While Thelonious Monk’s rendition of this song is the most poignant and haunting of them all, this version from Golson’s high point as a player/composer, with an unbelievable backing band, reminds me of a romantically tinged late-evening stroll I took down cobblestone alleys in Barcelona after seeing him play there in 1996.
This collection of previously unreleased sessions from the Blue Note vault is not spectacular by any stretch, but this cut headed by Charlie Rouse may be the strongest of the lot.
From Michael Cuscuna’s liner notes:
Charlie Rouse first appeared on Blue Note in 1947 on Tadd Dameron’s first session. In 1962, he made the delightful and unusual Bossa Nova Bacchanal for the label. Two attempts at straight ahead sessions in 1963 and ‘65 proved disappointing, despite promising casts. Only his One For Five, nailed in the first take of the ‘65 session, is worthy of issue.
There is something about Tina’s tenor that is unusual, and I can’t quite pin it down. He presents that beautiful and sad face of someone who is trying to catch something. But it’s more than that. Maybe you can figure it out.
Minor Move was a piece of genius. Recorded in Rudy Van Gelder’s studio in Hackensack, New Jersey, it was right at the temporal epicenter of modern jazz. Lee Morgan, another tragedy in the making, played trumpet. Sonny Clark [another heroin casualty] played the piano, and [Messengers veteran] Doug Watkins was on bass. Art Blakey played drums, putting the signature on the vintage.
(1980 Japanese LP art above, cd re-release art below)
Benny Golson - Blues On My Mind (1958) (LP rip @320kbps)
More Golson gold from his creative peak in the late 50s, before his distinctive sound took a turn towards ‘Trane.
From the original LP liner notes:
Benny Golson could be, and in many quarters is considered the outstanding composer-arranger in the field of jazz today. According to critics and buffs, he is also ranked high among tenor sax men, thus projecting himself as one of the very few triple-threat personalities in the world of modern music.
The four men who are heard here with Golson all have one thing in common—they call Philadelphia their hometown. Like Golson, each has achieved stature in a field where competence is not always the password to recognition. The true greatness of jazz can be tested by its lasting qualities. From a writing, arranging, and a performance viewpoint, this album can rightfully find itself a place among the greats.
A compositional twin to Joe Henderson’s Our Thing, The Kicker is a quintessential hard bop vehicle, establishing Henderson’s credentials as one of the most important composers and improvisers of his generation.
Of course, the man whose name graces this album was probably the preeminent composer of his time, and the original hard bop “grandpop.”
This cut tests the outermost limits of hard bop in 1963. The young, intrepid Joe Henderson and the seasoned vet Kenny Dorham vault ferociously through tricky harmonics and uptempo changes. This LP is also Andrew Hill’s Blue Note debut, and backed by the rhythms of Eddie Khan and Pete LaRoca, he makes the first of many waves for the label.
Hill’s debut as a leader is as accessible an introduction as you will get to his music. The music is angular, outside the hard bop, soul and free jazz of the time, but squarely rooted in Hill’s unique compositional conceptions.
Hill got a major assist from his quartet: Henderson (tenor sax), Davis (bass) and Haynes (drums). Hill had great chemistry with all three, and each would appear on at least one Hill recording after this one. Henderson’s playing in particular is more refreshingly exploratory and avant-garde here than on other LPs he appeared on at the time like Lee Morgan’s Sidewinder and Grant Green’s Idle Moments.
It’s impossible to find a deeper groove with a better lineup from this era. Philly Joe Jones is a highlight show unto himself on this cut. The Mobley/Morgan front line reliably scorches this hot potato of a melody. The satisfying addition of a young Andrew Hill explodes the notion that he was only a “new thing,” avant-garde pianist. On this cut, he swings as hard as anyone.
After Sonny Clark’s tragic demise from a heroin overdose in 1963, his friend Bill Evans wrote a moving musical elegy for the venerable Blue Note session pianist, using the controversial approach of overdubbing three piano tracks for each song, provoking the title of the album, Conversations with Myself.
The title of this song—an anagram of Sonny Clark’s name—addresses the pressures of a jazz musician trying to survive the temptations of the big apple in the 60s. Evans himself battled drug demons for decades before finally succumbing in 1980. A friend called it “the longest suicide in history.”
Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers - Tell It Like It Is (1961)
You’d be hard-pressed to find another track outside of this Grant Green/Sonny Clark swinger where Blakey does more coaxing and cajoling from behind the drum kit. Ripping solos from Shorter, Morgan and Bobby Timmons, in his penultimate appearance with the Messengers, highlight this personal favorite.
Jeffrey McMillan is interviewed by Mark Lynch of WICN regarding Delightfulee, his biography of Lee Morgan. For fans of Morgan, there are some priceless anecdotes and dirty details that help illuminate the life of the brilliant, tragic trumpet man.