Jazz at 100 Hour 41: The Lyricists – Benny Golson, Gigi Gryce, Art Farmer (1953 – 1962)

Art Farmer – Benny Golson

“Musicians of a gentler, more lyrical bent … found in hard bop a more congenial climate than bebop had offered: for instance, trumpeter Art Farmer, [and] composers Benny Golson and Gigi Gryce…. In a sense, such musicians were not hard boppers at all. They are, however, partially associated with the movement for two reasons. First, they often performed and recorded with hard boppers. Art Farmer, for example, played in Horace Silver’s quintet and with saxophonists Jackie McLean and Jimmy Heath. And second, the very latitude and diversity of hard bop allowed room for their more meditative styles to evolve. Hard bop’s slower tempos and simpler melodies also helped, as did the school’s overall aesthetic, which favored “saying something” over technical bravado… But the decisive quality they share with each other is their gentle, thoughtful elegance.” – David Rosenthal

Rosenthal describes Art Farmer, Benny Golson and Gigi Gryce as “The Lyricists.”

Gigi Gryce.
“An altoist and flutist as well as a composer and arranger, he attracted attention as early as 1951 through tunes like ‘Yvette,’ ‘Wildwood,’ and ‘Mosquito Knees,’ all recorded by Stan Getz.” (“Mosquito Knees” was featured in a previous program on “Cool Jazz and the Four Brothers after Woody Herman.”) “In the early fifties, Gryce also contributed originals to record dates led by J.J. Johnson (‘Capri’), Howard McGhee (‘Shabozz’), Max Roach (‘Glowworm’), and Clifford Brown (‘Brownskin’ and ‘Hymn of the Orient’).” – David Rosenthal

Capri. JJ Johnson Sextet
(Clifford Brown-tp, JJ Johnson-tb, Jimmy Heath-ts/bs, John Lewis-p, Percy Heath-b, Kenny Clarke-d). From Eminent JJ Johnson. 6/22/1953

Hymn Of The Orient. Clifford Brown Sextet
(Clifford Brown-tp, Gigi Gryce-as/fl, Charlie Rouse-ts, John Lewis-p, Percy Heath-b, Art Blakey-d). From Memorial Album. 8/28/1953

Gigi Gryce & Art Farmer.
Trumpeter Art Farmer collaborated with Gigi Gryce on several sessions in 1954 and 1955. “Gryce’s tunes are perfect foils for Farmer’s solos, which highlight his slightly sour tone and his probing, off-center lines. These solos methodically explore each tune’s harmonic interstices, yet their brooding air keeps them from sounding excessively deliberate.” – David Rosenthal

“Gryce’s wish to produce a fresh sound, innovative but not aridly “experimental,” was realized in three 1955 recording sessions: two with a quintet co-led by him and Farmer for Prestige (When Farmer Met Gryce and Art Farmer Quintet [Featuring Gigi Gryce]) and one with a nonet for the Signal label … All three, of course, feature Gryce originals, many of which (for example, ‘Evening in Casablanca,’ a forty-six-bar theme, and ‘Nica’s Tempo,’ which is forty-four bars long) do not fit standard Tin Pan Alley formulas. The harmonies are original and more impressionistic than had been habitual in bebop. Secondary themes, arranged accompanying figures, and motifs used to launch new solos abound, adding textural variety.” – David Rosenthal

Evening In Casablanca. Art Farmer Quintet
(Art Farmer-tp, Gigi Gryce-as, Duke Jordan-p, Addison Farmer-b, Philly Joe Jones-d). From Art Farmer Quintet Featuring Gigi Gryce. 10/21/1955

Nica’s Tempo. Art Farmer Quintet
(Art Farmer-tp, Gigi Gryce-as, Duke Jordan-p, Addison Farmer-b, Philly Joe Jones-d). From Art Farmer Quintet Featuring Gigi Gryce. 10/21/1955

Benny Golson.
“[Benny] Golson played tenor in the Tadd Dameron band that included Gryce and Clifford Brown. His stately, dignified tribute to the trumpeter, ‘I Remember Clifford,’ has become a modern jazz classic. In the mid-fifties, Golson contributed charts to Lee Morgan’s first three Blue Note record dates, played in and wrote for Dizzy Gillespie’s big band, and co-starred with Morgan in the Jazz Messengers, to which he contributed such tunes as the sassy, light-tipping ‘Along Came Betty’ [which was featured in our previous program on ‘The Birth of Hard Bop’] and the hard-driving ‘Are You Real?’ and ‘Blues March.’ – David Rosenthal

Along the way, he made a name for himself as a Dameron-influenced composer, whose songs were recorded in the mid-fifties by Miles Davis, Chet Baker, Thad Jones, Oscar Pettiford and Art Farmer among others.

Stablemates. Miles Davis Quintet
(Miles Davis-tp, John Coltrane-ts, Red Garland-p, Paul Chambers-b, Philly Joe Jones-d). From Miles. 11/16/1955

Are You Real? Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers
(Lee Morgan-tp, Benny Golson-ts, Bobby Timmons-p, Jymie Merritt-b, Art Blakey-d). From Moanin’. 10/30/1958

The Jazztet.
In 1959, [when Golson left the Jazz Messengers,] Farmer and Golson formed the Jazztet … featuring Golson’s compositions with Farmer as the most accomplished soloist. Golson … is an excellent saxophonist whose warm, breathy style was influenced as much by Don Byas and Lucky Thompson as by hard-bop instrumentalists. He is one of the few modern jazz composers whose tunes—many unusual in their structures, like ‘Just By Myself,’ whose thirty-six bars divide into two eighteen-bar segments—have entered the repertoire as “standards.” – David Rosenthal

“The first Jazztet record was McCoy Tyner’s recording debut, and the young pianist makes an immediate impact, harmonically full, able in his few prominent solos, and solidly across Golson’s charts. [On Meet the Jazztet,] ‘Killer Joe’ put in a first appearance, along with a near definitive reading of ‘I Remember Clifford’. – Brian Morton & Richard Cook

Killer Joe. The Jazztet
(Art Farmer-tp, Benny Golson-ts, Curtis Fuller-tb, McCoy Tyner-p, Addison Farmer-b, Lex Humphries-d). From Meet The Jazztet. 2/6 – 2/10/1960.

I Remember Clifford. The Jazztet
(Art Farmer-tp, Benny Golson-ts, Curtis Fuller-tb, McCoy Tyner-p, Addison Farmer-b, Lex Humphries-d). From Meet The Jazztet. 2/6 – 2/10/1960.
“[Golson’s] stately, dignified tribute to the trumpeter, “I Remember Clifford,” has become a modern jazz classic. – David Rosenthal”

Among the many songs in Golson’s book that became standards, “Whisper Not” is particularly popular.

“The song’s ease of conception is reflected in its unlabored flow. The phrases succeed each other with a rigorous logic that, if not for the occasional blue note, would be more characteristic of a classical prelude than a hard bop chart. The harmonic movement grabs the listener’s attention by alternating between a whole-step bassline and a conventional circle of fifths progression, both familiar enough in jazz songs but combined here in a fresh manner. As with Golson’s best work, ‘Whisper Not’ manages to convey both elegance and subtle funkiness.” – Ted Gioia

Whisper Not. The Jazztet
(Art Farmer-tp, Grachan Moncur III-tb, Benny Golson-ts, Harold Mabern-p, Herbie Lewis-b, Roy McCurdy-d). From Here and Now. 3/2/1962

“This music represented a different facet of the hard-bop sound, less funky, more song-oriented, and in many ways modeled on the work of Golson’s former employer Tadd Dameron. In this regard, Golson [and Gryce rank] among a handful of jazz composers (among them Jimmy Heath, … Oliver Nelson, and Quincy Jones) whose stately and uncluttered style, reflecting firm roots in the Swing Era and stylistic affinities with the West Coast sound, has tended to be overshadowed by the more extroverted efforts that dominated the jazz world during these transition years.” – Ted Gioia

In 1957, 57 jazz musicians posed for a group photograph on the steps of a brownstone in Harlem. The photo is known by the title “A Great Day in Harlem.” Golson, Farmer and Gryce are all in the photo. As of the time of the recording of this program only two of the 57 musicians are still alive and both continue to perform and record – Sonny Rollins (at 86) and Benny Golson (at 88).

While Chicago played a key role in early jazz, by the 1950s, much of jazz was understood in the dialog between cool and hard bop, aka West Coast and East Coast, with Los Angeles and New York playing inordinantly important roles. But the Chicago scene was as vital as ever. In the next hour, we will return to the “Windy City” and hear from Chicago-based musicians in the 1950s, with a focus on big-toned tenor players – Clifford Jordan, John Gilmore, Johnny Griffin and Gene Ammons. And of course, Sun Ra.

JJ Johnson – Eminent JJ Johnson. Blue Note BLP 1505
Clifford Brown – Memorial Album. Blue Note BLP 5032
Art Farmer Quintet Featuring Gigi Gryce. Prestige PRLP 7017
Miles Davis – Miles. Prestige PRLP 7014
Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers – Moanin’. Blue Note BLP 4003
The Jazztet – Meet the Jazztet. Argo LP 664
The Jazztet. Here and Now. Mercury SR 60698

Gioia, Ted. 2011. The History of Jazz. New York. Oxford University Press.
Chapter 7. The Fragmentation of Jazz Styles
Gioia, Ted. 2011. The Jazz Standards: a Guide to the Repertoire. New York. Oxford University Press.
I Remember Clifford
Whisper Not
Morton, Brian & Cook, Richard. 2011. Penguin Jazz Guide, the History of the Music in the 1001 Best Albums. New York, NY. Penguin Books.
JJ Johnson – Eminent JJ Johnson
Clifford Brown – Memorial Album
The Jazztet – Meet the Jazztet
Rosenthal, David. 1992. Hard Bop: Jazz and Black Music, 1955-1965. New York. Oxford University Press.
Chapter 3. A New Mainstream
Chapter 5. The Lyricists

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

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