The Eminent JJ Vol.1&2 (1955)

Track Selection:  “Groovin’ ”

Artists

JJ Johnson (tb), Hank Mobley (ts) Horace Silver (p) Paul Chambers (b) Kenny Clarke (d) recorded 1955, engineer Rudy Van Gelder.

The partner Volume 1 is described as “one of the central documents in post-war jazz”,  featuring Clifford Brown (t) and Charles Mingus (b)

Music

A young Hank Mobley steps up partner Johnson’s silky smooth trombone  while Horace Silver tickles the ivories in the best blues fashion, with Chambers and Clarke holding down “the groove”. Among the first long-playing  records in the early Blue Note 1500  series, released in two volumes 1505 -6. The sample track a steady traditional bluesy bop, untroubled by any later inner demons.

JJ emerged from the Benny Carter Orchestra and typified the immediate postwar style of jazz  – still rooted in swing. The trombone, with its distinctive deep brass voice, takes the lead melody and “sings the tune”. The songs are  familiar standards – “Get Happy”, “Pennies from Heaven” and “It Could Happen to You”. The rhythm section knew its place: below stairs – and remained there uncomplaining, undertaking the domestic chores.

The trombone was a common enough instrument in military and marching bands for playing skills not in short supply after the war. Though JJ was for a long time regarded as the “king” of the trombone, I admit to a slight preference for Benny Green’s more funky approach, Curtis Fuller’s probing  improvisation, and of course the unpronounceable and musically much dangerous Grachan Moncur III. Have I left anyone out? Amazingly, unlike many of his peers, JJ lived to the ripe old age of 77  – cue the classic “76 trombones”. An instrument that seems to have come in and out of fashion, and now reduced to another sample for lap-top composers.

The twenty-minute wail of self-expression, simultaneous group improvisation, and acrobatic solo-artistry is all a long way into the future

Collectors Corner

Both Eminent volumes turned up as a surprise in an ebay auction which lacked followers, due to absence of label photo and an oversight in the description dating them from the “Sixties”. Well perhaps. With the 20:20 vision of hindsight, judge for yourself.

13 thoughts on “The Eminent JJ Vol.1&2 (1955)

  1. First I like to say that I frequently visit your blog and love your adventures in (digital) crate diggin’. Today I have found a copy of Blue Note 1506. A great record with the Lexington adress both on label and on the backcover. It also got the RvG inititals and ‘9M’ in the dead wax and ‘no R’ but.. No Plastylite ear and no deepgroove. ]
    I think it’s a second pressing from the early sixties but I am wonderin about the Lexington adress without the Deep Groove. Hope you or one of the readers here can tell me more about it.

    Thanks, Koen

    • I’ve seen a copy of 1531 that was the same – Lex labels, original matrix info, Lex cover, but no ear, no DG, and no flat edge. Further, no frame cover. And, it came in a “27 Years” inner sleeve, and was relatively light weight. So, I concluded it was a 1966 Liberty, which used leftover labels and a leftover back cover paste-on. Alas, it was priced like a Lex, so I passed, but, for the price of a Liberty, would have happily snatched it up.

      Does your copy have a flat edge? Is it lightweight? If there is no original inner sleeve, the lack of a flat edge and a relatively light weight may confirm a Liberty. However, with the original matrix, I’m sure it sounds fantastic regardless!

        • Thanks for your reaction Joe. I think it is a Liberty copy indeed. It’s relatively lightweight, does have the”27 years” innersleeve and doesn’t have a frame cover. Exacly as your described the 1531 copy. It sounds okay, but not like a Lexington or 47/43 Street adress copy.
          But for the 35 euros I have payed for it, I’m happy with the record. Also scored a second pressing of Coltrane at Birdland and a first pressing of Trane at the Village Vanguard this afternoon, so I will enjoy my weekend.

          Thanks.

          Koen

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