Freddie Redd (piano) Clarence “C” Sharpe (alto) Clifford Jordan (tenor) Gerry Cappuccio (baritone) Don Sickler (trumpet) George Duvivier (bass) Ben Riley (drums) recorded Englewood Cliffs NJ, January 18 &19, 1985
Pedigree line-up, some of New York’s finest in their day, triple treat in the brass section, alto, tenor and baritone, including Clifford Jordan, tenor. Freddie Redd, immediately recognisable from his solid Blue Note history Shades of Redd (Blue Blues Blues!) and Music from The Connection, two often played favourites in the LJC listening room. When I stumbled on this record in a store, everything about it yelled undiscovered unacknowledged gem, except the price, which was financially non-invasive.
Vinyl: Notice anything, umm… unusual, in the run-out? Your eyes do not deceive you, no tricks zone. RVG. (Recorded by and) Mastered by Van Gelder. Two connections to make: – Clarence C Sharpe, and Uptown Records.
First, Clarence “C” Sharpe, alto saxophone.
Lee Morgan (trumpet) Clarence Sharpe (alto saxophone) Horace Silver (piano) Wilbur Ware (bass) Philly Joe Jones (drums) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, November 4, 1956
The Bird influences in Sharpe are plain enough to hear, but a delight none the less, as young Clarence runs through his paces, surrounded by the brightest Blue Note stars of the day. Lee Morgan’s extraordinary dexterity on full display doesn’t dim the tuneful notes of C Sharpe.
BLP 1538 King Records, Tokyo, circa 1979
Lee Morgan populates a number of the most expensive slots in the Blue Note pantheon – impossibly rare and expensive as an original. King records have done a fine job, usually a sign that the source original Van Gelder recording was itself outstanding, and mono (cue Van Gelder expert, true monophonic recording, predating twin track tape, authentic Hackensack and if you listen closely you can just hear Rudy’s mum calling out in the background, asking if the boys would like a cup of tea). All my Morgan 1500 series are Kings, I just played them all, and the 1538 is the best sounding of the lot.
. Read all about it, November 1956, Feather’s liner notes. Unusually and unfortunately, the record had fallen into the hands of a Sellotape fetishist, who taped all edgesof this otherwise perfect cover, completely unnecessarily. Sellotape residue permanently disfigures record covers. I’d like to like ride a time machine back to the person responsible and give them a
slap severe talking to. Pictured below, Clarence Sharpe, age 19 next to Morgan and Silver. One career that should have taken off but mysteriously never did. Who was Clarence “C” Sharpe?
WordPress blogger Crownpropeller offers “105 minutes with legendary Clarence “C” Sharpe” including links to a tape recording of Cee Sharpe Group (1980), and has many reminiscences from musicians who knew Sharpe, including this tribute:
For having overcome physical injury, having no teeth (zero) and probably not the easiest or forgiving of lives, Sharpe played more powerfully, beautifully and brilliantly in his final years than i understand he ever had before. it’s a different level from his initial Lee Morgan recording.
After the Lee Morgan date, Sharpe surfaced again in 1970 on Archie Shepp’s For Losers (Impulse AS-9188) the intervening fourteen years unaccounted for. One further link, vocals on Shepp’s title are credited to Clarence’s wife China-Lin Sharpe, appearing on the Ellington songbook title I Got it Bad (And That Ain’t Good).
Who are Uptown Records?
Uptown Records is “a jazz record label based in New York” . That is the entire sum of knowledge in Wiki, aside from a listing of its fifty titles in its catalogue, which includes my most treasured Evil Silver Disc ™, Charlie Rouse and Sahib Shihab – Soulmates.
Why is so little known about Uptown Records, when music of this calibre appears out of thin air, engineered by RVG, The Master of Sound ™.
More research reveals the Uptown label was founded by one Dr Bob Sunenblick in 1981 to record and release jazz music of relatively unknown or “forgotten” artists . Sunenblick is a doctor of internal medicine from Montreal, with a lifelong passion for jazz and a personal collection of jazz recordings between 100,000 and 125,000. Another DottorJazz, as if the world had need of another one. (But which was the first Dottorjazz?)
A jazz fan who stepped beyond the ordinary, started a record label, and set about publishing historical rare jazz sessions, as well as recruiting well known musicians from the golden age to record new work. Somehow, he managed sometimes to employ the skills and studio of Rudy Van Gelder. Sunenblick revealed in a court action over trademark infringement between himself and rap artist Andre Harrell, that he spent almost nothing on advertising and promotion, and that only three out of the previous fifteen years had ever sold more than 5,000 copies from his catalogue, and had made a profit in only six of its then fifteen years of operation. Sounds like a hero to me.
The shoddy business of expenditure on legal action rather than music publishing (It’s The American Way ™) resulted in this court judgement over the use of the Uptown name by ’80s hip-hop rapper Harrell:
Both parties passionately invoked the American dream before this court. It is plain that Sunenblick represents the best of that dream. He had a vision. He undertook the risks, investing time, energy and money in order to make the vision a reality. And so did Andre Harrell. He is the very archetype of an American success story. In consideration of the facts, the court cannot say that Harrell’s success poses any likelihood of injury to Sunenblick in the marketplace.
Accordingly, it is ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that the complaint be, and it hereby is, DISMISSED.
Each side will bear its own costs.
In summary, the lawyers won.
There are some exciting gems in the Uptown catalogue, unfortunately many only in CD form. Some proportion of historical sources are private recordings from club dates, not all RVG studio quality, others transfers from 78’s, even wire transfers from radio broadcasts. A few are still found on vinyl, like the Freddie Redd Lonely City that started this journey . I salute Dr Sunenblick. We need as many jazz-loving doctors as we can get, whichever is the first original Dottorjazz.