Glidin’ Along: BENNY GREEN Quintet
Benny Green (tb) Johnny Griffin (ts) Junior Mance (p) Paul Chambers (b) (*) Larry Gales (b) Ben Riley (drs)
Recorded in New York City; March 9 & 22, 1961
African Dram (5:44) (Benny Green)
Sweet Sucker (7:58) (*) (Johnny Griffin)
Glidin’ Along (5:05) (*) (Babs Gonzales)
Green’s Scene (8:23) (Gonzales-Green)
Milkshake (3:58) (Johnny Griffin)
Stardust (4:10) (*) (Hoagy Carmichael)
Expubidence (3:58) (*) (Babs Gonzales)
There can be no doubt that J.J. Johnson really revolutionized the trombone in the modern era. Instead of following other, earlier trombonists, he applied the techniques and ideas of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie to his instrument. Although Johnson’s has been the most pervasive, persuasive style since 1946, there have been those few trombonists who have succeeded in avoiding falling completely under his large shadow. Benny Green, who played with Parker and Gillespie in the Earl Hines band in 1942-43, is certainly one of those few. It has been obvious since his first rise to prominence (with Charlie Ventura in 1948), that Green – like J. J. – has absorbed from Bird, Diz and Lester young, too.
But in addition, other factors, including his very sound, link Benny to the important trombone players of the ‘30s. At times I have heard overtones of Dickie Wells. Leonard Feather has called Benny “a modern Benny Morton.” His fat, fruity tone often reminds one of Lawrence Brown. Essentially, Green’s style is headed his own group with Budd Johnson. After leaving Earl Hines’ combo in 1953, Green again formed a quintet featuring tenor sax. Billy root, Charlie Rouse, and Eric Dixon are three who worked with him in the ‘50s.
For “Glidin’ Along,” he again called on a tenor – a “tough” tenor – Johnny Griffin. A native Chicagoan like Benny, “Griff” has really matured in the last few years and has developed into one of the stars of the Riverside-Jazzland stable. His urgent, extrovert tenor has been heard to good advantage in a variety of contexts on the two labels.
By substituting the words “hot, bluesy piano” for “urgent, extrovert tenor”, most of the descriptives in the above paragraph can be applied to Junior Mance. Even though he was born in suburban Evanston, he learned his craft in Chicago. Bassist Gales and drummer Riley are most familiar to Jazzland listeners for their fine teamwork with Mance and the Griffin-“Lockjaw” Davis quintet.
Paul Chambers, who alternates with Gales in this set, is best known as Miles Davis’ bassman. Few remember that one of the first groups he worked with, on coming to New York in 1955, was Green’s!
Three G’s contributed the originals here. The pretty, exotic African Dram is by leader Green. He also collaborated with the renowned singer Babs Gonzales for Green’s Scene, which in addition to Benny’s full-throated bone, Johnny’s easy-riding-then-climactic tenor and Junior’s gritsy piano, features a vocal rendition by the Green Glee Club (i,e,; everyone in the studio at the time).
The aforementioned Mt. Gonzales also penned the title tune, Glidin’ Along, a theme that can lead one to visualize a very hip dance routine being done to its blues figure. His other offering, Expubidence, is titled with one of those Gonzales-coined terms which is not too easy to define, but which definitely indicates strong approval and apparently refers to the presence of a good deal of spirit and joyful vitality.
The third G is Griffin. The easy blues, Sweet Sucker, is his. Green builds effectively here: Mance flows right along (dig Chambers behind him) and Griffin is sharply alive. Johnny’s Milkshake is made in a blender with a Latin beat to its motor. Green displays his facile swing on this one, receiving appropriate send-offs from the supporting cast. Mance and Griffin, in shorter solo stints, are effective, too.
Hoagy Carmichael’s Stardust is the only ballad of the set. Benny has liked this evergreen for along time. He always plays it as if he means it, and this big-toned version is o exception. All the love and warmth that exemplify the best of a jazzman’s ballad treatment are present here.
Finally, a note about – of all things – spelling! Words evolve and change through usage, even when they are proper names. Whether to cap the diminutive of a name with y or ie has always been a problem. Bennie … er, Benny … Green has been confronted wit it for a long time. Although he always signed it “Bennie,” people insisted on writing it “Benny.” In the first “Encyclopedia of Jazz,2 it read the latter way. This annoyed me, as I’m a stickler for getting minute details right. Then, too, British baritone saxophonist Benny Green had begun to establish a reputation as a knowing and witty journalist on jazz subjects, and confusion was in the wind. While working on the “New Encyclopedia of Jazz” in 1960, I did my best t set the record straight: in that book, the trombone-playing Green is listed as “Bennie.”
However, it is my sad duty to report that, despite such efforts, green has finally succumbed to the pressure of the many misspellers. He has given u this particular fight and from this album forward, by vote of the owner of the name, it’s going to be Benny (or so it says here9>
Whatever, whichever, however way it may be spelled, Benny sounds the same when spoken. And Benny Green’s trombone sounds equally expubident no matter how you call it. As Demonsthenes once said, with his mouth full of pebbles: “What’s in a name?”
Other recent outstanding JAZZLAND albums include:
Griff & Lock – ‘Lockjaw’ Davis – Johnny Griffin Quintet – JLP 42 & Stereo 942S
Junior Mance Trio at The Village Vanguard – JLP 41 & Stereo 941S
A Story Tale – Clifford Jordan and Sonny Red – JLP 40 & Stereo 940S
Getting’ Together – Paul Gonzalves, with Nat Adderley – JLP 36 & Stereo 936S
Produced by ORRIN KEEPNEWS
Recording Engineer: BILL STODDARD (Bell Sound Studios)
Cover design: KEN DEARDOFF
Back-liner photos: STEVE CHAPIRO
JAZZLAND RECORDS are produced by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS, Inc.
235 West 46th Street, New York 36, New York