Young Ideas: THE “JFK” QUINTET
Ray Codrington (tp) Andy White (as) Harry Killgo (p) Walter Booker Jr. (b) Carl “Mickey” Newman (drs)
1. “S.D.D.S.” (3:35) (Andrew White)
2. Alone Together (5:39) (Dietz – Schawartz)
3. It Could Happen to You (5:54) (Burke – Van Heusen)
4. Nikki Poo (5:55) (Andrew White)
1. Coltrane Lane (6:49) (Ray Codrington)
2. Golden Earrings (4:23) (Livingston – Evans – Young)
3. Django (8:18) (John Lewis)
Unless You’ve heard the “JFK” themselves before, it’s safe to say that you’ve never heard anything quite like what you’ll find on this album!
This is the second LP featuring the efforts of this tight-knit and exciting quintet whose base of operations is the nation’s capitol. The group was first brought to Riverside’s attention in mid-1961 by Cannonball Addelrey, who produced their first recording for this label, and some of the comments made on the liner of that debut album still seem the best way to describe these musicians to those who are now meeting up with them for the first time:
… a most unusual and intriguing group going by the name of “The JFK Quintet” – their use of the president’s initials involving feelings that they too are youthfully adventurous and inclined to be impatient with things conventional and hide-bound.
A cooperatively organized unit, featuring young altoist Andy White, their musical director and general spokesman (who was born in 1943), and trumpeter Ray Codrington, the “JFK” offers a highly personal musical approach that ranges from the soulful to the avant-garde – White sometimes suggests Cannoball, at other times Ornette Coleman! Among other things, they indicate how excitingly and freshly young musicians can fuse several of the supposedly non-compatible forces at work in jazz in the early ‘60s.
The fact that what was written before seems the soundest thing say again now points up a valid objection to standard-gauge liner notes at times like this. A “regular” writer is apt to give extensive analyses of styles, influences and individual performances – which isn’t rally much more helpful to listeners than some non-critical blurbs about how “great” and/or “promising” these young men are. Biographical details? You’ll find some on the first album: they’ll tell you that White is Washington-born, Nashville-reared, has perfect pitch, is something of a musical prodigy and a music student at Howard University; that Codrington has a psychology degree from Howard; that the others, also college-trained don’t have too lengthy a set of musical backgrounds. They’ll also tell you that since early ’61 they have been able to work together at Washington’s “Bohemian Cavers.” (Thus they do have far more of that hard to get on-the-job unity than many combinations much older than this mostly-early-twenties quintet.)
Looking for something other than a surface analysis, we turned to a young friend of the “JFK”, Chips Bayen, who had written most of their first album notes. But Bayen, who now feels even more closely caught up in what they are doing, found that all he could bring himself to say came to just three sentences. Although they are specifically about White, Andy’s role as the musical path-finder makes them quite applicable to the quintet as a whole, and we pass them on as a fittingly provocative and non-conventional statement:
“The sound of Andrew White’s alto saxophone is sometimes understood, often misunderstood. Of the varied reactions, the comment that crystalizes for me the feelings of the discerning listener is that it is ‘the cry above the sound of the crowd.’ When you understand his sound, the music speaks for itself …”
Beyond that, I’d care only to make one more or less factual point. That the group turned less often this time to originals (three White or Codrington compositions out of seven, as against six out of eight last time) certainly does not indicate any slackening of inventiveness. For the brashly funky opener (“S.D.D.S.”) or the intriguing Coltrane-dedicated number that begins the second side are surely no more ‘original’ than the ambitiously vari-tempoed approach to john Lewis’ lovely Django or the bold treatment – part Coleman, part comedy – of the Victor Young movie theme, Golden Earrings.
The group’s previous album is –
The “JFK” Quintet: New Jazz Frontiers from Washington (RLP 396; Stereo 9396)
Produced by ORRIN KEEPNEWS
Recording Engineer: RAY FOWLER (recorded and mastered at Plaza Sound Studios, New York City)
Album design: KEN DEARDOFF
Photos by STEVE SCHAPIRO
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are produced by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS, Inc.
235 West 46th Street New York City 36, New York