Bar code: 8427328611428
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This CD contains the only two recordings of this Philly Joe Jones quintet, his working unit for just over thirteen months starting in January 1960. The first one is the album ‘Philly Joe’s Beat,’ recorded for Atlantic Records on May 20, 1960—a landmark ‘hard bop’ session centered around Philly Joe Jones’ bracing and sometimes intricate drum solos. The second is an unreleased recording of a performance broadcast live from Birdland on March 18, 1961, where, for the first time on record, we can hear Philly Joe Jones’ bopish composition titled ‘Bebe.’
The album’s rhythm section features Paul Chambers, Philly Joe’s favorite bassist, providing his driving and solid swinging foundation. Philly Joe and Chambers groove perfectly together with pianist Walter Davis Jr., who delivers solos in a fierce, percussive bop style reminiscent of Bud Powell.
On the horns, Bill Barron and Mike Downs shine—Barron with a ‘hard-nosed’ lyricism and irrepressible intensity on the tenor sax, and Downs, a brilliant young trumpet player from the Bay Area, practically growing up in the Virgil Gonsalves Sextet from 1956 to 1959. Philly Joe Jones heard Downs in a session after-hours in San Francisco, was impressed, hired him, and brought him to New York in December 1959. Downs' solos are vigorous and expressive, reflecting a pre-Davis style reminiscent of Clifford Brown. Unfortunately, these were his last recordings and, at the same time, the opportunity to remember and rediscover this little-known but talented trumpeter and cornetist from Oakland, who died forgotten in New York in 1968.
The Birdland performance is a first-rate document for hearing what this power house Philly Joe Jones quintet sounded like live.
"One of the premier drummers, and inventors as well, of hard bop drummers is without a doubt Philly Joe Jones, who made his name with Miles Davis, but is also featured on innumerable sessions in the 1950s-60s. This single disc includes a previously unreleased gig from 1961 at Birdland with Jones’ working team of Mike Downs/ct, Bill Barron/ts, Walter Davis Jr/p and Spansky DeBrest/b, with the team tearing into “Two Bass Hit”, Downs searing on a hard hitting “Max Is Making Wax” and Jones riding the whip on “Salt Peanuts”. The same band, with Paul Chambers instead of DeBrest, is caught in the studio in 1960 for better fidelity, and in a kinetic mood on the aforementioned tunes, as well as a cruising read of “ Dear Old Stockholm” and festive “That’s Earl, Brother”. Barron took his Sonny Rollins pills for the sessions, and Downs is bright and sharp as an Italian suit throughout. Of course, with Jones at the helm, there’s always avalanche warnings, as he rumbles and tumbles on a Richter Scale of 6.4 and above. Whew!"
—George W. Harris (January 8, 2024)