HORACE SILVER RETROSPECTIVE No 4: BLOWIN’ THE BLUES AWAY
Selection: Break City
Blue Mitchell (trumpet) Junior Cook (tenor saxophone) Horace Silver (piano) Gene Taylor (bass) Louis Hayes (drums) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, August 29, 1959
There are no bad tracks on this album, they are all superlative, and so there is a high probability that I have chosen the “wrong” one and left out your favourite. However it’s my party.There are times you want jazz hot, other times you want it cool. Playing this album through, I settled on hot: the survival of the fastest.
All Music declare:
“the up-tempo tunes (“Break City”) are among the hardest-swinging Silver had ever cut…. Through it all, Silver remains continually conscious of the groove, playing off the basic rhythms to create funky new time patterns. The typical high-impact economy of his and the rest of the band’s statements is at its uppermost level, and everyone swings with exuberant commitment. In short, Blowin’ the Blues Away is one of Silver’s finest albums, and it’s virtually impossibleto dislike”
That’s what I thought too. As you listen through Break City you become aware this is no ordinary passive “comping” from Horace, in the background. He is pushing the hard bop envelope, a rich rhythmic canvas with pace and drive, occasionally breaking through to the fore with melodic incursions, not competing with the soloist but supportively driving them harder. There is an unusual synergy from having the leader as the accompanist. When he gets to his own solo, he then gets to drive himself. Remarkable stuff.
Vinyl: Blue Note BN 4017
Usual Blue Note practice of using up old stock labels – a mixed pair, 47 West 63rd and NY, but RVG mono, ears, and a great sound. I have seen identical label combinations on other copies of this record.
Collector’s Corner: Jumping off point: – Junior Cook
Junior Cook keeps growing in my estimation, with his raw loose tone and variety of speeds, satisfying structure and flourishes, and a degree of unpredictability, the embodiment of a good bop tenor soloist in the school of Hank Mobley and Tina Brooks. I wondered why I had not got any Junior Cook albums (as leader)?
Delving a little deeper threw some light on the absence. From the liner notes to Cook’s 1961 Jazzland album Junior’s Cookin’ :
“It has become common practice for a sideman to record as a leader after having been with a group for a short time. There have been cases where a sideman did more albums than his regular group leader in the course of a year. Junior Cook’s pattern has been the complete opposite of this. Although he has been the featured tenorman with the Horace Silver Quintet since 1958…Cook had never made a date of his own until 1961.”
Overlooked by the big jazz labels, perhaps feeling they have “enough tenors”, Cook’s first leader record appear on Jazzland, and later, labels like Catalyst, Muse, and SteepleChase, which may explain my low awareness, not titles you see every day Inevitably with a name like Cook, many of his titles revolve around play on words with a cooking theme. Otherwise he is to be found with Blue Mitchell’s Quintet (1964-69), Louis Hayes (1975-1976), Bill Hardman (1979-1989). I must check out some of these later works, whose labels have good vinyl credentials.
Generally the covers make you ask Where is Reid Miles when you need him? though I guess many of these are ’70s and ’80s covers and that is how they made them at that time. Aside from the rather stylish Jazzland, I like the Steeplechase cover, Cook with the Joe Zawinul ethno-headwear and the Dr Dre Beats, worthy of an Archie Shepp cover.
Speaking of Shepp, in a shameless segue, Shepp is still standing and featuring in the Ile de Porquerolles Jazz Festival in two weeks time, along with Mehliana – Brad Medhau and Mark Guiliana. JAP must be one of the few true-to jazz. Others on the French Riviera gearing up for Jazz in July: The Nice Jazz Festival this year stars those well-known bebop artists, Deep Purple, along with Dr John and The Gypsy Kings. The much-revered Jazz a Juan, scene of Miles Davis and Charles Mingus, this year welcomes The Family Stone, Mr Smooth Jazz George Benson, fusioneers Chick Corea and Stanley Clarke, and Stevie Wonder (and lots of girly singers). Seems every one likes to keep the historical association with “Jazz”, just not the actual music.
Personally I shall be staying home again, spinning a few discs with my own summer festival, Jazz-a-LJC. The living room stage will be crowded with artists long gone but who continue to perform, magically reanimated through the power of vinyl. Who knows, I might even take some time out to spin some of my original ’60s Deep Purple.