MOON CHILD: JOHNNY LYTLE TRIO plus Ray Barretto
JOHNNY LYTLE QUINTET: Johnny Lytle (vib) Milton Harris (org) Steve Cooper (b) Peppy Hinnant (drs)
Ray Barretto (cga) Plaza Sound Studios, NYC; July 2, 1962
Moon Child (4:39) JLP(S9)-81 J-45-718
A Taste of Honey (4:36) - - Rvs4551
Work Song (6:38) -
The Nearness of You (4:28) -
The Moon Man (4:02) -
When My Dreamboat Comes Home (4:32) -
Moonlight in Vermont (4:27) -
The House of Winchester (4:19) -
The earthy and exciting vibist featured on this album is a young man with the stance and something of the appearance of fighter (which he once was), who for some time has been demonstrating that he has what must be one of the very biggest, deepest, and musically most expressive souls in the whole world.
These comments about JOHNNY LYTLE are easily enough verified by this package and its contents. I7d suggest starting with the record itself, which provides indisputable evidence as to just how deep-rooted and blues-filled Lytle’s playing ism and offers swift proof of our remarks about the size and depth of his musical soul. Once you’ve tasted the contents, then all the other data should really come into focus. The moon-and-clouds picture on the cover fits the night mood set by the title tune. The photo on the back shows a man who looks a great deal like he sounds: kind of tough on the outside, perhaps; most certainly someone who knows how to take care of business; and with a strong suggestion of the interior warmth that is so quick to break through to the surface. And if you haven’t heard much of his music before, this liner has a list of Johnny’s other albums, which is something you’re apt to put to immediate use.
Lytle was raised in Springfield, Ohio, and still makes his home there. He probably had little choice about getting into music: his father, who played trumpet, organized a family band and Johnny became its drummer. Shifting to vibes eventually was his own idea, however, and so was the decision to stick with a musical career (after two golden Gloves championships and a very brief fling at pro boxing). That drumming background does clear up one point. There are comparatively few vibes players around; and I’ve always suspected that one reason for the scarcity is that it’ an instrument you have to set up and dismantle and cart around drums cases around early in life, this could hardly be too frightening …
Despite his drumming star, and despite the still-noticeable early influence of Lionel Hampton, Lytle is not basically a percussive vibist. He does have a favorite and most effective a percussive staccato effect (it turns up here in his solo on The Moor Man), but ore than anything else he is concerned with melody and sound and with that particular kind of rhythm that is inevitably linked with those who love and understand and can handle the blues. In this respect he looks toward Milt Jackson, for whom he has vast respect – an attitude in some pretty bulky cases. But for a man who had to lug that certainly shows good taste and good sense. The specific sound of Johnny’s group, based on the rather unusually blend of vibes and organ, is at least partly due to his firm and long-standing collaboration with organist Milt Harris. They grew up together in Springfield, and have worked together since 1957, which is a bit more than a lifetime as jazz alliances are usually measured. (The present Lytle trio has been set since 1960, when drummer Peppy Hinnant joined up.) One concrete illustration of their constant cooperation is Moon Child. As Johnny explains it, Milt became fascinated by a set of chord changes and kept working then; around until Lytle finally came up with a melody to fit and the tune was born.
For this album, recorded while the trio was in New York for highly successful stand at Count Basie’s club, the regular group was augmented by the invaluable presence of Ray Barretto, the master of what might be called the art of non-Latin conga playing. Ray can be very much a master of true Latin music when the occasion calls for it, but on many a record date he has done what he accomplishes so brilliantly here, adding a unique rhythmic plus. Barretto is heard to fine effect on six of the tracks (laying out only on the two ballad-tempo standards) and on Moor Man takes off on a popping bongo solo. That tune is a Lytle original, and so is The House of Winchester, dedicated to Johnny’s close friend and friendly rival on vibes, the late Lem Winchester. “I tried to make it really swing, the way Lem could,” says Lytle. Also lending a hand on this and several other numbers is bassist Steve Cooper. Johnny notes that “in a club, a bass generally gets in the way of the organ, but somehow on a record date it can be a big help in getting that bottom feeling.”
That kind of feeling, emanating from the whole group, is usually very much in evidence here. Among others, it leaps at you in the moving-along version of When My Dreamboat Comes Home, and is almost overwhelmingly present on Nat Adderley’s funky classic, Work Song, and on a full of roots treatment of the deceptive simple and haunting A Taste of Honey.
- PETER DREW
NOTE: Produced by Orrin Keepnews and notes by Peter Drew; recording Engineer: Ray Fowler.
Cover design and photo by Ken Deardoff. Back-liner photo by Steve Schapiro.