Selection B2: Happy Feet (Yellen, Ager) 3:05
. . .
Selection A2: Cherry Blue (Bill Le Sage) 3:21
. . .
A1. St. Thomas (Rollins) 3:51
A2. Cherry Blue (B Le Sage) 3:21
A3. A Bench In The Park (Yellen, Ager) 3:05
A4. Sancticity (Coleman Hawkins) 3:23
A5. Mildew (Johnny Griffin) 2:57
A5. Puffing Billy (Stan Jones) 2:46
B1. Gurney Was Here – aka Blue Waltz (Stan Jones) 4:22
B2. Happy Feet (Yellen, Ager) 3:05
B3. Where Is Love (Lionel Bart) 3:55
B4. Dancing In The Dark (Schwartz, Deitz) 3:35
B5. Willow, Weep For Me (Ann Ronell) 4:47
B6. Jellyroll (Mingus) 2:59
Dick Morrissey, tenor saxophone; Stan Jones, piano; Malcolm Cecil, bass; Colin Barnes, drums.; recorded in London, 27th April 1961.
Fontana STFL 568; 12in LP; rrp 37s. 2d. (a pricey £35 in today’s money)
I endorse the comment on Stan Jones lacklustre piano performance, brutally honest. (Jones was replaced by Harry South on piano on Morrissey’s next three albums) The Morrissey performance is hard-swinging and sheer pleasure, twist and turn acrobatics, unpredictable rests , backflips and rapid fire sorties, all with indefatigable swing. What a fantastic start to a jazz career, his first solo album at the age of only 21.
Characteristically short tracks, and a potpourri of compositions – some popular tunes from the 1920/30s, Broadway show tunes, and covers of jazz heroes Rollins, Hawkins, Griffin, and Mingus. Ann Ronell’s Willow Weep for Me (her other best known song “Who’s Afraid Of The Big Bad Wolf?” How did anyone get to write lyrics like this?) Morrissey’s tone in ballads is full, and his speed can match Johnny Griffin (Mildew).
Morrissey plaudits from jazz critics selected from his obituary (year 2000, age 60):
“Morrissey’s command of the tenor saxophone was masterly, but it was the unforced fluency of his playing, expressed in a characteristically broad and sweeping tone, that attracted the greatest admiration. Despite the sophistication of his ideas there was often a down-home quality to his punchy and hard swinging solos. He was a lightning improviser and the flood of his inventions flew through his fingers with ease, a masterful player.”
Vinyl: Fontana TFL 5149 – 680 955 TL, mono, white label test pressing
No purchase tax code stamped by the spindle hole as it would be on the commercial pressing (W/T or O/T at this time), text “not for sale”, thus no tax due.
Conventionally, I was told, around a dozen sample copies of a record would be pressed and provided to the recording artists, producer, and label executives to sign-off before large scale production commenced, and likely remained in their possession. This was a different purpose to US white label promos, distributed to hundreds of commercial radio stations. At this time the UK had just BBC radio, a virtual monopoly until the mid 1960s. though promo copies may have been distributed to the music press, and some taken home by staff at the pressing plant, I have heard anecdotes regarding Decca at New Malden.
The first Fontana test pressing I have seen. Shame about writing on the label, but it’s well intentioned. The TP has all the qualities I expect from first off the stamper pressing, sharp bright fresh presentation.
Art Director’s Tea Break:
The cover is a joy, iconic photo, quartet walking along the railway tracks with steep embankment, could be sub-titled “Points failure at Thames Ditton“, leaving the band to complete their journey to Surbiton on foot, instruments in tow. Walking order miss-step: horn leader, piano, drums and bass, should be bass then drums at the back, but aesthetically bass at the back works better. Typography hat-tip to America beat-speak: MAN! capitalised emphasis with shriek-mark. 1961: years of the suit, long before sportswear conquered the globe. No ingratiating smiles for the camera. Of its time, a period work of art. Could this photo have been taken today?
Once again it’s our friends in Japan who have the only alternative vinyl reissue, one of the inscrutably titled フォンタナ フィリップス幻の名盤 Fontana Firippusu Maboroshi-no Meiban / en: “Fontana And Philips marvelous and rare masterpieces” (hat-tip Clive D for brushing up the Discogs translation) / brown on yellow logo. UCJU-90##: 44 to 57.
The Popsike history of the original is interesting for the absence of auction copies (in top condition) in recent years. Two copies in 2017, one copy in 2019, none since in the last two years, I guess that qualifies as “rare”.
If an original is rare, a test pressing the rarest of the rare, I had to have it, and dig deep.
More British jazz another day, got other places to go.