Monday, November 26. 2007
OK, let's forget about last week. I wasn't able to work on jazz prospecting at all. I knew it was going to be bad with Thanksgiving, the long weekend, and the impending Recycled Goods deadline. On top of that, I had to spend a couple of days doing emergency carpentry, plumbing, etc., so I barely got a chance to listen. And I figure it's do-or-die time for the big Recycled box sets, so a lot of the time I did manage to spend hasn't shown up in my counts yet. The biggest by far is Allen Lowe's That Devilin' Tune, 36-CDs of vintage jazz history, replete with a 312-page book that I'm only about 1/3 of the way through. I'm having trouble getting off the fence on the Miles Davis box too. And there are other non-jazz things pending -- as I'm writing this I'm playing the Luther Vandross box. I thought about just punting this week, but don't see any point in holding the Blue Note reissues back. Next week will be better, but first I have to decide what to do with Recycled Goods. December's column will be the 50th, with more than 2100 records covered. It takes a lot of time and I'm not getting much out of it any more -- even the records have been drying up, although I really haven't had the time to put much effort into digging them up. Maybe a change of venue would help? I've thought about something more blog-like, in shorter, more frequent chunks. Also been thinking about building a reference-oriented site, which is what the consumer guiding has always been aiming at. In any case, I should get through this tight spot sooner or later next week. Not that far away from closing out this Jazz Consumer Guide. Just have to get to the beginning of the end.
Grant Green: The Latin Bit (1961 , Blue Note): The latin percussion is professional enough -- Johnny Acea on piano, Willie Bobo on drums, Carlos "Patato" Valdes on congas, Garvin Masseaux on chekere -- but they can't inspire Green to break out of his usual groove. Two later cuts with Ike Quebec on tenor sax and Sonny Clark on piano work better, with the chekere gone and the congas reduced to atmosphere. B
Ike Quebec: Bossa Nova Soul Samba (1962 , Blue Note): Or something sorta like that, although Soul is the only part of that title Quebec's all that conversant with; the rhythm team leans Hispanic rather than Brazilian, and may have meant the lazy riddims as satire, but the tenor saxophonist took them as an excuse for a shmoozy ballads album, which is his forté. B+(**)
Walter Davis Jr.: Davis Cup (1959 , Blue Note): A minor hard bop pianist, worked with Dizzy Gillespie, Donald Byrd, Jackie McLean, Art Blakey, Archie Shepp, Bobby Watson, a few others. This quintet was his only album on Blue Note, or for that matter under his own name until 1977. He wrote all the pieces, but he doesn't get much piano space. The album is dominated by Byrd, with McLean present but usually laying back. B
Lee Morgan: Indeed! (1956 , Blue Note): The 18-year-old trumpet whiz's first studio experience, cut one day before the Hank Mobley session that Savoy rushed into print as Introducing Lee Morgan, this is as interesting for the presence of rarely-recorded Clarence Sharpe on alto sax and the way Horace Silver's piano jumps out at you; Morgan still had a ways to go, but the excitement around him was already palpable. B+(***)
Lee Morgan: Volume 2: Sextet (1956 , Blue Note): Less than a month after Indeed!, Morgan is sounding even more confident in a larger, more daunting group featuring Hank Mobley on tenor sax and little known Kenny Rodgers on alto sax, with Horace Silver again providing his inexorable bounce. B+(***)
Lee Morgan: Volume 3 (1957 , Blue Note): Still 18, at the helm of a subtler, more sophisticated sextet, and even more clearly the star, despite the estimable talent around him -- saxophonists Benny Golson and Gigi Gryce, pianist Wynton Kelly, bassist Paul Chambers, drummer Charlie Persip. Golson wrote the whole program, spreading out the complexity, while Kelly holds it all together. B+(**)
Lee Morgan: Candy (1957 , Blue Note): Still in his teens, but at last out front alone, leading a quartet with the redoubtable Sonny Clark on piano, running through a mix of standards, including a couple he reclaims from the pop/r&b charts -- "Candy" and "Personality"; he's bursting with energy and ideas, still finding himself, but completely in control. A-
Baby Face Willette: Face to Face (1961 , Blue Note): Organ man, church schooled, natch, cut two albums in 1961 with guitarist Grant Green and drummer Ben Dixon, then for all intents and purposes disappeared; this one adds Fred Jackson on tenor sax, whose skill set is summed up in the title of his one album, Hootin' 'N Tootin'; still, it's hard not to enjoy their gutbucket soul jazz. B+(***)
Paul Chambers: Bass on Top (1957 , Blue Note): One of the top bassists of the era -- AMG's credits run to seven pages, all the more amazing given that he was just 33 when he died, although I figure 1/2 to 2/3 of those are dupes for compilations. Although he did a handful of albums as a leader, this is exceptional in its focus on the bass -- or at least it starts that way, as guitarist Kenny Burrell later moves to the fore. B
Lou Donaldson: Gravy Train (1961 , Blue Note): An alto saxophonist, Donaldson got a reputation early in the 1950s as a Charlie Parker imitator, but it's hard to hear the influence, especially by the early 1960s when his easy-flowing blues style fit snugly into the soul jazz milieu. The temptation to put him down as derivative may be because he never showed any big ambitions. He was content to knock off dozens of clean toned, easy grooving albums, popular enough that Blue Note kept him employed from 1952 to 1974. This one makes the most of his limits. Two originals are small ideas worked out comfortably. The covers carry stronger melodies, which he renders with little elaboration but uncommon elegance. Herman Foster's piano is crisper than the usual organs, while Alec Dorsey's congas lighten and loosen the beat. A-
Count Basie: Basie at Birdland (1961 , Roulette Jazz): This is about where Basie's "Second Testament" (as they put it here) band starts to slip, but they can still kick the old songbook into high orbit, the section work is atomic, a key tenor sax solo (Budd Johnson?) is much further out than expected, and Jon Hendricks mumbles his Clark Terry impression on "Whirly Bird." Nearly double the length of the original LP, the extra weight suits them. A-
Thad Jones: The Magnificent Thad Jones (1956 , Blue Note): The title strikes me as a play on Jones' debut album on Debut, The Fabulous Thad Jones -- among other things it implies continued growth. The slowest great trumpet player of his generation, Jones never dazzled you with his chops, but he had an uncanny knack for finding right places for his notes, and at his moderate pace you get to savor the full beauty of the instrument. Ends with a graceful non-LP duet with guitarist Kenny Burrell. A-
No final grades/notes this week on records put back for further listening the first time around.