Nice and Easy: JOHNNY LYTLE QUINTET
Johnny Lytle (vibes) Johnny Griffin (ts, except on side 2, #3) Bobby Timmons (p) Sam Jones (b) Louis Hayes (drs)
New York; January 29, 1962
1. But Not for Me (5:33) (George Gershwin)
2. Soul Time (4:33) (Bobby Timmons)
3. That’s All (5:23) (Webb – Levery)
4. 322-Wow! (4:07) (Johnny Lytle)
1. Coroner’s Blues (7:22) (Johnny Lytle)
2. Nice and Easy (8:16) (Johnny Lytle)
3. Old Folks (4:40) (Robinson – Hill)
Up to now in his recording career, vibraphonist Johnny Lytle has been featured with the accompanying instrumentation (organ and drums) that he regularly uses in club work. But there has never been any doubt in the minds of his enthusiasts at Jazzland of Johnny’s ability to carry his weight in top jazz company (a confidence supported by the fact that two of the foremost vibists, Lionel Hampton and Milt Jackson, have endorsed him). Actually, it has been felt that such a setting might well bring out further qualities in his playing heretofore untapped. The present album shows that feeling to have been a very accurate one.
Teaming Lytle (pronounced, incidentally, Lie-til) with such ‘tough’ musicians as are heard here was a guarantee of a vibrant (no pun intended) and alive session. In the forefront of the supporting cast is Johnny Griffin, a saxophonist of great drive, humor and enthusiasm. This isn’t the first time vibes and tenor have been placed in tandem: in recent jazz history, Hampton and Cal Tjader have each recorded with Stan Getz, and Jackson, on separate occasion, has taped albums with Sonny Rollins, Hank Mobley and John Coltrane. However, the two Johnnies are something else again, with a sound and style all their own.
Backing Lytle and Griffin is the rhythm section which worked together in the original 1959 Cannonball Adderley quintet. Sam Jones and Lou Hayes still are with cannon, while Bobby Timmons is now the proprietor of his own trio (and a Riverside recording artist in his own right), but the fact that Bobby hasn’t played with Sam and Louis in a while obviously hasn’t damaged their fine inter-reaction one bit.
Lytle is originally from Springfield, Ohio, where he began his musical career a family band led by his father, a trumpeter. Johnny is a two-time Golden Gloves champion but decided that pounding a vibraharp was more creative than pounding on someone’s skull. He worked the small jazz-club circuit in the East and Midwest with his own combo and was appearing at the Baby Grand in Wilmington, Delaware when Jazzland A&R chief Orrin Keepnews first heard and was impressed by him. Lytle’s sound is hard and firm; his attack percussive. Each note rings true with real definition. He manages to place in perfect balance the two main elements of the vibes: melody and percussion.
Griffin is not heard on Old Folks and plays a minor role on That’s All. But the rest of the time he really makes his presence felt. The hot pulse of his serpentine lines is catalytic, inspiring Lytle to his best recorded work to date. Timmons is in excellent form, too. His playing is warm and economical. Even his flowing, long lines are structured so that they have no wasted notes.
This is an unpretentious session in which the obvious enjoyment of the players come through clearly. Listen to the vitality of the rhythm section on the medium-up, deeply-grooved version of Gershwin’s But Not for Me and Lytle’s own 322-Wow! (The Latter, a jumping Milestones-ish kind of thing is so named because 322 is Johnny’s street address in Springfield where, with his family and friends in motion, everything always seems to be in a seething state of chaos.) Lytle is the essence of happy wailing on But Not for Me and Griffin is all over his tenor. Timmon’s Soul Time (it was the title number on one of his own Riverside albums) swings deeply in its 6/8 way.
The ballads are treated tenderly, but Lytle never stops swinging, whether at the slow tempo of That’s All or the relaxed medium groove of the nostalgic Old Folks. The latter has steady Hayes baking, in the straight-ahead Kenny Clarke manner, and the bonus of a Sam Jones solo.
Sam also picks one on Coroner’s Blues, a rolling, minor-key Lytle blues. The title tune of the set, Nice and Easy by Johnny Griffin, is also a blues – and one that lives up to its title. The staccato, xylophonic approach which Lytle utilizes in some of his “fours” with Griffin here is a most diverting sound.
This thoroughly delightful set cannot help but advance Johnny Lytle’s position in the jazz world. In a field so crowded with good performers, sometimes it takes one particular album to direct attention to a musician. This one is going to make a lot of people sit up and take notice.
Johnny Lytle’s previous Jazzland albums include :
Blues Vibes (JLP 22; Stereo 922)
Happy Ground (JLP 44; Stereo 944)
Johnny Griffin is also featured on Jazzland, with the quintet he co-leads with Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, on :
Though Tenors (JLP31; Stereo 931)
Lookin’ at Monk (JLP39; Stereo 939)
Griff & Lock (JLP42; Stereo 942)
Blues Up and Down (JLP60; Stereo 960)
Produced by ORRIN KEEPNEWS
Recording engineer: RAY FOWLER
Recorded and mastered at Plaza Sound Studios
Album design: KEN DEARDOFF
Back-liner photos by STEVE SCHAPIRO
This recording is available in both Stereophonic (JLP 967) and Monaural (JLP 67) form.
JAZZLAND RECORDS are produced by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS, Inc.
235 West 46th Street New York City 36, New York