Track Selection: “Groovin’ ”
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)
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
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.