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 most renowned preoccupations, the art of the ballad. No one could get to the root of a ballad like Jug. His huge, velvety tone was perfectly suited to unbridled romanticism and on the majority of his individual albums he always reserved room for at least a handful of ballad features. Distilling eleven such tracks from eight LPs recorded during the decade of the 1960s this collection illustrates Ammons proficiency with the form perfectly. A wide variety of sidemen join him in the cause and the most common backing instrumentations (perhaps expected given the vintage of these sides) are organ combos, though there are several rhythm sections that favor piano are also included. In each instance the emphasis is on feeling over technical display. Filled with amorous intentions Jug isn’t interested in breaking the door down when he can just as easily gain entry with a gentle knock, a bottle of wine and a bouquet of roses.
Highlights of the collection include gorgeous renderings of standards like “Blue Velvet,” and “Lush Life” along with a pair of tunes featuring Ammons with his long-time friend/bandstand adversary Sonny Stitt. While these latter tracks don’t match the mythology of earlier meetings between the two, it’s still a pleasure to hear the pair wrap their horns around the familiar melodies and squeeze out every drop of emotion. This disc is like that expensive bottle of cognac, uncorked on occasions when the rigors of daily life have frayed the edges of the soul and an instant paregoric is needed to smooth things out.
Track Listing: Didn
Personnel: Gene Ammons- tenor saxophone; Sonny Phillips- organ; Bob Bushnell- Fender bass; Bernard Purdie- drums; Clarence
I've always loved jazz ...my mother was a classical pianist and my aunt was a blues singer, who was managed by Clarence Williams (Bessie Smith's producer). As a young boy, they introduced me to people like Louis Armstrong, Sarah Vaughan, and Jimmy Smith
I've always loved jazz ...my mother was a classical pianist and my aunt was a blues singer, who was managed by Clarence Williams (Bessie Smith's producer). As a young boy, they introduced me to people like Louis Armstrong, Sarah Vaughan, and Jimmy Smith. We hung out at my Aunt Kate's Soul Food restaurant in Harlem after the matinees at the Apollo where I listened to their stories. I knew I wanted to be a jazz musician from then on. My mother wanted me to play piano, but my Aunt bought me a guitar. I've been playing ever since.
At my mother's early prompting, I first sang Blue Velvet at my Catholic elementary school...and all the nuns came running in and asked me to sing again, so I knew I must have sounded pretty good. I've been singing ever since.
I met Tony Bennett in Miami and he inspired me to return to New York. He was a great mentor.
The best show I ever attended is mpossible to say, I've seen so many great shows. From Tony Bennett to Pat Martino, Return to Forever to Weather Report...I've seen some great performances.
My advice to new listeners is don't let jazz intimidate you, the music has something for every listener and it is our American gift to the world.