Selection: One Second, Please (Hope)
Whilst the standard pick on The Fox is… The Fox, a helter-skelter chase at breakneck speed, it has a “showcase” feel, look how fast we can play this tricksy tune, plus I already chose it as a previous pick, so this time around my favourite is the Elmo Hope tune One Second, Please.
Land has a measured forward flow never departing too far from the melody, his linear solo-lines punctuated with backflips and triplets, a stylistic flourish reminiscent of a well-proportioned British tenor player. His playing is elegant, measured, and melodic, with controlled speed, “both pleasantly round and sweet-tart” (a nice description by inelegantly named Flophouse Magazine: review here)
Relatively unknown trumpet-player Dupree Bolton gets a good workout here too, shades of Clifford Brown and a triple-tonguing Kenny Dorham( I’m not convinced that is the correct musical term, but it sounds like it could be).
Elmo Hope, composer of four of the six tracks, writes memorable tunes, punctuated with impish Monk-esque accents off-tempo and off-key, enough to make this a Hope album as much as a Land one, a perfectly balanced listening session that deserves to be on your turntable some time soon.
Dupree Bolton (trumpet) Harold Land (tenor sax) Elmo Hope (piano) Herbie Lewis (bass) Frank Butler (drums) recorded at Radio Recorders, Hollywood, CA, August, 1959
The tenor is a wonderfully expressive instrument, and almost everyone who picked it up risked standing in the shadow of giants.
Of course which giants, it depends in which era you start counting. Roll back a generation and it could equally read Charlie Parker (alto in the main, of course, but still saxophone…), Lester Young, and …endless controversy… who were the greatest players, and who should be listed among the greatest – its dangerous territory.
Hey LJC, call yourself a jazz fan? You’ve left out Snuff Kaplinsky, the most under-rated tenor ever to come out of Alaska. Man, he couple play tenor better than most without even takin’ his snow mitts off! And what about Junior “Lock-Down” Griffiths…whose promising career was cut short at only 16 when he choked fatally on his reed… promise unfullfilled
We need our giants, but we also need variety, different voices, and thankfully, there are many other wonderful tenor players – Booker Ervin, Hank Mobley, Joe Henderson, Wayne Shorter, Archie Shepp, all distinctive voices, without whom our lives would be musically poorer. I count among these players Harold Land: an East-Coast tenor stylist who recorded on the West Coast, but not playing in “the West Coast manner”.
Land has a bright rough textured bop voice, Coltrane-like but without the intensity that marks out JC, Rollinesque but without quite the muscularity. He stands his ground without grandstanding, and gives everyone the opportunity to shine, the mark of a gentleman and confident musician. He works energetically inside the musical canvas, his explorations are elegant, precisely mapped, but always with an element of surprise. You don’t already know where he’s heading next, which is what makes good jazz.
Land went on to a long-standing collaboration with Bobby Hutcherson through the late ’60s and early ’70s, however his earlier works between 1959 and the very early ’60s deserve seeking out, often reissued under different titles or unexpected labels, or just fallen through the cracks: Harold in the Land of Jazz (Contemporary 1960, reissued under the title “Grooveyard”), West Coast Blues (Jazzland, 1960), Hear Ye! with Red Mitchell (Atlantic, 1961) and another orphaned recording from 1961, Take Aim (first issued by Cuscuna in the Liberty/UA Jazz Classics LT series in 1980, and King in Japan Unissued Masters Series), and of course The Fox, rescued from relative obscurity by Contemporary a decade or more later.
What became of Land? He continued recording and playing live more or less continuously his whole life, undertaking a professorship in jazz small combos at UCLA in his late sixties, and died in July 2001, from a stroke, at the age of 73 (John Fordham’s full obituary here) . In addition to those under his own name, Land left his name as a sideman on many excellent recordings, always worth looking out for.
Vinyl: Hi Fi Jazz J 612 mono – promo.
A recording most familiar in the form of its reissue, by Contemporary Records as M3619 (mono – rarely seen) – catalogue number adjacent to recordings made for Contemporary in 1969, which gives us a clue as to the date. Also reissued in stereo as S7619, commonly found among late ’70s reissues.
Who or what were the Hi Fi Jazz label? (The fun part of writing is asking yourself questions, to which you have no idea what the answer is, you have to go find out.) The High Fidelity Recording Company was established in 1956 in Hollywood, California by Richard Vaughn. The company issued popular, jazz, gospel, sound effects and spoken word, on three labels: HiFi, Arvee and Orbit. The labels were eventually sold in 1965 to the Everest label, a label which I know even less about.
The excellent bsnpubs (Both Sides Now) site illustrates some of the original Hi Fi labels, above. The label is apparently most famed for its Arthur Lyman lounge music titles. (Not that I would know of such things. Lounge? Not in my lounge, you don’t)
The connection between promos and mono runs deeper than you might think – since most radio stations in the day broadcast in mono, so mono is what the record labels would send disc jockeys. That’s my theory anyway.
Source: Ebay (US) Not a record you come across every day in the UK, it had to be sought out in the US as an original rather than its later commonly found reissue – reviewed in 2011 here at LJC (updated out of embarrassment, with new photos and text)
With records you especially like, you get this urge to hear it in its best original form, and I felt need of an original. Somewhere in the mists of time my mission was jazz on original vinyl. It just hasn’t always turned out that way.
Here is where The Fox started:
The Hi Fi Jazz edition I have is of course mono, so we have a matching Pair of Foxes, one mono, one stereo, for those days when you can’t decide which you would rather take for a spin. I’ll be writing more on the subject of mono and stereo shortly, stay tuned.
If my interpretation of M C Escher’s mystical optical illusion triangle is too severe, here is a take on another Escher work that seems to summarise the ’60s Tenor Scene more generously: House of Tenors Galore.
Never mind who’s the best tenor player, we all know who those are.
But who are the most under-appreciated, deserving of greater recognition, players people should look out for who they may be less familiar with?
Nominations for Unsung Heroes of the Tenor welcome, share your knowledge.