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TOMMY FLANAGAN

Four Classic Albums

Avid AMSC 1091

 

 


CD1

Jazz…It’s Magic

1. Two Ton

2. Medley:

a) Its Magic

b) My One And Only

c) They Didn’t Believe Me

3. Soul Station

4. Club Car

5. Upper Birth

Tommy Flanagan – Piano

Sonny Redd – Alto sax

Curtis Fuller – Trombone

George Tucker – Bass

Louis Hayes – Drums

The King And I

6. Getting To Know You

7. My Lord And Master

8. Shall We Dance?

9. We Kiss In A Shadow

10. I Have Dreamed

11. I Whistle A Happy Tune

12. Hello Young Lovers

13. Something Wonderful

Tommy Flanagan – Piano

Wilbur Harden – Trumpet, flugelhorn

George Duvivier – Bass

Granville T. Hogan – Drums

Trio Overseas

14. Relaxin’At Camarillo

Tommy Flanagan – Piano

Elvin Jones – Drums

Wilbur Little – Bass

CD2

Trio Overseas

1. Chelsea Bridge

2. Eclypso

3. Beats Up

4. Skal Brothers

5. Little Rock

6. Verdani

7. Dalarna

8. Willow Weep For Me

Tommy Flanagan – Piano

Elvin Jones – Drums

Wilbur Little – Bass

The Cats

9. Minor Mishap

10. How Long Has This Been Going On?

11. Eclypso

12. Solacium

13. Tommy’s Tune

Tommy Flanagan – Piano

John Coltrane – Tenor sax

Idrees Sulieman – Trumpet

Kenny Burrell – Guitar

Doug Watkins – Bass

Louis Hayes – Drums

“Pianist Tommy Flanagan is a brilliant, highly individual musician, who has been involved in some of the most important recording sessions of the post-bop era.” So says jazz writer Mark Gardner. The four sessions offered here in this re-issue by Avid Jazz stem from Flanagan’s early days in New York City as well as his first recording in a trio setting. These albums certainly help to set the stage for what Tommy Flanagan was to become.

CD1

Jazz…It’s Magic/The King And I/Trio Overseas

Tommy Flanagan was born and raised in Detroit then gigged around in the city in the early ‘50s when it was a crucible for many jazz musicians who, like Flanagan, ultimately made their way to New York City. So when Flanagan was looking to put together a band for Jazz…It’s Magic, all the members of the group except George Tucker had a Detroit connection. The outcome is a hard-bop outing with the usual elements associated with that style. The session features three compositions from trombonist Curtis Fuller which are not especially striking, but do provide the band with a structure to develop their solos. The best of those offerings is the medium-tempo Club Car which has a breezy unison intro from Redd and Fuller. The band members then take flight with their solo offerings starting with Flanagan’s sprightly right-hand runs, then the under-appreciated altoist Sonny Redd who shows the influence of Charlie Parker, and finally trombonist Fuller whose solid tone is in full force. There is a long ballad medley comprising It’s Magic, My One And Only Love, and They Didn’t Believe Me that gives each of the main players a chance to shine individually, beginning with Flanagan who features his stylish, efficient and nimble style. There follows Sonny Redd on alto who has a fresh, animated and pleasant-sounding approach on his instrument, and finally Fuller takes command with his totally confident playing.

The King And I is not really a Flanagan date but one under the leadership of trumpeter and flugelhornist Wilbur Harden, a fact which is supported by most discographies. Jazz versions of Broadway musicals became “de rigueur” in the ‘50s and this followed in that vein. However to say that this album was successful musically is probably an exaggeration. All the arrangements were done by Harden, and they are generally pedestrian, as they offer little new and different, thereby not giving the band members much to work with. Harden’s career was brief, as he left the business at 35 due to an undisclosed illness, and is mostly known for his work with John Coltrane in the late ’50s. The presented music certainly is not bop by any stretch of the imagination but rather an unobtrusive soft jazz designed for easy listening. Harden has a lyrical open tone whether on trumpet or flugelhorn and can be best appreciated on Shall We Dance? where he shows an easy-going polish. On I Have Dreamed, after Hardin runs through the melody, Flanagan delivers a tasteful solo filled with his usual grace notes. Not much else stands out, and the album’s value stems from the fact that it was one of only two sessions on which Hardin was the leader.

With regard to Trio Overseas, all comments will be reserved for those under CD2.

CD2

Trio Overseas/The Cats

The first album offered on this disc was a studio date recorded in Stockholm when Flanagan and the rhythm section were part of the J.J. Johnson Quintet. This was Flanagan’s first date leading a trio and it was an auspicious beginning. Although Flanagan’s style was not fully developed at this point, the seeds of his artistry were already recognizable. The harmonic complexity, the talent to set the framework, and the strong single-note right hand, all gave credence that Flanagan had the ability to play the music so that it doesn’t get tired. The Charlie Parker bop tune Relaxin’At Camarillo set the stage for the trio to exhibit the congenial interplay that had developed within the group as the rhythm section for the Johnson band, along with showing his bop roots. Duke Ellington’s alter ego, Billy Strayhorn penned the lovely Chelsea Bridge which gives Flanagan an opportunity to show his lyrical side with his embracing approach to the composition. Overall the session, which is mostly composed of Flanagan originals, is a high-octane outing pushed along by the snappy brush work of Elvin Jones which is especially impressive on Beats Up.

The Cats is a hard-bop explosion that, in addition to Flanagan and his coterie of fellow Detroiters (Burrell/Watkins/Hayes) had an adventurous John Coltrane who had just emerged from his stay with the Miles Davis band and an unheralded but solid trumpeter Idrees Sulieman. With one exception, all the compositions were written and arranged by Flanagan, which the band played with vitality and intensity starting with Minor Mishap done in a medium tempo with strong solos from Flanagan, Burrell, Coltrane and Sulieman. How Long Has This Been Going On? is offered by Flanagan, Watkins and Hayes, featuring Flanagan’s usual long, smooth, mellow lines. Of the remaining tracks, perhaps the most compelling is Tommy’s Tune which is a long (twelve minutes) slow blues and seems perfectly suited for the band whereby each member gets plenty of room to stretch out and offer their unique ideas.

All in all another solid re-issue from Avid Jazz.

Pierre Giroux



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