Tag Archives: bernie Leighton

JAZZ ON SUNDAY, and LIPS SIGNS IN

I think that on Sunday, October 27, 1968, I might have been helping my father rake leaves in the backyard, or perhaps doing my homework for the next day.  (I was in eleventh grade.)

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I can say with regret that I wasn’t at the jazz event above.  And I certainly didn’t have a video camera yet.  The forces in the cosmos didn’t work together on my behalf that Sunday — but it’s very pleasing to know that these musicians had a gig.  And that we can see the evidence now.

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Before WCBS-AM radio in New York became an all-news station, Jack Sterling had a famous morning show, which is why he would have been a good host for this concert.  Here’s more about Jack:

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From the same eBay prowl, I offer another holy relic.  True, that Oran Thaddeus Page felt that his nickname needed an apostrophe makes the English professor in me wince, but Hot Lips Page could do whatever he wanted.

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And here’s why (with the noble assistance of Earle Warren, Lucky Thompson, Hank Jones, Slam Stewart, and Sidney Catlett):

May your happiness increase!

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“POCATELLO,” or SWING LYRICISM, 1946

The trumpeter Joe Thomas would have celebrated his birthday yesterday, but since he left us in 1984, I will do it in another fashion here.

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Throughout his career, Thomas was surrounded by more assertive, even aggressive trumpeters, who could play louder, faster, higher.  And thus he did not always get the attention he deserved for his lyrical balanced style, which shone.  But he is a great poet of shadings, tone, and beautifully placed phrases.  At first, his playing might seem simple: ascending arpeggios that woo the ear.  But his singing tone, the darks and lights of his sound, are permanently memorable.  I saw him a few times in the early Seventies, and solos I heard still ring in my memory.  That, to me, is the highest art.

POCATELLO is an improvisation over the harmonies of the then-famous IDAHO, recorded in 1946 by Thomas and friends for his great champion Harry Lim of Keynote Records.  (Thomas had other musical friends who recognized him as special: he recorded with Lil Hardin Armstrong, Fletcher Henderson, Teddy Wilson, Benny Carter, Vic Dickenson, Claude Hopkins — so his beautiful sound and phrasing was heard, as we say.)

The other players on this brief poetic interlude — a swinging one! — are Tyree Glenn, trombone; Hilton Jefferson, alto saxophone; Jerry Jerome, tenor saxophone; Bernie Leighton, piano; Hy White, guitar; Billy Taylor, Sr., string bass; Lee Abrams, drums.

The YouTube video has a verbal introduction by “Leif Smoke Rings Anderson,” which initially startles but is clearly affectionate.  I encourage you to hear and re-hear Joe’s opening chorus and the way he rides out over the band.  Although this was his session, he so graciously makes room for everyone else:

Joe Thomas, a true poet of the idiom.  His work never fades.  I wrote at greater length about his quiet majesty here in 2009.  Happily, much more of his work is available on CD and on YouTube, so he can be heard and loved in this century.

May your happiness increase!

DAVE TOUGH: TWO ICONS

dave-tough-signature1I include these artifacts here for their iconic value.  Religious people used to marvel over the bone that was reputedly the thighbone of a saint.  I please myself by contemplating more secular items: the only Dave Tough signature I’ve ever seen, the angular calligraphy of someone who knows what he is doing and what effect it might create, and (below) the record label from the only session he ever led.  I think that Tough would have regarded bandleading with much the same disdain that he afforded drum solos, but at least this group was a fine quintet, especially for the presence of the luminous trumpeter Joe Thomas and the underrated pianist Bernie Leighton. dave-tough-78

P.S.  The Jamboree session has the look of a Harry Lim endeavor for Keynote; is this the case or was it simply that the A&R man at Jamboree had liked the Joe Thomas – Ted Nash combination and wanted some for his own label?  Jamboree didn’t last long, but they also recorded Don Byas and Buck Clayton, so the label’s good taste was evident.