The Hooter: THE JAZZ FIVE
Vic Ash (ts) Harry Klein (brs) Brian Dee (p) Malcolm Cecil (b) Bill Eyden or Tony Mann (on Side 2, #1 and 3 only) (drs)
Recorded in London, England; October 23 and November 12, 1960
There It Is (6:30) (Brian Dee)
The Five of Us (7:00) (Brian Dee)
‘Pon My Soul (7:40) (Malcolm Cecil)
The Hooter (6:12) (Vic Ash)
Autumn Leaves (9:25) (Kosma – Mercer – Prevert)
Still Life (5:10) (Malcolm Cecil)
This record contains some of the warmest – and certainly the most soulful and deep-rooted – modern jazz ever recorded in Britain. A happy, swinging album, it reflects the feeling of a band that demonstrates in the only possible way – by concrete example – that good jazz is capable of being played and enjoyed on both sides of the Atlantic.
One of the most remarkable facts to consider in connection with this music is that as far as its home country is concerned, this album is unique. At a time when “soul music” has become a major jazz force in America, and when good word has been spread from France to as far as Japan, it is my sad duty to report that one country in which this kind of jazz has not yet really taken root is Great Britain. There are several probable reasons for this: among them are the customary reserve and musical conservation of the average British jazz fans; limitations on the importation of American recordings; and the refusal of the local Musicians’ Union to allow American musicians to work alongside local talent in British clubs.
Nevertheless, we have here the phenomenon of the band known as The Jazz Five – a group of Londoners who, without ever having been exposed to “soul” in the flesh, have apparently instinctively and naturally come up with a recording that embodies a thorough grasp of this musical idiom.
Formed in the Summer of 1960, the band practically began its life with a most impressive honor that was at the same time something of an ordeal-by-fire. They were chosen to work opposite the Miles Davis Quintet during a 14-day tour of Great Britain. The nightly stimulation f Miles and his men and their music gave them tremendous incentive and invaluable experience. And co-leader Vic Ash proudly notes that “after about the third night, Miles came over to me and said: ‘Vic, I like the band. It’s good,” and, as those who know Miles well were quick to point out, he is not a man given to artificial politeness. “If he didn’t really dig your band,” Vic was informed, “he just wouldn’t have said a word.”
The Jazz Five’s co-leaders are two young “veterans” of the British modern jazz scene who have been close friends since school days and have frequently worked together. Each has won many honors in local polls, but neither has ever played with such vitality and enthusiasm as in their present context. Ash, who is 30, has been Britain’s top clarinetist. Since his fairly recent switch to tenor sax, his playing has acquired a vigorous warmth and a new emotional depth. Harry Klein, who started out on alto sax, then moved over to baritone sax, appears to have made remarkable strides during the past year. His sound is big, bursting and robust, and his highly-charged solos compare more than favorably with the work of nay other British baritone.
Supporting them – and providing good reason for the leaders’ surge of enthusiasm – is a driving, stomping young rhythm section. Pianist Brian Deem, at 23, has been voted the outstanding “British New Star of 1960-61” by the readers of Melody Maker magazine. His crisp, rhythmic composing and direct, melodic solo work demonstrate authority far beyond his age and experience, and give evidence of the valuable influence of his two American favorites: Wynton Kelly and Bill Evans. Bearded Malcom Cecil, 24, is a forceful bassist with a big, but never booming, sound and an ability to create impressively hornlike solos. He worked with Jackie McLean and Freddie Redd in the London production of “The Connection.” Two drummers are heard here. Bill Eyden, a member of the Five from the start, displays a striking natural swing on four of the numbers. When he left to rejoin the band of British tenor star Tubby Hayes, his place was taken by 18-year-old Tony Mann, whose conception (very much on the beat, in the manner of drummers like Jimmy Cobb and Louis Hayes) is one of the most modern in his country.
The group has a very definite and personal sound, due in part to the fact that several of the Five are composers of considerable merit. Each has an individual approach, yet there is a clearly apparent “group style.” The six selections here include two originals apiece by Brian Dee and Malcolm Cecil, plus Ash’s exceptionally striking blues waltz, The Hooter.
The album opens with the two Dee selections. There It is, an earthy blues riff, inspires the horns to produce some soulful solos and the rhythm section to surge forward without letting up. The Five of Us is a bright, minor-key theme on which both horns and the piano all include one stop-time chorus in their solos. Malcolm Cecil’s funky and rhythmically heavily-accented “Pon My Soul closes out the first side, highlighted by a very bluesy Ash tenor solo.
Opening Side 2 is The Hooter, possibly the album’s most effective track, with its dramatic intro, haunting minor theme, and solos in ¾ time. The arrangement of Autumn Leaves that follows is the most frequently requested number in the band’s book. The only standard here, it is also the only number on which Ash appears on clarinet, taking a simple, lyrical, wistful and moving solo. Finally, Still Life is Cecil’s tribute to Miles Davis, a composition he was inspired to write during the previously-noted tour. It is in the vein of Miles’ recent experiments with comparatively simple scales.
I am glad to be able to introduce The Jazz Five to American audiences through this album. I have no doubt that you’ll find their debut a highly enjoyable experience and that you’ll share Miles’ opinion that this is a “good band” – an opinion that, incidentally, was expressed very shortly before this album was recorded. And if this LP has a message, it is surely that soul is international – which is a message of no small significance.
Tony Hall, one of Britain’s most noted jazz authorities and critics, is also a very active record producer. The issuance here of this album, one of the many produced by him in recent years, marks the first occasion on which Riverside has “imported” a jazz recording.
Produced by TONY HALL
Cover designed by KEN DEARDOFF
Back-liner photographs by BILL PENNY
Recording Engineer: MICHAEL MAILES
Mastered by JACK MATTHEWS (Components Corp.) on HYDROFEED lathe