Ray Barretto/ Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis: Alma Alegre
EDDIE “LOCKJAW” DAVIS with Ray Barretto’s Latin Percussion and Brass
Clark Terry (tp) Ernie Royal (tp) Phil Sunkel or John Bello (on side 1 #3 , 4 only) (tp) Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis (ts) Lloyd Mayers (p)
Larry Bales (b) Ben Riley (drs) with Ray Barretto (cng, bongos, quinto) and His Latin Percussion Section. Arrangements by Gil Lopez
in collaboration with Artie Azenzer
New York City; May 4, and 12, 1961
Wild Rice (4:53) (Gil Lopez)
Guanco Lament (5:16) (Gil Lopez)
Tin Tin Deo (5:08) (Pozo-Gillespie)
Jazz-A-Samba (4:14) (Gil Lopez)
Alma Alegre (Happy Soul) (5:22) (Gil Lopez)
Star Eyes (6:20) (Raye-DePaul)
Afro-Jaws (7:36) (Eddie Davis)
[Notes of RLP-373]
The jazz world has many ways of demonstrating its approval of a musician or a musical style, but one of the most frequent is by the pinning-on of an identifying label or a nickname. And there is frequently a second step to this process, too: approval and acceptance is frequently underlined by indicating eve greater familiarity, which is generally accomplished through a sort of verbal shorthand. By such a method Louis Armstrong, “Satchelmouth,” soon became Satchmo, and it was still the case years later when Charlie Parker became “Yardbird” and then exclusively Bird …
The title of this present album, it must be admitted, is a pun; but to appreciate its meaning you need only be aware of two present-day examples of this shorthand. The deep-toned tenor saxophonist named EDDIE DAVIS is rather less well-known by his proper name than as “Lockjaw” – and if you are really in there, you’ll know enough to refer to him offhandedly as Jaws. The Latin-flavored, percussive aspect of modern jazz that developed in the late 1940s utilized rhythms that came out of South America, the West Indies and particularly Cuba, where West African music had long survived virtually unaltered. The overall blend was tagged, succinctly and accurately enough, as “Afro-Cuban” – but this inevitably was compressed through usage to become, more recently, Afro or Afro-jazz. Thus it should be clear that, in longhand, this LP is concerned with Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis’ particular version of an area of modern jazz that reflects the strong combined influences of south-of-the-border and African musics. Therefore – Afro-Jaws.
But description and definition, whether long or short, is not too likely to convey the swinging fervor of this combination. For that, you might better sample the album itself – beginning, say, with either of the two Gil Lopez originals that lead off the two sides: the full-sounding, pulsating Wild Rice or the remarkable jazz waltz titled Alma Alegre (which translates as Happy Soul, a most appropriate name for this exuberant and unusual merger of earthiness and Latin).
For the fact is that the only ‘proof’ of the vigor and validity of “Afro-Jaws” is (as it should be) directly and specifically in the material and performance. There is nothing in Eddie’s background to link him to such music, nothing, that is, except his consistent jazz alertness and sensitivity and a long-standing awareness of the way in which such a setting complements and blends with his tenor style – and, consequently, an equally long-standing desire to make just such a record as this. Davis, born in New York in 1921 and a self-taught musician, combines in his playing both modern and so-called ‘mainstream’ elements in a way that is notably timeless and always fresh-sounding. Eddie’s early influences and abiding favorites prominently include Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster, which is something that can still be heard (the ballad-tempo opening section of the standard Star Eyes is to me especially evocative Webster at his warm best), although it has been evident for years that Lockjaw plays mostly like Lockjaw, adding a incisive, individualized bite and thrust to what he had absorbed of the ‘bottom’ tenor sound of those giants. Much of Eddie’s playing time in the ‘40s was spent in those initial Harlem centers of modern jazz, Minton’s and Monroe’s. In 1952 he joined Count Basie’s band for a memorable stay and thereafter has led various groups of his own, since May of 1960 co-leading a lustily swinging quintet with another Riverside tenor star, Johnny Griffin.
On his first album for his label, Jaws has wisely made much use of the skill and savvy of Ray Barretto. This young New York-born Latin drummer has done much in recent years to advance the cause of the Afro-jazz blend. For, while many such percussionists have had a hard time grasping and really meshing with jazz blowing concepts, Ray was initially jazz-oriented, and began in the early ‘50s by jamming with a wide range of players, from raw beginners to Charlie Parker. His had first been influenced by Chano Pozo, the sensational but short-lived Cuban conga drummer who worked with Dizzy Gillespie’s late-‘40s big band (Tin Tin Deo, written by Pozo and Dizzy, is included on this LP). Mongo Santamaria and Patato Valdes led him to concentrate on his own approach to the melding of Latin rhythms and jazz. By altering “the basic feeling” in the direction of jazz, “but not the beats,” he was able to play as an added drummer without interfering with the natural function of the regular jazz drummer. That is what happens here, with Ray leading a group of Afro percussionists in support of the jazz horns and in rhythm solos (as well as soloing most effectively himself on conga, bongos and quinto) in such a way as to complement and enhance, but never distract or detract from the ‘standard’ rhythm section – which is the piano-bass-drums unit from Jaws and Griffin’s current group.
Gil Lopez, a most stimulating young writer who is the pianist of Tito Puente’s noted band, not only wrote four new compositions for this occasion, but also arranged, in collaboration with Artie Azenzer, all the music here except the title tune, which, is a blues put together by Lockjaw. Lopez’ scores call for a three-man trumpet section as well, and he has made powerful and intriguingly-voiced uses of this group. Clark Terry, one of most variously skilled of today’s trumpet men, performs admirably in the section and takes all the brass solos (on flugelhorn and/or trumpet) with great fire. (On Afro-Jaws only, Ernie Royal also steps out of the section to trade ‘fours’ with Clark.)
And through and over all of this bursts the full and fervent tenor of Lockjaw, the focal point of this thoroughly exciting and unusual mixture of equal parts of Afro and Jaws.
NOTE: JLP(S9)-97 reissue of RLP-373
Produced by Orrin Keepnews. Recording Engineer: Ray Fowler. Recorded at Plaza Sound Studios,
Album design: Ken Deardoff; Back-liner photographs: Steve Schapiro
The present recording is also available in Stereophonic form on RLP-9373
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