Jazz Professional               

Disc Discussion

Session conducted by Les Tomkins

Sandy Brown, Harry South and Jimmy Deuchar

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!


 "Lulu's Back In Town"—George Wein and The Newport All—Stars (Ruby Braff—cornet, Marshall Brown—valve trombone, Pee Wee Russell—clarinet, Bud Freeman—tenor, George Wein—piano, Bill Takas —bass, Marquis Foster—drums), Impulse.

Brown: I know who this is, though I haven't actually heard it before. Unless it's very good imitations so far, it's Pee Wee Russell and Bud.

Deuchar: It's happy jazz, isn't it? Real happy.

Brown: It could be Buck Clayton.

Deuchar: I like that kind of drumming.

Brown: Is that Marshall Brown? I don't know enough of his work really to say, but it's a valve, and with this kind of group it could be him.

South: It's a swinging record—going along nicely.

Brown: (at Bud Freeman entry) There's no doubt about that.

Deuchar: And this is where the story really starts!

Brown: I'm looking forward to hearing him at this Festival, you know—because he's a gas. There's only a few other guys, such as Eddie Miller, who play the least bit like that.

Deuchar: Ruby Braff?

Tomkins: Right.

Brown: He's a much more fluent player than Wild Bill Davidson, but he's got a lot of similarities to Wild Bill's playing, I think—the way he holds one note. Like the blue note, for instance. (Russell solo starts). There's no mistaking that sound.

Deuchar: You got me, boy—I don't know.

Brown: Pee Wee Russell!

Deuchar: He always has been the furthest–out player in many ways. You think he's the guv'nor, do you?

Brown: Well, I do, but I can see that lots of people wouldn't think that. But they must all agree that what he plays is absolutely individual. He's influenced me, but there's a whole school of clarinet players on whom he hasn't had any influence at all.

South: They're all guys of the same era, but they must have been recorded quite recently.

Brown: I don't know who this bass player is, but he can certainly play.

South: This is somewhat of an indication of how recent it must be.

Deuchar: I'd like to know who this drummer is.

Tomkins: The sleeve names him as Marquis Foster, and the bass player as Bill Takas.

Brown: Never heard of either of them. There's one thing I must say. The whole thing knocked me out—because of the individuals involved. But at the end they're supposed to be playing counterpoint, like they used to in the old Dixielandbands, and it doesn't really come off as well—because nowadays, with the influences all these guys have had, it doesn't work. They're playing too many changes to get from one harmony to another, instead of playing a melodic thing. So it's almost impossible to play counterpoint, unless it's terribly simple—like the Gerry Mulligan things.

Deuchar: Well, that's only two lines going, isn't it?

Brown: Yes, if they get more than that it won't work.

Deuchar: Though I don't know. What about when he had the Sextet, with Brookmeyer, Zoot and Jon Eardley? I think that was marvellous—the counterpoint they worked in there.

Deuchar: This is more or less the same thing in a different vein.

Brown: There's too many people playing to make it effective—for me, anyway.

South: It was a fair band, though. The rhythm section gave the date of it away.

Deuchar: Yes, that was a very good rhythm section.

South: I remember how good Sidney Bechet sounded when he did some things with a modern rhythm section. They gave him a different kind of lift.

"Subject"—Joe Harriott Quintet (Joe Harriott—alto, Shake Keane—trumpet, Pat Smythe—piano, Coleridge Good—bass, Bobby Orr—drums). Composed by Joe Harriott. From "Abstract," Columbia.

South: Crazy intro.

Deuchar: Here we go.

South: Free form, is it?

Deuchar: I like the backing, but I don't think it'll be a hit!

Tomkins: You won't rush out and buy it?

Deuchar: I don't think so. Do we want to hear any more of this?

Brown: It's Joe Harriott, isn't it?

South: It is Joe, is it? I thought so. I know Joe pretty well and I know what he's trying to do. I was with him for two years and he was talking about it then. But I couldn't see quite how he could formulate it—and I still can't, really, quite honestly. I don't condemn it, because at least he's trying something.

Tomkins: Would you say it's not valid as jazz?

Deuchar: You can't say that, because the guy's sincerely improvising. It's a matter of preference. You either like it or you don't. I'm afraid I don't like it.

Brown: But it's not a very logical approach to a sort of innovation. Let's suppose you're fed up trying to get from one chord to another in the accepted sense…

Deuchar: No, in your accepted sense.

South: Well, there aren't any accepted chords in this kind of thing.

Brown: No, but let's say you believe the conventional way is exhausted—then you have to think of some kind of new discipline.

South: That's why I couldn't see eye to eye with Joe about this. I could understand one person doing it—painting his own picture. But I couldn't see at the time how you could group five guys together and make them do the same thing, making a point of playing together.

Brown: You can't—because these guys are already committed to familiar patterns—whatever they're going to do. And you can hear Joe doing it—and especially the bass player. He's doing a familiar chord sequence. Now all that's going to happen is that you're going to hear this familiar pattern, which doesn't fit with another familiar pattern which the other guy's playing. If you want to do something different, then you have to invent some new way of playing. And this is something they've neglected to do.
They've abolished a way of playing in the sense that they don't all have to follow the same chords. But what actually happens a few split seconds before you know the bass player is going to play the next note in the chordal sequence which he's playing—you've got to think of something else. It's a thing which logically can't work. I mean, nobody's ever tried improvising with a surreal technique in non–tonal music. Why don't they try that? It's obviously more difficult to do, because you'd have to abolish all the familiar patterns you started with. But I'll say this—what they're doing, and what Eric Dolphy, John Coltrane and even Ornette Coleman is doing, proves one thing. And that is that a whole lot of talented guys have decided that the type of harmonic improvisation that has been going on for the last ten years is becoming exhausted.

South: I would like to say one thing. I know Joe was thinking of this kind of thing before he heard of Omette Coleman. This is no copy. I can tell you that.

Brown: I'm sure it isn't.

Deuchar: Joe's a very sincere guy.

Brown: And a very good musician, too.

South: Yes, and in that respect I keep an open mind about it.

Deuchar: The same goes for Shake Keane. But I'll tell you what—I thought it was Ornette and Don Cherry.

Brown: These guys seem to have simultaneously .and, I think, subconsciously, come to the same decision. And more and more guys are going to do this—and experiment in various ways.
South: And sooner or later something's going to happen.

Deuchar: It's the same kind of thing as Charlie Parker did twenty years ago. That was a radical change, wasn't it?

South: The idea in itself is good—this idea of each guy painting his own picture and representing exactly how he feels. You can't get more free than that. Except this business of combining five guys together and expecting there to be a psychic thing going on between them, where each guy fits his own pattern to what's going on. I don't know quite if that's what Joe's supposed to be doing now.

Brown: Well, this could happen—eventually.

South: Yes, with a deep understanding of each other's playing.

Brown: I disagree with you, Harry, about this business of freedom. I know that this is called 'free form' and that the banner under which this movement marches forward is towards more freedom. But I think it's a very limited type of freedom which is required. It's a freedom from very rigid harmonic rules which have been laid down. It's not necessarily freedom for everybody to do exactly as they please.

Tomkins: But they're also breaking away from time signatures, aren't they?

Brown: Yes, well, they can't really do that—not with this set–up, anyway.

Deuchar: Only to a very limited degree.

South: I don't think it's possible to be so utterly and completely different in one step. I think you've got to graduate a little before that.

Brown: Well, I think you could do it in one step. After all, Schoenberg did it in one step.

Deuchar: Oh, but that's just one man—one exception.

Brown: But it proves it can be done.

South: Remember the criticism Charlie Parker got when he started. The same people who criticised him then will now admit that he was right.

Brown: Yes, we're Trads again!

Deuchar: And when you compare the first Bird records with Coltrane at the time he played with Miles—it's really grown—Bird's type of jazz.

South: It's got its own form of evolution from there. But he was so far in front that to go anywhere from there you've got to really go some.

Brown: Well, what he did was to extend harmonies, really— apart from what he did rhythmically. But one of the things he did which everybody latched on to was extending harmonies. Eventually you come to a point where if you extend them any further they cease to be really tonal, in the sense that you're expecting somebody to play 'doh' at the end. So really somebody is bound to try and do this in a non–tonal fashion. And they've already got people to learn from.
In the same way that Parker had people like Ravel and Debussy to learn from harmonically, they've got guys like Schoenberg and Gerhard who have already done this in another sphere.

"Night Rider"—Stan Getz—tenor with Orchestra; composed and arranged by Eddie Sauter; conducted by Hershy Kay; with Roy Haynes—drums. From "Focus", Verve.

South: I can't imagine who it is, but it sounds as if somebody's been listening to Indian Classical music. It's nothing to do with Eddie Sauter, is it? He's the only person I can think of who could write strings like that. Now, wait a minute—Stan Getz and Ed Sauter!

Deuchar: I'm the proud possessor of this record. I think it's great.

South: The whole thing is a wonderful accomplishment— the blending of the strings with the tenor.

Brown: I think there's a whole lot of guys who could write string parts like that. But they wouldn't have the advantage of having Stan Getz on it.

South: I don't think there's a lot of people who could do as good a job as Stan Getz did on that.

Brown: I don't think there's anybody. I think he's a genius.

South: And can you name anybody who could write strings like that? I can't think of anybody.

Deuchar: Ralph Burns.

Brown: Yes, he's one, and I think Nelson Riddle could, too.

South: Oh, I don't think his string writing is up to that. Not at all.

Deuchar: No, nor do I.

South: What Nelson Riddle does he does very well, but he's not that kind of string writer.

Brown: Well, I think he is. He did a thing with the Hollywood String Quartet, an accompaniment to a very unpopular Sinatra LP, "Close To You."

Brown: That was far better than he usually does for the block strings.

South: Well, I haven't heard that, so I can't say.

Deuchar: Oh, that's great—yes.

Brown: And a lot of classical composers could do it, too.

South: But not with the rhythmic feel. They could write the strings—classical writers usually excel at that. But to get it matching with the tenor like that is another matter.

Deuchar: It's very hard to write rhythmic things for strings without it sounding a bit ricky.

South: Like those things Johnny Richards did with Dizzy— they were good, but they weren't half as good as that.

Brown: Mind you, I think you're halfway there if you've got Stan Getz. He comes in at all the right places with something that is right emotionally for that part of it.

Deuchar: Another track I like very much is "I'm Late—I'm Late." But the whole record is marvellous.

"Johnny"—Annie Ross with Tony K&rsey Trio (Gordon Beck—piano, Brian Brocklehurst—bass, Tony Kinsey—drums). Words by Christopher Logue. Music by Tony Rinsey. From "Loguerhythms," Transatlantic.

Brown: Annie Ross.

Deuchar: I saw Annie do this at the Establishment the other night.

Brown: Yes, so did I.

Deuchar: She's great, isn't she?

Brown: What an act!

South: Is this from the Logue album?

Brown: Yes. I don't like them as much as the rest of the stuff she does.

Deuchar: How did you like the Trio behind Annie?

Brown: Very good. They've got a hard job to do.

South: Is this Gordon doing the backing here?

Deuchar: Yes, that's right.

Brown: Maybe nobody will agree with me, but I don't think the lyrics of the song are in the same class as the presentation. Christopher Logue may be a great poet. A lot of people say he is, but I don't know enough about poetry to discuss it. But as a songwriter I think he's got a long way to go. The best in the field—like Cole Porter and Larry Hart—could have done a whole lot better, and made it fit the voice. Annie Ross is one of the few people who could sing this at all. Personally I dislike it. I prefer the subtleties of a Cole Porter lyric. I mean, Cole Porter's put over things like this. Although it's got a 'message' it's done in a light–hearted way. Cole Porter, dealing with subjects which admittedly weren't as cataclysmic as this one, was able to do it far better.

South: But how do you compare, say, Oscar Brown, Junior with people like Porter. You can't really compare them. It's a different kind of world, isn't it?

Brown: For me the best bits of that programme are the normal songs. I enjoy, technically, listening to the other things, because, as I say, I don't think there's anybody could do that except Annie Ross. A great artist in the ballad field like Peggy Lee—she couldn't put over a song like that. It wouldn't sound right. And, anyway, I doubt if she'd do it. She knows too much of her own way of singing. Annie Ross is one of the few people who could make that sound good—and I don't see why she should have to. It's excellent music and very well played. But not being helped by the lyric. It's like trying to make a song swing in German. You can sing Wagner.

Deuchar: The performance was excellent. I really like Annie's singing. I think she's one of the very few people who can sing with a jazz feel. You can count them on one hand, I'd say.

Brown: Somebody was telling me they were going to lessons from Richard Rodney Bennett, the composer—and he uses her records as an example of singing intervals, because a lot of those she sings are so difficult and unnatural.

"To Rigmor"—Joe Newman Quintet (Joe Newman— trumpet, Frank Foster—tenor, Tommy Flanagan—piano, Eddie Jones—bass, Billy English—drums). Composed by Joe Newman. From "Good 'N' Groovy," Fontuna.

Deuchar: This tenor has got to be Paul Gonsalves. No, wait a minute.

Brown: It sounds like Tony Coe to me, but it's ridiculous.

South: No, I can't place it at all.

Deuchar: I don't think I've ever heard anybody play the trumpet like that in this country.

South: Whoever it is can play very well.

Brown: I know—it's Ian Carr!

South: That sounds like Hank Jones on piano—either him or somebody very near to his concept.
Deuchar: Tommy Flanagan, maybe—he's definitely from that school.

Brown: I don't think I've ever heard any of these guys before.

South: It's the light fingering—the melodic style.

Deuchar: Junior Mance is another one. It stems from Hank Jones, this kind of playing—beautiful control. I don't know who this trumpet player is, but he's very good. I like him very much.

South: He's got a very academic, full range.

Deuchar: He knows his Norwegians, too.

Brown: He's obviously influenced very heavily by Miles.

South: It could be one of a few guys, as far as I'm concerned. Until I hear him play on an up—tempo or something and heard the phrasing he usually plays, I can't tell.

Brown: It's hard, because that's a ballad and he's playing it straight.

Deuchar: It wouldn't be Carmell Jones, would it?

South: Not Lee Morgan, by any chance?

Tomkins: You may be surprised to know that it was Joe Newman.

Brown: Good Lord! You got me there. I'd never have suspected.

Deuchar: Who was the tenor player?

Tomkins: Frank Foster. And it was Tommy Flanagan on piano.

South: Lovely. It was very nice.

Brown: You were right about the trumpet player. He has got a good range.

South: You could tell by the way he pitches.

Deuchar: I would have hit it, I think, if you'd played an 'up' one by him.

Brown: Anyway, own up, that was in disguise, wasn't it? That was not the Joe Newman we know. The only thing you could have told that from was the tone, and there's a whole lot of players with good tone nowadays.

South: It was obviously a good trumpet player. There was no doubt about that.

Deuchar: That was a fair record.

"Mo–lasses"—Woody Herman and the Fourth Herd (featuring—in solo order—Sal Nistico—tenor, Bill Chase —tenor, Woody Herman—clarinet). Composed by Joe Newman. From "Woody Herman—1963," Philips.

South: I don't recognise who it is, but I like it. It's hard to identify a thing like this.

Brown: (at clarinet entry) Woody Herman!

South: Ah yes—of course—here he comes.

Brown: I was waiting for that to turn up. I thought: "It must be."

Deuchar: Were you, really? Oh, good on you, mate. I never recognised it.

Brown: This must be his new band. I haven't heard it before. It swings, doesn't it?

South: Is this "the greatest one yet"? It's full of new, young guys?

Tomkins: Yes, it was recorded just a few months ago.

Brown: In a way, this reminds me of the things he did before the First Herd, when he had "The Band That Plays The Blues." Tommy Peterson's screaming trumpet bits were emotionally like that, though different in actual content.

Deuchar: The tenor player was good, wasn't he?

South: Yes, he's obviously been having a good listen to Bird.

Brown: It's like a Basie arrangment, isn't it?

Tomkins: Well, there might be a reason for that. Joe Newman wrote it.

Deuchar: Joe Newman wrote this?

Brown: Well, they play it good.

Deuchar: They do, too. It's a fair band, all right.

Brown: Somebody ought to get on to Harold Davison—get this lot across.

South: Yes—as soon as possible.

Brown: How does he do it? What is it—twenty years? And never a bad band.

Tomkins: He must have a nose for talent.

Deuchar: He must have. He always manages it.

South: He had the first real big modem band, even before Dizzy had his.

Brown: Well, before that he had a good band when he took over from Isham Jones. He had Joe Bishop in that band, who was one of the first unusual players—he played flugelhom. And look at all the great musicians who have passed through his various bands.

Deuchar: This is a tremendous band he's got now. The trumpet player I admire very much, though I think Clark Terry does that better. I liked the tenor, too—he gets a big, beefy sound.

Brown: This record has just come out, has it?

South: "The Swingin'est Herd Ever," eh?

Deuchar: Where can I buy it?

 Copyright ©1963 Les Tomkins. All Rights Reserved