Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Remembering Gene Ammons

Born from such qualified master of piano, as Albert Ammons was, Gene came into the world of jazz in 1925. Shytown, as Rushing and Basie have called it, was his birthplace. His actual talent and practice gave him the chance to participate in the revolutionary big band of Mr. “B” as he was still in his teens.

That was the year 1944. His hardboiled sound, reminding us of the masters of thirties like Herschel Evans and Hawk, with special lyricism of his own gave him the quality of a great tenor sound, like that of Stan Getz but in a much stronger and powerful volume.

He actually took Stan’s chair in that excellent band Woody Herman had back in 1949. In early fifties he and Sonny Stitt organized a heavy swinger type of a band and established a special sort of dialogue between alto and tenor sound that went for quite a while as a stylistic remedy for worn-out patterns. Jug and Stitt, when sonny was blowing the tenor, remind us of those earlier days of Ammons with Dex. And the now-forgotten 1944 recording of “Blowin’ the blues away”. I think, I have never heard from anybody else, excepting Frog, the statement about the very importance of practicing with the instrument in order to get to personal touch and more important to “sound” that would be pleasant to every ear. This was his advice to anyone playing with the idea of becoming a tenor man. Back in December 1961, he told a Metronome magazine interviewer “…What ‘d I tell? I would tell him to get a sound; the most important thing!”

This very human advice was unheard by cops who busted him because of his addiction to H. And brother they put him into the so-called custody of a federal prison in Illinois. Whereas movie stars like Monroe, Sinatra and Martin could blow their minds with coke and what not. The grey sad tone of Jug got a smokey quality after inhaling fumes of justice! Mental sickness and addiction helped to destroy a life of great lights and darkness.

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