20th C blindfold tests with audio

All blindfold tests are with Leonard Feather for DownBeat magazine unless otherwise stated.
Mary Lou Williams – 1946, Metronome magazine – the first ever blindfold test
Count Basie & Buddy Weed – June & July 1947
John Coltrane – Feb 19, 1959
Charles Mingus – April & May 1960
Stan Getz & Ray Brown – 1963 by Les Tomkins
J.J. Johnson, Mark Murphy, Danny Moss, Jeff Clyne – 1964 by Les Tomkins
Thelonious Monk – 1966
Pat Metheny – Feb 1981
John McLaughlin – Aug 1994 by Josef Woodard

This page at the Leonard Feather Jazz Collection actually has dozens of blindfold tests in the original audio recordings – Duke, Dizzy, Erroll etc.
[Although I listened to the ‘Erroll’ one and it’s not Erroll. “B.Ranford” is guess-who, etc.]
Lester Young – 38mins. It’s Lester speaking from about 9:00 until 22:00.

Mary Lou Williams – 1946, Metronome

+++++Clearly, the best way to listen to music is without any advance information regarding the artists, the tune, composer or arranger. To allay all prejudices, to cut though all the vast variety of points of view in jazz, we propose to play a series of records each month to a noted figure in the jazz world. With these records, we will test his or her reactions to all kinds of music, from Dixieland to Bebop. And we will test all kinds of musicians. …
+++++Mary Lou Williams, first musician to be Blindfold Tested, is a great pianist, arranger and composer. She is also a great person, one who is genuinely alarmed by the ignorance that prevails in the dissemination of jazz knowledge. Her signed statement, attesting to the complete accuracy of this article, is in our possession.
1. Benny Goodman. Blue Skies (Columbia), with Art Lund, vocal.

+++++That clarinet’s nice. That’s the right way to play melody on a tune and still make it interesting…band’s smooth…that singer would be better on ballads. He doesn’t have the right kind of voice for improvising. I’d give the record two stars.

2. Johnny Guarnieri. Salute to Fats (Savoy)
Guarnieri, piano; Lester Young, tenor; Billy Butterfield, trumpet; Hank d’Amico, clarinet; Cozy Cole, drums.

+++++Piano sounds like Fats. The style’s fine, but is sounds like an imitation; I don’t care too much for imitations. But he has a wonderful technique and should use it to create his own style. Tenor sax is excellent. Trumpet not up to par; clarinet okay. Rhythm a little too stodgy. Still I like the record. Three stars.

3. Sir Charles & His All-Stars – The Street Beat (Apollo)
Sir Charles Thompson, piano; Buck Clayton, trumpet; Charlie Parker, alto; Dexter Gordon, tenor; J. C. Heard, drums.

+++++Alto fine – Charlie Parker, of course! Trumpet was a little sharp at first, but good. I like the beat, and it’s a nice arrangement – a little different. Pianist does a sort of Basie style solo. I like the tenor. Rhythm section good. Three stars.

4. Woody Herman Orch – Northwest Passage (Columbia)
Ralph Burns, piano; Marge Hyams, vibes; Flip Phillips, tenor.

+++++Now that’s the way I like to hear a band play! Terrific rhythm, nice balance, a great beat. Piano very good, vibes good, tenor excellent. Band is very solid on the ensembles. Arrangement not out of the ordinary, but fine. Four stars.

5. Art Hodes’ Blue Note Jazz Men – Sugar Foot Stomp (Blue Note)
Hodes, piano; Vic Dickenson, trombone; Max Kaminsky, trumpet; Ed Hall, clarinet; Sid Weiss, bass; Danny Alvin, drums.

+++++Oh, don’t do that to me!…That’s Vic Dickenson on trombone, What’s he doing in there – he can’t play like them. It’s a shame to mix good musicians in that kind of outfit. I hardly know what to say. I just don’t like that kind of music. That’s Ed Hall. Trumpet sounds like Louis twenty years ago. Drums and bass good. I’ve heard better Dixieland piano. Don’t like the tune or the ensembles. Two stars.

6. Barney Bigard – Blues Before Dawn (Black and White).
Bigard, clarinet; Georgie Auld, alto; Joe Thomas, trumpet.

+++++Intro terrific. Trumpet wonderful, good taste and original ideas. Alto is good, too; sounds like Johnny Hodges. Clarinet sort of Duke style. Ending is different. Rhythm smooth. Three stars.

7. Jelly Roll Morton – Red Hot Pepper (Victor)
Morton, piano; Bass Moore, bass. (Recorded 1928)

+++++That’s a tuba in there, isn’t it? Oh, and a slap tongue tenor solo! Ouch! I don’t recognize this, but it sounds like something from the 1920’s. Even the Dixie they’re playing now doesn’t sound like that. Solos were good for that time, I guess, but no beat at all – can’t even imagine how they danced to it…What does it lack? Music! No stars.

8. King Cole Trio – Body and Soul (Capitol)
Cole, piano; Oscar Moore, guitar; Johnny Miller, bass.

+++++King Cole; that’s great. Now here’s something that’s a good example for everyone to listen to; good taste, good balance, and the music tells a story. It’s the most perfect little outfit I’ve heard in years, and even if it weren’t King Cole I’d say the same thing. Four stars.

9. James P. Johnson – Blueberry Rhyme (Signature). Piano Solo.

+++++Sounds mechanical – like one of those old player-piano rolls. Not free. As if it had all been written out. Don’t care for the composition. Who is it? No idea. Two stars.

10. Dizzy Gillespie – Be-Bop (Manor)
Gillespie, trumpet; Don Byas, tenor; Shelly Manne, drums.

+++++Arrangement’s fine, but they’re not together on the ensembles. I think it’s pathetic to arrange a number and not play it smoothly – rather not record it at all…trumpet sounds like Dizzy; good…that’s Don Byas…he can play anybody’s style…Sounds like Max Roach on drums. I like the idea of the record better than the execution; three stars.

11. Boyd Raeburn and His Orchestra – Yerxa (Jewel)
George Handy, arranger; Hal McKusick, alto.

+++++Aren’t they out of tune in spots? You’ve got to be right in tune to play that kind of chords. Sounds a little like Duke. Why did they break into that swing part there? It breaks the story, the mood of the thing. Voicing all wrong; the arrangement sounds like an experiment. I think it’s a good idea to write two arrangements – one with experiments, and one good one. The ideas didn’t work out here. Alto good, balance not too bad. Two stars.

12. Harry James and His Orchestra – When Your Lover Has Gone (Columbia)
James, trumpet; Corky Corcoran, tenor.

+++++This is the best record I’ve heard of Harry James in a long time. Very good taste in Harry’s solo; good band and arrangement, gets a nice mood; especially that modulation by muted trombones, I think it was. Tenor was great, too. Four stars.

13. Bunk Johnson Band – When the Saints Go Marching In (Victor, 1945)

+++++I don’t know what to say. I’m prejudiced against people who are trying to take music back forty years. I think that just to make money, some people forget about music. Solos not even good for that type. Musicianship? I didn’t hear any.


+++++Here’s the way I feel about music. I like almost all types of music, if they’re well played, except Dixieland. I don’t think the Dixieland fans even know why they like it; they’re just following the crowd. Up at Café Society I used to see them ask Ed Hall for Dixieland; he had to play it and he’d break up the house with it. I think it’s a bad idea for kids or youngsters who are interested in music to pick up on Dixieland; everyone should try to progress. Do you know, even in Spike Jones’ band, there are a lot of very good musicians, and they can play Dixieland and sound just like all those well-known Dixieland musicians?
+++++I was in New Orleans five years ago, and even there I didn’t hear them playing that style. What do I like? Most of all I like originality in jazz. The kids should follow Don Byas, Ben Webster, Dizzy, Trummy, Tatum, Erroll Garner, Monk – he was really the originator of Dizzy’s style – and Earl Hines; his style is still being played with modern trimmings.
+++++As for bands and arrangers, there’s Stan Kenton and Hampton and Ralph Burns – and of course Duke is still ahead. And I admire Sy Oliver because he set a new style. New ideas and good taste and execution – put them together and you have good music, whether it’s jazz or anything else. That’s the way I feel about music.

Buddy Weed & Count Basie, June & July 1947

[I’ve put Weed and Basie’s comments together.]

June: In this month’s and next month’s issues, The Blindfold Test is making a departure which should prove interesting. The same set of records has been played to two musicians—both of them jazz pianists, but far removed from each other in the spheres in which they work and in the music to which they generally listen.
+++++Next month you will be able to read what Count Basie thinks of the records reviewed on this page. The comments below represent the reactions of Buddy Weed, the talented young pianist and singer that you know through his broadcasts over ABC with his own trio as well as with Paul Whiteman, and through his MGM records. Here’s what Buddy had to say:
July: If you read last month’s issue, you know that what follows is the second half of a special pair of blindfold tests. The same group of records was played to two musicians: Buddy Weed, radio network pianist and trio-leader, who listens only to classical records in his spare time; and Count Basie, jump pianist and traveling band-leader who listens to plenty of jazz.
+++++Buddy’s comments on the records appeared last month. Below you can see what happened when I spun the same discs for the bland, easy-going Count, who hates to say a bad word about anybody — not for professional courtesy or shrewd business relations, but simply because he’s an exceptionally kind-hearted guy who likes al kinds of music and all kinds of people.
1. Dizzy Gillespie, One Bass Hit, Part II (Musicraft). Ray Brown, bass; Gillespie, trumpet; Arr. Ray Brown.

Weed: That’s got to be Dizzy…sounds cleaner here than in most of his large band numbers. Bass very good; ensemble execution better than most I’ve heard of that kind. If it’s Dizzy on trumpet, I’ve heard him play better…Bebop? Let’s eliminate classifications – either music is good or it isn’t. Three stars.
Basie: Bass is really wonderful…reed section very outstanding…trumpet solo, great performance. That’s true bebop, the record in general. That’s a whole bebop record, isn’t it? ‘Cause I really don’t know what bebop is. I’d like to know what band that was – sounds like the boss, Dizzy. But Red Rodney plays terrific like that too. Arrangement very interesting – tells a story from start to finish. Four stars.

2. Sam Donahue, Dinah (Capitol).

Weed: Sam Donahue – I heard his V Disc of this arrangement, and it was very much more impressive played by his navy band than it sounds with this band…pretty sloppy here, doesn’t get a beat. …I like the taste of the trombone, piano good – is that Rocky Coluccio? Others nothing to rave about. Two Stars
Basie: Now there’s a real nice simple record…I go for things that are real simple like that. Easy to listen to, easy to dance to, pat your feet to; one of my favorite tunes – first time I ever heard it treated like that. Solos are relaxed, easy. A solid record – no idea who it is. Four stars.

3. Dexter Gordon, Dexter Digs In (Savoy). Gordon, tenor; Leonard Hawkins, trumpet; Bud Powell, piano; Curly Russell, bass.

Weed: Not impressed at all. Full of a lot of clichés. Pianist is handicapped by lack of technique; others are not too inspired. One star.
Basie: I hope the guys will forgive me for this – that first chorus is messed up. They’re not together. Piano nice; trumpet fairly good – tenor plays like Pres. Conversation between the trumpet and tenor didn’t hold up too well. I think if they’d made it over, they’d have done this better. The best thing on it is the fine bass work. Two stars.

4. Metronome All Stars, Nat Meets June (Columbia). Harry Carney, baritone; Nat Cole, June Christy, vocals; Buddy Rich, drums; Charlie Shavers, trumpet; Johnny Hodges, alto; Lawrence Brown, trombone; Coleman Hawkins, tenor; Eddie Safranski, bass.

Weed: Oh yes, the METRONOME All Stars…opening baritone solo not too impressive. I like the way Nat sings; other singer is the girl from Kenton’s band; I’ve heard her much better…there aren’t two pianists on that date, are there? Play that piano-drum answer passage again…no, guess I was mistaken. I liked the bass; and naturally Buddy Rich needs no introduction – has as much flash as anybody in the business today. I heard Shavers, Rogers, and some others. Altogether there’s no excuse for the whole record. It’s unfair to throw all those star men in together and try to cram too many solos in. Two stars.
Basie: Everything is wonderful about this. Harry Carney; Lawrence Brown; sounds like one of those Buddy Rich breaks…In a way that male vocal sounded like King. No idea who the girl was; or the trumpet. Alto sounded like Johnny Hodges. Fine record-four stars.

5. Charlie Barnet, Birmingham Breakdown (Bluebird). Bill Miller, piano; Bobby Burnet, trumpet; Duke Ellington composition.

Weed: Barnet isn’t it? Bill Miller on piano…sounds as though this was written as a piano solo number and he’s trying to play it as originally written; no ideas of his own come through. This must have been made some time ago; I recognize it but don’t know the name. Doesn’t sound too good to me now – lack of cleanliness in the band and section work…let me hear the trumpet again…I like that. I’ll be good and say two stars.
Basie: This sounds like an old shout I used to hear years ago; something Duke did. Sounds very heavy, very solid. I like the solos. Arrangement varies just a little from the original, still it’s the next best to Duke. Whoever played the piano sounded almost like Duke. Three stars.

6. Illinois Jacquet, Jivin’ With Jack The Bellboy (Aladdin). Jacquet, tenor; Leo Parker, baritone sax; Dickie Wells, trombone; Shadow Wilson, drums.

[Jan. 1947. Trumpet solo by Fats Navarro; Miles Davis is in the trumpet section. Feather was the pianist on another track on this session, Big Dog]
Weed: Is this Ventura with Krupa?…no, that was only guess…that baritone solo is very cute, very characteristic of baritone sax. I like the trombone; reminiscent of Bill Harris. The band is very unclean; tenor was very exciting. First part might have been an old record until it got to the solos, then you could tell it was recent. Might be Basie’s band. Record as a whole not so hot, but for the tenor solo it’s worth three stars.
Basie: Sounds like my boy on tenor. To me he’s always good. Of course people will talk about those high notes, but you know, there’s tricks to everything…though Jacquet can play as much solid horn as anybody else…he must have put this band together just for the record -like building a house; but it does the best job possible under the circumstances. Rhythm section sounds fine; drums are in my taste. Baritone is real great, and that wonderful trombone knocked me out. Record ends just as I expected. For the soloists this would be worth four, but on the whole, three stars.

7. Bunk Johnson, When I Leave The World Behind (Jazz Information). Bunk, trumpet; Lawrence Marrero, banjo.

Weed: Wow!…that’s just not my kind of music, I guess. I just don’t like it. There are probably people who think that because it’s old it’s good – there must be some reason for them to keep the record around this long and re-press it. Wrong chord changes, bad recording, everything…clarinet player has a little originality. Stars? How few can you give it? Zero. What? Recorded only five years ago?…oh, no!…make it minus zero!
Basie: Do you have to play this all the way through?…Well, I won’t stick my neck out; this music stands for something, but as it is now, it seem quite a bit webby. Do I hear a banjo?…there’s no comparison with the kids playing today – time has just walked right by these guys. It’s like comparing a 1904 automobile with a new model. Back when this music was really played, it was great; but anybody who can see it now is just kidding himself – just wants to have something to say. I won’t rate this one.

8. Johnny Guarnieri, Basie English (Savoy). Guarnieri, piano; Lester Young, tenor; Billy Butterfield, trumpet; Hank d’Amico, clarinet.

Weed: Tenor is wonderful. Piano sounded like Count, though I’ve heard Johnny Guarnieri play that much like him. Trumpet not too great. Clarinet – let me hear him again…sounds to me like Hank d’Amico, but he has much more fluency today. Rhythm sounds good. For what this is – just a bunch of solos – it stands up well. Three stars.
Basie: Sounds like my boy Johnny…that was real cute…I can close my eyes and almost say that tenor was Pres…trumpet fine, clarinet wonderful. A good record – it tells a little story. Four stars.

9. Joe Sullivan, Panama (Disc.) Sullivan, piano; Bechet, soprano; George Wettling, drums.

Weed: I don’t know. I’m just not partial to those styles. The record does seem to move, in its own Dixieland fashion. Piano has good drive; I just don’t like what he plays. Very loud drummer…sounds like a soprano sax; could be Bechet – I don’t know the styles of that school too well. Two stars.
Basie: Sounds like Zutty…and that must be fine old man Sidney Bechet; I have an awful lot of respect for him – he always sounds interesting to me. Piano sounds like Basie – very webbish – very corny. He and I should play a duet together – we can’t keep up with the modern kids…rhythm section fits, for the type stuff they’re playing. The old man rates four, but for the record, two stars.

10. Louis Armstrong, Sugar (Victor). Louis, trumpet and vocal; Barney Bigard, clarinet; Vic Dickenson, trombone.

Weed: It’s always a source of amazement to me that people could hear Louis play like that and still have their adoration for things like Bunk Johnson. Louis always played with as much drive, originality, freshness and smoothness as anything you’d want to hear today; it doesn’t pall even today, while these other inferior musicians, whose work has palled so badly, are being worshipped. I don’t know how old this is – not too new judging from the rhythm section. Clarinet is definitely dated; trombone better, but overshadowed by Louis’s great playing and singing. Assuming it’s old, and for what it was then, four stars. Recorded only a year ago?…well, it’s still great, but make it three stars.
Basie: That sounds like little Vicky there on trombone…Barney’s there too. And Pops, of course. How does he sound? Well, how does he always sound? Four stars.

11. Esquire All Stars, Esquire Bounce (Commodore). Tatum, piano; Coleman Hawkins, tenor; Edmond Hall, clarinet; Al Casey, guitar.

[aka Leonard Feather’s (Esquire) All Stars. 1943]
Weed: Piano very strongly influenced by Tatum…it wouldn’t be that mythical Dodo Marmarosa I’ve heard so much about but never heard? Nobody else ever came this close to Tatum…is the tenor man playing the tune purposely or couldn’t he think of anything else to play? I didn’t like the clarinet…guitar fairly interesting…hearing that Tatum run was the most interesting thing on this…rating?…now I’m beginning to see the difficulty of being a critic…two stars.
Basie: Cute little theme…sounds like the boss on piano – Teddy Wilson. Clarinet boy is my boy Ed Hall – he always plays fine. Guitar wonderful…there’s the old man, Coleman, or a carbon copy, which is very fine…only thing, I didn’t care for what was going on behind the solos. It would have been just as good without them. Three stars.

12. Fats Waller, Moppin’ and Boppin’ (Victor). Benny Carter, trumpet; Zutty Singleton, drums; Fats Waller, piano; Gene Porter, tenor; Slim Moore, trombone.

[Hollywood 1943. From the Stormy Weather soundtrack. Slam Stewart, bass. Irving Ashby, guitar. More info here]
Weed: Guitar very unusual; play that bit again; I like his use of the lower strings…like the trumpet too; a little like Shavers, but doesn’t knock himself out as much as Charlie…tenor good; not too impressed by the piano…bit like the Count, but he does things he wouldn’t. I take it that was Zutty on drums; play the introduction again – oh, of course! Fats. There are a lot of good parts in this; I’d give it three stars.
Basie: I heard this in the picture, didn’t I?…Starts out real great…Fats and Zutty and Slam…who’s that wonderful trumpet?…that trombone in the last ensemble knocks me out. Give that four stars, please!

13. James P. Johnson, Hot Harlem (Stinson-Asch). Johnson, piano; Frank Newton, trumpet; Al Casey, guitar; Eddie Dongherty, drums.

Weed: That’s Fats…trumpet good; don’t know who it is. Was this made before the era of the electric guitar? Interesting guitar, anyway…I used to think a great deal of Fats, listened to all his stuff faithfully, but somehow listening now I think a lot less of him…two stars.
Basie: Ragtime piano player – patterned on Fats. Idea is cute, especially the real Fats introduction and piano. Nice drum break…trumpet sounds like Sidney de Paris. Guitar okay. Nothing terrific here. Two stars.

Buddy Weed’s Afterthoughts
You know, I haven’t bought a single jazz record since way before the war…most of my listening is classical. I listen to WQXR and WNYC; there’s very little good jazz on the air and I’m very interested in classical music. Stravinsky, Hindemith; Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe affects me as deeply as anything I can think of.
+++++Maybe you wonder how I can reconcile being a jazz pianist with listening to the classics. Well, I do hear jazz sometimes, but anyway I notice the trend today among dance musicians is that they’re being strongly influenced by Stravinsky and Hindemith, so apparently others have been doing the same kind of listening. Once you’ve absorbed a certain technique and knowledge in jazz there’s no need to listen constantly to it, though of course if you don’t listen at all and don’t know what’s going on, you do lose track of trends.
+++++But I so seldom run across anything good in jazz today; it’s depressing. And so are the 52nd Street spots where you have to go to hear jazz.
+++++I like Bill Harris, though I’ve had bad luck when I’ve heard him in person. On piano, Ralph Burns interests me as much as anyone I’ve heard — he has a new approach. Art Tatum is the greatest all around; or I should say, he and Teddy Wilson and others express their own ideas in their own different ways; no one person is the greatest. Each has his own handicaps, and his own mode of expressing himself. Yes, on second thought, I retract that statement about Tatum.

Count Basie’s Afterthoughts
I’m from the old school. I’ll take the settled old swing with less notes, things that are really simple — but I like to listen to other types. The youngsters in my band support the modern part of the music. And I definitely approve of the way jazz is going. As far as bebop, it’s real great if it’s played right, and I think it’s really taking effect. I have records that I play all the time, trying to understand. Diz and Parker and Jay Jay and Red Rodney — kids like that are really doing it. You’ve got to have that life, that youth — the music has got to carry on, you can’t just go through your career with a bunch of old-timers in your band; the younger ones think faster. But sometimes the kids fall back on the less frantic old-timers — don’t forget, experience counts too!

John Coltrane – Feb 19, 1959

+++++The Blindfold Test below is the first interview of its kind with John Coltrane. The reason is simple: though he has been a respected name among fellow musicians for a number of years, it is only in the last year or two that he has reached a substantial segment of the jazz-following audience.
+++++It is the general feeling that Coltrane ranks second only to Sonny Rollins as a new and constructive influence on his instrument. Coltrane’s solo work is an example of that not uncommon phenomenon, an instrumental style that reflects a personality strikingly different from that of the man who plays it; for his slow, deliberate speaking voice and far-from-intense manner never would lead on to expect from him the cascades of phrases that constitute a typical Coltrane solo.
+++++The records for his Blindfold Test were more or less paired off, the first a stereo item by a big band, the next two combo tracks by hard bop groups, the third pair bearing a reminder of two early tenor giants, and the final two sides products of miscellaneous combos. John was given no information before or during the test about the records played.
1. Woody Herman – Crazy Rhythm (Everest Stereo)
Paul Quinichette, tenor saxophone; Ralph Burns, arranger.

+++++Well, I would give it three stars on the merit of the arrangement, which I thought was good. The solos were good, and the band played good. As to who it was, I don’t know…The tenor sounded like Paul Quinichette, and I liked that because I like the melodic way he plays. The sound of the recording was very good. I’d like to make a guess about that arrangement — it sounded like the kind of writing Hefti does — maybe it was Basie’s band.

2. Art Farmer – Mox Nix (Modern Art, United Artists)
Benny Golson, tenor; Farmer, trumpet, composer, arranger; Bill Evans, piano; Addison Farmer, bass; Dave Bailey, drums.

+++++That’s a pretty lively sound. That tenor man could have been Benny Golson, and the trumpeter, I don’t know…It sounded like Art Farmer a little bit.
+++++I enjoyed the rhythm section — they got a nice feeling, but I don’t know who they were. The composition was a minor blues — which is always good. The figures on it were pretty good, too. I would give it three-and-a-half.

3. Horace Silver Quintet – Soulville (Blue Note)
Silver, piano, composer; Hank Mobley, tenor; Art Farmer, trumpet.

+++++Horace…Is that “Soulville?” I’ve heard that – I think I have the record. Horace gave me that piece of music some time ago…I asked him to give me some things that I might like to record and that was one of them. I’ve never got around to recording it yet, though. I like the piece tremendously — the composition is great. It has more in it than just “play the figure and then we all blow.” It has a lot of imagination. The solos are all good…I think it’s Hank Mobley and Art Farmer. I’ll give that four-and-a-half stars.

4. Coleman Hawkins – Chant (The Hawk Flies High, Riverside, 1957)
Idrees Sulieman, trumpet; J.J. Johnson, trombone; Hank Jones, piano; Oscar Pettiford, bass.

+++++Well, the record had a genuine jazz feeling. It sounded like Coleman Hawkins…I think it was Clark Terry on trumpet, but I don’t know. The ‘bone was good, but I don’t know who it was. I think the piano was very good…I’ll venture one guess: Hank Jones. It sounded like Oscar Pettiford and was a very good bass solo. And Bean — he’s one of the kind of guys — he played well, but I wanted to hear some more from him…I was expecting some more.
+++++When I first started listening to jazz, I heard Lester Young before I heard Bean. When I did hear Hawkins, I appreciated him, but I didn’t hear him as much as I did Lester…Maybe it was because all we were getting then was the Basie band.
+++++I went through Lester Young and on to Charlie Parker, but after that I started listening to others — I listened to Bean and realized what a great influence he was on the people I’d been listening to. Three and a half.

Charles Mingus – Part 1 – Apr 28, 1960

+++++Almost five years have elapsed since Charlie Mingus’ previous Blindfold Test . In the interim he has grown tremendously in musical stature. Five years ago he was beset by many frustrations in the attempt to find an outlet for his music.
+++++Today, while by no means rich or world famous, Mingus is a man highly respected by an increasing coterie. His music has settled into a groove that is at once funk-rooted, far-reaching and emotionally stimulating.
+++++Mingus, as a person, has changed, too. Though there remains in him a latent streak of defiant anger, much of which is reflected in his music, he takes no active delight in putting anyone or anything down.
+++++Because it would be unfair to Mingus and the reader to whittle down his comments, they have been split into two installments. The second segment, which will appear in the next issue, includes a long afterthought about Ornette Coleman. Mingus was given no information about the records played.
1. Blues For Amy (Something New, Something Blue, Columbia, 1959)
Teo Macero, composer, arranger. Phil Woods, alto. Art Farmer, trumpet.

+++++Take it off…Look, I don’t want to drag you or anybody. I don’t think maybe you should give me a Blindfold Test, because I’ve changed. I didn’t let it get started — maybe that’s not fair of me? But it disturbs my ulcer. I’d rather talk about something important — all the stuff that’s happening down south.

2. Clifford Brown and Art Farmer with The Swedish All Stars – Stockholm Sweetnin’ (Clifford Brown Memorial, Prestige)
Arne Domnerus, alto; Art Farmer, Clifford Brown, trumpet; Lars Gullin, baritone; Bengt Hallberg, piano; Gunnar Johnson, bass; Jack Noren, drums; Quincy Jones, composer. Stockholm 1953.

+++++I heard a trumpet player up in the front that sounded like Art Farmer. The second solo? I don’t think I liked it as much as the first. Not that it matters…My opinion doesn’t matter much. What’s Lee Konitz doing on a record with these guys?…The rhythm section has no guts at all.
+++++The baritone player sure has a lot of warmth; could it have been Gerry Mulligan? It’s not an inspiring performance on the whole. I didn’t hear the second trumpet player playing any parts in the ensemble; it’s like they wrote it for one trumpet, then this guy walked in the studio and they said, “Why don’t you blow one, man?”
+++++The tune is Quincy Jones’ tune — he knows what will go, knows what he’d like to do, and he always writes what he knows will sell. And what guys can play. I know he does this — we discussed it together seven or eight years ago, before he became successful. And he was wondering why I always wrote so hard and never got it played, and I was wondering why he wrote so simple and got it played.
+++++Well, I just like Art Farmer so very much — that little airy sound he gets in the front of the notes — I like him even if he is old fashioned and doesn’t know it. He became old-fashioned about two years ago. But he’s going to come up with something — you watch what he’ll be doing a year from now.
+++++I’ll give it five for Art, if you don’t mind — and Gerry Mulligan if that’s who it is.

3. George Shearing – Chelsea Bridge (Satin Brass, Capitol)
Jimmy Jones, arranger.

+++++People used to think Louis Armstrong was putting everybody on when he said he liked Guy Lombardo. But I think he really sincerely like Guy. Because I’m beginning to feel that way. Some cats simply should play like Lombardo and not try anything else. Because that’s not them if they don’t; that’s not their soul. And I think that applies to this.
+++++If that’s Gil Evans, I’m sorry — that applies to this. I’ve heard some things he did with Miles that were better. Usually I like Gil — I don’t know what happened on this thing. Maybe he has too much work to do and has to turn it out very fast. Or maybe that’s the worst track on the record, because I know you do that, sometimes.
+++++The tune is something that’s been done a million times — even before Duke. I think I heard Paul Whiteman use those intervals…Well, give the record five stars because Gil Evans is famous.

4. Johnny Hodges – Big Shoe (Side By Side, Verve)
Hodges, alto; Ben Webster, tenor; Roy Eldridge, trumpet; Lawrence Brown, trombone; Billy Strayhorn, piano; Wendell Marshall, bass; Jo Jones, drums. 1958.

+++++You can take it off — I know what this is. Somebody’s trying to get an alumni band together with Hodges and Webster, and they weren’t thinking about music, except Ben maybe. I don’t know what Hodges was doing…is that something new? And I assume it’s Lawrence Brown.
+++++But I don’t think this means anything because I don’t think that was Duke. With Duke, they might have played better — sometimes that’s what it takes…
+++++I tell you, I’m not much on comment today. I’d rather just rate them, and on this, for Ben Webster I’d have to give it five stars again, because I like Ben. But I think somebody was trying to figure out a way to make some money with some records, and they put one of things together.
+++++I’ll tell you why I know Duke isn’t here. You listen to that record of Duke’s that came out a while ago with Dizzy on it, and hear the way Duke comps in there. There’s a lot of young cats around that could learn from the way Duke comps. This cat on the Hodges record played every chorus on the blues and played it different; he didn’t create nothing; that’s why I knew the piano player wasn’t Duke, that it was just anybody trying to cop out.

Part 2 – May 12, 1960

+++++“You haven’t been told before that you’re phonies. You’re here because jazz has publicity, jazz is popular…You like to associate yourself with this sort of thing. But it doesn’t make you a connoisseur of the art because you follow it around…A blind man can go to an exhibition of Picasso and Kline, and not even see their works, and comment behind dark glasses, ‘Wow! They’re the swingingest paintings ever, crazy!’ Well, so can you. You’ve got your dark glasses and clogged up ears.”
+++++This is one of the milder portions of an off-the-cuff speech made one night from the bandstand at the Five Spot by Charlie Mingus, preserved on tape and reproduced in an enlightening piece by Dian Dorr-Dorynek in The Jazz World, recently published by Ballantine Books. The speech bares Mingus’ long-pent-up frustrations and brings to the reader the sort of moment of truth many jazzmen wish they had the courage to express.
+++++Mingus’ basic intensity and integrity can be found, too, in his Blindfold Test reactions. Following is the second segment of a two-part test, the previous one having appeared in the last issue. These comments, too, were tape-recorded, and Mingus received no advance information on the records played.
1. Lambert, Hendricks & Ross – Moanin’ (The Hottest New Group In Jazz, Columbia)

+++++I just don’t know what to tell you about that…I heard Sarah Vaughan last night, and she was singing a song, and the trumpet player was playing two bars, and she’d echo behind it — but she wasn’t singing what he was playing. And this — well, I think he’d be a good poet. A much better poet. He’s trying to tell a story — he always has. And I’m glad he can.
+++++The group? I think they’ll make a lot of money. They’ll always make money — more than I’ll ever make.
Feather:Don’t you think the group’s different?
Mingus: Different from what? King Pleasure? I heard some little bitty young kids singing like that in Chicago. When Bird first came up, they used to stand up by the jukebox and make up words to the songs. It’s not that original, man. Ten years ago people were doing that. I remember some words the kids wrote for a song of Hamp’s: Bebop’s taking over, oo-wee; better bop while you’re able, see; open your ears, bop’s been here for years” — something like that; and that was 11 or 12 years ago.

2. Sonny Stitt with Oscar Peterson Trio – Au Privave (Verve, 1959)

+++++Well, you heard that thing he did on the second chorus, the bad note — he probably did that a whole lot of times on the record, and they spliced it out. There must have been a lot of splicing, or else they had an engineer who liked to twist the buttons, because the sound kept changing, it was as if a different soloist was coming up to the microphone.
+++++Is that stereo? Yes…That’s too bad. And the piano player — he sounded like this was his first record date and his last one, so he wants to get everything in and plays all the notes he can in that solo, in the style of Horace Silver; and it could be Horace, I don’t know. Maybe he was very anxious that day. How could I know if I don’t listen to those cats anymore?
+++++I put some old Bird record on the other day, and I realized that nobody’s playing like him yet. I wish you’d tell me who this is just for my own kicks.
+++++Rating? Well, let’s put it like this. If I were in a record store and I’d listened to all the seven records you’ve played me so far (including those in the first part of the test), I wouldn’t buy any of them. And I’ve got some money.

3. Mahalia Jackson – I’m Going To Live The Life I Sing About In My Song (The World’s Greatest Gospel Singer, Columbia)

+++++I’m presently in the process of buying some records. I don’t have that one, but I believe I know who it is. And I would buy that one. She’s on my list. And I think that this is what everybody need a whole lot of — not only in their playing, but in their way of living.
+++++As far as rating this — maybe you should use a different kind of stars for rating this from the stars you use rating jazz records. A moving star. Make it five moving stars.

4. Dizzy Reece – The Rake (Star Bright, Blue Note)
Reece, trumpet; Hank Mobley, tenor; Wynton Kelly, piano; Art Taylor, drums; Paul Chambers, bass. Recorded by Rudy van Gelder, 1959.

+++++The drummer sounded like Art Blakey, and I like Art so much — but, man, I don’t think your machine makes it because everything sounds blurry — the tenor player, Hank Mobley, sounds as if he’s trying to play like Sonny Rollins. I never before heard Hank trying to sound like that. Or else it’s the way they’re recording. Rudy van Gelder makes those kind of records. He tries to change people’s tones. I’ve seen him do it; I’ve seen him do it; I’ve seen him take Thad Jones and the way he sets him up at the mike, he can change the whole sound. That’s why I never go to him; he ruined my bass sound.
+++++I’ve got a feeling that if that is Art, it sounded like the trumpet could have been Clifford Brown. But I don’t know when they could have made a record like that. I’m not talking about the solo, I’m talking about the ensemble feeling that suggests Clifford Brown.
+++++The bass player sure was in tune — I knew that right from the start. He was in tune with himself. And I’ve never know Art with a piano player like that — it’s kind of confusing.
+++++The over-all emotional feeling that I get when I enjoy music, I couldn’t hear it — yet I know it must be there if it was Art playing. I won’t say it didn’t swing because I never knew a time when Art didn’t swing; it’s just not coming off on this record to me.
+++++Play that trumpet solo again…I would say it’s Clifford Brown. A lot of people who don’t know Fats Navarro would have to like Clifford. I hear the kind of crying feeling, the soul that you got from Fats. Now I wouldn’t buy it because it was Clifford; the fact that somebody’s dead doesn’t change anything for me. I’m going to die, too.

+++++You didn’t play anything by Ornette Coleman. I’ll comment on him anyway. Now, I don’t care if he doesn’t like me, but anyway, one night Symphony Sid was playing a whole lot of stuff, and then he put on an Ornette Coleman record.
+++++Now, he is really an old-fashioned alto player. He’s not as modern as Bird. He plays in C and F and G and B Flat only; he does not play in all the keys. Basically, you can hit a pedal point C all the time, and it’ll have some relationship to what he’s playing.
+++++Now aside from the fact that I doubt he can even play a C scale in whole notes — tied whole notes, a couple of bars apiece — in tune, the fact remains that his notes and lines are so fresh. So when Symphony Sid played his record, it made everything else he was playing, even my own record that he played, sound terrible.
+++++I’m not saying everybody’s going to have to play like Coleman. But they’re going to have to stop copying Bird. Nobody can play Bird right yet but him. Now what would Fats Navarro and J.J. have played like if they’d never heard Bird? Or even Dizzy? Would he still play like Roy Eldridge? Anyway, when they put Coleman’s record on, the only record they could have put on behind it would have been Bird.
+++++It doesn’t matter about the key he’s playing in — he’s got a percussional sound, like a cat on a whole lot of bongos. He’s brought a thing in — it’s not new. I won’t say who started it, but whoever started it, people overlooked it. It’s like not having anything to do with what’s around you, and being right in your own world. You can’t put you finger on what he’s doing.
+++++It’s like organized disorganization, or playing wrong right. And it gets to you emotionally, like a drummer. That’s what Coleman means to me.

Stan Getz & Ray Brown – 1963 by Les Tomkins

Max Greger and his Orchestra – Discussion (European Jazz Sounds, Brunswick)
Solos: Benny Bailey, trumpet; Rich Richardson, trombone; Dick Spencer, alto. Max Greger, leader, tenor; Ron Simmonds, Benny Bailey, Ferenc Aszodi, Fredy Brock, trumpets; Karl-Heinz Donick, Helmut Rink, Rich Richardson, Fritz Gläser, trombones; Dick Spencer, Manfred Mende, Rudi Flierl, Fred Spannuth, Horst Reipsch, saxes; Armin Rusch, piano; Branco Pejakovic, bass; Pierre Favre, drums. Hans Hammerschmid, composer.

Brown: That sounds to me like a good studio band.
Getz: It sounded like an English band.
Brown: Yes, could have been. It was very clean. It reminded me a little bit of the Woody Herman type of band. The solos were so–so. The alto sounded pretty good. And I enjoyed the nice, crisp rhythm section. It had nothing identifying about it. I’ll just say that it doesn’t sound like a band that’s travelling on the road. They usually have things built around a prominent person in the band.
Getz: It would breathe more, too, wouldn’t it?
Brown: Yes, it would flow a little more together. This sounded very crisp—like good studio musicians, you know.
Getz: Those are about my sentiments, too. It’s very good—but we’ve heard it so much.
Brown: For my money now, you can go into New York or L.A. and call for a record date, and get a band to play just like that. In fact, if you call early enough you can get better soloists—top–rate studio guys like Clark Terry, Joe Newman, Phil Woods. And they’ll play the parts perfectly, too.
Getz: All right—I can’t wait any longer. Who was it?
Tomkins: It was made in Germany by a band led by tenorman Max Greger. The band has something of an international nature. The soloists there were all Americans [gives details].
Getz: The alto player seemed to have a little more breath in him than the other soloists. I think I’ve heard of Dick Spencer.
Brown: It was a studio band, though, wasn’t it?
Tomkins: Well, they work regularly in TV shows.
Brown: Sure, that’s the same thing.
Getz: It’s hard to judge a record like that. You neither like it nor dislike it.
Brown: I can’t find anything bad about it—but it’s nothing that I would particularly play that often, either.

The Joe Daley Trio – One Note (The Joe Daley Trio At Newport ‘63, RCA—Victor)
Daley, tenor, composer; Russell Thorne, bass; Hal Russell, drums.

Getz: There’s two ways to look at this record. I found it very interesting and the instrumentalists were very good — the drummer, the bassist and some parts of the saxophone. Personally, I thought it didn’t ever tell a story. I think he was trying to say too much—to be too modern, or something. You know what I mean, Ray?
Brown: This is a question that always comes up. Sometimes in night clubs, when we‘ve done something really fast, I’ll go down to somebody’s table after the set and they’ll say: “Just tell me — between you and I —what do you get out of playing that fast.” And that’s a good question, because sometimes, when you play fast, all you’re really showing is that you’re a good musician — your facility, and the group’s. There aren’t that many people who are expressionists at playing fast. People said things about Art Tatum playing fast, but he was able to do it, he was serious about it, and he didn’t have to scuffle for the technique. Now Thelonious Monk hardly uses any technique at all —but people like him. But if a guy has that much technique just laying there— a guy like Phineas Newborn, for example —it’s going to be used. In this particular record the technique of the people involved seemed to be very good. I was trying to find some sort of tie–in between the changes played by the bass player and the saxophone. A lot of the bass notes weren’t coming out clear, because they were covered up by the drum cymbal sound. Plus the fact that he played quite a few chromatic things.
Getz: Wasn’t it on the same change?
Brown: Well, it started that way. But there were parts there where everybody went for themselves. I am sure—where the guy was playing up above the end of the fingerboard, or at times below the bridge. Which were more or less effects. I’m not too good a judge of this type of thing, not being too involved in it. I guess my only view is that it’s good if it comes off. The tenor saxophonist can get over his horn pretty well.
Getz: I wouldn’t want it for my record collection.
Brown: No. not unless there were some more interesting tracks on it.
Tomkins: The idea of this, I think, was to show what can be done in extemporising around one note.
Getz: Yes, but if it didn’t come off they shouldn’t have put it on the record.
Tomkins: And you don’t think it did come off?
Brown: Well—every time you say something like this you sound like an old man. Lester Young could do something with one note—at a digestible tempo. Of course, I know that everybody’s playing faster now. It’s just that things are going that way. I wasn’t overly impressed with it. I’m positive the bass player wouldn’t be able to play all those same notes over again. It sounds like more of a modern group.

Francois Rabbath – Ode D’Espagne and Prélude A L’Archet (Prelude For The Bow) (The Sound Of A Bass, Philips)
Rabbath, bass, composer; second track only: Armand Molinetti, drums.

Brown: Well, the first thing was a bass solo. It sounded as if it was done in the key of D. It’s the sort of thing you do with D in the thumb position—D and A, to the B flat, up to the C, up to the D. Then he came back down, using some tenths with the D and so forth, working down to a fifth in the half position, which was D and A—then he went up to E; flat with an open G. It wasn’t real difficult, but it was very nicely laid out. I enjoyed it. The second track might have been something over–dubbed. You get that sort of exercise in Simandl, Book 2—which I remember very well—where you bow across three strings. We used to call it “pumping water.” Most guys could play that bottom part. The top part, though— if it was played by a bass, double–tracked — was very good. Much more difficult. It was somebody with excellent bow technique, who I’d say has been studying classically. I know I couldn’t play it. It was played mostly up in the harmonic section.
Getz: How do you do that? Is that the pressure of the bow, or what?
Brown: No, it’s just the technique of having the touch up there. You have to study to play up in those positions. I know classical guys that can play like that—quite a few.
Getz: That first one was very nice, interesting to listen to. It was great. But the second one I couldn’t become involved with like Ray did. He looks at it as a bass player would look at it. And I didn’t care for the piece of music at all whatever it was.
Tomkins: These were both original compositions by the bass player, who is a Frenchman named Francois Rabbath. It was recorded in France. And he was doing the whole thing on the second track by overdubbing. The first one was intended to be in the flamenco idiom.
Brown: Yes, it was like flamenco guitar, played with the fingers. I had some of my students do that—you use the thumb. Typical flamenco–type, but you do it on bass. It sounded like a small instrument—must have been a solo three–quarter bass.
Getz: I thought it was a ‘cello at first.
Brown: It could even have been a viola —that first part.

Johnny Dankworth and his Orchestra – Dotheboys Hall (What The Dickens!, Fontana)
Ronnie Scott, Bobby Wellins, Tony Coe, Dick Morrissey, Peter King, tenor. Dankworth, composer.

Brown: (at Tony Coe solo) Somebody likes Coleman Hawkins. It really sounds like him.
Getz: Yes, it really does. The first part didn’t, though.
Brown: No, not the first part—but here, I’m saying.
Getz: Lucky Thompson? (at Morrissey solo) It’s two tenor players, I think. That was good compared to what you played before.
Brown: I enjoyed the tenor player. On the slow part he showed a lot of Hawkins influence. He sounds in that vein of Lucky Thompson, Paul Gonsalves that type of tenor playing. The band, once again, was of the studio variety. It didn’t sound like anything recognisable. But the rhythm section was really 100%. Yes the drummer had that good feeling going.
Brown: Both the drummer and the bass player were cooking very nicely. There seemed to be a potpourri of tunes there. I was sitting trying to figure out who the band and tenor player were, trying to keep up with that—then all of a sudden the changes of I Can’t Get Started went by. Then they went into the bridge of Cherokee, went back into the theme and finished the tune out.
Getz: I liked the tenor and, as Ray says, the bass and drums. I liked the brass also—it reminded me of Duke. It had that feeling. Of course, the saxophones dispelled that notion when they came in.
Tomkins: You said earlier you felt there was more than one saxophonist. In fact, there were five different tenor soloists—one after the other.
Getz: One of them sounded like Tubby. Was he in there somewhere?
Tomkins: No, he wasn’t (giving details).
Brown: I didn’t find the styles that varying. Stan might, being a saxophone player. I couldn’t really distinguish that much. They sounded a lot alike, except on that ballad section.

Count Basie and his Orchestra – Belly Roll (li’l ol’ groovemaker….BASIE!, Verve)
Basie, piano; Frank Foster, tenor; Joe Newman, trumpet; Quincy Jones, composer, arranger.

Getz: That’s Diz, isn’t it?
Brown: It could be Jimmy Smith. Wait and see if he comes in. He’s got arrangements like that. Or Oliver Nelson.
Getz: Yes, I think it is Oliver Nelson. I think I’ve heard it before. But that sounds like Diz on muted trumpet.
Brown: That rhythm he plays on.
Getz: Yes, that’s what he likes. I love it when a drummer plays like that. Right there. And the bass stays right with him, too. Now there’s a difference, huh? Take a plain old blues—and right away everybody’s feet were tapping.
Brown: It sounded like something out of New York to me.
Getz: With some ringers thrown in.
Brown: Yes. Well, I’ll give you an example. I went down to do a big band date in New York and I had Cannonball Adderley on lead alto, Budd Johnson playing baritone, Yusef Lateef and Jerome Richardson on tenors, Phil Woods on alto. Which is a pretty good reed section. Then I had Ernie Royal, Clark Terry, Nat Adderley and Roy Eldridge on trumpets, Melba Liston, Jimmy Cleveland and—can’t think of the other trombone player’s name. And I had Hank Jones on one date and Tommy Flanagan on the other, and Osie Johnson and Sam Jones.
Getz: You couldn’t ask for anything more. Is that a new one?
Brown: No, it came out last year. It was an all–star big band. And about half an hour after that date started this band was burning it up. I told ‘em I was going to take ‘em on the road. But that record we just heard was like that type of band. These guys are used to playing together. For a while I thought it might have been Basie, but I didn’t hear Freddie Green in there. Good saxophone player, too. The overall feel was very good.
Getz: Beautiful. Unpretentious, right down to the point. Get right in there—and you feel as if you want to start dancing.
Brown: It didn’t sound like anybody’s band, like there was a leader or anything. So I don’t know where this band came from.
Tomkins: It was written by Quincy Jones.
Brown: Yes, I thought of Oliver Nelson, Quincy or Ernie Wilkins. Or this other guy, that used to write for Woody— Ralph Burns.
Getz: No—that wouldn’t be Ralph Burns.
Brown: Listen, I’d have said that at one time, but have you heard some of the Ray Charles things he did? Whew!
Tomkins: That was a thing of Quincy’s called Belly Roll.
Getz: Was that Osie on drums?
Tomkins: The band was, in fact, Basie. Frank Foster on tenor. Sonny Payne on drums.
Brown: Two things were missing. I couldn’t hear Freddie, and Basie wasn’t there.
Tomkins: Well, he had a short piano bit.
Brown: So you couldn’t really tell—it was so small. Are you sure that was Frank Foster, though? Or Eric Dixon? Because Eric sounds quite a bit like Paul Gonsalves. Frank usually sounds a little different.
Getz: Okay, what’s next? Now we’re getting to the good ones.

The George Shearing Trio – Blues in 9/4 (Jazz Moments, Capitol)
Shearing, piano, composer; Israel Crosby, bass; Vernel Fournier, drums.

Getz: You know, the older I get the less I even listen to how good a guy plays, technically or anything. I just look for something emotional in the music—something that gets to me. Everything seems so contrived here. You know what I mean? It just doesn’t give you an experience.
Brown: The opening and closing part sounds as if it was written, or laid out. It’s in 9/8 or something. And then they go into some blues, practically. The bass solo was all right—nothing unusual. I didn’t get that much from the record. The jazz part of it wasn’t as good as the first part.
Getz: As a musician, you can search your musical mind and soul. You can think: “Well, lets see—the bass player’s got good intonation. The drummer’s doing this. The piano player’s got a good touch.” You can go through all that— but what’s the end result? That’s what is important. Sounded like another European band. Was it?
Tomkins: It was the George Shearing Trio, with Israel Crosby on bass.
Getz: Well, then it’s European in origin.
Brown: I was going to say that sounded like a Shearing–type player. But it didn’t sound like George himself, unless that’s a very old record.
Tomkins: No, it’s quite recent—June, 1962. It was the last recording Israel made before he died.
Brown: Well, George has done a lot better playing—I’ll say that. Because I like the way he plays the piano. I prefer his ballads, of course, because his touch and his harmonic sense are so beautiful.

Dexter Gordon Quartet – Stairway To The Stars (Our Man In Paris, Blue Note)
Gordon, tenor; Bud Powell, piano; Pierre Michelot, bass; Kenny Clarke, drums. 1963.

Getz: So far he’s ruining the tune. He’s trying to get too soulful for a pretty tune.
Brown: Sounds like he’s trying to play like Gene Ammons, who is really soulful—but he’s like that all the time. This guy doesn’t have the sustaining quality that Gene Ammons has, I don’t think. He’s that vintage, though—the Stitt–Ammons—type school.
Getz: With a little bit of latter Lester Young, too, you know.
Brown: Yes, a little of Dexter, too. I haven’t heard Dexter for so long—I wouldn’t know him now if I heard him. The piano player reminds me a little of Bud Powell. It’s been years since I heard him, to. It’s 19 years since I played with him—but that sounds like him to me. What he’s doing is adequate enough, but I would have preferred to hear Hank Jones play a ballad like this. But, by the same token, I don’t think that what Hank would play on this ballad would go with what the saxophone player is playing. So they’re actually together.
Getz: I really find nothing admirable about it at all. I don’t think he treated the tune like it’s supposed to be treated. His intonation was bad and his tonguing was overpowering. But otherwise it was fine!
Brown: That, I guess, is a perennial hassle. This thing is more sensitive to saxophone players or trumpet players, if that be the case, than it would be to somebody in the rhythm section.
Getz: Oh, there you go. You’re going to be nice and temperate.
Brown: No, what I’m going to say is this: I know it’s not possible for everybody to like the same tune the same way. Although I have often told students that I think it would be nice, if you’re going to play a ballad, to look up the lyrics and see what the man had to say. You may get a little insight into it—which wouldn’t hurt. There are a lot of ballads that I think shouldn’t be what I call sweetened, as a lot of guys do. Then there are some that lend themselves to it, maybe. Jazz musicians, in their search to express themselves, find certain tunes—or it could be just the changes—that suggest certain treatments. And, like I say, Stan as a saxophone player might see this a little different to the way I would see it, as far as approach to the tune.
Getz: And how do you see it?
Brown: I could take it either way. I wasn’t particularly impressed by the way he played the melody, but I wasn’t chagrined either. He played some fairly nice things on the changes after the tune started. He ran them fairly well.
Getz: You’re able to look at it in a broader way than I am. Actually, I thought it was lumbering. And I don’t think you should run any changes on a tune like that. You should state the melody, play a few choice notes when you don’t play the melody, and take it out.
Tomkins: Do you normally know the lyrics of a ballad when you play it?
Getz: No, only vaguely—some of them. I forget them, but when I hear the tunes usually I hear them with the lyrics. I listen mostly to vocalists when I hear ballads. But I don’t know them word for word, though I could quote a few.
Brown: But are you impressed by a tune primarily by its lyrics before you play it a lot of times?
Getz: Lots of times lyrics, do sway me—which they shouldn’t, actually. Because you cannot play lyrics on a saxophone. Unfortunately, nobody’s invented a way to do that. So it’s mostly the melody and the whole feeling of a ballad that’s important. The lyrics are important, because they can change the interpretation.
Tomkins: Well, it was Dexter and it was Bud Powell.
Getz: How about that?
Brown: Dexter kind of reaches up for those notes. You hear that in some of the younger guys playing now. Like Coltrane does that sometimes. Which I guess extends back to Coleman Hawkins again, if you want to go back—him and Adolphe Sax.

The Pete Jolly Trio – One For Carl (Five O’clock Shadows, MGM)
Jolly, piano; Ralph Pefia, bass, composer; Nick Martinis, drums.

[ youtube has 4 tracks from the album, but not this one.]
Getz: Is that imitators of the Peterson trio? Or is it you guys? It’s a good ping on that bass player. It’s not you?
Brown: No, that’s not us. I was going to say Ray Bryant at first, but it sounds more like that bluesy type of playing that Junior Mance does. Right?
Getz: Come to think of it, it could be him. This and the Basie are about the best of the whole batch today.
Brown: I don’t know who the bass player was, but he sure had nice time. It might have been Bob Cranshaw.
Getz: He had that Ray Brown ping in his playing.
Brown: That loped along very nicely. I enjoyed it. There wasn’t any particular technique involved, but the feeling was good. And they played together. The pianist and has player obviously had a good affinity change–wise—the way they played the lines and so forth.
Getz: That’s a beautiful rhythm section. I’d have that one in my record collection—for real late–at–night listening—when I just want to snap my fingers.
Tomkins: I think you probably know these men personally. Pete Jolly? Ralph Pefia?
Getz: Oh, yes. Was that Ralph? That’s very good. And the drummer? Nick Martinis? I just fired him off my band. But he sounded good on that. See how things work out?
Brown: Yes, I liked that. Pete and Ralph had a duo together. They work constantly out in L.A. Pete is some player.
Getz: Well, Nick and I just worked together briefly. It’s different listening than it is playing with a musician.

Duke Ellington and his Orchestra, with the Orchestra of La Scala, Milan – La Scala, She Too Pretty To Be Blue (The Symphonic Ellington, Reprise)
Ellington, composer; Russell Procope, clarinet; Paul Gonsalves, tenor; Lawrence Brown, trombone; Cootie Williams, trumpet.

Brown: What’s this—Ellington with strings? That sounds like Lawrence Brown.
Getz: I think he made an album with strings, didn’t he?
Brown: It sounded like Paul Gonsalves before and Ellington on piano in the introduction. I don’t recognise the clarinet player.
Getz: What are those strings doing in there?
Brown: They don’t need ‘em. That’s Paul Gonsalves, isn’t it?
Getz: Sounds like him.
Brown: He’s got a great sound, a beautiful tone. Well. I didn’t enjoy the strings. They seemed to be cumbersome. It sounded as if they wanted to keep the voicing real plain so it wouldn’t lumber—you know, blah-blah-blah. But it didn’t help. I would have enjoyed that much better, I think, just hearing the band play it by themselves. And the guys didn’t play enough. Nobody really got a chance to stretch out. It was just like little fills—the kind of thing you might play behind a singer—except for, maybe, the trumpet solo. I could take it or leave it, you know. But it just sounded like Ellington—or somebody really imitating him down the line. In either case, I think the strings were unnecessary on that.
Getz: You know, everything you hear in music is in relation to what you heard before. Did you ever notice that? You hear certain records in an afternoon—and one comes up that you ordinarily might not really care for. But—because of what we’ve heard before—I enjoyed that record. Everything is a comparison. Anyway, I love Ellington. He’s my favourite band in the whole world. But those strings, as Ray says, sounded like they were playing in another band or something. They were just sawing away—it didn’t make sense. Of course, that was a beautiful saxophone sound. That was Paul Gonsalves? Yes, it’s a lovely way he has of making a sound out of the saxophone.

[bonus: Ray Brown Bass Master class]

J.J. Johnson, Mark Murphy, Danny Moss, Jeff Clyne – 1964 by Les Tomkins

Curtis Fuller – The Prayer/Taking A Chance On Love (Cabin In The Sky, Impulse)
Fuller, trombone; Manny Albam, arranger, conductor.

Murphy: Do you know who it is yet?
Johnson: I think so. Yes, I know who it is.
Murphy: Somebody spent a lot of money, I can tell you that! Is it featuring more than one trombone?
Johnson: No, just the one guy I think. I believe it was Curtis Fuller. I know that he did one big orchestral album not long ago, where the arrangements were done by Manny Albam. I thought there were some definite points of interest about the whole project. It’s all coming back to me now. I’ve heard the album through once, and I do recall that the overall thing was very good. Curtis is one of my favourite guys on trombone. He’s developed at a very, very fast pace. It’s good for him to branch out on this kind of thing, because mostly he’s done small band type things. Manny Albam is a very excellent arranger, and I guess you might say this was one of his more ambitious efforts. It was quite a large orchestra – sounded like violins and the whole thing. I even thought I heard Kai Winding there in the background, somehow – and possibly Brookmeyer. I think they might have cornered the market on trombonists on that album!
Murphy: At first I thought it was Bobby Brookmeyer soloing, because it sounded like a valve trombone. Then, it seemed, more trombones came in later, and I thought it might have been a Kai Winding ensemble, because he does that a lot – the five trombones. The arranging made me think of Johnny Richards, at times. I just hope the album says so-and-so’s orchestra, featuring so-and-so, etc. It really wasn’t the trombonist’s. It was half-and-half, with the big half for the band.
Clyne: Yes, it would have been nice to have heard more of the solo instrument. He tended to be enveloped by the band backing.
Murphy: But I didn’t mind that, because what was going on was interesting.
Johnson: I wonder if they planned it that way. You’re right – there were an awful lot of orchestral passages, where the soloist didn’t have anything to do but kind of wait around until his turn again. It was probably a showcase not only of the soloists’s talents, but the arranger’s, too. Or perhaps it was accidental. It does happen that way. I’ve dabbled in arranging and composing, and I know that on occasion it comes about, and you don’t even realise that’s what has happened, that you’ve put the soloist in a straitjacket, so to speak. Arrangers can get carried away, in other words.
Tomkins: Well, it was who you said. And the other trombones on the date were Bob Brookmeyer, Kai Winding, Wayne Andre and Alan Raph. The idea of the album was to present a jazz interpretation of the music from the show Cabin In The Sky, both from the standpoint of orchestra writing and solo playing. So, in fact, they did have equal importance.

Mel Tormé – Let Me Off Uptown (Sunday In New York, Atlantic)
Johnny Williams, arranger, conductor.

Murphy: Well, it goes without saying, but that was Mel Torme. And I’m pretty sure it was without Marty Paich. The arrangement was right for the tune, but I missed Marty. That twosome is pretty hard to beat. It’s that album about New York, I think. It’s funny – in that last bit, just before he started the scatting, he made me think of Jon Hendricks, which I’ve never done before when Mel sings. Two little phrases there. I didn’t realise that Mel was such a good scat singer until I heard his At The Red Hill Inn. And this is also very good. I don’t know whether he is completely ad lib in his scatting or not, but he has a marvellous consistency of performance. This, I’d say, is one of his best tracks, because he seems to get a little hotter than he usually does. He kinda stays a little too cool on some of the records he makes. That would be my only criticism of him. However, he always does everything right.
Johnson: I take it that Mel and Marty do a lot of things together – I didn’t realise that. They’ve done a lot of albums, is that it? Oh, really? With a small band or a big band?
Murphy: I’d say medium-size – usually a tentet.
Johnson: From your comments, it sounds liken it’s been a very successful relation. I don’t think I’ve heard any of these things at all.
Clyne: The only occasions I’ve heard Mel Torme he’s been with the Paich Dektette. I enjoyed them very much, but I haven’t heard this album.
Murphy: They seem to think alike, those two guys. Who is the arranger on this record?
Tomkins: There were three different arrangers on the album, but on that track it was the Hollywood composer, Johnny Williams.
Johnson: I thought he hit the mark with that arrangement. I’ve liked Mel’s singing for years, ever since Born To Be Blue. That was the first time I heard Mel, on that. And I like Marty Paich’s arranging. I’m just not familiar with the combination of the two of them together. But that one was a nice, easy-swinging kind of a thing. Mel’s always a lot of fun, and he injected a good feeling into it all the way through. It’s difficult to refrain from tapping your foot on it.
Murphy: I seemed to hear a lot of stock phrases from the band in the first chorus, but, in the last part, I think the arrangement got a lot better.
Tomkins: One interesting thing about it, if you know the original version, was that Roy Eldridge’s solo was scored for the brass ensemble.
Johnson: Yes – from the Gene Krupa/Anita O’Day record. I’d just like to say: I thought that selection was a complete gas. I enjoyed it thoroughly. You can play it again for me, if you like!

George Wettling’s New Yorkers – Somebody Loves Me (Jazz Makers, Mercury EP)
Jack Teagarden, trombone; Hank D’Amico, clarinet; Coleman Hawkins, tenor; Joe Thomas, trumpet; Herman Chittison, piano; Billy Taylor, bass; George Wettling, drums.

Johnson: (at Teagarden solo) Let me pick up a few landmarks. Just one I’ve picked up so far.
Murphy: Funny ending.
Johnson: Kinda took you by surprise!
Moss: I agree that ending was a bit wild and woolly. But Hawk sounded wonderful there. That’s the way I like to hear tenor played, as you know. There are still very few people who can roar along like he does, and seem to keep abreast of the times. He just seems to be ageless. He goes on and on.
Johnson: Can I ask a question? I get the impression that so-called trad is very popular in England, and perhaps a lot of other places. Would you call that in the style of trad, as played here?
Tomkins: Well, it’s more or less what you call Dixieland in the States.
Johnson: You know, it’s a funny thing. I never really pinned it down. I never had a chance to really listen to it. I thought that’s what it was all about. I just wasn’t sure.
Moss: No, I wouldn’t call that trad. I think it’s more what they call mainstream over here – if we have to put all these things into pigeon-holes. I think this was just sort of the old ‘forties swing music, played by people with a much more modern approach to it. But most of the actual trad thing in this country was a peculiar copy of something I’ve never heard on any records – and I’ve been listening for years and years. They were trying to copy the New Orleans sound, when the trad boom was on.
Clyne: But they sort of got their own thing going out of that, really.
Moss: Yes, a British jazz sound – though I wouldn’t really like to call it a jazz sound. It was a funny old thing, altogether. Apart from the very best of them.
Clyne: That was quite a happy sort of record. Everybody seemed to be enjoying themselves playing.
Johnson: I didn’t identify the trombonist – even yet. He was very good. He really knew where he was going and what it was all about. He just kind of took off there, and never let up. Er – you might tell us who he is.
Tomkins: It was Jack Teagarden.
Johnson: Was it? Well, no wonder it was so good. That explains it.
Murphy: At first I thought of Hawkins, then Ben Webster. But if it’s Coleman Hawkins – I’m very happy.
Clyne: For me, it’s the type of record that I don’t hear very much of. These days, the records I listen to are the ones that are made now, mainly. It’s just an unfortunate thing, but I don’t find time personally to get down to listen to some of the older records, that must be very good in their own particular sphere. I enjoyed it, anyway.
Murphy: It brought back something to me. My brother is a trombone player, and he introduced me to jazz. He had a whole bunch of records of people in the same ‘forties era, and this reminded me a lot of that.
Clyne: When was this record made?
Tomkins: In 1944. Twenty years ago.

Stan Getz & João Gilberto – Só Danço Samba (Getz/Gilberto, Verve)
Getz, tenor; Gilberto, vocal, guitar; Antonio Carlos Jobim, piano, composer; Sebastião Neto, bass; Milton Banana, drums.

Murphy: (at Gilberto vocal) I had a premonition that you were going to play one of this guy’s records next. I don’t know why.
Clyne: (at end of record) Yes, very nice. Beautiful.
Murphy: My first comment is: Getz is a genius, but why didn’t he let Joao sing another chorus?
Johnson: Yes, I thought for sure he’d come back, and at least sing it out!
Murphy: This is the album where his wife, Astrud, sings too, isn’t it? Well, how many A-plusses can you give it?, Wow!
Clyne: I think these two go very well together. The lyricism of the whole thing sort of ties up. Stan Getz plays beautifully in that idiom.
Murphy: I’d like to know just who heard who first in that combination. Because it certainly is a weird and beautiful accident.
Johnson: And very successful. They get a good feeling. I’ve had very little chance to catch Getz in person at all, since he came back from Europe finally, and began to get into this bossa nova thing. But, of course, his recordings are very popular, and you hear ’em a lot in the States. It’s a funny thing – the things that are the most popular are not the things I like best, for my personal taste. On some of the more successful ones, Getz plays very little – just a little dab here and there, and that’s it. He really did get to stretch out on that one, though.
Tomkins: And that was a little more aggressive than some of the bossa novas he does, wasn’t it?
Moss: Yes, it was. He got stuck in a bit.
Murphy: I read a review of this album, which ended with one of those odd remarks that critics make: "When is he going to make a straight jazz album again?" When something like this is so good and so delightful, I can’t understand why anyone would pass such a negative comment.
Moss: If that isn’t jazz – what do you have to do?
Johnson: Well, it is true that on a lot of the stuff he’s doing now, such as with the girl, he just kind of noodles in the background, and maybe he’ll play eight bars. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if that’s what that guy was making reference to. But he’s doing so much of it, because it’s proved to be a format that sells a lot of records. So there’s the answer.
Clyne: I was quite surprised, when I heard Getz in person over here, to hear him play in such a forceful manner, compared to the way he used to play.
Johnson: Yes, he went through a change, somehow. Everyone noticed that.
Moss: But what a marvellous thing to hear people like the two tenor players we’ve just heard, who are completely different, and yet you can tell from the first bar who it is that’s playing. And there’s no question that it could be an imitator of them at all. They’ve got SO much authority, plus individuality of tone, that you immediately stamp them. I think it’s far too difficult these days to pick out people, particularly among tenor players, unless you happen to know the lines that they play. So many of them have little regard for sound and tone, that there tends to be a terrible sameness about them.

The Jazz Crusaders – Till All Ends (Lookin’ Ahead, Fontana)
Wayne Henderson, trombone; Wilton Felder, tenor; Joe Sample, piano, composer; Jimmy Bond, bass; Sticks Hooper, drums.

Moss: I didn’t like the balance very much. There didn’t seem to be enough presence on the rhythm section.
Clyne: I quite liked the edgy sound of the bass, but I’d like to have heard it a bit more clearly.
Moss: Was this a British recording?
Johnson: I believe it was The Jazz Crusaders. I’ve heard them a few times and there’s something about the way they’re recorded that I don’t like. They don’t seem to have the knack of balancing that outfit up right. Always the trombone sticks out too much, for one thing. If my memory serves me correctly, the ensemble is tenor sax, trombone and rhythm section, for the most part. And somehow they never get a good balance between the two horns. It’s always more trombone than tenor, and it should not be. You should clearly hear two parts, and often times you only hear the one. He’s a very vigorous and aggressive player, this trombonist, if he’s the one I think he is. They should hold him down a little, balance-wise, on the ensembles. They come up with some interesting and enterprising things on occasion, but they get loused up by bad balance.
Moss: Do they get a proper balanced sound, when you see them live?
Johnson: Live, they can’t seem to find the right set-up, either. Again, the trombonist is always sticking out, somehow. He’s a loud player, to begin with, and he plays with a lot of force.
Moss: It needs a very robust tenor player, to match up to him, then.
Johnson: Is it the Jazz Crusaders?
Tomkins: Yes, it is. You’re quite right.
Murphy: I thought the record was interesting, and I think it was a combination of 4/4 and 5/4, wasn’t it?
Clyne: I think they just used a few bars of 5/4 to release into the jazz choruses.
Johnson: Yes, it was a 5/4 interlude type thing – then the rest of it was just straight wailing in 4/4.

The Joe Harriott Quintet – Beams (Movement, Columbia)
Harriott, alto, composer; Shake Keane, trumpet; Pat Smythe, piano; Coleridge Goode, bass; Bobby Orr, drums.

Murphy: I have no idea who it is. Is it Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry? If it is, I did enjoy what I don’t normally enjoy about their group in that I liked the rhythm section. They kept the time through it all, and the intro and ending passage was fascinating. But I don’t understand jazz when it gets this far out. The only reason I was able to get something out of this was because the rhythm section wasn’t going its own way, too. With Ornette’s group, they seem to play together simply because they happened to fall into the same place at the same time.
Clyne: It sounded like Joe’s group.
Moss: Yes, Joe Harriott and Shake Keane.
Johnson: Where are they from?
Clyne: It’s an English group. From personal experience, I think that this type of music is often more interesting and enjoyable to play, rather than to actually listen to. A lot of people must find it very hard on their ears to follow exactly what is going on. I’ve enjoyed performing it, on occasion.
Johnson: Would you say that these people pattern themselves kind of after Ornette Coleman’s format, in general?
Clyne: In a general kind of way, but with the Coleman records I’ve heard I don’t find the rhythm section wandering too much. Whatever they do seems to have some relationship to the ensemble. There’s always a sort of regular time thing going through Ornette’s music. I think there is some similarity in the basic approach of Joe’s group, but – in person, anyway – they seem to get even freer than Ornette, and go wherever the wind happens to take them.
Moss: If it is Joe, he explains all this quite logically – to him. I can never understand what he’s talking about.
Clyne: He often compares it to abstract paintings.
Murphy: Well, I thought this record was essentially music – whereas what I’ve heard of Ornette and Don Cherry, it’s sort of anti-music.
Johnson: I personally didn’t think it was very musical – that particular side that you just played. I didn’t get the musical content at all. I got the impression that they were probably experimenting with some kind of format that I don’t know anything about. And. for me, it didn’t come off. As far as Ornette Coleman is concerned, I’ve heard him on many occasions, in person and on records. And most of what he does, I can relate to it and identify with it and I like a lot of it. Some of it I don’t like at all – when it gets so far out off the deep end that it loses me completely.
Murphy: Do you think he knows what he’s doing, though, at all times?
Johnson: Ornette? I do believe so. I think he has complete control of the situation. I’ve talked to the guy quite a few times, and he’s quite conscientious and serious about the whole thing – contrary to popular belief. People just put him down flat, and they think he’s a big joke: "Well, he’s got to be kidding.. He can’t be serious with that. " But he is – and I’ve heard him play quite well. And I’ve gone back on another night and I didn’t think he played so well. He kind of fluctuates, somehow. But Ornette writes most of the material for his groups and some of the things he does are very melodic and really very musical. Off the beaten path, and maybe a little weird – but really good. He’s written some excellent jazz melodies.
Clyne: As far as the improvisation side of it – it’s very spur-of-the-moment type of music, essentially.
Johnson: I go along with that. I don’t put that down. A few people are trying that out here of late. And it’s kind of popular amongst a lot of the younger players. They call it "freedom" in the States – kind of breaking the bonds of what we’re accustomed to, of playing in conventional chords, and in the 32-bar or 12-bar format. I approve of all that. That’s all necessary and very good. Some of it comes off – and some does not.
Clyne: Joe calls his particular things Free Form music, which is the same thing. And it is basically experimental music, so there’s no guarantee that it’s going to come off every time.
Johnson: Well, that’s the premise on which I don’t put it down flat, when I hear all these people who are kind of experimenting and groping around.
Tomkins: But should they do that in front of the public?
Johnson: Well, I don’t know. That’s open to question. That’s a good point.
Clyne: Well – why not?
Moss: The whole point of music is to convey something to an audience. And you’ve got to try these things out somewhere. It’s no good just locking yourself into a room and playing music for yourself. It’s got to be a means of conveying emotion of some sort. It might be horror, which is what this conveys to me – a nightmare. But if I didn’t listen to it I’d never get that emotion.
Johnson: I think so, too. I think the public should be in on it, at all times. Keep it out in the open. There shouldn’t be anything going on behind locked doors.
Murphy: In fact, the very prospect of someone doing this behind locked doors is worse!
Tomkins: That was by the Joe Harriott group, incidentally.
Moss: The funny thing about this, with Joe, is that he plays the most magnificent Parker-style alto – and switches to this. Now this is a thing that I can’t quite understand.
Clyne: I think he feels that he wants more freedom to express his musical ideas – something beyond the confines of the regular patterns, that will enable him to stretch out a bit more.
Moss: Yes, but he doesn’t do it all the time.
Clyne: No, but it’s good that he can do the two very well.
Tomkins: J.J., have you ever felt any need to play this kind of thing?
Johnson: I’ve just dabbled in it on occasions, you know. I’ve never really gone in for it all the way.
Clyne: Did you enjoy it?
Johnson: Yes, it was a ball. You kind of just go where you want to go.
Moss: You can’t just stand still and have nothing happening. I think people have got to try these things. And the best ingredients of it eventually stick – the same as the original bebop movement.
Johnson: It’s happened in other art forms, such as symphonies, literature. You always have the innovators – the people who try to step out, away from the past, and go into something else. And that which is good will stand on its own two feet in good time. You don’t have to worry about it ever. People do worry about it – but there’s no need to. Just leave it alone and if it is valid, has substance, and really has something to say – it’ll just be fine.
Murphy: I never would have thought that was an English group, though. But now that I see that it is, there’s certainly no reason why it couldn’t be.

Thelonious Monk 1966

+++++Not until the Blindfold Test had been appearing for almost 20 years did Thelonious Monk participate as a subject. The reason was clear: Monk is not the most voluble of personalities, and it seemed improbable that an interview could be obtained.
+++++One day in 1966 Monk broke his long silence. Accompanied by his wife Nellie, he sat, stood or paced his way through eight records. When moments of silence engulfed him, Nellie succeeded in prodding him.
+++++After the first minute of the first record, it became obvious that the only way to complete an interview and retain Monk’s interest would be by concentrating mainly on other artists’ versions of his own compositions. Accordingly, Records 2 – 6 were all Monk tunes. At this point, he seemed interested enough to listen to a couple of non-Monk works. He was given no information about any of the records played.
+++++Monk’s reaction to Record No. 7 may have a more than coincidental relationship to the opinions expressed openly by Oscar Peterson concerning Monk’s own value as a pianist.
1. Andrew Hill – Flight 19 (Point of Departure, Blue Note)

(After two minutes, Monk rises from his seat, starts wandering around the room and looking out of the window. When it becomes clear he is not listening, the record is taken off.)
The view here is great, and you have a crazy stereo system.
Feather: Is that all you have to say about that record?
Monk: About any record.
Feather: I’ll find a few things you’ll want to say something about.

2. Art Pepper – Rhythm-a-ning (Gettin’ Together!, Contemporary)
Conte Candoli, Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb.

He added another note to the song. A note that’s not supposed to be there. (Sings.) See what I mean?
Feather: Did I hear you say the tempo was wrong?
Monk: No, all tempos is right.
Feather: How about the solos? Which of them did you like?
Monk: It sounded like some slow solos speeded up, to me.
Feather: How about the rhythm section?
Monk: Well, I mean, the piece swings by itself. To keep up with the song, you have to swing.
Feather: How many stars would you rate it?
Monk: (Indicating Mrs Monk.) Ask her.
Feather: It’s your opinion I’m asking.
Monk: You asked me for my opinion, I gave you my opinion.
Feather: Okay, let’s forget ratings.

3. Dizzy Gillespie – Medley: I Can’t Get Started/Round Midnight (Something Old – Something New)
James Moody, alto.

Dizzy, He had a crazy sound, but he got into that upper register, and the upper register took the tone away from him. That was the Freddy Webster sound too, you know, that sound of Dizzy’s.
(Later) That’s my song! Well, if that’s not Diz, it’s someone who plays just like him. Miles did at one time too.
Feather: You like the way they put the two tunes together?
Monk: I didn’t notice that. Play it again. (Later) Yes, that’s the Freddy Webster sound. Maybe you don’t remember Freddy Webster; you weren’t on the scene at the time.
Feather: I remember Freddy Webster. And the records he made with Sarah.
Monk: Remember I Could Make You Love Me? The introduction? Play that for me.
Feather:I don’t think I can find it. You think Freddy influenced Diz?
Monk: Every sound influenced Diz. He had that kind of mind, you know? And he influenced everything too.
Feather: You liked the alto player on here too?
Monk: Everybody sounded good on there; I mean, the harmony and everything was crazy…play it again!

4. Bob Florence – Straight, No Chaser (Here and Now!, Liberty)
John Audino, lead trumpet; Herbie Harper, trombone; Bob Florence, arranger.

Feather: You liked the arrangement?
Monk: Did you make the arrangement? It was crazy.
Feather: No.
Monk: It was a bunch of musicians who were together, playing an arrangement. It sounded so good, it made me like the song better? Solos…the trombone player sounded good…that was a good lead trumpet player too…I’ve never heard that before. I don’t know how to rate it, but I’d say it was top-notch.

5. Phineas Newborn – Well, You Needn’t (Great Jazz Piano of Phineas Newborn, Contemporary)

He hit the inside wrong – didn’t have the right changes. It’s supposed to be major ninths, and he’s playing ninths (walks to the piano, demonstrates). It starts with a D-flat Major 9…See what I mean? What throws me off, too, is the cat sounds like Bud Powell. Makes it hard for me to say anything about it. It’s not Bud; it’s somebody sounding like him.
Feather: Outside of that, did you like the general feeling?
Monk: I enjoy all piano players. All pianists have got five stars for me…but I was thinking about the wrong changes, so I didn’t pay too much attention to the rest of it. Maybe you better play it again.
(Later) It’s crazy to sound like Bud Powell, but seems like the piano player should be able to think of something else too. Why get stuck with that Bud Powell sound?

6. Bud Powell – Ruby, My Dear (Giants of Jazz, Columbia)

That’s Bud Powell!…All I can say is, he has a remarkable memory. I don’t know what to say about him – he is a remarkable person, musically.
Feather: You think Bud is in his best form there?
Monk: (Laughs) No comment about him, or the piano…He’s just tired, stopped playing, doesn’t want to play no more. I don’t know what’s going through his mind. But you know how he’s influenced all of the piano players.
Feather: Of course. I was just questioning whether this is his best work.
Mrs Monk: (To Monk) You don’t think so.
Monk: Of course not.

7. Oscar Peterson – Easy Listening Blues (With Respect to Nat)
With Herb Ellis and Ray Brown.

Monk: Which is the way to the toilet? (Waits to end of record, leaves room, returns…laughs.) Well, you see where I went. (To Mrs.Monk) Could you detect the piano player?
Feather: How about the guitar player?
Monk: Charlie Christian spoiled me for everyone else.

8. Denny Zeitlin – Carole’s Garden (Carnival, Columbia)
Jerry Granelli, drums.

Feather: You liked that one?
Monk: I like all music.
Feather: Except the kind that makes you go to the toilet.
Monk: No, but you need that kind too…It reminded me of Bobby Timmons, and that’s got to be good. Rhythm section has the right groove too. Drummer made me think of Art Blakey. Hey, play that again.
(Later) Yeah! He sounds like a piano player! (Hums theme) You can keep changing keys all the time doing that. Sounds like something that was studied and figured out. And he can play it; you know what’s happening with this one. Yeah, he was on a Bobby Timmons kick. He knows what’s happening.

Pat Metheny – Feb 1981

+++++It is a sure indication of success when an artist finds himself accused of having sold out to Mammon. It is a sure bet he hasn’t when his response is to stretch his chops, conception and audience. Pat Metheny is such an artist.
+++++I doubt that Metheny can fairly be said to have sacrificed any of his values, either with the admirable group he has headed for three years with Lyle Mays, Mark Egan and Danny Gottlieb, or on his ECM two-fer 80/81, with Charlie Haden, Dewey Redman, Mike Brecker and Jack DeJohnette. Metheny won a db scholarship to the National Stage Band Camp at age 14; within a very few years he became a teacher there, then at University of Miami, and subsequently at Berklee College, where (at 19) he joined the faculty upon Gary Burton’s invitation. He later toured with Burton’s band, remaining for three years before beginning his own Pat Metheny Group.
+++++Metheny shows signs of becoming to the ’80s the kind of influential force that John McLaughlin was in the ’70s. On his first Blindfold Test, Pat had no information on records played.
Lee Ritenour – Margarita (Captain Fingers, Epic)
Ritenour guitars, composer.

+++++I’m sorry to say l don’t know who that was. Typical of a lot of records by younger guitar players these days, the guy’s obviously a real good player. It reminded me of Robben Ford a bit, somebody who is more or less a studio player who may have made a record.
+++++It didn’t seem he had a real individual voice, which is what I’m primarily concerned with when I listen. I like to say, within a note or two, ‘Wow, that’s somebody who has his own distinctive approach.’
+++++I can think of ten people it might have been. And it’s not so much for the playing as for the sound aspect. On a solid body guitar put through an amplifier turned way up, it’s very difficult to distinguish one player from the next. The same problem is true of a Rhodes piano; you’re dealing with a highly electronic sound and the only things that can make it distinctive are the note choices and the phrasing.
+++++I didn’t notice anything unique about this record. Three stars.

Charlie Byrd – Jitterbug Waltz (Blue Byrd, Concord Jazz)
Byrd, guitar; Joe Byrd, bass; Wayne Phillips, drums; Fats Waller composer.

+++++I recognized the tune – I can’t remember, something like Butterfly Waltz or Jitterbug Waltz. I remember scuffling through this tune early in my career with Ira Sullivan, and having to learn it real quick on a bandstand one night, because it was one of his favorites to play.
+++++The guitar player might be Charlie Byrd; as a classic guitar in the setting with bass and drums, he’s used that format for a long time, I know. But it seemed much more aggressive than I would normally think of Charlie Byrd.
+++++It sounded recorded in an unusual way, possibly direct-to-disc. The guitar sound was really different than I have heard classic guitar recorded. I’m not sure I liked it, either; it sounded a little bit compressed. The rhythm section wasn’t really happening somehow – it didn’t seem like they were functioning as a group as much as I would have liked if it was me playing. I’m very much involved with playing with the people in the band as closely as a unit as we can.
+++++It’s very difficult to play guitar, bass and drums, and this particular player’s approach was to fill it out as much as possible. My inclination is, when it is guitar, bass and drums, to approach it more like horn, bass and drums, as opposed to making it like a piano trio with guitar instead.
+++++It’s not exactly my kind of thing; I’d give it two stars.

Ralph Towner – Images Unseen (Diary, ECM)
Towner, 12-string classical guitars, composer.

+++++That’s unmistakably Ralph Towner, somebody I hold in high esteem for what I was talking about earlier, the ability to find your own voice on the instrument. This is from Diary, which was his solo record.
+++++I have been knocked out with Ralph ever since I Sing The Body Electric, which was his guitar debut on a Weather Report album years ago. The first time I heard that I was stunned. I’d never heard anybody play anything even remotely similar, let alone improvise with such freedom on a 12-string guitar, which is one of the most cumbersome instruments, very difficult to play. I’m always amazed at Ralph’s flexibility and the power he can get. He’s got incredible touch.
+++++Also, although this was obviously a free tune, I see Ralph as one of the best composers around; his songs are incredible little gems of musical logic. Every time I hear a new piece he’s written, I say to myself, ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’ The way he resolves chords and goes from place to place harmonically is really amazing.
+++++The first time I heard The Body Electric and also a duo record he did with Glen Moore on ECM, l had a vision of this morose, monk-like person sitting in a dark chamber playing this weird guitar, when in fact Ralph is one of the goofiest personalities around, almost the exact opposite of what you’d think from his music.

John McLaughlin – Friendship (Johnny McLaughlin, Electric Guitarist, Columbia)
McLaughlin, Carlos Santana, guitars

+++++Sounds like Carlos Santana and John McLaughlin together, both of whom l hold in high regard, for finding their own voices.
+++++McLaughlin to me is the most important, certainly the most influential voice in the last decade on the guitar, without a doubt. In a way, he’s been misrepresented by his imitators; so many people have jumped on his bandwagon that we sometimes forget what an amazing contribution he made. He really turned things around; there’s hardly a young player around that doesn’t play like him. I find that a bit distressing; l try to avoid it, as much as I love his playing. It’s almost a cliche, that real fast playing. But the missing element is his incredible soulful feeling. It’s more than the notes, more than he’s the fastest gun…it’s that he’s an incredibly dynamic, strong personality on his instrument; the same for Carlos Santana.
+++++Again, he’s one of the strongest voices around – you can tell it’s him in two notes. I admire both of them and I really like this performance; it was so loose, and almost free-sounding. The beginning reminded me of an Ornette Coleman thing, sort of approximate unison a little out of tune. I’d give that five stars. That’s some of the best I’ve heard from either one of them.

Kenny Burrell – Body and Soul (When Lights Are Low, Concord Jazz).

+++++Really excellent. I think that was Ed Bickert … if not, someone influenced by Jim Hall.
+++++That tune is extremely difficult to play because of its legacy. You instantly imagine a saxophone playing that melody, always; Coleman Hawkins. It’s extremely difficult to introduce an element of breath to the guitar kind of like piano, but with piano you have the advantage of the sustain pedal. With the guitar, once you hit a note, it’s gonna die. To play a ballad, especially with just guitar, bass and drums, is one of the hardest things. This guy really pulled it off. Also, the element of swing and time and that stuff I was talking about earlier was really clear and strong. I’d give that five stars.
+++++That tune is extremely difficult to play because of its legacy. You instantly imagine a saxophone playing that melody, always; Coleman Hawkins. It’s extremely difficult to introduce an element of breath to the guitar kind of like piano, but with piano you have the advantage of the sustain pedal. With the guitar, once you hit a note, it’s gonna die. To play a ballad, especially with just guitar, bass and drums, is one of the hardest things. This guy really pulled it off. Also, the element of swing and time and that stuff I was talking about earlier was really clear and strong. I’d give that five stars.

Larry Coryell – Toronto Under the Sign of Capricorn (Guitar Player, MCA)

+++++That reminded me of something Larry Coryell might do. I had trouble getting into it. It didn’t seem like there was any real structure or form, and the improvising didn’t seem to go any place, it didn’t seem to have much direction to it. The guitars were recorded very poorly in my opinion; you couldn’t get the feel of the instrument, which made it even more difficult for me to understand what was supposed to happen.
+++++I just didn’t understand it; no stars.

John McLaughlin – Aug 1994 by Josef Woodard

+++++John McLaughlin’s storied career has discovered a lot of musical territory from his early days in the ’60s as electric guitarist for Georgie Fame’s rocking Blue Flames to last year’s gorgeous acoustic-guitar homage to Bill Evans, Time Remembered. Best known for his seminal jazz-rock fusion band Mahavishnu Orchestra, the virtuoso soloist has also explored the melding of acoustic jazz guitar and Indian classical music with his band Shakti, toured with guitarists Paco de Lucia and Al Di Meola, and composed two critically acclaimed concertos for classical guitar and orchestra. Most recently, McLaughlin has been touring with his latest trio, the Free Spirits – featuring volcanic drummer Dennis Chambers and Hammond organ ace Joey DeFrancesco – in support of their new album, Tokyo Live (Verve).
+++++In addition to being one of the featured performers at this year’s 15th Festival International De Jazz De Montreal, McLaughlin also received the fest’s first annual Miles Davis Award, presented in honor of an international musician who has contributed to the renewal of jazz.
+++++This is McLaughlin’s first Blindfold Test, which took place while the Free Spirits were playing at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco.
1. Tal Farlow – Gibson Boy (Legends of Guitar, Vol 1, Rhino)
Farlow, Barry Galbraith, guitars.

+++++The soloist has to be Tal Farlow, but who is he playing with? Farlow has a very lyrical way of improvising. I haven’t listened to him for years, but I recognized him from the first note because of his sound. He certainly had an effect on me. The only guy who played like him was Jimmy Raney. But this is definitely Tal. We’ve all got our stock phrases. As soon as you play them, you betray yourself. That’s not a criticism. It’s just the way it is. I thought it was him, but I wasn’t sure because I never heard Tal play with another guitarist before. Star rating? 3½ stars. I’ve heard Tal play better. This piece is a little too discreet.

2. Al Di Meola – Egyptian Danza (Casino, Columbia).

+++++It’s Al Di Meola, right? Al’s a peculiar kind of phenomenon. He’s a guitar player with amazing technique and unbelievable means on his instrument. But one thing I always miss in Al’s playing is America. He’s American, but I don’t hear much of his culture in his music. On this track the music sounds Greek, then Argentinian. He plays cultural hopscotch. It’s not so much that I want Al to play straight jazz here, but I’d like to hear more American influences in his music. Technically, he gets a 4. But I have to take off a star for lack of roots.

3. Frank Sinatra – Night and Day (Sinatra and Sextet: Live in Paris, Reprise)

+++++That’s Frank. I’m crazy about him. Frank just grabs me. You can hear the guitar in the background. Cling, cling. It’s very nice, but Frank’s a monster. It’s his phrasing. He’s so elegant and so eloquent. This is a cheap trick asking me to listen to the guitarist. He does accompany Frank admirably, but it’s difficult for me to identify him. The chords he uses are all standard voicings. That’s disappointing because Frank deserves better. With a little work he could have made some nice substitutions. Basically, this guy’s just reading his part. He didn’t do enough work to accompany my man Frank. So, Frank gets 5 stars; and the guitarist 3 – he gets 1 star off for a bit of clumsiness in the middle and at the end, and another for not working hard enough.

4. Derek Bailey – Scaling (Legends of the Guitar, Vol 1, Rhino).

+++++This guy should take his guitar to a luthier and have him work on it for a week. If it’s not prepared guitar, his instrument needs an overhaul. This piece is pretty meaningless to me. Contemporary music has a tendency to deform tonality as we know it. So very little appeals to me unless it’s by someone like Julian Bream, who plays a beautiful instrument with a beautiful tone.
+++++Who is this? I know Derek. He’s a charming guy. He’s been doing this spontaneous, free improvisation all his life. But this doesn’t say anything to me. There’s no meaning, no rhythm, no tone, no melody, no swing. So what’s left? Emptiness? Chaos? I’m not against chaos. I think the chaotic principle is very important in life because it has a lot to do with the unpredictible. But this piece is predictable right to the end. I’m sure he’s playing with strong intention, but unfortunately it doesn’t reach its mark in me. 1 star.


+++++I have no idea who this is. But whoever it is, he doesn’t have it together on this track. The soloing is very jerky. The phrasing is awkward. There are lots of stops and starts. I think the piano player has it together more than the guitarist. I’ll give this 2 stars for the effort.


+++++Is this Ronny Jordan? Very curious. He’s done a dreadful version of Miles’ “So What,” but at least he’s playing Miles’ music. As for this track, I like the opening a lot. In spite of my own reservations, I like what he’s doing. I’m intrigued by the combination of conceptions he’s working with. But he hasn’t developed stylistically yet. On this track, he’s playing like a poor man’s Wes Montgomery. Plus, instead of the disco beat, I’d like to hear something a little more revolutionary. If he’s going to make advances conceptually, why not get someone like Prince to really set him on a radical path?
+++++Stars? Musically, it’s pretty boring. I’ll take 2 stars off for that. I think he should work on his instrument more. It’s not good enough to just play Wes’ licks today. You’ve got to be your own man. So I’ll take off another star. Which leaves him 2. But conceptually, it reminds me of my crazier days. And I admire him for that. So, plus 1 star. That gives him a 3.