"The Compositions Of Benny Golson"

The Compositions of Benny Golson - Front Cover LP

The Compositions of Benny Golson • 1962 • Riverside Records RS 93505
Recorded various dates and places, between 1957 & 1961

The Selections:

The Tracks & Players:

A1. "Stablemates"
Milt Jackson - Vibes
Wes Montgomery - Guitar
Wynton Kelly - Piano
Sam Jones - Bass
Philly Joe Jones - Drums

A2. "Minor Vamp"
Blue Mitchell - Trumpet
Jimmy Heath - Tenor Sax
Curtis Fuller - Trombone
Wynton Kelly - Piano
Philly Joe Jones - Drums

A3. "Blues On Down"
Sam Jones - Bass
Nat Adderley - Cornet
Blue Mitchell - Trumpet
Melba Liston - Trombone
Cannonball Adderely - Alto Sax
Jimmy Heath - Tenor Sax
Tate Houston - Baritone Sax
Victor Feldman - Piano & Arranger
Les Spann - Guitar
Louis Hayes - Drums

A4. "Blues March"
Blue Mitchell - Trumpet
Johnny Griffin - Tenor Sax
Curtis Fuller - Trombone
Wynton Kelly - Piano
Wilbur Ware - Bass
Philly Joe Jones - Drums

B1. "Out Of The Past"
Benny Golson - Tenor Sax
J.J. Johnson - Trombone
Kenny Dorham - Trumpet
Wynton Kelly - Piano
Paul Chambers - Bass
Max Roach - Drums

B2. "Whisper Not"
Wynton Kelly - Piano
Kenny Burrell - Guitar
Paul Chambers - Bass

B3. "Fair Weather"
Chet Baker - Trumpet
Johnny Griffin - Tenor Sax
Al Haig - Piano
Paul Chambers - Bass
Philly Joe Jones - Drums

The Record:

This is a bit of an odd album, a jazz compilation of the kind that were popular in the late 1950's and early 1960's, but one that focuses on the compositions of a single artist. Just like today, I'm sure these were viewed as an economical way for the labels to make money without having to pay the musicians or book studio time. The Compositions of Benny Golson is part of the "Jazz Master-Composers" series that Riverside put out in 1962 and 1963 to highlight, as the liner notes put it: "the unique presentation of works by some of the most significant, interesting and influential writers of the world of modern jazz." I'm not sure how unique the presentation actually is, but this particular volume does feature some legendary artists playing Golson compositions, all coming from albums released on Riverside. There certainly isn't a weak track to be found among the seven included on the album. 

Sixteen entries in this "Jazz Master-Composers" series appear to have been released, as follows:

The Compositions of Thelonious Monk
The Compositions of Miles Davis 
The Compostions of Benny Golson 

The Compositions of Charlie Parker
The Compositions of Duke Ellington, Vol 1.
The Compositions of  Dizzy Gillespie

The Compositions of Horace Silver
The Compositions of Duke Ellington, Vol. 2
The Compositions of Tadd Dameron
The Compositions of Bobby Timmons
The Compositions of  Richard Rodgers
The Compositions of Cole Porter
The Compositions of Jerome Kern
The Compositions of George Gershwin
The Compositions of Harold Arlen
The Compositions of Irving Berlin

The fact that Golson's collection was released third in this collection (behind only Monk and MIles) shows how highly regarded he was at this point in jazz history. Highlights of his discography by 1962 included "I Remember Clifford," "Blues March," "Along Came Betty," "Whisper Not" and "Out Of The Past." All of these tracks remain jazz standards to this day, and surely can be heard at jazz clubs around the globe on any given night.

The Riverside albums from which this album's tracks are taken are all uniformly great, with a few considered hard bop classics, while others are underrated gems.  It's an impressive line-up of jazz LPs to be sure:

"Stablemates" is from Milt Jackson & Wes Montgomery's Bags Meets Wes! (Riverside RLP 407)

"Minor Vamp" is from Blue Mitchell's Blue Soul (Riverside RLP 12-309)

"Blues On Down" is from Sam Jones Plus Ten's The Chant (Riverside RLP 358)

"Blues March" is from Blue Mitchell's Big 6 (Riverside RLP 12-273)

"Out Of The Past" is from Benny Golson's The Modern Touch (Riverside 12-256)

"Whisper Not" is from Wynton Kelly's Piano (Riverside 12-254)

"Fair Weather" is from Chet Baker's Chet Baker In New York (Riverside 12-281)

Overall, The Compositions of Benny Golson makes for a fine sampling of the best talent that Riverside had to offer the jazz world between 1957 and 1961. After a few listens it strikes me as one of those records I will throw on when folks are visiting the house to have a few cocktails, as it is modern jazz at it's best and at least one of the tunes might peak a non-jazz lover's interest and spark some further exploration. And there is nothing wrong with that kind of album, it's always good to have a few of those laying around in the collection. 

The Vinyl:

This copy is an original deep groove stereo pressing, and to be honest, I'm a bit disappointed in the sound quality. Playback is very quiet and has a thin, almost flat audio quality to it (there is also a fair amount of surface noise, but I can live with that). I know some early stereo releases by jazz labels are known to be inferior to their mono counterparts, but I haven't heard this about the early Riverside recordings and according to London Jazz Collector they did not take part in the "electronically simulated stereo" craze. While the original sessions were all produced by the great Orrin Keepnews, the tracks were remastered for this release by a fellow named Ken Deardoff, so I am led to wonder if that has anything to do with it. I only paid $15 for the record, so I don't feel particularly burned or unhappy with the purchase, these things are just many that the collector of vintage vinyl has learned to deal with.

"RLP-93505A" and ""RLP-93505B" are hand-etched into the vinyl runoff on their respective sides. There is also a very faint and small hand-etched "AB" or "AR" on both sides, but the meaning behind these are unknown to me. Perhaps a savvy reader can clue me in.

In any case, the audio isn't so bad that I won't listen to it, but one of the reasons I picked this up was to add an original Riverside stereo pressing to the collection, and for that purpose this one doesn't live up to any expectations I might have had going in. Other than that self-serving complaint, I'm quite happy to have this LP celebration of the great Benny Golson as a new member of my vinyl family.

Benny Golson (with the Herb Pomeroy Big Band at Lennie’s on the Turnpike), 1963. (Photo Credit Unknown)