Recorded at the Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey on November 26, 1961
Tracks 1 to 8 originally issued as Blue Note BST-84093
Thick-toned tenor Ike Quebec is in excellent form on this CD reissue of a 1961 Blue Note date. His ballad statements are quite warm, and he swings nicely on a variety of medium-tempo material. Unfortunately, organist Freddie Roach has a rather dated sound, which weakens this session a bit; bassist Milt Hinton and drummer Al Harewood are typically fine in support. Originals alternate with standards, with "Just One More Chance," "The Man I Love," and "Nature Boy" (the latter an emotional tenor-bass duet) being among the highlights.
All Music Guide
========= from the cover ==========
On receiving this album for annotation I checked through the principal jazz history books for references to Ike Quebec. I was appalled by what I found -or rather by what I failed to find. This incontestably superior musician has been almost totally ignored in the chronicling of the musical form to which he has contributed so much.
I was about as guilty as the rest, for in The Book of Jazz he is referred to only in a footnote, along with a dozen other tenor saxophonists. This inexcusable lapse was at least partly compensated in The New Encyclopedia of Jazz, which includes the following biographical entry:
Quebec, Ike Abrams, tenor sax; b. Newark, N. J., 8/17/18. Formerly a dancer and pianist, he started on tenor 1940 with Barons of Rhythm; later worked with Frankie Newton, Hot Lips Page, Roy Eldridge, Trummy Young, Sunset Royals, Ella Fitzgerald, Benny Carter, Coleman Hawkins. Worked for Cab Calloway off and on from 1944 to '51. Only sporadically active during the '50s. Quebec was a superior tenor man of the Hawkins school with a big tone and firm, vigorous style. Favorites: Hawkins, Webster, Getz. Recorded for Blue Note 1959, released on 45 r.p.m.
This elliptical summation of Ike's career tells less than the whole story, of course. Like many musicians of his generation, he had frustrations and disappointments. Basically trained as an orchestral musician as well as a featured soloist, he found himself less in demand as the big-band era began to fade. Although the economic problems were considerable toward the end of the Cab Calloway years and afterward, my reference to Ike in the past tense, as if his career had folded up altogether, was out of order. Though he has been in comparative obscurity, he was never forced to turn to house-painting, carpentry or cab-driving as a livelihood. Music was and still is his profession and his life; the 45s cut and released on Blue Note a little while back were a significant reminder. (To mention only a few: 45x1803 If I Could Be With You; 45x1804 Everything Happens To Me.)
Ike had always kept in touch with Alfred Lion through the lean years, and Lion had always had in mind the possibility of launching a full-scale comeback for this remarkable artist. As he says," The 45 singles were a sort of trial balloon, and I was delighted to find not only that many people still remembered Ike, but also that those who didn't know about him were amazed and excited by what they heard. So recently I decided to jump into a full album session with new material, to give Ike a complete new start."
The 45 singles were by no means Ike's first recordings for Blue Note. Back in the 1940s there had been a series of 10 inch 78s (including an album) and a couple of 1 2 inch 78s, all of them featuring hand-picked swing-style groups with Ike as leader. Loyal Blue Noters from those days will surely recall such sides as She's Funny That Way, Cup Mute Clayton (for Buck, of course), and Blue Harlem. There was even a 78 r.p.m album of six of the best numbers, such as If I Had You, Dolores, Topsy, etc.
Although these sides belong to a pre-LP era and are unknown to the young record collector of the 1960s, they were among the most warmly received performances of their day and constituted the most important factor in establishing Ike at the time, among the more discerning connoisseurs, as a tenor man with something of his own to say. Though it is true that he is, in a general sense, a member of the Coleman Hawkins school, it is no less evident that the leading students of the pioneer Hawkins style and sound all developed firm personalities of their own. As Hawk himself has pointed out, Chu Berry's sound was easily distinguishable from his own, even though at the time of Chu's emergence his image was virtually that of a Hawkins twin.
The same evaluation applies, of course, in the case of Ike and several other major tenor men who came up in the 1930s. This was a period when, unless you happened to be a Bud Freeman man, there was no path to follow but Hawkins'. He set the pace rhythmically, tonally and melodically; he was even responsible for the very concept of playing a ballad on tenor sax, for before Hawk's time ballad jazz was a rarity. Ike's slow-tempo items in this set, particularly Just One More Chance and Brother Can You Spare a Dime, are a direct outgrowth of that trend.
Hugues Panassie once observed that "Unlike most of Hawkins' followers, Quebec's tone is not so much smooth as trenchant, with a firmness and clarity that's most pleasant to hear. He is a direct and vigorous musician, playing with great power and swing; he excels in blues." All these truths are self-evident in the present sides, in which Ike has the support of Freddie Roach, one of those rare organists whose taste and techniques are capable of keeping pace with one another; Milt Hinton, a longtime friend and associate of Ike's from the Cab Calloway band days, when they worked together extensively; and Al Harewood, whose familiarity to Blue Note followers eliminates the necessity for an introduction.
Acquitted, a minor-mode 32-bar original by Ike, has a suspenseful and hardswinging second chorus in which Roach lays out while Milt and Al share the less-than-arduous job of supporting Ike's confident, free-swinging improvisation on the simple changes.
The art of "milking the melody," often associated in jazz with tenor sax performances of ballads, is admirably demonstrated in Just One More Chance as Ike pursues a smooth course along the milky way. Having always had a weakness for this tune (I once selected it as a solo vehicle for Lucky Thompson on what turned out to be a memorable session for him), I was particularly impressed by Ike's large and lovely sound as applied to this 30-year-old standard.
Que's Dilemma, another minor-key original, is Ike all the way, and the best track on the album in terms of construction, rhythmic drive and dynamic variety. Roach's comping kicks the rhythm section along with unobtrusive strength.
Brother Can You Spare a Dime? is of course the ballad that became the unofficial theme song of the depression years; yet there is a personal sense of hard times and far-from-easy living as Ike pours his heart and soul into this eloquent musical plea.
The Man I Love shows both main facets of Ike's personality, switching from a pensive ballad opening to a long-meter sequel in which Al Harewood's cymbal drive and Milt Minton's firm-as-Gibraltar foundation provides a compelling undercurrent.
Heavy Soul opens with a figure established by Milt Hinton-actually a series of eighth notes but with the third of each group of eight missing, to lend a slightly Latin touch. Ike enters next, playing minor blues in a deeply involved, passionate manner; then Al's beat is added, and finally Roach completes the group sound with sustained chords that complement the mood established by the others. Roach has an admirable solo and Milt, too, gets to stretch out for a 12-bar interlude. The track has a neat sense of symmetry, closing with Ike up front as Milt returns to the original rhythmic riff.
I Want a Little Girl, perhaps more than any other item in this set, is a mood-establishing performance; 3 a.m. uptown bar music of the kind that is almost invariably played by tenor sax with organ and rhythm. Roach has an interlude reminiscent of some of Jimmy Smith's more restrained ballad moments.
Finally, the remarkable Nature Boy is played simply by a duo composed of Ike and Milt. This is not a novelty for novelty's sake, but an instrumental departure to a moody and convincing end that justifies the unusual means.
Perhaps Ike was thinking of the last line of the lyric: "The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return." In fact, there may be in several of the titles he selected for this date a hint of autobiographical reminiscence, just as there is in his music the taste of lonely days, of inner solitude, of a yearning for understanding and acceptance. The heavy dues that Ike has paid are reflected poignantly in the heavy soul that gave this album not only its title but its raison d'etre. I hope this new perspective of the contribution Ike Quebec has made to jazz will help to bring a little lightness to his soul and much more recognition to his name.
- Leonard Feather
Recorded at the Van Gelder Studio, Enalewood Cliffs, New Jersey on November 26, 1961