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Milestones

Top 10 Blue Note sidemen

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I thought I would give this a try.  Part of the interest in Blue Note’s heyday was how seemingly everybody played on everybody else’s records.  You could have a record with Shorter, Morgan, and Hancock and it could any one of them who was the leader.  I guess you could often tell by who contributed the most compositions. Of course, in this era (the 1960s) everyone was writing.

I’m not sure how many visionary artists there were on Blue Note at this time. I would say a visionary is a Miles, a Monk, a Trane.  But some musicians were excellent players, but largely lacked vision; thus their own records were rarely of hit-it-out-of-the-park quality, but they made great contributions to the works of others, especially those with more vision or at least with greater compositional ability (Andrew Hill, Wayne Shorter).

Anyway, this would be my current choice of favorite sidemen:

1.     Freddie Hubbard (definitely my top choice; Freddie was everywhere in jazz in the 60’s, but especially appeared on many great Blue Note albums; somehow his own records are a notch below, other than Breaking Point)

2.     James Spaulding (perhaps the #2 man, if only because he never led a date on Blue Note, yet he was all over the place on the label; whether on alto or flute, he would provide something special)

3.     Joe Henderson (a lot like Hubbard; he always raised the excitement level; it’s no accident that the 4-CD set overview mostly features sidemen appearances) 

4.     Curtis Fuller (for his work with Blakey and appearing on quite a few other Blue Note classics; the go-to trombonist on Blue Note)

5.     Grant Green (house guitarist for sure; a lot of good records under his own name, but his sideman work is not to be missed)

6.     McCoy Tyner (I love Tyner’s leader work, but one should also check out what he did with Shorter, Hutcherson, Morgan, and others)

7.     Herbie Hancock (sort of like Tyner, but I think he appeared more frequently as sideman)

8.     Bobby Hutcherson (not showing up as much as I would like, but some great appearances with McLean, Hill, Tyner, etc.)

9.     Ron Carter (Carter was well on the way to being, I believe, the most recorded bassist ever; his work with the Miles Davis quintet was more significant, but his work for Blue Note is part of his legacy)

10. Billy Higgins (tons of sessions displaying his dancing style)

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I think I'd put Lee Morgan on there as someone whose average sideman work was superior to their average leader work.  (Also, Blue Mitchell.  I kind of feel he's a sideman even on his own records!)

Also, though Wayne Shorter's Blue Note leader run is among the best on the label which maybe disqualifies him, his contributions as a Blue Note sideman are among the best by anyone.

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Sonny Clark for sure. A good many BN sideman dates. His solo on the title track of Louis Smith's "Smithville" should be immortal.
 

 

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I would agree with you on Morgan, although I do find that Morgan produced better stuff as a leader than Hubbard (but Lee also had a longer run with the label).

 

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1 hour ago, Milestones said:

I would agree with you on Morgan, although I do find that Morgan produced better stuff as a leader than Hubbard (but Lee also had a longer run with the label).

 

totally agreed.

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Great idea for a topic.  Although I’m away from my collection right now, off the top of my head:

1) Sonny Clark.  Perhaps the greatest contributor to the BN style.

2) Billy Higgins.  He did his greatest work for BN.

3) Donald Byrd.  Great contributions as a sideman, for Mobley and others.

 

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In addition to Billy Higgins (who is on my original list), I would add Elvin Jones, Joe Chambers, and Tony Williams as drummers who made major contributions.  Williams even contributed in the rebirth era, on records by Geri Allen and Don Pullen.  

Edited by Milestones

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How about Duke Pearson and Pepper Adams? Kind of hard to call Pepper a side-man since he got lead billings with Donald Byrd.

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Pepper Adams did do some sideman work, in addition to the group he co-led with Byrd--three with Blue Mitchell, two with Lee Morgan, one with hank Mobley.

 

 

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It´s hard to say that, I think. So many "sidemen" made their own albums under their own names, using the leader of another album as "sideman". So ..... this was the "Blue Note Family", right ?

I would have said Art Taylor. But he also made an album under his name.

Maybe James Spaulding, I think he is on some very substantial albums but as much as I know he didn´t record under his own name for the label.

 

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1 hour ago, Milestones said:

In addition to Billy Higgins (who is on my original list), I would add Elvin Jones, Joe Chambers, and Tony Williams as drummers who made major contributions.  Williams even contributed in the rebirth era, on records by Geri Allen and Don Pullen.  

Elvin's playing with Grant Green and Larry Young is some his best work.  Seems like he had a more relaxed swing playing with these guys.  I could listen to just the drum tracks from Green's "Matador" and "Solid" and be happy.

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I would agree with Larry and my first choice would be Sonny Clark,

Next I would select Billy Higgins.

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Bob Cranshaw and Butch Warren must be in the frame.

Jackie McLean and Hank Mobley - so many fine sideman appearances in addition to their own sessions.

I would put Billy Higgins high up too.

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Being raised in thé middle of the 20th Century, the members of the BN family I grew up with were named Horace Silver, Art Blakey, Hank Mobley, Kenny Dorham,  Lee Morgan', Sonny Clark, Doug Watkins, Kenny Burrell, Jackie McLean, Curtis Fuller and so many others...

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Woody Shaw and Richard Davis, not so many but all the  dates they did do are fine.  Sam Rivers did some fine sideman work with Tony W, Andrew Hill and Larry Y.  Thy even got Ornette to do a sideman date (on trumpet) and use guys from outside his circle on a leader date.  Too bad they couldn't get Don C and Cecil T as sidemen!  Jack DeJohnette and Billy Cobham both make sideman appearances at the start of their careers.  But Billy H and Sonny C and Butch W are probably my favorites.

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...and Geo. Benson, only a few sideman dates for BN but the're all worth seeking out.  We  should make this a poll, 5 votes each, mine got to Higgins, Joe Hen, Grant, Hutch, and Sonny C.

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As would be expected, I come at this from a rather different angle. I've tried to limit my eleven (!) to people who made only one or two albums at most as a leader for Blue Note. But most of this lot NEVER had a leader date for the label.

Claude Bartee

Marvin Cabell

The one and only Herman Foster!

Fred Jackson

Conrad Lester

Idris Muhammad

Sonny Red

Shirley Scott

Melvin Sparks

Leon Spencer

Harold Vick

Only Jackson, Red and Vick made albums for BN as leaders.

 

MG

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Yes, I guess this last is the true notion of the sideman--the one who only supports and never (or rarely) leads.

I would also add Kenny Burrell, who is great as both leader and sideman.  Midnight Blue is definitive as one aspect of the Blue Note sound.  Kenny is vital as a BN sideman mainly for Jimmy Smith and Stanley Turrentine.

 

 

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Nope. Very few albums with his name on them. Offhand, I can think of Jimmy McGriff's 'Main squeeze' - he plays alto on that - and Joe Carroll's 'Man with a happy sound' on Charlie Parker Records.

Oh, there MUST be some more...

Oh yes, he's on Freddie Roach's 'Soul people', too.

MG

 

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There is one Conrad Lester leader album. Ask Allen Lowe about it and then proceed accordingly!

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7 minutes ago, JSngry said:

There is one Conrad Lester leader album. Ask Allen Lowe about it and then proceed accordingly!

MY GOODNESS!!!!!

Thank you.

MG

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god, i hope i'm remembering correctly...apologies to both you and Allen if I'm not.

also seem i remember somebody sending me a copy of at least one Sir Charles Thompson record that had Lester on it, some really low-visibility thing, a live recording put out by some book store or something?

Ok, disregard that, I'm thinking about Percy France on all of that. So sorry to raise false hopes.

 

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Oh, it's OK. I have the Percy France. As soon as you mentioned Sir Charles, I thought, then read what you said. I didn't send Allen a PM, anyway. Too late at night for me to do stuff like that.

I think Percy only appeared twice on BN; once each with Freddie Roach and Jimmy Smiff.

But he's another great sideman.

MG

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