The BOBBY TIMMONS TRIO in Person
Recorded ‘live’ at The Village Vanguard
Bobby Timmons (p) Ron Carter (b) Albert Heath (drs)
Recorded ‘live’ at The Village Vanguard, New York City; October 1, 1961
Autumn Leaves (7:48) (Mercer – Kosmo – Prevert)
So Tired (6:20) (Bobby Timmons)
Goodbye (4:43) (Gordon Jenkins)
Dat Dere (theme) (Bobby Timmons)
Popsy (6:11) (Bobby Timmons)
I Didn’t Know What Time It Was (8:10) (Rodgers & Hart)
Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise (5:28) (Hammerstein – Romberg)
Dat Dere (theme)
Only in show business, as Harry Golden might say, could someone become as well-known as Bobby Timmons while still being so young. Still, as of this writing (late 1961), just short of his twenty-sixth birthday, he has already had an enviable career. After a few varied jobs, he settled down with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messenger, and wrote their biggest hit. He stayed with Cannonball Adderley long enough to do the same thing for him, and then returned to Blakey. Since the Spring of ’61 he has been the extremely proud pianist of the trio presented here.
But it is not all gravy for Timmons, by any means. As mentioned, he is in show business, and that has its own perils. If you saw the Judy Garland version of “A Star Is Born,” you may remember that she dispensed, for all time, with the drunk who asks; “Sing Melancholy Baby!” In jazz, the equivalent situation is the one in which a performer is doomed for all time to continue playing the song which made him famous. So that the suspense will not become intolerable, I will mention here that Timmons is the composer of, in the order of appearance, Mornin’ Dis Here (in one of its several alternate spellings and Dar Dere. He neither rejects these songs now nor discounts the great part they played in his success; undoubtedly, he would not have his trio if it were not form them. When, in his highly individual manner, he refers to them as “the three elements of the plague,” he simply means that he would like it known that his repertoire is not limited to three songs. And when he calls this record “very important,” he means that he considers this album as the best recorded attempt to prove his point.
The trio, which his long been a dream of Bobby’s, also owes a considerable debt top Art Blakey, and Timmons is the first to acknowledge it. Blakey, one of the youngest elder statesmen in any profession, delights in working with young players and seeing them progress to the point where they are already to go out on their own. “That’s his thing,” Bobby says; “his group makes leaders.” And no Blakey not only gave his sanction, but saw it that Bobby was signed by his own representative, Jack Whittimore, one of the most astute and respected men in his profession. The result: Timmons left Blakey, started his own group two weeks later, and has not been off a week since the formation of the trio.
“The Trio,” when Bobby uses the word, is meant to point up the difference between a truly interdepended until and a pianist with rhythm accompaniment. “Anybody,” he says, “can’t be a good jazz pianist with two guys playing behind him. The trick is to have a group.” Which leads, inevitably, to mention of his fellow members. Ron Carter, a tall, quiet young man who can perform equally well (as he has done) with Eric Dolphy and Coleman Hawkins, is one of the musicians who is making the development of the bass the most interesting facet of the current jazz scene. Both his solos and his complementary work to Timmons are so uniformly good as to make it unnecessary to single out an example, but his lengthiest excursion occurs in Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise, designed to feature his work. Drummer Albert Heath, brother of Jimmy and Percy, grew up in Philadelphia around the corner from Timmons, and they have played together off and fro as long as Bobby can remember. Their only lengthy separation was the time Timmons spent with Blakey and Adderley, and it probably never occurred to Bobby to consider any other drummer. Musical ability aside, the longevity of the group is further assured, the road being what it is, by the fact that the three are good friends.
Since this is the first recording of the Bobby Timmons Trio (he has made trio records before, but they were strictly recording units) it is also, obviously, the first “live” recording of the Bobby Timmons Trio. Timmons is no stranger to live recording, as owners of The Cannonball Adderley Quintet in San Francisco will be happy to tell you (he has also recorded in person with Blakey), but the formation of the trio made this a double challenge. One would like, since the record worked out so well, to able to say that his is typical of what you would hear if you went to a club where the group was performing, but Timmons, with the pride of new ownership, says; “No. We don’t have typical sets.” Part of the reason for the remark is that the trio, in an attempt to escape easy category, is playing as wide as repertoire as possible. For Timmons is well aware of the dangers of labeling. When speaking to him, one is reminded that soul is a four-letter word. “It’s been overdone, over-promoted, overemphasized, and overplayed. It’s something that’s labeled and packaged and sold over the counter. Soul is exactly what most of it doesn’t have. Real soul is innate.” He declines to comment on the authenticity of various practitioners of the music – “I will not judge a person” –0 but adds, “I listen to everyone, whether I like him or not. He still might be doing something valid that I don’t know about.”
Variety in a trio has been a problem many have failed to solve, but this set presents evidence that it will not trouble Timmons. The opener is Autumn Leaves, done in medium tempo. This is followed by a Timmons original (previously recorded in quartet form on his album “Soul Time”) called So Tired. There is a persistant phrase in the melody of this tune which seems to fit the words “Nebuchadnezzar was the king of Babylon,” but it veers off sharply after that. Occasionally in a club, Bobby plays an unaccompanied ballad, and the example here is Gordon Jenkins’ lovely Goodbye, that Benny Goodman used to use to end the evening. Asked if he ever plays up tempos in this way, Timmons answers bluntly, “I don’t see the point to it,” The set-changer, possibly so he will not be asked to play it at other times, is Dat Dere, and so just a taste of it is used to end each side of this record.
The second side begins with a new Timmons original. Because three of his pieces have been enormously successful, people have come to think that Bobby is a prolific writer, but that is not the case. “Everybody thinks I write a lot, but I don’t. When I get an idea, I work on it and change it, a little bit here and there. It takes a very long time, sometimes two or three months.” Which means only that Bobby has a very high average as a composer. He was taught theory by an uncle who held a Master’s degree in music, incidentally, and the Timmons compositions contain much more complicated structures than their quick impact would suggest. The remaining two tunes, are standards: Rodger’s and hart’s I Didn’t Know What Time It Was and the previously mentioned Softly.
Bobby is proud of the fact that nothing in the group’s repertoire is written out, not even his close accord with Ron Carter on Autumn Leaves. “When we get together to rehearse, I do what I want to do, and Ron and Al do hat they want to do, and when we’re all doing it together, that’s it.” There will be even more exciting things from the trio in the future, because Ron Carter is also one of the most exciting jazz cellists, and that instrument will be added “as soon as he decides what tunes he wants to play.”
But for the present, there is this album, recorded at New York’s wedge-shaped Village Vanguard. The group had been in existence for about three months at the time of the Vanguard engagement, and the players had had time to get used to one another. In the future, I imagine they’ll have all the time they want. They will probably be around for a very long time.
Previous Timmons Riverside albums include –
This Here Is Bobby Timmons (RLP 317; Stereo 1164)
Soul Time (RLP 334; Stereo 9334)
Easy Does It (RLP 363; Stereo 9363)
The Timmons Trio is also among those featured on –
A Jazz Version of KEAN, by the Riverside Jazz Stars (RLP 397; Stereo 9397)
Produced by ORRIN KEEPNEWS
Recording Engineer: RAY FOWLER
Album design: KEN DEARDOFF
Back-liner photos by STEVE SHCAPIRO
Mastered at Plaza Sound Studios
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are produced by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS, Inc.
235 West 46th Street New York 36, New York