Terry's Swinging Serenade
Jack Baker | LeRoy,IL | 09/09/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Serenade to a Bus Seat is a session from April of 1957 led by trumpeter Clark Terry. Terry is accompanied by a fine group consisting of tenor sax gunslinger Johnny Griffin, pianist Wynton Kelly, bassist Paul Chambers, and drummer Philly Joe Jones. All of the numbers were penned by Terry, save "Donna Lee", "Stardust", and "That Old Black Magic".
The album begins with a bang, a scorching version of Charlie Parker's "Donna Lee". While maybe not quite as flashy here as on his own Introducing Johnny Griffin, Johnny Griffin busts out some heavy duty bop here. Terry matches him in pace and Philly Joe proves some explosive fills in this quick paced number. "Boardwalk" is a deep blues, giving Terry and Griffin plenty of room to get good and greasy. "Boomerang" is a blower's delight, featuring some killer playing from Terry, whose horn speaks and squawks. Wynton Kelly lays down some gorgeous piano on this track. Listen for his dynamic solo and the minimal accompaniment he provides for Chambers's bass solo. "Digits" is a winding upbeat piece with some great interplay between Terry and Griffin. They intertwine their horns in spirals of pure energy and delight. The title track is another high energy blowing session and Kelly astounds yet again, stealing the show from the horns when it's his turn to solo. The pace slows for the standard "Stardust", both Terry and Griffin delivering emotional statements. The tempo picks up just a little for the smooth "Cruising", a mellow piece featuring more magnificent trumpet, more note-heavy phrasing from Griffin, and more Kelly ivory gymnastics. The album ends with a brief Latinized version of "That Old Black Magic".
Throughout, Clark Terry impresses with his tone and talent. In addition, his ability to write strong, memorable music is on full display. This session has quickly become a favorite of mine for the outstanding performances of all involved and the wonderful music Terry created. The remaster is sharp, every instrument clear as day. If you haven't heard this, I implore you to take a listen to this Serenade.
Matthew Watters | Vietnam | 06/16/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I love Clark Terry. I particularly admire how, in his initial sessions under his own leadership, he kept trying new things. He never let the dust settle on him. Following this boppish session, for instance, he made an album of Ellingtonia, followed by a famous session of flugelhorn with Thelonious Monk as a sideman. He went on to do an interesting large group session on Candid. It's all very cool stuff. That said, I have heard Sereanade to a Bus Seat countless times over the years, returning to it over and over hoping something will click, but this album just doesn't do it for me somehow. It may be the rather awful sound, or the brittle way that Terry and Griffin mix in the heads. The real culprit may be Philly Joe Jones. Unlike his namesake Jo Jones, who was famous for "playing like the wind" and never overpowering the other musicians, Philly Joe has never been more bombastic as he is here. He's just pounding away, stepping on everyone's toes. It's not always this way: Philly Joe was one of the greats and does fantastic work not only with Miles but on Sonny Rollins' Newk's Time and countless other great records. But on this record, man, he just gives me a headache. The sequencing of the album doesn't help any either, as it leads off with what may be the weakest track, a really backwards-looking tear through Charlie Parker's "Donna Lee." Yeah, we get it, Clark. You aren't just an Ellingtonian. But the more varied textures that follow put Terry and Griffin in a better light. I only wish Philly Joe would keep it down a bit."
Nikica Gilic | Zagreb, Croatia | 04/13/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Recorded in 1957, when the vocabulary of be-bop has become a normal part (probably) of majority of the jazz musicians active at the time, "Serenade to a Bus Seat" gives a remarkable and very creative workout within the style, making it somewhat more flexible than the founding fathers would have made it... Terry has a deep-rooted swing experience and he seems to use it in his approach to tone and sometimas phrasing, while the brilliant group assembled for this date mostly consists of players interested in stretching the boundaries of bop further (which, to many people's surprise, included inspiration from the past jazz styles in cases of hard bop and free-jazz)...
So - this is a be-bop record, a great be-bop record but not completely typical be-bop record.
The happy trumpet of Clark Terry is one of my favorite sounds in jazz (prefered to his fluegelhorn) and the hot licks of Johnny Griffin and rock-solid rhythm section help the leader create a subtle and suggestive sound pictures.
Except for be-bop standard "Donna Lee", short take on Arlen's "That old Black Magic" in the end and Carmichael's good old "Stardust", all other songs are written by Terry."