Friday, December 29, 2017

Listening to Prestige 297: Arnett Cobb

No doubt about it, the new sound is here. Soul jazz, the latest thing in jazz. It's got everything. The virtuoso solo space of bebop, the drive of swing, the gutbucket bluesy warmth of rhythm blues, that new intensity that arose when the gospel sound burst out of the church. You can groove to it, you can dance to it. It's got those honking, driving tenors, that thrilling new combination of tenor sax and organ. So what new talent can we find who can bring us all of  that?

How about someone who's been doing it since the 1930s?

This is a sound that goes back in time, and back in place, all the way to Texas. Nick Morrison of Tacoma, WA station KNKX (jazz, blues and NPR news) described it nicely: “a sound which is very robust, sometimes raw, and which mixes the musical vocabularies of swing, bebop, blues and R&B.”

The Texas tenor sound embedded itself indelibly into the jazz fan’s consciousness on May 26, 1942, in a New York City recording studio, when a 19-year-old Louisiana-born, Houston-bred musician named Illinois Jacquet stepped up in front of the Lionel Hampton orchestra to play one of the most famous jazz solos ever recorded, on what may well be the perfect single record, “Flying Home.”

Arnett Cobb would replace Jacquet in Hampton’s band later in 1942, and gain renown for his own solos on what would become Hampton’s theme, “Flying Home #2.”

Cobb got his start in Texas playing with local bands and then with one, Milt Larkin, that toured beyond the Southwest, and showcased bandmates Cobb and Jacquet for greater things.

Cobb went on to lead his own band in the 1940s, but the 1950s were a tough decade for him. Spinal surgery in 1950 set him back, and when he recovered, he was shortly to be involved in a serious auto accident, after which the Wild Man of the Tenor Sax could only walk with crutches, and could only play propped up on a crutch. When Bob Weinstock signed him to Prestige in 1959, he had not led a recording date since 1947.

But he was the right man, in the right place, in the right time. The new gospel-tinged sound of soul jazz, as pioneered by the likes of Ray Charles and Horace Silver, may have been news to white northern critics, but it was mother’s milk to an old Texas tenorman like Arnett Cobb. And that innovative new organ-tenor combination that was being introduced to jazz audiences by Shirley Scott and Eddie Davis? Cobb and Wild Bill Davis could handle it. They’d first played it together back in the 1930s, with Milt Larkin.

It’s interesting to listen to the difference. With Scott and Davis you can hear that searching, that experimentation, that sense of creating something new. With Cobb and Davis, there’s that familiarity that allows for a different, no less exciting kind of exploration.

And of course, here it’s Cobb, Davis and Davis.

 The group takes on a series of originals, including some, like “The Eely One,” “Go Red Go” and
“Dutch Kitchen Bounce” that are long time features of Cobb’s repertoire, and a Sigmund Romberg standard, “When I Grow Too Old to Dream.” We know from listening to Davis and Gene Ammons that the gutbucket blues stars of the tenor saxophone often have a softer side, and a sensitive way with a romantic ballad, and this is true of Cobb an extent. Cobb is from Texas, and as Nick Morrison describes it, “Cobb's solos are textbook examples of how to play Texas Tenor blues [or in this case, ballads]: cool and smooth at the beginning, but sassy and feisty at the end.

This was ballad enough, and feisty enough, for Weinstock to release it as the 45 from the session, with “Dutch Kitchen Bounce” on the flip side.

Guys who work at night making sublime art are often likely to want to relax the next day with cartoons, and perhaps that’s what George Duvivier had been doing when he penned the composition he was bringing to the session. Perhaps he’d been listening to one of the commercials that went with those kiddie shows:

He’s got go power, there he goes!
Whooosh! He’s feeling his Cheerios.

These guys were feeling their Cheerios—or something—when they recorded this. It doesn’t let up for a second. It’s soul jazz, Texas style, and it’s a thrill ride. They don't let up, and they don't ever stop improvising, either. If you think that all honking tenor riffs sound alike, think again. Illinois Jacquet may have kick-started the engine, but he and the other jazzmen who played in this style were always looking to take it farther, and faster, and wilder. Cobb and Davis spur each other here--and if you're not afraid of losing your seat on the express, take a moment to listen to what George Duvivier and Arthur Edgehill are doing to propel this juggernaut. Shirley Scott and Eddie Davis knew what they were doing when they tabbed them.

This album has Go Power, and it would be rereleased as Go Power, but the original release is Blow, Arnett, Blow. And good on Bob Weinstock, who was adding Arnett Cobb, who'd been more or less forgotten by 1959, to one of the hot new stars of his label, but gave Cobb the lead billing.

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, December 26, 2017

Wrapping up 1958 -- Part 3

Here’s my annual dip into the top albums of 1958 as seen from a contemporary vantage point, voted on by the participants in the website’s poll. This is a snapshot of a moment in time,because the voting is ongoing, and albums may slip up and down in the ratings,although the ones on top have enough votes to be fairly securely ensconced John Coltrane has over 6000 ratings as of this entry, Cannonball Adderley over 3000.

Rateyourmusic uses some sort of algorithm based on the total number of ratings, and the value (1-5 stars) of each rating. What it is, I couldn’t begin to guess,and I really don’t want to know. It’s enough that this quirky, idiosyncratic, but exhaustive list (500+ albums in all) exists.This is very much the year of the independent jazz label, and specifically, very much the year of Blue Note and Verve.
I’ve only included the jazz albums, but every year those make up the bulk of the list, as jazz fanciers seem to gravitate here.
1.      Blue Train, John Coltrane (Blue Note)
With all the albums Trane made for Prestige in 1958, this is the one that has endured as the classic of that era in his career. That it, and not any of the 1958 Prestige recordings is so dominantly atop the RYM hit parade is partly due to the fact that Prestige didn’t release any of those sessions in 1958, largely due to the presence Miles Davis on this one, the only time the Dark Prince appeared on a Coltrane session.

2.      Somethin' Else, Cannonball Adderley (Blue Note)
Blue Train grew in popularity over the years. Somethin’ Else started hot and has stayed hot. Also with Miles.

Cannon’s only album on Blue Note.

3.      Ascenseur pour l'√©chafaud, Miles Davis (Fontana)
Completely improvised to a screening of the Louis Malle film, with Miles and a French quartet includingtenor saxophonist Barney Wilen and expatriate Kenny Clarke. This was a cult rather and mainstream favorite when  released, partly because it was on an obscure European label and hard to find (Fontana would become better known in 1960s as the label of several British Invasion groups). The RYM voters clearly include a serious cult coterie.
6.    A Night at the Village Vanguard, Sonny Rollins (Blue Note)

7.    Milestones, Miles Davis (Columbia)

8.   Misterioso, Thelonious Monk Quartet (Riverside)

9.   Cool Struttin', Sonny Clark (Blue Note)
Sonny Clark has definitely had a renaissance since 1958, and not because he stayed around long enough to reap late career recognition, like Marian McPartland. He died young, in 1963.

He doesn’t even make the list of top 30 piano players in the Down Beat poll, and the 30th name (Ellis Larkins) gets only 18 votes. Clark was on a number of Blue Note albums during the late 1950s and early 1960s, and had several releases as leader. Cool Struttin’ features Art Farmer, Jackie McLean, Paul Chambers and Philly JoeJones. Clark’s presence three times in the top forty is a tribute to his music, to the searching and eclectic tastes of RYM listeners, and to the fact they’re not perfect. Sonny Clark Trio was actually not released until 1960.
Contemporary musician John Zorn has recorded an album of Clark’s compositions.
10.  Lady in Satin, Billie Holiday with Ray Ellis and His Orchestra (Columbia)
Pretty near the end for Lady Day. This is the album where her voice was a scratchy remnant, all the more raw andpainful for the lush string arrangements. But the emotional depth was still
there, and that makes it, for some, a favorite album. She would be dead a year later.

11.   Little Richard  (Specialty)    
Using my definition of a jazz singer as someone who can sing with jazz musicians and keep up, Little Richard here keeps up with some of the finest musicians in New Orleans, and if keeping up with the finest musicians in New Orleans isn’t credential enough for a jazz
singer, I don’t know what is. I’m talking about the tenormen Alvin “Red” Tyler and Herbert Hardesty, and especially drum innovator Earl Palmer. If Frank Sinatra, singing with Nelson Riddle’s lush orchestral accompaniment, is a jazz singer (and he is), Little Richard is a jazz singer. And rhythm and blues is jazz.

12.  Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely (Capitol)
See above.         

13.   Relaxin' With the Miles Davis Quintet (Prestige)       

14.  Thelonious in Action, Thelonious Monk Quartet (Riverside)
A busy year for Monk, and a rewarding year for his fans, who have grown legion over time. This one was recorded live at the Five Spot, the best place to hear Monk live back in the day, with Johnny Griffin on tenor.

16. Songs for Distingué Lovers, Billie Holiday (Verve)
Again, that voice at the end of its tether, this time with some great and deeply simpatico musicians: Harry Edison, Ben Webster, Jimmy Rowles, Barney Kessel.
17. For Musicians Only,Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie & Sonny Stitt (Verve)
I had not heard of this album, but the lineup was so intriguing I had to find it and listen to it. Not surprising it’s from Verve: this is the kind of all-star blowing session that probably no one but Norman Granz could pull together. It’s very much a Gillespie session,with two giants of jazz taking their cues from the master.

I thought I’d read this in Geoff Dyer’s But Beautiful, but I can't find it there, so it’s either an original thought (unlikely) or I owe it to someone else. Aficionados of other human enterprises can exercise their imaginations, thinking of what ifs: What about an outfield of Willie Mays, Babe Ruth and Ichiro? What if Beethoven could conduct Yo Yo Ma in the cello and piano sonatas?

In jazz, we don’t have to wonder. What if Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie were to play together? They did, even after Louis trashed beboppers in his parody of the Whiffenpoof Song. What would it have been like if you could have put Satch together with Ella Fitzgerald? We know, don’t we? Lionel Hampton and Stan Getz? Lester Young and Charlie Parker?
We have Norman Granz to thank for that last pairing, in his Jazz at the Philharmonic. And thanks for this one, too, Norman.

18. But Not for Me: Ahmad Jamal Trio at the Pershing (Argo)
Always a huge popular success, gradually a critical success with a strong boost from Miles Davis. Jamal and his trio were the house band at the Pershing Hotel in Chicago, and they recorded for Argo, the jazz subsidiary of the Chicago label Chess Records.

21. The Cooker, Lee Morgan (Blue Note)
Lee Morgan was 19, and had already recorded six albums, and had appeared on John Coltrane’s Blue Train just two weeks before.

22. Soulville, The Ben Webster Quintet (Verve)
You know, even before looking it up, that this has to be a Verve session. Again, another what if? made real through the magic of jazz. Webster with Oscar Peterson, Herb Ellis, Ray Brown and Stan Levey. One of my most treasured vinyl albums is a 1972 BenWebster recording with Tete Montoliu, Did You Call?  Which is another one of those only-in-jazz pairings, across styles and generations and continents.

Webster would die in 1973.

23. Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Irving Berlin Song Book (Verve)

24. Sonny Clark Trio (Blue Note)

26. Basie, Count Basie and His Orchestra + Neal Hefti Arrangements (Roulette)

27. Time Waits: The Amazing Bud Powell, Vol. 4 (Blue Note)
A couple of notes here. First, on the interesting and inscrutable RYM algorithm. Powell beats out Basie on the star-rating average, 3.88 to 3.79, but Basie has over 1000 ratings, Powell under 150. So by next week, these positions could be reversed, or Powell could be somewhere completely different. That’s interesting for a number of different reasons, principal among them that none of this matters. Count Basie had the 26th best album of 1958, and Bud Powell had the 27th best—as of the end of 2017? But by the beginning of 2018 that could change? Of course not. It means that in 2017 and 2018, people are still listening to these great jazz masters. And that a newer fan, running across this list, might go out and listen to both of them.
Also of interest. By 1958, Powell was already, in the eyes of most in the jazz world, in the grip of an irreversible decline. Contemporary Down Beat voters don’t vote him into the top ten, although he was still working and still recording. But looking back through the prism of time, just as listeners are still finding value in late Billie Holiday, they’re finding value in late Bud Powell. And not undeserved.

28. Newport 1958, Mahalia Jackson (Columbia)
No one really knew what to do with Mahalia Jackson back in1958. Everyone thought she would have been a great jazz singer, or a great blues singer, or even a great pop singer, but she would not sing anything except gospel, with anything except gospel instrumentation and arrangements. So she’s voted in on the strength of the awe she was held in, deservedly, in spite of the fact that she did not sing with jazz musicians. And other singers who did sing with jazz musicians don’t make the cut. Like Ruth Brown or LaVern Baker. Or lesser known fine singers like Varetta Dillard or Faye Adams. Because they were rhythm and blues singers, and everyone knows that’s not jazz.
29. Ray Charles at Newport (Atlantic)
If Ray Charles didn't sufficiently blur the lines between what people called jazz and what people called rhythm and blues, no wonder it was considered a hopeless cause, if anyone even bothered to call it a cause at all.

30. The Art Tatum - Ben Webster Quartet (Verve)

32. Volume IV, The Ahmad Jamal Trio (Argo)
33. A Night in Tunisia, Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers (RCA)
This was released on both the RCA Victor subsidiary Vik and on RCA. Blakey recorded for everyone, indie and major alike. In 1957-58 alone, he had recording sessions for Columbia, Blue Note (4 sessions), Elektra, Vik (2), RCA Bluebird (2), Cadet, Jubilee, Atlantic, Bethlehem, and the European labels Calliope, Jazzband, Fontana (3), Solar, and French RCA. And that doesn't count the recording sessions with Milt Jackson, Hank Mobley (2), Jimmy Smith (6), Clifford Jordan/John Gilmore,Johnny Griffin, Sonny Rollins, Thelonious Monk (2), Cannonball Adderley (2), Tina Brooks, Gil Evans (3), and Kenny Burrell.
35. LaVern Baker Sings Bessie Smith (Atlantic)
The jazz establishment may not have recognized that LaVern Baker and Ruth Brown were jazz singers, but they surely did, and the Ertegun brothers of Atlantic Records surely did. Here are the musicians with Baker for this session: Buck Clayton trumpet), Jimmy Cleveland, Urbie Green, Vic Dickenson (trombone),  Paul Quinichette (tenor sax), Jerome Richardson, Sahib Shihab (baritone sax), Danny Barker (guitar), Nat Pierce (piano), Wendell Marshall (bass), Joe Marshall (drums), arrangements by Ernie Wilkins, Nat Pierce, Phil Moore.

36. I'm Jimmy Reed (VeeJay)
Robert Frost wrote that
 ...though there is no fixed line between wrong and right,
There are roughly zones whose laws must be obeyed. 
And we're pretty much stuck with that truth. The horn-based rhythm and blues of the two coasts, coming from Memphis and the urban centers of the South, is jazz, the guitar-based blues of Chicago and Detroit, coming from the Delta, isn't. So Jimmy Reed is really on the outside of this list. But there is a larger zone: the Great American Century in music, all of it with its roots in the blues. And if establishment America owes reparations to the black community for anything, surely it starts here.
37. Sonny's Crib, Sonny Clark (Blue Note)

38. Duets, Dizzy Gillespie with Sonny Rollins and Sonny Stitt (Verve)
Another fascinating and new to me collaboration between Dizzy and some of the finest jazz players around. But there is probably no year across five decades that would not find Dizzy Gillespie at the center of some of the most interesting music being made.

39. Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers with Thelonious Monk (Atlantic)

40. The Congregation, Johnny Griffin (Blue Note)

There you have it. A pretty good cross section of the jazz that was being played and recorded in 1958. RYM's list is 500 deep, and leafing through it is a guide to the Big Picture. 

Other musicians whose output got mention: Gerry Mulligan, Louis Smith, Max Roach, Ornette Coleman,  Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Cal Tjader, Red Garland, Nat "King" Cole, Benny Carter, Hampton Hawes, Barney Kessel, Shelly Manne, Red Mitchell, J. J. Johnson, Dave Brubeck, Gene Ammons, Clark Terry, Blossom Dearie, Chet Baker, Julie London, Horace Silver, Sam Cooke, Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, Little Willie John, Sarah Vaughan, Dorothy Ashby, Tito Puente, Anita O'Day, Lou Donaldson, Blue Mitchell, Charles Mingus, Johnny Hodges, Yusef Lateef, King Pleasure, Modern Jazz Quartet, Allen Toussaint, Chris Connor, Barney Wilen, Steve Lacy, Peggy Lee, Jackie Wllson, Kenny Drew, Coleman Hawkins, Paul Gonsalves, Dinah Washington, Perez Prado, Wynton Kelly, Jimmy Giuffre, Mal Waldron, Harold Land Bob Cooper, Jimmy Raney, Machito, Bennie Green, Sabu, Eddie Costa, Fats Domino, Mose Allison, Benny Golson, Pepper Adams, Louis Prima, Roy Eldridge, Harry Edison, Anne Phillips, Dexter Gordon, Stephane Grappelli, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, Beverley Kenney, Harry Belafonte, Frank Rosolino, Tiny Grimes, Erroll Garner, Jack Costanzo, Kenny Dorham, Abbey Lincoln, Donald Byrd, Dakota Staton, Peggy Lee, Philly Joe Jones, Kenneth Patchen, Mel Torme, Leroy Vinnegar, Wilbur Harden, Marty Paich, Louis Bellson, Gigi Gryce, Nat Adderley, Phineas Newborn, June Christy, Johnny Mandel, Wilbur Ware, Warne Marsh, PeeWee Russell, Herbie Mann, Bobby Jaspar, Laurindo Almeida, Bud Shank, Andre Previn, Sue Raney, Jonah Jones, Conte Candoli, Jean Thielemans, Woody Herman, Curtis Fuller, Al Hirt, Betty Carter, Jeri Southern, Billy Eckstine, John Jenkins, George Wallington, Ernie Henry, Tiny Grimes, J. C. Higginbotham, Lee Allen, Paul Bley, Stan Kenton, the Four Freshmen, Buddy DeFranco, Cootie Williams, Johnny Otis, George Shearing, the Hi-Los, Tal Farlow, Jimmy Rushing, Charlie Mariano, Phil Woods, Rosemary Clooney, Carmen McRae, Ernie Henry, Joe Houston, Charlie Byrd, Terry Gibbs, Candido, Hal McKusick, Ken Nordine, Morgana King, Shorty Rogers. A good year for jazz.

On to 1959!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Wrapping up 1958 - part 2

Who were jazz fans digging in 1958? Certainly the best place to look would be the annual Down Beat readers’ poll. It wasn’t the only one. Metronome had a jazz poll, and Metronome attracted some serious jazz buffs. It was edited by Leonard Feather and Barry Ulanov, of whom Miles Davis had said that they were the only white critics who understood bebop. But Metronome was on shaky legs at this point. It would go under in 1961. The Jazz Review had just begun publication in 1958, edited by Nat Hentoff and Martin Williams, and it was certainly for the really serious jazz aficionado, but maybe there weren’t enough of us, because it, too, went down for the count in 1961. Playboy had begun its jazz poll in 1957, and it was certainly the biggest, with Playboy’s immense readership, but not always the most serious. When Johnny Carson took over the Tonight show in 1962, Doc Severinsen began beating out Miles and Dizzy for best trumpeter, and by the mid-1960s, as Paul McCartney started dominating the bass category and Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson the flute, Playboy threw in the towel and changed the poll’s name to Jazz and Pop.

And, once again, I offer up my annual plea. How is it possible that Down Beat’s archives have still not been digitized? This is an American cultural treasure, covering jazz since 1934, with reviews, interviews, blindfold tests, club and festival news. And the annual jazz polls, which you aren’t going to find on the Internet. Thank goodness for the New York Public Library, still a researcher’s best friend.

Here’s 1958.

1958 Down Beat Poll Winners

Personalities: Jazz
1.    Miles Davis
2.    Count Basie
3.    Duke Ellington
4.    Thelonious Monk
5.    Erroll Garner
6.    Modern Jazz Quartet
7.    Dave Brubeck
8.    Ella Fitzgerald
9.    Stan Kenton
10.  Sonny Rollins

What makes a jazz personality? Miles certainly had charisma to spare. Turning your back on the audience while you're playing may seem anti-theatrical, but there's nothing more theatrical than the anti-theatrical. But by those standards, I would have put Mingus high on the list, and he didn't make it at all.

Why Basie? He wasn't at the height of his popularity then, and many critics downgraded his 1950s bands in comparison to the heyday of Lester Young, but time has given assent to the greatness of this era in the Basie story, and it seems as though listeners, if not all critics, agreed. Basie was also voted the number one jazz band.

You would think Stan Kenton made more of an impact as a personality two years earlier, when he accused jazz fans and critics of prejudice against "a new minority, white jazz musicians." Or later, in the 1970s, when his son tried to kill a lawyer by putting a rattlesnake in his mailbox.  But Kenton was still very popular throughout the 1950s, and he was doing it with music that was often difficult and challenging, so he must have had some force of personality.

Personalities: Pop
1.    Frank Sinatra
2.    Johnny Mathis
3.    Ella Fitzgerald
4.    Nat “King” Cole
5.    Eydie Gorme
6.    Perry Como
7.    Peggy Lee
8.    Keely Smith
9.    Patti Page
10.  Tony Bennett

What makes a pop personality? Obviously, the answer is that no one knows, and very few would be able to agree on criteria for voting, unlike, say, the criteria for alto sax players. Still, it's hard to figure out what definition of personality would include Eydie Gorme and not Sammy Davis Jr. or Harry Belafonte.

Personalities: Rhythm and Blues
1.    Ray Charles
2.    Joe Williams
3.    Fats Domino
4.    Joe Turner
5.    Dinah Washington
6.    Elvis Presley
7.    Chuck Berry
8.    Bill Doggett
9.    Jimmy Rushing
10.  The Platters

Rhythm and blues gets its nose under the tent here. By 1958, most of the great rhythm and blues bandleaders like Joe Liggins and Frank "Floorshow" Culley had faded into oblivion, although Big Jay McNeely would still have a hit or two, and the Down Beat voters thought of R&B as primarily a vocalist's medium, although of course Ray Charles was much, much more than that.

Male singer
1.    Frank Sinatra
2.    Joe Williams
3.    Jimmy Rushing
4.    Mel Torme
5.    Johnny Mathis
6.    Nat Cole
7.    Jackie Paris
8.    Ray Charles
9.    David Allen
10.  Louis Armstrong

I’d never heard of David Allen, and had a rough time finding anything about him until I discovered that Down Beat had misspelled David Allyn’s name, not that I knew him better under the correct spelling. He had begun as vocalist with Jack Teagarden in the 1940s, sang with Boyd Raeburn and others. I found a video of him on YouTube. Not bad. Good to see Jackie Paris, that most uncompromising of bebop singers, on the list. Mose Allison gets some votes lower down on the list, as does Al Hibbler. King Pleasure barely makes it, and Eddie Jefferson not at all. Nor Earl Coleman, although he was certainly still around.

Female singer
1.    Ella Fitzgerald
2.    Anita O’Day
3.    June Christy
4.    Dakota Staton
5.    Chris Connor
6.    Sarah Vaughan
7.    Billie Holiday
8.    Eydie Gorme
9.    Mahalia Jackson
10.  Peggy Lee

The big surprise here – nowhere in the top 25 is Nina Simone to be found, although she’d released her first album on Bethlehem and had a hit with “I Loves You Porgy.” Neither Ruth Brown nor Lavern Baker gets a mention. Today, the royalty of that era is Ella, Sarah, Billie and Dinah, but the 1958 voters didn’t see it that way. Dakota Staton was probably at the peak of her popularity after the 1957 release of “The Late Late Show.” I’d be surprised if Eydie Gorme would rate as high in retrospect, and Mahalia Jackson, though her reputation has never declined, did stop being thought of as a jazz singer.

Vocal Group
1.    Four Freshman
2.    Hi-Los
3.    Dave Lambert Singers with Jon Hendricks and Annie Ross
4.    Jackie and Roy
5.    Axidentals
6.    Mills Brothers
7.    King Sisters
8.    Four Lads
9.    Kirby Stone Quartet
10.  Platters
The Axidentals appear to have made one record with Maynard Ferguson and one with Kai Winding before fading into obscurity. Were the Four Freshmen and the Hi-Los really that popular? They were always one-two in every poll like this, and by a huge margin ahead of the field, but maybe that was because no one knew exactly what a jazz vocal group was. The Mills Brothers had had some good jazz credentials, and they were still good, but not exactly jazz.
So what is a jazz vocalist? I’ve given my definition before: anyone who can sing with good jazz musicians and not get hopelessly lost. That would rule out most of the groups on this list, but would not necessarily rule out a lot who never made these lists: groups like the Clovers, who played with the fine jazz musicians Atlantic had in its house band. Perhaps jazz vocal groups were the ones who sang standards from what had not yet been called the Great American Songbook (which doesn’t exactly explain the Kingston Trio at #11 on the list), but the vocal groups who were really keeping the standards alive in the 1950s were the doowop harmony groups like the Five Keys and the Flamingoes.

1.    J. J. Johnson
2.    Bob Brookmeyer
3.    Kai Winding
4.    Frank Rosolino
5.    Jimmy Cleveland
6.    Bill Harris
7.    Jack Teagarden
8.    Urbie Green
9.    Jimmy Knepper
10.  Carl Fontana

The team of J. J. and Kai seems to have receded in the minds of jazz fans, and J. J. is king of the mountain, with no else close. He pulled 2355 of the trombone votes, with Bob Brookmeyer a distant second (813) and no one else even breaking 300. Curtis Fuller was perhaps still too new to crack the top ten, though you’d think there’d have been a place for Bennie Green.

1.    Miles Davis
2.    Dizzy Gillespie
3.    Maynard Ferguson
4.    Chet Baker
5.    Art Farmer
6.    Jonah Jones
7.    Louis Armstrong
8.    Shorty Rogers
9.    Roy Eldridge
10.  Donald Byrd

No surprise on the first two, with maybe a little surprise that Miles is so far ahead of Dizzy – 2352 to 696. Jonah Jones had more popularity than critical acclaim, and he would not likely be ranked that high by today’s jazz aficionados. Shorty Rogers was on a path from the avant garde (he is said to have influenced Igor Stravinsky) to such credits as The Monkees and The Partridge Family. What his reputation is now, I couldn’t begin to say. I guess it depends on which Shorty you listen to. In 1958 he put out three albums for RCA Victor: jazz versions of songs from the movie musical Gigi, including “Thank Heaven for Little Girls;” an album of Afro-Cuban rhythms with a group that didn’t include any Africans but did have a group of Cubans on percussion and vocals; and an album called Chances Are It Swings, dedicated to the proposition that contemporary popular songs were as good a basis for jazz improvisation as any of the standards, a proposition which was not endorsed by Down Beat’s reviewer. Kenny Dorham, Clark Terry and Lee Morgan were all on lower rungs. Freddie Hubbard was new on the scene, and had started to make waves in New York jazz circles, but was still flying under the public radar. He appeared on John Coltrane’s last recording session for Prestige, but that of course would not be released for another few years.

Alto sax:
1.    Paul Desmond 
2.    Lee Konitz
3.    Art Pepper 
4.    Julian Adderley
5.    Sonny Stitt
6.    Johnny Hodges
7.    Bud Shank
8.    Phil Woods
9.    Jacki McLean
10.  Benny Carter

Fans of the alto were remarkably consistent in the late 1950s. This list is nearly identical to the 1957 vote. Cannonball Adderley has moved up, Benny Carter has edged out Zoot Sims for the tenth spot. The significant new name—and he’s way down at the bottom, his 21 votes just enough to qualify him—is Ornette Coleman. So a few people were starting to listen.

Tenor sax:
1.    Stan Getz    
2.    Sonny Rollins 
3.    John Coltrane
4.    Zoot Sims
5.    Coleman Hawkins
6.    Ben Webster
7.    Bill Perkins
8.    Lester Young
9.    Johnny Griffin
10.  Al Cohn

The big movement here is John Coltrane, from also-ran in 1957 to third place in the hearts of Down Beat readers, though Getz is still far out in front of the pack, and would remain there for a long time.

Baritone Sax
1.    Gerry Mulligan 
2.    Harry Carney  
3.    Pepper Adams
4.    Cecil Payne
5.    Jimmy Giuffre 
6.    Tony Scott
7.    Gil Melle
8.    Bud Shank
9.    Charlie Ventura
10.  Al Cohn

 This is still Gerry Mulligan and everyone else, and it's hard to argue that.

1.    Tony Scott  
2.    Jimmy Giuffre    
3.    Buddy deFranco
4.    Benny Goodman  
5.    PeeWee Russell
6.    Jimmy Hamilton
7.    Buddy Collette
8.    Woody Herman
9.    Pete Fountain
10.  John LaPorta

You’d think by this time, the clarinet would have been folded into “Miscellaneous Instrument.” But I guess there were still more clarinet players than soprano sax players.

1.    Errol Garner
2.    Thelonious Monk
3.    Oscar Peterson  
4.    Dave Brubeck  
5.    Andre Previn
6.    Horace Silver
7.    John Lewis
8.    Red Garland
9.    Hampton Hawes
10.  Billy Taylor

There were so many great piano players. When a personal favorite like Mose Allison straggles in at 20th, or Ray Bryant 30th, you may say, “Wait a second, what’s that all about?” But you look at the musicians above them, and there aren’t many you’d drop down. Ahmad Jamal and George Shearing probably sold more records than any other jazz pianists, but Jamal had the stigma, which would later be erased, of the cocktail lounge, and Shearing was thought of as a bit of a sellout. If 1958's piano heroes were being voted on today, there's a good chance Marian McPartland would make the list. Longevity and a beloved radio show will do that for you, but she also really was that good.

1.    Barney Kessel   
2.    Herb Ellis
3.    Jim Hall
4.    Kenny Burrell
5.    Johnny Smith
6.    Tal Farlow 
7.    Freddie Green
8.    Mundell Lowe
9.    Laurindo Almeida
10.  Jimmy Raney

The most interesting guy to fall short here is Wes Montgomery, and he’s close – 12th on the list, with 84 votes. Montgomery released his first two albums in 1958, on Pacific Jazz, and at least a few people were listening.

1.    Herbie Mann
2.    Bud Shank
3.    Frank Wess
4.    Buddy Collette
5.    Sam Most
6.    Moe Koffman
7.    Paul Horn
8.    Bobby Jaspar
9.    Yusef Lateef
10.  Jerome Richardson

Herbie Mann continues to sit atop the flute pyramid, but Bud Shank and Frank Wess were right up there.

1.    Milt Jackson   
2.    Terry Gibbs  
3.    Lionel Hampton  
4.    Red Norvo
5.    Cal Tjader
6.    Teddy Charles
7.    Larry Bunker
8.    Don Elliott
9.    Harry Sheppard
10.  Vic Feldman

Here it’s still Milt Jackson and no one else close. I’d always thought of Vic Feldman as a pianist (and I’d always thought of him as Victor Feldman), but he made his early mark, first in England and then in America, on the vibes.

1.    Ray Brown  
2.    Paul Chambers
3.    Red Mitchell
4.    Leroy Vinnegar
5.    Oscar Pettiford
6.    Charles Mingus
7.    Percy Heath
8.    Milt Hinton
9.    Wilbur Ware
10.  Chubby Jackson

This is the first category to see a major shift in popularity from the previous year, with Oscar Pettiford’s popularity dipping precipitously. New on the list is Charles Mingus. Last year’s sixth place finisher was Charlie Mingus—this apparently was the year that Mingus became respected enough to be called by the name he preferred. It’s a little surprising to see Chubby Jackson still in the top ten, not because he wasn’t good, but because he really didn’t record that much. By 1959, he would have embarked on his new career as kiddie TV host.

1.    Shelly Manne
2.    Max Roach
3.    Joe Morello
4.    Art Blakey
5.    Chico Hamilton
6.    Jo Jones
7.    Gene Krupa
8.    Philly Joe Jones
9.    Mel Lewis
10.  Buddy Rich

If the West Coast is triumphant anywhere, it has to be here. Voters couldn’t overlook bebop pioneers and acknowledged masters Max Roach and Art Blakey, but the rest of the top five are from that other coast. Although Red Garland and Paul Chambers have shot up in popularity, much of that must have come from their work with Miles Davis, rather than the trio work and the John Coltrane sessions on Prestige, because Art Taylor is way down on the list with a handful of votes.

Miscellaneous Instrument
1.    Don Elliot (Mellophone)  
2.    Jimmy Smith (organ)
3.    Bob Cooper (oboe)
4.    Fred Katz (Cello)
5.    Toots Thielemans (harmonica)
6.    Shorty Rogers (flugelhorn)
7.    Candido (congas)
8.    Miles Davis (flugelhorn)
9.    Stuff Smith (violin)
10.  Julius Watkins (French horn)

I don’t think organ is going to remain a miscellaneous instrument much longer. And I guess they didn’t quite know what to do with the flugelhorn. It was also gaining in popularity, though mostly as a second choice for trumpet players. And if they did make it a separate category, what would they do when Art Farmer invented the flumpet?

Candido is the only Latin percussionist anyone can think of? And percussion doesn’t have its own category?

1.    Duke Ellington   
2.    John Lewis         
3.    Gil Evans
4.    Bill Holman
5.    Thelonious Monk
6.    Johnny Richards
7.    Jimmy Giuffre
8.    Neal Hefti
9.    Benny Golson
10.  Pete Rugolo

Ellington and John Lewis continue to lead the pack, and the Composer category gets fewer total votes than most, as at least some jazz fans have more passionate feelings about instrumentalists and improvisers than they do about composers.

It’s hard to remember how slow Monk’s reputation was in growing, although the movement has certainly begun. In 1957 he ranked 13th among Down Beat readers in this category; by 1958 he’s up to fifth. Today, a vote on the all time greatest jazz composers by contemporary jazz fans at puts Monk in second place, behind only Ellington. John Lewis, perennial jouster for the top spot with the Duke, slips way down in the ranker poll, and that doesn’t seem right. How far down is a variable--online polls are always works in progress, and although the top spots generally have enough votes that they don't change much, the lower ranks are more fluid. Lewis was 69th on one day, 43rd a few days later.

Of course, a lot changed in jazz over the years. The ranker voters have Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Charles Mingus in the third, fourth and fifth slot, and only Mingus (#22) got any votes at all in 1958. But Davis’s reputation as a composer—and certainly Coltrane’s—developed later.

And the concept of what a composer was changed too, over the years. The 1950s voters seemed to want to distinguish between musicians who would bring tunes into a session and Composers with a capital “C.” The present day fans are just the reverse. Johnny Richards and Neal Hefti were probably more arrangers than composers, and their reputations were largely tied to Stan Kenton and Woody Herman, both of whom have receded in importance to contemporary ears.

Bill Holman was also largely tied to Kenton, and like Richards and Hefti, is completely forgotten by the new jazz fans, unjustly. As late as the mid-90s, Holman was still winning Grammys as a composer.

What about Mose Allison? He should have been on the radar of the 1958 voters. In his early albums for Prestige, he certainly distinguished himself as a composer. Perhaps to the contemporary voters, he was viewed more as a songwriter.

And it’s hard to see how Gil Evans can have been so overlooked by today’s voters, especially since so much of his important work came after 1958.

Antonio Carlos Jobim and Airto Moreira are the only Latin composers on the contemporary list.

Ellington makes the BBC’s list of the ten most important composers of the 20th Century, any genre.

Since ranker is a list in progress, I added Mal Waldron, Tito Puente and Gil Evans. Let’s see if anyone follows my lead, and they move up.

Jazz Band:
1.    Count Basie
2.    Duke Ellington
3.    Stan Kenton
4.    Maynard Ferguson
5.    Herb Pomeroy
6.    Johnny Richards
7.    Dizzy Gillespie
8.    Woody Herman
9.    Ted Heath
10.  Harry James

Dance Band:
1.    Les Brown
2.    Les and Larry Elgart
3.    Count Basie
4.    Harry James
5.    Stan Kenton
6.    Ray Anthony
7.    Ray McKinley
8.    Ted Heath
9.    Woody Herman
10.  Buddy Morrow

Why Harry James, and not the Tommy Dorsey band (led by Warren Covington) which has a sizeable hit in 1958? This category seems to be handout to the old guard, otherwise, if you’re talking about bands that people would dance to, why not the Alan Freed stage band, with jazz notables like Sam “the Man” Taylor, Al Sears and Panama Francis. And at a time when the mambo and the cha-cha were the hottest dances around (the Dorsey band’s hit was “Tea for Two Cha-Cha-Cha”) did no one think to recognize the great Tito Puente?