Disc Discussion

Session conducted by Les Tomkins 

Buster Cooper, Chuck Connors and Tubby Hayes

The following blindfold test was carried out in 1963
but time would hardly change the opinions expressed here.
They could well have been uttered today - or even tomorrow.
Jazz lives on!

"Three O’Clock In The Morning” Dexter Gordon Quartet (Dexter Gordon-tenor, Sonny Clark-piano, Butch Warren-bass, Billy Higgins-drums). From “Go!” Blue Note.

Hayes: I’d recognise that sound anywhere.

Cooper: It’s Dex, isn’t it?

Hayes: Yes, Dex. That’s Butch Warren on bass.

Cooper: Dex plays like it’s his first outing.

Hayes: Yes, marvellous.

Cooper: That’s the first time I’ve heard him since the Billy Eckstine days, but he still sounds like Dexter.

Hayes: I haven’t heard that record before.

Tomkins: It’s a new release.

Hayes: I must go out and buy it.

Cooper: It was an English rhythm section, naturally, I guess.

Hayes: No, American. Sonny Clark, Butch Warren and Billy Higgins. Right?

Tomkins: Correct.

Hayes: Butch is the bass player who worked with me when I was in the Half Note.

Tomkins: Oh, so you were able to recognise him straight away?

Hayes: Well, not really, no. But he told me he did that session!

Cooper: Dex sounded wonderful on that. He really swings.

Hayes: I can almost see him standing there. He was tremendous over here. Every night for a month he got the place jumping. It sort of brought back the feeling of the ‘forties.

Cooper: Yes, I expect so.

Hayes: That rhythm section have done a lot of things together, haven’t they?

Cooper: Did you say Sonny Clark?

Hayes: Yes, he’s died, hasn’t he?

Cooper: I know. He was a good player, too.


“Blues Bossa Nova” Bob Brookmeyer Group (Bob Brookmeyer--valve trombone, Jim Hall-solo guitar, Jimmy Raney-rhythm guitar, Gary McFarland-vibes, Willie Bob-Latin drums, Carmen Costa-cabassa, Jose Paula-tambourine). Composed by Bob Brookmeyer. From “Trombone Jazz Samba”, Verve.

Cooper: That’s Bob Brookmeyer. He gets a good sound.

Hayes: Yes, it sounds like him. I don’t know who that guitarist is.

Cooper: Who was on guitar?

Tomkins: Well, there were two guitarists on it, but it was Jim Hall playing an unamplified solo.

Cooper: Oh, really? I could tell it was Brookmeyer. I’m an ex–valve trombonist myself, you know. That was my first instrument, but I don’t care for it too much. I can’t get that ‘oomph’ out of it that I can with a slide—that teasing.

Connors: It doesn’t sound like a trombone either.

Cooper: No, it’s too restricted. But Brookmeyer—he’s a wonderful player.

Hayes: He plays some nice things.

Cooper: Oh, without a doubt. It’s just that I’m prejudiced about that instrument.

Hayes: I found that a bit boring, too. They seemed to be just churning out one more Bossa Nova.

Cooper: And his playing was at the same level right through. There wasn’t any rise and fall.

Hayes: From what I’ve heard lately, writing is going to be the thing with Bob Brookmeyer. I think that’s what he’ll concentrate on more in the future. He’s written some good things. Have you heard any of them?

Connors: I don’t listen to records.

Cooper: Like Lawrence Brown—he doesn’t either.

Connors: I have records, but they’re all symphonies.

Tomkins: How did you feel about the use of the trombone on that record?

Connors: It was O.K., except that it was a valve. I’m against that, too.

Hayes: I would have thought it would have given more facility. For instance, if you had the valve trombone playing the lead in the section. Or hasn’t it got the power?

Connors: Duke always had one. I’m playing in the valve trombone chair, but I’m using bass trombone.

Hayes: But he didn’t have the valve leading,

Connors: No, second lead. Often the valve was on the bottom.

Cooper: I was glad when he got rid of that thing. There are so many different effects you can do with the slide that are impossible with the valve.

Connors: Anyway, most trombone players nowadays can get around without needing a valve trombone.

Cooper: Yes, it sounds like a cheat to me instead of, like, facing the truth. That’s my opinion.

Tomkins: As a point of interest, that track was made with the idea of merging the blues and the Bossa Nova.

Cooper: That’s another thing I don’t like—the Bossa Nova. How about you, Chuck?

Connors: I haven’t thought about it.

Cooper: It’s just a money–making gimmick. It’s the same thing as a samba—that’s .all.

Hayes: I think that whoever started using it in jazz did so in good faith, but it’s got exploited the wrong way.

Connors: Dizzy was playing “Desafinado” a long time ago.

Hayes: That’s right. I remember when he came over here on the same bill as Coltrane about 18 months ago they were playing Bossa Nova then, and nobody said a word. I must admit I didn’t know what it was either, then about a year later . . .

Cooper: Everything’s Bossa Nove—yes.

Connors: It’s like when the Twist came out. I thought it was dying down—then all of a sudden it became popular.


“Reminiscing In Tempo” Mel Tormé (With orchestra arranged and conducted by Johnny Mandel). Composed by Duke Ellington. Lyrics added by Mel Tormé. From “I Dig Duke And The Count”, Verve.

Cooper: It’s Mel Tormé, isn’t it?

Hayes: There’s some nice changes on this tune.

Cooper: That’s Mel’s tune—an original by him?

Tomkins: No, he only supplied the words. As a matter of ,fact, it’s an old Duke tune— “Reminiscing In Tempo”.

Cooper: Oh. It’s the first time I’ve heard it, I think.

Connors: It’s a lovely tune.

Hayes: That was a nice orchestration, too.

Cooper: I never listen to singers, actually.

Hayes: I don’t either, but my wife does, so I often have to hear them, and I don’t mind, as long as they’ve got nice orchestral backings. And that was beautiful.

Cooper: Yes, it was. It sounded like a good studio band. Who was it?

Tomkins: Johnny Mandel.

Cooper: Ah, that’s what I figured. Lovely.

Hayes: If I can just say something about the way things are over here—I suppose in the States they make a lot of Rock & Roll, Twisting records with the old jangling guitars and all that. But you do at least get singers like that, quite a few of them, who make albums with good arrangements. In this country we never do. We’ve got some talented arrangers—but do they ever get an opportunity to write backings like that one? No, it’s always played down.

Cooper: Who was the tenor player?

Hayes: It was a baritone, I think.

Cooper: No, there was a tenor solo in the middle some place, wasn’t there? There was a baritone on the intro, but the solo sounded like a tenor to me.

Tomkins: It was Bill Perkins on baritone.

Connors: Ah, well, he’s a tenor player.

Cooper: That’s how it got that sound.

Connors: When did Duke write that?

Cooper: About forty years ago!

Tomkins: It originally covered four 10–inch 78 sides in 1935.

Cooper: You see. How about that?

Connors: And it sounds like he wrote it yesterday.

Hayes: Fantastic.

Cooper: As for Tormé, I see him as a stylist rather than a singer. As a stylist he’s beautiful. He’s always Mel Tormé. The same applies to Nat ‘King’ Cole. Having style and projection isn’t the same thing as really singing. As I said before, I don’t listen to singers much. Piano players, tenor players—always.

Connors: With me it’s the same as Tubby. My wife likes singers, so when I’m around I hear what she’s playing. But if I were on my own I wouldn’t put on an album just to listen to somebody singing. Maybe one or two, but . . .

Cooper: I love Ray Charles. I would like to play my instrument the way he sings, if it’s possible. He seems to have so much feeling, plus projection. It’s the truth when he sings. I love his style. Anything that Charles does I go for. I really listen.

Tomkins: There’s a musicianly approach in what he does.

Connors: He is a musician.

Cooper: Yes, so I have to respect him.

Connors: That takes care of that.

Tomkins: Of course, Tormé plays piano and drums.

Hayes: What he does is pleasant. It doesn’t offend me as some do. I’d like to be able to write some nice backgrounds for a good vocal album. I don’t know whether I’d want to listen to it afterwards, though.


“Lonely Woman” The MJQ Composed by Ornette Coleman. Arranged by John Lewis. From “Lonely Woman”, London Atlantic.

Hayes: MJQ, eh?

Connors: Even I can recognise them!

Cooper: Right from the first note.

Connors: Is that what they call Third Stream?

Tomkins: Yes, I believe it is.

Hayes: John Lewis is to be admired for what he’s trying to do, but once you start doing things like that you invite comparison with some of the great classical composers. Personally I would rather listen to the real thing. I don’t know too much about classical music, but I think you can learn a lot from listening to it.

Connors: John likes Bach. You can hear it. And who doesn’t? As for that record, you couldn’t exactly dance to it.

Tomkins: You’d have to keep changing step.

Cooper: It’s like mood music to me. You have to feel that certain mood—and if you’re not careful you might fall asleep.

Connors: Well, I like that better than anything I’ve heard yet. I just listen to it as music.

Cooper: Oh, it’s beautiful; but for me personally, I’d have to be in that mood. It has a sad feeling behind it.

Hayes: Does he consider that to be jazz, do you think? Is he trying to get away from jazz or does he think that is the way jazz is bound to go?

Cooper: I doubt that, seriously. Jazz will always be jazz. Swing’s the thing, believe me.

Hayes: That’s what I think, too.

Cooper: There were so many tempo changes and everything, it’s impossible to call that out–and–out jazz.

Tomkins: But do you think it can take jazz beyond its confines?

Cooper: You have to play for the people. If it’s too far above the layman’s head it won’t make it. It’s kind of hard to find people that will just go overboard for this type of thing.

Connors: But they play to packed audiences wherever they go. They win all kinds of polls. Some of them must like it.

Cooper: Oh, without a doubt. It’s beautiful. I grant you that.

Hayes: I like to hear Milt when he’s playing. And when he does he’s one of my favourite players on any instrument.

Cooper: Milt’s very tasty. And I love him on ballads.

Connors: I take back what I said earlier. I do have one jazz album. I have a Milt Jackson album.


“Whole Nelson” Eddie ‘Lockjaw’ Davis Big Band (featuring Eddie Davis-tenor, Clark Terry-trumpet). Composed and arranged by Oliver Nelson. From “Trane Whistle”, Esquire.

Cooper: Eddie Davis!

Hayes: Yes, great.

Cooper: Lockjaw sure can play.

Hayes: That could only be Clark Terry. Yes!

Cooper: I was supposed to be on this date.

Hayes: I don’t like the arrangement very much. It sounds Bebop.

Cooper: Yes, like an old Dizzy recording.

Hayes: Only not as good.

Connors: I can organise that style in a minute because I played with Dizzy for about nine months. The trumpets sounded ragged on that to me.

Cooper: The whole arrangement was too sloppy. And there was too much going on.

It was too busy. That’s not to say I don’t respect Clark and Eddie. They’re two of my favourites, really.

Hayes: It sounded like somebody trying to copy Dizzy’s style of about 1947, with all those bop cliches coming in.

Cooper: Yes, just a few licks going on behind.

Hayes: Whose arranging was that?

Tomkins: Oliver Nelson.

Hayes: Really? Well, I’ve heard him do better things than that.

Cooper: Yes, that was the one I was originally supposed to be on. It’s Melba Liston and Jimmy Cleveland on there right? At the time Mundell Lowe came up with a date for the same day and I forgot I’d promised him. I wasn’t going to turn him down because he’s given me so many jobs.

Connors: Who was the other trombone, then?

Tomkins: There were only two trombones, with three trumpets. The reeds were the largest section-six including Davis.

Cooper: That’s right. It should have been Jimmy Cleveland and I, but Melba took my place. That really didn’t sound like Oliver, man. He’s usually wild-something else.

Hayes: Yes, I’ve got some much better records by him at home.

Cooper: I hope Oliver don’t kill me. He won’t call me up for no more record dates!


“The One That Got Away” The Emcee Five (Carry Cox--tenor, Ian Carr-trumpet, Mike Carr-piano, Spike Heatley-bass, Ronnie Stephenson-drums). Composed by Mike Carr. From “Let’s Take Five” EP, Columbia.

Cooper: Who’s that—Cannonball and Nat? It sounds like Nat Adderley on trumpet.

Hayes: At a rough guess I’d say it’s Shelly Manne’s group with Richie Kamuca or somebody on tenor.

Cooper: Yes, I guess it could be a West Coast group. I can’t really recognise anything.

Connors: It could be anybody.

Hayes: The theme sounds like something you’ve heard a thousand times before.

Cooper: Yes, it does, really. But actually it sounded like something Cannonball and Nat would do, though I wouldn’t name any personality.

Hayes: I didn’t like the rhythm section too much.

Cooper: It had sort of a West Coast feel about it.

Tomkins: Is there such a thing now as a sound which belongs to one Coast or the other?

Cooper: Yes, I think so, definitely. The West Coast sound always seems light to me—surface–wise—just skimming the top, you know. Whereas with the East Coast sound everybody gets more into it. There’s more feeling, more hard swinging. That’s my opinion.

Hayes: They didn’t really seem to get into anything there, did they?

Cooper: No. Surface–wise, it was good. But I don’t like the surface, though seriously. I never did. I figure if you’re going to play-just learn to play. Get into it.

Hayes: I agree. Although it’s difficult to say that only about West Coasters.

Cooper: It is, because there are a lot of cases where musicians from the East Coast have emigrated to the West.

Hayes: But I know what you mean. That sounded like a bunch of studio musicians.

Cooper: Yes, out on the West Coast they seem to have a certain clique going on. There are certain cats you always hear. It seems like it’s always the same personnel on all the records. And I don’t like that thing they have going-that kind of surface playing they do.

Hayes: You think for playing jazz New York is the place to be, where it’s all happening?

Cooper: Yes, actually—to get to the very roots. I mean, I respect the guys on the Coast. I love the way Frank Rosolino plays, though he’s one who emigrated from the East to the West. He’s fantastic. But that record didn’t get to me at all.

Tomkins: In actual fact it was a British group called the Emcee Five.

Cooper: Well, that’s it—1 couldn’t recognise anybody. That’s why I said it sounded West Coastish. Seems like I’m condemning myself here—can’t go to California any more!


 “King Porter Stomp” Buddy Rich-Gene Krupa Orchestra (featuring Joe Wilder-trumpet, George Barnes-guitar, Frank Rehak, Jimmy Clevelandtrombones, Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich-drums). Composed by Jelly Roll Morton. Arranged by George Williams. From “Burnin’ Beat”, Verve.

Cooper: Urbie Green—right? Oh, that’s Frank Rehak. Isn’t it?

Tomkins: You only heard Rehak?

Hayes: There were two trombones.

Cooper: Oh—well, the last one was Frank Rehak. I’m sure it was. I didn’t get a chance to hear the first one too good.

Tomkins: No. They were taking four bars apiece.

Cooper: Rehak was on it, though. Who was the last one to play?

Tomkins: Jimmy Cleveland. The sequence was Rehak, Cleveland, Rehak, Cleveland.

Cooper: I knew Rehak was in there some place. I should have recognised Cleve, too. We were in Lionel Hampton’s band together for about three years.

Tomkins: What did you think of the band sound on that record?

Cooper: I didn’t like it. I’ll probably be shot when I get back to the States, but I still didn’t like it—the overall thing.

Hayes: It sounded dated—even more so than the last one.

Connors: Who was it—Krupa or Rich?

Tomkins: Both.

Hayes: There you go!

Connors: That was it—that six-drum roll.

Cooper: Who was the trumpet player?

Tomkins: Joe Wilder was leading the section.

Cooper: They were all wonderful, boss players on it. It was the arrangement that was outdated.

Tomkins: Is it a bad thing, then, to try and recreate sounds of bygone eras in the studio?

Cooper: No. not really, but I just didn’t like that. .

Hayes: I don’t know why they do it, though.

Cooper: Who was the arranger—Billy Byers or somebody?

Hayes: No—he writes better than that. I must be honest—I didn’t know there were two drummers on it.

Cooper: Krupa is a matter of opinion, but where drums are concerned Rich is the master to me. He’s fantastic.

Hayes: Technically, yes.

Tomkins: They laid the foundations for drumming as we know it.

Cooper: Buddy’s still laying ‘em.

Hayes: I heard him with the Harry James band. He was tremendous.

Tomkins: You wouldn’t fault any of the sections on that?

Connors: No, they were just playing what was on the paper.

 Copyright © 1963, Les Tomkins. All Rights Reserved.