Friday, March 24, 2023

Bob Thiele Emergency – “Head Start” (1969)

I. Bob Thiele

Bob Thiele is best known these days as the producer responsible for making Impulse Records the iconic label it became in the sixties. Thiele took over Impulse after founder Creed Taylor left (after about a half dozen iconic releases) for more lucrative work at Verve in 1961.

But if Impulse is now considered “The House Trane Built,” it is significantly due to Thiele’s undaunting and visionary patronage of saxophonist John Coltrane. Thiele gamely let Coltrane record whatever he wanted – balanced by occasional appeals to the mainstream – even while critics were harsh and sales were negligible.

Only Coltrane’s early death enshrined his Thiele-produced recordings as great sermons in the church of Impulse.

While Thiele’s belief in and support of Coltrane seemed at the time to bet against the odds – jazz’s big short – Thiele was hardly a novice in the jazz world. In his teens, Thiele founded his own jazz label (Signature) and co-founded his own jazz magazine (called Jazz, appropriately enough, and later Jazz & Pop).

When Signature failed – Thiele always seemed to favor, even celebrate, out-of-fashion players and styles – Thiele took a job as staff producer at Coral Records. There, he produced hits for Buddy Holly and Theresa Brewer, who would later become his wife. Thiele was also known for arranging many jazz-first collaborations, such as the historic meeting in 1960 between Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong.

II. Bob Thiele Albums

Less known about Bob Thiele is the catalog of recordings he made under his own name. These in-name-only recordings were often made in the company of rotating studio musicians and/or star soloists known as “The New Happy Times Orchestra” (1967-1974) and, later, “The Bob Thiele Collective” (1991-93).

Few jazz producers had the name recognition – or the chutzpah – to record under their own names. Norman Granz, however, attached his name to those Jazz at the Philharmonic records in the fifties. And Creed Taylor, who literally signed his name to his productions, briefly attached his name to several novelty records (1958-60) in an effort to cloak the actual leadership of Kenyon Hopkins, signed to another label at the time.

Curiously, Thiele – who “rubber stamped” his Impulse, ABC and BluesWay productions – only started recording under his own name after John Coltrane’s July 1967 death. Perhaps as sole champion of the now-revered jazz icon, Thiele felt he had market cachet. But most of these records – save the icky tribute “There Once Was a Man Named John” on the otherwise underrated Thiele-led The Mysterious Flying Orchestra (1977) – had precious little to do with John Coltrane.

And none were particularly popular.

The best, or at least best-known, Thiele projects were often features for strong soloists. These likely include the big band psych jazz of 1967’s Light My Fire, with guitarist Gabor Szabo and saxophonist Tom Scott, and the surprisingly consistent and straight-ahead Sunrise Sunset (1991), a feature for David Murray (!) with sterling support from John Hicks, Cecil McBee and Andrew Cyrille.

More often than not, Bob Thiele-led records were unholy mish mashes that blended in styles with out modes, like the strange fusion that is 1975’s I Saw Pinetop Spit Blood - credited in classic easy-listening fashion to “Bob Thiele & His Orchestra” – featuring several of Oliver Nelson’s final works and soloists such as Tom Scott, Mike Wofford and Oscar Brashear.

(The album’s odd title is based on a 1939 headline in DownBeat magazine regarding boogie woogie pianist Pinetop Smith’s 1929 death. Thiele covers “Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie” on the album, in addition to a particularly lovely cover of Jerry Goldsmith’s “Theme from ‘Chinatown’.”)

III. Flying Dutchman

By 1969, Bob Thiele officially left Impulse and began contracting his services to the label. He’d even scored a surprise hit there that year with Pharoah Sanders’ “The Creator Has a Master Plan.” That year also saw Thiele launch his own label, Flying Dutchman Records.

Named for the 18th-century myth about a ghost ship forever doomed to sail the seven seas, Flying Dutchman seemed to catalog Thiele’s interest in recording jazz, both mainstream and cutting edge, Broadway musicals as well as R&B and soul.

Not only did Thiele go a long way to chronicle activism and poetry in his Flying Dutchman productions – something particularly daring and unusual for jazz labels or any major label to take on at the time – he was also hugely responsible for the wave of “spiritual jazz” that emerged during the turn of the decade.

Flying Dutchman’s fourth release was a double-disc set called Head Start, helmed by an all-over-the-map collective billed as the “Bob Thiele Emergency.” Released in November 1969, Head Start is ostensibly a label sampler, featuring such Flying Dutchman artists as Tom Scott, Ornette Coleman, Jon Appleton, Horace Tapscott, John Carter and Bobby Bradford.

But this was hardly a label sampler. It is more a declaration of what Bob Thiele hoped to achieve on his label. In terms familiar to filmgoers, think of Bob Thiele as a director and Head Start as a series of short films with various musicians as the stars.

IV. Emergency

Likely riffing off the Tony Williams Lifetime’s then-recent and similarly double-disc set Emergency!, the oddly dubbed “Bob Thiele Emergency” is less about making a musical statement than marketing a manifesto. Whereas Williams set out to chart a course at the crossroads of jazz and rock, Thiele seems to suggest here that there was more than one way to chronicle jazz at the dawn of the seventies.

Head Start - the title likely conveys Thiele’s idea of a “sneak peak” of what the listener can expect from Flying Dutchman – is roughly divided in to four parts, one for each side of the original record and each trafficking in different kinds of jazz. The range mirrors much of the music Thiele oversaw during his years at Impulse: from commercial (side one) and traditional (parts of side two) to “New Thing” and avant-garde (sides two and three).

Tom Scott kicks off side one with a large ensemble of L.A. studio players wailing on the title track. It’s a bit of righteous funk straight out of a Lalo Schifrin action movie score or the TV show Mannix. It’s the same kind of groove that made Scott’s later Starsky & Hutch theme song so infectious.

Like many of Scott’s other riff-based compositions, it’s catchy, even earwormy, and should probably have been a hit – for somebody. But it somehow died on the vine. (Scott would perform the song again on the 1971 album Better Days by Joe Pass, who makes a brief appearance elsewhere here.)

Next up is Scott’s ”Freaky Zeke,” one of those sleazy blues numbers so many movies and TV programs cued up at the time to suggest a strip joint or seedy bar. Other than Howard Roberts’ fuzz-guitar solo, there’s nothing much going on here.

This leads into a suite called “Beatle Ballads,” with Scott-arranged takes of “Blackbird,” “Julia” and “I Will,” all of which originally appeared on the Fab Four’s so-called White Album). The weird Tijuana Brass take on the otherwise pretty “I Will,” however, throws the suite for a loop (it sounds like a parody of something). It would have been much more memorable if Scott & Co. simply took on “Blackbird,” a lovely feature for Scott on flute.

The funky ”Lanoola Goes Limp” was written by Jules Chaiken, rock journalist Ellen Sander (!) and Artie Butler, writing under his Max Hardy pseudonym, for a 1969 Thiele-produced record by the so-called Plaster Caster Blues Band, a studio group featuring, among others, George Smith (who factors on this record’s “Pickin’ Taters Blues,” and co-written by Flying Dutchman artist Esther Marrow).

”Lanoola” showed up again on another Thiele production by the so-called Revolutionary Blues Band (also 1969), another studio concoction, there featuring Tom Scott. On this particular variation, Roger Kellaway takes an edgy funk solo and Scott’s signature sound is ever present. But the jokey New Orleans bits heard here seem a bit off-putting and make this listener wonder what they were up to.

Turning side one over reveals an ambitious six-part history called “The Jazz Story,” which swings from the blues to the “Avant Garde” – with four pieces written by Tom Scott and performed by a quintet featuring Horace Tapscott, John Carter and Bobby Bradford. Not much of it leaps past mere music-school exercises. No less an authority than Quincy Jones would be stymied by this sort of thing a few years later. So, the less said here, the better.

Moving on to side three reveals the second of the record’s themed “suites,” the mostly moving “Dedication to John Coltrane.”

The three pieces heard here make for a heady brew of jazz that’s more contemplative than swinging, and considerably more compelling than the usual filler on the typical Thiele-led disc. First up is the haunting improvisation “Lament for John Coltrane,” with Joe Farrell on flute and former Coltrane associates Wilbur Little on bass and Elvin Jones on drums. A whole album of this trio would have been monumental. But you’ll have to go to Blue Note for Elvin Jones’ Poly-Currents to hear more.

Next is Coltrane’s prayer “A Love Supreme” (the text of which was reproduced on the inner sleeve of Coltrane’s 1964 album of the same name), read by NYC DJ Rosko (a.k.a. William “Rosko” Mercer) – who factored on several other Flying Dutchman albums at the time – and accompanied by Farrell’s otherworldly flute.

This side wraps with the wails of love and anguish of the Ornette Coleman Quartet’s “Holiday for a Graveyard,” recorded live – with what sounds like a hand-held tape recording of the performance – at Coltrane’s July 21, 1967, funeral.

Finally, the record wraps with a strange, yet fascinating experimental 17-minute piece titled “A Few Thoughts for the Day.” Built on a framework of Tom Scott’s horn and percussion framework (predating his similar-sounding score to the 1972 film Conquest of the Planet of the Apes) and leavened with the electronics of electro-acoustic composer Jon Appleton , “A Few Thoughts” mixes in vocal samples of Martin Luther King, Richard Daley, Robert Kennedy and various news announcers.

While ”A Few Thoughts” hints at the activism Thiele would advocate for at Flying Dutchman – issuing narrative records on the massacre at My Lai and the Kent State murders as well as records by Carl B. Stokes and Angela Davis – Thiele had briefly explored this sort of thing before, notably on Oliver Nelson’s 1967 The Kennedy Dream.

If anything screams “Emergency” here, it is certainly “A Few Thoughts for the Day,” a threnody on violence that has, remarkably, stood the test of time.

V. Afterlife

Grand as Thiele’s intentions may have been here, it’s fair to say that few took Head Start seriously. Indeed, few took to Head Start at all. The record received almost no coverage. But what little was written diverged wildly: Cash Box called it “magnificent” while Billboard came much closer, dubbing the double-disc set “a mixed bag.” Sales were even less encouraging.

The mostly uncommercial Head Start surprisingly yielded no less than three single releases: a 2:27 edit of “A Few Thoughts for the Day” (FD DJ-1); the catchy and hit-worthy “Head Start” b/w “Freaky Zeke” (FD 26005); and a 3:07 edit of “Lament for John Coltrane” b/w “A Love Supreme,” the b-side credited solely to Rosko (FD 26006). But none of these got further than the “promotional only” stage, meaning none received the radio airplay or interest that would yield to a full release, at least one that anyone would buy – making those promos exceedingly rare finds for anyone interested these days.

Thiele managed to put out nearly a hundred discs on Flying Dutchman and its subsidiary labels through 1976. But pretty much all of Head Start’s headliners had flown the coop within that first year. The label ended up building its reputation – if not its coffers – with later recordings by Gil Scott-Heron, Leon Thomas, Gato Barbieri and Lonnie Liston Smith.

After Tom Scott scored his own hit with the L.A. Express in 1974 on another label, Flying Dutchman put out the cleverly-titled 1975 compilation Tom Scott in L.A., a decent set including Head Start’s first three songs (also never issued on CD).

The first five years of the Flying Dutchman catalog was later acquired by the British label Ace Records, whose BGP division issued Head Start on CD in 2013. The CD is well worth acquiring as it includes a previously unissued version of Tom Scott’s terrific bossa “The Flying Dutchman” – but none of the single edits noted above. The 2013 BGP compilation Liberation Music: Spiritual Jazz And The Art Of Protest On Flying Dutchman Records 1969-1974 also includes the above noted "Lament for John Coltrane."

It’s a shame the rest of the record isn’t like this. “The Flying Dutchman” was first heard in a different iteration on the 1969 Flying Dutchman record Hog Fat by drummer Jimmy Gordon, who died last week at age 77 while still incarcerated for the 1983 murder of his mother. Gordon is heard on the Tom Scott-helmed numbers heard here.

Jimmy Gordon and Tom Scott also reunited with Bob Thiele for the producer/nominal leader’s even more uneven 1975 album I Saw Pinetop Spit Blood.

To Bob Thiele’s credit, Head Start neither wallows in the past nor curries much favor with the then-in present. This is a record that looked forward to what jazz could have been in the seventies. While Thiele didn’t get it right (at least here) – the way producer Creed Taylor memorably accomplished at CTI and Kudu – his vision for jazz’s future at a real crossroads at the time was noble and well worth hearing. Head Start is the single-most forward-looking disc in the entire discography under Bob Thiele’s name.

Friday, March 17, 2023

Juke Joint: Lost Organ Jazz from the 60s – Pt. 1

It was a century ago that the great composer, pianist and organist Fats Waller (1904-43) introduced the organ to the world of jazz. Count Basie later, though briefly, took up the keys-and-pedals beast but it took another couple of decades for Wild Bill Davis (1918-95) to pioneer and popularize the “organ trio” format in jazz.

Davis, a veteran of Louis Jordan’s Tympani Five – and arranger of the Count Basie Orchestra’s 1955 hit “April in Paris” – played the organ like a big band, or, as Geoff Alexander put it in 1988’s The Jazz Organ: A Brief History, a “rhythm-and-blues based organ style with crescendoing, large chords and heavy emphasis on [the] volume pedal.”

When Jimmy Smith’s (1925-2005) second Blue Note album, A New Sound A New Star: Jimmy Smith at the Organ Volume 2 (a.k.a. The Champ), came out in 1956, his new sound indeed made him a jazz star. While All About Jazz claimed that the record was more “bebop oriented” than the first volume, what listeners heard here was jazz with more blues, more gospel and, more importantly, much more soul. Little wonder it was such a hit.

Suddenly, jazz organ trios were everywhere: on records, in clubs, on jukeboxes, and even in many lounges, from airports to suburban neighborhoods – where it eventually became a cliché. When Smith hit it big in 1962 with “Walk on the Wild Side,” from the album Bashin’ and propelled by Oliver Nelson’s big-band backing, organ records were cranked out faster than most people could buy them. If they even knew about them.

Major jazz labels like Blue Note and Prestige signed a slew of organ players: Baby Face Willette, Big John Patton, Larry Young, Freddie Roach, Lonnie Smith and Reuben Wilson at the former and Shirley Scott (later, just about the only organist on Impulse), Johnny “Hammond” Smith (later as Johnny Hammond), Jack McDuff, Trudi Pitts and Don Patterson at the latter.

Curiously, other major jazz labels such as Verve (where Jimmy Smith reigned mightily for most of the next decade) and Impulse surprisingly avoided the organ-trio wave almost completely. There may well have been a very specific reason for this…but that’s not the point here.

Other smaller labels – like Pacific Jazz, which had Charles Kynard (later on Prestige) and Richard “Groove” Holmes (later on Prestige and Blue Note), or the tiny Sue label, which had Jimmy McGriff (later at Sonny Lester’s many labels) – put out great and exciting organ jazz that had some modicum of popularity.

Booker T. & the M.G.s’ 1962 R&B instrumental hit “Green Onions” likely had as much to do with the rising – if mercilessly brief – popularity of organ-based jazz as well.

By the early sixties, organ jazz had a well-defined sound and style. People either loved the fatback of its grits and gravy or loathed it as a roller-rink music. Still, every major city in America had at least one jazz joint where a local organ trio could be heard. And bars everywhere had jukeboxes blasting organ jazz to approving, if not inebriated, patrons.

It didn’t last long. Only a few years later, electronic keyboards like electric pianos, Fender Rhodes and, later, synthesizers came along. Not only did these keyboards sound cooler and more contemporary, they were much easier for players to move from gig to gig than the bulky, heavy organ.

Even the music had a short shelf life. This sort of organ jazz quickly wore out its welcome. While straight jazzers never had much respect for the music, the “electrifying” addition of bass and guitar added a new dimension of “funk” to the equation.

Organ grinders more or less disappeared until the “acid jazz” revival in the nineties brought back heavy hitters like Jimmy Smith, Jimmy McGriff and Charles Earland as well as young guns James Taylor Quartet and, notably, Joey DeFrancesco (both of whom moved the needle ahead – if not in different directions). These days, too few proponents wade in this water. But, to these ears, the Seattle-based Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio reigns supreme. (Are there others? I’d love to know.)

Here, we journey back to the “juke joint,” where the music smoked more than the patrons and the groove was greasier than the food. A few boundaries were set for the following choices, but it’s always fun to go a little out of bounds. There must be much more of this locally-sourced stuff out there. If you have any juke-joint suggestions, please comment below and we’ll work out some sequels. Enjoy!

”Brother Daniel” – The Lou Bennett Quartet (1960)

Like Rhoda Scott, American jazz organist Lou Bennett (1926-97) spent the majority of his career in France. The Philadelphia-born Bennett was attracted to the organ after hearing Jimmy Smith in 1956. He left the country shortly thereafter – returning only once more, briefly in 1964. Bennett’s “Brother Daniel” comes from his debut album Amen, featuring the great bebop drummer and fellow American émigré Kenny Clarke (who also played often with French organ grinder Eddy Louiss). Please note: The video above is not the studio original but a live performance from 1960 for French TV by Bennett and drummer Franco Manzecchi.

”Caramu” – Sam Lazar (1960)

From mid-west organist Sam Lazar’s (b. 1933) 1960 debut album Space Flight, featuring the soon-to-be legendary Grant Green on guitar and blues great Willie Dixon on bass. (A cover of Dixon’s classic “My Babe,” a hit for Little Walter in 1955, appears here as well.) Lazar waxed only three records for Argo in the early sixties, but Space Flight is the most memorable – although “Scootin,” from Lazar’s third disc, Playback may be better known. Space Flight was issued on CD in 2007 under the guitarist’s name as part of Grant Green Organ Trio and Quartet.

“A Taste of Honey” – Lloyd G. Mayers (1962)

This one is a bit of a cheat. But an absolutely necessary inclusion even so. Unlike other tunes sampled here, this “Honey” is, first, a cover and, second, an organ-combo number bolstered by Oliver Nelson’s signature big band. But this version of “A Taste of Honey” is one of the three tunes that initially inspired this set in the first place. Just one listen will tell you why.

The Brooklyn-born Mayers (b. 1929) was better known as a pianist. To my knowledge, this is his only outing on organ. Indeed, Mayers’ album, also titled A Taste of Honey - released in August 1962, a mere three months after its model, Jimmy Smith’s Oliver Nelson-arranged Bashin’ - is the only album released under Mayers’ own name.

Inspired by Art Tatum and Bud Powell, pianist Mayers had previously played with Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis and Joe Newman and would go on to play with Lou Donaldson. Mayers, without his middle initial, would later move on to several Broadway productions, most notably Sophisticated Ladies in 1981. Mayers employs his Tatum and Powell influences here to deliver a scalding organ performance that few can match.

Bobby Scott and Ric Marlow’s intoxicating ”A Taste of Honey” was popular among listeners of jazz (Victor Feldman, Paul Desmond, Duke Pearson), pop (The Beatles) and easy-listening (Martin Denny, Acker Bilk, Herb Alpert). Most of these were even hits.

The song was written for the 1960 Broadway production of the 1958 British play, yet remarkably did not at all appear in Tony Richardson’s 1961 film of the same name: now chiefly remembered as the film debut of Rita Tushingham, lately of Last Night in Soho, and as a huge inspiration for Morrissey. Even so, Mayers’ album cover surprisingly reproduces a bit of the film’s poster.

Mayer’s “Honey” is anything but sweet. This one is the monster that sugar turns kids into. For a guy who isn’t known for manning this beast of burden, Mayers tackles the organ to the ground. He pows as good as he wows.

This listener first tasted this variation of “Honey” via a memorable performance Paul Shaffer delivered with “The World’s Most Dangerous Band” on a mid-eighties episode of Late Night with David Letterman – beautifully using a synthesizer to emulate a sixties-era organ. (Thanks Dave P.!) The amazing Shaffer’s musical tribute is exactly the sort of reverence and appreciation this writer tries to deliver here in however useless words.

Mayers’ wonderful A Taste of Honey (which also delivers a nice take of another 1962 hit for Verve, “Desafinado”) was paired with Nelson’s unusual but worthy Impressions of Phaedra (also from 1962) on a 2017 European CD.

”Where It’s At” – Charles Kynard (1963)

St. Louis-born Charles Kynard (1933-79) was leading a piano trio in Kansas City (in addition to his duties as a teacher and real-estate agent) when trumpeter Carmell Jones recommended him to Pacific Jazz Records’ Richard Bock. Kynard packed his bags and right off the plane waxed a record with saxophonist Sonny Stitt. (Uncle Ben Kynard co-wrote “Red Top” with Lionel Hampton.)

Right after that Charles recorded his debut album Where It’s At with guitarist Howard Roberts and “Honky Tonk” saxophonist Clifford Scott. Kynard’s trio became the group to see in L.A.’s then-thriving jazz scene. But Kynard’s work with disabled children, private lessons and playing organ in the church kept him a West Coast secret.

While Kynard’s later work for Prestige (1968-71) and Mainstream (1971-74) is much better known (he also put out several gospel records), it’s worth going back to where it all began. Where It’s At was never issued on CD but its title track is included on the terrific UK-only CD compilation Blue Pacific Funk – Wailin’ on the West Coast (1998).

”Figueroa” – Andre Previn (1964)

This surprising little swinger comes from Andre Previn’s (1929-2019) otherwise orchestral soundtrack to one of Bette Davis’ better late-career movies, Dead Ringer. In the film, Davis plays twin sisters, one of whom is Edie, owner of a divey bar. This “lounge” – filmed at a real bar on the corner of Figueroa and Temple streets in Los Angeles – hosts an organ combo (fronted by actress Perry Blackwell [b.1925], a.k.a. Perri Lee – who could actually play the organ and did – although it’s not clear if she’s playing here) doing this jaunty number. Sure, Previn is riffing on the sort of music you’d expect to hear at a joint like this, but whoever is playing the organ here is, well, a dead ringer for the real thing.

”Mo’ Roc” (1964) and “Behind the 8 Ball” (1965) – Baby-Face Willette

Born Roosevelt James Willett in 1933, the so-called Baby-Face held piano stints in R&B and jazz groups out of Los Angeles, Chicago and Milwaukee. By the time he hit New York in 1960 to join Lou Donaldson’s band, Baby-Face had switched to organ. Inspired, of course, by Jimmy Smith, Baby-Face brought his background in the church to the instrument, adding a keen sense of R&B and even rock n roll to the groove.

Willette, now with an extra “e,” waxed two discs of his own for Blue Note, before heading back to Chicago. While there, Baby-Face recorded two additional records for Argo, Mo’ Roc and Behind the 8 Ball - the last recorded documents Baby-Face made before his shockingly early death at age 37 in 1971. The Argo records, made with his working group at the time, far outshine the Blue Notes (despite Grant Green’s presence there) for sheer grit and righteous groove.

The title tracks to both records say it all.

”Sticky Wicket” – Billy Larkin and the Delegates featuring Clifford Scott (1965)

Billy Larkin and the Delegates hailed from Portland, Oregon but made a strong impression in Los Angeles after DJ Les Carter recommended the group to producer Richard Bock. The quartet played jazz with a heavy emphasis on the blues and covered many pop and R&B hits of the day. “Sticky Wicket” comes from the group’s second LP, Blue Lights - featuring the aforementioned Clifford Scott – perhaps its best for pure organ-combo groove (“Little Jr. Detroit” and the title track also merit attention).

Interesting to note: Delegates drummer Mel Brown went on to work with Martha and the Vandellas, a gig that led to Brown becoming a session drummer at Motown…working on records by The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and many others.

”The Flick” – Earl Van Dyke & the Soul Brothers (1965)

Detroit-born Earl Van Dyke (1930-92) was the longtime keyboard player for Motown’s house band, The Funk Brothers. The fantastic “The Flick” is one of the few non-album singles he issued at that time under his own name. Van Dyke also put out a worthy album of instrumentals, That Motown Sound, in 1965 that includes great covers of Motown classics, including a feverish take of The Marvelettes’ 1964 hit “Too Many Fish in the Sea.” Earl Van Dyke smokes the organ like few others do. For proof, check out the B-side to 1964’s “Soul Stomp,” a burner called “Hot ‘N’ Tot.”

“The Vamp” – Gene Ludwig (1965)

Pittsburgh native Gene Ludwig (1937-2010) took piano lessons as a child but discovered R&B through the music of, among others, Bill Doggett and Wild Bill Davis. He finally switched to the organ when he caught Jimmy Smith live in the city’s storied Hill District (the two played together at a 1964 Atlantic City gig).

Ludwig garnered an East Coast presence when he replaced Don Patterson in Sonny Stitt’s group in 1969. But this piece predates this and later appearances with singer Arthur Prysock and guitarist Pat Martino. The Jimmy Smith-ish “The Vamp” was from the organ grinder’s bizarrely-titled debut The Educated Sounds of Gene Ludwig (featuring a cover shot of the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning, my alma mater) on Pittsburgh music legend Travis Klein’s very short-lived Travis label.

(In 1965, Travis also put out “Side Street,” a great but very little-known single by Dayton-based vibraphonist and Acid Jazz favorite Johnny Lytle.)

”Tweetie Pie” – Dave “Baby” Cortez (1966)

Detroit-born Dave “Baby” Cortez (b. 1938) is best known for “The Happy Organ” (1959) and “Rinky Dink” (1962), the skating-rink standards of the day – and likely part of the reason the organ lost favor several years later. The title track to his seventh album, “Tweetie Pie” knocks the funky swing up to eleven. Cortez consistently waxed fine dance music on the “electronic organ” – to swim, twist, frug or shake by – but this one still sounds cool; cooler than your average roller-rink fare. This Baby’s “Organ Shindig” (1965) is well worth hearing too.

”Yeah, Dr. No” – Ingfried Hoffmann (1966)

The tongue and cheeky “Yeah, Dr. No” sounds like it could have come out of any jazz club or juke box in any American city in the mid-sixties. But at about the same time Bert Kaempfert hit these shores with “Strangers in the Night” and Horst Jankowski invited us to take “A Walk in the Black Forest,” the German pianist, organist and composer Ingfried Hoffman (a.k.a. Memphis Black) put out “Yeah, Dr. No.”

Hoffmann spent much of his time in Klaus Doldinger’s pre-Passport band. He also waxed several all-organ records of his own, including some extraordinarily funky ones as “Memphis Black”: While this was clearly an American crossover attempt that unfortunately never happened, Hoffmann was neither from Memphis or, you know…even if he could sound like it. “Yeah, Dr. No” comes from Hoffmann’s second album, From Twen With Love - and is featured on the terrific 2007 CD compilation Hammond Bond. If you like this, you should track down more Ingfried Hoffmann.

”No More Water in the Well” – Odell Brown and the Organizers (1967)

Another cover, but one that’s as little-known as it is spectacular. Chicago-based Odell Brown (1940-2011) recorded three records with The Organ-izers on the Cadet label in the mid-sixties (several solo records followed). Today, Brown is best known as co-writer of Marvin Gaye’s Grammy Award-winning 1982 hit “Sexual Healing.”

This arrangement of “No More Water in the Well” – likely conceived by producer Richard Evans – completely rethinks, reinvents and transcends the original.

The song originally appeared on The Temptations With A Lot O’ Soul (1967) and was never even released as a single (the album’s lack of success got co-writer Smokey Robinson fired as the Temp’s producer to be replaced by Norman Whitfield). This one evinces how the music was beginning to change. But nothing else the Organ-izers did ever measured up to this.

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Pete Turner: The Color of Light – Bruce Silverstein Gallery, New York City – March 16 to May 13, 2023

Bruce Silverstein Gallery is pleased to present Pete Turner: The Color of Light, an exhibition celebrating one of history’s pioneers of color photography.

Featuring a selection of Pete Turner’s most iconic photographic images from the 1950s to the late 1990s, The Color of Light will display many of the artist’s most celebrated works and offer plenty of surprises; it is a visual feast of discovery and wonder with images depicting classic Americana, other-worldly landscapes, and hypersurreal abstractions. Fusing never-before-seen saturated color with striking and often complex compositions decades before the advent of Photoshop, Turner would not just set a new high bar for the limits of commercial photography of the day but also come to influence countless artists of his generation and after, including David LaChapelle, Annie Leibovitz, Steve McCurry, Joel Meyerowitz, Martin Parr, and Albert Watson. His reputation and reach were so significant that in 2000 PDN voted Pete Turner one of the 20 most influential photographers.

Pete Turner (1934-2017) began his photographic career at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Upon graduation, Turner served with the Second Signal Combat photography team at the Army Pictorial Center in Long Island City. During that time, he began to explore his growing interests in the undiscovered possibilities of color photography, utilizing the military’s photo lab to experiment with the type-C color process, which was in its infancy. Turner quickly saw success in his color photography with his first photo essay on Barnum and Bailey Circus in 1958 for Look magazine. Not long after, Turner’s unique imagery would become ubiquitous, appearing in magazine spreads from Sports Illustrated to Esquire, major advertisement campaigns for Bacardi, General Motors, and AT&T, and on over 100 hundred record album covers ranging from Coltrane, John Coltrane 1962, to the Greatest Hits, Steely Dan, 1978, to Jorge Pescara, Grooves in the Temple, 2005.

Over the next 50 years, Turner developed his unique style of vivid color, often utilizing polarizing filters, colored gels, and multiple exposures to produce unnatural effects that bordered on the fantastic and surreal that the critic A.D. Coleman would define as an “indescribable otherness.”

This was a radical departure for an era that highly regarded black and white photography as superior to color for holding artistic value. Yet, Turner’s use of color and composition allowed him to capture a wide range of subjects in new and exciting ways. He photographed everything from jazz musicians to landscapes to abstract compositions, pushing the boundaries of appropriate subject matter for color photography in the commercial and fine art world.

“The color palette I work with is really intense,” Turner stated in a video produced by the George Eastman House, the photographic museum in Rochester that exhibited his work in 2006 and 2007, Empowered by Color. “I like to push it to the limit.” George Eastman House first purchased his work for their permanent collection, Rolling Ball, in 1960.

In 1967, the Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibited Turner’s most radical image of the time, Giraffe, sending shockwaves through the photographic canon. Giraffe illustrated his growing interest in manipulating color and bringing saturated hues to his work. “Nobody was using primary color photos,” he told PDN in the late 1990s, “and Giraffe is a combination of magenta and red, a very powerful image that manipulated color far beyond what color photographers were thinking they could do at the time.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art acquired the photo that same year. Weston Naef, curator of photography at the museum, called him “The Dr. No of color photography" and acquired twelve of his most iconic dye transfer prints for the museum.

In 1986, Harry Abrams published Turner’s first monograph, Pete Turner Photographs; in 2000, Gordon Parks wrote the introduction for African Journey, Graphis. In 2006, Rizzoli published a book of his jazz album covers entitled, The Color of Jazz, introduction by Quincy Jones. His work has been shown globally through his advertising campaigns and numerous solo and group exhibitions. He has earned numerous accolades, including the prestigious Outstanding Achievement Award from the American Society of Media Photographers. His work is held in private and public collections, including the Amon Carter Museum of American Art and the Kimbell Museum in Fort Worth, Texas; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California; the International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House, Rochester, New York; The Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris, France; the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, Tokyo, Japan; and the International Center of Photography, New York, New York.

Pete Turner: The Color of Light opens Thursday, March 16th, with a reception from 6 – 8 pm. For more information, please contact or go to

Established in 2001, the Bruce Silverstein Gallery’s principal focus is the representation of an international roster of contemporary artists as well as established artists of great influence. The gallery is committed to discovering, examining, and contextualizing known and unknown artworks by modern masters as well as innovative artists of today. The gallery strives to provide a venue for dialogue across all art forms, while specializing in modern and contemporary photography.

Bruce Silverstein Gallery is located at 529 West 20th Street in the heart of the Chelsea Art District. The gallery maintains an in-depth inventory of masterworks of the photographic medium and promotes long-standing relationships with museums, private collectors, art consultants and corporations from around the world. We welcome both experienced and new collectors.

Bruce Silverstein Gallery
529 West 20th Street
3rd Floor / Suite 3W
New York, NY 10011

Telephone: 212-627-3930
Fax: 212-691-5509

Saturday, February 25, 2023

GRP All-Star Big Band

“A pretty snazzy idea well executed: The label's stars join forces for a set of big-band arrangements of combo-jazz standards. Holding forth swingingly on numbers from the books of Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis, and others are such formidable players as Tom Scott, Lee Ritenour, Gary Burton, Eric Marienthal, Randy Brecker, Arturo Sandoval, Kenny Kirkland, and John Patitucci. A pleasing project with immediate jazz radio sizzle.” - Billboard (May 23, 1992)

By the early nineties, Dave Grusin and Larry Rosen’s GRP Records had become such a force of nature, not only in jazz – by then, a pretty smooth kind of jazz – but in the music industry itself. Indeed, by this point, GRP surprisingly inherited the rights to issue and reissue the imposing Impulse catalog as well. Honestly, whoever expected to see the GRP logo on an an Albert Ayler CD? But it happened.

What was little-known at the time and is hardly recalled to this day – this writer pleads guilty to at least on one count here – is that GRP was always devoted as much to mainstream jazz as to whatever you want to call the music that sold discs at the time. GRP issued well-received discs by the Glenn Miller and Duke Ellington orchestras in the eighties as well as Gerry Mulligan’s Re-Birth of the Cool.

The label also never prohibited its by-then stellar roster of artists to put out the occasional straight-ahead disc. Consider any number of GRP records by Chick Corea, Gary Burton, Lee Ritenour, Tom Scott, Dave Valentin, Eddie Daniels or Arturo Sandoval that swung toward the mainstream.

So, it should have surprised no one when the first GRP All-Star Big Band disc appeared in 1992. Then celebrating its 10th year, GRP had amassed a fairly impressive roster of real jazz talent. Perhaps not since producer Creed Taylor’s CTI All Stars in the seventies and producer/empresario Norman Granz’s Jazz at the Philharmonic in the fifties had there been a collective this significant in jazz. (There was the Concord All Stars in the eighties, but a group of significantly smaller scale.)

The brainchild of the GRP All-Star Big Band was GRP co-founder and long-time engineer Larry Rosen (1940-2015), who got his start playing drums in Marshall Brown’s Newport Youth Band in the late fifties. That band also included teenage pianist Michael Abene (b. 1942).

Both would go on to other roles in music: Rosen (the “R” of GRP) would team with Dave Grusin to form a production company and, later, GRP Records while Abene went on to arrange for a variety of jazz and pop artists including Maynard Ferguson, Buddy Rich, Liza Minelli, Larry Elgart and the Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra. But both their hearts were rooted deeply with the big bands.

Abene has since gone on to lead the tremendous and highly well-regarded German-based WDR Big Band, where he’s helmed discs with Patti Austin - whom he worked with at CTI in the seventies – Joe Lovano, Paquito D’Rivera, Ali Ryerson, Biréli Lagréne, Bill Evans, Steps Ahead, Steve Gadd and a few of the most exciting Maceo Parker recordings ever waxed.

Rosen asked Abene, who had previously worked on several previous GRP discs, to craft a program of big-band tunes for the GRP roster of recording artists. The goal was not to cover the golden age big-band staples but rather take jazz classics of the fifties and sixties and present them in a big-band format. Or, as the note in the second disc puts it so nicely: “The big band is where jazz songs want to go when they grow up.”

The pair selected tracks they wanted to record and “assigned” songs to arrangers including Tom Scott, Russell Ferrante, Bob Mintzer, Vince Mendoza, Dave Grusin and Abene himself. Then they contracted the musicians and scheduled sessions. Remarkably, then, they assembled a stellar cast of leaders and GRP session players to craft a straight-ahead approach to jazz that was more idealistic and appreciative than commercial at the time.

It’s hard to believe this music came out some three decades ago. It’s hard for me to fathom that it took this long for me to catch up with these discs. From a distance of thirty some years, these discs not only merit renewed attention but manage to exceed all expectation. Honestly, I was imagining a nineties-era fusion take on jazz standards. That’s not at all the case here.

The GRP All-Star Big Band put out three discs between 1992 and 1995, the first two of which were also issued on video in the VHS and Laserdisc formats.

The star power here is fairly dazzling: GRP leaders in their own right include pianist Dave Grusin; trumpeters Randy Brecker and Arturo Sandoval; saxophonists Tom Scott, Eric Marienthal and Nelson Rangell; bassist John Patitucci; drummer Dave Weckl; and the Yellowjackets’ Russell Ferrante and Bob Mintzer (who was helming his own big band at the time). Frequent GRP session players like George Bohannon on trombone, Ernie Watts on saxophones and Alex Acuña on percussion factor on all three discs.

The three discs, particularly the first one, likely sold well. But I wonder whether the folks who bought any of these discs knew what they were getting? I didn’t, which is why I avoided them at the time. And you could find plenty of these discs at second-hand stores back in the day for about a buck a piece. I figure many people were not happy with what they got. They’re pretty easy to find to this day.

Each one of the three of the GRP All-Star Big Band discs were nominated for a Grammy Award, while the last of the three, All Blues, won for Best Large Ensemble Performance. Michael Abene himself was nominated for Best Instrumental Arrangement on each one of the series’ three discs with “Airegin” (1992), “Oleo” (1993) and “Cookin’ at the Continental” (1995) while Tom Scott was nominated for “Stormy Monday Blues” (1995).

GRP All-Star Big Band (1992)

Sonny Rollins’ ”Airegin” serves as the GRP All-Star Big Band’s opening salvo. No one familiar with GRP at the time was likely expecting anything like this: an acoustic killer that swings ferociously. Michael Abene serves up a magnificent arrangement that has real grit and stamina. While he had previously, although very differently, arranged “Airegin” for Maynard Ferguson (in 1964 and 1977), this “Airegin” is a real knockout.

The dueling horns of Ernie Watts (on tenor) and Tom Scott (on alto) are reminiscent of those old “Jazz at the Philharmonic” jams, but considerably more congenial and much more enjoyably compacted. That cordiality is striking: these leaders never let their egos get in the way. Their music is in service of the band – just as it was in those great big bands of yore.

But “Airegin” is just the beginning. Abene really shines on Horace Silver’s 1959 jazz standard “Sister Sadie” (recall, too, that Silver was pianist on the original “Airegin”), letting George Bohannon’s growling trombone positively dance with Eric Marienthal’s barking alto.

The Tom Scott-arranged “Blue Train” nicely updates John Coltrane’s 1957 classic with solos by Nelson Rangell (on alto sax), George Bohannon (doing his Curtis Fuller part), Bob Mintzer (on tenor sax) and Russell Ferante (on piano) soloing.

Wayne Shorter’s jazz standard “Footprints,” (1966), arranged by Yellowjacket Bob Mintzer, benefits mightily by pianist David Benoit and guitarist Lee Ritenour. Trumpeter Sal Marquez suggests what Freddie Hubbard might have contributed to this track had he been included (he wasn’t). Ritenour is absolutely joyous here.

Mintzer’s magnificently arranged “Manteca” is derived from the 1947 Afro Cuban jazz standard by Dizzy Gillespie, Chano Pozo and Gil Fuller. Flautist Dave Valentin – who previously recorded a fiery version of the song with Jorge Dalto in 1984 – tackles one of the leads here. Trumpeters Arturo Sandoval and Randy Brecker are all in for dueling solos while Kenny Kirkland wows on piano and both Dave Weckl and Alex Acuña power up the percussion beyond anything Dizzy could have envisioned. (Mintzer even nicely quotes Kool and the Gang’s “Let’s Go Dancing [Ooh La La]” here.)

Dave Grusin’s elegant yet Grusin-y arrangement of Herbie Hancock’s standard “Maiden Voyage” (1965) may not be to all tastes, probably because it is so Gruisin-y. But this listener readily appreciates one great pianist’s take on another great pianist’s work, particularly because of who those players are. Bob Mintzer offers a lovely solo on bass clarinet that nicely tips a hat to Mwandishi/Headhunter Bennie Maupin.

I am also especially impartial to the Vince Mendoza-arranged “Round Midnight,” Thelonious Monk’s 1943 jazz standard. It begins in a mode that Gary McFarland (who Abene worked with briefly in the late sixties) then offers up lovely solos by Ernie Watts, Gary Burton (who also worked with McFarland) and (briefly) Dave Grusin, all in midnight mode.

Others are likely to find favorites here I haven’t mentioned. It’s really that appealing. Much to my surprise, there is much to enjoy here, particularly upon repeated listens.

Zan Stewart’s surprisingly extensive liner notes are interesting and informative. But this is the only one of the big band discs featuring the GRP all-stars Lee Ritenour (who solos on “Footprints” and “Spain”), Kenny Kirkland (“Sister Sadie,” “Manteca”), Dave Valentin (“Manteca,” “Spain”) and Sal Marquez (“Seven Steps to Heaven,” “Footprints”).

While the GRP All-Star Big Band’s eponymous debut may not be the most ambitious of collective’s three discs, it is surely the best.

Dave Grusin Presents GRP All-Star Big Band Live! (1993)

One year after its eponymous debut, the GRP All-Star Big Band was invited to mount a seven-city tour of Japan. The concerts were intended to promote Panasonic’s Digital Compact Cassettes (DCC), a recently-launched competitor to DATs (both formats soon fizzled out). But it was enough to bring all these leaders together for concert presentations. It’s unclear if the collective ever performed live again but probably unlikely.

Added to the group this time out are Chuck Findley and Byron Stripling on trumpet and then-recent GRP signee Philip Bent on flute. The GRP All-Star Big Band revisits its arrangements of “Manteca,” “Blue Train” and “Sister Sadie” (here adding solos by Gary Burton and Eddie Daniels) from the previous record.

Tom Scott is credited as bandleader while Dave Grusin, who makes a much more forwarded presence here, gets the billing that gives the disc its name: Dave Grusin Presents GRP All-Star Big Band Live!.

The disc opens with Michael Abene’s dazzling arrangement of Sonny Rollins’ 1954 jazz standard “Oleo.” It is an exciting performance – loaded with formidable solos by Eddie Daniels, Gary Burton, Chuck Findley, Eric Marienthal, Dave Grusin, Russell Ferrante and Dave Weckl – that sounds more apt as the set’s closer than its introduction. I would have opened with “Sister Sadie” and closed with “Oleo.”

The highlight for this listener is Grusin’s contemporary-sounding take on “My Man’s Gone Now,” from George Gershwin and DuBose Hayward’s Porgy and Bess (1935). This rendition is pretty much the same arrangement that Grusin performed on his 1991 disc The Gershwin Connection (also with Marienthal, Patitucci and Weckl). But the band is all in here with Randy Brecker and Eric Marienthal delivering terrifically rousing solos.

Also reprised from The Gershwin Connection is the charming piano duet on “S’ Wonderful.” Here, Russell Ferrante swaps seats with Chick Corea from the earlier disc for a pas de deux. The big band sits out – disappointingly. With all the Gershwin heard here, it’s worth noting that “Oleo” is based on the same chord progressions as George and Ira Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm.”

Another highlight is surely Louis Prima’s “Sing Sing Sing” – also sounding more contemporary – with compelling solos by Eddie Daniels, Gary Burton and, notably, Dave Weckl. This version is similar to the Daniels/Burton quartet version heard on the pair’s 1992 Benny Rides Again - with an electrifying horn orchestration added by Tom Scott that reminded me of a Michael Small cue riffing off “Sing, Sing, Sing” from the 2001-2002 Nero Wolfe TV series.

Also new to this collection is the arrangement by Gary Lindsay (not “Lindsey” as listed in the disc’s credits) of Ray Noble’s 1938 big band standard “Cherokee.” This version of the song originates on Arturo Sandoval’s 1992 disc I Remember Clifford, where Sandoval overdubbed four trumpet parts. Here, the entire trumpet section – Sandoval, Randy Brecker, Chuck Findley and big-band vet Byron Stripling – get into a friendly battle royale that really wound the audience up.

The audience is Indeed enthusiastic and appreciative throughout, even on the disc’s odd duck: Dave Grusin’s original, “Blues for Howard,” a song I don’t think Grusin had previously recorded and one that hardly rates as big-band fare. Presumably named for guitarist Howard Roberts, this one’s little more than a fairly open-ended quintet piece with horn charts and Tom Scott’s terrific, yet lone solo on the disc.

All Blues (1995)

The third and final GRP All-Star Big Band disc has more than a little different flavor. Now there is a “theme”: the blues and its ever-abstract truth. All-stars Gary Burton and Eddie Daniels are gone. And the new all-stars joining the fold include Ramsey Lewis (on three songs); Chick Corea and Michael Brecker (on two songs) and blues legend B.B. King (on one song). As of this writing, sadly, all four of those have since passed on.

Evidently, the disc started off as a Horace Silver tribute. During the disc’s planning, however, a number of natural-event setbacks convinced all concerned to do an album of...the blues.

These are blues that run the gamut and take in many shades of the genre. It’s a gamut that gamely recognizes anything with “blue” in the title as “the blues.”

The disc opens with Michael Abene’s splendid take on Horace Silver’s fast blues “Cookin’ at the Continental.” The song dates back to a 1959 Silver album called Finger Poppin’ and is named for a club in Brooklyn Silver’s quintet played at. Abene’s arrangement fuels terrific solos by Arturo Sandoval on trumpet and Tom Scott on tenor sax, the former blowing props to Blue Mitchell and the latter swaggering like Junior Cook.

Dave Grusin offers an especially rousing take on Silver’s Latinate standard “Señor Blues” (1956). Something of a hit in its day – and one of Silver’s best-known pieces – this “Señor” offers nods to Nelson Rangell on flute (obviously standing in for Dave Valentine but sounding remarkably here like Hubert Laws), Ramsey Lewis (and not Grusin!) on piano and Arturo Sandoval on trumpet.

(For another striking big-band swing on “Señor Blues,” consider trombonist Urbie Green’s take on the tune, the title track to his 1977 album on CTI, arranged beautifully by David Matthews and featuring the tenor sax of Grover Washington, Jr.)

Another of the disc’s highlights is Dave Grusin’s mesmerizing take on the classic Miles Davis “sketch” “All Blues” (1959). Again, it is fascinating to hear Grusin take on another pianist. In this case, Grusin sits in Bill Evans’ chair, a seat he rarely occupied (Grusin waxed two tracks for a 2002 Japanese set called Portrait of Bill Evans). Solo kudos go to Grusin and Randy Brecker on trumpet, who like Grusin, hardly needs to prove himself to anyone.

John Coltrane’s little-known “Some Other Blues” – originally from the 1961 album Coltrane Jazz - was recorded eight months after the original “All Blues” with the same rhythm section. Tom Scott serves up a lovely arrangement here with solos by Chuck Findley on trumpet, Bob Mintzer on tenor sax and Russell Ferrante on piano.

The appearance of Chick Corea and Michael Brecker here – both of whom were said to be unable to appear on at least the first of the big band’s discs – is likely to appeal to many. But their two features, Corea’s Russell Ferrante-arranged “Blue Miles” (originally on the 1993 Chick Corea Elektric Band II album Paint the World) and the Abene-arranged “Mysterioso/Ba-Lue Bolivar Ba-Lues-Are” don’t give them much to work with. They’re up to the task but both songs sound out of place here.

Shortly after All Blues was recorded, Dave Grusin and Larry Rosen left GRP. Many of the other GRP all-stars soon followed suit. The feeling of “one last hurrah” hangs over the disc. “I love the way this album sounds,” said Michael Abene in the album’s notes. “It’s got a little hair on it, which I think is cool. I didn’t want this album to be too slick because this is the blues.”

This is, indeed, the blues. But it’s also GRP and slick is what they do best. The “hair” here might be the result. Had the producers stuck to their original vision of dedicating an entire set to Horace Silver – who was in the midst of a “comeback” at the time – they might have come up with a real winner. The two Silver tunes here, in fact, yield gold.

This survey of various kinds of blues comes across as more of a hodge podge that could have used a bit more focus. So, last hurrah or last gasp? Maybe it’s just a way to go out.

All three GRP All-Star Big Band discs were reissued in 1995 on the budget Jazz Heritage label and have occasionally reappeared in Japanese CD reissue campaigns.

Friday, February 17, 2023

The Queen and Mister T: Shirley Scott with Stanley Turrentine

The music of Shirley Scott is not often heard or talked about much these days. Twenty-one years after her sudden and far-too early March 2002 death, the one-time “queen of the organ” is barely even remembered today, despite Scott being one of the few headlining females in mid-century jazz. She recorded an amazing 50-some albums from the fifties to the seventies and then added more to her discography during the nineties.

Imagine, then, my surprise and joy to hear Kevin Whitehead review the recently-released Cookin’ With Jaws And The Queen, a compilation of Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis’ 1958 “Cookbook” sets with Shirley Scott, on NPR’s Fresh Air.

In his enthusiastically positive review, Whitehead claimed to prefer those recordings to the many recordings Scott waxed with tenor saxophonist great Stanley Turrentine (1934-2000), to whom she was married from 1960 to 1971.

Great as those Lockjaw records may be – and they are – Shirley Scott’s work with Stanley Turrentine is, to these ears, much more soulful, more engaging, often more striking – not to mention the music she said she preferred to make – and well deserving of considerably more consideration than it has really ever had.

Shirley Scott was born in in 1934 in Philadelphia, which was the birthplace of other such organ greats as Charles Earland, Jimmy McGriff and, of course, the legendary Jimmy Smith. She often accompanied John Coltrane – on piano – before he broke out of Philadelphia, switching to organ when a club owner asked her to. She took to the mighty Hammond B-3 immediately, developing a sound, approach and style that no one else had ever had. It wasn’t rinky-dink or overwhelming: it was airy, thoughtful and even spiritual.

”Ms. Scott emerged in the mid-1950’s,” wrote the New York Times in its obituary of Scott, “with a quick, punchy sound that merged bebop, gospel and the blues. She had a lighter touch than Jimmy Smith, the leading organist in jazz and relied on the blues less heavily than he did.“ That summary leaves out Scott’s mastery of soul-infused jazz and the fact that she coaxed an entirely different sound out of the very same organ Smith played at Rudy Van Gelder’s studio.

Indeed, the great bulk of Shirley Scott’s discography was waxed at Rudy Van Gelder’s New Jersey studios – an important part of her particular legacy. She always said that Van Gelder’s organ was her very favorite. And for all the organists who recorded there, no one ever sounded as warm or as vibrant as Shirley Scott had.

Stanley Turrentine and Shirley Scott toured, performed and recorded often during their years together. But they also maintained nominally individual recording careers. Turrentine recorded with the Three Sounds, fellow Pittsburgher Horace Parlan, Oliver Nelson and a series of bracing records with Coltrane pianist McCoy Tyner.

Meanwhile Scott made more than her share of notable discs with the Latin Jazz Quintet, Oliver Nelson and Gary McFarland, to name just a few. She eventually earned the title “queen of the organ” (also the name of one of the albums featured here), although she had little competition: only fellow B-3 ladies Gloria Coleman (1931-2010) and Trudy Pitts (1932-2010), also from Philadelphia, even spring to mind. And their records were few and far between.

Not Scott. Shirley was highly prolific, from the mid-fifties through the mid-seventies, when the organ fell out of favor in jazz. Eventually, she went into education and briefly reappeared in the nineties on a series of fine discs that sometimes brought her back into Rudy Van Gelder’s studios.

The records that Shirley Scott waxed with Stanley Turrentine evince a remarkable chemistry. They brought out each other’s natural feel for gospel, the blues and soul. Their mutual love of jazz, if not always the same (Scott seemed to dig the Basie and Ellington bands while Turrentine was into other bands), brought it all together.

Even though Scott had little problem holding court on melody lines on her other recordings, she was perfectly content letting Turrentine carry the tunes on most of their records. But listen to how she backs her husband: it’s no less than a witty conversation; all give and take. It sparkles throughout. Scott is never “the little woman”: she’s a full partner. Then, when she solos, she doesn’t merely grab attention. She commands it.

For the following set, I’ve selected at least one highlight from each of the fourteen records the couple waxed between 1961 and 1968. These are what I believe are the best of the bunch. But there is so much more worth hearing here. Shirley Scott and Stanley Turrentine very rarely made a dud. But what do you expect? This is royalty here.

Hip Soul - Shirley Scott (Prestige – recorded June 1961, released April 1962): The couple’s earliest recording together, with Turrentine billed as “Stan Turner” due to contractual concessions. While Stanley’s originals (“Hip Soul” and “Stanley’s Time”) are nice features for the saxophonist, the pair cooks more meaningfully on this long take of “Out of This World.” Dig Ms. Scott’s fiery yet encyclopedic solo here. Hip Soul is part of the 1998 CD set Legends of Acid Jazz – Shirley Scott.

Dearly Beloved – Stanley Turrentine (Blue Note – recorded June 1961, released February 1962): Recorded just six days after Hip Soul, where Ms. Scott is billed as “Little Miss Cott.” Not very subtle or particularly respectful to 21st Century sensibilities. This album is unusual in Shirley Scott’s discography as there is no bassist on board. She is therefore required to “man” the bass pedals of her Hammond B-3, as she did in many of her live performances. And “man” them she does; she positively dances over those pedals. Consider the little-known Jerome Kern-Johnny Mercer title track, “Dearly Beloved,” which originated in the forties with Fred Astaire in the film You Were Never Lovelier. Hardly the coolest song choice – until Shirley swings in. The album’s opener “Baia” cooks nicely, too.

Hip Twist - Shirley Scott (Prestige – recorded November 1961, released April 1962): At this point, Prestige was putting out about five Shirley Scott albums a year. Surprisingly, Hip Twist was released at about the same time as Hip Soul, but with Stanley Turrentine given credit under his own name here. The album’s typical Turrentine title track and Scott’s “Rippin’ and Runnin” are worth checking out but nowhere near as interesting as the curiously-titled “Violent Blues” heard here. Hip Twist is part of the 1998 CD set Legends of Acid Jazz – Shirley Scott.

The Soul is Willing - Shirley Scott with Stanley Turrentine (Prestige – recorded January 1963, released August 1963): An album of mostly jazz standards and two blues riffs Turrentine could – and probably did – knock off at will. Both of the Turrentine pieces are of interest but the title track is textbook finery for Stanley and Shirley. The Soul is Willing is part of the 1994 CD Soul Shoutin’.

Never Let Me Go - Stanley Turrentine (Blue Note – recorded Jan.-Feb. 1963, released November 1963): Trumpeter and composer Tommy Turrentine (1928-97) contributed many songs to brother Stanley’s albums over the years. Tommy’s “Sara’s Dance” is the highlight of this 1963 album that Mr. and Mrs. Turrentine waxed for Blue Note. Another highlight here is the addition of Ray Barretto’s congas. The leaders’ co-composed “Major’s Minor” is a fine runner up as well.

A Chip Off the Old Block - Stanley Turrentine (Blue Note – recorded October 1963, released August 1964): This not altogether successful album serves as a tribute to the Count Basie Orchestra and adds the trumpet of Blue Mitchell to the proceedings. Ms. Scott would seem to have more affinity to Basie and his band than either Mitchell or Turrentine. Indeed, her features are among the album’s most interesting. “Blues in Hoss’ Flat” is my favorite tune here, but the performance seems stilted and backgrounds Scott far too much. Perhaps “Midnight Blue” best accomplishes what they set out to do here but it is “Cherry Point” that makes this one worth hearing.

Soul Shoutin’ - Shirley Scott with Stanley Turrentine (Prestige – recorded October 1963, released July 1964): A significant improvement over A Chip Off the Old Block (this disc was recorded on October 15, a day after and six days before Chip’s two sessions), Soul Shoutin’ is undoubtedly the Turrentine team’s best outing to this point. “Their teamwork is faultless and deeply evocative,” wrote Record World. Billboard additionally enthused that Mr. and Mrs. Turrentine “make beautiful jazz together.”

From Turrentine’s rousing title track to Cole Porter’s closer “In the Still of the Night,“ everything here simmers, cooks and burns. While Turrentine’s galvanizing gospel groover “Deep Down Soul” is magical, the album’s title track ranks among the pair’s very best performances. This Soul Shoutin’ is also on the CD compilation titled Soul Shoutin’.

Hustlin’ - Stanley Turrentine (Blue Note – recorded January 1964, released May 1965): Perhaps sensing a glut of Scott/Turrentine titles in 1964, Blue Note held this one back for more than a year – when there really was a glut of Scott and Turrentine albums released. This is the first of several Turrentine/Scott records with Ms. Scott’s regular rhythm section of Bob Cranshaw on bass and Otis “Candy” Finch on drums. It’s a well-oiled machine that hums and swings with drive and soulful energy. Taking it up a notch here is guitarist Kenny Burrell, who had previously teamed with Turrentine on “The Incredible Jimmy Smith” classics Back at the Chicken Shack and Midnight Special.

Hustlin’ is a consistently enjoyable set that yields at least two memorable burners: “Trouble No. 2” (“number one” is heard on the earlier Never Let Me Go) – without Burrell – and Scott’s splendidly “airy” blues waltz “Ladyfingers.” Both contain not only imaginative support by Lady B-3 but especially remarkable solos that beautifully bear Ms. Scott’s superb signature. Turrentine’s fine minor blues “The Hustler” is noteworthy – with first-rate solos from Burrell, Scott and Turrentine – but not a stand-out in the saxophonist’s pantheon of blues-drenched swingers of the time.

Blue Flames - Shirley Scott and Stanley Turrentine (Prestige – recorded March 1964, released June 1965): A strangely backwards-looking album, the only real stand-outs here are the two Scott compositions, “The Funky Fox” and “Hips Knees an’ Legs.” Both are low-key “compositions,” but the former is the real stand-out here, yielding to one of Ms. Scott’s amazing gospel-blues solos. Turrentine slays those “Hips.” But…as lovely as Scott is there (and she really is), her “Fox” creeps ahead.

(The Shirley Scott-credited “As it Was” was recorded during these sessions but left off the original LP issue of Blue Flames. While the song eventually appeared on the 1967 Scott compilation Now’s the Time (never issued on CD), “As it Was” was surprisingly not added as a bonus track on the 1995 CD issue of Blue Flames.)

Everybody Loves a Lover - Shirley Scott (Impulse – recorded September 1964, released May 1965): This is an absolutely lovely album that has – amazingly! – never found its way on to CD. Every single piece here is a joy. On three of the album’s very best tracks, guitarists Howard Collins and Barry Galbraith and Latin percussionist Willie Rodriguez are added. Of these, “Little Miss Know It All” makes you wonder how much Brazilian organ player Walter Wanderley borrowed from Ms. Scott. Also, among these, “Blue Bongo,” (without Turrentine) is especially notable. But it is surely Turrentine’s amazingly wonderful Latinate “Shirley” that stands out most of all. Turrentine didn’t often work this groove, but he excels in this then-fashionable and still-riveting tribute to his then-wife.

(The standard “Time After Time” was recorded during these sessions and included on the 1965 LP compilation The Definitive Jazz Scene Volume 3. This track – plus three tracks from Everybody Loves a Lover - were added as “bonus tracks” to the 1992 CD release of Stanley Turrentine’s Let it Go.)

Queen of the Organ - Shirley Scott (Impulse – recorded December 1964, released August 1965): Recorded live at The Front Room club in Newark, New Jersey, Queen of the Organ is likely Shirley Scott’s best-known of all her records. It is, surprisingly, also that rare live album in either leader’s discographies. Curious, though, that Impulse denied Stanley Turrentine equal cover credit. (Perhaps Impulse – or Scott? – was getting back at Blue Note for not giving Scott equal credit on the previously-issued Turrentine/Scott Blue Notes?) The original album featured obscure themes from Broadway musicals and one piece each by Ellington/Strayhorn and Miles Davis. A later reissue added several more tunes (including two worthy blues by the organist) but this live set’s highlight is surely trumpeter Dave Burns’ “Rapid Shave.” The song seems to have been written for this date. It’s a real cooker that lives up to its title. Both Scott and Turrentine burn through this one and the audience enthusiastically cheers them on.

(In 1978, Impulse issued the five tracks from Queen of the Organ with five previously unissued titles from the set as The Great Live Sessions. The 1993 CD release of Queen of the Organ contained all the tracks from the 1978 LP except, for some reason, “Shirley’s Shuffle.” Also, three tracks from Queen of the Organ, including “Rapid Shave,” can be heard on the terribly-curated 1998 “Priceless Jazz” CD compilation Stanley Turrentine/Shirley Scott.)

Let It Go - Stanley Turrentine (Impulse – recorded April 1966, released March 1967): Let it Go was my first taste of Shirley Scott and I still can’t get enough. This may well be the most consistently joyous record Mr. and Mrs. Turrentine ever waxed. Perhaps that’s because it falls somewhere between the rehearsed formalism of Blue Note and the jam-session quality of so many of the Prestige records. And something about the addition of the formidable bassist Ron Carter (with Miles Davis at the time) raises the stakes too. (I contend that Rudy Van Gelder always gave Ron Carter a very special place in the sound mix of any record he was on, particularly the CTI recordings.)

Ms. Scott had already waxed six dates (two with her husband) for Impulse by the time Mr. Turrentine waxed Let it Go, his sole Impulse date. Its opening salvo is the superb title track, a sixteen-bar blues that, if slowed down a bit, immediately suggests Stanley Turrentine’s better-known signature tune, “Sugar.” To these ears, “Let it Go” is, without question, the Queen and Mr. T’s finest moment together. While there is no dud in the bunch here, the saxophonist’s “Good Lookin’ Out” is another winner, with Scott nicely front-lined here too. “Let it Go,” backed with “Good Lookin’ Out,” was also the album’s sole single, one that surprisingly never caught on.

(Five tracks from Let it Go, including both featured here, can be heard on the terribly-curated 1998 “Priceless Jazz” CD compilation Stanley Turrentine/Shirley Scott.)

Common Touch - Stanley Turrentine featuring Shirley Scott (Blue Note – recorded August 1968, released August 1969): Although the Turrentines were always steeped in “soul jazz,” Common Touch veers toward what “soul jazz” was becoming in the late sixties. The funk quotient is upped considerably with Bob Cranshaw on electric bass, drummer Idris Muhammad (fueling Lou Donladson’s similar records of the period) and the addition of guitarist Jimmy Ponder. Indeed, Ponder is part of the front line with the leaders and solos just as often.

While there are no Turrentine originals, trumpeter Dave Burns – whose “Rapid Shave” reigned on Queen of the Organ - contributes three originals. Of these, only the on-and-off funk of “Buster Brown” stands out. Also included is a gorgeous take of “Lonely Avenue” and the first of the couple’s two bluesy takes on Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind.” Ms. Scott’s only contribution, the appropriately titled “Boogaloo,” is the album’s most memorable moment. (The generic title was likely a place holder for a song to be titled later as there is no song titled “Boogaloo” among Ms. Scott’s published works.)

There are plenty of signs here – not the least of which is the strangely inscrutable cover photo of the couple – that the times were indeed a-changin’ and neither leader was quite sure where to go with the music…or, possibly, each other.

(An abandoned Turrentine-Scott recording session from May 1968 yielded a cover of Carolyn Franklin’s “Ain’t No Way” that was first included on the 1981 Turrentine compilation Ain’t No Way, then later added as a bonus cut to the 1997 CD release of Common Touch.)

Soul Song - Shirley Scott (Atlantic – recorded September-November 1968, released March 1969): The last album collaboration of Shirley Scott and Stanley Turrentine, Soul Song is the first of Shirley Scott’s three albums for Atlantic. This is also the only recording featured here not recorded by Rudy Van Gelder.

Perhaps one of the biggest disappointments, though, is the album’s opener, “Think.” It’s not Aretha Franklin’s hit of the same year (also on Atlantic) but rather Lowman Pauling’s 1957 hit for the “5” Royales, and also a 1960 hit for James Brown (the song had also recently been covered by Booker T and the MG’s). One can only imagine what Scott and Turrentine would have made of the Queen of Soul’s tremendous song.

The outstanding number here is the album’s title track, Shirley Scott’s sole original. Amply guided by Bernard Purdie’s rhythmic driving and, to be fair, Stanley Turrentine’s absolutely spot-on soulful soloing, “Soul Song” is all that and more. This is one that carries this musical and matrimonial union out on a positively high note.

The Queen – or, “The First Lady of the Organ,” as she is unfortunately billed here – went on to pursue a career in academia and occasionally returned to the studios and bandstand later on, while Mister T., of course, went on to greater fame at CTI Records and other labels. Their albums, apart from each other, are already celebrated and well worth cherishing. But their work together is magical and may be their best work ever.

(One title from the Soul Song sessions, “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free” – without Turrentine – appears on Scott’s next Atlantic album, Shirley Scott and the Soul Saxes. For several reasons, I think this is a beautiful note to go out on.)