Category Archives: Tommy Chase

Classic Albums on in 2014


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 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!


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


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