Not So Rebellious
3 hours ago
The longest essay is a thorough oral history of the modern alto sax player Sonny Redd (or Red), aka Sylvester Kyner (1932-81), Anders Svanoe's "Bluesville: The Journey of Sonny Red." Born in rural Mississippi in 1932, Redd grew up in Detroit and moved to New York City in 1957 to enter the burgeoning modern jazz scene there. He played with major musicians, recorded and was generally known as a capable and entertaining musician, but there was by then a glut of post-Parker alto players and Redd never established an identity with the jazz audience. Nevertheless, he persisted stubbornly in the music, becoming "a jazz survivor" in one commentator's words.
Svanoe's history is very thorough, with many interviews, photographs and other documents, 40 scores of compositions and solos (including scores to several flute quartets) and an annotated discography of Redd's work. The essay runs to 145 pages, virtually a whole monograph and is very well organized and readable. It is an interesting scrutiny of a workaday musician who was not a "jazz giant" or a publicity hound but who made a highly individualistic contribution to modern jazz.
Sonny Red was a good but not great altoist who was somewhat lost in the shuffle in the 1960s and '70s. He worked in Detroit with Barry Harris (1949-1952), in 1954 temporarily switched to tenor while with Frank Rosolino, and later that year joined Art Blakey briefly. In 1957, with his arrival in New York he gained some recognition, recording with Curtis Fuller and Paul Quinichette, in addition to having several dates as a leader (1958-1962) for Savoy, Blue Note, and particularly Jazzland. Despite some freelancing and recording with Clifford Jordan, Pony Poindexter, Donald Byrd, Kenny Dorham, and Yusef Lateef among others in the 1960s, Red was in obscurity by the 1970s.
The liner notes indicate that Sonny Red (Mainstream), a.k.a. Sylvester Kyner, is a "Detroiter who has been around for many years, but has been out of the limelight for too many of them," Yes, it would seem so. "Love Song," overdubs Sonny Red on both alto sax and flute, the result a lush, Pharoah Sanders-like quality accented beautifully by pianist Cedar Walton, bassist Herbie Lewis, and drummer Billy Higgins. "Mustang" should please the foot-tappers, and "A Time For Love" the romantic. In fact, the whole album is a sign: "Quiet. Serious men at work."
Yellin is the son of an NBC studio pianist. He turned down an athletic scholarship at the University of Denver to study at Juilliard under Joseph Allard (saxophone) and Harold Bennett (flute). He worked in the 1960s with Lionel Hampton, Buddy Rich, and Tito Puente, and worked with Joe Henderson's band from 1970 to 1973. Around this time he also played with Mario Bauza, Hampton again, Maynard Ferguson, Sam Jones, Charles Earland, and the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis big band. In 1974 he formed his own band, and played at the Newport Jazz Festival.
As a sideman, Yellin has worked with Bob Mintzer, Eddie Palmieri, George Benson, Machito, Chick Corea, and others. He founded the jazz program at Long Island University in 1984, acting as coordinator for the studio there until the end of the 1990s.
His father was a pianist and NBC staffer, and Pete Yellin has recorded as a leader and was also part of Joe Henderson's early '70s band. He's a solid, sometimes exuberant player with extensive range, and a decent flutist. Yellin studied sax with Joe Allard and flute with Harold Bennett. He earned his degree from Juilliard, and at one point entertained thoughts of basketball stardom. Yellin had an athletic scholarship to the University of Denver as freshman, but then turned professional as a musician.
He played with Lionel Hampton in the early '60s, then with Buddy Rich and Tito Puente. Yellin joined Joe Henderson's band in 1970, and remained until 1973. He formed his own band the next year, and played at the Newport Jazz Festival in New York. He returned to play with Puente in 1974. Yellen worked in the horn sections of Rich and Bob Mintzer during the '80s. He recorded for Mainstream, but the session is currently unavailable on CD.
Sweet electric 70s funk from Blue Mitchell -- blowing here in some of the hippest arrangements of his career! Blue's trumpet alone is always pretty darn great, but for this album he's working with arranger Dave Matthews -- who gives the tunes fierce groove that mixes vamping guitars with snapping drums -- sort of picking up the groove that Matthews forged with James Brown, but allowing for a lot freer jazz interplay!
The guitars are often recorded in a cool way that has them sounding a bit "watery" alongside the rhythms -- so much so, you'd swear they were keyboards at times -- and this approach sounds really great underneath Blue's tighter, harder, more punctuated solos over the top of the tracks. Additional support comes from horn players Joe Farrell and Seldon Powell -- and titles include "Funk Walk", "Blue Funk", "Funny Bone", "Golden Feathered Bird", "Harmony Of The Underworld", and "Hot Stuff".
A sweet album of soulful jazz from trumpeter Johnny Coles -- a wonderful talent who made a sad few albums as a leader! The record is quite different than Coles' earlier work for Epic and Blue Note -- in that it's got the slightly electrified Mainstream sound of the 70s firmly in place -- with electric and acoustic piano from Cedar Walton and electric and acoustic bass from Reggie Workman. Tracks are longish, and while they're not exactly all-out funky, they mostly groove pretty nicely -- in a spiralling fragmented sort of way. Titles include "Funk Dumplin", "Petits Machins", "Betty's Bossa", "728", and "Never Say Goodbye".
Johnny Coles never became a star name, but his associations with a half-dozen of the leading jazz figures of the post-war era are significant enough testament to his musical ability.
Whether through circumstances or lack of inclination, Coles seemed content to work with others at the helm throughout his career, but he earned a significant reputation within those parameters. He was never a band-leader of any note, and recorded very few records under his own name. His debut album The Warm Sound, appeared in 1961, while his most significant record as a leader, Little Johnny C, was issued on Blue Note label in 1963.
He taught himself to play trumpet from the age of 10, later adding the customary flugelhorn as well. He studied music at the Mastbaum Vocational School in Philadelphia, and played in army bands during the war years. His initial post-war experience came in commercial bands, notably a rhythm and blues outfit led by saxophonist Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson, which also included John Coltrane and Red Garland in its ranks.
He continued that rhythm and blues association with bands led by the likes of Earl Bostic and Bull Moose Jackson in the early 1950s, but was also playing in more mainstream jazz settings by that time. They included working with drummer Philly Joe Jones in 1951, and a more extended association with saxophonist James Moody in 1956-8 [appearing on Flute 'n The Blues & Return From Overbrook collected on Hey! It's James Moody, Moody's Mood For Love and James Moody]. On leaving Moody's band, Coles began working with Gil Evans, whose own standing in the public eye had been greatly elevated by the success of his collaborations with Miles Davis.
Coles was a very different trumpeter in stylistic terms, but Evans admired his dry, economical sound and his ability to exploit musical space with just the right placement of notes, a virtue he did share with Davis. Those qualites are evident in Coles's contributions to several of Evans's important recordings, including the imaginative re-workings of classic jazz material in the New Bottle Old Wine (1958) and Great Jazz Standards (1959) albums [both available as part of Gil Evans: The Complete Pacific Jazz Sessions], and the seminal Out of the Cool, recorded in 1960 and regarded as Evans's masterpiece [other Evans productions on which Coles played include Miles Davis' Sketches of Spain & Porgy & Bess, Evans' The Individualism of Gil Evans, Duke Ellington's Blues In Orbit] and Kenny Burrell's Guitar Form].
Coles's rounded tone and controlled, almost austere lyricism, combined with his ability to find his own means of individual expression within the context his leader was trying to create, make that record a highlight of his six year tenure with the Gil Evans Orchestra, which ended when he was recruited by Charles Mingus for a tour of Europe in 1964, in a sextet which also featured saxophonists Eric Dolphy and Clifford Jordan, and pianist Jaki Byard.
Sadly, we will never know what might have come of that association, or that fascinating combination of talents. Coles was taken ill early on the tour [due to a stomach ulcer], and had to return home. He never rejoined the Mingus band, and missed most of the live recordings made on the tour, although those on which he did feature (which includes a concert with the sextet recorded at Town Hall, New York, just before the tour began) have left an intriguing glimpse of what might have been.
He continued to play and record in New York, including albums with pianist Duke Pearson [Honeybuns & Prairie Dog] and the Brazilian singer Astrud Gilberto [Look To The Rainbow & Dreamer]. In 1968, he joined the first incarnation of pianist Herbie Hancock's ground-breaking sextet, and is featured on The Prisoner (1969) [also Fat Albert Rotunda].
In 1969, Coles went all the way back to his early rhythm and blues roots when he joined the Ray Charles Orchestra, an association which lasted until the trumpeter was recruited by Duke Ellington in 1971. He remained a fixture in the Ellington Orchestra until 1974, then spent another two years with Ray Charles.
In the 1980s, his versatility and experience remained in demand. He made a rare album under his own name, New Morning, for the Dutch-based Criss Cross label in 1982, and toured with several tribute and revival bands, including the Count Basie Orchestra, Mingus Dynasty, and a project devoted to the music of pianist and arranger Tadd Dameron.
Coles retired from performing in 1989 [and passed away from cancer in 1997].