Jazz by Gee! MATTHEW GEE All-Stars
The Quintet (Side 1): Matthew Gee (tb) Ernie Henry (as) Joe Knight (p) Wilbur Ware (b) Art Taylor (drs)
NYC; August 22, 1956
The Septet (side 2): Kenny Dorham (tp) Matthew Gee (tb) Frank Foster (ts) Cecil Pane (brs) Joe Knight (p) John Simmons (b) Art Taylor (drs) NYC; July 19, 1956
1. Out Of Nowhere (3:21) (Heyman – Green)
2. I'll Remember April (4:13) (Raye – DePaul)
3. Joram (3:02) (Bill Massey)
4. Sweet Georgia Brown (2:55) (Bernie – Pinkard – Casery)
5. Lover Man (4:58) (Davis – Sherman – Ramirez)
1. Gee! (6:07) (Matthew Gee)
2. Kingston Lounge (8:41) (Matthew Gee)
3. The Boys from Brooklyn (7:52) (Matthew Gee)
This is, above all, a down-to-earth, hard-bitting, swinging album.
That word "swinging" is very possibly the single most overworked descriptive term in jazz today. But there are times when it is not only proper but inevitable - when it's the only right word. Much current jazz is heavily intellectualized; some of this is undoubtedly valuable, but some seems merely tenous, with no feeling of having firm, solid roots. So it's both fitting and necessary that the other aspects of modern jazz - such as the kind Matthew Gee serves up here - have a sort of key code-word, instantly understandable as meaning, in effect: 'this music hasn't lost the beat.' At the moment, "swinging" is that key word.
Gee and his several associates on this LP definitely have the beat, the vital pulse. They have more than that, too. Very much in evidence are the fresh jazz ideas of several fine soloists with things to say and the ability to express them clearly and well. And it's always good to sense the easy rapport between men who know and appreciate each other's work, who can move together along the same musical lines without having to do any straining at all.
Those who must put their jazz into categories can tab this LP as being of the post-bop school, an extension of that new 'tradition' of small band jazz that began in Harlem with the 1940s and is still very much with us. Actually, Gee (like most jazzmen) has more than one music to offer. Here, specifically, there are two differing approaches. In the seven piece group there is the big, open sound of deliberately loose-limbed originals: the ensemble merely stating the fresh theme, after which the four horns take off in turn, with as much 'blowing' room as is needed. The Quintet, concentrating largely on standards, more succinctly stated, puts emphasis on ensemble interplay between Gee and the alto sax of Ernie Henry and on more tightly-knit arrangements (including two by the talented Philadelphia arranger, Bill Massey, who scored Out of Nowhere and wrote Joram).
Matthew Gee, who is belatedly getting a first opportunity to record with the spotlight focused on him, is among the far-too-many skilled performers who have earned the solid and long-standing respect of their colleagues without ever breaking through to the public recognition they clearly deserve. Gee, who has been described by Leonard Feather as one of the "best and most underrated of bop-influenced trombonists," was born in Houston, Texas, in the mid-20s. His father was a bass player; his brother Herman is also a trombonist. Matthew began on trumpet, then moved to baritone horn, and by about the age of eleven had settled on trombone. He was first influenced - not only in style, but in his actual decision to turn to that instrument - by hearing Trummy Young, then playing far-ahead trombone with the Jimmie Lunceford band. After a stay at Alabama State College (which had gained its musical reputation from the band Erskine Hawkins had organized there), Gee came on to New York, where his first big-band job turned out to be with Hawkins. After Army service, he worked with Dizzy Gillespie in 1946, with the Gene Ammons-Sonny Stitt group, Count Basie and Illinois Jacquet, and has freelanced in the New York area for the past couple of years.
Matthew's current favorites are J. J. Johnson and Benny Green, and some of his regard for them can be heard in his work. But there is even more in his driving, plunging style that is strictly Gee; and it is high time that a lot more people were able to appreciate just how much jazz that is. (Also strictly his own, it should be noted, are the in-tempo guttural throat sounds with which - in some totally unexplainable way - Gee occasionally seems to answer himself while playing!)
The supporting cast here rates its "all star" billing. On the Septet numbers, Frank Foster, a current mainstay of the Basie sax section, is in particularly rich form. Kenny Dorham, one of the original jazz Messengers and now leading his own Jazz Prophets, is one of the major trumpet voices on the present scene. Cecil Payne, who can also be heard prominently on Riverside RLP12-214 (with Randy Weston), demonstrates again his amazing agility on baritone sax. The Quintet features Ernie Henry, one of those rare alto players with a definite sound and ideas of his own in addition to the inevitable debt to Charlie Parker. (Both the playing and writing of Henry - Whom we at Riverside consider destined for near-future stardom - are featured on RLP12-222.)
The rhythm section is sparked by Art Taylor, whose drums are especially vital to the free-wheeling drive of the Septet tracks. Joe Knight, a young Brooklyn pianist, takes limited solo space but provides notable solid support throughout. Bass is shared by the formidable veteran, John Simmons, and the highly-regarded newcomer from Chicago, Wilbur Ware (whose chorus on Lover Man offers a taste of just how much he has to offer).
Finally, a note on a couple of those - as usual - cryptic titles for the originals. Kingston Lounge is a Brooklyn club in which Matthew has worked numerous dates; The Boys from Brooklyn honors the fact that a majority of the musicians on hand are from that borough; and Bill Massey left town before anyone could find out what Joram means.
Other outstanding modern jazz on HI-FI twelve-inch LPs in the Riverside “Contemporary Series” includes:
THELONIOUS MONK plays Duke Ellington; with Oscar Pettiford, Kenny Clarke (RLP12-201)
The Unique THELONIOUS MONK; with Oscar Pettiford, Art Blakey (RLP12-209)
Get Happy with the RANDY WESTON Trio – Down Beat “New Star” award-winning pianist (RLP12-203)
RANDY WESTON Trio plus Cecil Payne (RLP12-214)
Presenting ERNIE HENRY (RLP12-222)
New Music of ALEC WEILDER; composed for MUNDELL LOWE and his orchestra (RLP12-219)
Mundell Lowe Quartet; with Dick Hyman, Trigger Alpert, Ed Shaughnessy (RLP 12-204)
Guitar Moods by MUDELL LOWE (RLP12-208)
BOB CORWIN Quartet, featuring the trumpet of DON ELLIOTT (RLP12-220)
The Voice of MARTY BELL/ The Quartet of DON ELLIOTT (RLP12-206)
Six Valves: DON ELLIOTT and RUSTY DEDRICK play the modern jazz arrangements of Dick Hyman (RLP12-218)
A High Fidelity recording (Audio Compensation: RIAA Curve).
Produced by Bill Grauer and Orrin Keepnews.
Notes by Orrin Keepnews.
Cover Design by Paul Bacon; photograph by Jane Grauer.
Engineer: Jack Higgins (Reeves Sound Studios).
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are released by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS, Inc.
418 West 49th Street New York 19, N.Y.