Gene Ammons, Boss Tenor (Prestige, 1960/2006)Eddie Lockjaw" Davis, Cook Book, Vol. 1 (Prestige, 1958/2006)
Before the Trojan prince Aeneas ended his torrid love affair with the African queen Dido, sailing from Carthage to Italy, he certainly must have created with his companion a select gene pool that would eventually produce not only the lyric operatic tenors of the Romance countries on the northern shores of the Mediterranean but the soulful, playful Tunisian troubadours on the African southern shores.
As the distant, saxophone-playing descendants of this potent mix, America's so-called boss tenors, along with the inner-city lounge stages on ...read more
Gene “Jug” Ammons was a sucker for finely wrought pop songs. He was also unapologetic slave to melody, putting his sturdy saxophone into the service of countless hummable themes. But his improvisations were never slavish and even with material of papish pedigree he always seemed to find something worthwhile to say.
Perfect case in point is this new Prestige two-fer, which combines material from a pair of early '70s platters, Got My Own and Big Bad Jug. The first set has a lounge vibe so viscous you can virtually smell the Aqua Velva aftershave, Pall Mall smoke ...read more
Gene Ammons took the stage countless times during a career that spanned well over three decades. On a significant number of those dates, Jug found himself in the company of other horns, but sparks were often most plentiful when his foil in the frontline was a single tenor saxophone. Sonny Stitt abetted as his most common accomplice in this capacity and the pair solidified a place as one of the preeminent tandems in jazz. But Jug also found the opportunity to lock horns with others. This entertaining set, taped live at the North Park Hotel in Jug’s hometown in 1971, ...read more
Gene Ammons’ Angel Eyes leaves a nagging feeling that it was thrown together and dumped onto the marketplace with little or no thought. After all, when Angel Eyes was released in 1965, Ammons was in the middle of serving a long jail term for narcotics possession. These tunes are culled from two separate sessions, done in 1960 and 1962 respectively, featuring vastly different groups. So, not only does the album feature an outdated snapshot of Ammons’ work as a jazz artist, it also features music that had lingered in the vaults for years.
Of course, these two reservations ...read more
The antithesis of studio-bred perfection, Left Bank Encores is another interesting artifact of Ammons and Stitt’s long-term partnership. The presence of a large, vocal crowd at the Famous Ballroom doesn’t spur the expected tenor battle; rather, something looser and less dramatic occurs.
During a brisk rendition of “Just In Time,” the set’s opener, Ammons states the melody then delivers a solo full of short, abrupt phrases with a burly, elephantine tone. The rhythm section, comprised of pianist Cedar Walton, bassist Sam Jones, and drummer Billy Higgins, manages to swing efficiently and stay out of Ammons’ way. Brief and to the ...read more
More so than other independent jazz labels such as Blue Note and Riverside, the powers to be at Prestige seemed to take great liberties in producing albums that would often contain cuts from multiple sessions, a discographical nightmare at its most basic. But even more troubling, this often made for a lack of coherence that could be disconcerting at times. What then made all of this worse was that the practice was often used with some of the label’s most important and visible artists.
The forgoing will hopefully put into perspective the circumstances surrounding the strange mélange ...read more
Jug and Sonny share a place near the top in the pantheon of tandem tenor teams. Their spirited, hard-charging contests, which always seem to end in amicable draws are the stuff of canonical jazz legend so the news of an previously unreleased recording of the pair is undoubtedly enough to set the countenances of their loyal fans to suffusing with expectant grins. Taped live at the Left Bank Jazz Society during Ammons’ twilight time (he would die a little over a year later) the date makes good on its promise. Three tracks clocking in at over fourteen minutes, one apiece ...read more
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