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



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GENE AMMONS -
ART FARMER ALL STARS

The Complete Jam Sessions

American Jazz Classics 99076

 

 

CD1

1. Woofin’ And Tweetin’

2. Juggernaut

3. The Happy Blues

4. The Great Lie

5. Can’t We Be Friends?

6. Madhouse

7. We’ll Be Together Again

 

Gene Ammons – Tenor sax

Art Farmer – Trumpet

All tracks (except track 7 CD2) plus:

Tracks 1-2 Gene Ammons All Stars

Lou Donaldson – Alto sax

Freddie Redd – Piano

Addison Farmer – Bass

Kenny Clarke – Drums

Tracks 3-6 Gene Ammons Hi Fidelity Jam Session -The Happy Blues

Jackie McLean – Alto sax

Duke Jordan – Piano

Addison Farmer – Bass

Art Taylor – Drums

Candido Camero – Congas

Track 7- Hi-Fi Jam Session- Jammin’ With Gene

Jackie McLean – Alto sax

Donald Byrd – Trumpet

Mal Waldron – Piano

Doug Watkins – Bass

Art Taylor – Drums

 

CD2

1. Jammin’ With Gene

2. Not Really The Blues

3. Funky

4. Pint Size

5. Stella By Starlight

6. King Size

7. New Blues Up And Down

 

Tracks 1-2 Hi-Fi Jam Session - Jammin’ With Gene

Jackie McLean – Alto sax

Donald Byrd – Trumpet

Mal Waldron – Piano

Doug Watkins – Bass

Art Taylor – Drums

Tracks 3-6 Gene Ammons Hi-Fi Jam Session - Funky

Jackie McLean – Alto sax

Mal Waldron – Piano

Kenny Burrell – Guitar

Doug Watkins – Bass

Art Taylor – Drums

Track 7

Gene Ammons – Tenor sax

Sonny Stitt – Tenor sax

Bill Massey – Trumpet

Alfred “Chippy” Outcalt – Trombone

Charles Bateman – Piano

Eugene Wright – Bass

Art Blakey – Drums

 

In speaking to the English journalist Les Tomkins in 1965, that music philosopher Sonny Stitt offered the following quotation: “You ain’t (sic) supposed to play over people’s heads. You’re trying to give a message to people and make it as simple as possible for average man.” That is the theme of these two CDs which are straightahead long-form blowing sessions from some of the best exemplars of the craft under the rubric Gene Ammons - Art Farmer All Stars The Complete Jam Sessions.

CD1

Gene Ammons (a.k.a. “Jug” or “The Boss”) was the son of boogie-woogie pianist Albert Ammons, and had a huge tenor sax sound that was swing-era leaning but who could hold his own in a bop-oriented setting when called upon to do so. Art Farmer, at this point in his career, was still somewhat under-appreciated and he did not reach greater acclaim until he released Modern Art in 1958 and then in 1960 when he associated himself with Benny Golson to form and record The Jazztet where his songfulness and bop-derived style came to the fore. These jam sessions were done originally for Prestige Records and were a counterpoint to the swing-style sessions that Buck Clayton was recording for Columbia Records. Freeing the musicians from the time constraints of commercial airplay produced sessions that were delightful, starting with the opening track, a blues-driven Woofin’And Tweetin’ and the same band followed with Juggernaut, another great track. Of those startling players on these cuts, only two are still alive: altoist Lou Donaldson who is 85, still active and was inducted as a Jazz Master in 2013 by the National Endowment for the Arts, and pianist Freddie Redd also still playing on the New York scene. On the next four tracks starting with The Happy Blues the band changes personnel and with the addition of Candido on congas the whole feel of the session takes on a different groove and swings in an outstanding way. The communication among Ammons, Farmer and altoist Jackie McLean along with the solid rhythm section is jubilant, and all the compositions exhibit their own musical mark. The final track on this CD is We’ll Be Together Again, and has an expanded band that in addition to McLean has Donald Byrd on trumpet plus a rhythm section of Mal Waldron piano, Doug Watkins bass and Art Taylor on drums. After an opening ballad chorus featuring Ammons, the tune settles into a medium-tempo affair with all hands on deck swinging out in solid fashion.

CD2

The first two tracks of this CD Jammin’ With Gene and Not Really The Blues are performed by the same band that closed CD1. It is quite clear that the band was swinging hard and in exemplary form with results that demonstrated the stylishness of the group. The following four tracks are particularly interesting for a couple of reasons. Firstly the band added Kenny Burrell on guitar who, with his single-note lines and bluesy approach, brought a vitality to the group that was noticeable. Additionally two numbers Pint Size and King Size were written and arranged by the highly-regarded swing-era arranger Jimmy Mundy. Mundy was known for his arranging for Benny Goodman which included Swingtime In The Rockies and Sing, Sing, Sing as well as Count Basie for his classic Jumpin’ At The Woodside. Mundy’s arrangements for this session were full of exciting ideas and creative voicing which pushed the band to an enthusiastic approach to the compositions. The final track pairs Gene Ammons with Sonny Stitt for their composition New Blues Up And Down. The tune was a new adaptation of the tune Blues Up And Down which they recorded on the album Boss Tenors where they were at their competitive best.

These sessions were the epitomé of intense frolics interspersed with a couple of ballads, all of which make these discs welcomed additions to any record library.

Pierre Giroux



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