Down Home: SAM JONES and Company
Sam Jones (b, *) with orchestra, arranged and conducted by Ernie Wilkins; and on (cello, #) with quintet.
(*) Unit 7 and Thumbstring; Blue Mitchell (tp) Snooky Young (tp) Jimmy Cleveland (tb) Frank Strozier (as) Jimmy Heath (ts) Pat Patrick (brs, fl) Joe Zawinul (p) Sam Jones (b) Ben Riley (drs)
Come Rain or Come Shine and Strollin’; Clark Terry replaces Young; Wynton Kelly replaces Zawinul; Ron Carter (b) is added. Other personnel the same.
(#) ‘Round Midnight, “O. P.” and Falling in love with Love: Sam Jones (cello) Les Spann (fl) Joe Zawinul (p) Israel Crosby (b) Vernel Fournier (drs)
(#) Down Home; Jones (cello) Strozier (fl) Zawinul (p) Carter (b) Riley (drs)
Unit 7 (4:49) * (Sam Jones) Aug. 15, 1962
Come Rain or Come Shine (4:05) * (Mercer – Arlen) Aug. 15, 1962
‘Round Midnight (5:31) # (Thelonious Monk) June 25, 1962
“O. P.” (5:07) # (Sam Jones) June 25, 1962
Thumbstring (4:31) * (Ray Brown) Aug. 15, 1962
Down Home (4:08) # (Sam Jones) Aug. 15, 1962
Strollin’ (4:12) * (Horace Silver) Aug. 15, 1962
Falling in Love with Love (7:03) # (Rodgers & Hart) June 25, 1962
In a 1957 Down Beat interview, the late Oscar Pettiford described the bass as “one of the most important – if not the most important – instruments in any orchestra. You can take just a bass and somebody can sing to it or play to it. You don’t need piano or drums. The bass can be much more of a horn than it often has been in the past. When, I finish, the bass will be right down front where it belongs.”
Pettiford’s death in 1960 unfortunately robbed us of undoubtedly important future contributions from him. But his prophecy had already begun to come true; the scope of the bass in general has broadened, and in particular its importance as a solo instrument has greatly increased. One of the strongest illustrations of this growth is the series of album that bassist SAM JONES has made for Riverside.
Jones is a highly regarded sideman with Cannonball Adderley’s group and on many a record date, but in his sets for this label he ahs been given opportunities to really express his own musical personality. In “Down Home”, as before, he makes the most of the situation – as a remarkable bassist and cellist; as leader of an outstanding, hand-picked supporting cast; and as a composer. In the present album there is heavier emphasis than previously on this last quality; three of the eight selections, including the title tune, were written by Jones.
Throughout this album, Sam is “right down front” – as Pettiford put it. As on his previous LPs, he divides his time between bass and cello, with four tracks devoted to each instrument. And, also as before, he is joined here by some of the finest sidemen available. Sam is one of the best-liked musicians around, and his colleagues seem always to make that extra effort towards insuring the success of his records. Jones’ regular boss, Cannonball, does not participate as a musician this time, but he did lend his services as A & R man for the session that produced ‘Round Midnight, “O. P.”, and Falling in Love with Love. That, by the way, was probably the last record date for Israel Crosby, the vastly respected veteran bassist, in recent years a cornerstone of the Ahmad Jamal trio. (When Crosby died, of a heart ailment, on August 11, 1962, his last leader, George Shearing, paid him a supreme compliment. Asked who would take Israel’s place, Shearing replied: “I don’t think anybody is going to take his place; nobody took Art Tatum’s place …”)
Bassist and references to bassists abound in this album, Sam plays cello on the three tracks noted above, with Crosby in the rhythm section behind him; on Down Home, his cello is backstopped by Ron Carter on bass. Carter, one of the most impressive of the great new crop of young bassists, is also on Strollin’ and Come Rain or Come Shine. Here Jones’ bass is voiced with the horns in a melody part on the ensembles, with Ron functioning as the rhythm man. Sam is the soloist on both, but there is a bit of a bass duet near the end of the latter tune.
According to his “Encyclopedia of Jazz” biography, Sam’s preferred bassists are Al Hall, Milt Hinton, Jimmy Blanton, Pettiford and Ray Brown. This list gives a clear indication of where he stands: squarely in the middle of a great tradition which he is continuing and enriching. And there are direct references in the material here to the last two names on the list. Thumbstring was written by brown, who has explained that the title refers to the fact that the bass parts are “done with the thumb only, and going in the opposite direction from the normal way of playing” the instrument. Sam does this expertly, and captivating strummed blues sound is the result. “O.P.” is, of course, in honor of Pettiford, who pioneered jazz cello in 1949, and is suitably bright and joyous line.
Ernie Wilkins is responsible for the fine, functional arrangements on the four band-and-brass tracks. (The first of these, the irresistibly swinging Unit 7 – composed by Jones – has for some times now been heard in clubs as the closing theme for each set by the Adderley group.) Ernie’s ensemble passages are full of good ideas and voicings. Especially effective are the backgrounds that perfectly set off Sam’s strong, sure and well-developed solos. There are also other fine choruses sprinkled through the album, by Jimmy Heath, Blue Mitchell, Frank Strozier, Les Spann (on flute) and pianist Joe Zawinul and Wynton Kelly.
Down Home is a title with several ramifications. First of all, it well describes the mood of that blues piece and, for that matter, the feeling of the album as a whole. Secondly, “Home” is Sam’s nickname (he calls a lot of other people “Home,” too, the way baseball pitcher “Bobo” Newsom used t call everyone “Bobo”); and since he is a very element of accuracy.
In the interview quoted at the start of these notes, Oscar Pettiford also said: “The bass, after all, is the root of the whole thing.” And certainly, after all, Sam Jones has some pretty strong roots.
Sam Jones’ other Riverside albums are –
The Soul Society (RLP 324; Stereo 1172)
The Chant (RLP 358; Stereo 9358)
roduced by ORRIN KEEPNEWS and JULIAN ADDERLEY
Recording Engineer: RAY FOWLER and ED MITCHELL
Recorded at Plaza Sound Studios, New York City
Album design: KEN DEARDOFF
Back-liner photos by STEVE SCHAPIRO
This recording is available in both Stereophonic (RLP 9432) and Monaural (RLP 432) form.
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are produced by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS, Inc.
235 West 46th Street, New York City 36, New York