Monthly Archives: January 2014

Groove Merchant: Tommy Chase

Groove Mercahnt cover

This late 1980’s album is a gem that I bought when it was first released. 40 year old Tommy Chase was an experienced bandleader who worked with younger musicians and harnessed their energies to create an outfit who were at the forefront of the 80’s resurgence in modern jazz. They played hard bop to a younger audience who were only too ready to respond on the dance floor. Sadly, even by the time this came out, many of the great modern jazz originators had died, were no longer active or had moved on to play in different styles, but at least Tommy and co were there for us.

The Message is an engaging hard bop number that was penned by Nick Weldon, a former member of the band who is now a distinguished jazz educator. I was briefly in the same running club as NW and recall accompanying him on a couple of long training sessions. Unfortunately, I can’t remember picking his brains about jazz though. It’s a bit of a desperate effort to say something new, I know, but I can say with great confidence that nobody ever posted about marathon training with Thelonius Monk. Nick Weldon’s web site can be viewed by clicking here.

Double Secret is a Tommy Chase original. It has a sinuous, slinky opening that is very inviting and leads on to the cover of a jazz standard that follows.

Killer Joe is a Benny Golson composition, which is taken at a brisk, mid-paced tempo, with the fluent saxophone of Kevin Flanagan to the fore. We can listen in to Killer Joe courtesy Frank Chickens at YouTube

To listen click on or touch the arrow.

Kevin Flanagan is also a jazz educator these days, another saxophonist, like the late Yusef Latiff, who has earned a doctorate. He has a website here. Kevin has had a look at this post and let me know that this line up of the band feature in ‘Ten Days that Shook Soho’ a film about the first Soho Jazz Festival in 1987, which can be seen here:

Kevin has a new album out and although he was quick to say that it is not quite the same thing as most of the music I have written about to date, I will be having a listen and reporting back here in due course. It’s all well and good to write about past greats but it is also really important to encourage the music to move forward.

Although A Night in Tunisia invites comparisons with other more well known recordings, I’ll not make them here as I can say briefly it is not the best version I’ve ever heard- a bit too fast and frenetic for my taste.

Groove Merchant is a great soul jazz tune. That Baptist beat just makes me want to dance (twice this morning). Move over IDJ (famed London Jazz hoofers) and gimme some space there! Listen to this and you’ll be soul clapping on the off beat, as a certain much heard Billy Taylor tune is Groove Merchant’s cousin.

So Tired offers an opportunity for a fast samba shuffle and plenty of scope for Mark Edwards on piano, while Alfie’s Theme Is a straightforward take on the Sonny Rollins tune. Get Rich Quick is the sort of tune that conjures up 1960’s New York City for me- I never went there in the 60’s so I suppose I am linking it to scene setting film or TV music of the time.

The closing track, Sunset Eyes, is an opportunity for Tommy Chase to stretch out and show his talent. I can picture his controlled and seemingly effortless posture- almost as though there is no point in making hard work actually look like hard work.

Some purists may possibly dislike this set. They may feel that the music has been performed better by others (although they may want to reflect on the fact that the set contains a balance of fresh compositions and standards). I never saw The Jazz Messengers at their best, but I’m very pleased that I saw Tommy Chase play storming sets to appreciative audiences on four or five occasions. I’m also delighted that I’ve got my original CD on Stiff Records (Seez 66), which is apparently quite hard to come by for under £50 these days. If you haven’t got it, check it out and enjoy.

I’m determined to see more live jazz and if anyone reading here can recommend any bands that are as exciting as Tommy Chase’s were, please let us know.

The band etc: Tommy Chase (drums); Mark Edwards (piano); Kevin Flanagan(saxophone); Martin Klute (bass). Stiff SEEZ 66. Recorded in 1987. Production by Trevor Horn (though no studio data on CD sleeve). Cover painting Bruce McLean

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Fifteenth birthday

To date, downwithit.info has featured posts on fifteen albums and you can access them from the links below. The oldest recording was made by Horace Silver in 1956 with the most recent being by Pharoah Sanders in 1987. In total there have been 3 sessions from the 1950’s, 9 from the 1960’s, 2 from the 70’s and one from the 80’s.

If you want to take a look at one of the items, touch or click on the album title to go to that page. The most recent posts are at the bottom of the list:-

Blue Mitchell Down With It (July 1965)
Don Wilkerson Preach Brother (June 1962)
Joe Henderson Mode for Joe (January 1966)
Incredible Jimmy Smith Home Cookin’ (July 1958)
Crusaders Hollywood (1972)
Horace Silver Six Pieces of Silver (November 1956)
Freddie Roach The Soul Book (June 1966)
Kenny Burrell Out of This World (1962)
Kenny Dorham Una Mas (April 1963)
Freddie Roach Mo’ Greens Please (January & March 1963)
Freddie Roach Brown Sugar (March 1964)
Pharoah Sanders Africa (March 1987)
John Coltrane Blue Train (September 1957)
Lee Morgan The Sidewinder (December 1963)
Grover Washington, Jr All the King’s Horses (1972)

Ten sessions were recorded on the Blue Note label and the best represented session leaders instrument is saxophone(5) followed by organ (4) and trumpet (3).

When I started out downwithit.info in September 2013 I explained that I had been inspired to get going by Nile Rodgers. Here, courtesy of jon cat on YouTube is a celebratory clip to enliven this post:-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4FRXLzw37-8

Touch or click the arrow to play

I hope you have enjoyed reading and listening to what I have dredged up so far. If you have acquired any of the listed albums for yourself after reading about them here (or if you already have a copy, if a review has caused you to revisit it) please leave a comment and let us know.

As you would expect, I’ve not given up on the mission to try to find out what happened to Freddie Roach and as I find out more you can expect to read about it here.

The next post will appear very soon and will concern a session led by a drummer which was recorded in the late1980’s. If you are really quick you might like to leave a guess below.

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All The King’s Horses: Grover Washington, Jr

Back in October I mentioned that, as a teenager, in the early 1970’s on a visit to London, I ‘discovered’ Dobell’s record shop on London’s Charing Cross Road. It was there that I purchased my first two jazz albums. I’ve already written about The Crusader’s Hollywood. This Grover Washington set was the other one that I excitedly brought back on the north bound train with me.

At the time the record was newly released and may have been well reviewed in Blues and Soul magazine which I used to buy each week. Although I knew it was a Creed Taylor production what I didn’t realise until recently was that it had been recorded at the Rudy Van Gelder Studio with the great man himself acting as Studio Engineer.

The record itself is a mixture of soul and jazz with a curious nod to Henry Purcell in the form of Love Song 1700. Overall this LP is an early 1970’s milestone on the highway that leads to smooth dinner jazz. No fewer than 46 musicians are credited on the sleeve, including a 12 man violin section and the sole female contributor, Margaret Ross, on harp

No Tears, In The End is a promising opening number with Grover playing in an old school RnB style. A sudden shift down the gears for All The King’s Horses complete with smoochy sax guitar interplay follows next. Where is the Love is a straightforward rendition of the Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway hit and the side closes with Body and Soul, where a very full arrangement includes the violins and the harp.

Bill Withers Lean on Me is given a reggae treatment with good contrast between Grover leading on sax over a very respectful and MOR sounding brass choir. It has a pleasing short guitar solo from Eric Gale and Washington stretches out slightly towards the end but the track doesn’t get close to the big league. See what you think courtesy of Corneel Van Driel on YouTube.

To play touch or click on the arrow.

Lover Man is given another big arrangement with a Bondish interlude that boasts a good trumpet and flugelhorn solo before a return to the head and a flourish to end on. Love Song 1700 is a very polite sounding Bob James arrangement which even features a couple of appearances from a recorder, hardly the most jazz of instruments.

So there we have it. From Hollywood and All the King’s Horses, my collection grew and arguably contains a great many sets that present greater fire, complexity and interest. All the King’s Horses is OK to listen to once every so often, which I do for old times sake. It features expert musicianship and is well recorded but ultimately its undemanding nature means it is not an album that will ever set the pulses racing.

Perhaps sometime later this year we’ll take a look at Grover Washington’s earlier Inner City Blues on which his reputation was founded but it may be some considerable time before we get round to Mister Magic and Feels So Good which are also in my collection. I can guarantee that we will not be taking a look at Winelight here though, unless there is the most unexpected demand and at least ten positive comments! As for me, I’m off to pan fry a couple of delicious pieces of sea bass and perhaps dig out some more dinner jazz.

Post fish postscript: Love Song 1700 was requested twice before the food was served. There was consensus that it was well produced but pushed at the limits of downwithit jazz. I then dug out Inner City Blues and thought that it was a more rewarding album than ATKH.

My copy of All the King’s Horses is a UK pressing of Kudu KUL5, with minor pops and scratches that bear witness to numerous plays over the last 40 years, albeit by one careful owner.

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New information about Freddie Roach

My interest in finding out what happened to Freddie Roach after he stopped recording continues. I’m not satisfied with the current Wikipedia entry which reads “…he moved to France, after which he was not heard of again.” FR deserves better than that.

By the end of last year what I had found out was that Freddie Roach died in 1980 (from Bob Blumenthal’s notes when taking ‘a new look’ at Ike Quebec’s ‘Heavy Soul’, which featured FR). There is also a line from the notes to So Blue so Funky, a Blue Note Hammond organ compilation album released in 1991, which claim that Freddie enjoyed a second career as a movie actor. These were penned by Roy Carr, who had undertaken UK publicity work for Blue Note in the 60’s and is regarded as being very knowledgeable about the label and its artists.

As the year ended more internet mining resulted in what I thought was a great lead when I found something that linked his name with clubs in Barcelona but on opening it up I discovered that this was actually about another Hammond organist, Lou Bennett. I was disappointed.

Here’s a bit more of FR: Tenderly from Soul Book, courtesy of SuperXavier30 on YouTube

To play the clip touch or click on the arrow.

There was nothing new to report here until last week when a search on Freddy Roach (sic) + Paris unearthed a link to The American Centre for Students and Artists, Paris. This was a Foundation located on the Boulevard Raspail, Montparnasse, which promoted Franco-American cultural exchange hosting language courses and music and theatre performances. Although it was initially set up in 1931 by the American Episcopalian congregation in Paris to keep young visitors away from ‘the evil influences of the Parisian Cafes’s’ by the late 60’s it had become a centre for the avant-garde. By the early 70’s there is declassified documentary evidence that the CIA were keeping a close watch on members of the Black Panthers who were meeting there.

On 25 May 1974 there was a performance of ‘Africa Is Calling Me: A Modern Day Black Opera’. This was composed by Bob Reid and featured a vocal recitation from one Freddy Roach, who has to be our man. The performance was recorded and was later issued on Kwela Records in 1975. I haven’t got a copy…yet!

The eagle-eyed will note that the FR YouTube link contains a comment from Steven McCormack which says that he rented an apartment from FR in Newark, New Jersey from 1971-72 and that one of FR’s sons lived next door to him during this period and that he worked with his other son. He says that he knew that FR played well as he would sometimes hear him playing.

A further bit of digging informed me about a publicly funded feature-length documentary about the Hammond Organ entitled Killer B3. There’s a not to be missed link here.

To play the clip touch or click on the arrow.

It looks like a must-see film and I hope we get the opportunity of a screening here in London very soon. The film website is at:

http://www.killerb3.com

So if you know any more about FR, please let us know. My research will continue.

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The Sidewinder: Lee Morgan

The Sidewinder is an album which polarises opinions. The title track is an extended jazz soul number which inspired numerous imitations. It also set a mould for other albums within the Blue Note stable and beyond. Success resulted in some damning it with faint praise and others despising its success. Even Lee Morgan himself came to view it as something of a burden that he sometimes felt disinclined to visit, as he apparently recorded it as a filler track.

Sidewinder cover

Lee Morgan was a young talent who got his first break with the Dizzy Gillespie Big Band and who was already recording with Blue Note when he was 18 years old. In 1957 he played with Hank Mobley and on John Coltrane’s classic Blue Train session. In 1957 he joined Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers.

During his period with The Jazz Messengers, Morgan’s increasing dependency on heroin led to his reliability being severely compromised and by the time of The Sidewinder session in 1963 his career was in decline. However, despite an initial pressing of under 5000 copies The Sidewinder became Blue Note’s biggest immediate seller and Lee Morgan was back.

The tune was used without permission in Chrysler Cars TV commercials before Blue Note’s lawyers intervened and put a stop to that and it later became an anthem of the 1980’s jazz dance scene. Have a listen courtesy of MusicForYourFunk on YouTube.

I enjoy listening to it and the rest of the album is well worth hearing too. Joe Henderson, a Blue Note session regular at the end of 1963, is in action on tenor saxophone while Barry Harris contributes piano steeped in soul. Totem Pole is so-named because the head of the tune has a short phrase in which trumpet and tenor sax seamlessly alternate notes within a musical bar. This was reminiscent of a native American totem pole in Lee Morgan’s mind as he recounted to Leonard Feather in what are informative sleeve notes filled with helpful insights. Given the eventual response to the album it was perhaps fortunate that Feather was onboard at the outset.

After the boogaloo beat of the title track, those wondering about the terpsichorean location of Gary’s Notebook, will learn from the sleeve notes that it is a fast jazz waltz. Apparently, Gary was a close friend of Lee Morgan’s, who is referred to in the interview linked to below. Boy, What a Night is both energetic and energising, a second fast blues waltz on the set with a solo by Joe henderson that I particularly enjoy. I’m less keen on Hocus Pocus, which sounds, to my ears like an improvisation on a Broadway show tune- a bit of a filler perhaps.

Lee Morgan was 25 years old when he recorded this session. There’s a fascinating interview with his former partner, Helen More, which can currently be found by following this link to the website of Jason Palmer (an eminent trumpeter and Professor of Jazz at the world renowned Berklee College in Boston).

http://jasonpalmerjazz.wordpress.com/2011/03/16/the-story-of-helen-morgan-if-you-didnt-know-already/

As you may have read, Lee Morgan was killed by Helen More in February 1972, when their long term relationship turned very sour.

Lee Morgan played a significant part in Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s Jazz and People’s Movement which fought for increased coverage of the music of black America mainly by direct action and disrupting live recordings of television programmes. The tactic achieved tangible results and led to Charles Mingus, Archie Shepp and others appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show.

The band etc:- Lee Morgan (Trumpet); Joe Henderson (tenor sax); Barry Harris (piano); Bob Cranshaw (bass); Billy Higgins (drums). Recorded: On 21 December 1963. Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Produced: Rudy Van Gelder. Sleeve Notes: Leonard Feather. Cover photos: Francis Wolff. Cover Design: Reid Miles. Issued as Blue Note 4157.

I currently have two copies of The Sidewinder: a vinyl Blue Note DMM (Direct Metal Master) copy which I bought in the mid-80’s and which sounds somewhat lifeless on my system (especially the drums) and a CD copy from the RVG remaster series, which is preferable to listen to.

Just in case you are interested I have added this terpsichorean footnote (from www.streetswing.com). I never knew that the boogaloo and the shing-a-ling were essentially the same dance:-

The Boogaloo or Shing-A-Ling was a 1960’s freestyle Fad dance which kinda caught on with the public thru American Bandstand and gained momentum in the late 1960s. Originally, It was considered a Latin dance because of it’s Mambo patterns, but was used in the Blues and Rock and Roll as well. The Boogaloo replaced the popular Latin Pachanga dance in popularity. The dance basically means to do simple weird movements with your feet, hips and body (kinda like speaking in tongues, but in dancing .) It makes sense only to the dancer who is doing it at the moment.

It would seem form the above description that lots of us do the boogaloo without really knowing that our dancefloor efforts actually have a name!

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Pharoah Sanders Live at Yoshi’s: 3rd January 2014

A couple of recent posts here concerned the great Pharoah Sanders, saxophonist supreme.

I wrote about his upcoming New Year gigs at Yoshi’s in Oakland CA and how I would have liked to have been there.

No surprises. I didn’t win the UK Lottery and Agent Millions from the Premium Bonds didn’t knock on my door. So I didn’t get there- but what better way to while away a lunch break in Brixton than by googling to see if there were any reviews. I found this one:-

Pharoah Sanders Live at Yoshi’s 3 January 2014

I think you will agree it is a great endorsement from a newcomer to Pharoah’s music. Well played Dakin Hardwick for going to the gig with an adventurous spirit! I wish I had been there too.

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Blue Train: John Coltrane

It is the first day of 2014 and time to tackle one of the big beasts of the jazz jungle. Blue Train was John Coltrane’s second session as a leader and his sole Blue Note set in that role. It is nothing less than one of the great jazz albums that everybody should know about and own, if possible.

IMG_1223

Recorded on 15 September 1957, Coltrane assembled a crack squad sextet at Rudy Van Gelder’s Hackensack, New Jersey studio to lay down 5 tunes on tape.

However this was a session that nearly didn’t happen, partly due to the less than timely intervention of a cat. Richard Cook in his excellent book ‘Blue Note Records’ recounts how John Coltrane, keen to improve his understanding of soprano sax, dropped by early evening at the Blue Note Records office. He wanted to borrow some Sidney Bechet records to learn what he could from them. Although between record deals at the time, he was regarded as a hot property on the scene. Francis Wolff, who took care of contractual arrangements at Blue Note had already gone home but his partner, Al Lion sensed that he could possibly make an offer to JC and he proposed a small advance to make one record, which was accepted.

Just as matters were about to be formalised, the Blue Note office cat (name unknown here) jumped out of the window and onto the street. Lion rushed to the window where he saw a woman trying to entice the puss into a cab. He dashed out and recovered the feisty feline but on returning found that John Coltrane had gone. The putative agreement was verbal and shortly afterwards JC signed a deal with Prestige Records.

However, Coltrane’s legendary integrity was to the fore and having given his word to record a session, he duly delivered…and what a package Blue Train turned out to be.

The title track runs for close to 11 minutes and is a wonderful strolling blues. Some listeners consider it to be eerie and sombre but I just don’t hear that. I just hear a piece of musical near perfection with solo following solo seamlessly. It is reproduced here from YouTube courtesy of everythingchangesmoi

To listen to Blue Train, touch or click on the arrow in the centre of the picture and enjoy.

The band really perform. While John Coltrane is on great form, trombonist Curtis Fuller makes a massive contribution to the overall ambiance. Meanwhile, Lee Morgan, on trumpet and although only 18 years old had already released 5 Blue Note albums as leader. Moments Notice and Locomotion are lively hard bop numbers which drive forward and each offer a great platform for the soloists. throughout the set the rhythm section of ‘Philly’ Joe Jones, Kenny Drew and Paul Chambers are impeccable.

I’m Old Fashioned is the sole standard played on the session. It is a Mercer/Kern song which was used to provide a vehicle for a song and dance routing featuring Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth in a now little-known 1942 film ‘You Were Never Lovelier’. The closer, Lazy Bird is a light, bright hard bopper. Job done.

The band etc:- John Coltrane (tenor sax); Curtis Fuller (trombone); Lee Morgan (trumpet); Kenny Drew (piano); Paul Chambers (bass);’Philly’ Joe Jones (drums). Recorded 15 September 1957. Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, New Jersey. Produced: Rudy Van Gelder Studio. Sleeve Notes: Robert Levin. Cover photo: Francis Wolff. Cover Design: Reid Miles. Issued as Blue Note 1577.

As the photo shows, my main copy is nothing special. It is the CD and not even the RVG remaster or one with extra alternate versions of Blue Train and Lazy Bird (which are quite listenable as alternate takes go). However, it is much loved and if you haven’t yet got it, I urge you to purchase and learn to love it too. Update: In February 2015 I bought the splendid MusicMatters 33 1/3 rpm mono vinyl reissue for those times when I want to listen to this great album at its best.

Happy New Year

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downwithit.info’s fiendish New Years day Quiz

Welcome to my New Year’s day Quiz- compiling it kept my busy while the chicken cooked and the boxed set of Downton Abbey played and played and played downstairs. Good luck and I hope you enjoy it.

1/ Why did trombonist JJ Johnson initially refuse to record for Impulse! at Rudy Van Gelder’s New Jersey studio?

 
 
 
 

2/ What is the tenuous link between Dr Lonnie Smith’s ‘Think’ and tenor sax player Harold Vick?

 
 
 
 

3/ Mark Twain wrote:- “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” Which of the following did not pass away in 2013?

 
 
 
 

4/ The Hammond organ had its competitors, notably organs produced by?

 
 
 
 

5/ Living in a house alongside no less than 306 cats, devoted friend of both Thelonious Monk and of Charlie Parker who died in her New York apartment. But who was this woman?

 
 
 
 

6/ Jimmy Smith released a great many albums but which of the following is not known to be part of his catalogue?

 
 
 
 

7/ Which American movie actor directed the film Bird and has a son who is a jazz artist?

 
 
 
 

8/ In May 1976 Donald Byrd made the album entitled Caricatures, which was released on Blue Note. The track Dance Band featured the great Motown bass player who played on numerous hit records. His name was?

 
 
 
 

9/ The record producer Bob Thiele was a key figure at Impulse! Records in the 60’s. He composed songs with Buddy Holly but scored financially when he co-wrote:-

 
 
 
 

10/ In 1966 Sonny Rollins released the soundtrack to a feature film. Which one was it?

 
 
 
 

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