Category Archives: Grant Green

A Man With A Horn: Lou Donaldson

2017 has dawned. The World is still spinning. I’m delighted to declare that after an abstemious Festive Season, my head isn’t. So, Happy New Year everybody and let’s hope it turns out to be much less ‘interesting’ (in the sense of the Chinese curse) than 2016. Here’s a fresh post to get matters underway at downwithit.

Over the last two months A Man With a Horn has been the most played album on my system and it has led me to an even greater respect for Lou Donaldson.

It is not one of Donaldson’s better-known albums, mainly because it was not released in the early sixties. The two sessions that make up this recording were from 1961 and 1963 and they remained in the vaults until 1999. It was over 35 years before they were dusted down as part of the Blue Note Connoisseur CD series, a conduit for rare and previously unissued material. As far as I am aware, this set has never been issued on vinyl but that does not mean it should not merit attention.

Both sessions featured guitarist Grant Green who was encouraged to move to New York and introduced to the Blue Note label by Donaldson. The earlier session utilises Jack McDuff on Hammond organ in a rare Blue Note outing, whilst John Patton, another Donaldson protege, plays the keyboard on the 1963 date. McDuff is used as an accompaniest, playing understated swirling chords on the five ballads from ’61, while John Patton is given more space to solo.

The CD alternates between songs from each of the sessions and I have marked 1961 tunes with a single asterix (*) and 1963 with double asterixes (**). I initially wondered why the set had been sequenced in this way. I eventually grouped and played through the tracks in the two discrete sessions. This leads me to the conclusion that while the 1961 session, which consists of mellifluous ballads is strong, the tunes benefit from being interspersed with the more uptempo offerings from 1963. As presented there is the variety and texture to turn this CD into a more rewarding listening experience.

The Errol Garner standard Misty* is given a lush rendition as opener. The purity of tone from Lou Donaldson’s alto sax is exceptional and is well-matched by the sensitive contributions from the other three musicians, especially Grant Green. It is currently on Youtube courtesy of Zateuz and you can watch here:-

To play, touch or click on the arrow

Hipity Hop** starts off in the manner of a 1950’s swing tune before John Patton plays an incredible solo starting with a Morse code like trill held for a full 24 bars. It certainly catches the attention. This Donaldson composition is an uptempo and funky toe-tapper and he plays an assertive and exemplary alto sax solo before Grant Green and Patton contribute to a rich confection flavoured by Irvin Stoke’s wah-wah muted trumpet.

It is then back to 1961 for Please*, a second delicate romantic ballad on which all four musicians acquit themselves well.

On My Melancholy Baby** Lou Donaldson builds on riffs that owe much to Charlie Parker’s school of soloing, with an engaging contribution delivered from the trumpet of Stokes.

Man With A Horn* features more delectable and sensitive playing from the 1961 quartet in a track that is a bit of a smoocher.

Cherry Pink And Apple Blossom White** is delivered over a playful cha cha rhythm and contains a solid portion of Grant Green’s ever-tasteful guitar.

Prisoner Of Love* is a standard which was in the charts courtesy of James Brown and The Famous Flames (If still on YouTube this is too good to miss) when this was recorded.

Then it is off to the church of funk with Soul Meetin’**, the second Donaldson composition here and one of those great finger-snapping ‘Baptist Beat’ numbers. I’m very fond of them when they occasionally appear on Blue Note sets. As a New Year bonus this is the second YouTube post courtesy of The Nada73

To play, touch or click on the arrow

The set closes with Star Dust*, a fifth ballad that maintains the high standards of the other four. In his excellent and informative ‘The Jazz Standards’ Ted Gioia refers to it as’…the song to which their parents and grandparents courted, romanced and wed’ and traces the history of this formally much-loved song which is slowly fading into obscurity (in the way of all things).

If you come across this set on CD (and it is relatively rare) don’t hesitate to purchase it as it captures Lou Donaldson playing on the ballads with a very clear and intense tone and also includes a good balance of more uptempo tunes from the 1963 date. Grant Green is on great form, as is John Patton on this very worthwhile jewel from the vaults.

The band etc: Tracks marked * Lou Donaldson (alto saxophone); Grant Green (guitar); Jack McDuff (organ); Joe Dukes (drums). Recorded: 25 September 1961
Tracks marked ** Irvin Stokes (trumpet); Lou Donaldson (alto saxophone); Grant Green (guitar); John Patton (organ); Ben Dixon (drums). Recorded: 7 June 1963.
Both session recorded at Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Produced: Alfred Lion. Recorded: Rudy Van Gelder. Sleeve Notes: Ed Hamilton. Cover design: Patrick Roques. Cover photo: Francis Wolff. Issued as Blue Note 21436.

Likes(3)Dislikes(0)

Street of Dreams: Grant Green

Street of Dreams Grant Green

If your name is Grant Green, this album has a great cover. Indeed if anyone can direct me to a junction of Down and Withit Streets, a small reward is on offer. Street of Dreams reunites Grant Green with Bobby Hutcherson, who had made a significant contribution to the successful Idle Moments release (which I have yet to write about).

In terms of title, ‘Music for a Siesta’ may possibly have been a more apt choice. The playing on this brief set featuring four relatively short tracks, is faultless but the overall ambience is laid back and it is a sit or lie down and enjoy recording. This is a lineup who play very well together on a well-chosen series of lesser-known tunes. Following the recent passing of Bobby Hutcherson it seemed like a good time to dust this title down and write about it.

Green’s playing on I Wish You love is a an excercise in restrained self assurance. Larry Young also plays in a subdued manner, while Hutcherson contributes variety and interest on vibes.

Lazy Afternoon is perfect music for a hot day. There’s nothing to get the blood racing, just another well-developed set of ideas.

Title track, Street of Dreams features fine interplay between vibes and the Hammond with pyrotechnics from Elvin Jones on drums. There is also some passionate playing from Green when he gets into his solo, indeed it sounds like a great flow of ideas that a student guitar player could do worse than to study if they want to learn how to build excitement on this sort of track. You can listen to it via the following YouTube upload, courtesy of rogerjazzfan:-

Somewhere in the Night is notable for a workmanlike solo from Larry Young but once again there is nothing to raise the temperature.

So there we are. I like Grant Green very much but while Street of Dreams is pleasant enough, it is not a set that I play very often as it is just a little too light with a supper club mainstream feel. You may disagree of course. Idle Moments, recorded 12 months earlier, is a far stronger and more varied set which you may want to investigate first if you are not familiar with this phase of Grant Green’s discography.

The original sleeve notes were penned by that master of the waspish dismissal, Leonard Feather. However, he must have enjoyed Street of Dreams, which he describes as ‘…this gently persuasive set.’

Just for the record, the intersection of Grant and Green is in North Beach, a particularly hip part of San Francisco and the home of cafes, bookshops and clubs frequented by the Beat Generation.

Elvin Jones (9 September 1927 to 18 May 2004) would have celebrated his 89th birthday today (09 September 2016).

The band etc.: Grant Green (guitar); Bobby Hutcherson (vibes); Elvin Jones (drums); Larry Young Organ. Recorded: 16 November 1964. Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Produced: Alfred Lion. Recording: Rudy Van Gelder. Cover photo: Jim Marshall. Cover Design: Reid Miles. Sleeve notes: Leonard Feather. Originally issued as Blue Note BST 84253 in 1966.

Likes(3)Dislikes(0)

Good Gracious: Lou Donaldson

Good Gracious Lou Donaldson cover

Stuff happens and time has flown by since the last post on downwithit.info but it is anticipated that the site will benefit from more frequent updates from now on. I’ll kick off, on the first day of August 2015, with a quick look at this relatively straightforward set from Lou Donaldson. At 18.30 on 1st August 2015, just under two years after starting downwithit.info, I’ve finally received 10,000 visits to the site, so I’ll drink to that later.

I haven’t posted about one of Lou’s albums before, mainly because I’m not the greatest fan of alto sax. Without trotting out a whole series of prejudices, suffice to say that my introduction to playing tenor sax was in a Jazz workshop where all the other sax players were on alto and the tunes that we were handed were frequently Charlie Parker classics, most of which start with fast and fluent phrases, requiring the altoist to play with both alacrity and dexterity. Of course, they were in the key of E Flat and since tenor is in the key of B Flat and my transposing skills were poor, I was onto a loser (or a very steep learning curve, if you like) from the b of the bang.

Couple my own nonsense with the standard response to Lou Donaldson, which is that his music is generally light, unsophisticated with little technical adventurousness and there is a case explaining why I’ve not given his recordings much of a listen. However, over the next year or so, I will attempt to give him a fair hearing.

Donaldson joined the New York jazz scene in the late 1940’s. Although his love of blues and pre-bop stylings was never lost and was to serve him well throughout his career, Charlie Parker was a very strong influence. He played alongside his idol and had many conversations about music with him. He is quoted in Kenny Mathieson’s ‘Cookin’: Hard Bop and Soul Jazz 1954-65′ as saying: “He made a big, big impression on me, at least in a musical sense”. His next statement, a sober comment on Parker’s heroin addiction, suggests that he successfully avoided the then common fallacy that abuse of narcotics was what gave Parker his edge as a musician and the route to be followed if he was to be emulated.

Joe Goldberg’s sleeve notes offer some explanation of the musical course that Donaldson was charting at this stage. He notes the importance of the club circuit ‘… where patrons are laughing, talking, drinking; enjoying themselves rather than listening to the music with solemnly exclusive attention.’ He then says that Donaldson has attempted to offer something different in the social lounge setting: ‘His playing evidences more reserve and control than the emotion-dispensers whose honking and shrieking has tended to label anyone who works in this format.’ So LD was seeking the middle ground between the club and the concert hall and perhaps that captures the dilemma. By being neither in one genre or the other, he is easy for the critic to pass over ((for example Richard Cook barely mentioned this stage of LD’s career in ‘Blue Note Records: The Biography’). LD, however, was candid in his view that he was happy with regular live work and steady album sales and that he had not wish to be a starving, though unheard and unrewarded, cutting-edge genius.

Good Gracious was recorded on 24 January 1963. It finds Lou Donaldson presiding on alto over a trio of Hammond organ, guitar and drums, featuring early appearances in the careers of Patton and Green, who, as well we know were to become Blue Note stalwarts.

Bad John sets a bright opening fast blues tempo. Although Donaldson starts off with a light intro, the piece becomes a vehicle for first, John Patton on Hammond and then Grant Green’s guitar. Lou’s own solo is fluent, yet unchallenging, though easy on the ear.

The sanctified organ on the slow gospel blues The Holy Ghost takes us off to the land where it is perpetually Sunday morning. Lou’s alto sound here is melodic, shading towards the saccharine.

Cherry, a Don Redman tune harks back to an earlier era of 30’s swing and Donaldson’s solo quotes but does not launch into detailed exploration of a series of bebop phrases.

Caracas is, as the name suggests, a nod to bossa nova. LD had recorded an earlier version, years earlier, in the mid-50s during his well-regarded sextet date with Kenny Dorham and Art Blakey from 1954. I’m not familiar with that incarnation, yet, so I can’t currently comment on it.

Good Gracious is finger-snapping jump jazz featuring some gorgeous guitar from Grant Green. If ever a tune was calling out for a blistering solo from a saxophonist, this is one. LD’s is fast and fluid but again a little thin on excitement. What do you think?

Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me, a ballad made famous as part of Billy Holliday’s songbook and written by Rube Bloom and Ted Koehler (incidentally, Koehler wrote the lyrics to the great standard song, Stormy Weather). Once again, Grant Green takes a memorable solo, played with exquisite restraint that is matched by Lou Donaldson’s own contribution.

As our quick tour through Good Gracious has shown, the set is one of those Blue Notes which attempts to cover all bases and on a cursory listen fails to impress as it shifts from juke box to standard to Bossa to ballad, although the six tracks do include four LD original compositions. Despite that it is an album which you may consider to repay a little extended listening, in which the variety it offers eventually becomes a virtue. That said, it is probably one for the seasoned collector rather than a stand-alone purchase for somebody new to the genre. As I’ve said above, well return to consider other Lou Donaldson sets in the not too distant future.

Cover photography was by Ronnie Braithwaite, brother of Strich specialist George Braith. Some will view it as an image, which is inexcusably sexist, while others may chose to interpret it differently. While a full consideration of its semiotics would perhaps be of interest, I’ve got to get this blog post out now and I’ll not offer up my tuppence worth now.

The band etc: Lou Donaldson (alto saxophone); Grant Green (guitar); John Patton (organ); Ben Dixon (drums). Recorded: 23 January 1963. Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Produced: Alfred Lion. Recorded: Rudy Van Gelder. Sleeve Notes: Joe Goldberg. Cover design: Reid Miles. Cover photos: Ronnie Braithwaite. Model: Rose Nelmes (Grandasssa Models). Issued as Blue Note 84125.

Likes(1)Dislikes(0)

Got A Good Thing Goin’: Big John Patton

IMG_1363

After the disappointment of the last recording I reviewed, I turned a sure-fire winner with this 1966 sixth set as leader from Big John Patton. With five of these first six already in my collection, surprisingly, it has taken me some time to write about one of them.

With support from Grant Green’s guitar Hugh Walker’s drums and Richard Landrum’s congas, Got A Good Thing Goin’ is a soul jazz outing, based firmly on the blues.

The Yodel gets matters underway. I could see this track working very well as part of that DJ set in my mind. The cool dancer wearing sun shades on the cover shows us just what to do, the very image of a Soul Woman (London, Ready, Steady, Go! division).

I love Motown and Ain’t That Peculiar is one of countless tunes that gets my heart beating just that bit faster. Grant Green’s playing is particularly good on this track. I’m not sure who is on the tambourine but in the right place, like here, it really cuts through the other instruments to add extra zest- and it is an essential ingredient of the Motown sound.

Shake, penned by Sam Cooke but popularised by Otis Redding simmers. Let’s take a look courtesy of YouTube:

Duke Pearson’s Amanda from Wahoo (a set that I am currently chasing) brings this strong and fresh sounding session to a close. Some records need repeated plays to get into but this has an immediacy which made writing this review a pleasure. I suppose it could be described as a concept album- the plan is you put it on your system, play it through, get happy and possibly even dance. After yesterday’s woeful diversion into semi-ELP territory, even the hi-fi seems cleansed and happy. Every home should have a copy!

The band etc: John Patton (organ); Grant Green (guitar); Hugh Walker (drums); Richard Landrum (conga). Recorded: 29 April 1966. Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Produced: Alfred Lion. Recorded: Rudy Van Gelder. Sleeve Notes: Alan Grant. Cover photos and design: Reid Miles. Issued as Blue Note 80731.

Likes(1)Dislikes(0)

Classic Albums on downwithit.info in 2014

IMG_1355

Happy New Year to all visitors, new and old. Here’s my 100th post on downwithit.

I still have an unfinished task from 2014 which is to look back at all the classic sets that I reviewed here in 2014. By classic I mean anything other than a new release so there are one or two sets from the present millennium included here. A quick count indicates that I wrote about 26 of these albums in 2014, so I think I can conclude that I wasn’t idle, especially given that I also wrote about a number of contemporary sets and offered up some live reviews.

What follows may be a bit of a trudge through a list, but I have linked to all the reviews and if any catch your interest, please click and take a look.

On NYD 2014 I started with a bang by taking a look at John Coltrane’s Blue Train, one of my all-time favorites that I urged everyone to obtain and listen to if they hadn’t done so already.

This was followed up by Lee Morgan’s The Sidewinder and a track that inspired numerous imitations.

My January postings dipped into dinner jazz in the form of Grover Washington Jr’s All The King’s Horses and British hard bop from the 1980’s UK jazz revival via Tommy Chase and Groove Merchant.

Thoughts of Tommy Chase led downwithit.info into fresh territory and I decided to devote some time to exploring the current scene, which was something that I really enjoyed during the course of 2014. If you want a recap of the newly released albums that I reviewed last year, they can be found here and my trawl of live performances is referred to here. I’m not sure if my ramblings have encouraged the purchase of a single album or attendance at any gigs but if they have, please leave a comment and let me know.

I wrote five reviews in February 2014 opening with Horace Parlan’s piano trio set Movin’ And Groovin’. I followed this up with Johnny Griffin’s Big Soul Band. I wavered about posting on that one because I thought that it was something of a departure from the classic small band context and that it would not fit- but it seemed to be OK and remains a popular review according to my stats.

Fred Jackson’s great Hootin”N Tootin’ was next up. At the time, I checked Wikipedia which did not give a date of death. Hopefully Fred still is with us and is enjoying a peaceful retirement at the grand age of 85 years old. If anybody knows more, please tell us.

A further less well-known Blue Note set, John Jenkins With Kenny Burrell was placed in the spotlight, before I took a look at Thembi by my favourite living saxophonist, Pharoah Sanders.

March 2014 saw me take an overdue look at Yusef Lateef (more to come in 2015) and Jazz Mood, his first set as a leader from 1957. The Cats, a fine session featuring John Coltrane followed and I made my first visit to a Grant Green recording on these pages with Grant’s First Stand.

In April, I brought news a a real gem: Heavy Sounds by Elvin Jones and Richard Davis, another set to listen to even if you have to beg steal or borrow. A slow journey north up the motorway system led me to grapple with Bobby Hutcherson’s Happenings. The same trip north gave me time to take a look at The Hot Club Of San Francisco’s Veronica and I got hold of a copy of Jimmy Smith’s lacklustre a less then incredible Softly As A Summer Breeze.

In May Sonny Clark’s Sonny Clark Trio was followed by another Sonny in the form of Sonny Rollins On Impulse, which sounds like a compilation album but isn’t. Later in the month, my local second-hand record store yielded up a copy of John Coltrane’s Ole.

I took another look at Grant Green with his lesser known Iron City, featuring a strong version of Hi-Heeled Sneakers, before returning to Blue Note and Harold Vick’s Steppin’ Out and later in September with Joe Henderson and Inner Urge.

I took the view that Archie Shepp and Dollar Brand’s Duet was slightly spoiled by Shepp’s poor sax technique on a couple of tracks, but I enjoyed Hank Mobley’s great Roll Call, Grant Green’s Green Street and Freddie Hubbard’s Ready For Freddie.

2014 was the year in which a bit of research yielded some more answers about Freddie Roach’s later years and I shelled out for a first pressing of All That’s Good which turned out to be much better than a shocking review suggested it would be.

I’ve already got a the first few reviews for 2015 in mind, so please come back soon and see what I’ve been listening to and remember that comments are most welcome.

One New Year’s Resolution– the quality of the photography at downwithit must improve. No excuses!

Likes(2)Dislikes(0)

Green Street: Grant Green

Green Street features Blue Note guitarist Green with just bass and drums in support and nowhere to hide. He doesn’t need to. It is a great performance, stripped down to basics, without anything that is remotely superfluous.

This early album, from 1961, was Grant Green’s second release on Blue Note, recorded just two months after Grant’s First Stand. The opener, entitled, naturally, Number 1 Green Street swings out with Green’s strong bluesy lines, which confirms that lead lines played with crisp precision by horn players were a major influence.

Monk’s Round Midnight was a track that everybody wanted to hear in 1961 and this version does not disappoint. I’m well aware that there are many collectors who have a strong preference for mono recordings. However, for my money, the stereo version of this track on a good stereo system is wonderful. My version is a high quality WAV file ripped to a Naim UnitiServe from the 2002 24 bit Blue Note RVG series remaster. I’ll be delighted and surprised if I ever hear the original vinyl first pressing over a system that sounds better.

Grant’s Dimensions is next up. Although based on a blues form, GG plays around with the structure and produces his own distinctive composition, with a perfectly crafted contribution from Tucker on bass. Take a listen now, courtesy of YouTube.

To play click on or touch the arrow

Green With Envy has a short sequence where Green plays the same note repeatedly, to the point where the listener begins to think that the track is stuck.

It isn’t.

Alone Together, is jazz standard, composed by silent film accompanists, turned lawyer, turned marketing exec, finally turned mega-successful composer, Arthur Schwarz. It has a teasing, slinky vibe to it and in the hands of many becomes dark and sombre, although these qualities don’t spring to mind on hearing GG’s treatment.

The RVG Edition CD has two bonus alternate takes of the two last two tracks.

The original sleeve notes were written by no lesser commentator than Leonard Feather.
It’s fair to say that Len was a fan of the early GG as he wrote:-
“Superlative piled on superlative can build a dangerously precipitous mountain. After you have hailed the most brilliant new this and the most remarkable new that, what words do you have left when a Grant Green comes along.”
Well called, Leonard!.

So pour a large glass of something you like, dim the lights, take some ‘me time’ and enjoy. Green Street is a great album from a guitarist with a fine discography. If you see it, grab yourself a copy.

The band etc.: Grant Green (guitar); ben Taylor (bass); Dave Bailey (drums). Recorded: 1 April 1961. Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Produced: Alfred Lion. Recording: Rudy Van Gelder. Cover photos: Francis Wolff. Cover Design: Reid Miles. Sleeve notes: Leonard Feather. Originally issued as Blue Note BST 84071.

Likes(3)Dislikes(0)

Harold Vick: Steppin’ Out

IMG_1306

In the jazz universe, some stars appear brighter than others, while others are not even visible to the naked eye. In pondering this, I began to read about cosmology, Hipparchus, Norman Pogson and perceived brightness. Then the hard maths formulas started to appear and I decided it was time to get back to the music here at downwithit.

Harold Vick barely registers as a footnote these days and, doesn’t even make the index in Cookin’, Kenny Mathieson’s superb book about hard bop.

I first became aware of HV through his tenor playing on Big John Patton’s Along Came John and then became determined to get hold of his sole Blue Note set as a leader. The CD is not difficult to track down, though it can attract a premium price.

Steppin’ Out is well worth the search since it features performances from John Patton and drum partner Ben Dixon as well as the great Blue Mitchell and Grant Green. All are on fine form.

Featuring five self-penned numbers and only one standard (Laura), Steppin’ Out represented a great opportunity for Vick. Our Miss Brooks is a blues with something of a burlesque quality that a gifted fan dancer could flutter her feathers to (I gather burlesque is almost respectable these days and taught through the medium of evening classes in some places). HV, the dexterous Grant Green and John Patton on Hammond, really contribute to the ambience.

Our Miss Brooks from YouTube follows:-

To play, press or click on the arrow.

Trimmed in Blue is a hard bop tune with a saxophone line that confirms that Harold Vick played alto before he played tenor and that he was well-versed in Charlie Parker’s styling. Blue Mitchell’s trumpet is bright and clear, indeed, the very epitome of clarion clarity.

Laura, a Raskin / Mercer composition follows. It is one of those melancholy sax and organ outings that could provide a soundtrack to a slow autumnal midnight walk along The Albert Embankment, while contemplating something sweet, yet lost. Then it goes into double time and new hope rises like the sun- or at least that’s one way you may imagine this piece perhaps? (The Editor says: “Shut up, immediately!”).

Dotty’s Dream is an organ-fuelled hard bop strolling tune with a fine finger-picking solo from Grant Green. The ending, when the horns return is nicely arranged. Next up, Vicksville is a bluesy soul-jazz lope with Blue Mitchell showing his skills and Harold Vick discretely exploring the full range of his tenor. Finally, Steppin’ Out, the title track, is a blues which sounds like it was a joy to play on. There are some tunes that bring a smile to the face and I feel sure the musicians were having a great time playing on this one.

Harold Vick went on to work, largely in a hard bop and soul-jazz context. He recorded seven other albums away from Blue Note as a leader, which I have yet to hear. Amongst them, his Caribbean Suite seems, perhaps, the most promising from the reviews I’ve read.

He also had another axe in his sack, having studied to degree level in Psychology, with a view to further training as a Clinical Psychologist. However, as far as I am aware, his musical career meant that he never realised that ambition. He also appeared in a couple of films, including Spike Lee’s School Days (and playing on the sound track of She’s Got To Have It). Sadly, he died of a heart attack, aged only 51, in 1987.

So there we are. Harold Vick was a gifted tenor saxophonist who has been overlooked but who still deserves to be listened to- especially in such stellar company as on Steppin’ Out.

The band etc: Harold Vick (tenor saxophone); Blue Mitchell (trumpet); Grant Green (guitar); John Patton (organ); Ben Dixon (drums). Recorded: 27 May 1963. Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Produced: Alfred Lion. Recorded: Rudy Van Gelder. Sleeve Notes: Joe Goldberg. Cover photos and design: Reid Miles. Issued as Blue Note 84138.

Likes(1)Dislikes(0)

Grant Green: Iron City

This album is something of a mystery piece. Recorded in 1967 during a period when Green’s recording career was on hold, due to problems stemming from his addiction to heroin, Iron City was eventually released on the small Cobblestone label in 1972. This album may have been recorded in Pittsburgh between shows (Pittsburgh was once known as the Iron City), reportedly for ready cash in hand, although there are other differing opinions.

There is some speculation concerning the identity of the Hammond organist. John Patton gets the credit but apparently he was ambivalent about whether he sat in on this recording and died before he could clarify with a definitive answer. There are those who maintain that it was Larry Young who played on this date. The debate from 2002-2003 can be found on the excellent Organissimo website here. I’ll sit on the fence and leave the advocacy for the different positions to those who are more knowledgeable on the subject than I am.

The set opens with its title track. Iron City mines an easy soul-blues seam and should sound great played with suitable volume in your local bar (note to self- must have a word with the DJ who occasionally entertains at my local).

Samba de Orpheus is a disposable and light shuffling confection. It is little more than journeyman stuff from the great Grant Green and not a great deal that is relevant is present on this makeweight track.

Things thankfully take a more rewarding turn on Old Man Moses (Let My People Go) offers a great vehicle for GG to solo and for the trio to offer what sound like distant echoes of Acknowledgement from John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme.

The pop number, High Heeled Sneakers opens the second side of the album. It’s a favourite tune of mine (with close cousin I’ve Got My Mojo Working). Play this even louder in your favourite disco bar and watch those feet start to move. There’s a link to YouTube, courtesy of groove addict:-

To watch, click on or touch the arrow

You can hear Blue Mitchell’s version of Hi-Heel Sneakers (sic) which I wrote about in the first ever post on downwithit in September 2013 here. I will be writing about a third great version from another artist shortly (it won’t be the Tommy Tucker original though).

Next up, Motherless Child is a rendition of a second spiritual and starts at a very slow pace before the tempo increases very slightly. Finally, Work Song is a pleasing version of the Nat Adderley original and another of the stronger tracks on the album.

Iron City is a good solid organ trio set with several strong tracks and is well worth buying, to supplement or start a collection of Grant Green records, if you find it at a reasonable price.

The band etc: Grant Green (guitar); Big John Patton (Hammond organ); Ben Dixon (drums). Recorded: Believed to be in 1967. Producer, Studio and Cover Photography: All unknown. Originally issued as Cobblestone CST 9002.

There is also a version of the cover in a further alternative colourway, which is the one used on my vinyl copy of this album:-

Likes(1)Dislikes(0)

Grant’s First Stand: Grant Green

IMG_1249

A quick count indicates that I’ve written about 24 individual recordings on downwithit. However, I’ve not looked at any of Grant Green’s sessions as leader yet, although he played guitar on Don Wilkerson’s Preach Brother, which I posted on in September 2013 here. I currently have at least 20 of his named recording sessions in my collection. There’s no doubting, Grant Green is a particular favourite of mine, so it seems fitting to write about one of his very early LP’s as my 25th review posting.

Sleeve notes and biographies inform us that Grant Green was born in 1935 and raised in St Louis. He started to play guitar at school and jammed with Elvin Jones and John Coltrane, amongst numerous great visiting musicians. His talent was scouted by Lou Donaldson and Green was recommended to Alfred Lion at Blue Note, where his promise as a session lead was instantly recognised. Grant Green’s soloing is typified by picked single notes, rather than chords, which is closely related to his greatest influences being saxophonists, with Charlie Parker foremost amongst them.

Grant’s First Stand was not his first as a leader; that session was put together with the top team of Paul Chambers, Philly Joe Jones and Wynton Kelly but it remained in the can and was only released as First Session in 2001.

Miss Ann’s Tempo opens matters here, offering a brisk, no- nonsense bebop flavoured statement, which you can listen to on YouTube.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iOfVSBNCtoA

Press or click on the arrow to listen to the track

Lullaby of The Leaves is next up. ‘Baby Face’ Willette gets a long solo, which builds and features a single note held for no less than 14 bars (forgive my poor personal musicianship if I have miscounted this). The track discloses Grant Green’s attention to Charlie Parker recordings but also harks back in one section to Django Reinhardt’s Gypsy guitar sound.

Blues For Willarene, penned by Green, is a real foot shuffler. It is a call and response rocking blues which shows how well versed Green and Willette are in RnB. Baby’s Minor Lope was written by the organist and features a sanctified but funked-up church organ sound on a brisk blues tempo.

‘Tain’t Noboby’s Business If I Do is the worldly wise number strongly associated with Billie Holiday, while A Wee Bit O’ Green is the last track and has a lazy Sunday morning blues feel about it.

Grant’s First Stand is a good set in its own right, although interested newcomers may want to purchase later and more celebrated recordings such as Matador or Idle Moments (not to mention the beautiful sessions featuring Green’s quartet work with Sonny Clark on piano). I’ll return to all of these and more in due course, having finally got round to my first posting centring on this fantastic guitarist.

The band etc: Grant Green (guitar); ‘Baby Face’ Willette (Hammond organ); Ben Dixon (drums). Recorded: 28 January 1961. Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Produced: Alfred Lion. Recording: Rudy Van Gelder. Cover photos: Francis Wolff. Cover Design: Reid Miles. Sleeve notes: Robert Levin. Originally issued as Blue Note BST 84064.

Likes(3)Dislikes(0)

A good excuse to write about Don Wilkerson’s ‘Preach Brother’

The pre-ramble:-  “It’s a funny old world”, as the late comedian Malcolm Hardee used to say.  After a late night getting ready to push the publish button on this blog, a mercifully quiet day at work followed.  Being within easy striking distance of Central London I was in Soho in a trice for a quick spin round the record shops on Berwick Street.  My main reason for going there was to see the pop-up shop put together to display some amazing Clash memorabilia to celebrate the launch of a new greatest hits collection.  Seeing the band’s guitars was on a par with seeing John Coltrane’s main tenor sax or Miles Davis’s original mouthpiece- although I’m sure neither of them would have scratched their names into their instruments as Mick Jones had done with his one of his guitars- a good way to get it back if it is nicked I suppose.

The gig:-  This set me up nicely for a Friday night in a nearby music pub where Chris Holland was celebrating his birthday with a gig.  By strange coincidence, yesterday’s post mentioned Billy Taylor and ‘I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to be Free’ (perhaps best known to most as ‘that filmnight theme tune’)and this was the second tune that I caught tonight.  The rest of the set took us from Professor Longhair and Dr John in New Orleans to Memphis and Booker T and The MG’s via Ray Charles (more of whom in a moment).  The band featured Chris Holland on electric boogie woogie funkified piano, bass, lead guitar, sax and drums played by aristocrats of the South East London music scene with Seamus Duplicate on a pared down Hammond MX3 organ.

downwithit 'Chris Holland' 'The Pelton'

It was a solo from the Hammond that lit up the venue and touched the parts that move and groove.  Highpoint for me was the Rolling Stones ‘Shine a Light on Me’, originally featuring Billy Preston.  It made me think of the night several years ago when he was due to play at The Royal Festival Hall with the remaining members of The Funk Brothers (the band that played on most of the classic Motown Hits).  He was indisposed and in a tongue in cheek manner the MC introduced a young substitute who used to play with touring soul bands in the 60’s.  It was a certain Mr Steve Winwood!  I’ve made a mental note to turn up the volume a tad when I listen to a Hammond set as it is a very fine and much maligned instrument.

The recording:-  All of that leads me on to the record under consideration.  I was going for something lower key.  However, a night of maximum RnB was missing only one key element- jazz tambourine- which appears with aplomb on Don Wilkerson’s ‘Preach Brother’.  Don Wilkerson was the tenor sax soloist on Ray Charles classics including: I Got a Woman and This Little Girl of Mine.  He was encouraged by Ike Quebec to record the first of three Blue Note sessions, of which “Preach Brother!’ was second.

I’ve never heard a Blue Note track quite like the opener of Side 2: ‘Camp Meetin’.  A rolling piano accompanied by tambourine is joined by a vocalist, whose ‘Weeeeeeeeeell at that old camp meetin…’ leads us in to a gutsy RnB tenor solo and Grant Green’s finger picking good guitar (there will be much more about Grant Green in future posts).

There’s a YouTube link to “Camp Meetin’ posted by groove addict here:-

The closing track on Side 1 ‘Dem Tambourines’ is another stormer but probably not for those of immobile feet and a gentle jazz disposition- who may like Sonny Clark’s wonderful piano on Pigeon Peas.  The link to ‘Dem Tambourines’ posted on YouTube by retrospeko follows:-

The band etc:-  Don Wilkerson (tenor sax); Grant Green (guitar) Sonny Clark (piano); Butch Warren (bass) Billy Higgins (drums).  Recorded: 18 June 1962.  Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.  Sleeve Notes: Dudley Williams.  Cover photo: Reid Miles.  Issued as Blue Note 4107.

What a graphically strong cover, by the way!

Likes(1)Dislikes(0)