By Scott Yanow
When Joe Henderson (1937-2001) arrived in New York in 1962, he immediately impressed trumpeter Kenny Dorham and Dexter Gordon. Dorham became the young tenor’s mentor, using him on two of his Blue Note albums and persuading Alfred Lion to sign Henderson to Blue Note. The Complete Joe Henderson Blue Note Studio sessions, a limited-edition five-CD set, has the results.
While Henderson’s early idol was Stan Getz and he spent time studying Charlie Parker, he had an original sound and style of his own by the time he made his first recording. Capable of playing both inside and outside of the chord changes, Henderson’s distinctive sound and individual vocabulary led to him pursuing his own musical path, avoiding the easy trap of sounding too close to John Coltrane or Sonny Rollins and eventually becoming a major influence himself.
The Mosaic release, available from www.mosaicrecords.com, reissues Kenny Dorham’s Una Mas and Trompeta Toccata albums; the latter includes Henderson’s “Mamacita.” The tenor’s five Blue Note records are also released in full: Page One (which includes his “Recorda Me” and the original version of Dorham’s “Blue Bossa”), Our Thing, In ‘N Out, Inner Urge (which includes “Isotope”), and Mode For Joe. In addition to Dorham, among the other players on these famous albums, which date from 1963-64 and 1966, are trumpeter Lee Morgan, trombonist Curtis Fuller, vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, pianists Herbie Hancock, McCoy Tyner, Andrew Hill, Tommy Flanagan, and Cedar Walton, bassists Butch Warren, Eddie Kahn, Richard Davis, Bob Cranshaw, and Ron Carter, and drummers Tony Williams, Pete La Roca, Elvin Jones, Albert Heath, and Joe Chambers.
In addition, a song apiece is included from five other albums on which Henderson appeared, each of which are the tenor’s originals including “Step Lightly,” “The Kicker,” and “If.” Those sessions were led by trumpeters Johnny Coles and Blue Mitchell, Bobby Hutcherson, pianist Horace Silver, and organist Larry Young. And as a bonus, there are three previously unreleased alternate takes from Page One and Our Thing plus Mosaic’s usual lengthy booklet with excellent liner notes by Bob Blumenthal. This is a perfect acquisition not only for Joe Henderson fans who want to consolidate the classic recordings, but those who want to find out why the tenor-saxophonist is considered one of the greats.
Arv Garrison (1922-60) was briefly in the spotlight but had a tragically brief life and career. An excellent forward-looking electric guitarist who was influenced by Django Reinhardt, Oscar Moore, Les Paul, and bebop, Garrison is best-remembered today, if at all, for his participation on a Charlie Parker session that resulted in the original versions of “Ornithology” and “Yardbird Suite.” Otherwise, he mostly worked with a trio led by his wife bassist Vivian Garry, often in the Los Angeles area. An epileptic from an early age, Garrison’s condition became much worse by the late 1940s, resulting in his complete obscurity, divorce, inability to play music, and death.
The three-CD set from Fresh Sound called The Unknown Arv Garrison – Wizard Of The Six String has nearly all of his recordings, just leaving out four titles with Garry from 1945, ten songs with Buddy Baker’s orchestra (1946-47), and three big band titles from Oct. 15, 1946 with Ralph Burns and George Handy. Garrison does not solo on the big band pieces and might not be that prominent on the other dates.
The Fresh Sound box gives one as full a picture of the guitarist as possible. Except for one session on which the guitarist does not appear, all of the recordings, V-discs and radio appearances by the Vivien Garry Trio/Quartet are here including many rarities. The group, which along the way had Teddy Kaye, George Handy, or the legendary Wini Beatty on piano along with an occasional drummer, started out as a King Cole Trio-inspired band with occasional group vocals, playing hot swing. As they progressed, it became a bit more bop-oriented and developed its own musical personality. In addition to being featured on their own, the Vivien Garry group is heard welcoming such guests as singers Frankie Laine, Rickey Jordan, and Babs Gonzalez and, on a jam session version of “Flying Home,” Lionel Hampton, Charlie Ventura, and Kai Winding.
Also included on this worthy release are Garrison’s appearances on a Dizzy Gillespie session (“Diggin’ Diz”), the Charlie Parker date, sessions led by scat-singer Leo Watson and trumpeter Howard McGhee, one number with Earle Spencer’s Orchestra, and two final dates from 1948 that, although by the Vivien Garry Trio, were the only sessions issued under Garrison’s name. Still just 25, the latter dates (which find the guitarist sounding quite advanced for the time) were largely the premature end of his career.
Extensive liner notes by Nick Rossi and a definitive article about Garrison’s life written by Bob Dietsche in 1989 are included in the set’s 78-page booklet, augmenting the timeless if mostly little-known music. Taken as a whole, this very worthy release (available from www.freshsoundrecords.com) gives listeners all of the known details about the Arv Garrison story.
During 1982-88, the British Saydisc label, in their Matchbox Bluesmaster series, released 38 albums and two double-Lps of early country blues, mostly dating from 1926-34. All of the music is now being reissued on seven six-CD sets, making available many treasures. Vol. 3 and 4 have recently been released, complete with the late Paul Oliver’s definitive liner notes.
Although some of these sessions have since been reissued (including the Texas Alexander dates), many have not been available for quite some time. Set 3 consists of Memphis Harmonica Kings 1929-30 (Noah Lewis and Jed Davenport), Texas Alexander Vol. 2 (which at times has accompaniment by Lonnie Johnson, Eddie Lang, and King Oliver), Ramblin’ Thomas 1928-32, Country Girls 1926-29 (Lillian Miller, Hattie Hudson, Gertrude Perkins, Pearl Dickson, Laura Henton, and Bobbie Cadillac), Rufus & Ben Quillian 1929-31, and De Ford Bailey & Bert Bilbro 1927-31. These sessions comprise the complete recordings of each of these artists, with the more prolific Alexander’s output being spread across this series on four CDs. While each of the discs has many moments of interest, the solo harmonica performances of De Ford Bailey (the only African-American musician of the era who was featured on the Grand Ole Opry) and the solo work of singer-guitarist Ramblin’ Thomas are among the highpoints.
Set 4 consists of Atlanta Blues 1927-30 (featuring Julian Daniels and Lil McClintock), Texas Alexander Vol. 3 1929-30, Peg Leg Howell Vol. 1 1926-27, Sanctified Jug Bands 1928-30 (Elder Richard Bryant, Brother Williams and Holy Ghost Sanctified Singers), St. Louis Bessie 1927-30, and Texas Alexander Vol. 4 (1934 and two songs from 1950).
From lowdown blues to goodtime music, traditional folk songs to spontaneous originals, the Matchbox Bluesmaster Series is full of unique performances that, while mostly by long-forgotten artists, are an important part of the United States’ musical heritage. And most importantly, the music is enjoyable to hear, even 90 years later.
Each of these valuable sets are available from www.saydisc.com.
In the 1940s, Louis Jordan and his Tympani Five had one hit record after another, literally dozens that appeared on the r&b charts and 15 that made it to number 1. Remember “Choo Choo Ch’Boogie,” “Five Guys Named Moe,” and Jordan’s version of “ Caldonia?” The previous two-CD sets from the Acrobat label, Louis Jordan Jukebox Hits Vol. 1 1942-47 and Vol. 2 1947-51, reissued the highpoints of his banner years.
Louis Jordan helped pioneer r&b with his brand of swing, hip vocals, humorous commentary, and heated solos. His success was one of about a dozen reasons that most of the big bands broke up in the mid-1940s and were replaced by small combos that could deliver the same excitement for much less money. Not only did Jordan help pioneer early r&b with his series of jukebox hits but some of his music hinted at the as-yet unborn rock and roll of a decade later.
But then in 1951, the hits completely stopped. It was not that Jordan, who turned 43 that year, had declined at all as a singer, alto-saxophonist or entertainer. Perhaps it was that the public was growing tired of his formula and that the novelty was wearing off. Certainly he was not getting as many strong new songs as previously when practically every tune that he recorded caught on. As the two-CD set The Louis Jordan Fifties Collection 1951-58 shows, he was certainly open to trying new approaches. In 1951 he put together a big band that was quite boisterous and filled with extroverted spirit but, although some excellent recordings resulted, he made the mistake of having it be a fulltime working outfit five years after the swing era had ended. The orchestra cost him a lot of money before he reluctantly broke it up a year later.
Jordan also occasionally recorded as a crooner and recorded a few dated novelties such as “Jordan For President.” He mostly avoided recording remakes of his earlier hits but some of his new material sounded like a too-close cousin of some of the songs; “Louisville Lodge Meeting” is very similar to “Saturday Night Fish Fry.” Despite his best efforts, nothing really worked commercially and, when Jordan’s longtime contract with the Decca label ended in early-1954, he was dropped. Jordan recorded during the next four years with limited success for the Aladdin, X (a subsidiary of RCA) and Mercury labels, only making a handful of records after 1958. Perhaps if Jordan had recorded some jazz dates that showed off his still-excellent playing, he might have had a second career in the jazz world (as did his fellow former hit maker Willis “Gator” Jackson). But instead Jordan continued unsuccessfully fighting the commercial battle to remain relevant and he was ultimately replaced by the music that he had helped inspire, rock and roll.
The excellent two-CD set Louis Jordan Fifties Collection (available from www.mvdb2b.com) has many of the highlights of the 1951-58 period, 52 selections in all. The programming is a bit odd for, rather than being in chronological order so one can trace Jordan’s evolution, the songs are programmed in the order that they were originally released including some titles as old as 1946 that were not issued until years later. Because of that odd decision, the music does jump around a bit, but it is good to have a large percentage of his later output available again.
Highlights include Jordan’s classic version of “Azure-Te” (Paris Blues), “How Blue Can You Get” (later adopted by B.B. King), “Trust In Me,” “I Want You To Be My Baby” (an early song by the then-unknown Jon Hendricks), and two numbers whose titles sum up Louis Jordan’s career at that point: “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out” and “Time Marches On.”