Sonny Rollins in Trio 1957-1959 and 1962-1963

Was Sonny Rollins the first to play saxophone accompanied by only bass and drums? If not, then what were the precursors? I first looked into Sidney Bechet, but only found trios where he still used chordal instruments (1940 with Earl Hines & Baby Dodds; 1941 with Willie the Lion & Everett Barksdale). The thing with Sonny was how coiled and stretched out and barren it sounded. Oceanic, masculine, phosphorescent, towering and rangy like a searchlight in the night, inverted and fearless. Inverted because he has turned everything upside down. Barren because one can feel the starkness of the lonely artist in his garret searching his soul, searching the night for eloquence in the grand scheme of things. For those of us out in the provinces it sounded like everything we dreamed Greenwich Village was about. Romantic notions I still have no desire to let go of. I didn’t hear these trio records when they first came out (Sonny made four between 1957-1962: WAY OUT WEST (March 1957), LIVE AT THE VILLAGE VANGUARD (November 1957 — was this released at the time?), FREEDOM SUITE (February 1958), OUR MAN IN JAZZ (July 1962)) it was Stanley Crouch who impressed on me the monumental importance of FREEDOM SUITE in his classes at Claremont (Stanley was on fire those years, quite grandiloquent, as you may know, we wouldn’t want him any other way) circa 1972-1973 as I was turning 20. But, it wasn’t until all these years later, while listening to Sonny in trio on my own radio show, that it occurred to me that he might be the progenitor of this format that became such a powerful outlet for so many other horn players. I called Bobby Bradford to ask.

David Murray Trio -- January 6, 1977 Century City Playhouse, Los Angeles -- w/ Roberto Miranda(bass), and Oliver Johnson(drums) -- photo by Mark Weber

David Murray Trio — January 6, 1977 Century City Playhouse, Los Angeles — w/ Roberto Miranda (bass), and Oliver Johnson (drums) — photo by Mark Weber

Mark Weber: Bobby I have this idea that when Sonny Rollins started playing with only bass and drums in trio that it was sort of a new thing, if not necessarily an innovation, but that it had opened the floodgates for everybody else to do it. So, here’s my question: When Sonny Rollins released his 1958 album FREEDOM SUITE did it come across as something new?

Bobby Bradford: The music: Yes. The idea that he was going to do it in that format: No . . . . In fact there wasn’t a lot of ruckus about his thing WAY OUT WEST.

MW: Was WAY OUT WEST released at that time?

BB: Yeh, didn’t it come out in the Fifties, 1957 or something like that?

MW: Yes, March 1957. So, they did release it immediately?

BB: Right. And then what was the date on FREEDOM SUITE?

MW: February 58.

BB: Everybody thought, I think, by then, people were looking at it as an option, rather than the situation causing it. In my mind, just in response to the talking we’ve been doing so far, I think nobody came up and said I think I’ll start working in the format of just saxophone, bass, and drums. Even though, situations have created that. But, Sonny Rollins made it high-profile option, so to speak. That’s like George Shearing with that thing of his with the vibraphone, and sometimes the guitar, with him playing the melody in octaves, you know. That was something that George Shearing decided he wanted to do. It wasn’t like he was in a situation where he couldn’t get any horns, or something like that, you know?

MW: So, 1958 you were just about to get out of the Air Force, when all these Sonny Rollins Trio records were coming out, and so you’re saying that it didn’t come across like a big wave?

BB: No. As I remember it now, it didn’t come across as a big wave. All it said to us, then, was: See, some horn players rely heavily on the piano and they need those chords being played because there’s a lot of guys who don’t know the chords in their head where they can name them off. They go with the flow of the sound. And when you take the piano out, that creates a different kind of problem, you lose something when you take the piano out, that kind of rhythmic thing, that comping. But, what you gain from it, of course, is something that somebody who played like Sonny Rollins, I think he wanted, was to expand things so that he could do some of the things where the piano wouldn’t sort of hem him up. That’s not the right word but . . . . He could play things without the piano where he’s still following the chord pattern. For example, if you were a careful listener and you walked into the room and Sonny Rollins was playing “Confirmation,” any musician would know it . . . . and there’s no piano but you could hear Sonny Rollins very clearly, like after about thirty seconds you’d say that’s “Confirmation.” But, a lot of players, you see, rely heavily upon where the piano went, and they played in there in the space with the piano player and they relied upon those rich chords and real strong comp from the piano player. So, it wasn’t like this was the new thing now and we’re not going to do that old thing anymore. I don’t think you could have gotten James Moody during that period (I’m just picking him now) to play without the piano . . . .

MW: . . . . or Dexter Gordon, or Jackie McLean, or Benny Golson, or somebody like JJ Johnson, who, in my research always used a piano.

BB: Yeh, well now, Benny Golson is a guy who might not have, but you see, James Moody, Gene Ammons, Sonny Stitt, were always going to use a piano, because they liked that strong comp, the guy who could lay those chords down with that rhythmic support. Sonny (Rollins) did too, you see, but he had reached a point where I think he wanted to do something a little bit more adventurous there, and I remember reading somewhere, I don’t remember where, I think I was talking to James Clay about this, man, while I was in New York with Ornette, James Clay and I ran into each other a couple times and we were talking about that subject and he said Oh man the piano players they just get in the way. Of course this is quite a bit later, you know, but not that much later, that would have been in the 60s you know . . . .

MW: Early 60s. But, James Clay always seemed to work with a piano.

BB: Yeh, but now, Clay . . . . I’ve got something you sent me with Clay with this big time bass player, what’s his name? . . . . .Christian McBride. Yeh! [James Clay cd COOKIN’ AT THE CONTINENTAL — June 1991 — on one track has bass & tenor duet “Crazeology” (Benny Harris)]

Don Cherry and Ed Blackwell in Los Angeles -- January 15, 1982 -- photo by Mark Weber

Don Cherry and Ed Blackwell in Los Angeles — January 15, 1982 — photo by Mark Weber

MW: You know, Bobby, that Eric Dolphy, him of all people, never freed himself from the piano. At least, on recordings. There’s a couple of European concerts late in his career that are sans piano.

BB: Yeh, you’d think he’d jump at that, wouldn’t you?

MW: And Don Cherry actually recorded three tracks in 1961 for Atlantic that have not been released, with Henry Grimes and Blackwell, but most likely have been lost in that disastrous Atlantic storage fire. But, Don Cherry was also with Sonny Rollins after Sonny re-emerged from the 1959-1961 three-year hiatus. In July of 62 they worked an engagement at Village Gate w/ Bob Cranshaw and Billy Higgins (album OUR MAN IN JAZZ) which is same format more or less, and then a January 1963 European tour with Cherry, Henry Grimes, and Higgins. But, first thing Sonny did after the hiatus was the album THE BRIDGE with Jim Hall, before his return to the bass & drums format. So, the quartet with Don, there is still a lot of horn with just bass and drums.

BB: Well, yeh, and with Ornette’s music, too. Except for that one record with Walter Norris, but mostly it’s just bass and drums, when it comes to Cherry’s solo. Same with Ornette, it’s just bass and drum.

MW: In a previous conversation you were saying that it was not uncommon for musicians to wind up not having a piano around where they’re playing at home or in a jam session someplace . . . .

BB: Sometimes it was a situation that caused it. It could be something as simple as the pianist not showing up, and nobody was going to say, Well, we can’t play tonight because the piano player’s not here.

MW: Wasn’t that the situation with Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker at The Haig there on Wilshire,
wasn’t it a situation where there was no piano and Gerry decided to try that format? It just wasn’t a big
enough room to have a piano . . . . .

BB: Oh, they had a piano at The Haig.

MW: Oh yeh! that’s right. There’s recordings of Hampton Hawes playing there (1951) and Harry Sweets Edison (1953), during the same period.

BB: Well yeh, and in fact, unless my memory is failing I heard Bud Powell at The Haig.

MW: Holy cow!

BB: 1954

MW: oh No, really?!

BB: He had this guy with him, like his caregiver, like a guy from a funny farm standing there in case he freaked out. At one point this guy was sort of massaging his shoulders. So, The Haig, I think Mulligan wanted that dry piano-less sound. All that material that he was writing for him and Baker that was sort of like fugue sort of stuff. Bird had done that on one tune, with him and Miles [vocalizes the line] I forget what Bird called that, I think it was “Ah-leu-cha.” But, Mulligan wrote lots of pieces that were designed to make you forget about the piano.

MW: So, that was 1952 and 1953 with them at The Haig. And then when Chet left the group, Gerry continued the piano-less concept up through 1955 when he used Jon Eardley (trumpet) for awhile and then Bob Brookmeyer (trombone). But, after that he went back to piano.

BB: Oh yeh, I don’t think he did it to say that this is the way jazz is going to change. He just wanted that dry …..uhm . . . .

MW: Austere. Stark. That’s the way it sounds with Sonny.

BB: I think austere is a better word. But you can see, you give up a lot when you let the piano go. And then you got to do something, you see, to take up the slack. It’s like saying I’m going to play without chords now. You’re going to have to be really innovative now and let go of all that tradition of all those chords back there and you’re going to build your improvisation out of thin air [laughs] maybe not thin air, but, based on the tune. And the rhythm of the tune and your own resources, like an Ornette Coleman. And let go of the piano and the chord progressions. Then you got to put something in there to fill up that space, You know? Which forces the improviser to be much much more resourceful. You had to do some of the stuff that Ornette was doing, to stand there and try to play a cohesive improvisation, not following any chords? Do you remember the saxophone player around L.A., Wilbur Brown (c.1932-2000), he wore really thick glasses, do you remember him?

MW: Never heard of him.

BB: Good tenor player around town. Once we were talking about it, you know —- this is way the hell back there when the Ornette thing was still in the argument stage, he said Well listen man, I hate to disagree about all this, but if you’re not playing the chords, he said, verbatim, What the hell are you playing? (laughs) You see, it hadn’t gotten to the point where people had refined an answer to that question, like well I’m following the curvature of the melody or the theme, I’m following everything that the theme suggests.

So much for my memory -- I guess I did catch Wilbur Brown along the line somewhere ---- This is the Pat Britt-Wilbur Brown Quintet: Pat(alto), Wilbur(tenor), Burgess Gardner(trumpet), Henry Franklin(bass), Joe Peters(drums) -- March 20, 1983 at Local 47 Los Angeles -- photo by Mark Weber

So much for my memory — I guess I did catch Wilbur Brown along the line somewhere —- This is the Pat Britt-Wilbur Brown Quintet: Pat(alto), Wilbur(tenor), Burgess Gardner(trumpet), Henry Franklin(bass), Joe Peters(drums) — March 20, 1983 at Local 47 Los Angeles — photo by Mark Weber

MW: But, that’s what Lester Young did, right?

BB: Yeh, in a way, but Lester was still following the chord. When, beat one of the bridge came up, Lester was right on it. Lester played the chords because he played these standards. Listen to Lester playing “The Man I Love” with Nat King Cole, man, he’s obedient to the chord. Except that he could take a little idea that was nothing and just expand it into something, just some little rhythmic motif, and just horn away on it, but he was aware of the chord every time and all the changes.

MW: Coming back to my thesis, it really does seem like it was Sonny Rollins who was the first to play in that trio configuration.

BB: Yes, to make it an actual choice of just playing with bass and drums. And not a situation where you were forced into it, I don’t remember anybody else doing anything like that before.

MW: And it opened up the door for Archie Shepp and all those guys on ESP, Marion Brown, Steve Lacy, Charles Tyler, they all played in a trio like that. Archie only momentarily when he had that quartet with Bill Dixon in 1962.

BB: But, you know, I think now, that they found themselves in that situation based on Ornette. The records that I’m thinking of right now, Marion Brown, Archie Shepp, and all those people you just named, in addition to just being drums and bass it’s also free. They weren’t playing standards were they? You see, that adds another thorn in there, in a way. You see, Ornette’s thing, clearly, if you were going to play like him, the piano would be in the way. Because he hadn’t figured out a way for any piano player to play with him, that wouldn’t sit down at the piano and start playing a bunch of chords. You had to have somebody, I guess like Cecil, who was willing and able to play with you where he didn’t depend on diatonic chords or chromatic alterations of chords, or any of that, he just treated the piano like a melody-rhythm instrument, even though his hands were playing obviously a bunch of notes together and you get what constitutes a chord, you know, several different notes at the same time, but they were not out of any sort of harmony or European harmonic tradition.

MW: What about Albert Ayler? To me he seems to be a direct beneficiary of what Sonny Rollins was doing.

BB: That’s a hard question. It’s easier to say Oh yeh, but, you see, Albert’s stuff I see him connected to Ornette much closer than to Sonny. Even though he did some stuff that was different than the both of them.

MW: Well, that’s one of the fun things about a thesis is you get to find the holes in it.

BB: Yes, that’s the idea. You look back on it, as soon as we got to thinking here, then I went back to . . . .

MW: Miles.

BB: No, no, even before that. When I thought of that, I emailed you on that because it came to me then, Hey, Miles said Monk kept getting in the way, and I thought it was on “The Man I Love” but apparently it’s on some other tune.

MW: “Bag’s Groove” [December 24, 1954 session Miles Davis All Stars for Prestige] Miles takes long solos on both takes of that with only bass and drums.

BB: Well, you see, and that’s the first time I ever heard somebody use the word “stroll” like that. You know, “Monk decided to stroll on that.” See, stroll meant to me like Smokey Robinson strollin’ on a Sunday afternoon in Detroit (laughs).

MW: Kind of like walkin’?

BB: No, it meant: lay out, like “Take a stroll, bub, I don’t want you to play on this.” You know? Now, what I was getting ready to say, was Don Byas and that bass player Slam Stewart on “I Got Rhythm.”

MW: Oh, yeh. Town Hall. [June 9, 1945] Duet of tenor and bass.

BB: You see, there it is, I don’t think they thought of that as a big deal like here’s the new way to do it. What they might have thought was: Let’s do something very striking right here, you know.

MW: When I first started thinking about this a couple months ago, I researched Sidney Bechet as he seemed likely, but his trios always had a chordal instrument. But, the Miles track “Bags Groove” his solo on both versions is long and he is out there sailing with only a bass and drums. This could be the earliest recorded example of that approach.

BB: Yeh. I remember reading something about why that happened and he and Monk at one point, I don’t know if it was this record date, but he asked Monk to stroll once on “Round Midnight,” not on this date, but someplace else, because Monk was playing the wrong chords (much laughter). That takes a lot of nerve to tell Thelonious Monk that you’re playing the wrong chords on “Round Midnight.” But, Monk you see . . . . Miles liked that very set, romantic version of “Round Midnight.” And Monk doesn’t always stick to that. You know the Miles version with Trane, at Newport, or wherever that is. [BB might be referring to the Columbia album that has Monk & Miles w/Zoot Sims, Gerry Mulligan, Percy Heath, Connie Kay, live at Newport Jazz Festival, July 17, 1955] There’s lots of places where Monk plays different chords than Miles plays on that, though that is sort of the gold standard, the chords that they’re playing on there. Monk sometimes changed several places where he wouldn’t play, and Miles liked, for want of a better term, he liked piano players playing pretty chords. That’s what he liked about Red Garland.

Bobby Bradford Trio -- October 21, 1979 at Century City Playhouse -- Bobby(cornet), Bert Karl(drums), Noah Young(bass -- photo by Mark Weber

Bobby Bradford Trio — October 21, 1979 at Century City Playhouse — Bobby (cornet), Bert Karl (drums), Noah Young (bass — photo by Mark Weber

MW: Odd that “Bag’s Groove” was recorded earlier in the session rather than later, considering the contretemps between Miles and Monk, but Ira Gitler says yes there was tension at the session but the stories have been over-blown. And you know Miles never used Monk again. Of the four tunes recorded that day it’s telling that on “Swing Spring” (a scale-line he got from Bud Powell) Miles solos with only bass and drums but when Milt Jackson’s solo follows Miles, then Monk comps behind Milt. But on the other two tunes Monk is comping behind Miles all along.

BB: Well, you know, it’s hard for somebody the level of Miles Davis to have a Monk in the room as a sideman, you know what I mean? That’d be like somebody like Gene Ammons at the peak of his career to get Miles to be a sideman on one of his records. That’s just not going to work. They’re both too big. The thing is that there are things that you might want to do that Monk would say to someone like Gene Ammons, Monk’d say “Oh man, that’s not . . . . that doesn’t work,” but see, you just can’t say that to a Gene Ammons on a record date. So, you just don’t call him. Now, getting back to Miles, as the years went by Miles got so more and more he liked these more complex piano accompaniment, see, when Red Garland left the band and Miles made his next group and he got Wynton Kelly, now there’s a guy who’s different than Red Garland but still played really pretty chords, you know. Now, during all that time Miles was never going to hire Cecil Taylor, even before Cecil became big, let’s just say 1960, everybody in New York knew who Cecil was at that point, but Miles wasn’t going to call him, but at that point Miles still liked (horrible word I’m using) “pretty” chords, but he liked romantic kind of piano playing, like that stuff that Red Garland played in back of him in all those ballads and he’s playing that Harmon. But, Miles just outgrew that.


MW: In my research I looked up trombonist Albert Manglesdorff and he hardly ever used a piano again after 1960 (before that it was Attila Zolar on guitar playing the chords). So, he played thirty years without a piano.

BB: I knew him. I met him, we were on the same festival up there in Oakland once. But, yeh, I had met him in Europe before that.

MW: And David Murray worked with only bass and drums early on.

BB: That’s true. As an actual way of pursuing things for awhile that’s going to be the format that he’d work in, you see. You might see David Murray playing like that but that wasn’t his plan to keep doing that. David would go with whatever idea he had at the time. But, Sonny stuck with that piano-less thing for a long time. In fact, I remember reading someplace where he didn’t like playing with a piano anymore after awhile. But that didn’t last, either.

Bobby Bradford with clarinetist Bill Payne at breakfast at Conrad's restaurant, Pasadena, California -- February 4, 2o18 -- photo by Mark Weber

Bobby Bradford with clarinetist Bill Payne at breakfast at Conrad’s restaurant, Pasadena, California — February 4, 2o18 — photo by Mark Weber

MW: Well, with Sonny the bass & drums trio went from 1957 to 1959 then he took that 3-year break from performance, after which he returned in January 1962 with his album THE BRIDGE where he used Jim Hall. And then for a minute he used the trio format for a few things in 1963. But, after that even he returned to the piano. And you know another outfit that played without a piano in the 60s was your own bands with John Carter.

BB: Yeh. Now, I still like to use the piano, but I don’t want to get a piano player that keeps us back, where we can’t get out of it. You know? Sometimes when we’re playing, and we might have played the first three tunes, free tunes, you know —- 70% of my book is free lines, but I got several tunes based on blues chords, I got two or three tunes based on rhythm changes, then I got a couple of original tunes on chords like “Have You Seen Sideman” that’s a 32-bar tune with a specific chord pattern. And I like to play that but I don’t want a piano player that just . . . . after we play that we’re going back to Planet X again (laughter). I always want somebody who wouldn’t feel . . . . . I don’t want to get locked in by a post-bop piano player.

MW: So, when you and John Carter were going on jobs and playing gigs in the late 60s, there was many times where you were just out there soloing in front of the two bass players and drummer, right?

BB: Yeh. Sure. Now you see John got more and more where he didn’t want to play any tunes of any kind, no Tin Pan Alley tunes, or tunes from like Monk or Bird or Dizzy, he said No man I don’t want to do that anymore. And so sometimes when I would get jobs and he didn’t want to do it, well, I’d get another horn
player. But, after a certain point with him we didn’t play anything but so-called free-form music, in terms of we didn’t follow any chords. In fact, I don’t know of one tune of John’s that is chord-based, that I can think of now.

MW: Well, I think we covered it Bobby. Other horn players that can be found in this bass & drums trio setting are: Joe Lovano, Marty Krystal, Michael Vlatkovich, Warne Marsh in the 80s, Charley Krachy, Lee Konitz on his monumental 1961 album MOTION (Verve), Vinny Golia, Lenny Popkin Trio, Nick Lyons, Max Roach had trios like this, Trio X w/ Oliver Lake+Reggie Workman+Andrew Cyrille, Lorenzo Sanguedolce, Greg Osby, Richard Tabnik, Frank Lowe . . . . . . . .

James Moody showing something to fellow tenor player Tim Zannes -- Outpost Performance Space, Albuquerque -- April 21, 1997 -- photo by Mark Weber

James Moody showing something to fellow tenor player Tim Zannes — Outpost Performance Space, Albuquerque — April 21, 1997 — photo by Mark Weber

* The research for this essay was made vastly easier with the help of the on-line Tom Lord Jazz Discography
** The recorded telephone conversation with Bobby Bradford was April 1, 2o18 — there were a few that preceded that and one afterwards. The discussion is on-going. Please add names to the Comments.

Mobile hanging in stairwell at Claremont Colleges -- August 1977 -- photo and line drawing by Mark Weber

Mobile hanging in stairwell at Claremont Colleges — August 1977 — photo and line drawing by Mark Weber


  1. Feathery Lena

    Yes, he was actually the first. That’s why it was so astonishing… And Tristano was the first to play walking bass on the piano with left hand…

    • Marty Krystall

      Actually, the first to play a walking bass line on the keyboard with the left hand was JS Bach. Improvised too.

  2. Mark Weber


    1) I forgot to mention the one track on the 1959 soundtrack SLIPPERY WHEN WET that Bud Shank recorded in Hollywood for Pacific Records w/ Gary Peacock (bass), and Chuck Flores (drums) “Blues in the Surf” while waiting for the guitarist (Billy Bean) to show up

    2) In 2015 Solar Records released a 6-cd box of 3 nights of music recorded by RCA that is everything leftover that originally showed up in 1963 on Lp OUR MAN IN JAZZ ———– 5 more hours from this fabulous engagement at the Village Gate NYC

    3) There are quite a few bootlegs and otherwise only recently made available of Sonny’s trio tours of Europe in 1959 w/ Henry Grimes (bass) and Pete LaRoca (drums) or Joe Harris (drums) or Kenny Clarke (drums)

    4) Also, the trio + Don Cherry toured Europe in 1963 and much of that can now be found on release

    5) Sonny’s bass & drum trios extended into 1964 with 4 tracks recorded for RCA on April 14 and June 24 released on the cd collection SONNY ROLLINS & CO. 1964 (RCA Bluebird)

    6) As well, most of Sonny’s immortal album EAST BROADWAY RUNDOWN (Impulse!) from a session May 9, 1966 is mostly trio w/ Elvin Jones (drums) and Jimmy Garrison (bass)

    • alligator69

      Saxophone, bass, drums trio format was also utilized by Warne Marsh with Paul Chambers and Paul Motian – Atlantic LP 1258 in 1958 and Lee Konitz with Sonny Dallas and Elvin Jones – Verve Motion LP in 1961

  3. Mark Weber

    The Thursday Edition of the All that Jazz / Jazz that’s All Radio Show
    April 5, 2o18
    KUNM Albuquerque

    1. Tessa Souter “The Darkness of Your Eyes” — 2o11 cd BEYOND THE BLUE (Motema) w/ Steve Kuhn (piano), David Finck (bass), Billy Drummond (drums), Tessa (vocals), and Joel Frahm (soprano) who plays marvelous tenor obbligatos (obbligati?) throughout this cd
    2. Sonny Rollins Trio “Come Gone” from WAY OUT WEST(Contemporary) — 7march57 Los Angeles w/ Shelly Manne (drums) and Ray Brown (bass) ————- Sonny was in town with the Max Roach Quintet and was Sonny’s first trip West (hence, all the cowboy themes on the record) and all 3 were working nights with their own groups (Ray with Oscar)(Shelly with his own quintet) this session began at 3 a.m. and went clear into mid-morning, one of my favorite Sonny Rollins albums
    3. Bobby Bradford commentary on Sonny Rollins in trio (see transcription of interview — above — from which these excerpts come from)
    4. Sonny Rollins Trio w/ Oscar Pettiford and Max Roach “Freedom Suite — first movement” — Feb.1958
    5. Charlie Parker & Miles “Ah-leu-cha” –18sept48 (Savoy) w/ John Lewis (piano), Max Roach (drums), Curly Russell (bass) —– I hope it’s apparent how spot-on Bradford’s observation that “Ah-leu-cha” is a forerunner of what Gerry Mulligan & Chet were doing at The Haig 1952-1953 —– You can almost peek inside Gerry’s mind and see where his 1952 writing was coming from after hearing this Bird fugue composition
    6. “Ah-Leu-Cha” Frank Wess – Bobby Jaspar – Seldon Powell album THE SPIRIT OF CHARLIE PARKER –27march58 — now available on a compilation by the arranger BILLY VerPLANCK & HIS ORCHESTRA 1957-1958 (Fresh Sound) w/ Eddie Costa (vibes), Frank Rehak (trombone), Frank Wess & Seldon Powell (flutes), Bobby Jaspar (clarinet), Bobby Donaldson (drums), George Duvivier (bass)
    7. Miles Davis “Ah-leu-cha” –1955 on his first Columbia album ‘ROUND ABOUT MIDNIGHT w/ Red Garland (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), Philly Joe (drums), Miles (trumpet), John Coltrane (tenor) a very speed version
    8. Alan Broadbent “Ah-leu-cha” cd PALETTE w/ Fred Atwood (bass), Nick Ceroli (drums), Alan(arrangement & piano) w/ brass quartet — 1979
    9. Shorty Rogers & Bud Shank Quintet “Ah-leu-cha” –19may85 cd CALIFORNIA CONCERT (Contemporary) w/ George Cables (piano), Monty Budwig (bass), Sherman Ferguson (drums), Shorty (flugel), Bud (alto)
    10. Chuck Redd “Slow Boat to China” — May 2005 cd HAPPY ALL THE TIME *Chuck will be appearing at the Outpost next Thursday! here in Albuquerque
    11. Bobby Bradford commentary on Sonny Rollins —- ibid.
    12. Sonny Rollins Trio “Shadow Waltz” from FREEDOM SUITE
    13. Miles Davis All Stars “Bag’s Groove” — 14dec54 (Prestige) w/ Milt Jackson (vibes), Percy Heath (bass), Kenny Clarke (drums) with Monk and Milt Jackson both sitting out during Miles extended trumpet solo

  4. Rich Halley

    My new CD “The Literature” (coming out in June) is a tenor/bass/drums trio playing tunes by other musicians with Clyde Reed and Carson Halley. It’s my first recording of other peoples music after twenty releases of originals.

  5. Rebekah Levy

    Dear Maestro:

    I always love your show when I get the chance to hear it. I love how you speak with artists on the show–especially the geezers, who make history come alive and who provide wonderful perspectives on stuff that musicians can appreciate, as well as laymen–technique, performance practice, how players of the past actually played, etc….

    So I’m a musician and a music teacher up in Santa Fe, and I wanted to clear up the definition of a fugue for you (classically trained from age 4, piano first instrument). You were totally on the money about that great Bird-Coltrane piece being contrapuntally improvised and how complex, multilayered, intellectually brilliant and musically gorgeous and satisfying it was.

    But an actual fugue is even more complex than that: it has to have a single melodic theme (or two if it’s a double fugue, which are pretty rare) that each instrument states (often in different but related keys, and in staggered entrances) and then develops, and returns to at various times during the fugue. As the fugue progresses, the instruments (voices, they’re usually called, even if they’re not vocal) sometimes state the theme together after chopping up pieces of the theme and development motives in creative and harmonically-clever ways, and almost always come together, after a tensed-up episode called a stretto, to state the theme once more (in the original key) right before the end. A fugue is really a crazy trip on a canon (a round) but ratcheted up many notches–if it’s a good fugue–in terms of the intellectual chops needed to create the puzzle and the musical chops needed to make it expressive and not just a cool exercise.

    JS Bach of course was the absolute master of the form, and after him hardly anybody did a fugue as a stand-alone piece except for Mozart, who did quite a few choral fugues in some of his multi-movement choral works. Most everybody else after JSB used “fugal passages” (sometimes long, just to show off)–Beethoven did a lot of those, and lots of other composers did the occasional fugal development for fun and show-off. The easiest format for that was usually the string quartet.

    It’s illuminating to consider the fact that the peak of fugue composition, i.e., JS Bach, was happening at about the same time as the development of the calculus in mathematics (Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz). Wonderful mathematical puzzles.

    Here’s a link to a good (and fun) visual, as well as audio, example of how a fugue is put together:

    If you want to see other videos (of that piece or a zillion other pieces as well), search for “Musanim” posts on Youtube. They’re a great way to show students how multi-voice scores are put together, how counterpoint works in real time, etc. The Musanim version of Ravel’s Bolero is fabulous cuz there are so many effing layers by the end.

    I love your show. All my best…

  6. Mark Weber

    In summary: With the Rollins thesis, we came to the conclusion that maybe you could credit him with being the first recorded in a big way in this sparse format, but the practice goes back a long ways, just out of necessity. BB admitted that Sonny’s example was a strong one and that his use of this trio concept was purposeful, not situational. Of the latter, he pointed out Miles Davis’s solos on the 1954 (December 24) session which could be called the earliest recorded example, although, the purpose wasn’t to record that way, the situation arose. In an earlier conversation Bobby proposed Bird’s “recording of Cherokee with that guitarist with the odd name from 1942” [Efferge Ware, guitar & Little Phil Philips, drums — believed to be Sept 1942 in KC — Bird is 22 — collected on Stash 535 COMPLETE BIRTH OF BEBOP cd] is certainly one of the tributaries, with the guitar chunking spare accompaniment essentially in the zone that a bass player would be holding forth, and Bird is sailing, this track is so unbelievable, it staggers. I need play it on radio next week. I still contend that Sonny Rollins opened the floodgates, but then that’s a view that comes from my entry into the music in the early 70s. Bobby is the perfect person to pose a question like this. He’s an academic and loves exploring concepts and theories. Moreover, he came of age during the bebop era and bought every Bird 78 as they came out, giving him the benefit of knowing the thread of influence. As you know, there are a lot of sessions that are listed in discographies that didn’t necessarily see light of day until 3 or 5 or 35 years later, so they can throw off a historian thinking they were being listened to at/or near the time of the their recording date. (I don’t know of any search engine that can tell me when jazz records were actually released.)

  7. Fred Voss

    Fascinating, Mark — the photos and the conversation with Bobby Bradford, Rollins with Monk in the 50s is one of my favorites, Brilliant Corners…my favorite Monk record and Rollins is beautiful and perfect in the Monk universe — don’t know jazz well enough to understand all the talk about sax with just bass and drums, except I don’t recall hearing a lot of that — anyway, thanks for the fascinating jazz photos/ rap session — Fred Voss

  8. Mark Weber


    Thursday Jazz
    April 12, 2o18
    KUNM Albuquerque
    1. Aaron Diehl Trio “Uranus” — 2o15 cd SPACE TIME CONTINUUM
    2. Charlie Parker age 22 “Cherokee” — Sept. 1942 w/ guitarist Efferge Ware, and drummer Little Phil Philips
    3. Barry Harris Trio “Ah-leu-cha”(Bird) –25nov69 w/ Ron Carter (bass) & Leroy Williams (drums) cd MAGNIFICENT! (Prestige)
    4. Chuck Redd “They Say it’s Wonderful” –April 2001 w/ Gene Bertoncini (guitar), and George Mraz (bass) cd ALL THIS AND HEAVEN TOO (Arbors)
    5. Terry Pollard quintet “Almost like being in love” –10jan55 Los Angeles w/ Howard Roberts (guitar), Don Fagerquist (trumpet), Herman Wright (bass), Frank DeVito (drums), Terry Pollard (piano) cd A DETROIT LEGEND (Fresh Sound)
    6. Pete & Conte Candoli “Ah-leau-cha” w/ Joe Diorio (guitar), Lou Levy (piano), Fred Atwood (bass), John Dentz (drums) — November 1978 cd FASCINATING RHYTHM
    7. Warren Smith sets up the next track
    8. M’Boom “Epistrophy” — 1979 cd on Columbia
    9. Mary Lou Williams Trio “Dat Dere”(Bobby Timmons) w/ Buster Williams (bass), and Mickey Roker (drums), Mary Lou (piano) –8july75 NYC —-Lp FREE SPIRITS (Inner City)
    10. Chuck Redd “Tenderly” cd HAPPY ALL THE TIME (Arbors) w/ Monty Alexander (piano) –May 2005
    11. Dave Frishberg “Got to get me some ZZZZZ” cd RETROMANIA (Arbors) — May 2005
    12. Shelly Manne & His Men “How could it happen to a dream” w/ Richie Kamuca (tenor), Conte Candoli (trumpet), Russ Freeman (piano), Chuck Berghofer (bass) — March 1961 album LIVE AT THE MANNE-HOLE Vol. 1 (Contemporary)
    13. Ernie Andrews “It shouldn’t happen to a dream” — 2005 cd HOW ABOUT ME (High Note)
    14. Chuck Redd “On a slow boat to China” — 2005 w/ Howard Alden (guitar) cd HAPPY ALL THE TIME *Chuck Redd appearing this night at Outpost w/ Ricky Malichi Trio

  9. Kevin Norton

    Great to read Bobby Bradford’s thoughts on this topic and his exchange with you, Mark!
    This was an absorbing, engrossing entry.

    Ornette Coleman’s “Golden Circle” trio? (with David Izenzon (bass) & Charles Moffett (drums).

    Picking up on one of the thoughts that comes up in the April 6, 2018 “issue”: “chords”.
    Yes, great point, you can hear Rollins playing the progression to “Confirmation” without a piano player actually playing chords. But what isn’t discussed is the importance of the bass player. For instance, Rollins’ “Live at the Vanguard” records (1957) the underrated Wilbur Ware (and even lesser known, Donald Bailey on some tracks) is the bassist that helps us “hear” those chords. (And by the way “Confirmation” is called “Striver’s Row” because Rollins only uses the chord progression to “Confirmation” and never plays Charlie Parker’s melody.) Besides the fact that Wilbur Ware plays great bass lines, with the needed harmonic “information” and direction, he swings really hard. Without the piano, there is more “transparency” to the both the swing feel and the chord progression. So when talking about sax, bass, drum trios one must also remember the great bass players (and drummers -smile) that help us hear those “chords”. One of my favorite trios in this setting is the Warne Marsh trio with NHØP (Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen) and drummer Al Levitt. Obviously, virtuoso playing by all three, but again, the bass helps us hear the chord progression clearly and without the piano, Warne Marsh is “freer” and we hear his imaginative, unique lines in clear relief with “just” the bass and drums. While on the subject of bass players, two of Ornette’s bass players deserve special mention: David Izenzon and Charlie Haden. Though David Izenzon played with many other musicians (including Sonny Rollins!), Izenzon helped Ornette to get to other sounds and forms. Again, the comparison to J.S. Bach two-part inventions is appropriate: two melodic lines, independent yet “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. However, Izenzon’s and Ornette’s collaboration is sonically richer – pushing the boundaries of what timbres could be used in the jazz context. In regard to Charlie Haden, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that he is essential to Ornette’s “revolution.” Though the rotating chord progressions that fueled “Swing” and “Bebop”, Ornette dared to overturn that paradigm:

    “Up until the fifties, all jazz music was played on compositions that, if they weren’t always popular songs, followed the song form itself. But this form is based on redundancy. If it takes a minute to play an AABA section, you’re already played three redundancies in the first minute. To keep that up for fifteen minutes, with three A’s per minute, is a redundancy to the highest power. We all knew this had to concede that since the largest part of their performances was made up, the next natural step was to eliminate the disparity between the length of the written music and the length of the improvised music. If a score was going to give you two minutes of written music in a fifteen-minute performance, why bother? Especially if it was two minutes of written music that was harmonically full of repetition.” (AND THEN LATER: “Ornette had a very deep compositional bag, so every day we would learn a dozen tunes he wrote. So that tune number one might have steady time until the bridge, and then the bridge might be a ballad, and then the last four bars of the song would be double time and during the solos we had to play our solo against the rhythm section that was moving according to the rhythm of the written material, so there was a suite of rhythms for each chorus. That was the device for Tune One. Tune Two would have an entirely different premise.” (ETC) [Paul Bley, from Stopping Time] I would just add that bassist Charlie Haden was the “glue” that held it all together. The “function” of the bass is important to all kinds of music, but building on your main idea of investigating the piano-less, sax/bass/drums bands in jazz – the bass players (not to mention the drummers) (smile) are really important.

    THANKS for the “food for thought”! Love you guys! – Sincerely – Kevin

  10. Mark Weber

    I think the Golden Circle, 1965 Stockholm, ORNETTE might be my favorite Ornette music. I have all 3 iterations of this material. I was surprised how I never noticed the sloppy edits on the LP version. Then the first cd reissues (1987) were’nt quite right either. It was the Rudy Van Gelder remastering in 2002 with alternate tracks that brings it all home. Being that we talked about Ornette’s use of bass/drum trios within the interview I didnt add him into the list at the end of all the others that have worked in this medium. One I forgot was John Klemmer’s album NEXUS of 1979.

  11. Mark Weber

    Kevin—————I have an obsession/aversion to tautology —- Never repeat anything that has either been said or implied already . . . . . . .

  12. Mark Weber

    NOTES TO SELF: 4 more to add to
    trios of horn + bass + drums

    1) cd: Bryant Fabian Marsalis DO FOR YOU? (Consolidated Artists Records) — w/ Lance Bryant (tenor), Christian Fabian (piano), Jason Marsalis (drums) — recorded Nov. 2o16

    2) Paul Desmond’s piano-less Quartet of October 1954, a session where much space is open for Paul in solo with only bass and drums — fabulous stuff

    3) TRIOCITY, a trio out of Rochester NY with a cd I BELIEVE IN YOU (rec. June 2o16)(Origin Records) w/ Jeff Campbell (bass), Rich Thompson (drums), and Charles Pillow (woodwinds) —- only tracks I’ve heard so far (off the radio) were a killer bass-clarinet “Quasimodo) and a clarinet “Donna Lee”

    4) trombonist George McMullen’s first and hopefully not his only cd BOOMERANG (pfMENTUM) recorded August 16, 2o15 at Wayne Peet’s studio in LA) w/ Alex Cline (drums), Nick Rosen (bass)

  13. Mark Weber


    1) David Murray has performed & recorded in this format since the beginning …. 1976 w/ Fred Hopkins & Stanley Crouch; w/ Fred Hopkins & Philip Wilson; 1978 one of my favorite albums 3-D FAMILY w/ Johnny Dyani & Cyrille; 1979 w/ Hopkins & Steve McCall: 1986 w/ Hopkins & DeJohnette; 1986 w/ Richard Davis & Joe Chambers; and 2003 in Poland; 2004 w/ Henry Grimes & Hamid Drake

    2) Marty Krystall Trio w/ Mike Alvidrez (bass) and Fritz Wise (drums) MARTY’s MODE (K2B2 Records) recorded end of 2016 into December 2017

    3) Jerry Bergonzi on his 1984 album URANIAN UNDERTOW

    4) George Garzone in 2007 w/ John Lockwood (bass) and Bob Moses (drums) one track appears on a NEC 40th anniversary compilation

    5) Gato Barbieri in 1967 w/ Jean-Francois Jenny-Clark (bass) & Aldo Romano (drums)

    6) Jameel Moondoc has used the format frequently, showing up on recordings at Ali’s Alley (1975) w/ William Parker (drums) & Rashid Bakr (drums); and 1981 album JUDY’S BOUNCE w/ Ed Blackwell & Fred Hopkins

  14. Mark Weber

    7) How could I forget Joe Henderson’s monumental Volumes 1 & 2 THE STATE OF THE TENOR (1985, Blue Note) w/ Ron Carter (bass) and Al Foster (drums). And before that those 2 compilation albums on Galaxy 5 BIRDS & A MONK and BALLADS (both 1978) Then, his concert release from Italy AN EVENING WITH JOE HENDERSON (July 9, 1987) w/ Charlie Haden & Al Foster. And in 1991 his trio w/ Rufus Reid & Al Foster on THE STANDARD JOE. ANd back before all this was the various sessions 1977-1978 released as BARCELONA (Enja) w/ Wayne Darling (bass) and Ed Soph (drums). Joe was into this trio thing. Curiously, there is not one release of Wayne Shorter in this trio format (?) And I would have loved to hear Jackie McLean in this format, but nothing extant, it would seem a natural for him.

  15. Mark Weber

    Four More Horn + bass + drums outings

    1) the newly released John Coltrane Quartet 2-cd BOTH DIRECTIONS AT ONCE: THE LOST ALBUM from a session March 6, 1963 has McCoy sitting out on 3 tunes and on the “Slow Blues” McCoy comes in halfway through the take (at 5:45 of an 11:28 take)

    2) Anthony Ortega Trio w/ Bob West (bass) and Bill Goodwin (drums) on the 1966-1967 album NEW DANCE (Revelation/hat Art)

    3) J.D. Allen Trio w/ Gregg August (bass) and Rudy Royston (drums) continues to record many CDs in this format, first with I AM, I AM (2007), SHINE! (2008) and again with cdS in 2o10, 2o12, 2o15, 2o16 with the same guys

    4) Lew Tabackin’s first album under his own name LET THE TAPE ROLL (1974) w/ Bob Daugherty (bass) and Bill Goodwin (drums) ———– and then with trio in 1979 release BLACK & TAN FANTASY w/ John Heard (bass) and Billy Higgins (drums)——–continuing in 1980 with trio on THREEDOM w/ Joey Baron (drums) and Michael Moore (bass)————-and in 1994 in Denver on LIVE AT VARTAN JAZZ w/ Ken Walker (bass) and Bill Goodwin (drums)———-and continues to this day working and recording in this trio format

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