Budd Johnson: and the Four Brass Giants
Put simply and succinctly this is a brass lover’s dream! The fact that you get the hard swinging and under-recognized Budd Johnson as part of the package makes it damn near essential. Originally the brainchild of Nat Adderly’s brother (“Cannonball” anyone?), Johnson took the arranger’s helm at an early stage of the project and devised a program of tunes with the preeminent four-pronged phalanx of soloists squarely in mind. He succeeds superlatively with an exciting blend of standards and originals for the quartet of brassmen to blow over. Nance and Edison, veterans of the and Basie Orchestras respectively start the engines at full throttle on a blistering reading of “All of My Love.” Terry and Adderly soon follow and Johnson weaves tensile lines between all four. What’s even better is that none of the players are shy about hoisting their mutes, hats and plungers and each man continually creates all manner of slurs, stops and smears across the majority of tunes. Combined with the inviting medley of brass instruments favored by the four, from the tart prickle of trumpet to the rounded caress of flugelhorn, the possible sonic variations are many.
Considering the width of the horn section the rhythm section necessarily takes on a secondary role, but with Flanagan and Jones alternating on piano and the solidly supportive rhythmic accompaniment of Benjamin and Lovelle the brass heavy group is in good hands. Flanagan takes the first two and final two tracks and Jones handles piano chores on the middle four which are all Johnson originals. “Trinity River Bottom” evokes the fertile bluesy soil of a Texas tributary through a turbid turn by Terry with a plunger and Adderly playing a piercing cornet. Nance switches to violin on “Driftwood” for a solo that is both bucolic and lyrical in conception with gentle counterpoint from the remaining brass and Benjamin’s ruddy bowed bass. The two-part “Memories of Lester Young” is largely a feature for Johnson who offers his mentor a fittingly swinging memoir by playing off the best aspects of Young’s style while still remaining true to his own sound. The brass players all blow open horns and follow largely the same solo order on both parts without once lapsing into monotony. After a boisterous beginning the band settles into a leisurely swing on “Don’t Blame Me” and Nance’s stirring violin solo generates one of the most moving moments of the entire disc. A vivacious version of “I’ll Get By” takes things out in suitably up-beat mood and features cogent closing statements from both Adderly and Edison. Anyone with an affinity for the pleasures of jazz brass should cease reading this review, dish out the cash and procure a copy of this all-star summit conference as quickly as finances permit.
Track Listing: All My Love/ Blue Lou/ Trinity River Bottom/ Driftwood/ Blues for Lester (Memories of Lester Young, Part 1)/ The Message (Memories of Lester Young, Part 2)/ Don
Personnel: Budd Johnson- tenor saxophone; Nat Adderly- cornet; Harry Edison-trumpet; Ray Nance- trumpet, violin; Clark Terry- trumpet, flugelhorn; Jimmy Jones- piano; Tommy Flanagan- piano; Joe Benjamin- double bass; Herb Lovelle- drums.