This is Always," a Harry Warren/Mack Gordon composition, was his attempt to recapture lightning in a bottle. He had had a minor hit with the song in 1947, but the success of that version may have had something to do with the other musicians on the date: Charlie Parker and Erroll Garner.

Probably the two instrumental tracks are the really memorable ones from this session, though. Ammons does a beautiful version of a great ballad: George Gershwin's "Our Love is Here To Stay."  The other tune, "Blues Roller" (or "Blue Roller") is not exactly a blues rock and roller, although Ammons does take off from an easy rolling ensemble part to do some old fashioned Texas tenor honking.

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