Thursday, November 1, 2012

Gene Krupa

There are a few reasons why I am writing this post today. First, I recently purchased a box set of Gene's work titled Kind of Krupa

Second, this would have been Karen I. Karr's 59th birthday. Karen was a big fan of Gene, and took pride in the fact they they shared Chicago as their birthplace and home town, and the fact that both were Polish-American. Of course, Karen loved music, so today's post is in the memory of my muse who was all things to me, and a great drummer who inspired me, the generation before me, and subsequent generations of drummers. In the bio pic Swing, Swing, Swing Mel Torme was quoted as saying that the name Krupa would forever be associated with drums. I truly believe that.

About the box set, Kind of Krupa: discs in the set contain tracks spanning the period 1935 through 1959. They span Gene's work in big bands (notably Benny Goodman's and his own orchestras), as well as small ensembles.

The first disc in the set is basically an album simply titled V Discs, which were recorded for the US armed forces in World War II. Here is a sample track:

The next two discs are from two albums featuring drum battles between Gene and Buddy Rich. The first is Krupa and Rich that was recorded in New York in 1955 and features Gene and Buddy on drums backed by the Oscar Peterson Trio (Oscar on piano, Ray Brown on bass and Herb Ellis on guitar), plus Roy Eldridge and Dizzy Gillespie on trumpet, and Illinois Jacquet and Flip Phillips on tenor saxophone (Phillips also plays clarinet. The second is Drum Battle that was recorded live at one of Norman Granz' Jazz At The Philharmonic concerts in Carnegie Hall in New York on September 13, 1952. Musicians include Willie Smith (alto sax) and Hank Jones on piano, and features Ella Fitzgerald on Perdido. Here is a clip from that album, which has a lot more energy than the 1955 studio drum battle:

Discs 4 through 7 are comprised of tracks span 1936 through 1949, which include some excellent Anita O'Day performances. In fact, my 26 August 2012 post titled Anita O'Day in depth Part 4 covers some of the source albums for this disc as well as some video clips. The iconic Anita and Roy Eldridge performance of Let Me Off Uptown makes checking out that page worthwhile.

The Benny Goodman years is the focus of disc 8. It contains highlights from his 1935-38 performances with Goodman's big bands, as well as trio and quartet ensembles that featured Gene and Benny with Teddy Wilson on piano in the trio, with Lionel Hampton on vibraphone in the quartet. There are also tracks from the great 1938 Carnegie Hall concert. Here are some representative clips:

The complete album titled Complete Sextet Studio Sessions (featuring Ben Webster & Charlie Shavers) comprises disc 9. The original album was recorded in New York in 1953. Gene on drums is backed by Ben Webster and Eddie 'Lockjaw' Davis on tenor saxophone, Charlie Shavers on trumpet, Bill Harris on trombone, Teddy Wilson on piano and Ray Brown on bass. Unfortunately I do not have a clip to share of this album, but suffice to say, Webster and Shavers make it a treat. If you go to the album link you can listen to sound samples, which are indicative of the great music it contains.

The final disc in the set is the entire 1958 album titled Plays Gerry Mulligan Arrangements. Gerry was an alumni of Gene's big band and served as arranger and conductor for the New York recording session. The big band was comprised of: Al DeRisi, Marky Markowitz, Ernie Royal, Doc Severinsen and Al Stewart on trumpet; Eddie Bert, Billy Byers, Jimmy Cleveland Trombone, Willie Dennis, Urbie Green and Kai Winding on trombone; Sam Marowitz and Phil Woods on alto saxophone; Frank Socolow and Eddie Wasserman on tenor saxophone and Danny Bank on baritone saxophone. The rhythm section was comprised of Gene on drums, Hank Jones on piano, Barry Galbraith on guitar and Jimmy Gannon on bass. Here are some clips from that album:

For more about the set, including a complete track list see my review.

There are some excellent web sites that pay tribute to Gene. One, The Gene Krupa Reference Page has been running for as long as I can remember. If you dig through the pages and links you will find a wealth of information about Gene. Also, the links that are provided to other sites point to even more information that is worth perusing.

I highly recommend the bip pic titled Swing, Swing, Swing as a fairly complete and factual portrayal of Gene's life.

Also of value is this two part interview:

As a parting shot I am including this video titled Gene Krupa and Friends - Legends in Concert. I hope you enjoy it.

The remainder of my day will be spent honoring the memory of Karen I. Karr.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Piano: the other percussion instrument Part 3

My first post in this series was simply titled Piano: the other percussion instrument, with Part 2 - examples posted on its heels. The motivation for posting a third part in the series is the discovery of an excellent thesis by Thomas Andrew Van Seters and some new albums on the market.

The thesis is titled Eighty-Eight Drums: The Piano as a Percussion Instrument in Jazz and is comprehensive, and not the typical dry fare of academia. I found it engaging, and an easy read. It helps if you can read music and have some understanding of theory, but that is not absolutely required. If you find yourself drawn by the history and want to explore some of the true beginnings, check out Unique perspectives on blues (and jazz). If you are not that curious, but are still interested in the evolution of jazz, I recommend Hear Me Talkin' to Ya: The Story of Jazz As Told by the Men Who Made It.

On to some of the new albums I mentioned. Two of them were previously mentioned in my 05 October 2012 post, so I won't repeat myself here:

  1. Kind of Powell
  2. Kind of Silver
The other two are Kind of Monk and Kind of Peterson. Note that Powell and Monk are two of my holy trinity of pianists.

Regardless of your interest in piano - as a percussion instrument or otherwise - Thelonious Monk should be on your list of music to study. If for no other reason, you should dig into his music because of the drummers he recorded with: Ben Riley, Shadow Wilson, Philly Joe Jones and Frankie Dunlop to name but a few. More importantly, Monk had an amazing rhythmic feel and did things with time that will challenge you no matter how solid you are. Still not convinced? Check out Thelonious Monk: American genius and drummer's patron saint. If your interest is piqued, then do grab Kind of Monk:

Here is a taste to whet your appetite - Monk with Philly Joe Jones:

The next set that is new on the market and well worth snagging is Kind of Peterson. You will be treated to not only one of the world's great pianists (Oscar ranked up there with Art Tatum), but a masterclass in tasteful brushwork from Ed Thigpen, plus amazing examples of how drummers and bassists can work magic thanks to Ray Brown.

I'll wrap up with one final clip of a pianist you should be studying: Nina Simone. Her style was percussive and driving as shown here:

Check out Nina Simone's Greatest Hits for some excellent examples. Also check out Nat King Cole Trio for even more examples, and this time sans drummer.

Hopefully I will return to more regular posting here. Life sometimes gets in the way, but this should keep you busy if you follow all of the links.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Early jazz TV

In A nostalgia trip to 1957 I posted the entire 8 December 1957 CBS special broadcast titled A Sound of Jazz. This broadcast is in the public domain, as are a number of excellent episodes from 1958's Art Ford Jazz Party broadcasts. Here is a legal source for downloading them:, and here are the episodes that you can watch right here to determine if you want to download them:

Art Ford's Jazz Party 18 September 1958

Art Ford's Jazz Party 09 October 1958

Art Ford's Jazz Party 25 December 1958 - A Tribute to Jazz pioneer Buddy Bolden

Whole the above are free, there is another collection of TV broadcasts that are not: Ralph Gleason's series of half-hour programs for the U.S. National Education Television Network titled Jazz Casual. This series ran from 1961 to 1968. Including the pilot there were a total of 31 episodes, but only 28 of them have survived, and are offered in Jazz Casual: The Complete Series

Mark Sabbatini's review is so complete and frank that I do not feel that I can add anything to it. I will, however, provide a few clips to show what this set contains, as well as attest that I hold the set to be a treasure.

Even if the Jazz Casual: The Complete Series is outside your budget, you can still enjoy the Art Ford episodes both free and legally. There are treasures on the web!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Another exercise in critical listening: contrasts and comparisons

In a recent post on 05 October 2012 titled Why Bix Mattered I was reinforcing a still earlier post titled Understanding music through critical listening. In this post I am going to provide an album recommendation that will build skills in both contrasting music styles, as well as comparing ensembles. In both cases the same songs will be used on the contrast and compare exercises.

The album is a compilation titled Hot vs Cool - Cats vs Chicks

Leonard Feather - critic, composer and pianist - was behind the two albums that comprise this compilation. The first half was originally issued in 1952 as MGM E194, Hot Vs. Cool. The other half was issued in 1954 as MGM E255, Leonard Feather Presents Cats Vs Chicks: A Jazz Battle of the Sexes

Tracks 1 through 8, Hot Vs. Cool, pit traditional jazz against bebop. Put into context, jazz itself was on the verge of imploding during the period in which these tracks were recorded. Actually, it came to a head in the late 1940s, but the battle was still hot in the early 1950s when a group of musicians and their fans doggedly held on to the older style. They were termed 'moldy figs' by the bebop musicians who did not enjoy the same wide fan base because their music was more for musicians than average listeners. Feather was more biased toward that group.

This album, then, was meant to contrast the two styles more than compare them. The traditional musicians were led by cornetist Jimmy McPartland, and included Vic Dickenson on trombone, Edmond Hall on clarinet, Dick Cary on both piano and trumpet, Jack Lesberg on bass and George Wettling on drums.

The bebop musicians were led by Dizzy Gillespie on trumpet, multi-instrumentalist Don Elliott on mellophone and trumpet, Buddy DeFranco on clarinet, Ray Abrams on tenor saxophone, Ronnie Ball on piano, Al McKibbon on bass and Max Roach on drums.

Regretfully I do not have clips for these tracks, so I will give you my highly subjective take on this part of the album: the contrast, as expected, between the two styles on the same songs is significant. None of the tracks on either side of the musical divide are remarkable by today's standards, although as a drummer I enjoyed contrasting Max Roach's approach to George Wettling's playing. In Max you can clearly hear strong influences of Kenny Clarke and a lot of Papa Jo Jones. Wettling's playing is practically a clone of Baby Dodds. I could not help thinking that Buddy DeFranco would have been better suited to McPartland's ensemble or dropped altogether from Dizzy's bebop group. Buddy was one of the great clarinetists, but his style was more traditional than bebop.

While the first eight tracks contrasted two approaches to the came songs, tracks 9-14 compared the musical skills of male and female ensembles playing the same songs. These tracks are from Leonard Feather Presents Cats Vs Chicks: A Jazz Battle of the Sexes. The male group was comprised of some of the biggest names both then and now: Clark Terry on trumpet, Urbie Green on trombone, Lucky Thompson on tenor sax, Horace Silver on piano, Tal Farlow on guitar, Oscar Pettiford and Percy Heath swapping off on bass, and Kenny Clarke on drums.

The women were members of the Terry Pollard Septet, comprised of Norma Carson on trumpet, Beryl Booker on piano, Terry Pollard on vibraphone, Corky Hale (born Merrilyn Hecht) on harp, Mary Osborne on guitar, Bonnie Wetzel on bass and Elaine Leighton on drums.

At first glance one would think this was a lopsided comparison that pitted world class male musicians against a group of unknown women. That would be a mistake because Mary Osborne was a renowned, world class guitarist. Terry Pollard was easily the equal of any male pianist or vibraphonist (she was a master of both instruments), who bested the great Terry Gibbs in many vibraphone duels when she was with his band as a pianist. See this post for Terry in action. Norma Carson was no slouch on trumpet either, giving Terry Clark a run for his money on every track.

Hot vs. Cool tracks were interesting. Cats vs. Chicks tracks, though, were white hot and full of energy and amazing musicianship on both sides of the divide. The final track - Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better - is the highlight of this entire album and my personal favorite track. Here is a clip of that track to show why I say this:


It pits Norma Carson against Clark Terry, Mary Osborne against Tal Farlow, and Terry Pollard against Horace Silver. Personally, I think the women smoked the guys here and I am not saying this to be politically correct. I honestly believe that assertion.

Granted, this is a niche compilation that is comprised of albums that were probably intended to be novelties when first released. However, it is also an excellent contrast of two musical styles in the first eight tracks, and a comparison of world class musicians of both genders on the remaining tracks.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Milt Jackson

On 31 May 2012 I posted a piece titled Some fun that opened with a blurb about Al "Jazzbo" Collins, but was really about vibraphonists. In fact, had vibraphonists been the subject of Mount Rushmore the four I discussed in that post would have been the faces carved in granite. One of those four is Milt Jackson.

The main theme of this post is the fact that a comprehensive, ten-disc set of Milt's music has been released: Kind of Jackson:

If you are strictly a drum kit player instead of a percussionist you are probably wondering what possible benefit studying this album will accrue.

For one thing, like the importance of studying piano-centric music (or any music for that matter), you will find rhythmic ideas that you may not discover if you focus only on drums. And, since the vibraphone is a percussion instrument, many drum kit players do have some proficiency with it, and most vibraphonists are accomplished drummers. An example is Lionel Hampton who was considered to be as great on a drum kit as he was on vibraphones.

Milt Jackson is mostly associated with the Modern Jazz Quartet, which started out with the great Kenny Clarke on drums (see this post for recent information), and culminated with the great Connie Kay taking the drum chair in 1955 and holding it full time until 1974. That alone guarantees that this box set will have examples of some great drumming along with Milt's virtuoso vibes. Not that all of this set is the Modern Jazz Quartet recordings because it isn't. He played with Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane to name but a few.

The following clips give a taste of what this box set contains:

One parting shot: while Milt clearly demonstrates how a percussion instrument like a vibraphone can provide both melody and rhythm, you as a drummer can as well. See More quick tips: fills, dynamics and melody in my other blog, Snare Drum Addict, for examples.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Review: The Jazz Standards: A Guide to the Repertoire

In my 05 October 2012 post titled B3s and other keys, Kenny Clarke and books too I mentioned Ted Gioia's excellent book titled The Jazz Standards: A Guide to the Repertoire. This book has become quickly indispensable and, to be honest, entertaining.

Up front, the scope of this book is purposely narrow. Mr. Gioia states that he picked songs that fans are likely to hear in performances (and musicians are likely requested to play). In that respect, if you compare the list of songs to, say, the contents of The Real Book: Sixth Edition, there are major differences. On the other hand, the format Gioia uses would turn an already thick, 554-page book into a multi-volume set rivaling encyclopedias had he attempted to be more inclusive.

What I love is the succinct format: discussion of the songs and list of recommended versions. The discussion almost always provides some technical detail, the history of the song, and - in some cases - interesting trivia. The recommended versions cite who, where and when. For example, for Turner's and Layton's 1918 masterpiece, After You've Gone, that is endearingly popular the first recommended version is listed as Marion Harris, Camden, New Jersey, July 22, 1918 (in this example the list contains ten recommendations, the latest of which is a 1995 recording.)

I'll explain why this book is indispensable to me. I am an amateur jazz historian who writes this blog as a hobby. A quick look at most of my posts shows that I focus on music and musicians in a much wider scope than just drummers. I also post a lot of music reviews on Amazon (among other products).

In the past researching was time consuming and discovering facts about not only songs, but recordings and discographies, could take hours. The Recommended Versions part of the format in this book has proven to be an incredible time saver. And the descriptions and anecdotal information this book provides give me insights that I can weave into my own writing.

For jazz aficionados this book is practically a concordance with some fascinating information tacked on. The index of this book is particularly helpful because it allows you to cross-reference songs, composers and musicians, and recordings.

If you write about jazz as a hobby or professionally this book is essential and I do not use that word lightly. The same goes for the few remaining jazz DJs. Historians and educators will also find this book invaluable. If you are a dyed-in-the-wool aficionado you'll probably get hours of pleasure from randomly picking songs or focusing on some of your favorites, or what is currently playing in the background.

The bottom line is if you are serious about jazz, this book should be on your bookshelf.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Why Bix mattered

Why would Bix Beiderbecke, a cornetist whose recordings spanned 1924 through 1930, matter to anyone but a traditional jazz aficionado today? Certainly as a drummer you will probably not learn much about drumming from his albums. In fact, you would benefit more from listening to Louis Armstrong's groundbreaking Hot Fives & Sevens from the same era since those albums featured Baby Dodds, arguably the most influential drummer in history, and Zutty Singleton who also inspired generations of drummers. The real reason is how Bix influenced music in a manner that is still felt if you listen closely enough.

Critical listening is essential for any musician. You may want to read Understanding music through critical listening before proceeding. Also, while I have included examples of Bix's music in this post, there are some excellent and inexpensive albums that will allow you to dig much deeper if this article piques your interest:

The Complete Bix Beiderbecke & Frankie Trumbauer Collection is narrowly focused on Bix's collaborations with Frankie Trumbauer, but to me this is one of the most important periods in his shorts life and career. I've posted a review of this album on this page.

Although not truly complete, The Complete Bix Beiderbecke: The Complete Collection is still impressively encompassing and contains most of the highlights of Bix's career. See my review for details, pros and cons.

The Bix Beiderbecke Story is a box set that is worth owning if you are a Bix fan. The track list and session details for every track is on this page.

There is always an unbroken chain that goes back to the beginning. For example, any jazz, R&B or blues saxophonist can trace to Coleman Hawkins as the root of their influence. And while jazz trumpeters and cornetists can trace their root to Buddy Bolden, through Louis Armstrong and beyond, Bix had a parallel influence too.

Another reason Bix mattered is his musical associations. He was greatly admired by (and jammed with) Louis Armstrong, and played with Frankie Trumbauer and Eddie Lang - two significant influences on saxophone and guitar.

In fact, it's difficult to separate Bix from Frankie in some ways. For one thing, aside from playing together in various orchestras, their best work were collaborations on the following songs: Trumbology, Clarinet Marmalade, I'm Coming Virginia and Way Down Yonder in New Orleans. One collaboration was in composing in which Bix cowrote For No Reason at All in C.

Frankie, a.k.a. Tram, was Lester Young's major influence. So much so that Lester carried a copy of Singin' the Blues in his tenor case everywhere he went. But that song's importance goes far beyond Tram's saxophone genius, it also represents one of Bix's best cornet solos.

The web becomes more tangled when the Hoagy Carmichael connection is acknowledged. Hoagy had a close friendship and professional association with Bix. Indeed, he was arranger and pianist on some of Bix's last recordings on May 21, 1930 (these are included in a 10 disc box set, Bix Beiderbecke Story. It goes even further. Hoagy's masterpiece, Stardust, shares similarities with Singin' the Blues. This is convincingly argued by Richard M. Sudhalter in his highly regarded book, Stardust Melody: The Life and Music of Hoagy Carmichael. He also finds similarities to Stardust in Jazz Me Blues, but the analysis is more technical. Give a listen once more to Singin' the Blues above, then compare it to Hoagy himself playing Stardust

Here is the other part - Jazz Me Blues - if you want to listen to both of Sudhalter's proposed influences to compare to Stardust:

Additional evidence of the mutual high regard between Bix and Hoagy is this composition that Hoagy wrote especially for Bix and Tram. Also note that I am not diminishing Tram's relationship with Hoagy, which was also strong.

As this is unfolding I hope you can see the reach of influence exerted by Bix (and Tram). While Lester Young was influenced by Tram, Chet Baker is probably the most influenced by Bix's cornet.

But Bix's reach extended beyond horn players. He ws also a virtuoso pianist as evidenced by this recording:

Bill Evans was greatly influenced by Bix's piano playing (Bix's own influences were Debussy and Ravel.)

If you want to explore the roots of today's music, then Bix mattered. You can certainly hear his (and Tram's and associated guitarist Eddie Lang's) influence on musicians to this day. It's up to the curious among us to connect the dots ... and to acknowledge musicians like Bix who truly added to the body of American music.

I am ending with a final clip, but I am not going to embed it here because the story on the video page is worth reading. This will probably interest Bix fans and bore general listeners: The unheard and unseen Bix Beiderbecke.

B3s and other keys, Kenny Clarke and books too

An entire crop of new box sets worth studying, plus a great reference book have occupied my attention recently. First up are two box sets of the great Hammond B3 artist, Jimmy Smith.

The ten CDs that make up Kind of Smith is an eclectic collection of his work spanning most of his career:

Another 10 disc set that you may want to consider as an alternative is 18 Classic Albums, which shares a lot of tracks with the first one.

If you have never heard of Jimmy Smith (rare, but possible), or are not very familiar with his body or work and how it would relate to drummers, here are a few clips that showcase his style and, more importantly, the grooves that go along with it.

The next two box sets go hand-in-hand because not only were Bud Powell and Kenny Clarke key to the formation of bebop (indeed, Clarke - Klook - invented the drumming style), but both here closely associated with each other as expats in Europe.

A few notes: Bud Powell is one of three pianists whom I call my holy trinity - the other two are Teddy Wilson and Thelonious Monk. The importance of piano to drummers is close to the same level as bass in many types of music. See Piano: the other percussion instrument for why.

The importance of Klook to jazz drumming - not just bebop - cannot be over emphasized. His contributions, especially how he moved time to the ride cymbal and used the call and response patterns between the snare drum and bass drum to interact with the other musicians changed jazz drumming in a major way.

Here are the two box sets, combined, that I recommend: Kind of Clarke

And the companion set, Kind of Powell

Here is a clip of Klook and Bud in action:

Another important pianist is Horace Silver who was one of the founding members of the Jazz Messengers, and was also the pianist on the classic (and essential) pre-Jazz Messenger albums recorded live at Birdland with Clifford Brown, Art Blakey, Curly Russel and Lou Donaldson: A Night at Birdland, Vol. 1, and the second set A Night at Birdland, Vol. 2.

The above background should inspire any drummer to acquire and study Kind of Silver, which contains ten CDs of some of the best hard bop piano in jazz:

Here are a few clips to show Horace's style:

The next box set is a perfect segue from Horace Silver because of the importance of A Night in Birdland albums mentioned above: Kind of Brown. However, for drummers one of the main reasons to study Clifford's work is the long term collaboration with Max Roach. This is relatively speaking since Clifford's life was tragically cut short at 25 (along with Bud Powell's brother, Richie, who was in the same auto accident.)

Here are some representative clips that will give you a glimpse into what is in this set:

My last item is probably the ideal research tool for the topics about which I write: The Jazz Standards: A Guide to the Repertoire. My copy is enroute, but the reviews on the product page sold me. I am a jazz junkie and also an amateur historian who has a love of the Great American Songbook and am always on the Jazz Standards web site anyway. That makes this one of the most sensible purchases I've made in recent memory.

I hope this post was helpful.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A great year for history

Good news for drummers who are also historians: Daniel Glass has completed The Century Project and it's available for sale (click the link.) Here is a short summary of what the project is based on an early pitch for the video:

Also released and currently being previewed in major cities is Jeff Kauffman's wonderful bio of Chick Webb. I posted this piece about the movie two years ago. I finally had the privilege and pleasure of watching it last week and it is everything Jeff promised - and more! More information is at the film's web site. Here is the trailer:

If history is an interest I recommend some of my previous posts, including Digging into our history, as well as Oral Histories: Louis Bellson, Chico Hamilton & Roy Haynes and a collection of video recommendations in this post. Of course, searching for some of the greats and pioneers by name here will yield some solid results too.

A nostalgia trip to 1957

This is the 8 December 1957 CBS special broadcast, Sound of Jazz. See the link for details. Also, there is additional footage that includes the Sound of Miles Davis, plus performances by Ahmad Jamal and Ben Webster.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Recommended Papa Jo Jones albums Part 2

Following up from Recommended Papa Jo Jones albums Part 1, this post will list the remaining albums on which Papa Jo was either leader or co-leader.

The first album to recommend is Jo Jones The Main Man.

this is not only an excellent album for drummers to study, but historical in its own right. The historical aspect is this album reunites four key alumni of the 1937 Basie line-up, considered by many to be the greatest incarnation of that band: Papa Jo Jones on drums, Freddie Green on guitar, Vic Dickenson on trombone, and Harry Sweets Edison on trumpet.

Other members of this session, which took place on 29 and 30 November 1976 in RCA's New York Studios are Roy Eldridge also on trumpet, Eddie Lockjaw Davis on tenor sax, Tommy Flanagan on piano and Sam Jones on bass. The line-up is truly all-star.

As for the value to drummers, and to be inclusive, the other musicians: the pulse set up by the rhythm section is driving. For me, though, it's the use of dynamics by each member of the entire ensemble that is instructive and a pleasure to hear.

Unfortunately, I do not have any clips available to share, but at such time that I make then I will update this section of this post.

Track one sets the pace with Tommy Flanagan's beautiful piano support and Papa Jo's brushwork on the first track are exquisite. The muted trumpets and how Sam Jones locks in on bass all combine to give Papa Jo a platform to exhibit his tasteful playing.

If you are a drummer and play with brushes the next track, I Want to Be Happy, merits careful and repeated listening. The next track, Ad Lib, also contains solid brushwork, but is more subtle.

One of my favorite tracks is Dark Eyes because the way Papa Jo handles it is vastly different from Gene Krupa's approach(and this was one of Krupa's signature songs.) While the song lacks that Eastern European flavor of Krupa's renditions, the trumpets lift it up and Papa Jo's drumming is one of the reasons I love this particular track. Indeed, the entire ensemble is on fire here.

Papa Jo cuts loose on the final two tracks, Metrical Portions and Ol' Man River, taking the band on a ride with him. As hard driving as he is on these tracks he also manages to remain tasteful. Louis Bellson once claimed that Papa Jo's style was akin to a fan dancer, and these tracks amply underscore that. As driving as he is, he remains airy and artful.

I consider Smiles (1969-1975) (The Definitive Black & Blue Sessions) to be important for a few reasons, foremost of which is it is a record of Papa Jo's later years.

Papa Jo performed regularly in Europe and especially in France during the late 1960s through a large part of the 1970s. This album captures some of those performances as recorded by Disques Black & Blue (hence, The Definitive Black & Blue Sessions.) Instead of providing specific clips from the album, which are difficult to track down, I am going to provide what I consider to be the cream of the crop from Papa Jo's Paris performances during this era with the same musicians that are in the album. I'll kick off with this one:

The first ten tracks were released as Jo Jones - Caravan in 1974 by Disques Black & Blue, and dominate the album. Those tracks were recorded on 28 February 1974 at Barclay Studios in Paris, except Slide Jimmy Slide, which was recorded on 26 February in the studio, and Caravan was recorded live in Paris on January 13th 1974.

Personnel on the first ten tracks are: Papa Jo Jones on drums, Major Holley on bass (except for Caravan), Gerry Wiggins on piano on all tracks except for Slide Jimmy Slide, which has Milt Buckner on piano, and Caravan, which has Milt Buckner on organ. Illinois Jacquet is on tenor saxophone on Caravan.

The remaining four tracks, taken from other Paris performances between 1969 and 1975, have basically Papa Jo Jones on drums and Milt Buckner on organ.

To my ears the music is excellent and Papa Jo's drumming in superb form making this album is one to study (along with Papa Jo's other work).

My 30 August 2012 post titled The Importance of Bass briefly mentioned this great album featuring Papa Jo and Milt Hinton: Percussion And Bass.

This was one the the three albums Papa Jo recorded for Everest (this one in New York City in 1960). And there is a mystery associated with it. Nowhere in Nat Hentoff's original liner notes is there any credit for the vibes played on Love Nest and Tin Top Alley Blues. The album does claim percussion instead of drums, so I am guessing that Papa Jo played them. The larger mystery is on Little Honey, which features vibes and brushes. Here is a clip:

What I love about this album and why I believe it's a wonderful tool for studying is how the tracks represent a wide range of tempos. Moreover, the super fast tempo on H.O.T. and how it was maintained primarily with the hi-hat was instructive. And the amazing brushwork on Walls Fall was another highlight.

Last, but certainly not least is Jazz Magic '56. Teddy and Papa Jo (and Billie Holiday, Basie and Lester Young) formed an eternal braid of sorts and always wound up recording together during their respective careers. I could cite a long list of albums, but the scope of this post is confined to albums on which Papa Jo was leader or co-leader.

This is actually the Teddy Wilson/Papa Jo Jones compilation titled Complete Recordings without the final eight bonus tracks featuring Benny Carter on alto saxophone.

Note that not all of these tracks are strictly from 1956 - some are from 1955 (although they may have been first released in 1956.)

Here are the albums from this this one is derived: For Quiet Lovers recorded in January 1955 with Teddy on piano, Papa Jo on drums and Milt Hinton on bass. Here is the first track from that album (interesting song title considering the album title!) Note Papa Jo's brushwork:

I Got Rhythm circa March 1956 with Gene Ramey on bass. Here is a clip of Teddy playing the great Chick Webb's theme song (composed by Edgar Sampson.)Listen to Papa Jo's drumming. Subtle and forceful at the same time:

A pair of 1956 albums featuring Al Lucas on bass: The Impeccable Mr. Wilson and the out-of-print Teddy Wilson Trio - these tunes remind me of you. Here are two clips:

While there are other compilations of Teddy, this particular album has Teddy paired with Papa Jo Jones. They both have a mutual history that goes back to Billie Holiday's first recordings in the mid-1930s on which Teddy was the band leader.

As a music lover, and especially one who places Teddy on a pedestal, getting lost in the silvery tone of his piano on these tracks is a rare treat in life. The taste with which both complement each others playing is - in my opinion - incomparable.

My next topic will be Charles Mingus. I will warn in advance: I'm fanatical. On the plus side, there will be many small posts over a period of time instead of a tsunami of information and clips. Until then ...

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Recommended Papa Jo Jones albums Part 1

One of these days I am going to create a special page just to list all of my Papa Jo Jones-related posts. In the meantime I am going to use this topic - in two parts - to list some of the albums I recommend for those interested in digging deep into Papa Jo's style.

I'll get some ancillary recommendations out of the way first. See my 9 August 2012 post titled My Personal Rushmore for a listing of box value-priced box sets in which Papa Jo Jones occupies a substantial number of tracks. The box sets are compilations of these artists: Billie Holiday, Teddy Wilson, Lester Young and Count Basie. Indeed, those artists form a mesh where Papa Jo is the is the common thread.

Two other posts that should interest any Papa Jo fan are my 20 July 2012 post, Rifftide: The Life and Opinions of Papa Jo Jones - A Review and a related piece posted on 28 July 2012 titled Papa Jo Jones revisited. Both of those posts contain links to even more content, so if you have the time to peruse this material you will come away with a lot of background information that includes audio and video clips.

The first album in my list of recommendations is The Everest Years

This is actually two albums combined into a value-priced compilation:

Album #1 is Jo Jones Trio. This circa 1959 album features a tight trio comprised of Papa Jo Jones, backed by brothers Ray Bryant on piano and Tommy Bryant on bass.

The first 12 tracks that are from this album are particularly excellent for studying Papa Jo's brush technique. One reason is there are no horns or large ensembles to mask every legato note he plays. What I especially love about this for study purposes is how he treats 'I Got Rhythm' in tracks 8 (Part I) and 9 (Part 2). The first is a relatively slow tempo, with the second at a much faster tempo. The contrast in brush techniques for each tempo is an invaluable lesson in itself.

Here are two of the tracks from the album to give you an idea of the music:

Vamp Till Ready is the second album from the Everest years that comprises this album. This was recorded circa 1960 (some sources cite 1959 with a 1960 release), and it consists of the final 12 tracks featuring Harry Sweets Edison on trumpet, Jimmy Forrest on tenor saxophone, Bennie Green on trombone, Tommy Flanagan on piano and Tommy Potter on bass. These tracks are also excellent study material because they capture Papa Jo's deft touch and beautiful dynamics in a larger ensemble setting.

Of course, you do not have to be a drummer to appreciate this album because the music stands on its own merits. And a piece of trivia: Jimmy Forrest, tenor saxophonist on the last 12 tracks, is the composer of Night Train an iconic R&B hit made famous by James Brown.

\Next up is Our Man, Papa Jo! +4

This album showcases Papa Jo's like few others because every note and nuance of his playing can be heard.

The album itself was recorded at Sound Ideas Studios in New York City on 12 December 1977. The Japanese label, Denon, issued it as an import circa 1982 and it has been in and out of print in the US since then.

My interest in Papa Jo's recordings are mainly to study his brushwork. However, he plays with sticks on many of the tracks in this one. His deft touch and practically patented hi-hat patterns lift the ensemble the same way as in his Basie days when he and the rest of the All American Rhythm Section invented that technique. As a drummer this is a treasure. As a lover of solid jazz this is a great listen that extends to bring pleasure to musicians and casual listeners alike.

The ensemble backing Papa Jo includes Hank Jonesn on piano, Major Holley on bass and Jimmy Oliver on tenor. Holley seems to have escaped the wider fame he richly deserves as a bassist. He had played with just about every top jazz musician in his career and was highly regarded, but managed to fall into obscurity. Sound samples for this album are on this page

The aptly titled The Essential Jo Jones is just that: essential:

This is a compilation of the only two albums Papa Jo led for Vanguard. The first is Jo Jones Special (Vanguard VRS 8503) recorded August 11 and 16, 1955, and he second is the long out of print Jo Jones Plus Two (Vanguard VRS 8525) recorded April 30, 1958.

The first six tracks are from Jo Jones Special and the first of those tracks is one of the two very special ones on this album. That first track, Shoe Shine Boy reunites the All American Rhythm Section - Basie on piano, Freddie Green on guitar, Walter Page on bass and Papa Jo on drums - for their last performance together. Unfortunately I have no clip of that rendition, but have a different performance of the same song that displays Papa Jo's approach to playing it:

Other musicians on those first six tracks are Nat Pierce on piano for the remaining tracks 2-6, Emmett Berry on trumpet, Lucky Thompson on tenor saxophone and Benny Green on trombone (except on track 4, Caravan where Lawrence Brown takes over.)

The remaining part of this album is Jo Jones Plus Two with pianist Ray Bryant and his bassist brother Tommy backing Papa Jo. The brothers would move to Everest with Papa Jo in 1959 and record Jo Jones Trio. However, this album, while uniformly excellent on every track, is significant because of Little Susie (track 8). Papa Jo's playing on this song was cited by Eric Novod in Dozens: Twelve Greatest Moments in Jazz Drumming at the top of the list. I have to agree. Do note that the version of Little Susie on this album (singled out by Eric Novod) is 5:22 minutes versus the 3:38 version from Jo Jones Trio.

One last clip from this album shows just what a great brush player Papa Jo was:

Suffice to say, this is an essential [no pun intended] album to study. Every track contains superb examples of Papa Jo's drumming style, and as an added bonus the musicianship of the ensembles is in consistently top form.

In my next post, Part 2, I will pick up where I left off and cover the remaining, significant albums on which Papa Jo was the leader or co-leader.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Anita O'Day in depth Part 5

Picking up from where I left off in Anita O'Day in depth Part 4, this post will cover some of Anita's albums that are off the beaten path. First up is this gem: Bigbands Live: Benny Goodman Orchestra featuring Anita O'Day

I accidentally came across this gem while looking for something completely different. A quick listen to the sound samples on this page convinced me. What a delightful surprise and some amazing music.

There are short sound samples on this page, so you can let your own ears determine if this is for you. What those samples will not tell you is which of the tracks contains Anita because she does not come in until after the intros in the samples. She is on these tracks:

  • Honeysuckle Rose
  • Come Rain or Come Shine
  • Let Me Off Uptown
  • Gotta Be This Or That
  • Girl Crazy, Act II: But Not for Me/Four Brothers/Blues
Here is a clip from the album that gives a taste of what to expect:

It's uncertain whether Anita was supposed to be on Gotta Be This Or That. It starts off with Benny singing, then forgetting the lyrics and trying to scat is way through the rest. That alone is priceless, but when Anita joins in and 'rescues' him the song takes on a life of its own.

Let Me Off Uptown lacked the fire of Anita's performances with Roy Eldridge, but was still a great addition to the album.

The rest of the ensemble was comprised of Russ Freeman on piano, Red Norvo on vibes, Jack Sheldon on trumpet, Flip Phillips on tenor sax, Bill Harris on trombone, Jerry Dodgion on flute, Jimmy Wyble on guitar, Red Wootton on bass and John Markham on drums.

Norvo's quiet, vibrato-less style of playing is a marked contrast to Lionel Hampton's aggressive, full vibrato playing which is usually associated with Benny's clarinet. However, it perfectly fit the ensemble. I was also impressed by John Markham's drumming, which reminded me a lot of Anita's own drummer, John Poole (who was on the tour as Anita's manager.)

For those who track dates, places and other details of jazz performances, this was about mid way through Goodman's 1959 European tour, which kicked off in Munich on 3 October 59. This album is the Stadthalle-Freiburg performance of 15 October, a week before the tour ended.

Here is the same ensemble three months later back in the US. In this clip Gene Dinovi replaces Russ Freeman on piano, however the same energy is exhibited and this is another indication of the quality of music on the album:

Anita discussed this tour and problems she and Benny had in Chapter XI, pages 244-246 of High Times Hard Times. Benny never liked being upstaged and therein was the cause of the clash. That, plus Benny was straight-laced and Anita was truly the Jezebel of jazz and a strong personality in her own right. When Benny informed her to not show up for one of the performances on the tour she threatened to quit, so he pared down her performances to just two songs per appearance. Given the fact that this album contains five songs, it must have been recorded before the clash.

There are two other albums from this tour: In Stockholm 1959, from 18 October 59 with a smoking performance of Four Brothers with Stan Getz who sat in, and An Airmail Special From Berlin 1959 from 22 October. Both are worth checking out if you enjoy this one.

The next album that I consider a hidden gem is Anita O'Day And The Three Sounds

When this album was cut in 1963 with The Three Sounds (a popular trio from that era), it was not widely accepted by fans. I'll be honest - I was also lukewarm the first few times I listened to this album. It seemed to lack that ineffable quality and verve (no pun intended) that Anita brought to her performances, both live and in the studio.

My first thought was to make a wine analogy where some of my favorite O'Day albums were like a complex Valpolicella whereas this one was line the second glass of a table wine. In the first you could savor the nuances; in the second the complexity and nuances were not really there, but you still felt good. After many hours of enjoying this album, though, I realize my wine analogy was not only glib and snobbish, but off the mark. The Three Sounds did a remarkable job in supporting Anita's vocals in my opinion. Some may call it bland or even elevator music. I call it masterful because there is a nice swing and sensitive playing by the entire ensemble.

Gene Harris' piano reminds me a lot of Ahmad Jamal. There is a lot of space, and to extend the comparison further, Andrew Simpkins' bass fills in nicely the way Israel Crosby complemented Jamal in their trio playing. The wild card in the ensemble, in my opinion, is Bill Dowdy on drums. Bear in mind that not only am I a drummer who is going to naturally pay close attention to that instrument in recordings, but I am heavily influenced by John Poole, who was Anita's drummer for nearly four decades. Dowdy's playing is vastly different from Poole's, but is also very tasteful and fit the music on each track perfectly (to my ears anyway.)

The real treat and - for me - a highlight is Whisper Not, which features Roy Eldridge playing a muted trumpet solo. When I first heard the solo it immediately stood out because the album is mainly centered around Anita backed by a piano trio. When I looked up who played it took my breath away because it transported me mentally back to her Krupa days when she and Eldridge would do duets.

Another favorite is this track from the album because it showcases Anita's voice and the Three Sounds:

There is a subdued quality to Anita's vocals on this album too. In some ways she seems to be missing that joie de vivre - joy of life - quality. In other ways, she seems centered and at the beginning of a long, gradual transformation.

Perhaps I have rambled on long enough. The best way to determine if this album is for you is to listen to the sound samples on this page. They will give a tantalizing taste, but I found the real beauty of each track to be many bars into each song.

This album is the one in which I discovered the Three Sounds and because a solid fan. If you like the way they back Anita, I recommend checking out The three Sounds Eight Classic Albums.

The final gem I'll discuss in this post is a collaboration between Anita and Cal Tjader titled, Time For Two

Cream rises to the top and this album is the cream from Anita's Verve years in my opinion. While the bulk of her recordings from those years were in orchestral settings, this and a handful of others capture Anita in her best setting - a small ensemble.

In addition to the setting, another factor that makes this album the cream of the crop and a showcase is Cal Tjader's leadership of the backing ensemble. The musicians were Cal Tjader and Johnny Rae handling vibes and percussion, Bob Corwin and Lonnie Hewitt switching off on piano and Freddy Schrieber on bass.

Part of the reason for the success of this album is the shared traits between him and Anita. He was not only an acclaimed vibraphonist, but also an accomplished drummer and percussionist. Anita had a lifelong affinity for drummers, starting with the lessons she received from her first husband, Don Carter, as well as her lifelong collaboration and friendship with John Poole who was her drummer for well over three decades.

In addition to that point of musical intersection, Tjader brought to this album a strong sense of Afro-Cuban rhythms, as well as the ability to play laid back, straight-ahead jazz. The former played directly into Anita's percussive singing style, while the latter was a major comfort zone for Anita. I won't attempt to describe the music since there are sound samples on this page, but I will cite two examples of music that showcase both the Latin and the straight-ahead pieces on this album: An Occasional Man for the former and I'm Not Supposed to Be Blue Blues for the latter. The chasm between those two styles is why I claimed that the album showcases Anita's versatility. Here is a clip that gives a flavor of the infectious Latin side of the album:

A few notes about the backing ensemble: Tjader's vibe style is - to my ears - very similar to Red Norvo. It's light, airy and virtually no vibrato. That style spills over to the rest of the ensemble. The music itself comes across as simple. However, if you consider just how few musicians are present their ability to make the backing ensemble sound much larger is a feat in itself. Not only that, but they perfectly support Anita, providing her with a rhythmic platform that leaves the melody to her and Tjader's vibraphone.

One final clip from the album to savor:

Of all of Anita's Verve albums, the two that I think rise to the top for small group excellence is this one and Anita O'Day And The Three Sounds discussed above. For pure magic, though, this one is my favorite.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Sonny Rollins: Living National Treasure part 2

In keeping with my theme of music for drummers, this post will follow up Sonny Rollins: Living National Treasure by providing three more listening recommendations.

First up is Plays For Bird, one of Sonny's lesser known 1956 masterpieces that he recorded on 5 October 1956, four months after Saxophone Colossus.

Personnel on this album are Sonny on tenor, Kenny Dorham on trumpet, Wade Legge on piano, George Morrow on bass and Max Roach on drums. The album was a tribute to Charlie Parker and featured songs with which he was strongly associated. Each track is a study in dynamics, rhythm, melody and harmony, and - as always - Max Roach's drumming approach is masterful. The longest track, a medley clocking in a few seconds short of 27 minutes, covers a wide range of songs: I Remember You/My Melancholy Baby/Old Folks/They Can't Take That Away From Me/Just Friends/My Little Suede Shoes/Star Eyes. The way the musicians seamlessly segue from one to the next is why I included this track and also why I recommend this album:

Next is one of Sonny's first recordings as a leader. It was recorded in 1953, but not released until 1956: Sonny Rollins with The Modern Jazz Quartet

The album cover may seem confusing with a much older Rollins depicted, so I am including the original cover for reference:

What makes this album special is the personnel changes on the various tracks. And as a drummer,being able to compare and contrast the playing of Kenny Clarke, Art Blakey and Roy Haynes on a single album is a treat. The first four tracks is Sonny accompanied by the first edition of the Modern Jazz Quartet: John Lewis on piano, Milt Jackson on vibraphone, Percy Heath on bass Kenny Clarke on drums. Here is Track 2:

Tracks 5 through 12 is Sonny backed by Kenny Drew on piano, Percy Heath on bass and Art Blakey on drums. Track 7 is a good representation of their contribution to the album:

The final track is interesting in that Miles Davis is on piano. Percy Heath is still on bass, with Roy Haynes on drums:

My final recommendation (in this post anyway) is Moving Out

Perhaps I am biased because Thelonious Monk is on one of the tracks, but this 1954 album ranks up there with Saxophone Colossus as far as I am concerned. That, of course, is only a personal opinion.

You have an excellent opportunity to study Percy Heath and Art Blakey interacting on bass and drums, with Elmo Hope on piano completing the rhythm section. And, of course, the interplay between Kenny Dorham's trumpet and Sonny's tenor is the core of the album. On the last track when Monk takes over piano with Tommy Potter on bass and Art Taylor on drums, you can compare rhythm sections backing Sonny and Kenny. Here is the Monk/Potter/Taylor track:

Compare to a track with Hope/Heath/Blakey as the rhythm section (and note Sonny's gorgeous tone on this tune):

I will end with a clip of Rollins in Denmark, 1965, with another national treasure - Alan Dawson - on drums and The Great Dane with the Never-Ending Name, Niels-Henning ├śrsted Pedersen on bass. This performance exemplifies Rollins' piano-less trio format.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Sonny Rollins: Living National Treasure

While writing Early Coltrane: A study in dynamics and evolution of jazz and a short follow-up This Trane fell through the cracks I had a nagging feeling that I needed to mention Sonny Rollins.

Although I had the opportunity to dig deeper, I did not want to dilute Coltrane's accomplishments, so this post is going to focus on Rollins. A good starting point is this excellent BBC documentary about Sonny:

That Rollins and Coltrane were mutual admirers is amply shown in This Trane fell through the cracks. While they shared many things in common, including both starting on alto before taking up tenor, there were key differences between the two. A key difference is how Rollins would keep reinventing himself, while Coltrane evolved in a seamless, almost logical way to musical concepts that continue to exert major influence on all genres of music.

Rollins' influence, while perhaps not as far reaching across genres, is significant within jazz and has reached audiences who would not consider themselves to be jazz aficionados.

As a musician you will find him worth studying because of his highly rhythmic style, which he established as early as 1957 with his ground breaking piano-less trio format. The composition or that format was a drummer and bassist. If you are a drummer or bassist, then I need not tell you how valuable his recordings in that format are for studying importance of bass in an ensemble. Two excellent 1957 albums that showcase this format are A Night At The Village Vanguard and Way Out West. Here is a clip from the afternoon set from the A Night At The Village Vanguard album. The album is divided into two sets: afternoon featuring Pete LaRoca on drums and Don Bailey on bass and evening featuring Elvin Jones on drums and Wilbur Ware on bass. Here is Miles Davis' Four with Laroca and Bailey:

It's easy to judge fast tempo music like Four, but a real test of a piano-less trio - in my opinion - is how well they handle ballads and slower tempo material. This track from Way Out West features the great Ray Brown on bass and the equally great Shelly Manne on drums:

As innovative as the two albums mentioned are, Rollins will forever be remembered by two others: Tenor Madness and Saxophone Colossus.

Tenor Madness: This 1956 album preceded another landmark Rollins' masterpiece, Saxophone Colossus, and is also an important album because of the collaboration between Rollins and John Coltrane on the title track.

Other personnel on this album were Red Garland on piano, Paul Chambers on bass and Philly Joe Jones on drums. John Coltrane is only on track 1, Tenor Madness.

Twelve minutes of Rollins and Coltrane on track 1 is reason enough to own this album. Hear for yourself:

However, there are no duds among all of the tracks. A bit of trivia: Paul's Pal was written in honor of Paul Chambers (whose bass on this album is worth a close listen, as is Red Garland's piano.) Indeed, the entire line-up is like a Miles Davis reunion, and Chambers and Coltrane would go on to be members of the ensemble that recorded one of the best selling jazz albums of all time, Kind Of Blue.

Recorded the same year as his earllier Masterpiece, Tenor Madness, Rollins hits another one out of the park with this album.

The line-up here is completely different from Tenor Madness, with Tommy Flanagan on piano, Doug Watkins on bass and Max Roach on drums. Watkins is a bassist to whom I pay close attention, which makes this album all the more valuable to me. He was Charles Mingus choice to replace himself (so he could play piano) on Oh Yeah, and had Watkins not died at 27 he had the potential to be one of jazz's top bassists.

Of course Saint Thomas is the reason most non-jazz aficionados love this album. Instead of providing a clip of that song from the album I am going to include one of my favorite live performances with a different line-up as an example. My reason is the interplay between the great Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen on bass and Tootie Heath on drums is a study in importance of bass, and especially with respect to Rollins' own contribution to the rhythm. Kenny Drew is on piano:

As much as I love St. Thomas, my personal favorites from the album are are Moritat (also known as Mack the Knife) and Blue 7.

However, personal favorites aside, I hold every track on this album to be a masterpiece. Not a bad effort for a 26 year old who had previously that year made a landmark album that would be hard to top. Whether he managed to top those achievements is an argument that I'll leave to others. What he did in the ensuing 56 years is continue to perform, inspire and make an indelible mark on music. I am going to end this post with later performances and leave it to you to explore his music throughout its many reinventions.