Jazz Professional               

Disc Discussion

Remember the old Blindfold Tests? How most of the people used to get everything wrong? Read on...you'll be amazed.

Tyrone Washington, Woody Shaw, Roger Humphries, Larry Ridley and Horace Silver

Session conducted by Les Tomkins 

The Horace Silver

The following blindfold test was carried out in 1966
but time would hardly change the opinions expressed here.
They could well have been uttered today - or even tomorrow.
Jazz lives on!

NOTE: Due to unavoidable circumstances, trumpeter Woody Shaw was unable to join the rest of the Silver Quintet until part of the way through this Disc Discussion. Hence the absence of his comments on some of the tracks. Tyrone Washington plays tenor with the group, Larry Ridley is the bassist and Roger Humphries the drummer.
“Doodlin ” Shirley Scott Trio (Shirley Scott—organ, Henry Grimes bass, Otis Finch—drums). From “Shirley Scott Plavs Horace Silver”. Prestige.

Silver: I know who that is already.

Washington: Is this Shirley Scott? The stops that she uses are very personal to her, you know. They sound womanish.

Ridley: I like her conception. She uses a lot of shading—never really gets overpowering. That’s good—the way she’s feeding the chords to the bass player.

Washington: Who is it on bass?

Silver: Henry Grimes. And Otis Finch on drums. It’s an excellent album. I played parts of it on the air when I took over Billy Taylor’s show for a few days. The interpretation that I enjoy most on there is “Moonray”, I guess.

Ridley: I first became really familiar with Henry’s playing when he was with Sonny Rollins. That was when I’d just arrived in New York. He’s been one of my favourites ever since.

Silver: Like Larry, and very few other young bass players today, he has a big, fat sound. A lot of the others are very fine players—but their sound is kinda small. That big sound sure helps, you know. It cuts through. Of course, they’ve got microphones and amplifiers—so you can turn a guy up. But it’s better if you have the natural volume there.

Ridley: That’s the only thing I don’t like about the Fender basses. You don’t get that ping on them—that really woody. meaty sound.

Humphries: I worked with the Shirley Scott Trio back in ‘62. What I used to like about her—she never used any organ gimmicks, the way most of them do. She often reminds me of Jimmy Smith, although he goes into his thing of sustaining a note for a length of time. But Shirley plays it as if she were playing the piano. Working with organ is good for strength, but usually it’s very hard for a drummer to shade. You have to really get loud. With her, though, it wasn’t that feeling of: “Man, I sure hate to go to work with this organ tonight.”

Washington: That’s the first time I heard that record. Very nice. Real bluesy feeling —it swings.

“Dizzy Atmosphere”—Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and rhythm section. From “The World Of Charlie Parker”, Ember.

Silver: Yeah! Bird was always into it right away. No warming up! There’s Dizzy egging him on. (At end of record) That’s beautiful.

Washington: I really don’t have anything to say about this. The music is so powerful that it can speak for itself.

Silver: But people reading this article didn’t hear the record, you know!

Washington: Well, I just think it’s indicative of the high calibre of work that Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie are capable of. They are, without a doubt, true jazz giants. The record illustrates that the avenues they opened up are today’s point of departure.

Silver: There’s no question that they are two of the greatest musicians not only of our time—but, I think, of any time. A hundred years from now, I’m sure people will feel the same way. They don’t come like these two people every day. Listening to that particular record —“Dizzy Atmosphere”, I think it is—I don’t know who the drummer was, but you can dig, for instance, that he was playing, like, early bebop style drums. Which is a little outdated now. And the bass player had a little bit of trouble keeping the tempo. But as for what Dizzy and Bird played—it sounds just as good today as it did then. In fact, I’d compare it with anything that anybody’s playing today—avant garde, or whatever. It was moving, stirring, soulful, swinging, technical—it had everything. It had greatness.

Ridley: Yes, all the superlatives possible can be applied. I dig what you’re saying about the advances with the rhythm sections. But for that period of time, it was all great.

Silver: Oh, sure. I didn’t mean to imply that his rhythm section wasn’t great for that time.

Humphries: It was wonderful—that’s all. I wasn’t there, so it’s very educational to me now. History, more or less.

Ridley: Every time I hear Bird and Diz, man, I always hear something different. They projected so much insight and foresight. Like, the rhythm section has become more of a melodic voice in the overall ensemble sound. Bass player’s lines now are contrapuntal to what’s happening with the soloists. It’s a different conception, where everybody’s more on top and blending more as a unit—melodically, harmonically, rhythmically.

“Glass Enclosure” Bud Powell Trio (Bud Powell—piano, George Duvivier—bass, Arthur Taylor—drums). From “The Amazing Bud Powell”, Blue Note.

Silver: Beautiful. That’s Bud Powell’s “Glass Enclosure”. It’s a masterpiece. You’re playing such good music today, it’s hard for us to say anything bad. Needless to say, I always admired Bud and idolised him in my youth. We all owe him a debt of gratitude. This composition is such a beautiful thing. As I was listening to it, I was just thinking—I’d like to hear it scored for orchestra. Not for big band, but for orchestra. Like, on one of these “Jazz USA” concerts that John Lewis and Gunther Schuller do. Maybe somebody will take note of this and do it.

Ridley: I can see the effect on Bud of his having studied and listened to symphonic literature. This is like a piano concerto, with its separate movements, the passages with the bass, the interplay of the drums. And that’s one of the greatest bassists of all time on there—George Duvivier. Very underrated—but he is a bitch, believe me.

Silver: He’s really a prominent bass man around New York—being such a great reader. He’s in constant demand for studio work—TV, radio, phonograph records—all of that. So he very rarely plays with small jazz outfits. I mean, he loves to—but he makes so much money doing this other stuff. Plus he’s an arranger, for big bands and everything. He’s one of these guys, like Milt Hinton—they go to the Union every week with their little black book, and pick up all their cheques. Maybe they get 20 or 30 cheques during the week, for all these different sessions they’ve been doing. Therefore, namewise, they don’t get exactly the recognition that they deserve for their calibre of musicianship. He’s a hell of a bass player.

Humphries: As for A.T.—he’s just got a natural thing, that’s all. A very soulful drummer—and a very nice person.

Washington: I really enjoyed it and, as I said before, I would rather let the music speak for itself. Those who haven’t heard the record—they should buy it.

 “Green Stamps”—Clark Terry/Bob Brookmeyer Quintet (Clark Terry—flugelhorn and trumpet, Bob Brookmeyer—valve trombone, Roger Kellaway—piano, Bill Crow—bass, Dave Bailey—drums). From “The Power Of Positive Swinging”, Fontana.

Silver: Who’s that—Bobby Brookmeyer?

Ridley: Somebody who likes J.J. It’s not Bob—more of an attack to his phrases.

Silver: Sounds like a valve trombonist who is influenced by Bobby and J.J.

Ridley: Sounded like Clark Terry in there.

Silver: No, that’s not Clark. That sounds like him, though. This is not Clark Terry, but the other one—

Ridley: Is this Roger Kellaway on piano? Wait a minute. I haven’t heard it—but I think Clark did a date where he played both trumpet and flugelhorn. This is him switching off, isn’t it?

Humphries: I got lost with it. I thought at first it was Kai Winding, but nothing very distinctive came to me, really. I wouldn’t get very excited over it, but it was all right for a swing band.

Ridley: I like to hear trumpet and trombone together. I used to love J.J.‘s group when he had Nat Adderley—it was a different sound. That was nice, anyway.

Washington: I don’t know who it is—but the trombone player seems to be influenced by Curtis Fuller, plus Bob Brookmeyer and J.J. I don’t think it’s either one, actually. I enjoyed it.

Silver: Knowing that Bob Brookmeyer and Clark Terry usually record and work together a lot, I could assume that it’s them. Or maybe it’s some musicians who idolise them. If it was Bob and Clark, this is not one of their best recordings. The performance was sorta average. The piano solo didn’t knock me out or anything, but it was good.

Tomkins: (giving details): Clark was, in fact, switching between trumpet and flugelhorn, playing muted on one and open on the other.

Humphries: What did he do—dub that in, then?

Silver: No, he just has one in each hand. I’ve seen him do that in person—put one horn up, play a few bars, then take the other one.

Humphries: But it sounded like they ran into one another a couple of times.

Washington: Well, he could just take the mute out.

Silver: I’ve heard some new things by them that sound a lot more live than this particular record. One of Herbie Hancock’s tunes—“Blind Man, Blind Man”—they got a beautiful groove going on that. But this is kinda staid, really.

“A.M. Mayhem”—Stan Tracey Quartet (Stan Tracey—piano, Bobby Wellins—tenor, Jeff Clyne—bass, Jackie Dougan—drums). Composed by Stan Tracey. From “Jazz SuiteUnder Milk Wood”, Columbia.

Washington: Is that Stan Tracey on piano?

Silver: That’s what I was thinking, too. Mm—bass player’s sharp, isn’t he? Not Johnny Griffin on tenor, is it?

Washington: No. Whoever it is has been influenced bv Rouse. Is this Ronnie Scott, I wonder?

Silver: No—could be Tubby Hayes, though.

Ridley: There’s another one—I heard him on the radio. Sounds like old crazy Tony Crombie on drums.

Silver: Yes—that’s got to be Stan Tracey. I don’t know of anybody else that sounds as much like Monk as he does—even in the States. Even Randy Weston—he’s out of Monk, but he’s got more of his own thing going. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t Ronnie, though, because I’ve been hearing a lot of him—almost every night.

Tomkins: (giving details): The tenor player’s name was Bobby Wellins.

Ridley: Yes, that’s who was on the radio —playing with the big band.

Silver: It’s a strange thing—I’ve commented to a few people in the club about this, too. When Stan plays with his Trio, or behind Ronnie or Tubby, it’s very evident that he loves Monk. He borrows a lot of harmonies, phrasings and whatnot from Monk. Yet—when I hear him play behind Ernestine Anderson, he doesn’t sound like Monk. In other words, he doesn’t use the same chord formations behind the vocalists. It’s like hearing another piano player in the same night. Which is kinda odd, you know.

Humphries: Maybe it’s because he can’t use those things. Maybe she doesn’t want him to use them.

Silver: Well—take myself, for instance. I was inspired by Monk, but more so by Bud Powell. And, although I’ve found my own identity, I’ll play little things sometimes that remind me of Bud. If Stan, fine musician as he is, could branch off—with the Monk influence—but into something completely original, he would play that way in any context If Monk sat down behind Ernestine, it would still sound like Monk. That’s the point I’m trying to make.

Washington: I enjoyed the tenor playing. It seems like Rouse dominates, but I also hear Griffin in him—which is good.

Silver: It was a good group on that record. The bass player was swinging, and the whole rhythm section had a good groove. It wasn’t no exceptional composition—just a little blues lick. But the whole thing had a happy, popping feeling.

Ridley: The bass did sound nice. I like a bass player to break up his lines a little more, though, to have more of an interval between some of the notes. But, as you say, he had a nice groove. He kinda lost me for a minute when he went into his solo—but he got back on the track.

“Raga Megha”—Joe Harriott Double Quintet (Joe Harriott—alto, Chris Taylor—flute, Eddie Blair—trumpet, John Mayer—violin, harpsichord, Pat Smythe—piano, Rick Laird—bass, Ganley—drums, Diwan Motihar—sitar, Chandrahas Paigankar—tamboura, Keshav Sathe—tabla). From “Indo—Jazz Suite”, Columbia.

Silver: Ravi Shankar. No, it can’t be. He’s never recorded with a jazz rhythm section, to my knowledge.

Ridley: Oh, no, this is John Mayer.

Washington: Yes, Joe Harriott’s IndoJazz.

Ridley: They played this composition at the concert we went to on Sunday at the Mermaid Theatre.

Shaw: It’s not the same trumpet player, though.

Silver: I’m not all that hip to Indian music, but I liked that. I enjoyed Joe Harriott’s playing, the piano solo was cute and, with the flute and everything, it was a nice piece of music. I can dig combining jazz with all types of music. I’ve been getting a lot of inspiration lately from different folk musics. The more the jazz musician travels abroad to various countries, the more ideas he can pick up.

Ridley: I liked that very much. In fact, I enjoyed the concert, too. Some of the things were interesting and some seemed kinda drawn out and boring. They laboured the point too much on a few things, and it never quite got off the ground. I used to play violin, and I’m very fond of the instrument. So when I hear someone like John Mayer who can really play it, man—it knocks me out. It calls for a very unorthodox fingering to be able to play these Indian scales, the ragas and what have you on the violin. And he played it beautifully—had a lot of control. Interesting experiment.

Shaw: This interpretation was much better than on the concert, because it had more of a jazz feel. I didn’t recognise it at first. The trumpet player was more or less a studio musician—a little too classical.

Washington: There’s just one thing about it that i haven’t really gotten used to—and that’s the pedal point you keep hearing.

Silver: Well, it’s the same thing Coltrane does—or used to do quite a bit on some of his modal–type stuff.

Shaw: You have to take into consideration, too—those cats change their scale any way they want it, but they keep that same tonality. We’ve got twelve tones—they’re limited, you can say. But they can alter the whole time mood and the colour—using that same drone. Like, they can change in the raga and be way out.

Washington: I just keep waiting for them to modulate into another key for a minute—I don’t know why.

Ridley: Yes, I can dig that.

Silver: Well, you know, a couple of years ago modal playing was quite popular What about those modal things that Miles used to play—I know he’s not playing ‘em so much now—or that ‘Trane used to play. Did you get that same feeling on them?

Washington: Like what, for instance? “So What”?

Silver: That sort of thing, yes. Although that does have a change.

Washington: There’s a bin change on that. Plus the way Miles and ‘Trane play—finding so many other notes.

“You Are My Sunshine”——George Russell Sextet (Don Ellis—trumpet, Garnett Brown—trombone, Paul Plummer—tenor, George Russell—piano, Steve Swallow—bass, Pete La Rota—drums; Sheila Jordan—vocal). From “The Outer View”, Fontana.

Silver: I know who this is. George Russell—right? At least, he did a recording of this same tune in the same manner. This must be another one, because, when I heard it before. Sheila Jordan sang the lyric.

Shaw: That sounds like Don Ellis. I can use the composition and the idea—but I can’t use the solos.

Humphries: (as vocal starts): You mean they had to go through all that just to give her an intro?

Ridley: That’s a loner intro—really.

Silver: The whole record’s too long.

Ridley: How much longer is this?

Tomkins: Have you had enough?

Humphries: Yes—please.

Ridley: I don’t know about anybody else, but I’m through!

Tomkins: I’ll just skip on and play the finale for you.

Ridley: Well, that’s not my idea of sunshine!

Shaw: I liked the first part, when they were getting that modal thing going—up to the solos. After that—nothing!

Silver: I’d like to say this: George Russell is a very brilliant composer and arranger. I like his stuff. But I felt that this particular record didn’t get anywhere. It sort of loses your attention half—way through. After an interesting start, it goes on and on and on and on. And the solos weren’t very impressive.

Ridley: To say the least!

Silver: I can respect the idea behind some of the harmonic voicings, but overall it didn’t come off too well. It would have been a better record if it was shorter.

Washington: I was just paying attention to the use of dissonance, and trying to listen that that. Basically, I didn’t get a good feeling from it. It was all too dissonant.

Silver: The part that came before the vocal was so darned long that by the time it got to her to come in to sing, you were tired of listening to the tune already.

Washington: I don’t think it would have made any difference if she’d sung sooner.

“Straight Up And Down”—Gerald Wilson Orchestra (featuring Richard “Groove” Holmes—organ, Harold Land—tenor, Carmell Jones—trumpet. From “You Better Believe it”, Fontana.

Silver: Groove Holmes?

Shaw: Is that Freddie Hubbard?

Washington: Carmell, I think.

Shaw: It was nice and groovy. I wish Harold Land would have played longer, though. Solowise, I think he had the most to say. The trumpet solo was all right, but Harold had stretched it out more, harmonically. Carmell should have played first, as far as I’m concerned.

Washington: I enjoyed that—it was swinging, bluesy. I always like Harold’s playing. The organ seemed to be the principal instrument, and I dug the way it was used. The band was more or less in an accompanying role. Groove Holmes gets a nice tone out of the organ. He works with all the stops to produce the type of sound that he wants.

Silver: I thought it was very refreshing. The band was clean as a whistle—everything was in tune and precise. The solos were enjoyable. Studio—wise, it was a beautiful recording. The whole balance of the organ and the band was beautifully done. It’s not an adventurous piece of music—but it’s the type of thing that everybody can like. The hippest to the not–so–hip. Simple, relaxed and swinging—it was nice.

Ridley: I agree. You can sort of move about and do what you’re doing—with some nice atmosphere in the background. Music to work by, in fact.

Silver: It’s the kind of thing that’s equally suitable for listening or dancing. People would drop their nickels in the jukebox to play it in a bar.

Ridley: I’ve always enjoyed Gerald Wilson’s writing, too.

Humphries: I liked that. Richard Holmes sounded very nice there. He’s an organ player who seems to work very well with a big band.

 Copyright © 1966, Les Tomkins. All rights reserved.