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Carmell Jones Quartet, 1960

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For years, trumpeter Carmell Jones was thought to have made his first recording in October 1960 in Los Angeles on a date led by tenor saxophonist Curtis Amy for the Pacific Jazz label. Two months earlier, Jones, at age 24, had left Kansas City and traveled to Los Angeles in search of studio work as a sideman. He recorded with Amy and then Bud Shank before recording his first album as a leader in June 1961—The Remarkable Carmell Jones for Pacific Jazz. Now with the release of The Carmell Jones Quartet (Fresh Sound), we learn that Jones actually recorded in Los Angeles two months earlier shortly after he arrived in the city in August 1960.

A little back story to this album: Soon after the passing of jazz pianist Forrest Westbrook in April 2014, I urged Leslie Westbrook, Forrest's daughter, to scout around for tapes. She founds several. Eager to get her father's music out to jazz fans, she wondered what to do. I put her in touch with Fresh Sound's Jordi Pujol, who just put out the album of previously unreleased material with Jones on trumpet, Westbrook on piano, Gary Peacock on bass and Bill Schwemmer on drums. Playing matchmaker is gratifying work, especially when everyone is happy.

Born in Kansas City in 1936, Jones graduated from high school in 1954 and enlisted in the Air Force, where he played trumpet. He was discharged in 1958, using his G.I. Bill to enroll at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. There, Jones befriended Bill Hardy, a professor, who was impressed when he heard Jones perform. In need of money, Jones dropped out of college during his senior year to become a railroad porter.

Meanwhile, Hardy moved to Los Angeles to take a post at Occidental College. In July 1960, he wrote Jones, insisting he come out to California to gig and look for recording work, inviting him to stay with him and his wife. So Jones did, and soon he connected with Westbrook, Peacock and Schwemmer. They formed a working quartet.

Fortunately, Westbrook had a studio in his Hollywood apartment that was perfect for rehearsing. Toward the end of August, they decided to run tape. The results are on the new CD and they are spectacular. First, the sound is of professional studio quality, with perfect miking and sound levels. Second, the music is spectacular. Jones was like the second coming of Clifford Brown, with a thick, open sound to his horn that revealed a strong technique and deep sensitivity. Westbrook is a standout here, too. Not well known among jazz fans, he was rather reclusive on the West Coast as a recording artist, appearing only on several Si Zentner big band albums in the early 1960s and an avant-garde release with Gil Melle in 1968 among others. So hearing him at length here is quite rare and rewarding. Peacock, who would later play with Bill Evans, is woody and rock solid, while Schwemmer has a firm, delicate touch.

The new CD features six tracks plus four alternates. The playlist is Willow Weep for Me, If I Love Again, Ruby, For Every Man There's a Woman and Baubles, Bangles and Beads. On the last track, Airegin, Westbrook plays a nine-minute version of the Sonny Rollins standard with Jones out. The result is terrific. I'm looking

JazzWax tracks: You'll find The Carmell Jones Quartet (Fresh Sound) here.

JazzWax clip: Here's “If I Love Again

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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