The Magnificent Goldberg

Thornel Schwartz

17 posts in this topic

And because I think he's important and overshadowed.

If you want to revolutionise jazz organ playing, be sure you have an innovative guitarist alongside.

Jimmy Smith revolutionised jazz organ playing, all right. And he was fortunate enough to have a very innovative guitarist alongside; Thornel Schwartz, who was born on 29 May 1927, in Philadelphia.

Listen to Jimmy Smith’s February 1956 recording of “The champ”, and try to forget Smith for eight minutes and just concentrate on what Thornel is doing. Much of the time, he is producing a stream of prodding chords that amounts to a second solo behind and in support of Smith’s playing. If you try that on the live session recorded a few months later at Club Baby Grand, you get a fuller picture of the rapport between two musicians who TOGETHER revolutionised the jazz organ.

Thornel studied at the Landis School of Music and made his professional debut at the age of 23 with Ernest Deaton. He later joined Chris Powell’s R&B group, then Don Gardner (for whom Smith also played at the time). He worked with Freddie Cole from 1952 to 1955, before joining Jimmy Smith.

After those initial masterpieces, Thornel left Jimmy Smith and was replaced by Eddie McFadden. Sometime in the following three years he began to work with Johnny “Hammond” Smith and played on Hammond’s first two LPs “All Soul” and “That good feeling’”, recorded in 1959.

Then in 1960, he was on to yet another revolutionary organist; Larry Young. OK, at the time Thornel was playing with him, Larry had not yet begun to revolutionise the jazz organ in the way he was to do a few years later at Blue Note. But all the signs were there. Between 1960 and 1962, Thornel played on Larry’s first three albums: “Testifyin’”; “Young blues”; and “Groove street”, which also featured Bill Leslie on tenor. He also played on Jimmy Forrest’s first LP for New Jazz, “Forrest fire”. He also played on Bill Leslie’s only album as a leader “Diggin’ the chicks” (with Tommy Flanagan on piano), and made his sole album as a leader “Soul cookin’”, again for Argo, on which Larry appeared under the imperfectly opaque pseudonym “Lawrence Olds”. The cover reveals Thornel as a pipe smoker, unusual among jazz musicians.

And 1964 finds him working with Jimmy McGriff! He worked with McGriff from 1964 to 1966, appearing on several of his LPs, then rejoined Johnny “Hammond” Smith in 1967 for several more albums.

Late 1967 found him back with Jimmy Smith, playing on Jimmy’s great album “Respect”.

Next we find Thornel with Reuben Wilson, in the band Reuben called “The Wildare Express”, before Reuben got his contract with Blue Note. Yeah, and then he went back to McGriff and played on his hit album “The worm”.

Then it was off to the West Coast and work with Richard “Groove” Holmes, appearing at The Lighthouse with him and on the LP recorded there, “X77”. Is there a major organist this guy didn’t work for? Yes, but not many; his next gig was with Milt Buckner! “Rockin’ again” was recorded in 1972.

Sometime in the ‘70s, he made an obscure record with pianist Joe Johnson, one of only three appearances on disc without an organist (the third was with Big Joe Turner in 1967).

And that was the last we hear of Thornel Schwartz. He died on 30 December 1977, aged only 50. But what a career! What an indelible contribution to Soul Jazz this man made!

Here’s a list of Thornel’s post-Gardner appearances on LP.

Jimmy Smith – A new sound a new star vol 1 – Blue Note BLP1512

Jimmy Smith – A new sound a new star vol 2 – Blue Note BLP1514

Jimmy Smith – The incredible Jimmy Smith vol 3 – Blue Note BLP1525

Jimmy Smith – At Club Baby Grand vols 1 & 2 – Blue Note BLP1528 & 1529

Johnny “Hammond” Smith – All soul – New Jazz 8221

Johnny “Hammond” Smith – That good feelin’ – New Jazz 8229

Larry Young – Testifyin’ – New Jazz 8249

Jimmy Forrest – Forrest fire – New Jazz 8250

Larry Young – Young blues – New Jazz 8264

Larry Young – Groove Street – Prestige 7237

Thornel Schwartz – Soul Cookin’ – Argo 704

Bill Leslie – Diggin’ the chicks – Argo 710

Jimmy McGriff – The Christmas album – Jell 1888

Jimmy McGriff – Live where the action’s at – Veep 13515/16515

Jimmy McGriff and the big band – Solid State 17001/18001

Jimmy McGriff – Let’s stay together – Groove Merchant 506

Jimmy McGriff – A bag full of soul – Solid State 17002/18002

Johnny “Hammond” Smith – Ebb tide – Prestige 7494

Big Joe Turner – Singing the blues – Bluesway 6006

Sylvia Syms (with Johnny “Hammond” Smith) – For once in my life – Prestige 7489

Byrdie Green (with Johnny “Hammond” Smith) – I got it bad – Prestige 7509

Jimmy Smith – Respect – Verve 8705

Jimmy McGriff – I got a new woman – Solid State 18030

Wildare Express – Walk on by – Brunswick 754162

Jimmy McGriff – The worm – Solid State 18045

Richard “Groove” Holmes – X77 – Pacific Jazz 20163

Milt Buckner – Rockin’ again – Black & Blue 33043

Joe Johnson – Jazz in Jersey – Darien 1723

MG

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A convincing case for the guy's importance! I'm ashamed to say I only know him from the Jimmy Smith things, but :tup !

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I agree that Thornel is underated. He was a great and interesting player.

One question. The Jimmy Smith Respect album - I haven't listened in awhile and I don't remember if there is more than one "band" or more than one guitarist, but I know that's Eric Gayle on a major portion, if not all of that record. I don't recall a personel listing on my vinyl - anybody have the complete personel for that record? I'm thinking Bob Bushnell, Purdie, Eric and Jimmy.

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I agree that Thornel is underated. He was a great and interesting player.

One question. The Jimmy Smith Respect album - I haven't listened in awhile and I don't remember if there is more than one "band" or more than one guitarist, but I know that's Eric Gayle on a major portion, if not all of that record. I don't recall a personel listing on my vinyl - anybody have the complete personel for that record? I'm thinking Bob Bushnell, Purdie, Eric and Jimmy.

There's no distinction made in the discographies between the two bands on this LP. What there is, is this:

JIMMY SMITH (ORG), ERIC GALE (G), RON CARTER (B), GRADY TATE (D), OR JIMMY SMITH (ORG), THORNEL SCHWARTZ (G), BOB BUSHNELL (B), BERNARD PURDIE (D)

NYC, 2 & 14 JUN 67

MERCY, MERCY, MERCY V/V6/8705

FUNKY BROADWAY VK10536, V/V6/8705

UNKNOWN TITLE UNISSUED

GET OUT OF MY LIFE WOMAN V/V6/8705

MICKEY MOUSE VK10561

RESPECT VK10536, V/V6/8705

T-BONE STEAK VK10561, V/V6/8705

I wish they'd reissue this - I haven't got one.

MG

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Nice thumbnail sketch of Thornel's musical career. No doubt, he was at the forefront of the organ/guitar/drums wave. That said, I think Jimmy's earliest recordings with Kenny Burrell are far superior. Jimmy kept guys like Thornel and Quinten Warren in his working bands because they were affordable I would guess. It was the Jimmy show all the way and they were afforded very little solo space (or none at all in many cases). Take Thornel's showcase on "Indiana" at "Groovin' At Smalls," he's a competent soloist, but not much more. Also, his work on Larry Young's early recordings were unremarkable imho. Thornel might be the first to agree. From what I understand he was in awe of later guitarists such as George Benson, ect although he initially inspired many of them. Thornel was a good workman-like sideman in a genre that bridged the gap between blues and bebop. Just my opinion, although I do enjoy hearing him play...that overdriven tone is something to remember for sure. :D

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Nice thumbnail sketch of Thornel's musical career. No doubt, he was at the forefront of the organ/guitar/drums wave. That said, I think Jimmy's earliest recordings with Kenny Burrell are far superior. Jimmy kept guys like Thornel and Quinten Warren in his working bands because they were affordable I would guess. It was the Jimmy show all the way and they were afforded very little solo space (or none at all in many cases). Take Thornel's showcase on "Indiana" at "Groovin' At Smalls," he's a competent soloist, but not much more. Also, his work on Larry Young's early recordings were unremarkable imho. Thornel might be the first to agree. From what I understand he was in awe of later guitarists such as George Benson, ect although he initially inspired many of them. Thornel was a good workman-like sideman in a genre that bridged the gap between blues and bebop. Just my opinion, although I do enjoy hearing him play...that overdriven tone is something to remember for sure. :D

It was Eddie McFadden at Smalls. I've always thought Thornel was a lot better than Eddie.

I think Jimmy had Thornel along with him because they'd worked together, for Don Gardner, when Jimmy was woodshedding. That would give Thornel a natural advantage; he was part of the process. Which isn't to say that better players didn't come along after him.

MG

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i kind of agree about for a time it seemed like smith kept kind of low key sidemen because as soulstream said, it was the "jimmy show".

donald bailey was about the most unobtrusive drummer i have heard on a blue note record (though i have heard him cook in other contexts...)

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i kind of agree about for a time it seemed like smith kept kind of low key sidemen because as soulstream said, it was the "jimmy show".

donald bailey was about the most unobtrusive drummer i have heard on a blue note record (though i have heard him cook in other contexts...)

Yeah, one of the things I'm not crazy about Jimmy is that most of the time, it was the "Jimmy Show." Although it WAS the Greatest Show On Earth, music is so much about interaction...that's why I'm more of a fan of his earlier sides w/horns, ect. or of the stuff w/Wes Montgomery.

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well i talk about it alot, but a great example of this is "the duel" on at the organ vol. 2.

just smith and art blakey-great interplay. well ahead of it's time, IMO.

crazy stuff.

and it works better in this context because blakey brings the heat and the bombast to match smith.

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Thank you, MG. I was listening to one of the Larry Young OJCs the other day and thinking how good Thornel was, and how's he caught my ear every time I've heard him.

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I enjoy Thornel's playing too. I think JOS had solid players like he, Eddie McFadden and Quentin Warren to keep something underneath while Jimmy burned on top. Though Warren has some smokin riffing on "Open House/Plain Talk", and Donald Bailey I never thought as unobtrusive, he gave the right seasoning, but listen to tunes like JOS or "The Boss" and hear him play in a way that matched the organ's intensity. In some ways I think of the interplay of Donald and Jimmy like Trane and Elvin, Donald gave those polyrhythms while Jimmy was on fire.

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I don't know if I would be Thronel and Donald Bailey in the same class of musicianship. To me, Donald Bailey was one of the best organ drummers ever (arguabley THE best).

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How many people in the world have ever been named Thornel?

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How many people in the world have ever been named Thornel?

Thornell Wilde

Butch Thornell

MG

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I will add to MG's case for Thornel being an innovative organ guitarist. To my knowledge, prior to JOS, guitarists would comp quarter note four to the bar style, and when Thornel played behind Jimmy it was more boppish comping, opening things up more. Of course, there are always tunes like "Mack the Knife" where the comping was four to the bar. Out of Jimmy's regular guitarists during that classic '56-65 or so period, Quentin Warren for me has to be the least spectacular player.

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