Jazz Professional               

Disc Discussion

Kenny Baker

Session conducted by Les Tomkins 
featuring Kenny Baker, Ray Cooper and Kenny Graham

The following blindfold test was carried out in 1963, but time would hardly change the opinions expressed here. They could well have been uttered today - or even tomorrow. Jazz lives on!

Ray Cooper Kenny Graham

Graham: Is it Charlie Mingus?

Baker: I don't know. I haven't the foggiest. It's nice scoring, though. I feel that this—like most of the new records— is trying to break away from the conventional forms of jazz. It's a good sound, isn't it?

Graham: Yes—very well recorded.

Baker: (during drumming section) The bandleader must be a drummer. These sort of things are more orchestral than jazz. I don't dislike it.

Graham: No, I do it myself. But it's using jazz rather than playing it.

Baker: Some of these things sound to me like just a pick-up.

Graham: A studio band—yes.

Baker: Special arrangements by so-and-so. And it could be one of a dozen arrangers. It's more of an effects record.

Graham: Well, I've got no idea who it is. The only thing I don't like about it is a device that I use myself to make a long number—that is, to have a nice little opening and let the rhythm roar away on their own in the middle.

Baker: I think it's got good atmosphere.

Graham: Yes, I like the feel of it, the sound of it. It's easy, it's relaxed. It's sort of Kenton-inspired, but it doesn't sound like Kenton. It's nice and loose.

{The sleeve was shown here)

Graham: Oliver Nelson? Well, well. I've not heard him. I guessed it might be Julius Watkins, but I wasn't sure about the rest of them. I've never heard horns phrase like that before.

Baker: I liked the trumpet section, too. Ernie Royal was on it.

Graham: It's a fair old team. But who is Oliver Nelson?

Tomkins: He's an alto and tenor player and also a writer. He's coming up in New York at the moment.

Baker: So it's more or less what I said— a group formed for the LP. It was all the best boys they could get hold of at that moment.

Graham: I must say I'm very surprised to see that there's only one extra percussion on these—just the drums with the conga and bongos. I would have said there was a hell of a lot more. Ed Shaughnessy had a little ball all to himself, didn't he?

Baker: It's the roughness that creates the excitement. I've nothing against roughness. Sometimes it's better than having a terribly polished band—if you want this kind of excitement.

Graham: I often wonder when I hear these sort of things whether that's what Kenton was after with his "Carnivals" and such, or whether he really con­ceived them the way they turned out— all tight and neat and right. Yes, I like that. I'll remember that name—Oliver Nelson. He's allowing musicians free­dom, and that is very important. If we're going to have big bands we can't have the same kind of jazz bands we had with small groups. You've got to give them freedom some way—and that's the only way you can do it.

Graham: It's a Ray Charles kick thing. We're going the other way this time.

Baker: It's not the sort of record that I would buy. The rhythm section was old-fashioned, but nice. I liked it mainly because it had a flavour of the old Goodman days and the early Bastes and things. I've no idea who was singing. As for the trumpet—I've heard a lot better. He might be a good player who wasn't really on top form there.

Graham: That's going exactly the other way to the first record. Alan Lomax and those original work songs that he found—okay—but I'm not sure that it's doing the cause of jazz any good to keep on about chain gangs and breaking rocks. It's nearly as bad as the business men's suits.

Baker: This sounds to me like a commercial record—or aimed at the commercial market.

Graham: All right—it goes well, but I'm sure if I played that record at home when there's anybody about—at a party or anything—the talking would break out immediately. Because you've got to listen to the words and it's all in this sort of ... I don't know whether it's pseudo or whether it's a true Southern-type thing.

Baker: To me it sounded pseudo. I don't know why.

Tomkins: It was Oscar Brown, Junior— a recent newcomer to the scene— singing a lyrical version of Nat Adderley's "Work Song".

Graham: That type of record has got a terrible danger of becoming a hit.

Baker: That's what I meant when I said it's aimed at a commercial market. I should imagine that's why it was made.

Cooper: With a twangy guitar added it would have made it, I think.

"Jenny"—Archie Semple— clarinet (with strings, harp and four rhythm arranged and directed by Johnny Scott). Composed by Archie Semple. From "Easy Living/' Columbia.

Graham: Who's this—Fred Hartley? It's someone doing an Utter Bilge!

Baker: No, the vibrato's not high enough. It's a good quality record. The engineer knew what was happening. I like the sound of it.

Graham: Full marks for the supervisor.

Baker: I thought when it started off it was going to be Jimmy Giuffre, but that was soon shattered. It sounds to me like an English recording.

Graham: The strings are written like a piano-player plays.

Baker: When I hear records like this I often wonder what market they're aimed at, because this to me is non­descript background music. Who buys that? I suppose the people who throw parties. It has no real jazz content but it's not rubbishy enough to be commercial.

Graham: It would go well with the dialogue in a play.

Cooper: I didn't like it at all. It's definitely not my kind of music. I thought the rhythm section sounded stodgy.

Baker: Well, any studio men can make noise like that standing on their heads. But I think that's probably a restricted record. It sounds to me as though it was contrived to be what it is.

Graham: There's no freedom at all. It was recorded with the drums sticking out. You can imagine he's got the microphone stuck right down on his snare and he's frightened of lifting his brushes higher than that.

Tomkins: It was somebody you might have run into—Archie Semple.

Baker: I thought it was English. I think he gets a nice sound on the record—very nice.

Tomkins: The arrangement was by Johnny Scott.

Baker: Really?

Graham: El Goofo Supremo!

Baker: He won't like your Fred Hartley comments.

Graham: Well, I'm very surprised, because John to my mind is one of the way-out ones.

Baker: Yes, he normally writes more ambitiously. I think it falls nowhere. Acker's done very, very well because he's a perfect individualist.

Graham: And nobody else can do that.

Baker: These odd characters that come up may suddenly hit it, but then they follow them up with all sorts of nondescript things. I don't think it's the fault of the musicians who make the records. They're commissioned to do these things. I made a terrible record about a year ago.

Graham: Only one?

Baker: Well, two sides. It was ridiculously horrible. I'm glad it never came anywhere. It was a similar type of thing. You never know—it might have done. Then people would have come up and said to me: "What are you playing all that rubbish for?"

Graham: But you can never contrive those things. Anything that's ever happened—like Acker Bilk—nobody's. been more surprised than the people who made the record. Its just happened in some moment of abandon. That one we just heard was terribly contrived.

Baker: The trombone player sounds like next year's Dickie Wells.

Graham: Yes!

Baker: I don't know about you, but I don't like these long drum solos.

Graham: Not on records. In the flesh they work.

Baker: He's got good technique, though. This sounds as though it was recorded to a live audience for their benefit.

Graham: It'd be a roar on a Sunday concert. Or don't they have Sunday concerts now? I'm giving my age away.

Cooper: They have them on a Friday now.

Baker: It sounded like a good rave-up to me.

Cooper: I thought it was Sandy Nelson at first, but I've no idea who it is now. I think it's very bitty and I didn't like it very much at all. I think Sandy Nelson does it better. Of course, these kind of drum solos are crowd-fetchers at concerts. And they make sense if they're in patterns.

Baker: It's nice to give drummers their heads but on records they tend to become a bore. I've always felt that.

Graham: Unless they're terribly well-thought-out. The drummer's chord sequence is his patterns. If he doesn't build and increase all the time, he's finished somewhere in the middle.

Cooper: And that drummer didn't build.

Graham: The only thing I feel about it is that maybe if they recorded it again in a couple of years time it might sound great. But, as it is now, I don't understand how it's got on record, honestly.

Tomkins: It didn't sound like an integrated group?

Baker: No, it sounded like a pick-up group having a blow at the club.

Graham: Yes, it was the same sort of sound that we used to get when we'd have a whip-round with the hat and go along somewhere and make a record. It doesn't have a professional sound at all.

(The sleeve was shown here)

Graham: Tony Coe? No!

Baker: Is it Tony? It can't be.

Graham: Was that Tony playing tenor?

Tomkins: Yes, he plays tenor on all but one track.

Graham: He doesn't play tenor like that.

Baker: Well, I don't know. It was a bit Paul Gonsalves-ish.

Graham: Who was the drummer? Derek Hogg?

Cooper: He's a good drummer. He can play better than that.

Graham: John Picard? I don't believe it.

Baker: Yes, I've heard him play like that quite a lot. He plays nice jazz.

Graham: Yes, I suppose he can get on a Dickie Wells kick. But I don't believe that chorus of Tony's.

Baker: I've heard him like that.

Graham: Like that? But he plays more like a young, wild Hawkins. Well, I don't think that one should have happened, anyway.

Baker: I've used Derek in the past and he's an excellent small group drummer But that sounded to me like a filler for the album. They've said: "Well, we'll feature the drums on this one. We'll just play an intro, then it's all drums and we'll play the theme again." This I think, is a very haphazard way of making records.

Graham: I know the theme they used very well. I nearly had the words of that. I've made a lot of records of that tune.

Baker: Dave Wilkins used to write better calypsos than that.

"The Night Has A Thousand Eyes"—Sonny Rollins Quartet (Sonny Rollins— tenor, Jim Hall—guitar, Bob Cranshaw—bass, Ben Riley—drums). From "What's New?", RCA

Graham: Oh, it's the old Casa Nova.

Baker: Is that Byrd on guitar?

Graham: It's lost the sound of that one with Getz on it.

Baker: I don't like the tenor player. I don't know who it is.

Graham: He's got a baritone sound.

Baker: Yes, it's a funny tenor sound.

Graham: It's immature.

Baker: Yes, it is. It's a young sound.

Graham: This is where you get spoilt listening to Ellingtons.

Baker: Little bit of rock and roll coming in there from somewhere or other. It must be a young player. If it is, I would think that in about four or five years' time he could be an excellent tenor player. Unless he's very old and he's getting past it. But I think it's the other way, isn't it?

Graham: Yes, because you can feel the patterns going and he's not keeping up with them.

Baker: Is it an electric bass?

Graham: It's hard to tell.

Tomkins: No, it's a normal bass. Actually, I know this player and he's using a very old French bass.

Baker: It sounds as if it might be a Continental disc. I was thinking of Alix Combelle or somebody like that. It's got that sort of old-world feel about it—apart from the two bars of rock and roll in the middle.

Graham: Well, if it was made over here I can only think of Dave Goldberg.

Baker: The guitarist's got a nice finger style—a nice sound. I would have liked to have heard more guitar than tenor, but it's probably the tenor player's record. There's a lot of tenor, isn't there?

Graham: That could well be Dave.

Baker: It should have been a guitar record. We could do without the tenor player. This to me is more pleasant listening than the tenor. He's a matured player. You can feel it—he's got it. Ah, lovely. I'd buy this record on the guitar alone, but I'd probably shift the needle until it got to the guitar solo. That's nice. It's beautiful. This is a recent recording, isn't it?

Tomkins: Very recent.

Baker: The tenor player is a bit mixed in outlook at the present time, I feel. He's got the mental approach but his sound is too hard.

Graham: I think it must be Jackie Sharpe!

Baker: Yes—it sounds to me like somebody who doesn't play tenor very much.

Graham: It's all going the right way, though. You know what I mean?

Cooper: Yes, he's nearly there, but not quite.

(The sleeve was shown here)

Graham: Sonny Rollins? Never!

Baker: What's he doing? It can't be!

Graham: He must be out of his mind. I don't believe it.

Baker: No, I don't want to hear any more, thank you.

Cooper: The rhythm section kept it going all the time. They didn't get in the way, but they could have been anybody.

Graham: Jim Hall's playing is very much like Dave. It's the same sound as he gets from his amplifier. But Sonny Rollins—no, I like Sonny Rollins —but I don't like that.

Baker: Very odd playing, isn't it? He sounds mixed, somehow.

Graham: I thought this Bossa Nova thing was to give people more freedom— but it's messed him up!

"Basse Cuite"—Kenny Clarke, Francy Boland and Company (Dusko Gojkovic—trumpet, Raymond Droz—alto horn, Chris Kellens—baritone horn, Derek Humble—alto, Karl Drevo—tenor, Francy Boland—piano, Jimmy Woode—bass, Kenny Clarke—drums). Composed and arranged by Francy Boland. From "The Golden Eight," Blue Note.

Baker: It sounds English.

Graham: Do you think so? I like the trumpet very much.

Baker: I've heard Shake Keane play like that. I heard him do a broadcast and he played great. It's an English sound. It's the rhythm section.

Graham: Yes, that funny cymbal sound at the beginning, when he started off on the hi-hat. It's a good beat. I liked what he was doing, but I didn't like the sound. But as for the arrange­ment—nobody would ever think of doing that on an English record.

Baker: Johnny Dankworth might.

Graham: It's not Johnny Dankworth.

Baker: That one was too short.

Graham: Yes, it was. I liked that very much.

Baker: It was a nice ensemble, nice scoring—a good noise. I don't know whether I'd say it was English or American. Shake plays equally as good as that on trumpet. It sounded flugel— but it's not dark Terry. I don't know who it is. It's a nice, modem sound. I wish I could get it.

Cooper: I liked the drumming, but I didn't like the sound of the hi-hat cymbals.

Baker: That's what made me feel it was an English rhythm section.

Cooper: What he did after that was just fine, though.

Baker: What it was—the rhythm section sounded English, but the front­line sounded American by the scoring.

Tomkins: Well, in point of fact, it was rather the reverse, with an American bass and drums and the rest of the group an international line-up. The trumpeter was a 30-year-old Yugoslavian, Dusko Gojkovic.

Baker: Oh, I've met him in Germany.

Graham: Kenny Clarke must have had a borrowed kit. That would do it— because the drumming was right. They always have the tom-toms exactly right. They weren't—but what he was doing on them was.

Baker: I thought it sounded a bit of a mix-up. Oh, that was Derek doing the alto solo.

Graham: I think I've heard him play better, although I didn't mind that at all.

Baker: The scoring was nice.

Graham: Yes, it was very good. Who did that, I wonder.

Tomkins:   Francy   Boland—from Belgium.

Graham: Yes, those little trills and things didn't sound English at all.

Copyright © 1963 Les Tomkins. All Rights Reserved.