BLUES FOR TOMORROW
SONNY ROLLINS, HERBIE AMNN, BOBBY JASPAR, MUNDELL LOWE, COLEMAN HAWKINS, GIGI GRYCE, JOHN COLTRANE, GENE QUILL, JACK SHELDON, JIMMY ROWLES, GEORGE WALLINGTON, BILLY TAYLOR, PAULCHAMBERS, WILBUR WARE, ELVIN JONES, ED THIGPEN, ART BLAKEY, and others
1. East Coast All-Stars:
Blues for Tomorrow (13:25)
2. Herbie Mann’s Californians:
A Sad Thing (5:01)
1. Sonny Rollins Quartet:
Funky Hotel Blues (5:57)
2. Mundell Lowe Quintet:
Let's Blow Some Blues (7:48)
3. Bobby Jaspar Quartet:
The Fuzz (6:10)
The blues remains, as it has always been, just about the best way of separating the men from the boys in jazz. This album, then, presents several groups of men.
Although the blues is always in some danger of being attacked as a basically primitive form of limited imagination (or words to that effect), the chances are that it will continue to prove indestructible: always at least a little more powerful and deeper and more satisfying than its critics. The fact ably demonstrated by this LP that many of the best of today's jazzmen find challenge, inspiration and unflagging pleasure in playing the blues, helps to underline the point.
The blues apparently actually preceded jazz per se, having evolved as a roughhewn vocal music in the South late in the nineteenth century. It soon developed into the generally (though by no means universally) used 12 bar, three phrases form: statement, repetition, resolution. Although it quickly became a key part of instrumental jazz, the blues reached its first great peak largely through the magnificent singers of the 1920s (Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, and others). Kept alive instrumentally through the '20s by a few of the big bands (notably Count Basie's), it surged forward again with the coming of modern jazz. It may seem strange that the blues was looked on with favor in that celebrated jazz revolution that turned its back on so many of the trappings of the past. But many of the major pioneers of modern jazz were men with roots not far removed from the blues (Charlie Parker was from Kansas City; Thelonious Monk's varied musical roots include church music) and with that paradoxical high regard for fundamentals that is so often a characteristic of the revolutionary.
Thus blues variations became an important part of bop. These may have sounded impossibly far removed from the blues of Bessie or of Jelly Roll Morton, but time and repeated listening have shown that the differences were much more of the surface than of the soul. All blues are part of the same vital jazz mainstream.
It was with thoughts like these in mind that Riverside began the effort to put together a varied collection that could serve as an informal partial anthology of modern blues. Either by specifically asking for an extra selection at a session, or by utilizing one sort of special circumstance or another, this unusual album gradually built itself:
Blues for Tomorrow, for example, although it is a piano-less selection, is a direct offshot of a Monk septet recording session (RLP12-242: Monk's Music). The leader had left, but the others in his star cast were still on hand; a blues was suggested, a figure was improvised, and they were off. It turned into rather a full-scale project of its own, running some thirteen and a half minutes and proving to be a fine sample of the loose-limbed, free-blowing, "funky" spirit that is one of the major virtues of Eastern jazz. The horn solos are, in order, by: Gigi Gryce, alto sax; Ray Copeland, trumpet; John Coltrane (who was present through the courtesy of Prestige Records) and then Coleman Hawkins, tenor saxes. There is also impressive solo work by two rhythm men uniquely qualified to carry the weight of this much 'strolling' - the formidable Art Blakey on drums, and Wilbur Ware on bass. Particularly noteworthy is Hawkins' performance: the veteran, who was the earliest and for many years the unchallenged king of tenor sax stars, surely demonstrates both his own musical timelessness and that of the blues.
A Sad Thing was a specifically requested extra, made in Los Angeles during the recording of an album designed to feature Herbie Mann's mastery of and instrument unusual in jazz: the bass clarinet (RLP12-245:"Great Ideas of Western Mann"). The four cool Californians - Jack Sheldon, trumpet; Jimmy Rowles, piano; Buddy Clark, bass; Mel Lewis, drums - who join with Mann here, help make this an example of a facet of modern jazz very different from that of the preceding selection.
Funky Hotel Blues - dedicated by Sonny Rollins to just about all the hotels that musicians have to stop at on the road - was cut at the final session of Rollins' first LP for Riverside (RLP 12-241: The Sound of Sonny). It features the big tone (probably the fullest tenor sound since Hawkins) of the most amazing new jazz star in years, already recognized as a major force and influence. You might say that he uses the blues here to prove that he clearly belongs among the very best. His rhythm section is: Sonny Clark, piano; Paul Chambers, bass; Roy Haynes, drums.
Let's Blues Some Blues is from a Mundell Lowe session that also featured pianist Billy Taylor (courtesy of ABC Paramount Records). It was arbitrarily omitted from the LP cut at that time (RLP 12-238: A Grand Night for Swinging) in favor of a fast-blues treatment of the same theme. But like the numbers in that album, it serves to demonstrate that both the guitarist and Taylor, sometimes accused of having overly soft approaches to jazz, can be as funky and tough-minded as anyone. Gene Quill, an outstanding young altoist, is also very much on hand, along wit Ed Thigpen on drums and Les Grinage, bass.
The Fuzz (which is intended as a reference to the sort-of-beard of the writer of these notes, not the slang term for police), spotlights a young tenor man from Belgium who would appear to have mastered the idiom of jazz better than any other non-native horn who comes to mind. And what better proof of this mastery than his version of something as thoroughly native and idiomatic as the blues. Pianist George Wallington, still-young veteran of the early 52nd Street days of bop; the unusual young drummer, Elvin Jones; and bassist Wilbur Little complete Jasper's quartet.
A HIGH FIDELITY Recording - Riverside-Reeves SPECTROSONIC A High Fidelity Engineering
(Audio Compensation: RIAA Curve).
Produced, and notes written by, Orrin Keepnews
Cover design: Paul Bacon. Cover photograph from Rapho Guillumette Pictures.
Recorded in 1957; Side 1, #2, at Capitol Tower, Los Angeles;
others at Reeves Sound Studios; New York.
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are released by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS, INC.
553 West 51st Street New York 19, N.Y.