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Ike Quebec

Four Classic Albums

Avid Jazz

AMSC 1322 [75:16 + 81:21]



Blue And Sentimental
1. Blue And Sentimental
2. Minor Impulse
3. Don’t Take Your Love From Me
4. Blues For Charlie
5. Like
6. Count Every Star

Ike Quebec (tenor sax, piano), Grant Green (guitar), Paul Chambers (bass), Sonny Clark (piano, track 6

only), Sam Jones (bass, track 6), Louis Hayes (drums, track 6). Rec. Englewood Cliffs, December

16, 1961 (tracks 1-5) and December 23; 1961 (track 6).

It Might As Well Be Spring

7. It Might As Well Be Spring
8. A Light Reprieve
9. Easy-Don’t Hurt
10. Lover Man
11. Ol’ Man River
12. Willow Weep For Me
Ike Quebec (tenor sax), Freddie Roach (organ), Milt Hinton (bass), Al Harewood (drums). Rec.

Englewood Cliffs, December 9, 1961.
Heavy Soul

2. Just One More Chance
3. Que’s Dilemma
4. Brother Can You Spare A Dime
5. The Man I Love
6. Heavy Soul
7. I Want A Little Girl
8. Nature Boy

Ike Quebec (tenor sax), Freddie Roach (organ), Milt Hinton (bass), Al Harewood (drums). Rec.

Hackensack, November 26, 1961.
Bossa Nova Soul Samba
9. Loie
10. Lloro Tu Despedida
11. Goin’ Home
12. Me ‘N You
13. Liebestraum
14. Shu Shu
15. Blue Samba
16. Favela
17. Linda Flor

Ike Quebec (tenor sax), Kenny Burrell (guitar), Wendell Marshall (bass), Willie Bobo (drums),Garvin

Masseaux (chekere). Rec Hackensack, October 5 1962.

All four of these albums, recorded between November 1961 and October 1962, were originally issued on the Blue Note label. Any one ofBlue and Sentimental, Heavy Soul or It Might As Well Be Spring would serve well as an introduction to Quebec (Bossa Nova Soul Samba is perhaps a special case), but maybe Heavy Soul is the best of the three.

Quebec started out as a pianist and dancer, before switching to tenor sax at the turn of the 1930s. In the next few years he worked with figures such as Roy Eldridge and Benny Carter, and spent some years with Cab Calloway’s band in the 1940s. Heroin addiction interrupted his career in the 1950s, but Alfred Lion of Blue Note gave him the opportunity to record a series of album early in the 1960s. Though never especially original, Quebec was in great form on these recordings, an authoritative voice carrying the legacy of Coleman Hawkins into the 1960s. Sadly, however, Quebec was to die of lung cancer in January of 1963. On this reissue from Avid one can hear much of the best work that Quebec recorded in the last years of his life.

In the original sleeve note for Heavy Soul (reproduced here, in the Avid manner), Leonard Feather quotes some observations on Ike Quebec by Hugues Panassié: “He is a direct and vigorous musician, playing with great power and swing, he excels in blues”. Though one might add some other virtues to Panassié’s list, his comments are wholly just. Taken as a whole, Heavy Soul puts a persuasive case for Quebec, forthright but sensitive, swinging and emotional (a fine ballad player), fluent but thoughtful. Freddie Roach, as he often did early in his career, shows himself to have been one of the subtler organists of the time. He and Milt Hinton do, perhaps inevitably, sometimes seem to get in one another’s way – the combination of organ and double-bass was not often a happy one – though Quebec clearly liked it. Drummer Al Harewood who, like Roach and Hinton, appears on both this album and It Might As Well Be Spring, was clearly a favourite of Quebec’s, and one can hear why. Though he can be forceful when the situation requires it, Harewood was never an over-aggressive drummer, and on slow ballads (such as ‘Just One More Chance’) his sensitively-propulsive time-keeping is a joy, as Quebec’s solo spins some elegantly breathy lines; On ‘Que’s Dilemma’, an original by Quebec, Harewood is punchier and Roach’s accompaniment is urgent without being obtrusive. I’d select these two tracks as the highlights of a fine album, though ‘Buddy Can You Spare A Dime’ packs a considerable emotional involvement (Quebec had known some hard times) and ‘I Want A little Girl’ has a sensual after-hours feel. ‘Nature Boy’ is a duet for Quebec and Hinton and their interplay is beautiful – the two had been friends since they were bandmates with Cab Calloway and this duet demonstrates just how comfortable they were together.

Like Heavy Soul, It Might As Well Be Spring – with exactly the same personnel and recorded only some two weeks later – confirms Quebec’s status as a minor master of the tenor sax (‘minor’ only because he wasn’t a groundbreaking musician, merely (!) a consummate artist whose work was firmly grounded in the established jazz tradition, without being simply derivative. The rhythm section is again impressive. Nat Hentoff’s sleeve note quotes Quebec on Freddie Roach: “He’s not the usual soggy organist” – an observation which characterizes the best of the young organist; some of his right hand runs on this album have a fleetness which is the very antithesis of ‘sogginess’.

There is more evidence of Quebec’s quality as a player of ballads – not least in the title track; at his best, as here, Quebec is up there with Hawkins and Webster. He plays with great (and sophisticated) control of dynamics and varies the tempo in way that engages the listener’s attention throughout. ‘Easy Don’t Hurt’, an original, is basically a blues, though with some unexpected harmonies. ‘Lover Man’ is powerfully emotional, but always precise and controlled. In Quebec’s interpretation of ‘Ol’ Man River’ the Mississippi gathers such momentum that it sounds at times as though Quebec himself might be swept away by the rushing waters. But he never is! ‘Willow Weep For Me’ has an admirable unity of conception – a calm melancholy pervading everything. These two albums constituted a remarkable ‘comeback’ – not least because Quebec’s health surely cannot have been very good at the time.

The other two albums in this compilation present Quebec accompanied by different musicians. On Blue and Sentimental, indeed, he is heard in two different settings. Grant Green, like Quebec, appears on all six tracks. In the first five tracks the bassist is Paul Chambers and the drummer is Philly Joe Jones. On track 6 Sam Jones takes over on the bass and Louis Hayes at the drums, while pianist Sonny Clark is added. The quartet of tracks 1-5 thus becomes a quintet on track 6. ‘Blue and Sentimental’ has a tenderness which seems to derive from restrained power. Quebec’s melodic creativity is impressive here. ‘Minor Impulse’ finds Quebec and his colleagues settling into an assured and comfortable swing, with Green taking a characteristically good solo. ‘Blues for Charlie’ is unforcedly soulful, while being quite without any of the clichés of soul jazz. Green is at the forefront of ‘Count Every Star’ his playing imaginatively crisp ands articulate. This was a tune (written by Bruno Coquatrix and Sammy Gallop) which Green obviously liked, since he had already recorded it in March 1962 on his own album Born to be Blue .

At first sight an album of Bossa Nova and samba by Ike Quebec might seem as though the tenor player was jumping on the Stan Getz bossa nova bandwagon. But neither the way Quebec plays on the album, nor the dates bear out such a suspicion. Getz’s album Jazz Samba had, admittedly, been recorded in February 1962 and released two months later in April. But the real ‘commercial’ vogue for the bossa began with the release of Getz/Gilberto in March 1964.

What Quebec is quoted as saying in the original sleeve note to Bossa Nova Soul Samba rings true: “I had been listening round, and I liked what some of the jazz musicians were doing with this thing. But I decided I wanted to put more grease to it, more of a blues feeling, more sensuality”. And so he does! As one would expect his playing is a long way from the ‘floating’ manner of Getz, as he digs into the material in his own individual way. (Interestingly Coleman Hawkins had recorded his ‘bossa album’, Desafinado: Coleman Hawkins plays Bossa Nova and Jazz Samba, in September 1962, the month immediately preceding the recording of this album.

At times on Bossa Nova Soul Samba (one notices the insertion of the word ‘Soul’) the Latin elements come almost exclusively from guitarist Kenny Burrell and the two percussionists, with Quebec overlaying what they do with bluesy lines or ballad playing that comes straight out of the jazz tradition. Quebec largely plays in his own idiom, within a bossa nova framework. The result is by no means unpleasant, but it doesn’t give us Quebec at his very best. The closest meeting between the two musical languages comes in Quebec’s own composition ‘Blue Samba’ – an interesting track which suggests possibilities which went largely unexplored. Nat Hentoff closed his LP sleeve note thus: “I expect that this is one ‘bossa nova’ album that will be played just for pleasure long after the ‘bossa nova’ fashion has subsided. What makes the album durable, in short, is Ike’s own durability as a lyrical, blues-rooted, directly emotional improvisor who neither wastes notes nor wants for passion”. That seems to me exactly right.

This was, sadly, to be Quebec’s last recording session. He died just over three months later on January 16th 1963, aged 44. This set from Avid provides a great opportunity to get hold of most of Quebec’s best work.

Glyn Pursglove

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