Benny Golson “Groovin’ with Golson” (1959)

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.

With apologies to Angus YoungNever 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.

Collectors Corner

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.

8 thoughts on “Benny Golson “Groovin’ with Golson” (1959)

  1. Hi Mr. Collector !

    My name is Francisco and I live in Santiago, Chile. I am a guitarist and I started playing after hearing Angus Young’s searing blues in AC/DC’s seventies albums. Through the years I got closer and closer to jazz until I heard that Barry Harris trio album at the Workshop. Now I’m a convert bopper and I’m studying ‘Yesterdays’ for an upcoming gig. So, considering all this: Do you mind if I steal Angus make him into a t-shirt ? It’s perfect !!

    Thanks for a great blog !


    • Hi Francisco – or Pancho! Welcome. Great city Great country, great people, Chile. I spent a week in Santiago a few years back, travelled to Valparaiso, adored it. Esquina Rein Victoria, Avenida Bernado O’Higgins. It has some history
      Everything here is free at LJC, help yourself. Glad to have you around.
      Keep boppin’.

      • It’s great that you had a good time in Chile ! I myself had a wonderful time in London last November. I even saw Jerry Bergonzi play at the Vortex, really nice !!

        Thanks for the welcome, I’ll be around !

        Cheers !


  2. Got the same view of the Blue/Trident Prestige Mr Strange.. Picked up a couple recently and they never disappoint- top end razor sharp, punchy middle and natural bass. Prestiges partner in Japan Victor is a conundrum. Some are really top drawer, others are pretty dismal, I cant find any consistency.

    About this “stereo preference”. It’s really good that you can talk about it openly. Some people are too embarrassed to admit they are Stereophiles. It’s not my thing, but some of my best friends are of the stereo-persuasion, its not anything to be ashamed of nowadays.

    Life would be boring if everyone was monotonous.

  3. Ah, New Jazz: Prestige’s purple-clad discount cousin.

    The most confusing thing to me about New Jazz is the fact that while most of the recordings were done by RVG in stereo, the originals were only released in mono. I know Weinstock was ‘frugal’, but was it really cheaper to issue only mono pressings?

    When it comes to New Jazz releases, I personally prefer the mid-to-late 60s Prestige trident reissues with the terrible replacement cover art pressed from VAN GELDER stereo masters. I’ve had pretty good luck with them so far and they can usually be had for a fraction of the price of the New Jazz pressings. But then again, I am one of those unforgivable stereo-preferring heathens in a world of originalist mono-puritans. 🙂

    I also have a couple of Victor Japan reissues as well, which are also stereo. The sound seems to have been prettied up a little (bass boosted, etc.) as compared to the original releases and of course RVG’s on-the-edge-overdrive mastering is missing as well.

  4. in a pre-Ebay era, over 30 years ago, I met whom is considered the most important Jazz seller of all times, Leon Leavitt.
    I was invited at his home in LA from where he directed all his business.
    he was very kind with me, a rookie, and used to say: I won’t sell this record for less than…bucks.
    it was a sort of reserve, directly said.
    it’s seller’s interest not taking a risk, and it’s buyer’s interest winning at a low price.
    so I understand reserve: my bid will be the same as if it wasn’t on.
    if I can’t find the seller’s price, no matter: I clearly know what I like to pay, and never raise my offer.
    how many times we’ve seen a reserve not met?
    and how many times we’ve seen the same record go for less?
    with obvious exceptions tho is the rule.
    market price is the encounter of seller AND buyer: anyone can ask what he likes, but that estimate will be correct only is a buyer collects it.
    we won’t be surprised for > 1000 $ for some Morgan or Mobley or Mclean: we WILL be for an Impulse.
    and we won’t buy it.

    • Fair comment. In this case the reserve was what I thought it would be and the same as I thought it was worth, so I didn’t have a problem.

      A better outcome than happened to me a few weeks ago, where the seller (100% reputation, five years trading) took the Paypal payment from me, and ran off with the money. No record was posted, no communication returned, and the seller was delisted and thrown out of eBay. Taken a couple of weeks to get Paypal to refund. Still, it leaves a nasty taste.

      Honesty is so much less stressful than criminality, but I guess it doesn’t pay as well.

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