simon-whiteside-jazz simon-whiteside-jazz London Uk Wed, 28 Sep 2022 11:40:10 +0000 <![CDATA[Monk Overton and W. Eugene Smith Part 2]]>  “In early 1959 Monk and Overton spent three weeks arranging (six of) Monk’s tunes for a “tentet” to perform at what became an historic concert at  Town Hall, the first time Monk’s music was ever performed by a big band. From private conversations between Monk and Overton to full band rehearsals in the loft, Smith’s tapes provide rare access to the exacting creative process and humanity of a musician who had become more myth than man.” 

The Jazz Loft Project.

The poster for that gig has become a well known image, I even noticed it as one of the jazz posters on the wall of Barry Allen’s adoptive father Detective West, in DC’s series “the Flash” and the album is a much vaunted pillar of the jazz enthusiasts collection. Monk was not a Cabaret Card holder at the time, he lost it in 1948, again in ’51 and once more in ’58, which meant he could not play in the Manhattan clubs that served alcohol and New Yorkers had to travel to the outer boroughs to hear him perform, or his alter ego Ernie Washington,  but you didn’t need this document to play concert venues.  

The gig on the last day of February 1959 (2 days before Miles Davis went into the studio to record the first Kind of Blue Session) was a huge success and the concept was repeated at Lincoln Center, Philharmonic Hall, New York,  on December 30, 1963 and Ira Gitler wrote a glowing review in the 27th February 1964 edition of Downbeat. There was another concert at Carnegie Hall on June 6th 1964 the second half of the concert was a rerun of 4 of the tunes from 1959 but  re-orchestrated for the December ’63 band which had not been performed on the gig.

Downbeat July 30th 1964 has an article by Martin Williams on the rehearsal that preceded the Carnegie concert and a less than glowing review of the gig by Dan Morgenstern. To be fair his beef was more with the first half where he felt the new bass and drum chair holders were not yet up to the job.

There was also an interesting TV broadcast  as Sam Stephenson records in “Gene Smith’s sink” a book of vignettes from 821  6th Avenue or “ the Jazz Loft” as his monograph and subsequent documentary called it.

“In 1963, Monk made a remarkable appearance with Overton at the New School in New York, broadcast live on the public station WNET, Channel 13. Back in the loft Smith put a microphone next to his television speaker and recorded the audio. Monk demonstrated his technique of “bending” or “curving” single notes on the piano, the most rigidly tempered of instruments. He drawled single notes like a human voice and blended them to create his own dialect, like making “y’all” from “you all.” “That can’t be done on piano,” Overton told the audience, “but you just heard it.”

To answer the questions raised at the end of part 1

1. Who was in the band? 

2. What was Hall and Thelonious's process? 

3. What time did the rehearsals start?

1. The 1959 band was 

Phil Woods — alto saxophone

Charlie Rouse — tenor saxophone

Pepper Adams — baritone saxophone

Donald Byrd — trumpet

Eddie Bert — trombone

Robert Northern — French horn

Jay McAllister — tuba

Thelonious Monk — piano

Sam Jones — bass

Art Taylor — drums

2.  Hall Overton worked with Monk for three weeks on 6 charts. Hall had 2 upright pianos side by side and he would listen to and watch Monk play his tunes. they spoke in music more than words and for Little Rootie Tootie Monk suggested they used the recording he had made as the template hence the Orchestrated Solo which impressed so much on the gig and recording.

3. The rehearsals began at 3.  “jazz musicians get up at the crack of Noon”  you are thinking but in fact they rehearsed from 3am and went through until past dawn.  This was because many of the players had gigs that finished late but also because there was nobody about in the commercial district before the Flowers started rolling in.

The first set of charts used the Miles Davis Nonet from “Birth of the Cool”  plus  Tenor Sax  Charlie Rouse being Monks tenor man in his small band. Although many people consider the French Horn and Tuba an odd choice they were  a part of Claude Thornhill’s band from 1940 ( tuba being added in 1947) and the sound of this band was influential.These less common instruments worked mainly because the Thornhill band eschewed vibrato so the Trumpets and trombones blended more in an orchestral manner.

The quiet, learned  Hall Overton was receptive to Monks Music and chose not to go large, brash or symphonic in the Stan Kenton way but to almost transcribe Monk’s voicings directly from his fingers to a medium sized ensemble that never over powered the music and represents it sparsely.  Overton was known for listening to his pupils and to try and bring out their voice , rather than impose his or any one system of composition.

In the Documentary version of “The Jazz Loft” Robert Northern talks about how hard he found it as a classical French Horn player, to play the rhythms with the right feel. He speaks of a break in the rehearsal where everyone left, but him and Thelonious,  because he wanted to practice the part on his own. Monk got up and without speaking went to the corner of the room and tapped out the rhythms for the whole part with his feet, Northern understanding now how to play the part faired much better when the band returned.  Of course there are the Marty Paich/Mel Torme collaborations which began in 1956 and resulted in  several albums featuring a Dektette with Horn and Tuba. In this case there was no piano and an extra trumpet was used instead. Paich refers to birth of the cool on more than one occasion musically quoting from the charts.The final “Swings Schubert Alley” album came out in 1960, and it is quite possible that Hall Overton was aware of these sides. 

The Six Tunes orchestrated appeared on the original vinyl release

1. Thelonious

2. Friday the 13th

3. Monks’s Mood

4. Little Rootie Tootie

5. Off Minor

6. Crepuscule with Nellie

Listen to them

1. What made these charts work? 

2. What were the differences between the 2 line ups? 

3. What was the critical view of these concerts? 

find out in part Three

]]> Tue, 20 Oct 2020 14:44:58 +0100
<![CDATA[Monk, Overton and Eugene Smith]]> Part 1

Some years ago I picked up a photographic monograph in  West End Lane Books, a great independent bookshop in West Hampstead London.  The book is called the jazz loft project by Sam Stephenson.  In the book are many photos of  821 6th Avenue, the flower district by day and a jazz haunt by night. The photographer W. Eugene Smith  moved into 821 in between 28th street and 29th Street and began documenting the building its visitors and residents and the ever-changing scenes on the Avenue below. 

To quote from the introduction 

“ W. Eugene Smith sits at the fourth floor window of his dilapidated loft at 821 6th Avenue, New York City, near the corner of 28th Street, the heart of Manhattan’s flower district. He peers out on the street below, several cameras at hand loaded with different lenses and film speeds. His window faces east from the west side of sixth Avenue. The dawn light begins to rise behind the Empire State building and other midtown skyscrapers looming over the modest neighbourhood. Three musicians stand together on the sidewalk talking and laughing. One holds an upright bass in its case, another has a saxophone case slung over his shoulder, and the other is smoking a cigarette. 

It is 6 o'clock in the morning; the temperature is a moderate 30°. The musicians are going home after a night long jam session. Smith snaps a few pictures.

Across the street flatbed trucks unload fresh blooms for the shops that are preparing for daily business. At this time of year the local farms in Long Island, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania’s Dutch country grow roses in the greenhouse while Spider mums, lilies, carnations, orchids, chrysanthemums, and birds of paradise are imported from Florida. Then he hears the familiar sound of quarter inch tape flapping  at the end of the reel on a quarter inch  tape machine sitting in his nearby darkroom. He walks into a dark room and turns off the machine. He places  the reel in a box and labels it "zoot Sims, Roy Haynes, Ronnie free, Eddie DeHaas, Dave McKenna, Henry Grimes, John Miles, Fred Greenwell. “

Stephenson points out that this is not  mere romantic speculation, there are literally tons of  photos and tapes documenting the decade or so that Smith shared the building with many cats of all descriptions; both literal  and figurative.  This dirty, run down, cold water, walk up was a seed bed for the arts and particularly for photography and music.  The list of musicians passing through runs into the hundreds.  There were pianos and drums permanently installed on multiple floors and players like Sonny Clark, Steve Swallow & Ronnie Free would form a rhythm section on top of which myriad horn players from the now famous to the unknown would blow for hours sometimes days. Zoot Sims was alleged to have blown non stop for 2 days straight for example. 

Hall Overton was a a resident of the jazz loft and big pull for musicians, he taught straight composers, including Steve Reich,  and played jazz too. It was his classical credentials as a teacher at Yale, Juilliard  and the New School combined with his jazz chops that made him a good fit for Thelonius Monk  to arrange and Orchestrate the quirky geniuses music for a concert in 1959.  This resulted in the much revered “ Monk at the town hall”  gig and recording.  The process was repeated in later years  including a Carnegie Hall performance. 

Who was in the band? What was Hall and Thelonious's process? What time did the rehearsals start?

Find out in Part 2

]]> Mon, 19 Oct 2020 22:02:30 +0100
<![CDATA[2-5-1 Podcast- how it came about]]> Sonny Clark

Years ago I was fortunate to be in touch with Tony Genge. He had written two books on jazz pianists I really like; Red Garland & Wynton Kelly, but they were not in print.  He kindly sent me copies and I have returned to them regularly as sources of inspiration.  I thought it would be good to do something similar for Sonny Clark.

In my ‘to do’ app Daylite, I see I set up a project called Sonny Clark book on July 5th 2018.

I had already taken down some solos but my work in film and TV constantly pushed the project back.  I mentioned my long term goal to bass player Dominic Howles in early 2019 and he said that Nick Tomalin ( his go to pianist) had written a blog on Sonny which I read and enjoyed. I had been watching the video version of " You'll hear it",a daily jazz podcast from Open Studio Jazz,  in which Adam Maness & Peter Martin discuss a topic for about 10 mins and thought Nick and I could perhaps do something similar on  Sonny Clark. 

He agreed it was a good idea and we met to discuss it.  We realised that we would be more likely to achieve this with a joint effort and a limited run of podcasts.  We met at Dominic's birthday gathering in October 2019 and I suggested the idea of 2-5-1 Two Pianists, Five podcasts, One Subject, with the obvious resonance with the well known jazz progression. 

Just before the Corona virus lock down we met to firm up plans. In the light of the social distancing we ended up doing episode one remotely.  I have to thank the media composers Garth Davies & Dan Watts whose "Making a Soundtrack" podcast, on which I appeared,  made it possible to chat to folk I know who achieved success with a podcast and could give guidance.  Nick and I seem to have a good mix of overlap but with enough outside the Venn diagram to make our conversations interesting and we are both learning small nuggets from each other. 

Why Sonny Clark?

Like many people I have been enjoying Sonny Clark without really thinking about it.  I guess my way in was a period of time where I focussed on Dexter Gordon's blue note albums.  My favourite two albums are Go & A swinging Affair both of which have Sonny on piano and I have transcribed some Solos from those albums. The first transcription I did was way back, Sonny's solo on all the things you ar,  from " Blue Serge"   Serge Charloff album, which I found really compelling, energetic and logical. 

Looking into his career further I haven't found a Sonny Clark recording I dislike. As we dig deeper I'm liking him more and more and I hope we can spread the word on this slightly under appreciated composer, sideman and leader. 

]]> Sat, 11 Apr 2020 14:28:37 +0100
<![CDATA[Sonny Clark Chronology 1957-1963-The Blue Note Years]]> Sonny Clark Chronology 1957-1963

Blue Note Years


Sonny Rollins Quartet

Sonny Rollins - The Sound Of Sonny

Hank Mobley Sextet

 Hank Mobley

Charles Mingus Trio

  Charles Mingus, Hampton Hawes, Danny Richmond - Mingus Three

Sonny Clark Sextet

Sonny Clark - Dial "S" For Sonny

Curtis Fuller Quintet

Curtis Fuller - Bone & Bari

John Jenkins Quintet

John Jenkins With Kenny Burrell

Hank Mobley Quintet

 Hank Mobley Quintet Featuring Sonny Clark

Sonny Clark Sextet

Sonny Clark - Sonny's Crib

Sonny Clark Trio

Sonny Clark - The Art Of The Trio

Hank Mobley Sextet

Hank Mobley - Poppin'

Johnny Griffin Quartet

Johnny Griffin - The Congregation

Cliff Jordan - Cliff Craft

Lee Morgan Quartet

Lee Morgan - Candy

Curtis Fuller - Art Farmer Quintet

Curtis Fuller, Vol. 3

Sonny Clark Quintet

Sonny Clark - Cool Struttin', Vol. 2

Lou Donaldson Sextet

Lou Donaldson - Lou Takes Off


Sonny Clark Quintet

Sonny Clark - Cool Struttin'

Curtis Fuller Quintet

Curtis Fuller - Two Bones

Lee Morgan Quartet

Lee Morgan - Candy

Tina Brooks Quintet

Tina Brooks - Minor Move

Louis Smith Quintet

Louis Smith - Smithville

Bennie Green Sextet

Bennie Green - Soul Stirrin'

Sonny Clark Trio

Sonny Clark - The Art Of The Trio

Bennie Green Quintet

Bennie Green - Minor Revelation

Sonny Clark Trio

Sonny Clark - Blues In The Night


Jackie McLean Quintet

Jackie McLean - Jackie's Bag

Bennie Green Quintet

Bennie Green - Swings The Blues

Sonny Clark Quintet

Sonny Clark - My Conception

Philly Joe Jones Sextet/Duo

Philly Joe Jones - Showcase


Stan Turrentine Quartet

Stan Turrentine - Stan "The Man" Turrentine

Sonny Clark Trio

Sonny Clark Trio

Bennie Green Sextet

Bennie Green

1961 (age 30)

Jackie McLean Quintet

Jackie McLean - A Fickle Sonance

Grant Green Quartet

Grant Green - First Session

Sonny Clark Quintet

Sonny Clark - Leapin' And Lopin'

Sonny Clark Quartet

Sonny Clark - Leapin' And Lopin'

Grant Green Quartet + Ike Quebec

Grant Green - Gooden's Corner


Grant Green Quartet

Grant Green - Nigeria

Ike Quebec Sextet

Ike Quebec - Congo Lament

Grant Green Quartet

Grant Green - Oleo

Grant Green Quintet

Grant Green - Born To Be Blue

Jackie McLean Quintet

Jackie McLean - Hipnosis

Don Wilkerson - Preach Brother!

Dexter Gordon Quintet

Dexter Gordon - Landslide

Dexter Gordon Quartet

Dexter Gordon - Go!

Dexter Gordon Quartet

Dexter Gordon - A Swingin' Affair

Grant Green Sextet

The Complete Blue Note Recordings Of Grant Green With Sonny Clark

Jackie McLean Quartet

 Jackie McLean - Tippin' The Scales

The Coleman Hawkins Sextet At Eddie Costa Memorial Concert

The Clark Terry Quartet/The Coleman Hawkins Sextet - Eddie Costa Memorial Concert

Stanley Turrentine Sextet

Stanley Turrentine - Jubilee Shouts

]]> Wed, 01 Apr 2020 17:32:27 +0100
<![CDATA[Sonny Clark Chronology 1931-1957-West Coast Years]]> Sonny Clark Chronology 1931-1957

West Coast Years


Born Hemonie  Nr Pittsburgh PA-full name  Conrad Yeatis Clark

Learns Piano while living at John Redwood Hotel


Appears on star studded bill at Syria Mosque Pittsburgh

“Night of the Stars”


Moves to LA

1953 (age 22)

Teddy Charles West Coasters

Art Pepper With The Sonny Clark Trio

Art Pepper With The Sonny Clark Trio - Straight-Ahead Jazz, Volume One

The Buddy DeFranco Big Band

  The Progressive Mr. DeFranco

Leonard Feather Presents Swingin' In Sweden

Jimmy Raney, George Wallington - Swingin' In Sweden

Sonny Clark Solo

The Sonny Clark Memorial Album

Sonny Clark Trio

The Sonny Clark Memorial Album

Jazz Club U.S.A. In Europe

Jimmy Raney Quartet

Jimmy Raney - Guitaristic

The Buddy DeFranco Quartet

Buddy DeFranco Quartet

The Buddy DeFranco Quartet

   The Artistry Of Buddy DeFranco

The Buddy DeFranco Quartet

 The Buddy DeFranco Quartet - In A Mellow Mood


Sonny Clark Trio

Sonny Clark - Oakland 1955

The Cal Tjader Quintet

Tjader Plays Tjazz

The Buddy DeFranco Quintet

Sweet And Lovely

Modern Music From San Francisco

Vince Guaraldi Quartet, Ron Crotty Trio, Jerry Dodgion Quartet - Modern Music From San Francisco


Leonard Feather's West Coast Jazzmen

Leonard Feather - Swingin' On The Vibories

Serge Chaloff Quartet

Serge Chaloff - Blue Serge

Frank Rosolino Quartet

Frank Rosolino - I Play Trombone

Sonny Criss Quartet

Sonny Criss - Go Man!

Sonny Criss Quartet

Sonny Criss - Criss Cross

Sonny Criss Quintet

Sonny Criss Plays Cole Porter

Buddy DeFranco With Russell Garcia And His Orchestra

Buddy DeFranco And His Orchestra - Broadway Showcase (not released)

The Lawrence Marable Quartet Featuring James Clay

The Lawrence Marable Quartet Featuring James Clay - Tenorman

The Lighthouse All Stars / June Christy

KABC-TV, Stars Of Jazz #11. 1956-#11, September 3, 1956

Sonny Clark With Howard Rumsey's Lighthouse All-Stars

Hampton Hawes, Sonny Clark - The Pianoman

Howard Rumsey's Lighthouse All-Stars

Howard Rumsey's Lighthouse All-Stars, Volume 4 - Oboe/Flute

Howard Rumsey's Lighthouse All-Stars

Howard Rumsey's Lighthouse All-Stars, Vol. 8 - Music For Lighthousekeeping

Stan Levey Sextet

Stan Levey - Grand Stan


Cannonball Adderley Quintet

Sonny Clark - LA Session 1956 & 57

]]> Wed, 01 Apr 2020 15:20:12 +0100