Friday, February 13, 2015

Tadd and Fats Redux

Fat Girl and Baptiste: Fats Navarro and Illinois Jacquet at a session in the mid-'40s. Photo from Down Beat
If you were to guess the most visited and downloaded entry on this blog, what do think it would it be? That rare Mingus? The live version of Ornette's "Skies of America"? The only record pianist Kenny Kersey ever made as a leader? How about Duke Ellington and Bing Crosby teaming up on "St. Louis Blues," with Der Bingle scatting a chorus?

I might have guessed one of those, too. But I'd be wrong and so would you. Number 1 on Gems is "Fats and Fat Value" from March of last year. There I mused on the worth of this music called jazz and contrasted the value of a Michael Cosmic LP with one by Tadd Dameron and Fats Navarro. Apparently Gems' readers thought the Dameron/Navarro download was worth something, because it sold and keeps selling ("selling" being a term of art – nothing here is for sale except a bridge in Brooklyn).

So, to keep our readers happy, here's Part 2 of Tadd and Fats at the Royal Roost in 1948, another treasure that comes our way via the obsessive/compulsive airchecking of the late, lamented Boris Rose. This one features a few nice vocals by Kenny Hagood and a guest appearance by Milt Jackson. The playing is first rate with Fats in primo shape and Alan Eager displaying his mettle.

The recording has Boris's abrupt starts and stops, and there's a bit of surface sound, but overall I'd say these tunes are in pretty good sonic shape for being in their 67th year (hey, I'm nearly that old!). So enjoy them and let's see if we can outdo the last Tadd/Fats download. As always, from the original vinyl.

(I wonder if I should post the Michael Cosmic ... ?)

Tadd and Fats Fats Navarro/Tadd Dameron
Sneaker TDFN 829
Airchecks, Royal Roost, New York, NY

Fats Navarro, tp; Rudy Williams, as; Allen Eager, ts; Tadd Dameron, p; Curley Russell, b; Kenny Clarke, d; Kenny Hagood, v. August 29, 1948

1. The Squirrel
2. Good Bait
3. Pennies from Heaven (KH)
4. Anthropology
5. Kitchenette Across the Hall (KH)
6. Lady Be Good
7. Tadd Walk

Fats Navarro, tp; Rudy Williams, as; Allen Eager, ts; Milt Jackson, vbs; Tadd Dameron, p; 
Curley Russell, b; Kenny Clarke, d. September 4, 1948

8. Symphonette
9. The Squirrel #2

As above, October 16, 1948

10. Anthropology #2
11. Our Delight
12. Tadd Walk #2

Find it here:

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Papa and the Judge

Percussion discussion: Jo Jones entertains Art Blakey, left, and Elvin Jones with some fancy brushwork, probably in the early 1960s. Below, Milt Hinton at the Chicago Jazz Festival in 1980. Unknown photographers

There's no story with this Gem. I just saw this on eBay and had to get it so I could hear it. The price was reasonable and there seemed to be no other buyers, so I won the bid. Once I did hear it, I was amazed that such a recording could have been made in 1960. This sort of adventurous duet is something one would expect to hear from creative music practitioners – the AACM or BAG or one of the other post-bop traditons.

What sort of duet, you ask? Why, an entire record of bass and drums playing together by their lonesome. And not by just any bass player or drummer. Performing on this LP are two giants of the swing and modern eras in jazz – Papa Jo Jones and the Judge, Milt Hinton. 

What makes this record so remarkable – other than it wasn't the sort of thing anyone was recording in the '60s – is the fact that these two gents hearken back to the heyday of the big bands. Jones with Basie, Hinton with Cab Calloway. That they would make such an unusual recording is an eye-opener, for me anyway. I guess there is nothing new under the sun after all.

Everest Records, by the way, was an interesting label. One of the first to produce high-end stereo recordings, they had a strong jazz division and put out quite a few mainstream jazz recordings, including some very good ones by Basie arranger Ernie Wilkins and a number by Jo Jones and Sweets Edison. The company's owner, Harry Belock, used 35mm film stock to make his recordings, believing the movie material captured a higher quality of sound. I don't know if that's true, but the process cost him quite a bit more than conventional tape.

So here are Papa and the Judge, free-improvising in the studio (there are only two bonafide tunes). The sound quality is good, but there is some background noise which, as far as I can determine, was present in the actual recording. I've cleaned it up a bit, and I think you'll find it an interesting listen. From the original vinyl, of course!

Percussion and Bass
Jo Jones and Milt Hinton

Jo Jones, d; Milt Hinton, b.
New York, NY; May 11, 1960
Everest BR5110

1. Tom
2. Man and You
3. Coffee Dan
4. Love Nest
5. H.O.T.
6. Shoes on the Ruff
7. The Walls Fall
8. Blue Skies
9. Late in the Evenin'
10. Ocho Puertas
11. Tin Top Alley Blues
12. Little Honey

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Twenty Fifteen

New Year's greetings from our pals at Down Beat, circa 1947, back when the editors were printing on cheap newsprint in an effort to control costs. By the end of the year, readers' complaints made them switch back magazine-quality paper, and our archivist is very glad they did. From Gems' DB collection

Another year come and gone, and still so many Gems yet to share. Happy New Year to all our friends out there in the ether and best wishes for a prosperous, swinging 2015! 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Relatively Lucky

A dapper Lucky Thompson, decked out ala mode Parisian. In the end, despite being one of America's greatest tenor players, he had little to smile about. Photographer unknown

Here's another jazz treasure, courtesy of WJFF's annual music sale, held every year right around Thanksgiving time. It's an event definitely worth giving thanks for if you're a vinyl hound like myself. We've posted record sale items here on Gems before, and this year's haul was especially good. Chief among the rarities was this long-out-of-print, wildly obscure LP by Eli "Lucky" Thompson. I snagged it, and now you can have a copy, too.

A few more gems from the music sale. Note the other Lucky Thompson, this one on ABC, made just prior to Lucky's heading off to Europe. A must-have LP, too, and readily available.

After spending half-a-dozen productive years in Europe, Lucky returned stateside in 1964 to have another go at making a living in the land of his birth. He waxed several very good LPs for Prestige and then somehow hooked up with a start-up company called Rivoli. The label's output was limited to a few short years before it went under, but in that time span Thompson recorded two excellent albums for Rivoli. This is the second of the two and it is Lucky's tribute to his roots – his "kinfolks."

In other news, gang, your humble interlocutor has returned to the airwaves at the esteemed broadcaster mentioned above, namely WJFF 90.5 FM in Jeffersonville, NY. That's right, I'm back hosting a weekly two-hour radio show, this time featuring 60 minutes of jazz followed by 60 minutes of blues. The program's called "Blues Connotation" (thank you, Ornette) and so far my tens of listeners seem to like it. You may remember that I ended my previous show on the station a few years back so I could spend a more time with my family (that's what what you're supposed say). I'll post a link to the new one on the column to the right in case you should find yourself with nothing else to listen to one day.

One other thing – WJFF has the distinction of being America's only hydro-electrically powered radio station, courtesy of nearby Jeffersonville Hydroelectric Co. There's a lake next to the station that lets Jeff Hydro generate the juice that lights up the board in Master Control and allows jazz-obsessed gents like myself to disseminate America's classical music for 60 miles in all directions. What power!

The mighty dam on Lake Jefferson in Jeffersonville (can you tell our little burg likes the country's third president?), the power source for WJFF. To give you a sense of its size, the spillway is about three stories high. Gems photo
So here's another Gem to celebrate this blog's host returning to the airwaves, and to share a once-in-a-lifetime find with all our screen-staring friends in the blog-o-sphere. As always, these files were ripped from the original vinyl with no, nada, cleaning of the sound. Dig!

Kinfolks Corner
Lucky Thompson and Friends
Rivoli 44
Lucky Thompson, ts, ss; Tommy Flanagan*, p; Frank Anderson, org; Wally Richardson, g; Willie Ruff, b; Oliver Jackson, Walter Perkins*, d.
New York City, NY; 1966

1. You Stepped Out of Dream*
2. Kinfolks Corner (Thompson)
3. Open Haus* (Thompson)
4. I'll Be Around*
5. Star Eyes*
6. Poor Butterfly
7. Anthropology*
8. Who Can I Turn To?
9. Caressable* (Thompson)

Find it here:

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Chazz Workshop

The Baron steps up to the mic. Wonder if this was also a broadcast? A photo
from several decades earlier than the period represented by this download,
probably taken on 52nd Street. Bob Parent photo

Well, gang, this here's our 100th posting on Gems of Jazz. Where does the time go? Since it's a special occasion, I thought I should post a real rarity. Not that many of the other items on Gems aren't in that category, but this one is – as far as I know – only available here. I've been saving it for a banner moment, and now that moment has arrived. 

You all know Charles Mingus. You probably know that his last great quintet was the one that featured Jack Walrath, George Adams and Don Pullen along with Dannie Richmond and the boss. You may also know that there are very few live recordings of this stellar group. 

Well, here's one more.

The Jazz Workshop (and Paul's Mall) on Boylston
Street in 
the mid-1970s.
To wit, the Charles Mingus Jazz Workshop at the Jazz Workshop, 733 Boylston Street in good ol' Boston. The band appeared there on May 7 and 8, 1975, just before heading off to the Montreux Jazz Festival on Lake Geneva in Switzerland. Mingus was in Boston for two nights, playing two sets each night and working out some of the new material he was going to perform in Switzerland. He was in declining health, suffering from the first symptoms of Lou Gehrig's disease. But his playing – and especially that of his new quintet – was superb.

At the time, I was working at Discount Records in Allston (see a previous post on Walt Dickerson) and was lucky enough to get free tickets to the second of those nights at the Workshop, courtesy of our WEA rep (Mingus was on Atlantic at the time). The first night's show, I learned, was going to be broadcast live over WBUR, Boston University Radio. It was a Boris Rose moment: I decided I had to tape the broadcast.

The record store where I worked had a sideline selling cheapo stereo equipment, stuff that was made somewhere in Asia but was stamped with the CBS brand (CBS owned Discount Records). I didn't own a tape recorder, so I talked my boss into letting me borrow a cassette tape deck that was the store's demo model. I took it home and figured out how to wire it up to an old GE FM tube radio that I'd bought at a yard sale during my college days. I tuned in WBUR, ran tape, and to my great surprise and delight, was able to get a decent test recording. I eagerly waited for the 9 p.m. Jazz Workshop broadcast.

When the program began, I started the tape deck and hoped for the best. The show got underway a little late (jazz time) and the audio was pretty funky at first, but then suddenly there was Mingus and the band and some pretty amazing music. The demo deck performed flawlessly, considering that it was a bargain-basement piece of equipment. I used a 90-minute CBS cassette and had to hurriedly flip it once Side 1 ran out. But the recording came out OK, as you will hear, given the limitations of WBUR's engineering and my device. There's a persistent tape hiss, but I hope you can overlook that.

Here's Mingus during an earlier
visit to the Jazz Workshop in 
courtesy of Warren S.
The next night I went with a friend to the Jazz Workshop and caught Mingus' first set. Charles smoked a cigar through the whole performance and at one point I remember its ash leaving a dusty trail down his shirt front. George Adams sang an outrageous version of Gatemouth Brown's "Devil Blues," and Don Pullen deconstructed the piano repeatedly. It was the only time I saw Mingus live, and it was transcendent.

These shows are not listed in the Jazz Discography Project's page on Mingus, so apparently no recording has survived. Until now. So grab this one and enjoy the sound of the Charles Mingus Jazz Workshop and my Boris Rose moment.

As an added bonus, here's George Adams performing "Devil Blues" at the aforementioned Montreux Jazz Festival. The trumpet player isn't Jack Walrath – I'm not sure who he is, but the rest of the band is there. (Note to self: After doing a little checking, the trumpeter is Claudio Roditi.)

Charles Mingus Quintet
WBUR Broadcast

Mingus, b; Jack Walrath, tp; George Adams, ts; Don Pullen, p; Dannie Richmond, d.
Jazz Workshop, Boston, MA; May 7, 1975

1. Introduction/Nobody Knows
2. Fables of Faubus
3. Peggy's Blue Skylight
4. Noddin' Your Head Blues
5. Ornithology/Cherokee

Find it here:

Friday, October 17, 2014

Battle of the Sexes

Norma Carson and Clark Terry go blow for blow in a promo shot, possibly taken around the time of the recording featured in this posting. Photographer unknown

I don't know about you, but I'm not a real fan of concept albums. The organizing conceit usually causes the music to play second fiddle, with the resulting whole often sounding less than the sum of its parts (if that makes any sense). But this record piqued my interest when I saw it offered at and I had to pick it up. Girls vs. boys in a best-of-four jazz donnybrook? Find out which sex plays better jazz!

Ridiculous, I know. But still, haven't you always wondered what a direct performance comparison between male and female jazz players would sound like? No? Well, me either until I got this disc. After listening, I was surprised to find that the differences were ... essentially nil. Each group swings, plays well together and solos with conviction. That was a surprise, especially considering the line-up for the guys' team. Clark Terry? Lucky Thompson? Horace Silver, Urbie Green, Tal Farlow, Percy Heath AND Kenny Clarke? That just didn't seem fair. 

But I love Mary Osborne, the little I've heard of her playing (there isn't much), and I've always appreciated Terry Pollard and Beryl Booker (the little I've heard of their playing – not much of that either). So maybe the match-up was more equal than it first appeared.

As I was listening, I did a little research into the feminine side of the personnel – and came away very impressed! Terry Pollard, for instance. I knew she played with Terry Gibbs, but not much more. Check this out:

Wiki says she also performed with Coltrane, Bird, Miles, Duke, Nat, Dinah and Ella. I can see why. It's a mystery that we don't have more recordings from her. But then, with this record we do.

Then there's Corky Hecht. Or maybe I should say Merrilyn Hecht. Or Corky Hale. I'd heard her name before and knew she played harp (she's on an obscure Kitty White record that I have), but that was about it. Turns out she's a monster talent on multiple levels: harpist, pianist, singer, actress, producer – and centerfold! At nearly 40, she did some demo work for the songwriting duo Lieber & Stoller and wound up marrying Mike Stoller. Around that time, she was a regular on Johnny Carson. Dig:

Mary Osborne we all know (or should). She got her chops directly from Charlie Christian, sitting in with him long before Benny Goodman had ever heard of him. Here's Mary with a few of the boys in an excerpt from Art Ford's Jazz Party in 1958:

And then there's Beryl Booker and Norma Carson, both veterans and both very underrated players. You get to hear them go up against the fellas, tune for tune. Producer Leonard Feather has other critics act as judges and they wind up calling the match a draw. I would agree. See what you think.

This LP was originally issued as an EP with just the "cats vs. chicks" material. When MGM repackaged it as a 12-inch album, they added six more tunes featuring Terry Pollard in trio and quartet settings. She plays both piano and vibes in an impressive set of standards and originals. A most welcome addition.

So here's a concept album that I think we all can appreciate. As always, these files come right from the original vinyl with very little cleaning of the sound required. 

Cats vs. ChicksClark Terry, Terry PollardMGM E3614
Cats: Clark Terry, tp; Lucky Thompson, ts; Urbie Green, tbn; Horace Silver, p; Tal Farlow, g; Percy Heath, b; Kenny Clarke, d.Chicks: Norman Carson, tp; Terry Pollard, vbs; Corky Hecht, harp; Beryl Booker, p; Mary Osborne, g; Bonnie Wetzel, b; Elaine Leighton, d.New York, NY, 1958
1. Cat Meets Chick (Cats)2. Cat Meets Chick (Chicks)3. Mamblues (Cats)4. Mamblues (Chicks)5. The Man I Love (Chicks)6. The Man I Love (Cats)7. Anything You Can Do (Both)
Terry Pollard, vbs, p; Terry Gibbs, p; Ernie Farrow, b; Frank DiVito, d.New York, NY, 1958
8. Good Bait9. I Remember You10. Terry's Blues11. That Feeling12. Terry's Romp13. Emaline
Find it here:

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Rare Strings

Mingus during his insurance salesman period. Actually, the Baron was recording for Fantasy at the time – the early 1960s – and the garb was most likely a hedge against San Francisco's famous fog. Photo by William Claxton

Well, gang, I'm pleased to announce that I have come across the Holy Grail of record collecting – at least, to me. Ironically, this Gem comes from eBay, a place where I rarely spend more than a buck for a record. But a very nice fellow was selling a couple hundred LPs for a nominal price, and buried within them was this EP from 1952 (the year of my birth). I just happened to notice it as I was killing time at work going through the cheapo listings on the auction site.

The last photo in the posting had the gold,
including "Stings and Keys." Lots of other nice
10-inchers, too.
Right there, in one of the photos of a his collection, plain as day, was Charles Mingus' first release on Debut, a record the bassist recorded in the early 1950s with pianist Spaulding Givens. They waxed it for another label but later released it on Mingus' own imprint. It's historic because it's the first independently-produced record by a jazz artist, and because it's rare Mingus. The initial pressing was probably only 500 EPs.

The seller seemed to know very little about jazz, and I was curious about the collection, because much of it was Mancini, Bert Keampfert, Les Brown and other easy-listening stuff. But mixed in were some pretty heavy and rare jazz recordings, mostly by bass players. There were also several bass instruction records. It seemed like an odd mix.

When I met up with the seller to make the buy, he told me the collection had been his grandfather's. He said the old gent had been a swing bass player and that he'd played in bands most of his life. He lived in the Corning, NY, area and worked most often with an big band called, curiously enough, the Mohicans. I found listings for them in old newspapers in my newspaper's morgue. Judging by the collection, the bassist started out playing bebop but later switched to the more conventional swing style, probably in an effort to make a little money. Not much call back in the 1950s for "Ooh Bop Sha'bam" in upstate New York, I'm guessing. He bought the easy-listening stuff so that he could practice the popular tunes that dancers wanted to hear.

Marian McPartland and the trio from a decade
or so before this recording was waxed. Joe
Morello on drums with Vinnie Burke on bass.
The other gem in this posting is a very rare EP from the late, lamented Marian McPartland. This one also comes from eBay and I don't know why nobody else bid on it. But I got it for 99 cents, and was very pleased that I did. It features Ms. McPartland actually playing some muscular stuff, unlike what she'd been recording for Capitol prior to this date. The strings are here, yes (including the ever-present Harry Lookofsky), but the arrangements by Frank Hunter are a cut above the usual treacle that backed Marian following her London House days. Phil Bodner is also present, playing flute quite nicely. The Sesac label was one that didn't last long, and this little disc features four of the twelve tunes that were recorded on this date back in 1964. There must have been an LP release, but I've never seen it.

So here's an extremely rare Mingus recording and another rarity that we offer as a tribute to Ms. McPartland. As always, these files were dubbed from the original vinyl. The Mingus tunes have a lot of hiss to them, but I suspect that's how they sounded when the record was new (the vinyl is visually pristine). The notation on the cover was made by the previous owner – and I left it there as a tribute to him. Dig!

Strings and Keys
Charles Mingus and Spaulding Givens 
Spaulding Givens, p; Charles Mingus, b.
New York, NY; April 1952; Debut DLP 1

1. What Is This Thing Called Love
2. Darn That Dream
3. Yesterdays
4. Body and Soul
5. Blue Moon
6. Blue Tide

It Swings
Marian McPartland 
Marian McPartland, p; Phil Bodner, fl; Harry lookofsy, Leo Kruczek, vi; Harold Coletta, viola; Alan Shulman, cello; Barry Galbraith, g; George Duvivier, b; Dave Bailey, d; Frank Hunter, arr.
New York, NY; June 1964; Sesac AD 92

1. The Magpie
2. Y'know What I Mean
3. Warmin' Up
4. Don't Panic

Find them here: