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.
"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)
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