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BUDD JOHNSON and The Four Brass Giants

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Clark Terry (tp) Harry Edison (tp) Nat Adderley (tp) Ray Nance (tp,vln- on Side 1, #1 and Side 2, #3) Budd Johnson (ts, arr) Tommy Flanagan (p) or Jimmy Jones (p) Joe Benjamin (b) Herb Lovelle (drs)  

NYC; Aug. 22 & Sep. 6, 1960


  1. All My Love (3:59) (Jolson – Akst – Chaplin)

  2. Blue Lou (5:08) (Edgar Sampson)

  3. Trinity River Bottom (8:04) (Budd Johnson)

  4. Drifwood (4:18) (Budd Johnson)


  1. Blues for Lester (6:55) (Budd Johnson) (Memories of Lester Young, Part 1)

  2. The Message (6:29) (Budd Johnson) (Memories of Lester Young, Part 2)

  3. Don’t Blame Me (4:12) (Fields – McHugh)

  4. I’ll Get By (4:29) (Turk – Ahlert)

   Early in August, 1960, when Cannonball Adderley’s Quintet opened an engagement at Birdland, BUDD JOHNSON decided to “drop in, catch a set and say hello.” As it turned out, Budd was just the man Cannonball wanted to see. He had been listening to some old Earl Hines band recordings and had been struck by the idea of building an album around Johnson. “It was Cannonball’s idea to use four brass,” Budd notes, “but he left the rest to me – personnel, tunes and arrangements.” The result was this unusual and intriguing LP.

   Although relatively unknown to most of the jazz audience, Budd Johnson has been active on the jazz scene since the early 1920s. He is one of those very few musicians who have kept pace with the development and growth of jazz, growing right along with it. Born Albert Johnson in Dallas, Texas in 1910 (“Bud” just “to look different”), he first studied music with Booker T. Washington’s daughter. At fourteen, he went on the road as a drummer but switched to tenor sax two years later. In 1927 he became a member of singer George E. Lee’s Kansas City orchestra. K. C. was a veritable beehive of jazz activity in those days: Bennie Moten’s band had such musicians as “Hot Lips” and Walter Page; and Ben Webster was playing piano for silent pictures! “He used to heckle me to death to show him the scales on the sax – which I did,” Budd recalls. In ’32 Budd and Teddy Wilson jointly led a band of their own in Chicago; then, in ’33, both joined Louis Armstrong’s big band. ON May 10, 1935, a long-time dream came true: Earl Hines sent for Johnson to replace tenorman Cecil Irwin, one of the foremost arrangers of that time.

   Except for a few outside stints (including Fletcher Henderson’s band’ and Gus Arnheim’s – which had Stan Kenton on piano), Budd played with and did considerable arranging for the Hines band through 1942. He had the authority to “hire and fire” and did much to shape up the band by bringing in more skilled musicians. (When Budd finally left Hines, his replacement was Charlie Parker.) In 1944 he joined Dizzy Gillespie on New York's famous 52nd Street. In the mid-‘40s, Budd did much writing for Boyd Raeburn and for Billy Eckstine, whose band he joined after leaving Gillespie. Later he played briefly with Cab Calloway and again with Hines, and recorded with such as J. J. Johnson, Fats Navarro, Coleman Hawkins. IN 1956 he was with Benny Goodman, and 9n ’59 toured Europe with the Quincy Jones band.

   Such a career has given Budd relatively little opportunity to speak out on his own on records. But he clearly had plenty of stored-up ideas to express. Specifically, he felt that the music should be “ a little different, not too hard to understand, easily identified but good jazz.” As heard here, that approach translates into a full-sounding, most infectuously swinging, up-to-date “mainstream” date.

   The first session, which took, place about two weeks after Budd’s timely visit to Birdland, produced the four unhackneyed standards found here (Tommy Flanagan was on piano; he was on the road when the second session came around, and was replaced by the equally lyrical Jimmy Jones in the album’s only personnel change). The four Johnson originals were cut at the second date. Trinity River Bottom was named after a Dallas river which “has caused a lot of trouble and taken a lot of lives so I always associate it with people having a hard time. I therefore thought there ought to be a blues about it.” Driftwood was thus titled because Ray Nance plays the violin (which is made of wood) on it and the tune suggested “a lonesome piece of wood floating in the sea.” It is based on a melody which Budd has been “kicking around since the late ‘30s” and is rather reminiscent of some of the violin passages Nance has played with the Ellington band. Blues For Lester and The Message were written as a two-part tribute to the late Lester Young, who was a close friend. “I am always thinking about Lester, so I just thought I’d put something down in his memory; something plain, simple and beautiful like Lester’s way of playing.”

   Budd, who not only did all the writing but also solos superbly throughout the album, is in decidedly good company here. The wonderful sound created by the brass is no accident, for each of these men is a “giant” in his own right. Nat Adderley is a regular member of brother Cannonball’s driving quintet; and a prominent member of the Riverside roster. Ray Nance has long been a Duke Ellington mainstay; Harry “Sweets” Edison’s relaxed, swinging style did so much for the Basie and from 1938 to 1950; and Clark Terry’s witty and highly personal sound has been featured with Basie, Ellington and Quincy Jones. (Clark, incidentally, handles the lead trumpet spot on most selections.)

The music on this record is “a little different and not too hard to understand.” What is hard to understand is why an artist of Johnson’s caliber has been virtually ignored by the jazz public for so many years. . . .

   A note on the trumpet solos: To be strictly accurate, it should be noted that Nat Adderley plays cornet, and that Clark Terry takes all but one of his solos on fleugelhorn. On All My Love, the first (open horn) solo is by Nance; then two full rounds by Edison (with mute), Terry, Adderley, Nance (with hat). On Blue Lou, two Edison solos bracket the Flanagan piano chorus; Terry is next; Nat follows the tenor solo and Nance is last. Trinity River: Edison, Terry (on trumpet, with plunger mute), Adderley, Nance.  Blues for Lester: Ray, Nat, Clark, Sweets; The Mesasge is the same, except that Sweets precedes Clark.  I’ll Get By: Adderley, and then Edison, only.

   The heading “A Cannonball Adderley Presentation” designates a series of albums – of which this is the sixth – conceived, organized and supervised by the many-faceted Julian Adderley, already known as a major instrumentalist, leader of a top ranked quintet, and incisive and articulate writer on jazz subjects and a highly perceptive judge of jazz talent. On these LPs Cannonball spotlights either new or (as in the present case) comparatively neglected veteran artists he finds particularly worthy of attention, presented in settings he considers most suitable and effective.

   Previous albums in this series include –

The Texas Twister: DON WILKERSON (RLP 332; Stereo RLP 1186)

The Jazz Brothers: MANGIONE BROTHERS Sextet (RLP 335; Stereo RLP 9335)

Spellbound: CLIFFORD JOEDAN Quartet (RLP 340; Stereo RLP 9340)

   (This present recording is also available in Stereophonic form on RLP 9343)



Notes written by CHRIS ALBERTSON

Cover designed by KEN DEARDOFF

Back-liner phots by LAWRENCE N. SHUSTAK

Recording Engineer: RAY FOWLER

Recorded at Plaza Sound Studios

Mastered by JACK MATTHEWS (Components Corp.) on a GYDROFEED lathe.


235 West 46th Street New York 36, N.Y.

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