George Tucker during Horace Parlan’s On the Spur of the Moment session, Englewood Cliffs NJ, March 18 1961 (photo by Francis Wolff)
Grant Green - Miss Ann’s Tempo (1961)
Great Grant Green solos, take 2
“Baby Face” Willette recorded for a red-hot minute for Blue Note, but he was on fire at every session he recorded, and he definitely shared an incendiary connection with Grant Green, whose bluesy prestidigitation here is awe-inspiring.
Donald Byrd - Chant (1961)
A more famous vocal version of this song was recorded for Byrd’s groundbreaking A New Perspective, but in this straight-ahead quintet format, Byrd’s sparkling trumpet takes center stage. This recording is also an opportunity to appreciate the legendary hard bop symmetry of Byrd and Pepper Adams, who were into their fourth year of leading a quintet.
Donald Byrd - You’re Next (1961)
I’ve been scouring the “other side” of the Blue Note catalog to find and play the undeservedly obscure, sadly overlooked, criminally underplayed sessions that deserve to be aired out, dusted off, and administered some sonic CPR for a new generation of listeners.
So this session deserves a little light after years of mummification. It is salient for a few reasons, not least of which is that this cut will stick in your craw with its delightfully swinging minor-blues melody.
As far as I can tell, this was pianist Herbie Hancock’s first recording session, a full five months before his first “official” appearance on Byrd’s Royal Flush, which was released at the time it was recorded. This session was not, but it’s equally worthy. It’s obvious Alfred Lion felt he had enough material from Byrd and Pepper Adams together (think Off To The Races, The Cat Walk, Byrd In Hand, Royal Flush, Live At The Half Note) to leave this one in the vaults. Lucky for us, he still recorded it.
Tommy Turrentine and Charlie Rouse during Sonny Clark’s Leapin’ and Lopin’ session, November 13 1961 (photo by Francis Wolff)
Sonny Clark and Ike Quebec during Clark’s Leapin’ and Lopin’ session, Englewood Cliffs NJ, November 1961 (photo by Francis Wolff)
Jackie McLean - Subdued (1961)
From Ira Gitler’s liner notes:
Earlier in these notes, I spoke of McLean’s devotion to his art. Apropos of this is a conversation I had with the hard-swinging tenor player J.R. Monterose. “Jazz is becoming more and more of a craft and less of an art,” he said. “Sure it’s important to be able to play your horn well, but there are a lot of cats who do only that. Jazz is supposed to be self-expression. You’ve got to have a need to say something on your instrument — to get it out.”
You can love or hate his sharp tone or his angular sonic proclivities, but the truth is that Jackie McLean gets it out. Sonny Clark again rises to the occasion—with rhythm mates Butch Warren and Billy Higgins—to provide exceptionally beautiful accompaniment on this McLean composition.
Stop what you’re doing and listen.
Hank Mobley and Grant Green at Mobley’s Workout session, Englewood Cliffs NJ, March 26 1961 (photo by Francis Wolff)
The Modern Jazz Quartet in 1961 [l to r: Percy Heath, Milt Jackson, John Lewis, Connie Kay] (photo by Lee Friedlander)
Miles Davis - ‘Round Midnight (1961)
From Miles Davis’ autobiography:
“I also got to know Thelonious Monk better when I was working with Bean [Coleman Hawkins’ nickname]; Monk was in the band, too. Denzil Best was playing drums. I really liked Monk’s tune, “‘Round Midnight,” and I wanted to learn how to play it. So I used to ask him every night after I got through playing it, “Monk, how did I play it tonight?” And he’d say, looking all serious, “You didn’t play it right.” The next night, the same thing and the next and the next and the next. This went on for a while.
“That ain’t the way to play it,” he would say, sometimes with an evil, exasperated look on his face. Then, one night, I asked him and he said, “Yeah, that’s the way you play it.”
Man, that made me happier than a motherfucker, happier than a pig in shit. I’d gotten the sound down. It was one of the hardest. “‘Round Midnight” was very difficult because it had a complex melody and you had to hang it together. You had to play it so you could hear the chords and changes and also hear the tops; it was just one of those tunes that you had to hear. It wasn’t like a regular eight-bar melody or motif and it stopped, like in a minor key. It’s a hard tune to learn and remember. I can still play it, but I don’t like to do it too much now, except maybe when I’m practicing, alone. And what made it so hard for me to play was that I had to get all those harmonies. I had to hear the song, play it, and improvise so that Monk could hear the melody.”
Tadd Dameron at an unreleased session (later released as part of the Lost Sessions compilation), Englewood Cliffs NJ, December 14 1961 (photo by Francis Wolff)
Grant Green - Freedom March (1961)
There are almost too many Grant Green records to count, but a handful are truly essential. This is one. Ben Tucker and pianist Kenny Drew, in particular, shine on this cut, whose title celebrates Dr. Martin Luther King’s early 60’s marches to help establish racial equality in America.
Grant Green - Grant’s Dimensions (1961)
Leonard Feather in the liner notes:
[T]he concentration of the spotlight on Green for long stretches, with a background that never interrupts the amazing flow of his ideas, was a concept suited to a major artist, and I don’t expect anyone to contest his right to be considered just that.
This is one of Green’s only trio recordings without an organ. As a result, he can showcase his prodigious talents without the organ drowning out his guitar, and the inventive genius of his single-note runs are front and center.
Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers - Joelle (1961)
From Nat Hentoff’s liner notes:
“Ever since he beame a leader, Art Blakey and his various colleagues during any given period have indeed been messengers. The message is swift and clear — know your horn, use it convey the immediacy of your experience, and listen to what’s going on around you. You can always tell an Art Blakey combo in the first few bars. There’s no waste of time or motion, no pretentious preludes. These are men taking care of business with forceful economy, deep roots in the essentials of the jazz language, and that particular flair — a jaunty élan — that is the hallmark of an Art Blakey unit.
As it happens, this particular group was one of Blakey’s best — a fusion of independent stylists who nurtured each other’s ardor with a seriousness and a joyfulness of musical purpose that gives this music its impregnable identity. It is an album that will have something to say to you as long as you’re around to listen.”