Track Selection: “Lullaby of the Doomed”
Bennie Green (tb, vo) Gene Ammons, Billy Root (ts) Sonny Clark (p) Ike Isaacs (b) Elvin Jones (d) Babs Gonzales (vo -2,4) recorded at Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, April 28, 1958
Trombone can be a fairly fruity sound, but add to it not one but two tenor saxes – fellow Chicagoan Gene “Jug” Ammons and Philadelphian Billy Root – and raise the level of brass attack; let Elvin Jones loose on drums, and season heavily with Sonny Clark on piano (“Sonny Delight!”) and Ike Isaac on bass, and you have a formidable line up. Soul Stirrin’ is a solid helping of soul-jazz, all its bluesy roots showing, recorded on a day when Rudy Van Gelder was absolutely on top of his game.
Almost impossible to select one standout track, nevertheless I plump for the superb darkly titled “Lullaby of the Doomed”. Its’ mournful bluesy opening theme gives way to some extraordinarily powerful solos. This record is a reference track for me when, after listening to all sorts of varible quality pressings, if I forget how good an original 47 West 63rd St. first press can sound. As my friends the other side of the pond are inclined to say, “totally awesome”. Is there, I wonder, any other kind of awesome? (Update: see comments. Apparently so. freakin’ awesome)
I have read that there was a dispute at the time as to whether it should be “Benny” or “Bennie” Green, and Bennie won. There is another Benny Green, a younger jazz pianist, and another trombonist Urbie Green, as well as Grant Green, not to mention the Family Green, near-neighbours of the Family Von Trap, in the alternative Bebop audiophile edition of The Sound of Music Matters , a searing expose of record pressing in the Californian foothills, in lederhosen (I just made that up)
Vinyl: Blue Note BLP 1599
Original 1958 pressing, 47 West 63rd, RVG stamp, Deep Groove, ear, 9M, mono
BN 1599, the last release in the Blue Note 1500 series.This copy suggests ownership by a heavy smoker. From nicotine stains on the label, I guess at least two a day. Packs? No, lighters. Superb heavy pressing – 196gm – ensures it delivers the full weight of this bluesy outing.
At the time, the most expensive record I had ever bought, and it remains among the top three today. Two things a gentleman never mentions – a ladies age, and the price paid for a record. It’s vulgar and unseemly. Suffice to say I have seen the record on offer at over double, like for like, during the last few weeks, so I am content with it. More importantly it is worth every penny.