The Chicago Sound
WILBUR WARE Quintet featuring JOHNNY GRIFFI
Wilbur Ware (b) John Jenkins (as) Johnny Griffin (ts) Junior Mance (p) Wilbur Campbell (dr) or Frank Dunlop (drs) – (on Side 1, #2 and Side 2, #4 only) New York; October 16 and November 18, 1957
1. Mamma Daddy (2:56) (Wilbur Ware)
2. Body and Soul (4:37) (Heyman – Sour – Green)
3. Desert Sands (4:28) (Stuff Smith)
4. 31st and State (7:22) (Wilbur Ware)
1. Lullaby of the Leaves (3:53) (Young – Petkere)
2. Latin Quarters (3:14) (John Jenkins)
3. Be-Ware (5:28) (John Jenkins)
4. The Man I Love (6:27) (George and Ira Gershwin)
Chicago has been a most important place-name in jazz for some forty years, beginning as an appealingly rip-roaring town for musicians to emigrate to up the Mississippi from New Orleans. Thus, in the 1920s, it became the home of such as Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton, and a great many young Chicagoans grew up firmly enmeshed in their music.
But time and music move on, and it should not be at all surprising that in the 1950s the most notable Chicago jazz sound is very much something else again. . .
The group of modern Chicagoans heard on this album have had much experience working together, and have strikingly similar approaches to jazz, so that they are joined by much more than just coincidence of birthplace. On the other hand, musicians of this caliber have an appeal by no means limited to the old home town: Wilbur Ware, for example, has of late been making a significant impression of New York; and Johnny Griffin's recent stint with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers has helped make his remarkable abilities known in many cities.
This album was Ware's idea. Having long been convinced that he is one of the most important new bassists in a good many years, we at Riverside were most pleased to have vehicle for showcasing his talents. As a sideman, Wilbur has always been very much in evidence, a natural result of the notably firm beat he lays down and the unusual, genuinely creative solos he constructs. As a leader, he has been convinced to take a bit - but not too much - more of the spotlight. He does solo extensively on Body and Soul and The Man I Love, extracting surprising freshness from these often-used pieces. And Lullaby of the Leaves is a tour de force, turned over almost entirely to the bass (but it took considerable effort to talk him into that one).
For the rest, though, Ware played down his solo role, and avoided any suggestions of unusual recording balance to favor the bass sound. What he wanted - and what he got - was an album straightforwardly devoted to the kind of jazz he feels most at home with, which does happen to be a music in which a strong bass plays a very key part. IT is a relaxed, decidedly earthy jazz (dear I mention that much-abused word: "funky"?), generally close to the "hard bop" school, but heavily colored by a feeling for the blues - particularly those gospel-tinged aspects of jazz sometimes referred to as "church blues." Thus, while quite modern in concept, it is actually also quite timeless, often specifically reaching back (though perhaps not deliberately so) to early jazz roots. All this is what is meant here by the term: the Chicago sound.
And all this stems naturally enough from Ware's own colorful musical background. Born in September, 1923, he was raised by a "sanctified preacher," the Reverend Turner, who played several instruments and who started Wilbur on banjo early: before he was four, Ware was accompanying the congregation (his debut was on Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam). While still a schoolboy, Wilbur learned drums (he still plays them on occasion) and several reeds, and played violin in the church - starting on an instrument built for him by Turner "out of veneer wood, but with real violin strings." At 10, he mastered a "lemon-crate bass" also made by the preacher. A couple of years later, Turner - obviously a remarkable artisan - built him a real bass, demonstrated " a few chord changes," and the same night young Ware was playing it in the church.
It was with that bass that Wilbur turned 'professional' - working with string groups and "tramp bands" on street corners and in roadhouses. He was already steeped in jazz: he had heard Duke Ellington and Roy Eldridge, and would hang out behind the Grand Terrace, which was close to his home, to listen to Fletcher Henderson's band. Billy Taylor's work on an Ellington record, Harmony in Harlem, and, somewhat later, first hearing the great Jimmy Blanton on Jack the Bear ("I learned that solo right away!"). Another bass player he mentions is Chicagoan Israel Crosby, whom he did not hear until 1946, but from whom he "got lots of ideas."
In that year Wilbur, just out of military service, really moved onto the jazz scene, working during the late '40s with many of the major jazz names who hit town and being heard at such spots as the Brass Rail and Lipp's Lower Level (more recently known as the Blue Note). At the Flame Lounge there was much jamming with Griffin, Wibur Campbell and Junior Mance, and between 1953 and '55 they were all prominently involved in that unique Chicago institution, the "Breakfast Dane" that kept that club going all day on Mondays. Ware, Griffin and Mance were together in blues-singer Eddie "Clean-head" Vinson's band, and in '54-'55 the two Wilburs formed the house rhythm section at the Beehive. One memorable stand there found them and Griffin working as a unit with Thelonious Monk. In 1956 Ware came on to New York, where among other things he was an original member of Monk's quartet in its celebrated engagement at the Five Spot.
JOHNNY GRIFFIN, outstanding among tenormen for the length and fluency of his line, was made available for his recording through the courtesy of Blues Note Records. Since then, however, he has become an exclusive Riverside artist. JULIAN (JUNIOR) MANCE, a driving young pianist, is best known for his work with Cannonball Adderley's quintet. WILBUR CAMPBELL, still based in Chicago, is a firm and imaginative drummer. When he was unavailale for one session, Frank Dunlop ( a 'foreigner' born in Buffalo, N.Y.) stepped in. JOHN JENKINS, an exceedingly promising alto, is younger than his Chicago colleagues but had played with them often and was a most welcome addition to the group. Together they have created an album that is certainly a credit to the fine old name of Chicago, and that is by any name a stand-out jazz effort.
Griffin can also be heard on –
Serenade to a Bus Seat: CLARK TERRY Quintet; with Wynton Kelly (RLP 12-237)
Among the several Riverside LPs to which Ware has contributed are –
Monk’s Music: THELONIOUS MONK Septet; with Coleman Hawkins, Art Blakey, Gigi Gryce (RLP 12-242)
Mulligan Meets Monk: THELONIOUS MONK and GERRY MULLIGAN (RLP 12-247)
Zoot!: ZOOT SIMS Quintet (RLP 12-228)
This Is New: KENNY DREW; with Donald Byrd, Hank Mobley (RLP 12-236)
Seven Standards and a Blues: ERNIE HENRY Quartet (RLP 12-248)
A HIGH FIDELITY Recording - Riverside-Reeves SPECTROSONIC High Fidelity Recording
(Audio Compensation: RIAA Curve).
Produced, and notes written by Orrin Keepnews.
Cover designed by Paul Bacon; cover photograph by George Hunter, from Shostal, Inc.
Engineer: Jack Higgins (Reeves Sound Studios).
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are released by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS
553 West 51st Street New York 19, N.Y.