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Gavin Walker's "The Jazz Show" - November lineup
Features for November:
November 7: “The Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall”.
November 14: “Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Big Band Live at the Village Vanguard”.
November 21: “The Jazz Crusaders/The Festival Album”.
November 28: “Lester Young At His Very Best”.
November 7: “The Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall” has been treated with almost the same awe as the discovery of the Holy Grail. Rightly so! This newly discovered and never before heard document of one of the most electrifying and potent groups in Jazz is worth and totally deserving of all the hype and animated discussion that has been bestowed on this disc. The formation of this band that trombonist J. J. Johnson called “The most important collaboration in Jazz since Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie” happened when Monk got his “cabaret card” back from the authorities in New York and was allowed to work Clubs again. Monk’s “card” had been lifted due to a dubious bust in 1951 and because he didn’t have a “card” he was not allowed to work in clubs that served alcohol. The “cabaret card” law was repealed many years ago but it did affect a number of great players. Monk began working with a trio in late Spring 1957, at the “Five Spot” in the Village with bassist Wilbur Ware and drummer Rossiere “Shadow” Wilson and also occasionally Art Blakey and “Philly Joe” Jones. John Coltrane had been fired from Miles Davis’ band for drug and alcohol abuse and realized that he had to clean up his act if he was to survive and develop. By late Spring Trane was “clean” and sober and kicked his heroin habit. He had signed with Prestige and was making albums under his own name. Coltrane began to go to Monk’s house and learn Thelonious’ complex tunes and soon Monk brought him into the band. The group played The Five Spot to full houses and line-ups every night and plans were being made to record Trane, Monk, Ware and Wilson. It didn’t happen as Coltrane was signed to Prestige and Monk to Riverside Records. Bob Weinstock of Prestige and Orrin Keepnews of Riverside could not arrive at a suitable agreement to record the band and the summer flew by. Keepnews was smart enough to get the band into a studio and record three tunes that he released after Coltrane’s Prestige contract expired. Those three tunes were the only documentation of this band up until now. Bassist Wilbur Ware was fired by Monk in August 1957 for tardiness and drug and alcohol abuse and replaced by the rock steady (if less spectacular) pulse of Sam Gill a.k.a. Ahmed Abdul-Malik, who had none of Ware’s bad habits. This was the band that played Carnegie on November 29, 1957 – a triumphant end to one of the most important associations in jazz. Two sets were played both with a time limit as there were other performers on the bill so there are no bass or drum solos and the two sets add up to 51 minutes. The music is beyond words as you’ll hear but a word must be said for the under-appreciated Shadow Wilson (who died in 1959). He is in the opinion of Gavin Walker, the finest and most “in-tune” drummer to play with Monk with the possible exception of Art Blakey.....check out Shadow! If this music had been released on an album in 1958 one can only speculate what changes it would have brought to Jazz had players studied these performances over a period of time.
November 14: “Thad Jones and Mel Lewis Big Band Live at the Village Vanguard” was the debut recording of one of the finest big bands in modern jazz history and one of the great collaborations in jazz history. Trumpeter extraordinaire and master writer and arranger Thad Jones and Mel Lewis, one of the all-time finest big band drummers, scored Monday nights at the Village Vanguard to perform with a rehearsal band and to play Thad’s compositions and arrangements to give him an outlet. It was a “labour of love” and very little money but because of Thad and Mel and their tenacity they were able to attract some of the very best players in New York to fill the band’s chairs. Monday nights were in those days an “off” night for most players and soon the band was filled with the “cream of the crop” who had nothing to lose by playing for very little money on a Monday night. Soon the club was full on Mondays and the band jelled and attracted promoters and recording executives and critics and the band took off. Trips to Europe and country wide tours took place but the Vanguard gig stabilized the band, and was always there.....the band had a “home” for many years. Tonight’s feature is the band’s first recording and it’s a beauty (in the words of Don Cherry) and sets a very high standard for future outings. Players such as master baritonist Pepper Adams and the dynamic tenor of Joe Farrell and Eddie Daniels’ clarinet spark the reed section and Garnet Brown’s blustery trombone adds spice to that section. The trumpets are superb led by a master, Snooky Young. Roland Hanna on piano is paired with the great Richard Davis on bass and last but never least is Mel Lewis.....the master big band drummer. Thad Jones’ solos are always worth listening to but it is his arrangements and compositions that give the band its’ distinctive sound. And what a sound it will be on tonight’s feature.
November 21: “The Jazz Crusaders/the Festival Album” goes coast to coast on two separate concert performances by this great band at the Pacific Jazz Festival at Costa Mesa California and at the Newport Jazz Festival on the other coast. The Jazz Crusaders (later known as just The Crusaders) were a band of musicians from Texas who migrated to Los Angeles and worked gigs from dances to formal concerts. They worked the R’ N’ B circuit as “The Nighthawks” and Jazz gigs as “The Jazz Crusaders”. The four original members were Joe Sample (piano), Wayne Henderson (trombone), Wilton Felder (tenor saxophone) and Nesbert “Sticks” Hooper (drums). The bass players changed often but the four original Texans remained constant. The band was always very popular with the jazz audience and with club owners throughout the country as they blended Gospel and Rhythm and Blues influences with a modern Jazz sound. Their arrangements were very together (mostly done by pianist Joe Sample) and their demeanor very professional. The critics and reviewers ignored the band and gave it short shrift and yet this group was every bit as distinctive and creative as say, Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers or the Jazztet or Horace Silver’s band. The natural blend of trombone and tenor saxophone gave the band it’s unique sound as well as the mixture of styles. Tonight’s feature will begin at the Newport Jazz festival in the East with Herbie Lewis on bass and conclude in the West at Costa Mesa with Jimmy Bond replacing Lewis. The Jazz Crusaders were a great band and fully deserving an honoured place in Jazz history.
November 28: “The President” in Jazz royalty was Lester Willis Young who was born into a musical family in Woodville, Mississippi on August 27, 1909 and died in New York city on March 15, 1959 at age 49. Lester gained fame in the Count Basie Band from 1934 until he quit in 1940 as Basie wanted to record on a Friday the thirteenth.....Young was very eccentric and superstitious. Young freelanced for a while and played in a band led by his brother Lee, a fine drummer then rejoined Basie from December 1943 until September 1944. It is during this period that Lester Young made some of his finest and most influential recordings. Lester Young was really the “Second Messiah” of jazz (after Louis Armstrong) as he revolutionized the sound of the tenor saxophone and offered the world a different way to hear the instrument that was dominated by Coleman Hawkins, Chu Berry, Don Byas and BenWebster et. al. Lester influenced everyone from Stan Getz to Sonny Stitt (on tenor) to John Coltrane and Dexter Gordon to literally thousands of players who based their styles on Young’s. Tenor saxophonist Milton “Brew” Moore told the world that “anybody that doesn’t play like Lester Young is wrong!” Three sessions comprise tonight’s feature and Count Basie is on two of them. Three of the greatest drummers are involved pushing Lester to great heights: “Big Sid” Catlett, “Papa” Jo Jones and Shadow Wilson. Lester’s sad descent into alcoholism and self-neglect in the fifties is well documented but on these tracks he is happy, healthy and at his very best and when Prez is at his best there is none better.
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