Tune in to the Jazz Show with Gavin Walker every Monday night,
This month of Jazz Features we visit once again a group of albums, some are considered Jazz classics and essential recordings. However when first reviewed in Jazz publications like Down Beat, were given 1 or 2 star ratings out of 5. These low ratings were either “poor” or “fair”. Sadly the listening public paid attention to these critics then and many times these damning ratings affected sales or the overall reputation of the artist. Eventually people just listened and made their own evaluations and now several of these albums are classics. The first one tonight is a trio recording. The leader is the great drummer Roy Haynes. Roy is now in his nineties and still playing well. Here along with bass giant Paul Chambers they back up someone who is at the top echelon of incredible Jazz pianists and that is the phenomenal Phineas Newborn Jr. Very very few can even come close to Newborn’s technique and piano mastery. The album initially got 2 stars. Check out “We Three” tonight and you won’t regret it.
The great young trumpet master Lee Morgan is next up and despite his high profile and generally good ratings for his records this date got inexplicably 2 stars. Lee is at his fiery best here with alto saxophone giant Jackie McLean who brings his top game to this session of extended works. Bobby Timmons is at the piano and the great Paul Chambers anchors the band on bass and everything is driven with power and skill by Lee Morgan’s boss, Art Blakey on drums.. Morgan was a key member of Blakey’s Jazz Messengers at this time. The album is called “Leeway” and it is listened to avidly by many younger Jazz fans. You’ll get your chance tonight.
The next date by a relatively unknown powerhouse tenor saxophonist from Atlanta, Georgia named Fred Jackson. Jackson came from a r&b background and played with Little Richard, Chuck Willis, Lloyd Price and B.B.King and liked his Jazz bluesy and funky usually with a solid Hammond organ player. Fred’s only album for Blue Note featured Earl VanDyke on the B3, Willie Jones on guitar and Wilbert “G.T.” Hogan on drums. Blue Note’s head honcho, Alfred Lion, liked Fred and loved this album. Sadly it was reviewed and got 1 star. As Fred was not well known to the Jazz world this rating caused the sales to tank and Fred never did another date for Blue Note. This album is a cooker and fun to listen to and will make you tap your feet and snap your fingers. All of this and solid well played Jazz. “Hootin’ ‘n’ Tootin’ will surprise you and once again prove the critics wrong.
Closing this month is the mighty bassist and Jazz innovator Charles Mingus. Again Mingus’ usually challenging music was normally well liked by the Jazz critics but this fine live date was treated shabbily and written off with a 2 star rating. This amazing date features Mingus and his right hand man, drummer Dannie Richmond with two newcomers to the Mingus fold, alto saxophonist John Handy and hard boiled tenor saxophonist Booker Ervin. The pianist was recommended by Handy to Mingus as his regular pianist was called away on a family emergency. The pianist was also newly arrived in New York from Oakland it is Richard Wyands who does a remarkable job playing Mingus’ sometimes difficult compositions. The album was recorded at the Nonegon Art Gallery in New York in January of 1959 and marked the beginning of a great creative period for Mingus. Four extended compositions fill the disc and each is an amazing musical experience. Worth a hell of a lot more than 2 stars! “Jazz Portraits by Charles Mingus” tops off this month.