Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Gene Ammons

All Music Guide says Gene Ammons,
"...had a huge and immediately recognizable tone on tenor, was a very flexible player who could play bebop with the best (always battling his friend Sonny Stitt to a tie) yet was an influence on the R&B world...He originally came to fame as a key soloist with Billy Eckstine's orchestra during 1944-1947...Ammons worked as a single throughout his career, recording frequently (most notably for Prestige) in settings ranging from quartets and organ combos to all-star jam sessions. Drug problems kept him in prison during much of 1958-1960 and, due to a particularly stiff sentence, 1962-1969. When Ammons returned to the scene in 1969, he opened up his style a bit, including some of the emotional cries of the avant-garde while utilizing funky rhythm sections, but he was still able to battle Sonny Stitt on his own terms..."
Wikipedia goes a little more technical:
"...Ammons and Von Freeman were the founders of the Chicago School of tenor saxophone. His style of playing showed influences from Lester Young as well as Ben Webster. These artists had helped develop the sound of the tenor saxophone to higher levels of expressiveness. Ammons, together with Dexter Gordon and Sonny Stitt, helped integrate their developments with the emerging "vernacular" of the bebop movement, and the chromaticism and rhythmic variety of Charlie Parker is evident in his playing...While adept at the technical aspects of bebop, in particular its love of harmonic substitions, Ammons more than Young, Webster or Parker, stayed in touch with the commercial blues and R&B of his day. The "soul Jazz" movement of the mid-1950s, often using the combination of tenor saxophone and Hammond B3 electric organ, counts him as a founder. Often using a thinner, drier tone than Stitt or Gordon, Ammons could at will exploit a vast range of textures on the instrument, vocalizing it in ways that look forward to later artists like Stanley Turrentine, Houston Person, and remarkably Archie Shepp. Ammons showed little interest however in the modal jazz of John Coltrane, Joe Henderson or Wayne Shorter that was emerging at the same time..."
I go straight for the earhole:

Gene Ammons: Jug Eyes
from The Black Cat

Hittin' the Jug
from Boss Tenor

from Heavy Sax

Seed Shack
from Jug

Gene Ammons, Sonny Stitt and Jack McDuff: Scram
from Soul Summit