The Complete Bill Jennings on Prestige 1959-1960 (2 LP on 1 CD) + Bonus Track
  • Prestige PRLP 7164
    Prestige PRLP 7164
  • Prestige PRLP 7788
    Prestige PRLP 7788
  • Status ST 8318
    Status ST 8318
  • Prestige PRLP 7177
    Prestige PRLP 7177
  • Jack McDuff
    Jack McDuff
  • Bill Jennings
    Bill Jennings

Bill Jennings

The Complete Bill Jennings on Prestige 1959-1960 (2 LP on 1 CD) + Bonus Track

Fresh Sound Records

Bill Jennings (g), Jack McDuff (org), Albert Jennings (vib, g), Wendell Marshall (b), Alvin Johnson (d)

Reference: FSRCD 973

Bar code: 8427328609739


Bill Jennings was a very short man, but a giant on guitar —entirely self-taught, his attack and phrasing were astoundingly sax-like. As a jazz musician, he always insisted on soul as well as sound. That is not to say that he was not a perfectionist and a precisionist, for indeed he was. Although an ardent admirer of the great guitars in jazz, Jennings was always biased towards reeds and (admittedly a frustrated saxophonist) claimed that his style had been heavily influenced by Charlie Parker and Herschel Evans.

Between 1959 and 1960 Prestige engaged Jennings to record two albums: Enough Said! and Glide On. He had the backing of organist Jack McDuff —who provides some neat and clean-cut support— bassist Wendell Marshall and drummer Alvin Johnson. For the second album they were joined by Jennings’ brother Al on vibes —the only exception being Billin’ and Bluin’, where Al traded his vibes for guitar, and McDuff his organ for piano.

Bill Jennings can hardly be called an innovator on guitar. He was an uncomplicated musician but interesting all the same, always swinging and relaxed. There is just enough fun and earthiness in his approach to dull any scholastic edge, bringing the beat where it belongs —right down front.

01. Enough Said (Alvin Johnson) 6:38
02. Tough Gain (Bill Jennings) 4:14
03. Volare [a.k.a Nel Blu, Dipinto Di Blu] (Modugno-Migliacci) 6:58
04. Dark Eyes (A. Salama-P.D.) 4:38
05. It Could Happen To You (Van Heusen-Burke) 6:22
06. Blue Jams (Jennings-McDuff-Marshall) 5:25
07. Dig Uncle Will (Jack McDuff) 3:28
08. It’s Alvin Again (Jack McDuff) 3:50 *
09. Glide On (Jack Wilson) 5:30
10. Alexandria, Virginia (Clanton-Jennings) 3:52
11. Billin’ and Bluin’ (Bill Jennings-Al Jennings) 4:42
12. There’ll Never Be Another You (Warren-Gordon) 3:49
13. Azure-Te (Paris Blues) (Davis-Wolf) 4:40
14. Fiddlin’ (Bill Jennings-Al Jennings) 2:34
15. Cole Slaw (Jesse Stone) 8:06
16. Hey Mrs. Jones (Ragan-Miller) 4:19

Album details

(*) Bonus track

Tracks #1-7, from the album "Enough Said!" (Prestige PRLP 7164)
Subsequently reissued as Prestige PRLP 7788
Track #8, taken from the album "Guitar Soul" (Status ST 8318)
Tracks #9-16, from the album "Glide On" (Prestige PRLP 7177)

Bill Jennings, guitar; Jack McDuff, organ; Albert
Jennings (vibes, guitar on #11); Wendell Marshall, bass; Alvin Johnson, drums.
Recorded at Van Gelder’s studio, Englewood Cliffs, N.J., August 21, 1959 [#1-8] and January 12, 1960 [#9-16]

Sound engineer: Rudy Van Gelder
Artwork: Esmond Edwards
Liner notes by Jack Walker, Chris Albertson & Jordi Pujol

Original recordings produced by Esmond Edwards
This CD release produced by Daniel Gugolz & Jordi Pujol
© 2018 by Fresh Sound Records

Stereo · 24-Bit Digitally Remastered
Blue Moon Producciones Discograficas, S.L.

Press reviews

"Jazz guitarist Bill Jennings is not a household name, even amongst jazz guitar enthusiasts like myself. Which is a pity, as the man had talent well beyond his limited fame. He was a left-handed guitarist, noted for playing a right-handed guitar upside down. In other words, high strings at the top and low strings at the bottom.

The reason for this appears to be that Jennings and his brother jointly owned their first ukulele and whilst his brother was right-handed, Bill had to adapt! That would have been a challenge for anyone but made more challenging by the loss of a finger later in his career.

Jennings only made two records as leader – Enough Said! and Glide On – both of which appear on this new single CD compilation from Fresh Sounds. Both were recorded at the Van Gelder’s Studio, New Jersey and the story goes that whilst setting up the studio, Rudy Gelder called out: “Say, who’s cutting?” Someone shouted, “Bill Jennings’s group!” “Enough said!” replied Rudy and the album was duly named.

Born in 1919 in Indianapolis, Jennings was a frustrated saxophonist, so much so that Charlie Parker, Herschel Evans, James Moody and Sonny Stitt are cited by Jennings as his major influences. Paradoxically, B.B. King is said to have cited Jennings as one of his biggest influences.

Jennings was able to ride the wave created by Charlie Christian’s liberation of the guitar from humble rhythm support to lead instrument and it wasn’t long before he got noticed for his warm and soulful style. In 1949 he played in the Louis Jordan Orchestra for approximately three years and subsequently recorded over 11 albums with the Willis Jackson Quartet. Ironically, his most famous recording was not a jazz record but Fever by Little Willlie John.

As was often the way, Jennings was spotted by an alert young A&R man and he got his break as leader with these two recordings with some fine accompaniment. The unmistakable (and possibly over enthusiastic) presence of Jack McDuff on organ caused Jennings to be labelled an organist’s guitarist, a term which he disliked, preferring, he said, to play like horns.

The two albums could not be said to be revolutionary. But they contain some cool, relaxed and right down-front guitar playing with more of a West Coast feel than you would normally expect from Van Gelder’s East Coast studio. Despite, Jennings’s own preference for reeds, there are none on either album. Maybe that is why he frequently gets his guitar-sound to approximate that of an alto sax.

This is a fabulous compilation which all jazz-guitar enthusiasts should appreciate. Whilst Jennings may never be mentioned in the same breath as Wes Montgomery, Kenny Burrell etc, this compilation should bring him some long overdue attention and recognition."

—Ian Lomax (April 25, 2019)

"Like ham and eggs,  peanut butter and jelly or Bogie with Bacall, the guitar/Hammond combo is one of the wonders of Western Civilization. Bill Jennings (1919-1978) is considered one of the founding fathers of what came to be known as “soul jazz,” recording with artists ranging from Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Jordan, but mostly associated with grooving juke joint combos, as exemplified by a previous 2-CD set released by Fresh Sound Records a couple of years ago.

This single dis set has him in vintage form in a pair of sessions for the Prestige label. The 1959 album with Jack McDuff/B3, Wendell Marshall/b and Alvin Johnson/dr was done in one day in August, and it’s as fresh as 3 am baked bread. Marshall’s bluesy bass line sets the pace for Jenning’s spacious picking and McDuff’s preaching on “Enough Said” while the team gets juke joint jumpy on “Blue Jams.” Jennings delivers a serpentine “Dark Eyes” and McDuff flows over like a root beer float on “Volare.”

For the January 1960 session the only change is the addition of Al Jennings on vibes and guitar, and the team is sleekly noir on “Glide On” and greasy as baby back ribs on “Cole Slaw.” The closing “Hey Mrs. Jones” is a calypso’d joy, and Jennings makes the strings cry on “Billin' and Bluin'.” These guys make it sound so easy, and they make you wish this attitude could be bottled for today’s artists to drink from."

—George W. Harris (March 7, 2019)

"On fêterait tout juste juste le centenaire de Bill Jennings, guitariste né le 12 septembre 1919 à Indianapolis, s’il n’était décédé sans laisser de souvenirs aux amateurs de jazz le 29 novembre 1978 dans l’hôpital des Vétérans (anciens combattants) de sa ville de naissance, car il a servi dans la Navy. Et surtout, si la notoriété de celui qui fut baptisé «l’architecte du soul jazz» n’avait pas été confinée à l’anonymat par la critique de jazz plus avide de nouveautés que de la glaise du jazz. Sa synthèse entre le blues, le jazz et le son church-soul, son amour des petites formations avec orgue (comme l’atteste ses collaborations), lui avait valu ce surnom qui ne lui a guère servi à se faire davantage connaître. Pourtant, B.B. King en personne en fit l’une de ses principales inspirations, et son itinéraire auprès des Louis Jordan, King Curtis, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Willis Gator Jackson (de nombreux enregistrements sous le nom du saxophoniste avec Bill Jennings), Brother Jack McDuff, Leo Parker, Bill Doggett, etc., auraient pu également le garder dans nos mémoires oublieuses. Les dictionnaires du jazz l’ont tous oublié également, et il faut aller retrouver celui d’Hugues Panassié et Madeleine Gautier, si partiel par ailleurs sur certains pans entiers du jazz, pour avoir mention de ce guitariste qui n’est pas sans qualités comme nous le montrent ces enregistrements et en particulier «Dig Uncle Will», «It's Alvin Again», «Alexandria, Virginia», «Billin’ and Bluin’» dans le registre du blues où l’on comprend ce qu’ont voulu signifier B.B. King, et d'autres qui ont apprécié Bill Jennings.

Prestige, un label de premier plan à cette époque, lui fit même la proposition d’enregistrer deux albums, qui sont repris ici: Enough Said! et Glide On de la fin 1959 au début de l’année 1960, et c’est cette matière que le sagace Jordi Pujol a repris sur son éminent label Fresh Sound pour nous raviver la mémoire sur ce guitariste de la single note, amoureux du mariage guitare-orgue, si prolifique et essentiel dans le jazz, blues & spiritual. Précisons qu’un thème, en bonus track, «It's Alvin Again», est issu du disque Guitar Soul paru sous le nom de Kenny Burrell, Bill Jennings et Tiny Grimes (Status/New Jazz 8318).

Dernière curiosité, et non des moindres pour les guitaristes, Bill Jennings partage avec le regretté Patrick Saussois la particularité de jouer de la main gauche (sa main droite sur le manche), et de ne pas inverser les cordes (les graves en bas, et donc la guitare totalement à l’envers).

Bill Jennings sera donc une découverte pour la plupart des amateurs de jazz, de swing, de blues, de soul, de petits combos guitare-orgue, et même vibraphone, car Al Jennings, le frère, participe à Glide On, avec des unissons guitare-vibraphone maîtrisés par la proximité des deux frères.

Notons enfin que Glide On (1960) fut le dernier album en leader de ce guitariste dont l’œuvre enregistrée se continua essentiellement aux côtés du saxophoniste Willis Jackson. Il y eut des enregistrements en leader au cours des années 1950 pour les labels King et Audio Lab déjà repris par le label Fresh Sound. Il faut en effet féliciter Jordi Pujol de ne pas lâcher le morceau, toujours à l’affût d’une perle égarée, et qui complète ainsi avec cette intégrale Bill Jennings on Prestige le précédent CD du guitariste en leader: Bill Jennings: The Architect of Soul Jazz-The Complete Early Recordings 1951-1957 (Fresh Sound FSRCD 816), déjà paru.

Quand on ajoute que les légendaires Brother Jack Mc Duff à l’orgue, et Wendell Marshall à la contrebasse plus l’excellent Alvin Johnson à la batterie complètent la formation, on sait déjà que Wild Bill Jennings est de ces illustres inconnus qui font la pâte authentique et si diversifiée du jazz."

—Yves Sportis
© Jazz Hot 2019


9,95 €  (tax incl.)

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