Benny Golson: Four Classic Albums

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Along with Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk and Horace Silver, the prolific Benny Golson created some of the most memorable compositions in the jazz repertoire.

This reissue features his first albums as a leader, and many of his most familiar originals are to be found here. In a 1958 Downbeat article Ralph Gleason highlighted “the extraordinary attention jazz musicians are currently paying to his compositions”. Indeed by the early 60s it seemed that every rehearsal band in the UK and everyone on the jazz club circuit had at least three or four of his originals in the book. 

At this early stage of his career his emotional, almost rhapsodic approach to the tenor recalled Don Byas and Lucky Thompson, especially on ballads such as “Namely You”, “You’re Mine You” and “Thursday’s Theme”. He gets the expected sterling support from J.J. Johnson and Kenny Dorham on The Modern Touch and the trumpet, trombone and tenor line-up recalls the Jazztet he co-led with Art Farmer from 1960 to 1962. Gigi Gryce’s attractive “Reunion” (based on “I’ll Remember April”) has Johnson at his most “horn-like” and another Gryce original, “Hymn to the Orient”, benefits from a striking statement from Dorham.

The New York Scene has a quintet on some tracks with Art Farmer excellent as always on “Something in Bb” and “Step Lightly” which had been introduced in 1956 by Clifford Brown and Max Roach as “Junior’s Arrival”. The group expands to a nine-piece for “Whisper Not”, “Just by Myself” and “Capri”. “Whisper Not”, with Gigi Gryce and Jimmy Cleveland sharing a chorus, is probably Golson’s most famous composition – Tom Lord lists 330 recordings. Curtis Fuller was one of Benny’s regular collaborators. They recorded several times together in the late 50s and he was selected for the Jazztet’s debut recording in 1960. His lyrical approach, very much in the J.J. tradition, is particularly noteworthy on the gospel-influenced “Jubilation” and “Are You Real?”

With his rich, burnished tone replete with glissandos, half-valve effects and trumpet smears, the 20-year-old Lee Morgan was already a major voice at the time of The Philadelphians LP. “Blues on My Mind” and “Stablemates” are fine example of his work at this juncture. 

Discography
CD1: (1) [Benny Golson Sextet – The Modern Touch] Out of the Past; Reunion; Venetian Breeze; Hymn to the Orient; Namely You; Blues on Down; (2) [Benny Golson’s New York Scene] Something in B Flat; (3) Whisper Not; (2) Step Lightly; (3) Just by Myself; (2) Blues It; You’re Mine You; (3) Capri (78.32)
CD2: (4) [The Other Side of Benny Golson] Strut Time; Jubilation; Symptons; Are You Real?; Cry a Blue Tear; This Night; (5) [Benny Golson and the Philadelphians] You’re Not the kind; Blues on My Mind; Stablemates; Thursday’s Theme; Afternoon in Paris; Calgary (73.24)
Golson (ts) with:
(1) Kenny Dorham (t); J.J. Johnson (tb); Wynton Kelly (p); Paul Chambers (b); Max Roach (d). New York, 19 & 23 December 1957.
(2) Art Farmer (t); Wynton Kelly (p); Paul Chambers (b); Charlie Persip (d). New York, 14 October 1957.
(3) as (1) add Jimmy Cleveland (tb); Julius Watkins (frh); Gigi Gryce (as); Sahib Shihab (bar). New York, 17 October 1957.
(4) Curtis Fuller (tb); Barry Harris (p); Jymie Merritt (b); Philly Joe Jones (d). New York, 12 November 1958.
(5) Lee Morgan (t); Ray Bryant (p); Percy Heath (b); Philly Joe Jones (d). New York, 17 November 1958.
Avid Jazz 1310