Jazz Professional               

Disc Discussion

Session conducted by Les Tomkins 
featuring The Modern Jazz Quartet
Milt Jackson, John Lewis,
Percy Heath and Connie Kay

The following blindfold test was carried out in 1964
but time would hardly change the opinions expressed here.
They could well have been uttered today - or even tomorrow.
Jazz lives on!

Two Bass Hit” Dizzy Gillespie and the Double Six of Paris (The Double Six–Mimi Perrin, Claudine Barge, Christrane Legrand, Ward Swingle, Robert Smart, JeanClaude Briodin, Eddy Louise with Dizzy Gillespie trumpet, Bud Powellpiano, Pierre Michelotbass, Kenny Clarkedrums). Composed by Dizzy Gillespie and John Lewis. Arranged by Lalo Schifrin. Philips.

 Lewis: Oh, that’s easy. If I don’t know that—then I’ll go on home. Ow—wrong chords!

Heath: I think it’s Pierre Michelot on bass.

Kay: Yes, Michelot and Bud, Diz and Klook.

Lewis: No, no—the original’s better. The original record is much better Dizzy, too. This feels like it’s slower, but I guess it isn’t. The other one had more tension or something. It just felt like it was moving right along.

Heath: It seemed more live. Well—Ray Brown was live in it.

Kay: The other one’s best, definitely. We heard this whole record before on the bus.

Lewis: I didn’t hear it. Where was this at?

Heath: Coming back from that little town right next to Milano. You didn’t come with us on the bus that night.

Lewis: Oh, I know where you mean–Monza. That’s right—that’s when you told me.

Jackson: Let me see now, we heard that tune. “Hot House, ” “Groovin’ High” and some others.

Lewis: Well, as a copy of the record it’s not as good, I don’t think. It can’t be. Impossible!

Heath: No—that band was young and fresh. A great band.

Jackson: It’s even greater now, because it doesn’t exist any more.

Heath: And I say again—there was Ray Brown on that other record. But the Double Six is a very good group.

Jackson: It sounds very nice. Though they have some tracks on this same album that are much better than that.

Kay: And we’re not sure about the speed of it. I think it’s slower.

Jackson: No, I think the speed was all right—if it’s in the same key that the original was supposed to be in. It doesn’t have to be, though.

 “Choral Prelude No. 1” Jacques Loussier—piano, organ (with Pierre Michelot—bass, Christian Garros—drums). Composed by J. S. Bach. Arranged by Jacques Loussier. From “Play Bach No. 4”, Decca.

 Heath: Is that a squeeze—box?

Lewis: Organ. Sounds like a real organ, too.

Heath: Or maybe an organum or something.

Lewis: I don’t think so. It doesn’t sound like a Hammond organ. It might be, though.

Kay: It really sounds like a church organ.

Heath: With certain stops pulled out, I guess.

Lewis: But a Hammond can’t stop. I’ve never heard a Hammond sound like that. Unless it’s the way it’s recorded.

Kay: Either that or one of those organs like they have in Radio City.

Lewis: Oh, the Wurlitzer—with drums and everything.

Jackson: I don’t want to seem over–critical—but I don’t get it. I don’t quite understand what he’s supposed to be achieving there.

Lewis: You’d have to hear the original first—and then you’d see. It makes no sense unless you know Bach’s Choral Prelude. Throughout that you hear the original tune, which is what the organ’s playing all the time. The piano’s just playing on the chords that Bach wrote around it.

Heath: They seem to have left out all that movement, though.

Jackson: But what he did on the organ didn’t prove no point at all, as far as the music was concerned. To me it was just something stuck in the way of the piano, really.

Lewis: No, see—the organ part’s necessary. That’s why you’ve got to know the whole original thing. It’s no good for somebody who doesn’t know that piece. That’s the difficulty.

Jackson: Oh, I see—knowing the original piece you’d know what was supposed to transpire—and things like that.

Lewis: He was playing the correct chords, anyway.

Tomkins: Do you think it adds anything to the Bach original?

Lewis: Who cares whether it adds anything. If somebody wants to do it they’ve a perfect right to do it, I say. And nobody’s got any right to say: “Don’t do this and don’t do that.” If somebody else might like it—cheers.

Kay: I’d like to know who the piano player was.

Lewis: We don’t know him at all—but he’s a Frenchman. I just know about this record. What’s his name?

Tomkins: Jacques Loussier, playing organ and piano, by overdubbing. Pierre Michelot on bass and Christian Garros on drums.

Heath: Garros? We know him. And Michelot.

Kay: Oh—you remember the day we stopped in that restaurant at the TV station in Brussels—the record I had with Michelot and Garros and a fellow playing Bach. I wonder if it’s the same fellow. But I don’t think that record had organ on it.

Tomkins: Well, on some things he doesn’t use organ. This is the fourth album in a series called “Play Bach.”

Jackson: What’s his name again? Yes, that’s him.

Heath: It’s a good idea, but this particular one you played might not be the best example to be introduced to it by.

Lewis: In any case, it’s that man’s idea. If he wants to do it—hooray.

 “Runnin’ Wild” The Benny Goodman Quartet (Benny Goodman clarinet, Teddy Wilson—piano, Lionel Hampton—vibes, Gene Krupa––drums). From “Together Again! “, RCA Victor.

 Lewis: Oh—oh. Benny Goodman?

Kay: Sounds like the King of Swing. The pianist might be that other man who used to play like Teddy Wilson. Yes, Mel Powell.

Jackson: (at Hampton solo) Gates!

Lewis: Oh, this is for Jackson, this record.

Jackson: Is that Gene on drums? Or Zutty?

Heath: It sounded like Lionel Hampton on that, but I don’t know about the rest of those people. The clarinet didn’t sound like the Benny Goodman I remember.

Kay: Do you think it’s that man who plays in Birdland all the time—Sol Yaged? It’s from the ‘thirties, anyway. When I was a kid I used to listen to records like that. It’s a part of jazz —you know, of that era. But I wouldn’t listen to it today. No—it’s over with.

Lewis: The playing was okay, but—no comment, really. I couldn’t say whether it was one of their original recordings or not.

Jackson: The feeling was there, for what was going on—then. But my opinion is more or less the same as Connie’s. It has nothing to do with what’s going on today, though. It’s something that’s gone by.

Tomkins: But is there any reason why jazz musicians shouldn’t play in this idiom now?

Jackson: No—if that’s the way they feel they’re perfectly entitled to play that way.

Lewis: You say that’s an idiom? That ain’t no idiom.

Tomkins: It’s the Benny Goodman Quartet idiom, isn’t it?

Lewis: Well—what’s that? Not an idiom.

Tomkins: A formula of group playing, then.

Jackson: It’s a style that was popular in that day—which is no longer popular. It’s as simple as that. Musicians who are interested in jazz today are not interested in that idiom—I mean, if you just want some plain truth.

Heath: And not only that. These people who played like that at that time were living like that at that time. So, really, I can’t see a young man who grew up after this music had passed imitating it. Because that’s all it comes out to be—an imitation of something that’s established as having happened. I feel any young man should play the music of his time. Otherwise he can’t live the music in order to really express it. How can you feel like they felt in ‘37? It’d be just like saying you can go all the way back, if you want to——to the Roaring ‘Twenties and that kind of music.

Jackson: King Oliver?

Heath: So all you got to go by is an old record to copy. How can you do anything with that? You’ll never sound like the original in the first place. And it won’t be as vital.

Tomkins: Well, in the case of the record we just heard,. these are the originators recreating their own music. This was recorded quite recently by the original members of the Benny Goodman Quartet reunited.

Heath: And that was Benny himself? My comments were in answer to your question about musicians playing in that idiom today.

Heath: Well. I don’t know. 25 years should have changed them somehow. I heard Hampton lately, and he doesn’t play like that any more—on his recent records.

Jackson: Some musicians are progressive and some are not. Coleman Hawkins is one that is, and Benny Goodman is not—if that’s the way you want to look at it. If that’s a recent record it sounds like just the same kind of thing he played then. And I believe in the ones that progress with the times and are thinking about what’s happening today, not what happened 20 years ago.

You know—you wouldn’t want to ride round in an automobile that was made 20 years ago. You keep up with the new ones. It’s the same with music. Everything moves along. Life moves along—you move with it.

 “Kathy’s Waltz” The Dave Brubeck Quartet with Orchestra (Quartet: Dave Brubeck—piano, Paul Desmond alto, Gene Wright—bass, Joe Morello–drums). Arranged and conducted by Howard Brubeck. Composed by Dave Brubeck. From “Brandenburg Gate: Revisited”, CBS.

 Jackson: This is better Brubeck than I’ve heard.

Heath: Oh yes—it’s Dave all right

Jackson: Dave with strings. Right? That’s what it sounded like. Very nice idea. He seems to have played exceptionally well, though.

Heath: Who—Dave? How many strings were there? About five or six?

Jackson: Sounds like about six or eight.

Lewis: No, I think that’s lots of strings.

Heath: More than that? It didn’t sound too heavy.

Lewis: It’s the whole Philharmonic.

Heath: No kidding? I wonder who did the writing.

Kay: His brother Howard, I guess.

Heath: Well, if there were that many strings he didn’t use them to their full advantage.

Tomkins: Do you think it’s a good thing for the Quartet to record in that setting?

Lewis: Anything they want to do is a good thing. I’m not to decide. They decide what they want to do. I enjoyed it very much. I have no other opinion. I’m not looking for any bomb to go off or anything. Just a little happiness—and I’ll be quite content. Good, fine. Just don’t keep on doing the same old thing all the time. Let’s not have fish and chips for breakfast, dinner, supper, breakfast, dinner, supper. It’s very good. Bravo, Dave.

Kay: It was nice, pleasant listening.

Jackson: That’s all you can really ask for, see. When you ask for anything other than that you’re asking for the sensational or the miraculous—which don’t happen, you know.

 “Time” Benny Golson Orchestra (Benny Golson (solo), Hal McKusick—tenors. Sol Schlinger baritone, Art Farmer (solo), Nick Travis, Bernie Glow—trumpets, Bill Elton——trombone. Willie Ruff– French horn, Tommy Williams–bass, Albert ‘Tootie’ Heathdrums). Composed and arranged by Benny Golson. From “Take A Number From One To Ten”. Pye Jazz.

Heath: Sounds like Walter Benton. It’s hard to tell, though—he sounds like Lucky sometimes.

Jackson: That’s Benny Golson.

Lewis: Oh. Yes it is. Who’s that on trumpet?

Jackson: Art Farmer.

Heath: Farmhouse!

Jackson: I thought he was getting ready to come out—and then he went right back in again.

Lewis: Nice. Who’s that—Tootie on drums? Yes, must be Tootie.

Heath: I don’t know—but I don’t think so.

Lewis: Yes, because that was during that time, you know.

Heath: You mean Jazztet time?

Jackson: This is a larger band than the Jazztet, though.

Lewis: They made a large group album, I think, at this time.

Kay: I liked that. I always like Benny Golson. It’s the first time I’ve heard the record, but I’m pretty sure it was him.

Heath: Overall, an enjoyable record. Nice feeling. Was it my brother playing drums? It was?

Jackson: Very good. That’s the first time I’ve heard Tootie playing with a big band. He’s always with small groups. Sounds good.

Tomkins: This was made about three years ago, at the time of the Farmer/Golson Jazztet.

Lewis: Has it been that long?

Tomkins: There were various combinations on the album, building up to the ten–piece on the track you heard.

Lewis: Pretty nice for ten pieces, eh?

Jackson: Sure. It sounded nice and full —for ten. Nice moving arrangement, too. Was that Benny’s? Yes—sounded like it.

Lewis: He writes nice, doesn’t he?

Heath: I heard Mingus with ten—whew!

Lewis: You can get a big sound with four pieces—and you can get a small sound with a hundred pieces. It has nothing to do with numbers. It’s what you want.

Heath: That’s right. That’s why I asked how many strings there were on that other record.

 “Stereophrenic” George Russell Septet (John Pierce—alto, Paul Plummer—tenor, Don Ellis—trumpet, Dave Baker—trombone, George Russell—piano, Steve Swallow–bass, Joe Hunt—drums). Composed by Dave Baker. From “The Stratus Seekers”, Riverside.

 Lewis: I don’t think that was very well prepared, frankly.

Tomkins: What do you think of the bi–rhythmic idea there? The soloists were supposed to be playing in a different tempo from the rhythm section.

Lewis: A different tempo? I didn’t get that. They seemed to be in the same tempo to me.

Heath: Maybe they had some sub–division going on, but it was all in the same tempo. The time signature sounded like all 3/4 or 6/8 to me.

Jackson: I wasn’t too impressed with the overall record. The part where the piano was playing a solo—the rest of the orchestra seemed to cover him up, which didn’t do him too much justice. I don’t know if it was intentional or not, but if it was—it wasn’t favourable.

Kay: This is one of those records I’d have to hear a few more times before I could comment on it.

Jackson: It’s not the kind of record that you can say you like the first time you hear it. Maybe after you hear it again you may hear something that you didn’t hear before. In listening to some records for the first time you cannot always have a spontaneous reaction. Sometimes you don’t have no reaction at all. At least, I don’t. With some records there’s an automatic reaction from the very beginning. depends entirely upon the record itself––the circumstances—plus the type of mood I’m in. I might be more susceptible to what I’m hearing at the time. Another time your mind may not even be on it at all, so naturally you’re not really listening.

Tomkins: That was a group led by George Russell.

Jackson: Was that George playing piano? That’s the first time I’ve heard him play that much piano on a tune—as a soloist. Very unusual.

Lewis: But I don’t get this tempo idea. If you have something that runs for eight bars—at one tempo it comes out here. At another tempo it comes out somewhere else. That’s two different tempos. If you come out at the same place, as they were—that’s all the same tempo.

 “Joy Spring” Gary Burton Trio. Gary Burton vibes, Gene Cherico—bass, Joe Morello––drums). Composed by Clifford Brown. From “New Vibe Man In Town”, RCA.

 Heath: Isn’t that one of the tunes Max recorded with Clifford?

Jackson: Oh, yes, it is.

Kay: Is this Dave Pike?

Jackson: I don’t know. No.

Heath: You can’t hear the bass player —can’t tell what’s happening.

Jackson: Maybe there isn’t one.

Heath: There’s a bass player on there all right.

Lewis: I’d like to know what studio this was. I don’t know any American recordings where I can’t hear the bass.

Jackson: It’s not Tubby, is it? I don’t know any vibraharpists over here. That one doesn’t sound familiar to me.

Lewis: Is this a French record? English, huh?

Tomkins: It’s American—recorded in New York.

Lewis: That’s very strange. It just doesn’t sound like it.

Jackson: Well, there’s a lot of vibes players coming along now that I’m not familiar with. It was nice—but I don’t like groups without piano. There’s a basic thing, as far as jazz is concerned, that’s missing when the piano player is not there. And I don’t care how you play it—it just doesn’t have the same thing.

Heath: And if I can’t hear the bass, I don’t know if it’s swinging or not.

Jackson: Point blank—I just do not approve of no group that don’t have a piano player.

Lewis: Hooray for Milt Jackson—from the piano players!

Jackson: That goes for all groups—Gerry Mulligan or any other group where they don’t like the piano player.

Lewis: You see, we’re really necessary!

Jackson: Actually, aside from that, what he did sounded good. But it was limited by the fact that he did not have a piano there. In playing jazz I’ve found out that it’s very necessary that you have what I would call a proper rhythm section—that is, a piano player, a bass player and a drummer, who can play. Now this is the first thing—when you’ve got that, then you can speak about the rest. Just bass and drums is not enough.

Lewis: In other words, a trio works down to just really piano, bass and drums. After that you’ve got to have quartets!

Jackson: With a piano there what he did would have been complemented more and come off better, by having some assistance back there. He can’t do it by himself. The instrument is too empty, in the first place. If he played with six mallets it still wouldn’t make up for the emptiness that’s there. He can’t replace that himself. It’s like those old Benny Goodman Trio records with clarinet, vibes and drums or—just as bad—the ones with clarinet, vibes and piano. No drums or bass. The drummer can’t be done without—under any circumstances. To me this kind of thing doesn’t make sense musically. The way we were educated was that whatever kind of music you play is supposed to make sense—and you use all of the facilities that you have available in order to make it make sense. And when you don’t do this it’s a lost cause.

Kay: I agree. I don’t like playing with groups with no piano. I’ve made a few records and what–not with groups without a piano. But you miss it.

Jackson: There have been instruments substituted, like guitar. It’s got something there, but it still can’t produce the same feeling.

Lewis: In other words, the piano is a magnificent instrument. Why do you think I’m screaming all the time? And there’s really only one piano—I don’t know what the rest of those things are that they roll out. Piano means Steinway.

Kay: That record sounded like just two people—the vibes and the drums. If I could have heard the bass it would have sounded a little better,. and then the piano would have filled it out.

Jackson: I’m quite sure he could have hired a piano player. Somebody that could play.

Tomkins: The interesting thing about this is that it was by Gary Burton, who is now with Stan Getz—in another pianoless group.

Lewis: He played vibraharp with us on “Odds Against Tomorrow” on a concert we did in February with an orchestra. But the trouble is—he doesn’t use the motor, and I don’t like it. It’s not the sound I recognised.

Jackson: He doesn’t? He used it on that record, though.

Lewis: But you know what—he doesn’t like to use the motor. I don’t understand it. I said: “Why don’t you use it tonight, though, because this music sounds wrong without it.” The parts were written with the motor in mind through all that music.

Jackson: It was written for me! It wasn’t meant for anybody else. But I’ll tell you something. During the time that Margie Hyams was playing with George Shearing—I was offered that same job before she got it.

Lewis: Only Margie Hyams sounds different, somehow.

Jackson: But he didn’t want me to use the motor on it. We couldn’t get together at all. I said: “Well, without that I’m not playing it.”

Tomkins: Well, that’s your sound essentially.

Jackson: But he wanted to do without it. And it was a shame, because I really needed the money.

Copyright ©1964 Les Tomkins. All Rights Reserved