Reference: FSRCD 738
Bar code: 8427328607384
The JFK Quintet was a notable group of young musicians who played in Washington D.C. in the early 60s. Their style was a crossbreed between the New Thing and postbop that retained the inherent swing of jazz, while at the same time the group was compulsively forward-facing and avant garde orientated.
The bands prime figures were trumpeter Ray Codrington and altoist Andy White, both of whom also composed most of the tunes. The trumpet-alto front line blends well in the crisp, frequently boppish ensembles, despite the fact that their soloing styles are quite different. Reminiscent of Freddie Hubbard, Codrington blows cleanly and articulately, with a clear, biting tone and an incisive, creative conception. White was a flowing and assured soloist, with a harsh, wailing attack that shows a considerable Eric Dolphy influence. It made for a fruitful contrast in a band full of rhythmic drive and vitality, with a strong musical personality and identity.
"Kennedy wasn't yet in the White House when the two albums were made, but hed made his New Frontier speech at the Democratic convention, so it seems these young men from Washington, D.C. were hitching their wagon to a rising star and to a rising appetite for change. With the exception of Booker, their future playing careers might seem to be have been cut off as abruptly as the presidents own, somewhat like Paul Winter (see Jazz Journal, December 2012) whose own quintet played at Camelot and then fell victim to the post-Dallas blues.
The J.F.K. Quintet was brought to Riverside by Cannonball Adderley, who must have heard something of himself in altoist Andy White. He must have heard something like Ornette Coleman or the emergent Eric Dolphy in there as well because White mixes atonal squawks, mind-the-gap intervals and more conventional pretty-pretty playing, often within a single track. Listen to his rooster calls on Homing Grits. Codrington was more conventional in manner a mix of Hubbard and Dorham and more naturally given to romance but put them together and theres something to put up against the Dolphy/Little Five Spot recordings which were made exactly one day earlier than the New Frontiers LP! Talk about Zeitgeist!
Orrin Keepnews took over from Cannonball to make the later record, which is much more conventional in cast, with four repertory tunes and just three originals. Of these, Whites intriguing S.D.D.S. and Codringtons namechecking Coltrane Lane stand out, but its breezy post-bop all the way, the sound of young men in a hurry, and of a nation poised between positive urgency and fear. An intriguing document and another great Jordi Pujol rediscovery that replaces my sadly unplayable vinyl.
(Lest anyone write to OSL, pointing out that neither White nor Codrington disappeared, I should say that Andrew S. White continued to play saxophone and double reeds in r&b and avant-garde contexts with McCoy Tyner, Julius Hemphill, Otis Redding and others, becoming a distinguished musicologist and publisher of Coltrane transcriptions, while Ray Codrington turned up on some interesting Eddie Harris recordings. Killgo and Newman I know almost nothing about, but both had strong mathematical and scientific interests outside music, which may have lured them away. Any information gratefully received.)"
Brian Morton (February, 2013)
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