Clifford Jordan Quintet: Two Tenor Winner (1984) Criss Cross Jazz

Time-Taxis (We Serve All Era’s) 

When to Guv’?  

1980s please, cabbie.

Are you sure? No-one goes there, mate

In the 1980’s, jazz was not dead, it was mainly lying low.  America’s modern jazz golden age 1950’s-60’s had passed, the founding independent jazz labels catalogue of recordings sold to Corporates, and the jazz audience fragmented in many different musical directions. Some of the first tier of  modern jazz musicians were heading for academe, commercial session work, but by the 80s, many of the greats, one by one, had joined the celestial choir:

        • Bill Evans, 51 (1980)
        • Thelonious Monk, 65 (1982)
        • Sonny Stitt, 58 (1982)
        • Art Pepper, 57 (1982)
        • Hank Mobley, 56 (1986)
        • Chet Baker, 59 (1988)
        • Gil Evans, 76 (1988)
        • Woody Shaw, 45 (1989)

The 80’s jazz landscape looks quite different to earlier decades. It had shrunk dramatically, and it was not a pretty picture. Smooth jazz dominated radio airplay, with saxophonists Kenny G, David Sanborn, and Grover Washington Jr..  Corporate owners of jazz back-catalogues were busy reissuing old material: EMI saturated US, Japan and Europe with Blue Note, Fantasy’s Original Jazz Classics with Prestige.  Living titans like Sonny Rollins,  Ornette Coleman, Phil Woods, Tommy Flanagan, Andrew Hill continued to play, Wayne Shorter a centrepiece of Weather Report.  A few US record labels like Muse and  Bob Sunenblick’s Uptown Records maintained the vinyl bloodline, traditional and straight ahead style.

A second generation Jazz Establishment had come into ascendancy – Wynton Marsalis, Pat Metheney, the unstoppable Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock.. In popular culture, the unstoppable change was from listening to music, to watching it – the music video, with synchronised dancers.

80’s jazz is thin gruel, I would otherwise pay it no attention, but there is some hidden gold. Some players from the golden era 50s-60s continued to play jazz in a more jazz-friendly setting: Europe. European independent jazz labels, founded by jazz-enthusiasts, came to the rescue of working jazz musicians. Jazz labels like Criss Cross (Gerry Teekens, Holland), Timeless (Wim Wigt, Holland), Black Saint and Freedom (Giacomo Pellicciotti, Italy), Steeplechase (Nils Winther, Denmark) and Enja (Matthias Winckelmann and Horst Weber, Germany) provided life-support to jazz musicians who had moved to Europe or were touring Europe, or sent engineers to New York to record US artists for their labels. 

These European 80’s labels left us a bargain-bin of jazz, manufactured on clean vinyl before labels finally surrendered to The Evil Silver Disk, and include some of my favourite records. . Not 80s easy-listening jazz, not reissues of 50s 60s jazz, but first editions of the living legends of jazz recorded in the later 70s and early 80s.. The difficulty is making sense of this second wave of recordings, but there are many gems in there.

Fast Forward 2021: spied in the New Arrivals bin, an album on the Dutch label, Criss Cross Jazz.  Clifford Jordan, check, Junior Cook, check, McBee-Lightsey-Gladden, first class line up, but recorded in Holland, in the fabulously named town, Monster, in the mid-eighties.

I enjoy Clifford Jordan and Junior Cook’s work in the 60’s. Jordan’s 1970’s Strata East titles showed his staying power, much sought after Glass Bead Games (LJC post}, Muse’s The Adventurer ( LJC post) and Night Of The Mark VII (LJC post) Still trying  finding Jordan’s In The World, no luck. But what to expect of his music twenty years later? Faced with a trivially priced record dating from the 1980’s, Two Tenor Winner, you ask yourself,  is it a winner – yes or no? At some point you have to have confidence in your own judgement, take a risk in search of good music without the price-tag.

Selection: Half and Half (Charles Davis)

.  .  .

Artists

Clifford Jordan, Junior Cook, tenor sax; Kirk Lightsey, piano; Cecil McBee, bass; Eddie Gladden, drums; recorded October 1, 1984, Studio 44, Monster, The Netherlands, engineer Max Bolleman. 

Max Bolleman (abridged from All About Jazz):

“Because jazz is often performed on real, acoustic instruments, attention to the details of the recording process really do make a difference. The recording engineer might be an even more valuable team member than the producer.

Back in 1982, jazz drummer Max Bolleman, who, like Rudy Van Gelder,  trained as an optometrist, embarked on a new career, determined to open his own recording studio in his native Holland.

In his recent book Sounds: Inside Stories of Jazz Studio Sessions (2018), Bolleman tells of Criss Cross Jazz founder Gerry Teekens. Teekens hired Bolleman to record for Criss Cross, ushering in the start of Studio 44.  Bolleman recorded at several New York studios, including Englewood Cliffs (apparently Van Gelder was not especially welcoming), as well as his own studio in Holland. Many of the sessions he recorded are part of the Criss Cross Jazz catalogue.”

That goes a long way towards explaining why Criss Cross Jazz recordings are so strong – the label had an engineering champion, Max Bolleman, a new name to me  but one to look out for.

Two Tenor Winner:  Tracklist

A1  Half and Half (Charles Davis) – 9:46
A2 Song of Her (Cecil McBee) – 5:05
A3 Groovin’ High (Dizzy Gillespie) – 9:56
B1 The Water Bearer (Kirk Lightsey) – 8:05
B2  Make the Man Love Me (Dorothy Fields, Arthur Schwartz) – 6:10
B3 Two Tenor Winner (Charles Mims, Jr.) – 7:21
B4. Doug’s Prelude (Clifford Jordan) – 2:43

Selection Half and Half, a composition by baritone player Charles Davis, is a tune that really gets under your skin. Charles Davis enjoyed a 35 year career,  spanning from The Spaceways in the 1950’s, alongside fellow Sun Ra bari Pat Patrick, then followed a long career earth-side. Charles Davis, Pat Patrick and Clifford Jordan were all alumni of Chicago Southside’s DuSable academy.

Original Recording Half and Half (Charles Davis):

Jimmy Garrison Sextet “Illumination” Impulse A-49 (1963):  Elvin Jones, McCoy Tyner, Charles Davis – baritone; Sonny Simmons, (William) Prince Lasha . Fascinating line-up, of very unusual Impulse recording, Garrison’s only recording as leader despite appearing on over 25 Coltrane albums. Illumination is something of a gem.

Music

As with Joe Henderson and Pharoah Sanders on Ptah, The El Daoud, there is often some extra spice in putting two tenors together in an ensemble.  Junior Cook was my Mobley sound-alike favourite in his Horace Silver days, Clifford Jordan has a distinctive tenor vibrato, who excelled on Blue Note, and then Strata East and Muse. The combination of Cook and Jordan offers formidable harmonies and individual excursions.

Kirk Lightsey I last encountered on Harold Land’s under-the-radar Mapenzi (Concord 1977), another lifelong musical career, and he has a busy swinging touch. Cecil McBee is a master on the acoustic bass. Assembling this session in an obscure South Holland location is itself a minor miracle. Great stuff and well below the collector radar. 

All Music says:

4 of 5 stars, praise indeed, “Clifford Jordan and Junior Cook make for a perfectly compatible team, the very distinctive tenors inspire each other on originals, obscurities, Charles Davis’ “Half and Half,” and “Groovin’ High.” High-quality hard bop with a bit of competitiveness resulting in some fiery moments”

Whoisthemonk:

” (Jordan and Cook) can be meditative, lyrical, poignant–and both can play as though their lives depended on it, while making it all sound so easy. Just listen to the aching beauty of “Make the Man Love Me” and and the so evanescent “Doug’s Prelude”: it’s like both are the Bill Evans’ of the tenor saxophone.”

LJC says: This is absolutely a great recording of two titans from the golden years, marooned in the mid eighties, plying their craft. They were in Holland performing at an International music festival – there has always been a niche jazz following in Holland. The Netherlands is part of the European oasis of American jazz continuity.

Collector’s Corner

These 80’s European releases are seriously undervalued, and the engineering quality is generally very good. The content is predominantly expatriate American jazz musicians, Jackie McLean, Chet Baker, Dexter Gordon, Billy Harper, Cedar Walton, but these labels also released material recorded in the US by Van Gelder in the 80s, and European Tour legacy recordings Of historic material, Enja also has some excellent titles from the 60’s  European tours of  Mingus and Dolphy. 

Criss Cross Jazz

Criss Cross Jazz was based in the provincial city of Enschede, in the eastern Netherlands, bordering Germany, the home of Grolsch beer. Quote from their website: “Criss Cross  captured the aesthetic essence of cutting-edge hardcore New York jazz more consistently than any other label, on 400+ albums recorded between 1981 and 2019. Founder Gerry Teekens (1935-2019), a linguistics professor by day and a semi-professional drummer by night, was a connoisseur of the groove.

Teekens knew talent and was not afraid to follow his instincts. Operating on a budget defined by his teacher’s salary and subsequent pension, he began by recording on their European tours such masters as Chet Baker, Jimmy Raney, Johnny Coles, Warne Marsh, Clifford Jordan and Slide Hampton. Gerry Teekens died in October 31st 2019 at the age of 83. He left  a remarkable catalogue, as closely tuned into the zeitgeist of its era as Blue Note Records.”

https://www.youtube.com/c/CrissCrossJazzRecords/featured

A selection of early titles: 

There is some great music here, at a bargain price.. 

This is a problem for today’s jazz listeners: what to make of older jazz musicians? For First Pressing Fundamentalists, the artist’s later career is of little account, their later records are generally not considered “collectable”. Some artists of the golden era never aged, Sony Clark, Lee Morgan, they had already left the stage. For the jazz enthusiast, the choice is between the energy of youth and the craftsmanship of experience and maturity, and respect for the place of “seniors” – the legends. 

Enja have just issued  the recording of Archie Shepp and Mal Waldron “Left Alone Revisited”, recorded shortly before Waldron’s departure in 2002, on double vinyl LP, until now only on CD. Love the walking sticks, great props. It is a very passionate session, a beautiful celebration of skill and craftmanship. Worthy of your attention.

 

LJC

 

12 thoughts on “Clifford Jordan Quintet: Two Tenor Winner (1984) Criss Cross Jazz

  1. As far as I can see Criss Cross never licenced the product for manufacture in the US therefore maintaining quality control unlike Timeless that went through Muse and Steeplechase that went through the dreaded Inner City.label. . Stick to the European original is my advise for those feeling adventurous. One Criss Cross LP you will not find in the bargain bins is the Chet Baker Trio .The appetite for Baker seems to never diminish.

  2. I have this very nice record of George Coleman -Amsterdam after dark, with the Hilton Ruiz trio. On Timeless Records SJP129, but… not recorded in Monster after dark or Amsterdam but in NY. Sounds quite well, pressed in Holland. Even better is Timeless Records SJP 101 Eastern Rebelllion, with Coleman, Sam Jones Billy Higgins and an outstanding Cedar Walton. 1979/ 1975 respectively. Indeed the golden age lasted.

    • Oh yeah, that Eastern Rebellion record really smokes! It’s another example of The Magic Triangle in action and can still be found at really cheap prices.

  3. To each his/her own but the First Pressing Funamentalists” as you call them might as well collect stamps ,to me it is following a great artists development is why you keep buying what they record ..Some of the recordings of McLean ,Griffin, Dexter done after the so called “golden period” what ever that means , are full of fire and energy and I have proudly have them next to the Prestige/Blue Note releases.. McLean is a perfect case in point. What wonderful journey following his development as an artist and top flight improvisor.

    • Appreciate the comments. I use the term “Golden Age” as personal shorthand for the period roughly 50’s-60’s and everything that went with that, when modern jazz was a large-scale popular art form. In some respects the Age never ended, but was overshadowed commercially by the rise of electric guitars and mass pop culture. Having lived through the decline, but not the Golden Age itself, I envy those who saw these musicians in the flesh. I have to make do with records.

  4. In the ’80s On a Sunday morning I went to the Monster studio with Geri Teekens for a recording session of a guitarist, I believe Raney Jr. I had to leave before the actual recording began.

  5. Nice post! I feel too many collectors turn their noses up at these great artists after the golden years were over. Some gave in to modern times but as you say, some continued on with the classic jazz we love. I’m a big fan of the Steeplechase label and have collected most of their releases. Bill Evans made great music right up until the end and his final trio was outstanding. This is a great recording worthy of any collection. Thanks!

  6. It’s always a joy to be introduced to a record I didn’t know about – especially if it feature Clifford Jordan and Cecil McBee who are both favourite in my household. Jordan was one of the great survivors and continued to play terrific music without being seduced by the temptation of fusion in the 1970s. He cut a whole string of records for Muse and Steeplechase with the so-called “Golden Triange” rhythm section of Cedar Walton, Sam Jones and Bill Higgins. I’ve been spinning Night Of The Mark VII a lot lately!

    Kirk Lightsey is no slouch either. For me, he’s one of the highlights of Chet Baker’s series of mid-1960s Prestige records: Smokin’, Groovin’, Boppin’ etc.

  7. Great post, great record, excellent label, there are a lot of those in the bins here (The Netherlands) and I have quite a few. If it wasn’t for a similar preference of collecting and listening to classic jazz, I would consider turning into a Criss Cross completist. Bolleman’s book – the Dutch title translates as I’m The Beat; the short legs of Art Blakey – features great insights on engineering and hilarious anecdotes, look for that one where Max is chased by Freddie Hubbard with a knife.

    To add to “Cecil Taylor”‘s comments on Jordan’s and Cook’s whereabouts: Clifford Jordan was a regular fixture in Europe. He was brought to the Netherlands in October 1983 by bop pianist Rein de Graaff, who would book and play with many legends for decades, for a tour. (Max Roach joined in, traveling from Köln especially to see Jordan) A year later, De Graaff also booked Junior Cook for a little tour, who was to play the Heineken Jazz Festival. The frontline was completed with trumpeter Bill Hardman. These guys criss-crossed all over the continent… This is from De Graaff’s charming bio which translates as Bop Experiences.

  8. RE: “Why they were in Holland, Lord knows”
    Kirk Lightsey, Cecil McBee and Eddie Gladden performed as a trio and with Clifford Jordan at the International Jazz Festival Amsterdam (27-29 September 1984).
    In that same weekend, on 29 September, Junior Cook performed at the Jazznight of the Jazz Festival in Rotterdam.

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