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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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GENE AMMONS

Three Classic Albums Plus

Avid AMSC 1029

 

 


CD1
Groove Blues
1. Ammon Joy
2. Groove Blues
3. Jug Handle
4. It Might As Well Be Spring
Boss Tenor
5. Hittin' The Jug
6. Close Your Eyes
7. My Romance
8. Canadian Sunset
9. Blue Ammons
10. Confirmation

CD2
1. Stompin' At The Savoy
Blue Gene
2. Blue Gene
3. Scamperin'
4. Blue Greens `n' Beans
5. Hip Tip
The Happy Blues
6. The Happy Blues
7. The Great Lie
8. Can't We Be Friends

Gene Ammons - Tenor sax
Arthur Taylor - Drums
Paul Quinichette - Tenor sax (tracks I/1-4)
John Coltrane - Alto sax (tracks I/1-4)
Jerome Richardson - Flute (tracks I/1-4)
Pepper Adams - Baritone sax (tracks I/1-4, II/2-5)
Mal Waldron - Piano (tracks I/1-4, II/2-5)
George Joyner - Bass (tracks I/1-4)
Tommy Flanagan - Piano (tracks I/5-10, II/1)
Doug Watkins - Bass (tracks I/5-10, II/1-5)
Ray Barretto - Conga drums (tracks I/5-10, II/1-5)
Idrees Sulieman - Trumpet (tracks II/2-5)
Art Farmer - Trumpet (tracks II/6-8)
Jackie McLean - Alto sax (tracks II/6-8)
Duke Jordan - Piano (tracks II/6-8)
Addison Farmer - Bass (tracks II/6-8)
Candido - Conga drums (tracks II/6-8)

 

The title of the album Boss Tenor sums up Gene Ammons perfectly. He was the son of boogie-woogie pianist Albert Ammons and was one of the tenor-saxists who developed the Chicago style of tenor-playing. In a way this was similar to the Texas school of tenormen, noted for their hard-driving playing, but it also took on some of the subtler, breathy sounds of such saxists as Lester Young. Gene was not particularly interested in displaying his technique, although he played bebop with Billy Eckstine's big band in the 1940s, but he was a stimulating, enjoyable player who certainly knew how to convey the blues.

These three LPs plus three tracks from The Happy Blues illustrate Ammons' work from 1956 to 1960, and emphasise the soulful element in his playing. This is accentuated through every track by Art Taylor's powerful drumming, backed up on many tracks by the conga drums of either Ray Barretto or Candido. Gene managed to combine soul with gutsiness when required but he could also perform ballads with feeling.

Gene's way with the blues is evident in a tune like Blue Gene, which he drenches in soul. It's a slow blues but Ray Barretto's conga drums suggest doubling the tempo, a hint to which Gene eventually succumbs. This is the longest track (13.55) on a double disc containing many long tracks, but it doesn't outstay its welcome, as Idries Sulieman, Pepper Adams, Mal Waldron and Doug Watkins add considerable solos. The following track, Scamperin', shows the group's paces in a blues at a faster tempo, with Idrees really letting his hair down.

For contrast, Hip Tip is a ballad which allows the band members to stretch out in seemingly lazy ease. The other tracks on the album give Gene a good showcase for his talents. John Coltrane makes a rare appearance on alto sax in the first first four tracks, all but one of which were composed by Mal Waldron. Coltrane's playing was equally potent on alto, tenor or soprano. The fourth track - It Might As Well Be Spring - displays Gene Ammons' intensity on a slow number.

The LP Boss Tenor let Ammons loose with just a rhythm section to reveal the full extent of his prowess, whether in ballad or powerhouse funk. And the three tracks from the LP The Happy Blues (Madhouse is omitted) set Ammons with trumpeter Art Farmer and altoist Jackie McLean in a session of varied moods. Gene's tone is gorgeously deep and expressive.

This is yet another bargain from Avid at budget price, although you may need to get out your magnifying glass again to deal with the sleeve-notes.

Tony Augarde
www.augardebooks.co.uk



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