Sonny Clark – Cool Struttin’ (1958)

FrontCover1.jpgCool Struttin’ is a 1958 album by jazz pianist Sonny Clark. Described as an “enduring hard-bop classic” by The New York Times, the album features alto saxophonist Jackie McLean, trumpeter Art Farmer and two members of the Miles Davis Quintet, drummer Philly Joe Jones and bassist Paul Chambers. According to The Stereo Times, the album enjoys “a nearly cult status among hardcore jazz followers”, a reputation AllMusic asserts it deserves “for its soul appeal alone”.

Originally released on LP in 1958 by Blue Note, the album has been re-released on CD many times by Blue Note and EMI, also featuring two bonus tracks. In 1991, Blue Note released a Christmas themed CD called Yule Struttin’ with a cover derived from the sleeve design for this album. (by wikipedia

Recorded in 1958, this legendary date with the still-undersung Sonny Clark in the leader’s chair also featured a young Jackie McLean on alto (playing with a smoother tone than he had before or ever did again), trumpeter Art Farmer, and the legendary rhythm section of bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Philly Joe Jones, both from the Miles Davis band. The set begins with one of the preeminent “swinging medium blues” pieces in jazz history: the title track with its leveraged fours and eights shoved smoothly up against the walking bass of Chambers and the backbeat shuffle of Jones. Clark’s solo, with its grouped fifths and sevenths, is a wonder of both understatement and groove, while Chambers’ arco solo turns the blues in on itself. While there isn’t a weak note on this record, there are some other tracks that stand out, most notably Miles’ “Sippin’ at Bells,” with its loping Latin rhythm.

Booklet03A.jpg

When McLean takes his solo against a handful of Clark’s shaded minor chords, he sounds as if he may blow it — he comes out a little quick — but he recovers nicely and reaches for a handful of Broadway show tunes to counter the minor mood of the piece. He shifts to both Ben Webster and Lester Young before moving through Bird, and finally to McLean himself, riding the margin of the changes to slip just outside enough to add some depth in the middle register. The LP closes with Henderson and Vallée’s “Deep Night,” the only number in the batch not rooted in the blues. It’s a classic hard bop jamming tune and features wonderful solos by Farmer, who plays weird flatted notes all over the horn against the changes, and McLean, who thinks he’s playing a kind of snake charmer blues in swing tune. This set deserves its reputation for its soul appeal alone. [Some reissues include two bonus tracks: “Royal Flush” and “Lover.” (by Thom Jurek)

Sonny Clark.jpg

Personnel:
Paul Chambers (bass)
Sonny Clark (piano)
Art Farmer (trumpet)
Philly Joe Jones (drums)

Jackie McLean (Saxophone)

BackCover.jpg

Tracklist:
01. Cool Struttin’ (Clark) 9.23
02. Blue Minor (Clark) 10.19
03. Sippin’ At Bells (Davis) 8.18
04. Deep Night (Henderson/Vallée) 9.34
+
05. Royal Flush (Clark) 9.00
06. Lover (Hart/Rodgers) 7.01

LabelB1.jpg

*
**

Advertisements

Sonny Clark – Leapin’ and Lopin’ (1961)

SonnyClarkFrontCover Sonny Clark’s fifth Blue Note recording as a leader is generally regarded as his best, especially considering he composed four of the seven tracks, and they all bear his stamp of originality. What is also evident is that he is shaping the sounds of his quintet rather than dominating the proceedings as he did on other previous dates. Tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse and trumpeter Tommy Turrentine play very little harmony on the date, but their in-tune unison lines are singularly distinctive, while bassist Butch Warren and a young drummer Billy Higgins keep the rhythmic coals burning with a steady glowing red heat. Among the classic tunes is the definitive hard bop opener “Somethin’ Special” which lives up to its title in a most bright and happy manner, with Clark merrily comping chords. “Melody for C” is similarly cheerful, measured, and vivid in melodic coloration, the CD containing a slightly longer alternate take. “Zellmar’s Delight,” not included on the original LP, finally has the tenor and trumpet playing harmony during a tricky, progressive melody, not at all conventional, which is perhaps why it was initially omitted. The showstopper is “Voodoo,” the ultimate yin/yang, dark, late night, sly and slinky jazz tune contrasted by Clark’s tinkling piano riffs. Warren wrote the exciting hard bopper “Eric Walks” reminiscent of a Dizzy Gillespie tune, while Turrentine’s “Midnight Mambo” mixes metaphors of Afro-Cuban music with unusual off-minor phrases and the stoic playing of Rouse. Tenor saxophonist Ike Quebec plays a cameo sans the other horns on the soulful ballad “Deep in a Dream,” exhibiting a vocal quality on his instrument, making one wonder if any other sessions with this group were done on the side. Top to bottom Leapin’ and Lopin’ is a definitive recording for Clark, and really for all time in the mainstream jazz idiom. (by Michael G. Nastos)

SonnyClarkPersonnel:
Sonny Clark (piano)
Billy Higgins (drums)
Charlie Rouse (saxophone)
Tommy Turrentine (trumpet)
Butch Warren (bass)
+
Ike Quebec (saxophone on 02.)

BackCoverTracklist:
01. Somethin’ Special (Clark) 6.23
02. Deep In A Dream (Van Heusen, DeLange) 6.47
03. Melody for C (Clark) 7.50
04. Eric Walks (Warren) 5.41
05. Voodoo (Clark) 7.39
06. Midnight Mambo (Turrentine) 7.15
+
07. Zellmar’s Delight (Clark) 5.43
08. Melody For C (alternate take) (Clark) 8.13

Label1*
**