Oscar Pettiford came to the old continent in September 1958, touring with a package show which included J.J. Johnson, Kai Winding and Lee Konitz, and after the completion of the tour, he decided to stay for a while. After playing in France and Germany, he went to Vienna, where he had a serious car accident, which kept him hospitalized for a couple of months. He spent the spring of 1959 in Baden-Baden, Germany, then in June went to Copenhagen, where he resided until his death on the 18th September, 1960.
His long stay in Denmark was originally motivated by an engagement at Copenhagen's "Cafe Montmartre," where he played together with Stan Getz during the latter half of 1959 and the beginning of 1960. Even though working opportunities were very scarce after the closing of the "Cafe Montmartre" in February 1960, Pettiford preferred to remain in Copenhagen rather than follow the example of Bud Powell and Kenny Clarke, who made Paris their base of operations.
Pettiford was, for many years, somewhat a teacher in the practice of jazz music. In the forties, as the first important follower of the late Jimmy Blanton, he guided younger bass players like Ray Brown and Percy Heath, and even today there are evident traces of Pettiford to be found in the playing of many a young musician. Jorn Elniff, the drummer on this record, says of playing with Pettiford that "there seemed to be no problems when playing with him; he took care of everything and you just had to follow him. My playing improved immensely whilst playing with Oscar."
Of the musicians on this record, Jan Johansson was a member of the Getz-Pettiford quartet at the "Cafe Montmartre." He also accompanied Stan on the European JATP-tour (spring 1960), and has been on several Swedish-made albums. Pettiford said of him "Jan is comparable to any of the best pianists in jazz, that's what I think."
The second Swedish musician on the record is the tenor man Erik Nordstrom, who was brought down from Gothenburg, where he was playing together with Johansson. His previous recordings include albums under the names Stan Getz and Tommy Potter.
The remaining half of the personnel is made up by three Danish musicians, Louis Hjulmand, the vibraphonist, played with Pettiford at the "Cafe Montmartre" in the summer of 1959.
Allan Botschinsky has, for some years, been the leading jazz trumpeter in Denmark. As early as 1956, he was a key member of Ib Glindermann's big band, and has played with most of the permanent Danish jazz groups.
Jorn Elniff, drummer, is another former Glindermann musician, who has been partly responsible for some of the most successful records by the band.
Besides showing Pettiford as a bassist and as the leader of some of his young European proteges, the record stresses another important facet of his talent: his compositions. He has 34 recorded compositions to his credit, some of them dating from the early 'forties, like For bass faces only (better known as One bass hit) and Something for you (alias Max making was making wax alias Chance it). Among his latter works are such well known and often played themes as Swingin' till the girls come home, Blues in the closet and Bohemia after dark.
Montmartre Blues was used as a signature tune by the groups at the "Cafe Montmartre." The main theme(the two first and the two last choruses) was developed from Benny Golson's Blues It, but has much more character at this tempo and in this adaptation than in Golson's original 1957 recording.
Pettiford got Back in Paradise from its composer, Hans hammerschmidt, "when we were playing together with Hans Koller in Baden-Baden." Botschinsky lays out on this ballad, and Nordstrom is the main soloist, relieved by Pettiford and Johansson during the first half of the second chorus.
Why Not? That's What!, another sextet number, has what might be termed a response title. In the past, Gene Krupa's What's This? was answered by Nat Cole's That's What! Dizzy Gillespie's Woody'n You by Frank Foster's Did'n You and Thelonious Monk's Well, You Needn't by Miles Davis's I didn't. Now the game is carried one step further, as Pettiford answers Miles Davis's depreciatory So What? with an affirmative Why Not That's What! As Pettiford says, "the title contains a message for Miles on behalf of Paul Chambers and myself," And it certainly has got something to do with opinions on bass playing.
The theme is a rather close paraphrase of the Davis theme, and the relationship is further stressed by Elniff's doing a Jimmy Cobb during the vibraphone and piano solos, by Botschinsky's muted playing, and by Nordstrom's Coltrane-orientated solo. The final solo is by Pettiford himself and confirms the truth of the title. Of Johansson's block-chord chorus, Pettiford says: "I showed him how to play that way at the Montmartre, as it really gives me the message." This number was written a few days before the session.
Willow Weep for Me is a bass solo with piano accompaniment. This ballad was a particular favourite with Pettiford, who felt that "it has a certain significance in the words," and added that its blues overtones may be of importance, too.
My Little Cello, by the sextet was composed by Pettiford in Baden-Baden in early 1959 and named for his small son, Cello. This 36-bar tune has solos by everybody except Elniff.
Straight Ahead is a 6/8 blues, which was played for the first time at the recording session while the musicians were waiting for Pettiford to arrive. The first, rather "Monkish" theme (first and second, eleventh and twelfth choruses) was composed by Erik Nordstrom a month's time before the recording date, the second theme, reminiscent of Bobby Timmons's This Here (third and fourth, ninth and tenth choruses) was composed by Jan Johansson during the session. Two Little Pearls, a ballad, was composed for a concert at Pasadena in 1953 and was played as a cello feature by Pettiford on that occasion. However, it remained untitled until the birth of Pettiford's twin daughters (appropriately named Cellina and Celeste) in late 1959.
In its original form, Blue Brothers is an extended work, lasting about fifteen minutes. However, this version retains only the first of the original themes and emphasizes improvisation. Though the chorus of this minor tune is twelve bars long, this is not a blues. Instead Hjulmand has captured the spirit of the Danish mediaeval ballad.
Vibes, piano and bass each have two improvised choruses on There will never be another you with Oscar somersaulting into the restatement of the theme.
Laverne Walk is an Ellingtonian flavoured 32 bar theme and is played by the full sextet. It was composed shortly before Pettiford left the States, and he played it as a bass solo then. It was named for Laverne Stone, a school-teacher in Washington, D.C. and the wife of one of Pettiford's friends, All-American football player Avatus Stone.
Noted journalist Michael Kinstlinger penned, "nobody lays down a riff like Pett"...
It is a rare experience to hear European jazz musicians play with the abandon and spirit which characterize the music on this album. In this respect, too, Pettiford's presence on the European jazz scene made an unforgettable impression. In all these performances it is Oscar who emerges as the true giant, as indeed he was.
1. Montmartre Blues (b) 06:48
2. Back In Paradise (b) 04:34
3. Why Not ? That's What ! (b) * 07:20
4. Willow Weep For Me (c) 03:02
5. My Little Cello (c) 03:41
6. Straight Ahead (c) 04:41
7. Two Little Pearls (b) 05:47
8. Blue Brothers (a) 03:58
9. There Will Never Be Another You (a) * 05:50
10. Laverne Walk (b) 05:16
OSCAR PETTIFORD (Bass), ALLAN BOTSCHINSKY (Trumpet), ERIK NORDSTRÖM (Tenor Saxophone), LOUIS HJULMAND (Vibraphone), JAN JOHANNSON (Piano), JORN ELNIFF (Drums)
Recorded In Copenhagen, Denmark By Gigas
22nd August 1959 (a)
5th July 1960 (b)
6th Juls 1960 (c)
Original Recordings By Ole Vestegaard Jensen
Alum Produced By Alan Bates
Sleeve Photograph: Hans E. Haehl
Sleeve Design: Malcolm Walker
This Compilation _ + (c) 1989 Phonoco International Ltd.
Remastering By: THEIN Studios