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Jazz Drummers

Four Classic Albums

AVID JAZZ AMSC 1297 CD1: [75:17] CD2 [75:20]

 

 

 

CD1

LOUIS HAYESLouis Hayes

1. Hazing
2. Rip De Boom
3. Teef
4. I Need You
5. Back Yard
6. Sassy Ann

Yusef Lateef (tenor sax), Nat Adderley (cornet), Barry Harris (piano),

Sam Jones (bass) Louis Hayes (drums).

rec. New York, April 26, 1960

PHILLY JOE JONESShowcase

7. Battery Blues
8. Minor Mode
9. Gwen
10. Joes’ Debut
11. Gone
12. Joe’s Delight
13. Julia
14. I’ll Never Be The Same

15 Interpretation

Blue Mitchell (trumpet), Julian Priester (trombone), Bill Barron (tenor sax) Pepper Adams (baritone sax) Charles ‘Dolo’ Coker (piano, tracks 7,10, 12-14), Sonny Clark (piano, 8, 11, 15), Jimmy Garrison (bass), Philly Joe Jones (drums, piano on track 9, arrangement on track 14)

rec. New York, November 17, 1959 (tracks 7, 10, 12-14); November 18, 1959 (8-9,11, 15)

CD2

ARTHUR TAYLOR- A.T.’s Delight

1. Syeeda’s Song Flute
2. Epistrophy
3. Move

4. High Seas
5. Cuckoo and Fungi
6. Blue Interlude
Stanley Turrentine (tenor sax), Dave Burns (trumpet), Wynton Kelly (piano),

Paul Chambers (bass), ‘Potato’ Valdez (congas), Art Taylor (drums)

rec. New Jersey, August 6, 1960

ELVIN JONESElvin!

7. Lady Luck
8. Buzz-At
9. Shadowland
10. Pretty Brown
11. Ray-El
12. Four and Six
13. You Are Too Beautiful

Thad Jones (cornet) Frank Foster (tenor sax), Frank Wess (flute), Hank Jones (piano),

Art Davis (bass) Elvin Jones (drums)

rec. New York, July 11, 1961; December 27, 1961; January 3, 1962.

The first thing to stress is that this is not a collection full of lengthy, noisy drum solos – if that is what you want you need to look elsewhere. Rather, these discs present drummers as leaders, so that the listener’s attention is directed to saxophonists (such as Yusef Lateef, Pepper Adams and Stanley Turrentine) and pianists (such as Barry Harris, Sonny Clark, Wynton Kelly and Hank Jones) at least as much as to drummers.

This 2-CD set is, then, best viewed as a collection of four largely successful albums recorded between 1959 and 1962 (a particularly interesting period in modern jazz), all of which ‘happen’ to be led by significant drummers.

Louis Hayes, a fine craftsman, has never been a flashy drummer, nor an over-assertive one. Here, on his first album as a leader, on a recording originally made for Vee-Jay Records, he chose not to look very far to assemble a group. From 1959-1965 Hayes worked with Cannonball Adderley, and the personnel on Louis Hayes consists of the Adderley Quintet of the day, minus Julian Adderley, who is replaced by Yusef Lateef. The programme is made up of two originals by the ever-dependable (and too often under-rated) Barry Harris (tracks 4 and 5), one (track 1) by Lateef, and one each by altoist Sonny Red Kyner (3), Nat Adderley (6) and his absent brother Julian (2). All of the pieces are, if not strikingly memorable, attractive and inviting and Nat Adderley, Lateef and Harris, in particular, make the most of the musical invitations they offer. Adderley plays with a good deal of fire, taking risks which don’t always come off, but do so often enough to be rewarding. Lateef sounds almost over-considered in contrast, but as he often did around this time he plays with a depth of emotion which, in the language, of the day, one can only say is full of ‘soul’(and he gets a beautiful ballad feature on ‘I Need You’). Harris is a genial and intelligent ensemble player and an elegant soloist who, as is often the case, works with profound knowledge of the bop / hard bop idioms without ever descending into cliché.

Only 21 at the time of the recording, Hayes plays with subtlety and a sense of easy swing which is sophisticated and complex without becoming distractingly elaborate or over-loud. In this he is helped by the absolute solidity of Sam Jones’ bass playing. Hayes mixes cymbals, snare and bass drums with musical awareness and agility, punctuating ensembles and solos in ways that stimulate, rather than dominate or inhibit, the other musicians (listen, for example, to the way he plays behind the solos by Lateef and Adderley on ‘Teef’, or indeed, the whole way in which he keeps that track moving). He is not shy of taking the limelight when appropriate, whether in a number of Blakey-like passages on ‘Hazing’ or his work on ‘Back Yard’, where the drums are more to the fore.

As the title of an album led by a drummer, Showcase seems to promise a foregrounding of the drummer and to an extent this is the case (Jones was, by nature, a more flamboyant and ‘explosive’ drummer than, for example, Hayes); but what is also ‘showcased’ here is Jones’ skills as a pianist and as an arranger. Through over-dubbing, on ‘Gwen’ he forms (pretty convincingly) two thirds of a piano trio, as pianist and drummer alongside the bass of Paul Chambers. He contributes three tunes (the afore-mentioned ‘Gwen’, ‘Joe’s Delight’ and ‘Joe’s Debut’) to ‘his’ album (he had led two other recording sessions before he made this one for Riverside), whereas Hayes did not feature a single tune of his own.

Jones, in truth, largely dominates this session; but Barron, Mitchell, Adams and Priester prove capable of holding their own ‘against’ his forceful musical personality (as evidenced, for example, by Mitchell’s work on ‘Julia’ or the fine solos by Barron (particularly) and Priester on ‘Joe’s Debut’). It is worth knowing, as Orrin Keepnews informs the reader in his original sleeve notes to the album, that Barron and Priester were members of a working band led by Jones around the time of this recording; so, like the album led by Hayes, this one also builds on pre-existing musical familiarity. Jones was not a ‘selfish’ drummer, even if he was a powerful one; Jones shuffles the cards in his hand here, so that, for example, we hear a septet on three tracks (‘Battery Blues’, ‘Julia’ and’ I’ll Never Be The Same’), a sextet (minus Barron and with Sonny Clark at the piano), on ‘Minor Mode’ and ‘Interpretation’ and a quintet (of Barron, Priester, Dolo Coker, Garrison and Jones) on ‘Joe’s Debut’ and ‘Joe’s Delight’. ‘Gone’ (from which Mitchell is absent) remembers Gill Evans’ arrangement of the tune for Miles Davis’ Porgy and Bess (on which Jones played). Jones largely dominates this version of Gershwin’s ‘quasi-spiritual’, turning it into “a powerful showcase for himself” (to quote Keepnews). The whole makes for an entertaining album of hard bop, on which there is rather more variety than on most hard-bop albums.

Art Taylor, as a drummer, is more akin to Louis Hayes than to Philly Joe, insofar as he is, to quote Jack Cooke “a stylish and efficient drummer”, without being a ‘star’ or a flamboyant soloist. Much respected by other musicians, he had worked with many of the time’s finest (such as – to name a few, in alphabetical order – Gene Ammons, Kenny Burrell, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Red Garland, Milt Jackson, Thelonious Monk and Bud Powell), before he made A.T.’s Delight, his third session as a leader, being preceded by Taylor’s Wailers (1957) and Taylor’s Tenors (1959), but his first for Blue Note. Without doing anything startlingly new, A.T.’s Delight is a delight, a richly enjoyable session, which swings pleasantly and without obvious effort or stress and features some accomplished solos. Turrentine is less hooked on funky blues-phrasing than he often was, and it is a joy to hear trumpeter Dave Burns at length. Burns played in Dizzy Gillespie’s Big Band in the 1940s and his leader respected him enough to give him a fair bit of solo space; in the mid 1950s he was working with James Moody, another Gillespie alumnus. Of his appearance on this 1960 Ira Gitler’s sleeve-notes say that his presence (along with that of Turrentine) stemmed “from a gig Art [Taylor] played in Newark, New Jersey during 1960. ‘Dave and Stanley were on it, I dug them and decided to use them when and if did my next date’”. Gitler adds that “Although he has been in jazz longer than any of the other musicians on this date, Dave Burns is probably the least known. This is because he has sequestered himself in New Jersey during the past few years …When he left the Moody band a few years ago, and announced his retirement from music, I doubted if someone with his talent for (and love of) jazz would stay away indefinitely. It took time but time proved me right. His playing on this album takes him right into the upper echelons of the trumpet division”. Hear, hear! In later years Burns seems largely (save for two albums he led for Vanguard in 1962 and 1963) to have concentrated on teaching and on playing in local venues on Long Island. Away from the centre of jazz-thingas, Burns was more-or-less forgotten by the time of his death in 2003. But he really was a fine musician, and recordings such as this are amongst the relatively few examples we have of him at his best. Stanley Turrentine was, of course, much more extensively recorded and no kind of rarity value can be claimed for his appearance here; still, he contributes some effective solos, as does the much-recorded pianist Wynton Kelly. What, apart from the quality of Burns’ solo work, is most striking about this album is the absolute cohesiveness of the group sound. Not being based on any kind of regular working group, that cohesive quality, that sense of utter unity, says much both for Taylor’s judgement in his choice of musicians and for the calibre of his work as an ensemble drummer.

Of these four albums the oddest, in some respects, is Elvin!; at the time of the session, Elvin Jones occupied the drum chair in John Coltrane’s adventurous quartet (Jones worked with Coltrane from 1960 to 1966). Jones’ choice of bassist was Art Davis, who also worked with Coltrane at much the same time, often alongside Jones. The presence of the two of them might reasonably lead one to expect music full of the kinds of polyrhythms one associates with Coltrane’s music of this era. But then one looks at the other members of the ‘cast’ as it were; the drummer’s two older brothers, pianist Hank and cornettist/trumpeter Thad; neither of them had any kind of musical affinity with the Coltrane of 1961/2. Nor, indeed, did either Frank Foster or Frank Wess. One connection does link three of these figures – Thad Jones was a member of the Count Basie Band between about 1954 and 1963. Frank Foster worked with Basie, as saxophonist and arranger throughout much of the 1950s, while Frank Wess was a member of the Basie band from the early 1950s until the 1960s. It is, reflecting on this line up, hard to imagine quite how piano, saxophone and flute will be able to find a common musical language with bassist and drummer. Essentially what happens is that Elvin Jones plays in a manner that bears very little resemblance to the work he did with Trane. This is a simpler, more ‘traditionally’ swinging drummer. The leader, in other words, accommodates himself to the musical world of his front line, rather than seeking to impose on them his own musical vision (or at any rate the style with which he was inescapably identified at the time he made this recording). The choice of repertoire is indicative – two numbers by Thad Jones, a standard by Rodgers and Hart, and a tune by Ernie Wilkins (one of Basie’s most influential arrangers in the first half of the 1950s). A Basie-influenced agenda was clearly set, and there is a Basieite quality to much of what happens. The style of Jones’ work at the drums (while it wouldn’t be confused with that of another unrelated Jones) bears more resemblance to that of Jo Jones, the quintessential Basie drummer, than it does to his work with Coltrane. The whole atmosphere of the album, pleasant though it is, is somewhat tepid and uneasy; the group lacks precisely that cohesiveness evident on A.T.’s Delight. The Jones boys find workably productive common ground (Hank and Thad are the stars of the session), but Foster and Wess struggle to fit in or to make any very convincing contributions. While well worth hearing, Elvin! is only a partial success. It is not an album I have ever gone back to with any regularity.

Glyn Pursglove

 


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