Dexter Gordon • Daddy Plays the Horn

Bethlehem/Pure Pleasure BCP-36
Single LP
1955/2013

Music

Sound

Zoot Sims • Down Home

Bethlehem/Pure Pleasure BCP-6051
Single LP
1960/2013

Music

Sound

Charlie Rouse & Paul Quinichette • The Chase is On

Bethlehem/Pure Pleasure BCP-6021
Single LP
1957/2013

Music

Sound

by John Crossett | July 17, 2014

ock has the electric guitar, classical the piano (or perhaps the violin), and blues the acoustic guitar. These are the instruments most associated with these different musical genres. When it comes to jazz, the instrument we immediately think of is the tenor saxophone -- along with all of the greats who played it. On these three reissues from Pure Pleasure, we get music centered around the tenor sax and played by men who mastered the instrument.

For Dexter Gordon, the 1950s were a decade lost to drugs, incarceration and public indifference. But on rare occasions he showed that he hadn't lost touch with what was going on around him or his rare ability to wow audiences. With Larry Drew on piano, Leroy Vinnegar on bass, and Larry Marable on drums, Daddy Plays the Horn demonstrates how great Gordon was (and would be again). A huge tone and sense of humor always infused his work. Listen to his own compositions like the title tune or his way with the jazz standard "Confirmation" for examples of how he combined the present with the past.

John Haley "Zoot" Sims had built a solid career by the time he recorded Down Home, although not one rife with innovation. Heavily influenced by Lester Young, Sims combined a heavy dose of West Coast cool and plenty of swing to create a style that was always accessible. None of the songs here is a Sims composition (he rarely wrote his own music), but just listen to him go on "Bill Bailey," for instance, using all of his wiles to draw you in to the tune. With Dave McKenna on piano, George Tucker on bass and, taking a break from his work with Charles Mingus, Dannie Richmond on drums, the rhythm section laid down the perfect beat for Sims to glide over.

Charlie Rouse (in his days before working with Thelonious Monk) and Paul Quinichette (also known as "the Vice President," due to comparisons to Lester Young) teamed up on their only meeting to create a wonderful blowing session that works because of the compatibility between the stars and the differences in their tones. Rouse’s sound was edgy and sharp, while Quinichette had a big, round, full tone, so it’s easy to tell who's playing, even when they play in unison. A collection of standards that allows both to play to their strengths, The Chase is On works from opening tune to closing number. Rouse and Quinichette get help from pianist Wynton Kelly (Hank Jones sits in on a couple of the slower numbers), bassist Wendell Marshall, and drummer Ed Thigpen -- with guitarist Freddie Green sitting in here and there -- so again the backup the two leaders received was top-notch. It’s a shame these two never got together again -- the music here is engaging and inspired.

The mono sound of these albums, coming as they do from the same label and reissue house, gives them a certain commonality. The horns are very up front and present with wonderful tone and timbre. The individual style of each player is clearly evident -- from Gordon’s big tone, to Sims' smooth swing, to Rouse’s sharpness and Quinichette’s roundness. The rhythm sections are set back but allowed to blossom. Bass is deep and tight, drums snap, and the piano is clear and true.

Of the three, Daddy Plays the Horn has the best sound, but it's a close call. You’re not considering sonics alone here, however. It’s the rarity of titles and the music they contain that will have you itching to purchase -- and you’ll not be disappointed in the least if you do.

The Audio Beat • Nothing on this site may be reprinted or reused without permission.