tenor and flute with GEORGE WALLINGTON, IDREES SULIEMAN
Bobby Jaspar (fl 3,ts) Idrees Sulieman (tp,A 1,2) George Wallington (p) Wilbur Little (b) Elvin Jones (drs) NYC; May 23 & 28, 1957
1. Seven Up (8:56) (Bobby Jaspar)
2. My Old Flame (5:57) (Johnson – Coslow)
3. All of You (5:53) (Cole Porter)
1. Doublemint (6:49) (Idrees Sulieman)
2. Before Dawn (6:10) (George Wallington)
3. Sweet Blanche (5:37) (George Wallington)
BOBBY JASPAR is a young, Belgian born flutist and tenor man with a considerable European reputation who intends to make America his home. From the outstanding evidence presented on this LP, America is already very much his musical home...
So much is made of the fact that jazz is this country's only native form (or something like that), that many of us find it strange when a non American turns seriously to jazz. This of courser is nonsense. For we also make much of the role of jazz as our musical ambassador to the rest of the world. Our performers and records go out to Europe and beyond in great numbers, and presumably one purpose of this is to educate. Granted that it is not easy for someone without first hand knowledge of this country to comprehend fully a music that is genuinely and deeply a product of American life. But let's face it: it is obviously not easy for native born American either. Millions of our fellow citizens are quite unable to distinguish between jazz and rock roll, or between jazz and Alexander's Ragtime Band; and how often have you squirmed at those peculiar non musical newspaper uses of words like "bop." Quite a few Europeans are much better informed than that.
Playing jazz well is probably even more difficult than understanding it; and it may even be a legitimate source of wonder when a non American succeeds at that. To play the music proficiently, and with mechanical skill, is one thing: a great many people learn foreign languages. But to sound right, to sound at home, to be able to improvise in context with American musicians that is something else again. It is as exceedingly rare as reaching the stage of really being able to think in a foreign tongue (rather than the usual tactics of starting with words in your native language and translating them in your head before you being to speak.)
In pre modern jazz, there are few successful examples of this, or possibly none. The French and Dutch musicians who worked with Coleman Hawkins, Benny Carter and the like in the '30s were primarily supplying backgrounds for solo stars. The great gypsy guitarist, Django Reinhardt, was associated almost entirely with the all European "Quintet of the Hot Club of France." But in recent years several younger musicians, principally in Sweden and France, have begun to produce jazz of more than academic interest. There are of course successful pianists from Germany, England, France and Japan. And now there is Bobby Jaspar, whose jazz appears to be quite thoroughly and astonishingly "idiomatically" American.
Except for occasional guest shot ventures, most European jazzmen have stayed at home. And with all due respect, pianists, particularly those playing in a trio format, do not really have to face the major problems of integrating their music with that of others. So what Jaspar has done, although it sounds simple enough, is just about unique: on his regular job since coming to this country, and also on this LP, he works on even terms with first line American jazz artists, and it works out just fine.
Jaspar's regular affiliation has been with J. J. Johnson's quintet, and for this album he has chosen to work with two members of that group: bassist Wilbur Little, and the remarkable and unusual young drummer, Elvin Jones (the equally talented brother of Hank and Thad). Also on hand are such highly desirable colleagues as George Wallington and Idrees Sulieman. Both are heavily experienced but still quite youthful veterans who have contributed importantly ever since the formative years of modern jazz.
Jaspar was born in Liege in February of 1926. He studied piano from the age of eleven, and at sixteen took up the clarinet, soon switching from that reed to tenor and then adding flute. At the end of World War II he was with American Army Special Services in Germany, and his jazz career actually got under way in 1950, when he played with Henrie Renaud and then with Bernard Peiffer in Paris. He recorded frequently in Paris, both as a leader and with such as Chet Baker, Jimmy Raney and Andre Hodeir, the noted French composer arranger critic, who has been one of Bobby's strongest supporters for a number of years now. From 1954 to '56, Jaspar led his own quintet in Paris, and in 1955 both his group and Bobby himself (as a tenor man) placed first in the Jazz Hot magazine poll. In the Spring of 1956, when a great many people had come to share Hodeir's expressed opinion that Jaspar was the best jazz musician then playing in France, Bobby chose to make his move, coming to this country in April. Shortly thereafter, partly on the recommendation of Miles Davis, Jay Jay made him the other horn man in his newly formed group.
Those familiar with Jaspar's European work have noted a marked change since he has been here: originally he was strongly influenced by Stan Getz, but of late the "harder" tenor sound and approach of the East Coast jazzmen seems to have made the greatest impact on him. (If any comparison is to be made at this point, it probably should be to Zoot Sims.) As for flute, Bobby seems to be a warmer and more swinging performer on that instrument than almost anyone else around.
Playing here in relaxed quartet and quintet frameworks, Bobby and his associates mix standards and their own originals including a blues entitled Doublemint that may turn out to be part of a Chewing Gum Suite by Sulieman (he contributed a tune called Juicy Fruit to Coleman Hawkins' recent Riverside album, The Hawk Flies High). All in all, this LP should make it quite clear that Jaspar is not to be given any specially lenient evaluation as a non native oddity. He doesn't need that. Bobby Jaspar can stand on his own as a highly qualified modern jazz voice.
Other outstanding modern jazz on HIGH FIDELITY 12-inch Riverside albums includes –
SONNY ROLLINS: The Sound of Sonny (RLP12-241)
Monk’s Music: THELONIOUS MONK Septet, with Coleman Hawkins, Art Blakey, Gigi Gryce (RLP12-242)
Thelonious Himself: solo piano by THELONIOUS MONK (RLP12-235)
Brilliant Corners: THELONIOUS MONK, with Sonny Rollins, Ernie Henry, Clark Terry, Max Roach (RLP12-226)
KENNY DORHAM: Jazz Contrasts; with Sonny Rollins, Max Roach (RLP12-239)
HERBIE MANN: Sultry Serenade (RLP12-234)
The Hawk Flies High: COLEMAN HAWKINS, with J. J. Johnson, Idrees Sulieman (RLP12-233)
A Grand Night for Swinging: MUNDELL LOWE, with Billy Taylor, Gene Quill (RLP12-238)
Serenade to a Bus Seat: CLARK TERRY Quintet; with Johnny Griffin, Wynton Kelly (RLP12-237)
This Is New: KENNY DREW, with Donald Byrd, Hank Mobley (RLP12-236)
Jazz a la Bohemia: RANDY WESTON Trio and Cecil Payne – recorded at the Café Bohemia (RLP12-232)
BILL EVANS: New Piano Jazz Conceptions (RLP12-233)
GIGI GRYCE and the Jazz Lab Quintet, with Donald Byrd (RLP12-229)
Zoot!: The ZOOT SIMS Quintet (RLP12-229)
Trigger Happy: TRIGGER ALPERT All-Stars, with Tony Scott, Zoot Sims, Al Cohn, Urbie Green, Joe Wilder,
Ed Shaughnessy (RLP12-225)
Counterpoint for Six Valves: DON ELLIOTT and RUSTY DEDRICK play Dick Hyman arrangements (RLP12-218)
New Music of ALEC WILDER; MUNDELL LOWE Orchestra (RLP12-219)
Presenting ERNIE HENRY, with Kenny Dorham, Kenny Drew (RLP12-222)
A HIGH FIDELITY Recording Riverside Reeves SPECTROSONIC High Fidelity Engineering
(Audio Compensation: RIAA Curve).
Produced, and notes written by Orrin Keepnews.
Cover by Paul Weller (photography) and Paul Bacon (design)
Engineer: Jack Higgins (Reeves Sound Studios)
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are released by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS
553 West 51st Street New York 19, N.Y.