Friday, July 12, 2019

Listening to Prestige 404: Buddy Tate with Clark Terry

Buddy Tate began recording for Prestige in 1959, as part of a Shirley-Scott / Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis session, made his first recording as a leader near the end of that year. This was productive period for Tate, who was also leading a group at Harlem's Celebrity Club, a gig that lasted over two decades, from 1953-1774.

Tate's involvement with Prestige was both the with the newer soul jazz sound (Scott-Davis) and the older Swingville sound, both of them connected by rhythm and blues, and both of them connected by the talent scouting and producing abilities of Esmond Edwards.

Edwards, born and raised in Harlem, had first been employed by Bob Weinstock as a photographer. Then Weinstock had him produce a couple of sessions, and by 1958 had put him in the position of recording director, and for the next several years he produced most of Prestige's sessions. Edwards was familiar with the Harlem jazz scene to a degree that Weinstock was not. He knew about places like the Celebrity Club/ He brought Tate and other musicians downtown, and out to Englewood Cliffs, and he found and signed up the younger musicians who were creating the soul jazz sound.

For this session, Tate is joined by Clark Terry, who did not come from uptown in those days. After solid stints with both the Basie and Ellington bands, he had a steady gig as a member of Johnny Tonight Show orchestra. He had appeared on a very early Prestige session, in 1950 with Dexter Gordon and Wardell Gray,  and then not again until a September 1960 session with Scott and Davis. Terry is also responsible for the lion's share of the compositions on this session, beginning with "Groun' Hog," a slow blues which, at just over eight minutes, allows all the participants to stretch out and do some beautiful work, particularly Tommy Flanagan early on, and Tate later on. It's eight minutes well spent with some master players.
Carson's

20 Ladbroke Square is credited to Tate and Esmond Edwards as composers, and it's another blues, one that opens up and allows for some inspired blowing. The address is for an apartment building in the Notting Hill section of London, not an area traditionally associate with the blues. Well, maybe there's another Ladbroke Square. The rest of the session belongs to Duke Ellington, in ballad ("All Too Soon") and swinging ("Take the A Train") tempos. The combination of Ellington and these old pros is every bit as good as you would have imagined it to be.

Having dropped back in after a decade's hiatus, Clark Terry would stick around for the next couple of years and make a number of recordings for Prestige, New Jazz, Swingville and Moodsville.

Larry Gales was relatively new on the scene in 1960, and new to Prestige with this album, although he would hook up with Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis and Johnny Griffin for several Prestige sessions, then move on to a career that found him playing with many of the greats, particularly Thelonious Monk for several years. He would take quite a while before making his own album as leader, however. His Monk tribute album, A Message from Monk, came out in 1990.

With Edwards producing, this Swingville release was titled Tate-a-Tate, after one of the other Clark Terry contributions. If it was Clark who came up with the pun, Buddy certainly liked it, as later projects were called Tete-a-Tate and Tate-a-Tete.

Listening to Prestige Vol. 2, 1955-56, and Vol. 3, 1957-58 now include, in the Kindle editions, links to all the "Listen to One" selections. All three volumes available from Amazon.

The most interesting book of its kind that I have ever seen. If any of you real jazz lovers want to know about some of the classic records made by some of the legends of jazz, get this book. LOVED IT.
– Terry Gibbs




Monday, July 08, 2019

Listening to Prestige 403: Johnny "Hammond" Smith

The trouble with putting a label on a form of music is that it creates the temptation not to listen to it too closely. "Oh, yeah, that's [fill in the blank -- trad, bebop, hard bop, soul jazz], with all the clichés of the genre." What clichés? "Oh, you, know...just listen." But if you really just listen, without burdening yourself with a label, maybe they aren't clichés. Maybe every time a group of talented musicians go into a recording studio, they're there to find something that makes their getting together, and getting it down on wax or vinyl or tape or digital, worth the doing. That's why Cannonball Adderley so firmly resisted having his music called "soul jazz," for all the good it did him. Or, for that matter, why so many musicians resist having their music called "jazz."

Johnny "Hammond" Smith plays soul jazz. It's gotta be. For a start, it's got that organ, right? Like Jimmy Smith. He even has Jimmy Smith's guitar player. And he's got that bluesy-gospely feeling like Ray Charles, right? He even does a jazzy version of "Swanee River," just like Ray.

Well, yeah, except no. As the new decade found its voice, the organ was a large part of that voice, and jazz labels were signing up organists because people wanted to hear them, but they no more sounded alike or played the same clichés than did tenor saxophone players in the 1940s and 1950s.

And OK, the label is not so bad. If someone came to you and said they wanted to start a soul jazz collection, and who are some of the musicians they should collect, you'd certainly include Johnny "Hammond" Smith. But hopefully you would tell the neophyte collector, "Once you've started to pull your collection together, sit down and listen to each record separately." Just as, if you listen closely to a boxed set of Tito Puente, you'll quickly realize that no two rhythms are alike, in your soul jazz collection you'll hear some virtuosi of the Hammond organ, each of them finding his or her own way to explore it. And there are a lot of possibilities in that organ.

All but "Swanee River," on this album, are Smith originals, and "Swanee River" might as well be, in its unique deviations from anything that Stephen Foster or Ray Charles had in mind. Smith can do it as a composer, from catchy melodic hooks to intriguing development, to opening up avenues for his bandmates to explore, to finding, like Jimmy Smith, Shirley Scott and other premiere organists of the day, his own intricacies of tonality and percussive experimentation.

Smith worked for the first time here with Eddie McFadden, who had come from working with Jimmy Smith, and had come from the soul jazz cauldron of Philadelphia, where, like Thornel Schwartz, he had developed a great sense of what a guitar and organ could do together. And he worked for the only time with Lem Winchester, who came from just a hop and a jump south of Philadelphia. How much Winchester might have continued to explore the soul jazz idiom we'll never know.

Smith tosses him right into the cauldron with "Dementia," giving
him the first chorus, then following him with a McFadden solo, before entering with his own. Jazz is many things, but always it's hospitable to soloists, and with "Dementia," the first tune of the day although not the first on the album, Smith serves notice that a range of solo voices, and the flexibility to play off each other, will be what he's looking for. I liked "Dementia" a lot--the way it developed, and the part that each musician played in that development. And I found the same thing happening, in different ways, through each tune on the album.

Yes, original. Yes, unique voices finding ways to challenge and blend with each other. And...soul jazz to the bone, and to the marrow in the bone. That seductive sound that tells you you're gonna dig this. You're gonna tap your feet, you're gonna get up and dance, you're gonna--in Charles Mingus's phrase--git it in your soul.

Esmond Edwards produced. The album was called Gettin' the Message and the 45 off it was "Swanee River Parts 1 and 2."


Monday, July 01, 2019

Listening to Prestige 402: Sonny Terry

Prestige Bluesville gave Sonny Terry solo billing on an album one week after they had done the same for his partner Brownie McGhee. Brownie is not present at all on this album, but his brother "Stick," best known for the 1947 Atlantic hit "Drinkin' Wine Spo-dee-o-dee," plays on a few tracks, as does Sonny's nephew, J. C. Burris. Burris is also a harmonica player, but augments the mouth harp with a percussion instrument, the African rhythm bones. The bones are two smooth sticks played like castanets. Percussion is also provided by Belton Evans. heard previously on Bluesville sessions with Sunnyland Slim and Roosevelt Sykes, and on jazz sessions with King Curtis and Al Casey.

The Piedmont blues of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee was an interesting phenomenon. The Great Migration of early and mid-20th Century had its own blues migration subdivisions. Bluesmen from Texas like T-Bone Walker tended to migrate to the West Coast. The Delta blues singers like Muddy Waters came north to Chicago and Detroit, where they created the urban blues style which was most widely disseminated by Chicago's Chess records, and which strongly influenced the British blues rockers. The east coast blues musicians tended to find their way to New York, which had its own music traditions, and they weren't necessarily about the blues. New York was a jazz town--it became the jazz town. For a while, when the entertainment world had not yet settled on a name for the kind of music that Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie were making, that was being developed in the cauldrons of Harlem and the firepits of 52nd Street, it was called New York Music, and I half wish that name had stuck. It became a doo wop town. And was certainly a Latin music town, with Machito and Tito Puente and others making great music that is still undervalued by jazz audiences and jazz historians. But it never developed the kind of blues sound and blues audience that a town like Chicago did. Atlantic stepped into the void in its own way. When Jerry Wexler and Ahmet Ertegun scouted Ruth Brown singing in a jazz
club, and they went to talk to her afterwards, they told her they wanted her to sign with a new blues label they were starting. She said. "What do you want with me? I don't sing the blues. I hate the blues!" They assured her, this would be a new kind of blues. And it was. Ahmed and Nesuhi Ertegun, jazz lovers anxious to start a label that would be commercially viable, were among the pioneers of jazz with a beat--rhythm and blues.

So where did this leave the traditional blues players from what came to be known, for no discernible reason, as the Piedmont area-- the southern Atlantic coastal states?  Their music was Finian's Rainbow.
finding a limited market, at best, with the sophisticated black audiences of New York, and blues-based music was as yet of not much interest to mainstream white audiences.  Stick McGhee signed with Atlantic and had one big rhythm and blues hit (Brownie McGhee played on the recording, as did jazz bassist Gene Ramey). Other Piedmont musicians took different paths. Josh White smoothed his style, adjusted his diction to fit white audiences, and played supper clubs. Sonny Terry made his mark as a featured performer in a long-running Broadway musical that had race relations as a sub-theme,

Lead Belly had made a path for "old-fashioned" blues singers in New York. It wasn't a music that sophisticated black audiences were interested in, so Lead Belly and Alan Lomax created a new audience of white leftists who wanted to hear "the people's music."  Terry often played and recorded with Lead Belly and Woody Guthrie for Folkways, a label that combined the field recordings of musicologists with the urban folk revivalists, and for Stinson, a label founded by American Communists originally to release recordings by the Red Army Chorus.

Lead Belly was a mentor to Terry. Brownie McGhee's song "Me and old Sonny....Sonny Terry is my best friend" (he wasn't) is taken from Terry's "Me and Huddie Ledbetter...." Terry's other mentor was Piedmont blues pioneer Blind Boy Fuller, who died in 1941. Those two mentorships come together on this album in the song "High Powered Women."  The melody and the structure come from Fuller's "Step it Up and Go," which later, as essentially the same song, was Lead Belly's "Borrow Love and Go" (sometimes "Bottle Up and Go"). Lead Belly framed his song as a tribute to "the high powered women of today. You got women who can fly airplanes...you got radio women...they can do anything a man can do." Terry takes some of both for his version.

The 1960s blues revival may have centered around the Chicago blues musicians and their Delta forebears, but the Piedmont bluesmen, especially Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, did all right by themselves. They continued to work as a duo, playing blues festivals and college dates and European tours, until 1980, and Sonny kept on working until he died in 1986, one of his last gigs being a recording of his version of Robert Johnson's "Crossroads Blues" for the movie Crossroads.

Listening to Prestige Vol. 2, 1955-56, and Vol. 3, 1957-58 now include, in the Kindle editions, links to all the "Listen to One" selections. All three volumes available from Amazon.
The most interesting book of its kind that I have ever seen. If any of you real jazz lovers want to know about some of the classic records made by some of the legends of jazz, get this book. LOVED IT.– Terry Gibbs




Thursday, June 27, 2019

Listening to Prestige 402: Lem Winchester

Reliving these jazz years through Prestige recording sessions is living in a dual reality. Part of you knows full well that you're looking back in time through the lens of age and distance, remembering your youthful excitement, appreciating the artists, and the recordings, that a perspective only brought by time and experience. But  part of you is back then, 20 again, hearing the new sound from Symphony Sid or Ed Beach or Speed Anderson or Chuck Niles, buying the new album at Sam Goody's (or the 45 at Sam Goody's Annex), thinking that was solid, Jackson...what comes next?


But that flight of imagination comes to a crashing halt with Lem Winchester. Because you've known, from the moment he burst on the scene the year before, that this was going to happen. Each of his sessions feels, to the contemporary listener following this chronology, like sands through a very small hourglass. It feels that way when we listen to Eric Dolphy, who's also just arrived on the scene with Prestige, and Booker Little, who would make his Prestige debut shortly. And with Lem Winchester, for whom the sands are running out. This was his last session as leader; he would appear in a week with Johnny "Hammond" Smith, and then no more.  In January the ex-cop would be dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, reportedly showing off a trick where you pretend to play Russian Roulette.

Winchester went out casual but tasty. No fireworks here. instead a quartet session of ballads intended for the Moodsville label. But they're all good tunes, and each one of them gets a swinging treatment, with lots of improvisational delights, and especially the pleasure of hearing some wonderful interplay between Winchester and Richard Wyands, where ideas are begun on piano and brought to fruition on vibes, or vice versa. This is Wyands' only recording gig in a group led by Winchester (he had joined Lem on an Oliver Nelson session), but they have a strong connection.

There's one Winchester original ("The Kids"). The rest are a mix of standards and current pop tunes. "Why Don't They Understand" was a 1957 hit, recorded by country singers as well as pop. Winchester's is the only known jazz interpretation. "To Love and Be Loved" is the Academy Award-nominated theme song from the 1958 movie Some Came Running, again not widely added to the repertoire of jazz musicians. It's a good mix. We may not have the same recognition for late 1950s pop hits that they received at the time (had they only thought of posterity, they might have taken on "Blue Suede Shoes" and "Sh-Boom" instead). but they still make for some very tasty jazz in the hands of Winchester and cohorts. And it's always a pleasure to hear a great jazz group's interpretation of beloved standards.

Esmond Edwards produced the session. The Moodsville release was titled Lem Winchester with Feeling.

Winchester got his start when a young trio, John Chowning's Collegiates, added him for a record date arranged by Chowning's father. The group planned to send the record to Leonard Feather as an audition for the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival. Feather passed on the group, but invited Winchester, then a Wilmington, Delaware police officer. Fifty years later, the three Collegiates reminisced about their sometme bandmate for the Current Research in Jazz website. Here's Chowning:

One can speculate whether Lem’s extraordinary talent would ever have been “noticed” at the level where it mattered if the recording had not been made. Perhaps not. Lem impressed us a man whose first love in music was the playing of it, not being a “name” in it. He had, we thought, more ambition for his notes than for himself.
At the time of the recording Lem was a successful officer in the Wilmington, Delaware, police force, assigned to what we now can call the African American community, where he was beloved by its inhabitants. The options for a smart and intelligent African American then were limited, especially one with a wife and young children. It was Lem’s mother, knowing that a police officer was at the pinnacle of power in her community, who persuaded him to join the police force in the first place. And she later was able to convince him to remain with the force, rather than joining his teenage friend and trumpet player, Clifford Brown, in the professional jazz scene.
...
To all of us Lem seemed content in a rewarding and stable career as a policeman — enriched by his stunning music on the side. He was revered by his community both as a police officer and by those who knew his music: he was welcomed into every musical setting he encountered.
In the spring or summer of 1958 my father, always our most unabashed supporter and spokesman, sent the LP to Leonard Feather... He was disappointed, I am sure, when the invitation came to Lem alone, but the three of us were not surprised. We were good enough players to recognize that Lem was a truly great jazz talent.
To my father’s credit, he maintained contact with Lem during the transition from police officer to professional jazz musician, and it was through him that the three of us learned of Lem’s tragic death in 1961.

George Lindamood
[I remember the first time Lem jammed with us. He] wore a gray sports jacket over his uniform so it would not be obvious that he was a policeman, but we kidded him about his regulation shirt, a shade of blue considerably darker than what was fashionable for business dress in those days. And then there was the bulge on his right hip that we knew to be his service revolver.
...a few weeks later...Lem had just finished one of his energetic solos and had lathered up a pretty good sweat in the process. When he took off his “plain clothes” jacket his police badge winked gold in the spotlight and the audience gasped in surprise... Without missing a beat, he laid the jacket on the piano top, unstrapped his holster and revolver, and dived back in for another chorus. The applause was at least fifty percent louder than before.
 It often took me a couple hours to come down after a gig, so it was pointless to try to sleep. Often I borrowed John’s car, a well-worn brown Kaiser, and tracked Lem down where he was walking his midnight-to-dawn beat in one of the poorer sections of Wilmington. Lem did not seem to mind having a scrawny not-quite-19-year-old white kid tagging along in that all-black neighborhood, although occasionally he had me wait at a distance while he handled a difficult situation. Most of the time we just walked and talked, with him providing stories and advice from his perspective as a black man ten years older. It was a wonderful education for me.

And David Arnold:

 The summer of 1957, our summer with Lem, was one of those years when the nation was in the throes of determining whether social tolerance would follow from the strengthening decisions that there must be legal tolerance. 
It is within that context that I most easily place Lem. I remember his music, of course, but he comes striding with it out of that dark part of Wilmington, that dark part of national history, carrying the bright light of refutation. He was a good man. An unforgettable man.
As George has recalled above, we — who were the John Chowning Collegiates — had thrown open the doors of Marshalls Restaurants for Monday night jam sessions.
The Collegiates, a musically literate trio learning new things with every performance, played what we hoped was jazz — and very often it was. But with Lem and his group there was no question. Marshalls lit up like fireworks. We were hearing what jazz was all about. He might call his style “down home” (another bit of modesty in a way) but it swung with a rhythmic curl and driving force that threatened the walls of the place. On top of it all was Lem’s intricate cascade of notes, at times more than could possibly come from just two mallets, and at other times simply and quietly a delicate, laid-back, slightly off-the-beat sounding of simple melody played in octaves. Push hard and pull back.
Lem was uncommonly gentle and forgiving. And he had that best thing of the best in music: the desire to teach, to pass it on.
It is that last thing I remember most — that and his matter-of-fact and unforced tolerance. Of all the musicians in Marshalls on those nights, I was by far the most unaccomplished... Yet Lem took the time to help, to give me some ideas. He might have seen promise. Or he might have been kind.
...certainly we could see his gift to us: the benefit, like a windfall, of being fronted by a genius on the vibes. He was among the very best, had friends among the very best — Clifford Brown for one — and so how did we deserve him? I have never stopped wondering.
The recording tells the story. On Lem’s cuts his playing transforms us into a different group. He lifts and drives, lightens the load, inspires. There is promise for us all....
In the end we Collegiates had graduations and careers to think about. But for Lem the recording made all the difference. We were both disappointed and relieved when Leonard Feather’s Newport nod went to Lem and not the rest of us but, as John says, we knew who the star was.
... In January of 1961 Lem was on the road, a professional musician, commercial recordings to his credit. But he carried with him a relic of his policeman days: a trick with a revolver in which all bullets but one were removed from their chambers. Gun to his head, bar-sitters watching, he would pull the trigger and the hammer would click as the cylinder rotated to an empty chamber. But that night in Indianapolis he used a different gun. The cylinder rotated in the opposite direction.

John Chowning went on to an unheralded but significant career in music. He studied composition with Nadia Boulanger in Paris. Later, he discovered FM synthesis, "a very simple yet elegant way of creating time-varying spectra. Licensed by Stanford to Yamaha, FM synthesis led to a family of synthesizers (DX7) that became the most successful of all time."


Lem Winchester left a small but significant body of work. He touched lives both as a policeman and a musician.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Listening to Prestige 401: Brownie McGhee

This is listed in Prestige's Bluesville catalog as a Brownie McGhee session, although longtime partner Sonny Terry is omnipresent, at least omnipresent on harmonica--all the vocals are Brownie's.

Prestige's Bluesville presentations of traditional blues performers are generally given that Prestige touch by the addition of jazz musicians. Shirley Scott accompanied Al Smith, and she was joined by Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis for Mildred Anderson's first album. King Curtis accompanied Smith on his second album, and Al Sears and Robert Banks on her second. They brought in Harold Ashby to play with Memphis Slim and Willie Dixon, Hal Singer to play with Lonnie Johnson (who already was as much jazzman as bluesman), and Jack McDuff and Bill Jennings to back up Shakey Jake,

Although Brownie McGhee had tried his hand at rhythm and blues in younger days,  he was solidly established in the folk blues tradition, and producer Ozzie Cadena chose not to mess with that. He does bring aboard a third musician, but it's guitarist Bennie Foster, who appears to be from the same Piedmont school of blues as McGhee and Terry, and may just have  an old friend Brownie brought along to the session. He's good, and he adds some fullness to the sound, but doesn't take it in a new direction. And I can find out no further information about him.

So this is a Brownie McGhee-Sonny Terry session, of which there were many, mostly for Folkways but a surprising number for Prestige Bluesville--and more surprisingly, one each for Roulette and World Pacific. You probably wouldn't need to own all of them, even if you were a hard core blues fan, but it's nice to know they're all there, and each one delivers satisfaction with solid professionalism and blues feeling.

Professionalism? Hell, yes. These were working class guys who depended on music to make a living and put food on the table. In fact, like many blues singers of their generation, they got into music because physical disabilities made it impossible for them to work in the fields. They were going to rehearse, to show up on time, to earn their paychecks.

This Bluesville release was entitled Brownie's Blues.

                                   *                        *                                   *

I wrote a lot about the Blue Bird Inn in Detroit when I was covering the mid-1950s, and the arrival in New York--and Prestige--of one Detroit jazz great after another. Nearly all of them had gotten their start at the Blue Bird. So it was wonderful to see, in a news story today, that the Blue Bird Inn, at 5021 Tireman Street in Detroit, abandoned since the bar's last owner passed away in 2003 (it had stopped presenting jazz much earlier), is being restored.

The Detroit Sound Conservancy, a nonprofit f ocused on music preservation in the city of Detroit, is restoring the building,which will eventually serve as a home to the nonprofit, a depository for its archives of Detroit music history, as well as a live music venue. This is a major piece of America's history, a cultural treasure, and it's great to see it being recognized.

This is part of an urban renaissance in this once-desolate city.  As so often happens, artists paved the way. The city set up special low-cost housing for artists. Once they moved in and started creating, and galleries and cafes sprang up, the yuppies and hipsters followed. Now, of course, the artists can no longer afford to live there and they are being evicted.


Listening to Prestige Vol. 2, 1955-56, and Vol. 3, 1957-58 now include, in the Kindle editions, links to all the "Listen to One" selections. All three volumes available from Amazon.
The most interesting book of its kind that I have ever seen. If any of you real jazz lovers want to know about some of the classic records made by some of the legends of jazz, get this book. LOVED IT.
– Terry Gibbs

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Listening to Prestige 400: Larry Young

This is my 400th entry in this Listening to Prestige project, and I started it almost exactly five years ago--June 14, 2014. I've learned a lot, listened to a lot of great music, brought myself up to a new decade, and still enthusiastic. The artists and the music of the 1950s, the bebop and hard bop eras, are the most familiar to me, so now I'm venturing into uncharted waters.

The organ was the hot new sound as the decade rolled over, and soul jazz gained prominence. Shirley Scott was Prestige's big organ star, either with her trio, as in the September 27 session we just listened to, or in a quintet with Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis -- and still to come, with Stanley Turrentine. Prestige also introduced Jack McDuff, who came to the label with Willis "Gator Tail" Jackson, but went on to
become a major star in his own right, and Johnny "Hammond" Smith, who added the organ to his name to differentiate himself from guitarist Johnny Smith, and ultimately dropped the Smith part altogether and became Johnny Hammond.

And Larry Young, the youngest of these new organists, 19 when he made his debut album for Prestige and still a week shy of his 20th birthday on this session, for his second album. Young was really just passing through Prestige--he would only make one more album for the label--and for that matter, he was just passing through this phase of his career, the Jimmy Smith-influenced popular soul jazz sound of the day.

Young's muse was to be a restless one, taking him into Coltrane-influenced free jazz and then into fusion, but these Prestige albums, though not predictive of the explosive changes he was going to go through, certainly give us a healthy serving of his youthful talent. Guitarist Thornel Schwartz and drummer Jimmie Smith are back from the previous session, joined by Prestige veteran Wendell Marshall on bass. They play some Young originals, one standard ("Little White Lies," by Walter Donaldson, dating back to 1930), and three tunes by his contemporaries: Ray Draper, Horace Silver, and Morris "Mo" Bailey, Philadelphia-based saxophonist-composer-arranger.

That's enough variety to keep a session interesting, and though this is generally thought of as being Young's Jimmy Smith apprenticeship period, and although he's working in the soul jazz idiom that he would leave behind, there's plenty of individual voice here, and plenty of excitement.

"African Blues" is a good representative of his composing skills, and how he works with his own material. Soul jazz is supposed to be a sort of simplified form, and certainly there's a danceable groove here, but Shirley Scott has shown how much experimentalism an organist can bring to a solid beat, and so does Young. His groove is, if anything, even solider and funkier, and his inventiveness -- and that of Thornel Schwartz, whose rapport with him is always centered -- is a thing to enjoy.

"Little White Lies" is a cute tune, and vocalists like it, but it hasn't drawn all that much attention from jazz musicians. Maybe vocalists like it because the negativity of the lyrics makes a nice contrast to the bouncy tune, and that gets lost in an instrumental. But Young and Schwartz have some evil fun with it, and make the journey very worthwhile.

Nobody knows funk better than Horace Silver, and he has few peers as a composer, so "Nica's Dream" is a solid choice for young Mr. Young. It's become a jazz standard, mostly instrumental, although DeeDee Bridgewater wrote a vocalese lyric to it and killed it in performance, and a few others have essayed her version, notably Yvonne Sanchez, a Cuban-Polish jazz singer now making an expat career in Czechoslovakia. Silver first recorded it in 1956 with the Jazz Messengers. In 1959 Art Farmer and Blue Mitchell each did it, and then in 1960, as soul jazz was gaining a foothold, it was really discovered, and recordings were made by Young, Sabu Martinez, the Mastersounds (the Montgomery brothers), Curtis Counce, and Horace Silver again. Since then, it's become a beloved standard. Young does it proud.

He also showcases a Philadelphia comrade and not so well known composer, Mo Bailey, whose career as a saxophonist was cut short by illness, but who remained active as a successful composer and arranger into the disco era and beyond. His "Midnight Angel," as interpreted by Young, is haunting but funky.

This was released as an album on New Jazz, Esmond Edwards producing. No singles were released from the session.


Listening to Prestige Vol. 2, 1955-56, and Vol. 3, 1957-58 now include, in the Kindle editions, links to all the "Listen to One" selections. All three volumes available from Amazon.
The most interesting book of its kind that I have ever seen. If any of you real jazz lovers want to know about some of the classic records made by some of the legends of jazz, get this book. LOVED IT.– Terry Gibbs

Friday, June 14, 2019

Listening to Prestige 399: Shirley Scott

Shirley Scott is back with her trio and some timeless standards from the best: Rodgers and Hart, Cole Porter, Johnny Mercer. In other words, more Moodsville than soul jazz, and this was in fact a Moodsville release.

Of course, just because it's on Moodsville, that doesn't make it easy listening. Producer Chris Albertson has said that when you went in to the studio, you weren't thinking Moodsville, Swingville or Bluesville, you were making a jazz album for Prestige, and that's what Esmond Edwards and Scott are doing here. The album leads off with a Scott original, "Like Cozy," and while George Duvivier and Arthur
Edgehill lay down a solid groove, Scott gets off some of the swooping experimental voicings that she's so fond of, before settling into a soulful melody.

"Little Girl Blue" was already a solid standard by 1960. Written by Rodgers and Hart for a 1935 musical, it really entered the pop/jazz lexicon when Margaret Whiting recorded it in 1947. It was the title song from Nina Simone's 1958 album on Bethlehem, and while "I Loves You Porgy" was the hit single off that album, "Little Girl Blue" was also released as a single, got a lot of air play, and became the definitive vocal version for many. Bud Shank made the first jazz instrumental version in 1954, and after that the floodgates opened. in 1955 alone it was recorded by Dave Brubeck, Tal Farlow, Johnny Smith and Gerry Mulligan, and it's still being brought into the studio by vocalists and instrumentalists alike. Scott gives us a smoky piano veraion here, very much suggesting that she'd absorbed a lot of what Simone was doing, but still very much Shirley.

Johnny Mercer's "Laura," from the movie of the same name, is one of the most widely recorded songs in the canon--in 1960 alone, there were at least a dozen versions. So if you're going to play it, you've got a double task. First, if you put "Laura" on your album, your audience is going to want to hear "Laura," because it's a beautiful, haunting melody, and second, you've got to distinguish your version from the others. Scott manages to meet both demands, with every note sustained virtually forever, giving the haunting melody a haunted quality, and changing the tone from the wistful single notes of "Little Girl Blue" into something rich and strange.

Then she snaps that mood again with Cole Porter's "You Do Something to Me" - piano again, upbeat and percussive, lotsa improvisatory flights, lotsa room for Edgehill and Duvivier, with some very nic stuff by Duvivier.

And that's how the album goes--some organ, some piano, some experimental, some reassuring, a variety of moods, and all Shirley. Good stuff for her fans, good stuff to listen to years later, when the organ trios have faded into history. No single releases from this session, I guess on the theory that Moodsville fans were album fans. The album was released as "Like Cozy."


Listening to Prestige Vol. 2, 1955-56, and Vol. 3, 1957-58 now include, in the Kindle editions, links to all the "Listen to One" selections. All three volumes available from Amazon.

The most interesting book of its kind that I have ever seen. If any of you real jazz lovers want to know about some of the classic records made by some of the legends of jazz, get this book. LOVED IT.
– Terry Gibbs