Category Archives: Hard Bop

True Blue: Tina Brooks

Tina Brooks True Blue

I’m surprised that I have not written about True Blue before now. My recent acquisition of an excellent Music Matters copy on vinyl presents me with an opportunity to put that right though.

In 2001 in Blue Note Records: The Biography, Richard Cook wrote: ‘This is one of the forgotten masterpieces of the Blue Note catalogue.’ Thankfully, diligent work from Michael Cuscuna and a series of reissues has made this gem readily available.

Tina Brooks was one of a select group of female artists who played on the New York scene and were recorded by Blue Note.

No he wasn’t! His actual name was Harold and Tina was a childhood nickname, deriving from ‘tiny’ or ‘teeny’. Although he recorded four self-led sessions with Blue Note between 1958 and 1961, True Blue was the only recording issued with him as leader in his lifetime. He played on notable sessions with Jimmy Smith and Kenny Burrell but it has been suggested that, with a reserved and shy demeanour, he didn’t push his own case sufficiently well with Blue Note for the label to issue strong sets including Minor Move and Back to The Tracks (which are both in my collection). He never recorded again after 1961 and played local gigs in The Bronx. TB died in obscurity in 1974 after a life marred by drug-related illness. He was a contender who, perhaps, could have been a king. There’s a piece entitled ‘Who killed Tina Brooks’ which you can find if you want to know more- but I’ve not linked to it here as those in the know have suggested that it is unjust in its criticism of TB’s treatment by Blue Note.

Good Old Soul is the first of five Tina Brooks compositions here. It has a slinky feel about it and an extended solo from TB which shows his command of his tenor. A 22 year old Freddie Hubbard is also on fine form here too, as is Duke Jordan on piano.

Up Tight’s Creek bops and bustles along and after a bright trumpet solo from Hubbard, features a fluent tenor contribution. Duke Jordan’s piano is also worth pausing to listen to.

Theme for Doris is a mid-paced piece that is pleasing and again showcases TB’s inventiveness as a soloist.

True Blue opens the second side of the set. To these ears there’s something that conjures images of Sixties city architecture, all concrete, glass and straight lines- in the most unlikely event that I produce a TV documentary about The Barbican, you now know part of the soundtrack. What do you think (courtesy of YouTube)?

To play touch or click on the arrow

Miss Hazel is a conventional hard bop piece with another flowing tenor solo followed by Hubbard and Jordan.

Nothing Ever Changes My Love for You is the only standard tune here. Written by Jack Segal and Marvin Fisher, it had been a hit for Nat King Cole in 1956.

There is a collection of Tina Brooks complete works available on Mosaic. When compiling this Michael Cuscuna went to Freddie Hubbard, whose career had flourished. His memories of Tina Brooks were warm ones and he recalled TB’s talent and strengths as a musician.

The sound quality of the Music Matters pressing of True Blue is excellent on my Rega RP6/Naim/Spendor system. If you don’t have any of his recordings you should consider seeking some out. True Blue particularly benefits from working as a showcase for TB’s musicianship and compositional skills. It is an album where the tunes fit well together and has a greater sense of unity than some Blue Note sessions where the artist seems to want to cover too much ground by including a distracting variety of styles. Often a straight ahead tune will be followed by a snippet of Bossa, a sprinkle of standard and a slice of ballad with the sum total lacking a true centre. That’s not the case here though.

The RVG series CD has alternate takes of True Blue and Good Old Soul from the same session. The version of True Blue which omits the piano for the first eight bars of the intro is of particular interest.

The band etc: Tina Brooks (tenor saxophone); Freddie Hubbard (trumpet); Duke Jordan (piano); Sam Jones (bass); Art Taylor (drums). Recorded: 25 June 1960. Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Produced: Alfred Lion. Recorded: Rudy Van Gelder. Sleeve Notes: Ira Gitler. Cover design: Reid Miles. Cover photos: Francis Wolff. Issued as Blue Note 84041.

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Denys Baptiste live at East Side Jazz Club. May 13 2014

Many years ago I used to get myself along, on occasion, to The South Side Soul Club, which was hosted in a room above a busy bar. It wasn’t quite a function at the junction because it was next to Clapham Common tube station, rather than near the railway hub- but it was a damn fine Northern Soul venue. Indeed, I remember seeing a wonderous declaration of urban romance when a young woman wrote ‘I Love You Seth’ (or whatever he was called) in the talcum powder that the ruler of her heart had spread to ease his terpsichorean endeavours.

Glancing at London Jazz Collector’s fantastic blog the other day, I read that one of his correspondents had recommended the East Side Jazz Club. Two clicks on the keyboard later I had discovered that the venue was within easy striking distance of my home and that there was a great bill on the following Tuesday. Renowned tenor saxophonist Denys Baptiste was set to appear, with Gary Crosby on bass. They were to be supported by club stalwart and resident drummer, Clive Fenner and Joe Armon-Jones on piano.

I’m always excited by a visit to a new club (doesn’t happen a great many times these days though), so off I went to Leytonstone searching for the young jazz rebels.

The short drive was rapidly completed and the venue was another great pub function room, which looked as though it had recently been redecorated. The extremely moderate admittance fee was duly surrendered and we were in.

The band were already on the stand and it was an absolute pleasure to hear great musicians who probably had never played together as a group before coming to terms with classic hard bop and ballads (OK, I’m well aware that Baptiste and Crosby have played together for years).

The first half encompassed a great version of God Bless The Child, Denys Baptiste’s sparkling take on Dear John, Freddie Hubbard’s adaptation of John Coltrane’s Giant Steps and a calypso flavoured tune that made me think of a Sonny Rollins.

I wasn’t the only one thinking along those lines because the opener for the second half was the Rollins signature piece, St Thomas, ever a favourite of mine. Denys Baptiste introduced it by saying that it was chosen as a direct result of a conversation he had during the interval.

I remain slightly puzzled by the next tune. It sounded like a speeded up version of Charlie Parker’s amazing Parker’s Mood- but then again, it could have been a Thelonious Monk composition. Whichever, it enabled venue debutant, Joe Armon-Jones to showcase his delightful piano playing talents. By this time the band were really working together, with Denys Baptiste and Gary Crosby showing themselves to be masters of their craft.

The evening closed with an adventurous take on Joe Henderson’s Inner Urge. It was a privilege to see such fine musicians conjuring the music from their collective imaginations. What the audience was watching was the essence of jazz. No four musicians have ever played that combination of tunes exactly the same way before. Nor will anyone ever again. In tangible terms, a fiver was paid but in real terms, what we experienced was priceless.

Special mention must be made of Clive Fenner, the resident drummer. I can’t imagine the levels of experience, skill and confidence his role, as an accompanist to the weekly changing cast of visitors, must require.

I didn’t win the raffle (a quid could deliver the choice between a serviceable bottle of Corbieres or Art Blakey Live at Cafe Bohemia on CD). Nor did I find the elusive young jazz rebels who were either preening themselves for a late Tuesday session in trend-central Hoxton with LJC’s fabled East London Jazz DJ Collective, or watching Leyton Orient win through to a Wembley playoff final down the road. What I did have was a fine time listening to amazing live music.

Whilst I don’t suppose Polar Bear will be appearing there anytime in the near future, I’ll be back there soon.

The East Side Jazz Club has a website which you can visit here.

Latest updates about the club are on Twitter @EastSJC

Denys Baptiste’s website is here

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The Cats: Tommy Flanagan, John Coltrane, Kenny Burrell, Idrees Sulieman

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“The cats? Which cats?”
“John Coltrane, Kenny Burrell, Tommy Flanagan, Idrees Sulieman, Louis Hayes and Doug Watkins.”
“Oh, those cats. Any good?”

This is another of the recordings that was on my list to write about when I was initially planning downwithit

This set recorded in April 1957 brings together John Coltrane, Kenny Burrell and Tommy Flanagan. Essentially, this was Flanagan’s session and four of the five compositions were written by the pianist. The resulting release is an engaging listen, without breaking through into new territories.

Minor Mishap opens matters. Whilst it sounds conventional and straightforward it survives as an opportunity to hear John Coltrane and Kenny Burrell playing together. It is a foot-tapper that you can hear on the following YouTube clip:

Next up, How Long Has This been Going On is a delightful piano centred version of the George and Ira Gershwin ballad (with sax, trumpet and guitar sitting out). Flanagan shows a real delicacy of touch and the accompaniment from drums and bass has a suitably light feel to it.

Eclypso combines a 5/4 introduction, followed by a longer 4/4 main section. Idrees Sulieman sounds somewhat brash and abrasive and his trumpet style throughout the album is not one that I particularly like. However, matters are redeemed by some sunny sounding guitar from Kenny Burrell, which brought a smile to my 92 year old aunt’s face, although she said that she does not think she will ever match KB’s playing, due to a wrist injury. She joked that maybe she would have to settle for the trumpet. There’s not too much to say about Solacium, other than it allows space for the playing of Coltrane and Burrell, while Tommy’s Time gives Flanagan nearly 12 minutes to show off his talents and include a good bass solo from Doug Watkins.

Four of the band are from. Detroit and provide evidence of a strong cohort of musicians who travelled from Motown to New York City to ply their trade. There’s more from Watkins and Hayes to be heard on fellow Detroit man Yusef Lateef’s Jazz Mood, an account of which follows below.

Tommy Flanagan spent 20 years as Ella Fitzgerald’s Musical Director, a testament to the silky elegance of his piano playing. He also contributed to two of the all time greatest sessions led by saxophonists, Sonny Rollins Saxophone Colossus and John Coltrane’s Giant Steps. The genius of of those ground breakers is not matched by The Cats, but it is an enjoyable session nonetheless. The New York Times obituary of Tommy Flanagan is to be found here.

The band etc: Tommy Flanagan (piano); John Coltrane (tenor saxophone); Idrees Sulieman (trumpet); Kenny Burrell (guitar); Louis Hayes (drums); Dough Watkins (bass). Recorded: 18 April 1957. Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, New Jersey. Produced: Bob Weinstock. Recording Engineer: Rudy Van Gelder. Cover photos & design: Don Schlitten. Cover notes: Ira Gitler. Issued as Prestige 8217. Released 1959.

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The downwithit playlist: Twenty great tracks for you to listen to

The downwithit playlist is a list of 20 YouTube track selections that I have used to give readers a taste of the albums that I have looked at here on downwithit. They are highlighted and form part of a full post.

They are gathered together here for your further pleasure. Click on the burnt orange title to link directly to YouTube and listen.

If you would like to read my full post for the album, each one is available to read here on downwithit

The following six tracks should open on a tablet or mobile device and a computer:-

Tommy Chase: Grove Merchant: Killer Joe
Abdullah Ibrahim: Mannenberg
Pharoah Sanders: Africa: You’ve Got To Have Freedom
The Crusaders: Hollywood: Hollywood
Don Wilkerson: Preach Brother: Camp Meetin’
John Jenkins: John Jenkins with Kenny Burrell: Sharon

The following fourteen tracks should open on a computer, but will not open on a tablet or mobile device:-

Blue Mitchell: Down With It. Hi-Heel Sneakers
John Coltrane: Blue Train: Blue Train
Horace Silver: Six Pieces of Silver: Camouflage
Horace Parlan: Movin’ n Groovin’: On Green Dolphin Street
Joe Henderson: Mode For Joe: Mode For Joe
Johnny Griffin: The Big Soul Band: Wade In The Water
Freddie Roach: Brown Sugar: Brown Sugar
Fred Jackson: Hootin’ ‘N Tootin’: Southern Exposure
Lee Morgan: The Sidewinder: The Sidewinder
Grover Washington: All The King’s Horses: Lean On Me
Kenny Dorham: Una Mas: Una Mas
Jimmy Smith: Home Cookin’: See See Rider
Freddie Roach: The Soul Book: One Track Mind
Kenny Burrell: Out Of This World: Montono Blues

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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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Six Pieces of Silver: Horace Silver

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Why should I bother with this? It’s 57 years old! Quite simply because Horace Silver and a select group of other New York musicians broke the mould. They created a new sound- ‘Hard bop’. Stealing the words of my mate Matt ‘They had something to say!’ Stealing from Gilles Peterson- Talking Loud, Saying Something! Adding my own view- Playing Great, Sounding Ace! And..although the sound is superb, Rudy Van Gelder, recorded this and other classics in his mum and dad’s front room in Hackensack, New Jersey.

The band etc:- Horace Silver (piano); Donald Byrd(trumpet);Hank Mobley (tenor sax); Doug Watkins(bass); Louis Hayes(drums). Recorded 10 November 1956. Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, New Jersey. Sleeve Notes: Leonard Feather. Cover photos: Francis Wolff. Cover Design: Reid Miles. Issued as Blue Note 1539.

The Music:- This great session was recorded some 57 years ago (at the time of writing). I’d like to be able to write that this was one of the first Blue Note sets that I heard and that its excellence paved the way to other things. That wouldn’t be true. I bought it on an RVG series CD last weekend but I haven’t stopped listening to it since although all of the musicians seem like old friends from other outings. I think, in part, I didn’t buy earlier because I was put off by the front cover. This, in my view, is far from Francis Wolff’s best picture or Reid Miles’s most striking example of his adventurous design.

The playing sounds so fresh and the performers so disciplined. There’s no sloppiness here. Remarkably, the average age of the five musicians was a shade under 24 with 28-year-old Horace Silver being the oldest of the bunch by two years. Silver and Art Blakey were part of a tight group of New York based musicians who developed the ‘hard bop’ style of playing, drawing on the blues, gospel and R&B. Horace Silver’s own influences were diverse. Richard Cook writing in ‘Blue Note Records, The Biography’ identified how Silver had ‘…absorbed an unusually wide range of music’. His mother had sung gospel in church, he listened to Latin bands and to blues records from the previous two decades, which Cook notes as surprisingly unusual listening for a young man in the 40’s. He had worked with Stan Getz in 1950 and had befriended Lou Donaldson and Art Blakey soon afterwards.

Cool Eyes is a lively opener with Hank Mobley delivering the first solo and offering up a run that shows he had listened very closely to alto genius, Charlie Parker. Shirl is an engaging ballad with Silver playing in a trio of piano, drums and bass.

Camouflage is a great funky gospel-tinged tune with 3 solos near perfection in under four and a half minutes. Take a listen courtesy of koastone on YouTube

Enchantment closes side one of the original LP with a Latin feel. Of course with the CD format it is not necessary to stop what you are doing to flip the disc and Senor Blues follows immediately. This is the tune that caught the attention of the multitude, as the album’s standout track. It got so much play that it led to Horace Silver putting together a working band to tour the clubs. It was later re-recorded as a 45 rpm single and with a vocal, both of which appear on the RVG CD. rogerjazzfan has uploaded to YouTube for your pleasure.

Virgo dashes along with some space for the young drummer to impress, while the set closes with For Heaven’s Sake. This is a return to the trio format and is the only non Horace Silver penned tune on the album.

Original sleeve notes are of the (Leonard) feathered variety, offering moderate encouragement, biographies and a brief run through the tracks- with little to annoy (but remember, I’ve got my eye on you Mr. Feather!).

You can get hold of this on CD with all the extra tracks for @ £4.00, although the ultimate listen is possibly the Blue Note first pressing, a fabled Lexington as the cognoscenti say. If you want to know more about that please visit the superb http://londonjazzcollector.wordpress.com/2012/12/02/horace-silver-six-pieces-of-silver-1956-lexington/ but please come back here again!

So there you have it. I think this is actually the fifth Horace Silver set currently in my collection, although there may be a couple of old tapes from the 80’s when I used to borrow and record library copies on cassette. I recommend it highly- purchase and enjoy!

As Matt would say:- ‘They had something to say!

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