ELMO HOPE Sextet and Trio: Homecoming
Sextet (*): Blue Mitchell (tp) Jimmy Heath (ts) Frank Foster (ts) Elmo Hope (p) Percy Heath (b) Philly Joe Jones (drs)
New York City; June 22, 1961
Trio (#): Elmo Hope (p) Percy Heath (b) Philly Joe Jones (drs)
New York City; June 29, 1961
1. Moe, Jr. (*) (5:52) (Elmo Hope)
2. La Berthe (#) (3:10) (Elmo Hope)
3. Eyes So Beautiful as Yours (*) (6:28) (Elmo Hope)
4. Homecoming (#) (5:04) (Elmo Hope)
1. One Mo’ Blues (#) (6:44) (Elmo Hope)
2. A Kiss for My Love (*) (5:29) (Elmo Hope)
3. Imagination (#) (6:39) (Burke – Van Heusen)
(First six compositions and all arrangements by Elmo Hope)
Sometimes you have to go away and come back before people realized that you have been gone or that you were here in the first place. Perhaps this will hold true for Elmo Hope, a man of small size but large talent.
Hope is a native New Yorker, born in 1923. He began studying the piano at an early age and be the time he was 15, was winning medals for solo recitals. A childhood friend was Bud Powell. The two spent much time together listening to classical records. Later, their jazz styles had much in common, including a fondness for Thelonious Monk which most of their contemporaries did not share at the time.
While the innovations of Parker, Gillespie and Monk were catching hold in the mid-Forties, Elmo was working with rhythm and blues bands (including that of Joe Morris) and was seldom in New York. No one outside a small coterie of musicians knew of his capabilities. In the early 1950s, he was finally recorded, both with his own groups and in the company of Clifford Brown, Jackie McLean and Sonny Rollins. But at least partly because of a variety of personal problems, he slid again into semi-oblivion.
In the late Fifties, Hope headed for California Settling in Los Angeles, he worked with tenorman Harold Land and recorded with Curtis Counce. However, things being what they are in the L.A. are, as far as jazz is concerned, Mo (as he is called by his friends) was not that active in making money at his art, although his physical state was the best it had been in years and his creative energies were functioning in high gear. The fact that a trio album of his, recorded in 1960, received the highest rating possible in Down Beat but sill failed to impress local employers, seemed to point up Hope’s dilemma. IN an article entitled Bitter Hope (Down Beat, January 5, 1961), John Tynan wrote, “Hope today finds himself in a healthier and vigorously creative state of mind. But he is anxiously preoccupied with two looming necessities – the emotional and artistic need to hear his music played well by his fellows and the economic imperative to make a living.”
Hope himself gave the only reasons for remaining on the Coast: “The weather is great, and there are a few people I dig.”
He also gave advice to young jazz players. “This is no place to try to learn anything. If they want to learn, let them go back to New York – both for inspiration and brotherly love. They’ll hear more things happening …”
Encouraged by Orrin Keepnews when Riverside’s A&R chief visited California, Hope decided to take his own advice and travel eastward. And he was greeted with brotherly love. This “Homecoming” album finds him in company that includes two men from the City of Brotherly Love – Philadelphia – who now make New York their main base of operations. Philly Joe Jones and Percy Heath had been Mo’s accompanists on his first trio date in the early ‘50s; the association with Joe reaches back even further to the Joe Morris band. The support Philly and Percy give here is tremendous.
ON the sextet sides, in addition to Riverside regulars Blues Mitchell and Jimmy Heath(Percy’s brother), there is another early ‘50s recording associate of Elmo’s on hand. Frank Foster does not get too much of a chance to stretch out in Count Basie’s band and the only way we hear what he’s really talking about is on records. This date, his first in quite a while, demonstrates a further growth and solidification of his own musical personality.
Hope has grown, too, and deepened his own groove so that the comparisons with Powell are no longer necessary. Both as a writer and player, his individual stamps obvious. He can play the blues but he does not belabor the point. He has not stood still but, as this album shows, is harmonically exploratory, rhythmically vital and concomitantly aware of melodic invention.
The trio tracks demonstrate Hope’s wide range of feeling. One Mo’ is a slow blues that swings nevertheless; Imagination, a personal interpretation of a ballad standard. Homecoming, a swift mover for facile right hand; La Bertha (for his wife, Bertha) evocatively avant-garde, yet never losing sight of the jazz essence and therefore vastly more successful than the attempts of many others in this direction.
The sextet tracks, while containing their share of lean, thoughtful sols by the horns and Hope, are equally important for Elmo’s compositions.
Moe Jr. (his son) is the happy kind of swinging line we associate with the best of certain style of writing (i.e. Tadd Dameron) which came out of the bop era. Foster and Heath solos are divided by Mitchell, with Hope then following Jimmy. A Kiss for My Love is harmonically provocative as well as melodically attractive. The changes don’t always go where you think they are going and this is one reason Hope’s compositions, while not appearing to be complex, are continually interesting to the ear. Blue plays the melodic lead, and the solo order is Hope, Foster and Jimmy Heath. The somber beauty of Eyes So Beautiful As Yours is expressed by the lead of Heath’s tenor with the ensemble underneath. Mo’s solo expresses those qualities which John Tynan called the “essence of Hope … a sort of bitter-sweet melancholy that seems to be at the core of other jazzmen – and other individuals of comparable sensitivity – who sometimes find the world ‘a bit much’, as the British say, to cope with”
Jazz, which is always in the process of discovering “new” talent, sometimes neglects to mine the rich ores that have been in the rock for a long time, under its very eyes. If it had not been evident before to some, this album should prove that here is an artist to consider seriously, Elmo Hope is home.
Produced by ORRIN KEEPNEWS
Recording Engineer: BILL STODDARD (Bell Sound Studios)
Mastered by Plaza Sound Studios
Album designed by KEN DEARDOFF
Back-liner photographs by STEVE SCHAPIRO
This recording is also available in Stereophonic form on RLP 9381
RIVERSIDE RECORDDS are produced by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS, Inc.
235 West 46th Street, New York 36, New York