Jazz Professional               

Disc Discussion

Session conducted by Les Tomkins 
Stan Getz and Ray Brown

The following blindfold test was carried out in 1964
but time would hardly change the opinions expressed here.
They could well have been uttered today - or even tomorrow.
Jazz lives on!



 “Discussion” Max Greger and his Orchestra (featuring Benny Bailey–trumpet, Rich Richardson—trombone, Dick Spencer—alto). Personnel: Max Greger, leader, tenor; Ron Simmonds, Benny Bailey, Ferenc Aszodi, Fredy Brock, trumpets; Karl-Heinz Donick, Helmut Rink, Rich Richardson, Fritz Gläser, trombones; Dick Spencer, Manfred Mende, Rudi Flierl, Fred Spannuth, Horst Reipsch, saxes; Armin Rusch, piano; Branco Pejakovic, bass; Pierre Favre, drums. Composed by Hans Hammerschmid. From “European Jazz Sounds”, Brunstwick.

Brown: That sounds to me like a good studio band.

Getz: It sounded like an English band.

Brown: Yes, could have been. It was very clean. It reminded me a little bit of the Woody Herman type of band. The solos were so–so. The alto sounded pretty good. And I enjoyed the nice, crisp rhythm section. It had nothing identifying about it. I’ll just say that it doesn’t sound like a band that’s travelling on the road. They usually have things built around a prominent person in the band.

Getz: It would breathe more, too, wouldn’t it?

Brown: Yes, it would flow a little more together. This sounded very crisp—like good studio musicians, you know.

Getz: Those are about my sentiments, too. It’s very good—but we’ve heard it so much.

Brown: For my money now, you can go into New York or L.A. and call for a record date, and get a band to play just like that. In fact, if you call early enough you can get better soloists—top–rate studio guys like Clark Terry, Joe Newman, Phil Woods. And they’ll play the parts perfectly, too.

Getz: All right—I can’t wait any longer. Who was it?

Tomkins: It was made in Germany by a band led by tenorman Max Greger. The band has something of an international nature. The soloists there were all Americans (giving details).

Getz: The alto player seemed to have a little more breath in him than the other soloists. I think I’ve heard of Dick Spencer.

Brown: It was a studio band, though, wasn’t it?

Tomkins: Well, they work regularly in TV shows.

Brown: Sure, that’s the same thing.

Getz: It’s hard to judge a record like that. You neither like it nor dislike it.

Brown: I can’t find anything bad about it—but it’s nothing that I would particularly play that often, either.

“One Note” The Joe Daley Trio (Joe Daley — tenor, Russell Thorne—bass, Hal Russell— drums). Composed by Joe Daley. From “The Joe Daley Trio At Newport ‘63”, RCA—Victor.

Getz: There’s two ways to look at this record. I found it very interesting and the instrumentalists were very good— the drummer, the bassist and some parts of the saxophone. Personally, I thought it didn’t ever tell a story. I think he was trying to say too much—to be too modern, or something. You know what I mean, Ray?

Brown: This is a question that always comes up. Sometimes in night clubs, when we‘ve done something really fast, I’ll go down to somebody’s table after the set and they’ll say: “Just tell me —between you and I—what do you get out of playing that fast.” And that’s a good question, because sometimes, when you play fast, all you’re really showing is that you’re a good musician —your facility, and the group’s. There aren’t that many people who are expressionists at playing fast. People said things about Art Tatum playing fast, but he was able to do it, he was serious about it, and he didn’t have to scuffle for the technique. Now Thelonious Monk hardly uses any technique at all —but people like him. But if a guy has that much technique just laying there— a guy like Phineas Newborn, for example —it’s going to be used. In this particular record the technique of the people involved seemed to be very good. I was trying to find some sort of tie–in between the changes played by the bass player and the saxophone. A lot of the bass notes weren’t coming out clear, because they were covered up by the drum cymbal sound. Plus the fact that he played quite a few chromatic things.

Getz: Wasn’t it on the same change?

Brown: Well, it started that way. But there were parts there where everybody went for themselves. I am sure—where the guy was playing up above the end of the fingerboard, or at times below the bridge. Which were more or less effects. I’m not too good a judge of this type of thing, not being too involved in it. I guess my only view is that it’s good if it comes off. The tenor saxophonist can get over his horn pretty well.

Getz: I wouldn’t want it for my record collection.

Brown: No. not unless there were some more interesting tracks on it.

Tomkins: The idea of this, I think, was to show what can be done in extemporising around one note.

Getz: Yes, but if it didn’t come off they shouldn’t have put it on the record.

Tomkins: And you don’t think it did come off?

Brown: Well—every time you say something like this you sound like an old man. Lester Young could do something with one note—at a digestible tempo. Of course, I know that everybody’s playing faster now. It’s just that things are going that way. I wasn’t overly impressed with it. I’m positive the bass player wouldn’t be able to play all those same notes over again. It sounds like more of a modern group.

“Ode D’Espagne” and “PrClude A L’Archet” (“Prelude For The Bow”) Francois Rabbath—bass (second track only—with Armand Molinetti—drums). Composed by Francois Rabbath. From “The Sound Of A Bass”, Philips.

Brown: Well, the first thing was a bass solo. It sounded as if it was done in the key of D. It’s the sort of thing you do with D in the thumb position—D and A, to the B flat, up to the C, up to the D. Then he came back down, using some tenths with the D and so forth, working down to a fifth in the half position, which was D and A—then he went up to E; flat with an open G. It wasn’t real difficult, but it was very nicely laid out. I enjoyed it. The second track might have been something over–dubbed. You get that sort of exercise in Simandl, Book 2—which I remember very well—where you bow across three strings. We used to call it “pumping water.” Most guys could play that bottom part. The top part, though— if it was played by a bass, double–tracked—was very good. Much more difficult. It was somebody with excellent bow technique,. who I’d say has been studying classically. I know I couldn’t play it. It was played mostly up in the harmonic section.

Getz: How do you do that? Is that the pressure of the bow, or what?

Brown: No, it’s just the technique of having the touch up there. You have to study to play up in those positions. I know classical guys that can play like that—quite a few.

Getz: That first one was very nice, interesting to listen to. It was great. But the second one I couldn’t become involved with like Ray did. He looks at it as a bass player would look at it. And I didn’t care for the piece of music at all whatever it was.

Tomkins: These were both original compositions by the bass player, who is a Frenchman named Francois Rabbath. It was recorded in France. And he was doing the whole thing on the second track by overdubbing. The first one was intended to be in the flamenco idiom.

Brown: Yes, it was like flamenco guitar, played with the fingers. I had some of my students do that—you use the thumb. Typical flamenco–type, but you do it on bass. It sounded like a small instrument—must have been a solo three–quarter bass.

Getz: I thought it was a ‘cello at first.

Brown: It could even have been a viola —that first part.

“Dotheboys Hall” Johnny Dankworth and his Orchestra (featuring Ronnie Scott, Bobby Wellins, Tony Coe, Dick Morrissey, Peter King—tenors). Composed by Johnny Dankworth. From “What The Dickens! “, Fontana.

Brown: (at Tony Coe solo) Somebody likes Coleman Hawkins. It really sounds like him.

Getz: Yes, it really does. The first part didn’t, though.

Brown: No, not the first part—but here, I’m saying.

Getz: Lucky Thompson? (at Morrissey solo) It’s two tenor players, I think. That was good compared to what you played before.

Brown: I enjoyed the tenor player. On the slow part he showed a lot of Hawkins influence. He sounds in that vein of Lucky Thompson, Paul Gonsalves that type of tenor playing. The band, once again, was of the studio variety. It didn’t sound like anything recognisable. But the rhythm section was really 100%. Yes the drummer had that good feeling going.

Brown: Both the drummer and the bass player were cooking very nicely. There seemed to be a potpourri of tunes there. I was sitting trying to figure out who the band and tenor player were, trying to keep up with that—then all of a sudden the changes of  “I Can’t Get Started” went by. Then they went into the bridge of  “Cherokee,” went back into the theme and finished the tune out.

Getz: I liked the tenor and, as Ray says, the bass and drums. I liked the brass also—it reminded me of Duke. It had that feeling. Of course, the saxophones dispelled that notion when they came in.

Tomkins: You said earlier you felt there was more than one saxophonist. In fact, there were five different tenor soloists—one after the other.

Getz: One of them sounded like Tubby. Was he in there somewhere?

Tomkins: No, he wasn’t (giving details).

Brown: I didn’t find the styles that varying. Stan might, being a saxophone player. I couldn’t really distinguish that much. They sounded a lot alike, except on that ballad section.

“Belly Roll” Count Basie and his Orchestra (featuring Frank Foster—tenor). Composed and arranged by Quincy Jones. From “Li’l 01’ Groovemaker— Basie! “, Verve.

Getz: That’s Diz, isn’t it?

Brown: It could be Jimmy Smith. Wait and see if he comes in. He’s got arrangements like that. Or Oliver Nelson.

Getz: Yes, I think it is Oliver Nelson. I think I’ve heard it before. But that sounds like Diz on muted trumpet.

Brown: That rhythm he plays on.

Getz: Yes, that’s what he likes. I love it when a drummer plays like that. Right there. And the bass stays right with him, too. Now there’s a difference, huh? Take a plain old blues—and right away everybody’s feet were tapping.

Brown: It sounded like something out of New York to me.

Getz: With some ringers thrown in.

Brown: Yes. Well, I’ll give you an example. I went down to do a big band date in New York and I had Cannonball Adderley on lead alto, Budd Johnson playing baritone, Yusef Lateef and Jerome Richardson on tenors, Phil Woods on alto. Which is a pretty good reed section. Then I had Ernie Royal, Clark Terry, Nat Adderley and Roy Eldridge on trumpets, Melba Liston, Jimmy Cleveland and—can’t think of the other trombone player’s name. And I had Hank Jones on one date and Tommy Flanagan on the other, and Osie Johnson and Sam Jones.

Getz: You couldn’t ask for anything more. Is that a new one?

Brown: No, it came out last year. It was an all–star big band. And about half an hour after that date started this band was burning it up. I told ‘em I was going to take ‘em on the road. But that record we just heard was like that type of band. These guys are used to playing together. For a while I thought it might have been Basie, but I didn’t hear Freddie Green in there. Good saxophone player, too. The overall feel was very good.

Getz: Beautiful. Unpretentious, right down to the point. Get right in there—and you feel as if you want to start dancing.

Brown: It didn’t sound like anybody’s band, like there was a leader or anything. So I don’t know where this band came from.

Tomkins: It was written by Quincy Jones.

Brown: Yes, I thought of Oliver Nelson, Quincy or Ernie Wilkins. Or this other guy, that used to write for Woody— Ralph Burns.

Getz: No—that wouldn’t be Ralph Burns.

Brown: Listen, I’d have said that at one time, but have you heard some of the Ray Charles things he did? Whew!

Tomkins: That was a thing of Quincy’s called “Belly Roll.”

Getz: Was that Osie on drums?

Tomkins: The band was, in fact, Basie. Frank Foster on tenor. Sonny Payne on drums.

Brown: Two things were missing. I couldn’t hear Freddie, and Basie wasn’t there.

Tomkins: Well, he had a short piano bit.

Brown: So you couldn’t really tell—it was so small. Are you sure that was Frank Foster, though? Or Eric Dixon? Because Eric sounds quite a bit like Paul Gonsalves. Frank usually sounds a little different.

Getz: Okay, what’s next? Now we’re getting to the good ones.

“Blues in 9/4” The George Shearing Trio (George Shearing—piano, Israel Crosby—bass, Vernel Fournier— drums). Composed by George Shearing. From “Jazz Moments”, Capitol.

Getz: You know, the older I get the less I even listen to how good a guy plays, technically or anything. I just look for something emotional in the music—something that gets to me. Everything seems so contrived here. You know what I mean? It just doesn’t give you an experience.

Brown: The opening and closing part sounds as if it was written, or laid out. It’s in 9/8 or something. And then they go into some blues, practically. The bass solo was all right—nothing unusual. I didn’t get that much from the record. The jazz part of it wasn’t as good as the first part.

Getz: As a musician, you can search your musical mind and soul. You can think: “Well, lets see—the bass player’s got good intonation. The drummer’s doing this. The piano player’s got a good touch.” You can go through all that— but what’s the end result? That’s what is important. Sounded like another European band. Was it?

Tomkins: It was the George Shearing Trio, with Israel Crosby on bass.

Getz: Well, then it’s European in origin.

Brown: I was going to say that sounded like a Shearing–type player. But it didn’t sound like George himself, unless that’s a very old record.

Tomkins: No, it’s quite recent—June, 1962. It was the last recording Israel made before he died.

Brown: Well, George has done a lot better playing—I’ll say that. Because I like the way he plays the piano. I prefer his ballads, of course, because his touch and his harmonic sense are so beautiful.

“Stairway To The Stars” Dexter Gordon Quartet (Dexter Gordon—tenor, Bud Powell—piano, Pierre Michelot— bass, Kenny Clarke—drums). From “Our Man In Paris”, Blue Note.

Getz: So far he’s ruining the tune. He’s trying to get too soulful for a pretty tune.

Brown: Sounds like he’s trying to play like Gene Ammons, who is really soulful—but he’s like that all the time. This guy doesn’t have the sustaining quality that Gene Ammons has, I don’t think. He’s that vintage, though—the Stitt–Ammons—type school.

Getz: With a little bit of latter Lester Young, too, you know.

Brown: Yes, a little of Dexter, too. I haven’t heard Dexter for so long—I wouldn’t know him now if I heard him. The piano player reminds me a little of Bud Powell. It’s been years since I heard him, to. It’s 19 years since I played with him—but that sounds like him to me. What he’s doing is adequate enough, but I would have preferred to hear Hank Jones play a ballad like this. But, by the same token, I don’t think that what Hank would play on this ballad would go with what the saxophone player is playing. So they’re actually together.

Getz: I really find nothing admirable about it at all. I don’t think he treated the tune like it’s supposed to be treated. His intonation was bad and his tonguing was overpowering. But otherwise it was fine!

Brown: That, I guess, is a perennial hassle. This thing is more sensitive to saxophone players or trumpet players, if that be the case, than it would be to somebody in the rhythm section.

Getz: Oh, there you go. You’re going to be nice and temperate.

Brown: No, what I’m going to say is this: I know it’s not possible for everybody to like the same tune the same way. Although I have often told students that I think it would be nice, if you’re going to play a ballad, to look up the lyrics and see what the man had to say. You may get a little insight into it—which wouldn’t hurt. There are a lot of ballads that I think shouldn’t be what I call sweetened, as a lot of guys do. Then there are some that lend themselves to it, maybe. Jazz musicians, in their search to express themselves, find certain tunes—or it could be just the changes—that suggest certain treatments. And, like I say, Stan as a saxophone player might see this a little different to the way I would see it, as far as approach to the tune.

Getz: And how do you see it?

Brown: I could take it either way. I wasn’t particularly impressed by the way he played the melody, but I wasn’t chagrined either. He played some fairly nice things on the changes after the tune started. He ran them fairly well.

Getz: You’re able to look at it in a broader way than I am. Actually, I thought it was lumbering. And I don’t think you should run any changes on a tune like that. You should state the melody, play a few choice notes when you don’t play the melody, and take it out.

Tomkins: Do you normally know the lyrics of a ballad when you play it?

Getz: No, only vaguely—some of them. I forget them, but when I hear the tunes usually I hear them with the lyrics. I listen mostly to vocalists when I hear ballads. But I don’t know them word for word, though I could quote a few.

Brown: But are you impressed by a tune primarily by its lyrics before you play it a lot of times?

Getz: Lots of times lyrics, do sway me—which they shouldn’t, actually. Because you cannot play lyrics on a saxophone. Unfortunately, nobody’s invented a way to do that. So it’s mostly the melody and the whole feeling of a ballad that’s important. The lyrics are important, because they can change the interpretation.

Tomkins: Well, it was Dexter and it was Bud Powell.

Getz: How about that?

Brown: Dexter kind of reaches up for those notes. You hear that in some of the younger guys playing now. Like Coltrane does that sometimes. Which I guess extends back to Coleman Hawkins again, if you want to go back—him and Adolphe Saxe.

“One For Carl” The Pete Jolly Trio (Pete Jolly—piano., Ralph Pefia— bass, Nick Martinis—drums). Composed by Ralph Pefia. From “Five O’clock Shadows”, MGM.

Getz: Is that imitators of the Peterson trio? Or is it you guys? It’s a good ping on that bass player. It’s not you?

Brown: No, that’s not us. I was going to say Ray Bryant at first, but it sounds more like that bluesy type of playing that Junior Mance does. Right?

Getz: Come to think of it, it could be him. This and the Basie are about the best of the whole batch today.

Brown: I don’t know who the bass player was, but he sure had nice time. It might have been Bob Cranshaw.

Getz: He had that Ray Brown ping in his playing.

Brown: That loped along very nicely. I enjoyed it. There wasn’t any particular technique involved, but the feeling was good. And they played together. The pianist and has player obviously had a good affinity change–wise—the way they played the lines and so forth.

Getz: That’s a beautiful rhythm section. I’d have that one in my record collection—for real late–at–night listening—when I just want to snap my fingers.

Tomkins: I think you probably know these men personally. Pete Jolly? Ralph Pefia?

Getz: Oh, yes. Was that Ralph? That’s very good. And the drummer? Nick Martinis? I just fired him off my band. But he sounded good on that. See how things work out?

Brown: Yes, I liked that. Pete and Ralph had a duo together. They work constantly out in L.A. Pete is some player.

Getz: Well, Nick and I just worked together briefly. It’s different listening than it is playing with a musician.

“La Scala, She Too Pretty To Be Blue” Duke Ellington and his Orchestra, with the Orchestra of La Scala, Milan (featuring Russell Procope— clarinet, Paul Gonsalves—tenor, Lawrence Brown — trombone, Cootie Williams—trumpet). Composed by Duke Ellington. From “The Symphonic Ellington”, Reprise.

Brown: What’s this—Ellington with strings? That sounds like Lawrence Brown.

Getz: I think he made an album with strings, didn’t he?

Brown: It sounded like Paul Gonsalves before and Ellington on piano in the introduction. I don’t recognise the clarinet player.

Getz: What are those strings doing in there?

Brown: They don’t need ‘em. That’s Paul Gonsalves, isn’t it?

Getz: Sounds like him.

Brown: He’s got a great sound, a beautiful tone. Well. I didn’t enjoy the strings. They seemed to be cumbersome. It sounded as if they wanted to keep the voicing real plain so it wouldn’t lumber—you know, blah-blah-blah. But it didn’t help. I would have enjoyed that much better, I think, just hearing the band play it by themselves. And the guys didn’t play enough. Nobody really got a chance to stretch out. It was just like little fills—the kind of thing you might play behind a singer—except for, maybe, the trumpet solo. I could take it or leave it, you know. But it just sounded like Ellington—or somebody really imitating him down the line. In either case, I think the strings were unnecessary on that.

Getz: You know, everything you hear in music is in relation to what you heard before. Did you ever notice that? You hear certain records in an afternoon—and one comes up that you ordinarily might not really care for. But—because of what we’ve heard before—I enjoyed that record. Everything is a comparison. Anyway, I love Ellington. He’s my favourite band in the whole world. But those strings, as Ray says, sounded like they were playing in another band or something. They were just sawing away—it didn’t make sense. Of course, that was a beautiful saxophone sound. That was Paul Gonsalves? Yes, it’s a lovely way he has of making a sound out of the saxophone.

 Copyright © 1963, Les Tomkins. All Rights Reserved.