Two eggs, one from Prez, one from Bird !
Jazzcat | Genoa, Italy Italy | 08/04/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A symbolistic beginning for this review, two eggs on the cover, two eggs inside this recording. One egg is from "Prez" Lester Young, the other one is from "Bird" Charlie Parker. This is what you will find here, a dish made of two different things! In the end is the dish good to eat? Of course! The recipe is unusual but the taste is extremely good and the dish very well cooked!!
First person to review this album? Uhm, what a responsability! But it is an easy task, really! Few notes are enough to understand that this album is a gem in a category of its own, a category of records where musicians more rooted in the tradition meets pure modernists. Ah, what a joy listening to this album! It is so pure, so enthusiastic, so refreshing! There's a a sort of mighty challenge going on, but every musician is involved in the task of enriching the music. Noone here played only for the money, that's for sure! The year is still the same, golden 1957. Man, try to find a Jazz record from 1957 that is not a masterpiece in its own right. That year was THE year for Jazz. This record has the right to be called a 1957 Jazz record. And that's it. It's enough. You don't have to add adjectives or superlatives.
Here we have Paul Quinichette the "Vice-president" who was nichnamed this way because he was really near Lester Young style in his way of playing the tenor (but he was his own man). Then we have three modernists to complete the front line, Curtis Fuller at the trombone (I love his playing, try "Jazz is magic" from Fuller, spectacular!!!) and two parkerians on alto, Red Kyner and John Jenkins. They were good parkerians and interesting soloists in their own right! The rhytmn section is composed by three greats: Ed Thigpen (later with Oscar Peterson) at the drums, Mal Waldron at the piano and Doug Watkins at the doublebass. They were stylists themself in the modern jazz idiom! The tune selection is quite right. A blues, an anatoll (I got rhythmn) with a really nice theme, a couple of standars (Sunny side and Valentine) and a nice calypso, a tune based on a caribbean rhythmn. The blowing approach to the session is testified by the lenght of some tunes: 19 minutes the calypso (!!) and 11 minutes the anatoll! But I promise you will not find the way to bore yourself because the energy is up there every single minute, this is not a conventional, educated session. The musicians are there blowing their souls in their horn at their maximum in every tune. Sunny side is taken at a slow tempo. It is almost a ballad and this is quite strange because generally it is taken up tempo as a blowing vehicle. The result is really really interesting. The calypso may remember you St.Thomas by Sonny Rollins (from Saxophone Colossus). Valentine (which is a bonus track anyway) is the ballad. Here it is played with great intensity and soul the melody is stated with great taste.
This is a really satisfying record. Buy and eat these eggs."
Comes out swinging, leaves you smiling
Matthew Watters | Vietnam | 02/09/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"With great tunes and exhilarating head arrangements from pianist Mal Waldron that swingingly and cleverly juggle a complex front-line of tenor, two alto players and trombone, On the Sunny Side is both the best of Prestige Records' oft-maligned "blowing" dates of the 1950s and the one that lays to rest the myth that such sessions were hastily cobbled together and somehow lacking in artistic merit.
Swing and jump blues-era tenor Quinichette, known as the "Vice Pres" for a breathy tone akin to that of the Pres, Lester Young, is teamed on this album with three young up-and-comers of the time, altoists John Jenkins and Sonny Red and trombonist Curtis Fuller, for an expertly programmed set of uptempo swingers, a mid-tempo cover of "On the Sunny Side of the Street," and even a 19 minute-long calypso that hang together as such a perfect whole that this is one CD on which the extra bonus track seems more like an unnecessary intrusion.
Quinichette solos and swings like a man possessed (he's like Paul Gonsalves on uppers) and he's an impressive and witty melodic improviser, too, gleefully quoting snatches of "Anything Goes" and "It's Almost Like Being in Love" in one chorus. Altoist Sonny Red (still credited here under his real name of Jon Kyner) may be the real star of the proceedings, injecting a slightly unhinged, proto-free element into his keening solos to make everything seem utterly undated. (Jackie McLean must have been listening.) Fuller adds a touch of mellow funkiness (did he ever turn it a bad performance on record?) while Waldron's brief solo statements are minimalist but never less than choice. Doug Watkins plays bass with the propulsive, ahead-of-the-beat quality that made Mingus an admirer, and it has to be counted as a major blessing that the facile Ed Thigpen supplanted Art Taylor, the usual (and usually plodding) drummer on the Prestige blowing sessions, on this date.
Thigpen's sustained ingenuity on the aptly named "Cool-Lypso" is nothing less than a marvel, and that tune, the record's centerpiece and tour de force, is a good example of why On the Sunny Side is smarter than it looks. Many hastily made recordings in the 1950s took a stab at doing an Afro-Cuban head arrangement, only to fall into easy 4/4 time for the individual solos. The "Cool-Lypso," however, sustains the Caribbean rhythms for a good ten minutes behind a full platter of tasty solos before Thigpen seemlessly drops into straight jazz time behind Sonny Red for yet another helping. Throughout the record, arranger Waldron constantly keeps things interesting by shifting the order of soloists, dividing up choruses, and using Quinichette as a sort of musical master of ceremonies. (Quinichette rather impishly quotes a shred of "Here Comes the Bride" a couple of bars before ushering in a Curtis Fuller solo.)
Only Jenkins, with his rather too-obvious fealty to Bird and somewhat conservative tone, seems slightly less than up for the proceedings, but it's a small quibble. (The CD bonus track, a cover of "My Funny Valentine", is Jenkins' showcase, and the lethargic legato of the rendition is only leavened by a gorgeous Curtis Fuller solo.) On an album with two altoists playing side-by-side, you certainly won't have any trouble telling whom from whom.
On the Sunny Side is a record that will leave a bigger smile on your face than many a more famous or canonical jazz album. (You'll start with a smile, too: the cover image is an amusing and highly appealing bit of commercial graphic design and a perfectly apt metaphor for the cooking music within.)"