Recorded in Hackensack, NJ; November 30, 1956
Digital remastering, 2007, Van Gelder Studios, Englewood Cliffs, NJ
All transfers were made from the analog master tapes to digital at 24-bit resolution.
This fine set, recorded on November 30, 1956, has been reissued several times, often as a John Coltrane date, but make no mistake, this is a Tadd Dameron session, and his elegant compositions are its key component. Coltrane was fresh off playing with Miles Davis in 1956 and was still a year away from heading his own sessions and three years away from recording Giant Steps, so it might be said that he was in transition, but then when was Coltrane not in transition? Dameron wisely gives him plenty of space to fill, and the rhythm section of John Simmons on bass and the great Philly Joe Jones on drums (not to mention Dameron's own characteristically bass-heavy piano style) give Trane a solid bottom to work with, and if the spiritual and edgy emotion of his later playing isn't quite in place yet, you can feel it coming. But again, this is Dameron's date, with each of the six selections an original Dameron composition. There's so much to marvel at here, including the Bahamian rhythms of the title track, "Mating Call," the gorgeous build of "Soultrane" (often the title when this set is issued as a Coltrane date) and the undeniable grace and elegance of "On a Misty Night" (based in part on the melody line to "September in the Rain"). The straight blues piece "Romas" is also a lot of fun, particularly for Coltrane. Mating Call, or whatever title it sports, whether under Dameron's name or Coltrane's, is a solid and frequently overlooked gem. Don't hesitate to pick it up.
All Music Guide
========= from the cover ==========
The last time Tadd Dameron appeared on record was on his own Fon-tainebleau (Prestige (LP 7037). There were eight pieces in the group and the main effort was the title composition with Tadd's arranging talent coming strongly to the fore. While there are only four men present for this session and arranging is certainly not stressed, Tadd's composing is as potent as ever with such memorable items as Mating Call, Soultrane, Gnid and On A Misty Night far above the usual "originals" that often appear on a recording date.
To play these compositions, the aid of tenorman John Coltrane was enlisted. Trane's tenor answered the mating call of Tadd's music.
Many of you know Tadd through his work for and with Dizzy Gillespie and Sarah Vaughan among others in the Forties, the small group he led in 1948 and the results of these associations which have endured on record. Born in Cleveland in 1917, Tadd was, to me, the arranger of the new movement of the Forties. In his compositions today you can hear the best of the melodic from the Thirties and Forties coupled to the harmonies of the Forties which he was instrumental in forming and utilizing. He has always known how to pick musicians of caliber and has fostered their careers by featuring them. Outstanding examples are Fats Navarro and Allen Eager in 1948 and Clifford Brown in 1953. Here it is the tenor sax of John Coltrane.
John William Coltrane was born in Hamlet, North Carolina on September 23, 1926. From an early age he heard music around the house as his father, a tailor by profession, played several instruments in his spare time. Trane's first instrument was the Eb alto horn which was followed by the clarinet. In high school he moved to the saxophone and later, in Philadelphia, studied at the Granoff Studios and the Ornstein School of Music. In the Quaker City he made his professional debut in 1945 but soon entered the Navy and was stationed eventually with a Navy band in Hawaii through 1946. After his discharge, Trane travelled with the Eddie Vinson band in 1947 and 1948. Then he joined Dizzy Gillespie's big band on alto in 1949. When Diz disbanded early in 1950 to form a small combo, Trane switched to tenor and remained until 1951. Then it was back to the rhythm and blues trail with Earl Bostic in 1952 and 1953 but in the latter year he left to join Johnny Hodges. The Rabbit was his leader through 1954. It wasn't until he joined Miles Davis' newly formed quintet late in 1955 that Trane began to receive some recognition. From his employment record you can see that he did not appear on the scene full blown. It is rather a matter of dues which he has been paying for a while. The past year with Miles has been invaluable to his development and that growing process has speeded considerably as the year progressed.
Trane's admitted favorites on tenor are Sonny Stitt, Dexter Gordon, Sonny Rollins and Stan Getz. The first two show up strongest in his style. He sculpts a line in the Stittian manner with personal turns of phrase and his scooping of sustained notes is reminiscent of Dexter Gordon in the mid-Forties. His upper register sound is similar, too, to the way Gordon wailed (literal not colloquial jazz meaning) his higher notes.
Trane is a searcher who is not afraid to essay new combinations of notes when performing publicly. He listens to what is going on behind him and does not play by rote. As they say in the Theatre, "He reacts". Thi is why his playing is deep with emotion, conveyed by a sound much like the human voice.
Tadd's intelligent comping, the strength of veteran John Simmons' bass and the brightly burning power of the consistent Philly Joe Jones adds up to solid sum that is the rhythm section.
Each track has something to offer: the exotic Mating Call, the aptly named ballad that is Soultranc, the acrid, tart, stimulating Gnid, the bright-tempoed Super Jet, the sad/happy charm of On A Misty Night and the creeping funk of the blues Romas.
- Ira Gitler
Looking back on the 1960s we can see already that this was one of the most confused periods in jazz history. Never before had the music gone through so many trials and tribulations. Never before was if beset by such a plague of fads - soul, bossa nova, jazz/rock, the Indian bit, free form. It was an era of all-electric, non-talent bands with country-and-westem airs. The sixties came in with a fake "amen" and went out on a screech of protest. And the protest seemed to be directed at good jazz which the jivers could never play themselves in a million years. During this 10 years of flux when many of the really creative players scuffled and heard with amazement audiences applauding ugly noises, death stole some wonderful musicians. Men who were needed more than ever like Coleman Hawkins, Bud Powell, Oscar Pettiford, Paul Chambers, Elmo Hope, Nick Travis. Eddie Costa, Denzil Best, Israel Crosby, Doug Watkins, Wes Montgomery. Doug Mettome, Tony Fruscella, George Tucker, Sonny Clark. Ike Quebec, Osie Johnson. Stuff Smith, Booker Little, Joe Maini. The list is much longer and makes depressing reading. To it must be added the names of three quarters of the personnel on this album - Tadd Dameron, John Coltrane and John Simmons.
The death of Dameron on March 8, 1965, was a terrible blow to all the people who had loved and enjoyed his composing, arranging and playing for over two decades. Tadd was, to my mind, the finest and most melodic of all the bebop composers. He learned his craft writing for swing bands such as Harlan Leonard, Jimmy Lunceford and Count Basie. But he really came into his own after World War II with his collaborations with Georgie Auld, Sarah Vaughan, Dizzy Gillespie and others. In the late 'forties he. led his own small groups at the Royal Roost and on records and featured such sidemen as Fats Navarro, Miles Davis. Wardell Gray, Allen Eager. Milt Jackson, Kenny Clarke, Kai Winding and Ernie Henry, among others.
In 1949 Tadd took a group to the Paris Jazz Festival and received a warm welcome from the French audiences. He stayed in Europe for a couple of years and a series of his arrangements, including the beautiful Lyonia, were recorded by English bandleader Ted Heath (who also died in 1969). Tadd worked with Bull Moose Jackson's rhythm and blues band back in the States and it was in this organization that he encouraged Benny Golson to write. After a spell fronting another band of his own with Clifford Brown, Golson, Cecil Payne, Philly Joe Jones and others, Tadd was only sporadically active from 1956 until his death. He spent nearly four years in jail for narcotics offenses and on his release only cut one more record under his name before he died, though he did contribute arrangements to albums by Milt Jackson, Blue Mitchell, Benny Goodman, Chet Baker and Sonny Stitt.
Tadd wrote numerous jazz classics - Good Ball, Our Delight, Lady Bird, If You Could Sec Me Now, The Squirrel, Tadd Walk, Jahbero, Dameronia, Clean Is The Scene and Flossie Lou. There are others, perhaps not so widely known, which are equally good and valid. Several will be found on the enclosed record. On A Misty Night was scored by Dameron for a big band but he never got around to penning any of his distinctive orchestrations for the remaining five compositions. This is a real shame because Mating Call, Gnld and Soultrane possess geniuine melodic beauty and clothed in Tadd arrangements could be gems.
In an unpublished tape interview with St. Louis' Harry Frost, who was and still is one of Tadd's most devoted fans, Dameron said, "I started playing when I was four years old. I had a musical family - everybody in my family played music. My mother played piano, my father played piano and sang, my brother played alto, my cousins and aunts - they all play. An uncle played guitar and bass. I got my early training through my mother who used to teach me piano - by memory. From age 12 to 18 I listened to Fletcher Henderson, Duke Ellington and the Casa Loma Band who had very unique arrangements for that time.
"I met Charlie Parker first in Kansas City. And then at a jam session in Minton's Playhouse, I sat in to play and I was doing some unusual chords and Dizzy Gillespie said 'Yeah, that's It, man!' Diz and 1 got to be very good friends.
"I began arranging in 1938-and I remember that my first big band arrangement was for Jeter Pillars - a St. Louis Band. It was on I Let A Song Co Out Of My Heart and everything was wrong with it. It had good ideas but no voicing or anything. I did a lot of things for Harlan Leonard. I was real ambitious then but now (195?) I try to get more sound. I really started getting into the more modern way of writing with Jimmy Lunceford's Band. I took Sy Oliver's place with the Lunceford Band and some of the things I wrote were recorded like I Dream A Lot About You, It Had To Be You, Yard Dog Mazurka which Gerald Wilson wrote but I arranged. I was strictly on a Sy Oliver kick then. When I joined Count Basie's Band, I really started writing in my own style.
"I think of my writing as being in the vein of Debussy and Ravel. I try to make it flow, make everything go. You know, its just like reading a book - it has to have a regular story. You just can't have one idea and then jump to another one. I try to make it flow along coherently. I write on standard chords to show the people how to interpret modern music so they know the basic chords. Its like a school. I did that with Hot House and some of the other things."
Fortunately, Tadd Dameron, who made very few albums under his own leadership, was recorded three times by Prestige in the 1950s. The first date was a nine-piece group with three brass and three reeds. This session is available on The Clifford Brown Memorial Album (Prestige 7662). The second date, cut three years later in 1956, was by an octet (two brass, three reeds) and included Tadd's impressive suite Fontainebleau. The third and last record - this one (it was originally cataloged as Prestige 7247) had the same rhythm section of Tadd, John Simmons and Philly Joe Jones-plus the tenor saxophone of John Coltrane.
At this time Trane was just starting to get attention with his exposure in the Miles Davis Quintet. He was playing a lot less notes then, and was really a very good hard bop tenorman who had listened profitably to earlier players such as Stan Getz, Dexter Gordon and Sonny Stitt. He plays with feeling and clarity on these sides and obviously enjoyed the experience of tackling some worthwhile material by a geniuine composer. His lyrical side is most evident on Soultrane and On A Misty Night. Coltrane, like Dameron, did not live to see the 1970s. He died on July 17, 1967, at the age of 40.
Bassist John Simmons was another casualty of the decade who died in his forties. Simmons came to the fore in 1937 when he recorded with Teddy Wilson. He later played with Roy Eldridge, Louis Armstrong, Illinois Jacquet and Erroll Garner. John recorded with Monk in 1948 and started a long rhythm partnership with drummer Shadow Wilson. It is not generally known but Miles Davis wanted Simmons "for his big sound and light touch" in the famous Birth of the Cool band but at the time the bassist was not available and Miles chose Joe Schulman instead. He thought Schul-man was the nearest to Simmons' conception. In 1956, when Mating Call was made, Simmons enjoyed one of his most successful years, touring the U.S. with the Birdland All Stars and Sweden with a Rolf Ericson group and also making a lot of records. He died in comparative obscurity - even the date of his death is uncertain.
The lourth member of the group, Philly Joe Jones, is happily alive and well in Paris. He has been living in Europe for several years and if his latest records from France are anything to go by, is still one of the most exciting, adventurous and resourceful drummers jazz has known. He continues to give the impression through his playing that he is familiar with the inner rhythms of every tune that has been written. And if he doesn't know one, he'll learn it in the time that the next percussionist is adjusting his snare. And then he'll prove it by playing the melody on his traps. You have to put Philly up there with Max, Art, Klook and Big Sid. He is among the supremos' of the drums.
As we move further into the 1970s, none of us knows for certain what will be the musical values of tomorrow. But at least some of us believe that beauty in art will still be a criterion and so long as that holds good, the music of these four giants will be there as food for the soul. The contours of the lovely Gnid where parts of the melody bring to mind Old Folks and dig the delicious introduction which be-, speaks the hand of the arranger at work with Trane effectively dropping into the lower register during the melody.
Tadd was a much better pianist than he is given credit for. An original in fact. They call it arranger's style piano but, man, it was pure Tadd Dameron. He had a limited technique but his solos were superbly understated whilst his thick, juicy, meaty chords put a springy pile under hornmen. Accompaniment in itself is an art and Tadd was master.
Trane positively basks in the support he receives on the Latin-colored Mating Call. He probes, stretches and then digs into the interesting sequence which is first ominously announced by Philly and Tadd. It resolves into one of those inevitable Dameron lines. The leader allows himself a break on the melody and an economical solo but leaves the fireworks to Trane. Philly lets off a few jumping jacks of his own in some fours with Tadd. The Mating Call sounds off into the distance, as Trane repeats his invitation.
John Simmons' bowed bass and Tadd bring on the slow Soultrane which is in the same street as Dameron's more celebrated If You Could See Me Now. Here is a tune that a talented lyricist should get busy with. After Coltrane's vibrant exposition and solo, Tadd spells out his own little love letter. Coltrane appends a pretty PS (coda).
The descending line of On A Misty Night is well and truly "sung" and swung by Trane in powerful fashion. Tadd's ruminative exploration is a complete, but fitting, contrast to the tenor flights and he builds nicely, switching intelligently to block chords and varying his dynamics. The piano voicings are like an orchestra in miniature. Simmons gets in a supple bit of plucked bass.
Romas is the longest track in the album and by today's standards is comparatively brief. This is an after hours blues with Tadd floating along gently, absolutely relaxed. He even gives a wave to Count Basie at one point. Coltrane too takes care of business and puts together a cohesive, well paced solo. Tadd returns for another immersion in those truthful waters that flow through the oldest jazz form.
Philly Joe and Coltrane exercise their chops on the speedy Super Jet. Tadd does the navigating but make no mistake about it Philly is first pilot on this aircraft! He lays it down perfectly for Trane who soars confidently aloft. Tadd hews a whimsical path along these familiar changes. And then Philly engages in an enlightened conversation with Coltrane before slashing into a mercurial statement of grand invention. This is how albums should end - on a buoyant note.
Speaking once about how Tadd Dameron inspired him to write, Benny Golson said, "When I heard Tadd's arrangement of Our Delight . . . that aroused my interest. Prior to that I'd never thought about writing. What captured my imagination was the sound. It's real smooth. He's a genius with small aggregations. It's pretty hard to write for only two or three horns and I was amazed that he could get that big sound and depth. That's a really hard thing to do."
The fact is, as this album confirms, that Tadd with only one horn could make something more than merely a tenor sax with rhythm LP. The secret is in the writing, the arranging and the playing. And the secret died with Tadd Dameron for nobody, apart from Golson, has come close to understanding the lessons of this brilliant composer. If somebody of his flair comes along in the 'seventies, there may be hope that melody will return and jazz can then step out of the shadows again.
- Mark Gardner (Dec. 1969)