Jazz Professional               

Disc Discussion

Session conducted by Les Tomkins 
featuring FRANK FOSTER, CHARLIE FOWLKES of the Basie band, and
ROY  REYNOLDS, JIMMY STAPLES of Ken Mackintosh’s band

 The following blindfold test was carried out in 1963, but time would hardly change the opinions expressed here. They could well have been uttered today - or even tomorrow. Jazz lives on!


“Emerge” Gerald Wilson Orchestra (featuring Harold Land-tenor, Jack Wilson-piano). Composed and arranged by Les Robertson. From “Moment Of Truth”, Fontana.

Fowlkes: It’s somebody familiar to me on tenor, but I can’t place him.

Foster: I knew my first comment would be: “I don’t know!”

Staples: This could be Maynard Ferguson’s band.

Reynolds: It may be the Henry Mancini band. I thought I recognised the tenor player. Carmen Leggio, I think the name is.

Fowlkes: It doesn’t sound like an American band to me. Does it to you, Frank?

Foster: I can’t tell. I had Oliver Nelson in mind, but I don’t think it’s him. It might be Gerald Wilson, although I’m in doubt about that, too. It sounded sort of like West Coast, then like something else again.

Staples: Those sort of arrangements are too busy for my liking. Too much involved contrapuntal stuff. I like a thing that just swings along.

Fowlkes: As I said, it didn’t sound American. The interpretation of it. Is there such a thing as American jazz?

Foster: It’s because you’re hearing it in London!

Fowlkes: It was as if an arranger wrote in the style of somebody and they tried to do it.

Staples: That’s right. A Woolworth’s version, as they say!

Reynolds: It reminded me of a big band I once heard, run by Ken Hanna—a trumpet player from Stan Kenton’s band.

Foster: It was Gerald Wilson? Who could that have been on tenor, then?

Tomkins: He’s a player from the East who went out and settled on the West Coast.

Reynolds: Would it be Harold Land?

Foster: Either him or Teddy Edwards.

Tomkins: It was Land. The writing was by Les Robertson, a trombone player. This was his only score for this particular album. Gerald Wilson wrote the rest of them.

Foster: Oh, yes, he’s with Hamp now. He played with us a few days out there when Coker had time off. He’s a very good trombonist. That sounded very Gerald Wilson–ish.

Fowlkes: Well, I get a very different impression of Gerald. I would never have guessed that was his band. And I don’t think he would have written it like that.

Foster: I liked the counterpoint, but there was a lot of repetition.

Staples: I think Maynard Ferguson’s band do it so much better.

Fowlkes: I agree. They play it swingier than any of them.

Reynolds: This one didn’t really get off the ground—because of too much counterpoint.

Fowlkes: Maynard has 13 men—and it sounds like 26. Believe me. We’ve played in concerts with them in the States. He’s got a very good band. I like the way they swing.

“You’ve Come Home” Gerry Mulligan Group (Gerry Mulligan baritone, Tommy Flanagan-piano, Ben Tucker-bass, Dave Bailey-drums, Alec Dorsey-conga drum). From “Jeru”, CBS.

Foster: Gerry Mulligan? No! I just had to be the first one to say something.

Fowlkes: That’s too easy.

Foster: I could start naming off the one or two baritone players I know.

Staples; Not Pepper Adams, is it? A bit too edgy for him? If it’s not Mulligan, he’s definitely a Mulligan fan, isn’t he?

Reynolds: I haven’t a clue who this is.

Staples: I believe this might be English.

Reynolds: It sounds English to me, actually.

Staples: This could be Ronnie Ross.

Foster: I had Ronnie Ross in mind, too.

Fowlkes: That’s who I was thinking of. It sounds very good—1 know that.

Foster: This piano player’s a bit Tommy Flanagan–ish. Which is very good. I’ve known Tommy since long before I was in the band, I met him about 15 years ago. And after 15 years I can’t recognise whether this is him or not! If it’s Pepper Adams, it probably would be Tommy.

Reynolds: It’s not the hard–blowing baritone that I like.

Staples: I always think that sort of stuff can be done so much better on the tenor. Baritone to me shouldn’t be grumpy—you know.

Fowlkes: I find I can usually tell a baritone player from a doubler. I have three baritone players, by the way, that I really like—Pepper Adams, Sahib Shihab and Carney. I love Carney for his sound and the other two for solo work. There are so few really good baritone players. As for that record, it didn’t excite me, but I liked it. It was well played.

Tomkins: Well it was Gerry Mulligan.

Staples: Was it really? After all that!

Foster: And it was Tommy? Well, I enjoyed everybody’s performance on it, but I thought it was kind of long for that type of tune. He should have shortened it about two or three choruses and it would have been all right.

“Sweet Sorrow Blues” Spike Hughes and his All-American Orchestra (featuring Dicky Wells-trombone, Henry ‘Red’ Allen-trumpet, Coleman Hawkins, Chu Berry-tenors). Composed by Spike Hughes. Decca Ace Of Clubs.

Staples: Sounds like Duke Ellington years ago.

Foster: There shouldn’t be any argument there.

Fowlkes: Being the oldest here, I should know everybody in the band. Yes, I’d say it was Duke Ellington.

Foster: Would that trombone be Lawrence Brown or Tizol?

Staples: Fletcher Henderson’s old band used to play a bit like this, but I’m sure it’s Ellington.

Foster: Sounds like one of those old head arrangements they got together, where nobody had any music. Basie used to do that, too.

Staples: This tenor player sounds like Chu Berry.

Reynolds: That’s what I was thinking.

Fowlkes: Yes, it might be Fletcher Henderson’s band. It sure sounded like Chu on there. By the way, he was my inspiration to take up saxophone.

Foster: I’m not much for this free jazz, you know. Don’t play any more of those new things! That’s a bit far out.

Tomkins: Well, it probably was, in 1933. The leader on the date was Spike Hughes.

Foster: Spike Hughes?

Staples: An English bass player. He went to America and recorded with Chu Berry, Coleman Hawkins, Benny Carter and Buster Bailey.

Foster: I enjoyed it for the musical value, and I know I would have really appreciated it at that time.

Staples: It was just a bit of nostalgia for me. I wouldn’t particularly want to listen to a lot of it now.

Foster: It ain’t nostalgic to me, because I can’t remember back that far!

Reynolds: I like it for what it represented. In spite of the corny ensemble and stodgy rhythm on that, the solos were great. So much jazz feeling.

Staples: Put any of those solos with a modern rhythm section and it would sound very good.

Fowlkes: I often wish they had stereo facilities in those days. So few musicians playing now ever had a chance to hear the Lunceford band in person. Like, before I got in Basie’s band I used to hear it in person and it sounded so much different to the records. They didn’t come near to recording the true sound of this band until Roulette put out that “Atomic Mr. Basie” album.

“I’m Gonna Go Fishin’ ” Annie Ross with Orchestra arranged and conducted by Johnnie Spence Composed by Duke Ellington. Lyrics by Peggy Lee. From “A Handful Of Songs”, Ember.

Reynolds: It sounds like Annie Ross to me. Sounds like a Hoagy Carmichael tune, too.

Staples: Yes, a “My Resistance Is Low” type of thing.

Foster: This is a particular idiom that I consider Oliver Nelson a master of. Sort of a smattering of the gospel. I guess this is a British orchestra behind her.

Reynolds: No, I thought it was an American band, by the writing.

Foster: I didn’t know she did any recording like this in America.

Tomkins: No, she didn’t, actually. It is a British band.

Staples: It sounds to me like Johnny Dankworth’s lot.

Foster: Dankworth came to my mind.

Fowlkes: It’s well played by the band. I know that. It was sung well, but I just don’t like these things.

Reynolds: I liked Annie best with Lambert, Hendricks and Ross.

Fowlkes: I think she sings well enough to do straight ballads.

Foster: Full marks for everything but the material. The band, the singer—not the song.

Fowlkes: It’s meaningless. Annie’s very versatile and she can do other things so much better. Usually you’ll find when singers do things like that it’s because they’ve been talked into it.

Foster: I wouldn’t be angry at her for having chosen that or for having been talked into it, just as long as the rest of the album is really saying something.

“Angel Eyes” Tubby Hayes Quintet (Tubby Hayes-vibes, Jimmy Deuchar-trumpet, Gordon Beck -piano, Freddy Logan-bass, Allan Ganley-drums). From “Late Spot At Scott’s”, Fontana.

Staples: Is that Gary McFarland? It sounds like something he might do.

Foster: I haven’t heard him, but I wouldn’t imagine this is him, from all I’ve heard about him.

Staples: The trumpet sounds a bit like Jack Sheldon’s type of playing. Actually, the rhythm part of it’s got a touch of the Modern Jazz Quartet about it, hasn’t it? So it might be Milt Jackson.

Reynolds: But that doesn’t sound like John Lewis on piano.

Fowlkes: It doesn’t sound like Milt either. He has a way of setting his vibes. I always notice that very slow vibrato of his.

Foster: I just know this is not Clifford Brown and Lem Winchester. It could be—but I know it’s not.

Fowlkes: Like I can say I know it couldn’t be Thad Jones—but I heard a couple of things in there that reminded me of Thad.

Foster: I don’t think Art Farmer’s ever recorded with vibes. I want to put the trumpet player somewhere in that class.

Staples: It’s not Freddie Hubbard, is it?

Foster: I thought of him, too. Now I’m trying to think of who it could be on vibes playing with him.

Staples: That’s why I think it could be Gary McFarland, because I know he plays with Freddie Hubbard. I heard them together on a Voice Of America programme.

Staples: Ah, applause. I was just going to say that it reminded me of a night club at three in the morning. It’s ideal mood music for that hour.

Fowlkes: It’s good listening, too. I really enjoyed it.

Tomkins: Well, that was Jimmy Deuchar on trumpet and the group he has with Tubby—who was on vibes there.

Foster: Tubby on vibes!

Fowlkes: How about that? Excellent! Top marks for Tubby.

Staples: Very good, I must say. That fooled me, definitely. I’d have said it was American. I think English musicians are latching on a bit more than they used to. At one time there was a terrible gap.

Foster: They are. They’re narrowing the gap.

Reynolds: I consider Tubby a great musician—by any standards.

Foster: I agree with that. By any standards.

Fowlkes: When I first heard him I didn’t believe it!

“Hollywood Stampede” Coleman Hawkins Septet (Coleman Hawkins- tenor, Howard McGhee-trumpet, Vic Dickenson- trombone, Sir Charles Thompson-piano, Allan Reuss-guitar, Oscar Pettiford-bass, Denzil Best-drums). Composed by Coleman Hawkins. From “Hollywood Stampede”, Capitol.

Fowlkes: That piano intro sounds like Basie.

Foster: It’s somebody like Buck Clayton.

Fowlkes: I was going to say Sweets and Ben Webster.

Foster: It’s probably Freddie Green. It might be Sir Charles Thompson on piano. It ain’t Basie, though.

Reynolds: It sounds to me like the way Howard McGhee used to blow.

Fowlkes: There’s Ben Webster.

Staples: Hawkins, isn’t it?

Foster: Coleman—yes. That might be Howard McGhee with him.

Reynolds: It was McGhee’s type of phrasing and tone. It stuck out in my mind from an old Jazz At The Phil session I heard. The way they used to kick off with the rhythm section, too.

Fowlkes: Vic Dickenson.

Foster: I’ve always appreciated his ability without actually liking what he plays too much. He has a lot of feeling.

Staples: He’s inclined to slip and slide around a lot. That ensemble reminds me of those ‘forties records like “Spotlite” with Hawkins and Allan Eager. This is the old rebop, isn’t it?

Foster: Yes, that old rebop. That’s what it is.

Reynolds: I wouldn’t like to say who the piano player is, but I think it’s Buddy Rich on drums.

Fowlkes: If that isn’t Coleman Hawkins, I give up altogether.

Foster: Yes, if that ain’t Hawkins I’ll forget it—start selling tape recorders! (Personnel details given here)

Staples: That was recorded about 1949, I should reckon.

Foster: Yes, somewhere in the late ‘forties.

Tomkins: Mid—‘forties, actually ‘45. In Hollywood—when there was West Coast jazz without it being West Coast Jazz.

Staples: I think Hawkins is playing better now than he was playing there, though. The’ greatest thing I ever heard by him was “Body And Soul” in 1940—a knock—out to me. Later on he was mucking about with the rebop business, which he wasn’t quite suited to. Now he seems to have found his own style again.

Foster: I would agree with that. Do you remember “Disorder At The Border”? What you said about his fooling around with the bebop—that record really points that out to me. I didn’t really enjoy what he was doing then.

Fowlkes: You know who’s an underrated tenor player who glides through all those years? That’s Budd Johnson. He’s of the same age—and to me he’s kept more up with the times than any of ‘em. How long was he with the band?

Foster: Oh, two years, I guess.

Fowlkes: Yes, and I was overwhelmed by him. He comes from way back—Fletcher Henderson—and he would get on that bandstand and play as modern as any of your tenor players today. There’s nothing dated about his playing at all. You won’t hear any of the phrases you get from others who have been playing that long. Too bad you didn’t get a chance to hear him with the Basie band. He’s remarkable.

Foster: The most he was featured with us was on a record called “Basic At Birdland” that we did about two years ago. He reminded me of a modern—day Lester Young.

Fowlkes: Basie loved him. He’d get those booting choruses. He took Billy Mitchell’s place, but he just missed the last tour.

“Walk Right In” Jimmy Smith-organ, with Oliver Nelson Orchestra. Arranged by Oliver Nelson. From “Hobo Flats”, Verve.

Foster: What made you think to put one of my favourite songs on?

Staples: It sounds like Si Zentner to me,

Tomkins: Well, even the Basie band records the hits.

Staples: Yes—I Can’t Stop Loving You”.

Foster: Owl I can’t stop hating that the song.

Reynolds: Oh, it’s Jimmy Smith.

Foster: With Oliver Nelson. And Si Zentner. Well, I guess it would take Jimmy Smith to make me like “Walk Right In, Sit Right Down”!

Fowlkes: I’ll tell you the truth—I liked it from the introduction. Regardless of the tune. I mean, the way it was done.

Staples: He’s taken tripe and turned it into hors d’oeuvres.

Foster: What I like about this is that after the first chorus it actually ceases to be “Walk Right In”. It’s become something else. I’m glad they stopped playing the melody. This is probably from the same album as “Walk On The Wild Side”.

Tomkins: No, it’s from a later album than that. It is Jimmy Smith and Oliver Nelson, of course.

Foster: There’s no mistaking those two together. There’s no mistaking Jimmy Smith by himself either.

Reynolds: One of the other tracks on that album is “In A Mellow Tone”.

Staples: I like your version of that. We took it down from the record. We do it about once a year, after a week’s rehearsal1

Foster: The last couple of choruses of that we played up high on the record. We play ‘em down low now—so it’s easier on the chops.

“You Stepped Out Of A Dream” Brew Moore Quintet (Brew Moore-tenor, Lars Gullin -baritone, Bent Axen-piano, Niels-Henning Orsted Pederson-bass, William Schiopffe-drums). From “Brew Moore In Europe”, Debut.

Reynolds: Sounds like Getz and Mulligan.

Foster: Stan Getz, maybe, but it don’t sound like Gerry Mulligan to me. I don’t think it is them. It’s somebody else.

Fowlkes: The tenor doesn‘t sound like Getz to me, but the baritone sounded like Mulligan.

Foster: This is my favourite song, but definitely not my favourite version of it. To me the soloists aren’t really saying too much. Of everybody on this group I like the bass player best. It doesn’t sound like the very best engineering job. The horn players are swaying away from the mike while they’re playing, and not being picked up.

Reynolds: It could be Bill Perkins, with Bud Shank on baritone.

Staples: The tenor phrasing is like Zoot Sims, but it’s not his sound.

Fowlkes: I’ve changed my mind three times now. I don’t know who it is.

Staples: That’s a number I like played slow and dreamy. It’s a Ben Webster vehicle for my money.

Foster: Well, Sonny Rollins takes it even faster than they did.

Staples: I always feel the composer must know the tempo he wants it at—and that’s the natural tempo. Like “All The Things You Are”—Jerome Kern wrote it as a slow ballad. When all these guys double it up it sounds murder to me, no matter how well they play it.

Foster: Well, I play a tune at my tempo. Anybody else can do what he wants with it. But make it interesting whatever you do with it. Some songs in their original form I couldn’t even listen to.

Staples: To me it’s better taste to do a slow version of a quick tune than a quick version of a slow tune.

Foster: Yes, I can see what you mean.

Fowlkes: Most tunes have a tempo that is right for them. (Personnel details given here)

Fowlkes: Well, I feel better now. Everybody was wrong.

Tomkins: It was recorded in Copenhagen in September, 1962.

Reynolds: With a Danish rhythm section? I liked the bass player very much.

Foster: I did, too. He’s not that fellow they’re raving about so much now, is he?

Fowlkes: Is that the young fellow we heard . . . ?

Foster: In Lanskrona, yes. I believe it is. I can’t quite recognise him from this picture.

“Last Train From Overbrook” Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland Orchestra (Benny Bailey, Roger Guerin, Jimmy Deuchar, Ahmed Muffavak Falay-trumpets, Nat Peck, Ake Persson trombones, Derek Humble-alto, Carl Drevo, Zoot Sims-tenors, Sahib Shihab-baritone, Francy Boland-piano, Jimmy Woode-bass, Kenny Clarke-drums; soloists : Bailey, Shihab, Drevo, Sims). Composed by James Moody. Arranged by Francy Boland. From “Jazz Is Universal”, London Atlantic.

Staples: That’s a nice trumpet.

Fowlkes: Yes, I like that.

Staples: He’s got a touch of the Clark Terrys about him, hasn’t he?

Foster: That might be Shihab. I would imagine that trumpet player could have been Benny Bailey.

Staples: That tenor player’s a bit like Stanley Turrentine. That’s a nice ensemble passage. I like that. There’s quite a bit of a Basie influence about that, isn’t there?

Foster: (at second tenor solo) I can’t even begin to guess who the tenor player is.

Staples: Good band, though, isn’t it?

Fowlkes: Yes, I like it. Swinging.

Reynolds: Two tenor players, aren’t there?

Foster: There are—yes.

Staples: Is this one Benny Golson?

Foster: No. I wouldn’t say so. If you’re right—I’ll disappear!

Reynolds: It doesn’t sound like an American band to me.

Staples: Yes, it sounds a little under–rehearsed.

Fowlkes. It’s a little rough—but it sounds American to me.

Foster: When I said Benny Bailey and Shihab, I had in mind that it was possibly a German band that they’ve been working with.

Reynolds: The overall sound is that of a Continental band. The solos were good, but the ensemble not all it could be.

Fowlkes: They don’t all dig each other together—certain phrases—but their ideas are good. That might be Joe Harris on drums. It’s a hard one to figure out. The second tenor player who soloed was particularly good. He was very sure of what he was doing. No fumbling.

Foster: Yes. I liked him a little better.

Reynolds: That also made me think it was a Continental band. It sounded rather like Bobby Jaspar. (Details given here)

Fowlkes: Well, I didn’t recognise Zoot there. But he was wailing!

Foster: I haven’t heard him in so long—but if that’s him now he’s still in there.

Fowlkes: He’s still swinging.

Staples: Any rough spots could have been due to them only getting the arrangement at the session.

Fowlkes: Possibly so. We’ve been doing that for the last three years. Charts—we don’t see ‘em till we get to the session. Everything is new. That’s why, on any tune, you might hear different tempos later on.

 Copyright © 1963, Les Tomkins. All Rights Reserved.