Tag Archives: John Patton

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.

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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.

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Got A Good Thing Goin’: Big John Patton

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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.

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Harold Vick: Steppin’ Out

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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.

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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:-

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The Sound of Soul- Phyl Garland

The Sound of Soul was published in 1969.  It was written at a point when Stax and Motown had broken through and were well established in the charts.  Phyl Garland questions how deeply ‘…soul music has penetrated the core of modern America and how did it all come about?’

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The first half of this short and very readable book is concerned with the origins of the soul sound.  Phyl Garland is explicit in stating that she is not presenting a ‘…scholarly treatise in sociology or musicology’.  Rather, she seeks to entertain and inform those who like soul music and who want to know more of where it emerged from and of the ‘… gifted people who create and perform it.’  As a black woman, she states that she is not attempting to achieve ‘Olympian Objectivity’ but that she writes from a black perspective and concentrates on the work of black musicians because she views them as ‘the most vital factor’ in the development of the music.  She is well aware that many white and British groups drew heavily from soul but makes a strong case for concentrating on the originators rather than the partial popularisers.

The second half of the book presents contemporary late 60’s examples of a living and developing music with longer feature pieces on BB King; a fascinating visit to the Stax Studio in Memphis on a working day; an in-depth and illuminating interview with Nina Simone and an appraisal of Aretha Franklin.  Garland then turns to soul in jazz, interviewing Billy Taylor (perhaps best known as the composer of ‘I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to be Free’ but also as a prolific jazz pianist and educator) before offering an appreciation and requiem for John Coltrane.

Published in Chicago by Regenery, The Sound of Soul is long out of print but you will be able to obtain a copy from AbeBooks or Amazon without breaking the bank.

I first came across Phyl Garland earlier this year when I started to think about this blog.  Having selected Down With It! for the first posting (and blog title) I read the sleeve notes.  I wasn’t expecting much.  Blue Note sleeve notes are a mixed bag.  Leonard Feather’s musings on the back of Lee Morgan’s ‘The Sidewinder’ are informative if you are into musicianly technicalities but are bone-dry and out of keeping with the excitement of the album contained within.  So it was without any great expectation that I started to read her clarion call to listen carefully and enjoy but not to over-analyze or seek to confine jazz to an exclusive cerebral gated community.

Further research confirmed that Professor Phyllis Garland was a remarkable and inspirational person.  She was the first woman and the first African American to gain tenure at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.  This followed on from a distinguished career as a journalist and writer with Ebony Magazine and as a reporter and editor on The Pittsburgh Courier from 1958 to 1965.  She was also a participant activist in the civil rights movement.  There’s a full obituary at: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/obituaries/obituary-phyllis-garland-journalism-professor-at-columbia-university-458744/  and her enthusiasm for the music was indicated by her annual listening parties, held for her students at her Eighth Avenue apartment in New York’s Greenwich Village where she played music from her massive collection of jazz and other genres.

Phyl Garland also wrote sleeve notes for Let ‘Em Roll by Big John Patton and Jackie McLean’s Right Now which were both released on Blue Note and for Booker T and the MGs 1969 album- The T Set. In addition, I understand that a Phil Garland may have written the notes for a Smokey Robinson set that Freddie Roach may have contributed one of his last recordings on. I must check that one out in due course.

 

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