RIP, Clark Terry (1920-2015)

Clark Terry has passed on:

I always did appreciate his work with Thelonious:

Blue Note 75 for 75: Freddie Hubbard’s Open Sesame (1960)

Our thirty-fourth feature for Blue Note 75 for 75 is my wife’s favorite Blue Note album: Freddie Hubbard’s Open Sesame, the title track of which might also be her favorite Blue Note song:

Freddie Hubbard just absolutely crushes this track with a fearsome, fulsome attack of speed, skill, and fire. Just 22 years old at the time of release, Freddie put the fear in people, particularly his elders, recalling the intensity of the late Clifford Brown. “Open Sesame” was from the pen of Tina Brooks, the session tenor and a highly neglected figure in jazz. Brooks too lifts spirits with his fiery solo work and the rhythm section of McCoy Tyner on piano, Sam Jones on bass, and Clifford Jarvis on drums keep things loose and cookin’ throughout.

Here are the session photographs courtesy of LondonJazzCollector:



The photo of Tina Brooks in particular is iconic and appears on the cover of Brooks’ Mosaic Records box set. Brooks really shines on Open Sesame, contributing another stellar track and solo in “Gypsy Blue”:

Make no mistake though, this is Freddie’s show all the way, his Blue Note debut and the start of a very long, strong career. His trumpet prowess kept him in strong demand for the label as a leader, sideman, and Jazz Messenger.

Stay tuned for more Blue Note 75 for 75…

Blue Note 75 for 75: McCoy Tyner’s The Real McCoy (1967)

Our thirty-third feature for Blue Note 75 for 75 is McCoy Tyner’s stone-cold classic, The Real McCoy. Reminiscing about the recording of this session, McCoy’s debut for the label after leaving Coltrane’ group, producer and label head Alfred Lion had this to say about the album: “It’s a pure jazz session. There is absolutely no concession to commercialism, and there’s a deep, passionate love for the music embedded in each of the selections.” Here’s a photo of them together at a Blue Note rehearsal:

mccoyThis love for jazz in its purest, most artistic and joyful form is clearly evidenced throughout the album, particularly on the outstanding opening cut, ‘Passion Dance':

Here McCoy on piano teams with Joe Henderson on tenor, Ron Carter on bass, and Elvin Jones on drums. Jones had been McCoy’s battery mate in Trane’s band. Ron Carter had been gigging heavily with Miles Davis at the time and Joe Henderson was one of the few new tenor men who wasn’t a total Trane imitation. Henderson had a particularly muscular sound to his playing and stands his ground among the other heavyweights on this session. Everyone gets to shine on ‘Four By Five':

Critically and commercially, this was easily Tyner’s most successful Blue Note record. It’s reputation remains sterling and the music is timeless. Many of his other Blue Note releases haven’t fared quite as well, many of them lapsing out of print, but are worth a second opinion.

Stay tuned for more Blue Note 75 for 75…

Blue Note 75 for 75: Johnny Griffin’s Introducing Johnny Griffin (1956)

Our thirty-second feature for Blue Note 75 for 75 is Johnny Griffin’s debut album as a leader: Introducing Johnny Griffin, as fleet a debut as you are ever to find. Griffin, who hailed from Chicago and went by the sobriquet ‘Little Giant,’ was considered by many the fastest, most nimble fingered tenor of his era — evidence of which is present throughout this album. Griffin knocks on the door of a long career with the aptly titled “Chicago Calling”:

Griffin here is backed by a superb trio: Wynton Kelly on piano (the two would work together frequently), Curly Russell on bass, and Max Roach on drums. This trio gives Griffin all the pulse and drive he needs to just ignite. Listen to Griffin just blow through the changes of “Cherokee”:

Sometimes critics would call Griffin’s ability to deliver on ballads but I dig his (admittedly closer to mid-tempo) take on “The Boy Next Door”:

Griffin had a nice little three album run on Blue Note as a leader, records that are fondly remembered and continually in-print, but this one is my favorite because it finds Griffin in a comfortable setting with truly compatible players.

Stay tuned for more Blue Note 75 for 75…

Blue Note 75 for 75: Don Cherry’s Complete Communion (1965)

Our thirty-first feature for Blue Note 75 for 75 is one of my favorite free jazz albums, Don Cherry’s exquisite Complete Communion, recorded in 1965 with a crack quartet that included Gato Barbieri on tenor, Henry Grimes on bass, and Ed Blackwell on drums. Cherry, playing cornet, makes his Blue Note debut as a leader and (as far as I can tell) his first solo recording after leaving Ornette Coleman.

Featuring two full-LP side suites of four songs each, the album is dense without being too difficult and considering each suite was recorded in one take, the musical accomplishment is astounding.

Don Cherry’s brand of free jazz definitely diverts from that of his mentor’s, in that it features a stronger affinity for world music (particularly rhythmically) and folk melodies. Both suites feature strong melodic lines throughout, even when all four musicians are deeply engaged in ‘their own thing,’ the rhythmic feel and melodic line are never totally at sea for the listener.










Gato Barbieri, pictured above, is a particular revelation. This is among his earliest recordings and while still in a bit of an Ornette bag (perhaps accommodating his style to Cherry’s preferences), he definitely shows off some strong chops and a stubborn, willful streak in his solos. Cherry is his usual burnished, playful self and as for Henry Grimes and Ed Blackwell, you couldn’t ask for a more sympathetic, powerful rhythm section. Blue Note may have been slow to come around to the new thing in jazz but they more than made up for it with stellar releases like this in the ’60’s.

Stay tuned for more Blue Note 75 for 75…

Blue Note 75 for 75: Benny Morton’s All-Stars’ The Sheik Of Araby (1945)

Our thirtieth feature for Blue Note 75 for 75 dates back to the early years of Blue Note, Benny Morton and his All-Stars performing The Sheik Of Araby:

This 12″ single was a minor hit for the label that helped float it through the war years. It features a tight small ensemble: Benny Morton (trombone), Barney Bigard (clarinet,) Ben Webster (tenor saxophone), Sammy Benskin (piano), Israel Crosby (bass), & Eddie Dougherty (drums). This was basically a label one-off for all of these players and it is intriguing to speculate at what a later Ben Webster Blue Note might have sounded like as this 12″ is basically straight swing.

The b-side is a lovely ballad, Conversing In Blue, on which all the soloist really shine, nailing that lovely ’40’s style ballad-blues:

Recorded at the WWOR Studios, NYC, January 29, 1945 (most likely after-hours), this recording, and many more of the early Blue Note Swingtets, has been compiled by the label:










Stay tuned for more Blue Note 75 for 75…

Blue Note 75 for 75: Kenny Dorham’s Una Mas (1963)

Our twenty-ninth feature for Blue Note 75 for 75 is a personal favorite: Kenny Dorham’s Una Mas. Dig the exuberance of the title track, a stunningly funky and gracious bossa-nova number that grooves like a mofo:

Dorham has previously recorded this tune under a different name on his Inta Somethin’ album with Jackie McLean two years previously for Pacific Jazz and you can really hear how he has grown as a soloist and writer — this version is tighter and denser.









Una Mas is one of a handful of albums that Kenny Dorham and Joe Henderson did together. You’d be hard-pressed to find a trumpet/tenor sax tandem with stronger chemistry in the ’60’s. Add in a fine rhythm section of Herbie Hancock on piano, Butch Warren on bass, and the irrepressible Tony Williams on drums and you have a strong recipe for some killer jazz. This album truly delivers it, like on the bumpin’ “Straight Ahead”:

Though only four songs long, Una Mas gives strong value in terms of accomplishment among the musicians. Everyone plays to the limits of their capacity here and it really showcases Dorham’s ability to hang with the younger guns. All the Dorham/Henderson recordings are exceptional and worth going out of your way to hear.

Stay tuned for more Blue Note 75 for 75…