‘The Bigger, The Better’. Everything between a quintet and a big band. A random anthology of recordings of jazz groups consisting of more than five members.

So, you can think a lot of tunes on this playlist bare no musical or historical significance. But that’s not the case. Oliver Nelson’s Blues And The Abstract is considered a true masterpiece and the tune Stolen Moments a sparkling gem. Miles Davis’ Birth Of The Cool is a milestone in jazz. Also, all albums by Charles Mingus are compulsory listening for music lovers.

Handpicked by Didi Hardenberg, who wrote some very fine liner notes to go along with it.


Liner notes:

Oliver Nelson (tenorsax) – Stolen Moments (album: Blues And The Abstract Truth)
‘En als dan in Stolen Moments na het prachtig verzorgde thema, op 1 minuut 23 Hubbard zijn trompet aan de mond zet en begint te spelen, krijg je echt even kippenvel. Steeds opnieuw, elke noot op het juiste moment, 8 minuten en 42 seconden lang. Mooi ook hoe daarna Dolphy (dwarsfluit) en Oliver Nelson zelf (tenorsax) elkaar opvolgen. Ook Nelson blaast hier een van zijn sterkste solo’s ooit.’
(Gijsbert Kamer, De Volkskrant, 7 juli 2015)

Art Pepper (altsax) + Eleven – Opus de Funk/Walkin’ (album: Modern Jazz Classics)
‘This album and the earlier Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section are surely the two most important sessions in Pepper’s entire recording career.’ (www.concord.com)
However, instead of the usual well-worn standards that were the mainstay of West Coast swingers, Marty Paich (arranger) fashioned charts from relatively new compositions by jazz artists such as Monk, Gillespie, and Mulligan. All of these songs, generally more associated with smaller units, are inventively arranged for the big band format. Paich balances peppy horn riffs with open spaces that allow Pepper room to soar.
(David Rickert, www.allaboutjazz.com, 2003)
‘No fun, het leven van die man. Gevangenis in, gevangenis uit, tot en met San Quentin, scoren, cold Turkeys, dealers en kit, vrouwen, lijken in kamers, zogenaamde vrienden, verraad en vlagen van acute paranoia… nee, leuk is anders.’ (Jules Deelder, Jazz, 1992)

Johnny Hodges (altsax) – Gal From Joe’s
Johnny Hodges with Billy Strayhorn and the Orchestra was reviewed by Don DeMichael in the June 7, 1962 edition of Downbeat. DeMichael called the album “…among the best Ellingtonia issued in the last year”, writing that Hodges “tosses off phrases buttery in mellowness, fat with the milk of maturity and the honey of imagination.” (Wikipedia)

Charles Mingus – Cryin’ Blues/Better Git It in Your Soul
Charles Mingus (1922-1979) was een gigant van de jazz en een van de meest kleurrijke en levendige persoonlijkheden. Zoals bleek uit zijn autobiografie Beneath The Underdog, maar ook uit vele ooggetuigeverhalen van anderen. Hij werd ooit opgeleid als cellist en trombonist, maar koos later gelukkig maar voor de bas, terwijl hij ook als pianist tot veel expressie in staat was. Nog belangrijker wellicht is zijn status als componist en (nogal krachtdadig) bandleider. Een experimentator die het contact met het publiek nooit verloor.

Cryin’ Blues (album: Blues & Roots)
Cryin’ Blues is a blues without the usual tonic, sub-dominant, Booker Ervin (tenorsax) opens with the group. After the bass solo, Horace Parlan solos on piano, and Jackie McLean (altosax) plays with the ensemble on the out chorus. (from the original liner notes of the album Blues & Roots)

Better Git It in Your Soul (album: Mingus Ah Um)
Legendarisch en revolutionair, een absolute ‘must have’. Het stuk bevat zowel soul, swing, vrijheid, opwinding en legt een verband met de Afrikaanse herkomst van de muziek. Mingus haalde allerlei gewaagde stuntjes uit, zoals de plotselinge handgeklap-begeleiding halverwege het stuk. Echt ‘break stuff”. (www.jazzism.com)

Miles Davis – Move (album: Birth Of The Cool)
Een van de grote mijlpalen in de geschiedenis van de jazz is het album Birth of the Cool van Miles Davis. Een verzameling singles uit 1949, opgenomen door Davis met een negenmansband en pas zeven jaar later op lp gezet.
Prachtig elegante composities met schitterend samenspel van steeds zes blazers onder wie de fraai solerende saxofonisten Lee Konitz en Gerry Mulligan.
(Gijsbert Kamer, De Volkskrant, 8 augustus 2019)

Budd Johnson (tenorsax) – (album: Budd Johnson And The Four Brass Giants)
‘His tone was in the classic Coleman Hawkins mold: big, broad, soaked in blues feeling.’
‘Four Brass Giants’ was instigated by Cannonball Adderly, who’d been listening tos ome of Johnson’s scores for the Earl Hines band.’
(Richard Cook & Brian Morton, Penguin Guide To Jazz, 6th Edition)

Nat Adderley & The Big Sax Section – You Leave Me Breathless (album: That’s Right)
Cannonball Adderley’s younger brother. One of the few modern brass players to have specialized on cornet.
That’s Right is a bit of an oddity, with Nat’s cornet placed in front of what was billed, quite accurately, the Big Sax Section (Yusseef Lateef, Jimmy Heath, Charlie Rouse).
(Richard Cook & Brian Morton, Penguin Guide To Jazz, 6th Edition)

Cy Touff (bass trumpet) – Keester Parade ( album: Cy Touff, His Octet & Quintet)
Like so many musicians who participated in West Coast jazz movement, Touff was a transplant from another Jazz city. As Gerry Mulligan brought his New York style to Los Angeles, Touff brought the sounds of Chicago to California. To make things more confusing, the sounds of Chicago were characterized by the sounds of New Orleans. New Orleans musicians like Fletcher Henderson and Louis Armstrong set the standards for swing and everybody else followed their steps. Cy Touff, His Octet & Quintet features compositions by swing masters Johnny Mandel, Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman as well as two Touff originals. (Brian L. Knight, Pacific Jazz Records And The West Coast Sound)

Jimmy Forrest – Soft Summer Breeze (album: Pick Your Self Up)
‘Forrest will always be assiocated with the mournful Night Train… Though by no means an innovator, he had a thoroughly individual voice on tenor, raw and tender by turns.’ (Richard Cook & Brian Morton, Penguin Guide To Jazz, 6th Edition)

Wynton Marsalis Septet – Bayou Baroque (album: Citi Movemement)
Like “Black, Brown and Beige,” “Citi Movement,” which was written for a 1991 performance by the Garth Fagan dance group, is programmatic. Where Ellington’s opus mulled over the history of blacks in America, “Citi Movement” takes on the life of the city, exploring its density and variety of emotions and experience.
Made up of three movements consisting of a total of 21 sections, the piece charges through all sorts of textures and styles, from Afro-Caribbean beats to straight-ahead swinging, from cacophonous passages imitating traffic to large chords that owe a debt to European concert music, from trumpet solos to snakelike group improvisation. Marsalis has taken collage seriously as an esthetic, and colors and sounds, textures and rhythms fly by as if they were being heard from a moving car. (Peter Watrous, NY Times, 1993)

Lennie Niehaus – Knee Deep (album: (album: Complete Fifties Recordings)
Niehaus was an alto saxophone player who worked with Stan Kenton from 1954 to 1959. His playing was distinctive: he had a pellucid tone, a blend of Parker, Konitz, Mariano, Shank with a sharp edge all his own. Also with Kenton he had opportunities to write. He continued his writing after he left Kenton and eventually wrote for films. He composed the music for many of the Clint Eastwood films including ‘Bird’.
‘Knee Deep’ an original by Niehaus has tight writing and the solos restricted to a few bars with backgrounds that complement. Stu Williamson on trumpet has a bright assertive solo. (Jack Kenny, www.jazzviews.net)

Illinois Jacquet – Banned in Boston (album: Illinois Jacquet and his Orchestra)
Illinois Jacquet is considered to be one of the most influential tenor saxophonists in the history of jazz music. Born on October 31, 1922, in Broussard, Louisiana, Jean Baptiste Illinois Jacquet, at the age of 19 on the very first recording of his career, spawned an entirely new style and sound for tenor saxophone. His classic solo on “Flying Home”” recorded with the Lionel Hampton Band at Decca Records in New York City, on May 26, 1942, catapulted Jacquet to international fame and the solo became more famous than the song itself. All saxophonists learned to play Jacquet’s solo, every band recorded it, and people all over the world were humming this most famous solo in jazz history. (illinoisjacquetfoundation.org)

Paul Gonsalves – Rapscallion in Rab’s Canyon (album: Tell It The Way It Is)
During his long, fragmented tenure with Ellington, Gonsalves became a giant. His playing bore traces of Webster and Hawkins, and, in more reflective moments, displayed what Brian priestly has described as a ‘vocalised but fragile tone’ reminiscent of Lester Young’s. Yet for all these borrowings, his became a distinctive, striking voice quite unlike those of the three grandmasters and hardly ever their inferior.

Paul’s recordings outside the Ellington fold are sometimes damned by faint praise, though it is hard to understand why. On his 1963 album Tell It The Way It Is! he avoids being upstaged by the commanding playing of pianist Walter Bishop and an on-form Ray Nance. He even finds something new to say on the tenorists’ overworked hymn, Body and Soul, while on the album’s title track, after Bishop has persuasively stamped his personality on it (the tune is his own) and Nance and fellow trumpeter Rolf Ericson have had their say, Gonsalves demonstrates that fast though this company maybe he can more than hold his own. (Bruce Crowther, Paul Gonsalves, A Gentle Giant, 1974)

David ‘Fathead’ Newman – Ain’t That Good News (album: Bigger and Better)
David “Fathead” Newman was a key member of Ray Charles’ band for a dozen years. Charles loved Newman’s sound for its lyricism and sweetness and vowed to bring him aboard when he started his own band, which he did in 1954. The multifaceted Newman first played baritone saxophone for Charles but switched to tenor and became a star soloist. Newman’s saxophone can be heard on many of Charles’ landmark hits, including “I Got a Woman,” “What’d I Say” and “Lonely Avenue.” And it was Charles who helped Newman get his first album as a leader with the 1958 Atlantic Records release “Fathead: Ray Charles Presents David Newman.” (Jon Thurber, LA Times, 2009)

Stanley Turrentine (tenor sax) – You’re Gonna Hear From Me (album: The Spoiler)
A legend of the tenor saxophone, Stanley Turrentine was renowned for his distinctively thick, rippling tone, an earthy grounding in the blues, and his ability to work a groove with soul and imagination. Turrentine recorded in a wide variety of settings, but was best-known for his Blue Note soul-jazz jams of the ’60s, and also underwent a popular fusion makeover in the early ’70s. (www.bluenote.com)
Gil Evans – Davenport Blues (album: The Complete Pacific Jazz Sessions)
Evans had a long and productive career but remains best known for his celebrated collaborations with trumpeter Miles Davis
Evans’s importance as a jazz arranger was not widely recognized until he resumed his partnership with Davis in 1957, when Davis was in one of his most fertile and creative periods. In direct contrast to his usual spare approach, Davis released the densely textured Miles Ahead (1957), Porgy and Bess (1958), and Sketches of Spain (1960), all arranged by Evans. (www.britannica.com)

If Stan Kenton’s ponderous Sophisticated Approach (1961) showed how little jazz it is possible to make with an orchestra the size of Texas, Gil Evans’ The Complete Pacific Jazz Sessions shows how much more you can make with a lot less. The CD brings together two collections of brilliantly reimagined standards, New Bottle, Old Wine (1958) and Great Jazz Standards (1959), recorded when Evans was red-hot from two successes with Miles Davis, Miles Ahead and Porgy And Bess.
Evans’ signature brass choir is in place—creatively voiced, spaciously arranged, a supple, multi-colored, sonically surprising counterpoint to a succession of superb soloists.
(Chris May, www.allaboutjazz.com, 2006)

Bill Perkins – Song Of The Islands (album: Just Now)
Bill Perkins was one of the quiet lions of West Coast jazz, soft-spoken, humble and gentle in conversation, but capable of raising the roof on stage. On tenor sax, like many of his contemporaries, he channeled the spirit of Lester Young. (/jazzbarisax.com)
Bill Perkins was essentially a West Coast jazz musician, but in his varied career worked with music legends like Woody Herman, Stan Kenton, Art Pepper, Duke Ellington’s band, and with Victor Feldman played on some of Steely Dan’s legendary albums. A large part of his career was spent, playing with Doc Severinsen’s Tonight Show Band for nearly twenty-five years.

Bill Perkins is one of the outstanding members of the legion of technically gifted and musically inspired tenor players who emerged at the beginning of the fifties. He was a hit with Kenton, and it is perhaps no coincidence that all of Kenton’s recordings that feature Perkins are good ones and they remain as fresh today as when they were recorded. Similarly, his work on some of Woody Herman’s recordings from that time have achieved classic status, where his soloing is a showcase of delicacy and form.
Perkins recorded little under his own name. (www.allaboutjazz.com)