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Willis Jackson on Prestige?

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so i have two first pressings so far: Jackson n McDuff: Together again, and Willis Jackson- "JACKSON'S ACTION!" which is all funky to hell i love it, and the others pretty awesome too....but he has i notice like 30 albums on prestige, i could buy one hank record for the price id spend on all those, so do u guys have a fave that sticks out to you? how do u like the ones i scored?

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OK, here’s a list of Willis Jackson’s original LPs – compilations left out – in recording date order. I’ve left the non-Prestige ones in, so you get the full picture. And anyway, the ones on Muse are great, so you shouldn’t avoid collecting them.

One thing about Willis’ Prestige albums is that second (or subsequent) pressings often had different titles, though the same catalogue number. And at least one was repressed on the Status label, with the same catalogue number. I’ve dealt with the ones I know about, but there may be others.

Willis gave up the R&B business in 1957 and put together a jazz band, featuring Jack McDuff and Bill Jennings. This is the band that made his first 6 LPs for Prestige. All but the first were made up of bits of sessions. Dunno why Prestige did that; perhaps one day I’ll put them all into session order on my hard drive and maybe I’ll find that they don’t make good albums.

These are all very good, but I wouldn’t say any are in his best half dozen.

PLEASE MR JACKSON – PRESTIGE 7162 (5/1959)

KEEP ON A-BLOWIN' – PRESTIGE 7172 (5&11/1959&2/1960)

(This was repressed as “Cool Gator” – and I have a feeling that the OJC LP issue had that title. The sleeve photos are the same.)

BLUE GATOR – PRESTIGE 7183 (5&11/1959,2&8/1960)

TOGETHER AGAIN – PRESTIGE 7364 (5&11/1959&2&8/1960)

TOGETHER AGAIN, AGAIN – PRESTIGE 7428 (5&11/1959,2/1960&12/1961)

COOKIN' SHERRY – PRESTIGE 7211 (11/1959,2&8/1960)

After Brother Jack went off to start his own band, Gator made a number of odd albums, while apparently getting a new band together.

The first two sessions are quite untypical of Willis’ general work, but they’re very good. One track from each session was used on the “other” LP, for some reason. “Solitude” mostly features Richard Wyands on piano, while the other features Jimmy Neely on piano.

IN MY SOLITUDE – MOODSVILLE 17 (1&4/1961)

REALLY GROOVIN' – PRESTIGE 7196 (1&4/1961)

The next one features Freddie Roach, with Bill Jennings still on guitar. It’s one of Gator’s best – a really wild session. And the sleeve notes, by Amiri Baraka, are really entertaining, too! This is essential!

THUNDERBIRD – PRESTIGE 7232 (3/1962)

The next one was made as guest star with the Johnny “Hammond” Smith band. This is an excellent session. Later pressings of this appeared on Status, with an almost completely black sleeve. I’ve never seen an original.

JOHNNY 'HAMMOND' SMITH COOKS WITH GATOR TAIL – PRESTIGE 7239 (6/1962)

Two more strange albums followed.

The first is a kind of Bossa Nova album, but not quite, with a lot of Latin percussion, as well as Tommy Flanagan and Kenny Burrell. Nice album.

SHUCKIN' – PRESTIGE 7260 (10/1962) (also pressed as “Bossa nova plus”; I have a yellow label issue with that title, but I doubt it is the original.)

The second is a bunch of Neapolitan songs, like “Volare”, “Al di la” and “Arrivederci Roma”. This is REALLY off the wall for Gator (though he had recorded “Estrellita” for Atlantic in the late fifties), but he makes all these tunes his own. No keyboard on this – just Bucky Pizzarelli on guitar, with George Tucker, Bobby Donaldson and Montego Joe.

NEAPOLITAN NIGHTS – PRESTIGE 7264 (12/1962) (I have a Fantasy repressing from the seventies, so this must have continually sold, unlikely though it seems.)

In early ’63, Gator put together his classic band, with Frank Robinson on trumpet, Carl Wilson on organ, Pat Martino on guitar, Joe Hadrick (Yusef Ali) on drums.

The first LP had a guitarist called Bill Jones, not Martino. This is NEARLY one of Gator’s best. Unfortunately, the CD issue didn’t include the lead-off track, a wild blast called “Y’all”.

LOOSE – PRESTIGE 7273 (3/1963)

The next four feature the classic quintet. “Grease ‘n gravy” is my favourite, but they’re all excellent.

GREASE 'N GRAVY – PRESTIGE 7285 (5/1963)

THE GOOD LIFE – PRESTIGE 7296 (5/1963)

MORE GRAVY – PRESTIGE 7317 (10/1963)

BOSS SHOUTIN' – PRESTIGE 7329 (1/1964)

And the next four were all made live on the night of 21 March 1964 at the Allegro club – has anyone else ever made four LPs in one night? The one you’ve got, Chewy, is marginally the best, but it really is very nice to play all the way through these albums one after another. You do get the full flavour of Gator Tail live.

JACKSON'S ACTION – PRESTIGE 7348 (3/1964)

LIVE ACTION – PRESTIGE 7380 (3/1964)

SOUL NIGHT/LIVE – PRESTIGE 7396 (3/1964)

TELL IT – PRESTIGE 7412 (3/1964)

Three days before the Allegro club gig, Gator started work on an album for Verve, with Klaus Ogerman. Willis is OK on this, but he wasn’t really a big band player.

GATOR TAILS – VERVE 68589 (3&6/1964) (This was reissued on Verve 8782 under the title of “Willis Jackson”. I’ve had several copies of this and they’re all damaged in the same place.)

After a while out of the studios, Willis made an album for Cadet, with mostly a different band (though Frank Robinson was still around). This has Vinnie Corrao on guitar and Butch Cornell on organ. Three Beatles songs is too much for one album. But it’s still a pretty good album.

SMOKIN' WITH WILLIS – CADET 763 (11/1965)

Two years later, Willis returned to Prestige and made four more LPs.

I’ve always found “Soul grabber” unsatisfactory, even though Carl Wilson was on organ. It is a semi-big band date, with a bunch of regular studio musicians; two trumpets, baritone, choice of guitarists, bass & drums. (Gator debuts on this album with his own invention, the Gator Horn, a sort of double length soprano sax. I gather that Trane was interested in the Gator Horn, but died before he could get one.) But Gator did PLAY on a long version of “Alfie”, on Gator Horn.

SOUL GRABBER – PRESTIGE 7551 (10/1967)

For the next one, Trudy Pitts replaced Carl Wilson and Bill Jennings was back in Gator’s band. With Bobby Donaldson, Jimmy Lewis and Victor Allende, Gator made one of his very GREATEST albums. This LP is an effin’ BITCH! It’s never been reissued on CD, so expect to pay more.

STAR BAG – PRESTIGE 7571 (3/1968)

After Pitts, Jackie Ivory, one of my favourite organists, came in for the next 2 LPs. Unfortunately for me, Ivory doesn’t play any of the really extraordinary stuff that he featured in his own first LP. But these are nonetheless fine LPs, the first slightly better than the second.

SWIVELHIPS – PRESTIGE 7602 (9/1968)

GATOR'S GROOVE – PRESTIGE 7648 (11/1968)

Gator fell into the hands of Paul Winley in the early seventies and made a few albums for Winley’s labels.

MELLOW BLUES – TRIP 5007 (1970)

HARLEM UNDERGROUND – WINLEY 127 (early 1970s & 1996 o'dubs)

FUNKY REGGAE – TRIP 5028 (early 1970s)

In the middle of them, he returned to Prestige for one more. This is another really great session, with Carl Wilson back in the band and Boogaloo Joe Jones on gutar. Two Beatles tunes – but very well done – “Hey Jude” and “Long and winding road” and four very, very TUFF Gator originals put this one into his best half dozen.

GATORADE – PRESTIGE MPP2516 (8/1971) (This seems to have been lost. It wasn’t issued at the time and wasn’t mentioned in the Prestige discography of 1978. Finally, it appeared in 1982 in Fantasy’s mid-priced series, most of which were compilations of old stuff.)

Listed for the sake of completeness. Another Winley job. Probably Gator’s worst LP. Thank God it’s short!

WILLIS JACKSON PLAYS AROUND WITH THE HITS - BIG CHANCE 5003 (1972)

Don’t forget the Muse LPs – they are all terrific! Some are among the best he did – or anyone.

The first two were produced by Don Schitten and, as ever with his Soul Jazz albums, feature a kind of odd personnel. “West Africa” has Mickey Tucker, Ted Dunbar, Cranshaw, Waits, Richie Landrum and Sonny Morgan. “Headed and gutted” has the same personnel but Pat Martino on guitar. Pooh! These two are wonderful.

WEST AFRICA – MUSE 5036 (10/1973)

HEADED & GUTTED – MUSE 5048 (5/1974)

Ahmet Ertegun or someone must have thrust a lot of money into Gator’s hand then. Oh, goodness, these are pretty weak. The first was a hit, though.

THE WAY WE WERE – ATLANTIC 18145 (6/1975)

WILLIS JACKSON PLAYS WITH FEELING – COTILLION 9908 (5/1976)

So back at Muse, Gator made only great LPs. The first two were produced by Fred Seibert.

This features Sonny Phillips on piano (I think he is better on piano than organ) as well as Carl Wilson, Jimmy Ponder, Jimmy Lewis, Yusef Ali and Buddy Caldwell. Knockout stuff. Essential!!!

IN THE ALLEY – MUSE 5100 (1976)

This one has Carl Wilson, Boogaloo Joe Jones, Yusef Ali, Caldwell and Dud Bascomb on bass. The whole of side 2 is done on Gator horn. Not quite as good as the previous LP, but nearly.

THE GATOR HORN – MUSE 5146 (3/1977)

Then Bob Porter got with Gator and produced one of my all time top ten albums. Pat Martino, Charles Earland and Idris Muhammad. Oh, and Buddy Caldwell. This is a blinder!!!!

BAR WARS – MUSE 5162 (12/1977)

The next is damn near as good. Martino, Carl Wilson, Yusef Ali, Jimmy Lewis and Ralph Dorsey. Chuck Nessa was present at the session, but didn’t play :) Another essential one!

SINGLE ACTION – MUSE 5179 (4/1978)

Then there are two live albums, recorded in Europe. The first, from Laren, Holland, has Von Freeman joining in, doing some numbers with Gator’s band, then joining Gator for a duel. The band is Carl Wilson, Boogaloo Joe Jones and Yusef Ali. Hot stuff!

LOCKIN HORNS – MUSE 5200 (8/1978)

Next we have Gator in France, with the Groove Holmes trio – Steve Giordano,and Roger Lee Humphrey. Whoooooo! Watta groove!

WILLIS JACKSON IN CHATEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE - BLACK & BLUE 33810 (1/1980) (This is the original issue. It was reissued a few years later on Muse, under the title “Y’understand me”.)

Finally, another Bob Porter job, returning to the “Bar wars” band, but with Grady Tate instead of Idris. This is cool! This is so nice! Another essential one.

NOTHING BUTT – MUSE 5294 (6/1980)

Well, there are nine “essential” ones, which are in bold. And quite a lot of very, very good ones.

MG

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nastiest guy I ever met - even hated by his dentist - but he could play.

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nastiest guy I ever met - even hated by his dentist - but he could play.

Really? Bet MY dentist wouldn't have hated him :)

And, yes, he could.

But do tell us a story, Allen.

MG

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My favorites Willis Jackson are the Prestige albums he recorded with Jack McDuff and Bill Jennings...

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Those people were smokin'

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Thanks for that great post, MG!

My Gaton collection is still very thin, but the Fantasy compilation disc "At Large" has some of those oddball tunes, and indeed they're fun!

Other than that one, I only have "Soul Night Live!" (twofer CD), After Hours (twofer CD of "Lose..." and "Soul Grabber"), and then two of the Mues: "Bar Wars" and the pairing with Vonski, "Lockin' Horns" (both on 32 Jazz CDs in those lovely plastic packages and with amazing cover art... :crazy: )

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well, I was at a party years ago (maybe the late 1970s) and a guy comes up to me and says, "hey I've been told you know a lot of jazz musicians. Did you ever hear of Willis Jackson?" At that point I'd never met Jackson, though of course I knew the music. The guy said to me "he's a patient of mine - I'm a dentist, and he is the nastiest guy I ever met. I can't stand him."

coincidentally, a short time later I was sitting in at the West End with Percy France, and who shows up? Willis Jackson. He stood next to me, glared at me for about 15 minutes, and never said a word.

Edited by AllenLowe

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I have 14 of the Prestige LPs and didn't realize I was missing so many.

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I have 14 of the Prestige LPs and didn't realize I was missing so many.

You're doing better than most, Ken :)

MG

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This was very helpful! One point... there may have been 4 Griffin/Davis albums out of one night at Minton's... But thanks for the informative and enjoyable post!!!

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This was very helpful! One point... there may have been 4 Griffin/Davis albums out of one night at Minton's... But thanks for the informative and enjoyable post!!!

So there was! Well, it was more like three and a half...

MG

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It seems to me that your dentist is among the last persons you would want to hate you.

I know that Willis is long gone, but has anyone checked with Schaap on the current condition of Jackson's teeth?

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It seems to me that your dentist is among the last persons you would want to hate you.

I know that Willis is long gone, but has anyone checked with Schaap on the current condition of Jackson's teeth?

I found out today, looking through the albums, that you and Phil Schaap both wrote sleeve notes for Gator Tail albums - "Soul grabber" for you; "Gatorade" for Schaap.

There you are - something in common :g

MG

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Interesting, I didn't know that I had written notes for any of his albums. Are they readable or—like so much of my work, especially earlier writing—embarrassing?

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That's an amazing list, TMG. Very informative.

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Thanks for the annotated list. I have cd versions of 18 Prestige (plus other odds and ends on anthologies) and 3 Muse. Most of my lps went to Japan many years ago. FWIW, Fred Seibert produced Single Action.

This thread almost stopped my journey through the Jimmy Giuffre Atlantics. :lol:

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Thanks for that fine detailed guide to Gator country, MG! It reminds me that I still need to snag some of those great Muse albums.

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HMM i wonder what Vee-Jay thought abt Chess/Cadet covering those beatles songs, (hmm maybe theres a billboard article about it!).........but wait those songs are not the same tracks released on VJ....

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FWIW, Fred Seibert produced Single Action.

That's your fault, Chuck. Knowing you were a mate of Bob Porter's, I just assumed it would have been one of his jobs. :)

This thread almost stopped my journey through the Jimmy Giuffre Atlantics. :lol:

Ahhhhh.

:ph34r:

MG

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Thanks MG, for the info on the Gator. Glad to see "In the Alley" get a mention in boldface, this has always been a personal favorite, particularly side A.

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Thanks MG, for the info on the Gator. Glad to see "In the Alley" get a mention in boldface, this has always been a personal favorite, particularly side A.

Yeah, I put "Niamani" into a BFT a couple of years ago.

MG

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Lockin' Horns is BAAAAAD! Von's doing a lot more than "joining in"!

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