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Jug and Jaws: The Titanic Tenor Voices of Gene Ammons and Eddie Davis

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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 ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Gene Ammons: Fine and Mellow

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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 ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Gene Ammons & James Moody: The Chicago Concert

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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, ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Gene Ammons: Angel Eyes

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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 ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Gene Ammons & Sonny Stitt: Left Bank Encores

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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 ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Gene Ammons: A Stranger In Town

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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 ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Gene Ammons & Sonny Stitt: God Bless Jug and Sonny

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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 ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Gene Ammons: Gentle Jug, Vol. 3

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Among the legion of artists represented on the Fantasy Records roster Gene Ammons remains one of the most anthologized. Collections of his work abound and a primary reason for this was the prolific pace he set with the Prestige label (one of many now under the Fantasy umbrella) for nearly a quarter century and waxed sessions well into the double digits. Another reason stems the various stylistic suits he wore during his long tenure that make the ideal catalysts for compilation.

This disc, the third in Fantasy’s Gentle Jug series, once again narrows the lens to explore one of Ammons ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Gene Ammons: Boss Tenor

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This relaxed, swinging quintet session from 1960 isn't the landmark that many of the other releases in this series are. But it is among the finest, most rewarding music tenor great Gene Ammons (1925-74) ever made. Boss Tenor -- easily confused with Boss Tenors , the 1961 Verve record Ammons cut with Sonny Stitt -- is probably included here due to Ammons's enduring and unprecedented affiliation with Prestige. Ammons recorded over 50 albums for the label from 1950, around the time of the label's inception, until Ammons's death in 1974 (interrupted only by seven years in jail between 1962 and ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Gene Ammons: Gene Ammons Greatest Hits: The 70s

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Gene Ammons recorded for Prestige three decades, from 1950 almost to his death in 1974. This work was been compiled into three Greatest Hits volumes, and each has its own flavor. His sides in the 'Fifties concentrated on blues and jam sessions, with all-star casts. The 'Sixties brought small group efforts, emphasizing slow ballads and an easy-going attack from Ammons. Then came seven years (1962-69) of prison. He had been diagnosed with emphysema. In order to sever ties with a former manager, he signed away his royalties. In the midst of this turmoil, his old label offered him the most ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Arnett Cobb, Gene Ammons, Paul Quinichette, Booker Ervin: More Party Time, Angel Eyes, For Basie, Heavy!!!

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There are many ways to skin a cat, and there are many ways to approach a tenor. The goosestepping Jazz Police of Mighty Manhattan will tell you what they think the “correct" ways are, but in jazz, diversity is much more appealing than dogma. Reissued for Fantasy's Original Jazz Classics line, these OJCs are by heroes of the tenor who range from down-home soul-jazzers (Arnett Cobb and Gene Ammons) to a lyrical Lester Young disciple (Paul Quinichette) to a forceful hard bopper/post-bopper who apprecated the energies of the avant-garde (Booker Ervin).

A Texas tenor who was best known for his ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Gene Ammons, Joe Henderson, Booker Ervin: Late Hour Special, Canyon Lady, The Trance

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Fantasy's Original Jazz Classics (OJC) series boasts almost 1000 titles, and the series is showing no signs of slowing down. Three recent additions to the OJC line are these excellent titles by tenor saxmen Gene Ammons, Joe Henderson and Booker Ervin.

Ammons recorded so often in the early 1960s that when he was in prison on drug charges from 1962-1969, Prestige could still assemble some LPs. One such LP was Late Hour Special, which came out in 1964 and presented two 1962 groups-one a ten-piece “little big band" effort arranged by Oliver Nelson, the other a quartet date with bassist ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Coleman Hawkins, Bill Evans Trio and Gene Ammons: JVC Audiophile Reissues

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COLEMAN HAWKINS Good Old Broadway (JVC)BILL EVANS TRIO At Shelly's Manne-Hole (JVC)GENE AMMONS Boss Tenor (JVC)

Fantasy has been pretty good about licensing titles it owns to labels that put out audiophile CDs, including DCC and JVC. The sound quality is superb on these three audiophile versions of titles that originally came out on Riverside and Prestige catalogues and are presently owned by Fantasy.

Toward the end of his life, Coleman Hawkins sunk into an emotional abyss and drank himself to death. But Hawk's breathy tenor still sounded great on January 2, 1962, when he entered the studio with pianist ...



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