Saturday, March 7, 2020

Julian Priester Sextet - 1960 - Spiritsville

Julian Priester Sextet

01. Chi Chi 4:43
02. Blue Stride 6:15
03. It Might As Well Be Spring 5:47
04. Excursion 5:42
05. Spiritsville 7:31
06. My Romance 5:50
07. Donna's Waltz 5:32

Baritone Saxophone – Charlie Davis
Bass – Sam Jones
Drums – Art Taylor
Piano – McCoy Tyner
Tenor Saxophone – Walter Benton
Trombone – Julian Priester

Recorded in New York; July 12, 1960. US original, orange label with 'Bill Grauer Productions'

The 1960 album Spiritsville marked the leader debut of trombonist Julian Priester on record. Blessed with a fluent technique, a stirringly deep-down sound and a light, sure tone, he was a commanding soloist with unfailing swing and ideas. But he also stood out as a jazz composer with the intriguing ability to always bring fresh ideas to his compositions and an earthy command of the blues. His was a truly unique jazz voice. The main solos of these fine sessions are his, but tenorists Jimmy Heath and Walter Benton, and baritone Charles Davis are also top-table talents in excellent form. Both rhythm sections back them with drive and vivacity, with special emphasis on the stellar pianists, particularly Tommy Flanagan, who really stamps his authority on the section. McCoy Tyner's approach is fresh and alert, and he can be as compelling when he comps behind a soloist as when he plays solo himself. The results were two warm, unpretentious small group dates that still seem timeless and fresh.

Freddie Hubbard - 1960 - Open Sesame

Freddie Hubbard
Open Sesame

01. Open Sesame
02. But Beautiful
03. Gypsy Blue
04. All Or Nothing At All
05. One Mint Julep
06. Hub's Nub

Recorded At – Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey on June 19, 1960

Bass – Sam Jones
Drums – Clifford Jarvis
Piano – McCoy Tyner
Tenor Saxophone – Tina Brooks
Trumpet – Freddie Hubbard

Freddie Hubbard was one of the greatest jazz trumpeters of all time. Open Sesame was his first album as a leader and this 1960 set finds the 22-year old already sounding like he was a poll winner. Hubbard had emerged from Indianapolis just two years before and, despite a few brief high-profile gigs, including with Sonny Rollins, J.J. Johnson and the Quincy Jones Orchestra, he was at the beginning of it all when he recorded Open Sesame.

No matter, he sounds like a seasoned pro, taking explosive solos on uptempo pieces, showing warmth and maturity on ballads and displaying a beautiful tone and an adventurous style throughout. Imagine being 22 and playing so brilliantly while McCoy Tyner is accompanying your solos! Always a courageous and a dramatic soloist, Freddie Hubbard shows with his fearless and fiery playing that he was already ready to conquer the jazz world in 1960.

Curtis Fuller Sextette - 1960 - Imagination

Curtis Fuller Sextette

01. Bang Bang
02. Kachin
03. Imagination
04. Blues De Funk
05. Lido Road

Bass – Jimmy Garrison
Drums – Dave Bailey
Piano – McCoy Tyner
Tenor Saxophone – Benny Golson
Trombone – Curtis Fuller
Trumpet – Thad Jones

Recorded at the Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, December 17, 1959

Prior to the official formation of the Jazztet with trumpeter Art Farmer, trombonist Curtis Fuller and tenorman Benny Golson made several albums together, usually with other trumpeters. This somewhat rare date has trumpeter Thad Jones, bassist Jimmy Garrison, drummer Dave Bailey, and, most significantly, pianist McCoy Tyner in his recording debut completing the sextet. Fuller arranged all five of the songs, four of which were his originals. Although the material (other than the lone standard "Imagination") is unfamiliar, the chord changes inspire the players to create some fine solos. Easily recommended to hard bop fans lucky enough to find this album.

McCoy Tyner, Jazz Piano Powerhouse, Is Dead at 81
Mr. Tyner, who first attracted wide notice as a member of John Coltrane’s groundbreaking quartet, influenced virtually every pianist in jazz.

McCoy Tyner, a cornerstone of John Coltrane’s groundbreaking 1960s quartet and one of the most influential pianists in jazz history, died on Friday at his home in northern New Jersey. He was 81.

His nephew Colby Tyner confirmed the death. No other details were provided.

Along with Bill Evans, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea and only a few others, Mr. Tyner was one of the main expressways of modern jazz piano. Nearly every jazz pianist since Mr. Tyner’s years with Coltrane has had to learn his lessons, whether they ultimately discarded them or not.

Mr. Tyner’s manner was modest, but his sound was rich, percussive and serious, his lyrical improvisations centered by powerful left-hand chords marking the first beat of the bar and the tonal center of the music.

That sound helped create the atmosphere of Coltrane’s music and, to some extent, all jazz in the 1960s. (When you are thinking of Coltrane playing “My Favorite Things” or “A Love Supreme,” you may be thinking of the sound of Mr. Tyner almost as much as that of Coltrane’s saxophone.)

To a great extent he was a grounding force for Coltrane. In a 1961 interview, about a year and a half after hiring Mr. Tyner, Coltrane said: “My current pianist, McCoy Tyner, holds down the harmonies, and that allows me to forget them. He’s sort of the one who gives me wings and lets me take off from the ground from time to time.”

Mr. Tyner did not find immediate success after leaving Coltrane in 1965. But within a decade his fame had caught up with his influence, and he remained one of the leading bandleaders in jazz as well as one of the most revered pianists for the rest of his life.

Alfred McCoy Tyner was born in Philadelphia on Dec. 11, 1938, to Jarvis and Beatrice (Stephenson) Tyner, both natives of North Carolina. His father sang in a church quartet and worked for a company that made medicated cream; his mother was a beautician. Mr. Tyner started taking piano lessons at 13, and a year later his mother bought him his first piano, setting it up in her beauty shop.

He grew up during a spectacular period for jazz in Philadelphia. Among the local musicians who would go on to national prominence were the organist Jimmy Smith, the trumpeter Lee Morgan and the pianists Red Garland, Kenny Barron, Ray Bryant and Richie Powell, who lived in an apartment around the corner from the Tyner family house, and whose brother was the pianist Bud Powell, Mr. Tyner’s idol. (Mr. Tyner recalled that once, as a teenager, while practicing in the beauty shop, he looked out the window and saw Powell listening; he eventually invited the master inside to play.)

While still in high school Mr. Tyner began taking music theory lessons at the Granoff School of Music. At 16 he was playing professionally, with a rhythm-and-blues band, at house parties around Philadelphia and Atlantic City.

Mr. Tyner was in a band led by the trumpeter Cal Massey in 1957 when he met Coltrane at a Philadelphia club called the Red Rooster. At the time, Coltrane, who grew up in Philadelphia but had left in 1955 to join Miles Davis’s quintet, was back in town, between tenures with the Davis band.

The two musicians struck up a friendship. Coltrane was living at his mother’s house, and Mr. Tyner would visit him there to sit on the porch and talk. He would later say that Coltrane was something of an older brother to him.

Like Coltrane, Mr. Tyner was a religious seeker: Raised Christian, he became a Muslim at 18. “My faith,” he said to the journalist Nat Hentoff, “teaches peacefulness, love of God and the unity of mankind.” He added, “This message of unity has been the most important thing in my life, and naturally, it’s affected my music.”

In 1958, Coltrane recorded one of Mr. Tyner’s compositions, “The Believer.” There was an understanding between them that when Coltrane was ready to lead his own group, he would hire Mr. Tyner as his pianist.

For a while Mr. Tyner worked with the Jazztet, a hard-bop sextet led by the saxophonist Benny Golson and the trumpeter Art Farmer. He made his recording debut with the group on the album “Meet the Jazztet” in 1960.

Coltrane did eventually form his own quartet, which opened a long engagement at the Jazz Gallery in Manhattan in May 1960, but with Steve Kuhn as the pianist. A month later, halfway through the engagement, Coltrane made good on his promise, replacing Mr. Kuhn with Mr. Tyner.

That October, Mr. Tyner made its first recordings with Coltrane, participating in sessions for Atlantic Records that produced much of the material for the albums “My Favorite Things,” “Coltrane Jazz,” “Coltrane’s Sound” and “Coltrane Plays the Blues.”

Mr. Tyner was 21 when he joined the Coltrane quartet. He would remain — along with the drummer Elvin Jones and, beginning in 1962, the bassist Jimmy Garrison — for the next five years. Through his work with the group, which came to be known as the “classic” Coltrane quartet, he became one of the most widely imitated pianists in jazz.

The percussiveness of his playing may have had to do with the fact that Mr. Tyner took conga lessons as a teenager from the percussionist Garvin Masseaux, and learned informally from the Ghanaian visual artist, singer and instrumentalist Saka Acquaye, who was studying at the time at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.

Harmonically, his sound was strongly defined by his use of modes — the old scales that governed a fair amount of the music Mr. Tyner played during his time with Coltrane — and by his chord voicings. He often used intervals of fourths, creating open-sounding chords that created more space for improvisers.

“What you don’t play is sometimes as important as what you do play,” he told his fellow pianist Marian McPartland in an NPR interview. “I would leave space, which wouldn’t identify the chord so definitely to the point that it inhibited your other voicings.”

The Coltrane quartet worked constantly through 1965, reaching one high-water mark for jazz after another on albums like “A Love Supreme,” “Crescent,” “Coltrane Live at Birdland,” “Ballads” and “Impressions,” all recorded for the Impulse label.

Between tours, Mr. Tyner stayed busy in the recording studios. He made his own records, for Impulse, including the acclaimed “Reaching Fourth.” He also recorded as a sideman, particularly after 1963; among the albums he recorded with other leaders’ bands were minor classics of the era like Joe Henderson’s “Page One,” Wayne Shorter’s “Juju,” Grant Green’s “Matador” and Bobby Hutcherson’s “Stick-Up!,” all for Blue Note.

When Coltrane began to expand his musical vision to include extra horns and percussionists, Mr. Tyner quit the group, at the end of 1965, complaining that the music had grown so loud and unwieldy that he could not hear the piano anymore. He was a member of the drummer Art Blakey’s touring band in 1966 and 1967; otherwise he was a freelancer, living with his wife and three children in Queens.

Mr. Tyner’s survivors include his wife, Aisha Tyner; his son, Nurudeen, who is known as Deen; his brother, Jarvis; his sister, Gwendolyn-Yvette Tyner; and three grandchildren.

Just before Coltrane’s death in 1967, Mr. Tyner signed to Blue Note. He quickly delivered “The Real McCoy,” one of his strongest albums, which included his compositions “Passion Dance,” “Search for Peace” and “Blues on the Corner,” all of which he later revisited on record and kept in his live repertoire.

He stayed with Blue Note for five years, starting with a fairly familiar quartet sound and progressing to larger ensembles, but these were temporary bands assembled for recording sessions, not working groups. It was a lean time for jazz, and for Mr. Tyner. He was not performing much and, he later said, had considered applying for a license to drive a cab.

He moved to the Milestone label in 1972, an association that continued until 1981 and that brought him a higher profile and much more success. In those years he worked steadily with his own band, including at various times the saxophonists Azar Lawrence and Sonny Fortune and the drummers Alphonse Mouzon and Eric Gravatt.

His Milestone albums with his working group included “Enlightenment” (1973), recorded at the Montreux Jazz Festival, which introduced one of his signature compositions, the majestic “Walk Spirit, Talk Spirit.” He also recorded for the label with strings, voices, a big band and guest sidemen including the drummers Elvin Jones, Tony Williams and Jack DeJohnette.

Mr. Tyner did not use electric piano or synthesizers, or play with rock and disco backbeats, as many of the best jazz musicians did at the time; owning one of the strongest and most recognizable keyboard sounds in jazz, he was committed to acoustic instrumentation. His experiments outside the piano ran toward the koto, as heard on the 1972 album “Sahara,” and harpsichord and celeste, on “Trident” (1975).

In 1984, he formed two new working bands: a trio, with the bassist Avery Sharpe and the drummer Aaron Scott, and the McCoy Tyner Big Band. His recordings with the big band included “The Turning Point” (1991) and “Journey” (1993), which earned him two of his five Grammy Awards. He also toured and made one album with the nine-piece McCoy Tyner Latin All-Stars.

He was signed in 1995 to the reactivated Impulse label, and in 1999 to Telarc. From the mid-’90s on he tended to concentrate on small-band and solo recordings.

In 2002, Mr. Tyner was named a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master, one of the highest honors for a jazz musician in the United States.

He resisted analyzing or theorizing about his own work. He tended to talk more in terms of learning and life experience.

“To me,” he told Mr. Hentoff, “living and music are all the same thing. And I keep finding out more about music as I learn more about myself, my environment, about all kinds of different things in life.

“I play what I live. Therefore, just as I can’t predict what kinds of experiences I’m going to have, I can’t predict the directions in which my music will go. I just want to write and play my instrument as I feel.”

Curtis DuBois Fuller 
(Born December 15, 1934) 

Fuller's Jamaican-born parents died when he was young; he was raised in an orphanage. While in Detroit he was a school friend of Paul Chambers and Donald Byrd, and also knew Tommy Flanagan, Thad Jones and Milt Jackson. After army service between 1953 and 1955 (when he played in a band with Chambers and brothers Cannonball and Nat Adderley), Fuller joined the quintet of Yusef Lateef, another Detroit musician. In 1957 the quintet moved to New York, and Fuller recorded his first sessions as a leader for Prestige Records.

Alfred Lion of Blue Note Records first heard Fuller playing with Miles Davis in the late 1950s, and featured him as a sideman on record dates led by Sonny Clark (Dial "S" for Sonny, Sonny's Crib) and John Coltrane (Blue Train). Fuller led four dates for Blue Note, though one of these, an album with Slide Hampton, was not issued for many years. Other sideman appearances over the next decade included work on albums under the leadership of Bud Powell, Jimmy Smith, Wayne Shorter, Lee Morgan and Joe Henderson (a former roommate at Wayne State University in 1956).

Fuller was also the first trombonist to be a member of the Art Farmer-Benny Golson Jazztet, later becoming the sixth man in Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers in 1961, staying with Blakey until 1965. In the early 1960s, Fuller recorded two albums as a leader for Impulse! Records, having also recorded for Savoy Records and Epic after his obligations to Blue Note had ended. In the late 1960s, he was part of Dizzy Gillespie's band that also featured Foster Elliott. Fuller went on to tour with Count Basie and also reunited with Blakey and Golson.

When it comes to purchasing an essential jazz recording, one often only has to look at the group of musicians listed on that specific record sleeve to know that the music is going to be incredible. That’s one of the great joys of being obsessed with this music; looking for that perfect combination of players and possibly finding a rare gem you’ve never heard.

When I found a vinyl copy of Imagination by The Curtis Fuller Sextette in the bins of a tiny record shop in Greenwich Village while I was a young and ambitious college student, I knew I was about to experience some timeless music. When you take trombone genius Curtis Fuller and place him together with Benny Golson, tenor sax, Thad Jones, trumpet, McCoy Tyner, piano, Jimmy Garrison, bass, and Dave Bailey on drums, how could it be anything less than absolutely burning?

The Curtis Fuller Sextette’s Imagination was recorded for Savoy Records on December, 17, 1959. The album title is the perfect description of Fuller’s trombone style. By this time, Fuller was the most creative and imaginative trombonist to emerge from the hard-bop era.

Fuller picked up where J.J. Johnson, Kai Winding, and Jimmy Cleveland left off. Fuller was a prolific player. He made some genre defining albums in the ‘50s and ‘60s with John Coltrane, Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers, Jackie McLean, Hank Mobley, Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard, Bud Powell, Woody Shaw, and Sonny Clark.

In 1959 Fuller formed his much acclaimed group, The Jazztet. Their debut album on Savoy features Fuller along with Benny Golson, Lee Morgan, Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers, and Charles Persip.

Fuller began his long and fruitful relationship with tenor saxophonist Benny Golson in 1958 when Golson recorded his first recording as a band leader, The Other Side Of Benny Golson for Riverside. Very few artists of that era played as perfectly together and made such memorable music as Fuller and Golson did.

Imagination is a prime example of that incredible chemistry. The music on this album is primarily hard-bop although it hearkens back to the bebop days, especially on Fuller’s up-tempo original, “Bang Bang.” This not only showcases one of Fuller’s finest solos but it is one of the most stellar and brilliant trombone improvisations ever recorded. Fuller soars. His solo reminds me of the fast, fleet fingered virtuosity of Dizzy Gillespie. This is what Diz would have sounded like if he played the trombone. Benny Golson swings so hard and aggressively. During this period, I place him right up there with John Coltrane, Clifford Jordan, Wayne Shorter and Booker Ervin as one of the most intriguingly original and exciting tenor saxophonists on the scene. Golson’s brief but unforgettable stint with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers that same year helped to produce the much heralded Moanin‘ album. 

And then you have the incomparable and legendary Thad Jones whose lyricism and rhythmic brilliance made any musicians he ever played with cook harder than ever. That’s certainly the case on the modal flavored Fuller original “Kachin,” and the title track, a magically tender ballad written by Johnny Burke and Jimmy Van Heusen. Fuller’s playing on this ballad is a precursor to the unparalleled trombone ballad style of Bill Watrous. Fuller’s sense of melody and harmony are impeccable. McCoy Tyner was already a soulful and explorative soloist and accompanist. This was before Tyner joined Coltrane’s band a year later. This is the most subtle bass playing I’ve ever heard by Jimmy Garrison, who would also join Coltrane’s band a few years later.

“Blues De Funk” is a steaming blues – bop number. Thad Jones’ muted flugelhorn lines are slow, syncopated, and sensuous. Golson sounds like a cross between Lucky Thompson and Gene “Jug” Ammons, and Fuller dances around the precise piano chord comping laid down by Tyner. At one point, Fuller strolls with Jimmy Garrison’s restless bass lines while the rest of the band lays out. The harmonies created on the song’s head by Fuller, Jones, and Golson are in pure bebop form.

Dave Bailey is a very relaxed and subtle drummer, which is perfect for this piece and all five of the compositions on this album.

“Lido Blues” is a mid-tempo ballad which has a big bebop band sound, similar to Tadd Dameron’s charts from the early to mid ‘50s. This is a fat, sweet, and lush sound that blasts the conscious mind out beyond the sun and stars, if you allow it. Tyner solos first, followed by Jones, Golson, and Fuller. This is an inspired performance for those of us who understand, love, and cherish the many inescapable traditions of jazz up to that point in time.

During an era in which many jazz musicians were getting further away from melody, tradition, and lyricism, Curtis Fuller and his “Sextette” remind us that the music can still be daring and disciplined at the same time. Do not go without this piece of magic called Imagination.