Unsung Heroes Project Liner Notes
Download the Unsung Heroes liner notes e-booklet here: Unsung_Heroes_Booklet 1.2
Brian Lynch Unsung Heroes Project
a salute to some underappreciated trumpet masters
Executive Producer (Kickstarter): Roger Townsend
- Terra Firma Irma (Joe Gordon) 8:12 Second Floor Music BMI
- I Could Never Forget You (Tommy Turrentine) 7:30 Second Floor Music BMI
- Further Arrivals dedicated to Kamau Adilifu/Charles Sullivan (Brian Lynch) 9:50 Hollistic Music BMI
- Saturday Afternoon At Four (Idrees Sulieman) 8:04 ASCAP
- Household Of Saud (Charles Tolliver) 7:30 Condominium Publ Group BMI
- RoditiSamba dedicated to Claudio Roditi (Brian Lynch) 7:06 Hollistic Music BMI
- Big Red (Tommy Turrentine) 5:37 Second Floor Music BMI
- Unsung Blues (Brian Lynch) 7:13 Hollistic Music BMI
- Wetu (Louis Smith) 7:15 Unart EMI Catalog Inc BMI
- It Could Be (Tommy Turrentine) 7:39 Second Floor Music BMI
- Heleen (Joe Gordon) 8:14 Second Floor Music BMI
- Sandy (Howard McGhee) 7:42 ASCAP
- Short Steps (Idrees Sulieman) 6:54 Second Floor Music ASCAP
- Marissa’s Mood dedicated to Ira Sullivan (Brian Lynch) 6:09 Hollistic Music BMI
- Out/Dancing Shoes (Idrees Sulieman) 8:05 Second Floor Music ASCAP
- Gone But Not Forgotten (Tommy Turrentine) 5:38 Second Floor Music BMI
- ‘Nother Never dedicated to Louis Smith (Brian Lynch) 7:33 Hollistic Music BMI
- Orange Blossoms (Idrees Sulieman) 7:33 Second Floor Music ASCAP
- I’m So Excited By You (Donald Byrd) 7:56 Elgy Music BMI
Vol.3 (Alternate Takes)
- Saturday Afternoon At Four alternate take (Idrees Sulieman) 8:01 ASCAP
- Heleen alternate take (Joe Gordon) 8:22 Second Floor Music BMI
- It Could Be alternate take (Tommy Turrentine) 6:39 Second Floor Music BMI
- Short Steps alternate take (Idrees Sulieman) 9:55 Second Floor Music ASCAP
- RoditiSamba unedited take (Brian Lynch) 9:56 Hollistic Music BMI
- I Could Never Forget You alternate take (Tommy Turrentine) 7:10 Second Floor Music BMI
- I’m So Excited By You alternate take (Donald Byrd) 7:55 Elgy Music BMI
Traditions in art forms tend to be defined (and rightly so) by their iconic figures — the ones who innovate and change the rules, the ones whom everyone onwards must contend with in the realm of influence. In the case of the jazz trumpet tradition, we can agree on some of those defining figures:Pops (Louis Armstrong), Roy Eldridge, Dizzy, Fats, Clifford, Freddie, Don Cherry,and Miles looming over everything inside yet outside… (I break o≠ here to avoid controversy.) But this list is way too reductive, and certainly does not give a satisfying idea of a “tradition,” in its richness, in the diversity of style,expression and philosophy embedded within it. How could you construct the idea of a jazz trumpet tradition without a Jabbo Smith, without a Rex Stewart or Sweets Edison, without a Chet Baker or a Nat Adderley or a Bobby Bradford?
The multiple subjects of this collection of unpretentious and straight ahead music are artists without whom the jazz trumpet tradition would be very much impoverished, yet who have seemed to fly under the radar of many enthusiastic followers of the music. They are also players and composers who have touched my soul and influenced me in both disciplines. Their notoriety ranges from those generally recognized by the cognoscenti to others almost completely unknown except to a few specialists, but they all have one thing in common: their art has been underappreciated. I encourage you to follow up on your experience of these recordings by listening to their work directly (see the list of links and recommended listening elsewhere in these notes). I hope you enjoy this salute to these Unsung Heroes — just a few of many in the rich tradition of our music.
THE UNSUNG HEROES
One of the most vivid images I have of my early days living in New York comes from a loft club called the Jazz Forum,which had a jam session going on Monday nights that was an obligatory stop for players new in town who were trying to establish bonafides. On my first visit there, I ventured backstage to witness a scene dear to my trumpet playing heart.An older man was half-explaining, half-hectoring a younger musician with a somewhat exasperated air: “Naw, man… that’s the (expletive deleted) K.D. turnback!” His phrase, extolling the harmonic sophistication of my idol Kenny Dorham, has resided in my brain “and paid no rent” ever since! This was my first encounter with the esteemed Mr. Turrentine, with whom I became close over the ensuing years. Tommy was one of the first “cats” to give me props when I came to town and I consider him a real mentor.
What immediately struck me about Tommy Turrentine’s playing was its naturalness. Hand in hand with deep knowledge, T had what I might call profound musical literacy in the jazz idiom. He had a history, all the way back to Charlie Parker days,and lived it, played it through the horn. T told me about hearing Bird and pianist Joe Albany at the Finale Club in LA in 1946 — that was the first time he heard the term “stroll” used (as in “lay out”). This story was recounted by T after Joe had sat in at the Star Cafe where T was hanging out on the gig I had there with Harold White and Junior Cook. That little anecdote sure said a lot, at many different levels!
T had such a great sound! You can hear it on those records (he didn’t record nearly enough, but what there is represents his art well), like Sonny Clark’s Leapin’ and Lopin’ or Jackie McLean’s A Fickle Sonance. One of my very favorite TT jaunts is his work on Lou Donaldson’s The Natural Soul (Blue Note). There’s a blues on there that says it all.When he would come into the Star Cafe and play, even if he hadn’t touched the horn for days, he could still bring the tone forth (exception: one time when he came in with that flugelhorn Wynton had laid on him, blew into it, and nothing came out. He looked at the axe like, “you dirty mf…”!).
In later years we had some good talks about music. I remember one time hanging at Ralph La Lama’s session at St. Mark’s Pub (he loved Ralph’s playing). Wish I could remember what we talked about, but it was hip! And there was the time in Smalls (in the old days) when he tried the 8-pound Monette I was playing at the time. His comment: “You must be crazy!” I was, but not from playing that horn… He’d always let me know when I was messing something up, like one of those bebop fine points that are so crucial to understand to play that music right. And he’d also let me know when my stuff was working, which is also good to hear!
I’ve previously recorded Tommy’s composition “Thomasville” on my very first album as a leader, Peer Pressure,recorded way back on the Criss Cross label. For the present project, we’ve prepared no less than four TT gems, all presented here in their debut recordings. In his last years, Tommy, though not as active as a player, composed a major body of new work with the encouragement of his publisher and longtime advocate Don Sickler. My thanks to Don for making these tunes available.
A fine introduction to the magical, utterly distinctive, and deeply rooted art of Idrees Sulieman can be found on a 1976 Steeplechase recording with Cedar Walton, Sam Jones, and Billy Higgins called Now’s The Time. It’s an amazing revelation to hear the jazz trumpet playing on this date. Loose, but absolutely precise, deeply in the tradition but modern, an individual and expressive sound and phrasing on the axe, an original sense of atmosphere on the trumpet and as a composer. It’d take a much better writer than I to convey what he’s doing on that record.
I heard Idrees a number of times in person; one time in the early days in NYC at the Star Cafe sitting in on alto sax, which he played very well indeed! A concert of his music at the Mannes School Of Music around 1988 was a special chance to hear his rare artistry as player and composer, with many new songs written for the occasion. He was a very prolific writer, and like Tommy Turrentine, wrote a whole sheaf of originals (many based on standards or jazz classics in the grand bebop tradition, but expressed in a totally individual and hip way). These were published by Don Sickler’s Second Floor Music but never recorded. It’s an honor to debut these songs.
The thing to realize about Idrees is that he went back to the very beginnings of bebop (including recordings with Monk in the ’40s),took part in some of the most interesting hard bop of the ’50s with Coltrane and others, played lead for Tadd Dameron alongside Clifford Brown; he had the closest thing to the sound of the legendary Freddie Webster, yet was still stretching and sounding as modern as anyone in the ’70s, ’80s, and even in the ’90s. Seek him out!
To know his sound is to love his playing. Claudio has everything: expressivity, fire, harmonic and melodic sophistication, technique and finesse in a class of his own. Claudio helped me immeasurably when I first moved to NYC. He encouraged me, got me on gigs with him, and enriched my knowledge of the instrument with his peerless understanding of how the mechanics of the instrument itself can affect the playing experience. He introduced me to another of my instrument gurus, trumpet collector and expert Hal Oringer. I gained most of my (limited) understanding of Brazilian music through my contact with Claudio. He remains an inspiration and a mentor to this day.
Playing trumpet is kind of like playing baseball in that you can speak about a “batting average” in trumpet playing; consistency and accuracy in execution is the mark of a superior artist and can be an elusive goal. Claudio has one of the highest averages of them all. He has a great sense of how to play up to the limit without falling o≠ the cliff, so to speak. Or maybe he never falls off the cliff because he can make anything he wants to on the horn! To hear and observe this master is like going to school. Claudio has one of the most subtle and finely honed abilities to articulate (in the sense of ways to phrase with his tonguing and slurring) on the instrument, which he uses to great expressive effect in his playing. He really has developed an idiom of his own in the jazz trumpet tradition — an influential one, whether admitted by those he influenced or not. My original “RoditiSamba” is, I hope, a worthy tribute to this great master, to me a true Unsung Hero.
It’s easy for me to relate to Joe Gordon’s playing since I think I have a certain similarity in the way I approach articulation on the horn. I have more of a slurred, legato approach to phrasing, more like K.D. than Clifford, to make one comparison. I think Joe Gordon is more on the legato side, too. You have to have mighty good time to do this well,and Joe has this indeed, with tremendous, relaxed drive. Once I became more exposed to his playing, especially through the Shelly Manne Live At The Blackhawk records,he became more of a conscious influence. I remember listening to him on the Jazz Messengers 10-inch LP with Gigi Gryce also in the front line (dubbed on cassette) and thinking that there was some similarity in our phrasing, and that got me intrigued. Funny thing — a few years before that his wife Irma introduced herself to me during a local gig in Brooklyn I was playing and she said something about my reminding her of her husband’s playing. That’s the kind of thing that knocks you out at the time but you don’t necessarily take the comparison seriously… but maybe there was something to it.
Both of the Joe Gordon tunes in this collection were originally recorded by Joe on the excellent Contemporary (now OJC) recording Lookin’ Good, which I highly recommend as an introduction to his playing. He was developing a very distinctive composing voice to match his playing voice at the time of that record date, not long before his tragic death in a fire at the age of 32.
I really wish that I had included more of the most pleasurable and distinctive lines from the pen of Mr. Louis Smith in this collection! Maybe a full treatment of his oeuvre in a future project is in order. A little recompense here is in the inclusion of my “‘Nother Never,” a line on a good old standard that definitely tips the hat to Mr. Smith’s lexicon and was inspired by myself and Jim Snidero’s learning the tunes from Here Comes Louis Smith way back when. Another mea culpa is that the one I did include, “Wetu,” was so devilishly hard to play!
Louis Smith came out of the same Memphis milieu as Booker Little, George Coleman, Frank Strozier and other giants of the music. He made quite an impact on the scene with his two Blue Note records of the late ’50s as well as a stint with Horace Silver (chronicled on a recent Blue Note issue of Horace’s from the Newport Jazz Festival of 1958). In common with Booker, Louis represented the advent of the well-trained (in the academic trumpet playing sense) trumpeter on the scene, Louis having studied the instrument with one of the giants of mid-century trumpet pedagogy, Clifford Lillya. Louis ultimately opted for the security of a teaching career in Michigan instead of the stress and uncertainty of a NY jazz scene going through continual transition. We are all indebted to the Danish label Steeplechase for continuing to document his work in later years.
There’s just something about the lines in Louis Smith’s tunes that really knocks me out, as well as tickles me in a way. They’re densely packed with bebop information, with a sort of literal-mindedness about the way the phrases proceed: unrelenting, yet joyful; very hip, but also with a certain naiveté in them. I love them!
I’ve previously paid tribute to Mr. Tolliver, one of my true idols as a young player coming up, on my Tribute To The Trumpet Masters recording with an original composition eponymously named “Charles Tolliver.” Chas may have a little more visibility than some of the other cats covered in this project, but nothing commensurate with his stature musically. I would not be doing (or trying to do) what I’m doing if not for his example. What he achieved with Music Inc. set a high bar for any trumpeter bold enough to attempt to play modern post-bop trumpet in a quartet setting, which is no mean achievement indeed! “Household Of Saud” is one of my favorite Tolliver compositions — an absolute classic.
A more well-known name in the jazz world than most of the trumpeters covered in this project, Donald Byrd still seems to be unjustly overlooked and under-appreciated, given his importance in the main line of hard bop trumpeting, his influence on his contemporaries, and the excellence and interest of his playing. I think his incorporation of a more legato articulation into a (perhaps) Clifford Brown-influenced lexicon was significant, and I suspect both Freddie Hubbard and Booker Little checked this out. Mr. Byrd has also been a skillful organizer/bandleader and an effective composer. Byrd’s “I’m So Excited By You”, played in a quartet version for this project, is a great tune to blow on, with hip changes slightly reminiscent of “If I Were A Bell” or “I Love You.”
Kamau Adilfu (Charles Sullivan)
Scott DeVeaux’s excellent book The Birth Of Bebop chronicles this forgotten trumpeter’s career and provides thoughtful analysis of his work. One could think of McGhee as a transitional figure in the evolution of jazz trumpet from swing to bop; but a case could also be made for his standing at the very head of the bop trumpet tradition along with Dizzy Gillespie. Remember, Fats Navarro stated: “He was the influence!” I took a later McGhee tune scored for quintet, “Sandy,” to represent him here. This is really a fun one to play on; you can get lulled into thinking you’re playing on a very familiar tune from the core repertoire (guesses, anyone?) and then the changes go somewhere else. Alex Hoffman and I have a little romp on the beginning and end of the song with the vamp.
Ira was a big influence on me as a young player in Milwaukee. When Chuck LaPaglia would bring Ira up to his club, Milwaukee’s legendary Jazz Gallery, to play, I would be there every night with my mouth open to witness his genius on sax, flute, and most importantly for me, trumpet! Ira was always very generous,letting me sit in and share his bandstand, and I learned a lot through the osmosis that can occur in the vicinity of genius. To this day, I seek him out (he’s often playing in his hometown Chicago during Jazz Festival time) to hear what I consider to be some of the purest jazz trumpet playing and real bebop blowing left to us. I think my original, “Marissa’s Mood,” named for my wife, is a suitable vehicle to salute Ira. He’d tear up the changes on this one!
ABOUT THE PLAYERS
It’s a real honor and a distinct pleasure to have Vincent on board as esteemed invited guest for Unsung Heroes. As well as being one of the greatest alto saxophonists in the world today he’s a truly great human being as well. His enthusiasm, positivity, and support for this project have made a huge difference. I’ve known Vincent since we played on the street together in midtown more than a quarter century ago! We were in the Jazz Messengers together and we’ve shared the stage many times but this recording signals a new level and a deeper musical relationship. I love playing together, Vincent!
I knew this young man had something special from the very first day that I heard him play as a NYU freshman auditioning for my ensemble. Pretty soon I found that I had little to show him; Alex was uncannily equipped as a player from the jump, with a great ear, beautiful ideas, and a deep knowledge of the music and its tradition that pulled it all together. And he also proved to be a crack reader and alert, conscientious ensemble player. Alex has become a very important part of my musical world in the last few years, and I’m proud to have him here in one of his debut record dates. I guarantee that you’ll be hearing a lot more of him in the future!
Rob and I go way, way back. We met in San Diego in the early ’80s, where we cut our teeth together with the great Charles McPherson and I played in his various bands (including some very interesting “fusion” projects!). We both moved to NYC around the same time, and played extensively together through the ’80s as well as enjoying our very close friendship (an interesting sidelight: we used to play sessions at Rob’s Upper West Side apartment with his roommate, a bassist named Jared Bernstein, who’s now Vice President Joe Biden’s chief economic advisor!). In the ’90s, I recorded a number of times with Rob on the Reservoir label (Radio Waves from 1991 is a great record) while at the same time he was pursuing his study of mathematics which resulted in his receiving an advanced degree from UC Berkeley, conducting advanced research at the Max Planck Institute in Germany, and becoming a professor of mathematics at Lehman College back in New York City. His music has only deepened through all this; Rob has the intelligence, the rootedness and solidity, the provocative ideas and the sensational feel that made my colleague Donald Harrison exclaim that having him on your set was “like money in the bank!” And you sure are, as a colleague and as a friend.
Alex Hoffman turned me on to David, though I’d already been hearing his name mentioned quite favorably around town and seen him in the personnel on jazz club listings. Good call, Alex! David has just got to be one of the best on the straight ahead scene now, and at a fairly early stage in his career. He’s got swing, great notes, happening technique, spot-on intonation, can read his behind off, and solos at a extremely fluent level. No wonder greats like Jimmy Heath and Roy Haynes use him in their bands!
Pete Van Nostrand
Another young gentleman brought to my attention by Mr. Ho≠man. Pete and David really have a nice hookup together; they enjoy playing together and making the rest of the group feel good. Pete relaxes me when I play with him, which is definitely conducive to my best performance. He has the old school vibe but he doesn’t make it sound dated; his playing and musical attitude have a flexibility that makes them definitely of today. Pete is a devotee of the tradition who will be making his own mark on it in the years to come as one of the elite on his chosen axe.
Little Johnny Rivero
Claudio Roditi: http://www.facebook.com/claudioroditi
Charles Sullivan: http://www.jazzdiscography.com/Leaders/SullivanCharles-ldr.php
Howard McGhee: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_McGhee
Charles Tolliver: www.charlestolliver.com
David Wong: http://www.myspace.com/davidwongbass
Pete Van Nostrand: www.petevannostrand.com/Site/Home.html
Little Johnny Rivero: http://www.lpmusic.com/Pros_That_Play_LP/Players_Roster/rivero.html
Brian Lynch: I’d like to dedicate this project to my wife Marissa Gonzalez, whom without I would have never been able to see the whole thing through! And to the memory of the great Tommy Turrentine.
Roger Townsend: (Executive Producer Contributor) I dedicate my participation in this project to the memory of Professor Paul A. Freund, whose wisdom, kindness, and generosity continue to guide my life.
Brian Lynch is a Yamaha Artist: http://www.yamaha.com/artists/brianlynch.html
Brian Lynch plays Monette mouthpieces.
©2010 Hollistic MusicWorks and Brian Lynch. Unauthorized duplication and distribution prohibited. Play along versions and multi track audio stems of this music are available at http://hollisticmusicworks.com