JJ 04/60: In My Opinion – Eddie Harvey

The trombonist and British jazz education pioneer reacts to a set of jazz recordings played by Sinclair Traill. First published in Jazz Journal April 1960

959
Left to right: Eddie Taylor, Don Rendell, John Dankworth, Eddie Harvey and Frank Holder at the Melody Maker awards in the early 1950s. Photo from JJ Archive

This is one of a series of taped interviews with musicians, who are asked to give a snap opinion on a set of records played to them. Although no previous information is given as to what they are going to hear, they are, during the actual playing, handed the appropriate record sleeve. Thus in no way is their judgment influenced by being unaware of what they are hearing. As far as possible the records played to them are currently available items procurable from any record shop. Eddie Harvey, trombonist, pianist, arranger and com­poser, has had a long, varied and successful jazz career. Starting out as trombonist with George Webb’s Dixielanders, Eddie progressed in his chosen form of music, playing with Humph, Wally Fawkes, Johnny Dankworth and latterly the Jazz Committee. – Sinclair Traill

“Tune Up”.  J. J. Johnson. (Fontana SlFL 512)
Well J.J., now that he’s got through his machine-gun stage, has emerged as one of the finest players we have in jazz – though I sometimes get a feeling he should warm it up a bit; he has a tendency to be too cool. There are a lot of J.J. copyists who are really going to have to go some to get that tonguing business of his – it’s very difficult you know, for the trombone is the hardest instrument to play of the lot. If that was a genuine concert recording it’s a great idea. I’d like to do more of it myself; it’s like acting for the theatre or a film – a good actor always prefers the stage for the audience reaction, and I think it is probably true for musicians as well. An audience of the right kind will always stir one, which is one reason I also like playing jazz for dancing. Concerts some­times get a too preoccupied feeling, a too studied approach for the natural jazz to emerge, but that was great throughout. Incidentally I think Nat Adderley is going to be one of the great jazz trumpeters of the future. At the moment he is rather over-shadowed by such people as Miles Davis, for he is very young and Miles has influenced him immensely. Also his elder brother Cannonball is a jazz giant, but I am assured by other musicians that Nat plays much better when he gets away from his brother. I played with him on the Herman tour and found him a very happy little man – we all liked him a lot.

‘Miles Davis, although he has now become a cult, remains to me too much on one plane. I could do with a little more variety of mood, but that seems to be the way it goes today – everyone must specialize in a mood as a jazz player. Personally I think a jazz player should be able to express anything from sheer misery to proud exuberance, but they can’t seem to do it these days’

“There’s A Boat That’s Leaving For New York”. Miles Davis. (Fontana STFL 507)
I think Gil Evans was probably a major influence on jazz, even before he became a popular figure in the last two or three years. Gerry Mulligan told me he was one of his earliest influences. What amazes me about this kind of record is how long it takes for this kind of music to filter through to the popular world as being commercial – it is undoubtedly commercial, being very tuneful, although he does use a lot of complex harmony. Evans has a wonderful mind for the melodic twist on top. so that even if you’re baffled by the middle part, it’s really all quite logical and sensible – there are no funny, extraneous intervals to cope with. Miles Davis, although he has now become a cult, remains to me too much on one plane. I could do with a little more variety of mood, but that seems to be the way it goes today – everyone must specialize in a mood as a jazz player. Personally I think a jazz player should be able to express anything from sheer misery to proud exuberance, but they can’t seem to do it these days – it’s probably just a passing fad. I think Gil Evans is the prime example of an arranger who has studied orchestration, in classical form, and has yet assimi­lated all the jazz influence from way back, so that he’s a pure reflection of his time in that he’s heard everything that has gone on from the beginning until now and has taken full advantage of it all.

“In A Mellow Tone”. Chico Hamilton. (Vogue LAE 12210)
That was a demonstration of how American musicians have to, in order to even earn a living, introduce some kind of individuality into their music. If they can’t do it with their actual jazz content, they try and do it by means of unusual instrumentation – here ‘cello and flute. Funnily enough, in orchestral writing the flute has a kind of specific role to play. When it’s written for, it has to be written busily because it’s such an agile, light sounding instrument – one has to use lots of complex figures to decorate the music – but in jazz it has received different treatment. No one looks upon it as being any different from a trombone or even a tuba and none have shown any regard for the actual characteristics of the instru­ment. I like the flute, it has a pleasant sound, but in jazz I think it should be used to complement the overall sound; it should only be used as the decoration on top of the cake – no solos. As for the ‘cello, it was not particularly adventurous, but I believe this Chico Hamilton group is very popular – but not with me. However, Jim Hall obviously has a keen regard for the classical guitarists. He’s a great player who has assimi­lated all styles from way back to modern times – and that is the way it should be.

“Four Vixen”.  Jimmy Cleveland. (Mercury MMB 12012)
Another trombonist from the machine-gun school. He is obviously a marvellous player, and because he is comparatively a youngster, he will no doubt in time find an individual method of expression. He’s got all the tools, but at the moment merely sounds like an extension of J. J. Johnson, with the advantage of having had his mentor show him the way. That kind of writing has been around for quite a fair old time. Nothing out of the ordinary; I think perhaps the tune was worthy of something more adventurous.

Of Barney Kessel: ‘That was a real stompy little track – and how good it is to hear these ordinary jazz tunes played in an ordinary manner, and so well. I enjoy that kind of music – it’s very functional, doesn’t need too much preoccupied listening’

“Running Wild”. Barney Kessel. (Vogue LAC  12206)
That was a real stompy little track – and how good it is to hear these ordinary jazz tunes played in an ordinary manner, and so well. I enjoy that kind of music – it’s very functional, doesn’t need too much preoccupied listening. Although the West Coast team do come in for a lot of criticism, in the general run of things they often seem to lay down some real basic jazz and to be less self-conscious about their stylistic things than many musicians who are considered à la mode. That was good, swinging jazz and Kessel, of course, is just great.

Farewell Blues”. Pete Fountain. (Tempo EXA  93)
There is nothing I like more than a hot record, and that was it – marvellous! Of course there were a couple of old Bob Crosby men in there – Eddie Miller and Ray Bauduc – and it’s just unself-conscious, good time music which I think tremendous. Pete Fountain, though it’s the first time I’ve heard him, is really in the true tradition handed down by the white New Orleans clarinettists. It’s wonderful that they can still keep up that tremendous enthusiasm in this context – they’ve played that type of jazz for years, and yet it’s still as good as ever! I’m all for that! Abe Lincoln is marvellous – I always thought Abe Lincoln was a pseudonym for some well known trombonist, but now find he is an actual person. How can it be possible for someone to play as well as that, and yet still be virtually unknown? I had a little reminisce the other day; heard a record which included Irving Fazola and you can put him down as being definitely my favourite clarinet player; which is perhaps one reason why I liked that record so much – I like heat!

“Three Thieves”.  The Big Reunion. (Jazztone J. 1285)
Well this is really a heavyweight band plus, with all the head men from that era in there. They should all be given more due respect than is usually accorded to them. This is one of those things that could never happen in England because by the time the musicians get to the age these fellows are they have already retired to their sweet shops or whatever they bought. It is a wonderful thing that those men all knew what they wanted to do and did it, are continuing to do it, and will continue just as long as they stand up. They deserve the greatest admiration. The arrangement was very good, if not strictly in the idiom. I suppose it’s a style or an extension of a style of arrangement of that time and yet it’s got an up-to-date twist – all those altos in thirds and that minor seventh show the men there are still listening. That’s a great bunch, must have a few hundred years between ’em – none young but all play the way they feel they want to – admirable single-mindedness. Incidentally, I should say that those jammed choruses on that record do show a very high standard of musicianship – to keep out of the other fellow’s way and to be quick enough to hear what he is doing and to be able to play second and even third parts, that is not easy! You have to be able to think very quickly and to really know your instrument. The whole LP was wonderful.