Sunday, July 30, 2017

Ben Webster - Ben Webster And Associates

Ben Webster and Associates is a 1959 session that took full advantage of the long-playing LP format. Highlighted by the 20-minute version of Ellington's "In a Mellow Tone" in which tenor titans Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins, and Budd Johnson plus trumpeter Roy Eldridge stretch out, not so much in a cutting contest as a laid-back jam session amongst friends. This summit meeting turned out to be a tribute to another tenor master of the same generation, Lester Young, who had died less than four weeks before this session. The chosen rhythm section of Jimmy Jones on piano, Les Spann on guitar, Ray Brown on bass, and Jo Jones on drums equally matches the performance of the featured horns. Also tackled for this session were three Webster originals: "De-Dar," "Young Bean," and "Budd Johnson" and the standard "Time After Time." Unfortunately no bonus tracks are included (if they even exist) but the excellent sound restoration more than makes up for it. - by Al Campbell, AMG

Artist: Ben Webster
Album: Ben Webster and Associates
Year: 1959
Label: Verve (Master Edition, 24bit remastered, 2000)
Runtime: 44:40
Recorded in New York City, USA 09.04.1959

1.  In A Mellow Tone (Duke Ellington/Milton Gabler) 20:15 
2.  De Dar (Ben Webster) 4:40 
3.  Young Bean (Ben Webster) 6:02 
4.  Time After Time (Jule Styne/Sammy Cahn) 4:35 
5.  Budd Johnson (Ben Webster) 9:08 

Ben Webster (Tenor Saxophone) 
Coleman Hawkins (Tenor Saxophone) 
Budd Johnson (Tenor Saxophone) 
Roy Eldridge (Trumpet) 
Les Spann (Guitar) 
Jimmy Jones (Piano) 
Ray Brown (Double Bass) 
Jo Jones (Drums) 

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Sonny Stitt - In Brasil

You start collecting the albums of an artist, get to fifty or so, and decide, "what the heck, might as well go the whole distance--he can't have made many more." Unfortunately, in Sonny Stitt's case he did. There are times it seems that not a day went by that Sonny didn't agree to cut a record for someone. He was the "Lone Wolf" of jazz as well as the most peripatetic, ubiquitous of all American musicians. Between 1960 and 1980 (and certainly for the 15 years prior to 1960) you could practically take up temporary residence (a couple of months if not less) in any major city, and eventually Sonny would drift into town, two saxophone cases in tow, and maybe a few phone numbers to help him locate the best local musicians available as well as a venue willing to support his major habit--which can be summarized as playing the saxophones--alto and tenor--more "perfectly" than any musician who has lived while simultaneously keeping alive the flame struck by Charlie Parker, in the process demonstrating what "swing" was all about and spreading the gospel of the Great American Songbook (he was practically the instrumental equivalent of a Bing, Ella, or Sinatra). I'd never heard of this record or of the Zimbo Trio, but it doesn't surprise me all that much that during the last 2-3 years of his life he should find his way to Brazil and leave behind a record of the experience. Looking on the internet, I find the Zimbo Trio has impressive credits, at least in Brazil--first recording in 1965 and continuing to represent a standard of excellence in the performance of both Brazilian music and American jazz. Chances are you will learn none of this from the album--all of the liner notes, apparently in the form of testimonials written by the musicians on the date, are in Spanish. But there are some photos of Sonny in the control room--looking in better spirits than I've ever seen him--that may be the best thing about the album. He's having a blast, and the musicians are obviously thrilled and fully aware of the significance of the moment. As for the music, it's not as bad as some Stitt recordings, bootleg and otherwise, that I've quickly had to put out of their misery. But if you've heard a lot of Sonny already, you know pretty much what to expect. Just be assured that he's fully on his game--the intonation, the embouchure, the mind and fingers, the mastery of both horns--it's all working fine, quite worthy of Stitt and his legacy among those privileged to know it. The rest of it isn't quite up to that level, though the quality of the supporting musicians and of the audio reproduction itself is no doubt professional enough to satisfy most listeners. True to so many recordings of the 1970s the bass is over-miked and (ugh) electric (or sounding like it), and the bassist tends to sound like he's running away with his own walking lines rather than locking in "tight and right" with the drummer's high hat. As a result, it's hard for the listener to feel the same groove that the musicians themselves obviously were experiencing during the recording. The pianist has chops and swings, and the drummer sounds like he'd work well with a Sam Jones or Ray Brown (what a difference that would make). Like too many of those CTI-type recording sessions of the '70s, this one is "over-engineered" to the detriment of the sound of Sonny's rich, true, uncluttered tone. He sounds unnecessarily pinched and "distant" on the date, as though he's wearing headphones and has been placed in a separate room from the rhythm section (which may well be the case). But most importantly, the tones of the alto and tenor, while unmistakably Sonny Stitt (he really comes to life on Bird's "Little Suede Shoes"), don't do justice by the way he "really" sounded (I heard him in person at least twenty-five times). The pity's all the more if only because Sonny, and for that matter the musicians on the date, are all playing well. In sum, this one is a keeper, but you'd best EQ it, rolling back on the low frequencies and providing some boost to the mid-frequencies covering Sonny's alto and tenor saxophones. Either that or retitle the date: "Bass in the Foreground." - by Samuel C.,

Artist: Sonny Stitt & Zimbo Trio
Album: In Brasil
Year: 1979 (Clam Records)
Label: Fresh Sound Records (1991)
Runtime: 41:03

1.  Hope's Blues (Sonny Stitt) 4:41
2.  Corcovado (Quiet Nights) (Antonio Carlos Jobim) 5:17
3.  There Will Never Be Another You (Mack Gordon / Harry Warren) 5:10
4.  Little Suede Shoes (Charlie Parker) 5:25
5.  Autumn Leaves (Joseph Kosma / Johnny Mercer / Jacques Prévert) 6:00
6.  Samba Do Orfeu (Luiz Bonfa / Antonio Maria) 5:20
7.  Blues For Gaby (Sonny Stitt) 6:22
8.  Assim Está Certo (Amilton Godoy) 2:48

Sonny Stitt (Alto Saxophone)
Amilton Godoy (Piano)
Luiz Chaves (Bass)
Rubens Barsotti (Drums)

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Coleman Hawkins - Soul

This is a decent but not very exciting outing. Then 52, Hawkins uses a typically young rhythm section (including guitarist Kenny Burrell and pianist Ray Bryant) and plays melodically on a variety of originals and standards. This insipid version of "Greensleeves" is difficult to sit through but the rest of this CD is enjoyable if not overly inspiring. - by Scott Yanow, AMG

Coleman Hawkins may not have been the Godfather of "Soul" but he certainly was the Godfather of the Jazz Saxophone. After kick starting his second career with "The Hawk Flies High" and "The Genius of Coleman Hawkins" in 1957, Hawk recorded the first of several successful sessions for the Prestige label on November 7, 1958, and the album was called "Soul." That session featured the talents of a young Kenny Burrell on guitar, Ray Bryant on piano, Wendell Marshall on bass and Osie Johnson on drums. The group smoothly glides through three standards (including the traditional
"Greensleeves"), two Burrell originals ("Groovin'" and "Sunday Mornin'") and two Hawkins originals ("Soul Blues" and Sweetnin'"). "Soul" probably only deserves 4 1/2 stars, as it is not quite as masterful as "The Hawk Flies High," but I have no problem rounding up to five stars. In fact, all of Hawk's half-dozen OJC discs are well worth purchasing. - by Michael Brad Richman,

Artist: Coleman Hawkins
Album: Soul
Year: 1958 (Prestige Records)
Label: OJC (1984)
Runtime: 41:21
Recorded at the Rudy Van Gelder Recording Studios, Hackensack, New Jersey, November 7, 1958

1.  Soul Blues (Coleman Hawkins) 9:52
2.  I Hadn't Anyone Till You (Ray Noble) 4:34
3.  Groovin' (Kenny Burrell) 5:43
4.  Greensleeves (Traditional) 3:12
5.  Sunday Mornin' (Kenny Burrell) 6:29
6.  Until the Real Thing Comes Along (Sammy Cahn/Saul Chaplin/L.E. Freeman/Mann Holiner/Alberta Nichols)  4:42
7.  Sweetnin' (Coleman Hawkins) 6:49

Coleman Hawkins (Tenor Saxophone)
Kenny Burrell (Guitar)
Ray Bryant (Piano)
Wendell Marshall (Double Bass)

Osie Johnson (Drums)


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