Thursday, May 25, 2017

Charles Tolliver / Music Inc. - 1973 - Live At The Loosdrecht Festival

Charles Tolliver / Music Inc.
Live At The Loosdrecht Festival

01. Grand Max 11:06
02. Truth 10:13
03. Prayer For Peace 15:08
04. Our Second Father 15:57
05. Repetition 12:37

Bass – Reggie Workman
Drums – Alvin Queen
Piano – John Hicks
Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Producer – Charles Tolliver

Recorded at the Loosdrecht Jazz Festival, Holland (The Netherlands), 9th August 1972 by courtesy of Joop de Roo, N.O.S. Radio, Hilversum.

This concert opens with an eerie 11 minute blitzkrieg.  The savvy European audience isn't afraid though.  "Grand Max" is a tribute to Tolliver's former boss, drumming kingpin Max Roach.  It reminds me somewhat of The Max Roach Trio - Featuring The Legendary Hasaan except at break-neck speed and lead by a trumpet.  Drummer Alvin Green walks a fine line between the styles of Max Roach and Elvin Jones.  It's quite interesting to hear. 

Somehow "Truth" made me think of The Blade Runner for the first few minutes.  Charles Tolliver has nice vibrato in his somber playing.  I can picture a washed-up old cop walking in the rain to this song but the middle third of the song ruins the mood completely. 

I read the title for the third piece and knew there was a good chance I would be in for some typical "spiritual" Jazz with jingling noise.  The jingling is there alright.  It engulfs a pounding bass solo by Reggie Workman for three minutes and then Charles Tolliver joins in on the action.  "Prayer For Peace" becomes something along the lines of an energy charged Joe Henderson tune like "El Barrio" from Inner Urge.  Tolliver certainly uses some of Henderson's tenor sax phrasing. 

For 16 minutes Tolliver's quartet tries to emulate John Coltrane's Elvin Jones/McCoy Tyner/Jimmy Garrisson quartet in tribute to the recently deceased Coltrane.  The only person who seems to be having trouble in their counterpart's role is pianist John Hicks.  The sweat must have been coming out of every pore of his body trying to match Tyner's inhumanly flowing fingers.  As Coltrane's group did too, Tolliver gets into Rock 'n Roll boisterousness.  If you own a copy of Coltrane Live at Birdland and enjoy it you will assuredly love Grand Max. 

After that the last track is redundant, especially since it has little to do with the feel of the rest of the concert.  For simplicity sake consider it a mix of Horace Silver's and Lee Morgan's music.  It's happy.  It's long.  It doesn't fit.

Charles Tolliver / Music Inc. - 1973 - Live At Slugs Volume II

Charles Tolliver / Music Inc. 
Live At Slugs Volume II

01. Spanning 8:30
02. Wilpan's 10:37
03. Our Second Father (Dedicated To The Memory Of John Coltrane) 13:26

Bass – Cecil McBee
Drums – Jimmy Hopps
Piano – Stanley Cowell
Trumpets – Charles Tolliver

Recorded: May 1, 1970

The second volume of this wonderful concert is my favorite by a hair.  Charles Tolliver's music from the 70s displays the influence that working with Andrew Hill had on him.  Hill's music often has a great groove no matter how odd it gets.  The first and last songs of Volume 1 had longer build-ups.  "Spanning" gets moving more quickly, sounding like a cross of John Coltrane's band from Coltrane Live at Birdland and Yusef Lateef's group from Live at Pep's, especially the more out-there tunes from the Lateef concert.  Jimmy Hopps really, really reminds me of Lateef's drummer, James Black, also comparable to Elvin Jones but so much wackier.  The middle tune from Volume 1 of Live at Slugs' slowed things down.  This disc's center, "Wilpan's", kicks things up a notch with exuberance.  "Our Second Father" is a tribute to John Coltrane which can also be heard on Grand Max.  The Live at Slugs' take is wwwwwwwwwwway more hectic, like they had to go pee.  It's exciting but my opinion is slightly tarnished by the later and more refined version of it.    

Owning both this disc and Live at Slugs', Volume 1 is essential for hardcore Jazz fans.  For similar music from the same period you don't have to look too far.  Another trumpeter named Woody Shaw was making music with a similar energetic and expansive feeling.  Stepping Stones: Live at the Village Vanguard is well worth a listen.

Charles Tolliver / Music Inc. - 1972 - Live At Slugs Volume I

Charles Tolliver / Music Inc. 
Live At Slugs Volume I

01. Drought 9:04
02. Felicite 8:05
03. Orientale 17:32

Bass – Cecil McBee
Drums – Jimmy Hopps
Piano – Stanley Cowell
Trumpet – Charles Tolliver

Recorded: May 1, 1970

Strata East recordings are quite difficult to acquire, which is unfortunate considering their high quality. Charles Tolliver was one of the great trumpeters to emerge during the late '60s yet has always been vastly underrated. on this quartet set with pianist Stanley Cowell, bassist Cecil McBee and drummer Jimmy Hopps, Tolliver has a real chance to stretch out. The 17-minute "Orientale" is particularly memorable. The music straddles the boundary between advanced hard bop and the avant-garde and rewards repeated listenings.

Charles Tolliver is my all time favourite trumpet player in jazz. He is simply awesome has a full brassy tone and perfect technique yet is almost unheard of except amongst devoted jazz fans. His name crops up on a number of LP's as a sideman but it was with his own ensemble, Music Inc. that he really shines. Music Inc. were group set up by Tolliver and pianist Stanley Cowell to preserve acoustic jazz traditions in the seventies and as a flagship act for their own new label Strata East. The Live at Slugs' date was spread over two volumes. Volume 1 and Volume 2 features per three tracks, each penned by different members of the group.

Where have you gone, Charles Tolliver? There was such promise in the concept of Music Inc., and in Strata East, but evidently the music world's attention was elsewhere and this tremendous live set was probably heard by only a few hundred sets of ears. On the back of the record sleeve, Tolliver undersigned his mission statement: "Music Inc. was created out of the desire to assemble men able to see the necessity for survival of a heritage and an Art in the hopes that the sacrifices and high level of communication between them will eventually reach every soul." And he isn't kidding. You won't find a much higher level of communication than he, Cecil McBee, Stanley Cowell, and Jimmy Hopps engaged in on May 1, 1970 at Slugs' in New York City. This was much more than an attempt to merely 'preserve acoustic jazz' as in the stilted Marsalis vein. This was an attempt to preserve a measure of authenticity while maintaining the notion of forward-thinking, present-tense improvised music. They deserved a greater response than the lukewarm, sparse applause they received that night, and continue to deserve a far more cognizant audience for their efforts.

Through its duration, the music on Live at Slugs' is often riveting and incessantly compelling. Hopps is a great to me in this performans, but the other three players featured here are some of the all-time underrated presences in the jazz pantheon, and they play nothing short of masterfully. Always a presence on his recordings, Tolliver demonstrates tremendous range, flair, and command as a trumpeter and leader. Had he not come along at a time when pure jazz was falling out of favor, I have to believe his name (along with Woody Shaw's) would be every bit as prolific as Freddie Hubbard's or Lee Morgan's; the same holds for the always brilliant and expressive McBee on bass.

Music Inc. / Charles Tolliver - 1972 - Impact Recorded Live at the Domicile

Music Inc / Charles Tolliver 
Impact Recorded Live at the Domicile

01. Impact 7:58
02. Brilliant Circles 15:48
03. Truth 9:06
04. Prayer For Peace 15:56

CD Bonus:
05. Absecretions 11:22
06. Our Second Father 13:43

Bass – Ron Mathewson
Drums – Alvin Queen
Flugelhorn – Charles Tolliver
Piano – Stanley Cowell

Recorded live at the Domicile, Munich, Germany on March 23, 1972.

The sound is very clean and has a warmth,which is sometimes lacking in live recordings and/or through the remastering process. This disc features Charles Tolliver -flugelhorn,Stanley Cowell-piano,Ron Mathewson-bass,and Alvin Queen-drums.

Anyone with more than a passing interest in jazz will know all the above players. All of them have played with both many known and unknown musicians/groups for many years. This particular recording is taken from a live concert in Germany,in 1972. Don't let the date fool you into thinking that this is "old"jazz-not worth hearing. This recording could sit alongside some of the more forward thinking releases on Blue Note Records,or any other labels you might happen to think of. Right now I have to say that I feel it's a shame that music of this caliber is only truly appreciated,by and large,in Europe. For this is some excellent post be-bop played at it's finest.

Both the bassist and drummer hold things together and give these tunes a real grounding,while at the same time they never lose that feeling of swing so important to this type of music. Tolliver's playing is always right on the mark. Never cluttering up his sound with to many notes,he leaves just enough space between the notes so that the music breathes and seems to come alive. Likewise Cowell-his playing,no matter if he's filling in spaces or is soloing,is always of the highest caliber.

After a short introduction of the players,the first track gets off to a rousing start and doesn't really let up. The same could be said for the second track. On the third track the entire group slows way down for some beautiful ensemble playing,which gives way to some fine solo work by Cowell and Tolliver. On this track,like others,Mathewson's bass playing is very sensitive and fits in the pocket very well indeed. The drummer knows when to hold back and just keep things moving along without calling attention to himself. The fourth track has some intense playing alongside some quieter passages. This track really feels like this group has been playing together(whether true or not) for a long while. The weaving of instruments,the ebb and flow of sound,all give this track a real identity. This edition of this album contains two previously unreleased tracks,for an extra twenty-five minutes of music. Track five starts out with a bit of a "soul-jazz" feel to it. It's different than the previous tracks,but gives a broader view of these fine musicians,and is still in the post be-bop mode. Tolliver is in fine form here,as is Cowell. Both play over and around each other,and is a nice change of pace. The last track starts out with all four players,and then gives way to Tolliver's horn. There is a drum solo shortly into this track,and not being a fan of such,I will let the individual listener make up his own mind. Queen is a fine drummer,but it's still a drum solo.

For continuity,it's obvious why the two bonus tracks were not originally released. The first four tracks are "of a piece" and the overall mood is changed somewhat by the inclusion of these two unreleased tracks. On this last track after approximately six minutes,the rest of the group comes in with some very fast intense playing. This track seems to fit in better with the originally released sides-after the drum solo. Queen's intense playing is all over this track,even when Tolliver is soloing. It feels like this might be the final track to be played(and recorded) on this set,because of it's intensity. Indeed,after the track ends the announcer comes on to let people know that the group will be back on the bandstand shortly. This recording is not widely known and that's a real crime. This should be in the library of anyone who enjoys straight ahead jazz.

Music Inc. - 1971 - Music Inc.

Music Inc.
Music Inc.

01. Ruthie's Heart 6:12
02. Brilliant Circles 4:48
03. Abscretions 6:58
04. Household Of Saud 6:38
05. On The Nile 9:48
06. Departure 5:00

Bass – Cecil McBee
Drums – Jimmy Hopps
Flute – Bobby Brown , Clifford Jordan, Jimmy Heath, Wilbur Brown
Piano – Stanley Cowell
Reeds – Bobby Brown, Clifford Jordan, Jimmy Heath, Wilbur Brown
Trombone – Curtis Fuller, Dick Griffin, Garnett Brown, John Gordon
Trumpet – Charles Tolliver, Danny Moore, Larry Greenwich, Richard Williams, Virgil Jones
Tuba, Saxophone [Baritone] – Howard Johnson

Recorded November 11, 1970.

First formed in the late 1960s, Music Inc. makes their debut in Dizzy's for the Coca-Cola Generations In Jazz Festival. It will be just one of the many iterations the group has seen over the years. 
The story behind this group stretches back to 1969. Tolliver—having established himself as an in-demand sideman on sessions for legends including Jackie McLean, Andrew Hill, and Max Roach—formed a new group called Music Inc. with pianist Stanley Cowell, bassist Steve Novosel, and drummer Jimmy Hopps. The group played a series of overseas concerts before bassist Jimmy McBee took over from Novosel.

For the group's first recording, Tolliver fleshed out the core quartet with a full big band that featured trumpeters Richard Williams and Virgil Jones; reedists Jimmy Heath, Clifford Jordan, and Howard Jordan; and trombonists Garnett Brown and Curtis Fuller. The album—released in 1971 by Strata East, a label Tolliver had recently founded with Cowell—boasted hard-hitting, harmonically advanced arrangements from Tolliver.

The quartet went on to record a number of other albums, including live sessions at the infamous (and now-defunct) East Village venue Slugs'. The group continued to tour in various iterations through the 1970s and into the 80s and 90s and featured an ever-changing lineup; members include pianist John Hicks, bassists Reggie Workman and Clint Houston, and drummers Alvin Queen and Clifford Barbaro.

For me this is the pick of all the Charles Tolliver Music Inc LP's.Recorded in the same year as the Slugs' live album it is a very different album.It features a big band composed entirerly of brass backing the usual quartet and a look at some of the names present makes for impressive reading,Clifford Jordan,Curtis Fuller,Richard Williams and Jimmy Heath to name a few.The dynamics of having a big band behind you alters the music massively and it makes for a joyous record that leaps from the speakers as the band highlight and add to the phrases that the quartet play while letting the solos proceed unhindered.All tracks are either Cowell or Tolliver originals with the opener Ruthie's Heart being a real standout and one of y best loved jazz tunes ever.

Charles Tolliver / Music Inc. - 1969 - The Ringer

Charles Tolliver / Music Inc.
The Ringer

01. Plight 7:09
02. On The Nile 12:31
03. The Ringer 5:46
04. Mother Wit 8:46
05. Spur 5:02

Charles Tolliver: trumpet
Stanley Cowell: piano
Steve Novosel: bass
Jimmy Hopps: drums

Recorded at Polydor Studios, London, 2nd June 1969.

Dizzy Gillespie, when asked in a Downbeat magazine interview with Herb Nolan, "what trumpet players do you hear today whom you like", Dizzy's reply, "Charles Tolliver - I like him". Charles Tolliver, entirely self-taught, is a remarkable talent who has gained an outstanding reputation as a trumpetist, bandleader, composer, arranger, and educator. Born in Jacksonville, Florida in 1942, his musical career began at the age of 8 when his beloved grandmother, Lela, presented him with his first instrument, a cornet, and the inspiration to learn.

After a few years of college majoring in pharmacy at Howard University, and formulating his trumpet style, Charles began his professional career with the saxophone giant Jackie Mclean. Making his recording debut with McLean on Blue Note Records in 1964, Charles has since recorded and/or performed with such renowned artists as Roy Haynes, Hank Mobley, Willie Bobo, Horace Silver, McCoy Tyner, Sonny Rollins, Booker Ervin, The Gerald Wilson Orchestra, Oliver Nelson, Andrew Hill, Louis Hayes, Roy Ayers, Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers, and Max Roach.

In 1968 Charles Tolliver was voted as the Downbeat Critic's Choice for the Trumpet category. In 1969 he formed the quartet Music Inc which has become internationally respected for its innovative approach. Charles and his Music Inc, has toured in North and South America, Europe, Scandinavia, and Japan performing at festivals, concerts, radio and television stations.

Charles Tolliver is a brilliant player, capable of handling any tempo or mood. He has perfected an extremely individual and distinctive sound which clearly sets him apart from other trumpet players today. Characterized by a strong sense of tradition, Charles's playing is noted for its brilliance, inventiveness, melodic warmth and even its poignancy. His compositions are inventive, and display masterful writing ability. It is no small wonder that Charles Tolliver has earned the reputation as one of "the" preeminent trumpeters in jazz.

What have the critics said?

"The trumpet is a brass instrument that leans toward a hard sound and staccato phrasing. Yet Tolliver is the quintessance of fluidity.... a trumpeter of such flow, tone, control, lyricism and creativity is, by definition, a major musician."  
Michael Cuscuna
"Tolliver's horn style is possessed of a melodic warmth and compactness of expression shared by few other trumpeters"  
Ray Townley/DOWNBEAT

"...At Ronnie Scott's, in London, last week I heard a trumpet player who played melodic, lyrical music that filled the heart with joy rather than angst and anger."  

"...While having a rich, full sound, Music Inc. Provides a great deal of both energy and contrast and avoids the loud, stupid excesses of some current groups..."   
CODA/Canada's Jazz Magazine

"it's been said that trumpeter Charles Tolliver was singular among young jazz musicians in his determination to keep his art free of the anarchy associated with a lot of the early so-called free jazz. Certainly he's unique among new trumpeters in this regard."  

"of all the trumpeters to come to prominence in the 60's. Charles Tolliver was perhaps the most sensitive to the necessity of swinging.."  

This is the Charles Tolliver record to get, although it may be hard to find. The masterful trumpeter, in a quartet with pianist Stanley Cowell, bassist Steve Novosel, and drummer Jimmy Hopps, plays five of his strongest compositions. Highlights include the powerful "On the Nile," "The Ringer," and "Spur," but each of the numbers has its memorable moments. Tolliver is heard at the peak of his creative powers; it is strange that he never received the fame and recognition that he deserved.

Exceptional post-bop showing Tolliver's ability to lead a quartet
Trumpeter Charles Tolliver began his career with some excellent sideman appearances on Blue Note albums in the mid 60's (with the likes of Jackie McLean, Horace Silver, and Andrew Hill), but began recording as a leader of his own quartet in the late 60's. "The Ringer" is his second recording as a leader and was released in 1969 for the British Polydor label. Joining Tolliver in the quartet are pianist Stanley Cowell, bassist Steve Novosel, and drummer Jimmy Hopps. The five compositions were all composed by Tolliver.

Tolliver has been called "the Coltrane of the trumpet," and that description seems to fit the music on this record pretty well. The opening track, "Plight" is a fast, modal swinger with a loose vamp-like feel. The quartet definitely seems influenced by the classic Coltrane quartet, especially Cowell who sticks mostly to quartal voicings when comping. Tolliver has no trouble leading the ensemble through extended solos and throughout the album his bright, clear tone is at the forefront of the music. It's hard to find much fault with his playing; his solos are full of deeply melodic lines, but he breaks them up with bursts of dramatic abstraction, using repeated notes and occasionally extended techniques for effect. The rhythm section plays responsively, adding harmonic and rhythmic tension to match Tolliver's ideas, occasionally obscuring, but never moving too far away from the groove of the tune. 

Cowell also delivers some nice solo work, easily slipping in and out of the harmony with clever melodic playing, but also able to build rhythmic tension with excellent chordal playing. As with Tolliver, the rhythm section supports his every move with flexible, but ultimately swinging responses. Though he often sticks to Tyner-esque modal vocings behind Tolliver, he delves into more interesting voicings in "On the Nile," another modal tune, but this time with a Phrygian tinge that adds a darker edge to the tune. 

The title track opens the B side with one of the more memorable tunes on the record. "The Ringer" has a simple, funky melody that relies on the rhythm section's energetic playing to give the tune it's palpable energy. Tolliver manages to bump the energy level up several notches in his exciting and extroverted solo, and Cowell also gives a spirited statement. "Mother Wit" is a slower tune and focuses on Tolliver's lyrical abilities and Cowell's harmonic sophistication more than any of the other tunes. The spacious nature of the tune also allows for some excellent, but subtle bass work from Novosel as the tune moves into a deep medium swing. The closing track "Spur" is a fairly standard 12 bar blues, and though it's the least interesting composition on the album, the band takes a creative harmonic approach and manages to do some pretty interesting things within the context of the blues form.

This record is a great example of late 60's post-bop and the trumpet quartet is a somewhat rare ensemble for the style, which typically features a saxophone in the front line as well. However, Tolliver's compelling playing and the responsive accompaniment of the rhythm section proves that no saxophone is necessary here. This album makes for a great introduction to Tolliver's playing and will leave little doubt in most listeners' minds why Tolliver has been labeled the "Coltrane of the trumpet."

Charles Tolliver And His All Stars – 1968 - Charles Tolliver And His All Stars

Charles Tolliver And His All Stars 
Charles Tolliver And His All Stars

01. Earl's World 4:23
02. Peace With Myself 9:37
03. Right Now 5:47
04. Household Of Saud 6:06
05. Lil's Paradise 7:05
06. Paper Man 6:11

Alto Saxophone – Gary Bartz (tracks: B1 to B3)
Bass – Ron Carter
Drums – Joe Chambers
Piano – Herbie Hancock
Trumpet – Charles Tolliver

Recorded at Town Sound Studios, Englewood, New Jersey 2nd July 1968
Reissued in 1975 as Paper Man

Trumpeter Charles Tolliver is one of those musicians that frequently gets overlooked by writers and listeners. I think of Tolliver's trumpet playing as smack dab in the middle of Freddie Hubbard and Woody Shaw; he has wonderful vocabulary in his playing, and a lot of passion(Hubbard), but also a very clean articulation and technique, and also logic in his solos(Shaw). Above all, he is a very musical player, and at times, I liken him to saxophonist Wayne Shorter, who improvises like a composer. And Tolliver is a prolific composer. He is also a pioneer in the music business, if you consider that he and Stanley Cowell were some of the first jazz artists to start their own label in the 70's (Strata East).

Whenever people ask me my top 10 favorite jazz albums, Charles Tolliver's Paper Man is always on that list. I first heard it when I was in college, and I'm still not tired of it. It's one of those magical lineups that is in some ways expected, but in this case, produced something extraordinary. Charles Tolliver is well featured and well recorded on trumpet, and all the compositions are from his pen. The one and only Herbie Hancock plays a piano which, for my ears, sounds almost like an upright at times, and perhaps not a well maintained one. Whatever the case, it's relevant for no more than a split second, because Hancock's playing seems extra inspired throughout the session. The great Ron Carter plays some rhythmic and harmonic ideas that are downright shocking. And the amazing Joe Chambers adds a superbly sensitive rhythmic foundation with his supple drumming. 

If you have Paper Man in your collection, I hope the following writing will inspire you to dig it out and listen along. If you don't have it, it's really hard to find. ( It was also released as Charles Tolliver and his All Stars on the Black Lion label.) For some weird reason, this masterpiece is not available on Itunes. What a shame!

The first track, "Earl's World", is a bold opening statement, a combination of heavy and light all at once. The tune is half 12/8 riff, half medium swing. I love tunes that get right to the point, and this one does. And it's a great vehicle for solos. Tolliver comes out with powerful ideas, and his solo is perfectly shaped, driven by the enthusiastic comping of Hancock and Chambers. Hancock's solo begins introspectively, with slick interpolations of 12/8, shifting into some ultra-slick metric modulations.

(One thing you'll notice about this recording is that the piano is one one side of the stereo image, and the bass is on the other. The trumpet and drums seems to be spread evenly. There is great clarity in the recording, and it only adds to the enjoyment of the interplay.)

Track Two, entitled "Peace With Myself", is a colorful waltz. Hancock's comping is extra-creative, and he and Carter share some humorous musical comments. It's amazing how strong the rhythm is on this track, and yet there is a lot of openess in the beat. At times, Chambers seems subdued, but when you realize how subtly musical his playing is, you just sit back and marvel at his tasteful musical reflexes.
Hancock ventures into 20th century impressionism, reminiscent of his work with Miles Davis. Hancock's approach to rhythm is so multi-layered. (Sometimes I almost laugh when I read something like "Jazz Rhythm is primarily eighth notes." Whomever takes that to heart would be highly confused by this Herbie Hancock solo.) Ron Carter brings us down to nothing while Hancock and Chambers sound as if they are faraway ghosts.

"Right Now", the third track, is a composition that originally appeared on a Jackie McLean recording(entitled Right Now.) I also recorded this tune on my third CD for the Steeplechase label back in the 90's. The form is basically a diminished scale line over an almost New Orleans type of syncopated rhythm. The bridge is a release into Bud Powell-like Bebop. This tension and release built into the structure makes it endlessly fun to improvise over. The melody statement in Tolliver's hands has a bold clarion call , like a call-to-arms, or maybe in this case, a call-to-play-some-jazz. Hancock's solo, combined with Carter's disruptively inventive hemiolas, and Chamber's perfectly swinging beat, is a thrill ride. Carter, quite a sober man personally, is almost comical in his comping here; at times, he almost sounds like he's in another room, it's that adventurous. This conflict continues on Tolliver's solo, building into a short but sweet Chambers drum solo. And the battle continues all the way to the vamp out.

"Household of Saud" is a song dedicated to pianist McCoy Tyner, and this fourth track is where Gary Bartz makes this a quintet. This is one of my all-time favorite tracks; the melody is almost a  Tyner lick harmonized in 4ths and made into a composition. It's hard swinging and intense. Tolliver sounds strong. Bartz's solo has a nonchalance about it; he's a master of sounding relaxed over intense rhythm sections.

"Lil's Paradise" is a rather inventive tune, very expansive. It uses long pedal point sections over a relaxed jazz bossa type groove. Again, the musical teamwork is great. Bartz takes a lyrically beautiful solo.

The title track, "Paper Man," is one of those sort of bluesy boogaloo tunes with a catchy riff. It's a great way to end the album. I'm listening to this and again wondering why this album is not widely available. If anybody finds a link or something, please let me know. Meanwhile, here is a link to Mr. Tolliver's website.

Charles Sullivan - 1976 - Re-entry

Charles Sullivan 

01. Re-Entry
02. Body & Soul
03. Carefree
04. Waltz For Cricket
05. Mabe's Way

Alto Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone – Rene Mclean
Bass – Buster Williams
Drums – Billy Hart
Piano – Kenny Barron
Trumpet – Charles Sullivan

Recorded August 17, 1976 at C.I. Studios NYC.

Recorded back in 1976, it's a quintet session with the fabulous Kenny Barron on piano, Buster Williams on bass, Billy Hart on drums, and Rene Mclean on alto and tenor sax. From 1974 up until the present time, Sullivan has made only three albums as a leader "Re-Entry" being the second (and most difficult to locate up until now). Like his other two releases, he displays incredible chops here, particularly on his versions of "Body & Soul", of which there is a second 14 minute alternate take included which is just as gorgeous as the original on "Re-Entry". The other four cuts on this release are all original compositions by Sullivan, and fully display his exceptional writing skills. Have waited a long time for this session to be issued on cd at an affordable price, readily available, and now it is from the WHYNOT label, a division of Candid Records, based out of London. Another solid gold recording from this criminally unknown, brilliant trumpeter who deserves wider recognition. So glad to finally have this on cd - thanks to Candid Records. For an absolutely astounding experience, check out Sullivan's "Genesis" recording, his debut as a leader, and recently released on cd for the first time from the revived Inner City jazz label. Incredible and brilliant work from 1974.

This is an outstanding session of 70s-era jazz. Sullivan has an outstanding group around him, and they are each given room to shine. Like other first-rate jazz of this period, it combines a hard-bop sound with a looseness and freedom (which in this case does not loose focus or touch on fusion). Sullivan has great control and really can fly -- why is he so underrated? The title tune is a great example, and Kenny Barron really shines on piano. They all seem really together and the excellent recording captures it beautifully. Highly recommended.

Charles Sullivan - 1974 - Genesis

Charles Sullivan 

01. Evening Song 8:22
02. Good-Bye Sweet John (In Memory Of John Foster: Pianist) 5:50
03. Field Holler 3:51
04. Now I'll Sleep 4:32
05. Genesis 17:27

Alto Saxophone – Sonny Fortune
Bass – Alex Blake , Anthony Jackson (tracks: A3)
Congas, Percussion – Lawrence Killian
Drums – Alphonse Mouzon (tracks: A3), Billy Hart
Electric Piano [Fender Rhodes] – L. Sharon Freeman (tracks: A3)
Piano – Onaje Allen Gumbs (tracks: A2), Stanley Cowell
Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Composed By, Arranged By, Producer – Charles Sullivan
Vocals – Dee Dee Bridgewater

Recorded at Sound Ideas, N.Y.C. 6/20 6/21 1974.
"Field Holler" recorded at Minot Sound, White Plains, N.Y. 7/24/74.

A most underrated trumpeter, Charles Sullivan has excellent technique, fine tone, a bright, shimmering sound, and is effective in hard bop, free, big band, or bebop contexts. He's simply not gotten the credit he deserves, though he also doesn't have a large legacy of recordings to tout. Sullivan studied at the Manhattan School of Music in the '60s, and worked for off-Broadway productions. He played with Lionel Hampton and Roy Haynes' Hip Ensemble in the late '60s, then toured briefly as Count Basie's lead trumpeter in 1970 and with Lonnie Liston Smith in 1971. He played with Sy Oliver in 1972, and Norman Connors in 1973. Sullivan toured Europe and recorded with Abdullah Ibrahim in 1973 as well, then worked and recorded with Sonny Fortune, Carlos Garnett, Bennie Maupin, Ricky Ford, Eddie Jefferson, and Woody Shaw, as well as cutting his own records, through the remainder of the '70s. Despite all that activity, Sullivan couldn't expand his audience nor gain more recognition. He began heading the band Black Legacy in the late '70s and continued into the '80s. Sullivan currently has no sessions available on CD, but can be heard on reissues by Shaw, Jefferson, Maupin, Fortune, and others.

Charles Sullivan has always been highly regarded by his peers if a bit obscure to the general jazz-listening public. He started playing around New York City in 1966, and worked with a diverse collection of leaders including Sy Oliver, the Collective Black Artists, Lionel Hampton, the Jazz Composer's Workshop, and Count Basie, as well as working the pit bands of several Broadway shows.

This 1976 Strata-East album, was Charles Sullivan first release as a leader using his own material. He is joined by a number of excellent musicians, including Alex Black on bass, Sonny Fortune on alto sax, Dee Dee Bridgewater on vocals, Billy Hart on drums, Stanley Cowell on piano, and others. This is a long overdue release, and one no jazz fan will want to miss.

Trumpeter, flügelhornist, and composer Charles Sullivan -- pegged as a poor man's Lee Morgan or Woody Shaw -- toiled in many mainstream or progressive big bands of the 1970s, languishing in obscurity until breaking through with this, his debut as a leader. Using a spare, warm tone, Sullivan was a cool customer in the firestorm of progressive jazz and fusion of the day, adapting those idioms to his own brand of personalized jazz. Because of his many professional associations, he was able to employ true cream-of-the-crop musicians like pianists Stanley Cowell, Onaje Allan Gumbs, and Sharon Freeman, saxophonist Sonny Fortune, bassist Alex Blake, percussionist Lawrence Killian, and drummer Billy Hart to play his original compositions. Of the five selections, each has its own distinctive flair, taking from different modern jazz elements prevalent to the time frame while not stuck in a rut with any of them. As the very first piece he ever wrote, "Evening Song" is compelling with its Latin beat and modal montuno piano where Sullivan takes an extended solo, with Cowell also featured before the trumpeter returns for more. A solemn duet with Gumbs for the late pianist John Foster on "Goodbye Sweet John" contrasts with the funky fusion tune "Field Holler," with Freeman's stabbing electric Fender Rhodes chord-driven lines, featuring Alphonse Mouzon's powerhouse drumming and the electric bass of Anthony Jackson, with a lyrical and basic Sullivan sounding influenced by James Brown. The remainder of the recording is a twofold message of despair and renewal, as Dee Dee Bridgewater sings beautifully in the paradox song "Now I'll Sleep," about suicide, with the lyric that one might "choose to lose, afraid to love" with Sullivan's horn in way late. "Genesis" is a 17-plus-minute workout that rises from those sullen ashes with an Afro-modal stance similar to Frank Foster's Loud Minority of the same era. Cowell's piano and the impressive tandem of Sullivan and Fortune's fiery alto sax push the ensemble to the limits of African-American progressive jazz expressionism. This recording received a five-star rating in Down Beat magazine, and while there are too few Charles Sullivan recordings in the marketplace, it's well deserving of this accolade as one of the very best post-bop efforts of its decade, and now available on CD.

Charles Davis Featuring Louis Davis With Louis Hayes - 1974 - Ingia!

Charles Davis Featuring Louis Davis With Louis Hayes

01. The Gems Of Mims 10:45
02. Little Miss Jump Up 7:15
03. Linda 11:30
04. Ingia 9:15

Alto Saxophone, Flute – Gerald Hayes
Baritone Saxophone, Producer, Arranged By – Charles Davis
Bass – David Williams
Drums – Louis Hayes
Guitar – Louis Davis
Piano, Electric Piano – Ronnie Mathews
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Andrew "Tex" Allen

Recorded Juy 15, 1974. Minot Sound Studio, White Plains, NY. Published by Ophnell Music. All compositions BMI

Davis was born in Mississippi and raised in Chicago. He graduated from DuSable High School, studied at the Chicago School of Music and was a private student of John Hauser.

In the 1950s he played in the bands of Billie Holiday and Ben Webster, Sun Ra, and Dinah Washington. Performed and recorded with Kenny Dorham with whom he had a musical association that lasted many years.

In the 1960s he performed and recorded with Elvin Jones and Jimmy Garrison, Illinois Jacquet, Freddie Hubbard, Johnny Griffin, Steve Lacy, Ahmad Jamal and worked with Blue Mitchell, Erskine Hawkins, John Coltrane, Clifford Jordan, among others. In 1964 he won Downbeat Magazine's International Jazz Critics Poll for the baritone saxophone. He performed in the musical production of The Philosophy of The Spiritual – A Masque of the Black under the direction of Willie Jones and the auspices of Nadi Qumar. Davis taught at PS 179 in Brooklyn and was musical director of The Turntable, a nightclub owned by Lloyd Price.

In the 1970s he was member of the cooperative group Artistry in Music with Hank Mobley, Cedar Walton, Sam Jones, and Billy Higgins; was the co-leader and composer/arranger for the Baritone Saxophone Retinue, a group featuring six baritone saxophones; made European tours of major jazz festivals and concerts with the Clark Terry Orchestra; and toured the USA with Duke Ellington’s Orchestra under the direction of Mercer Ellington. As musical director of the Home of the Id nightclub, he presented artists such as Gene Ammons, Randy Weston, and Max Roach. As the producer of Monday Night Boat Ride Up The Hudson, he presented, among others, Art Blakey, George Benson, and Etta Jones. Davis made TV appearances with Archie Shepp, Lucky Thompson, Ossie Davis, and Ruby Dee.

In the 1980s he performed and recorded with the Philly Joe Jones Quartet, Dameronia and with Abdullah Ibrahim’s Ekaya in the United States, Europe and Africa. Toured Europe with the Savoy Seven Plus 1: A Salute to Benny Goodman. With his own quartet, performed in Rome, at the Bologna Jazz Festival, Jazz in Sardinia Festival, and the La Spezia Festival. Was the musical director of the Syncopation nightclub. Performed in the movie, The Man with Perfect Timing with Abdullah Ibrahim. In 1984 he was named a “BMI Jazz Pioneer.”

In the 1980s he was the musical librarian for Spike Lee's Mo Better Blues; performed at the Jamaica Jazz Festival with Dizzy Reece and returned to perform with Roy Burrowes; was in the Apollo Hall of Fame Band accompanying such stars as Ray Charles, Joe Williams, Nancy Wilson, among others. Toured Holland saluting the music of Kenny Dorham; was the guest artist at the 12th Annual North Carolina Jazz Festival at Duke University. Featured soloist of the Barry Harris Jazz Ensemble and performs in clubs with the Barry Harris/Charles Davis Quartet. Recorded and toured Europe and Japan with the Clifford Jordan Big Band. Was the tenor saxophonist and a major contributor of musical arrangements with Larry Ridley's Jazz Legacy Ensemble which appeared at the Senegal Jazz Festival, performed concerts and conducted clinics, seminars and master classes. This ensemble also appeared in an ongoing concert series at the famed Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Was a featured artist at the Amman, Jordan Jazz Festival, arranged by the American Embassy. Was also the featured artist in clubs and concerts in Paris, Toulouse and Hamburg. Appeared at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in an original production of Eduardo Machado's Stevie Wants to Play the Blues] directed by Jim Simpson. Performed in the Three Baritone Saxophone Band with Ronnie Cuber and Gary Smulyan, which toured Italy, appeared at the New Orleans Jazz Festival, the 1998 JVC Jazz & Image Festival at Villa Celimontana in Rome, and Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club in London. Charles was also a featured soloist at the 1998 Chicago Jazz Festival. In June 1999, he performed with Aaron Bell and the Duke Ellington Tribute Orchestra at the Jackie Robinson “Afternoon of Jazz” Festival in Norwalk, CT. Featured artist at the 1999 Jazz & Image Festival at Villa Celimontana in Rome.

Since 2000 he has been the featured artist at the Blue Note in Beirut, Lebanon as well as numerous other clubs in Italy and Spain and at the 2000 Jazz & Image Festival at Villa Celimontana. Performed with his quartet on the “M.S. Dynasty,” a Carnival Lines Cruise ship. Produced and performed in the “Tribute to Stanley Turrentine” concert in Philadelphia. In August 2001, he performed for President Bill Clinton at the “Harlem Welcomes Clinton” celebration. The Barry Harris/Charles Davis Quintet appeared several times at Sweet Basil in New York City. They continue to perform together in various venues including yearly appearances at Birdland. In August 2004, they performed in the 50th Anniversary of the Newport Jazz Festival. He was a featured artist at the 14th Annual Jazz Festival in Badajoz, Spain and was a member of the Walter Booker Quintet. He performed with his quartet at New York's Rubin Museum of Art, performed in the Netherlands and toured Denmark and Israel. In addition to performing and recording with the guitarist Roni Ben-Hur and the El Mollenium Band (featuring the music of Elmo Hope), In 2009 he toured Germany, Austria,Switzerland and Italy with the Charles Davis Allstars: A Tribute to Kenny Dorham and in 2010 this quintet performed in Germany, Austria, France, Italy, Slovenia and Croatia. Charles also performs with the Spirit of Life Ensemble and his own quartet, featuring Tardo Hammer (piano), Lee Hudson (bass) and Jimmy Wormworth (drums) in the United States and Europe.

Davis is a saxophone instructor of private students from The New School, a teacher at the Lucy Moses School and for over 25 years has been an instructor at the Jazzmobile Workshops. He has made eight of his own albums and is featured on over 100 recordings. Some of his CDs as a leader include Blue Gardenia, with Cedar Walton on piano, Peter Washington on bass and Joe Farnsworth on drums, released on Reade Street Records; Land of Dreams, with Tardo Hammer, Lee Hudson and Jimmy Wormworth, released in 2007 on Smalls Records; and Our Man in Copenhagen, released in October 2008, on Fresh Sound Records, with Sam Yahel, Ben Street, and Kresten Osgood on which they play the music of Bent Jaedig. Just released in 2010 is The Charles Davis Allstars: A Tribute to Kenny Dorham with Tom Kirkpatrick on trumpet, Claus Raible on piano, Giorgos Antoniou on bass and Bernd Reiter on drums. This CD was recorded live at the Bird's Eye in Basel, Switzerland.

Charles Davis: Sweet Storyteller by R. J. DeLuke, October 2003.

Theres a difference between the elder statesmen in jazz and the newer firebrands, no matter how talented. One is the formers ability to take their time to tell a story. They've been around life and they're not in a rush. Like Dexter was. And Prez.
Out of that mold is 70-year-old Charles Davis, displaying his rich tenor sax sound and strong baritone sax work on his new CD Blue Gardenia, titled as much for his admiration for Dinah Washington as for his association with Billie Holiday. He played with both, but longer with Washington. Hes not a household name in jazz, but his resume is impressive as is his new music.
Davis is a bopper with a sense of adventure. Hes a smooth storyteller with a sonorous sound influenced by his upbringing in Chicago, a musical hot bed (though he was born in Mississippi). On Blue Gardenia, hes joined by Cedar Walton on piano, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Joe Farnsworth. It's a straight ahead set and a smooth ride.
"It's songs I felt and songs I like. There's more I wanted to do, but we didn't have so much time. But those are some of the ones I liked", says Davis. Its got a taste of blues, bossa and bop, and show Davis great style with melodic improvisation. There are pieces of the great players in his playing, but they've been amalgamated into a personal sound and the world should hear more of Charles Davis.

"The main influence was Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins. Don Byas", he says of his formative days learning the instrument. "Getting out later on, I became friends with John Gilmore, Clifford Jordan. In my neighborhood was John Jenkins and Johnny Griffin. So there was music all around".
He also learned from the singers he worked with. Billie got phrases from Lester Young. Dinah was very clear on her diction. That was always something to listen to, says the soft-spoken sax man.
"I started out on alto. I have played baritone and tenor all along. I was playing baritone with Coltrane. I played tenor with John Gilmore, Clifford Jordan, Johnny Griffin, back in Chicago in the 50s. Ive always played the tenor, he says".
About the CD, Davis says hes very self-critical. "I hear things and I say, I could have done this better. But its like telling a lie, once you do it, it sticks forever. But I enjoyed it, but when you first record something, you think youre the worst sounding individual on the record. Because youre trying to get out all of yourself, and thats an impossibility".
While the recording industry seems to be taking its lumps from musicians in the new millennium, Davis takes things in stride. He says its not a lot different than it ever has been. Musicians arent getting rich, and many arent getting notoriety. But thats not new.
"For the most part, the people I've been involved with seem to be able to come to an amicable agreement about what should be done [on a recording]. There's also an area where an artist should take a suggestion. Some things may be personal, as far as what you want to do, but may not be appropriate at the time. I remember a friend of mine, Eddie Harris, when he put out Exodus, that was one they didn't want. But he got it on there, and that was a hit. Shows you how much they know. Thats happened in a lot of cases, the ones they dont want turn out to be the ones that become most popular".
"Its a language, a dialect, a dialog. You have to learn that. Once you learn the scales, that's one thing. But it's the way the scales are put together in the form of a solo, for improvisation. It's a dialect you have to learn. Some people say you just play, but you don't just play. You have to learn what to say. Lester Young would put it: You have to learn how to tell a story".
Davis began playing in grammar school, then I went to a famous high school in Chicago. DuSable, named after the person that discovered Chicago. John Baptiste Pointe DuSable. We had a tedious bandmaster. A lot of famous musicians came through there. He tutored people like Dinah Washington, Nat Cole, Gene Ammons, Johnny Griffin, Von Freeman. Its a long list.
"The better you got, the more gigs you would come by. I started in high school, playing a few little gigs. People give you $2 or $3. But that was big time then, because you had a gig. The money wasn't the prerequisite then. You play for dances and social events that people have, parties or whatever", he says.
Davis first big break, he says, was getting the call to join Sun Ra, the self-proclaimed being from another planet who combined swinging arrangements with far-out charts from his unique musical mind. "It was great. We sort of had a bebop mystical band. With Pat Patrick, John Gilmore, Julian Priester Arthur Hall, myself, and at one time Richard Evans, a bassist. I still play with the band from time to time".
So big name or not, Davis has played with the greats and blessed their work with his professional approach and sweet style. His tenure with Lady Day came about when she toured through the city, as so many jazz acts did. "That was through a bandmate in Chicago called Al Smith. I periodically played with him from time to time. He got the gig and she came into a place called Budland, at the time. The guy opened it up as Birdland, but Birdland in New York made him change it. She was there for three or four months. It was great. Along with her, was Ben Webster. I was playing in a band that was backing her and Ben was doing feature solos. She was great to work with. She had a heck of a command and stage presence when she came on. She was very professional".

"After Billie Holliday, I went on the road with Clarence Henry. He was a protge of Fats Domino. He had the record out "I Could Sing Like a Frog". It was like rock and roll or whatever you want to call it. I stayed with him a few months. Then I came back and I started working with Dinah Washington. Along with Eddie Chamblee, Julian Priester, Melvin Moore and myself, and later on Jack Wilson and Richard Evans. This was in 1958 or 1959. After the band broke up, I worked for her on a few more occasions".
"After Dinah, I made a trip to California. After six months I had to get out of there. I came back, went from Chicago to New York, then started working with Kenny Dorham. That lasted a few years. Been in New York ever since. I worked with John Coltrane, Illinois Jacquet, Clark Terry, Thad Jones-Mel Lewis. I was in the band when Thad quit. We did about three months in Europe. I worked with Erskine Hawkins".
Today, Davis continues to work steadily in these tough times for musicians. "I'm still gigging around New York. I'll be in Birdland with Barry Harris. I'm going to Japan for a few days and do a concert in Italy after that. I'm hanging in there".
"It's up and down", says Davis with no hint of bitterness or undue concern. "That's the reality of life. I'd like to have gigs in abundance, but I don't have them. You still have to maintain. Keep going. There's always going to be a complaint. If you have 1,000, you want 10,000, and if you have that, you want 50,000. Its always something".
The propensity for record labels to look for the new young lions, often overlooking some of jazzs major contributors in the process, who are still going and still goring, also doesn't phase Davis. "That's nothing new. That always happened. You still have to maintain what your'e doing. You can't let that bother you. At one point, you have to get a name, and when you get a name, its not big enough. That happens to all of us. That's just part of the realities of being a jazz and bebop musician. And for those who don't like it, You can go to the other side (pop) and work all the time".
While his friend and influence saxophonist George Coleman talks of retiring (He's retiring every year. God Bless him if he can do it. There are only two musicians that I knew of that retired. Sid Catlett and Jonah Jones), Davis says that it's not in the cards for him. He'll continue to tote his horn and tell his stories and please audiences wherever he can.
Like Duke Ellington said: Retire to what? "I don't have an eye for retiring right now", he says, adding with a sparkle, "but I could come into a lot of money and live the good life, though".
As for the future of jazz from his spot as a veteran musician, Davis isn't dissuaded. The music has been through tough times and will continue to persevere.
"It was supposed to have been squashed years ago, with the onset of bebop. But as long as you have records of Charlie Parker and Miles Davis and Coltrane and Sonny Rollins, the young kids make new discoveries. The younger kids are into it, so I think it will be around for a long time".
His advice to those who are coming up that will keep the flame?

Now 70, Davis continues to exercise his instrumental voice as soloist; this time out he employs a 50-50 balance between baritone and tenor. The leaders solo saxophone voice stands sweet and melodic, but the session turns uneven in places due to a few slips of pitch control on baritone. Cedar Walton, Peter Washington and Joe Farnsworth do more than their share to make up for it with a hands-down rock-solid foundation for each piece.
On tenor, Davis sends a lovely melodic message that calls upon his vast experience for flavor. Texas Moon recalls time he's spent on the road with Hank Crawford, while Blues for Yahoo moves more in the hard bop direction of New York City. Yahoo is the producers dog, who must have inherited Charlie Parker's uptempo grit. Either that, or he simply reminded Davis of Birds unique soul. Blue Gardenia, a solid straightahead album, swings with tradition and a true, blues-based spirit.

Cecil Payne - 1973 - Zodiac

Cecil Payne 

01. Martin Luther King, Jr. / I Know Love
02. Girl, You Got A Home
03. Slide Hampton
04. Follow Me
05. Flying Fish

Baritone Saxophone, Alto Saxophone, Composed By – Cecil Payne
Bass – Wilbur Ware
Drums – Albert Kuumba Heath
Piano – Wynton Kelly
Trumpet – Kenny Dorham

"Dedicated in memory of: Wynton Kelly (December 2, 1932 to April 12, 1971); Kenny Dorham (August 30, 1924 to December 5, 1972)"

Acclaimed by peers and critics among the finest baritone saxophonists of the bebop era, Cecil Payne remains best remembered for his three-year stint with Dizzy Gillespie's seminal postwar big band. Born in Brooklyn, NY, on December 14, 1922, Payne began playing saxophone at age 13, gravitating to the instrument after hearing Lester Young's work on Count Basie's "Honeysuckle Rose." Young's supple, lilting tone remained a profound influence throughout Payne's career. After learning to play under the tutelage of local altoist Pete Brown, Payne gigged in a series of local groups before receiving his draft papers in 1942. He spent the four years playing with a U.S. Army band, and upon returning to civilian life made his recorded debut for Savoy in support of J.J. Johnson. During a brief stint with Roy Eldridge, Payne put down his alto and first adopted the baritone. Later that year he joined the Gillespie orchestra, earning renown for his unusually graceful approach to a historically unwieldy instrument. Payne appears on most of Gillespie's key recordings from this period, including "Cubano-Be/Cubano-Bop," and solos on cuts like "Ow!" and "Stay on It," but despite near-universal respect among the jazz cognoscenti, he remained a little-known and even neglected figure throughout his career.

Dakar After exiting the Gillespie ranks in 1949, Payne headlined a session for Decca backed by pianist Duke Jordan and trumpeter Kenny Dorham. Following tenures with Tadd Dameron and Coleman Hawkins, in 1952 Payne launched a two-year stint with Illinois Jacquet, and in 1956, he toured Sweden alongside childhood friend Randy Weston. That same year, Payne also headlined the Savoy LP Patterns of Jazz. In 1957, he and fellow baritonist Pepper Adams backed the legendary John Coltrane on Dakar. Shortly after the session he abandoned the music business to work for his father's real estate firm and did not return to performing until 1960. The following year Payne joined the cast of playwright Jack Gelber's off-Broadway hit The Connection, an exposé of the urban drug culture informed by its on-stage jazz performances. From there, he again toured Europe, this time as a member of Lionel Hampton's band, but returned stateside only to resume his real estate work. Payne recorded just a handful of sessions in the years to follow, most notably Zodiac, a superb 1969 date for the Strata-East label. He nevertheless remained a valued sideman, working with Machito from 1963 to 1966 and spending the next two years with Woody Herman. In 1969, he joined Basie, with whom he played for three years.
Payne spent the 1970s on and off the radar, cutting sessions for Xanadu and Muse as well as joining the New York Jazz Repertory Orchestra in 1974. He also toured Europe in conjunction with a musical theater showcase titled The Musical Life of Charlie Parker. During the 1980s, he focused his energies into Dameronia, a band formed by drummer Philly Joe Jones in tribute to the music of Tadd Dameron. Payne continued with the ensemble throughout the decade, assuming an even greater creative role following Jones' 1985 death. He also rejoined Jacquet for an extended stint, and toured the New York City club circuit with Bebop Generation, a sextet he founded and led. During the early '90s, Payne helmed a series of well-regarded albums for Delmark. However, as the decade wore on he seemed to vanish, and eventually friends and admirers found him living in his Brooklyn home, a virtual recluse suffering from failing eyesight and living on a modicum of food. A proud, fiercely independent man, Payne only grudgingly accepted the financial assistance of the Jazz Foundation of America, but his health quickly improved and in time he returned to performing. He continued playing regularly well into his eighties, passing away November 27, 2007, just weeks shy of his 85th birthday.

It's impossible to talk about this album without acknowledging the spectre of death that hangs over it - not only is it the third entry in Strata-East Records' Dolphy Series, a collection of archival recordings from some of the label's close associates honoring the recently deceased multi-instrumentalist, but it is actually dedicated to two members of the band, Wynton Kelly and Kenny Dorham, who died in between the recording sessions and its release. The point is driven home even further by the fact that the album begins with a tribute from Payne to the fallen Martin Luther King, Jr., a piece that acts as a de facto solo for Dorham - his playing all rosy elegance and regal warmth - before shifting into the lighter (though equally coolly-paced) "I Know Love," a showcase for Payne's sax. While not the most somber jazz track ever recorded, this opening suite is a low-key and mournful way to open the affair, but thankfully the album really picks off and shows these musicians more in their element the rest of the way.

"Girl, You Got a Home" is a funky piece, beginning very soulfully with some tight interplay among the rhythm section of Kelly, bassist Wilbur Ware and drummer Albert Heath. Ware is in especially fine form on this track, tying together the disparate passages of the piece by grounding the more ponderous moments in a deep funk, while Kelly's playing is especially ear catching in the way he stabs at his piano like it's an organ. After the first two tracks take up nearly twenty minutes, the four-minute "Slide Hampton" feels almost impossibly brief, a feeling that's enhanced by its quick, jittery, and infectious rhythm, driven by some really dexterous work from Kelly. The final track, "Flying Fish," may be the album's highlight, a Caribbean-inspired composition that casts the rhythm section as flighty ground for both Payne and Dorham to vamp on. The track is oddly danceable for something released on Strata-East, maybe the most fun moment ever for the label, and relentlessly uptempo. Though this release may be in part defined by the deaths that preceded it, it's clear that the recording process was actually a lot of fun for everybody, as their enthusiasm and energy jumps right out of the speakers. This is one of the first Strata East records I really got into and is still one of my favorites, a must-hear for any fans of the flightier moments of Dorham or Kelly's career, and a fitting tribute for both master musicians.

Bob Moses - 1975 - Bittersuite in the Ozone

Bob Moses 
Bittersuite in the Ozone

01. Mfwala Myo La La 8:08
02. Glitteragbas Solo 3:40
03. Bittersuite In The Ozone 9:48
04. Message To The Music Bizness 2:04
05. Stanley Free 24:10

Bass – Eddie Gomez
Drums – Billy Hart
Saxophone [Tenor, Alto], Flute – Daniel Carter
Trumpet – John Dearth
Tuba, Saxophone [Baritone, Bass] – Howard Johnson
Vibraphone, Piano, Drums [Moroccan, Log], Voice – Bob Moses
Voice – Jeanne Lee

"Everything I do, I want to swing. I think music needs to swing no matter how abstract it gets. In fact, the more abstract, the more intellectual it gets, the more it needs to swing because that's the balancing factor." -Bob Moses

Bob Moses began playing drums at the age of ten and was composing music by the time he was fourteen. His father, Richard Moses, was a press agent for various jazz artists including Charles Mingus, Max Roacch and Rashaan Roland Kirk. He first sat in with Mingus when he was about 12 and in 1964 began playing drums on two of Roland Kirk's albums. Soon after he became an important part of the 1960s new jazz scene, playing in groups with guitarist Larry Coryell and later, in 1968 with the ground breaking Gary Burton quartet.
After touring with famed drummer Jack DeJohnette, and saxophonist Harold Vick in 1973, he went on to play with the Mike Gibbs orchestra in 1974 and rejoined Gary Burton's group in 1974. In 1975 he recorded the brilliant trio album Bright Size Life with Pat Metheny and the late Jaco Pastorious. He also started his own record label, Mozown Records, and released Bittersuite in The Ozone and the critically acclaimed albums, When Elephants Dream of Music (1982) and Visit With The Great Spirit (1983). These two albums firmly established Moses as a highly original composer and orchestrator in addition to his percussion prowess.

An exceedingly odd free jazz classic, Bittersuite in the Ozone was recorded in 1973 and reissued by the Brooklyn-based percussion label Amulet in 1999. It features some of the music's leading lights: bassist Eddie Gomez, drummer Billy Hart, saxophonists David Liebman and Daniel Carter, trumpeters Randy Brecker and John D'earth, tuba virtuoso Howard Johnson, vocalist Jeanne Lee, and more. Bob Moses, pictured inside with a huge hippie Afro, plays not only drums and percussion, but also vibes (on "Glitteragbas Solo") and rather excellent piano (on the sprawling epic "Stanley Free"). Compositionally, he is at his peak on the very brief, classically influenced "Message to the Music Bizness." Bittersuite is to some degree a dated period piece, but its radical aesthetic remains a touchstone of sorts for the jazz avant-garde.

Jimmy Ponder - 1978 - All Things Beautiful

Jimmy Ponder 
All Things Beautiful

01 A Clue 3:34
02 Turn 5:00
03 Love Will Find A Way 3:58
04 Chasing That Face 5:32
05 Love Me Right 5:24
06 Sometimes When We Touch 4:40
07 A Trip To The Stars 6:10

Backing Vocals – Diva Gray (tracks: A1, A2), Gordon Grody (tracks: A1, A2), Gwen Guthrie (tracks: A1, A2), Jocelyn Brown (tracks: A1, A2)
Bass – Neil Jason
Drums – Jimmy Young, Richard Crooks
Guitar – Bob Rose, Jeff Mironov, Lance Quinn
Guitar [Solo] – Jimmy Ponder
Keyboards – Pat Rebillot, Rob Mounsey
Percussion – Jimmy Maelen
Saxophone – David Tofani, Eddie Daniels
STrombone – Barry Rogers
Trumpet – Jon Faddis, Marvin Stamm

Sweet soulful lines from guitarist Jimmy Ponder – working here in a warm set of bigger backings that almost give the record the same feel as classic late 60s outings from Wes Montgomery, or some of the CTI work by George Benson! Backings are put together by Brad Baker – in that same great mix of jazz and soul he used with his B Baker Chocolate Company material – and although there's a bit of chorus vocals on the album (sung by a group that includes Gwen Guthrie and Jocelyn Brown), the main focus is on the soulful, chromatic lines of Ponder's guitar – which have a poise and focus here that really tops some of his earlier work. The groove is pretty super-dope throughout – that great late Groove Merchant approach to funky jazz .

Jimmy Ponder - 1977 - White Room

Jimmy Ponder 
White Room

01. If You Need Someone To Love (Let Me Know) 6:18
02. Going Back To Country Living 5:24
03. Easy 4:08
04. Bro' James 5:25
05. White Room 6:17
06. Quintessence 7:09
07. So In Love 5:51

Bass – Chris White (tracks: A3, A4, B2), James Jamerson, Sr. (tracks: A1, B3), Scott Edwards (tracks: A2, B1)
Congas [Conga Drums] – Paulinho Da Costa (tracks: A1, A4)
Design [Collage Design] – John Van Hamersveld
Drums – Victor Jones (tracks: A1 to A4, B2, B3)
Electric Piano – Albert Prince (tracks: A1, B3)
Guitar – Jimmy Ponder
Organ – Albert Prince (tracks: A2, A3, B1)

Recorded at Sound Ideas, New York, N.Y. and ABC Recording Studios, Los Angeles, California.
Mixed at Kendum Recorders, Burbank, California.
Paulinho Da Costa appears through courtesy of Pablo Records.

A sweet little groover from guitarist Jimmy Ponder – a surprisingly satisfying record that features Ponder soloing out over some tight funky backings that almost sound like the best of the larger group sessions on Kudu or Groove Merchant. Jimmy's playing a sweet hollow body that gives him a tone that's a bit like O'Donnel Levy – warm and chromatic, with single notes picked out in a tight progression that has a lot more jazz than you'd expect for the session at the time. One cut does have some vocals from Jimmy, but the rest is instrumental

Jimmy Ponder - 1976 - Illusions

Jimmy Ponder

01. Funky Butt
02. Energy III
03. Jennifer
04. Do It Baby
05. Illusions
06. Sabado Sombrero

Bass – Chuck Domanico (tracks: A1), Ron Carter (tracks: A2 to B2), Ron Carter (tracks: B3)
Clavinet – Ronnie Foster (tracks: A2 to B2)
Drums – Brian Brake (tracks: A2), Grady Tate (tracks: A2 to B2), James Gadson (tracks: A1)
Electric Piano – Mickey Tucker (tracks: A2 to B2)
Flute – "Jennifer" Jerome Richardson* (tracks: A2 to B2)
Guitar – Jimmy Ponder (tracks: A1 to B3)
Keyboards – Sonny Burke (2) (tracks: A1)
Percussion – Eddie "Bongo" Brown (tracks: A1 to B3)
Piano – Mickey Tucker (tracks: A2 to B2)
Synthesizer – Ronnie Foster (tracks: A2, to B2)

The first track is indeed called "Funky Butt", not "Funky Budd", as can be seen on the label image.

Scanning my record collection for the next subject to feature on the blog, I pondered numerous guitar heroes for the honor. It can be hard to find something that has preferably never been committed to CD publication. I was somewhat surprised to find, from my search of the web, that this 1976 work by Jimmy Ponder appears to fit the bill. I also could not remember when I had last listened to it so when the first couple of minutes of ripping "Funky Butt" came through I was a little dubious as to whether this was worth the effort. As much as I am a huge fan of Boogaloo Joe Jones, Grant Green, Wes Montgomery and many other soulful/pop/jazz guitarists, the late 70's era of politically correct funkified jazz transition had many disappointments in my mind. Even some of the most talented and tasteful of artists suffered through pathetic attempts to contort their natural strengths into commercial success or some failed sense of mid-life crisis. And, as if the name "Funky Butt" wasn't already a pretty good warning, the initial sound here drew a Parliamentary yawn. But slowly I took more notice of the flat out playing of the well known and respected Mr. Ponder, and then the wah-wah magic began to win me over. "Energy III" again flirts with a fusion styled disaster at first listen, but ultimately proves exciting and a nice contrast to the opener. Then the lovely "Jennifer" solidifies my contentment, and so this post makes it here for your own review and opinion. Side two, by the way, follows with a very similar formula of three contrasting songs that are full of Ponder's impressive techniques and general groove. I have to say that the last song, "Sabado Sombrero", is probably my favorite. It brings a variety of stylings where I can hear moments of Wes, Benson and even, dare I say it, Gabor Szabo! Ahhh, this is a winner after all. It also features some simply awesome bass work by the always awesome Ron Carter, relatively simple but beautiful signature playing. You will also notice a good deal of heavy duty keyboard wizardry from another of my soulful jazz favorites, Ron Foster! While on the surface this is clearly more of a contemporary sound with it's special guitar effects and mix of danceable rythms, even though it is now 33 years old, there is truly a diversified composite that includes traditional jazz, soul, funk, rock and pop, all flawless and enjoyable. I pretty much had a hard time not bopping my head throughout, but key for me is that I could really listen to the man's guitar playing, and it brings a smile.

Jimmy Ponder - 1974 - While My Guitar Gently Weeps

Jimmy Ponder 
While My Guitar Gently Weeps

01. I Who Have Nothing 7:00
02. While My Guitar Gently Weeps 3:48
03. When Sunny Gets Blue 5:58
04. 25 Or 6 To 4 5:23
05. Poinciana 5:01
06. Funky Situation 6:58
07. Peace Movement 9:19

Jimmy Ponder; guitar, writer
Roland Hanna: piano, electric piano
Jimmy Johnson: drums
Montego Joe: percussion
Hubert Laws: flute, piccolo
George Marge: oboe, flute, clarinet
Marvin Stamm: trumpet, flugelhorn
Tony Studd: trombone
David Nadien: violin
Joseph Malin: violin
Paul Gershman: violin
Emanuel Green: violin
Marvin Morgenstern: violin
Charles Libove: violin
Paul Winter: violin
Harry Lookofsky: violin
George Ricci:cello
Charles McCracken: cello
Bob Cranshaw: bass
Wilbur Bascomb: bass

An excellent guitarist with a soulful sound and the ability to uplift any funky jazz date, Jimmy Ponder has appeared on many recordings during his long career, over 80 as a sideman and 15 as a leader. Ponder began playing guitar when he was 14 and considers Wes Montgomery and Kenny Burrell to be his two main early influences and Wes Montgomery later on. Offered a job with Charles Earland after having only played guitar three years, Ponder waited until he graduated from high school and then spent three years with the organist's group, recording several dates with Earland. He worked and recording with Lou Donaldson, Houston Person, Donald Byrd, Stanley Turrentine, and Jimmy McGriff and in the early '70s moved to New York (from Philadelphia), leading his own groups. Ponder has since recorded as a leader in the 1970s for Cadet, ABC/Impulse, TK, CBS, and Toshiba, in the '80s for Milestone, and in the '90s for Muse and HighNote. In the 21st century his albums included Ain't Misbehavin' (2000), Thumbs Up (2001), Alone (2003), What's New (2005), and Somebody's Child and Solo: Live at the Other Side, both released in 2007.

My teenage son has recently got into the Beatles. Nothing wrong with that of course and the Fab Four are certainly an important part of a balanced musical diet. I however am old enough to remember the UK punk era of the mid-late 70’s when the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and similar “dinosaur” acts were suddenly about as fashionable as flared trousers.

At around the same time I started a lifelong love affair with (what was then called) black music: soul, funk, jazz, disco, reggae and the host of micro-genres that followed…so in those formative years the Beatles just never seemed particularly relevant to anything in my musical life. The fact that they were later worshiped by Oasis only helped to further distance me from them.

That said, the influence of Messrs Lennon and McCartney – and to a lesser extent Harrison – runs through popular music like lettering through a stick of seaside rock; meaning that fans of soul, reggae and (especially) jazz will have more than a few Beatles cover versions in their collection.

Which brings us nicely to Jimmy Ponders’ reading of the George-penned classic, While My Guitar Gently Weeps. From the 1974 Cadet LP of the same name, this is a brooding-but-funky outing and the rather abrupt fade-out only leaves us wishing for an extended, freakier version.

(500 miles high)