The KENNY DREW Trio
Kenny Drew (p) Paul Chamber (b) Philly Joe Jones (drs) NYC; September 20 and 26, 1956
1. Caravan (4:52) (Mills – Tizol – Ellington)
2. Come Rain or Come Shine (6:06) (Mercer – Arlen)
3. Ruby, My Dear (5:42) (Thelonious Monk)
4. Weird-O (4:01) (Kenny Drew)
1. Taking A Chance on Love (4:39) (Latouche – Duke)
2. When You Wish Upon A Star (5:14) (Harline – Washington)
3. Blues for Nica (5:27) (Kenny Drew)
4. It's Only a Paper Moon (6:25) (Harburg – Rose – Arlen)
Jazz is both a very young and a very old music. From early New Orleans days to the present is a time-span that fits comfortable within the limits of an average man's life expectancy; yet that span has witnessed amazingly drastic changes in structure and sound - even though (most people will grant) the whole of it can readily be described by the same single term: "jazz."
This is hardly a new or original thought, but it seems a particularly relevant one here. KENNY DREW is among the best of the rising generation of jazz pianists (and, incidentally, there is a startling quantity of really good pianists, still in their twenties, on hand these days, which is surely a good sign for the immediate future of jazz.) Kenny is thoroughly a modernist, by inclination and by experience. He belongs to that substantial group that came out of high school, during the mid-1940s, into a post-graduate course that involved hard listening and some sittin-in at the several highly active centers of bop strewn along New York's 52nd Street. But note one important distinction between Kenny and most of his contemporaries:
Many current jazzmen (I might as well say too many) function as if their music sprang suddenly into life sometime after 1940, with no visible ancestry; as if it were almost a matter of pride with them not to dig those who played in the dim, dead '20s and '30s. It might be considered almost accidental that things are not that way with Drew. He was born, in New York City, in August of 1928, which is certainly not too long ago. But his mother, a classical pianist, began his musical education early, with private piano lessons at the age of five. (It's an education that hasn't stopped yet: Kenny continues to take classical piano lessons, from William Lawrence, and is studying orchestration with A.Jack Thomas.) The home atmosphere was heavily musical: a brother is also a professional pianist; a sister teaches music in the New York public schools. So it wasn't too surprising that before he was twelve, Kenny was in a position to be appreciating Fats Waller and trying to play like him.
From Waller, it was natural enough progression to Art Tatum and Teddy Wilson (and it's not even unnatural that Kenny was known, early in his stay at New York's Music and Art High School, as an ace boogie woogie man.) None of this, however, has kept him from developing into a highly original handler of modern-jazz ideas. Today he certainly doesn't sound like Waller - no more than he sounds like Bud Powell, whom he credits as his Number One influence. What he absorbed from Fats or Wilson or the Tatum of the early '40s may not even be recognizable as such to a listener unfamiliar with those pianists. But it's there all right; it's present as an underpinning that helps keep Kenny an infallibly swinging and emotionally moving performer, and one who feels strongly that music without a basic beat and without "sound" simply "isn't jazz, but just a reasonable facsimile."
Kenny Drew's career is notable for the quantity of top talents with whom he has been associated. His first job, as accompanist to dancer Pearl Primus, coincided with his first visits to 52nd Street. He played jazz gigs with a young crowd that included Sonny Rollins and Art Taylor; he became friendly with Al Haig, who was then working with Charlie Parker and let Kenny sit in for him at times. Kenny's first record date was with Howard McGhee in January, 1950; since then he has worked or recorded with (among others) Parker, Miles Davis, Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, and has led groups on LPs for Blue Note, Norgran and Jazz West. In 1952-3 he toured with Buddy de Franco's quartet, along with Curley Russell and Art Blakey, after which he spent three busy years in San Francisco and Los Angeles, returning East in the late Spring of 1956 as Dinah Washington's accompanist. He then worked with Blakey's "Jazz Messengers," and has most recently been free-lancing in New York.
When asked some of those standard questions about personal favorites, Kenny noted that, on piano, he feels Horace Silver "is cooking the most these days," and among the newer names, is "a fan of Randy Weston's." Among drummers, he singles out Blakey and Philly Joe Jones; on bass, Percy Heath, Paul Chambers and Doug Watkins.
PHILLY JOE JONES and PAUL CHAMBERS, fortunately enough, were available for this occasion. For, as Kenny would eagerly admit, they have a lot to do with lifting this LP far above the average run of trio sides. (They also helped make these among the smoothest-running, minimum-of-'takes' recording sessions I've ever heard of.) For one thing, both men have worked with Drew before; they know his musical approach and approve of it (which isn't necessarily always the case when even the best of musicians are thrown into a studio together). Equally important is that Paul and Philly have worked with each other consistently for the past year, as members of the Miles Davis Quintet. Rather than digging into the usual stockpile of adjectives to describe their abilities, I'll settle for quoting Miles, whose explanation, when he was being told how good his group sounded, was simply: "I have the best rhythm section in the country."
The repertoire here is solid material to work with: structurally sturdy standards, by men like Duke Ellington, Harold Arlen and Vernon Duke, that lend themselves to imaginative adventuring (my biggest personal kicks come from the waltz touches in Rain or Shine); a tricky original; a blues with guts. One ballad -When You Wish Upon A Star- that you might think a touch of corn, but that is turned into a piece of rare delicacy, and another - Thelonious Monk's Ruby My Dear - that Kenny describes as "a beautiful tune that I play a lot and never tire of playing; a lot of people don't realize that Monk's writing can be very lyrical."
The overall combination adds up most interestingly: a pianist of solid experience, depth and imagination, with an awareness of men who came before and with an unusual degree of sheer technical skill; playing good tunes with two associates who are not only first-class musicians but are able to join with Kenny to make a real playing unit, not just casual one-shot combination. It surely sounds quite promising on paper; the results, as can be heard in this album, are every bit as much as you could possibly expect.
The Cover Photograph …
is the first of a series, by outstanding American photographers, to be reproduced on Riverside albums. The material in this Distinguished Photographer Group, although not directly related to the contents of the LPs, displays much the same qualities of perceptiveness and sensitivity as characterize the best of current jazz.
This picture is by ROY DE CARAVA. Born in New York City in 1919, De Carava began his serious interest in photography in 1947 (originally a painter, he has had several one-man shows). His first photographic one-man show came in 1950; in 1952 he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. He has been represented in two major shows at the Museum of Modern Art: "Always the Young Stranger" and "The Family of Man", the celebrated exhibit created by Edward Steichen, and his work also appeared in the book based on that show. De Carava recently collaborated with Langston Hughes on "The Sweet Flypaper of Life", a picture-and-text book, and is currently working with Hughes on a book concerned with jazz.
Kenny Drew can also be heard on another 12-inch Riverside LP:
Presenting ERNIE HENRY; with Kenny Dorham, Wilbur Ware, Art Blakey (RLP12-222)
Riverside’s “Contemporary Series” of HIGH FIDELITY 12-inch LPs of notable modern jazz 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 (RLP12-203)
RANDY WESTON Trio, plus CECIL PAYNE (RLP12-214)
Counterpoint for Sic Valves; DON ELLIOTT and RUSTY DEDRICK play Dick Hyman arrangements (RLP12-218)
Jazz by Gee! –METTHEW GEE All-Stars, with Frank Foster, Kenny Dorham, Cecil Payne, Ernie Henry, etc. (RLP12-221)
BILL EVANS: New Jazz Conceptions (RLP12-223)
A HIGH FIDELITY Recording (Audio Compensation: RIAA Curve).
Produced by Orrin Keepnews and Bill Grauer
Notes by Orrin Keepnews
Cover designed by Fran Scott; photograph by Roy De Carava; typography: Paul Bacon
Engineer: Jack Higgins (Reeves Sound Studios)
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are released by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS
418 West 49th Street New York 19, N.Y.