Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Listening to Prestige 424: Wrapping up 1960

Reading through the issue of Down Beat that contains the 1960 Readers' Poll, I'm struck by the judgmental quality of the reviews. "[Benny Golson's solo] makes [Curtis] Fuller's weak solo anticlimactic...although he is extremely fast, Fuller is not always clean." Of an album by the Slide Hampton Octet: "[George] Coleman is a capable tenor man, but he is overshadowed in this is disappointing to find a sameness of sound dominating the LP." Of Spiritsville by Julian Priester: "Despite the title, there is not much spirit here. Moreover, the writing...becomes downright boring...[McCoy] given to fast, boppish right hand runs that substitute flash for originality of thought." Of Wayne Shorter's debut album: "Shorter's debut as a leader is unimpressive...[Lee] Morgan and [Wynton] Kelly add little but monotony to a monotonous set." And an even on an album that the reviewer really likes, by Julius Watkins and Charlie Rouse: "It is unfortunate that it contains moments of pretentiousness, for it could have been a more memorable milestone in the careers of Watkins and Rouse."

I suppose the Down Beat reviewers were following the mandates of their job: to be, in their phrase, a "Jazz Record Buyer's Guide," highlighting the albums that are most worthy of your $4.98. And I'm not denigrating Down Beat. I guess this is as good a place as any for my annual appeal: why haven't all back issues of this national treasure been digitized and made available to jazz scholars and aficionados? Where is the grant from the NEH for this? Why doesn't Smithsonian buy the Down Beat archives and digitize them?

But today, we are grateful for all these records--and for the ones that Down Beat never reviewed. They're what we have of this golden decade in the American Century in music, and listening from the perspective of time we can appreciate their beauty, their creativity, their value. And we can want to go back and pop one on the nose of the guy who shortchanged Curtis Fuller or Lee Morgan or Wynton Kelly (as Curtis and Lee and Wynton surely wanted to do also), but they were of their time, and we can be grateful for their contributions too.

1960 was very much a year for the bifurcation of jazz into soul and free. The organ groups, particularly Jimmy Smith but including Prestige artists Shirley Scorr, Jack McDuff, Johnny "Hammond" Smith and Larry Young, were becoming hugely popular. Cannonball Adderley on Riverside and Horace Silver on Blue Note were helping to define the new sound. Addereley's seminal Live at the Lighthouse was recorded in 1960. Bobby Timmons went into the studio three times during the year for Riverside. His first release, This Here is Bobby Timmons, contained three of his compositions that were to become soul jazz anthems: "Moanin'," "This Here" and "Dat Dere."

In 1960, Ornette Coleman recorded an album that featured two quartets, each playing on a separate stereo channel. He called the album Free Jazz, and he wasn't necessarily trying to give a name to a new movement, but that's what happened. The free jazz revolution put an indelible stamp on the music in 1960. John Coltrane released Giant Steps and recorded My Favorite Things. Eric Dolphy launched a meteoric and all-too-brief career with Prestige. Cecil Taylor released The World of Cecil Taylor, with a group that included Archie Shepp.

Dolphy joined Charles Mingus for the album Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus. Mingus had initially disparaged Coleman's playing, but in April of 1960, Mingus was given a blindfold test by Leonard Feather in Down Beat, and he had this to say:
Now aside from the fact that I doubt he can even play a C scale in whole notes—tied whole notes, a couple of bars apiece—in tune, the fact remains that his notes and lines are so fresh. So when Symphony Sid played his record, it made everything else he was playing, even my own record that he played, sound terrible.
I’m not saying everybody’s going to have to play like Coleman. But they’re going to have to stop copying Bird. 
It actually took a little while for "free jazz" to become the standard name for that style of jazz that broke free from the bonds of chord progressions. In Art Taylor's book, Notes and Tones, composed of interviews with other jazz musicians between 1968 and 1972, they talk a lot about "freedom music."

Some jazz musicians were into another kind of "freedom music" as the new decade began, a decade in which the civil rights struggles erupted passionately.  We think of folk singers and protest songs, but jazz musicians were involved too, and one of the most politically active was Max Roach. 1960 saw the release of his album We Insist, a collaboration with lyricist Oscar Brown Jr. Randy Weston's Uhuru Africa, featuring the poetry of Langston Hughes on some cuts, would be banned in apartheid South Africa.

And there was still plenty of fresh and creative bebop-influenced jazz, notably Art Farmer, Benny Golson and Curtis Fuller's collaborative Meet the Jazztet.

Oscar Pettiford died in 1960.

Here's how various polls saw the year in jazz:

Dizzy Gillespie was 1960's inductee into the Down Beat hall of fame. Billie Holiday and Miles Davis were runners-up; others trailed far behind.

In Down Beat, here weren't as many categories as in previous years. Rhythm and blues, finally recognized in 1959 because they could no longer ignore Ray Charles, is gone again. Personality of the Year is gone; it was an odd one, anyway.

All stars by instrument:


1. Miles Davis
2. Dizzy Gillespie
3. Maynard Ferguson
4. Art Farmer
5. Lee Morgan
6. Louis Armstrong
7. Donald Byrd
8. Nat Adderley
9. Chet Baker

Those were the ones who got more than 100 votes, and no real surprises. The top four were unchanged from the previous year. Donald Byrd and Nat Adderley jumped up considerably in the rankings--and so, unaccountably, did Louis Armstrong, since there wasn't exactly an Armstrong renaissance in 1960. No free jazz here -- but in the Japanese Down Beat readers' poll, a new feature for 1960, Don Cherry made the list.

Armstrong was certainly not forgotten by what may have been a more sophisticated group, the Down Bear critics poll, where he finished fourth to Davis, Gillespie and Farmer. Nor was he forgotten by an arguably less sophisticated group--Playboy readers voted him second to Davis. And he was still hot internationally, finishing second in Britain's Melody Maker and France's Jazz Hot,


1. J. J. Johnson
2. Bob Brookmeyer
3. Curtis Fuller
4. Frank Rosolino
5. Jack Teagarden
6. Urbie Green
7. Kai Winding
8. Jimmy Cleveland
9. Jimmy Knepper
10. Slide Hampton

J. J. Johnson continued to dominate this field, with 4097 votes to Brookmeyer's  932. The only more dominant instrumentalist was Gerry Mulligan. Curtis Fuller rose in popularity, largely due to his work with the Jazztet, and he rose even higher in the Critics' Poll, finishing second to Johnson. My instinct tells me that the trombone was not a really hot instrument in the jazz world of 1960. Checking up on that instinct with the rateyourmusic poll, about which more later: The second most popular album on that list is Mingus's Blues and Roots, which featured two trombones, Jimmy Knepper and the less familiar Willie Dennis. Curtis Fuller has an album at #15, and that's about it in the top 50 except for a couple of big band albums, where you'd expect to find trombones. Third on the list is Miles Davis's Sketches of Spain, with Frank Rehak and Dick Nixon (I guess he had to do something after losing to Kennedy). But that was a big band, so of course they had trombones.

Alto Sax:

1. Cannonball Adderley
2. Paul Desmond
3. Sonny Stitt
4. Art Pepper
5. Johnny Hodges
6. Ornette Coleman
7. Jackie McLean
8. Lee Konitz
9. Phil Woods
10. Bud Shank

Cannonball Adderley replaced Paul Desmond at the top spot, an indication of the growing popularity of soul jazz--among voters, at least. That the editors of Down Beat were still reluctant to admit that jazz had changed a lot over the course of a couple of decades can be seen by their unchanging categories. There was still no organ category in 1960. Bizarrely, there was still an accordion category.

Looking at last year's poll, I guessed that no one would ever outpoll Paul Desmond.  If I only could have looked into the future...and of course, I could have. But I prefer to let the unrolling of history surprise me.

Adderley and Desmond both got well over 2000 votes, and everyone else was an also-ran. But Ornette Coleman made his first appearance as a vote-getter. One could no longer ignore him, although a lot of voters still chose to reject him.

Desmond was never as much beloved by the Down Beat critics, perhaps because of East Coast bias. He did not even finish in the top three (Hodges and Stitt trailed Adderley). But if the critics were the real cognoscenti, why didn't they have Ornette in their top three?

Tenor Sax:

1. John Coltrane
2. Stan Getz
3. Coleman Hawkins
4. Zoot Sims
5. Ben Webster
6. Sonny Rollins
7. Benny Golson
8. Sonny Stitt
9. Bill Perkins
10. Johnny Griffin

It's worth noting that in 1960 two black instrumentalists replaced two longstanding white poll winners. Cannonball Adderley outpaced Paul Desmond by 400 votes. And John Coltrane drew about 1500 votes more than Stan Getz (2945-1495). I don't know that this says anything about changing racial attitudes in America.

Getz in the previous year had stood like a colossus, getting more than double the votes of second place finisher Sonny Rollins, and like Desmond, he looked unbeatable. Coltrane would go on to achieve mythic status, but in 1960 that was just starting to happen.

Rollins faded in the polls, because he seemed to have retired from jazz, no one knew why, and no one knew if he was ever coming back. We know now, of course. He was right in the middle of a three-year, self imposed trip to the woodshed, his particular woodshed being under the Williamsburg Bridge. There is currently a campaign to rename that structure the Sonny Rollins Bridge, and isn't that a no-brainer? It should have been done already. It should be done now.

Benny Golson still languished low on the list, which surprises me a little. Te Jazztet were a big deal back in 1960, and Golson was starting to make an impact on the public consciousness as a composer, with "Killer Joe" and "I Remember Clifford," just to name two.

The critics went with tradition on the tenor sax. John Coltrane, before and especially after his death, attained Olympian status, and were there a Mount Rushmore of tenor players, he would certainly be carved into it, but at that time, that Mt. Rushmore only had three names: Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young and Ben Webster. Young had died the year before, so Coltrane edged his way in. Hawkins was their top choice, and Webster and Coltrane tied for second.

Some very good tenor saxophonists whose roots were in rhythm and blues, such as Willis "Gator Tail" Jackson, made some very good records in 1960, but they had never gotten any respect from the jazz clique, and they never would.

Baritone Sax:

1. Gerry Mulligan
2. Pepper Adams
3. Harry Carney
4. Frank Hittner
5. Cecil Payne
6. Sahib Shihab
7. Ronnie Ross
8. Jimmy Giuffre

A category owned by Gerry Mulligan. In 1960, he was some 6500 votes ahead of his closest competitor.

Down Beat had a problem that year with rigged voting, involving "faked ballots." I take that to mean that you had to use the tearout ballot that came with the magazine, which must have meant that you had to buy a magazine to vote, and more than one copy of the magazine if you wanted to vote more than once. A couple of musicians were disqualified because of ballot-stuffing, just like what had happened to Major League Baseball in 1957, when overenthusiastic Cincinnati voters placed Redlegs at every position except first base (Stan Musial made the cut; Hank Aaron and Willie Mays were outpolled). But you have to wonder if the Down Beat staff, overwhelmed by double the number of votes they had ever gotten before, may have let a few slip by them. Frank Hittner was a solid journeyman who played in Woody Herman's and Maynard Ferguson's big bands for many years, but fourth place among baritone saxophonists?


1. Buddy DeFranco
2. Jimmy Giuffre
3. Tony Scott
4. Benny Goodman
5. Pete Fountain
6. Jimmy Hamilton
7. Art Pepper
8. Sam Most
9. Edmond Hall
10. Woody Herman

I'm guessing that Down Beat's editors did not give a lot of thought to the issue of downgrading some instruments to Miscellaneous and upgrading others to their own category. And if they had, I suppose they would have had a hard time retiring the clarinet category. It had once been the dominant woodwind instrument in jazz. And DeFranco, Giuffre and Scott were still doing forward-looking work on the instrument, although in a few years DeFranco would choose making a living over trying to make a space for an increasingly irrelevant instrument, and took over leadership of the Glenn Miller Orchestra.

If I had been advising Down Beat back in 1960, and knew then what I know now,  I would have expanded the clarinet category to include all clarinets, so that Eric Dolphy's bass clarinet could have been included here, rather than in Miscellaneous Instruments.


1. Oscar Peterson
2. Thelonious Monk
3. Horace Silver
4. Dave Brubeck
5. Bill Evans
6. Andre Previn
7. Errol Garner
8. Red Garland
9. John Lewis
10. Wynton Kelly

There were so many great piano players.You look at Red Garland and John Lewis and say "How can they be so far down?" But who on the list deserves to be lower?

According to Down Beat, the race between Peterson and Monk was not settled until the end of counting.

The big jump in the balloting was Horace Silver, 7th place to 3rd, again reflecting the growing popularity of soul jazz. Soul jazz also brought two newcomers to the list, lower down--Bobby Timmons and Les McCann.

Do the critics have better taste than the readers? Since there's no answer to that unless you rephrase the question, "Do the critics agree with me more than the readers do?" I will rephrase it that way. And the answer is, at least where the piano is concerned, more or less yeah. They put Monk--more idiosyncratic, a little more difficult--ahead of Peterson, and I'd go along with that. And critics, snobs that they are, tend to shrink from the popular and go for the more esoteric, so they were not quite ready to jump on the Horace Silver bandwagon. Their third choice was Bill Evans, and I have to say I'd go along with that, too.


1. Barney Kessel
2. Wes Montgomery
3. Kenny Burrell
4, Charlie Byrd
5. Jim Hall
6. Herb Ellis
7.Johnny Smith
8. Freddie Green
9. Sal Salvador
10. Tal Farlow

Here's a category with a real rising star. Wes Montgomery placed 10th in the Readers' Poll in 1959, the first year that he registered in the voting at all. Barney Kessel was a hard man to beat, although Kenny Burrell topped him in the critics' poll. Montgomery would dominate the category throughout the next decade.


1. Ray Brown
2. Paul Chambers
3. Charles Mingus
4. Red Mitchell
5. Percy Heath
6. Leroy Vinnegar 
7. Sam Jones
8. Gene Wright
9. Oscar Pettiford
10. Milt Hinton

No change to speak of from 1959 as far as bass players are concerned. There was an important new talent on the scene, but no one as yet knew how important he was going to become. Ron Carter made his recording debut in 1960, and before the year was out, he had recorded with Eric Dolphy, Don Ellis, Coleman Hawkins, Yusef Lateef, Howard McGhee, Randy Weston, and Kai Winding. But it takes a while for a bass player to get noticed. And because it takes awhile for a bass player to get noticed, the bassists who were anchoring the new jazz lagged behind lead instrumentalists like Coltrane, Coleman and Dolphy. Scott LoFaro would die before he was fully recognized. Charlie Haden and Jimmy Garrison were at the beginning of their careers, noticed by their peers, and making some of the most important music of the day, but not yet in the eyes and ears of the general public,


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

It was still an old boy's club on the drums, too, and nothing wrong with that. Every one of these guys had made their bones.  Some of them, like Jimmy Cobb (15th on the list) and Roy Haynes (inexplicably overlooked) are even older boys now, and still playing into their 90s. You would have thought the jazz public would have started to recognize Elvin Jones. He'd been recording with the best in the business for a good five years, and in 1960 he had made three albums with John Coltrane, including My Favorite Things.


1. Herbie Mann 
2. Frank Wess
3. Bud Shank
4. James Moody
5. Yusef Lateef
6. Eric Dolphy
7. Buddy Colette
8. Sam Most
9. Jerome Richardson
10. Paul Horn

The big new story here, of course, is Eric Dolphy, but there was a significant rise in recognition for Yusef Lateer, too, from 11th the previous year.


1. Milt Jackson
2. Lionel Hampton
3. Terry Gibbs
4. Red Norvo
5. Cal Tjader
6. Vic Feldman
7. Mike Mainieri

I've talked a little, and will talk more, about the ossification of categories in the Down Beat polls of this era, but there was one significant change, and it was accidental. Vibraharp was dropped by virtue of being accidentally left off of the new voting forms. This list was put together from votes in the miscellaneous category, and it ended up exactly the same as last year, except maybe even a little more lopsided in favor of Milt Jackson, and with Mike Mainieri the one newcomer.


1. Art Van Damme
2. Mat Mathews
3. Pete Jolly
4. Leon Sash
5. Dick Contino
6. Lawrence Welk
7. George Shearing
8. Tommy Gumina

Oh, come on. Why is the accordion still given its own category? Actually, there were some very important musicians playing the accordion in these years, but they were down in the swamps of Louisiana and the Down Beat readers either didn't know about them or didn't think they were worthy of inclusion, although they included Lawrence Welk. Tommy Gumina would make some interesting but not well-remembered albums with Buddy DeFranco, combining two fringe instruments, in the 1960s.

Miscellaneous Instrument

1. Don Elliot, mellophone (1)
2. Jimmy Smith, organ (2)
3. Miles Davis, flugelhorn (3)
4. Julius Watkins, French horn (5)
5. Shirley Scott, organ (10)
6. Jean Thielemans, harmonica (4)
7. Yusef Lateef, oboe (-)
8. Maynard Ferguson, baritone horn (-)
9 Steve Lacy, soprano saxophone (14)
10. Shorty Rogers, flugelhorn (6)

The Miscellaneous Instrument category seems to have been invented for Don Elliot, and still in 1960 he was winning it, in spite of the rocketing rise to stardom of a bunch of organists led by Jimmy Smith, but surely including Shirley Scott. Nobody much cared about the category, anyway. Over 9000 ballots were cast altogether in 1960, and Elliot's winning total was 705. Of course, there were also all those votes cast for Milt Jackson because they'd forgotten the vibraharp category.

If they had just made one category for Trumpet Family, the flugelhorn and cornet votes could have gone there, and more room would have been made for actual musical instruments, like Roland Kirk's manzello. And if they'd included the bass clarinet with clarinets, Eric Dolphy would likely have gotten a lot more recognition.

And no votes anywhere for percussionists, who probably also deserved their own category. How important was Ray Barretto in these years? Sabu Martinez? Mongo Santamaria? Yet no category, no recognition.

The critics' top two choices were Julius Watkins and violinist Stuff Smith.

Composer and Arranger

1. Gil Evans
2. Quincy Jones
3. Duke Ellington
4.  John Lewis
5. Benny Golson
6. Andre Previn
7. Marty Paitch
8. Thelonious Monk
9. Henry Mancini
10. Horace Silver

I've said this before, and it doesn't particularly bear repeating. Nobody really knew who counted as a composer-arranger. People like Frank Loesser were still writing, and their songs were still being recorded by jazz musicians. Ornette Coleman had written classics like "Lonely Woman," and John Coltrane classics like "Naima." George Russell was still doing hugely important work, and Oliver Nelson was estabishing himself as an important composer, although The Blues and the Abstract Truth was still a year away. And so on.

The Down Beat critics went for Ellington, Evans, Golson, and the readers of Japanese Down Beat, in something of an upset, chose Benny Golson.

Big Band - Jazz

1. Count Basie (1)
2. Maynard Ferguson (3)
3. Duke Ellington (4)
4. Stan Kenton (2)
5. Gerry Mulligan (-)
6. Quincy Jones (16)
7. Gil Evans (7)
8. Woody Herman (9)
9. Herb Pomeroy (6)
10. Dizzy Gillespie (14)

Big Band-Dance

1. Les Brown (1)
2. Count Basie (3)
3. Maynard Ferguson (4)
4. Les Elgart (2)
5. Stan Kenton (6)
6. Si Zentner (6)
7. Harry James (5)
8. Duke Ellington (8)
9. Ray McKinley (10)
10. Woody Herman (11)

Count Basie was at or near the top of both lists, appropriately. He was as good to dance to as to listen to. Les Brown was the perennial dance band poll winner, and I'm not quite sure why. Did people vote for him because hey, he was at the top of last year's poll and the year before, so he must be good? Or because he really was better to dance to than anyone else? It seems to me that the best reason for voting for a dance band would be: you went to a dance where they were playing, and you had a good time.

Completely missing from both the jazz band (incomprehensible) and the dance band (inexcusable) lists are the great Latin bands: Tito Puente and Machito, Perez Prado and Xavier Cugat, Jack Costanza, many others.

Also missing are the society bands: Lester Lanin, Meyer Davis. They may not have been very exciting musically, but people certainly danced to them.  A more striking omission: Guy Lombardo. He was considered the apotheosis of squaredom, but his reputation has been at least modestly reconsidered in recent years with the revelation that he was Louis Armstrong's favorite bandleader. And if the Down Beat readers were so appalled by squares, how come the 73 votes for Lawrence Welk on accordion?

Receiving votes in Japan but not the USA was Glen Gray, and who knew he was still around? The Casa Loma Orchestra disbanded in 1947. But they made a comeback in the late 1950s, recording and making the occasional TV appearance, but not touring and playing dances, from 1957 until Gray's death in 1963.


1. Modern Jazz Quartet
2. Dave Brubeck
3. Miles Davis
4. Farmer-Golson Jazztet
5. Horace Silver
6. Oscar Peterson
7. Art Blakey's Jazz Messenger
8. Charlie Mingus
9. Ahmad Jamal
10. Ornette Coleman

The Jazztet and Horace Silver, and of course Ornette Coleman, represent the new combos for a new decade. Silver had been leading groups for a while, but as the decade ended he was producing works of melodic immediacy that caught people's attention. Both Silver's groups and the Jazztet combined instrumental virtuosity with powerful compositions.

Vocal Group

1. Lambert-Hendricks-Ross 
2. Four Freshmen 
3. Hi-Los 
4. Kingston Trio 
5. Jackie Cain-Roy Kral
6. Mills Brothers 
7. Axidentals 

Nothing new to report here. Not even any new complaints. Why are the Kingston Trio considered a better jazz group than a real jazz group like Jackie and Roy (the critics put Jackie and Roy in their top 3)? Why are the Kingston Trio considered a jazz group, at all, and the doowop harmony groups not? But it's 1960, and the era of that underrated genre, including several of the finest singers and harmonists of their day, was coming to an end. Well, the era of the Mills Brothers, wonderful as they were. had ended some time ago, and that didn't seem to bother the voters.

Male Singer

1. Frank Sinatra 
2. Joe Williams 
3. Mel Torme 
4. Ray Charles 
5. Jon Hendricks 
6. Johnny Mathis 
7. Jimmy Rushing
8. Bill Henderson 
9. Nat Cole 
10. Mose Allison 

Nothing to argue with here. Well, not much. Ray Charles broke through the jazz crowd's fear of rock 'n roll, but Sam Cooke did not. Mose Allison cracked the top ten for the first time, and about time. Bill Henderson is a new name on the list, though he'd really come to prominence a couple of years earlier, recording "Senor Blues" with Horace Silver, his biggest hit.

Female Singer

1. Ella Fitzgerald 
2. Sarah Vaughan 
3. Anita O'Day 
4. Nina Simone 
5. Annie Ross
6. Peggy Lee 
7. June Christy 
8. Chris Connor 
9. Dinah Washington 
10. Dakota Staton

Absolutely nothing to argue with here. Oh, you could quibble. Why isn't your favorite singer on the list? How about Carmen McRae? (She's number 11.) How about Betty Carter? Etta Jones? (Carter was still pretty new, and her great duet album with Ray Charles wasn't till the following year; Jones never did get her due.) The great rhythm and blues singers -- Etta James, Big Maybelle? (Jazz snobs.) Blossom Dearie? (She's in France.) But the truth is, there were so many great female singers in this era, no list is going to be big enough for them.

More 1960 wrapup next time.

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