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Record Label Profiles

More Fresh Sounds From Fresh Sound

By Published: January 8, 2013
The Fresh Sound record label has released another superb batch of late 1950s and early 1960s recordings by jazz legends, greats, near-greats and now obscure artists who, then and now, deserve wider recognition. As detailed in previous pieces, Fresh Sound is the only organization out there issuing these essential works, which otherwise would remain lost.

Enter the album name here Without doubt, in the legendary category are the 1956 and 1957 quintet and sextet sessions led by vibraphonist Milt Jackson
Milt Jackson
Milt Jackson
1923 - 1999
vibraphone
and featuring the tenor saxophone of Lucky Thompson
Lucky Thompson
Lucky Thompson
1924 - 2005
saxophone
. These sessions, Milt Jackson Quintet and Sextet with Lucky Thompson (2012), originally on the Savoy label, represent quintessential, relatively early Bags, soulfully swinging as always, and apart from what some believed were the "confines" of the Modern Jazz Quartet. This two-CD set, which includes bonus tracks from a 1956 and 1957 Atlantic Records date, stand as Jackson's first sessions as a leader, though he had been recording as early as the mid-1940s. The vibraphonist's playing is fully formed here, as is Thompson's modern version of Don Byas
Don Byas
Don Byas
1912 - 1972
sax, tenor
. Many of the sidemen on these titles, which include drummer Kenny Clarke
Kenny Clarke
Kenny Clarke
1914 - 1985
drums
, bassist Oscar Pettiford
Oscar Pettiford
Oscar Pettiford
1922 - 1960
bass
, pianistsHank Jones
Hank Jones
Hank Jones
1918 - 2010
piano
, Horace Silver
Horace Silver
Horace Silver
b.1928
piano
, and the MJQ's John Lewis
John Lewis
John Lewis
b.1920
piano
; qualify for legendary status as well. These sides—all of them—are landmarks in the history of recorded jazz.

Long before Oliver Nelson
Oliver Nelson
Oliver Nelson
1932 - 1975
arranger
became one of the busiest and most respected composers and arrangers on the Hollywood movie and television scene, he was a hard-blowing, exciting, bluesy tenor and alto saxophonist, and when the occasion called for it, a thoughtful balladeer with a beautiful tone and attractive vibrato. Fresh Sound has issued Nelson's first outings as a leader, both Prestige blowing dates, Meet Oliver Nelson, from 1959 and Main Stem, from two years later. Nelson, who left us much too soon at the age of 43 in 1975, is heard here as a soulful combination of Dexter Gordon
Dexter Gordon
Dexter Gordon
1923 - 1990
sax, tenor
with overtones of early John Coltrane
John Coltrane
John Coltrane
1926 - 1967
saxophone
, and it's easy to hear where he was headed in later years with albums like Blues and the Abstract Truth (Impulse!, 1961) and classic compositions like "Stolen Moments." He swings like mad, egged on by frontline partner Kenny Dorham
Kenny Dorham
Kenny Dorham
1924 - 1972
trumpet
on trumpet, pianist Ray Bryant
Ray Bryant
Ray Bryant
1931 - 2011
piano
, bassist Wendell Marshall and drummer Art Taylor
Art Taylor
Art Taylor
1929 - 1995
drums
on the first session. On Main Stem, Joe Newman
Joe Newman
Joe Newman
b.1922
plays trumpet, with a rhythm section comprised of Hank Jones
Hank Jones
Hank Jones
1918 - 2010
piano
on piano, George Duvivieron bass, Charlie Persip
Charlie Persip
Charlie Persip
b.1929
drums
on drums, and Latin percussionist Ray Barretto
Ray Barretto
Ray Barretto
1929 - 2006
congas
on some tracks. Many releases like this were taken for granted back in the day. We know now that they shouldn't have been.

Enter the album name here Nelson also shows up on one half of a CD devoted to the tragic vibraphonist Lem Winchester
Lem Winchester
Lem Winchester
1928 - 1961
vibraphone
. Winchester, one of the most promising figures in jazz, was a Wilmington, Delaware, policeman who left the force to become a full-time musician in. He was on his way to becoming a certifiable star when he shot himself while, some say, playing Russian Roulette, and died at the age of 33 in 1961. Winchester plays on Nelson's quintet date of 1960, Takin Care of Business (1960), which also featured the organ of Johnny "Hammond" Smith
Johnny
Johnny "Hammond" Smith
1933 - 1997
organ, Hammond B3
, highlighted by an early version of Nelson's "Trane Whistle." Winchester was headed toward individuality on vibes, as something of a combination of Milt Jackson's soulfulness and the swinging fire and velocity of Terry Gibbs
Terry Gibbs
Terry Gibbs
b.1924
vibraphone
. Part two of this CD—both originally Prestige releases—is a Winchester-led session called Lem's Beat (1960), where Nelson served as a featured sideman.

Fresh Sound has thankfully seen fit to issue everything ever recorded by Winchester, including With Feeling (1960) and Nocturne (1960), which also features the fabulous singing of Etta Jones
Etta Jones
Etta Jones
b.1928
vocalist
; the 1958 New Faces at Newport program; and from the same year, A Tribute to Clifford Brown
Clifford Brown
Clifford Brown
1930 - 1956
trumpet
,
where the vibraphonist is backed by the instantly identifiable sound of pianist Ramsey Lewis
Ramsey Lewis
Ramsey Lewis
b.1935
piano
' original trio. Also impressive are Winchester Special, from 1959 and featuring pianist Tommy Flanagan
Tommy Flanagan
Tommy Flanagan
1930 - 2001
piano
, and Another Opus, where the vibraphonist shares the front line with the flute and tenor sax of Frank Wess
Frank Wess
Frank Wess
1922 - 2013
sax, tenor
. Though he left us as a very young age, jazz listeners are fortunate that he left behind a reasonably extensive recorded legacy.

Enter the album name here Also in the tragic—and legendary—category is Philadelphia guitarist Billy Bean
Billy Bean
b.1933
guitar
, who passed away in February at the age of 79. Today, the name of Bean is one that is almost beyond obscure, but he is still regarded by those in the Philadelphia musical community who remember him, as one of the greatest guitarists who ever lived. Discovered by another Philadelphian in the mid-1950s, saxophonist Charlie Ventura
Charlie Ventura
Charlie Ventura
1916 - 1992
sax, tenor
, Bean was another in a long line of young talents nurtured by Chaz during the years. But Bean was special, kind of a modern day Charlie Christian
Charlie Christian
Charlie Christian
1916 - 1942
guitar, electric
, with clean and clear lines, devoid of clichés or licks. There's some Tal Farlow
Tal Farlow
Tal Farlow
1921 - 1998
guitar
in there, to be sure, but with an edge. Yet another Philadelphian, guitarist Pat Martino
Pat Martino
Pat Martino
b.1944
guitar
, listened closely to Bean, as did Larry Coryell
Larry Coryell
Larry Coryell
b.1943
guitar
, who actually wrote a composition titled "Billy Bean."

These two efforts, recorded on the west coast in 1958 for Decca's Mood Jazz series, are among the few released under Bean's name, in this case, co-billed with fellow guitarist John Pisano
John Pisano
John Pisano
b.1931
guitar
. Makin' It (1957) and Take Your Pick (1958) are tightly arranged period pieces with a cool orientation, sort a "west coast jazz meets the Third Stream" with plenty of violas, cellos, flutes, vibes, and a bass clarinet and oboe in evidence. What makes these sides work and hold up extraordinary well is the playing of Bean and Pisano, which defies labels or categorization. Sadly, alcohol abuse destroyed Bean's career, and he dropped out of sight decades ago. Thankfully, Pisano is still very much with us, and is still wailing, notably at John Pisano's Guitar Night at a club in Toluca Lake, where he's been holding forth on Tuesday nights for 15 years.

There are a number of other newly-released Fresh Sound titles, all with something to recommend. Briefly noted, they include:

Inez Jones, Featuring Oscar Moore
Oscar Moore
Oscar Moore
1912 - 1981
guitar
, from 1956 and 1957, features the delightful vocals of Jones, whose talents were not heard much beyond her native San Francisco, and in a very tasteful accompanying role, the guitar of Moore, heard in a rare setting away from the Nat "King" Cole
Nat
Nat "King" Cole
1919 - 1965
piano
group, where he first made his name.

Trios led by Chicago-based pianist John Young played behind hundreds of name jazz visitors to Chi-Town though the years, and recorded with dozens of them as well, including players like saxophonists Dexter Gordon
Dexter Gordon
Dexter Gordon
1923 - 1990
sax, tenor
, Zoot Sims
Zoot Sims
Zoot Sims
1925 - 1985
sax, tenor
and Sonny Stitt
Sonny Stitt
Sonny Stitt
1924 - 1982
saxophone
. The two-CD John Young Trios collects everything the Garner and Jamal-influenced pianist recorded for Argo and Vee-Jay in 1957, 1961 and 1962. Deservedly revered in his home town until his passing in 2008, it's too bad his fame didn't go beyond Chicago. He was a solid, versatile swinger with his own sound.

Opus De Blues, subtitled Frank Wess and Thad Jones
Thad Jones
Thad Jones
1923 - 1986
trumpet
Septets
, features the saxophonist/flutist and the trumpeter/arranger/composer on two, wailing dates from 1959 and 1960. Blowing sessions, yes, but these have compactly swinging arrangements that frame solos by the co-leaders, as well as players like trombonists Curtis Fuller
Curtis Fuller
Curtis Fuller
b.1934
trombone
and Al Grey
Al Grey
Al Grey
1925 - 2000
trombone
, and tenor saxophonist Billy Mitchell
Billy Mitchell
Billy Mitchell
1926 - 2001
saxophone
. Particularly standing out on the 1959 session is the drumming of Gus Johnson
Gus Johnson
Gus Johnson
b.1913
, who personifies taste and swing.

Trumpeter Richard Williams and alto saxophonist/flutist/arranger Leo Wright
Leo Wright
1933 - 1991
were another pair who never got the recognition due them. New Horn in Town and Blues Shout, both from 1960, represents the duo's first recordings. Wright, who later did gain some fame via his tenure with trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie
Dizzy Gillespie
Dizzy Gillespie
1917 - 1993
trumpet
from 1959 to 1962, is the more mature of the pair here with a rather personal style on alto—sounding like a cool Julian "Cannonball" Adderley
Julian
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley
1928 - 1975
saxophone
, if there is such a thing—and flute. Williams, who in later years was much in demand in Broadway pit bands and in classical ensembles, was still finding himself as a soloist. Not yet 30 years of age here, he often sounds like trumpeter Clifford Brown
Clifford Brown
Clifford Brown
1930 - 1956
trumpet
, but with a more pronounced vibrato.

Enter the album name here The oddity among these issues features a group called the "J.F.K." Quintet. This Washington, D.C.-based group released two LPs in 1961 on the Riverside label, New Jazz Frontiers from Washington and Young Ideas. Sort of a hybrid of hard bop/early Ornette Coleman
Ornette Coleman
Ornette Coleman
b.1930
sax, alto
, at times performed with what used to be called a "go-go" beat, these sides are fascinating. The saxophonist here is none other than a young Andrew White, billed back then as "Andy White," who has become one of the leading musicologists in jazz, and, believe it or not, was the electric bassist in Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder
b.1950
keyboard
's band from 1968 to 1970. Even back then, he had a grasp of what Coleman was doing, albeit with his own take. The only other readily known player is bassist Walter Booker
Walter Booker
b.1933
, Jr. According to the little that's been written about them, these groundbreakers of a sort lasted until 1963. It must have been wild to hear them in person.

As always, Fresh Sound has issued these titles in a first-class manner in line with mastering, notes, dates, history and photography. Slowly but surely, by way of these releases and others, the good folks at Fresh Sound are ensuring there will be little or no gaps left in the history or recorded jazz.


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