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
Here we have the Philly Joe Jones debut as a bandleader, shortly after he left the Miles Davis Quintet. He certainly didn’t take a conservative approach to his first solo album. Instead, he chose to use his love of horror movies as the backdrop for this 1958 release. The opening track, the Johnny Griffin tune ‘Blues For Dracula' commences with several minutes of his ad lib impersonation of the horror film icon Bela Lugosi, certainly an unexpected beginning, as unexpected as the album cover. That remarkable Bela Lugosi/Dracula sequence was actually largely derived from a routine by Philly’s friend Lenny Bruce, who not only gave his blessing, but wanted to participate as a ‘talking sideman’, but couldn’t get permission from the label he was under contract to.
Bela Lugosi as Dracula, 1931
"I am the bebop vampire, everybody must drink!…but Master, Master what are those strange sounds?…Ah, the children of the night make such, such beautiful music. Ooooh, ooooooh!"
This also inspired Wayne Shorter to record ‘Children Of The Night’, three years later on his album ‘Mosaic’.
Johnny Griffin - Tenor Saxophone Nat Adderley - Cornet Julian Priester - Trombone Tommy Flanagan - Piano Jimmy Garrison - Bass Philly Joe Jones - Drums/Vocals
When dog-gesturesbecame my 400th follower, he had a very specific song for me to write about. It was ‘Minority’, from the 1958 album ‘Everybody Digs Bill Evans’.
It had been over two years since Evans’ release of ’New Jazz Conceptions' and his recent departure from the Miles’ septet, which immensely boosted Evans’ confidence, provided the right opportunity for Orrin Keepnews to persuade him to make that long-overdue second record.
‘Minority’, the Gigi Gryce hard bop original which opens this album, demonstrates that he was ready to release this album, and then some. Anyone who thinks of Evans as a ‘neo-impressionist’ will be surprised by the pianist’s hard driving swing here, backed up by the top rhythm section consisting of bassist Sam Jones and drummer Philly Joe Jones. Even as Evans was a ‘pretty’ player who avoided rushing or stuffing his notes, he could swing and swing hard as he did on this song.
Bill Evans - Piano Sam Jones - 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