© Copyright ® Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.
Wednesday, July 6, 2022
Monday, July 4, 2022
© Copyright ® Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.
“Listening to Gordon talk was not unlike hearing him play. His voice, like his sound on the saxophone, was warm, self-assured, deep, and resonant. He also had a way about him, a certain magnetism. One might call it charisma, although these days charisma is often manufactured, and Dexter's brand was natural and genuine. Perhaps one should simply say that he was a charmer. In any event, as he was talking the Vanguard's telephone rang, and since nobody on the club's staff was about, he answered it. "Village Vanguard. No, it's the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis band tonight. On Tuesday, Dexter Gordon. Who's this? This is Dexter." There was a long stretch during which the party on the other end talked and Dexter listened, his grin growing wider and sunnier by the second. "Why thank you sweetheart," he finally said, as suavely as a king acknowledging the adoration of his minions. "Yes, we'll be here through Sunday."
On the bandstand, Gordon's royal savoir faire was even more evident. He was a striking-looking man, tall and handsome with a smile bright enough to light a room. He announced tunes in a mellow, liquid baritone, often quoting at length from the lyrics to a standard he was about to play. When he finished a solo, he acknowledged applause by holding his tenor saxophone out in front of his abdomen, parallel to the floor, as if he was sharing the adulation with it. But of course
Gordon's playing was the most aristocratic thing about him. His sound was huge and encompassing, from his booming lower register all the way up to a rich falsetto range. He was a master of harmonic subtleties and a master of timing. He was a prankster who enjoyed inserting little musical jokes-quotes from "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" or "Here Comes The Bride" into the most passionate improvisations. Above all, he was an architect of sound. His choruses have an ineluctable solidity to them. They are balanced and logical, classical, really, in the best sense of the word. The individual phrases are handsomely blocked out and warmly inflected, but ultimately the stories told by choruses and entire solos are even more impressive.
Gordon's music is rooted in the creative ferment of the mid-!940s, when modern jazz erupted onto the scene and brought the swing era to an end. … As early as 1945, when he began making records under his own name, he had his own style together. It was really the first saxophone style to synthesize the towering influences of Young and Parker, and as a style in its own right it influenced just about every musician who subsequently took up the tenor saxophone, not to mention players on other instruments. Among the saxophonists most heavily indebted to Gordon's breakthroughs were Sonny Rollins and, especially, John Coltrane.”
- Robert Palmer, insert notes Dexter Gordon: Homecoming - Live at The Village Vanguard [Columbia C2k 46824]
“In May 1961, Dexter Gordon visited New York for the first time in over twelve years. During the week he was here, he recorded two albums for Blue Note, Doin' Allright and Dexter Calling. These LPs, the main purpose of his visit, were warmly received by all segments of the jazz fraternity.
A year later, he again journeyed from California to New York, this time as a more permanent resident. I use the term "more permanent" because Gordon has not remained in New York constantly. It became a base of operations for playing excursions to Boston, Cape Cod and Rochester, and, at the end of August, his port of embarkation for England and continental Europe.
During the summer, Dexter did play a number of gigs in New York: a weekend at the Coronet; a Monday night at Birdland; an afternoon at the Jazz Gallery; a concert at Town Hall; and various one-nighters and one-afternooners. Everywhere he met with the same reaction — unbridled enthusiasm. He drew the kind of response that you know is not mere hand service. At the Jazz Gallery, I observed this in an audience that included many younger fans — kids who were not applauding him because he was the fabled Dexter Gordon of the past whom they were supposed to automatically revere. He reached them directly with the expansive emotion in his playing.
Love, warmth and sheer joy are all present in Gordon's sound and attack. It can be heard and felt in the tremendous drive of his uptempo work, the width and depth of his ballads, or anywhere in between. All these affirmative qualities are reiterated in this album. There is also evidence of change, harmonically, in the playing of a man who was known for his harmonic awareness back in the mid-Forties. This is the kind of record that has you starting again from side one, track one, immediately after you have played both sides in their entirety.
Dexter's astute choice of a fine rhythm section was not accidental. These three players worked with him several times during the summer of 1962.
Sonny Clark is a real pro. His accompaniment is alive but never intruding; his solos are articulated with a consistent clarity and contain personal, melodic ideas.
Butch Warren is rapidly establishing himself as one of the best young bassists on the New York scene. His lines swing along with no doubt as to the definition of the notes.
Billy Higgins doesn't beat the drums; he plays them like the musical instrument they collectively are, when in the right hands. His cymbal sound is exhilarating; his ear forever alert.
As a unit, Clark, Warren and Higgins have also been heard to advantage in Clark's Leapin' and Lopin' (BN 4091) and Jackie McLean's A Fickle Sonance (BN 4089).
Go' gets going with a piece of Cheese Cake, a minor-key pattern reminiscent of Topsy. Dexter soars like a condor over the Andes, with grandeur and great staying power. [It’s based on Tickle Toe, for many years the Lester Young feature with Count Basie’s Band.]
His strength is present on I Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out to Dry, a seldom-done ballad he wisely revived, but it is strength with tenderness, carried by a beautiful, masculine sound that is neither Hawkins nor Young, but Gordon.
Jerry Valentine's Second Balcony Jump was in the libraries of both the Earl Hines and Billy Eckstine bands. Gordon was in the Eckstine band that played it, but it was Gene Ammons (not Gordon, as indicated in the liner notes on an EmArcy LP reissue) who took the solo on the original National recording. The construction of Dexter's first solo is marvelous and builds to a climax gradually. There's a semi-quote of Jimmy Heath's C.T.A. cleverly worked in. Then Clark plays a blithe, flowing solo before Dex comes back for a second, shorter, but again climactic summation that leads into part of Valentine's old arrangement and an abrupt ending.
The Latin backing for the melody statement of Love for Sale may not be exactly bossa nova, but the saxophone is certainly "boss" tenor. When the solos commence, the rhythm section shifts into 4/4. Dexter's playing is as broad-shouldered as he is; Sonny's piano is delicate, yet always on solid ground.
Where Are You is another lovely ballad that, fortunately, has not been played into the ground. That huge Gordon sound, once described by Michael James as "cavernous," is again matched by the emotional content of his playing.
The closer, Three O'clock in the Morning, may seem like a strange piece of material for a modern jazzman to play, but Don Byas and Slam Stewart recorded it in the Forties during 52nd Street's heyday. Dexter begins in a loping 2/4 that slides into 4/4. He injects wry humor with quotes from Five O'clock Whistle and Take Me Out to The Ball Game (at Three O'clock in the Morning?) while blowing forcefully all the time in a substantial medium groove.
Gordon is a great advertisement for live jazz. When he really starts "stretchin’ out" on a number, and his long, firmly anchored legs begin vibrating rapidly from side to side, the intense swing of his music has a natural visual counterpart. It's true that you cannot see him in this album but you can feel the impact of his personality as it is poured into his music.
This session was not recorded in a nightclub performance but, in its informal symmetry, it matches the relaxed atmosphere that the best of those made in that manner engender. Everyone was really together, in all the most positive meanings of that word. It was so good that Blue Note put these four men in the studio again, two days later. We'll be hearing that one in the near future.
Meanwhile, proceed directly to Go.! You won't collect $200.00, but you will get a monopoly of Melody Avenue, Swing Street and Inspiration Place.
Dan Morgenstern Sessions Notes from the Boxed Set Booklet -
(F) AUGUST 27,1962
“Dexter had recorded with Butch Warren and Billy Higgins on the May 28 Herbie Hancock session — his only sideman date for Blue Note — and definitely liked what transpired. The two also worked hand-in-glove with Sonny Clark, and the result was some joyous music making.
Butch (real first name Edward) Warren was born in Washington, D.C. in 1939. By the time he was 14, he was playing in his father's band, and soon with other leaders, including Stuff Smith and the Gene Ammons-Sonny Stitt team. He came to New York in 1958 with Kenny Dorham and quickly became a Blue Note favorite, recording with an array of the label's leaders: Dorham, Jackie McLean, Donald Byrd, Hancock, Joe Henderson, Clark, Grant Green, etc. In 1962, he toured in Europe with Slide Hampton, and in 1963 he joined Thelonious Monk, visiting Europe again and also Japan. But health problems caused him to return to his hometown, where he's been only sporadically active.
Billy Higgins, born in Los Angeles in 1936 into a musical family, was playing with R&B bands at 12, and a bit later on in a group led by his contemporary, Don Cherry. Before long he'd worked with such players as James Clay, Carl Perkins, Walter Benton, Slim Gaillard and Dexter Gordon. In 1957, he joined Red Mitchell's quartet and not much later, with Cherry, became involved with Ornette Coleman, with whom he recorded and came to New York. By 1962, his credits included Monk, Coltrane, and Sonny Rollins.”
Saturday, July 2, 2022
© Copyright ® Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.
With the passing of Jan Laurens Hartong in 2016 - its founder, keyboardist and principal composer-arranger - I assumed my writings about the Holland based Latin Jazz band Nueva Manteca were going to be limited to the eight features about them previously posted to the blog [you can locate these by scrolling the sidebar of the blog and clicking on the group’s name under LABELS].
But my curiosity about continuing possibilities peaked when Ben van den Dungen, who has been a long-standing member of the group on soprano and tenor saxophone, alluded to a new project that Nueva Manteca would soon be undertaking in our communiques on social media.
Without further details, I conjectured that perhaps Ben was talking about previously recorded but unreleased tracks by Nueva Manteca issued in something akin to “the best of …” or “the unheard …” memorial recording with Jan Laurens as the focus.
Well, I was half right as the following insert notes from the group’s new CD entitled ART will attest:
“ART is a twofold tribute. Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers was a groundbreaking phenomenon. With much love and a lot of respect for Blakey's incredible musical legacy, we added some 'rice and beans' to it...
We hope you enjoy our guaracha, songo, cha cha, bomba and much more!
Just like Blakey, our dear friend and mentor, the late Jan Laurens Hartong gave his younger band members a lot of musical space to develop their art.
Spiritual father of Nueva Manteca, he was not only its pianist, bandleader, composer, arranger and promoter for many years, but he also constantly came up with new ideas and concepts for the band. Being a classically trained pianist, he was always totally au courant about the latest in jazz, Latin and music in general.
All his passion and knowledge was constantly injected into his creation Nueva Manteca. We are deeply grateful to him for sharing his art with us in his very own, unique way.
We love you and we will never forget you.
Thematically, the “rice and beans” are added to seven tunes by Bobby Timmons, Benny Golson, Wayne Shorter and Freddie Hubbard, all of whom worked as members of drummer Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in the early 1960, and all of which have since become Jazz Standards. Pianist Duke Jordan is also honored with the selection of his No Problem.
What intrigued me about the Latin Jazz rendering of such Jazz staples as Moanin’, Blue March, Crisis, Dat Dere, This Is For Albert, No Problem, Whisper Not and Are You Real, is how the inclusion of various clave forms altered the rhythmic sound of these tunes almost to the point of giving them the impression of being played in odd or unusual time signatures.
Clave rhythms are very different from the metronomic ones used in Jazz so they syncopate differently creating the impression that the time signatures are other than the usual 4/4 or 3/4 or 6/8 in which Jazz is usually played. Because Clave rhythms are a repeated pattern rather than a counted progression, the accents fall differently.
Furthermore, the clave rhythms are usually associated with definite Latin song and dance patterns and when these are applied to straight-ahead Jazz tunes they also create a sense of staggered or altered rhythmic progressions.
So with all this in mind I wrote to Ben and asked him to give me a breakdown of how the rhythms of each of the eight tunes on ART are configured.
Here’s his reply complete with “rice and beans” references:
Hereby the information of the tunes in combination with the Cuban rhythms -
Cha Cha Chá/Guajira
Blues March 12/8-4/4
Batá rhythm Wolenche on stand [one player].
Further Bembé, kind of Abakua 'invento' in mambos, piano solo: 'Onda Nueva', samba in 3/4
In conga solo play bass, piano chords of El Ratón [Cheo Feliciano, Joe Cuba, Fania]
Combination of Mozambique, Songo, Bomba, fits with the bass!
Dat Dere 4/4
Intro Conga Habanera [comparsa], theme, solos Cha Cha Chá
Uitro: again Conga Habanera [comparsa], played a bit more freely. Planned by arranger was Guaguancó, but this worked better
This is for Albert 4/4
Danzón, Bembé, Cha Cha Chá/Guajira
No Problem 4/4
Conga accents a la 'Sazonando' and La Habana + guaguancó
Presión part for Mambo: free accents a la Charanga Habanera
Mambo and trumpet solo guaracha, with timba influences
Whisper Not 7/4
Makuta in 7/4 with Caja accents [low conga], in solos Bomba a la 'Mi Tierra', end solo - mambo: Bembé and Tumba
Are you Real 4/4
Conga Habanera [comparsa], in the solos what they called timba in Cuba in the 70s: fast heavy Latin jazz, the conga plays 'picadillo': a combination of everything, but always in clave of course.”
As Ben concludes - “... always in clave!” - the secret sauce that makes 8 tunes that have been in the Jazz repertory for sixty years sound new and distinctive.
After reviewing Ben’s descriptions of what’s involved in creating these Latin Jazz interpretations of the Jazz standards long associated with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, they help us further appreciate and admire the collective knowledge and skills that went into the making of ART.
While paying respect to the traditional format of finding a theme around which to configure Latin Jazz rhythms and song forms, the talents and skills of the latest edition of Nueva Manteca lend themselves to a totally new creation.
In addition to new music there are some new faces involved in the making of ART as joining Ban van den Dungen on reeds and Nils Fischer on Latin percussion are Marc Bischoff, who assumes the piano chair for the departed Jan Laurens Hartong, Enrique Firpi steps in for Lucas van Merwijk on drums and timbales and trumpeter Oscar “Chucky” Cordero and bassist Samuel Ruiz join in for their maiden voyage on the “HNLMS New Nueva Manteca.”
As with all of the previous efforts by this group, an air of authenticity, energy and excitement permeates ART.
If you are a fan of Latin Jazz, ART should be at the very top of your wish list for this one is not to be missed.
[HNLMS = All ships entering the service of the Royal Netherlands Navy are given the prefix HNLMS (His Netherlands Majesty's Ship)].