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Dannie Richmond: 'In' Jazz For the Culture Set

C. Andrew Hovan By

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As anyone who collects jazz records will very likely tell you, the rare ones are typically hard earned and usually accompanied by a story or two. Such is the case with the uncommon and definitely curious solo album that drummer Dannie Richmond cut for Impulse back in 1965. With shades of Any Warhol to be had via the Campbell’s soup cans on the cover, this oddity first caught my attention many years ago when shopping with one of my fellow collecting buddies. Housed in a five-car garage, a retired attorney by the name of Dan Link (that’s Mr. Jazz to those who knew him best, including drummer Kenny Washington) ran a record business that used to be a frequent stopping spot that always guaranteed pleasures and a quick fix. Foolishly I had passed by the album the first time out and even more rashly, described it to my buddy the next time out, who managed to find the proverbial needle in the haystack among thousands of boxes. Even several years later, I could not pry the album from his hands, despite the fact that my buddy claimed to not think much of it, playing it only one or two times.

Let’s now cut to the chase and lay out the details for one of the few albums the drummer ever recorded under his own name. The “in crowd” that Richmond assembles here includes pianist Jaki Byard and bassist Cecil McBee, with the guitars of Toots Thielemans and Jimmy Raney on various other cuts, not to mention some added Latin percussion on a trio of tracks. There’s definitely a quirky sound to these short cuts which owes as much to the tenor of the times as to the contributions of Byard, heard in rollicking stride fashion on of all things, Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind”. Jimmy Raney’s “Freedom Ride” is one of the best cuts, its propulsive groove firmly established by Richmond and also featuring one of the few drum solos to be found on the record. Also worth mentioning are two Gary McFarland gems, namely “High Camp” and “Pfoofnick.” And let’s not forget the country twang that comes with Thieleman’s “Mister Nashville,” the idea being that pretty much anything goes when it come to this “in” jazz for the culture set.

In the end, nothing all that dramatic will be found between the covers, but it’s a definite treat to hear some overlooked solo work from Byard, not to mention Thielemans’ guitar picking which has largely been overshadowed by his individualistic ways with the harmonica. But then, there’s a ‘60s vibe to the entire package, Campbell’s soup cans and all, which continues to endear itself to me every once in awhile when I get the turntable spinning.


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