The Modern Touch: BENNY GOLSON Sextet
Kenny Dorham (tp) J. J. Johnson (tb) Benny Golson (ts) Wynton Kelly (p) Paul Chambers (b) Max Roach (drs) NYC; December 19 & 23, 1957
1. Out of the Past (6:24) (Benny Golson)
2. Reunion (7:17) (Gigi Gryce)
3. Venetian Breeze (5:39) (Benny Golson)
1. Hymn to the Orient (4:10) (Gigi Gryce)
2. Namely You (4:45) (Mercer–de Paul)
3. Blues on Down (11:39) (Benny Golson)
"A Benny Golson . . . might turn out to be the successful voice for this generation that Duke was for his."
The source of this quote is jazz critic Ralph Gleason (Down Beat, January 9, 1958). Not a man to throw praise around loosely, Gleason was going all-out in favor of Golson's extraordinary writing talents and about the fully deserved "extraordinary attention" jazz musicians are currently paying to his compositions.
This album helps demonstrate the reason for this enthusiasm, by including three fresh examples of the Golson writing touch. But that is only part of the story here. This LP presents - and for the first time - what might be called The Complete Golson: not only the remarkable composer - arranger, but also the organizer and leader, and very definitely also the tenor man. Emphasis on Benny's writing skills has until now somewhat submerged his playing talents, despite the fact that he considers both of equal importance to him, and despite the further fact that he can blow with the best - with the same warm and moving lyricism that distinguishes his writing, and inventively modern conception and big sound that indicates his firm belief that high on the list of "true masters of the sax" are Don Byas and Coleman Hawkins.
The formidably all-stars lineup on this LP is the result of Benny's insistence, once the music was ready, that he "had to have this personnel to give the sound and the feeling that I wanted." Clearly, Golson's aim is high and his taste excellent: J.J.JOHNSON, many times over the acknowledged top modern trombonist; the great drummer MAX ROACH; the firm-toned, brilliant trumpet star, KENNY DORHAM; outstanding young bassist PAUL CHAMBERS; and the highly regarded young pianist, WYNTON KELLY, with whom Golson had played for over a year in Dizzy Gillespie's band. All were most eager to work with Benny, but it took considerable juggling through time, travel, and studio schedules before all could be on hand at the same time for recording. But the results, we are sure, justify the pains taken: a fusion of 'thinkin' and 'blowing' that represents modern jazz at its skillful, provocative, imaginative best.
BENNY GOLSON was born in Philadelphia In January 1929. He began those almost automatic childhood piano lessons at 9. Then, five years later, much impressed by hearing Arnett Cobb (with Lionel Hampton's band), he persuaded his family to buy him a saxophone. After studying music at Howard College ("a very straight and academic course"), he went on the road with Bull Moose Jackson blues band that also included Tadd Dameron and Philly Joe Jones. In 1953 he was with Dameron's swinging but short-lived group (along with Clifford Brown, Gigi Gryce, Cecil Payne and Philly Joe); the next year he was part of a Jonny Hodges band (with John Coltrane and Richie Powell) - all of which should establish that Benny's formative professional years were spent in some impressive young company. Then came some steady work in Earl Bostic's rhythm-and-blues band; he left Bostic in June of '56 and four days later was asked to join Dizzy's orchestra, where he remained until it disbanded early in '58.
It was with Dameron that Golson's serious interest in arranging began ("I idolized Tadd as an arranger"). He notes his great appreciation of Tadd's "melodic and harmonic conception" and of the way "he could take two horns and a rhythm section and make them sound so good and so big," and the Dameron influence on Benny's writing style remains apparent. Bostic was also most helpful, giving much moral support and the chance to write "many modern things" for the band, even though they could not record them. His status as a highly regarded writer can be considered as dating from early 1955, when Miles Davis recorded Golson's Stablemates, and Benny really established his importance with the many rich, fresh selections created for the Gillespie book.
Benny's own comments on the material prepared for this album give some insights into his approach to jazz composition -
Out of the Past: "Originally I had planned to do an old show tune, maybe a Rodgers and Hart; but later I decided instead to write something that would be reminiscent of that type of tune, in which I could try to get that kind of sound."
Venetian Breeze: "In 1954 I worked in Miami Beach for two and a half months with a small group from Philadelphia. T get to Miami Beach from Miami proper, we had to traveled over a toll road - the Venetian Causeway - that passed through several very small islands. This scenery brought about the inspiration for this composition and each night, little by little, I put the melody together."
Blues on Down: "I just decided that I ought to have a nice blues-y-blues, so that the fellows and I could stretch out a bit and enjoy ourselves, and to have some contrasts with the more strictly defined numbers."
As for the ballad, Namely You: "I turned on my radio in the middle of this one day, and didn't know if it was a current pop song, an old revival, or a show tune. Eventually I found out it was from 'Li'l Abner' and the melody haunted me to the point where I decided I had to record it."
Benny also turned to one of his favorite writers, the talented Gigi Gryce, who contributed Reunion (named for "getting with guys like J. J., and Kenny, and Max - old friends I hadn't worked with for a long time") and Hymn to the Orient (mainly composed on shipboard while returning from Europe, and inspired by striking up a friendship with "an Oriental, a priest of some sort, who was coming to hits country to study").
Musicians on this album are among those featured on such other outstanding 12-inchRiverside LPs as –
That’s Him!: ABBEY LINCOLN sings with Sonny Rollins, Kenny Dorham, Wynton Kelly, Max Roach, Paul Chambers (RLP 12-251)
KENNY DORHAM: Jazz Contrasts; with Sonny Rollins, Max Roach (RLP 12-239)
KENNY DORHAM: 2 Horns/2 Rhythms; with Ernie Henry (RLP 12-255)
WYNTON KELLY, with Kenny Burrell, Paul Chambers, Philly Joe Jones (RLP 12-254)
COLEMAN HAWKINS: The Hawk Flies High; with J. J. Johnson (RLP 12-233)
ERNIE HENRY: Seven Standards and a Blues; with Wynton Kelly (RLP 12-248)
CLARK TERRY: Serenade to a Bus Seat; with Wynton Kelly, Johnny Griffin, Paul Chambers, Philly Joe Jones (RLP 12-237)
A HIGH FIDELITY Recording - Riverside-Reeves SPECTROSONIC High Fidelity Engineering
(Audio Compensation; RIAA Curve)
Produced, and notes written by, ORRIN KEEPNEWS.
Cover by PAUL WELLER (photography) and PAUL BACON (design);
back-liner photograph by Lawrence Photo.
Engineer: JACK HIGGINS (Reeves Sound Studios).
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are produced by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS, Inc.
553 West 51st Street New York 19, N.Y.