Bobby Timmons: From the Bottom
The cover offers a hint: a silhouette of Bobby Timmons in all colors, but just a pinch of blue. No one can explain it, but the music Timmons wrote has always been more famous than the music he played. A father of soul-jazz, he was a sparkplug with Blakey and Cannonball, his times there magic. But here could do more, as he shows here. He turns wistful on ballads, highlights his partners (Sam Jones gets a lot of space) and even gives the vibes a charming go-round. There are many styles here, many flavors. And blues; there’s some of that too.
We begin "From the Bottom". It’s nearly a duet; Jones is submerged in the fury of piano and drums. Jimmy Cobb is pure insistence; Timmons blisters it good, a line simply dripping with soul. (The note says the song’s here "to keep his soul franchise" – it does that and more.) The keys go pouncing, and the cymbals float upward like smoke. The real deal, you bet.
The night grows calmer: Jones plucks high, while Cobb sets the samba with wonderful echo. Bobby starts "Corcovado" with ease, some notes more thought than played. He leaves, and Jones has another go at that riff. Now come the stars: Timmons, on vibes, has light touch and heavy vibrato. He makes it sound like a celeste, which is a wonderful choice: it sounds like pixie dust, scattered on an open field. Quiet, yet how it speaks! The piano medley goes solo, with two sides: the lush sophisticate on "You’re Blase", brittle rhythm on "Bewitched". It’s a deconstruction, with unexpected turns, tempo shifts – then back to the lush "Blase". No one can hear this and say he can’t do ballads. And yet they did – I am bothered (bewildered, too.)
"If I Should Lose You" scampers wild: hear Bobby rush and Jimmy match him blow for blow. There’s big voicing, bits of blues, frantic little patterns – what doesn’t it have? "Samba Triste" takes gentle steps, then punctuated by loud chords – reminds me a bit of Wynton Kelly. A light effort, simple – and charming. And "Someone" has another surprise: starting as a Big Ballad, the vibes come out. Brushes march on, the sustain rings forever; with less vibrato, Bobby sounds cool, his notes made of glass. The chords at the end do the trick, as does his note-rolling; this is no novelty. Timmons’ vibe skills are real, and I’m glad he had the opportunity to show them. This "Someone" is certainly worth watching.
This is the third time Bobby taped "Moanin’"; he premiered it with the Messengers, and a piano version appeared on This Here is Bobby Timmons. He returns to the organ, which he played in his uncle’s church; this sounds like a big model, with pipes. The sound is reedy, perhaps too thick on the theme but wonderfully spooky on the solo. Notes snake around, twist around corners, all before a big beat – thrilling. Jones gets practically his only solo (he has a short turn on "Bottom"), and swoops low as the organ goes spectral. A different sound, and your ears should get acquainted. Same with this album; if you need proof Timmons is more than soul, here ‘tis.
Songs:From the Bottom; Corcovado (Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars); Medley: You're Blase/Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered; If I Should Lose You; Samba Triste; Someone to Watch Over Me; Moanin'.
Musicians:Bobby Timmons (piano, organ, vibes); Sam Jones (bass); Jimmy Cobb (drums).
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