Benny Bailey – Big Brass (1961)

FrontCover1Ernest Harold “Benny” Bailey (13 August 1925 – 14 April 2005) was an American jazz trumpeter.

A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Bailey briefly studied flute and piano before turning to trumpet. He attended the Cleveland Conservatory of Music. He was influenced by Cleveland native Tadd Dameron and had a significant influence on other Cleveland musicians, such as Albert Ayler, Bob Cunningham, Bobby Few, Bill Hardman, and Frank Wright. Bailey played with Tony Lovano, father of Joe Lovano.

In the early 1940s he worked with Bull Moose Jackson and Scatman Crothers. He later worked with Dizzy Gillespie and toured with Lionel Hampton. During a European tour with Hampton he remained in Europe and spent time in Sweden, where he worked with Harry Arnold’s big band. He preferred big bands over small groups, and he became associated BennyBailey01with several big bands in Europe, including the Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland Big Band. His time with Quincy Jones led to a brief return to the United States in 1960. He was invited to the studio as part of Freddie Redd’s sextet to record Redd’s Blues after meeting the pianist during a tour in Sweden. He returned to Europe, first to Germany, then the Netherlands, where he settled permanently.

In 1969 he played on Eddie Harris and Les McCann’s album Swiss Movement, recorded live at the Montreux Jazz Festival, although it was not his usual style of music. In 1988 he worked with British clarinetist Tony Coe and recorded albums until 2000 when he was in his mid-70s.

Bailey died at home in Amsterdam on April 14, 2005. (wikipedia) BennyBailey02 “Benny always had a distinctive style,” said Willie Smith, saxophonist and fellow member of the Lionel Hampton band. “He can play so high with so much strength, and has such dynamic chops!” Bailey developed an instantly recognizable mannerism, of dropping two octaves in the space of one note, and makes very extensive use of the fullest range of the horn. “He could swing with the best of them, out-think all-comers and run chord changes in a more spectacular fashion than all bar, say, Dizzy Gillespie”. Quincy Jones said of Benny Bailey: “His sound is very personal and he completely avoids clichés. Above all, he is thrillingly himself. He is totally uninhibited and will get all kinds of sounds out of his horn to get his message across. He combines fantastic breath control, remarkable range and a flawless technique, and really composes as he plays, so that his solos are not just anthologies of licks.” “Big Brass” is one of a small number of titles with Bailey as leader, which All Music awarded 4½ stars. It is not really a big band outing as the title suggests, as there is only one of everything, a septet. There is a good mix of bop, ballad, and blues, never straying too far from the mainstream, and the tender ballad “Alison” (Smith) is a gentle, romantic antidote to some of the faster-paced boppy tracks. BennyBailey04 However my pick is the Bailey composition Maud’s Mood, a raunchy blues-march with an eccentric head melody, a great piano-vamp from Flanagan, but which I love particularly for the presence of Phil Woods on bass clarinet, a totally mischievous instrument, poking and prying, harmonies, a Monk-like attitude, and a reminder of its revered prime exponent, Eric Dolphy. Bailey’s trumpet here is at it’s best, leaping tall buildings in a single stride, glissando, rapid fire punctuated with pause and vibrato, athletic figures, and free fall octave drops, all with the force of a man seeking to be heard among four trumpet players and fourteen brass instruments in total. Art Taylor effortlessly keeps things moving along, while Buddy Catlett, from Quincy Jones, shows he too can “walk”. (

Recorded at Nola Penthouse Sound Studios, New York, November 25, 1960


Personnel: Benny Bailey (trumpet) Buddy Catlett (bass) Tommy Flanagan (piano) Les Spann (guitar) Art Taylor (drums) Julius Watkins (french horn) Phil Woods (saxophone) BennyBailey03Tracklist: 01. Hard Sock Dance (Jones) 5.45 02. Alison (Smith) 6.49 03. Tipsy (Nelson) 7.01 04. Please Say Yes (McIntosh) 5.28 05. A Kiss To Build A Dream On (Hammerstein/Kalmar/Ruby) 8.08 06. Maud`s Mood (Bailey) 6.29


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More from Benny Bailey: BennyBaileyFolkloreInSwingFC

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