Tom Harrell, a Quest. Part 1, Chemistry and Recognition iv (bass, drums, vibes)

<continuation of previous post>

Plucked, picked, beaten, struck

Ha + B

Bassist Bill Crow in his book Jazz Anecdotes passes this one along:

Deep in the African jungle, a safari was camped for the night. In the darkness, distant drums began a relentless throbbing that continued until dawn. The safari members were disturbed, but the native guide reassured them: “Drums good. When drums stop, very bad.”

Every night the drumming continued, and every night the guide reiterated, “Drums good. When drums stop, very bad.”

Then one night the drums suddenly stopped. The guide looked frightened. “When drums stop, very, very bad,” he said.

“Why is it bad?” asked a member of the safari.

“Because, when drums stop, bass solo begin!”

But hey, respect for the bass player. Ever since, let’s say, Jimmy Blanton, the bass in jazz has gotten more complicated … and so much more interesting! And the bass player is up there pretty much naked. Each plucked or picked note must be perfectly timed, pitch perfect, harmonically both appropriate and interesting, and rhythmically both appropriate and interesting. Of course you could say that about each instrument, but to me the bassist is much less able to conceal his or her mistakes, mediocrity, or bad hair night. I think of it like boxing. When the bell rings, you’re alone in the ring. Nobody can help you. And since Blanton, we’ve had a lot of Muhammad Alis on the bass, and here are some of them.

I should point out that in these Ha + x reports, the x’ist (pianist, bassist, exorcist, etc.) is the album leader. We of course have heard Harrell play with some real Muhammad Alis of the bass who didn’t happen to be the album leaders, for example, Charlie Haden and Larry Grenadier. (Also, there is the bass solo and then the solo bass. If you want to hear artistic perfection, listen to Larry Grenadier’s The Gleaners.)

Pierre Boussaguet, bassiste albigeois

Pierre Boussaguet was born in southwestern France in the town of Albi in 1962. He became the bassist for the French saxophonist Guy Lafitte (1927 – 1998, figure emblématique du jazzman gascon). He then had the temerity to cross the ocean and knock on Ray Brown’s door (literally). He wanted to study with Brown, he said, and the latter said he would never be able to afford it! But Ray asked him to play anyway. They became fast friends and formed the Two Bass Hits trio, first with Dado Moroni, then Jacky Terrasson.

Apparently Boussaguet was not afraid of flying, either. In the liner notes to Pierre Boussaguet 5tet, he likens music to the unpredictable formations of moving clouds and says he loves to fly for this reason among others, to witness this dance up close. “Et puis, quelle différence y-a-t-il entre un manche de contrebass et celui d’un aéronef?

I have already told the story of how this album came about (see Jacky Terrasson in Ha + Pi). Boussaguet needed at the last minute to replace his quintet’s saxophonist Lionel Belmondo; Belmondo’s brother Stéphane Belmondo was the quintet’s trumpet & flugelhorn player. Asked what he thought about his choice for a replacement, Tom Harrell, being not a saxophonist but a second trumpeter, Boussaguet replied with a wily grin, first come first serve! (“Le premier que répond a gagné!,” tranche Pierre d’un air matois). So besides Ha + B, we get some more Ha + Tr chemistry here, joining the memorable outings with John McNeil, Dizzy Gillespie, John Swana, and Art Farmer. (The pianist is Jacky Terrasson and the drummer Jean-Pierre Arnaud.) Boussaguet’s boppish lick Bachop, a titular mashup of J. S. Bach and Oscar Pettiford — Boussaguet had formed the quintet in part to pay homage to Pettiford and in part to play his own compositions — sets the pattern. Boussaguet provides an extended introduction. Arnaud joins and then Terrasson plays the theme. The two flugelhornists restate the theme in perfect unison before Harrell solos. The Ha + B chemistry is further established in exchanges between Harrell and Boussaguet.

The pretty waltz ballad Sixteen Years Later Your Eyes is dedicated to Boussaguet’s wife Isabelle. Stéphane Belmondo plays the theme and is joined by Tom on the bridge. Tom and Belmondo solo. I hear a to my ears slightly unusual breathy quality in Tom’s solo here and later, for example, on Talma. Boussaguet of course solos. He has an uncomplicated style and is the rock you expect in the bassist. (For some reason Burucoa in his liner notes provides the date, time, and number of takes for each piece, so, in case you were wondering, Sixteen Years Later is the third take from December 3 at 2:40 am. Burucoa reports as many as five takes in the session, which does tell us this was a well-rehearsed affair.)

And Rioja was recorded in one take the day before. It was inspired by a bottle of Spanish Rioja wine and the thought of the soon-to-be-gathered gang imbibing it together. Arnaud’s march rhythm bookends the piece, and everyone is on their toes and having fun.

Terrasson, propelled by Arnaud and Boussaguet’s walking bass, provides a finger-snapping introduction to Oscar Pettiford’s bop classic The Pendulum At Falcon’s Lair, before the two flugelhornists play the theme, again in perfect unison. Following their solos, more Ha + Tr chemistry in exchanges between the two.

The ballad Talma is all Harrell and Belmondo, with Tom taking the only solo. There are some nice passages with Harrell and Boussaguet playing in unison, and Boussaguet turns to bowing at the end. F.T.S.M. stands for “For Thelonius Sphere Monk.” Burucoa notes that Boussaguet also calls this one Blues for Governor, “governor” being his nickname for Dado Moroni. Harrell, Terrasson, Belmondo, and Boussaguet each play five (12-bar) choruses (actually, if you’re really counting, Terrasson plays four), followed by exchanges between the horns and Arnaud. The lightly Latin-flavored Annah is dedicated to Boussaguet’s son. It is played as a quartet, minus Belmondo, Tom playing the theme and first solo. Concerning Terrasson’s solo, Burucoa says Terrasson develops “une improvisation époustouflante.” Époustouflante: I don’t know if I would go that far, but in case you can’t tell, one thing about this album I’m having fun with is the French! On The Trail is an unexpected selection from un bassiste albigeois for the album closer. It is the third movement from Ferde Grofé’s five-movement Grand Canyon Suite (beginning at 11:53 into this clip). After a neat intro, with Jacky Terrasson’s piano nicely capturing the clip-clopping of the trail horse, the gang swings it.

La musique, c’est bonne, l’histoire, très intéressante. Harrell, on a day’s notice, flies from New York to southwestern France and makes two fine albums.


Joris Teepe, Amsterdam ⬌ New Amsterdam)

Joris rightfully belongs here, but I have already covered him as teamed up with tenor saxophonist Don Braden. Luckily, after I posted that and since clubs and bars started opening up again in NYC during the Covid-19 pandemic, Barbara and I got to meet Joris playing in Queens.

Joris is in fact on the music faculty at Queens College as well as Founder and Director of the “New York comes to Groningen” Jazz Studies program at the Prince Claus Conservatory in Groningen, the Netherlands.


Yoshio “Chin” Suzuki, the Japan-in-New York ecosystem

Tom Harrell certainly has a connection to Japan. I don’t know if he ever traveled to Japan with Horace Silver (Silver loved Japan and toured there many times, as concretized with The Tokyo Blues in 1961). But two of the best Phil Woods-Tom Harrell albums came out of a Japanese tour there in 1987. Of course Harrell’s biggest connection to Japan is his wife Angela, though their moment came a little later than The Moment with Yoshio “Chin” Suzuki.

Yoshio “Chin” Suzuki was born in Nagano, Japan in 1946 (just a few months before Harrell). His father was the owner of the famous Suzuki Violin Factory and his uncle was the author of the famous Suzuki Method of violin instruction. Japan’s amazing love affair with American jazz began with the GI occupation after World War II. Saxophonist Sadao Watanabe was exemplary of this, and after university Yoshio Suzuki studied jazz theory with Sadao and followed Sadao’s advice to switch from piano to bass (Suzuki plays some of both on his recordings). In 1973 Suzuki moved to New York and played with many major jazz figures including Art Blakey. He returned to Japan in the mid-80s.

In a bit more Old Business, Suzuki in 1978, 1979, and 1981 respectively recorded three albums with Harrell: Manhattan Focus, along with Horace Silver bandmate Bob Berg on saxophone, Matsuri along with with Dave Liebman, with whom Suzuki had a working group at that time, and Wings along with Liebman and Berg. I have mentioned the saxophone players, but Suzuki mixes quite a few instruments. Manhattan Focus is heavily percussive and Latin/Brazilian in intent (Sadao Watanabe was especially known for his many albums of Brazilian music), so besides Al Foster on drums, there is Sammy Figueroa on percussion (and Eddie Colon on O Que Sera). Kunihiko Sugano plays acoustic and electric piano. Yoshiaki Masuo, who was also born in Japan in 1946 and was also a protege of Sadao Watanabe, is on acoustic and electric guitar. And then, besides Suzuki on acoustic bass, there is American rock guitarist T. M. Stevens on electric bass. Stevens was playing a lot with Masuo at this time.

Harrell gets solos on all but one of the tracks, Hocus Pocus (arranged by Harrell), O Que Sera, To My Lady, and Mixed Roots from Side 1 (To My Lady and Mixed Roots are written and arranged by Al Foster), and Para Joe Busco, Amazon (written and arranged by Bob Berg), and São Pau-lo (arranged by Harrell and spelled thus) from Side 2. Obligado Você (shouldn’t that be Obrigado?) is a brief piece, with a fade in and fade out, that is without horns and features its composer and arranger Kunihiko Sugano on acoustic piano (Sugano also wrote and arranged Para Joe Busco).

I find Manhattan Focus pleasant enough listening, but for me it tries to do too much. I like to play things for Barbara to get her unfiltered first impressions. She has no technical or historical knowledge of jazz as such but she has poetic sensibilities and excellent ears. I thought her assessment here was insightful, that the horns on the one hand and the rest of the band on the other sound like they are playing in separate movies. The album’s highlight for me is Bob Berg.

By the way, while I originally purchased Manhattan Focus on CD, I subsequently bought the vinyl to see if it offered any more information about the arrangements, song inspirations, etc. No such luck, as the vinyl’s liner notes are also in Japanese (it was made for the Japanese label Electric Bird). The vinyl has an insert though with a cool photo gallery of the musicians.



Matsuri I have not been able to find anywhere (as I do the final edit on this piece, I find one vinyl from Discogs for a ridiculous price). Wings I have not purchased, but I have streamed it from Apple and watched it with a slide show on YouTube. The instrumentation is not unlike Manhattan Focus, but the compositional intent is very different. I might call it pastoral. The album will be of special interest to Liebman fans. Harrell (flugelhorn) is on three of the seven tracks, September Guest, American Twilights, and the title track. He and Bob Berg are on September Guest, but you could listen to that track and not realize it. It is a nice composition and nice arrangement. Suzuki grounds a prelude with a single sustained note on electric bass that is topped by a trill from Liebman on alto flute (Liebman plays alto flute on three other tracks, including Bluebell Song, a duet with himself and Suzuki on acoustic piano) and some light accompaniment from drummer Danny Gottlieb’s cymbals, Andy Laverne’s Rhodes piano, and what I think is Clifford Carter’s Oberheim synthesizer. Suzuki, joined now also by Naná Vasconcelos on percussion, plays a bass figure that kicks off the theme proper, played first by Liebman’s alto flute then in other configurations, including horns (Harrell and Berg). Liebman solos, then Chuck Loeb on guitar. The horn passage returns briefly before the number fades out.

American Twilights has a to me Japanese-sounding theme. Liebman is on alto flute, Suzuki on electric bass (the credits say both acoustic and electric). Harrell then Berg solo, and Liebman takes it out with some gentle flurries.

Suzuki dedicates Wings to Art Blakey. Harrell plays the theme accompanied by Suzuki and Andy Laverne, both on their acoustic instruments this time, as well as Chuck Loeb on guitar. Suzuki solos. Like Manhattan Focus, I find Wings pleasant enough listening but not overwhelming. As Bob Berg was the highlight for me of Manhattan Focus, Liebman is for Wings.

And now to Current Business: Like Larry Vuckovich and Harold Danko (see Ha + Pi), Suzuki’s recordings with Harrell bookend the Phil Woods years. In August 1991 Suzuki recorded The Moment with Harrell. Liebman is on this one again along with fellow saxophonist Dick Oatts. (The following month Suzuki and Harrell played on guitarist Shinobu Itoh’s recording Sailing Rolling, the Easy Listening album we dutifully noted as part of Ha + G.)

As it turns out, though, Harrell is on only one track (I hope he got well paid for the use of his name). That track is the album opener Third Relation, a piece which would make a perfect movie theme. There is a cute quality and Japanese flavor to many of the compositions and arrangements on this album. I particularly like Brazilian Delight in this regard. But the album is dangerously close, like Shinobu Itoh’s Sailing Rolling, to a blend of three things I viscerally dislike: Smooth Jazz, Elevator Music, and pretentious New Age. As suggested by their photogenic smiles, Suzuki and Itoh seem to be fun-loving and exuberant personalities, and I really want to like their music. I would like to think the Japanese gods don’t feel I am being disrespectful, but I can’t escape the eerie feeling that they have exacted revenge on me in that other arena I love and that Japan went crazy for after the war:

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Steve Swallow, the ecosystem of wit

Steve Swallow was born in New Jersey in 1940 and is a long-time figure in the New York City jazz ecosystem, though he too has a Boston connection.

Swallow taught at Berklee from 1974-1976 and was an original member of his fellow Berklee teacher’s Gary Burton Quartet. The history is clouded in some secrecy, but while Swallow was there he agreed to let a couple of Berklee students include his compositions in a Fake Book-like collection of lead sheets they were compiling (mostly illegally, because they ignored copyrights and royalties). Presumably tongue-in-cheek, they called it The Real Book. The rest is history. (Besides Swallow, compositions by Paul Bley, Chick Corea, and Steve Kuhn are heavily represented in that original version of The Real Book.)

You might also say Swallow and Carla Bley are an ecosystem of their own. Harrell undoubtedly knew them going back at least to his participation in Carla Bley and Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra. One word characterizes the Bley-Swallow ecosystem: wit. To wit, the cover design of Swallow’s Real Book album (those coffee stains are not mine, they are part of the artwork), recorded in 1993 for Bley’s WATT/ExtraWATT music label at “Grog Kill Studio,” i.e., the basement of her and Swallow’s home in the Ulster County hamlet of Willow, New York; Bley’s WATT/ExtraWATT website (Karen Mantler is Carla Bley’s daughter by Michael Mantler); and song titles like Real Book‘s opening track Bite Your Grandmother.

Besides the wit, a great thing about Real Book is that it actually is a Real Book. The CD insert contains (and only contains) the lead sheet for each piece. In addition, the album is an all-star lineup. I mentioned this album in an earlier inventory of recordings that have both Harrell and Joe Lovano. Besides Harrell and Lovano, there are Mulgrew Miller on piano and Willow neighbor Jack DeJohnette on drums. Swallow plays a hollowbody 5-string electric bass, which he had converted to in the early 70s . All the compositions and arrangements are his.

Bite consists of “fast ‘Rhythm’ changes.” Fast indeed. DeJohnette gives it an intro, the horns play the theme in tight unison, Mulgrew the bridge, Harrell solos first, a bass-drum transition passage, then Lovano, another bass-drum passage, and the horns take it out again in unison, Mulgrew again on the bridge. This isn’t amateur hour.

Second Handy Motion is a 12-bar blues made up of triplets played by the horns. Miller solos first, which feels right. Then Lovano (Harrell only returns for the theme restatement).

Wrong Together (the formula for a successful marriage) is a “walking ballad.” Miller lays down the sixteen-bar theme without intro or accompaniment. (Technically the theme is seventeen bars, since the final quarter-note C in the eighth bar drops to a whole note F in a ninth bar; the second eight bars resolves on that whole note, and it anchors the piece.) Swallow then loosely repeats the melody, gently accompanied by Miller and by DeJohnette’s brushes. The August 2020 Downbeat explains Swallow’s dynamics on the electric bass and the story of how he switched to it. He tunes the bass E A D G C instead of B E A D G. With that upper C, Carla Bley says, “He’s able to play melodies in the upper register that sing out nicely, something that’s difficult on the acoustic bass.” We have an example of that here. As I listened to Miller and Swallow on my first hearing, I assumed that this was a trio number, but Harrell comes in with a typically gorgeous ballad solo that leads the piece right through its closing coda.

Outfits is a “fast samba.” It is in AABA, 8-8-8-8 form (marked A, B, C, D on the lead sheet) and built up of of ascending chromatic whole notes (A, B, D). After an eight-bar trio intro, the horns play the theme and then solo (Harrell, Lovano), followed by Miller. Swallow is unobtrusively present throughout. To be honest, if I were the Ruler of the Jazz Kingdom and were forced to allow only one type of bass in the realm, in a down beat I would decree for the acoustic. But on this and all the other tracks on Real Book and on everything else I hear him on, Swallow’s electric is tasteful and not overbearingly loud, which is part of the dynamic he says he is going for.

Thinking Out Loud is a straightforward AABA, 8-8-8-8 piece (also marked ABCD). Swallow and DeJohnette play riffs (Latin?) that keep it interesting rhythmically. Harrell plays the theme and is joined by Lovano at the bridge, Lovano’s only presence on the track. Harrell and Miller take two choruses each.

The lead sheet of Let’s Eat does not show the chords, except for the bridge (the “B” in ABC, 16-8-8), whose notes are specified simply as “ad lib.” But the key signature is given as E-flat Major and the directions are “medium fast Latin ‘Softly’ changes,” and since E-flat major is the key signature of Softly As In A Morning Sunrise, I’ll assume that is the ‘Softly’ in question. Would that my harmonic knowledge was good enough to judge on that basis. Swallow unaccompanied picks the choppy theme one time through (another example of how Swallow plays melody on his 5-string bass) before the horns repeat. Lovano solos — you can hear his stomach growling — followed by Miller, a drum interval, and Harrell.

Better Times is a “medium tango” with a Harrell-like unusual structure in terms of measure count. The theme is scored for two parts, a half-note/whole-note scalar progression played by Harrell interwoven with a quarter-note/eighth-note pattern played by Lovano. Harrell and Miller each solo for one chorus (the album has ten tracks each of modest four+- to six+-minute length).

Again Willow is the village where Bley, Swallow, and DeJohnette live, and Willow is a 32-bar, medium-tempo 3/4-time trio number. Swallow solos first and demonstrates that acoustic-y electric blend he gets. Lovely work by him and Miller.

DeJohnette kicks off the sprightly (“med. up”) 26-bar Muddy in the Bank.” Harrell and Lovano play the theme, but solos are by Miller and Lovano.

Harrell solos first again on Ponytail. Perhaps it’s the country air, or perhaps it’s the stimulating caliber of the musicians and the compositions, but whatever the circumstances Harrell sounds to me at his superb best on this tight, really perfect album. Lovano, who solos next, is also great. They all are. As Ponytail‘s lengthy theme is repeated (it is divided into a 20-bar A and 32-bar B section), Miller stretches out on the B section, and the B section is repeated until the engineer fades them out (“last X: vamp 1st 24 bars of B”).


Ray “Bulldog” Drummond, an auld acquaintance

Ray Drummond was born in November 1946, just a few months after Harrell. The son of an army colonel, he was what in America we call “an army brat,” living in many places around the world, including Palo Alto, California. There he remembers playing in a small local group in 1968 with Harrell. Like Harrell, he then attended Stanford, but in Drummond’s case to get a Masters degree in business administration (his much younger brother David Drummond has been a Senior Vice President for Google). Fortunately for all of us music fans, Drummond turned his back on a “real job” and moved to New York in 1977 to pursue “this crazy music called jazz.”

Early in those New York years Drummond reunited with Harrell, playing together in the Lee Konitz Nonet. Buster Williams, not Drummond, is the bassist on Lee Konitz’s Yes, Yes Nonet album recorded in April, 1979, but in September Drummond is the bassist on a live performance of the Nonet filmed for National Public Radio.

Many albums were to follow. In fact, as reflected in this gallery, Drummond may hold the record for most albums done with Harrell.

We have already covered Larry Vuckovich’s City Sounds, Village Voices (1981). See Ha + Vi below for Charlie Shoemake’s Incandescent (1984). 1985 was an especially busy year for the pair: Hod O’Brien’s Opalesscnce on Criss Cross in January; All About You, an album with alto saxophonist Haze Greenfield recorded on August 5; Maya’s Dance later that month; and Harrell’s Moon Alley for Criss Cross in December. (I visited Opalessence and Moon Alley as part of Harrell’s “other” activities during the Phil Woods years). For Klaus Suonsaari’s Reflecting Times (1987) see under Ha + Dm below. For Spider Saloff’s Sextet (1990) see Ha+ Vo in a subsequent post. And of course two of Harrell’s masterpieces for Contemporary, Stories (1988) and Sail Away (1989). [Update: At the time I wrote this, I had not yet gotten my copy of Haze Greenfield’s All About You. I have now and I like it. The pianist on the record is Jacki Byard, and as I anticipated, I especially like Greenfield’s piece Byard Inspired, which caters to Byard’s unique style. Nesya, Greenfield’s ballad for his wife, is another highlight for me. Analog: Tom’s Angela and Drummond’s Susanita.]

“Bulldog” — he calls himself that; “Bulldog” Drummond was a post-WWI fictional detective — made two LPs for Nilva Records that he considered a pair, Susanita in 1984 , dedicated to his wife Susan, and Maya’s Dance in 1985, named after Ray and Susan’s daughter. Nilva was a Swiss label started by American expatriate Alvin Queen (Nilva is an anagram for Alvin), and Queen is the drummer on and Executive Producer for these two albums. Drummond regarded these albums as “documentation of some musical ideas developed roughly from 1965-1977 [in other words, up to the time he moved to New York].” Susanita expressed these ideas in a variety of formats (duo, trio, quartet, quintet), while Maya’s Dance is primarily a quintet. Besides Drummond, Queen, and Harrell, there are Niels Lan Doky on piano and Manny Boyd on tenor and soprano saxophone (Drummond knew Boyd back in San Francisco days and Boyd also plays on Susanita). For the CD reissue of Maya’s Dance, four tracks are added that substitute Eddie Henderson for Harrell on trumpet & flugelhorn and John Richmond for Boyd on tenor & soprano. Drummond wrote the liner notes.

The first two tracks are Maya’s Dance and What Is Happening Here?. Drummond had written Susanita and What Is Happening Here? as companion pieces in 1974. A decade later he wrote Maya’s Dance, but its roots, he says, are deeply embedded in that earlier pair. You can hear Susanita from a later Drummond recording on YouTube. Drummond originally recorded What Is Happening Here? on Wynton Marsalis’s second Columbia album, Think of One, in 1983.

Maya’s Dance is the pretty 3/4 piece you would expect from the title and inspiration, with solos by Boyd (soprano), Harrell, Lan Doky, and Drummond. I don’t know if Drummond’s volume is boosted more than it would otherwise be if he weren’t the leader, but his sound is robust and prominent, and there is no doubt he is anchoring the session. What Is Happening Here? is in AABA, 8-8-8-8 form, and Drummond, Harrell, Lan Doky, and Boyd each take two choruses. When not soloing Drummond keeps it interesting rhythmically.

The oldest composition on the date is Little Feet, written by Drummond in 1972 while still living in San Francisco (and played here in 1980 by Drummond and drummer Idris Muhammad on the latter’s Kabsha album). Listening to it I thought it was obviously simply Coltrane’s Giant Steps mock-self-deprecatingly renamed. But not exactly. “Instead of dividing the octave into 3 equal parts as Trane’s tune does, [Little Feet] divides the octave into four equal parts. The results are as strikingly similar on surface hearing as they are conceptually different on further analysis.” The sound vibrations from Boyd’s soprano and Harrell’s (trumpet? flugelhorn?) mesh wonderfully as they play the theme partly harmonizing, partly in unison. Boyd goes right into the first solo followed by Harrell and Lan Doky. One day I’ll get around to doing the three-part vs. four-part analysis.

Driftin’ is a mystery to me. I summon to the bar our star witness, the author himself, Bulldog Drummond, who asserts these things about it: (1) It came (1978) from an interest in a song that had a melody of one note without any rhythmic emphasis. OK, I kind of hear that, though it is much more obvious to me in, for example, Joâo Gilberto’s Samba de uma nota só. (2) “This composition seems to suggest one possible limit to the parameters of Western musical improvisation.” OK, I’m all ears, tell me more! (3) The structure borrows the time-tested 32-bar AABA form. But when I count the bars, it goes off the rails in what to me is the sixth bar of B. So I appoint you, the readers, the jury. Anyone who can help solve the mystery for me (I offer this exhibit: the piece as played in a later recording), please do so! Meanwhile, I am having fun listening to Drummond and Queen mix it up on this, and I can agree wholeheartedly with one other thing the author says: “All the musicians play the dickens out of this tune.”

Drummond wrote the ballad You Are My Love in 1979, in an attempt to capture the spirit of a Tin Pan Alley tune. “Hopefully the listener could believe that this composition was written by someone in the 1920s or 30s.” Indeed, with the first five bars or so of the theme, which is played beautifully by Harrell and Boyd on tenor (Boyd plays the second eight and final eight and joins Harrell on the bridge, Harrell then takes the first solo followed by Boyd and then Drummond), … with the first five bars or so I was sure I was listening to Rodgers and Hart’s You Are Too Beautiful, which was written in 1932. I doubt I am the only one.

Drummond plays the introduction, melody, and first solo in a trio version of the one non-Drummond composition on the original LP, Herbie Hancock’s classic Dolphin Dance. Not that I heard this, but Drummond says he plays the melody incorrectly, that there are some other (unspecified) minor glitches, and that this take competed for inclusion on the album with another “even more raggedy” one. Now how about that for honesty?! Nevertheless, he likes the spirit and feeling on the track, he says, and he won’t get an argument from me.

The four tracks added on the CD were two more Drummond originals, Norma (written in 1965 while he was an undergraduate Political Science major) and Relentless Pursuit, plus two Ellington pieces, Lotus Blossom and In A Sentimental Mood, the latter played as a bass solo and making a lovely cap to the CD.


Gordon Stevens, Mike Morris, Mark Levine, Dick Fregulia: Ecosystem Home

The first jazz ecosystem Tom Harrell played in was the one that spawned him, i.e., the jazz scene in Northern California: the San Francisco Bay & Santa Clara Valley, San Jose & Silicon Valley (it got the name “Silicon Valley” in the 70s, after Harrell had gone east), Palo Alto & Stanford. Over the years Harrell would return home to visit his parents and do some local gigging. While I have put this segment here under Ha + B, because in an early draft it was primarily about bassist Gordon Stevens’s album Homecoming (see below), it has really become more about this nurturing ecosystem.

Way back at the beginning of this Trip, we noted Harrell riffing behind fellow Californian and close friend Mike Morris’s solo on Reuben’s Blues on Stan Kenton’s Kenton Roars! live performance in Dayton, Ohio in 1969 (Amazon Editor’s Review: “Tom Harrell is excellent on trumpet and clearly the band’s finest soloist. Those hot trumpet riffs behind tenor man Mike Morris on Reuben’s Blues are worth the price of admission!”). Soon after Kenton, the two friends took opposite paths. Harrell headed east and Morris returned to northern California and became a fixture of the jazz scene there. (From the liner notes to Homecoming: “It is one of life’s great mysteries that Morris toils in relative obscurity in the Bay Area while truly being a world class saxman.”)


Mark Levine (b. 1938) is a jazz pianist and occasional trombonist who has played with many of the greats. He settled in San Francisco in the mid-70s. Besides his playing, he is well known for two educational books he wrote, The Jazz Piano Book (1990) and The Jazz Theory Book (1995). In 1976 he recorded Up ‘Til Now for the Los Angeles-based Catalyst Records with ex-West Coaster Tom Harrell plus Bay Area players Mike Morris, Ray Pizzi (flute, alto sax, soprano sax), Peter Barshay (bass), and Jimmy Robinson (drums).

Levine says 36-bar Something Old, Something Blue (32-bar AABA with 4 bars tacked on at the end) was written to emulate trumpeter Blue Mitchell’s melodic, lyrical style of composing (Levine was playing with the Harold Land/Blue Mitchell Quintet at this time). Levine, Harrell, and Morris solo. Levine: “Tom [Harrell], Woody [Shaw] and Blue are my favorite three trumpet players and it’s been my privilege to play with all of them in the space of a year!”

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Morris’s Owed To Joe is, in its modal composition (Herb Wong’s liner notes: alternating 16-bar Latin and 8-bar swing) and in the sound of Morris’s tenor, instantly recognizable for what it it, a tribute to Joe Henderson. Harrell and Jimmy Robinson also solo. This one really knocks me out.

Sweat Pea, a Levine composition from ten years earlier, is also in its compositional nature and in its title instantly recognizable for what it is, a tribute to Billy Strayhorn. It’s all Ray Pizzi, who states the theme and plays the lone, extended solo on alto sax.

Side A is those three compositions, with the soloists given plenty of choruses. Side B has only two, both by Levine. Ixtlan (Wong: “Mark is a Carlos Castaneda freak!”) reflects Levine’s background in salsa, though, Wong says, it is not a “typical” (Cuban/Puerto Rican) salsa number (I don’t know why). Levine’s left and right hands in the intro establish the rhythmic riff, then the theme. Morris and Harrell then come in in unison and sound great. Morris, who solos first, again sounds uncannily like Joe Henderson (which is a good thing, as far as I an concerned), and Tom is always excellent playing hot, brassy Latin. Up ‘Til Now is the most unorthodox and brooding composition in the set. It is essentially a one note melody, played by Levine over a descending chromatic bass line from Barshay, over 12-bars, albeit not a blues. Harrell, Barshay, and Pizzi (soprano) solo. Beginning in his second chorus Barshay switches to the bow, and his bowing is the highlight of this piece for me (Wong notes that Barshay was trained on the cello before switching to acoustic bass).

There is another Morris-Harrell-Levine CD I was hoping to get my hands on. Levine, in conjunction with the California Jazz Conservatory (CJC), once collected some previously unreleased recordings of local performances from 1970-2000 that he assembled into CDs he collectively called the Bay Area Jazz Archives (BAJA). One of these was cataloged as BAJA #3 Mike Morris “The Legend Of ‘Trane”, with Morris, Harrell, Levine, and Barshay among others. These are no longer available at the CJC Bookstore, and sadly, the one person who might know about their fate, Mark Levine, is evidently in poor health.


Gordon Stevens, Bay Area string player (besides jazz bass, he has played violin for the rock group Moby Grape and viola for the San Jose Symphony), string instrument craftsman and owner of a family business, producer, and philosopher (here him tell it) … a life befitting what Stevens calls “California’s scattered, eclectic universe” … Stevens had played with, been to the home of, and driven Harrell to gigs when the latter was in college … this Stevens now spearheaded this Homecoming for notable Bay Area players in the summer of 1992. Besides the two stars, Morris and Harrell, the musicians included a young pianist named Rich Turnoy and a drummer Buddy Barnhill who was a contemporary of Stevens from Los Gatos.

Ecosystem entities: Stevens arranged this recording session with the help of local impresario Henry Schiro, who had informed Stevens of one of those trips home Harrell was making, and Sammy Cohen, founder of the San Jose Jazz Society and San Jose Jazz Festival and author of Homecoming‘s liner notes (Schiro and Cohen died a week apart in 2008). It was recorded by Joel Jaffe at Studio D in Sausalito for local label LifeForce Records (with photography from Dawan Muhammad), and mixed by Mark Weldon at Sonic Images in San Jose.

The congregation of old friends takes plenty of time to stretch out on six tunes that include Monk’s Trinkle Tinkle and Ruby My Dear, a pretty Latin-flavored The Lizard by Bay Area pianist Don Alberts, Skronky by Tom Kronzer, Stevens’s late brother-in-law and local trumpeter who had taught Harrell when the latter was young and to whom the album is dedicated — Stevens had to reconstruct the head from memory –, Harrell’s 20 Bar Tune, and Morris’s modal Ipso Facto.

“Blown away” doesn’t begin to describe the other guys’ reactions as they watched their old friend Tom Harrell play, Gordon told me in a warm and frank conversation. Some of what he told me has a dark side which shall remain private for now, but if, like me, you are a sucker for romance, you’ll like this. Homecoming was recorded on Thursday and Friday, June 11-12, 1992. A gig had been arranged for Wednesday evening, June 10, at the Garden City venue in San Jose (once a magnet for jazz). Late that evening after the gig the gang drove up to Sausalito to crash before the next day’s session. Mike Morris and Gordon shared a room. At what must have been around 4:00 am, there was a knock on their door. It was Tom. They beckon him in, and he sits down with a big smile on his face. He is in love with someone back east named Angela, he tells them, and he wants to know from these two married men, “What do I do?” A week later, on Thursday, June 18, Tom married Angela.


Dick Fregulia is a Bay Area pianist and acquaintance of Harrell’s from when Fregulia was at Stanford and Harrell was a “bebop trumpet player” (Fregulia) from Los Altos High School. Fregulia made an album in 2013 called Sail Away: The Dick Fregulia Trio Plays the Music of Tom Harrell.

On this Trip through Harrell-land we sometimes need to rest our ears. When doing so, we sometimes pass the time playing the game with Harrell’s titles that Fregulia does here in his liner notes: “… and then Sail Away into the music and enjoy the voyage. Imagine the Scene as the sun sets and your vessel heads into the Moon Alley through the darkness towards the Glass Mystery of the calm ocean beyond. Your heart is like a Little Dancer as you pirouette through the April Mist thinking of the Streets [Streets is from an album with Lee Konitz that we haven’t visited yet] of Nighttime [Nighttime is from an RCA album we haven’t visited yet] you left behind. When you ultimately sight shore and come to the Water’s Edge there are new choices to be made. Do you dance the Train Shuffle or do you sing with the Song Flower? You make your vow: From Now On… .”

Palo Alto historian and jazz scribe Mark Weiss organized a Harrell Quartet concert in 2019 and had Fregulia pen a program note. Interestingly Harrell rejected the note, “preferring to live in the future.” But Weiss has preserved it, and it gives what is probably the most detailed description of Harrell’s musical origins to be found.


Rufus Reid — Bay Area ➜ Chicago ➜ New York

To close out Ha + B, I want to make special mention of Rufus Reid. For one thing, bassist Reid teamed up with drummer Akira Tana in the 90s to form a group they called TanaReid, a group Harrell recorded with (below), so TanaReid is a perfect vehicle for me to switch lanes from bass to drums. Second, while TanaReid’s Looking Forward is the sole album Harrell did with Reid as (co-)lead, I felt the number of albums Reid and Harrell played on together as sidemen was worthy of mention. Of those, we visited the Harold Danko albums Coincidence and The First Love Song under Ha + Pi, and we will be visiting the Helen Merrill and Madeline Eastman albums later under Ha + Vo.

Thirdly, I need to cleanse my soul with a confession. In reporting on Harrell’s early years I mentioned a slight irritation I experienced with the direction of base playing in the late 70s, including Rufus Reid’s sound in the Dexter Gordon Quartet. I was thinking specifically of Dexter’s Live At Carnegie Hall of September 23, 1978 celebrating Dexter’s homecoming to the U.S. (and, besides the music, worth every penny just to hear Dexter introduce the songs!). “Dexter Gordon had a huge, robust sound,” Reid recounts in an interview with Jonah Jonathan, “so I had to be robust.” He contrasts that with what, for example, was required of the bass by Stan Getz’s “golden sound.” I have gone back and listened to Reid’s playing with both Dexter and Getz along with the Tom Harrell albums I have been absorbing. I don’t apologize for what I thought back then, it was my brain’s reaction. But I now say, “Brain, you were an idiot.”

Ha + Dm

Although the tuba sometimes had the thump-thump function in early jazz, for the most part jazz rhythm from the very beginnings has been supplied by a drum kit and a bass.

Drummer Ram Hall, far left, and bassist Ed Garland, far right, anchor King Oliver’s New Orleans Creole Jazz Band, 1921

Rufus Reid, Akira Tana

Bassist Rufus Reid and drummer Akira Tana called their 90s-long partnership TanaReid. TanaReid was a quintet, but for once the rhythm section was in charge. Looking Forward, recorded in November 1994, was the fourth of five TanaReid albums. It was recorded at the EastSide Studio in downtown Manhattan, which probably afforded a convenient opportunity to get this cool album cover photo with the Brooklyn Bridge as backdrop.

Rufus Reid was raised in Sacramento, California (though born in Atlanta, 1944). Akira Tana was born in San Jose (1952) and raised in Palo Alto. But that’s the Brooklyn Bridge behind them, not the Golden Gate Bridge, and Looking Forward was strictly a New York affair. Reid had already been in the studio with Harrell multiple times in New York (see above), and Tana had already gigged with Harrell in New York (see below).

Interestingly, while both Reid and Tana were well exposed to jazz growing up, they were also both classically trained. In high school Reid played the trumpet (not very well, he says!), and he didn’t learn the bass until serving in the Air Force. After his service, he mixed jazz gigs with classical training, first in Seattle and then in a degree program at Northwestern University (just north of Chicago). While in Chicago he played with, among others, two great Chicago saxophonists, Eddie Harris and Von Freeman. Around 1976 he was finally resolved to move to New York, where his jazz career took off, notably by replacing George Mraz in the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra and by playing with Dexter Gordon (hear Rufus tell it to Jonah Jonathon).

Akira Tana (born 1952) grew up hearing a lot of pop and jazz in the musical melting pot of the Bay Area. He willy-nilly picked up the drums, but after graduating from high school he went to Harvard and majored in East Asian Studies. After Harvard, he studied classical percussion with Vic Wirth at the New England Conservatory of Music and played for a while in the Boston Symphony Orchestra. At the same time he studied jazz drumming with Alan Dawson, and he too finally moved to New York (when Wynton Marsalis came to New York to study at Juilliard, Tana was his first roommate). Tana gigged throughout the 80s with the likes of Art Farmer and James Moody. He recalls meeting and playing with Harrell in New York as part of the New Zealand keyboardist Mike Nock’s group before Harrell joined Phil Woods (Harrell recorded several times with Nock going back to Azteca in 1972). Tana had known Reid going back to his Harvard days (they had both played with Art Farmer, for example), and in 1991 he and Reid decided to form their partnership and produce their first TanaReid album, Yours and Mine (hear him tell it and read him tell it).

Tana was born in the U.S. and so I don’t really think of him as part of the Japan-in-New York or Japan-in-the-U.S. jazz ecosystem of, for example, Shinobu Itoh and Toshio Suzuki. But in recent years Tana has led a group of all Japanese-American musicians called Otonowa (“sound circle”), some born in the U.S., some in Japan, and they have made some lovely Japanese-themed albums .

As far as the music of Looking Forward is concerned, I would say the operative words are, in selection, arrangement, and execution, variety and balance (variety is explicitly emphasized in Bob Blumenthal’s liner notes). And while with TanaReid the rhythm section may have been in charge, they do not dominate; in fact there are relatively few bass and drum solos. You can enjoy this album both as simply a quintet + guest (Harrell) and with particular focus on the rhythm duo Tana and Reid. I have done both.

“But that’s our job. I mean, for me the drums and bass are supposed to make the horn players sound better than they ever did … could … with anybody else.”

Rufus Reid, interview with Jonah Jonathan

Besides Tana and Reid, the working quintet consists of piano (a young John Stetch replacing earlier member Rob Schneiderman, who had gone off to the University of California-Berkeley to pursue a PhD in mathematics) plus a slightly unusual front line of two woodwind players, original TanaReid member Craig Bailey on flute, alto flute, and alto sax, and newcomer Mark Turner on tenor and soprano. Harrell joins as a guest on four tracks. (Many years later Mark Turner was to make a recording with Harrell that is very important to this Trip.)

The album opener Billy is by veteran Washington D.C. pianist Reuben Brown (who unfortunately suffered a stroke several months later). A brief collective improv follows the statement, repeated once, of the simple 8-bar upbeat theme and then gives way to Harrell’s solo, which establishes the groove. Tana and Reid cook. Bailey solos next on alto, then Turner, then Stetch.

The mysterious Gold Minor is by then emerging composer Charles Licata (the following year TanaReid dedicated an album to Licata’s compositions). It is divided into multiple sections. The beginning and end have great work from Tana and Bailey’s flute. The middle section features Stetch’s piano. This is my introduction to Tana’s drumming, and I am really liking it.

Is is possible to not hum along when someone plays Dave Brubeck’s The Duke? This mellow version has Reid’s first solo, followed by Harrell and Stetch. At the very end Harrell switches to mute.

Akira Tana’s also somewhat mysterious Skyline is also broken out into (three) sections that range over several tempos, with an excellent rapid-fire solo from Bailey on alto that bleeds into an Eastern-sounding section with Turner on soprano. Kudos again to Tana throughout and for his drum solo and closing cymbal work that end this piece.

Turner’s tenor sax introduces a lovely rendition of Victor Feldman’s Falling in Love. He is joined by a very Johnny Hodges-sounding Bailey on alto before taking over again for the first solo, followed by Bailey then Stetch.

The third number with Harrell is on his own Bell (from his Passages album on Chesky). Harrell plays the theme. First solo soprano sax, then trumpet. One interesting aspect of the arrangement here is that, in addition to drums, someone is playing a hand drum and some sort of shaker. I was curious how this could be, since all the musicians are accounted for with their own parts. Akira was kind enough to reply to my inquiry: “I have four arms and three legs! Actually, percussion is overdubbed.”

Of Kenny Barron’s really cool The Third Eye and its somewhat Mingus-like arrangement here, Tana says (in the liner notes), “We’ve been playing that song since the band got together, but we never had the nerve to record something like that before. Now, we’re at the point where we record whatever we want.”

Tana’s brushes introduce Rufus Reid’s Reminiscing. It has a very interesting arrangement, with the three horns playing off the melody and off each other in a way Tana compares to Miles Davis’s Nefertiti. It ends with a bit of quiet, unaccompanied piano. This is the fourth of Harrell’s four appearances on the album. He is effectively added to the mix as one element in the album’s overall balance.

Craig Bailey contributed Love Dreams as a vehicle for his flute playing. Stetch also solos, and Reid does for only the second time on the album by my count. The album closes with Tana’s clever and energetic title track. The piano-less quartet — tenor and alto sax plus Tana and Reid — sounds great … variety and balance.


Klaus Suonsaari, suomalainen jazzrumpali

Recorded March 17-18, 1987 in NYC
Recorded March 30, 1992 in Finland

Yes, there is a Finnish, or more broadly a Nordic, jazz ecosystem. Klaus Suonsaari was born in Helsinki in 1959 and growing up heard his parents’ Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, and Ella Fitzgerald records. As a teen, besides playing in a popular group called Blue Train, he studied classical percussion at Lahti Conservatory in Finland and then the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York (long before Harold Danko joined the faculty there). After high school, beginning in 1979, Suonsaari attended Berklee, where he studied performance, arranging, and composing with teachers that included Alan Dawson (the same Alan Dawson who taught Akira Tana jazz drumming). Suonsaari moved to New York in 1985 and began freelancing.

Reflecting Times was Suonsaari’s debut album as leader. Self-produced, it was recorded in New York City for the Copenhagen-based label Storyville Records (not to be confused with George Wein’s Boston-based label of the same name) in March 1987. His sidemen — Tom Harrell, Bob Berg, Niels Lan Doky, Ray Drummond — were all well acquainted. Harrell, Berg, and Drummond of course from way back, as previously reported on this Trip. Lan Doky and Harrell had played together on Drummond’s Maya’s Dance in ’85 (see above). Lan Doky and Suonsaari had played on George Robert’s 1985 debut album First Encounter. (Berg, Drummond, and Lan Doky were to record Stories with Harrell in ’88.)

The six compositions on the original LP are Suonsaari’s. His sticks kick off his funky, Horace Silver-ish Miles Apart (he calls it a shuffle, and it refers not to Miles Davis but to the distance separating him in New York from his family in Finland). Harrell, Lan Doky, and Berg all blow hard, kicked along by Suonsaari pounding out the second and fourth beats. This is my first Suonsaari track, and it establishes him in my brain’s fuzzy categorization of drumming styles as a swing player.

He goes to the brushes on his ballad Reflecting Times, complemented by an always thoughtful Drummond. The song is “the outcome of a quiescent period in my life” and designed “as a feature for Tom.” Harrell and Berg share the theme statement before Harrell plays a signature ballad solo, followed by Lan Doky and Drummond. Cassie’s Tune takes us back to swing. It is (again per Suonsaari’s capsule description in the liner notes) a 32-bar [AABA] modal composition, played after some experimentation at a “Jimmy Cobb happy tempo” established by Suonsaari in his 8-bar introduction. Berg, over two choruses, burns it as always, followed by Harrell and Lan Doky. Finally, the two horns exchange eights with Suonsaari — it’s a debut album that exercises all the standard tropes, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Lan Doky plays a ruminative version of the theme of Autumn Dance before revealing its Latin rhythm. Suonsaari joins in with his Latin chops and then the horns in a full statement of the theme. Harrell solos over Suonsaari’s Latin beat and Drummond’s vamp, followed by Berg and then the theme restatement. As I listened to this for the first time on a walk just after Pennsylvania’s autumnal equinox , I indeed had an urge to dance. Berg plays the first notes on the ballad Pink Lady (“dedicated to and inspired by Karen, the woman in my life”) and goes right from the theme to a lengthy and passionate solo. Following Lan Doky’s solo Berg takes over again and ends with a flourish (Harrell is out on this one). The hard bop, uptempo Tight gives Suonsaari a chance to stretch out. He says it was his first composition, written in 1982. Lan Doky, Suonsaari, and Drummond’s walking bass play the 32-bar theme twice and then again with the horns, before said horns solo.

The CD reissue added two Wayne Shorter compositions from the session, Lady Day (from Shorter’s The Soothsayer album), played as a piano trio, and Toy Tune (from Shorter’s Etcetera), played by the full quintet. Berg’s opening solo in fact sounds a bit like Shorter. Solos also from Lan Doky, Harrell, and Drummond.

Suonsaari tells Ira Gitler in the liner notes for Reflecting Times that his three favorite composers at that time were in fact Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, and Tom Harrell. Less than four months after Reflecting Times, Suonsaari along with Lan Doky and Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen returned to the studio to cut The Music of Tom Harrell . The trio plays seven Harrell compositions arranged by Harrell (Ray Drummond, in his very nice liner notes for the occasion: “When this project was proposed Tom wanted to arrange his compositions specifically for this trio”). The selected compositions are Journey to the Centre, Buffalo Wings, Songflower, Terristris, Water’s Edge, Bell, and Bright. Anyone following my Trip will be familiar with all of these except Bright, which I don’t find anywhere else in KG. To cap the album the trio also plays a spiritual blues written by Suonsaari, Serenity, featuring Ørsted Pedersen, and a Drummond composition, Camera in a Bag. This is a fine album, and I wish there were more like this and like Dick Fregulia’s 2013 Sail Away (see above), i.e., featuring Harrell’s compositions.

Five years after Reflecting Times (namely in March of 1992) Suonsaari returned to the studio with Harrell and Lan Doky, this time in Helsinki. True Colours also has Ørsted Pedersen (NHØP), that giant of the Nordic jazz ecosystem, on bass and multi-instrumentalist Scott Robinson on saxophones. Robinson was a 1981 graduate and shortly thereafter faculty member of Berklee College of Music, and Suonsaari had the drumming honors on Robinson’s 1984 album Multiple Instruments. Eight of the eleven compositions are again Suonsaari originals, beginning with Big Foot, a blues that starts out as a piano trio but deploys Harrell for a few choruses after Lan Doky’s solo. Harrell plays the theme on True Colours. As Leslie Gourse confirms in her liner notes, True Colours is unmistakably modeled on Billie Holiday’s Don’t Explain. Big Foot and True Colours (the song) represent Suonsaari’s two opposite sensibilities, much as the opening tracks Miles Apart and Reflecting Times (the song) did on Reflecting Times (the album).

Two of the three non-Suonsaari pieces are Monk. I always love Harrell with the baritone sax, and Harrell, Robinson on bari, and the whole gang do not disappoint on Bemsha Swing. Robinson’s bari functions on that piece both as a frontline horn and as a bass substitute. ‘Round Midnight is a Robinson solo on his very distinct tenor sax. Robinson’s tenor is also featured on Suonsaari’s blowing number Inside Out (Harrell out), and Suonsaari’s two-minute drum solo Song For S.R. is his tribute to Robinson. Lan Doky in turn composed a tribute to Suonsaari, his bluesy 32-bar, 3/4-time K.S., which has excellent solos from Harrell and Lan Doky.

Suonsaari wrote Diana for his girlfriend. I’ll merely note that Pink Lady on Reflecting Times was written for a Karen and then I’ll move on. Gourse in her liner notes call this “a fey, introspective and pretty melody with Billie-ish torchiness lightened by the fluttering hearts of [Sunosaari’s] cymbals” (Gourse knows Billie-ish torchiness, because she was the author of a Billie Holiday biography). Harrell is the principle soloist.

Suonsaari’s cymbals and then full kit provide a lengthy and dramatic introduction to his hard-driving I Wish I Knew, with hard-driving single-chorus solos from Harrell, Robinson, and Lan Doky, all undergirded by NHØP’s walking bass and Suonsaari’s “relentless, driving quest” (Gourse). In the opposite vein, Motion is a quiet piece that, as Gourse points out, has a classical tinge to it. NHØP has a prominent role. As on Big Foot, Harrell only appears for his solo. Last but not least, The Ritual is perhaps for me the most interesting composition and arrangement of the two albums. From NHØP’s opening notes in the upper register, each player — NHØP, Suonsaari, Lan Doky, Harrell — is superb, as is the group chemistry.

Reflecting Times, True Colours, Suonsaari, solid traditional jazz, Ha + Bob Berg, Ha + Scott Robinson, Ray Drummond and NHØP: Hyvää työtä!


William Goffigan – Let’s hear it for Baltimore!

Some cities have their own jazz ecosystem. Baltimore has its. It in turn is part more broadly of an ecosystem corresponding to the Philadelphia ⬌ Baltimore ⬌ Washington D.C. corridor. The Philadelphia ⬌ Baltimore ⬌ Washington D.C. corridor and ecosystem is the extension of and southern correlate to the Boston ⬌ New York corridor & ecosystem. While William Goffigan was born in Norfolk, Virginia — he won’t tell me his age, but as our venerable Philadelphia jazz DJ Bob Perkins likes to say, William, like myself, has a few miles on his odometer! — and while William as a young man lived up and down the East Coast, he settled in Baltimore in the late 60s. There was no Berklee College of Music for William. He learned his craft here and there. He played in his school’s marching and concert bands. He learned the congas and Latin rhythms in the neighborhood from Pucho (of Pucho & His Latin Soul Brothers) when staying summers with his aunt in Manhattan’s South Harlem. He had some formal music training at the Baltimore campus of Antioch College (now Sojourner-Douglass College) and from private study with drummer Freddie Waits (father of Nasheen Waits) at Rutgers University in New Jersey and with piano and music theory instructor James Holliman (James and Henrietta Holliman were a local institution, teaching music from the basement of their rowhouse home in East Baltimore).

Mostly, though, William learned his craft and trade from the School of Hard Knocks, hustling for gigs and playing in an impressive variety of R&B and jazz bands. He was the drummer on early 60s R&B hits like Jimmy Soul’s If You Wanna Be Happy For The Rest of Your Life and Gary U.S. Bonds’ Quarter To Three. In the early 70s, on the recommendation of Philadelphia native Alphonso Johnson, who was about to become the bassist for Weather Report, William became the drummer for the European jazz-rock band called The Gasoline Band, which was formed by American servicemen who had been stationed in Germany. He is on that group’s sole album, with its Chicago-like sound (meaning the jazz-rock group Chicago), recorded in London in 1972. That band has an interesting history. You can read about it and hear the album on YouTube, or if you buy the digitally remastered CD, you can read about it in greater detail in the liner notes, mostly as recounted by William.

Later, in a radically different and far out corner of space, he played in the Arkestra of Sun Ra (for example, on Sun Ra’s 1979 album The Other Side of the Sun). He met Ra (and many other musicians) at the Left Bank Jazz Society’s Famous Ballroom, an important Baltimore venue for touring jazz artists in the 60s and 70s, and you can catch glimpses of William performing with Ra at the Ballroom in Robert Mugge’s 1980 documentary Sun Ra: A Joyful Noise.

Most of the 80s was spent touring with miscellaneous groups, such as Brother Jack McDuff.

William’s connection to Tom Harrell goes back to a stint William had with the Horace Silver Quintet. Alvin Queen (see above on Ray Drummond) was the Quintet’s regular drummer but needed a break from the road, and he recommended William as his sub. There are two mid-70s videos from Umbria and from Perugia (Italy) capturing the group with Harrell, Bob Berg, and William.

William had two major setbacks a few years ago. His wife Jennifer, who was also a partner in his professional life, passed away in 2013, and only a month before that there was a fire in his home that left considerable smoke damage. But he has soldiered on and is still actively playing in Baltimore, in a variety of settings, as usual for him, that range from straight-ahead jazz to Dixieland to dance and poetry accompaniment (he is part of the dance program at Baltimore’s Towson University). He also has a backlog of original compositions he is hoping to record. Hear William tell his story on Jazz Talk with Preston Williams.

Come the 90s and William, more specifically The William Goffigan Ensemble, self-produced a handful of albums on his own Anig label (his daughter Gina’s name spelled backwards). These are available from Anig. In chronological order, they are William’s Lullaby, recorded at Twilight Recording Studio in New York in 1991, with alto saxophonist Gary Bartz, and a series of albums recorded at the Avalon Sound Studio in Bethesda, Maryland, namely, The Eternal Flame (1992) — this is the one with Harrell –, Time (1995), and Jazz Straight Up 2000 and Beyond, Vol. 1 at the turn of the century. Each of these recordings include well-known bassist Victor Gaskin and pianist Cyrus Chestnut, probably the Baltimore jazz musician best known to the majority of jazz fans.

For The Eternal Flame, besides Chestnut and Gaskin, William called on his former Horace Silver bandmate Harrell plus Gary Thomas, a Baltimore tenor saxophonist who went on to make a name for himself. In a business deal that has left a bitter taste in his mouth but that makes the record available on Amazon, Stash Records in 1995 reissued The Eternal Flame under the revised name The Eternal Flame: A Baltimore Jam and with a different cover . The oriental artwork on the Stash cover is because someone at Stash was especially targeting Japan with this release, where in fact, William tells me, the album was a smash (a Stash smash?).

William dedicates The Eternal Flame to Art Blakey, to his teacher Freddie Waits, to Miles Davis, and to the late Baltimore bebop pianist Freddie Thaxton, and the opening track, Buhaina’s Blues And Freddie’s Too, is, from Goffigan’s drum roll intro to his drum setup to each solo to his own solo, a joyful and undisguised take off on Blakey’s (Buhaina’s) Blues March. Gaskin takes the first solo with the bow, followed by a rocking Chestnut, a deliciously brassy Harrell, and a Blakey-style Goffigan.

It is Gaskin’s bow again that commences an intro to Goffigan’s Willetta’s Bossa Nova, with impressionistic accompaniment by Chestnut, by Goffigan’s cymbals and overdubbed percussion, and by a muted Harrell. Gaskin switches to a plucked vamp as Harrell and Gary Thomas play the theme in unison, a much more brooding theme than I normally associate with bossa nova. Harrell and Chestnut are the soloists. The theme is restated, and a quiet collective improv takes it out. (The album Time is a particularly rich exposition of Goffigan’s percussion chops.)

Goffigan’s catchy 3 to 4 does what the title suggests it will, i.e., it goes from a rolling repeated 12 (7 x 5)-bar theme in 3/4 to a finger-snapping repeated 8-bar theme in 4/4, all of which is repeated … almost. On this number Goffigan and Harrell seem to me to really be channeling their days together with Silver. Instead of the expected final repeat of the 8-bar 4/4 segment, Harrell begins his solo and he and Goffigan slip into a perfect groove. Following Harrell’s solo the group replays the theme, and then Thomas, with Chestnut at first lightly comping and then dropping out, slides into another groove.

Chestnut kicks off an uptempo take of the always fun old chestnut Pennies From Heaven. The arrangement is straightforward: Harrell plays the theme and Harrell and Chestnut each take a one-chorus solo (short solos were apparently the intention for the session). The two exchange eights with Goffigan. They restate the theme. They slip into a Latin-rhythm coda to take it out.

There is only one thing wrong with the next track. It ends too soon. But then Break Tune is a break tune. The piece fades in to some rapid-fire improvisation by Gaskin, Chestnut, and Goffigan — imagine the band playing whatever — and then, cued by Harrell, the band slides into the ‘it’s the end of the set, folks’ break tune, at first improvising their way there but then explicitly as signaled by Gaskin. The break melody sounds very familiar to me; I thought it might be from Miles, but William tells me it is a standard set break shared by many musicians.

Speaking of Miles, though, More Miles To Miles is by contrast over ten minutes, by far the longest track on the album, and an exception to the short-solo rule. After an eight-measure intro, the structure, repeated once, is a very hummable one in AAB form, that is, a 16-bar (8-8) theme followed by an 8-bar rhythm break. Harrell, after a suspense-building 5+ measure pause à la Miles, solos first followed by Chestnut (four choruses each), then Gaskin for three. Thomas is present playing the theme in unison with Harrell, but does not solo.

Hoagy Carmichael’s Skylark is a beautiful lyrical mix of Chestnut and Harrell. Chestnut’s intro sets the very slow pace. Harrell plays the AABA theme to some rhapsodic comping from Chestnut. This takes us three minutes in before Chestnut solos, but Chestnut sticks very close to the melody and is joined by Harrell on the bridge and final eight. Gorgeous, and right up there with the beautiful version Harrell is to do three years later in dialog with Jim Hall (see Ha + G).

Carlos and Gina are William’s two kids (from his first marriage). From the sound of it, they were very rambunctious toddlers! Chestnut and Harrell solo, and Thomas joins for exchanges with Goffigan. Improv is a hip Thomas-Goffigan duet. It fades out like, and is a perfect and I image intentionally conceptualized complement to, Break Tune.

William recorded Jazz Straight Up 2000 and Beyond, Vol. 1 in 2000, as you might guess from the title. It brings together Chestnut and Gaskin again plus two other Baltimore figures, Thomas “Whit” Williams, multi-reedist, veteran local educator, and leader of Baltimore’s Now’s The Time Big Band (a prominent part of the Baltimore scene since 1981), and up-and-comer Warren “Chano Pozo” Wolf (who did go to Berklee) on vibraphone. It’s a very good album (among other things, I like Whit Williams’s baritone sax), but I only mention it here because it has one unused track from the Eternal Triangle session, on which these two old Silver bandmates dish up their boss’s Juicy Lucy. (It also has a track from the William’s Lullaby session, with Gary Bartz featured on William’s lovely ballad Jennifer, named after his wife.)

As William says to me at the end of our phone conversations, “Peace and blessings.”


Jimmy Madison, The Cincinnati Kid

Jimmy Madison was born in Cincinnati in 1947 and has been playing drums since he was old enough to bang on his parents’ pots and pans. By his early teens he was already active in the then thriving Cincinnati jazz scene (he attended Miami University in Oxford, Ohio for a while, but left to go on the road with trumpeter Don Goldie). David Matthews was born five years earlier in a small town across the river in Kentucky. Like Madison, he developed a passion for music early on, and he got a degree in composition from the College Conservatory of Music, which became part of the University of Cincinnati; he is also a keyboardist and multi-instrumentalist. Madison and Matthews began a lifelong collaboration when Madison became the drummer in Matthews’s Cincinnati-based band. To learn about their Cincinnati ecosystem, their obscure but destined-to-be-cult-classic LP The Grodeck Whipperjenny (with titles like Sitting Here On a Tongue and Evidence for the Existance [sic] of the Unconscious), and their surprising connection to James Brown — yes, THAT James Brown, the Godfather of Soul — hear Madison and read Matthews tell their own stories.

But in 1969 Jimmy Madison settled in New York City and was followed by Matthews in 1971. Shortly thereafter so did another young man in his twenties named Tom Harrell. Madison’s life, Matthews’s life, and my life were like a Venn Diagram. Like Madison, I was born in 1947 (Chicago), and I moved to New York City around the same time (in the fall of 1968). But in 1972 I went the opposite direction, leaving New York for Cincinnati to attend graduate school at the University of Cincinnati (in my case to study ancient texts in Greek and Latin). Barbara and I lived on campus without a car and were totally immersed in our studies, and in our four years there I was oblivious to the Cincinnati jazz scene Madison and Matthews left behind. In fact musically those years are most memorable to me for country music, which was ubiquitous on local radio and which I came to like quite a bit. (Barbara strongly disliked it, though she has softened on that, and now I find out she has an ally in Madison, who told me he pretty much can’t stand it either. Bravely, though, I stand my ground.)

In New York Madison became a self-described jack-of-all-trades drummer and gig player. His first gig in New York was with Marian McPartland. From James Brown to Marian McPartland: That tells you something about his versatility (compare Make It Funky to McPartland’s Ambiance). Matthews on the other hand generally had his own bands and was also in demand as a composer and arranger. Each of their credits in the 70s and 80s reads like a jazz Who’s Who and ranges over the gamut of styles from this Era of Experimentation. To pick one Madison example at random, he was the kickin’ drummer on the Joe Farrell/Joe Beck Quartet’s Upon This Rock (1974). Decades later this album achieved some notoriety when Farrell’s daughter sued Kanye West and other rappers for unauthorized sampling of the title track. Matthews and Madison capitalized on their Funk cred, and they were in demand by jazz musicians who were also eager, or desperate, to capitalize on the same. Try, for example — if you can stand it! –, Yusef Lateef’s 1977 Autophysicopsychic (with Art Farmer). Their New York City compatriot Tom Harrell was of course also quite comfortable with this trend. In fact, I have only just realized looking back on it that Matthews had arranging credits on Idris Muhammad’s 1976 House Of The Rising Sun, which I already reported on from Harrell’s early years.

I wrote in Ha + Pi about Harold Danko’s Coincidence (1979) and The First Love Song (1988) albums with guest Tom Harrell. Harold saw that and reminded me of an earlier album he and Harrell had been on together, Jimmy Madison’s 1977 debut as a leader, Bumps On A Smooth Surface. (Bumps was the first of only a handful of albums self-described gig player Madison has done as leader over the years.) I went back to KG and was embarrassed to see what I should have observed before, that Bumps was actually the first of seven albums Jimmy Madison and Tom Harrell played on together between 1977 and 1985. I realized then that this was a significant piece of Old Business from Harrell’s pre-Woods years that I could not ignore, so I turned the car around and drove back to the Jimmy Madison exit.

Bumps On A Smooth Surface

Madison brought with him to New York City not just his drum kit but a keen interest in sound recording. He had a small rent-controlled apartment (all apartments in Manhattan were small, if you were not rich!) on West 99th and West End Avenue, and he made a recording studio out of the apartment (he ran a “snake” between the bedroom and the living room; the bedroom became the control room and, because he kept a little garden there, the source of the name Garden Studio). Things got serious and of a professional quality when he bought a used Scully 280 tape deck. (For the record, I believe the business entity is officially called Garden Productions Recording Studio, though on the album jackets and elsewhere it is usually referred to simply as Garden Studio.) So it was to his own apartment cum studio that Madison summoned his musician friends on October 31, 1977.

Ethan Iverson: At that time in the 70s, you were a studio musician, you were even on disco records and stuff like that, right?

Tom Harrell: There was a lot of activity in the studios. Jingles and different things. On the disco records I got to play solos, so that was good. I gravitate to that music now, too, stuff with a funk feel or even samba funk feel. I talked to Creed Taylor, he wanted me to make a disco arrangement of a song by Jacque Brel, If We Only Have Love. I could never come up with that arrangement, but I did arrange two songs for a record session for Idris Muhammad produced by Creed [House Of The Rising Sun — see above]. I remember Creed saying that he was really enthusiastic about disco. I learned from that. [David Matthews did arranging for Taylor and his CTI label at this time.]

A 2017 Ethan Iverson Do The M@th interview with Harrell

I insert this quote from Ethan Iverson’s interview with Tom Harrell because the overall feeling of Bumps On A Smooth Surface … the music, the hair styles, the rainbow cover design … takes us back to what Madison jokingly describes to me as those “hippy dippy” days. Harrell was into it.

Bumps On A Smooth Surface was a team effort. Except for himself and Harrell, each of the musicians contributed pieces, beginning with the title track by tenor and soprano saxophonist Larry Schneider. Schneider and Harrell were bandmates in the Horace Silver Quintet at this time and two years later were to play together memorably on Bill Evans’s beautiful and final album We Will Meet Again. On Bumps Schneider plays the theme on soprano, but Harrell accompanied by Madison in a break rhythm kicks off the soloing, followed by Madison. On this and the other albums I have heard Madison on, he is neither show-offy nor a solo hog, yet if you listen with this in mind, he is always the indispensable propelling force on any given track.

Guitarist Bill Washer contributed the funky Little Bit O’ Butter. The ascending bass line in the bridge sounds to me just like the I-can’t-remember-which Bee Gees number from Saturday Night Fever from this same year (1977). Harrell and Schneider (tenor) are tight in unison and wailing in their solos. Washer plays funky guitar licks as well as a solo, and Danko’s electric piano, though he doesn’t solo, is indispensable to the overall chemistry (see below). Judging from the earworm status it has assumed in my body, Butter must be my favorite piece on the album.

Mike Richmond’s acoustic bass intro settles into a vamp that undergirds the elastic, elaborately worked out theme of his Turkish Taffey. It is four minutes, twenty seconds before Schneider, switching from soprano in the theme to tenor for his solo, comes on like gangbusters. He is followed by Washer. Harrell is out on this one.

Washer has a second tune, Rain Forrest, that kicks off Side 2. I had to listen multiple times to convince myself the bass vamp was not the same as in Turkish Taffey. Washer has the first solo, followed by Harrell at his lyrical best – to my ears there is a slight Spanish tint. Jon Burr (identified in the liner notes as “guest artist”) is the bassist on his Sunny and Cooler. Harrell, Burr, and Washer solo. (Burr attended University of Illinois together with Jim McNeely in the early 70s, shortly after I departed there for NYC. In the 2010s Madison, Burr, and Matthews all reunited and toured together as part of the David Matthews Jazz Quintet.)

Danko’s lovely Pastoral Landing slows it down and closes the album. It is the one, I might say, anti-disco piece on the album, and I like to think of it and its opposite, the disco ‘Bit O’ Butter‘, as my favorites. It is played lovingly by Danko and Schneider on soprano, also with a nice bass solo from Richmond — Harrell is also out on this one. Madison’s album notes (which are paired with some from Dan Morgenstern) call attention to, but don’t explain, the peculiar fact that Danko is not a featured soloist on the album. In this nice note, Danko explains: “I ended up listening to the whole thing [after receiving my email]. That was Madison’s old upright [Madison calls it his “old clinker piano”], which is why I didn’t solo. The nice LaPiana [a used LaPiana Grand Madison purchased], a kind of one-off NY brand, came many years later. Tom sounds amazing on the record and I thought the rhythm section was burning. I’m especially proud that I worked in my Wynton Kelly licks on the Buttery disco cut.”

Ron McClure, Home Base / Descendants

“Together with a minimum of scuffles and a few six packs of beer, we laid down these tracks. It is not another ‘Bass’ record, although I feature a little more than [he did on his earlier recordings]. I want these people to play, and I love playing with them. It is a beautiful sound between [John Scofield’s] guitar and [Tom Harrell’s] flugelhorn.”

Ron McClure in his liner notes to the original 1981 LP release Home Base

“I wrote this music during the summer of 1980 specifically for this group: Tom Harrell, Mark Gray [keyboards] and Jimmy Madison were my West Side neighbors; John Scofield and I were members of the Dave Liebman Quintet. We met together at Jimmy’s ‘Garden Studio’ with no specific goal other than to record my new tunes and to have fun playing.”

Ron McClure in his liner notes for the 1990 CD reissue called Descendants

“The styles [of the compositions, all by McClure] are somewhat eclectic and may seem unrelated to a listener who doesn’t know anything about the world and its music in 1980.”

1990 liner notes

There’s not much more I can add. McClure’s own words capture the unpretentious and collegial vibe of this thoroughly enjoyable album, done with his West Side friends and bandmates out of Madison’s studio. Ron McClure’s credits are also a Who’s Who of jazz (including, speaking of the Era of Experimentation, Carla Bley’s 1971 jazz opera Escalator Over the Hill). Especially important to the “somewhat eclectic” styles is McClure’s experience in the major cross-over groups Blood, Sweat and Tears and The Fourth Way. (McClure was also a bass and composition instructor at New York University, my target destination when I moved to New York City.)

One note about the history of the album. It was recorded and engineered out of Garden Studios in August of 1980 for the New Zealand Ode Record Company Ltd and released with the title Home Base . (A month earlier, Harrell and McClure both played on a recording, made at another NYC studio, by the New Zealand jazz band The Rodger Fox Big Band, also for Ode.) In 1990 the music was remixed, along with two additional tracks (Scorpitarius and M Street Shuffle) not included on the original release, for a CD reissue by the Japanese label Ken Music, a division of Matsuka U.S.A., with the title Descendants. From New Zealand to Japan: Recordings habent sua fata.

Boat People (with reference to the Cambodian refugee crisis after the Vietnam War) features great solos by McClure, Gray (Fender Rhodes), Scofield, and Harrell. Madison is terrific throughout. In his liner notes McClure makes special mention of the beautiful chemistry between Scofield’s guitar and Harrell’s flugelhorn. I have already recounted how much I liked what Scofield brought to Harrell’s 1990 Stories album a decade later.

Line (following the track order on Home Base) is, per McClure’s characterization, a simple modal line that features solos by McClure on bowed bass and Scofield, over a funky groove set up by Gray and Madison. Descendants is McClure’s homage to, as he puts it, all of our teachers, parents, and creator, a “pretty melody with a soft rock like touch,” featuring solos from Harrell and McClure.

McClure wrote Dance of the Scorpion while in college. It kicks off Side Two of the LP. Per McClure’s description, the theme has a recurring pattern of 4/4 and 5/4 bars (assuming “5/5” in the LP notes is a typo). With the help of my bass-playing son and drum-playing daughter-in-law we think we can make that out, but in any case you can kind of picture the scorpions bobbing about. After the intro from Gray and McClure, Harrell and McClure play the major melodic line in unison, followed by solos from McClure and Gray (“Mark burns out on this one” — greatly assisted by Madison, I would add). Life Isn’t Everything is a “humorous” bass solo with bow — my son is awestruck, we really all are. Sunny Day “is my movie theme type song.” “Sco, Tom and I offer some solo efforts.” Side Two ends with The Calling: “My goal,” McClure writes, “is to pursue The Calling – making honest music regardless of the style.”

“I am a Scorpitarius, born on the cusp, and live on the edge of a changing world. I enjoy the differences between souls and their music.”

McClure, liner notes to Descendants

Scorpitarius, as I said, and M Street Shuffle were added to the remix for the CD reissue. Scorpitarius is a gentle swing piece, with a playful tag at the end of the theme that may also make you picture to yourself a dancing scorpion. The piece is played with solos from the whole gang, viz., McClure, Gray, Scofield, and Harrell. With the exception, that is, of Madison, who just tastily pushes along everyone else. I’d call M Street Shuffle, which closes out the CD, a gentle funk piece. Harrell and McClure play the multi-part theme mostly in unison, and then there are solos from Scofield and Gray.

“Together with a minimum of scuffles and a few six packs of beer.” A nice bit of cooking there in Madison’s apartment.

Jim Hall & David Matthews, Concierto De Aranjuez

“Third time’s a charm,” as the saying goes. Most jazz fans will know Joaquin Rodrigo’s Concierto De Aranjuez from the Miles Davis/Gil Evans 1960 Sketches of Spain album. Prior to this collaboration with David Matthews, Jim Hall had also had two cracks at it, first for Creed Taylor’s CTI label in 1975, arranged by Don Sebesky and with additional soloists Paul Desmond, Chet Baker, and Roland Hanna, and again in 1976 at a live trio concert in Japan with Don Thompson on bass and Terry Clarke on drums. The latter is a superb album, in my opinion, and what’s not to like about Hall-Desmond-Baker-Hanna, but Concierto after all was a concerto for guitar, and a year later David Matthews gives us that, in an arrangement that provides both the orchestral setting the concerto calls for and the undiluted solo space appropriate to the piece and to Hall’s magnificent guitar. (All three albums are available in full on YouTube, if you want to make the comparisons.) It was recorded at A&R Studios in Manhattan but for the Japanese market , and it debuted in the States with the 1992 CD reissue for Evidence.

This January 1981 recording is the first with Harrell and Hall in the studio together. I’ve already written about the special place Hall’s These Rooms (1988) and beautiful duet version of Skylark (1995) have for me in Harrell-land. Harrell’s characteristically lyrical solo here on Matthews’s gently swinging Summerwaltz perhaps helped cement Hall’s esteem for Harrell (Madison and bassist Mark Egan are integral to the gentle swing).

The only other instrumental solos on the album other than Hall’s are Ronnie Cuber’s baritone sax on Matthews’s Ara Cruz and Gerry Niewood’s flute on the album closer, Hall’s Chorale & Dance. The orchestra also plays a song called Red Dragon Fly by the Japanese composer Kosaku Yamada and Matthews’s arrangement of the traditional Peruvian song El Condor Pasa. I recognized the latter melody, most likely from Simon and Garfunkel. At about this time Matthews was beginning his work as producer and arranger for the Simon and Garfunkel Reunion Concert in Central Park, which took place in September, 1981.

Paul Nash, Second Impression

Madison’s final recordings with Harrell, also done in Garden Studio, were Paul Nash’s Second Impression (recorded in October 1984 and April 1985) and Michael Cochrane’s own Elements (September 1985), both done for the Italian label Soul Note.

(The vinyl jackets now call the studio Titanic Recording Studios {Second Impression} and Titanic Sound Studios {Elements}, though off the top of his head Madison seems to remember that the name changed from Titanic to Garden, not vice-versa. In another discrepancy, the jackets credit Madison as engineer for Second Impression, but a Guillermo Mager as engineer for Elements. Madison insists he was the engineer on both, and he would know. Something was perhaps lost in translation as the tapes were handed off to Milan for mixing and production. I want to be accurate, but for Madison’s part, he is quite willing to slough all this stuff off as the “mystery of history”!)

Paul Nash was born in 1948 and died prematurely in 2005 of a brain tumor. He graduated from Berklee in 1972 and four years later got a masters degree in composition from Mills College. In 1979 he issued his debut recording, A Jazz Composer’s Ensemble, and this was followed by Second Impression in 1985.

I feel bad saying this, but I just can’t get through this album. The musicians (which include Cochrane on piano and Nash on guitar and flute) and musicianship are fine. It is the writing, which I find very wooden, perhaps what you would expect from a student at a music academy. I would never have revealed my true feelings, but Madison, as it happens, on his own accord volunteered that he himself doesn’t like the album (“it was just a job”). In fact he used a rather crude word to describe it.

Michael Cochrane, Elements

Like Nash, Michael Cochrane was born in 1948. He is from Peekskill, New York, and that is another point of intersection, because Barbara and I lived there for many years. Furthermore, in 1985 Cochrane earned a Master of Arts Degree in Music and Music Education at New York University, which is where Barbara and I met. Cochrane is an educator, and among other things he is, or was, on the faculty of the non-profit Bloomingdale School of Music on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

Elements (1986) was Cochrane’s debut recording as leader. After that he made one more album for Soul Note, one for Landmark, and then quite a few for SteepleChase. All the compositions on Elements are his. They represent the try-this, try-that exercise you might expect on a debut album. It is all straightforward jazz, and the album is a pleasant listen for me. Besides Harrell and Madison, he has Bob Malach on tenor sax and flute and Dennis Irwin on bass. Harrell had previously recorded alongside Irwin for Ronnie Cuber and for Mel Lewis and was to record more albums with him right through 2000, including two Mike LeDonne albums on Criss Cross that I previously reported on. Harrell had played with Malach in Europe as part of the George Gruntz Concert Jazz Band and would record a couple times more with him after this Cochrane date.

Madison’s drums kick off Reunion, and the album among other things is a showcase for Madison’s straight-ahead jazz chops. Solos from Malach, Harrell, and Cochrane. Cochrane has an explicit interest in classical music and its twentieth-century manifestations, and that is reflected in his Tone Row Piece No. 2, with interesting solos from himself, Malach, Harrell, and Irwin. Predictably there is a bossa, namely, Bossa For Quintet, and a perfectly pleasant one. Art Lange, who writes the liner notes, compares the album’s overall sound to classic Horace Silver and the Malach-Harrell pairing to Hank Mobley-Kenny Dorham and Joe Henderson-Blue Mitchell, and as I listen to Malach and Harrell play the bossa theme, that’s not hard to agree with.

The title track starts Side B. It is a straight-ahead AABA piece that has all the elements, so to speak. Again I am especially enjoying listening to Madison get to play straight-ahead fare. The predictable ballad (and I don’t mean that in a bad way at all) is Song From Within, with solos from Cochrane and Irwin. Proof Of The Pudding and Waltz No. 1 close the album. Art Lange’s writing style strains a bit, in my opinion, but I like what he has to say about these two, so I’ll be lazy and just quote him: “Proof Of The Pudding is a quicksilver jaunt with a subtle, nearly transparent, haunting undercurrent implied, again, not by the melody but the harmonies; likewise, Waltz No. 1 seems simple and straightforward, but Tom Harrell’s solo darkens the mood somewhat, the 3/4 time begins to unsettle the expected regularity, and the tune’s implications eventually deepen.” Malach plays flute on Waltz No. 1.

Mark Murphy

Thanks again to the David Matthews connection, Madison became singer Mark Murphy’s go-to drummer for a number of years. Two of the albums they recorded for Muse Records had Harrell on them (the second was arranged by Matthews). I will write about these when my Trip gets me to Ha + Vo.

In 1998 Madison finally had to give up his rent-controlled apartment on West 99th, and there went the studio. (We compared prices. When we left Barbara’s rent-controlled apartment for Cincinnati in 1972, we were paying $69/month. In the four years we were gone, this mostly working-class Italian neighborhood because luxurious Soho.) The Cincinnati Kid had moved to the mother jazz ecosystem of New York City and and under that umbrella created his own little one. His West Side neighbor Tom Harrell was an important part of it. (So by the way was another West Side neighbor that Madison played with, saxophonist Steve Grossman — hear especially Grossman’s composition 415 Central Park West on Grossman’s Time To Smile album with Harrell.)

Ha + Vi

I did not know until now that the vibraphone is in the “struck idiophone” subfamily of the percussion family, according to the Hornbostel-Sachs system of musical instrument classification. I didn’t even know there was such a classification. (I’m always glad to learn things, though. An idiophone, I find out, is a musical instrument that creates sound primarily by the vibration of the instrument itself, without the use of air flow, strings, membranes, or electricity). What I do know is that I am a big fan in general of the vibes in jazz and Harrell + Vi in particular.

And that brings me to another piece of Old Business. We have visited some excellent Harrell albums from this period that included vibes in the mix, notably Joe Locke on Greg Marvin’s 1991 Taking Off (that’s a picture of Joe Locke’s vibes above, by the way), Donato Scolese on Furio Romano’s 1991 Inside Out (on the Marvin and Romano recordings, see here), and Steve Nelson on Donald Brown’s 1990 People Music (Ha + Pi). Looking back in KG, I see there were quite a few more from the 70s and early 80s. In particular, I really should have included three LPs Harrell made with the vibraphonist Charlie Shoemake. Better late than never.

Shoemake had solidified his jazz career (a career he opted for over an offer to try out with the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team) playing for seven years in the George Shearing Quintet and at the same time establishing himself, along with his wife Sandi, as highly sought-after teachers in the Los Angeles area (Shoemake taught the art of improvisation, not specifically or exclusively the vibraphone). The Charlie Shoemake Sextet made three albums in the early 80s for the Hollywood-based company Discovery Records. The first was Away From The Crowd. That album combined a couple tracks recorded with one set of musicians at a studio in Hollywood in 1980 with more material recorded at the Rudy Van Gelder Studio in New Jersey over a year later with Harrell, Shoemake’s pupil Ted Nash on alto sax and flute, Hank Jones on piano, Paul Motian on drums (this is the first recording with Harrell and Motian together), and Ed Schuller on bass (Harrell, along with Joe Lovano, had played a few months earlier on Schuller and Tom McKinley’s album Life Cycle, as previously reported).

“We represented five generations of jazz musicians. Hank Jones is in his 60s; Paul Motian in his 50s; I’m in my 40s; Tom Harrell, his 30s, and Ted Nash and Ed Schuller, their 20s.”

Charlie Shoemake to Ira Gitler in the liner notes to Away From The Crowd

Shoemake’s composition Sandi’s Smile “has a lovely melody [in 6/8],” in Gitler’s words, “which is voiced airily by flute, muted horn [i.e., Harrell] and the bell-tones of Charlie’s vibes.” Sandi sings but Harrell is out on He Needs Me (from a movie called Pete Kelly’s Blues). Shoemake penned the title track (Away From The Crowd) as a proud affirmation, by contrast to the jazz-rock, fusion, etc. that “the crowd” was following at the time, of the challenging harmonic intricacies and tempos (here quite rapid) of cats like Fats Navarro, Hank Mobley, Jackie McLean, Johnny Griffin, Tommy Flanagan, Hank Jones, and Phil Woods. Side One ends with Shoemake’s quieter and more slowly paced Evening Rum, performed without horns.

Side Two has four numbers, the two recorded with different personnel in Hollywood (Gentle Man and Young and Foolish, each with Sandi’s vocals), plus West Coast pianist Bill Mays’s Latinate number Small Talk (“it takes full advantage of the long-lined Harrell, urbane Jones, springy-swinging Shoemake and bittersweet Nash alto”) and Joe Emley’s Sometime Yesterday (“carried by the light, tight ensemble of trumpet, vibes and flute, leading into the elegant Jones piano and the heartbreaking beauty of the Harrell horn”).


It was back to the Van Gelder Studio for Cross Roads in 1982. The Sextet retains Harrell and the rhythm duo of Schuller and Motian, but Tommy Flanagan is on piano and West Coast guitarist Peter Sprague replaces a second horn (so I get a two-fer, Ha + Vi and Ha + G). Harrell is not on the opening track, Irving Berlin’s Say It Isn’t So, dedicated by Shoemake to the George Shearing sound. The vibes, piano, and guitar play the first iteration of the 16-bar theme of Shoemake’s ballad The Child In Me. Harrell plays the first eight of the repeat, the Shoemake-Flanagan-Sprague combination the second, and then there are solos from Flanagan, Harrell, and Shoemake. “Fleeting Resemblance,” Shoemake says, “is like a lot of my tunes, in that it goes by real fast.” It has solos by Sprague, Harrell, Flanagan, and Shoemake.

Side 2 begins with the recently deceased Joe Emley’s jaunty Cross Roads. The title refers to a yearning Shoemake was experiencing at the time to go back out on the road. The vibes and guitar introduce it, then the entire ensemble. Solos by Flanagan, Harrell, Shoemake, and Sprague. Shoemake regards his Recondite as the strongest tune on the album and his 4-chorus solo his best so far on record. His intro and the song itself remind me of Gary Burton. Harrell, Sprague, and Flanagan also solo, one chorus apiece, and Motian gets to mix it up on this one. Shoemake names Dunbar’s Place for the street he had lived on for 18 years (“a funny little street, slow and quiet”). The side ends with solo Shoemake playing Emley’s Christmas Bells.


Do you see a familiar face? Incandescent adds Phil Woods to the mix. It was recorded in March of 1984, at the beginning of the Phil Woods-Tom Harrell Quintet. And to boot, Bill Goodwin was in the studio booth (not to boot, though) and served as the producer for this album.

Shoemake’s uptempo blues title track (Incandescent) gives everybody a chance to stretch out, beginning with Shoemake, then Woods, Harrell, Los Angeles-based pianist Terry Trotter, and Ray Drummond, who replaces Schuller on bass, with drummer Billy Hart, replacing Motian, kicking everybody along. Tadd Too is another Joe Emley composition (see above). Woods on clarinet, Harrell with mute, and Shoemake blend nicely together playing the theme. Shoemake, Harrell, Woods (clarinet), and Trotter solo. Sandi Shoemake, accompanied by Charlie, sings the opening verse (“I know how the lady in the harbor feels”) of Sammy Cahn & Jule Styne’s torch song Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out To Dry, then Woods’s searing alto takes over. Harrell and Trotter also solo, then Sandi returns accompanied first by Woods, then by Harrell, then by Charlie. Woods gets the final couple notes, and weeks after hearing it, this will be remembered as Sandi and Phil’s feature piece. Shoemake finishes off Side One with a 49-second rendition of a piece (Number One) from Arthur Honneger’s Seven Short Pieces For Piano.

Before I proceed to Side Two, though, we interrupt this broadcast with some breaking news from the discography front: Discovery Records later came out with a digitally mixed CD titled I Think We’re Almost There featuring Phil Woods & Mike Wofford , and our Editorial Board finds that title very misleading. “Featuring Phil Woods” doesn’t refer to new Phil Woods material. It simply means that five of the CD’s tracks (Incandescent, Tadd Too, Quicks-Otic, I Think We’re Almost There, and Pardon Me) are lifted from Incandescent (Incandescent is Discovery catalog number DS-904, I Think We’re Almost There DSCD-924). “Featuring Mike Wofford” refers to four David Raskin compositions that were recorded in a separate session in Hollywood with a different set of musicians that included Ted Nash again on alto sax and flute (see Away From The Crowd) and Mike Wofford on piano. “Featuring Mike Wofford” is confusing because the pianist on the five Incandescent tracks is Terry Trotter. (For the record, so to speak, the CD excludes three tracks from the vinyl, Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out To Dry, Number One, and Farewell, another David Raskin composition.)

Side Two, then, kicks off with Shoemake’s calpyso-sounding Pardon Me. Woods plays the theme and solos first, then Shoemake, Trotter, and finally Harrell. Shoemake tells Ira Gitler that the melody to this was so singable that he had songwriter Arthur Hamilton (best known for Cry Me A River) write lyrics for it.

The also hummable following track, I Think We’re Almost There, is also co-credited to Shoemake and Hamilton. Hummable, but “thick with chords,” Shoemake tells Gitler. Again Harrell, Woods, and Shoemake produce a mellow chemistry playing the theme together. Harrell solos first followed by Woods on clarinet, Trotter, and Shoemake.

Shoemake’s Quicks-otic is a cleverly named high-speed showpiece (“it’s not supposed to sound hard,” says Shoemake) that, according to Gitler, has no “official melody” but is based on the changes of In The Still Of The Night. Shoemake plays the theme such as it is, he and Hart build up the suspense with a break, and then the vibraphonist is off to the races. Woods is up to the challenge and plays with “mercurial clarity.” And so Woods-ish: Gitler informs that Woods in his solo quotes Three Blind Mice just like Bird did on his recording of In The Still Of The Night (check it out). It took me three tries, but I finally heard it! In Gitler’s judgement, Harrell is “not quite as smooth” as Woods but nevertheless “negotiates the course with fast fire.” Trotter too. Then Shoemake and Woods engage in a chase, with Woods quoting Tico Tico, and Woods and Shoemake take it out by quoting Scrapple From The Apple.

Farewell, the appropriately named final track (on the vinyl) that is a Shoemake solo, is near and dear to my heart, because it is from David Raksin’s soundtrack to a favorite (and understated) Western, Will Penny.

<The ‘chemistry’ continues with voice and miscellaneous ensembles in the next post.>

Published by Randy Gibbons

I am retired. I have several strong interests, in particular classical studies (Greek and Latin); a lifelong passion for music, especially jazz; and more recently, dabbling in philosophy. For more information about me, click on About Me.

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