MAN BITES HARMONICA!
JEAN THIELEMANS with PEPPER ADAMS, KENNY DREW, WILBUR WARE, ART TAYLOR
Jean Thielemans (harmonica and guitar) (guitar on Side 1, #3 and Side 2, #3 only; both instruments on Side 1, #4) Pepper Adams (brs) (except on Side 1, #2 and Side 2, #3) Kenny Drew (p) Wilbur Ware (b) Art Taylor (drs) NYC; December 30, 1957, and January 7, 1958
1. East of the Sun (7:16) (Brooks Bowman)
2. Don't Blame Me (2:28) (Fields – McHugh)
3. 18th Century Ballroom (3:46) (Ray Bryant)
4. Soul Station (7:03) (Jean Thielemans)
1. Strutting with Some Barbecue (4:54) (Louis Armstrong)
2. Fundamental Frequency (4:31) (Jean Thielemans)
3 Imagination (4:29) (Burke – Van Heusen)
4. Isn't It Romantic (5:18) (Rodgers & Hart)
If it's new and different sounds you're looking for, look no further! For JEAN THIELEMANS, on this LP that very probably marks the very first time the harmonica has been used with full success as a swinging modern-jazz instrument, offers something new that is likely to keep you listening for a long time.
Thielemans, born and raised in Belgium, but musically thoroughly Americanized by now, has since 1952 been part of the George Shearing Quintet, playing guitar of the most part, and some harmonica. On his Riverside debut he is realizing a long-standing ambition to make “a blowing date” and, with the valuable cooperation of four hard-hitting members of the post-bop school of thought, has come up with a remarkably sturdy and driving album.
The other horn (for, make no mistake about it, when Jean plays the harmonica, it is a horn) is the exciting, fluent baritone sax of PEPPER ADAMS, the fast-rising young Detroit who was the "New Star" choice on his instrument in the 1957 Down Beat International Critics Poll. The invitation to Pepper to join the proceedings here came after much discussion as to what reed or brass would operate best with harmonica, and all concerned went into the studio with a few questions in mind as to whether this particular idea would turn out right. Just a few bars of the first playback were thoroughly convincing. Partly because the two instruments turned out to be born for each other and partly, without doubt, because Adams is a jazz musician of considerable talents and Thielemans is more of the same, the blend they achieve is not only unique but also might just as well be called a swinging thing of beauty and a joy forever.
Behind these two wails the sort of rhythm section they deserve; the fleet, earthy piano of KENNY DREW; the firm and original bass lines of WILBUR WARE (who as New Yorker critic Whitney Balliett put it, makes "a good many of his colleagues sound like riveters" by comparison); and the strong, steady work of ARTHUR YAYLOR on drums.
The repertoire here is a varied one, including a few surprises, such as the up-to-date version of a number first recorded by Louis Armstrong, Struttin' with Some Barbecue. Although Jean's instrument (he uses a three-octave Hohner Chromaic harmonica) has, he notes "the range of the flute," his conception is basically that of a trumpet player. This leads to some very rewarding results, as on two tunes - Easy of the Sun and Isn't It Romantic - on which his point of reference is the sort of swinging-lyrical approach to standards that has been used so effectively by Miles Davis. Don't Blame Me explores the non-sticky ballad potentials of the harmonica; on another ballad-tempo selection, Imagination, and on pianist Ray Bryant's lilting Ballroom, Thielemans indicates how much he can do on guitar. His own two originals are blues; Fundamental Frequency is a tough, hard-driver; and Soul Station a moody one, named for Jean's frequently used phrase to describe just this sort of music. On this number he doubles, opening with electric guitar tuned to a unique vibrato that suggests vibes ("my tribute to Milt Jackson," Thielemans says and includes solos on bother his instruments.
Thielemans' autobiographical sketch runs like this: "Born in Brussels, Belgium, April 29, 1922. Played the accordion at age 3, in my folks' cafe. No formal musical background. Studied, at Brussels University, to become a math teacher. Bought a harmonica in 1939 ... played such great jazz items as Beer Barrel Polka, Penny Serenade. My jazz education was acquired through records during the occupation: first influence was Django Reinhardt, then later the Benny Goodman Quartet, later Lester Young. Then, of course, the change in my life - Bird came along.
"In the meantime I had picked up the guitar. After poor health made me stop my math studies. I gave more and more time to music, started to accept 'semi-pro' engagements. Visited the United States in 1947 ... sat in with Lennie Tristano, Howard McGhee on 52nd Street. Later sent some records from Belgium to Billy Shaw, the agent, who played them for Goodman, which led to Benny's offer to join his band ... but union permit could not be granted. Played with him in Europe, however: London Palladium, 1949; European tour, 1950.
"Met Bird and did some concerts with him in 1951 in Sweden. Came as immigrant to the states at the end of '51 ... started with a trio, then joined Shearing in 1952. With him ever since.
"Main idols and molding influences - as far as I know - are Django (for his lyricism), Bird, Lester Young and Miles Davis ..."
Adams is also to be heard on Riverside on -
10-to-4, at the 5 Spot Café: PEPPER ADAMS Quintet, featuring Donald Byrd (RLP 12-265)
Adams, Drew and Ware are together, along with Byrd and Philly Joe Jones, on –
JOHNNY GRIFFIN Sextet (RLP12-264)
Taylor is featured on –
GIGI GRYCE and the Jazz Lab Quintet (RLP 12-229)
Drew and Ware, who have served in supporting roles both jointly and separately on several Riverside albums, appear, respectively, as leaders on -
“Pal Joey”: jazz impressions by the KENNY DREW Trio (RLP 12-249)
This Is New: KENNY DREW with Hank Mobley, Donald Byrd (RLP 12-236)
KENNY DREW Trio (RLP 12-224)
The Chicago Sound: WILBUR WARE Quintet, featuring Johnny Griffin (RLP 12-252)
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)
Engineer: JACK HIGGINS (Reeves Sound Studios)
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are released by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS
553 West 51st Street New York 19, N.Y.