Like Fats Navarro and Charlie Parker before him, Conrad Yeatis Clark’s life was short (yes, again, drug and alcohol abuse) but it burned with musical intensity. Influenced deeply by Bud Powell, Clark nonetheless developed a hard-swinging style that was full of nuance and detail. Regarded as the quintessential hard-bop pianist, Clark never got his due before he passed away in 1963 at the age of 31, despite the fact that he never played a bad recording date either as a sideman or as a leader.
Although commercial success always eluded him, he was in demand as a sideman and played dozens of Blue Note sessions. Luckily, Clark’s contribution is well documented by Alfred Lion (the co-founder of Blue Note) and he has achieved far more critical, musical, and popular acclaim than he ever did in life.
‘Be-Bop’, a jazz standard written by Dizzy Gillespie, is a 10 minute tour-de-force that is worth the price of the 1957 ‘Sonny Clark Trio’ alone. Clark is teamed with the outstanding rhythm section of drummer Philly Joe Jones and bassist Paul Chambers, being an extremely solid trio. Also, please take notice of the beautiful artwork by Reid Miles.
Sonny Clark - Piano Paul Chambers - Bass Philly Joe Jones - Drums
Raised in Detroit, Paul Chambers (1935-1969) began working as a prominent small-group sideman in 1954. He joined the Miles Davis Quintet the next year and stayed until the end of 1962, appearing on many classic albums, including ‘Kind Of Blue’. You all know the beautiful opening of that album (the song ‘So What’), a brief duet with pianist Bill Evans. Chambers’ contributions on ‘Kind Of Blue’ are considered ‘some of the most patient and thought out bass lines in the history of jazz’. Chambers was also one of the first to assert a soloist’s position on the instrument.
From 1963 until 1968 Chambers played with the Wynton Kelly Trio and freelanced frequently as a sideman for other important names in jazz throughout his career. A mixture of narcotics addiction and tuberculosis led to his early death on January 4th, 1969, at the age of 33.
In 1956, he released the Blue Note hard bop session ‘Whims Of Chambers’. He gathered an all-star sextet (just look at that line up!) and recorded seven songs, including today’s song, a Coltrane composition called ‘Nita’, which also appears on a great many Coltrane (compilation) albums.
Donald Byrd - Trumpet John Coltrane - Tenor Saxophone Kenny Burrell - Guitar Horace Silver - Piano Paul Chambers - Bass Philly Joe Jones - Drums
Miles (and/or Troupe) wrote in his autobiography, page 199: ”…Philly Joe was the fire that was making a lot of shit happen. See, he knew everything I was going to do, everything I was going to play; he anticipated me, felt was I was thinking. Sometimes I used to tell him not to do that lick of his with me, but after me. And so that thing that he used to do after I played something, that rim shot, became known as the ‘Philly Joe Lick’, and it made him famous. Even after he left I would listen for a little Philly Joe in all the drummers I had later…“
So, what exactly is that lick?
“…This title piece from ‘Milestones’, with a sixteen-bar bridge, is a ‘A-A-B-A’ song form (breakdown: 8-8-16-8). Its rhythmic character encourages the drummer to play, to contribute. It’s one of Philly Joe Jones’s classic performances. One of the first things Davis recorded based on scales, it moves right along in medium/up-tempo incorporating what has become known as the ‘Philly Joe Lick’: a cross-stick accent on the fourth beat of each bar. The rim-shot lick provides rhythmic impetus to a tune that gives the soloists freer rein than in a song based on changing chords. It is being said Blakey play this pattern first, but Jones uses it more frequently and provocatively. Here it becomes part of the structure of the piece and gives rhythmic impetus to the performance it would not otherwise have had…”
Philly Joe Jones photographed by Francis Wolff
Miles Davis - Trumpet Cannonball Adderley - Alto Saxophone John Coltrane - Tenor Saxophone Red Garland - Piano Paul Chambers - Bass Philly Joe Jones - Drums
From his 1960 album ‘Giant Steps’, which was the first album with all of the pieces being composed by Coltrane himself.
The composition is a milestone for jazz musicians’ progress, given the difficulty of improvising its rapid progession of chord changes that progress through three keys. For the musicians among us, take a look at the infamous Coltrane Changes.
John Coltrane - Tenor Saxophone Paul Chambers - Bass Tommy Flanagan - Piano Art Taylor - Drums