The TADD DAMERON Band: 1948
CLASSICS OF MODERN JAZZ, VOL. 3
Fats Navarro (Side 1, #1, 3; Side 2, #1) (tp) Kai Winding (Side 1, #3; Side 2, #2, 3) (tb) Rudy Williams (Side 1, #1, 2) (as) Allan Eager (ts) Milt Jackson (Side 2, #1 only) (vib) Tadd Dameron (p) Curly Russell (b) Kenny Clarke (drs)
1. Good Bait (5:47) (Dameron – Basie)
2. Eb-pob (5:57) (Fats Navarro)
3. Tiny’s Blues (3:31) (Tiny Kahn)
2. Anthropology (5:25) (Gillespie – Parker)
2. Anthropology (5:25) (Gillespie – Parker)
3. Wahoe (6:01) (Benny Harris)
Part of the Jazzland “Classics of Modern Jazz series, the present album is the second to offer previously unissued late-‘40s selections by Dameron groups. The other album is – Fats Navarro with the Tadd Dameron Band (JLP 50)
From the early-Forties incubators of Minton’s and Monroe’s, the blossoming modern movement migrated down-town to 52nd Street in the mi-Forties. By 1949, however, the Three Dueces was the only modern jazz club left on The Street. But modern jazz was getting more popular and it moved to Broadway. The Royal Roost, opposite what is now the Warner Theatre, was a restaurant specializing in Chicken-in-the-Backet. In 1948, a jazz policy was tentatively introduced and soon was entrenched on a full-time basis. The Roost (referred to by press agents as the “Metropolitan Bopera House”) became one of most successful jazz clubs in New York.
The important musicians played at the Roost: the orchestras of Gillespie, Herman and Basie (featuring Wardell Grey): the small groups of Parker and Monk; and the Miles Davis nine-piece band. One of the combos to appear extensively at the club was Tadd Dameron’s; it was also one of the best. The nucleus included the leader-arranger at the piano; Curly Russell, bass; Kenny Clarke, drums; Allan Eager, tenor sax; and the remarkable Fats Navarro on trumpet. At various times, the quintet became a sextet through the addition of such as Milt Jackson, or Rudy Williams; for a time, Kai Winding took over Navarro’s chair. Featuring, for the most part, Dameron’s functional arrangements of his own lines, the group was a strong refutation of the silly notion, then being advanced, that modern jazz didn’t swing.
The material on this album was recorded in 1948 by Dameron groups on the job, presumably in connection with late-night broadcasts. The limitations of air time are not as drastic as those of the 78 rpm record. Therefore, although these performances could not be extended like today’s LP recordings, they are longer than the average commercial recording of that time and give the soloists a chance to stretch out a bit.
Dameron underplayed his role as a soloist, for he knew this was not his forte. He preferred to concentrate on a team role as a catalytic ‘composer’. On many of the 78s his groups recorded, he didn’t solo at all. Here he does, but limits himself, giving most of the space of the horns.
Allan Eager was probably the brightest star among the young tenor men around New York at the time. Dexter Gordon had returned to California, Stan Getz had not yet reached any prominence and Wardell Gray was just coming on the scene. In Dameron’s group, Eager was at the top of his game and a match for any of them. His inspiration was clearly Lester Young, but Eager was no mere imitator. He had his own interpretation of Pres’ style and already other elements, like Charlie Parker, were changing it more. Whatever he played swung with a happy, light-footed quality and pure-toned beauty.
The late Fats Navarro was the most important soloist of the group. So often an artist must die before his works are appreciated. In Navarro’s case, this was not so. He was acknowledged by musicians as a tremendous talent during his lifetime and his records were well received by the jazz public. Perhaps the great tragedy was that Fats did not appreciate himself enough, for if he had stayed healthy, he would have had no trouble finding employment.
Fats’ style was precise, symmetrical, soaring and lyrical. It was also well-night impeccable; and this was not because he played it safe, although his playing was less intricate than Gillespie’s. His surging power even made itself felt in his muted work.
As an influence, Navarro was important almost immediately after he first made his presence felt in the mid-1940s Billy Ecstine band. Kenny Dorham was affected early in his career and so was Clifford Brown, through whom Navarro has indirectly influenced so many others.
Rudy Williams, who was with Al Cooper’s Savoy Sultans at the age of 16, back in the late ‘30s, is another musician who died too young. A fishing boat accident took his life in the summer of 1954. His recordings were few, but clearly Williams had a substantial talent, albeit an erratic one.
One of the most ubiquitous bassist of the middle and late ‘40s was Curly Russell. He and the master-drummer Kenny Clarke comprised a powerful rhythm team with a solid bottom and a loose-joined top.
Three of the six selections here are by the “regular” quintet (Navarro, Eager, and rhythm section) plus one added starter. Williams is the sixth man on Eb-pob and Good Bait. The latter, a durable Dameron line originally written in 1939, is heard here in a longer version than the one included on Jazzland 50. The elasticity of Navarro’s eight bars, played above the ensemble in the opening melody statement, is amazing and his solo has remarkable continuity. Eb-pob (invert each syllable and you’ll get the idea) has two solos by Fats; one an example of his tightly-controlled muted work; the other, shorter one in his literally explosive open style.
On Symphonette, the second of two Dameron compositions in the album, the other man is Milt Jackson, who at the time had left Dizzy Gillespie’s first big band and was free-lancing around New York. Bags has the lead-off solo, and if his set of “bells” (or the way it was recorded) was inferior in those days, his imagination and swing were not. Eager and Navarro each manage to say something in a short space, something I fear most of today’s soloists would find hard to do.
The remaining tracks – the last on Side 1 and the last two on Side 2 – find trombonist Winding on hand in place of Navarro. Kai had left Stan Kenton the year before to join Charlie Ventura’s small group, and before forming a unit of his own in ’49, worked with Dameron. (in fact, the first band to play at the Roost was one led by Tadd that included Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Eager and Winding.) Kai’s brash, biting style comes through strongly in his three selections here. Possibly he was never as involved emotionally with jazz as during this period.
Tiny’s Blues, written by th elate drummer-arranger Tiny Kahn and first recorded by Serge Chaloff under the title Gavardine and Serge, was featured by both the Woody Herman and Chubby Jackson bands. This is a spirited performance by both horns, with the rhythm section really driving them on. (The closing riff is from Tadd’s The Squirrel.) Anthropology – a different version, with Navarro, appears on Jazzland 50 – is one of the many tunes of this period deriving from the chord progressions of I Got Rhythm. Eager steps out of his shoes from the very opening of his solo and Winding swings forcefully. Wahoo is a Benny Harris line that often showed up with different titles and without credit to little Benny. (His father was a full-blooded San Blas Indian: hence the title.) The swing here is as relaxed as Anthropology’s is heated, with typically good horn solos and a lyrical conversation between them.
Like seeds ina pod, the men who made this music have been scattered to the winds. Navarro and Williams are dead. Eager, whose dichotomy of personality has kept him in and out of music, has been driving sports cars. Russell, who failed to continue cultivating his talent, works only occasionally as a musician and very seldom on jazz jobs. Winding, after co-leading a group with J. J. Johnson from 1954 to 1956, formed a septet, featuring three trombones in addition to himself, that is best described as jazz-oriented but commercially slanted.
Three remain vitally involved with jazz. Jackson, of course, has been the main soloist in the Modern Jazz Quartet and perennial poll winner. Clarke, who moved to France in 1956, is active on the Paris scene. Dameron, away from mind to jazz. He heralded his return by his brilliant scoring for strings on Blue Mitchell’s “Smooth as the Wind” and followed this with his own album, “The Magic touch” – both on Riverside.
Although Tadd is very much in the midst of his career, the contributions of many of the others here lie in the past. But it was, in many ways, a glorious past. This reminder is an excellent continuation of Jazzland’s “Classics of Modern Jazz” series.
Album design: KEN DERADOFF
Mastered, 1962, by Plaza Sound Studios
JAZZLAND RECORDS are produced by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS, Inc.
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