Friday, 18 September 2009

Johnny Coles - Katumbo (Dance)

Katumbo (Dance)
256+ VBR LAME mp3
Vinyl rip & scans from MRL 346

Funk Dumplin'

Shad went way back with Johnny, the former was working at Savoy in 1947 when Coles recorded a set there with Leo Parker's sextet (also an early stomping ground of Gene Ammons) in 1947 and later he would also participated in the occasional Shad-directed Dinah Washington EmArcy session.
Coles was far from an unknown quantity at this point, famous for his work with Gil Evans and Charles Mingus and with albums as leader at Epic and Blue Note under his belt. Johnny was steady giggin' and probably wasn't in dire straits for the cash so odds are it was a one-off opportunity to stretch out on his own while meantime Shad likely saw a bankable property with proven appeal for the jazz demographic's core.

The sidemen Shad recorded leading their own combos at MRL were often members of touring big league big band machines, such as those of Duke Ellington or Ray Charles. This set was taped sometime in '71, on the cusp of Coles' membership in each. Johnny C wasn't the only one moonlighting for this effort; drummer Bruce Ditmas and Tuba player Howard Johnson were gigging with Gil Evan that year while Gregory Herbert was working with Woody Herman at the time.

The remaining member of the brass section is another example of Shad's sloppy record-keeping since it appears to be Ashley (not "Astley") Fennell on trombone. He had previously played with Archie Shepp and would go on to work with Sam Rivers' band, appearing along with bassist Reggie Workman
(check his superb bio and discog at never enough rhodes) on Rivers' 1974 classic Crystals. Pianist par excellence Cedar Walton rounds out the septet, providing plenty of what made him a popular first-call keyboardist for studio work.

Dusty Groove Review
A sweet album of soulful jazz from trumpeter Johnny Coles -- a wonderful talent who made a sad few albums as a leader! The record is quite different than Coles' earlier work for Epic and Blue Note -- in that it's got the slightly electrified Mainstream sound of the 70s firmly in place -- with electric and acoustic piano from Cedar Walton and electric and acoustic bass from Reggie Workman. Tracks are longish, and while they're not exactly all-out funky, they mostly groove pretty nicely -- in a spiralling fragmented sort of way. Titles include "Funk Dumplin", "Petits Machins", "Betty's Bossa", "728", and "Never Say Goodbye".

Johnny & Friends at Lex Humphries Funeral 1994

Back: ?, Lawrence Jones Middle: Lucky Thompson, ?, ?, ?
Front: Kenny Gates, Mickey Roker, Bootsie Barnes, Donald Byrd, Tommy 'Red Fox' Jordan, J.D. Fingers
Photo source: Bootsie Barnes

All About Jazz bio
Johnny Coles never became a star name, but his associations with a half-dozen of the leading jazz figures of the post-war era are significant enough testament to his musical ability.

Whether through circumstances or lack of inclination, Coles seemed content to work with others at the helm throughout his career, but he earned a significant reputation within those parameters. He was never a band-leader of any note, and recorded very few records under his own name. His debut album The Warm Sound, appeared in 1961, while his most significant record as a leader, Little Johnny C, was issued on Blue Note label in 1963.

He taught himself to play trumpet from the age of 10, later adding the customary flugelhorn as well. He studied music at the Mastbaum Vocational School in Philadelphia, and played in army bands during the war years. His initial post-war experience came in commercial bands, notably a rhythm and blues outfit led by saxophonist Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson, which also included John Coltrane and Red Garland in its ranks.

He continued that rhythm and blues association with bands led by the likes of Earl Bostic and Bull Moose Jackson in the early 1950s, but was also playing in more mainstream jazz settings by that time. They included working with drummer Philly Joe Jones in 1951, and a more extended association with saxophonist James Moody in 1956-8 [appearing on Flute 'n The Blues & Return From Overbrook collected on Hey! It's James Moody, Moody's Mood For Love and James Moody]. On leaving Moody's band, Coles began working with Gil Evans, whose own standing in the public eye had been greatly elevated by the success of his collaborations with Miles Davis.

Coles was a very different trumpeter in stylistic terms, but Evans admired his dry, economical sound and his ability to exploit musical space with just the right placement of notes, a virtue he did share with Davis. Those qualites are evident in Coles's contributions to several of Evans's important recordings, including the imaginative re-workings of classic jazz material in the New Bottle Old Wine (1958) and Great Jazz Standards (1959) albums [both available as part of Gil Evans: The Complete Pacific Jazz Sessions], and the seminal Out of the Cool, recorded in 1960 and regarded as Evans's masterpiece [other Evans productions on which Coles played include Miles Davis' Sketches of Spain & Porgy & Bess, Evans' The Individualism of Gil Evans, Duke Ellington's Blues In Orbit] and Kenny Burrell's Guitar Form].

Coles's rounded tone and controlled, almost austere lyricism, combined with his ability to find his own means of individual expression within the context his leader was trying to create, make that record a highlight of his six year tenure with the Gil Evans Orchestra, which ended when he was recruited by Charles Mingus for a tour of Europe in 1964, in a sextet which also featured saxophonists Eric Dolphy and Clifford Jordan, and pianist Jaki Byard.

Charles Mingus Live in Oslo '64 (full hour)

Jaki Byard (piano), Clifford Jordan (tenor), Charles Mingus (bass), Dannie Richmond (drums), Eric Dolphy (alto, flute, bass clarinet), Johnny Coles (trumpet)

Sadly, we will never know what might have come of that association, or that fascinating combination of talents. Coles was taken ill early on the tour [due to a stomach ulcer], and had to return home. He never rejoined the Mingus band, and missed most of the live recordings made on the tour, although those on which he did feature (which includes a concert with the sextet recorded at Town Hall, New York, just before the tour began) have left an intriguing glimpse of what might have been.

He continued to play and record in New York, including albums with pianist Duke Pearson [Honeybuns & Prairie Dog] and the Brazilian singer Astrud Gilberto [Look To The Rainbow & Dreamer]. In 1968, he joined the first incarnation of pianist Herbie Hancock's ground-breaking sextet, and is featured on The Prisoner (1969) [also Fat Albert Rotunda].

In 1969, Coles went all the way back to his early rhythm and blues roots when he joined the Ray Charles Orchestra, an association which lasted until the trumpeter was recruited by Duke Ellington in 1971. He remained a fixture in the Ellington Orchestra until 1974, then spent another two years with Ray Charles.

In the 1980s, his versatility and experience remained in demand. He made a rare album under his own name, New Morning, for the Dutch-based Criss Cross label in 1982, and toured with several tribute and revival bands, including the Count Basie Orchestra, Mingus Dynasty, and a project devoted to the music of pianist and arranger Tadd Dameron.

Coles retired from performing in 1989 [and passed away from cancer in 1997].

Discography as Leader

1961 The Warm Sound (Epic 16015)
at Sic Vos Non Vobis (flac) or here (192k not my rip)

1963 Little Johnny C (Blue Note 32129)
1971 Katumbo (Mainstream MRL 346)

1982 New Morning (Criss Cross Jazz 1005)
clips at Criss Cross or LP here (192k not my rip)

1983 Two at the Top w/ Frank Wess (Uptown 27.14)

Other notable sessions with the warm sound of little Johnny C included (in roughly chronological order) A. K. Salim's Afro-Soul/Drum Orgy, Eddie Jefferson's Jazz Singer, Tina Brooks' Waiting Game, Ray Crawford's Smooth Groove, Donald Byrd's Groovin' For Nat, Horace Parlan's Happy Frame of Mind, Grant Green's Am I Blue?, and a session job with fellow Philly natives The Ambassadors on their gem Soul Summit.

Johnny Coles - Trumpet & Flugelhorn
Bruce Ditmas - Drums
Gregory Herbert - Tenor Sax
Astley (Ashley) Fennell - Trombone
Howard Johnson - Tuba
Cedar Walton - Electric & Acoustic Piano
Reggie Workman - Electric & Acoustic Bass

1 Never Can Say Goodbye
2 September of My Years
3 728
4 Petits Machins
5 Betty's Bossa
6 Funk Dumplin'

You can Katumbo if you want to with Soundological HERE or HERE.


Simon666 said...

Thanks Cheeba, great music and (of course) great post as always :)
I hope "astley" is no relation to rick ?

Festoonic said...

Coles is always wonderful, but I'm even more eager to hear Ditmas in this context. Thanks for all your hard work!

Solomon said...

Thank you.

E-mile said...

Cheeba, what a wonderful version of Never Can Say Goodbye! Cedar is really groovin throughout this whole album...thanks for another awesome Mainstream item, once again
peace, E-mile

cheeba said...

@Simon, I don't believe anyone is related to Rick except for the various strands of DNA Schlock-Achin'-Waterdown used to create him.

@Festonic, you're welcome! Don't have too much else with Ditmas present, so not sure how this stacks up. Would love to hear your opinion and maybe a suggestion what else to check out.

@Solomon, you're welcome! Thanks for dropping by again!

@E-mile, you know it! I agree on both counts, especially the latter. Cedar rarely misses and when he does, it's not by much.

jazzlover said...

Thx cheeba,Coles is a great trumpet,I enjoy him !!

cheeba said...

You're very welcome jazzlover! It's unfortunate his career stalled after the healh incident on the Mingus tour.

Anonymous said...

I love Johnny Coles, thanks! and thanks for posting K.. unique!

Melanchthon said...

Beautiful post. Thanks !

cheeba said...

Glad you like, Mel! Thank you for the HiQ version of Warm Sound over at yours, too!

Zappatero said...

Very informative and enlightening article.........Johnny was something special.

Gordon Sapsed said...

You seem sure that Shad was wrong in referring to 'Astley' Fennell and that it should be 'Ashley'.

I have looked at dozens of references on the internet and whilst a few do call him 'Ashley' it does seem that
more than 90% of the time he was called 'Astley'.
Whatever became of him after about 1976 ?? I can't find his name anywhere ....
Gordon ( in England)

Gordon Sapsed said...

You seem very sure that the trombone player is called 'Ashley' Fennell and that Shad's designation 'Astley' was wrong.
I have been searching all over the internet and found about 30 references to him. Only 3 of them said 'Ashley' - all the others 'Astley'.
More important - what happened to him after 1976 he seems invisible since then ...under any name ...
Gordon ( In England)

cheeba said...

@Gordon - your guess is as good as mine but I went with Shad's habit of getting names wrong as guideline.

Discogs still gives both names as the same player (with 1 entry for "Astley" that is a dupe of one of the 4 entries for "Ashley"):

I see this was recently brought up over at Arts Journal and you participated:

Seems like not much new info on this player is available in the 3+ years since this was researched and posted.