Sunday, January 26, 2020

Rita Reys - 1956 - The Cool Voice Of Rita Reys

Rita Reys
The Cool Voice Of Rita Reys

01. It's All Right With Me
02. Gone With The Wind
03. My Funny Valentine
04. But Not For Me
05. I Should Care
06. There'll Never Be Another You
07. I Cried For You
08. You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To
09. My One And Only Love
10. That Old Black Magic
11. Spring Will Be A Little Late This Year
12. Taking A Chance On Love

Rita Reys With The Wes Ilcken Combo tracks 1 - 6
Rita Reys With The Jazz Messengers tracks 7 - 12

Bass – Chris Bender (tracks: A3), Dick Bezemer (tracks: A1, A2, A4 to A6), Doug Watkins (tracks: B1, B2, B4, B6), Wilbur Ware (tracks: B3, B5)
Drums – Art Blakey (tracks: B1 to B6), Wes Ilcken (tracks: A1 to A6)
Piano – Horace Silver (tracks: B1, B2, B4, B6), Jerry Van Rooyen (tracks: A3), Kenny Drew (tracks: B3, B5), Rob Madna (tracks: A1, A2, A4 to A6)
Tenor Saxophone – Hank Mobley (tracks: B1, B2, B4, B6), Ira Sullivan (tracks: B3, B5), Jerry Van Rooyen (tracks: A1, A2, A4), Toon van Vliet (tracks: A3, A5, A6)
Trumpet – Donald Byrd (tracks: B1 to B6), Herman Schoonderwalt (tracks: A1 to A4), Jerry Van Rooyen (tracks: A5, A6)
Vocals – Rita Reys

Recorded 1955-1956, side A recorded in Holland with The Wes Ilcken Combo, side B recorded in the United States with The Jazz Messengers.

After an early plunge into the pop music of the time, singer Rita Keys (1924-2013) came to jazz when, in 1943, she met Wessel Ilcken (1923-1957), Holland s then best drummer. She became his wife, and the influence of his teachings, allied to the impact on her of recordings by such American singers as Sarah Vaughan and Billie Holiday helped her forge a very per- sonal style.
This collection of songs sets her wonderfully cool voice and sophisticated approach against backgrounds which, though different, reflect her ability to stamp her personality on diverse circumstances to produce equal- ly interesting performances. Regardless of context, her artistry is supremely evident throughout. Every song is approached with an instinctive musicianship and feel- ing for the lyrics, and an innate sense of phrasing, which fill each performance with an inescapable atmosphere
Dutch album cover

The Cool Voice of Rita Reys is the debut album by Dutch jazz singer Rita Reys which features sessions recorded with bands led by drummers Wessel Ilcken and Art Blakey divided over each side of the original LP which was released on the Dutch Philips and US Columbia labels.

As far as I can tell, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers recorded behind a singer only once. That session took place in May and June 1956 in New York and was released on Columbia and the Netherlands' Philips label, which makes perfect sense since the vocalist was Rita Reys, a Dutch jazz singer. Interestingly, the result was quite good, making one wish the Jazz Messengers had departed every so often from instrumentals to back hip vocalists like Johnny Hartman. 

The Jazz Messengers lineup in May featured trumpeter Donald Byrd, tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley, pianist Horace Silver, bassist Doug Watkins and drummer Blakey. In June, the personnel shifted: trumpeter Byrd, tenor saxophonist Ira Sullivan, pianist Kenny Drew, bassist Wilbur Ware and drummer Blakey. The personnel is different because by June, Silver and Blakey had parted, with Silver forming his own quintet with Mobley and Watkins. Reys became interested in jazz in the Netherlands after meeting her first husband, Wessel Ilcken, a drummer. They formed a sextet and had some success in Stockholm. Producer George Avakian heard Reys sing in Amsterdam and invited her to the U.S. While here in 1956, she recorded half an album with the Jazz Messengers and performed with the group at New York's Village Vanguard.

She also appeared with organist Jimmy Smith and accordionist Mat Mathews. The following year she returned to New York and performed with the Chico Hamilton Quintet as well as Clark Terry, Zoot Sims and Oscar Pettiford. Sadly, her husband died of a brain hemorrhage shortly after her return to the Netherlands, where she was based and remains today based on her site.

The May 1956 tracks were Taking a Chance on Love, That Old Black Magic, You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To and I Cried for You. The June tracks were My One and Only Love and Spring Will Be a Little Late This Year. Interestingly, the intro to My One and Only Love is identical to the one used in 1957 by Silver for the same song on The Stylings of Silver. Even though Silver was no longer part of the Jazz Messengers by June, the group used Silver's opening arrangement.

One would assume that since Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers were signed to Columbia at the time and had recorded their first album for producer George Avakian in Arpil and May 1956, the Reys date was squeezed in as a favor to the Philips label to help along the foreign distribution of Columbia's 12-inch LPs in Europe and build the Jazz Messengers as a brand abroad. The album was also released on Columbia in the U.S. Reys, as you'll hear, has a June Christy approach to her delivery, with a faint Dutch lilt in her English lyrics. All in all, she turns in a solid job on all of the Jazz Messengers-backed tunes, working with the group rather than treating them as backup musicians. There's a real togetherness here, and Reys has a firm, swinging understanding of each song's story.

The Jazz Messengers - 1957 - Selections From Lerner & Loewe

The Jazz Messengers
Selections From Lerner & Loewe

01. I Could Have Danced All Night 4:16
02. On The Street Where You Live 9:02
03. There But For You Go I 4:34
04. They Call The Wind Maria 4:56
05. I Talk To The Trees 8:58
06. Almost Like Being In Love

Bass – Jimmy De Brest
Drums – Art Blakey
Piano – Sam (Bill) Dockery
Tenor Saxophone – Johnny Griffin
Trumpet – Bill Hardman

Songs from 'My Fair Lady' (A1, A2), 'Brigadoon' (A3, B3), and 'Paint Your Wagon' (B1, B2).

One of the rarest of all Art Blakey records, this LP finds the Jazz Messengers (featuring new member Johnny Griffin on tenor and trumpeter Bill Hardman) performing jazz versions of six show tunes by Lerner & Loewe, including three ("Almost Like Being in Love," "I Could Have Danced All Night," and "On the Street Where You Live") that would soon become standards. Despite some of the musicians' unfamiliarity with the songs, this date is quite successful.

The Jazz Messengers - 1957 - Drum Suite

The Jazz Messengers
Drum Suite

Drum Suite
01. The Art Blakey Percussion Ensemble The Sacrifice
02. The Art Blakey Percussion Ensemble Cubano Chant
03. The Art Blakey Percussion Ensemble Oscalypso
The Jazz Messengers
04. The Jazz Messengers Nica's Tempo
05. The Jazz Messengers D's Dilemma
06. The Jazz Messengers Just For Marty

07. The Jazz Messengers Lil 'T (aka The Third)
08. The Jazz Messengers The New Message (aka Little T) Take 1
09. The Jazz Messengers The New Message (aka Little T) Take 3

Alto Saxophone – Jackie McLean (tracks: 4 to 6)
Bass – Spanky De Brest (tracks: 4 to 6), Wilbur Ware (tracks: 7 to 9)
Bass, Cello – Oscar Pettiford (tracks: 1 to 3)
Bongos – Candido (tracks: 1 to 3), Sabu (tracks: 1 to 3)
Drums – Art Blakey, Jo Jones (tracks: 1 to 3)
Drums, Timpani, Gong – Charles Wright (tracks: 1 to 3)
Piano – Kenny Drew (tracks: 7 to 9), Ray Bryant (tracks: 1 to 3), Sam Dockery (tracks: 4 to 6)
Tenor Saxophone – Ira Sullivan (tracks: 7 to 9)
Trumpet – Bill Hardman (tracks: 4 to 6), Donald Byrd (tracks: 7 to 9)

Recorded February 22, 1957 (#1-3) December 12 & 13, 1956 (#4-6) Jun 25, 1956 (#7-9) at Columbia 30th Street Studios, New York City.

Who else than the indomitable Art Blakey was qualified to present an African drum extravaganza? Maybe not so shocking today, Drum Suite was a progressive album in the late fifties.

The album is made up of two sessions. Side A consists of exotic, Afro-Cuban rhythms and the flipside is a swell session of Blakey’s working band of the period consisting of alto saxophonist Jackie McLean, trumpeter Bill Hardman, pianist Sam Dockery and bassist Spanky DeBrest. The first part (as well as the classy album cover) suggests that Art Blakey was eager to put Africa back into jazz. Yet, in drummer Art Taylor’s book of interviews Notes And Tones, (Da Capo, 1982) Blakey insisted that he has always felt that ‘our music has nothing to do with Africa. (…) No America, no jazz. (…) African music is entirely different, and the Africans are much more advanced than we are rhythmically, though we’re more advanced harmonically.’ In this view, which perhaps unintentionally ignores the impact of both Afro(-Cuban) rhythm and imported European musical standards on the cradle of jazz, New Orleans, Drum Suite isn’t jazz but African music. Or better said, African music played by American men of jazz. But Blakey would know. The Pittsburgh-born drummer traveled in Africa for almost a year in 1949. By his own account, just listening, not drumming.
Tossing two sessions together on an album was a not uncommon practice in the classic jazz era. It could have a number of reasons. Sometimes, studio time ran out. And occasionally, musicians weren’t available anymore due to other obligations. Companies also might go for the easy way (and/or a fast buck), rounding out albums with sessions from the vault. Such albums usually lack coherence, an encompassing idea. Drum Suite is incoherent. But it’s a high quality affair, so who cares?

Beat happening! The Afro-Cuban tunes, wherein Blakey is assisted by drummers Jo Jones and Charles “Specs” Wright, the bongo’s of Candido and Sabu Martinez, bassist Oscar Pettiford and pianist Ray Bryant, sans horns, get you into the groove, no doubt. The aptly-titled The Sacrifice starts off with an indelible African backwoods chant, slowly but surely developing into a multi-layered rumble of toms, flavored with chubby chords and staccato lines by Ray Bryant. The tom-figure from the opening is repeated at the end. Interestingly, it’s reminiscent of the drum part in Richard Strauss’ Also Sprach Zaratustra, which was used to such imposing effect in Stanley Kubrick’s epic 1968 science-fiction movie 2001 A Space Odyssee.

Ray Bryant will undoubtly have been thrilled by the re-visit of his original tune Cubano Chant. Initially, Bryant had recorded it in 1956 on the Epic LP Ray Bryant Trio, including, coincidentally, Jo Jones and Candido. The broadened palette of instruments results in a piece of tough swing, highlighting Bryant’s inventive left hand, which generally puts emphasis on the low register and down-home fills that reach back to the era of swing, blues and stride. Staccato, swinging right hand lines weave in and out of Bryant’s left hand bottom. Bryant would revisit the uplifting Cubano Chant a number of times during his career. Finally, Oscar Pettiford’s Oscalypso ends the Afro-Cuban side on a groovy note. But three tunes in, the pounding percussion sounds of the basic calypso riff might start to get up one’s sleeve.

Part of an elite jazz family that brought Afro-Cuban music to the jazz realm, including Duke Ellington, Juan Tizol, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and Kenny Dorham, the Drum Suite-section is a convincing, spirited affair, and one of the first percussion-oriented jazz album sides. It’s a February 22, 1957 session. Just a while later, Blakey would expand on his percussion fetish on the Blue Note label, releasing Orgy In Rhythm, a date that was recorded in May and October, 1957, as well as Drums Around The Corner and Holiday For Skins in 1958.

Obviously, despite Blakey’s assesment of his own, ‘American’ style, Blakey’s drumming incorporated some African devices, such as the altering of pitch with the elbow, tangible rim shots, and multiple rolls on the toms: an armoury of effects to stimulate the soloists. Some of these assets, embellishing the signature Blakey style of a propulsive beat and thunderous polyrhythm, are present on the other session of Drum Suite, a date of December 13, 1956. They especially fill Bill Hardman’s fast-paced, swinging tune Just For Marty to the brim. It’s a top-rate session with vigorous blowing by Jackie McLean and a number of jubilant, fluent statements by Bill Hardman, an underestimated player with a delicious, sweet-sour tone.

Before Blakey gained widespread recognition with the Blue Note album Moanin’ in 1958, it was hard to make head or tail out of the drummer’s recording career, as Blakey recorded albums for a varying string of labels, including Vik, Jubilee, Bethlehem, Atlantic and Columbia. Yet, however disparate Blakey’s catalogue of that period between the early classic Jazz Messenger sides on Blue Note and successful comeback on the famous label in 1958 may be, it was of a continuous high level. The singular Drum Suite album is no exception.

The all-star lineup on Drum Suite gives the album high marks before one note of music is played. It's a piece of history. Released in 1957, the album merged Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers with several other musical forces that proved fruitful, rhythmically and otherwise.

With this reissue come several bonus tracks that had appeared on Originally in 1981, one alternate take, and a full version of "The Sacrifice" that wasn't previously issued. The original liner notes from Drum Suite are included, as well as updated notes by Kenny Washington and a booklet with fourteen photos of the artists.

The Jazz Messengers - 1957 - Hard Drive

The Jazz Messengers
Hard Drive

01. For Minors Only 5:47
02. Right Down Front 4:30
03. Deo-X 5:47
04. Sweet Sakeena 5:04
05. For Miles And Miles 5:24
06. Krafty 6:33
07. Late Spring 5:36

Bass – Spanky de Brest
Drums – Art Blakey
Piano – Junior Mance
Piano – Sam Dockery (track: 3)
Tenor Saxophone – Johnny Griffin
Trumpet – Bill Hardman

Cover shows a rocket blasting off. There is an alternate cover with an abstract painting.

Any recording featuring Bill Hardman's trumpet with Blakey's Messengers is a worthy find. And on this one, he's joined on the front-line by the "Little Giant," Johnny Griffin. The tunes are somewhat dated blues and bebop heads, but the inventiveness of the soloists surpasses that of many more heralded musicians from this or any later period. My only disappointment is that another Blakey-Hardman recording from this period (with Jackie McLean replacing Griffin)--"Tough"--has apparently never been reissued on CD. A pity, because Hardman is simply brilliant, more than compensating for the unavoidably sour after-taste of Jackie's alto.

Alternate Cover

The final recording by the second version of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers features trumpeter Bill Hardman, tenor saxophonist Johnny Griffin, either Junior Mance or Sam Dockery on piano and bassist Spanky DeBrest along with leader/drummer Blakey performing four group originals, two Jimmy Heath compositions and the obscure "Late Spring." Although this was not the most famous edition of The Messengers, it set a standard that its successors would uphold to, training its members to be bandleaders in their own right. The music on this album is typical hard bop of the period, well played and full of enthusiasm and fire.

The Jazz Messengers - 1957 - Midnight Session

The Jazz Messengers
Midnight Session

01. Casino 4:58
02. The 'Biddie Griddies' 5:54
03. Potpourri 4:19
04. Ugh! 5:31
05. Mirage 4:38
06. Reflections Of Buhainia 6:42

Alto Saxophone – Jackie McLean
Bass – Spanky DeBrest
Drums – Art Blakey
Piano – Sam Dockery
Trumpet – Bill Hardman

Recorded New York, 1957

One of the rarest Art Blakey sessions of the late 50s – recorded during that brief time when the Jazz Messengers featured Jackie McLean on alto sax! The set's also unusual in that it's one of the few jazz dates for Elektra Records in the early years – recorded here with an edge that's perhaps a bit rougher than some of the other Blakey records during this "many labels" stretch – but in a way that seems to also bring out some especially great qualities in McLean's horn!

To be honest, I'm infatuated with Jackie McLean at the moment. I heard him on Freddie Redd's "Shades of Redd" with Tina Brooks and was blown away. (I can't figure why McLean is not a household name, in the same breath as Parker and Coltrane. Awesome!) So, after buying every cd I could with McLean's name on it, I started tracking down *anything* he played on. (-Which is a pretty long list) Said titles are disappearing fast, and this is a good one. A 1957 blowing session, this is Blakey just getting rolling with the Messengers. Granted, everyone on this disc would have far superior outings later in their careers, but if you want a killer bop date representing some great players cutting their teeth, pick this up while you still can.