Jazz Professional               

Disc Discussion

THREE musicians—pianist and arranger TONY RING, bandleader and drummer TONY KINSEY and tenor saxist RONNIE SCOTT—join forces with a record player and a tape recorder to come up with a wholly spontaneous assessment of a varied bunch of discs.

While listening, they are unaware—so far as we can ensure—of titles, personnels and origin of the records. For re-plays and further comment, Master of Ceremonies LES TOMKINS fills them in.

If you want the musician’s viewpoint—this is it.

 “Grand Street”-Dave Bailey Sextet (Frank Haynes-tenor, Kenny Dorham-trumpet, Curtis Fullertrombone, Tommy Flanaganpiano, Ben Tucker-bass, Dave Bailey-drums. Composed by Sonny Rollins.)

King: An uncomfortable record, on the whole. It didn’t seem to me as if they were getting going at all at the beginning. When they got into the ensemble the balance didn’t sound too good. Nobody seemed very happy.

The tenor player was all right, but after that it went off again. The trombone didn’t seem to get going. The pianist was trying to force the issue a bit and make something out of nothing. The trumpet started well, then he started to strain a bit, too. The ensembles didn’t seem to ride terribly well, either.

Kinsey: That ensemble reminded me of Christmas Eve. It was like the Salvation Army.

Scott: Well, I thought it was a nice theme tune and a nice sound. I liked the tenor solo very much. I thought at first it was Booker Ervin, but I don’t think it was. I’ve heard the theme before. Is it one of Benny Golson’s?

Tomkins: No, it’s one of Rollins’, actually. Frank Haynes, a new name, was on tenor and Kenny Dorham was on trumpet.

Scott: It sounded slightly like Kenny Dorham, but it’s not one of his best, I’d say. The record was nothing startling—just a take on one of these things, I suppose.

King: It sounded almost like an extemporised session. It wasn’t very tidy.

Tomkins: Do you think there are possibly too many of these sessions where everybody just gets up and has a blow?

King: Well, they’re for the musicians rather than the listeners, I feel. Kinsey: There’s nothing wrong with that. I thought there were some nice solos on it. I’d have liked to hear more of an arrangement, seeing they’d got something to arrange for.

Scott: You don’t have to dissect these things.

It’s just fellows getting up to play. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes not so good. It’s representative, that’s the main thing.

King: The only thing is, of course, they’re committing themselves to record.

Scott: Well, why not? They haven’t signed a contract for it to be good. It’s just a blow.

King: It depends on individual taste whether you buy the record or not.

Scott: Yes, of course it does.

Kinsey: I don’t think it’ll be a hit.

 “You And The Night And The Music”-Frank Sinatra

King: That got off to a nice start, didn’t it?

Kinsey: Yes, I thought it was going to be a Quincy Jones thing at first until the voice came in. I liked the band tremendously, but I’ve heard him sing better.

Scott: To me it sounds like just a throwaway on one of the albums. I don’t like his phrasing on it.

King: It sounds as though the number was picked after they thought of him doing it this way and it was written as a vehicle for him.

Kinsey: He strays quite off in the middle part of it. Who was the band backing him?

Tomkins: Johnny Mandel.

King: That’s a good band and it was a good arrangement with a good conception of clarity between the sections, matching up and contrasting different tones. And it swings. And he swings with it. The tune itself suits that particular conception they’ve got.

Kinsey: Any band he has to back him up always gets that same kind of swing. Did you see those concerts he gave? He had a sixpiece band, but they got the same kind of feel that his big bands get.

King: Was that on Reprise?

Tomkins: Yes, it was from his “Ring-aDing-Ding” album. King: Ah. I guessed possibly it was. He’s pleasing himself a bit more on his own label. Now he’s made his name he can do that.

Kinsey: That intro. was a pinch from Quincy Jones, though. He started that sort of writing.

Scott: Very professional.

 “Poinciana’‘-The Three Sounds (Gene Harris-piano, Andrew Simpkins-bass, Bill Dowdy—drums

Scott: Highly boring.

King: The pianist was a bit self-conscious in the first chorus. Once he got in with the rest of the section he improved and started to make the whole thing go. At the beginning he was just stating the melody and letting the bass do all the work, which is a very good idea. But I’m getting a bit tired of all this rubato all the time.

Kinsey: It would have been all right if they’d been playing together, but they weren’t.

The beat was floating all over the place.

Scott: To me it was just, boring commercial rubbish. People buy those kind of records if they. have a need for them. But it doesn’t contribute anything, does it?

Tomkins: This is a group which is setting itself up as a jazz group. They call themselves The Three Sounds.

Scott: Well, it’s a case of false pretences. I think it’s nothing more than a cocktail group. 

Kinsey: Now I know they were no friends of mine I can say what I think. The drummer didn’t impress me at all. The essence of playing, no matter whether it’s commercial, straight or jazz, is to try to play as well together as you can. It wasn’t jazz. It was Latin American, and it should make you feel you want to tap your foot or get up and dance, but it didn’t make me feel like that at all. As Ronnie said—it was boring. It went on and on and on.

Tomkins: Some of the other tracks are more straightforward and swinging, but I picked that out because they were trying to do something different.

Kinsey: I know—you picked that out because you thought it was the worst track and you wanted to see what we said about it.

 “Gut Bucket” Tony Crombie and his Friends (Tommy Whittle--tenor, Harold McNair-alto, Gordon Beck-harpsichord, Malcolm Cecil-bass, Tony Crombie-drums)

Kinsey: It was a swinging record at the end, but it started off like another commercial effort. I began to wonder when you were going to play some jazz records. It sounded like one of those near-jazz records that are directed towards the commercial market.

Scott: Yes, I feel the same way. It’s aimed to try and get to that portion of the public that will accept jazz if they can dance to it, and it’s not too much for them. The altoplayer has been listening to Cannonball.

Kinsey: You know who I thought the tenorplayer was? I thought it was Tommy Whittle.

Scott: There’s nothing much you can say about this type of record because nothing much happens.

Tomkins: I think it was probably intended to be at least partially commercial.

Kinsey: Then it probably achieves what it set out to do.

Scott: There are a lot better things than this. Some of those organ and tenor trios do this thing a lot better.

King: I like the disembodied percussive sound of a harpsichord. I think it suits jazz better than a piano. The piano is a bit of a drawing-room instrument, and it tends to get a bit lost quite often. Harpsichord comes through better. It’s more like a guitar in certain respects. I mean real jazz guitar, before they started using too many bits and pieces.

Kinsey: I can’t see who’s going to be pleased by that record at all really. It wouldn’t please the jazz musician and I don’t think it would please the commercial public particularly.

(Details of the personnel were given here.)

Scott: Well, in that case, for English guys it was good. I would never have thought it was an English group. It sounded like an American group.

Kinsey: This is what Tony is trying to doto get a commercial kind of jazz. But I think it can only appeal to a limited market.

Tomkins: Is it a bad thing to try and do that?

Scott: No, not at all. It’s something that’ll have to be done. You’ve got to get over to a wider public, certainly. But there are better and more valid ways of doing it than that.

Kinsey: I thought it was an English band. I liked the feel of the rhythm section. Who did you say was on bass?

Tomkins: Malcolm Cecil.

Scott: It had a sort of an English balance, don’t you think?

Kinsey: That drummer was the best one I’ve heard out of the lot you’ve played so far, though I didn’t know it was Tony. It didn’t sound like him.

 “Main Stem” Terry Gibbs Big Hand (Composed by Duke Ellington. Arranged by Manny Albam)

Ring: A swinging arrangement. The last chorus possibly could have flown a bit more. It lost something through chopping it up. But it swung more than anything yet.

Kinsey: It sounded like a band trying to play like Duke’s band. At first I thought it was Duke, but then the vibes came in.

Scott: It was Terry Gibbs’ band. I’ve heard it before.

Kinsey: I thought that tenor was Bob Efford.

Scott: Yes, he had the same tone. It’s a very enthusiastic band-clean, spirited playing.

King: Who was the pianist? Tomkins: That was a woman--fat Moran.

King: Really? She’s good.

Kinsey: The arrangement seemed to get bogged down a bit in the middle, but I liked the rhythm section very much.

Scott: The tenor solo was excellent.

Tomkins: Yes, that was Bill Perkins. His playing was more earthy than it has been, I think.

Kinsey: He’s been listening to Bob Efford!

King: The general conception of the band is very good.

Kinsey: It misses out by the fact that this outfit doesn’t play together regularly, does it?

Tomkins: Well) they’d been doing a lot of jobs together, with a few personnel changes, for about two years at the time of the recording.

Kinsey: I thought at first it was a group of British boys playing a Duke thing. Some of them can get that sound.

Scott: They probably could. I’ve yet to hear it.

Tomkins: How about the Anglo-American Herman Herd? Scott: I never heard that, I’m afraid.

Tomkins: They got it.

 “Cliff Walk”-The Newport Rebels (Walter Benton--tenor, Booker Little--trumpet, Julian Priester--trombone, Peck Morrison-bass, Max Roach and Jo Jones drums. Composed by Booker Little)

Kinsey: Was that Elvin Jones? Scott: I would have said Elvin Jones. Or Philly Joe Jones.

Tomkins: No, they weren’t there, but one of that school was there. Did you notice anything about the drum part of the record, Tony-the two extended solos particularly?

Kinsey: Yes-two different drummers, were there?

Tomkins: Was it obvious to you that they were different? Kinsey: No, it wasn’t obvious at the time, but now you’ve put it into my head. I noticed a change of style, but a drummer can do that. You can play one way and improvise another way. I thought he’d just changed around his way of playing.

Tomkins: There were two drummers on it, both from basically different schools. Jo Jones took the first solo, Max Roach the second.

Kinsey: Well, I thought Jo Jones was Elvin Jones, with his playing remarkably influ-enced by the old way of playing. But what made me think it was him was not so much the solos, but that rhythm—the way he was doing the fill-ins and things like that. Who was playing behind the band in the first part?

Tomkins: Both of them. Jones was playing rhythm on the cymbals and Roach was putting his variations to that.

Kinsey: That would account for it-two drummers sounding like Elvin Jones. When Max came in with his fill-ins it covered the cymbals up a bit. As for the arrangement—I thought at first it was going to be a Tadd Dameron composition. It started off like that.

Scott: But it strikes me that this can never be anything more than a musicians’ music, to listen to. If you saw it in action with two drummers it would be something to see obviously. But to listen to it’s strictly limited to musicians and I don’t really see much future for it. It’s not the sort of thing that I can sit down and listen to and relax to.

Tomkins: Do you think a record like this is useful to drummers?

Kinsey: Oh, the record would definitely be of interest to a drummer, to sort out who’s playing where, and what they’re playing. Personally I preferred the second solo.

Scott: Yes, it was less boring.

Kinsey: I thought the idea was that the composer wanted to show something with two different conceptions. But now I know it was two drummers I prefer the second solo.

That didn’t sound much like Max Roach, though, but, of course, he’s entitled to try and change his sound. That’s good. Everyone should try and do different things.

   Copyright © 1963, Les Tomkins. All Rights Reserved.