Track selection: Yesterdays (Jerome Kern)
Curtis Fuller (tb) Benny Golson (ts) Ray Bryant (p) Paul Chambers (b) Art Blakey (d) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, August 28, 1959
Benny Golson enjoyed five years of limelight between 1957 and 1962, riding high on his place in the front line of Blakey’s Jazz Messengers alongside Lee Morgan, with Golson’s groovy climactic centrepiece of Blakey’s 1958 jazz-icon “Moanin’ “. Captured on European tour. Golson takes the handover from Morgan around four minutes in, but the whole clip is worth watching if you have not seen it. Or watch again if you have.
Never mind playing air guitar, Benny’s tenor solo in Moanin’ made me want to take up playing air saxophone, strut up and down my front living room in the manner of AC/DC’s Angus Young, to the consternation of passers-by looking through my windows. Is that man alright do you think?
Golson fronted a series of releases as band leader, including Golson’s New York Scene, The Modern Touch, Gettin’ With It, and Groovin’ with Golson, before going on to form Bop’s most structured combat unit, The Jazztet with Art Farmer (1959-62) . He made his mark as a composer as much as a player, with memorable jazz favourites such as Whisper Not, Along Came Betty and Just by Myself, recording with Riverside, Mercury, UA and Prestige’s New Jazz label, and always working with the best sidesmen. His talents also led him to a lucrative career in the studio composing music for such
unforgettable TV series as Ironside and Mission Impossible.
In 2008 at the age of 79 he was still recording: New Time, New ‘Tet (Concord Jazz CJA 31121-02) Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ , August 25, 26 & 27, 2008. He never really broke into the top tenor-league, as it seemed no-one could overcome the dominance of Rollins and Coltrane. It probably also didn’t help that he failed to cultivate a mean and moody image, didn’t waste himself on heroin, instead always smiling to camera, a nice man, and a great melodically inventive player.
The instruments are all beautifully recorded, especially Curtis Fuller’s liquid trombone as it mixes with Golson picking out the melody in the lower register of the tenor. Ray Bryant’s piano sparkles with fluid bluesy runs mixed with solid chordal progressions, and PC Paul Chambers is at his most rock-solid walking-the-beat, also throwing in the odd bowed solo, as he liked to do.. If all this wasn’t enough, Art Blakey provides a rhythmic precision you could set your watch by.
Vinyl: NJLP 8220 original first US press, deep groove, mono.
A recording commonly seen as a reissue, as a Japan pressing, even a UK Esquire, but very hard to find in its original form, especially in Excellent condition. It is a joy to listen to with its trademark RVG parentage. New Jazz label always worries me as I have several “hissers”, but this pressing pre-dates the practice of cutting vinyl with breakfast cereal (adds snap crackle and pop) though the vinyl is not entirely “silent” as in Japanese pressings.
I have chased and lost US auctions on this record several times, and consoled myself with a Japanese pressing, which frankly turned out to be fairly weak. A British seller unexpectedly listed it, as sometimes happens, and the chase was on. Except it wasn’t really a chase. On the final day of the listing it had received three offers, all flagged “reserve not met”.
I don’t know about you but I dislike reserves. I can understand why sellers do it, but a high reserve is not in the spirit of an auction. They want the benefit of a high auction price without the risk of a low auction price. That is just one-way. It’s for the market, the buyers, to decide what a record is worth, not the seller. It’s doubly difficult for snipers. You get, at best, one shot, and you are not only bidding against other bidders, at the same time you are trying to second guess where the reserve has been set. To find early on where the reserve has been set you have to show your hand to the advantage of other bidders.
I had a pretty clear idea what this record was worth, to me at least. It’s not Mobley 1568, but its a great record with a great line-up, a scarce original in top condition, and no complications about customs or postal charges, or delivery risk. And if you have any trouble, you can always jump in the car and go see the seller, and beat them up (only kidding eBay!).
I was right where the reserve had been set, no one else was, it’s mine, and quite rightfully so. Another day, another record, all’s well that ends well, with great music.