Top 50 JAzz Blog

Friday, July 24, 2015

Benny Golson Show

The Duplex Mystery Jazz Hour of 7.23.15 on WZBC.ORG, 90.3 featured Benny Golson, one of the most singular talents in jazz: tenor sax master, arranger and composer of some of the great jazz tunes: Stablemates, Whisper Not, I Remember Clifford...

Listen HERE.


Benny Golson Nonet "Whisper Not" from "Benny Golson's New York Scene" (Jazz, 1957) on Contemporary Records 

Benny Golson Quintet  "Something In B Flat" from "Benny Golson's New York Scene" (Jazz, 1957) on Contemporary Records 

Benny Golson Sextet "Step Lightly" from "The Modern Touch" (Jazz, 1957) on Riverside 

Benny Golson Sextet "Hymn To the Orient" from "The Modern Touch" (Jazz, 1957) on Riverside 

Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers "Blues For Marcel" from "Des_Femmes_Disparaissent_(Soundtrack)" (Jazz, 1958) 

Benny Golson And The Philadelphians "Stablemates" from "Benny Golson And The Philadelphians" (Jazz, 1958) on United Artists 

Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers "Along Came Betty" from "Moanin'" (Jazz, 1958) on Blue Note 

Art Farmer-Benny Golson Jazztet "Along came Betty" from "Another Git Together" (Jazz, 1962) on Mercury 

Benny Golson Quintet "A Bit of Heaven" from "Gone With Golson" (Jazz, 1959) on Prestige 

Benny Golson (solo) "You're My Thrill" from "Take A Number From 1 To 10" (Jazz, 1960) on ARGO 

Benny Golson (duo) "My Heart Belongs to Daddy" from "Take A Number From 1 To 10" (Jazz, 1960) on ARGO 

Benny Golson Quintet "Little Karin" from "Take A Number From 1 To 10" (Jazz, 1960) on ARGO 

The Jazztet "Farmer's Market" from "Jazztet at Birdhouse" (Jazz, 1961) on ARGO 

Annie Ross "Farmer's Market" from "Farmer" (1952) on Prestige 

The Jazztet and John Lewis "Milano" from "The Jazztet and John Lewis" (Jazz, 1961) on ARGO 

Benny Golson's Orchestra "You're Driving Me Crazy / Moten Swing" from "Pop+Jazz=Swing" (Jazz, 1962) on Audio Fidelity 

Benny Golson's Orchestra "Ornithology / How High The Moon" from "Pop+Jazz=Swing" (Jazz, 1962) on Audio Fidelity 

Art Farmer - Benny Golson Sextet "Killer Joe" from "Meet the Jazztet" (Jazz, 1960) on ARGO 

Manhattan Transfer "Killer Joe" from "Vocalese" (Jazz, 1985) on Atlantic 

Benny Golson Quartet "Mad About the Boy" from "Free" (Jazz, 1963) on ARGO 

Benny Golson And The International Jazz Orchestra "Stockholm Sojourn" from "Stockholm Sojourn" (Jazz, 1964) on Prestige 

Benny Golson Sextet "If I should Lose You" from "Just Jazz" (Jazz, 1962) on Audio Fidelity 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Louis Armstrong and The Big River

A Marable band with Armstrong, onboard a Steckfus steamship
A lot of New Orleans musicians gigged with bandleader Fate Marable, who ran the bands for the Streckfus excursion boats that plied the Mississippi: Red Allen, Tommy Ladnier, Baby and Johnny Dodds, Pops Foster and many others. Not the least of them was Louis Armstrong, who played with Marable on-and-off for three years.

William Howland Kenney's excellent Jazz on the River and Dennis Owsley's City of Gabriels, The History of jazz in St. Louis, 1895-1983 both make it clear that music played on the riverboats during their heyday(c. 1910's-1930's) was arranged dance music of a medium tempo, with apparently little chance for a musician to "get off." So, for New Orleans jazz musicians, playing in a Marable band on a Streckfus steamboat was not a chance to hone his hot chops, but it was nonetheless a desirable gig. Especially after the closure of Storyville in 1917, even those in the upper end of the New Orleans jazz hierarchy were struggling. The boats provided a steady paycheck–$35 per week with room and board, $45 without. They also provided a heavy dose of discipline; some of it arbitrary and racist and some of it seen as useful. I.e., the discipline of reading music.

Louis Armstrong first played on a Streckfus steamer in 1918. He worked his way from town to town and in St. Louis, jammed with the local musicians. Louis was ambivalent about reading music. He knew it was a skill he needed to have, but said he thought it separated the musician from the listener. As a result, he progressed in reading, but didn't become really proficient. (c.f. the "pound plenty" story with Fletcher Henderson).

Armstrong was allowed to play a cornet solo with just piano accompaniment on a song called "La Veda," which apparently went over well. He wanted to expand his role and be a featured player and singer with the band, but neither Marable nor Streckfus wanted that. One can speculate that Armstrong's representation would have threatened the very tightly controlled, segregated "Dixieland" mythology that ownership felt underlay the appeal of the excursion boats and which they tried to purvey through the music. Give the customers a whiff of the exotic, but no polyphony, really fast or slow tempos or sexual lyrics.
Armstrong and Oliver
So, in 1921, Armstrong left Marable. Then, in 1922, he got the call to join King Oliver in Chicago (Jazz mythology about the music traveling up the river aside, there was no Mississippi tributary deep enough to carry large boats all the way. Armstrong took a train to Chicago). In 1928, when gigs in Chicago had temporarily dried up, the Streckfus family sent a representative to Armstrong and him offered the chance to re-up. Despite an offer that escalated from $75 to $100 to $125 a week, Armstrong refused.

While Armstrong never played on the river again (at least for Marable), the Big River stayed a part of Armstrong's musical identity for the rest of his life, especially during the next twenty years.

Although he recorded Hoagy Carmichael's "Lazy River" in 1931 and several times after, his approach to that tune has a very different flavor than the ones I'm posting. Armstrong plays "Lazy River" more as a parody, while these tunes allow him to more sincerely limn a specifically black-centric experience of life and memory on the Big River. As author Kenney suggests, he is taking the tradition of songs and chanteys sung by roustas and expanding it. As an aside, Kenney says that there is good evidence that, in derivation, chanteys are West Indian as much or more so than British. With the slavery triangular trade in full swing, there's good reason to think there was a musical exchange between the Caribbean Islands and the British Islands.

Armstrong's earliest "river" recording was in 1930 for Okeh records, with pianist Buck Washington. This tune was an amalgam of "Deep River" and "Motherless Child."

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Jazz Bass Technique Evolution-Pt. 2

The question inspiring these bass posts is: Has the playing on this instrument progressed farther technically than on any other jazz instrument?

In Part One, we listened to foundational tuba and bass players from the 20's and 30's. We'll pick up now starting with Jimmy Blanton who, if not the first "modern" player, has as good a claim to that title as anyone.
Jimmy Blanton
Blanton's strong regional reputation led him to Duke Ellington's band in 1939, where he played until he died in 1942, at age 23, from TB.

Slam Stewart had the technique of the walking bass line down, but was also unique in his ability to bow solos and sing/hum along with them (see my previous post on arco-bowed-bass playing.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Jazz Bass Technique Evolution

Watching Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miller and Victor Wooten led me to ask whether the technique used to play any instrument in jazz has evolved farther from its beginnings than the bass:
The role of the bass in early jazz was to keep time and harmony, a more limiting role than that taken by horn players, who were free to create and embellish melodies and counter-lines. So, you had Bechet, Armstrong, Morton, Hawkins, Dodds, etc., able to take all the technique they'd acquired and put it in service to the music. It's also relevant that until the early 1930's, in order to make a living, players had to learn to play both string bass and tuba, instruments requiring very different techniques.

Early bass and tuba players in jazz occasionally stepped out beyond their usual role, but going too far, too often, in a polyphonic and/or horn-dominated environment would have meant straying too far from the anchoring role the bass was expected to play. One does get a whiff of an untapped reservoir of technique from the occasional startling solo and the overall assurance of the playing.

Here's Bill Johnson, slapping and bowing. Interesting that it's in the "primitive" musical context of jug and comb-kazoo:

Here's Steve Brown, making sure he's audible by bowing his way through the tune and playing a tricky bowed-plucked solo: