b/w March Lightly
(Written by Earl Washington)
The first release on Motown’s brand-new Workshop Jazz subsidiary, Hank & Carol Diamond’s sappy cover of Pat Boone’s version of Exodus, released a week before this record, had got things off to a shaky start. Luckily, this record, a spirited, uptempo band instrumental, the second release on the label, is a considerable improvement, containing as it does some actual bona fide jazz, unlike its predecessor.
No, this is definitely, categorically a jazz record, and it knocks Hank and Carol’s effort into a cocked hat. For a start, it wasn’t recorded at Motown at all – Washington was a top Chicago pianist and bandleader, and according to the liner notes to The Complete Motown Singles: Volume 2, these recordings were originally made for that city’s Formal Records before being leased to Workshop Jazz and a hungry-for-product Berry Gordy Jr.
Besides Washington, the “All Stars” on the record are listed in the liner notes to The Complete Motown Singles: Volume 2 as being alumni of the Count Basie band – Frank Wess (flute), Thad Jones (trumpet), Frank Foster (tenor sax), Ben Powell (trombone), Ed Jones (bass) and Sonny Payne (drums). The band credits are available because – in a rare departure from standard Motown policy – they were printed on the single label (see scan, left), and when Workshop Jazz put out an entire album on Washington, All Star Jazz, that November – including both this and its B-side – the LP sleeves in some markets, following the tradition of jazz albums in Europe, gave the full band credits for each track.
(Indeed, it’s only thanks to such band credits turning up on other European Motown LPs that researchers can be sure who some of the Funk Brothers were on particular tracks; Motown were certainly not keen to publicise this information at the time, and angrily put a stop to this practice once they were alerted to what was going on.)
Anyway, Washington and the All Stars turn in a fine performance here; I’m not going to pretend to be some sort of jazz expert, but to me this calls to mind the more driving, danceable mid- to late-Fifties moments of Miles Davis’ pre-modal stuff. Washington was a stage pianist at Chicago’s Blue Note club, and his background shines through here – this is “audience-pleasing” jazz rather than anything daringly avant-garde (it incorporates a snippet of Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King near the start), but that’s not to be confused with the cheesy commercialism of Hank and Carol Diamond’s record; it’s plenty of fun, and a million miles away from the cod-jazz MOR stylings of the only previous offering on the Workshop Jazz label.
Sadly for Berry Gordy Jr. and his hep cat ambitions, these Workshop Jazz single releases picked up almost no interest from either buyers, jazz aficionados or the press, to the point where Motown could put out a press release to Billboard magazine five months later in October 1962, and then another one almost a year later, in March 1963, both times claiming that they were in the process of launching the new Workshop Jazz label with a slew of LPs, neglecting to mention these two singles had slipped out unnoticed months before. If at first you don’t succeed, launch, launch again; the jazz project went back to the drawing board for retooling, and there would be no further Workshop Jazz singles until February 1963.
MOTOWN JUNKIES VERDICT
(I’ve had MY say, now it’s your turn. Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment, or click the thumbs at the bottom there. Dissent is encouraged!)
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|Hank & Carol Diamond
“I Remember You”
|Earl Washington All Stars