Monday, September 21, 2015

Listening to Prestige Part 147: Gene Ammons

This is a curious session, and I'm trying to puzzle it out. It's certainly not designed to produce a 12-inch LP--they only cut two tunes that day. So...a 45, maybe? One for the jukeboxes? But this isn't exactly a rhythm and blues aggregation. It's a whole new group. None of them have recorded with Ammons before, and they're all serious modern jazz musicians, the cream of the crop.

But that's OK. All these cats can play rhythm and blues. Addison Farmer may have studied at Juilliard and Manhattan School of Music, but he also played in the house band for the Bihari brothers' Modern Records, one of the premier R&B labels on the West Coast. Lou Donaldson became famous for playing the funky side of jazz, and as he said in a recent interview with jazz blogger Larry Appelbaum , "If you can’t play the blues, you can’t play no jazz, I don’t care who it is or how much you study."

But no, that doesn't seem to be the case, either. No rhythm and blues here. These are jazz cats playing straight ahead jazz, and very tasty stuff at that. With soloists like Donaldson and Art Farmer filling out the front line with Ammons, there's a lot of jazz to play, and both selections run long - "Juggernaut" checks in at 10:31, "Woofin' and Tweetin'" at 15.06. Plenty of time for extended solos, and enough music to fill up both sides of a 10-inch LP. So who needs to worry about a 45 for the jukeboxes?

Except...they did release "Woofin' and Tweetin'" as a 45. And not an EP, apparently. How? I have no
idea. Maybe they did two versions, one for the album and one for the single. But then there'd be an indication of that on the session record. Maybe they just truncated it. I looked for playing time on the 45's label, but no such luck.

I'm pleased to see that the bebop trope of punning on the artist's name (or in this case nickname) hasn't disappeared altogether: hence, "Juggernaut." And I also like "Woofin' and Tweetin'." It has the suggestion of an old time rhythm and blues title, like "Rockin' and Rollin'" or "Rollin' and Tumblin'" or "Shuckin' and Jivin'," updated to the new jargon of the hi-fi world.

This session did eventually make it to 12-inch, but here again there's a curiosity. Prestige did often rerelease material, but in this case it doesn't seem to be so much a rerelease as a release of the same thing twice. Gene Ammons All-Star Sessions and Gene Ammons - Woofin' and Tweetin' are both PRLP 7050, same catalog number. But they have two different names and two different covers.

The 45 RPM seems to have been released more or less at the same time as the album. The label reads From the 12" LP 7050 "Woofin' and Tweetin'." So maybe it went something like this:
Hey, why don't we put out a 45 on this one. It's not exactly rhythm and blues, but it is Gene Ammons. I bet we can get it on a few jukeboxes.
Isn't it a little long?
We'll just cut it down some. On the jukeboxes, who'll care? But you know...if we're putting out the 45, maybe we should change the name of the album, so if someone hears it on a jukebox and likes it, they'll know what album to buy.
Sure, why not? In that case, let's change the album cover too. I never liked that original art much.
Actually, it wasn't unusual for Prestige to put out an album with alternate covers -- in fact, there's a whole website devoted to just that. Often the difference was just one of a different color scheme, less often a whole different design. Two different names is rarer yet, although not quite unique.

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