Selection 1: Waltz of the Demons (Little)
Selection 2: Runnin’ (Strozier)
Booker Little (trumpet) Frank Strozier (alto saxophone) Wynton Kelly (piano) Paul Chambers (bass) Jimmy Cobb (drums) recorded at Fine Sound Studios, NYC, December 9, 1959 and Bell Sound Studios, Studio B, NYC, February 3, 1960
His debut as leader, Frank Strozier at age 22, offers melodic and quick-fire alto to rival the young Sonny Stitt, with a little Jackie Mclean thrown in, all with a debt to Parker, but offering a voice of his own. He is featured in several other Vee-Jay titles around this time with the quirkily named quintet MJT+3 (Modern Jazz Two plus Three) worthy of attention.
Strozier earned brief recognition in a stint with Miles Davis Quintet in 1963, between Mobely and Coleman, but which led to nothing, and he moved west to play with Chet Baker, Shelley Manne and the Don Ellis big band. In the crowded field of horn players, Strozier lacked the recognition he deserved but his name pops up in a variety of excellent settings where his energetic alto pairs finely against tenor or trumpet – Booker Ervin (Exultation!), Roy Haynes (Cymbalism) Chet Baker (Baby Breeze) Johnny Griffin (Big Soul Band). He recorded erratically in the ’80s and in the early ’90s left music altogether for teaching, but still with us, currently age 78.
As much the star here however is Booker Little, who like Strozier, hailed originally from Memphis. Fantastic Frank Strozier is one of Little’s few recordings before his untimely death the following year, 1961 age 23. Little conceded his major influence was Clifford Brown, but that would be true of most of his generation of trumpet players. Little’s tone is pure, dark and burnished, his improvisations daring and inventive, and his lyricism contained within perfect construction. Connoisseurs of trumpet can contrast the minimalism of Miles with Little’s more please.
– courtesy of Miles Davis Quintet: Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb. What more can you ask for?
The Cook and Morton verdict: “we have long held this record in high esteem and it never fails to deliver.” All credit to Vee-Jay for producing this great record with young talent Strozier and Little not widely known at the time. Their careers soon terminated or diffused, 1960 captured here remains a fantastic vintage for modern jazz.
Vinyl: Vee-Jay 3005 mono
first second pressing (seen below with the “earlier” maroon script label)
(Full Guide to Vee-Jay Records jazz recordings and label transitions here)
A very busy run-out which includes a hand-etched date of mastering “8-13-60” (American MMDDYY) something in retrospect one wished all engineers had done, but they were living in the world of today “now” and not one of future record collectors, to whom dates are of more than passing interest.
All the fault of JoeL and his rave comments on Vee-Jay Records. Chicago, you have a lot to answer for. I thought I must have this record, my life will be incomplete without it. Ebay drew a blank but the venerable Discogs sourced a local copy which I was forced to snap up before any more LJC readers got wind of it.
Whilst Strozier is a joy to listen to, there seems to me a cognoscenti in jazz – those who attune by preference to trumpet over saxophone or trombone. Whilst I gravitate to the tenor, I feel I am missing something with trumpet, that I need to do more comparative listening to: Gillespie, Navarro, Brown, Dorham, Miles, there is an untapped story here, and I feel a need to write it. Soon.