Jazz at 100 Hour 51: The Alto After Bird – Art Pepper, Phil Woods, Jackie McLean, Cannonball Adderley (1957 – 1960)

Jackie McLean

When Charlie Parker died at 34 in 1955, it was as if an ancient tree fell in the forest with the resulting sunlight promoting the growth of numerous alto saxophone progeny. Art Pepper appeared in Stan Kenton’s Orchestra in 1950 and by 1953 was recording as a leader while still collaborating with West coast colleagues like Shorty Rogers and Chet Baker. In 1957, his LP Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section signaled the maturity of a singular improviser from the West Coast School. Phil Woods kept the bebop spirit alive, touring and recording with Dizzy Gillespie in 1956 before gaining great attention with his 1957 LPs, Warm Woods and Phil and Quill. Jackie McLean apprenticed with Miles Davis through the early 1950s, and Charles Mingus and Art Blakey in the mid-1950s. With recordings like the 1959 LP New Soil, McLean became known as the classic Blue Note Hard Bop alto player. Cannonball Adderley burst on the scene with Kenny Clarke in 1955 as was hailed as the new Bird. His 1958 LP Something Else and contributions to Miles Davis’s 1959 Kind of Blue cemented his reputation forever. For the next eight years, before his early death, he defined soul jazz for the ages. In this hour, the alto after Bird – Art Pepper, Phil Woods, Jackie McLean and Cannonball Adderley.

Art Pepper – West Coast.
“If he was a Parker disciple, like every other modern saxophonist in the ’40s and ’50s, he tempered Bird’s slashing attack with a pointed elegance that recalled something of Benny Carter and Willie Smith. He was a passionate musician, having little of the studious intensity of a Lee Konitz, and his tone – which could come out as pinched and jittery as well as softly melodious – suggested something of the duplicitous, cursed romanticism which seems to lie at the heart of his music.” – Brian Morton & Richard Cook

Troubled by poor personal choices that eventually led to long-term incarceration (he did not record from 1961 – 1975) Art Pepper, so the story goes, had not played for six months, when his wife told him that she had scheduled a session for that day with Miles Davis’s rhythm section – Red Garland on piano, Paul Chambers on bass and Philly Joe Jones on drums. The result was a masterpiece. “Informality worked for Pepper. His saxophone sound combined opposites: a light sound and floating rhythm … with a jigger of grit and honk added. The rhythm section is tough but delicate, full of imaginative ways to break up a tune … and against their hard East Coast swing he produces a wonderful contrast. ‘Waltz Me Blues’ is an almost abstract melody; credited to Pepper and Chambers, there’s a good chance that the line wasn’t worked much out at all before the tape rolled. Pepper’s improvising is clean and lovely, especially in his contrapuntal solo over Red Garland’s parallel-hands octaves. The record is interesting for repertoire, too: it includes ’Jazz Me Blues,’ a song from 1921 recorded by Bix Beiderbecke, which at the time was pretty much exclusively the property of Bobby Hackett and other Dixieland nostalgists, unhip by modern jazz standards.” – Ben Ratliff

Waltz Me Blues. Art Pepper with the Rhythm Section
(Art Pepper-as, Red Garland-p, Paul Chambers-b, Philly Joe Jones-d). From Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section. 1/19/1957

Jazz Me Blues. Art Pepper with the Rhythm Section
(Art Pepper-as, Red Garland-p, Paul Chambers-b, Philly Joe Jones-d). From Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section. 1/19/1957

Phil Woods – Bebop.
“Phil Woods, another much-lauded ‘disciple of Bird,’ also made a splash on the New York jazz scene in the mid-1950s, both through his work as a leader and in his extensive sideman efforts. His professionalism, technical facility, and smooth attack enabled Woods to fit in with ease in almost any musical setting, whether the commercial pop music of a Billy Joel (who featured Woods on the hit song ‘Just the Way You Are’) or the much different soundscapes of Benny Goodman or Thelonious Monk.” – Ted Gioia

“Phil Woods has never seemed like a beginner. He sprang into his recording career. Tone, speed of execution and ideas were all first-hand borrowings from bebop and, inevitably, Parker; but he sounded like a mature player from the first… He formed the two-alto band with Gene Quill in 1957… So simpatico was the partnership that at moments one wonders whether one is hearing some kind of studio trick, one musician doubletracked with himself… Phil & Quill doesn’t have an ounce of spare fat in the solos, and the spanking delivery on, say, ‘A Night At St Nick’s’ is as compelling as anything Prestige was recording at the period. Quill’s duskier tone (obvious once you register it) and more extreme intensities are barely a beat behind Woods’s in terms of quality of thought.” – Brian Morton & Richard Cook

A Night at St. Nick’s. Phil Woods – Gene Quill Quintet
(Gene Quill-as, Phil Woods-as, George Syran-p, Teddy Kotick-b, Nick Stabulas-d). From Phil & Quill. 3/29/1957

Easy Living. Phil Woods Quartet
(Phill Woods-as, Bob Corwin-p, Sonny Dallas-b, Nick Stabulas-d). From Warm Woods. 1957

Jackie McLean – Hard Bop.
“Jackie McLean, a third altoist to come of age in the shadow of Parker during the 1950s, took a different approach to the instrument. While others emulated Parker’s virtuosity and borrowed verbatim various licks…, McLean offered a sparser, more jagged approach. It was the spirit of Bird—his intensity, his drive, his raw emotion—not, as with so many other saxophonists, mimicked phrases and patterns, that came through in McLean’s music. Unlike Adderley and Woods, he adopted an acerbic tone, one distinctly unsuitable for pop music or pseudo-funk hits. His early work with Miles Davis and as a leader revealed an allegiance to the bop style, but McLean remained open to the influence of other approaches, with elements of John Coltrane’s modal excursions, Sonny Rollins’s hard bop, and Ornette Coleman’s free playing eventually entering into his music.” – Ted Gioia

“His long run of records for Blue Note started immediately after [stints with Miles Davis, Charles Mingus and the Jazz Messengers], 17 of them in a little more than seven years. New Soil wasn’t the first of the sessions … but it was certainly the most important and a big shift from his work for New Jazz and Prestige. Transitional and challenging, New Soil seems tame by later standards. McLean had passed through difficult times and was reassessing his career and direction. ‘Minor Apprehension’ has elements of freedom which are slightly startling for the period and wholly untypical of McLean’s previous work. – Brian Morton & Richard Cook

Minor Apprehension. Jackie McLean Quintet
(Donald Byrd-tp, Jackie McLean-as, Walter Davis-p, Paul Chambers-b, Pete La Roca-d). From New Soil. 5/2/1959

“In [1960], for the first time, Jackie tried his hand at orchestrating for a three-horn front line consisting of himself, trumpeter Blue Mitchell, and tenor saxophonist Tina Brooks and backed by Kenny Drew, Paul Chambers, and Art Taylor. Largely self-taught as an arranger, he explained that “this was a challenge for me, because I didn’t have much musical education and most of what I know about writing I found out myself.” … One of the two McLean composition[s], “Ballad for Doll,” on which only the piano solos, is a full-bloodedly romantic tribute to his wife that shows a surprising richness of orchestration. After stating the theme, the horns breathe softly in unison behind the beginning of Drew’s solo, a mixture of passion and delicacy that is a glowing extension of the composition.” – David Rosenthal

A Ballad For Doll. Jackie McLean – Tina Brooks Sextet
(Blue Mitchell-tp, Jackie McLean-as, Tina Brooks-ts, Kenny Drew-p, Paul Chambers-b, Art Taylor-d). From Jackie’s Bag. 9/1/1960

Cannonball Adderley – Soul.
“Only three months after Parker’s death, Julian “Cannonball” Adderley arrived in New York. Within days of sitting in with the band at Cafe Bohemia, he was the talk of the town. True to form, Adderley’s record company promoted him as the “new Bird,” and though Cannonball’s assured technique and flair for improvisation may have reminded many of this famous predecessor, his warmer tone was a marked departure from the Parker model, as was his more rhythmically rooted approach to phrasing. Adderley served a brief but memorable stint with Miles Davis, during which he participated on the seminal Kind of Blue session, and in time developed a more controlled style of improvisation, with greater sensitivity to space and a more relaxed delivery.” – Ted Gioia

Between the Miles Davis Sextet sessions that produced Milestones and Kind of Blue, Miles joined Cannonball Adderley for his Something Else session for Blue Note. “The blues-soaked tone and hard, swinging alto-lines are as recognizable a sound as any in the aftermath of bebop… The long, sublimely relaxed lope through ‘Autumn Leaves’ is the track every listener remembers, but there isn’t a rote moment on the record and the rhythm section takes much credit too. … the results are superb and the contrast between Adderley’s vitalism and Miles’s narrow-eyed lyricism is a treat.” – Brian Morton & Richard Cook

Autumn Leaves. Cannonball Adderley’s Five Stars
(Miles Davis-tp, Cannonball Adderly-ts, Hank Jones-p, Sam Jones-b, Art Blakey-d). From Something Else. 3/9/1958

Yes, Bird was gone after a brief but impactful career, but the space he left vacant was well filled by a suite of younger alto players.

Miles Davis was more than a trumpet player, composer and taste-maker – he led some of the greatest bands in the history of jazz. In the next hour, we will feature his first great quintet of John Coltrane on tenor, Red Garland on piano, Paul Chambers on bass and Philly Joe Jones on drums.

Art Pepper Meets The Rhythm Section. Contemporary C 3532
Phil Woods & Gene Quill. Phil & Quill. Prestige PRLP 7115
Phil Woods. Warm Woods. Epic LN 3436
Jackie McLean. New Soil. Blue Note BLP 4013
Jackie McLean. Jackie’s Bag. Blue Note BLP 4051
Cannonball Adderley. Something Else. Blue Note BLP 1595

Giddins, Gary & DeVeaux, Scott. 2009. JAZZ. New York, NY. WW Norton & Company.
Chapter 13. Jazz Compositions in the 1950s
Gioia, Ted. 2011. The History of Jazz. New York. Oxford University Press.
Chapter 7. The Fragmentation of Jazz Styles
Morton, Brian & Cook, Richard. 2011. Penguin Jazz Guide, the History of the Music in the 1001 Best Albums. New York, NY. Penguin Books
Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section
Phil Woods & Gene Quill. Phil & Quill
Jackie McLean. New Soil
Cannonball Adderley. Something Else
Ratliff, Ben. 2002. The New York Times Essential Library of Jazz. New York. Times Books.
Chapter 47. Art Pepper: Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section (1957)
Rosenthal, David. 1992. Hard Bop: Jazz and Black Music, 1955-1965. New York. Oxford University Press.
Chapter 7. The Power of Badness

Annotated playlists and streaming links for all the Jazz at 100 broadcasts: Jazz at 100

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