ULIAN PRIESTER: KEEP SWINGIN'
Quintet: Julian Priester (tb) Jimmy Heath (ts) Tommy Flanagan (p) Sam Jones (b) Elvin Jones (drs) Quartet (on Side 1, #3; Side 2, #1 and 4): Priester, with same rhythm section.
NYC; January 11, 1960
24-Hour Leave (7:00) (Jimmy Heath)
The End (3:48) (Julian Priester)
1239 A (3:03) (Charles Davis)
Just Friends (3:47) (Lewis – Kleener)
Bob T’s Blues (3:57) (Julian Priester)
Under the Surface (4:21) (Julian Priester)
Once in a While (5:18) (Green – Edwards)
Julian’s Tune (4:16) (Julian Priester)
This album serves to introduce, in his first recording as a leader, deep-down sound, an intriguing ability as a jazz composer, and a particularly earthy command of the blues.
And what makes all this even more worthy of attention than it might otherwise be is that JULIAN PRIESTER happens to be a trombonist – and one with what is clearly a jazz voice of his own.
From time to time in jazz, specific major figure have arisen whose contributions to the music have been basic and essential, but who have also cast so large a shadow that they have inadvertently almost paralysed further progress on their particular instruments. Thus, a long time ago, it was virtually impossible for a young trumpet player to avoid sounding like a carbon copy of Louis Armstrong; more recently, a whole generation of alto saxophonists were so channelized by the revolutionary influence of Charlie Parker that some of the vest of them were actually moved to switch to another instrument as their only way out. And, as musicians at least are aware, in his own unassuming way the eminent J. J. Johnson has similarly dominated the trombone. Thus Priester begins by standing out as a notable exception. There is nothing deliberate or self-conscious about this. Ask for his favorite on his instrument and he will give the same answer as any other of today’s trombonists. As for how or why he has escaped being controlled or semi-controlled, rather then merely properly influenced, by Johnson, the only answer would seem to be the best one of all; he is playing his own way, and it happens to be like this, more rough-hewn and more thoroughly blues-imbued than the currently prevalent sound.
Although, under the circumstances, this difference may be the first thing one notices about Priester, it is scarcely his only asset – although it should not be undervalued as a concrete indication of his musical independence and self-assurance. Some of his other strong points, as noted in the opening paragraph, will be apparent as soon as he plunges into the first solo on the first selection here: Jimmy Heath’s surging blues, 24-Hour Leave.
From there on, lots of things should become clear without need for further conversation. Why, for example, Max Roach (with whose quintet Julian is featured at this writing ) invited him to join his group after having heard him play one selection on one album (specifically, it was the title tune of Philly Joe Jones’ Blues for Dracula LP). Or why Max later retained Priester through what was otherwise a complete personnel turnover in the band. Or how Priester happened to first be called to Riverside’s attention almost simultaneously from quite different sources and for quite different reasons: fellow-Chicagoans Johnny Griffin and Wilbur Ware knew him as an exciting ‘blowing’ musician; and Benny Golson had been impressed by the way he sight-read a particularly tricky trombone part in one of Benny’s arrangements.
Born in Chicago in June, 1935, Julian began to study piano at the age of ten, and took up first baritone horn and then trombone while in high school. He began his professional career with Sun Ra's group in 1953, and in 1956 went on the road in the somewhat more conventional surroundings of the Lionel Hampton band (through which countless numbers of current small-band jazz men seem to have passed). IN 1957 and ’58 he was part of the band that worked with Dinah Washington, laving in June of that year to try to make it in New York. In January, ’59, he joined Max Roach. In addition to his preciously mentioned strong but non-stifling appreciation for J. J. Johnson, Priester looks on Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk and Sonny Rollins as all having been important influences on his musical concepts. His interest in composing is fairly recent but quite strong. In addition to making four contributions to the repertoire of his own album, he provided a striking album-opening tune (Battery Blues) on Riverside’s recent “Philly Joe Jones Showcase.”
Assisting brilliantly on five of the numbers here is the impressive tenor of JIMMY HEATH. Priester began urgently requesting him for hits date as soon as he learned that the Philadelphia tenor man was under contract to this label. And Priester obviously knew his business, for Heath’s fundamentally soulful approach fits admirably with Julian’s trombone sound. (Jimmy is a brother of the Modern Jazz Quartet’s Percy Heath and, incidentally, is one of those preciously-mentioned musicians who switched from alto to escape the shadow of Parker – he was once nicknamed “Little Bird”! – but seems to have kept, in the best way, much of that Bird flavor on the deeper horn.) The rhythm section includes two key members of the Detroit invasion that has in recent years enriched the New York jazz scene: the lyrical TOMMY FLANAGAN on piano; and the constantly inventive drummer, ELVING JONES. On bass is SAM JONES (no relation): Florida-born, a frequent Riverside performer, currently a member of the Cannonball Adderley Quintet; and rapidly becoming the most in-demand bassist for New York record dates – for reasons that are clearly audible at all times.
Priester can also be heard on Riverside on –
Blues for Dracula: PHILLY JOE JONES Sextet (RLP 12-282)
PHILLY JOE JONES Showcase (RLP 12-313; also Stereo RLP 1159)
The Little Giant: JOHNNY GRIFFIN Sextet; with Blue Mitchell, Wynton Kelly (RLP 12-304; also
Stereo RLP 1160)
Tommy Flanagan can be heard on the “Dracula” album noted above, and also on –
The Incredible Jazz Guitar of WES MONTGOMERY (RLP 12-320; also Stereo RLP 1169)
Elvin Jones appears on –
10-to-4 at the Five Spot: PEPPER ADAMS Quintet; with Donald Byrd (RLP 12-265)
Sam Jones has been on the above-noted Johnny Griffin album and many others including –
The THELONIOUS MONK Orchestra at Town Hall (RLP 12-300; also Stereo RLP 1138)
The CANNONBALL ADDERLEY Quintet in San Francisco (RLP 12-311; also Stereo RLP 1157)
(The present recoding is also available in Stereophonic form on RLP 1163)
Produced, and notes written by ORRIN KEEPNEWS
Cover designed and produced by PAUL BACON – KEN BRAREN – HARRIS LEWINE
Back-liner photos by LAWRENCE N. SHUSTAK
Engineer: JACK HIGGINS (Reeves Sound Studios)
Riverside-Reeves SPECTROSONIC High Fidelity Engineering
Mastered by AJCK MATTHEWS (Components Corp.) on a HDROFEED lathe.
IRVERSIDE RECORDS are produced by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS, Inc.
236 West 46th Street New York 36, N.Y.