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Thursday, August 3, 2023

All Star Session - Gene Ammons


Blues Up And Down

Gene Ammons
All Star Session
Cover: Tom Hanna
Notes by Ira Gitler
Prestige OJC-014 (P-7050)

Gene Ammons All Star Sextet

Gene Ammons - Tenor Sax
Art Framer - Trumpet
Lou Donaldson - Alto Sax
Freddie Redd - Piano 
Addison Farmer - Bass
Kenny Clarke - Drums

Woofin' And Tweetin'

Recorded 6/15/1958
Supervision: Bob Weinstock
Recorded by Rudy Van Gelder

From the back cover: Gene Ammons has had a long career in jazz although he is only 30. At 18 "Jug" was with trumpeter King Kolax in his native Chicago. The next year, 1944, Billy Eckstine formed his big band and sent for young Gene. In the three years he was with Mr. B, Gene developed rapidly into one of the stars of the band. When Eckstine disbanded, Gene formed his own combo which played around Chicago for about two years. The greater part of 1949 found Gene as one of the featured "Brothers" of the Woody  Herman sax section. After some free-lancing, Gene formed the famous tenor battle duo with Sonny Stitt in 1950. For two years they swung across America and then each decided it was time to have his own band. Gene's combo has followed more of a rhythm and b less pattern although the jazz elements have always been strong in it. Unlike rock and roll, there are both good and bad rhythm and blues. (Rock and roll is really only bad rhythm and blues). So it was not a long jump for him back into the realm of jazz with this session, aided and abetted by an all star cast. He blows with vigor and his noted big sound, building each of his slots to points of climax.

This is not a drawn out session. Everyone came in and said their piece. The vehicles are two stand-by, the 12 bar blues and the "I Got Rhythm" chord changes.

It may be true that these are simple patterns, but unless a musician has the feeling for them, he won't be able to play very much on them. A well known tenor man once said to me, "Man, it's a drag to get up and play with Bird and Fats (Navarro). They can play originals on blues and "I Got Rhythm" changes all night long and play different things every time."

The blues are sad but they make you happy. This many sound paradoxical but the blues let you bring your troubles and sadness to the surface and purge yourself of them. Hence the happy feeling. You'll know what I mean after hearing Woofin' And Tweetin'.

Lou Donaldson was born in Badin, North Carolina in 1926. He started his musical career on clarinet at the age of 15. Later he attended college at Greensboro,, N.C. before entering the Navy where he received musical as well as nautical training.  After the war he came to New York and did much playing around town. He is considered to be one of the best practitioners in the Charlie Parker tradition. Lou is lead-off and on both selections, displaying his drive and his tongue in cheek, occasionally puckish humor.

Art Farmer was born in Council Bluffs, Iowa in 1928, but moved to Arizona at an early age. He did a lot of playing on the West Coast with Benny Carter, Gerald Wilson and Wardell Gray. After returning from a European tour with Lionel Hampton in 1953, Art settled in New York and has been wailing here ever since. On record and in person he has been heard with his own group featuring Gigi  Grace (Prestige LPs 181, 209). His solo on Woofin' And Tweeting' is one of the classics of the year; a marvel of time and economy with elements of the traditional and the modern. 

Freddie Redd is a native New Yorker, age 26, who didn't take up the piano until 1947. Freddie has been making up for lost time with a vengeance ever since. An outstanding exponent of the style pioneered by Bud Powell, Elmo Hope and Goorge Wallington, he has been heard with Joe Roland recently and his records include his own trio (Presige LP 197) and Art Farmer's Quintet (Prestige LP 209).

Addison Farmer is Art's twin. He began playing at about the same time as Art and has been with Howard McGhee, Bird, Teddy Edwards, Gerald Wilson, Wardell Gray and Jay McShann. His powerful passing has been part of his brother's group since coming to New York in 1954. On display in this LP are both his section and solo talents.

Kenny Clarke, the man who changed the conception of drumming in the early Forties, is originally from Pittsburgh which seems to be a breeding ground for swinging drummers (Art Blakey, Joe Harris). When "Klook" sits down at the drums, there are no doubts about the authority of the beat. During the spring and early summer of 1955, he was ensconced at the Cafe Bohemia, Greenwich Village, N.Y.C. and has free-lanced around New York thereafter.

Gene Ammons Battles Sonny Stitt

Blues Up And Down (3/5/1950)
You Can Depend On Me (3/5/1950) with Duke Johnson - piano; Tommy Potter - bass; Jo Jones - drums
Stringin' The Jug (10/28/1950) with Junior Mance - piano; Gene Wright - bass; Wesley Landers - drums
New Blues Up And Down (1/31/1951) with Billy Massey - trumpet; Al Outcalt - trombone; Charlie Bateman - piano; Gene Wright - bass; Teddy Stewart - drums

The remainder of this LP harks back to the days of the alliance of Gene with Sonny Stitt, and the combo they fronted in the early Fifties. Four of their exciting duets were preserved on record before they went their respective ways.

The tenor battle which began its rise in popularity with Ammons and Dexter Gordon doing Blowing The Blues Away with Billy Eckstine's band and later carried on by Dexter and Wardell Gray at various jazz concerts (hear Prestige LP 7009, Wardell Gray Memorial, vol. 2) was carried to a sort of culmination by Gene and Sonny in that they built a group around this feature.

They were perfect foils for each other as they each took turns at playing straight man. Both have been influenced by Lester Young and Charlie Parker with Gene leaning further towards President and Sonny more to Bird. On New Blues Up And Down Gene even dons a Jacquet at one point. In the course of that dual romping and swinging everything from full choruses to four bars are exchanged.

Supervison: Bob Weinstock
Remastered by Rudy Van Gelder

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