Jazz Professional               

Disc Discussion

Remember the old Blindfold Tests?
How most of the people used to get everything wrong?
Read on...you'll be amazed.

Blossom Dearie and Tony Crombie
Session conducted by Les Tomkins 
featuring Blossom Dearie, Alan Haven and Tony Crombie
Alan Haven and Les Tomkins
The following blindfold test was carried out in 1966, but time would hardly change the opinions expressed here. They could well have been uttered today - or even tomorrow. Jazz lives on!
The Night Has A Thousand Eyes—Ronnie Scott Quartet (Ronnie Scott–tenor, Stan Tracey–piano, Rick Laird–bass, Bill Eyden–drums). From ‘The Night Is Scott And You’re So Swingable’, Fontana.

Crombie: That’s Ronnie Scott. Is that me on the drums?

Tomkins: No, you’re not on this. What tells you it’s Ronnie?

Crombie: I just know him.

Dearie: Oh, that’s Stan on piano.

Haven: This is nice. Nicely recorded, too. Who’s on bass?

Crombie: It might be Jeff. No, Napper or Malcolm Cecil. I’m trying to figure the drummer.

Haven: Is it Ronnie Stephenson?

Crombie: No, I don’t know who that is.

Dearie: Is it Bill Eyden? Yes? Well, I didn’t recognise him, but I know he used to play with Ronnie. Ronnie plays great, doesn’t he? He’s definitely one of the best tenor players.

Haven: Marvellous. Yes, I liked that—nice, easy swing to it. What was it—an original thing?

Dearie: No, it was a good standard—The Night Has A Thousand Eyes.

Haven: I don’t know the song.

Crombie: I thought the tenor was very satisfying. Stan was interesting, as usual. The drums and bass were rather wooden, rather stodgy—didn’t seem to get off the ground. And with that, I shall close.

Tomkins: Could they have been inhibited by being in the studio?

Crombie: I think probably the thought of getting paid overawed them.

Haven: It’s a pity Ronnie doesn’t play more in his own club. We wanted him to do one with us—just blow a blues, anything —but he said: ‘No, I’m out of practice’. He’s very modest in his way, is Ronnie.

Dearie: He is. He’s about the most modest musician I know. I think I’ll write a theme for Ronnie, for the club. Frith Street Melody or something.

Once Upon A Summertime—Astrud Gilberto with Orchestra,, arranged and conducted by Gil Evans. From ‘Look To The Rainbow’, Verve.

Dearie: It’s Astrud Gilberto, and she sounds like she’s just singing to the band arrangement—instead of the arrangement complementing her. Like everybody else. I love Gil Evans—I think he’s the greatest. But to begin with, she’s not ready to sing that song. It’s a very serious ballad. Don’t you think so? It’s not that easy to sing Once Upon A Summertime.

Haven: All I can say is: I love the orchestra. I would have much preferred it as an orchestral thing. That is my sound—I dig all that so much. But then I’ve never heard anything he’s done that I haven’t loved. Gil Evans is one guy who puts a stamp on all his work. I love his use of the horns—just wafting across. He writes beautiful colours. But as for being a vocal backing—I don’t know that I saw it.

Tomkins: Her singing seems more expressionless than usual.

Dearie: It’s because of the song. She’s not used to singing American ballads.

Haven: I’m not sure it’s that so much. The arrangement hasn’t got enough rhythm and contrast to back a vocal.

Dearie: It’s too slow—and it’s distracting.

Haven: It’s very, very slow and I don’t think she’s at home on it.

Dearie: No she isn’t.

Haven: She's not a phraser. She sings very much on the beat.

Crombie: Well, Gil Evans, in that case, is badly at fault. His writing is too contrived for her. The only man who can get away with that kind of an arrangement, and make it sound as though it was natural to him, is Duke Ellington. To me, Gil Evans falls in Stan Kenton’s trap of overdoing the use of dissonances. I don’t think he actually hears it in his head—he’s sitting there and working it out. And Astrud sounds like she needs a blood transfusion. It’s too pretentious, all that music—it doesn’t have any association with reality. It’s a world somewhere up in the stars that I don’t know anything about. It doesn’t register with me, I’m afraid.

Dearie: Yes, I agree—it’s over–arranged. I love that song just as it is—the melody and chords are so beautiful. It’s a most beautiful song.

Crombie: That’s where he’s come unstuck. He should have put her in the best possible light. but he hasn’t done that. He’s overestimated her.

That Preachin’ Man—Lou Bennett—organ, with Rene Thomas—guitar, Kenny Clarke—drums, and the Paris Jazz All—Stars directed by Donald Byrd. Composed and arranged by Donald Byrd. From ‘Pentecostal Feeling’, Philips.

Haven: Oh, there had to be one of these!

Dearie: The band arrangement sounds like Oliver Nelson or Quincy Jones. Somebody like that.

Haven: No, I don’t think so. Not Oliver Nelson, anyway. The rhythm section’s fallen now the band’s stopped playing— it’s just gone. This isn’t a feature for the guitarist rather than for the organist, is it?

Tomkins: He’s getting featured on this track, but it’s the organist’s album.

Haven: I’m very mystified as to who it is. (Organ solo starts.) Terrible sound he’s got. It’s bad for using with the orchestra. Too much whistling—sounds like a piccolo section. I can’t think who uses this kind of tone. And there’s no separation on the recording—the organ is just buried in there. Can’t figure out who it is, though.

Crombie: I don’t care who it is.

Haven: It wasn’t Richard Holmes, was it?

Dearie: No—definitely not.

Haven: And I’m sure it wasn’t Jimmy McGriff. Unless it was one of the sort of Freddie Roach people.

Dearie: Was it Shirley Scott?

Crombie: Yes, it felt like a girl, somehow. It was just average writing, a standard American big blasting studio band, with an inadequate organist for the job, I thought.

Tomkins: Actually, it was made in Paris.

Crombie: Lou Bennett.

Tomkins: Yes, and Donald Byrd wrote it.

Haven: I must confess: I’ve never heard Lou Bennett before. That doesn’t mean to say I wouldn’t like to hear what he does on his own. But not on the strength of that—I didn’t dig that. It meant nothing. It had no structure of any kind.

Crombie: I hear he speaks very well of you.

Haven: No, I don’t know anything about the man.

Dearie: I prefer organs in small groups, mostly—but it depends on who it is. If it’s a good big band arranger, I like it.

Crombie: But I think it defeats the purpose of the organ to have a big band. The organ’s got sufficient tone colour to dispense with all that brass and saxophones. If you’re going to have all that—then why have an organ? Why not have a piano?

Haven: No, with the right people, the right use of it as the solo voice, organ and big band can be very effective. The Gerald Wilson things with Groove Holmes just slay me. Brass, reeds or strings can all be very nice backings.

Crombie: I don’t think you need them all at once. though.

Haven: If you’re using brass, you don’t use the brass tones on an organ. This was his mistake. No question about it, Jimmy Smith has got this off to a fine art —selecting the right tones for a big band. Whether you look upon him as the complete organist or not, the things he’s done with big band are nice. Because he gets a completely contrasting sound, and will use the minimum—just single notes—letting the band drop that curtain at the back. When he’s got lots of brass, he uses those very low flutey tones—which a Hammond’s very good at.

Exactly Like You—Dudley Moore Trio (Dudley Moore—piano, Pete McGurk—bass, Chris Karan—drums). From ‘Genuine Dud’, Decca.

Haven (after first four bars): Already I like it.

Dearie (snapping fingers): Yeah!

Crombie: I like plenty of air—plenty of space. Erroll, is it?

Dearie: Is that Oscar? Yes, that’s Oscar Peterson. With Ray Brown?

Haven: He doesn’t have the drums too far forward—he puts them up there somewhere.

Crombie: Oh yes—it’s Peterson.

Haven: I’m not so sure about it now.

Dearie: No—I’m not so sure it’s Oscar yet.

Crombie: It might be that geezer—Les McCann.

Haven: It’s not punchy enough for him.

Dearie: No, it isn’t. Not Phineas Newborn? No?

Haven: Billy Taylor? I seem to get an idea it’s not even American. I think it’s Dudley Moore.

Dearie: Oh, it might be. It’s good, anyway. I bet it is Dudley. I thought it was Oscar at first, because the bass came right out like Ray. Wonderful bass player, whoever it is.

Haven: And they’ve hit such a nice tempo with this. It’s so light—you can just lean back and play.

Dearie: This is real good. Is that Peter McGurk on bass? He’s great. And Chris Karan?

Tomkins: Yes—it’s the Dudley Moore Trio.

Dearie: I’ll buy that. It’s swinging! Peter lays it right down, doesn’t he?

Haven: The only reason I knew it wasn’t Peterson—not as anything against Dudley, far from it—but I knew that towards the end of the first chorus, certainly by the beginning of the second, Peterson would have been using a lot more dazzling technique. Because he gets off very, very fast, with the full technique going. He’d have been well away. But this is nice — I like Dudley’s economical approach very much. If the rest of it is as good, I’d like the album. We worked with him at the Cool Elephant for two or three months. We had a lot of giggles there, because we used to do some things together on organ and piano.

Dearie: I heard you together one night at Annie’s Room. I thought it was great!

Haven: Yes, it’s a lot of fun with Dudley. Well I think we work together. It’s one of those things—we just feel things pretty much the same way. He’s got a very quick mind, you know. If I plonk him a chord that isn’t quite the one that’s expected, he doesn’t need half an hour to figure it. He’s immediately there. Dudley’s no fool, musically. Of course, he’s doing very well with his comedy work, but I’m surprised he doesn’t do more music.

Crombie: I thought the record was very pleasant, but a little bit too unadventurous and straightforward for my taste, seeing as he’s got nothing to contend with except the bass and drums. He could have spread out a bit more than that. With his technique and knowledge, it could be a little more spiced.

Haven: Well, I accept that as an overall pleasing track, understating everything rather than overstating. Dudley can be dazzling, if he wants to be, but I don’t think he was trying to dazzle on it.

Crombie: It’s not that—he doesn’t have to dazzle. I just like that element of reaching out. Sure, he was out to please. Which is all right in itself—on that level. But knowing that there is more available, I felt a little cheated by it.

Limehouse Blues—Gary McFarland and Co. (Clark Terry, Joe Newman—trumpets, Bob Brookmeyer—trombone, Barry Galbraith—guitar, Bob Bushnell—bass guitar, Grady Tate, Mel Lewis, Willie Bobo—percussion). Arranged by Gary McFarland. From ‘Tijuana Jazz’, HMV.

Dearie: That sounds like Bob Brookmeyer. Is that Clark Terry?

Haven: I don’t see this at all. What’s going on there. What a mess. Well, I thought it was a joke. I don’t know what that was all about.

Dearie: They were just playing for commercial gain.

Crombie: It was like a sort of a jam session. But it was a phoney thing. So—called modernists playing a Dixieland type of ensemble.

Haven: It wasn’t even well done.

Dearie: No, wait a minute. Bob Brookmeyer and Gerry Mulligan—they like that Dixieland groove. I never could understand how they could be such modern musicians—and play like that.

Haven: What Dixieland groove? It was a bossa nova, wasn’t it?

Crombie: There was a tailgate trombone, a clarinet weaving about.

Dearie: That’s Dixieland, isn’t it?

Haven: It was nothing. I don’t know who it was, but to me it was positively unpleasant.

Crombie: What’s the album called?

Tomkins: ‘Tijuana Jazz’— written by Gary McFarland.

Crombie: Oh—that’s obviously a bait for earning money — and that’s all. No marks.

Haven: It doesn’t come off in either context to me—as a pop record or as a jazz record.

Dearie: Well, it seems kinda pointless, then. What is it— Dixieland or bossa nova? I don’t understand making a bossa nova album of Dixieland tunes, or vice versa. That doesn’t make sense to me.

Haven: The whole idea behind that sounded one hundred per cent contrived.

Crombie: Just jumping on the Tijuana bandwagon.

Haven: Well, the title suggests that, doesn’t it?

Crombie: Suggests it? It advertises it!

Haven: I would say the Tijuana Brass do a much better job of it. And they believe in that.

Crombie: It’s their style. If you’re going to have that — have the old firm!

Dearie: But Bob Brookmeyer and Clark Terry work at the Half Note at night, and play what they want to play. They do these kind of dates in the daytime. Most of their career now is working as studio musicians. They might have done three different three–hour sessions for various albums that day. I don’t think they put their heart into that.

Baby, Please Don’t Go—Mose Allison—vocal/piano with Addison Farmer—bass, Jerry Segal—drums. From ‘Mose Allison Sings And Plays’, Columbia.

Dearie: Oh, Mose Allison! Yeah! I love him. He probably wrote that song huh?

Tomkins: No. this isn’t one of his. This is from Big Joe Williams.

Dearie: Mose is so good and authentic. I like his singing and his songs. That piano playing was nice, when he plays accompaniment. When he plays piano choruses he loses me completely—I don’t know what in the world he’s doing. I don’t think he does, either. But I love his style—he’s got that real white blues from the backwoods.

Crombie: Yes, I like that. It was a complete performance, which stayed right in its own idiom all the way. Very nice for dancing to as well—at a party or something. Nice shake music.

Haven: I don’t think its basic enough for that. As that sort of thing, it hasn’t got enough going for it. No, I wasn’t terribly keen on that. I like it done really earthy.

Crombie: Oh, I like that lightweight touch about it — shades of Hoagy Carmichael. I dug it.

Dearie: That’s right—Hoagy Carmichael. But Mose writes a lot of tunes like that, you know. That’s really his groove right there.

Haven: Possibly I don’t go for this country, hillbilly sort of thing.

Crombie: I find that cute myself.

Dearie: He’s the real thing, though. He was born in Mississippi—right up in the mountains. His father played ragtime piano.

Crombie: Yes, you can smell the countryside when you hear him.

Haven: Oh, I could smell it all right!

Guess Who I Saw Today—Elsie Bianchi—vocal/piano with Siro Bianchi—bass, Charly Antolini—drums. From ‘The Sweetest Sounds’, Saba.

Haven (during verse): I like this song—it’s Guess Who I Saw Today. Beautiful song.

Dearie: That’s not an American singer. She’s Dutch or Swedish or something.

Crombie: Marvellous song. Who wrote it?

Dearie: Murray Grand.

Haven: Blossom knows who wrote every song in the world.

Crombie: Do you work this number?

Dearie: No. Do you know why? Because I think nothing happens in the middle. Who is that girl? She’s European.

Crombie: Monica Zetterlund?

Dearie: No, it’s not her.

Tomkins: The record was made in Germany, but I’m not sure about her nationality. She has an Italian–sounding name — Elsie Bianchi.

Haven: Oh — Elsie Bianchi!

Tomkins: Yes—do you know her?

Haven: Never heard of her.

Dearie: See, I can’t criticise this objectively, because I know it’s a European girl doing very well singing in another language and copying an American style. It’s marvellous that she does as well as she does right there. So I can’t say I don’t like it.

Tomkins: I put this in because she’s also accompanying herself on piano.

Dearie: Oh, really?

Crombie: Lovely poetic lyric, this is.

Dearie: Yes. Elisse Boyd wrote the lyrics.

Haven: She’s like a walking encyclopaedia of songs!

Dearie: Just good songs — I’ve been doing it for years.

Haven: You could get a job at Chappell’s in the reference library.

Crombie: Ssh — she’s playing. That’s nice.

Haven: I’m afraid I’ve been a bit spoilt on this — my version of it is by Carmen McRae. and there’s nobody else. This hasn’t come near that.

Dearie: Nancy Wilson does it, too.

Haven: You are a bit right about it tailing off melodically and harmonically.

Dearie: Yes. it starts out—the verse is wonderful, the lyrics and everything. and then you get into the chorus. I wish the middle part went somewhere, but it’s the same chords over again. I like it, but there’s something I don’t like in there.

Crombie. I liked that record. Her voice had a nice quality about it. Her piano playing was good, too.

Dearie: Yes, very good—for a girl.

Crombie: Even for a boy.

Mercredi 13—Martial Solal—organ solo. Composed by Martial Solal. From ‘Son 66’, Columbia Jazz Stars Series.

Haven: It‘s Sandy Macpherson!

Crombie: This is a bit kinky. I like this. It’s the sort of sounds that go through my head every pay night.

Haven: Unfortunately, that is the way I don’t like an organ to sound. I’m not saying what he’s playing, but the general tone.

Dearie: Yes—they’re two different things. The music is better than the playing.

Haven: That’s a fairground noise to me. Does he never play the pedals at all on this organ?

Tomkins: No, he doesn’t seem to be a pedal–man.

Dearie: Then it’s a pianist playing organ. Not Cecil Taylor, is it?

Haven: I think nothing at all of this, I’m afraid.

Crombie: Well, it impresses me. He’s got a good grasp of harmony and dissonance, which I appreciate.

Haven: No, if I want to hear that kind of thing, I’ll listen to Thalben–Ball or Schweitzer—the real masters.

Crombie: But this guy’s doing it, nevertheless.

Haven: What’s he doing? He’s making the worst possible sounds you can make on an electric organ. In fact, with what he’s using, Now Is The Hour would be nice.

Crombie: I know what you mean there, but there’s combinations of notes happening as well, which I like. I’m in one of those moods.

Dearie: It’s just caught you at the right time, eh, Tony?

Crombie: I find things in this that I can learn something from.

Dearie: Yes, I’d like to hear the music orchestrated. Who is it?

Tomkins: Well, you were right—he is normally a pianist. It’s Martial Solal.

Dearie: Really? Well, no wonder the composition’s so good.

Crombie: Don’t worry about that—he’s one of the biggest talents on the Continent of Europe. Martial Solal knows what he’s doing.

Dearie: He sure does.

Crombie: I just wish he wouldn’t do it!

Haven: Only one thing I can say: I would much sooner have heard him do that on piano. Because his use of the organ was dreadful. Those terrible mechanical vibratos he was using. Oh, God!

Crombie: Yes, the vibrato was a bit sickly. But, nevertheless. there is some value there. If that were voiced out with an orchestra, it would be great.

Haven: But I still say: for harmonic structure like that on the organ, go to the real classical organists—who use the pedals. I mean, you’re missing the third part of it.

Crombie: But the man’s entitled to make an attempt.

Haven: He’s not gained anything. He could have done it equally well and probably far more effectively on piano.

Crombie: No, you can’t, because you can’t sustain on the piano like you can on the organ.

Haven: That is true. But it’s amazing how bad an organ can sound. Regardless of what you play on it—before you start to play, the way you registrate is very important. You’ve got to play those buttons first. Really, that record hurt my ears. It would have been better had he got somebody that knows something about the organ and said: ‘Set it for me’. Then what he’s doing would have sounded quite nice.

 Copyright © 1963, Les Tomkins. All Rights Reserved.