HARRY “SWEETS” EDISON and EDDIE “JOCKJAW” DAVIS
Harry Edison (tp) Eddie Davis (ts) Hugh Lawson (p) Ike Isaac (b) Clarence Johnston (drs)
1. Oo-ee! (5:12) (Harry Edison)
2. Braodway (5:19) (Woode – McRae – Bird)
3. Jawbreakers (6:34) (Harry Edison)
4. Four (3:31) (Miles Davis)
1. Moolah (4:38) (Harry Edison)
2. A Gal in Calico (4:40) (Schwartz – Robin)
3. I’ve Got a Crush on You (5:54) (George & Ira Gershwin)
4. Close Your Eyes (5:33) (Bernice Petkere)
The greatest of the big-band leaders in jazz have managed to leave indelible marks on both the styles and the reputations of the more important soloists associated with them. Probably the most striking example of this is that as major a figure as Ben Webster is still, some twenty years after the fact, thought of most frequently as an Ellington sideman (and the Duke has certainly left his mark on many others – Johnny Hodges, Rex Stewart, etc). The other great influence along these lines has of course been Count Basie. It is notable that in the 1930s, when remarkable small recording units were culled from the personnel of each orchestra, both Basie’s “Kansas City Seven” and the various “Ellington units” retained to a high degree the stylistic hallmarks of the respective larger bands, and both created some of the most lasting recordings of that era.
Viewed in this light, it is only natural that Harry Edison and Eddie Davis should make a record together, and that the record reveal a unit of approach usually to be expected only from men who have been playing together for along time – although the startling truth is that this is the first time these two have recorded together! For both “Sweets” and “Jaws” owe their initial fame to service in the Basie band, although they served at different times, and Basie’s influence has been dominant one (although expressed in far less obvious ways than that of Ellington) through the years.
The unit here comes also from another factor. This group is actually four-fifth of the current Harry Edison Quintet (with Davis in place of regular tenorman Jimmy Forrest), a group that has, incidentally, kept in a Basie-ish groove by providing the accompaniment for vocalist Joe Williams during most of the period since Williams left the Count. It is worth noting that Lockjaw, the ‘outsider’, is the one who suggested the alignment on the album, feeling that a unified rhythm section was essential to the proper atmosphere of relaxation and togetherness. That section consists of Pianist Hugh Lawson, one of countless Detroit musicians who have at one time worked with multi-instrumentalist Yusef Lateef; bassist Ike Isaacs, who for quite some time led the trio backing Lambert, Hendricks and Ross; and drummer Clarence Johnston.
Basie’s main item of business has always been the blues, so it is only natural that three of the eight pieces on this album are in that vein. All are written by Edison. The first is a funk study called Oo-ee!; another, Moolah, is of the slow, sad, after-hours variety which seems to imply that Moolah is not very much in evidence. Jawbreakers (the name of a type of candy, and thus a rather abstruse pun on the co-leaders’ nicknames) indicates an awareness of refinements which have taken place since Basie’s heyday, for Lawson’s introduction deals with brooding, ominous minor chords very much in the manner employed by McCoy Tyner with John Coltrane. As soon as the horns enter, though, a brighter mood takes over, and considerable space is given Lawson for his most impressive solo of the set.
There is further evidence throughout that his is by no means one of those “re-creation” albums, in which the participants stick doggedly to the past, refusing to recognized that the situation might have progressed beyond that. As examples, take Four and A Gal in Calico, both closely identified with the most pervasive influence of the last several years, Miles Davis. Four is a piece from Miles’ earlier days; it receives a much more raucous treatment than usual, in extreme contrast to the quietly intense Miles Davis reading. Gal in Chicago is one of several pieces (Green Dolphin Street and Billy Boy are others) that entered jazz by way of the Ahmad Jamal book after which miles took them up.
Broadway is, of course, a direct tribute to Basie. Originally recorded in the ‘30s, it featured a classic Lester Young solo, and has since become a staple in the repertoire of such Young admirers as Gerry Mulligan, Al Cohn and Zoot Sims, et al.
Mention of Young makes it relevant to point out that, although there are a few traces of Pres in the style of Lockjaw, his main affinity is to Coleman Hawkins. While Hawkins’ influence has been strongly felt again ever since it was first detected in the playing of Sonny Rollins, very few men any longer owe direct allegiance to Hawkins. Davis is one of the few, and certainly one of the best. Of late, this aspect of his work has been partially hidden in the atmosphere of his perpetual on-the-job tenor battle with Johnny Griffin, but in this more reflective context it is again made evident and permits him to come up with some of his best playing in a long time.
The idea of this album first, evolved at the bar at Birdland, when Edison and Davis were reminded of the fact that they had never recorded together and jointly determined to do something about it. It should rank as one of the happier ideas born at The Jazz Corner of the World. Edison in particular is a delight to hear in these circumstances. Mostly remaining muted, retaining a light, dancing approach, constantly quoting from what must be one of the largest existing mental storehouses of pop tunes, he seems thoroughly to have enjoyed himself and his associates.
So, most probably, will you. This is obviously one of those rare albums dedicated to proving nothing other than that certain men had a very good musical time in each other’s company and were able to communicate it. That, I think, is message enough.
EDDIE DAVIS, whose several albums with Johnny Griffin can be heard on the Jazzland label, is also featured on Riverside on –
Afro-Jaws (RLP 375; Stereo 9375)
Produced by ORRIN KEEPNEWS
Recoding Engineer: RAY FOWLER (recorded at Plaza Sound Studios; New York City)
Album design: KEN DAERDOFF
Back-liner photos by STEVE SCHAPIRO
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are produced by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS, Inc.
235 West 46th Street New York City 36, New York