Sunday, October 13, 2019

Carmell Jones: Remarkable and Resilient

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“… Carmell had the ability to blow everyone out of the studio, but it was not his nature….”
- Todd Selbert

“… he was a native of the Jay Hawk StateKansas City, Kansas, to be exact – and his melodically engaging, hard-swinging style is firmly grounded in the grand Jazz tradition that was nurtured across the border in Kansas City, Missouri.”
- Orrin Keepnews

“Jones had a lovely take-my-time way about his trumpet playing, even though he could play an almost old-fashioned hot style when he chose – a legacy of his KayCee roots – and he was a more than capable member of a Horace Silver front line, engaging in superb interplay with tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson.”
- Richard Cook and Brian Morton, The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, 6th Ed.

Everything you need to know about Carmell is on view in the above photograph by Francis Wolff.

Carmell was a sweet, gentle man and a brilliant trumpet player.

While on the subject of Jazz trumpet players as a result of our recent feature on Ryan Kisor, the editorial staff at JazzProfiles thought it would be nice to spend a little time reflecting on the music of the late, Carmell Jones [1936-1996].

At the urging of John William Hardy, Carmell came to California from his native Kansas City in 1960.

Around this time, the German Jazz critic Joachim Berendt was making his way across the country from Los Angeles to New York along with photographer William Claxton. Berendt’s written account of this journey along with a series of Claxton’s stunning photos documenting their stops along the way would be published by Taschen in a compilation entitled Jazz Life.

Along the way, Berendt and Claxton had met Carmell and they, too, urged him to head West.

Claxton introduced Carmell to Dick Bock at Pacific Jazz Records and Jones became involved in a series of recordings for the label both as a leader and as a sideman. John William Hardy would write some of the liner notes for Carmell’s  Pacific Jazz LP’s.

Once in California, Carmell’s remarkable talents as a Clifford Brown-inspired trumpet player found him gigs-a-plenty for as his close friend and confidant John William Hardy said: “Carmell loves, really loves, to play anywhere and anytime, with anyone and everyone.”

During his relatively short stay on the Left Coast from 1960 to 1964, Carmell would work with saxophonist Bud Shank’s quintet, the quintet that was co-led by tenor saxophonist Curtis Amy and drummer Frank Butler, the big band led by Onzy Matthews, Harold Land, Dexter Gordon, Med Flory, Shelly Manne, Gary Peacock, Dennis Budimir, Gerald Wilson, Frank Strazzeri, among many others.

As John William Hardy wrote in the liner notes to The Remarkable Carmell Jones:

“The long and short of it is this: Carmell Jones did come west and, during the past year, has enjoyed the first chapter in a success story that should continue on and on. For this rather ingenu­ous young man has not only impressed his fellow jazzmen and listeners with his playing, but perhaps as importantly has captured their friendship and support with his quiet integrity, his modesty, sincerity, dependability and all round solidity of character. Carmell has grown immensely as a musi­cian….”

Michael Cuscuna at Mosaic Records obtained the rights to reissue a number of Carmell’s recordings for Bock’s label and has made them available in his limited edition Mosaic Select CD series.

In the booklet notes to the Mosaic set, Michael made these observations about Carmell:

"In the spring of 1964, Carmell Jones came to New York to join Horace Silver's new quintet. He made a strong impression on a town overflowing with great talent. He made impressive appearances on Booker Ervin's The Blues Book, Charles McPherson's Bebop Revisited (both for Prestige) and, of course, Horace Silver's most celebrated album Song for My Father (Blue Note).

The following year he recorded his own Jay Hawk Talk for Prestige. But in August, he quit Silver's band and moved to Germany where he remained until 1980. Carmell was by all account a very sweet person; one can even hear it in his playing. Horace Silver once told me that Carmell had a hard time adjusting to the faster, harder style of people on the East Coast; he believed that the main reason for the rejected live session he made with the quintet in August, 1964 at Pep's Lounge in Philadelphia was hecklers at the bar, calling out to Carmell, "Let's see what this California boy can do!" and the like. Horace said that Joe Henderson's lone-wolf aloofness would drive Jones crazy, especially when he would knock on Joe's hotel room door and get no answer when he knew full well the saxophonist was there.

Germany provided a calmer life style, a steady income in radio orchestras without a lot of travel and opportunities to pursue a modest jazz career. When he finally returned to the U.S. in 1980, he eschewed the coasts and return to his birthplace Kansas City. His last recording in 1982 was then Florida-based Revelation Records, founded by John William Hardy, the man who had urged him to come to Los Angeles and written the liner notes for the first albums in this set.

If it weren't for the lasting impact of Song for My Father, Carmell might have been written out of jazz history. These three discs revive an important body of work by an extraordinary musician.

October 2002”

We were on the Left Coast when Carmell stopped by in the early 1960’s.

Sure glad we were.

The following video features Carmell on his original composition Somara which he performed as a member of bassist Red Mitchell and tenor saxophonist Harold Land's Quintet with Frank Strazzeri, piano and Leon Petties, drums.

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