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Old May 29, 2010, 03:13 PM
Gavin Walker Gavin Walker is offline
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Join Date: May 2007
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Jazz Feature for May 31: Bennie Green & Gene Ammons:"The Swingin'est".

The title of tonight's Feature sums up the music to a tee. "The Swingin'est" is hard driving blues based modern Jazz played by an all-star group co-led by two of the finest products of one of America's great Jazz cities, namely Chicago. The leaders are trombonist Bennie Green and tenor saxophonist Gene Ammons. Those of you who are regular listeners to 'The(e) Jazz Show' will recognize these two gentlemen as the two (among others) main soloists on the Show's opening and closing theme. I'm sure most of you regulars can hum right along with the soloists on that piece called "Soul Stirrin'".....it's the title track from one of Bennie's finest recordings and it was issued on Blue Note. The others on that track are Sonny Clark on piano, Ike Isaacs on bass, Elvin Jones on drums and a second tenor saxophonist, Billy Root. The scat vocal is done by the band plus the legendary singer/composer Babs Gonzales (Lee Brown). Tonight's Feature has Green and Ammons plus the "two Franks" from the Basie band; tenor saxophonist Frank Foster (who arranged most of the pieces here) and tenor saxophonist/flutist Frank Wess. On cornet is the wonderful Nat Adderley in great form plus the elegant Tommy Flanagan on piano, Eddie Jones (also from the Basie band) on bass and Albert "Tootie" Heath on drums. It was recorded in November of 1958 for the Vee-Jay label in New York. Vee-Jay's offices were based in Chicago and it was one of the few labels owned by African-Americans. Sid McCoy, a very hip Chicago DJ was in charge of the Jazz division of Vee-Jay (the label had a huge stable of famous rock and r&b artists and this supported the small Jazz division). McCoy picked and set up some very important recording sessions and knew his artists well. Vee-Jay went under in 1966 and the catalogue has been bought and re-bought by a variety of companies. The Jazz catalogue is small but of high quality.

Bennie Green and Gene Ammons were just two of a whole group of prominent Jazz players who were products of Chicago's DuSable High School music program under the direction of the redoubtable "Captain" Walter Dyett (1901-1969). Dyett emphasized basics (reading skills and a good sound) and a rigorous practise schedule and if you didn't measure up you were out. Some of his musical products were Nat 'King' Cole, Johnny Griffin, Von Freeman, Clifford Jordan, Richard Davis, Eddie Harris, John Gilmore to name but a very few. On tonight's Feature you'll hear the warm buttery sound of Bennie Green's trombone. Bennie was, along with J.J. Johnson, one of the early modern Jazz trombonists and although J.J. got deserved credit for being one of the pioneers of modern Jazz, Mr Green should be up there as well. Trombonist Steve Davis loves Bennie and called him "the Lester Young of the trombone". Green passed away in 1977 of cancer and was largely a forgotten man by then. Gene Ammons possessed one of the biggest sounds on the tenor saxophone and can be identified by just hearing two or three notes. Ammons was the son of the great boogie-woogie pianist Albert Ammons and had a very successful career despite some heavy setbacks (jail time, drug addiction)....."Jug" was his nickname and he was always a people's favourite but was slagged by some of the snobby Jazz critics (Ira Gitler and Nat Hentoff excepted) but Ammons was an influence on scores of saxophone players like Sonny Rollins, Jackie McLean and others. Ammons' return to the Jazz scene after a long prison sentence, was one of the most anticipated events of the late 60's. The critics finally came around and he was recognized as a Jazz giant. Ammons died sadly of bone cancer in 1974 but he was certainly not forgotten.

That is tonight's Feature...Green, Ammons PLUS Nat Adderley, Frank Wess and Frank Foster and a great rhythm section as noted above. Good tunes and fine solos by all....."The Swingin'est!"

The Feature will begin as usual, shortly after 11pm but I'm going to give you an early taste of the Feature right at 9pm by playing two very fine alternate tracks that came out of the CD re-issue of this session. I also have an advance copy of the soon to be issued CD of the Renee Rosnes/Bill Charlap album called "Double Portrait"....we'll hear several selections that I'm sure will make you want to get tickets for their Jazz Festival appearance on June 25 at the Centre For The Performing Arts. All this and much more......see you then............
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