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Bradley Farberman

Bradley Farberman

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Jazz On The Jukebox: Blue Note Singles Of 1962

December 20 2012

By today’s standards, the 45 RPM single is terribly inefficient. When you can stream a seemingly infinite amount of music from you computer, why get up after every song to flip a record? What’s more, it’s a mood-killer; just when you’re warming up to an artist, the revolutions stop. But a half-century ago, Blue Note wasn’t just putting out albums; jazz was genuinely popular and populist music, heard in bars and on the radio. Consequently, the label was regularly issuing 45s by its biggest artists, either with one song on each side or a single tune divided in two. Here’s a look at ten Blue Note singles from 1962.

Art Blakey and the Afro-Drum Ensemble, “Ife L’ayo” b/w “Obirin African”: On January 24, drummer Art Blakey set his Jazz Messengers aside for a day to record The African Beat, an album that pairs its leader with bassist Ahmed Abdul-Malik, multi-horn hero Yusef Lateef, and seven additional percussionists in an attempt to merge grooves from Africa and the U.S. Beginning with a folky head shared by Solomon G. Ilori’s penny whistle and Lateef’s sure-footed flute, “Ife L’ayo” conjures up a bed of beats for Blakey to bash over. “Obirin African,” the title of which translates to “Woman of Africa,” again features Lateef on flute, a meeting that results in tales of anger and frustration.

Lou Donaldson, “Funky Mama (Pts. 1 & 2)”: There’s a lot you can do with a blues in G. On “Funky Mama,” alto saxophonist Lou Donaldson takes it back to the chicken shack. Supported by a gang of greasy-fingered players—trumpeter Tommy Turrentine, guitarist Grant Green, organist John Patton, and drummer Ben Dixon—the leader floats, flutters, growls, and sings over this three-chord stud. Green takes the first solo, a lazy burner that sets fire to the track. Patton’s simple, droning organ bass keeps everyone focused and on course.

Dodo Greene, “You Are My Sunshine” b/w “Little Things Mean a Lot”: Originally from Buffalo, New York, the little-recorded vocalist Dodo Greene sang with both confidence and vulnerability. On her bouncy version of “You Are My Sunshine,” she shares the spotlight with a rough, full-bodied solo from tenor saxophonist Ike Quebec. “Little Things Mean a Lot” is fueled by Sir Charles Thompson’s consoling organ, Al Harewood’s insistent drumming, and the leader’s aching, lived-in vocals. The big moment on “Little Things” comes near the end, when the band cuts out and, for just a few seconds, Greene’s weary pipes duet with atmospheric silence.

Herbie Hancock, “Watermelon Man” b/w “Three Bags Full”: The opening track from Hancock’s debut album, Takin’ Off, “Watermelon Man” is a breezy, infectious Latin jazz number powered by Butch Warren’s light but solid bass work, Billy Higgins’s effervescent drumming, and the leader’s funky piano. After some spirited storytelling from trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon turns in a searing, economic R&B solo. In contrast with the A-side, “Three Bags Full” is dark and anxious, implying that the sacks in question were full of woe. Gordon issues a mysterious, questing statement, but Hancock has the last word, laying optimistic ideas on top of despairing chords.

Fred Jackson, “Dippin’ in the Bag” b/w “Hootin’ ’n Tootin’”: In between Blue Note recordings for the organists Baby Face Willette (Face to Face) and John Patton (Along Came John, The Way I Feel), tenor saxophonist Fred Jackson snuck in a session for himself on February 5. Also featuring organist Earl Van Dyke, guitarist Willie Jones, and drummer Wilbert Hogan, “Dippin’ in the Bag” is a spunky slice of soul-jazz, while “Hootin’ ’n Tootin’” is an uptempo swinger that bares a resemble to John Coltrane’s “Mr. P.C.”

Ike Quebec, “Intermezzo” b/w “All of Me”: Ike Quebec’s tenor saxophone sound is thick, rich, round and reverberant: It’s something you can sink into like a plush carpet. This idea is clear as day on a ballad like “Intermezzo,” where Quebec improvises earthily in front of Van Dyke, Jones, and Hogan (this 45 was recorded the same day as the aforementioned Fred Jackson 7-inch). “All of Me” delivers brief but potent solos from Van Dyke and Jones before passing the mic back to Quebec’s gargantuan saxophone voice.

Ike Quebec, “Loie” b/w “Lloro Tu Despedida”: On “Loie” and “Lloro Tu Despedida,” both of which hail from the album Bossa Nova Soul Samba, Quebec’s primary accomplice is the grounded, blues-concerned guitarist Kenny Burrell. Near its end, “Loie” gives Burrell some space to lecture harmonically and melodically, and “Despedida” boasts a sharp zoom from the guitarist’s axe as a motif. The band on these tracks is completed by bassist Wendell Marshall, drummer Willie Bobo, and chekere player Garvin Masseaux, the same rhythm section that powers Grant Green’s The Latin Bit, also from 1962.

Horace Silver Quintet, “The Tokyo Blues (Pts. 1 & 2)”: From the album of the same name, pianist Horace Silver’s “The Tokyo Blues” is tense and dramatic, its staccato head revolving around two notes a minor-third apart. Over the tune’s high-energy rhythm section—the leader plus bassist Gene Taylor and drummer Joe Harris—saxophonist Junior Cook unleashes a tough, piercing tenor solo before a clear, twisting proclamation from trumpeter Blue Mitchell. But it’s Silver’s subtle, Asian-tinged playing that really cuts through.

Jimmy Smith, “Ain’t She Sweet” b/w “Everybody Loves My Baby”: On Plays Fats Waller, in the company of supportive drummer Donald Bailey and steady chording guitarist Quentin Warren, organ authority Jimmy Smith offers tender, mellow tributes to the man who wasn’t misbehaving. On “Ain’t She Sweet,” Smith’s echoey undulations embrace the listener, and on “Everybody Loves My Baby,” the leader’s glowing lines and phrases bounce gracefully off of Bailey’s brushes and Warren’s staccato harmonies.

Stanley Turrentine, “Smile, Stacey (Pts. 1 & 2)”: Beginning with a catchy stop-time intro marked by bright five-note phrases, “Smile, Stacey” unites tenor sax sultan Stanley Turrentine with keys king Les McCann. The musicians make a good match—both play with heavy, heavy soul, and neither man has ever asked when the blues will leave. After a sordid, blazing testimonial from the leader, McCann offers a brisk, shimmering report of his own. If it sounds like the pianist could’ve written the song himself, it’s because he did.

Enjoy these classic Blue Note tracks on Spotify!