Pieces of Eighty-Eight EVANS BRADSHAW Trio
Evans Bradshaw (p) Alvin Jackson (b) Richard Allen (drs)
NYC; January 27, 1959
The Trolley Song (5:27) (Blane – Martin)
Mangoes (4:49) (Wayne – Libbey)
Pushing the Blues (2:47) (Evans Bradshaw)
It Ain’t Necessarily So (4:45) (George & Ira Gershwin)
Take the “A” Train (3:28) (Billy Strayhorn)
A Foggy Day (6:15) (George & Ira Gershwin)
It’s All Right with Me (5:06) (Cole Porter)
Blues for Jim (6:32) (Evans Bradshaw)
Night in Tunisia (2:29) (Dizzy Gillespie)
This is EVANS BRADSHAW’s second LP. We at Riverside happen to feel that he is a young man with an infectiously spirited, happy and distinctive way of playing piano that will surely appeal to a vast audience.
In the record business today, the customary way of expressing such feelings is to write album-liner notes that are largely a blurb about how ‘great’ the man is, plus some learned-sounding comparisons that drag in the names of lots performers on his instrument. But the truth is that those who have heard him before shouldn’t need that kind of hard sell. All those to whom he is new, who many just have picked up the album out of curiosity – perhaps aided by the fact that the title “Pierces of Eighty-Eight” pinpoints this as a piano album and they happen to like piano jazz – are no longer likely to be bowled over by purple prose and heavy praise in liner notes. So it struck us that it might be more interesting and valuable to provide a more factual story of the early progress of a young pianist – that in this way we’re much more likely to succeed in putting across the message and in provoking in our audience the right kind of feeling of excitement:
Bradshaw is best described as a musician with a great deal more future than past. This could be considered just another way of labelling him as a “promising” performer without actually using that word, which has become such a hackneyed and meaningless tag that by now it can signify little more than that this is someone you probably haven’t heard of before. But even if “promising” weren’t such a tainted word, we would still avoid using it here.
“Brad” has been heard of, and heard, by a steadily increasing and, for the most part, enthusiastic group of jazz fans. This should be taken mean that he is growing out of that vague and overcrowded area of “promise” (which many young musicians never really outgrow) and into that noticeably less heavily-populated territory that is at the next level on the way up. This is a level reserved for those who have at least started the process of growth and maturing, and who have actually begun to deliver results, rather than just making promises.
When Brad first came to New York, in the Spring of 1958, for the specific purpose of making his recording debut for Riverside (RLP 12-263) he had to be considered strictly a promiser. For he was just about as close to a complete unknown as you can get. Except for people who might have known his work as a teen-ager on jobs in his home town of Memphis, and the loyal but necessarily limited following he had developed through weekend gigs in the city of Flint, Michigan, where he had moved in 1953. Evans Bradshaw didn’t even exist. (Fortunately, one of those who had caught him – and had style – was a Flint disc jockey named Jim Rockwell. Rockwell, who is now an ex-disc jockey and actively engaged in guiding Bradshaw’s career, brought the pianist to the attention of a Detroit record distributor, Marvin Jacobs, who in turn translated his belief that a great many people would enjoy Brad into practical action by persuading Riverside to come out to Michigan and listen.)
We took this unknown and rather nervous young man (understandably awed by his first trip to New York and by coming into contact with jazz musicians who had previously been just names and influences to him) and set him down in a large and imposing recording studio. We provided, for that first album, one familiar face (bassist George Joyner, whom he had known back home in Memphis) and one top-grade experienced pro (drummer Philly Joe Jones). Looking back on this occasion, it now strikes me much more forcibly than it could have done at that time what a substantial burden was being placed on this musician – as it is on many other young performers placed in much the same sort of debut situation by many record company. It now seems almost amazing that Brad, instead of just falling apart, very quickly stopped being nervous and awed and proceeded to turn out an album that a lot of people found impressively inventive, tasteful, swinging and enjoyable.
Those adjectives seem well justified by the fact that the LP met with a generally hearty critical reception, has sold well, and must also be given some goodly portion of the credit for the jobs that have come Bradshaw’s way since then. Between his first and second recording dates he appeared successfully at clubs in cities throughout the Midwest and had three engagements in New York City: a five-week stand at the Village Vanguard and two visits to Birdland. In addition, he became able to hold together for some time a steady working unit: RICHAR (“Pistol”) ALLEN,a constantly-improvising young drummer who had earlier been with Brad in Flint and then re-joined him to tour with the trio; and bassist ALVIN JACKSON, who belongs to a talented family whose best-known member is his older brother, vibist Milt Jackson.
With experience, and the solidity of working nightly with the same men, has inevitably come a great increase in poise and confidence. Add this to such other relevant facts as that Bradshaw was a technically fluent and (if you’ll pardon the expression) “promising” artist to begin with, and that a good man in his mid-20s should be in a period of swift improvement. It then became fairly safe to conclude that this second Bradshaw album will be quite thoroughly enjoyed by those who have already discovered Brad’s work by hearing him on the job on or his first LP, and a source of highly pleasurable surprise to those coming upon this pianist for the first time.
In the album, Brad specifically turns his fleet fingers and thoughts to nine varied selections. Secure in the knowledge that his accompanists know his arrangements and can also generally be expected to anticipate any sudden twists and turns, he performs some definite alterations on familiar jazz numbers like Night in Tunisia and Take the “A” Train, refurbishes tunes like The Trolley Song, A Foggy Day, and other standards with his own romping approach, and adds a couple of blues originals: Pushing the Blues, and Blues for Jim (dedicated to Rockwell). There is just one ballad: It Ain’t Necessarily So; by choice, the prevailing tempo range is in the swinging medium-to-up area in which Bradshaw feels most comfortable and in which the long runs that are something of a trademark for him seem most effective.
Brad’s first album was –
Look Out for EVANS BRADSHAW (RLP 12-263)
Other outstanding Riverside jazz includes –
The THELONIOUS MONK Orchestra at Town Hall (RLP 12-300)
Misterioso: THELONIOUS MONK Quartet (RLP 12-279)
Things Are Getting Better: CANNONBALL ADDERLEY with Milt Jackson (RLP 12-286)
Deeds, Not Words: MAX ROACH (RLP 12-280)
Everybody Digs BILL EVANS (RLP 12-291)
Freedom Suite: SONNY ROLLINS (RLP 12-258)
Blues for Dracula: PHILLY JOE JONES (RLP 12-282)
The Other Side of BENNY GOLSON (RLP 12-290)
AHIGH FIDELITY Recording – Riverside-Reeves SPECTROSONIC High Fidelity Engineering
(Audio Compensation: RIAA Curve)
Produced and notes written by ORRIN KEEPNEWS
Cover produced and designed by PAUL BACON – KEN BRAREN – HARRIS LEWINE
Back liner photo by LAWRENCE SHUSTAK
Engineer: JACK HIGGINS (Reeves Sound Studios)
Mastered by JACK MATTHEWS (Components corp. on HYDROFEED lathe
RIVERSDIE RECORDS are released by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS, Inc.
553 West 51st Street New York 19, N.Y.